by A. A. Milne
A. A. MILNE
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
I. HER SOCK
II. HOW WE PLAY
III. THE KNIGHT
IV. THE ART OF
VI. A TWICE TOLD
IX. THE TRUTH
ABOUT HOME RAILS
X. A CROWN OF
XI. THE LUCKY
XII. THE RESCUE
XIV. A COLD
XV. A BREATH OF
XVI. THE DOCTOR
XIX. THE MAKING
OF A CHRISTMAS
XXI. THE SEASIDE
XXII. THE FIRST
COMING OF THE
XXVI. TEN AND
XXVII. AN INLAND
XXVIII. ONE OF
XXXI. A FAREWELL
LITTLE PLAYS FOR
XLIII. “AT DEAD
XLIV. “THE LOST
XLIX. THE CIVIL
L. THE ACTOR
LV. THE EXPLORER
This book is made up from my contributions to Puncha casual
selection from the four hundred or so which have appeared in the last
nine years. It is offered to the American public as a sample of that
Punch humour (and perhaps, therefore, British humour) which
Americans so often profess not to understand. According to whether they
like it or do not like it, I hope they will consider it a
representative or an unrepresentative sample.
A. A. M.
I. HER SOCK
When Margery was three months old I wrote a letter to her mother:
Dear Madam,If you have a copy in Class D at 1/10d. net,
be glad to hear from you.
The Baby's Uncle.
On Tuesday I got an answer by the morning post:
Dear Sir,In reply to yours: How dare you insult my
child? She is
in Class A1, priceless and bought in by the owner. Four months
(and two days) on Christmas Day. Fancy!
The Baby's Mother.
Margery had been getting into an expensive way of celebrating her
birthday every week. Hitherto I had ignored it. But now I wrote:
Dear Madam,Automatically your baby should be in Class D
I cannot understand why it is not so. Perhaps I shall hear from
later on with regard to this. Meanwhile I think that the
extraordinary coincidence (all but two days) of the baby's
with Christmas Day calls for some recognition on my part. What
Margery like? You, who are in constant communication with her,
should be able to tell me. I hear coral necklaces well spoken
What do you think? I remember reading once of a robber who
little baby for the coral on its neckwhich shows at any rate
they are worn. Do you know how coral reefs are made? It is a
Then there is a silver mug to be considered. The only thing you
drink out of a mug is beer; yet it is a popular present.
you, with your (supposed) greater knowledge of babies, will
Meanwhile, I am,
The Baby's Uncle.
P. S.Which is a much finer thing than a mother.
To which her mother:
My Dear Boy,It is too sweet of you to say you would
like to get
Baby something. No, I don't know how coral reefs are made, and
want to. I think it is wicked of you to talk like that; I'm
shan't dare let her wear anything valuable now. And I don't
she really wants a mug.
I'm sure I don't know what she does want, except to see her
(There!) but it ought to be something that she'll value when
grows up. And of course we could keep it for her in the
Her Father has smoked his last cigar to-day. Isn't it awful? I
forbidden him to waste his money on any more, but he says he
give me 500 for a Christmas present. If he does, I shall give
that sideboard that I want so badly, and then we shall both go
prison together. You will look after Baby, won't you?
The Baby's Mother.
P. S.Which she isn't proud, but does think it's a little bit
classier than an uncle.
And so finally, I:
Dear Child,I've thought of the very thing.
The Baby's Uncle.
That ends Chapter I. Here we go on to
Chapter II finds me in the Toy Department of the Stores. I want, I
said, a present for a child.
Yes, sir. About how old?
It must be quite new, I said sternly. Don't be silly. Oh, I see;
well, the child is only a baby.
Ah, yes. Now hereif it's at all fond of animals
I say, you mustn't call it 'IT.' I get in an awful row if I do. Of
course, I suppose it's all right for you, onlywell, be careful, won't
The attendant promised, and asked whether the child was a boy or
And had you thought of anything for the little girl?
Well, yes. I had rather thought of a sideboard.
I beg your pardon?
The Sideboard Department is upstairs. Was there anything else for
the little girl?
Well, a box of cigars. Rather full, and if you have any
The Cigar Department is on the ground floor.
But your Lord Chamberlain told me I was to come here if I wanted a
present for a child.
If you require anything in the toy line
Yes, but what good are toys to a baby of four months? Do be
What was it you suggested? A sideboard and a cigar?
That was my idea. It may not be the best possible, but at least it
is better than perfectly useless toys. You can always blow smoke in its
face, or bump its head against the sideboard. Experto crede, if
you have the Latin.
Whereupon with great dignity I made my way to the lift.
In the Sideboard Department I said: I want a sideboard for a little
girl of four months, and please don't call her 'IT.' I nearly had a row
with one of your downstairs staff about that.
I will try to be careful about that, Sir, he replied. What sort
of a one?
Blue eyes and not much hair, and really rather a sweet smile....
Was that what you wanted to know?
Thank you, Sir. But I meant, what sort of a sideboard?
I took him confidentially by the arm.
Look here, I said, you know how, when one is carrying a baby
about, one bumps its head at all the corners? Well, not too much of
that. The mothers don't really like it, you know. They smile at the
time, but.... Well, not too many corners.... Yes, I like that very
much. No, I won't take it with me.
The attendant wrote out the bill.
She's the first. That's why I'm so nervous. I've never bought a
sideboard for a child before.
Your Stores number, I mean, Sir.
I haven't got one. Is it necessary?
Must have a number, Sir.
Then I'll think of a nice one for you.... Let's see12345, how
does that strike you?
And the name?
Oh, I can't tell you that. You must look that up for yourself.
Downstairs I bought some cigars.
For a little girl of four months, I said, and she likes them
rather full. Please don't argue with me. All your men chatter so.
I must, said the attendant. It's like this. If she is only four
months, she is obviously little. Your observation is therefore
As a matter of fact, I said hotly, she is rather big for four
Then it was a lie.
Look here, you give me those cigars, and don't talk so much. I've
already had words with your Master of the Sideboards and your
Under-Secretary for the Toy Department.... Thank you. If you would
kindly send them.
So there it is. I have given the spirit rather than the actual
letter, of what happened at the Stores. But that the things have been
ordered there is no doubt. And when Margery wakes up on Christmas Day
to find a sideboard and a box of cigars in her sock I hope she will
remember that she has chiefly her mother to thank for it.
II. HOW WE PLAY THE PIANOLA
[FOREWORD. Margery wishes me to publish the following
correspondence, which has recently passed between us. It
me that the name under which I appear in it may perhaps need
explanation. I hate explanations, but here it is.
When Margery was eight months old, she was taught to call me
Uncle. I must suppose that at this time I was always giving
thingsthings she really wanted, such as boot-laces, the best
china, evening papers and so onwhich had been withheld by
in authority. Later on, these persons came round to my way of
thinking, and gave her, if not the best china, at any rate
bread-and-butter. Naturally their offerings, being appreciated
last, were greeted with the familiar cry of Uncle, No,
'Uncle,' 'Thank-you,' came the correction.]
Dear Thankyou,I've some wonderful news for you! Guess what
it is; but no, you never will. Well, I'll tell you. I can walk! Really
It is most awfully interesting. You put one foot out to the right,
and then you bring the left after it. That's one walk, and I have done
seven altogether. You have to keep your hands out in front of you, so
as to balance properly. That's all the rulesthe rest is just knack. I
got it quite suddenly. It is such fun; I wake up about five every
morning now, thinking of it.
Of course I fall down now and then. You see, I'm only beginning.
When I fall, Mother comes and picks me up. That reminds me, I don't
want you to call me Baby any more now I can walk. Babies can't walk,
they just get carried about and put in perambulators. I was given a lot
of names a long time ago, but I forget what they were. I think one was
rather silly, like Margery, but I have never had it used lately. Mother
always calls me O. D. now.
Good-bye. Write directly you get this.
My Dear O. D.,I was so glad to get your letter, because I
was just going to write to you. What do you think? No, you'll never
guessshall I tell you?noyesno; well, I've bought a pianola!
It's really rather difficult to play it properly. I know people like
Paderewski andI can only think of Paderewski for the moment, I know
that sort of person doesn't think much of the pianola artist; but they
are quite wrong about it all. The mechanical agility with the fingers
is nothing, the soul is everything. Now you can get the soul, the
con molto expressione feeling, just as well in the pianola as in
the piano. Of course you have to keep a sharp eye on the music. Some
people roll it off just like a barrel-organ; but when I see Allegro
or Andante or anything of that kind on the score, I'm on it like
No time for more now, as I've just got a new lot of music in.
P. S.When are you coming to hear me play? I did Mumbling Mose
just now, with one hand and lots of soul.
P. P. S.I am glad you can walk.
Dear Thankyou,I am rather upset about my walking. You
remember I told you I had done seven in my last? Well, this morning I
couldn't do a single one! Well, I did do one, as a matter of fact, but
I suppose some people would say it didn't count, because I fell down
directly after, though I don't see that that matters,do you,
Thankyou? But even with that one it was only one, and yet I know I did
seven the day before. I wonder why it is. I do it the right way, I'm
sure, and I keep my hands out so as to balance, so perhaps it's the
shoes that are wrong. I must ask Mother to get me a new pair, and tell
the man they're for walks.
Now do write me a nice long letter, Thankyou, because I feel very
miserable about this. It is right, isn't it, when you have the right
leg out, only to bring the left one just up to it, and not beyond? And
does it matter which foot you start with? Let me know quickly, because
Father is coming home to-morrow and I want to show him.
P. S.I am glad you like your pianola
Dear O. D.,Very glad to get yours. If you really want a
long letter, you shall have one; only I warn you that if once I begin
nothing less than any earthquake can stop me. Well, first, then, I
played the Merry Widow Waltz yesterday to Mrs. Polacca, who is a great
authority on music, and in with all the Queen's Hall set, and she said
that my touch reminded her ofI've forgotten the man's name now, which
is rather sickening, because it spoils the story a bit, but he was one
of the real tiptoppers who makes hundreds a week, and well, that was
the sort of man I reminded her of. If I can do that with a waltz, it
stands to reason that with something classic there'd be no holding me.
I think I shall give a recital. Tickets 10/6d. No free seats. No
emergency exit. It is a great mistake to have an emergency exit at a
(Three pages omitted.)
Really, O. D., you must hear me doing the double F in the Boston
Cake Walk to get me at my best. You've heard Kubelik on the violin?
Well, it's not a bit like that, and yet there's just the something
which links great artists together, no matter what their medium of
P. S.Glad you're getting on so well with your walking.
Dearest Thankyou,Hooray, hooray, hoorayI did twenty-five
walks to-day! Father counted. He says my style reminds him of
Cancer Vulgaris rather. How many times can he do it? Not
twenty-five on the third day, I'm sure.
Isn't it splendid of me? I see now where I was wrong yesterday. I
got the knack again suddenly this morning, and I'm all right now.
To-morrow I shall walk round the table. It is a longish way and there
are four turns, which I am not sure about. How do you turn? I suppose
you put the right hand out?
Your very loving,
Dear O. D.,I am rather hurt by your letters. I have written
several times to tell you all about my new pianola, and you don't seem
to take any interest at all. I was going to have told you this time
that the man in the flat below had sent me a note, just as if it had
been a real piano. He says he doesn't mind my playing all day, so long
as I don't start before eight in the morning, as he is in his bath
then, and in listening to the music quite forgets to come out
sometimes, which I can see might be very awkward.
Write to yours affectionately,
Darling Thankyou,I am so sorry, dear, and I will come and
hear your pianola to-morrow, and I think it lovely, and you must be
clever to play it so well; but you musn't be angry with me because I am
so taken up with my walking. You see, it is all so new to me. I feel as
though I want everybody to know all about it.
Your pianola must be lovely, Thankyou. Dear Thankyou, could you, do
you think, put all the letters we wrote to each other about my walking
in some book, so that other people would know how to do it the way I
do? You might call it Letters on Walking, or How to Walk, orbut
you could get a better title than I could. Do!
Your very loving,
P. S.I'm so glad about the pianola and do you mind if I just tell
you that I did walk round the table, corners and all?
Dearest O. D.,Right you are. I will think of a good title.
III. THE KNIGHT OF THE CHIMNEY-PIECE
We don't know his real name, but we have decided to call him
Arthur (Sir Arthur, I suppose he would be). He stands in bronze
upon the chimney-piece, and in his right hand is a javelin; this makes
him a very dangerous person. Opposite him, but behind the clock
(Coward!), stands the other fellow, similarly armed. Most people
imagine that the two are fighting for the hand of the lady on the
clock, and they aver that they can hear her heart beating with the
excitement of it; but, to let you into the secret, the other fellow
doesn't come into the story at all. Only Margery and I know the true
story. I think I told it to her one night when she wouldn't go to
sleepor perhaps she told it to me.
The best of this tale (I say it as the possible author) is that it
is modern. It were easy to have invented something more in keeping with
the knight's armour, but we had to remember that this was the twentieth
century, and that here in this twentieth century was Sir Arthur on the
chimney-piece, with his javelin drawn back. For whom is he waiting?
It all began, I said, a year ago, when Sir Arthur became a member
of the South African Chartered Incorporated Co-operative Stores Society
Limited Ten per cents at Par (Men only). He wasn't exactly a real
member, having been elected under Rule Two for meritorious
performances, Rule One being that this club shall be called what I said
just now; but for nearly a year he enjoyed all the privileges of
membership, including those of paying a large entrance fee and a still
larger subscription. At the end of a year, however, a dreadful thing
happened. They made a Third Rule; to wit, that no member should go to
sleep on the billiard table.
Of course, Sir Arthur having only got in under Rule Two, had to
resign. He had, as I have said, paid his entrance fee, and (as it
happened) his second year's subscription in advance. Naturally he was
And that, in fact, is why he stands on the chimney-piece with his
javelin drawn back. He is waiting for the Secretary. Sir Arthur is
considered to be a good shot, and the Secretary wants all the flowers
to be white.
At this point Margery said her best word, Gorky, which means, A
thousand thanks for the verisimilitude of your charming and interesting
story, but is not the love element a trifle weak? (Margery is a true
We must leave something to the imagination, I pleaded. The
Secretary no doubt had a delightful niece, and Sir Arthur's hopeless
passion for her, after he had hit her uncle in a vital spot, would be
the basis of a most powerful situation.
Margery said Gorky again, which, as I have explained, means, Are
such distressing situations within the province of the Highest Art?
When Margery says Gorky twice in one night, it is useless to
argue. I gave in at once. Butter, I said, placed upon the haft of
the javelin, would make it slip, and put him off his shot. He would
miss the Secretary and marry the niece. So we put a good deal of
butter on Sir Arthur, and for the moment the Secretary is safe. I don't
know if we shall be able to keep it there; but in case jam does as
well, Margery has promised to stroke him every day.
However, I anticipate. As soon as the secretarial life was saved,
Margery said Agga, which is as it were, Encore, or Bis, so that I have her permission to tell you that story all over again.
Instead I will give you the tragedy of George, the other fellow (no
knight he), as she told it to me afterwards.
George was quite a different man from Sir Arthur. So far from being
elected to anything under Rule Two, he got blackballed for the North
London Toilet Club. Opinions differed as to why this happened; some
said that it was his personal unpopularity (he had previously been up,
without success, for the membership of the local Ratepayers
Association) others (among them the Proprietor), that his hair grew too
quickly. Anyhow, it was a great shock to George, and they had to have a
man in to break it to him. (It's always the way when you have a man
George was stricken to the heart. This last blow was too much for
what had always been a proud nature. He decided to emigrate.
Accordingly he left home, and moved to Islington. Whether he is still
there or not I cannot say; but a card with that postmark reached his
niece only this week. It was unsigned, and bore on the space reserved
for inland communications these words: 'The old, old wishA Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year.'
But what about the javelin? I asked Margery. (This fellow had a
javelin too, you remember.)
Gorky, said Margery for the third time, which means
Well, upon my word, I don't know what it means. But it would explain
Meanwhile Sir Arthur (he was in my story, you know) is still waiting
for the Secretary. In case the butter gives out, have I mentioned that
the Secretary wants all the flowers to be white?
IV. THE ART OF CONVERSATION
In conversation, said somebody (I think it was my grandfather),
there should always be a give and take. The ball must be kept
rolling. If he had ever had a niece two years old, I don't think he
would have bothered.
What's 'at? said Margery, pointing suddenly.
That, I said, stroking it, is dear uncle's nose.
Take your finger away. Ah, yes, that is dear uncle's eye. The left
Dear uncle's left one, said Margery thoughtfully. What's it
What dear uncle does every afternoon after lunch.
Eggs, sardines, macaroonseverything.
With a great effort Margery resisted the temptation to ask what
everything was (a difficult question), and made a statement of her
Santa Claus bring Margie a balloon from Daddy, she announced.
A balloon! How jolly! I said with interest. What sort are you
having? One of those semi-detached ones with the gas laid on, or the
pink ones with a velvet collar?
Down chimney, said Margery.
Oh, that kind. Do you thinkI mean, isn't it rather
Tell Margie a story about a balloon.
Bother, I murmured.
Bother is what you say when relations ask you to tell them a story
about a balloon. It means, 'But for the fact that we both have the
Montmorency blood in our veins, I should be compelled to decline your
kind invitation, all the stories I know about balloons being stiff
'uns.' It also means, 'Instead of talking about balloons, won't you
sing me a little song?'
Nope, said Margery.
Bother, she's forgotten her music.
What did you say, uncle dear; what did you say?
I sighed and began.
Once upon a time there was a balloon, a dear little toy balloon,
What's 'at? asked Margery, making a dab at my chest. What's 'at,
That, I said, is a button. More particularly a red waistcoat
button. More particularly still, my top red waistcoat button.
What's 'at? she asked, going down one.
That is a button. Description: second red waistcoat. Parents
living: both. Infectious diseases: scarlet fever slightly once.
That's aah, yes, a button. The third. A good little chap, but not
so chubby as his brothers. He couldn't go down to Margate with them
last year, and so, of courseWell, as I was saying, there was once a
What's a-a-'at? said Margery, bending forward suddenly and kissing
Look here, you've jolly well got to enclose a stamped addressed
envelope with the next question. As a matter of fact, though you won't
believe me, that again is a button.
What's 'at? asked Margery, digging at the fifth button.
Owing to extreme pressure on space, I began.... Thank you. That
also is a button. Its responsibility is greater than that of its
brethren. The crash may come at any moment. Luckily it has booked its
passage to thewhere was I? Oh yeswell, this balloon
What's 'at? said Margery, pointing to the last one.
I must have written notice of that question. I can't tell you
What's 'at, uncle dear?
Well, I don't know, Margie. It looks something like a collar stud,
only somehow you wouldn't expect to find a collar stud there. Of course
it may have slipped.... Or could it be one of those red beads, do you
think?... N-nono, it isn't a bead.... And it isn't a raspberry,
because this is the wrong week for raspberries. Of course it might be
aBy Jove, I've got it! It's a button.
I gave the sort of war-whoop with which one announces these
discoveries, and Margery whooped too.
A button, she cried. A dear little button! She thought for a
moment. What's a button?
This was ridiculous.
You don't mean to say, I reproached her, that I've got to tell
you now what a button is. That, I added severely, pointing to the top
of my waistcoat, is a button.
What's 'at? said Margery, pointing to the next one.
I looked at her in horror. Then I began to talk very quickly. There
was once a balloon, I said rapidly, a dear little boy balloonI mean
toy balloon, and this balloon was a jolly little balloon just two
minutes old, and he wasn't always asking silly questions, and when he
fell down and exploded himself they used to wring him out and say,
'Come, come now, be a little airship about it,' and so
What's 'at? asked Margery, pointing to the top button.
There was only one way out of it. I began to sing a carol in a very
All the artist rose in Margery.
Don't sing, she said hurriedly; Margie sing. What shall Margie
Before I could suggest anything she was off. It was a scandalous
song. She began by announcing that she wanted to be among the boys, and
(anticipating my objections) assured me that it was no good kicking up
a noise, because it was no fun going out when there weren't any boys
about, you were so lonely-onely-onely....
Here the tune became undecided; and, a chance word recalling another
context to her mind, she drifted suddenly into a hymn, and sang it with
the same religious fervour as she had sung the other, her fair head
flung back, and her hazel eyes gazing into Heaven....
I listened carefully. This was a bit I didn't recognise.... The tune
wavered for a moment ... and out of it these words emerged triumphant
Talk of me to the boys you meet,
Remember me kindly to Regent Street,
And give them my love in the
What's 'at, uncle?
That, I said, stroking it, is dear uncle's nose.
By the way, would you like it all over again? No? Oh, very well.
V. AFTERNOON SLEEP
[In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.]
I am like Napoleon in that I can go to sleep at any moment; I am
unlike him (I believe) in that I am always doing so. One makes no
apology for doing so on Sunday afternoon; the apology indeed should
come from the others, the wakeful parties....
Will you come and play wiv me?
I'm rather busy just now, I said with closed eyes. After tea.
Why are you raver busy just now? My baby's only raver busy
Well then, you know what it's like; how important it is that one
shouldn't be disturbed.
But you must be beturbed when I ask you to come and play wiv
Oh, well ... what shall we play at?
Trains, said Margery eagerly.
When we play at trains I have to be a tunnel. I don't know if you
have ever been a tunnel? No; well, it's an over-rated profession.
We won't play trains, I announced firmly, because it's Sunday.
Why not because it's Sunday?
(Oh, you little pagan!)
Hasn't Mummy told you about Sunday?
Oh, yes, Maud did tell me, said Margery casually. Then she gave an
innocent little smile. Oh, I called Mummy Maud, she said in pretended
surprise. I quite fought I was upstairs!
I hope you follow. The manners and customs of good society must be
observed on the ground floor where visitors may happen; upstairs one
relaxes a little.
Do you know, Margery went on with the air of a discoverer, you
mustn't say 'prayers' downstairs. Or 'corsets.'
I never do, I affirmed. Well, anyhow I never will again.
Why mayn't you?
I don't know, I said sleepily.
Wellprehaps it's because your mother tells you not to.
Well, 'at's a silly fing to say, said Margery scornfully.
It is. I'm thoroughly ashamed of it. I apologise. Good night. And
I closed my eyes again....
I fought you were going to play wiv me, Mr. Bingle, sighed Margery
My name is not Bingle, I said, opening one eye.
Why isn't it Bingle?
The story is a very long and sad one. When I wake up I will tell it
to you. Good night.
Tell it to me now.
There was no help for it.
Once upon a time, I said rapidly, there was a man called Bingle,
Oliver Bingle, and he married a lady called Pringle. And his brother
married a lady called Jingle; and his other brother married a Miss
Wingle. And his cousin remained single.... That is all.
Oh, I see, said Margery doubtfully. Now will you play wiv me?
How can one resist the pleading of a young child?
All right, I said. We'll pretend I'm a little girl, and you're my
mummy, and you've just put me to bed.... Good night, mummy dear.
Oh, but I must cover you up. She fetched a table-cloth, and a
pram-cover, and The Times, and a handkerchief, and the cat, and
a doll's what-I-mustn't-say-downstairs, and a cushion; and she covered
me up and tucked me in. 'Ere, 'ere, now go to sleep, my darling, she
said, and kissed me lovingly.
Oh, Margie, you dear, I whispered.
You called me 'Margie'! she cried in horror.
I meant 'Mummy.' Good night.
One, two, three seconds passed rapidly.
It's morning, said a bright voice in my ear. Get up.
I'm very ill, I pleaded; I want to stay in bed all day.
But your dear uncle, said Margery, inventing hastily, came last
night after you were in bed, and stayed 'e night. Do you see? And he
wants you to sit on him in bed and talk to him.
Where is he? Show me the bounder.
'Ere he is, said Margery, pointing at me.
But look here, I can't sit on my own chest and talk to myself. I'll
take the two parts if you insist, Sir Herbert, but I can't play them
simultaneously. Not even Irving
Why can't you play them simrulaleously?
Well, I can't. Margie, will you let me go to sleep?
Nope, said Margery, shaking her head.
You should say, 'No thank you, revered and highly respected
No hank you, Mr. Cann.
I have already informed you that my name is not Bingle and I have
now to add that neither is it Cann.
Why neiver is it Cann?
That isn't grammar. You should say, 'Why can it not either?'
I don't know.
No, I can't even say prehaps.
Well, say I shall understand when I'm a big girl.
You'll understand when you're a big girl, Margery, I said
Oh, I see.
That's right. Now then, what about going to sleep?
She was silent for a moment, and I thought I was safe. Then,
Uncle, just tell mewhy was 'at little boy crying vis morning?
Which little boy?
Ve one in 'e road.
Oh, that one. Well, he was crying because his Uncle hadn't had any
sleep all night, and when he tried to go to sleep in the afternoon
Say prehaps again.
My first rejected contribution! I sighed and had another shot.
Well, then, I said gallantly, it must have been because he hadn't
got a sweet little girl of three to play with him.
Yes, said Margery, nodding her head thoughtfully, 'at was it.
VI. A TWICE TOLD TALE
Is that you, uncle? said a voice from the nursery, as I hung my
coat up in the hall. I've only got my skin on, but you can come up.
However, she was sitting up in bed with her nightgown on when I
I was having my bath when you came, she explained. Have you come
all the way from London?
All the way.
Then will you tell me a story?
I can't; I'm going to have my dinner. I only came up to say good
Margery leant forward and whispered coaxingly, Will you just tell
me about Beauty and 'e Beast?
But I've told you that such heaps of times. And it's much too long
Tell me half of it. As much as that. She held her
hands about nine inches apart.
That's too much.
As much as that. The hands came a little nearer together.
Oh! Well, I'll tell you up to where the Beast died.
Fought he died, she corrected eagerly.
How much will that be? As much as I said?
I nodded. The preliminary business settled, she gave a little sigh
of happiness, put her arms round her knees, and waited breathlessly for
the story she had heard twenty times before.
Once upon a time there was a man who had three daughters. And one
What was the man's name?
Margery, I said reproachfully, annoyed at the interruption, you
know I never tell you the man's name.
Tell me now.
Oswald, I said after a moment's thought.
I told Daddy it was Thomas, said Margery casually.
Well, as a matter of fact he had two names, Oswald and
Why did he have two names?
In case he lost one. Well, one day this man, who was very poor,
heard that a lot of money was waiting for him in a ship which had come
over the sea to a town some miles off. So he
Was it waiting at Weymouf?
Somewhere like that.
I spex it must have been Weymouf, because there's lots of sea
Yes, I'm sure it was. Well, he thought he'd go to Weymouth and get
How much monies was it?
Oh, lots and lots.
As much as five pennies?
Yes, about that. Well, he said good-bye to his daughters and asked
them what they'd like him to bring back for a present. And the first
asked for some lovely jewels and diamonds and
Like Mummy's locketis that jewels?
That sort of idea. Well, she wanted a lot of things like that. And
the second wanted some beautiful clothes.
What sort of clothes?
Oh, frocks andwell, frocks and all sorts ofer frocks.
Did she want any lovely new stockings?
Yes, she wanted three pairs of those.
And did she want any lovely
Yes, I said hastily, she wanted lots of those, too. Lots of
Margery gave a little sob of happiness. Go on telling me, she said
under her breath.
Well, the third daughter was called Beauty. And she thought to
herself, 'Poor Father won't have any money left at all, if we all go on
like this!' So she didn't ask for anything very expensive, like her
selfish sisters, she only asked for a rose. A simple red rose.
Margery moved uneasily.
I hope, she said wistfully, this bit isn't going to be about
you know. It never did before.
Good little girls and bad little girls, and fings like that.
My darling, no, of course not. I told it wrong. Beauty asked for a
rose because she loved roses so. And it was a very particular kind of
red rose that she wanteda sort that they simply couldn't get
to grow in their own garden because of the soil.
Go on telling me, said Margery, with a deep sigh of content.
Well, he started off to Weymouth.
What day did he start?
It was Monday. And when
Oh, well, anyhow, I told Daddy it was Tuesday.
Tuesdaynow let me think. Yes, I believe you're right. Because on
Monday he went to a meeting of the Vegetable Gardeners, and proposed
the health of the Chairman. Yes, well he started off on Tuesday, and
when he got there he found that there was no money for him at all!
I spex somebody had taken it, said Margery breathlessly.
Well, it had all gone somehow.
Prehaps somebody had swallowed it, said Margery, a little carried
away by the subject, by mistake.
Anyhow, it was gone. And he had to come home again without any
money. He hadn't gone far
How far? asked Margery. As far as that? and she measured
nine inches in the air.
About forty-four mileswhen he came to a beautiful garden.
Was it a really lovely big garden? Bigger than ours?
Oh, much bigger.
Bigger than yours?
I haven't got a garden.
Margery looked at me wonderingly. She opened her mouth to speak, and
then stopped and rested her head upon her hands and thought out this
new situation. At last, her face flushed with happiness, she announced
Go on telling me about Beauty and the Beast now, she said
breathlessly, and then tell me why you haven't got a garden.
My average time for Beauty and the Beast is ten minutes, and, if we
stop at the place where the Beast thought he was dead, six minutes
twenty-five seconds. But, with the aid of seemingly innocent questions,
a determined character can make even the craftiest uncle spin the story
out to half-an-hour.
Next time, said Margery, when we had reached the appointed place
and she was being tucked up in bed, will you tell me all the
Was there the shadow of a smile in her eyes? I don't know. But I'm
sure it will be wisest next time to promise her the whole thing. We
must make that point clear at the very start, and then we shall get
VII. THE LITERARY ART
Margery has a passion for writing just now. I can see nothing in it
myself, but if people will write I suppose you can't stop them.
Will you just lend me your pencil? she asked.
Remind me to give you a hundred pencils some time, I said as I
took it out, and then you'll always have one. You simply eat pencils.
Oo, I gave it you back last time.
Only just. You inveigle me down here
What do I do?
I'm not going to say that again for anybody.
Well, may I have the pencil?
I gave her the pencil and a sheet of paper, and settled her in a
B-a-b-y, said Margery to herself, planning out her weekly article
for the Reviews. B-a-b-y, baby. She squared her elbows and began to
There! she said, after five minutes' composition.
The manuscript was brought over to the critic, and the author stood
proudly by to point out subtleties that might have been overlooked at a
B-a-b-y, explained the author. Baby.
Yes, that's very good; very neatly expressed. 'Baby'I like that.
Shall I write some more? said Margery eagerly.
Yes, do write some more. This is good, but it's not long enough.
The author retired again, and in five minutes produced this:
B A B Y
That's 'baby,' explained Margery.
Yes, I like that baby better than the other one. It's more spread
out. And it's biggerit's one of the biggest babies I've seen.
Shall I write some more?
Don't you write anything else ever?
I like writing 'baby,' said Margery carelessly. B-a-b-y.
Yes, but you can't do much with just that one word. Suppose you
wanted to write to a man at a shop'Dear Sir, You never sent me my
boots. Please send them at once as I want to go out this afternoon. I
am yours faithfully, Margery'it would be no good simply putting
'B-a-b-y,' because he wouldn't know what you meant.
Well, what would it be good putting?
Ah, that's the whole art of writingto know what it would be any
good putting. You want to learn lots and lots of new words, so as to be
ready. Now here's a jolly little one that you ought to meet. I took
the pencil and wrote G O T. Got. G-o-t, got.
Margery, her elbows on my knee and her chin resting on her hands,
studied the position.
Yes, that's old 'got,' she said.
He's always coming in. When you want to say, 'I've got a bad pain,
so I can't accept your kind invitation'; or when you want to say,
'Excuse more, as I've got to go to bed now'; or quite simply, 'You've
got my pencil.'
G-o-t, got, said Margery. G-o-t, got. G-o-t, got.
With appropriate action it makes a very nice recitation.
Is that a 'g'? said Margery, busy with the pencil, which she had
snatched from me.
The gentleman with the tail. You haven't made his tail quite long
enough.... That's better.
Margery retired to her study charged with an entirely new
inspiration, and wrote her second manifesto. It was this:
G O T
Got, she pointed out.
I inspected it carefully. Coming fresh to the idea Margery had
treated it more spontaneously than the other. But it was distinctly a
got. One of the gots.
Have you any more words? she asked, holding tight to the pencil.
You've about exhausted me, Margery.
What was that one you said just now? The one you said you wouldn't
Oh, you mean 'inveigle'? I said, pronouncing it differently this
Yes; write that for me.
It hardly ever comes in. Only when you are writing to your
He's the gentleman who takes the money. He's always coming
Then write 'solicitor.'
I took the pencil (it was my turn for it) and wrote SOLICITOR. Then
I read it out slowly to Margery, spelt it to her three times very
carefully, and wrote SOLICITOR again. Then I said it thoughtfully to
myself half-a-dozen timesSolicitor. Then I looked at it
I am not sure now, I said, that there is such a word.
I thought there was when I began, but now I don't think there can
be. 'Solicitor'it seems so silly.
Let me write it, said Margery, eagerly taking the paper and
pencil, and see if it looks silly.
She retired, andas well as she could for her excitementcopied
the word down underneath. The combined effort then read as follows:
SOLICITOR SOLICITOR SOLCTOR
Yes, you've done it a lot of good, I said. You've taken some of
the creases out. I like that much better.
Do you think there is such a word now?
I'm beginning to feel more easy about it. I'm not certain, but I
So do I, said Margery. With the pencil in one hand and the various
scraps of paper in the other, she climbed on to the writing desk and
gave herself up to literature....
And it seems to me that she is well equipped for the task. For
besides having my pencil still (of which I say nothing for the moment)
she has now three separate themes upon which to ring the changesa
range wide enough for any writer. These are, Baby got solicitor
(supposing that there is such a word), Solicitor got baby, and Got
baby solicitor. Indeed, there are really four themes here, for the
last one can have two interpretations. It might mean that you had
obtained an ordinary solicitor for Baby or it might mean that you had
got a specially small one for yourself. It lacks, therefore, the
lucidity of the best authors, but in a woman writer this may be
VIII. MY SECRETARY
When, five years ago, I used to write long letters to Margery, for
some reason or other she never wrote back. To save her face I had to
answer the letters myselfa tedious business. Still, I must admit that
the warmth and geniality of the replies gave me a certain standing with
my friends, who had not looked for me to be so popular. After some
months, however, pride stepped in. One cannot pour out letter after
letter to a lady without any acknowledgment save from oneself. And when
even my own acknowledgments began to lose their first warmthwhen, for
instance, I answered four pages about my new pianola with the curt
reminder that I was learning to walk and couldn't be bothered with
music, why, then at last I saw that a correspondence so one-sided would
have to come to an end. I wrote a farewell letter and replied to it
But, bless you, that was nearly five years ago. Each morning now,
among the usual pile of notes on my plate from duchesses, publishers,
moneylenders, actor-managers and what-not, I find, likely enough, an
envelope in Margery's own handwriting.
Not only is my address printed upon it legibly, but there are also
such extra directions to the postman as England and Important for
its more speedy arrival. And insidewell, I give you the last but
MY DEAR UNCLE I thot you wher coming to see me to night but you
didnt why didnt you baby has p t o hurt her knee isnt that a pity I
have some new toys isnt that jolly we didnt have our five minutes so
will you krite to me and tell me all about p t o your work from your
loving little MARGIE.
I always think that footnotes to a letter are a mistake, but there
are one or two things I should like to explain.
(a) Just as some journalists feel that without the word economic a
leading article lacks tone, so Margery feels, and I agree with her,
that a certain cachet is lent to a letter by a p. t. o. at the
bottom of each page.
(b) There are lots of grown-up people who think that write is
spelt rite. Margery knows that this is not so. She knows that there
is a silent letter in front of the r, which doesn't do anything, but
likes to be there. Obviously, if nobody is going to take any notice of
this extra letter, it doesn't much matter what it is. Margery happened
to want to make a k just then; at a pinch it could be as silent as a
w. You will please, therefore, regard the k in Krite as
(c) Years ago I claimed the privilege to monopolise on the
occasional evenings when I was there, Margery's last ten minutes before
she goes back to some heaven of her own each night. This privilege was
granted; it being felt, no doubt, that she owed me some compensation
for my early secretarial work on her behalf. We used to spend the ten
minutes in listening to my telling a fairy story, always the same one.
One day the authorities stepped in and announced that in future the ten
minutes would be reduced to five. The procedure seemed to me absolutely
illegal (and I should like to bring an action against somebody) but it
certainly did put the lid on my fairy story, of which I was getting
more than a little tired.
Tell me about Beauty and the Beast, said Margery as usual, that
There's not time, I said. We've only five minutes to-night.
Oh! Then tell me all the work you've done to-day.
(A little unkind, you'll agree, but you know what relations are.)
And so now I have to cram the record of my day's work into five
breathless minutes. You will understand what bare justice I can do it
in the time.
I am sorry that these footnotes have grown so big; let us leave them
and return to the letter. There are many ways of answering such a
letter. One might say, MY DEAR MARGERY,It was jolly to get a real
letter from you at last but the at last would seem rather
tactless considering what had passed years before. Or one might say,
MY DEAR MARGERY,Thank you for your jolly letter. I am so sorry about
baby's knee and so glad about your toys. Perhaps if you gave one of the
toys to baby, then her knee But I feel sure that Margery would
expect me to do better than that.
In the particular case of this last letter but seven I wrote:
DEAREST MARGERY,Thank you for your sweet letter. I had a very
busy day at the office or I would have come to see you. P.T.O.
[Transcriber's note: Page break in original.]
I hope to be down next week and then I will tell you all about my
work; but I have a lot more to do now, and so I must say good-bye. Your
There is perhaps nothing in that which demands an immediate answer,
but with businesslike promptitude Margery replied:
MY DEAR UNCLE thank you for your letter I am glad you are coming
next week baby is quite well now are you p t o coming on Thursday next
week or not say yes if you are I am p t o sorry you are working so hard
from your loving MARGIE.
I said Yes, and that I was her loving uncle. It seemed to be then
too late for a P.T.O., but I got one in and put on the back, Love to
Baby. The answer came by return of post:
MY DEAR UNCLE thank you for your letter come erly on p t o Thursday
come at half past nothing baby sends her love and so do p t o I my
roking horse has a sirrup broken isnt that a pity say yes or no
good-bye from your loving MARGIE.
Of course I thanked Baby for her love and gave my decision that it
was a pity about the rocking-horse. I did it in large capitals,
which (as I ought to have said before) is the means of communication
between Margery and her friends. For some reason or other I find
printing capitals to be more tiring than the ordinary method of
MY DEAR UNCLE, wrote Margery
But we need not go into that. What I want to say is this: I love to
get letters, particularly these, but I hate writing them, particularly
in capitals. Years ago I used to answer Margery's letter for her. It is
now her turn to answer mine for me.
IX. THE TRUTH ABOUT HOME RAILS
Imagine us, if you can, sitting one on each side of the fire, I with
my feet on the mantelpiece, Margery curled up in the blue arm-chair,
both of us intent on the morning paper. To me, by good chance, has
fallen the sporting page; to Margery, the foreign, political and
financial intelligence of the day.
What, said Margery, does it mean when it says she stopped
and spelt it over to herself again.
I put down my piece of the paper and prepared to explain. The desire
for knowledge in the young cannot be too strongly encouraged, and I
have always flattered myself that I can explain in perfectly simple
language anything which a child wants to know. For instance, I once
told Margery what Miniature Rifle Shooting meant; it was a head-line
which she had come across in her paper. The explanation took some time,
owing to Margery's pre-conceived idea that a bird entered into it
somewhere; several times, when I thought the lesson was over, she said,
Well, what about the bird? But I think I made it plain to her in the
end, though maybe she has forgotten about it now.
What, said Margery, does it mean when it says 'Home Rails Firm'?
I took up my paper again. The Cambridge fifteen I was glad to see,
were rapidly developing into a first-class team, and
'Home Rails Firm,' repeated Margery, and looked up at me.
My mind worked rapidly, as it always does in a crisis.
What did you say? I asked in surprise.
What does 'Home Rails Firm' mean?
Where does it say that? I went on, still thinking at lightning
There. It said it yesterday too.
Ah, yes. I made up my mind. Well, that, I saidI think that is
something you must ask your father.
I did ask him yesterday.
He told me to ask Mummy.
You can be sure, I said firmly, that what Mummy told you would be
right, and I returned to my paper.
Mummy told me to wait till you came.
Really, these parents! The way they shirk their responsibilities
nowadays is disgusting.
'Home Rails Firm.' said Margery, and settled herself to listen.
It is good that children should be encouraged to take an interest in
the affairs of the day, but I do think that a little girl might be
taught by its father (or if more convenient, mother) which part of a
newspaper to read. Had Margery asked me the difference between a bunker
and a banker, had she demanded an explanation of ultimatum or
guillotine, I could have done something with it; but to let a child
of six fill her head with ideas as to the firmness or otherwise of Home
Rails is hardly nice. However, an explanation had to be given.
Well, it's like this, Margery, I said at last.
Supposingwellyou see, supposing,that is to say, if I and
then I stopped. I had a sort of feelingintuition, they call itthat
I was beginning in the wrong way.
Go on, said Margery.
Perhaps, I had better put it this way. Supposing you were toWell,
we'd better begin further back than that. You know whatNo, I don't
suppose you do know that. Well, if Ithat is to say, when a manyou
know, it's rather difficult to explain this, Margery.
Are you explaining it now?
I'm just going to begin.
Thank you, uncle.
I lit my pipe slowly, while I considered again how best to approach
'Home Rails Firm,' said Margery. Isn't it a funny thing to
It was. It was a very silly thing to say. Whoever said it first
might have known what it would lead to.
Perhaps I can explain it best like this, Margery, I said,
beginning on a new tack. I suppose you know what 'firm' means?
What does it mean?
Ah, well, if you don't know that, I said, rather pleased, perhaps
I had better explain that first. 'Firm' means thatthat is to say, you
call a thing firm if itwell, if it doesn'tthat is to say, a thing
is firm if it can't move.
Like a house.
Well, something like that. This chair for instance, and I put my
hand on her chair, is firm because you can't shake it. You see, it's
quiteHallo, what's that?
Oh, you bad uncle, you've knocked the castor off again, cried
Margery, greatly excited at the incident.
This is too much, I said bitterly. Even the furniture is against
Go on explaining, said Margery, rocking herself in the now wobbly
I decided to leave firm. It is not an easy word to explain at the
best of times, and when everything you touch goes and breaks itself it
becomes perfectly impossible.
Well, so much for that, I said. And now we come to 'rails.' You
know what rails are?
Like I've got in the nursery?
This was splendid. I had forgotten these for the moment.
Exactly. The rails your train goes on. Well, then, 'Home Rails'
would be rails at home.
Well, I've got them at home, said Margery in surprise. I couldn't
have them anywhere else.
Quite so. Then 'Home Rails Firm' would mean thaterhome rails
But mine aren't, because they wobble. You know they do.
Well, why do they say 'Home Rails Firm' when they mean 'Home Rails
Ah, that's just it. The point is that when they say 'Home Rails
Firm,' they don't mean that the rails themselves are firm. In fact they
don't mean at all what you think they mean. They mean something quite
What do they mean?
I am just going to explain, I said stiffly.
* * * * *
Or perhaps I had better put it this way, I said ten minutes later.
SupposingOh, Margery, it is difficult to explain.
I must know, said Margery.
Why do you want to know so badly?
I want to know a million million times more than anything else in
the whole world.
So as I can tell Angela, said Margery.
I plunged into my explanation again. Angela is three, and I can
quite see how important it is that she should be sound on the question.
LIFE'S LITTLE TRAGEDIES
X. A CROWN OF SORROWS
There is something on my mind, of which I must relieve myself. If I
am ever to face the world again with a smile I must share my trouble
with others. I cannot bear my burden alone.
Friends, I have lost my hat. Will the gentleman who took it by
mistake, and forgot to leave his own in its place, kindly return my hat
to me at once?
I am very miserable without my hat. It was one of those nice soft
ones with a dent down the middle to collect the rain; one of those soft
hats which wrap themselves so lovingly round the cranium that they
ultimately absorb the personality of the wearer underneath, responding
to his every emotion. When people said nice things about me my hat
would swell in sympathy; when they said nasty things, or when I had had
my hair cut, it would adapt itself automatically to my lesser
requirements. In a word, it fittedand that is more than can be said
for your hard, unyielding bowler.
My hat and I dropped into a hall of music one night last week. I
placed it under the seat, put a coat on it to keep it warm, and settled
down to enjoy myself. My hat could see nothing, but it knew that it
would hear all about the entertainment on the way home. When the last
moving picture had moved away, my hat and I prepared to depart
together. I drew out the coat and felt around for myWhere on
I was calm at first.
Excuse me, I said politely to the man next to me, but have you
got two hats?
Several, he replied, mistaking my meaning.
I dived under the seat again, and came up with some more dust.
Some one, I said to the programme girl, has taken my hat.
Have you looked under the seat for it? she asked.
It was such a sound suggestion that I went under the seat for the
It may have been kicked further along, suggested another
attendant. She walked up and down the row looking for it; and, in case
somebody had kicked it into the row above, walked up and down that one
too; and, in case somebody had kicked it on to the other side of the
house, many other girls spread themselves in pursuit; and soon we had
the whole pack hunting for it.
Then the fireman came up, suspecting the worst. I told him it was
even worse than thatmy hat had been stolen.
He had a flash of inspiration.
Are you sure you brought it with you? he asked.
The programme girls seemed to think that it would solve the whole
mystery if I hadn't brought it with me.
Are you sure you are the fireman? I said coldly.
He thought for a moment, and then unburdened himself of another
Perhaps it's just been kicked under the seat, he said.
I left him under the seat and went downstairs with a heavy heart. At
the door I said to the hall porter, Have you seen anybody going out
with two hats by mistake?
What's the matter? he said. Lost your hat?
It has been stolen.
Have you looked under the seats? It may have been kicked along a
Perhaps I'd better see the manager, I said. Is it any good
looking under the seats for him?
I expect it's just been kicked along a bit, the hall porter
repeated confidently. I'll come up with you and look for it.
If there's any more talk about being kicked along a bit, I said
bitterly, somebody will be. I want the manager.
I was led to the manager's room, and there I explained the matter to
him. He was very pleasant about it.
I expect you haven't looked for it properly, he said, with a
charming smile. Just take this gentleman up, he added to the hall
porter, and find his hat for him. It has probably been kicked under
one of the other seats.
We were smiled irresistibly out, and I was dragged up to the grand
circle again. The seats by this time were laid out in white draperies;
the house looked very desolate; I knew that my poor hat was dead.
With an air of cheery confidence the hall porter turned into the
first row of seats....
It may have been kicked on to the stage, I said, as he began to
slow down. It may have jumped into one of the boxes. It may have
turned into a rabbit. You know, I expect you aren't looking for it
The manager was extremely sympathetic when we came back to him. He
said, Oh, I'm sorry. Just like thatOh, I'm sorry.
My hat, I said firmly, has been stolen.
I'm sorry, he repeated with a bored smile, and turned to look at
himself in the glass.
Then I became angry with him and his attendants and his whole
My hat, I said bitingly, has been stolen from mewhile I slept.
* * * * *
You must have seen me wearing it in the dear old days. Greeny brown
it was in colour; but it wasn't the colour that drew your eyes to
itno, nor yet the shape, nor the angle at which it sat. It was just
the essential rightness of it. If you have ever seen a hat which you
felt instinctively was a clever hat, an alive hat, a profound hat, then
that was my hatand that was myself underneath it.
XI. THE LUCKY MONTH
Know thyself, said the old Greek motto. (In Greekbut this is an
English book.) So I bought a little red volume called, tersely enough,
Were you born in January? I was; and, reassured on this point, the
author told me all about myself.
For the most part he told me nothing new. You are, he said in
effect, good-tempered, courageous, ambitious, loyal, quick to resent
wrong, an excellent raconteur, and a leader of men. True.
Generous to a fault(Yes, I was overdoing that rather)you have a
ready sympathy with the distressed. People born in this month will
always keep their promises. And so on. There was no doubt that the
author had the idea all right. Even when he went on to warn me of my
weaknesses he maintained the correct note. People born in January, he
said, must be on their guard against working too strenuously. Their
extraordinarily active brains Well, you see what he means. It
is a fault perhaps, and I shall be more careful in future. Mind, I
do not take offence with him for calling my attention to it. In fact,
my only objection to the book is its surface application to all
the people who were born in January. There should have been more
distinction made between me and the rabble.
I have said that he told me little that was new. In one matter,
however, he did open my eyes. He introduced me to an aspect of myself
They, he saidmeaning me, have unusual business capacity, and
are destined to be leaders in great commercial enterprises.
One gets at times these flashes of self-revelation. In an instant I
realised how wasted my life had been; in an instant I resolved that
here and now I would put my great gifts to their proper uses. I would
be a leader in an immense commercial enterprise.
One cannot start commercial enterprises without capital. The first
thing was to determine the exact nature of my balance at the bank. This
was a matter for the bank to arrange, and I drove there rapidly.
Good morning, I said to the cashier, I am in rather a hurry. May
I have my pass-book?
He assented and retired. After an interminable wait, during which
many psychological moments for commercial enterprise must have lapsed,
I think you have it, he said shortly.
Thank you, I replied, and drove rapidly home again.
A lengthy search followed; but after an hour of it one of those
white-hot flashes of thought, such as only occur to the natural
business genius, seared my mind and sent me post-haste to the bank
After all, I said to the cashier, I only want to know my balance.
What is it?
He withdrew and gave himself up to calculation. I paced the floor
impatiently. Opportunities were slipping by. At last he pushed a slip
of paper across at me. My balance!
It was in four figures. Unfortunately two of them were shillings and
pence. Still, there was a matter of fifty pounds odd as well, and
fortunes have been built up on less.
Out in the street I had a moment's pause. Hitherto I had regarded my
commercial enterprise in the bulk, as a finished monument of industry;
the little niggling preliminary details had not come up for
consideration. Just for a second I wondered how to begin.
Only for a second. An unsuspected talent which has long lain dormant
needs, when waked, a second or so to turn round in. At the end of that
time I had made up my mind. I knew exactly what I would do. I would
ring up my solicitor.
Hallo, is that you? Yes, this is me. What? Yes, awfully, thanks.
How are you? Good. Look here, come and lunch with me. What? No, at
Business, particularly that sort of commercial enterprise to which I
had now decided to lend my genius, can only be discussed properly over
a cigar. During the meal itself my solicitor and I indulged in the
ordinary small-talk of the pleasure-loving world.
You're looking very fit, said my solicitor. No, not fat, fit.
You don't think I'm looking thin? I asked anxiously. People are
warning me that I may be overdoing it rather. They tell me that I must
be seriously on my guard against brain strain.
I suppose they think you oughtn't to strain it too suddenly, said
my solicitor. Though he is now a solicitor he was once just an ordinary
boy like the rest of us, and it was in those days that he acquired the
habit of being rude to me, a habit he has never quite forgotten.
What is an onyx? I said, changing the conversation.
Why? asked my solicitor, with his usual business acumen.
Well, I was practically certain that I had seen one in the Zoo, in
the reptile house, but I have just learnt that it is my lucky month
stone. Naturally I want to get one.
The coffee came and we settled down to commerce.
I was just going to ask you, said my solicitorhave you any
money lying idle at the bank? Because if so
Whatever else it is doing, it isn't lying idle, I protested. I
was at the bank to-day, and there were men chivying it about with
shovels all the time.
Well, how much have you got?
About fifty pounds.
It ought to be more than that.
That's what I say, but you know what those banks are. Actual merit
counts for nothing with them.
Well, what did you want to do with it?
Exactly. That was why I rang you up. Ier This was really my
moment, but somehow I was not quite ready to seize it. My vast
commercial enterprise still lacked a few trifling details.
ErIwell, it's like that.
I might get you a few ground rents.
Don't. I shouldn't know where to put them.
But if you really have fifty pounds simply lying idle I wish you'd
lend it to me for a bit. I'm confoundedly hard up.
(Generous to a fault, you have a ready sympathy with the
distressed. Dash it, what could I do?)
Is it quite etiquette for clients to lend solicitors money? I
asked. I thought it was always solicitors who had to lend it to
clients. If I must, I'd rather lend it to youI mean I'd dislike it
lessas to the old friend of my childhood.
Yes, that's how I wanted to pay it back.
Bother. Then I'll send you a cheque to-night, I sighed.
And that's where we are at the moment. People born in this month
always keep their promises. The money has got to go to-night. If I
hadn't been born in January, I shouldn't be sending it; I certainly
shouldn't have promised it; I shouldn't even have known that I had it.
Sometimes I almost wish that I had been born in one of the decent
months. March, say.
XII. THE RESCUE
William Balesas nice a young man as ever wore a cummerbund on an
esplanadewas in despair. For half-an-hour he and Miss Spratt had been
sitting in silence on the pier, and it was still William's turn to say
something. Miss Spratt's last remark had been, Oh, Mr. Bales, you do
say things! and William felt that his next observation must at all
costs live up to the standard set for it. Three or four times he had
opened his mouth to speak, and then on second thoughts had rejected the
intended utterance as unworthy. At the end of half-an-hour his mind was
still working fruitlessly. He knew that the longer he waited the more
brilliant he would have to be, and he told himself that even Bernard
Shaw or one of those clever writing fellows would have been hard put to
William was at odds with the world. He was a romantic young man who
had once been told that he nearly looked like Lewis Waller when he
frowned, and he had resolved that his holiday this year should be a
very dashing affair indeed. He had chosen the sea in the hopes that
some old gentleman would fall off the pier and let himself be saved
byand, later on, photographed withWilliam Bales, who in a
subsequent interview would modestly refuse to take any credit for the
gallant rescue. As his holiday had progressed he had felt the need for
some such old gentleman more and more; for only thus, he realised,
could he capture the heart of the wayward Miss Spratt. But so far it
had been a dull season; in a whole fortnight nobody had gone out of his
way to oblige William, and to-morrow he must return to the City as
unknown and as unloved as when he left it.
Got to go back to-morrow, he said at last. As an impromptu it
would have served, but as the result of half-an-hour's earnest thought
he felt that it did not do him justice.
So you said before, remarked Miss Spratt.
Well, it's still true.
Talking about it won't help it, said Miss Spratt.
William sighed and looked round the pier. There was an old gentleman
fishing at the end of it, his back turned invitingly to William. In
half-an-hour he had caught one small fish (which he had had to return
as under the age limit) and a bunch of seaweed. William felt that here
was a wasted life; a life, however, which a sudden kick and a heroic
rescue by W. Bales might yet do something to justify. At the Paddington
Baths, a month ago, he had won a plate-diving competition; and, though
there is a difference between diving for plates and diving for old
gentlemen, he was prepared to waive it. One kick and then ... Fame!
And, not only Fame, but the admiration of Angelina Spratt.
It was perhaps as well for the old gentlemanwho was really quite
worthy, and an hour later caught a full-sized whitingthat Miss Spratt
spoke at this moment.
Well, you're good company, I must say, she observed to William.
It's so hot, said William.
You can't say I asked to come here.
Let's go on the beach, said William desperately. We can find a
shady cave or something. Fate was against him; there was to be no
rescue that day.
I'm sure I'm agreeable, said Miss Spratt.
They walked in silence along the beach, and, rounding a corner of
the cliffs, they came presently to a cave. In earlier days W. Bales
could have done desperate deeds against smugglers there, with Miss
Spratt looking on. Alas for this unromantic age! It was now a place for
picnics, and a crumpled sheet of newspaper on the sand showed that
there had been one there that very afternoon.
They sat in a corner of the cave, out of the sun, out of sight of
the sea, and William prepared to renew his efforts as a
conversationalist. In the hope of collecting a few ideas as to what the
London clubs were talking about he picked up the discarded newspaper,
and saw with disgust that it was the local Herald. But just as
he threw it down, a line in it caught his eye and remained in his
High tide to-day3.30.
William's heart leapt. He looked at his watch; it was 2.30. In one
hour the waves would be dashing remorselessly into the cave, would be
leaping up the cliff, what time he and Miss Spratt
Suppose they were caught by the tide....
Meanwhile the lady, despairing of entertainment, had removed her
Really, she said, I'm that sleepyI suppose the tide's safe, Mr.
It was William's chance.
Quite, quite safe, he said earnestly. It's going down hard.
Well, then, I almost think She closed her eyes. Wake me up
when you've thought of something really funny, Mr. Bales.
William was left alone with Romance.
He went out of the cave and looked round. The sea was still some way
out, but it came up quickly on this coast. In an hour ... in an
He scanned the cliffs, and saw the ledge whither he would drag her.
She would cling to him crying, calling him her rescuer....
What should he do then? Should he leave her and swim for help? Or
should he scale the mighty cliff?
He returned to the cave and, gazing romantically at the sleeping
Miss Spratt, conjured up the scene. It would go like this, he thought.
Miss Spratt (wakened by the spray dashing over her face). Oh,
Mr. Bales! We're cut off by the tide! Save me!
W. Bales (lightly). Tut-tut, there's no danger. It's nothing.
(Aside) Great Heavens! Death stares us in the face!
Miss Spratt (throwing her arms around his neck). William,
save me; I cannot swim!
W. Bales (with Waller face). Trust me, Angelina. I will fight
my way round yon point and obtain help. (Aside) An Englishman
can only die once.
Miss Spratt. Don't leave me!
W. Bales. Fear not, sweetheart. See, there is a ledge where
you will be beyond the reach of the hungry tide. I will carry you
thither in my arms and will then
At this point in his day-dream William took another look at the
sleeping Miss Spratt, felt his biceps doubtfully, and went on
W. Bales. I will assist you to climb thither, and will then
swim for help.
Miss Spratt. My hero!
Again and again William reviewed the scene to himself. It was
perfect. His photograph would be in the papers; Miss Spratt would
worship him; he would be a hero in his City office. The actual danger
was slight, for at the worst she could shelter in the far end of the
cave; but he would not let her know this. He would do the thing
heroicallydrag her to the ledge on the cliff, and then swim round the
point to obtain help.
The thought struck him that he could conduct the scene better in his
shirt sleeves. He removed his coat, and then went out of the cave to
reconnoitre the ledge.
* * * * *
Miss Spratt awoke with a start and looked at her watch. It was 4.15.
The cave was empty save for a crumpled page of newspaper. She glanced
at this idly and saw that it was the local Herald ... eight days
Far away on the horizon William Bales was throwing stones bitterly
at the still retreating sea.
XIII. THE PORTUGUESE CIGAR
Everything promised well for my week-end with Charles. The weather
was warm and sunny, I was bringing my golf clubs down with me, and I
had just discovered (and meant to put into practice) an entirely new
stance which made it impossible to miss the object ball. It was this
that I was explaining to Charles and his wife at dinner on Friday, when
the interruption occurred.
By the way, said Charles, as I took out a cigarette, I've got a
cigar for you. Don't smoke that thing.
You haven't let him go in for cigars? I said reproachfully to Mrs.
Charles. I can be very firm about other people's extravagances.
This is one I picked up in Portugal, explained Charles. You can
get them absurdly cheap out there. Let's see, dear; where did I put
I saw it on your dressing-table last week, said his wife, getting
up to leave us. He followed her out and went in search of it, while I
waited with an interest which I made no effort to conceal. I had never
heard before of a man going all the way to Portugal to buy one cigar
for a friend.
Here it is, said Charles, coming in again. He put down in front of
me an ash-tray, the matches and aand awell, a cigar. I examined it
slowly. Half of it looked very tired.
Well, said Charles, what do you think of it?
When you say youerpicked it up in Portugal, I began
carefully, I suppose you don't mean I stopped and tried to bite
the end off.
Have a knife, said Charles.
I had another bite, and then I decided to be frank.
Why did you pick it up? I asked.
The fact was, said Charles, I found myself one day in Lisbon
without my pipe, and so I bought that thing; I never smoke them in the
Did you smoke this? I asked. It was obvious that something
had happened to it.
No, you see, I found some cigarettes at the last moment, and so,
knowing that you liked cigars, I thought I'd bring it home for you.
It's very nice of you, Charles. Of course I can see that it has
travelled. Well, we must do what we can with it.
I took the knife and started chipping away at the mahogany end. The
other endthe brown-paper end, which had come ungummedI intended to
reserve for the match. When everything was ready I applied a light,
leant back in my chair, and pulled.
That's all right, isn't it? said Charles. You'd be surprised if I
told you what I paid for it.
No, no, you mustn't think that, I protested. Probably things are
dearer in Portugal. I put it down by my plate for a moment's rest.
All I've got against it at present is that its pores don't act as
freely as they should.
I've got a cigar-cutter somewhere, if
No, don't bother, I think I can do it with the nut-crackers.
There's no doubt it was a good cigar once, but it hasn't wintered
I squeezed it as hard as I could, lit it again, pressed my feet
against the table and pulled.
Now it's going, said Charles.
I'm afraid it keeps very reticent at my end. The follow-through is
poor. Is your end alight still?
It's a pity that I should be missing all that. How would it be if
we were to make a knitting-needle red-hot and bore a tunnel from this
end? We might establish a draught that way. Only there's always the
danger, of course, of coming out at the side.
I took the cigar up and put it to my ear.
I can't hear anything wrong, I said. I expect what it really
wants is massage.
Charles filled his pipe again and got up. Let's go for a stroll,
he said. It's a beautiful night. Bring your cigar with you.
It may prefer the open air, I said. There's always that. You know
we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the Portuguese climate is
different from ours. The thing's pores may have acted more readily in
the South. On the other hand, the unfastened end may have been more
adhesive. I gather that though you have never actually met anybody who
has smoked a cigar like this, yet you understand that the experiment is
a practicable one. As far as you know this had no brothers. No, no,
Charles, I'm going on with it, but I should like to know all that you
can tell me of its parentage. It had a Portuguese father and an
American mother, I should say, and there has been a good deal of
trouble in the family. One momentand as we went outside I stopped
and cracked it in the door.
It was an inspiration. At the very next application of the match I
found that I had established a connection with the lighted end. Not a
long and steady connection, but one that came in gusts. After two gusts
I decided that it was perhaps safer to blow from my end, and for a
little while we had in this way as much smoke around us as the most
fastidious cigar-smoker could want. Then I accidentally dropped it;
something in the middle of it shifted, I supposeand for the rest of
my stay behind it only one end was at work.
Well, said Charles, when we were back in the smoking-room and I
was giving the cigar a short breather, it's not a bad one, is it?
I have enjoyed it, I said truthfully, for I like trying to get the
mastery over a thing that defies me.
You'll never guess what it cost, he chuckled.
Tell me, I said. I daren't guess.
Well, in English money it works out at exactly three farthings.
I looked at him for a long time and then shook my head sadly.
Charles, old friend, I said, you've been done.
XIV. A COLD WORLD
Herbert is a man who knows all about railway tickets, and packing,
and being in time for trains, and things like that. But I fancy I have
taught him a lesson at last. He won't talk quite so much about tickets
I was just thinking about getting up when he came into my room. He
looked at me in horror.
My dear fellow! he said. And you haven't even packed! You'll be
late. Here, get up, and I'll pack for you while you dress.
Do, I said briefly.
First of all, what clothes are you going to travel in?
There was no help for it. I sat up in bed and directed operations.
Right, said Herbert. Now what about your return ticket? You
mustn't forget that.
You remind me of a little story, I said. I'll tell it you while
you packthat will be nice for you. Once upon a time I lost my return
ticket, and I had to pay two pounds for another. And a month afterwards
I met a mana man like you who knows all about ticketsand he said,
'You could have got the money back if you had applied at once.' So I
said, 'Give me a cigarette now, and I'll transfer all my rights in the
business to you.' And he gave me a cigarette; but unfortunately
It was too late?
No. Unfortunately it wasn't. He got the two pounds. The most
expensive cigarette I've ever smoked.
Well, that just shows you, said Herbert. Here's your ticket. Put
it in your waistcoat pocket now.
But I haven't got a waistcoat on, silly.
Which one are you going to put on?
I don't know yet. This is a matter which requires thought. Give me
time, give me air.
Well, I shall put the ticket here on the dressing-table, and then
you can't miss it. He looked at his watch. And the trap starts in
half an hour.
Help! I cried, and I leapt out of bed.
Half an hour later I was saying good-bye to Herbert.
I've had an awfully jolly time, I said, and I'll come again.
You've got the ticket all right?
Rather! and I drove away amidst cheers. Cheers of sorrow.
It was half-an-hour's drive to the station. For the first five
minutes I thought how sickening it was to be leaving the country; then
I had a slight shock; and for the next twenty-five minutes I tried to
remember how much a third single to the nearest part of London cost.
Because I had left my ticket on the dressing-table after all.
I gave my luggage to a porter and went off to the station-master.
I wonder if you can help me, I said. I've left my ticket on the
dressWell, we needn't worry about that, I've left it at home.
He didn't seem intensely excited.
What did you think of doing? he asked.
I had rather hoped that you would do something.
You can buy another ticket, and get the money back afterwards.
Yes, yes; but can I? I've only got about one pound six.
The fare to London is one pound five and tenpence ha'penny.
Ah; well, that leaves a penny ha'penny to be divided between the
porter this end, lunch, tea, the porter the other end, and the cab. I
don't believe it's enough. Even if I gave it all to the porter here,
think how reproachfully he would look at you ever afterwards. It would
The station-master was evidently moved. He thought for a moment, and
then asked if I knew anybody who would vouch for me. I mentioned
Herbert confidently. He had never even heard of Herbert.
I've got a tie-pin, I said (station-masters have a weakness for
tie-pins), and a watch and a cigarette case. I shall be happy to lend
you any of those.
The idea didn't appeal to him.
The best thing you can do, he said, is to take a ticket to the
next station and talk to them there. This is only a branch line, and I
have no power to give you a pass.
So that was what I had to do. I began to see myself taking a ticket
at every stop and appealing to the station-master at the next. Well,
the money would last longer that way, but unless I could overcome
quickly the distrust which I seemed to inspire in station-masters there
would not be much left for lunch. I gave the porter all I could
afforda ha'penny, mentioned apologetically that I was coming back,
and stepped into the train.
At the junction I jumped out quickly and dived into the sacred
I've left my ticket on the dressingthat is to say, I
forgotWell, anyhow, I haven't got it, I began, and we plunged into
explanations once more. This station-master was even more unemotional
than the last. He asked me if I knew anybody who could vouch for me. I
mentioned Herbert diffidently. He had never even heard of Herbert. I
showed him my gold watch, my silver cigarette case, and my emerald and
diamond tie-pinthat was the sort of man I was.
The best thing you can do, he said, walking with me to the door,
is to take a ticket to Plymouth, and speak to the station-master
This is a most interesting game, I said bitterly. What is 'home'?
When you speak to the station-master at London, I suppose? I've a good
mind to say 'snap'!
Extremely annoyed I strode out, and bumped intoyou'll never
Ah, here you are, he panted; I rode after youthe train was just
goingjumped into itbeen looking all over the station for you.
It's awfully nice of you, Herbert. Didn't I say good-bye?
Your ticket. He produced it. Left it on the dressing-table. He
took a deep breath. I told you you would.
Bless you, I said, as I got happily into my train. You've saved
my life. I've had an awful time. I say, do you know, I've met two
station-masters already this morning who've never even heard of you.
You must enquire into it.
At that moment a porter came up.
Did you give up your ticket, Sir? he asked Herbert.
I hadn't time to get one, said Herbert, quite at his ease. I'll
pay now, and he began to feel in his pockets.... The train moved out
of the station.
A look of horror came over Herbert's face. I knew what it meant. He
hadn't any money on him. Hi! he shouted to me, and then we swung
round a bend out of sight....
Well, well, he'll have to get home somehow. His watch is only nickel
and his cigarette case leather, but luckily that sort of thing doesn't
weigh much with station-masters. What they want is a well-known name as
a reference. Herbert is better off than I was: he can give them my
name. It will be idle for them to pretend that they have never heard of
XV. A BREATH OF LIFE
This is the story of a comedy which nearly became a tragedy. In its
way it is rather a pathetic story.
The comedy was called The Wooing of Winifred. It was written by an
author whose name I forget; produced by the well-known and (as his
press agent has often told us) popular actor-manager, Mr. Levinski; and
played by (among others) that very charming young man, Prosper
Vaneknown locally as Alfred Briggs until he took to the stage.
Prosper played the young hero, Dick Seaton, who was actually
wooing Winifred. Mr. Levinski himself took the part of a
middle-aged man of the world with a slight embonpoint; down in the
programme as Sir Geoffrey Throssell, but fortunately still Mr.
Levinski. His opening words, as he came on, were, Ah, Dick, I have a
note for you somewhere, which gave the audience an interval in which
to welcome him, while he felt in all his pockets for the letter. One
can bow quite easily while feeling in one's pockets, and it is much
more natural than stopping in the middle of an important speech in
order to acknowledge any cheers. The realisation of this, by a
dramatist, is what is called stagecraft. In this case the audience
could tell at once that the technique of the author (whose name
unfortunately I forget) was going to be all right.
But perhaps I had better describe the whole play as shortly as
possible. The themeas one guessed from the title, even before the
curtain rosewas the wooing of Winifred. In the First Act
Dick proposed to Winifred and was refused by her, not from
lack of love, but for fear lest she might spoil his career, he being
one of those big-hearted men with a hip-pocket to whom the open spaces
of the world call loudly. Whereupon Mr. Levinski took Winifred
on one side and told the audience how, when he had been a young man,
some good woman had refused him for a similar reason and had been
miserable ever since. Accordingly in the Second Act Winifred
withdrew her refusal and offered to marry Dick, who declined to
take advantage of her offer for fear that she was willing to marry him
from pity rather than from love; whereupon Mr. Levinski took Dick
on one side and told the audience how, when he had been a young
man, he had refused to marry some good woman (a different one) for a
similar reason, and had been broken-hearted ever afterwards. In the
Third Act it really seemed as though they were coming together at last;
for at the beginning of it Mr. Levinski took them both aside and told
the audience a parable about a butterfly and a snap-dragon, which was
both pretty and helpful, and caused several middle-aged ladies in the
first and second rows of the upper circle to say, What a nice man Mr.
Levinski must be at home, dear!the purport of the allegory being to
show that both Dick and Winifred were being very silly,
as indeed by this time everybody but the author was aware.
Unfortunately at that moment a footman entered with a telegram for
Miss Winifred, which announced that she had been left fifty
thousand pounds by a dead uncle in Australia; and although Mr. Levinski
seized this fresh opportunity to tell the audience how in similar
circumstances Pride, to his lasting remorse, had kept him and some good
woman (a third one) apart, nevertheless Dick held back once
more, for fear lest he should be thought to be marrying her for her
money. The curtain comes down as he says, Good-bye.... Good-ber-eye.
But there is a Fourth Act, and in the Fourth Act Mr. Levinski has a
splendid time. He tells the audience two parablesone about a dahlia
and a sheep, which I couldn't quite followand three reminiscences of
life in India; he brings together finally and for ever these hesitating
lovers; and, best of all, he has a magnificent love-scene of his own
with a pretty widow, in which we see, for the first time in the play,
how love should really be madenot boy-and-girl pretty-pretty love,
but the deep emotion felt (and with occasional lapses of memory
explained) by a middle-aged man with a slight embonpoint who has
knocked about the world a bit and knows life. Mr. Levinski, I need
hardly say, was at his best in this Act.
* * * * *
I met Prosper Vane at the club some ten days before the first night,
and asked him how rehearsals were going.
Oh, all right, he said. But it's a rotten play. I've got such a
dashed silly part.
From what you told me, I said, it sounded rather good.
It's so dashed unnatural. For three whole Acts this girl and I are
in love with each other, and we know we're in love with each other, and
yet we simply fool about. She's a dashed pretty girl too, my boy. In
real life I'd jolly soon
My dear Alfred, I protested, you're not going to fall in love
with the girl you have to fall in love with on the stage? I thought
actors never did that.
They do sometimes; it's a dashed good advertisement. Anyway, it's a
silly part, and I'm fed up with it.
Yes, but do be reasonable. If Dick got engaged at once to
Winifred what would happen to Levinski? He'd have nothing to do.
Prosper Vane grunted. As he seemed disinclined for further
conversation, I left him.
* * * * *
The opening night came, and the usual distinguished and fashionable
audience (including myself) such as habitually attends Mr. Levinski's
first nights, settled down to enjoy itself. Two Acts went well. At the
end of each Mr. Levinski came before the curtain and bowed to us, and
we had the honour of clapping him loud and long. Then the Third Act
Now this is how the Third Act ends:
Exit Sir Geoffrey.
Winifred (breaking the silence). Dick, you heard what he
said. Don't let this silly money come between us. I have told you I
love you, dear. Won't youwon't you speak to me?
Dick. Winifred, I(He gets up and walks round the room,
his brow knotted, his right fist occasionally striking his left palm.
Finally, he comes to a stand in front of her.) Winifred, I
(He raises his arms slowly at right angles to his body and lets them
fall heavily down again.) I can't. (In a low hoarse voice)
Ican't! (He stands for a moment with bent head; then with a jerk
he pulls himself together.) Good-bye! (His hands go out to her,
but he draws them back as if frightened to touch her. Nobly.)
He squares his shoulders and stands looking at the audience with
his chin in the air; then with a shrug of utter despair, which would
bring tears into the eyes of any young thing in the pit, he turns and
with bent head walks slowly out.
That is how the Third Act ends. I went to the dress rehearsal, and
so I know.
How the accident happened I do not know. I suppose Prosper was
nervous. I am sure he was very much in love. Anyhow, this is how, on
that famous first night, the Third Act ended:
Exit Sir Geoffrey.
Winifred (breaking the silence). Dick, you heard what he
said. Don't let this silly money come between us. I have told you I
love you, dear. Won't youwon't you speak to me?
Dick (jumping up). Winifred I(with a great gulp) I
Whereupon he picked her up in his arms and carried her triumphantly
off the stage ... and after a little natural hesitation the curtain
* * * * *
Behind the scenes all was consternation. Mr. Levinski (absolutely
furious) had a hasty consultation with the author (also furious), in
the course of which they both saw that the Fourth Act as written was
now an impossibility. Poor Prosper, who had almost immediately
recovered his sanity, tremblingly suggested that Mr. Levinski should
announce that, owing to the sudden illness of Mr. Vane the Fourth Act
could not be given. Mr. Levinski was kind enough to consider this
suggestion not entirely stupid; his own idea having been (very
regretfully) to leave out the two parables and three reminiscences from
India, and concentrate on the love-scene with the widow.
Yes, yes, he said. Your plan is better. I will say you are ill.
It is true; you are mad. To-morrow we will play it as it was written.
You can't, said the author gloomily. The critics won't come till
the Fourth Act and they'll assume that the Third Act ended as it did
tonight. The Fourth Act will seem all nonsense to them.
True. And I was so good, so much myself in that Act. He turned to
Or there's another way, began the author. We might
And then a gentleman in the gallery settled it from the front of the
curtain. There was nothing in the programme to show that the play was
in four Acts. The Time is the present-day and the Scene is in Sir
Geoffrey Throssell's town-house, was all it said. And the gentleman in
the gallery, thinking it was all over, and being pleased with the play
and particularly with the realism of the last moment of it, shouted,
Author. And suddenly everybody else cried, Author! Author. The Play
* * * * *
I said that this was the story of a comedy which nearly became a
tragedy. But it turned out to be no tragedy at all. In the three Acts
to which Prosper Vane had condemned it the play appealed to both
critics and public, for the Fourth Act (as he recognised so clearly)
was unnecessary, and would have spoilt the balance of it entirely. Best
of all, the shortening of the play demanded that some entertainment
should be provided in front of it, and this enabled Mr. Levinski to
introduce to the public Professor Wollabollacolla and Princess
Collabollawolla, the famous exponents of the Bongo-Bongo, that
fascinating Central African war dance, which was soon to be the rage of
society. But though, as a result, the takings of the Box Office
surpassed all Mr. Levinski's previous records, our friend Prosper Vane
received no practical acknowledgment of his services. He had to be
content with the hand and heart of the lady who played Winifred,
and the fact that Mr. Levinski was good enough to attend the wedding.
There was, in fact, a photograph in all the papers of Mr. Levinski
XVI. THE DOCTOR
May I look at my watch? I asked my partner, breaking a silence
which had lasted from the beginning of the waltz.
Oh, have you got a watch? she drawled. How exciting!
I wasn't going to show it to you, I said. But I always think it
looks so bad for a man to remove his arm from a lady's waist in order
to look at his watchI mean without some sort of apology or
explanation. As though he were wondering if he could possibly stick
another five minutes of it.
Let me know when the apology is beginning, said Miss White.
Perhaps, after all, her name wasn't White, but, anyhow, she was dressed
in White, and it's her own fault if wrong impressions arise.
It begins at once. I've got to catch a train home. There's one at
12.45, I believe. If I started now I could just miss it.
You don't live in these Northern Heights, then?
No. Do you?
I looked at my watch again.
I should love to discuss with you the relative advantages of London
and Greater London, I said; the flats and cats of one and the big
gardens of the other. But just at the moment the only thing I can think
of is whether I shall like the walk home. Are there any dangerous
passes to cross?
It's a nice wet night for a walk, said Miss White reflectively.
If only I had brought my bicycle.
A watch and a bicycle! You are lucky!
Look here, it may be a joke to you, but I don't fancy myself coming
down the mountains at night.
The last train goes at one o'clock, if that's any good to you.
All the good in the world, I said joyfully. Then I needn't walk.
I looked at my watch. That gives us five minutes more. I could almost
tell you all about myself in that time.
It generally takes longer than that, said Miss White. At least it
seems to. She sighed and added, My partners have been very
I looked at her severely.
I'm afraid you're a Suffragette, I said.
As soon as the next dance began I hurried off to find my hostess. I
had just caught sight of her when
Our dance, isn't it? said a voice.
I turned and recognised a girl in blue.
Ah, I said, coldly cheerful, I was just looking for you. Come
We broke into a gay and happy step, suggestive of twin hearts
utterly free from care.
Why do you look so thoughtful? asked the girl in blue after ten
minutes of it.
I've just heard some good news, I said.
Oh, do tell me!
I don't know if it would really interest you.
I'm sure it would.
Well, several miles from here there may be a tram, if one can find
it, which goes nobody quite knows where up till one-thirty in the
morning probably. It is now, I added, looking at my watch (I was
getting quite good at this), just on one o'clock and raining hard. All
The dance over, I searched in vain for my hostess. Every minute I
took out my watch and seemed to feel that another tram was just
starting off to some unknown destination. At last I could bear it no
longer and, deciding to write a letter of explanation on the morrow, I
My instructions from Miss White with regard to the habitat of trams
(thrown in by her at the last moment in case the train failed me) were
vague. Five minutes' walk convinced me that I had completely lost any
good that they might ever have been to me. Instinct and common sense
were the only guides left. I must settle down to some heavy detective
The steady rain had washed out any footprints that might have been
of assistance, and I was unable to follow up the slot of a tram
conductor of which I had discovered traces in
Two-hundred-and-fifty-first Street. In
Three-thousand-eight-hundred-and-ninety-seventh Street I lay with my
ear to the ground and listened intently, for I seemed to hear the
ting-ting of the electric car, but nothing came of it; and in
Four-millionth Street I made a new resolution. I decided to give up
looking for trams and to search instead for Londonthe London that I
I felt pretty certain that I was still in one of the Home Counties,
and I did not seem to remember having crossed the Thames, so that if
only I could find a star which pointed to the south I was in a fair way
to get home. I set out to look for a star; with the natural result
that, having abandoned all hope of finding a man, I immediately ran
Now then, he said good-naturedly.
Could you tell me the way toI tried to think of some place near
my Londonto Westminster Abbey?
He looked at me in astonishment. His feeling seemed to be that I was
too late for the Coronation and too early for the morning service.
Oror anywhere, I said hurriedly. Trams, for instance.
He pointed nervously to the right and disappeared.
Imagine my joy; there were tramlines, and better still, a tram
approaching. I tumbled in, gave the conductor a penny, and got a
workman's ticket in exchange. Ten minutes later we reached the
I had wondered where we should arrive, but didn't much mind so long
as I was again within reach of a cab. However, as soon as I stepped out
of the tram, I knew at once where I was.
Tell me, I said to the conductor, do you now go back again?
In ten minutes. There's a tram from here every half-hour.
When is the last?
There's no last. Backwards and forwards all night.
I should have liked to stop and sympathise, but it was getting late.
I walked a hundred yards up the hill and turned to the right.... As I
entered the gates I could hear the sound of music.
Isn't this our dance? I said to Miss White, who was taking a
breather at the hall door. One moment, I added and I got out of my
coat and umbrella.
Is it? I thought you'd gone.
Oh, no, I decided to stay, after all. I found out that the trams go
We walked in together.
I won't be more autobiographical than I can help, I said, but I
must say it's hard life, a doctor's. One is called away in the middle
of a dance to a difficult case ofof mumps or something, andwell,
there you are. A delightful evening spoilt. If one is lucky one may get
back in time for a waltz or two at the end.
Indeed, I said, as we began to dance, at one time to-night I
quite thought I wasn't going to get back here at all.
XVII. THE FINANCIER
This is how I became a West African mining magnate with a stake in
During February I grew suddenly tired of waiting for the summer to
begin. London in the summer is a pleasant place, and chiefly so because
you can keep on buying evening papers to read the cricket news. In
February life has no such excitements to offer. So I wrote to my
solicitor about it.
I want you, I wrote, to buy me fifty rubber shares, so that I can
watch them go up and down. And I added, Brokerage one-eighth, to
show that I knew what I was talking about.
He replied tersely as follows:
Don't be a fool. If you have any money to invest I can get you a
safe mortgage at five per cent. Let me know.
It's a funny thing how the minds of solicitors run upon mortgages.
If they would only stop to think for a moment they would see that you
couldn't possibly watch a safe mortgage go up and down. I left my
solicitor alone and consulted Henry on the subject. In the intervals
between golf and golf Henry dabbles in finance.
You don't want anything gilt-edged, I gather, he said. It's
wonderful how they talk.
I want it to go up and down, I explained patiently, and I
indicated the required movement with my umbrella.
What about a little flutter in oil? he went on, just like a
financier in a novel.
I'll have a little flutter in raspberry jam if you like. Anything
as long as I can rush every night for the last edition of the evening
papers and say now and then, 'Good heavens, I'm ruined!'
Then you'd better try a gold mine, said Henry bitterly, in the
voice of one who has tried. Take your choice, and he threw the paper
over to me.
I don't want a whole mineonly a vein or two. Yes, this is very
interesting, I went on, as I got among the West Africans. The scoring
seems to be pretty low; I suppose it must have been a wet wicket. 'H.E.
Reef, 1-3/4, 2'he did a little better in the second innings. '1/2,
Boffin River, 5/16, 7/16,they followed on, you see, but they saved
the innings defeat. By the way, which figure do I really keep my eye on
when I want to watch them go up and down?
Both. One eye on each. And don't talk about Boffin River to me.
Is it like that, Henry? I am sorry. I suppose it's too late now to
offer you a safe mortgage at five per cent.? I know a man who has some.
Well, perhaps you're right.
On the next day I became a magnate. The Jaguar Mine was the one I
fixed uponfor two reasons. First, the figure immediately after it was
1, which struck me as a good point from which to watch it go up and
down. Secondly, I met a man at lunch who knew somebody who had actually
seen the Jaguar Mine.
He says that there's no doubt about there being lots there.
Lots of what? Jaguars or gold?
Ah, he didn't say. Perhaps he meant Jaguars.
Anyhow, it was an even chance, and I decided to risk it. In a week's
time I was the owner of what we call in the City a block of
Jaguarsbought from one Herbert Bellingham, who, I suppose, had been
got at by his solicitor and compelled to return to something safe. I
was a West African magnate.
My first two months as a magnate were a great success. With my heart
in my mouth I would tear open the financial editions of the evening
papers, to find one day that Jaguars had soared like a rocket to
1-1/16, the next that they had dropped like a stone to 1-1/32. There
was one terrible afternoon when for some reason which will never be
properly explained we sank to 15/16. I think the European situation had
something to do with it, though this naturally is not admitted. Lord
Rothschild, I fancy, suddenly threw all his Jaguars on the market; he
sold and sold and sold, and only held his hand when, in desperation,
the Tsar granted the concession for his new Southend to Siberia
railway. Something like that. But he never recked how the private
investor would suffer; and there was I, sitting at home and sending out
madly for all the papers, until my rooms were littered with copies of
The Times, The Financial News, Answers, The
Feathered World and Home Chat. Next day we were up to 31/32,
and I breathed again.
But I had other pleasures than these. Previously I had regarded the
City with awe, but now I felt a glow of possession come over me
whenever I approached it. Often in those first two months I used to
lean against the Mansion House in a familiar sort of way; once I struck
a match against the Royal Exchange. And what an impression of financial
acumen I could make in a drawing-room by a careless reference to my
block of Jaguars! Even those who misunderstood me and thought I spoke
of my flock of Jaguars were startled. Indeed life was very good just
But lately things have not been going well. At the beginning of
April Jaguars settled down at 1-1/16. Though I stood for hours at the
club tape, my hair standing up on end and my eyeballs starting from
their sockets, Jaguars still came through steadily at 1-1/16. To give
them a chance of doing something, I left them alone for a whole
weekwith what agony you can imagine. Then I looked again; a whole
week and anything might have happened. Pauper or millionaire? No, still
Worse was to follow. Editors actually took to leaving out Jaguars
altogether. I suppose they were sick of putting 1-1/16 in every
edition. But how ridiculous it made my idea seem of watching them go up
and down! How blank life became again!
And now what I dreaded most of all has happened. I have received a
Progress Report from the mine. It gives the total footage for the
month, special reference being made to cross-cutting, winzing and
sinking. The amount of tons crushed is announced. There is serious
talk of ore being extracted; indeed there has already been a most
alarming yield in fine gold. In short, it can no longer be hushed up
that the property may at any moment be placed on a dividend-paying
Probably I shall be getting a safe five per cent.!
Dash it all, as I said to my solicitor this morning, I might just
as well have bought a rotten mortgage.
XVIII. THE THINGS THAT MATTER
Ronald, surveying the world from his taxithat pleasant corner of
the world, St. James's Parkgave a sigh of happiness. The blue sky,
the lawn of daffodils, the mist of green upon the trees, were but a
promise of the better things which the country held for him. Beautiful
as he thought the daffodils, he found for the moment an even greater
beauty in the Gladstone bags at his feet. His eyes wandered from one to
the other, and his heart sang to him, I'm going away, I'm going away,
I'm going away.
The train was advertised to go at 2.22, and at 2.20 Ronald joined
the Easter holiday crowd upon the platform. A porter put down his
luggage and was then swallowed up in a sea of perambulators and
flustered parents. Ronald never saw him again. At 2.40, amidst some
applause, the train came in.
Ronald seized a lost porter.
Just put these in for me, he said. A first smoker.
All this lot yours, Sir?
The three bagsnot the milk-cans, said Ronald.
It had been a beautiful day before, but when a family of sixteen
which joined Ronald in his carriage was ruthlessly hauled out by the
guard, the sun seemed to shine with a warmth more caressing than ever.
Even when the train moved out of the station and the children who had
been mislaid emerged from their hiding-places and were bundled in
anywhere by the married porters, Ronald still remained splendidly
alone. And the sky took on yet a deeper shade of blue.
He lay back in his corner, thinking. For a time his mind was
occupied with the thoughts common to most of us when we go
awaythoughts of all the things we have forgotten to pack. I don't
think you could fairly have called Ronald over-anxious about clothes.
He recognised that it was the inner virtues which counted; that a
well-dressed exterior was nothing without some graces of mind or body.
But at the same time he did feel strongly that, if you are going to
stay at a house where you have never visited before, and if you are
particularly anxious to make a good impression, it is a pity
that an accident of packing should force you to appear at dinner in
green knickerbockers and somebody else's velvet smoking-jacket.
Ronald couldn't help feeling that he had forgotten something. It
wasn't the spare sponge; it wasn't the extra shaving-brush; it wasn't
the second pair of bedroom slippers. Just for a moment the sun went
behind a cloud as he wondered if he had included the reserve
razor-strop; but no, he distinctly remembered packing that.
The reason for his vague feeling of unrest was this. He had been
interrupted while getting ready that afternoon; and, as he left
whatever he had been doing in order to speak to his housekeeper, he had
said to himself, If you're not careful, you'll forget about that when
you come back. And now he could not remember what it was he had been
doing, nor whether he had in the end forgotten to go on with it.
Was he selecting his ties, or brushing his hair, or
The country was appearing field by field; the train rushed through
cuttings gay with spring flowers; blue was the sky between the baby
clouds ... but it all missed Ronald. What could he have
He went over the days that were coming; he went through all the
changes of toilet that the hours might bring. He had packed this and
this and this and thishe was all right for the evening. Supposing
they played golf?... He was all right for golf. He might want to
ride.... He would be able to ride. It was too early for lawn tennis,
but ... well, anyhow, he had put in flannels.
As he considered all the possible clothes that he might want, it
really seemed that he had provided for everything. If he liked he could
go to church on Friday morning; hunt otters from twelve to one on
Saturday; toboggan or dig for badgers on Monday. He had the different
suits necessary for those who attend a water-polo meeting, who play
chess, or who go out after moths with a pot of treacle. And even, in
the last resort, he could go to bed.
Yes, he was all right. He had packed everything; moreover,
his hair was brushed and he had no smut upon his face. With a sigh of
relief he lowered the window and his soul drank in the beautiful
afternoon. We are going awaywe are going awaywe are going away,
sang the train.
At the prettiest of wayside stations the train stopped and Ronald
got out. There were horses to meet him. Better than a car, thought
Ronald, on an afternoon like this. The luggage was collected.
Nothing left out, he chuckled to himself, and was seized with an
insane desire to tell the coachman so; and then they drove off through
the fresh green hedgerows, Ronald trying hard not to cheer.
His host was at the door as they arrived. Ronald, as happy as a
child, jumped out and shook him warmly by the hand, and told him what a
heavenly day it was; receiving with smiles of pleasure the news in
return that it was almost like summer.
You're just in time for tea. Really, we might have it in the
By Jove, we might, said Ronald, beaming.
However, they had it in the hall, with the doors wide open. Ronald,
sitting lazily with his legs stretched out and a cup of tea in his
hands, and feeling already on the friendliest terms with everybody,
wondered again at the difference which the weather could make to one's
You know, he said to the girl on his right, on a day like this,
nothing seems to matter.
And then suddenly he knew that he was wrong, for he had discovered
what it was which he had told himself not to forget ... what it was
which he had indeed forgotten.
And suddenly the birds stopped singing and there was a bitter chill
in the air.
And the sun went violently out.
* * * * *
He was wearing only half-a-pair of spats.
XIX. THE MAKING OF A CHRISTMAS STORY
London at Yuletide!
A mantle of white lay upon the Embankment, where our story opens,
gleaming and glistening as it caught the rays of the cold December sun;
an embroidery of white fringed the trees; and under a canopy of white
the proud palaces of Savoy and Cecil reared their silent heads. The
mighty river in front was motionless, for the finger of Death had laid
its icy hand upon it. Abovethe hard blue sky stretching to eternity;
belowthe white purity of innocence. London in the grip of winter!
(Editor. Come, I like this. This is going to be good. A
cold day was it not?
All at once the quiet of the morning was disturbed. In the distance
a bell rang out, sending a joyous pæan to the heavens. Another took up
the word, and then another, and another. Westminster caught the message
from Bartholomew the son of Thunder, and flung it to Giles Without, who
gave it gently to Andrew by the Wardrobe. Suddenly the air was filled
with bells, all chanting together of peace and happiness, mirth and
jollitya frenzy of bells.
The Duke, father of four fine children, waking in his Highland
castle, heard and smiled as he thought of his little ones....
The Merchant Prince, turning over in his magnificent residence,
heard, and turned again to sleep, with love for all mankind in his
The Pauper in his workhouse, up betimes, heard, and chuckled at the
prospect of his Christmas dinner....
And, on the Embankment, Robert Hardrow, with a cynical smile on his
lips, listened to the splendid irony of it.
(Editor. We really are getting to the story now, are we
Author. That was all local colour. I want to make it quite
clear that it was Christmas.
Editor. Yes, yes, quite so. This is certainly a Christmas
story. I think I shall like Robert, do you know?)
It was Christmas day, so much at least was clear to him. With that
same cynical smile on his lips, he pulled his shivering rags about him,
and half unconsciously felt at the growth of beard about his chin.
Nobody would recognise him now. His friends (as he had thought them)
would pass by without a glance for the poor outcast near them. The
women that he had known would draw their skirts away from him in
horror. Even Lady Alice
Lady Alice! The cause of it all!
His thoughts flew back to that last scene, but twenty-four hours
ago, when they had parted for ever. As he had entered the hall he had
half wondered to himself if there could be anybody in the world that
day happier than himself. Tall, well-connected, a vice-president of the
Tariff Reform League, and engaged to the sweetest girl in England, he
had been the envy of all. Little did he think that that very night he
was to receive his congé!
What mattered it now how or why they had quarrelled? A few hasty
words, a bitter taunt, tears, and then the end.
A last cry from her, Go, and let me never see your face again!
A last sneer from him, I will go, but first give me back the
presents I have promised you!
Then a slammed door andsilence.
What use, without her guidance, to try to keep straight any more?
Bereft of her love, Robert had sunk steadily. Gambling, drink, morphia,
billiards, and cigarshe had taken to them all; until now in the
wretched figure of the outcast on the Embankment you would never have
recognised the once spruce figure of Handsome Hardrow.
(Editor. It all seems to have happened rather rapidly,
does it not? Twenty-four hours ago he had been
Author. You forget that this is a SHORT
Handsome Hardrow! How absurd it sounded now! He had let his beard
grow, his clothes were in rags, a scar over one eye testified
(Editor. Yes, yes. Of course, I quite admit that a man
might go to the bad in twenty-four hours, but would his beard grow
Author. Look here, you've heard of a man going grey with
trouble in a single night, haven't you?
Author. Well, it's the same idea as that.
Editor. Ah, quite so, quite so.
Author. Where was I?
Editor. A scar over one eye was just testifyingI
suppose he had two eyes in the ordinary way?)
testified to a drunken frolic of an hour or two ago. Never before,
thought the policeman, as he passed upon his beat, had such a pitiful
figure cowered upon the Embankment, and prayed for the night to cover
Author. To tell the truth, I am rather stuck for the
Editor. What is the trouble?
Author. I don't quite know what to do with Robert for ten
hours or so.
Editor. Couldn't he go somewhere by a local line?
Author. This is not a humorous story. The point is that I
want him to be outside a certain house some twenty miles from town at
eight o'clock that evening.
Editor. If I were Robert I should certainly start at once.
Author. No, I have it.)
As he sat there, his thoughts flew over the bridge of years, and he
was wafted on the wings of memory to other and happier Yuletides. That
Christmas when he had received his first bicycle....
That Christmas abroad....
The merry house-party at the place of his Cambridge friend....
Yuletide at the Towers, where he had first met Alice!
Ten hours passed rapidly thus....
* * * * *
(Author. I put stars to denote the flight of years.
Editor. Besides, it will give the reader time for a
Robert got up and shook himself.
(Editor. One moment. This is a Christmas story. When are
you coming to the robin?
Author. I really can't be bothered about robins just now.
I assure you all the best Christmas stories begin like this nowadays.
We may get to a robin later; I cannot say.
Editor. We must. My readers expect a robin, and they shall
have it. And a wassail-bowl, and a turkey, and a Christmas-tree, and
Author. Yes, yes; but wait. We shall come to little Elsie
soon, and then perhaps it will be all right.
Editor. Little Elsie. Good!)
Robert got up and shook himself. Then he shivered miserably, as the
cold wind cut through him like a knife. For a moment he stood
motionless, gazing over the stone parapet into the dark river beyond,
and as he gazed a thought came into his mind. Why not end it allhere
and now? He had nothing to live for. One swift plunge, and
(Editor. You forget. The river was frozen.
Author. Dash it, I was just going to say that.)
But no! Even in this Fate was against him. The river was frozen
over! He turned away with a curse....
What happened afterwards Robert never quite understood. Almost
unconsciously he must have crossed one of the numerous bridges which
span the river and join North London to South. Once on the other side,
he seems to have set his face steadily before him, and to have dragged
his weary limbs on and on, regardless of time and place. He walked like
one in a dream, his mind drugged by the dull narcotic of physical pain.
Suddenly he realised that he had left London behind him, and was in the
more open spaces of the country. The houses were more scattered; the
recurring villa of the clerk had given place to the isolated mansion of
the stockbroker. Each residence stood in its own splendid grounds,
surrounded by fine old forest trees and approached by a long carriage
(Editor. Quite so. The whole forming a magnificent estate
for a retired gentleman. Never mind that.)
Robert stood at the entrance to one of these houses, and the iron
entered into his soul. How different was this man's position from his
own! What right had this mana perfect strangerto be happy and
contented in the heart of his family, while he, Robert, stood, a
homeless wanderer, alone in the cold?
Almost unconsciously he wandered down the drive, hardly realising
what he was doing until he was brought up by the gay lights of the
windows. Still without thinking, he stooped down and peered into the
brilliantly lit room above him. Within all was jollity; beautiful women
moved to and fro, and the happy laughter of children came to him.
Elsie, he heard some one call, and a childish treble responded.
(Editor. Now for the robin.
Author. I am very sorry. I have just remembered something
rather sad. The fact is that, two days before, Elsie had forgotten to
feed the robin, and in consequence it had died before this story opens.
Editor. That is really very awkward. I have already
arranged with an artist to do some pictures, and I remember I
particularly ordered a robin and a wassail. What about the wassail?
Author. Elsie always had her porridge UPSTAIRS.)
A terrible thought had come into Robert's head. It was nearly twelve
o'clock. The house-party was retiring to bed. He heard the
Good-nights wafted through the open window; the lights went out, to
reappear upstairs. Presently they too went out, and Robert was alone
with the darkened house.
The temptation was too much for a conscience already sodden with
billiards, golf and cigars. He flung a leg over the sill and drew
himself gently into the room. At least he would have one good meal, he
too would have his Christmas dinner before the end came. He switched
the light on and turned eagerly to the table. His eyes ravenously
scanned the contents. Turkey, mince-pies, plum-puddingall was there
as in the days of his youth.
(Editor. This is better. I ordered a turkey, I remember.
What about the mistletoe and holly? I rather think I asked for some of
Author. We must let the readers take something for
Editor. I am not so sure. Couldn't you say something like
this: Holly and mistletoe hung in festoons upon the wall?)
Indeed, even holly and mistletoe hung in festoons upon the wall.
(Editor. Thank you.)
With a sigh of content Hardrow flung himself into a chair, and
seized a knife and fork. Soon a plate liberally heaped with good things
was before him. Greedily he set to work, with the appetite of a man who
had not tasted food for several hours....
Dood evening, said a voice. Are you Father Kwistmas?
Robert turned suddenly, and gazed in amazement at the white-robed
figure in the doorway.
Elsie, he murmured huskily.
(Editor. How did he know? And why huskily?
Author. He didn't know, he guessed. And his mouth was
Are you Father Kwistmas? repeated Elsie.
Robert felt at his chin, and thanked Heaven again that he had let
his beard grow. Almost mechanically he decided to wear the maskin
short, to dissemble.
Yes, my dear, he said. I just looked in to know what you would
like me to bring you.
You're late, aren't oo? Oughtn't oo to have come this morning?
(Editor. This is splendid. This quite reconciles me to the
absence of the robin. But what was Elsie doing downstairs?
Author. I am making Robert ask her that question directly.
Editor. Yes, but just tell me nowbetween friends.
Author. She had left her golliwog in the room, and
couldn't sleep without it.
Editor. I knew that was it.)
If I'm late, dear, said Robert, with a smile, why, so are you.
The good food and wine in his veins were doing their work, and a
pleasant warmth was stealing over Hardrow. He found to his surprise
that airy banter still came easy to him.
To what, he continued, do I owe the honour of this meeting?
I came downstairs for my dolly, said Elsie. The one you sent me
this morning, do you remember?
Of course I do, my dear.
And what have you bwought me now, Father Kwistmas?
Robert started. If he was to play the rôle successfully he must find
something to give her now. The remains of the turkey, a pair of
finger-bowls, his old hatall these came hastily into his mind, and
were dismissed. He had nothing of value on him. All had been pawned
Stay! The gold locket studded with diamonds and rubies, which
contained Alice's photograph. The one memento of her that he had kept,
even when the pangs of starvation were upon him. He brought it from its
resting-place next his heart.
A little something to wear round your neck, child, he said. See!
Thank oo, said Elsie. Why, it opens!
Yes, it opens, said Robert moodily.
Why, it's Alith! Sister Alith.
Author. I thought you'd like that.)
Robert leapt to his feet as if he had been shot.
Who? he cried.
My sister Alith. Does oo know her too?
Alice's sister! Heavens! He covered his face with his hands.
The door opened.
(Editor. Ha again!)
What are you doing here, Elsie? said a voice. Go to bed, child.
Why, who is this?
Father Kwithmath, thithter.
(Editor. How exactly do you work the lisping?
Author. What do you mean? Don't children of Elsie's tender
years lisp sometimes?
Editor. Yes, but just now she said Kwistmas quite
Author. I am glad you noticed that. That was an effect
which I intended to produce. Lisping is brought about by placing the
tongue upon the hard surface of the palate, and in cases where the
subject is unduly excited or influenced by emotion the lisp becomes
more pronounced. In this case
Editor. Yeth, I thee.)
Send her away, cried Robert, without raising his head.
The door opened, and closed again. Well, said Alice calmly, and
who are you? You may have lied to this poor child, but you cannot
deceive me. You are not Father Christmas.
The miserable man raised his shamefaced head and looked haggardly at
Alice! he muttered, don't you remember me?
She gazed at him earnestly.
Robert! But how changed!
Since we parted, Alice, much has happened.
Yet it seems only yesterday that I saw you!
(Editor. It WAS only yesterday.
Author. Yes, yes. Don't interrupt now, please.)
To me it has seemed years.
But what are you doing here? said Alice.
Rather, what are you doing here? answered Robert.
(Editor. I think Alice's question was the more reasonable
I live here.
Robert gave a sudden cry.
Your house! Then I have broken into your house! Alice, send me
away! Put me in prison! Do what you will to me! I can never hold up my
Lady Alice looked gently at the wretched figure in front of her.
I am glad to see you again, she said. Because I wanted to say
that it was my fault!
Can you forgive me?
Forgive you? If you knew what my life has been since I left you! If
you knew into what paths of wickedness I have sunk! How only this
evening, unnerved by excess, I have deliberately broken into this
houseyour housein order to obtain food. Already I have eaten
more than half a turkey and the best part of a plum pudding. I
With a gesture of infinite compassion she stopped him.
Then let us forgive each other, she said with a smile. A new year
is beginning, Robert!
He took her in his arms.
Listen, he said.
In the distance the bells began to ring in the New Year. A message
of hope to all weary travellers on life's highway. It was New Year's
(Editor. I thought Christmas Day had started on the
Embankment. This would be Boxing Day.
Author. I'm sorry, but it must end like that. I must have
Editor. That's all very well. I have a good deal to
explain as it is. Some of your story doesn't fit the pictures at all,
and it is too late now to get new ones done.
Author. I am afraid I cannot work to order.
Editor. Yes, I know. The artist said the same thing. Well,
I must manage somehow, I suppose. Good-bye. Rotten weather for August,
XX. A MATTER-OF-FACT FAIRY TALE
Once upon a time there was a King who had three sons. The two eldest
were lazy good-for-nothing young men, but the third son, whose name was
Charming, was a delightful youth, who was loved by everybody (outside
his family) who knew him. Whenever he rode through the town the people
used to stop whatever work they were engaged upon and wave their caps
and cry, Hurrah for Prince Charming!and even after he had passed
they would continue to stop work, in case he might be coming back the
same way, when they would wave their caps and cry, Hurrah for Prince
Charming! again. It was wonderful how fond of him they were.
But alas! his father the King was not so fond. He preferred his
eldest son; which was funny of him, because he must have known that
only the third and youngest son is ever any good in a family. Indeed,
the King himself had been a third son, so he had really no excuse for
ignorance on the point. I am afraid the truth was that he was jealous
of Charming, because the latter was so popular outside his family.
Now there lived in the Palace an old woman called Countess Caramel,
who had been governess to Charming when he was young. When the Queen
lay dying, the Countess had promised her that she would look after her
youngest boy for her, and Charming had often confided in Caramel since.
One morning, when his family had been particularly rude to him at
breakfast, Charming said to her:
Countess, I have made up my mind, and I am going into the world to
seek my fortune.
I have been waiting for this, said the Countess. Here is a magic
ring. Wear it always on your little finger, and whenever you want help,
turn it round once and help will come.
Charming thanked her and put the ring on his finger. Then he turned
it round once just to make sure that it worked. Immediately the oddest
little dwarf appeared in front of him.
Speak and I will obey, said the dwarf.
Now Charming didn't want anything at all just then, so after
thinking for a moment, he said, Go away!
The dwarf, a little surprised, disappeared.
This is splendid, thought Charming, and he started on his travels
with a light heart.
The sun was at its highest as he came to a thick wood, and in its
shade he lay down to rest. He was awakened by the sound of weeping.
Rising hastily to his feet he peered through the trees, and there,
fifty yards away from him, by the side of a stream sat the most
beautiful damsel he had ever seen, wringing her hands and sobbing
bitterly. Prince Charming, grieving at the sight of beauty in such
distress, coughed and came nearer.
Princess, he said tenderly, for he knew she must be a Princess,
you are in trouble. How can I help you?
Fair Sir, she answered, I had thought to be alone. But, since you
are here, you can help me if you will. I have aa brother
But Charming did not want to talk about brothers. He sat down on a
fallen log beside her, and looked at her entranced.
I think you are the most lovely lady in all the world, he said.
Am I? said the Princess, whose name, by the way, was Beauty.
She looked away from him and there was silence between them.
Charming, a little at a loss, fidgeted nervously with his ring, and
began to speak again.
Ever since I have known you
You are in need of help? said the dwarf, appearing suddenly.
Certainly not, said Charming angrily. Not in the least. I can
manage this quite well by myself.
Speak, and I will obey.
Then go away, said Charming; and the dwarf, who was beginning to
lose his grip of things, again disappeared.
The Princess, having politely pretended to be looking for something
while this was going on, turned to him again.
Come with me, she said, and I will show you how you can help me.
She took him by the hand and led him down a narrow glade to a little
clearing in the middle of the wood. Then she made him sit down beside
her on the grass, and there she told him her tale.
There is a giant called Blunderbus, she said, who lives in a
great castle ten miles from here. He is a terrible magician, and years
ago because I would not marry him he turned mymy brother into aI
don't know how to tell youinto aa tortoise. She put her hands to
her face and sobbed again.
Why a tortoise? said Charming, knowing that sympathy was useless,
but feeling that he ought to say something.
I don't know. He just thought of it. Itit isn't a very nice thing
And why should he turn your brother into it? I mean, if he
had turned you into a tortoiseOf course, he went on
hurriedly, I'm very glad he didn't.
Thank you, said Beauty.
But I don't understand why
He knew he could hurt me more by making my brother a tortoise than
by making me one, she explained, and looked at him anxiously.
This was a new idea to Charming, who had two brothers of his own;
and he looked at her in some surprise.
Oh, what does it matter why he did it? she cried, as he was
about to speak. Why do giants do things? I don't know.
Princess, said Charming remorsefully, and kissed her hand, tell
me how I can help you.
My brother, said Beauty, was to have met me here. He is late
again. She sighed and added, He used to be so punctual.
But how can I help him? asked Charming.
It is like this. The only way in which the enchantment can be taken
off him is for some one to kill the Giant. But, if once the enchantment
has stayed on for seven years, then it stays on for ever.
Here she looked down and burst into tears.
The seven years, she sobbed, are over at sundown this afternoon.
I see, said Charming thoughtfully.
Here is my brother, cried Beauty.
An enormous tortoise came slowly into view. Beauty rushed up to him
and, having explained the situation rapidly, made the necessary
Charmed, said the tortoise. You can't miss the castle; it's the
only one near here, and Blunderbus is sure to be at home. I need not
tell you how grateful I shall be if you kill him. Though I must say,
he added, it puzzles me to think how you are going to do it.
I have a friend who will help me, said Charming, fingering his
Well, I only hope you'll be luckier than the others.
The others? cried Charming in surprise.
Yes; didn't she tell you about the others who tried?
I forgot to, said Beauty, frowning at him.
Ah, well, perhaps in that case we'd better not go into it now,
said the Tortoise. But before you start I should like to talk to you
privately for a moment. He took Charming on one side and whispered, I
say, do you know anything about tortoises?
Very little, said Charming. In fact
Then you don't happen to know what they eat?
I'm afraid I don't.
Dash it, why doesn't anybody know? The others all made the
most ridiculous suggestions. Steak and kidney puddingsshrimp
sandwichesand buttered toast. Dear me! The nights we had after the
shrimp sandwiches! And the fool swore he had kept tortoises all his
If I may say so, said Charming, I should have thought that you
would have known best.
The same silly idea they all have, said the Tortoise testily.
When Blunderbus put this enchantment on me, do you suppose he got a
blackboard and a piece of chalk and gave me a lecture on the diet and
habits of the common tortoise, before showing me out of the front gate?
No, he simply turned me into the form of a tortoise and left my mind
and soul as it was before. I've got the anatomy of a tortoise, I've got
the very delicate inside of a tortoise, but I don't think like
one, stupid. Else I shouldn't mind being one.
I never thought of that.
No one does, except me. And I can think of nothing else. He paused
and added confidently. We're trying rum omelettes just now. Somehow I
don't think tortoises really like them. However, we shall see. I
suppose you've never heard anything definite against them?
You needn't bother about that, said Charming briskly. By to-night
you will be a man again. And he patted him encouragingly on the shell
and returned to take an affectionate farewell of the Princess.
As soon as he was alone, Charming turned the ring round his finger,
and the dwarf appeared before him.
The same as usual? said the dwarf, preparing to vanish at the
word. He was just beginning to get into the swing of it.
No, no, said Charming hastily. I really want you this time. He
thought for a moment. I want, he said at last, a sword. One that
will kill giants.
Instantly a gleaming sword was at his feet. He picked it up and
Is this really a magic sword?
It has but to inflict one scratch, said the dwarf, and the result
Charming, who had been feeling the blade, took his thumb away
Then I shall want a cloak of darkness, he said.
Behold, here it is. Beneath this cloak the wearer is invisible to
the eyes of his enemies.
One thing more, said Charming. A pair of seven-league boots....
Thank you. That is all to-day.
Directly the dwarf was gone, Charming kicked off his shoes and
stepped into the magic boots; then he seized the sword and the cloak
and darted off on his lady's behest. He had barely gone a hundred paces
before a sudden idea came to him, and he pulled himself up short.
Let me see, he reflected; the castle was ten miles away. These
are seven-league bootsso that I have come about two thousand miles. I
shall have to go back. He took some hasty steps back, and found
himself in the wood from which he had started.
Well? said Princess Beauty, have you killed him?
No, n-no, stammered Charming, not exactly killed him. I was
justjust practising something. The fact is, he added confidently,
I've got a pair of new boots on, and He saw the look of cold
surprise in her face and went on quickly, I swear, Princess, that I
will not return to you again without his head. He took a quick step in
the direction of the castle and found himself soaring over it; turned
eleven miles off and stepped back a pace; overshot it again, and
arrived at the very feet of the Princess.
His head? said Beauty eagerly.
II must have dropped it, said Charming, hastily pretending to
feel for it. I'll just go and He stepped off in confusion.
Eleven miles the wrong side of the castle, Charming sat down to
think it out. It was but two hours to sundown. Without his magic boots
he would get to the castle too late. Of course, what he really wanted
to do was to erect an isosceles triangle on a base of eleven miles,
having two sides of twenty-one miles each. But this was before Euclid's
However, by taking one step to the north and another to the
southwest, he found himself close enough. A short but painful walk,
with his boots in his hand, brought him to his destination. He had a
moment's hesitation about making a first call at the castle in his
stockinged feet, but consoled himself with the thought that in
life-and-death matters one cannot bother about little points of
etiquette, and that, anyhow, the giant would not be able to see them.
Then, donning the magic cloak, and with the magic sword in his hand, he
entered the castle gates. For an instant his heart seemed to stop
beating, but the thought of the Princess gave him new courage....
The Giant was sitting in front of the fire, his great spiked club
between his knees. At Charming's entry he turned round, gave a start of
surprise, bent forward eagerly a moment, and then leant back chuckling.
Like most over-grown men he was naturally kind-hearted and had a simple
humour, but he could be stubborn when he liked. The original affair of
the tortoise seems to have shown him both at his best and at his worst.
Why do you walk like that? he said pleasantly to Charming. The
baby is not asleep.
Charming stopped short.
You see me? he cried furiously.
Of course I do! Really, you mustn't expect to come into a house
without anything on your feet and not be a little noticeable. Even in a
crowd I should have picked you out.
That miserable dwarf, said Charming savagely, swore solemnly to
me that beneath this cloak I was invisible to the eyes of my enemies!
But then we aren't enemies, smiled the Giant sweetly. I like you
immensely. There's something about youdirectly you came in.... I
think it must be love at first sight.
So that's how he tricked me!
Oh no, it wasn't really like that. The fact is you are invisible
beneath that cloak, onlyyou'll excuse my pointing it outthere
are such funny bits of you that aren't beneath the cloak. You've no
idea how odd you look; just a head and two legs, and a couple of
arms.... Waists, he murmured to himself, are not being worn this
But Charming had had enough of talk. Griping his sword firmly, he
threw aside his useless cloak, dashed forward, and with a beautiful
lunge pricked his enemy in the ankle.
Victory! he cried, waving his magic sword above his head. Thus is
Beauty's brother delivered!
The Giant stared at him for a full minute. Then he put his hands to
his sides and fell back shaking in his chair.
Her brother! he roared. Well, of all theHer brother! He
rolled on the floor in a paroxysm of mirth. Her brother! Oh
youYou'll kill me! Her b-b-b-b-brother! Her b-b-b-bher b-b-bher
The world suddenly seemed very cold to Charming. He turned the ring
on his finger.
Well? said the Dwarf.
I want, said Charming curtly, to be back at home, riding through
the streets on my cream palfrey, amidst the cheers of the populace....
* * * * *
An hour later Princess Beauty and Prince Udo, who was not her
brother, gazed into each other's eyes; and Beauty's last illusion went.
You've altered, she said slowly.
Yes, I'm not really much like a tortoise, said Udo humorously.
I meant since seven years ago. You're much stouter than I thought.
Time hasn't exactly stood still with you, you know, Beauty.
Yet you saw me every day, and went on loving me.
Well,er He shuffled his feet and looked away.
Well, you seeof course I wanted to get back, you seeand as long
as youI mean if weif you thought we were in love with each other,
then, of course, you were ready to help me. And so
You're quite old and bald. I can't think why I didn't notice it
Well, you wouldn't when I was a tortoise, said Udo pleasantly. As
tortoises go I was really quite a youngster. Besides, anyhow one never
notices baldness in a tortoise.
I think, said Beauty, weighing her words carefully, I think
you've gone off a good deal in looks the last day or two.
* * * * *
Charming was home in time for dinner, and the next morning he was
more popular than ever outside his family as he rode through the
streets of the city. But Blunderbus lay dead in his Castle. You and I
know that he was killed by the magic sword; yet somehow a strange
legend grew up around his death. And ever afterwards in that country,
when one man told his neighbour a more than ordinarily humorous
anecdote, the latter would cry, in between the gusts of merriment,
Don't! You'll make me die of laughter! And then he would pull himself
together, and add with a sigh, Like Blunderbus.
XXI. THE SEASIDE NOVELETTE
[MAY BE READ ON THE PIER]
NO. XCVIII.A SIMPLE ENGLISH GIRL
Primrose Farm stood slumbering in the sunlight of an early summer
morn. Save for the gentle breeze which played in the tops of the two
tall elms all Nature seemed at rest. Chanticleer had ceased his song;
the pigs were asleep; in the barn the cow lay thinking. A deep peace
brooded over the rural scene, the peace of centuries. Terrible to think
that in a few short hours ... but perhaps it won't. The truth is I have
not quite decided whether to have the murder in this story or in No.
XCIX.The Severed Thumb. We shall see.
As her alarum clock (a birthday present) struck five, Gwendolen
French sprang out of bed and plunged her face into the clump of nettles
which grew outside her lattice window. For some minutes she stood
there, breathing in the incense of the day; then dressing quickly she
went down into the great oak-beamed kitchen to prepare breakfast for
her father and the pigs. As she went about her simple duties she sang
softly to herself, a song of love and knightly deeds. Little did she
think that a lover, even at that moment, stood outside her door.
Heigh-ho! sighed Gwendolen, and she poured the bran-mash into a
bowl and took it up to her father's room.
For eighteen years Gwendolen French had been the daughter of John
French of Primrose Farm. Endowed by Nature with a beauty that is seldom
seen outside this sort of story, she was yet as modest and as good a
girl as was to be found in the county. Many a fine lady would have
given all her Parisian diamonds for the peach-like complexion which
bloomed on the fair face of Gwendolen. But the gifts of Nature are not
to be bought and sold.
There was a sudden knock at the door.
Come in, cried Gwendolen in surprise. Unless it was the cow, it
was an entirely unexpected visitor.
A tall and handsome young man entered, striking his head violently
against a beam as he stepped into the low-ceilinged kitchen.
Good morning, he said, repressing the remark which came more
readily to his lips. Pray forgive this intrusion. The fact is I have
lost my way, and I wondered whether you would be kind enough to inform
me as to my whereabouts.
This is Primrose Farm, Sir, she said.
I fear, he replied with a smile, it has been my misfortune never
to have heard so charming a name before. I am Lord Beltravers of
Beltravers Castle, Beltravers. Having returned last night from India I
came out for an early stroll this morning, and I fear that I have
wandered out of my direction.
Why, cried Gwendolen, your lordship is miles from Beltravers
Castle. How tired and hungry you must be. She removed a lettuce from
the kitchen-chair, dusted it, and offered it to him. (That is to say,
the chair.) Let me get you some milk, she added. Picking up a pail
she went out to inspect the cow.
Gad, said Lord Beltravers, as soon as he was alone. He paced
rapidly up and down the tiled kitchen. Deuce take it, he added
recklessly, she's a lovely girl. The Beltraverses were noted in two
continents for their hard swearing.
Here you are, Sir, said Gwendolen, returning with the precious
Lord Beltravers seized the pail and drained it at a draught.
Heavens, but that was good! he said. What was it?
Milk, said Gwendolen.
Milk, I must remember. And now may I trespass on your hospitality
still further by trespassing on your assistance so far as to solicit
your help in putting me far enough on my path to discover my way back
to Beltravers Castle? (When he was alone he said that sentence again
to himself, and wondered what had happened to it.)
I will show you, she said simply.
They passed out into the sunlit orchard. In an apple-tree a thrush
was singing; the gooseberries were overripe; beet-roots were flowering
You are very beautiful, he said.
Yes, said Gwendolen.
I must see you again. Listen! To-night my mother, Lady Beltravers,
is giving a ball. Do you dance?
Alas, not the Tango, she said sadly.
The Beltraverses do not tang, he announced with simple dignity.
You valse? Good. Then will you come?
Thank you, my lord. Oh, I should love to!
That is excellent. And now I must bid you good-bye. But first, will
you not tell me your name?
Gwendolen French, my lord.
Ah! One 'f' or two?
Three, said Gwendolen simply.
Beltravers Castle was a blaze of lights. At the head of the old oak
staircase (a magnificent example of the Selfridge period) the Lady
Beltravers stood receiving her guests. Magnificently gowned in one of
Rumpelmeyer's latest creations and wearing round her neck the famous
Beltravers' seed-pearls, she looked the picture of stately
magnificence. As each guest was announced by a bevy of footmen, she
extended her perfectly-gloved hand, and spoke a few words of kindly
Good evening, Duchess; so good of you to look in. Ah, Earl, charmed
to meet you; you'll find some sandwiches in the billiard-room.
Beltravers, show the Earl some sandwiches. How-do-you-do, Professor?
Delighted you could come. Won't you take off your goloshes?
All the county was there.
Lord Hobble was there wearing a magnificent stud; Erasmus Belt, the
famous author, whose novel Bitten: A Romance went into two editions;
Sir Septimus Root, the inventor of the fire-proof spat; Captain the
Honourable Alfred Nibbs, the popular breeder of blood-goldfishthe
whole world and his wife were present. And towering above them all
stood Lord Beltravers of Beltravers Castle, Beltravers.
Lord Beltravers stood aloof in a corner of the great ball-room.
Above his head was the proud coat-of-arms of the Beltraversesa
headless sardine on a field of tomato. As each new arrival entered Lord
Beltravers scanned his or her countenance eagerly, and then turned away
with a snarl of disappointment. Would his little country maid never
She came at last. Attired in a frock which had obviously been
created in Little Popley, she looked the picture of girlish innocence
as she stood for a moment hesitating in the doorway. Then her eyes
brightened as Lord Beltravers came towards her with long swinging
You're here! he exclaimed. How good of you to come. I have
thought of you ever since this morning. There is a valse beginning.
Will you valse it with me?
Thank you, said Gwendolen shyly.
Lord Beltravers, who valsed divinely, put his arm round her waist
and led her into the circle of dancers.
The ball was at its height. Gwendolen, who had been in to supper
eight times, placed her hand timidly on the arm of Lord Beltravers, who
had just begged a polka of her.
Let us sit this out, she said. Not herein the garden.
Yes, said Lord Beltravers gravely. Let us go. I have something to
say to you.
Offering her his arm he led her down the great terrace which ran
along the back of the house.
How wonderful to have your ancestors always round you like this!
cooed Gwendolen, as she gazed with reverence at the two statues which
Venus, said Lord Beltravers shortly, and Samson.
He led her down the steps and into the ornamental garden, and there
they sat down.
Miss French, said Lord Beltravers, or if I may call you by that
sweet name, 'Gwendolen,' I have brought you here for the purpose of
making an offer to you. Perhaps it would have been more in accordance
with etiquette had I approached your mother first.
Mother is dead, said the girl simply.
I am sorry, said Lord Beltravers, bending his head in courtly
sympathy. In that case I should have asked your father to hear my
Father is deaf, she replied. He couldn't have heard it.
Tut, tut, said Lord Beltravers impatiently; I beg your pardon,
he added at once, I should have controlled myself. That being so, he
went on, I have the honour to make to you, Miss French, an offer of
marriage. May I hope?
Gwendolen put her hand suddenly to her heart. The shock was too much
for her fresh young innocence. She was not really engaged to
Giles Earwaker, though he too was hoping; and the only three times that
Thomas Ritson had kissed her she had threatened to box his ears.
Lord Beltravers, she began
Call me Beltravers, he begged.
Beltravers, I love you. I give you a simple maiden's heart.
My darling! he cried, clasping her thumb impulsively. Then we are
He slipped a ring off his finger and fitted it affectionately on two
Wear this, he said gravely. It was my mother's. She was a de
Dindigul. See, this is their cresta roeless herring over the motto '
Dans l'huile'. Observing that she looked puzzled he translated the
noble French words to her. And now let us go in. Another dance is
beginning. May I beg for the honour?
Beltravers, she whispered lovingly.
The next dance was at its height. In a dream of happiness Gwendolen
revolved with closed eyes round Lord Beltravers of Beltravers Castle,
Suddenly above the music rose a voice, commanding, threatening.
Stop! cried the Lady Beltravers.
As if by magic the band ceased and all the dancers were still.
There is an intruder here, said Lady Beltravers in a cold voice.
A milkmaid, a common farmer's daughter. Gwendolen French, leave my
house this instant!
Dazed, hardly knowing what she did, Gwendolen moved forward. In an
instant Lord Beltravers was after her. No, mother, he said, with the
utmost dignity. Not a common milkmaid, but the future Lady
An indescribable thrill of emotion ran through the crowded
ball-room. Lord Hobble's stud fell out; and Lady Susan Golightly
hurried across the room and fainted in the arms of Sir James Batt.
What! cried the Lady Beltravers. My son, the Last of the
Beltraverses, the Beltraverses who came over with Julius Wernher (I
should say Cæsar), marry a milkmaid?
No, mother. He is marrying what any man would be proud to marrya
simple English girl.
There was a cheer, instantly suppressed, from a Socialist in the
For just a moment words failed the Lady Beltravers. Then she sank
into a chair, and waved her guests away.
The ball is over, she said slowly. Leave me. My son and I must be
One by one, with murmured thanks for a delightful evening, the
guests trooped out. Soon mother and son were alone. Lord Beltravers,
gazing out of the window, saw the 'cellist laboriously dragging his
'cello across the park.
[And now, dear readers, I am in a difficulty. How shall the story go
on? The editor of The Seaside Library asks quite frankly for a
murder. His idea was that the Lady Beltravers should be found dead in
the park next morning and that Gwendolen should be arrested. This seems
to me both crude and vulgar. Besides I want a murder for No. XCIX of
the seriesThe Severed Thumb.
No, I think I know a better way out.]
* * * * *
Old John French sat beneath a spreading pear-tree and waited. Early
that morning a mysterious note had been brought to him, asking for an
interview on a matter of the utmost importance. This was the
I have come, said a voice behind him, to ask you to beg your
I have come cried the Lady Beltravers, to ask you
I HAVE COME, shouted her ladyship, TO
John French wheeled round in amazement. With a cry the Lady
Beltravers shrank back.
Eustace, she gaspedEustace, Earl of Turbot!
What are you doing here? I came to see John French.
What? he asked, with his hand to his ear.
She repeated her remark loudly several times.
I am John French, he said at last. When you refused me and
married Beltravers I suddenly felt tired of Society; and I changed my
name and settled down here as a simple farmer. My daughter helps me on
Then your daughter is
Lady Gwendolen Hake.
* * * * *
A beautiful double wedding was solemnised at Beltravers in October,
the Earl of Turbot leading Eliza, Lady Beltravers, to the altar, while
Lord Beltravers was joined in matrimony to the beautiful Lady Gwendolen
Hake. There were many presents on both sides, which partook equally of
the beautiful and the costly.
Lady Gwendolen Beltravers is now the most popular hostess in the
county; but to her husband she always seems the simple English milkmaid
that he first thought her. Ah!
XXII. THE FIRST OF SPRING
There may be gardeners who can appear to be busy all the year
rounddoing even in the winter, their little bit under glass. But for
myself I wait reverently until the 22nd of March is here. Then, Spring
having officially arrived, I step out on to the lawn and summon my
James, I say, the winter is over at last. What have we got in
that big brown-looking bed in the middle there?
Well, Sir, he says, we don't seem to have anything do we, like?
Perhaps there's something down below that hasn't pushed through
Maybe there is.
I wish you knew more about it, I say angrily; I want to bed out
the macaroni there. Have we got a spare bed, with nothing going on
I don't know, Sir. Shall I dig 'em up and have a look?
Yes, perhaps you'd better, I say.
Between ourselves, James is a man of no initiative. He has to be
However mention of him brings me to my first rule for young
Never sow Spring Onions and New Potatoes in the same bed.
I did this by accident last year. The fact is, when the onions were
given to me, I quite thought they were young daffodils; a mistake any
one might make. Of course I don't generally keep daffodils and potatoes
together; but James swore that the hard round things were tulip bulbs.
It is perfectly useless to pay your head-gardener half-a-crown a week
if he doesn't know the difference between potatoes and tulip bulbs.
Well, anyhow, there they were, in the Herbaceous Border together, and
they grew up side by side; the onions getting stronger every day, and
the potatoes more sensitive. At last, just when they were ripe for
picking, I found that the young onions had actually brought tears to
the eyes of the potatoesto such an extent that the latter were too
damp for baking or roasting, and had to be mashed. Now, as everybody
knows, mashed potatoes are beastly.
THE RHUBARB BORDER
gives me more trouble than all the rest of the garden. I started it
a year ago with the idea of keeping the sun off the young carnations.
It acted excellently, and the complexion of the flowers improved
tenfold. Then one day I discovered James busily engaged in pulling up
What are you doing? I cried. Do you want the young carnations to
go all brown?
I was going to send some in to the cook, he grumbled.
To the cook! What do you mean? Rhubarb isn't a vegetable.
No, it's a fruit.
I looked at James anxiously. He had a large hat on, and the sun
couldn't have got to the back of his neck.
My dear James, I said, I don't pay you half-a-crown a week for
being funny. Perhaps we had better make it two shillings in future.
However, he persisted in his theory that in the spring people stewed
rhubarb in tarts, and ate it!
Well, I have discovered since that this is actually so. People
really do grow it in their gardens, not with the idea of keeping the
sun off the young carnations, but under the impression that it is a
fruit. Consequently I have found it necessary to adopt a firm line with
my friends' rhubarb. On arriving at any house for a visit, the first
thing I say to my host is, May I see your rhubarb bed? I have heard
such a lot about it.
By all means, he says, feeling rather flattered, and leads the way
into the garden.
What a glorious sunset, I say, pointing to the west.
Isn't it? he says, turning round; and then I surreptitiously drop
a pint of weed-killer on the bed.
Next morning I get up early and paint the roots of the survivors
Once my host, who for some reason had got up early too, discovered
What are you doing? he asked.
Just painting the roots with iodine, I said, to prevent the
rhubarb falling out.
To prevent what?
To keep the green fly away, I corrected myself. It's the new
French intensive system.
But he was suspicious, and I had to leave two or three stalks
untreated. We had those for lunch that day. There was only one thing
for a self-respecting man to do. I obtained a large plateful of the
weed and emptied the sugar basin and cream jug over it. Then I took a
mouthful of the pastry, gave a little start, and said, Oh, is this
rhubarb? I'm sorry, I didn't know. Whereupon I pushed my plate away
and started on the cheese.
Asparagus wants watching very carefully. It requires to be tended
like a child. Frequently I wake up in the middle of the night and
wonder if James has remembered to put the hot-water bottle in the
asparagus bed. Whenever I get up to look I find that he has forgotten.
He tells me to-day that he is beginning to think that the things
which are coming up now are not asparagus after all, but young
hyacinths. This is very annoying. I am inclined to fancy that James is
not the man he was. For the sake of his reputation in the past I hope
he is not.
I have spent a very busy morning potting out the nasturtiums. We
have them in three qualities, mild, medium, and full. Nasturtiums are
extremely peppery flowers, and take offence so quickly that the utmost
tact is required to pot them successfully. In a general way all the red
or reddish flowers should be potted as soon as they are old enough to
stand it, but it is considered bad form among horticulturists to pot
James has been sowing the roses. I wanted all the pink ones in one
bed, and all the yellow ones in another, and so on; but James says you
never can tell for certain what colour a flower is going to be until it
comes up. Of course, any fool could tell then.
You should go by the picture on the outside of the packet, I said.
They're very misleading, said James.
Anyhow, they must be all brothers in the same packet.
You might have a brother with red hair, says James.
I hadn't thought of that.
Grafting is when you try short approaches over the pergola in
somebody else's garden, and break the best tulip. You mend it with a
ha'-penny stamp and hope that nobody will notice; at any rate not until
you have gone away on the Monday. Of course in your own garden you
never want to graft.
I hope, at some future time to be allowedeven encouragedto refer
to such things as The Most Artistic Way to Frame Cucumbers, How to Stop
Tomatoes Blushing (the homoeopathic method of putting them next to the
French beans is now discredited), and Spring Fashions in Fox Gloves.
But for the moment I have said enough. The great thing to remember in
gardening is that flowers, fruits and vegetables alike can only be
cultivated with sympathy. Special attention should be given to backward
and delicate plants. They should be encouraged to make the most of
themselves. Never forget that flowers, like ourselves, are particular
about the company they keep. If a hyacinth droops in the celery bed,
put it among the pansies.
But above all, mind, a firm hand with the rhubarb.
XXIII. THE COMING OF THE CROCUS
It's a bootiful day again, Sir, said my gardener, James, looking
in at the study window.
Bootiful, James, bootiful, I said, as I went on with my work.
You might almost say as Spring was here at last, like.
Cross your fingers quickly, James, and touch wood. Look here, I'll
be out in a minute and give you some orders, but I'm very busy just
Thought you'd like to know there's eleven crocuses in the front
Then send them awaywe've got nothing for them.
Crocuses, shouted James.
I jumped up eagerly and climbed through the window.
My dear man, I said, shaking him warmly by the hand, this is
indeed a day. Crocuses! And in the front garon the South Lawn! Let us
go and gaze at them.
There they wereeleven of them. Six golden ones, four white, and a
little mauve chap.
This is a triumph for you, James. It's wonderful. Has anything like
this ever happened to you before?
There'll be some more up to-morrow, I won't say as not.
Those really are growing, are they? You haven't been pushing them
in from the top? They were actually born on the estate?
There'll be a fine one in the back bed soon, said James proudly.
In the backmy dear James! In the spare bed on the North-east
terrace, I suppose you mean? And what have we done in the Dutch
If I has to look after ornamental gardens and South aspics and all,
I ought to have my salary raised, said James, still harping on his one
By all means raise some celery, I said coldly. Take the spade and
raise some for lunch. I shall be only too delighted.
This here isn't the season for celery, as you know well. This
here's the season for crocuses, as any one can see if they use their
James, you're right. Forgive me. It is no day for quarrelling.
It was no day for working either. The sun shone upon the
close-cropped green of the deer park, the sky was blue above the rose
garden, in the tapioca grove a thrush was singing. I walked up and down
my estate and drank in the good fresh air.
James! I called to my head-gardener.
What is it now? he grumbled.
Are there no daffodils, to take the winds of March with beauty?
There's these eleven croc
But there should be daffodils, too. Is not this March?
It may be March, but 'tisn't the time for daffodilsnot on three
shillings a week.
Do you only get three shillings a week? I thought it was three
shillings an hour.
Likely an hour!
Ah well, I knew it was three shillings. Do you know, James, in the
Scilly Islands there are fields and fields and fields of nodding
daffodils out now.
Lor'! said James.
Did you say 'lor'' or 'liar'? I asked suspiciously.
To think of that now, said James cautiously.
He wandered off to the tapioca grove, leant against it in thought
for a moment, and came back to me.
What's wrong with this little bit of gardenthis here park, he
began, is the soil. It's no soil for daffodils. Now what daffodils
like is clay.
Then for heaven's sake get them some clay. Spare no expense. Get
them anything they fancy.
It's too alloovialthat's what's the matter. Too alloovial. Now
crocuses like a bit of alloovial. That's where you have it.
The matter with James is that he hasn't enough work to do. The rest
of the staff is so busily employed that it is hardly ever visible.
William, for instance, is occupied entirely with what I might call the
poultry; it is his duty, in fact, to see that there are always enough
ants' eggs for the gold-fish. All these prize Leghorns you hear about
are the merest novices compared with William's protegées. Then
John looks after the staggery; Henry works the coloured fountain; and
Peter paints the peacocks' tails. This keeps them all busy, but James
is for ever hanging about.
Almost seems as if they were yooman, he said, as we stood and
listened to the rooks.
Oh, are you there, James? It's a beautiful day. Who said that
first? I believe you did.
Them there rooks always make a place seem so home-like. Rooks and
crocuses I say; and you don't want anything more.
Yes; well, if the rooks want to build in the raspberry canes this
year, let them, James. Don't be inhospitable.
Course, some do like to see primroses, I don't say. But
PrimrosesI knew there was something. Where are they?
It's too early for them, said James hastily. You won't get
primroses now before April.
Don't say 'now,' as if it were my fault. Why didn't you plant them
earlier? I don't believe you know any of the tricks of your profession,
James. You never seem to graft anything or prune anything, and I'm sure
you don't know how to cut a slip. James, why don't you prune more?
Prune nowI should like to watch you. Where's your pruning-hook? You
can't possibly do it with a rake.
James spends most of his day with a rakesometimes leaning on it,
sometimes working with it. The beds are always beautifully kept. Only
the most hardy annual would dare to poke his head up and spoil the
smooth appearance of the soil. For those who like circles and
rectangles of unrelieved brown, James is undoubtedly the man.
As I stood in the sun I had a brilliant idea.
James, I said, we'll cut the croquet lawn this afternoon.
You can't play croquet to-day, it's not warm enough.
I don't pay you to argue, but to obey. At the same time I should
like to point out that I never said I was going to play croquet. I said
that we, meaning you, would cut the lawn.
What's the good of that?
Why, to encourage the wonderful day, of course. Where is your
gratitude, man? Don't you want to do something to help? How can we let
a day like this go past without some word of welcome? Out with the
mower, and let us hail the passing of winter.
James looked at me in disgust.
Gratitude! he said indignantly to Heaven. And there's my eleven
crocuses in the front all a-singing together like anything on three bob
XXIV. THE LANDSCAPE GARDENER
Really I know nothing about flowers. By a bit of luck, James, my
gardener, whom I pay half-a-crown a week for combing the beds, knows
nothing about them either; so my ignorance remains undiscovered. But in
other people's gardens I have to make something of an effort to keep up
appearances. Without flattering myself I may say that I have acquired a
certain manner; I give the impression of the garden lover, or the man
with shares in a seed-company, oror something.
For instance, at Creek Cottage, Mrs. Atherley will say to me,
That's an Amphilobertus Gemini, pointing to something which I
hadn't noticed behind a rake.
I am not a bit surprised, I say calmly.
And a Gladiophinium Banksii next to it.
I suspected it, I confess in a hoarse whisper.
Towards flowers whose names I know I adopt a different tone.
Aren't you surprised to see daffodils out so early? says Mrs.
Atherley with pride.
There are lots out in London, I mention casually. In the shops.
So there are grapes, says Miss Atherley.
I was not talking about grapes, I reply stiffly.
However at Creek Cottage just now I can afford to be natural; for it
is not gardening which comes under discussion these days, but
landscape-gardening, and any one can be an authority on that. The
Atherleys, fired by my tales of Sandringham, Chatsworth, Arundel, and
other places where I am constantly spending the week-end, are
re-adjusting their two-acre field. In future it will not be called the
garden, but the grounds.
I was privileged to be shown over the grounds on my last visit to
Here, said Mrs. Atherley, we are having a plantation. It will
keep the wind off; and we shall often sit here in the early days of
summer. That's a weeping ash in the middle. There's another one over
there. They'll be lovely, you know.
What's that? I asked, pointing to a bit of black stick on the
left; which, even more than the other trees, gave the impression of
having been left there by the gardener while he went for his lunch.
That's a weeping willow.
This is rather a tearful corner of the grounds, apologised Miss
Atherley. We'll show you something brighter directly. Look
therethat's the oak in which King Charles lay hid. At least, it will
be when it's grown a bit.
Let's go on to the shrubbery, said Mrs. Atherley. We are having a
new grass path from here to the shrubbery. It's going to be called
Miss Atherley has a small brother called Henry. Also there were
eight Kings of England called Henry. Many a time and oft one of those
nine Henrys has paced up and down this grassy walk, his head bent, his
hands clasped behind his back; while behind his furrowed brow, who
shall say what world-schemes were hatching? Is it the thought of Wolsey
which makes him frownor is he wondering where he left his catapult?
Ah! who can tell us? Let us leave a veil of mystery over it ... for the
sake of the next visitor.
The shrubbery, said Mrs. Atherley proudly, waving her hand at a
couple of laurel bushes, and aI've forgotten its name now, but it is
one of the few shrubs I really know.
And if you're a gentleman, said Miss Atherley, and want to get
asked here again, you'll always call it the shrubbery.
Really, I don't see what else you could call it, I said, wishing
to be asked down again.
True, I said. I mean, Nonsense.
I was rather late for breakfast next morning; a pity on such a
lovely spring day.
I'm so sorry, I began, but I was looking at the shrubbery from my
window and I quite forgot the time.
Good, said Miss Atherley.
I must thank you for putting me in such a perfect room for it, I
went on, warming to my subject. One can actually see the
shrubsershrubbing. The plantation too seems a little thicker to me
I expect it is.
In fact, the tennis lawn I looked round anxiously. I had a
sudden fear that it might be the new deer-park. It still is the tennis
lawn? I asked.
Yes. Why, what about it?
I was only going to say the tennis lawn had quite a lot of shadows
on it. Oh, there's no doubt that the plantation is really asserting
Eleven o'clock found me strolling in the grounds with Miss Atherley.
You know, I said, as we paced Henry's Walk together, the one
thing the plantation wants is for a bird to nest in it. That is the
hallmark of a plantation.
It's Mother's birthday to-morrow. Wouldn't it be a lovely surprise
It would indeed. Unfortunately this is a matter in which you
require the co-operation of a feathered friend.
Couldn't you try to persuade a bird to build a nest in the weeping
ash? Just for this once.
You're asking me a very difficult thing, I said doubtfully.
Anything else I would do cheerfully for you; but to dictate to a bird
on such a very domestic affairNo, I'm afraid I must refuse.
It need only just begin to build one, pleaded Miss Atherley,
because Mother's going up town by your train to-morrow. As soon as
she's out of the house the bird can go back to anywhere else it likes
I will put that to any bird I see to-day, I said, but I am
Oh, well, sighed Miss Atherley, never mind.
* * * * *
What do you think? cried Mrs. Atherley as she came in to breakfast
next day. There's a bird been nesting in the plantation!
Miss Atherley looked at me in undisguised admiration. I looked quite
surprisedI know I did.
Well, well! I said.
You must come out afterwards and see the nest and tell me what bird
it is. There are three eggs in it. I am afraid I don't know much about
I'm glad, I said thankfully. I mean, I shall be glad to.
We went out eagerly after breakfast. On about the only tree in the
plantation with a fork to it a nest balanced precariously. It had in it
three pale-blue eggs splotched with light-brown. It appeared to be a
black-bird's nest with another egg or two to come.
It's been very quick about it, said Miss Atherley.
Of our feathered bipeds, I said, frowning at her, the blackbird
is notoriously the most hasty.
Isn't it lovely? said Mrs. Atherley.
She was still talking about it as she climbed into the trap which
was to take us to the station.
One moment, I said, I've forgotten something. I dashed into the
house and out by a side door, and then sprinted for the plantation. I
took the nest from the weeping and overweighted ash and put it
carefully back in the hedge by the tennis-lawn. Then I returned more
leisurely to the house.
If ever you want a job of landscape-gardening thoroughly well done,
you can always rely upon me.
You'll play tennis? said my hostess absently. That's right. Let
me introduce you to Misserum.
Oh, we've met before, smiled MissI've forgotten the name again
Thank you, I said gratefully. I thought it was extremely nice of
her to remember me. Probably I had spilt lemonade over her at a dance,
and in some way the incident had fixed itself in her mind. We do these
little things, you know, and think nothing of them at the moment, but
all the time
Smooth, said a voice.
I looked up and found that a pair of opponents had mysteriously
appeared, and that my partner was leading the way on to the court.
I'll take the right-hand side, if you don't mind, she announced.
Oh, and what about apologising? she went on. Shall we do it after
every stroke, or at the end of each game, or when we say good-bye, or
never? I get so tired of saying 'sorry.'
Oh, but we shan't want to apologise; I'm sure we're going to get on
I suppose you've played a lot this summer?
No, not at all yet, but I'm feeling rather strong, and I've got a
new racquet. One way and another, I expect to play a very powerful
Our male opponent served. He had what I should call a nasty swift
service. The first ball rose very suddenly and took my partner on the
side of the head. (Sorry, she apologised. It's all right, I said
magnanimously.) I returned the next into the net; the third clean
bowled my partner; and off the last I was caught in the slips. (One,
Will you serve? said MissI wish I could remember her surname.
Her Christian name was Hope or Charity or something like that; I know,
when I heard it, I thought it was just as well. If I might call her
Miss Hope for this once? Thank you.
Will you serve? said Miss Hope.
In the right-hand court I use the American service, which means that
I never know till the last moment which side of the racquet is going to
hit the ball. On this occasion it was a dead heatthat is to say, I
got it in between with the wood; and the ball sailed away over beds and
beds of the most beautiful flowers.
Oh, is that the American service? said Miss Hope, much
South American, I explained. Down in Peru they never use anything
In the left-hand court I employ the ordinary Hampstead Smash into
the bottom of the net. After four Hampstead Smashes and four Peruvian
Teasers (love, two) I felt that another explanation was called
I've got a new racquet I've never used before, I said. My old one
is being pressed; it went to the shop yesterday to have the creases
taken out. Don't you find that with a new racquet youerexactly.
In the third game we not only got the ball over the net but kept it
between the white lines on several occasionsthough not so often as
our opponents (three, love); and in the fourth game Miss Hope
served gentle lobs, while I, at her request, stood close up to the net
and defended myself with my racquet. I warded off the first two shots
amidst applause (thirty, love), and dodged the next three (
thirty, forty), but the last one was too quick for me and won the
cocoanut with some ease. (Game. Love, four.)
It's all right, thanks, I said to my partner; it really doesn't
hurt a bit. Now then, let's buck up and play a simply dashing game.
Miss Hope excelled herself in that fifth game, but I was still
unable to find a length. To be more accurate, I was unable to find a
shortnessmy long game was admirably strong and lofty.
Are you musical? said my partner at the end of it. (Five, love.
) She had been very talkative all through.
Come, come, I said impatiently, you don't want a song at this
very moment. Surely you can wait till the end of the set?
Oh, I was only just wondering.
I quite see your point. You feel that Nature always compensates us
in some way, and that as
Oh, no! said Miss Hope in great confusion. I didn't mean that at
She must have meant it. You don't talk to people about singing in
the middle of a game of tennis; certainly not to comparative strangers
who have only spilt lemonade over your frock once before. No, no. It
was an insult, and it nerved me to a great effort. I discardedfor it
was my servethe Hampstead Smash; I discarded the Peruvian Teaser.
Instead, I served two Piccadilly Benders from the right-hand court and
two Westminster Welts from the left-hand. The Piccadilly Bender is my
own invention. It can only be served from the one court, and it must
have a wind against it. You deliver it with your back to the net, which
makes the striker think that you have either forgotten all about the
game, or else are apologising to the spectators for your previous
exhibition. Then with a violent contortion you slue your body round and
serve, whereupon your opponent perceives that you are playing,
and that it is just one more ordinary fault into the wrong court. So
she calls Fault! in a contemptuous tone and drops her racquet ... and
then adds hurriedly, Oh, no, sorry, it wasn't a fault, after all.
That being where the wind comes in.
The Westminster Welt is in theory the same as the Hampstead Smash,
but goes over the net. One must be in very good form (or have been
recently insulted) to bring this off.
Well, we won that game, a breeze having just sprung up; and, carried
away by enthusiasm and mutual admiration, we collected another. (
Five, two.) Then it was Miss Hope's serve again.
Good-bye, I said; I suppose you want me in the forefront again?
I don't mind her shotsthe bottle of scent is absolutely
safe; but I'm afraid he'll win another packet of woodbines.
Miss Hope started off with a double, which was rather a pity, and
then gave our masculine adversary what is technically called one to
kill. I saw instinctively that I was the one, and I held my racquet
ready with both hands. Our opponent, who had been wanting his tea for
the last two games, was in no mood of dalliance; he fairly let himself
go over this shot. In a moment I was down on my knees behind the net
... and the next moment I saw through the meshes a very strange thing.
The other man, with his racquet on the ground, was holding his eye with
Don't you think, said Miss Hope (two, fiveabandoned)
that your overhead volleying is just a little severe?
XXVI. TEN AND EIGHT
The only event of importance last week was my victory over Henry by
ten and eight. If you don't want to hear about that, then I shall have
to pass on to you a few facts about his motor-bicycle. You'd rather
have the other? I thought so.
The difference between Henry and me is that he is what I should call
a good golfer, and I am what everybody else calls a bad golfer. In
consequence of this he insults me with offers of bisques.
I'll have ten this time, I said, as we walked to the tee.
Better have twelve. I beat you with eleven yesterday.
Thank you, I said haughtily, I will have ten. It is true that he
beat me last time, but then owing to bad management on my part I had
nine bisques left at the moment of defeat simply eating their heads
Henry teed up and drove a Pink Spot out of sight. Henry swears by
the Pink Spot if there is anything of a wind. I use either a Quo
Vadis, which is splendid for going out of bounds, or an Ostrich,
which has a wonderful way of burying itself in the sand. I followed him
to the green at my leisure.
Five, said Henry.
Seven, said I; and if I take three bisques it's my hole.
You must only take one at a time, protested Henry.
Why? There's nothing in Baedeker about it. Besides, I will only
take one at a time if it makes it easier for you. I take one, and that
brings me down to six, and then another one and that brings me down to
five, and then another one and that brings me down to four. There! And
as you did the hole in five, I win.
Well, of course, if you like to waste them all at the start
I'm not wasting them, I'm creating a moral effect. Behold, I have
won the first hole; let us be photographed together.
Henry went to the next tee slightly ruffled and topped his ball into
the road. I had kept mine well this side of it and won in four to five.
I shan't take any bisques here, I said. Two up.
At the third tee my Quo Vadis darted off suddenly to the left and
tried to climb the hill. I headed it off and gave it a nasty dent from
behind when it wasn't looking, and with my next shot started it rolling
down the mountains with ever-increasing velocity. Not until it was
within a foot of the pin did it condescend to stop. Henry, who had
reached the green with his drive and had taken one putt too many,
halved the hole in four. I took a bisque and was three up.
The fourth hole was prettily played by both of us, and with two
bisques I had it absolutely stiff. Unnerved by this, Henry went all out
at the fifth and tried to carry the stream in two. Unfortunately (I
mean unfortunately for him) the stream was six inches too broad in the
particular place at which he tried to carry it. My own view is that he
should either have chosen another place or else have got a narrower
stream from somewhere. As it was I won in an uneventful six, and took
with a bisque the short hole which followed.
Six up, I pointed out to Henry, and three bisques left. They're
jolly little things, bisques, but you want to use them quickly.
Bisque dat qui cito dat. Doesn't the sea look ripping to-day?
Go on, growled Henry.
I once did a two at this hole, I said, as I teed my ball. If I
did a two now and took a bisque, you'd have to do it in nothing in
order to win. A solemn thought.
At this hole you have to drive over a chasm in the cliffs. My ball
made a bee line for the beach, bounced on a rock, and disappeared into
a cave. Henry's Pink Spot, which really seemed to have a chance of
winning a hole at last, found the wind too much for it and followed me
I'm in this cave, I said, when we had found Henry's ball; and with
a lighted match in one hand and a niblick in the other I went in and
tried to persuade the Ostrich to come out. My eighth argument was too
much for it, and we reappeared in the daylight together.
How many? I asked.
Six, he said, as he hit the top of the cliff once more, and shot
back on to the beach.
I left him and chivied my ball round to where the cliffs are lowest;
then I got it gradually on to a little mound of sand (very delicate
work, this), took a terrific swing and fairly heaved it on to the
grass. Two more strokes put me on to the green in twenty. I lit a pipe
and waited for Henry to finish his game of rackets.
I've played twenty-five, he shouted.
Then you'll want some of my bisques, I said. I can lend you three
Henry had one more rally and then picked his ball up. I had won
seven holes and I had three bisques with which to win the match. I was
a little doubtful if I could do this, but Henry settled the question by
misjudging yet again the breadth of the stream. What is experience if
it teaches us nothing? Henry must really try to enlarge his mind about
Dormy nine, I said at the tenth tee, and no bisques left.
Thank Heaven for that, sighed Henry.
But I have only to halve one hole out of nine, I pointed out.
Technically I am on what is known as velvet.
Oh, shut up and drive.
I am a bad golfer, but even bad golfers do holes in bogey now and
then. In the ordinary way I was pretty certain to halve one of the nine
holes with Henry, and so win the match. Both the eleventh and the
seventeenth, for instance, are favourites of mine. Had I halved one of
those, he would have admitted cheerfully that I had played good golf
and beaten him fairly. But as things happened
What happened, put quite briefly, was this. Bogey for the tenth is
four. I hooked my drive off the tee and down a little gully to the
left, put a good iron shot into a bunker on the right, and then ran
down a hundred-yard putt with a niblick for a three. One of those
difficult down-hill putts.
Luck! said Henry, as soon as he could speak.
I've been missing those lately, I said.
Your match, said Henry; I can't play against luck like that.
It was true that he had given me ten bisques, but, on the other
hand, I could have given him a dozen at the seventh and still have
However, I was too magnanimous to point that out. All I said was,
Ten and eight.
And then I added thoughtfully, I don't think I've ever won by more
XXVII. AN INLAND VOYAGE
Thomas took a day off last Monday in order to play golf with me. For
that day the Admiralty had to get along without Thomas. I tremble to
think what would have happened if war had broken out on Monday. Could a
Thomasless Admiralty have coped with it? I trow not. Even as it was,
battleships grounded, crews mutinied, and several awkward questions in
the House of Commons had to be postponed till Tuesday.
Somethingsome premonition of this, no doubtseemed to be weighing
on him all day.
Rotten weather, he growled, as he came up the steps of the club.
I'm very sorry, I said. I keep on complaining to the secretary
about it. He does his best.
He taps the barometer every morning, and says it will clear up in
the afternoon. Shall we go out now, or shall we give it a chance to
Thomas looked at the rain and decided to let it stop. I made him as
comfortable as I could. I gave him a drink, a cigarette, and
Mistakes with the Mashie. On the table at his elbow I had in
reserve Faulty Play with the Brassy and a West Middlesex
Directory. For myself I wandered about restlessly, pausing now and
again to read enviously a notice which said that C. D. Topping's
handicap was reduced from 24 to 22. Lucky man!
At about half-past eleven the rain stopped for a moment, and we
The course is a little wet, I said apologetically, as we stood on
the first tee, but with your naval experience you won't mind that. By
the way, I ought to warn you that this isn't all casual water. Some of
it is river.
How do you know which is which?
You'll soon find out. The river is much deeper. Go onyour drive.
Thomas won the first hole very easily. We both took four to the
green, Thomas in addition having five splashes of mud on his face while
I only had three. Unfortunately the immediate neighbourhood of the hole
was under water. Thomas, the bounder, had a small heavy ball which he
managed to sink in nine. My own, being lighter, refused to go into the
tin at all, and floated above the hole in the most exasperating way.
I expect there's a rule about it, I said, if we only knew, which
gives me the match. However, until we find that out, I suppose you must
call yourself one up.
I shall want some dry socks for lunch, he muttered, as he splashed
off to the tee.
Anything you want for lunch you can have, my dear Thomas. I promise
you that you shall not be stinted. The next green is below sea level
altogether, I'm afraid. The first in the water wins.
Honours, it turned out, were divided. I lost the hole, and Thomas
lost his ball. The third tee having disappeared, we moved on to the
There's rather a nasty place along here, I said. The secretary
was sucked in the other day, and only rescued by the hair.
Thomas drove a good one. I topped mine badly, and it settled down in
the mud fifty yards off. Excuse me, I shouted, as I ran quickly after
it, and I got my niblick on to it, just as it was disappearing. It was
a very close thing.
Well, said Thomas, as he reached his ball, that's not what I call
a brassy lie.
It's what we call a corkscrew lie down here, I explained. If you
haven't got a corkscrew you'd better dig round it with something, and
then when the position is thoroughly underminedOh, good shot!
Thomas had got out of the fairway in one, but he still seemed
My eye, he said, bending down in agony; I've got about half
Middlesex in it.
He walked round in circles saying strange nautical things, and my
suggestions that he should (1) rub the other eye and (2) blow his nose
suddenly were received ungenerously.
Anything you'd like me to do with my ears? he asked bitterly. If
you'd come and take some mud out for me, instead of talking rot
I approached with my handkerchief and examined the eye carefully.
See anything? asked Thomas.
My dear Thomas, it's full of turf. We mustn't forget to
replace this if we can get it out. What the secretary would sayThere!
Worse than ever.
Try not to think about it. Keep the other eye on the ball as
much as possible. This is my hole, by the way. Your ball is lost.
How do you know?
I saw it losing itself. It went into the bad place I told you
about. It's gone to join the secretary. Oh, no, we got him out, of
course; I keep forgetting. Anyhow, it's my hole.
I think I shall turn my trousers up again, said Thomas, bending
down to do so. Is there a local rule about it?
No; it is left entirely to the discretion and good taste of the
members. Naturally a little extra license is allowed on a very muddy
day. Of course, ifOh, I see. You meant a local rule about losing your
ball in the mud? No, I don't know of one, unless it comes under the
heading of casual land. Be a sportsman, Thomas, and don't begrudge me
The game proceeded, and we reached the twelfth tee without any
further contretemps; save that I accidentally lost the sixth,
ninth and tenth holes, and that Thomas lost his iron at the eighth. He
had carelessly laid it down for a moment while he got out of a hole
with his niblick, and when he turned round for it the thing was gone.
At the twelfth tee it was raining harder than ever. We pounded along
with our coat-collars up and reached the green absolutely wet through.
How about it? said Thomas.
My hole, I think, and that makes us all square.
I mean how about the rain? And it's just one o'clock.
Just as you like. Well, I suppose it is rather wet. All right,
let's have lunch.
We had lunch. Thomas had it in the only dry things he had brought
with himan ulster and a pair of Vardon cuffs, and sat as near the
fire as possible. It was still raining in torrents after lunch, and
Thomas, who is not what I call keen about golf, preferred to remain
before the fire. Perhaps he was right. I raked up an old copy of
Stumers with the Niblick for him, and read bits of the Telephone
Directory out aloud.
After tea his proper clothes were dry enough in places to put on,
and as it was still raining hard, and he seemed disinclined to come out
again, I ordered a cab for us both.
It's really rotten luck, said Thomas, as we prepared to leave,
that on the one day when I take a holiday, it should be so beastly.
Beastly, Thomas? I said in amazement. The one day? I'm
afraid you don't play inland golf much?
I hardly ever play round London.
I thought not. Then let me tell you that today's was the best day's
golf I've had for three weeks.
Golly! said Thomas.
XXVIII. ONE OF OUR SUFFERERS
There is no question before the country of more importance than that
of National Health. In my own small way I have made something of a
study of it, and when a Royal Commission begins its enquiries, I shall
put before it the evidence which I have accumulated. I shall lay
particular stress upon the health of Thomson.
You'll beat me to-day, he said, as he swung his club stiffly on
the first tee; I shan't be able to hit a ball.
You should have some lessons, I suggested.
Thomson gave a snort of indignation.
It's not that, he said. But I've been very seedy lately, and
That's all right; I shan't mind. I haven't played a thoroughly well
man for a month, now.
You know, I think my liver
I held up my hand.
Not before my caddie, please, I said severely, he is quite a
Thomson said no more for the moment but hit his ball hard and
straight along the ground.
It's perfectly absurd, he said with a shrug; I shan't be able to
give you a game at all. Well, if you don't mind playing a sick man
Not if you don't mind being one, I replied, and drove a ball which
also went along the ground, but not so far as my opponent's. There!
I'm about the only man in England who can do that when he's quite
The ball was sitting up nicely for my second shot, and I managed to
put it on the green. Thomson's, fifty yards farther on, was reclining
in the worst part of a bunker which he had forgotten about.
Well, really, he said, there's an example of luck for you. Your
I didn't do it on purpose, I pleaded. Don't be angry with me.
He made two attempts to get out and then picked his ball up. We
walked in silence to the second tee.
This time, I said, I shall hit the sphere properly, and with a
terrific swing I stroked it gently into a gorse bush. I looked at the
thing in disgust and then felt my pulse. Apparently I was still quite
well. Thomson, forgetting about his liver, drove a beauty. We met on
Five, I said.
Only five? asked Thomson suspiciously.
Six, I said, holing a very long putt.
Thomson's health had a relapse. He took four short putts and was
down in seven.
It's really rather absurd, he said, in a conversational way, as we
went to the next tee, that putting should be so ridiculously
important. Take that hole, for instance. I get on the green in a
perfect three; you fluff your drive completely and get on inwhat was
Five, I said again.
Erfive. And yet you win the hole. It is rather absurd, isn't it?
I've often thought so, I admitted readily. That is to say, when
I've taken four putts. I'm two up.
On the third tee Thomson's health became positively alarming. He
missed the ball altogether.
It's ridiculous to try to play, he said with a forced laugh. I
can't see the ball at all.
It's still there, I assured him.
He struck at it again and it hurried off into a ditch.
Look here, he said, wouldn't you rather play the pro.? This is
not much of a match for you.
I considered. Of course a game with the pro. would be much
pleasanter than a game with Thomson, but ought I to leave him in his
present serious condition of health? His illness was approaching its
critical stage, and it was my duty to pull him through if I could.
No, no, I said. Let's go on. The fresh air will do you good.
Perhaps it will, he said hopefully. I'm sorry I'm like this, but
I've had a cold hanging about for some days, and that on the top of my
Quite so, I said.
The climax was reached at the next hole, when, with several strokes
in hand, he topped his approach shot into a bunker. For my sake he
tried to look as though he had meant to run it up along the ground,
having forgotten about the intervening hazard. It was a brave effort to
hide from me the real state of his health, but he soon saw that it was
hopeless. He sighed and pressed his hand to his eyes. Then he held his
fingers a foot away from him, and looked at them as if he were trying
to count them correctly. His state was pitiable, and I felt that at any
cost I must save him.
I did. The corner was turned at the fifth, where I took four putts.
You aren't going to win all the holes, he said grudgingly,
as he ran down his putt.
Convalescence set in at the sixth when I got into an impossible
place and picked up.
Oh, well, I shall give you a game yet, he said. Two down.
The need for further bulletins ceased at the seventh hole, which he
played really well and won easily.
A-ha, you won't beat me by much, he said, in spite of my liver.
By the way, how is the liver? I asked.
Your fresh-air cure is doing it good. Of course it may come on
again, but He drove a screamer. I think I shall be all right, he
All square, he said cheerily at the ninth. I fancy I'm going to
beat you now. Not bad, you know, considering you were four up.
Practically speaking, I gave you a start of four holes.
I decided that it was time to make an effort again, seeing that
Thomson's health was now thoroughly re-established. Of the next seven
holes I managed to win three and halve two. It is only fair to say,
though (as Thomson did several times), that I had an extraordinary
amount of good luck, and that he was dogged by ill-fortune throughout.
But this, after all, is as nothing so long as one's health is above
suspicion. The great thing was that Thomson's liver suffered no
relapse; even though, at the seventeenth tee, he was one down and two
And it was on the seventeenth tee that I had to think seriously how
I wanted the match to end. Thomson at lunch when he has won is a very
different man from Thomson at lunch when he has lost. The more I
thought about it, the more I realised that I was in rather a happy
position. If I won, I wonwhich was jolly; if I lost, Thomson wonand
we should have a pleasant lunch.
However, as it happened, the match was halved.
Yes, I was afraid so, said Thomson; I let you get too long a
start. It's absurd to suppose that I can give you four holes up and
beat you. It practically amounts to giving you four bisques. Four
bisques is about six strokes; I'm not really six strokes better than
What about lunch? I suggested.
Good; and you can have your revenge afterwards. He led the way
into the pavilion. Now I wonder, he said, what I can safely eat. I
want to be able to give you some sort of a game this afternoon.
Well, if there is ever a Royal Commission upon the national physique
I shall insist on giving evidence. For it seems to me that golf, far
from improving the health of the country, is actually undermining it.
Thomson, at any rate, since he has taken to the game, has never been
It is Chum's birthday to-morrow and I am going to buy him a little
whip for a present, with a whistle at the end of it. When I next go
into the country to see him I shall take it with me and explain it to
him. Two day's firmness would make him quite a sensible dog. I have
often threatened to begin the treatment on my very next visit, but
somehow it has been put off; the occasion of his birthday offers a last
It is rather absurd, though, to talk of birthdays in connection with
Chum, for he has been no more than three months old since we have had
him. He is a black spaniel who has never grown up. He has a beautiful
astrachan coat which gleams when the sun is on it; but he stands so low
in the water that the front of it is always getting dirty, and his ears
and the ends of his trousers trail in the mud. A great authority has
told us that, but for three white hairs on his shirt (upon so little do
class distinctions hang), he would be a Cocker of irreproachable birth.
A still greater authority has sworn that he is a Sussex. The family is
indifferentit only calls him a Silly Ass. Why he was christened Chum
I do not know; and as he never recognises the name it does not matter.
When he first came to stay with us I took him a walk round the
village. I wanted to show him the lie of the land. He had never seen
the country before and was full of interest. He trotted into a cottage
garden and came back with something to show me.
You'll never guess, he said. Look! and he dropped at my feet a
chick just out of the egg.
I smacked his head and took him into the cottage to explain.
My dog, I said, has eaten one of your chickens.
Chum nudged me in the ankle and grinned.
Two of your chickens, I corrected myself, looking at the
fresh evidence which he had just brought to light.
You don't want me any more? said Chum, as the financial
arrangements proceeded. Then I'll just go and find somewhere for these
And he picked them up and trotted into the sun.
When I came out I was greeted effusively.
This is a wonderful day, he panted, as he wriggled his body. I
didn't know the country was like this. What do we do now?
We go home, I said, and we went.
That was Chum's last day of freedom. He keeps inside the front gate
now. But he is still a happy dog; there is plenty doing in the garden.
There are beds to walk over, there are blackbirds in the apple-tree to
bark at. The world is still full of wonderful things. Why only last
Wednesday, he will tell you, the fishmonger left his basket in the
drive. There was a haddock in it, if you'll believe me, for Master's
breakfast, so of course I saved it for him. I put it on the grass just
in front of his study window, where he'd be sure to notice it.
Bless you, there's always something to do in this house. One is
And even when there is nothing doing he is still happy, waiting
cheerfully upon events until they arrange themselves for his amusement.
He will sit for twenty minutes opposite the garden bank, watching for a
bumble bee to come out of its hole. I saw him go in, he says to
himself, so he's bound to come out. Extraordinary interesting world.
But to his inferiors (such as the gardener) he pretends that it is not
pleasure but duty which keeps him. Don't talk to me, fool. Can't you
see that I've got a job on here?
Chum has found, however, that his particular mission in life is to
purge his master's garden of all birds. This keeps him busy. As soon as
he sees a blackbird on the lawn he is in full cry after it. When he
gets to the place and finds the blackbird gone he pretends that he was
going there anyhow; he gallops round in circles, rolls over once or
twice, and then trots back again. You didn't really think I was
such a fool as to try to catch a blackbird? he says to us. No,
I was just taking a little runsplendid thing for the figure.
And it is just Chum's little runs over the beds which call aloud for
firmnesswhich, in fact, have inspired my birthday present to him. But
there is this difficulty to overcome first. When he came to live with
us, an arrangement was entered into (so he says) by which one bed was
given to him as his own. In that bed he could wander at will, burying
bones and biscuits, hunting birds. This may have been so, but it is a
pity that nobody but Chum knows definitely which is the bed.
Chum, you bounder, I shout, as he is about to wade through the
He takes no notice; he struggles through to the other side. But a
sudden thought strikes him, and he pushes his way back again.
Did you call me? he says.
How dare you walk over the flowers?
He comes up meekly.
I suppose I've done something wrong, he says, but I can't
I smack his head for him. He waits until he is quite sure I have
finished and then jumps up with a bark, wipes his paws on my trousers
and trots into the herbaceous border again.
Chum! I cry.
He sits down in it and looks all round him in amazement.
My own bed! he murmurs. Given to me!
I don't know what it is in him which so catches hold of you. His way
of sitting, a reproachful statue, motionless outside the window of
whomever he wants to come out and play with himuntil you can bear it
no longer, but must either go into the garden or draw down the blinds
for one day; his habit when you are out, of sitting up on his
back legs and begging you with his front paws to come and do
somethinga trick entirely of his own invention, for no one would
think of teaching him anything; his funny nautical roll when he walks,
which is nearly a swagger, and gives him always the air of having just
come back from some rather dashing adventure; beyond all this there is
still something. And whatever it is, it is something, which every now
and then compels you to bend down and catch hold of his long silky
ears, to look into his honest eyes and say
You silly old ass! You dear old silly old ass!
XXX. UNDER ENTIRELY NEW MANAGEMENT
I know a fool of a dog who pretends that he is a Cocker Spaniel, and
is convinced that the world revolves round him wonderingly. The sun
rises so it may shine on his glossy morning coat; it sets so his master
may know that it is time for the evening biscuit; if the rain falls it
is that a fool of a dog may wipe on his mistress's skirts his muddy
boots. His day is always exciting, always full of the same good thing;
his night a repetition of his day, more gloriously developed. If there
be a sacred moment before the dawn when he lies awake and ponders on
life, he tells himself confidently that it will go on for ever like
thisa life planned nobly for himself, but one in which the master and
mistress whom he protects must always find a place. And I think perhaps
he would want a place for me too in that life, who am not his real
master but yet one of the house. I hope he would.
What Chum doesn't know is this: his master and mistress are leaving
him. They are going to a part of the world where a fool of a dog with
no manners is a nuisance. If Chum could see all the good little London
dogs, who at home sit languidly on their mistress's lap, and abroad
take their view of life through a muff much bigger than themselves; if
he could see the big obedient dogs, who walk solemnly through the Park
carrying their master's stick, never pausing in their impressive march
unless it be to plunge into the Serpentine and rescue a drowning child,
he would know what I mean. He would admit that a dog who cannot answer
to his own name and pays but little more attention to Down, idiot,
and Come here, fool, is not every place's dog. He would admit it, if
he had time. But before I could have called his attention to half the
good dogs I had marked out, he would have sat down beaming in front of
a motor-car ... and then he would never have known what now he will
know so soonthat his master and mistress are leaving him.
It has been my business to find a new home for him. It is harder
than you think. I can make him sound lovable, but I cannot make him
sound good. Of course I might leave out his doubtful qualities, and
describe him merely as beautiful and affectionate; I might ... but I
couldn't. I think Chum's habitual smile would get larger, he would
wriggle the end of himself more ecstatically than ever if he heard
himself summed up as beautiful and affectionate. Anyway, I couldn't do
it, for I get carried away when I speak of him and I reveal all his bad
I am afraid he is a snob, I confessed to one woman of whom I had
hopes. He doesn't much care for what he calls the lower classes.
Oh? she said.
Yes, he hates badly dressed people. Corduroy trousers tied up at
the knee always excite him. I don't know if any of your familyno, I
suppose not. But if he ever sees a man with his trousers tied up at the
knee he goes for him. And he can't bear tradespeople; at least not the
men. Washer-women he loves. He rather likes the washing-basket too.
Once, when he was left alone with it for a moment, he appeared shortly
afterwards on the lawn with a pair ofwell, I mean he had no business
with them at all. We got them away after a bit of a chase, and then
they had to go to the wash again. It seemed rather a pity when they'd
only just come back. Of course I smacked his head for him; but he looks
so surprised and reproachful when he's done wrong that you never feel
it's quite his fault.
I doubt if I shall be able to take him after all, she said. I've
I forget what it was she remembered, but it meant that I was still
without a new home for Chum.
What does he eat? somebody else asked me. It seemed hopeful; I
could see Chum already installed.
Officially, I said, he lives on puppy biscuits; he also has the
toast-crusts after breakfast and an occasional bone. Privately he is
fond of bees; I have seen him eat as many as six bees in an afternoon.
Sometimes he wanders down to the kitchen-garden and picks the
gooseberries; he likes all fruit, but gooseberries are the things he
can reach best. When there aren't any gooseberries about, he has to be
content with the hips and haws from the rose-trees. But really, you
needn't bother, he can eat anything. The only thing he doesn't like is
whitening. We were just going to mark the lawn one day, and while we
were busy pegging it out he wandered up and drank the whitening out of
the marker. It is practically the only disappointment he has ever had.
He looked at us, and you could see that his opinion of us had gone
down. 'What did you put it there for, if you didn't mean me to
drink it?' he said reproachfully. Then he turned and walked slowly and
thoughtfully back to his kennel. He never came out till next morning.
Really? said my man. Well, I shall have to think about it. I'll
let you know.
Of course, I knew what that meant.
With a third dog-lover to whom I spoke the negotiations came to
grief, not apparently because of any faults of Chum's but because, if
you will believe it, of my own shortcomings. At least, I can suppose
nothing else. For this man had been enthusiastic about him. He had
revelled in the tale of Chum's wickedness; he had adored him for being
so conceited. He had practically said that he would take him.
Do, I begged, I'm sure he'd be happy with you. You see, he's not
everybody's dog; I mean I don't want any odd man whom I don't know to
take him. It must be a friend of mine, so that I shall often be able to
see Chum afterwards.
So thatwhat? he asked anxiously.
So that I shall often be able to see Chum afterwards. Week-ends,
you know, and so on. I couldn't bear to lose the silly old ass
He looked thoughtful; and, when I went on to speak about Chum's
fondness for chickens, and his other lovable ways, he changed the
subject altogether. He wrote afterwards that he was sorry he couldn't
manage with a third dog. And I like to think he was not afraid of
Chumbut only of me.
But I have found the right man at last. A day will come soon when I
shall take Chum from his present home to his new one. That will be a
great day for him. I can see him in the train, wiping his boots
effusively on every new passenger, wriggling under the seat and out
again from sheer joy of life; I can see him in the taxi, taking his one
brief impression of a world that means nothing to him; I can see him in
another train joyous, eager, putting his paws on my collar from time to
time and saying excitedly, What a day this is! And if he survives the
journey; if I can keep him on the way from all delightful deaths he
longs to try; if I can get him safely to his new house, then I can see
Well, I wonder. What will they do to him? When I see him again, will
he be a sober little dog, answering to his name, careful to keep his
muddy feet off the visitor's trousers, grown up, obedient, following to
heel round the garden, the faithful servant of his master? Or will he
be the same old silly ass, no use to anybody, always dirty, always
smiling, always in the way, a clumsy, blundering fool of a dog who
knows you can't help loving him? I wonder....
Between ourselves, I don't think they can alter him now....
Oh, I hope they can't.
XXXI. A FAREWELL TOUR
This is positively Chum's last appearance in printfor his own sake
no less than for yours. He is conceited enough as it is, but if once he
got to know that people are always writing about him in books his
swagger would be unbearable. However, I have said good-bye to him now;
I have no longer any rights in him. Yesterday I saw him off to his new
home, and when we meet again it will be on a different footing. Is
that your dog? I shall say to his master. What is he? A Cocker? Jolly
little fellows, aren't they? I had one myself once.
As Chum refused to do the journey across London by himself, I met
him at Liverpool Street. He came up, in a crate; the world must have
seemed very small to him on the way. Hallo, old ass, I said to him
through the bars, and in the little space they gave him he wriggled his
body with delight. Thank Heaven there's one of 'em alive, he
I think this is my dog, I said to the guard, and I told him my
He asked for my card.
I'm afraid I haven't one with me, I explained. When policemen
touch me on the shoulder and ask me to go quietly; when I drag old
gentlemen from underneath motor-'buses, and they decide to adopt me on
the spot; on all the important occasions when one really wants a card,
I never have one with me.
Can't give him up without proof of identity, said the guard, and
Chum grinned at the idea of being thought so valuable.
I felt in my pockets for letters. There was only one, but it offered
to lend me £10,000 on my note of hand alone. It was addressed to Dear
Sir, and though I pointed out to the guard that I was the Sir, he
still kept tight hold of Chum. Strange that one man should be prepared
to trust me with £10,000, and another should be so chary of confiding
to me a small black spaniel.
Tell the gentleman who I am, I said imploringly through the bars,
Show him you know me.
He's really all right, said Chum, looking at the guard with
his great honest brown eyes. He's been with us for years.
And then I had an inspiration. I turned down the inside pocket of my
coat, and there, stitched into it, was the label of my tailor's with my
name written on it. I had often wondered why tailors did this;
obviously they know how stupid guards can be.
I suppose that's all right, said the guard reluctantly. Of course
I might have stolen the coat. I see his point.
Youyou wouldn't like a nice packing case for yourself? I said
timidly. You see, I thought I'd put Chum on the lead. I've got to take
him to Paddington, and he must be tired of his shell by now. It isn't
as if he were really an armadillo.
The guard thought he would like a shilling and a nice packing case.
Wood, he agreed, was always wood, particularly in winter, but there
were times when you were not ready for it.
How are you taking him? he asked, getting to work with a chisel.
Underground? I cried in horror. Take Chum on the Underground?
TakeHave you ever taken a large live conger-eel on the end of a
string into a crowded carriage?
The guard never had.
Well, don't. Take him in a taxi instead. Don't waste him on other
The crate yawned slowly, and Chum emerged all over straw. We had an
anxious moment, but the two of us got him down and put the lead on him.
Then Chum and I went off for a taxi.
Hooray, said Chum, wriggling all over, isn't this splendid? I
say, which way are you going? I'm going this way.... No, I mean the
Somebody had left some of his milk-cans on the platform. Three times
we went round one in opposite directions and unwound ourselves the
wrong way. Then I hauled him in, took him, struggling, in my arms and
got into a cab.
The journey to Paddington was full of interest. For a whole minute
Chum stood quietly on the seat, rested his fore-paws on the open window
and drank in London. Then he jumped down and went mad. He tried to hang
me with the lead, and then in remorse tried to hang himself. He made a
dash for the little window at the back; missed it and dived out of the
window at the side, was hauled back and kissed me ecstatically in the
eye with his sharpest tooth.... And I thought the world was at an
end, he said, and there were no more people. Oh, I am an ass. I say,
did you notice I'd had my hair cut? How do you like my new trousers? I
must show you them. He jumped on to my lap. No, I think you'll see
them better on the ground, he said, and jumped down again. Or no,
perhaps you would get a better view if he jumped up
hastily, and yet I don't know he dived down, though of course,
if youOh lor'! this is a day, and he put both paws lovingly
on my collar.
Suddenly he was quiet again. The stillness, the absence of storm in
the taxi, was so unnatural that I began to miss it. Buck up, old
fool, I said, but he sat motionless by my side, plunged in thought. I
tried to cheer him up. I pointed out King's Cross to him; he wouldn't
even bark at it. I called his attention to the poster outside Euston
Theatre of The Two Biffs; for all the regard he showed he might never
even have heard of them. The monumental masonry by Portland Road failed
to uplift him.
At Baker Street he woke up, and grinned cheerily. It's all right,
he said, I was trying to remember what happened to me this
morningsomething rather miserable, I thought, but I can't get hold of
it. However it's all right now. How are you? And he went mad
At Paddington I bought a label at the book-stall and wrote it for
him. He went round and round my leg looking for me. Funny thing, he
said, as he began to unwind, he was here a moment ago. I'll just go
round once more. I rather think.... Ow! Oh, there you are! I
stepped off him, unravelled the lead and dragged him to the Parcels
I want to send this by the two o'clock train, I said to the man
the other side of the counter.
Send what? he said.
I looked down. Chum was making himself very small and black in the
shadow of the counter. He was completely hidden from the sight of
anybody the other side of it.
Come out, I said, and show yourself.
Not much, he said. A parcel! I'm not going to be a jolly old
parcel for anybody.
It's only a way of speaking, I pleaded. Actually you are
travelling as a small black gentleman. You will go with the guarda
Chum came out reluctantly. The clerk leant over the counter and
managed to see him.
According to our regulations, he said, and I always dislike people
who begin like that, he has to be on a chain. A leather lead won't
Chum smiled all over himself. I don't know which pleased him
morethe suggestion that he was a very large and fierce dog, or the
impossibility now of his travelling with the guard, delightful man
though he might be. He gave himself a shake and started for the door.
Tut, tut, it's a great disappointment to me, he said, trying to
look disappointed, but his back would wriggle. This chain
businesssilly of us not to have knownwell, well, we shall be wiser
another time. Now let's go home.
Poor old Chum; I had known. From a large coat pocket I
produced a chain.
Dash it, said Chum, looking up at me pathetically, you
might almost want to get rid of me.
He was chained, and the label tied on to him. Forgive me that label,
Chum; I think that was the worst offence of all. And why should I label
one who was speaking so eloquently for himself; who said from the tip
of his little black nose to the end of his stumpy black tail, I'm a
silly old ass, but there's nothing wrong in me, and they're sending me
away! But according to the regulationsone must obey the regulations,
I gave him to the guarda delightful man. The guard and I chained
him to a brake or something. Then the guard went away, and Chum and I
had a little talk....
After that the train went off.
Good-bye, little dog.
XXXII. PHYSICAL CULTURE
Why don't you sit up? said Adela at dinner, suddenly prodding me
in the back. Adela is old enough to take a motherly interest in my
figure, and young enough to look extremely pretty while doing so.
I always stoop at meals, I explained; it helps the circulation.
My own idea.
But it looks so bad. You ought
Don't improve me, I begged.
No wonder you have
Hush! I haven't. I got a bullet on the liver in the campaign of
'03, due to over smoking; and sometimes it hurts me a little in the
cold weather. That's all.
Why don't you try the Hyperion?
I will. Where is it?
It isn't anywhere; you buy it.
Oh, I thought you dined at it. What do you buy it for?
It's one of those developers with elastics and pulleys and so on.
Every morning early, for half an hour before breakfast
You are trying to improve me, I said suspiciously.
But they are such good things, went on Adela earnestly. They
really do help to make you beautiful
I am beautiful.
Well, much more beautiful, and strong
Are you being simply as tactful as you can be?
It isn't as though you were actually a relation, I protested.
Adela continued, full of her idea.
It would do you so much good, you know. Would you promise me to use
it every day if I sent you mine?
Why don't you want yours any more? Are you perfect now?
You can easily hook it to the wall
I suppose, I reflected, there is a limit of beauty beyond which
it is dangerous to go. After that either the thing would come off its
Well, said Adela suddenly, aren't I looking well?
You're looking radiant, I said appreciatively; but it may only be
because you're going to marry Billy next month.
She smiled and blushed. Well, I'll send it to you, she said. And
you try it for a week, and then tell me if you don't feel better. Oh,
and don't do all the exercises to begin with; start with three or four
of the easy ones.
Of course, I said.
* * * * *
I undid the wrappings eagerly, took off the lid of the box, and was
confronted with (apparently) six pairs of braces. I shook them out of
the box and saw I had made a mistake. It was one pair of braces for
Magog. I picked it up, and I knew that I was in the presence of the
Hyperion. In five minutes I had screwed a hook into the bedroom wall
and attached the beautifier. Then I sat on the edge of the bed and
looked at it.
There was a tin plate fastened to the top, with the word LADIES on
it. I got up, removed it with a knife, and sat down again. Everything
was very dusty, and I wondered when Adela had last developed herself.
By-and-by I went into the other room to see if I had overlooked
anything. I found on the floor a chart of exercises, and returned
triumphantly with it.
There were thirty exercises altogether, and the chart gave you:
(1) A detailed explanation of how to do each particular exercise;
(2) A photograph of a lady doing it.
After all, I reassured myself, after the first bashful glance, it
is Adela who has thrust this upon me; and she must have known. So I
Nos. 10, 15 and 28 seemed the easiest; I decided to confine myself
to them. For the first of these you strap yourself in at the waist,
grasp the handles, and fall slowly backwards until your head touches
the floorall the elastic cords being then at full stretch. When I had
got very slowly halfway down, an extra piece of elastic which had got
hitched somewhere came suddenly into play, and I did the rest of the
journey without a stop, finishing up sharply against the towel-horse.
The chart had said, Inhale going down, and I was inhaling hard at the
moment that the towel-horse and two damp towels spread themselves over
So much for Exercise 10, I thought, as I got up. I'll just get
the idea to-night, and then start properly to-morrow. Now for No. 15.
Somehow I felt instinctively that No. 15 would cause trouble. For
No. 15 you stand on the right foot, fasten the left foot to one of the
cords, and stretch it out as far as you can....
Whatofficiallyyou do then, I cannot say....
Some people can stand easily upon the right foot when the left is
fastened to the wall ... others cannot.... It is a gift....
Having recovered from my spontaneous rendering of No. 15 I turned to
No. 28. This one, I realised, was extremely important. I would do it
You begin by lying flat on the floor roped in at the waist, and with
your hands (grasping the elastic cords) held straight up in the air.
The tension on your waist is then extreme but on your hands only
moderate. Then taking a deep breath you pull your arms slowly out until
they lie along the floor. The tension becomes terrific, the strain on
every part of you is immense. While I lay there, taking a deep breath
before relaxing, I said to myself, The strain will be too much for
me. I was wrong. It was too much for the hook. The hook whizzed out,
everything flew at me at once, and I remembered no more....
As I limped into bed, I trod heavily upon something sharp. I
shrieked and bent down to see what had bitten me. It was a tin plate
bearing the word LADIES.
* * * * *
Well? said Adela a week later.
I looked at her for a long time. When did you last use the
Hyperion? I asked.
About a year ago.
Ah!... You don't remember the chart that went with it?
Not well. Except, of course, that each exercise was arranged for a
particular object, according to what you wanted.
Exactly. So I discovered yesterday. It was in very small type, and
I missed it at first.
Well, how many did you do?
I limited myself to exercises 10, 15 and 28. Do you happen to
remember what those are for?
No. Well, I started with No. 10. No. 10 you may recall is one of
the most perilous. I nearly died over No. 10. And when I had been doing
it for a week I discovered what its particular object was.
'To round the forearm'! Yes, madam, I said bitterly, I have spent
a week of agony ... and I have rounded one forearm.
Why didn't you try another?
I did. I tried No. 15. Six times in the pursuit of No. 15 have I
been shot up to the ceiling by the left foot ... and what for, Adela?
'To arch the instep'! Look at my instep! Why should I want to
I wish I could remember which chart I sent you, said Adela,
wrinkling her brow.
It was the wrong one, I said....
There was a long silence.
Oh, said Adela suddenly, you never told me about No. 28.
Pardon me, I said, I cannot bear to speak of 28.
Why, was it even more unsuitable than the other two?
I found, when I had done it six times that its object was stated to
be, 'To remove double chin.' That, however, was not the real effect.
And, so I crossed out the false comment and wrote the true one in its
And what is that? asked Adela.
To remove the hook, I said gloomily.
XXXIII. AN INSURANCE ACT
Of course I had always known that a medical examination was a
necessary preliminary to insurance, but in my own case I had expected
the thing to be the merest formality. The doctor, having seen at a
glance what a fine strong healthy fellow I was, would look casually at
my tongue, apologise for having doubted it, enquire genially what my
grandfather had died of, and show me to the door. This idea of mine was
fostered by the excellent testimonial which I had written myself at the
Company's bidding. Are you suffering from any constitutional
disease?No. Have you ever had gout?No. Are you
deformed?No. Are you of strictly sober and temperate
habits?-No, I mean Yes. My replies had been a model of
what an Assurance Company expects. Then why the need of a doctor?
However, they insisted.
The doctor began quietly enough. He asked, as I had anticipated,
after the health of my relations. I said that they were very fit; and
not to be outdone in politeness, expressed the hope that his people,
too, were keeping well in this trying weather. He wondered if I drank
much. I said, Oh, well, perhaps I will, with an apologetic smile, and
looked round for the sideboard. Unfortunately he did not pursue the
And now, he said, after the hundredth question, I should like to
look at your chest.
I had seen it coming for some time. In vain I had tried to turn the
conversationto lead him back to the subject of drinks or my
relations. It was no good. He was evidently determined to see my chest.
Nothing could move him from his resolve.
Trembling, I prepared for the encounter. What terrible disease was
he going to discover?
He began by tapping me briskly all over in a series of
double-knocks. For the most part one double-knock at any point appeared
to satisfy him, but occasionally there would be no answer and he would
knock again. At one spot he knocked four times before he could make
This, I said to myself at the third knock, has torn it. I shall
be ploughed, and I sent an urgent message to my chest. For 'eving's
sake do something, you fool. Can't you hear the gentleman? I suppose
that roused it, for at the next knock he passed on to an adjacent
Um, he said when he called everywhere, um.
I wonder what I've done, I thought to myself. I don't believe he
likes my chest.
Without a word he got out his stethoscope and began to listen to me.
As luck would have it, he struck something interesting almost at once,
and for what seemed hours he stood there listening and listening to it.
But it was boring for me, because I really had very little to do. I
could have bitten him in the neck with some ease ... or I might have
licked his ear. Beyond that, nothing seemed to offer.
I moistened my lips and spoke.
Am I dying? I asked in a broken voice.
Don't talk, he said. Just breathe naturally.
I am dying, I thought, and he is hiding it from me. It was a
Um, he said, and moved on.
By-and-by he went and listened behind my back. It is very bad form
to listen behind a person's back. I did not tell him so however. I
wanted him to like me.
Yes, he said. Now cough.
I haven't a cough, I pointed out.
Make the noise of coughing, he said severely.
Extremely nervous, I did my celebrated imitation of a man with an
H'm! h'm! h'm! h'm!
Yes, said the doctor. Go on.
He likes it, I said to myself, and he must obviously be an
excellent judge. I shall devote more time to mimicry in future. H'm!
The doctor came round to where I could see him again.
Now cough like this, he said. Honk! Honk!
I gave my celebrated imitation of a sick rhinoceros gasping out its
life. It went well. I got an encore.
Um, he said gravely, um. He put his stethoscope away and looked
earnestly at me.
Tell me the worst, I begged. I'm not bothering about this stupid
insurance business now. That's off, of course. Buthow long have I? I
must put my affairs in order. Can you promise me a week?
He said nothing. He took my wrists in his hands and pressed them. It
was evident that grief over-mastered him and that he was taking a
silent farewell of me. I bowed my head. Then, determined to bear my
death-sentence like a man, I said firmly, So be it, and drew myself
away from him.
However, he wouldn't let me go.
Come, come, I said to him, you must not give way, and I made an
effort to release one of my hands meaning to pat him encouragingly on
I realised suddenly that I had mistaken his meaning, and that he was
simply feeling my pulses.
Um, he said, um, and continued to finger my wrists.
Clenching my teeth, and with the veins staring out on my forehead, I
worked my pulses as hard as I could.
* * * * *
Ah, he said, as I finished tying my tie; and he got up from the
desk where he had been making notes of my disastrous case, and came
over to me. There is just one thing more. Sit down.
I sat down.
Now cross your knees.
I crossed my knees. He bent over me and gave me a sharp tap below
the knee with the side of his hand.
My chest may have disappointed him.... He may have disliked my
back.... Possibly I was a complete failure with my pulses.... But I
knew the knee-trick.
This time he should not be disappointed.
I was taking no risks. Almost before his hand reached my knee, my
foot shot out and took him fairly under the chin. His face suddenly
I haven't got that disease, I said cheerily.
XXXIV. GETTING THE NEEDLE
He was a pale, enthusiastic young man of the name of Simms; and he
held forth to us at great length about his latest hobby.
Now I'll just show you a little experiment, he wound up, one that
I have never known to fail. First of all I want you to hide a needle
somewhere, while I am out of the room. You must stick it where it can
be seenon a chairor on the floor if you like. Then I shall come
back blindfolded and find it.
Oh, Mr. Simms! we all said.
Now, which one of you has the strongest will?
We pushed Jack forward. Jack is at any rate a big man.
Very well. I shall want you to take my hand when I come in, and
look steadily at the needleconcentrate all your thoughts on it. I, on
the other hand, shall make my mind a perfect blank. Then your thoughts
will gradually pass into my brain, and I shall feel myself as it were,
dragged in the direction of the needle.
And I shall feel myself, as it were, dragged after you? said Jack.
Yes; you mustn't put any strain on my arm at all. Let me go just
where I like, only will me to go in the right direction. Now
He took out his handkerchief, put it hastily back, and said: First
I shall want to borrow a handkerchief or something.
Well, we blindfolded him, and led him out of the room. Then Muriel
got a needle, which, after some discussion, was stuck into the back of
the Chesterfield. Simms returned and took Jack's left hand.
They stood there together, Jack frowning earnestly at the needle,
and Simms swaying uncertainly at the knees. Suddenly his knees went in
altogether, and he made a little zig-zag dash across the room, as
though he were taking cover. Jack lumbered after him, instinctively
bending his head, too. They were brought up by the piano, which Simms
struck with great force. We all laughed, and Jack apologised.
You told me to let you go where you liked, you know, he said.
Yes, yes, said Simms rather peevishly, but you should have willed
me not to hit the piano.
As he spoke he tripped over a small stool and, flinging out an arm
to save himself, swept two photograph frames off an occasional table.
By Jove, said Jack, that's jolly good. I saw you were going to do
that, and I willed that the flower vase should be spared. I'm getting
I think you had better start from the door again, I suggested.
Then you can get a clear run.
They took up their original positions.
You must think hard, please, said Simms again. My mind is a
perfect blank, and yet I can feel nothing coming.
Jack made terrible faces at the needle. Then, without warning, Simms
flopped on to the floor at full length, pulling Jack after him.
You mustn't mind if I do that, he said, getting up slowly.
No, said Jack, dusting himself.
I felt irresistibly compelled to go down, said Simms.
So did I, said Jack.
The needle is very often hidden in the floor, you see. You are sure
you are looking at it?
They were in a corner with their back to it; and Jack, after trying
in vain to get it over his right shoulder or his left, bent down and
focussed it between his legs. This must have connected the current; for
Simms turned right round and marched up to the needle.
There! he said triumphantly, taking off the bandage.
We all clapped, while Jack poured himself out a whisky. Simms turned
You have a very strong will indeed, he said, one of the strongest
I have met. Now, would one of the ladies like to try?
Oh, I'm sure I couldn't, said all the ladies.
I should like to do it again, said Simms modestly. Perhaps you,
All right, I'll try, I said.
When Simms was outside I told them my idea.
I'll hold the needle in my other hand, I said, and then I can
always look at it easily, and it will always be in a different place,
which ought to muddle him.
We fetched him in, and he took my left hand....
No, it's no good, he said at last. I don't seem to get it. Let me
try the other hand.
I had no time to warn him. He clasped the other hand firmly; and
from the shriek that followed it seemed that he got it. There ensued
the perfect blank that he had insisted on all the evening. Then he
pulled off the bandage, and showed a very angry face.
Well, we explained how accidental it was, and begged him to try
again. He refused rather sulkily.
Suddenly Jack said: I believe I could do it blindfolded. Miss
Muriel, will you look at the needle, and see if you can will me?
Simms bucked up a bit, and seemed keen on the idea. So Jack was
blindfolded, the needle hid, and Muriel took his hand.
Now is your mind a perfect blank? said Simms to Jack.
It always is, said Jack.
Very well then. You ought soon to feel in a dreamy state, as though
you were in another world. Miss Muriel, you must think only of the
Jack held her hand tight, and looked most idiotically peaceful.
After three minutes Simms spoke again.
Well? he said, eagerly.
I've got the dreamy, other-world state perfectly, said Jack, and
then he gave at the knees, just for the look of the thing.
This is silly, said Muriel, trying to get her hand away.
Jack staggered violently, and gripped her hand again.
Please, Miss Muriel, implored Simms. I feel sure he is just going
to do it.
Jack staggered again, sawed the air with his disengaged hand, and
then turned right round and marched for the door, dragging Muriel
behind him. The door slammed after them.
* * * * *
There is a little trick of sitting on a chair and picking a pin out
of it with the teeth. I started Simmswho was all eagerness to follow
the pair, and find out the mysterious force that was drawing themupon
this trick, for Jack is one of my best friends. When Jack and Muriel
came back from the billiard-room and announced that they were engaged,
Simms was on his back on the floor with the chair on the top of
himexplaining, for the fourth time, that if the thing had not
overbalanced at the critical moment he would have secured the object.
There is much to be said for this view.
XXXV. DRESSING UP
Then you really are coming? said Queen Elizabeth.
Yes, I really am, I sighed.
I don't know at allsomething with a cold. I leave it to you,
partner, only don't go a black suit.
What about Richelieu?
I should never be able to pronounce that, I confessed. Besides, I
always think that these great scientistsI should say philosthat is,
of course, that these generalser, which room is the Encyclopedia in?
You might go as one of the Kings of England. Which is your
William and Mary. Now that would be an original costume. I should
Don't be ridiculous. Why not Henry VIII?
Do you think I should get a lot of partners as Henry VIII? Anyhow,
I don't think it's a very becoming figure.
But you don't wear fancy dress simply because it's becoming.
Well, that is rather the point to settle. Are we going to enhance
my natural beauty, or would you like itertoned down a little? Of
course, I could go as the dog-faced man, only
Very well then, if you don't like Henry, what about Edward I?
But why do you want to thrust royalty on me? I'd much sooner go as
Perkin Warbeck. I should wear a brown perkinI mean jerkin.
Jack is going as Sir Walter Raleigh.
Then I shall certainly touch him for a cigarette, I said, as I got
up to go.
* * * * *
It was a week later that I met Elizabeth in Regent Street.
Well, she said, have you got your things?
I haven't, I confessed.
I forgot who you said you were going as?
Somebody who had black hair, I said. I have been thinking it over
and I have come to the conclusion that I should have knocked them
rather if I had had black hair. Instead of curly eyes and blue hair.
Can you think of anybody for me?
Queen Elizabeth regarded me as sternly as she might have
regardedWell, I'm not very good at history.
Do you mean to say, she said at last, that that is as far as you
have got? Somebody who had black hair?
Hang it, I protested, it's something to have been measured for
Have you been measured for your wig?
Wellerno. That is to say, not exactly what you might call
measured. Butwell, the fact is that I was just going along now,
onlyI say, where do I get a wig?
You've done nothing, said Elizabeth, absolutely nothing.
I say, don't say that, I began nervously, I've done an awful lot,
really. I've practically got the costume, I'm going as Harold the Boy
Earl, or Jessica's lastHallo, there's my bus; I've got a cold, I
mustn't keep it waiting. Good-bye. And I fled.
* * * * *
I am going, I said, as Julius Cæsar. He was practically bald.
Think how cool that will be.
Do you mean to say, cried Elizabeth, that you have altered
Don't be rough with me or I shall cry. I've got an awful cold.
Then you've no business to go as Julius Cæsar.
I say, now you're trying to unsettle me. And I was going to-morrow
to order the clothes.
What! You haven't
I was really going this afternoon, onlyonly it's early closing
day. Besides, I wanted to see if my cold would get better. Because if
it didn'tLook here, I'll be frank with you. I am going as
Charlemagne in half-mourning, because Pepin the Short had just
died. Something quiet in grey, with a stripe I thought. Only
half-mourning because he only got half the throne. By-the-way, I
suppose all these people wore pumps and white kid gloves all right?
Yes, I thought so. I wonder if Charlemagne really had black hair.
Anyhow, they can't prove he didn't, seeing when he lived. He flourished
about 770, you know. As a matter of fact 770 wasn't actually his most
flourishing year because the Radicals were in power then and land went
down so. Now 771Yes. Or else as Winston Churchill.
Anyhow, I added indignantly a minute later, I swear I'm going
* * * * *
Hallo, I said cheerfully, as I ran into Her Majesty in Piccadilly,
I've just been orderingthat is to say, I've been goingI mean I'm
just going toLet's see, it's next week, isn't it?
For a moment Elizabeth was speechlessnot at all my idea of the
Now then, she said at last, I am going to take you in hand. Will
you trust yourself entirely to me?
To the death, Your Majesty. I'm sickening for something as it is.
How tall are you?
Oh, more than that, I said quickly. Gents' large medium, I am.
Then I'll order a costume for you and have it sent round. There's
no need for you to be anything historical; you might be a butcher.
Quiteblue is my colour. In fact, I can do you the best end of the
neck at tenpence, madam, if you'll wait a moment while I sharpen the
knife. Let's see; you like it cut on the cross, I think? Bother,
they've forgotten the strop.
Well, it may not be a butcher, said Elizabeth; it depends what
* * * * *
That was a week ago. This morning I was really ill at last; had
hardly any breakfast; simply couldn't look a poached in the yolk. A day
on the sofa in a darkened room and bed at seven o'clock was my
programme. And then my eye caught a great box of clothes, and I
remembered that the dance was to-night. I opened the box. Perhaps
dressed soberly as a black-haired butcher I could look in for an hour
or two ... and
A yellow waistcoat, pink breeches, andno, it's not an eider-down,
it's a coat.
A yellowPink br
I am going as Joseph.
I am going as a humming bird.
I am goingyes, that's it, I am going back to bed.
XXXVI. THE COMPLETE KITCHEN
I sat in the drawing-room after dinner with my knees together and my
hands in my lap, and waited for the game to be explained to me.
There's a pencil for you, said somebody.
Thank you very much, I said and put it carefully away. Evidently I
had won a forfeit already. It wasn't a very good pencil, though.
Now, has everybody got pencils? asked somebody else. The game is
called 'Furnishing a Kitchen.' It's quite easy. Will somebody think of
a letter? She turned to me. Perhaps you'd better.
Certainly, I said, and I immediately thought very hard of N. These
thought-reading games are called different things, but they are all the
same, really, and I don't believe in any of them.
Well? said everybody.
What?... Yes, I have. Go on.... Oh, I beg your pardon, I said in
confusion. I thought youN is the letter.
N or M?
I smiled knowingly to myself.
My godfather and my godmother, I went on cautiously
It was N, interrupted somebody. Now then, you've got five minutes
in which to write down everything you can beginning with N. Go. And
they all started to write like anything.
I took my pencil out and began to think. I know it sounds an easy
game to you now, as you sit at your desk surrounded by dictionaries;
but when you are squeezed on to the edge of a sofa, given a very blunt
pencil and a thin piece of paper, and challenged to write in five
minutes (on your knees) all the words you can think of beginning with a
certain letterwell, it is another matter altogether. I thought of no
end of things which started with K, or even L; I thought of
rhinoceros which is a very long word and starts with R; but as
I looked at my watch and groaned. One minute gone.
I must keep calm, I said and in a bold hand I wrote Napoleon. Then after a moment's thought, I added Nitro-glycerine, and
This is splendid, I told myself. Nottingham, Nobody and Noon.
That makes six.
At six I stuck for two minutes. I did worse than that in fact; for I
suddenly remembered that gnats were spelt with a G. However, I decided
to leave them, in case nobody else remembered. And on the fourth minute
I added Non-sequitur.
Time! said somebody.
Just a moment, said everybody. They wrote down another word or two
(which isn't fair), and then began to add up. I've got thirty, said
Good Heavens, I said, I've only got seven.
There was a shout of laughter.
Then you'd better begin, said somebody. Read them out.
I coughed nervously, and began.
There was another shout of laughter.
I am afraid we can't allow that.
Why ever not? I asked in amazement.
Well, you'd hardly find him in a kitchen, would you?
I took out a handkerchief and wiped my brow. I don't want to find
him in a kitchen, I said nervously. Why should I? As a matter of fact
he's dead. I don't see what the kitchen's got to do with it. Kitchens
begin with a K.
But the game is called 'Furnishing a Kitchen.' You have to make a
list of things beginning with N which you would find in a kitchen. You
understood that, didn't you?
Y-y-yes, I said. Oh, y-y-y-yes. Of course.
I pulled myself together with a great effort.
You don't understand, I said with dignity. The cook's name was
Cooks aren't called Napoleon, said everybody.
This one was. Carrie Napoleon. Her mistress was just as surprised
at first as you were, but Carrie assured her that
No, I'm afraid we can't allow it.
I'm sorry, I said; I'm wrong about that. Her name was Carrie
Smith. But her young man was a soldier, and she had bought a Life of
Napoleon for a birthday present for him. It stood on the dresser
waiting for her next Sunday out.
Oh! Oh, well, I suppose that is possible. Go on.
Gnats, I went on nervously and hastily. Of course I know
Gnats are spelt with a G, they shrieked.
These weren't. They had lost the G when they were quite young, and
consequently couldn't bite at all, and Cook said that
No; I'm afraid not.
I'm sorry, I said resignedly. I had about forty of themon the
dresser. If you won't allow any of them, it pulls me down a lot.
Erthen we have Nitro-glycerine.
There was another howl of derision.
Not at all, I said haughtily. Cook had chapped hands very badly,
and she went to the chemist's one evening for a little glycerine. The
chemist was out, and his assistanta very nervous young fellowgave
her nitro-glycerine by mistake. It stood on the dresser, it did,
Well, said everybody very reluctantly, I suppose
I went on hastily.
That's two. Then Nobody. Of course, you might easily find nobody in
the kitchen. In fact you would pretty often, I should say. Three. The
next is Noon. It could be noon in the kitchen as well as anywhere else.
Don't be narrow-minded about that.
All right. Go on.
Non-sequitur, I said doubtfully.
What on earth
It's a little difficult to explain, but the idea is this. At most
restaurants you can get a second help of anything for half-price, and
that is technically called a 'follow.' Now, if they didn't give you a
follow, that would be a Non-sequitur.... You do see that, don't you?
There was a deadly silence.
Five, I said cheerfully. The last is Nottingham. I must confess,
I added magnanimously, that I am a bit doubtful whether you would
actually find Nottingham in a kitchen.
You don't say so!
Yes. My feeling is that you would be more likely to find the
kitchen in Nottingham. On the other hand, it is just possible that as
Calais was found engraven on Mary's heart, soOh, very well. Then it
remains at five.
* * * * *
Of course you think that as I only had five, I came out last. But
you are wrong. There is a pleasing rule in this game that, if you have
any word in your list which somebody else has, you cannot count it. And
as all the others had the obvious thingssuch as a nutmeg-grater or a
neck of mutton, or a nomlettemy five won easily. And you will note
that if only I had been allowed to count my gnats, it would have been
XXXVII. AN INFORMAL EVENING
Dinner was a very quiet affair. Not a soul drew my chair away from
under me as I sat down, and during the meal nobody threw bread about.
We talked gently of art and politics and things; and when the ladies
left there was no booby trap waiting for them at the door. In a word,
nothing to prepare me for what was to follow.
We strolled leisurely into the drawing-room. A glance told me the
worst. The ladies were in a cluster round Miss Power, and Miss Power
was on the floor. She got up quickly as we came in.
We were trying to go underneath the poker, she explained. Can you
I waved the poker back.
Let me see you do it again, I said. I missed the first part.
Oh, I can never do it. Bob, you show us.
Bob is an active young fellow. He took the poker, rested the end on
the floor, and then twisted himself underneath his right arm. I
expected to see him come up inside out, but he looked much the same
after it. However, no doubt his organs are all on the wrong side now.
Yes, that's how I should do it, I said hastily.
But Miss Power was firm. She gave me the poker. I pressed it hard on
the floor, said good-bye to them all, and dived. I got half-way round,
and was supporting myself upside down by one toe and the slippery end
of the poker, when it suddenly occurred to me that the earth was
revolving at an incredible speed on its own axis, and that, in
addition, we were hurtling at thousands of miles a minute round the
sun. It seemed impossible in these circumstances that I should keep my
balance any longer; and as soon as I realised this the poker began to
slip. I was in no sort of position to do anything about it, and we came
down heavily together.
Oh, what a pity! said Miss Power. I quite thought you'd done it.
Being actually on the spot, I said, I knew that I hadn't.
Do try again.
Not till the ground's a little softer.
Let's do the jam-pot trick, said another girl.
I'm not going under a jam-pot for anybody, I murmured.
However, it turned out that this trick was quite different. You
place a book (Macaulay's Essays or what not) on the jam-pot and
sit on the book, one heel only touching the ground. In the right hand
you have a box of matches, in the left a candle. The jam-pot, of
course, is on its side, so that it can roll beneath you. Then you light
the candle ... and hand it to anybody who wants to go to bed.
I was ready to give way to the ladies here, but even while I was
bowing and saying, Not at all, I found myself on one of the jam-pots
with Bob next to me on another. To balance with the arms outstretched
was not so difficult; but as the matches were then about six feet from
the candle and there seemed no way of getting them nearer together the
solution of the problem was as remote as ever. Three times I brought my
hands together, and three times the jam-pot left me.
Well played, Bob, said somebody. The bounder has done it.
I looked at his jam-pot.
There you are, I said. 'Raspberry1909.' Mine's
'Gooseberry1911,' a rotten vintage. And look at my book, Alone on
the Prairie; and you've got The Mormon's Wedding. No wonder
I couldn't do it.
I refused to try it again as I didn't think I was being treated
fairly; and after Bob and Miss Power had had a race at it, which Bob
won, we got on to something else.
Of course you can pick a pin out of a chair with your teeth? said
Not properly, I said. I always swallow the pin.
I suppose it doesn't count if you swallow the pin, said Miss Power
I don't know. I've never really thought about that side of it much.
Anyhow, unless you've got a whole lot of pins you don't want, don't ask
me to do it to-night.
Accordingly we passed on to the water-trick. I refused at this, but
Miss Power went full length on the floor with a glass of water balanced
on her forehead and came up again without spilling a single drop.
Personally I shouldn't have minded spilling a single drop; it was the
thought of spilling the whole glass that kept me back. Anyway it is a
useless trick, the need for which never arises in an ordinary career.
Picking up The Times with the teeth, while clasping the left
ankle with the right hand, is another matter. That might come in useful
on occasions; as, for instance, if, having lost your left arm on the
field and having to staunch with the right hand the flow of blood from
a bullet wound in the opposite ankle, you desired to glance through the
Financial Supplement while waiting for the ambulance.
Here's a nice little trick, broke in Bob, as I was preparing
myself in this way for the German invasion.
He had put two chairs together, front to front, and was standing
over them, if that conveys it to you. Then he jumped up, turned round
in the air, and came down facing the other way.
Can you do it? I said to Miss Power.
Come and try, said Bob to me. It's not really difficult.
I went and stood over the chairs. Then I moved them apart and walked
over to my hostess.
Good-bye, I said; I'm afraid I must go now.
Coward! said somebody, who knew me rather better than the others.
It's much easier than you think, said Bob.
I don't think it's easy at all, I protested. I think it's
I went back and stood over the chairs again. For some time I waited
there in deep thought. Then I bent my knees preparatory to the spring,
straightened them up, and said,
What happens if you just miss it?
I suppose you bark your shins a bit.
Yes, that's what I thought.
I bent my knees again, worked my arms up and down, and then stopped
suddenly and said:
What happens if you miss it pretty easily?
Oh, you can do it, if Bob can, said Miss Power kindly.
He's practised. I expect he started with two hassocks and worked up
to this. I'm not afraid, but I want to know the possibilities. If it's
only a broken leg or two, I don't mind. If it's permanent disfigurement
I think I ought to consult my family first.
I jumped up and came down again the same way for practice.
Very well, I said. Now I'm going to try. I haven't the faintest
hope of doing it, but you all seem to want to see an accident, and
anyhow, I'm not going to be called a coward. One, two, three....
Well done, cried everybody.
Did I do it? I whispered, as I sat on the floor and pressed a
cushion against my shins.
Then, I said, massaging my ankles, next time I shall try to
XXXVIII. A BILLIARD LESSON
I was showing Celia a few fancy strokes on the billiard table. The
other members of the house-party were in the library, learning their
parts for some approaching theatricalsthat is to say, they were
sitting round the fire and saying to each other, This is a
rotten play. We had been offered the position of auditors to several
of the company, but we were going to see Parsifal on the next
day, and I was afraid that the constant excitement would be bad for
Why don't you ask me to play with you? she asked. You never teach
There's ingratitude. Why, I gave you your first lesson at golf only
So you did. I know golf. Now show me billiards.
I looked at my watch.
We've only twenty minutes. I'll play you thirty up.
Right-o. What do you give mea ball or a bisque or what?
I can't spare you a ball, I'm afraid. I shall want all three when I
get going. You may have fifteen start, and I'll tell you what to do.
Well, what do I do first?
Select a cue.
She went over to the rack and inspected them.
This seems a nice brown one. Now then, you begin.
Celia, you've got the half-butt. Put it back and take a younger
I thought it seemed taller than the others. She took another.
How's this? Good. Then off you go.
Will you be spot or plain? I said, chalking my cue.
Does it matter?
Not very much. They're both the same shape.
Then what's the difference?
Well, one is more spotted than the other.
Then I'll be less spotted.
I went to the table.
I think, I said, I'll try and screw in off the red. (I did this
once by accident and I've always wanted to do it again.) Or perhaps,
I corrected myself, as soon as the ball had left me, I had better give
a safety miss.
I did. My ball avoided the red and came swiftly back into the
left-hand bottom pocket.
That's three to you, I said without enthusiasm.
Celia seemed surprised.
But I haven't begun yet, she said. Well, I suppose you know the
rules, but it seems funny. What would you like me to do?
Well, there isn't much on. You'd better just try and hit the red
Right. She leant over the table and took long and careful aim. I
held my breath.... Still she aimed.... Then keeping her chin on the
cue, she slowly turned her head and looked up at me with a thoughtful
Oughtn't there to be three balls on the table? she said, wrinkling
No, I answered shortly.
But why not?
Because I went down by mistake.
But you said that when you got going, you wantedI can't argue
bending down like this. She raised herself slowly. You saidOh,
all right, I expect you know. Anyhow, I have scored some already,
Yes. You're eighteen to my nothing.
Yes. Well, now I shall have to aim all over again. She bent slowly
over her cue. Does it matter where I hit the red?
Not much. As long as you hit it on the red part.
She hit it hard on the side, and both balls came into baulk.
Too good, I said.
Does either of us get anything for it?
No. The red and white were close together, and I went up the table
and down again, on the off-chance of a cannon. I misjudged it, however.
That's three to you, I said stiffly, as I took my ball out of the
right-hand bottom pocket. Twenty-one to nothing.
Funny how I'm doing all the scoring, said Celia meditatively. And
I've practically never played before. I shall hit the red hard now and
see what happens to it.
She hit, and the red coursed madly about the table, coming to rest
near the top right-hand pocket and close to the cushion. With a forcing
shot I could get in.
This will want a lot of chalk, I said pleasantly to Celia, and
gave it plenty. Then I let fly....
Why did that want a lot of chalk? said Celia with interest.
I went to the fireplace and picked my ball out of the fender.
That's three to you, I said coldly. Twenty-four to nothing.
Am I winning?
You're leading, I explained. Only, you see, I may make a twenty
at any moment.
Oh! She thought this over. Well, I may make my three at any
She chalked her cue and went over to her ball.
What shall I do?
Just touch the red on the right-hand side, I said, and you'll go
into the pocket.
The right-hand side? Do you mean my right-hand side or the ball's?
The right-hand side of the ball, of course; that is to say, the
side opposite your right-hand.
But its right-hand side is opposite my left hand, if the ball is
facing this way.
Take it, I said wearily, that the ball has its back to you.
How rude of it, said Celia, and hit it on the left-hand side, and
sank it. Was that what you meant?
Well ... it's another way of doing it.
I thought it was. What do I give you for that?
You get three.
Oh, I thought the other person always got the marks. I know the
last three times
Go on, I said freezingly. You have another turn.
Oh, is it like rounders?
Something. Go on, there's a dear. It's getting late.
She went, and left the red over the middle pocket.
A-ha! I said. I found a nice place in the D for my ball. Now
then. This is the Grey stroke, you know.
I suppose I was nervous. Anyhow, I just nicked the red ball gently
on the wrong side and left it hanging over the pocket. The white
travelled slowly up the table.
Why is that called the Grey stroke? asked Celia with great
Because once, when Sir Edward Grey was playing the German
Ambassadorbut it's rather a long story. I'll tell you another time.
Oh! Well, anyhow, did the German Ambassador get anything for it?
Then I suppose I don't. Bother. But you've only got to knock the
red in for game.
Oh!... There, what's that?
That's a miscue. I get one.
Oh!... Oh, well, she added magnanimously, I'm glad you've started
scoring. It will make it more interesting for you.
There was just room to creep in off the red, leaving it still over
the pocket. With Celia's ball nicely over the other pocket there was a
chance of my twenty break. Let's see, I said, how many do I want?
Twenty-nine, replied Celia.
Ah, I said ... and I crept in.
That's three to you, I said icily. Game.
XXXIX. BACHELOR RELICS
Do you happen to want, I said to Henry, an opera hat that doesn't
op? At least it only works one side.
No, said Henry.
To any one who buys my opera hat for a large sum I am giving away
four square yards of linoleum, a revolving bookcase, two curtain rods,
a pair of spring-grip dumb-bells and an extremely patent mouse-trap.
No, said Henry again.
The mouse-trap, I pleaded, is unused. That is to say, no mouse
has used it yet. My mouse-trap has never been blooded.
I don't want it myself, said Henry, but I know a man who does.
Henry, you know everybody. For Heaven's sake introduce me to your
friend. Why does he particularly want a mouse-trap?
He doesn't. He wants anything that's old. Old clothes, old carpets,
anything that's old he'll buy.
He seemed to be exactly the man I wanted.
Introduce me to your fellow clubman, I said firmly.
That evening I wrote to Henry's friend, Mr. Bennett. Dear Sir, I
wrote, if you would call upon me to-morrow I should like to show you
some really old things, all genuine antiques. In particular I would
call your attention to an old opera hat of exquisite workmanship, and a
mouse-trap of chaste and handsome design. I have also a few yards of
Queen Anne linoleum of a circular pattern which I think will please
you. My James the First spring-grip dumb-bells and Louis Quatorze
curtain-rods are well known to connoisseurs. A genuine old cork bedroom
suite, comprising one bath-mat, will also be included in the sale.
On second thoughts I tore the letter up and sent Mr. Bennett a
postcard asking him to favour the undersigned with a call at 10.30
prompt. And at 10.30 prompt he came.
I had expected to see a bearded patriarch with a hooked nose and
three hats on his head, but Mr. Bennett turned out to be a very spruce
gentleman, wearing (I was sorry to see) much better clothes than the
opera hat I proposed to sell him. He became businesslike at once.
Just tell me what you want to sell, he said, whipping out a
pocket-book, and I'll make a note of it. I take anything.
I looked round my spacious apartment and wondered what to begin
The revolving bookcase, I announced.
I'm afraid there's very little sale for revolving bookcases now,
he said, as he made a note of it.
As a matter of fact, I pointed out, this one doesn't revolve. It
got stuck some years ago.
He didn't seem to think that this would increase the rush, but he
made a note of it.
Then the writing-desk.
The Georgian bureau. A copy of an old twentieth-century
Walnut? he said, tapping it.
Possibly. The value of this Georgian writing-desk, however, lies
not in the wood but in the literary associations.
Ah! My customers don't bother much about that, but stillwhose was
Mine! I said with dignity, placing my hand in the breast pocket of
my coat. I have written many charming things at that desk. My 'Ode to
a Bell-push,' my 'Thoughts on Asia,' my
Anything else in this room? said Mr. Bennett. Carpets,
Nothing else, I said coldly.
We went into the bedroom and, gazing on the linoleum, my enthusiasm
returned to me.
The linoleum, I said, with a wave of the hand.
Very much worn, said Mr. Bennett.
I called his attention to the piece under the bed.
Not under there, I said. I never walk on that piece. It's as good
He made a note. What else? he said.
I showed him round the collection. He saw the Louis Quatorze
curtain-rods, the cork bedroom suite, the Cæsarian nail-brush (quite
bald), the antique shaving-mirror with genuine crackhe saw it all.
And then we went back into the other rooms and found some more things
Yes, he said, consulting his notebook. And now how would you like
me to buy these?
At a large price, I said. If you have brought your cheque-book
I'll lend you a pen.
You want me to make you an offer? Otherwise I should sell them by
auction for you, deducting ten per cent. commission.
Not by auction, I said impulsively. I couldn't bear to know how
much or rather how little, my Georgian bureau fetched. It was there, as
I think I told you, that I wrote my 'Guide to the Round Pond.' Give me
an inclusive price for the lot, and never, never let me know the
He named an inclusive price. It was something under a
hundred-and-fifty pounds. I shouldn't have minded that if it had only
been a little over ten pounds. But it wasn't.
Right, I agreed. And, oh, I was nearly forgetting. There's an old
opera hat of exquisite workmanship, which
Ah, now clothes had much better be sold by auction. Make a pile of
all you don't want and I'll send round a sack for them: I have an
auction sale every Wednesday.
Very well. Send round to-morrow. And you mighteralso send round
aercheque forquite so. Well, then good morning.
When he had gone I went into my bedroom and made a pile of my
opera-hat. It didn't look very impressivehardly worth having a sack
specially sent round for it. To keep it company I collected an
assortment of clothes. It pained me to break up my wardrobe in this
way, but I wanted the bidding for my opera-hat to be brisk, and a few
preliminary suits would warm the public up. Altogether it was a goodly
pile when it was done. The opera-hat perched on the top, half of it
only at work.
* * * * *
To-day I received from Mr. Bennett a cheque, a catalogue and an
account. The catalogue was marked Lots 172-179. Somehow I felt that
my opera hat would be Lot 176. I turned to it in the account.
Lot 176Six shillings
It did well, I said. Perhaps in my heart of hearts I hoped for
seven and sixpence, but six shillingsyes, it was a good hat.
And then I turned to the catalogue.
Lot 176Frock coat and vest, dress coat and vest, ditto,
pair of trousers and opera hat.
And opera hat. Well, well. At least it had the position of
honour at the end. My opera hat was starred.
LITTLE PLAYS FOR AMATEURS
[Note.There are only six plots allowed to us who are not
professionals. Here they are. When you have read them, then you will
know all about amateur theatricals.]
XL. FAIR MISTRESS DOROTHY
The scene is an apartment in the mansion of Sir Thomas
Farthingale. There is no need to describe the furniture in it, as
rehearsals will gradually show what is wanted. A picture or two of
previous Sir Thomas's might be seen on the walls, if you have an
artistic friend who could arrange this; but it is a mistake to hang up
your own ancestors, as some of your guests may recognise them, and thus
pierce beneath the vraisemblance of the scene.
The period is that of Cromwellsixteen something.
The costumes are, as far as possible, of the same period.
Mistress Dorothy Farthingale is seated in the middle of the
stage, reading a letter and occasionally sighing.
Enter My Lord Carey.
Carey. Mistress Dorothy alone! Truly Fortune smiles upon me.
Dorothy (hiding the letter quickly). An she smiles, my
lord, I needs
Carey (used to this sort of thing and no longer put off by
give me but one smile, sweet mistress. (She sighs
You sigh! Is't for me?
Dorothy (feeling that the sooner he and the audience
situation the better). I sigh for another, my lord, who
Carey (annoyed). Zounds, and zounds again! A pest upon
(He strides up and down the room, keeping out of the way
sword as much as possible.) Would that I might pink the
Dorothy (turning upon him a look of hate). Would that
you might have
the chance, my lord, so it were in fair fighting. Methinks
Roger's sword-arm will not have lost its cunning in the
Carey. A traitor to fight against his King.
Dorothy. He fights for what he thinks is right. (She takes
letter and kisses it.)
Carey (observing the action). You have a letter from
Dorothy (hastily concealing it and turning pale). How
know you that?
Carey. Give it to me! (She shrieks and rises.) By
heavens, madam, I
will have it! (He struggles with her and seizes it.)
Enter Sir Thomas.
Sir Thomas. Odds life, my lord, what means this?
Carey (straightening himself). It means, Sir Thomas,
harbour a rebel within your walls. Master Roger Dale,
corresponds secretly with your daughter.
(Who, I forgot to say, has swooned.)
Sir Thomas (sternly). Give me the letter. Ay, 'tis
Roger's hand, I
know it well. (He reads the letter, which is full of
thoughtful metaphors about love, aloud to the audience.
Suddenly his eyebrows go up and down to express surprise.
seizes Lord Carey by the arm.) Ha! Listen!
the sun is upon the western window of the gallery, I will
with thee. The villain!
Carey (who does not know the house very well). When is
Sir Thomas. Why, 'tis now, for I have but recently passed
gallery and did mark the sun.
Carey (fiercely). In the name of the King, Sir Thomas,
I call upon
you to arrest this traitor.
Sir Thomas (sighing). I loved the boy well, yet
(He shrugs his shoulders expressively and goes out with
Carey to collect sufficient force for the arrest.)
Enter Roger by secret door R.
Roger. My love!
Dorothy (opening her eyes). Roger!
Roger. At last!
(For the moment they talk in short sentences like this.
Dorothy puts her hand to her brow as if she is
Dorothy. Roger! Now I remember! It is not safe for you to
Roger (very brave). Am I a puling child to be afraid?
Dorothy. My Lord Carey is here. He has read your letter.
Roger. The black-livered dog! Would I had him at my sword's
teach him manners.
(He puts his hand to his heart and staggers into a chair.
Dorothy. Oh, you are wounded!
Roger. Faugh, 'tis but a scratch. Am I a puling
(He faints. She binds up his ankle.)
Enter Lord Carey with two soldiers.
Carey. Arrest this traitor! (Roger is led away by the
Dorothy (stretching out her hands to him). Roger! (
She sinks into a
Carey (choosing quite the wrong moment for a proposal
). Dorothy, I
love you! Think no more of this traitor, for he will surely
hang. 'Tis your father's wish that you and I should wed.
Dorothy (refusing him). Go, lest I call in the grooms
to whip you.
Carey. By heaven(Thinking better of it.) I go to
Enter Roger by secret door L.
Dorothy. Roger! You have escaped.
Roger. Knowest not the secret passage from the wine cellar,
so often played as children? 'Twas in that same cellar the
thick-skulled knaves immured me.
Dorothy. Roger, you must fly! Wilt wear a cloak of mine to
Roger (missing the point rather). Nay, if I die, let
me die like a
man, not like a puling girl. Yet, sweetheart
Enter Lord Carey by ordinary door.
Carey (forgetting himself in his confusion). Odds my
sink me! What murrain is this?
Roger (seizing Sir Thomas's sword, which had been
behind on the table, as I ought to have said before, and
advancing threateningly). It means, my lord, that a
time has come. Wilt say a prayer?
(They fight, and Carey is disarmed before they can hurt
Carey (dying game). Strike, Master Dale!
Roger. Nay, I cannot kill in cold blood.
(He throws down his sword. Lord Carey exhibits
emotion at this, and decides to turn over an entirely new
Enter two soldiers.
Carey. Arrest that man! (Roger is seized again.)
it is for you to say what shall be done with the prisoner.
Dorothy (standing up if she was sitting down, and sitting
down if she
was standing up). Ah, give him to me, my lord!
Carey (joining the hands of Roger and Dorothy). I
trust to you,
sweet mistress, to see that the prisoner does not escape
(Dorothy and Roger embrace each other, if they can
without causing a scandal in the neighbourhood, and the
XLI. A SLIGHT MISUNDERSTANDING
The scene is a drawing-room (in which the men are allowed to
smokeor a smoking-room in which the women are allowed to drawit
doesn't much matter) in the house of somebody or other in the country.
George Turnbull and his old College friend, Henry Peterson,
are confiding in each other, as old friends will, over their whiskies
and cigars. It is about three o'clock in the afternoon.
George (dreamily, helping himself to a stiff soda).
Henry, do you
remember that evening at Christ Church College, five years
when we opened our hearts to each other?...
Henry (lighting a cigar and hiding it in a fern-pot).
evening on the Backs, George, when I had failed in my
George. Yes; and we promised that when either of us fell in
other should be the first to hear of it? (Rising
Henry, the moment has come. (With shining eyes.) I
am in love.
Henry (jumping up and grasping him by both hands).
George! My dear
old George! (In a voice broken with emotion.) Bless
(He pats him thoughtfully on the back three times, nods
own head twice, gives him a final grip of the hand, and
to his chair.)
George (more moved by this than he cares to show).
Henry. (Hoarsely.) You're a good fellow.
Henry (airily, with a typically British desire to conceal
emotion). Who is the lucky little lady?
George (taking out a picture postcard of the British
kissing it passionately). Isobel Barley!
(If Henry is not careful he will probably give a
surprise here, with the idea of suggesting to the audience
he (1) knows something about the lady's past, or
(2) is in
love with her himself. He is, however, thinking of a
play. We shall come to that one in a moment.)
Henry (in a slightly dashing manner). Little Isobel?
George. I wish I could think so. (Sighs.) But I have
yet to approach
her, and she may be another's. (Fiercely.) Heavens,
she should be another's!
Isobel (brightly). So I've run you to earth at last.
Now what have
you got to say for yourselves?
Henry (like a man). By Jove! (Looking at his watch.
) I had no
ideais it reallypoor old Joewaiting
(Dashes out tactfully in a state of incoherence.)
George (rising and leading Isobel to the front of
Miss Barley, now that we are alone I have something I want
say to you.
Isobel (looking at her watch). Well, you must be
quick. Because I'm
(George drops her hand and staggers away from her.)
Isobel. Why, what's the matter?
George (to the audience, in a voice expressing the very
emotion). Engaged! She is engaged! I am too late!
(He sinks into a chair, and covers his face with his
Isobel (surprised). Mr. Turnbull! What has happened?
George (waving her away with one hand). Go! Leave me!
I can bear
this best alone. (Exit Isobel.) Merciful heavens,
plighted to another.
Henry (eagerly). Well, old man?
George (raising a face white with miserythat is to say,
if he has
remembered to put the French chalk in the palms of his
Henry, I am too late! She is another's!
Henry (in surprise). Whose?
George (with dignity). I did not ask her. It is
nothing to me.
Good-bye, Henry. Be kind to her.
Henry. Why, where are you going?
George (firmly). To the Rocky Mountains. I shall shoot
Grizzly ones. It may be that thus I shall forget my grief.
Henry (after a pause). Perhaps you are right, George.
What shall I
George. Tell hernothing. But should anything (feeling
his pockets) happen to meif (going over them again
I do not come back, then (searching them all, including
waist coat ones, in desperate haste) give her, give
her (triumphantly bringing his handkerchief out of the
pocket) this, and say that my last thought was of her.
Good-bye, my old friend. Good-bye.
(Exit to Rocky Mountains.)
Isobel. Why, where's Mr. Turnbull?
Henry (sadly). He's gone.
Isobel. Gone? Where?
Henry. To the Rocky Mountains. To shoot bears. (Feeling
further explanation is needed.) Grizzly ones.
Isobel. But he was here a moment ago.
Henry. Yes, he's only just gone.
Isobel. Why didn't he say good-bye? (Eagerly.) But
perhaps he left a
message for me? (Henry shakes his head.) Nothing? (
silently and leaves the room.) Oh! (She gives a cry
herself on the sofa.) And I loved him! George, George,
didn't you speak?
Enter George hurriedly. He is fully dressed for a
expedition in the Rocky Mountains, and carries a rifle
* * * * *
George (to the audience). I have just come back for my
pocket-handkerchief. I must have dropped it in here
(He begins to search for it, and in the ordinary course
things comes upon Isobel on the sofa. He puts his
carefully on a table, with the muzzle pointing at the
rather than at the audience, and staggers back.)
heavens! Isobel! Dead! (He falls on his knees beside the
sofa.) My love, speak to me!
Isobel (softly). George!
George. She is alive! Isobel!
Isobel. Don't go, George!
George. My dear, I love you! But when I heard that you were
honour compelled me
Isobel (sitting up quickly). What do you mean by
George. You said you were engaged!
Isobel (suddenly realising how the dreadful
which nearly wrecked two lives). But I only meant I was
to play tennis with Lady Carbrook!
George. What a fool I have been! (He hurries on before the
can assent.) Then, Isobel, you will be mine?
Isobel. Yes, George. And you won't go and shoot nasty bears,
dear? Not even grizzly ones?
George (taking her in his arms). Never, darling. That
(turning to the audience with the air of one who is
best point) A slight misunderstanding.
XLII. MISS PRENDERGAST
As the curtain goes up two ladies are discovered in the
morning-room of Honeysuckle Lodge engaged in work of a feminine nature.
Miss Alice Prendergast is doing something delicate with a
crochet-hook, but it is obvious that her thoughts are far away. She
sighs at intervals and occasionally lays down her work and presses both
hands to her heart. A sympathetic audience will have no difficulty in
guessing that she is in love. On the other hand, her elder sister,
Miss Prendergast, is completely wrapped up in a sock for one of the
poorer classes, over which she frowns formidably. The sock, however,
has no real bearing upon the plot, and she must not make too much of
Alice (hiding her emotions). Did you have a pleasant
last night, Jane?
Jane (to herself). Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,
up.) Very pleasant indeed, Alice. The Blizzards were
the Podbys, and the Slumphs. (These people are not
and should not be over-emphasised.) Mrs. Podby's maid
Alice. Who took you in?
Jane (brightening up). Such an interesting man, my
dear. He talked
most agreeably about Art during dinner, and we renewed the
conversation in the drawing-room. We found that we agreed
all the main principles of Art, considered as such.
Alice (with a look in her eyes which shows that she is
tender memory). When I was in Shropshire last
your man's name?
Jane (with a warning glance at the audience). You know
it is to catch names when one is introduced. I am certain
never heard mine. (As the plot depends partly upon this,
pauses for it to sink in.) But I enquired about him
and I find that he is a Mr.
Enter Mary, the parlourmaid.
Mary (handing letter). A letter for you, Miss.
Jane (taking it). Thank you, Mary. (Exit Mary
to work up her
next line.) A letter! I wonder who it is from! (
envelope.) Miss Prendergast, Honeysuckle Lodge. (
it with the air of one who has often received letters
but feels that this one may play an important part in her
life.) Dear Miss Prendergast, I hope you will pardon
presumption of what I am about to write to you, but whether
pardon me or not, I ask you to listen to me. I know of no
for whose talents I have a greater admiration or for whose
qualities I have a more sincere affection than yourself.
have known you, you have been the lodestar of my existence,
fountain of my inspiration. I feel that, were your life
to mine, the joint path upon which we trod would be the
happiness, such as I have as yet hardly dared to dream of.
short, dear Miss Prendergast, I ask you to marry me, and I
come in person for my answer. Yours truly (in a voice of
intense surprise) Jas. Bootle!
(At the word Bootle a wave of warm colour rushes over
and dyes her from neck to brow. If she is not an actress of
sufficient calibre to ensure this, she must do the best she
by starting abruptly and putting her hand to her throat.
Alice (aside, in a choking voice). Mr. Bootle! In love
Jane. My dear! The man who took me down to dinner! Well!
Alice (picking up her work again and trying to be calm
). What will
Jane (rather pleased with herself). Well,
Alice (starting up). Was that a ring? (She frowns
at the prompter
and a bell is heard to ring.) It is Mr. Bootle! I know
ring, I mean I knowDear, I think I will go and lie
have a headache.
(She looks miserably at the audience, closes her eyes,
goes off with her handkerchief to her mouth, taking care
fall over the furniture.)
Enter Mary, followed by James Bootle.
Mary. Mr. Bootle. (Exit finally.)
Jane. Good morning, Mr. Bootle.
Bootle. I begI thoughtwhy, of course! It's Misserh'm,
do you do? Did you get back safely last night?
Jane. Yes, thank you. (Coyly.) I got your letter.
Bootle. My letter? (Sees his letter on the table.
opened my letter!
Jane (mistaking his fury for passion). Yes, James. And
down on the ground) the answer is Yes.
Bootle (realising the situation). By George! (
Aside.) I have
proposed to the wrong lady. Tchck!
Jane. You may kiss me, James.
Bootle. Have you a sister?
Jane (missing the connection). Yes, I have a younger
(Coldly.) But I hardly see
Bootle (beginning to understand how he made the mistake
). A younger
sister! Then you are Miss Prendergast? And my letterAh!
Alice. You are wanted, Jane, a moment.
Jane. Will you excuse me, Mr. Bootle?
Bootle (to Alice, as she follows her sister out).
Alice (wanly, if she knows how). Am I to stay and
Bootle. Alice! (They approach the footlights, while
finished her business, comes in unobserved and watches from
back.) It is all a mistake! I didn't know your
nameI didn't know you had a sister. The letter I
Miss Prendergast I meant for Miss Alice Prendergast.
Alice. James! My love! But what can we do?
Bootle (gloomily). Nothing. As a man of honour I
cannot withdraw. So
two lives are ruined!
Alice. You are right, James. Jane must never know. Good-bye!
(They give each other a farewell embrace.)
Jane (aside). They love. (Fiercely.) But he is
mine; I will hold
him to his promise! (Picking up a photograph of Alice as
small child from an occasional table.) Little Alice!
promised to take care of herto protect her from the cruel
world. Baby Alice! (She puts her handkerchief to her
No! I will not spoil two lives! (Aloud.) Why
(Bootle and Alice, who have been embracing all
unless they can think of something else to do, break away
Jane (calmly). Dear Alice! I understand perfectly. Mr.
in his letter to you that he was coming for his answer, and
see what answer you have given him. (To Bootle.) You
I told you it would be Yes. I know my little sister, you
Bootle (tactlessly). Butyou told me I could kiss
Jane (smiling). And I tell you again now. I believe it
is usual for
men to kiss their sisters-in-law? (She offers her cheek.
Bootle, whose day it is, salutes her respectfully.)
(gaily) perhaps I had better leave you young people
(Exit, with a backward look at the audience expressive of
fact that she has been wearing the mask.)
Bootle. Alice, then you are mine, after all!
Alice. James! (They kNo, perhaps better not. There has
quite enough for one evening.) And to think that she
the time. Now I am quite, quite happy. And Jamesyou
remember in future that I am Miss Alice Prendergast?
Bootle (gaily). My dear, I shall only be able to
remember that you
are The Future Mrs. Bootle!
XLIII. AT DEAD OF NIGHT
The stage is in semi-darkness as Dick Trayle throws open
the window from outside, puts his knee on the sill, and falls carefully
into the drawing-room of Beeste Hall. He is dressed in a knickerbocker
suit with arrows on it (such as can always be borrowed from a friend),
and, to judge from the noises which he emits, is not in the best of
training. The lights go on suddenly; and he should seize this moment to
stagger to the door and turn on the switch. This done he sinks into the
nearest chair and closes his eyes.
If he has been dancing very late the night before, he may drop
into a peaceful sleep; in which case the play ends here. Otherwise, no
sooner are his eyes closed than he opens them with a sudden start and
looks round in terror.
Dick (striking the keynote at once). No, no! Let me
innocent! (He gives a gasp of relief as he realises the
situation.) Free! It is true, then! I have escaped! I
that I was back in prison again! (He shudders and helps
himself to a large whisky-and-soda, which he swallows at a
gulp.) That's better! Now I feel a new manthe man I
three years ago. Three years! It has been a lifetime!
(Pathetically to the audience.) Where is Millicent
audience guesses that she is in the making-up room, but
say so.) Alas! (He falls into a reverie, from which
suddenly wakened by a noise outside. He starts, and then
rapidly to the switch, arriving there at the moment when
lights go out. Then he goes swiftly behind the window
The lights go up again as Jasper Beeste comes in
revolver in one hand and a bull's-eye lantern of apparently
enormous candle power in the other.)
Jasper (in immaculate evening dress). I thought I
heard a noise, so
I slipped on some old things hurriedly and came down.
(Fingering his perfectly-tied tie.) But there seems
nobody here. (Turns round suddenly to the window.)
there? Hands up, blow you (he ought to swear rather
really) hands up or I fire!
(The stage is suddenly plunged into darkness, there is
noise of a struggle, and the lights go on to reveal
the door covering Dick with his revolver.)
Jasper. Let's have a little light on you. (Brutally.)
Now then, my
man, what have you got to say for yourself? Ha! An escaped
Dick (to himself, in amazement). Jasper Beeste!
Jasper. So you know my name?
Dick (in the tones of a man whose whole life has been
blighted by the
machinations of a false friend). Yes, Jasper Beeste, I
your name. For two years I have said it to myself every
when I prayed Heaven that I should meet you again.
Jasper. Again? (Uneasily.) We have met before?
Dick (slowly). We have met before, Jasper Beeste.
Since then I have
lived a lifetime of misery. You may well fail to recognise
Enter Millicent Wilsdonin a dressing gown, with her
over her shoulders, if the county will stand it.
Millicent (to Jasper). I couldn't sleepI heard a
noiseI(suddenly seeing the other) Dick! (She
Dick. Millicent! (He trembles too.)
Jasper. Trayle! (So does he.)
Dick (bitterly). You shrink from me, Millicent. (
With strong common
sense.) What is an escaped convict to the beautiful
Millicent. DickIyouwhen you were sentenced
Dick. When I was sentencedthe evidence was black against
admitI wrote and released you from your engagement. You
Millicent (throwing herself on a sofa). Oh, Dick!
Jasper (recovering himself). Enough of this. Miss
Wilsdon is going
to marry me tomorrow.
Dick. To marry you! (He strides over to sofa and
pulls Millicent to
her feet.) Millicent, look me in the eyes! Do you love
(She turns away.) Say Yes and I will go back
quietly to my
prison. (She raises her eyes to his.) Ha! I thought
don't love him! Now then I can speak.
Jasper (advancing threateningly). Yes, to your
warders. Millicent, ring the bell.
Dick (wresting the revolver from his grasp). Ha, would
stand over there and listen to me. (He arranges his
Millicent on a sofa on the right, Jasper, biting his
nails, on the left.) Three years ago Lady Wilsdon's
necklace was stolen. My flat was searched and the necklace
found in my hatbox. Although I protested my innocence I was
tried, found guilty, and sentenced to ten years' penal
servitude, followed by fifteen years' police supervision.
Millicent (raising herself on the sofa). Dick, you
know it. (She flops back again.)
Dick. I was. But how could I prove it? I went to prison. For
black despair gnawed at my heart. And then something
The prisoner in the cell next to mine tried to communicate
me by means of taps. We soon arranged a system and held
conversations together. One day he told me of a robbery in
he and another man had been engagedthe robbery of a
Jasper (jauntily). Well?
Dick (sternly). A diamond necklace, Jasper Beeste,
which the other
man hid in the hatbox of another man in order that he might
the other man's fiancée! (Millicent shrieks.)
Jasper (blusteringly). Bah!
Dick (quietly). The man in the cell next to mine wants
to meet this
gentleman again. It seems that he has some old scores to
Jasper (sneeringly). And where is he?
Dick. Ah, where is he? (He goes to the window and gives a
whistle. A stranger in knickerbockers jumps in and advances
a crab-like movement.) Good! here you are. Allow me to
you to Mr. Jasper Beeste.
Jasper (in horror). Two-toed Thomas! I am undone!
Two-toed Thomas (after a series of unintelligible snarls
). Say the
word, guv'nor, and I'll kill him. (He prowls round
Dick (sternly). Stand back! Now, Jasper Beeste, what
have you to
Jasper (hysterically). I confess. I will sign
anything. I will go to
prison. Only keep that man off me.
Dick (going up to a bureau and writing aloud at incredible
I, Jasper Beeste, of Beeste Hall, do hereby declare that I
stole Lady Wilsdon's diamond necklace and hid it in the
of Richard Trayle; and I further declare that the said
Trayle is innocent of any complicity in the affair. (
with the paper and a fountain pen.) Sign, please.
(Jasper signs. At this moment two warders burst into the
First Warder. There they are!
(He seizes Dick. Two-toed Thomas leaps from the window,
the second Warder. Millicent picks up the confession
Millicent. Do not touch that man! Read this!
(She hands him the confession with an air of superb
First Warder (reading). Jasper Beeste! (Slipping a
handcuffs on Jasper.) You come along with me, my man.
had our suspicions of you for some time. (To
a nod at Dick). You'll look after that gentleman, miss?
Millicent. Of course! Why, he's engaged to me. Aren't you,
Dick. This time, Millicent, for ever!
XLIV. THE LOST HEIRESS
The Scene is laid outside a village inn in that county of curious
dialects, Loamshire. The inn is easily indicated by a round table
bearing two mugs of liquid, while a fallen log emphasises the rural
nature of the scene. Gaffer Jarge and Gaffer Willyum are
seated at the table, surrounded by a fringe of whisker, Jarge
being slightly more of a gaffer than Willyum.
Jarge (who missed his dinner through nervousness and has
ordered to sustain himself with soupas he puts down the
steaming mug). Eh, bor but this be rare beer. So it be.
Willyum (who had too much dinner and is now draining his
paraffin). You be right, Gaffer Jarge. Her be main rare
(He feels up his sleeve, but thinking better of it,
mouth with the back of his hand.) Main rare beer, zo
Jarge. Did I ever tell 'ee, bor, about t' new squoire o'
partshim wot cum hum yesterday from furren lands? Gaffer
Henry wor a-telling me.
Willyum (privately bored). Thee didst tell 'un, lad,
thee didst. And Gaffer Henry, he didst tell 'un too. But
'un again. It du me good to hear 'un, zo it du. Zure-lie.
Jarge. A rackun it be a main queer tale, queerer nor any them
chaps tell about. It wor like this. (Dropping into
his hurry to get his long speech over before he forgets it.
The old Squire had a daughter who disappeared when she was
weeks old, eighteen years ago. It was always thought she
stolen by somebody, and the Squire would have it that she
still alive. When he died a year ago he left the estate and
his money to a distant cousin in Australia, with the
that if he did not discover the missing baby within twelve
months everything was to go to the hospitals. (
smock and whiskers with a start.) And here du be the
zo it be, and t' Squoire's daughter, her ain't found.
Willyum (puffing at a new and empty clay pipe).
Zure-lie. (Jarge, a
trifle jealous of Willyum's gag, pulls out a similar
smokes it with the bowl upside down to show his
T' Squire's darter (Jarge frowns)her bain't (Jarge
he had thought of bain't)her bain't found. (
There is a
dramatic pause, only broken by the prompter.) Her ud be
Rachel's age now, bor?
Jarge (reflectively). Ay, ay. A main queer lass little
Rachel du be.
Her bain't like one of us.
Willyum. Her do be that fond of zoap and water. (Laughter.
Jarge (leaving nothing to chance). Happen she might be
a real grand
lady by birth, bor.
Enter Rachel, beautifully dressed in the sort of
which one would go to a fancy-dress ball as a village
Rachel (in the most expensive accent). Now, Uncle
a finger at him), didn't you promise me you'd go
home? It would serve you right if I never tied your tie for
again. (She smiles brightly at him.)
Jarge (slapping his thigh in ecstasy). Eh, lass! yer
du keep us old
uns in order. (He bursts into a falsetto chuckle, loses
note, blushes and buries his head in his mug.)
Willyum (rising). Us best be gettin' down along,
Jarge, a rackun.
Jarge. Ay, bor, time us chaps was moving. Don't 'e be long,
(Exeunt, limping heavily.)
Rachel (sitting down on the log). Dear old men! How I
love them all
in this village! I have known it all my life. How strange
that I have never had a father or mother. Sometimes I seem
remember a life different to thisa life in fine houses
spacious parks, among beautifully dressed people (which
surprising seeing that she was only three weeks old at the
but the audience must be given a hint of the plot), and
all fades away again. (She looks fixedly into space.
Enter Hugh Fitzhugh, Squire.
Fitzhugh (standing behind Rachel, but missing her somehow
ever man come into stranger inheritance? A wanderer in
Australia, I hear unexpectedly of my cousin's death through
advertisement in an old copy of a Sunday newspaper. I
hometoo late to soothe his dying hours; too late indeed
enjoy my good fortune for more than one short day.
must give up all to the hospitals, unless by some stroke of
Fate this missing girl turns up. (Impatiently.)
is dead. (Suddenly he notices Rachel.) By heaven, a
girl in this out-of-the-way village! (He walks round
Gad, she is lovely! Hugh, my boy, you are in luck. (He
off his hat.) Good evening, my dear!
Rachel (with a start). Good evening.
Fitzhugh (aside). She is adorable. She can be no
wench. (Aloud.) Do you live here, my girl?
Rachel. Yes, I have always lived here. (Aside.) How
handsome he is.
Down, fluttering heart.
Fitzhugh (sitting on the log beside her). And who is
village lad who is privileged to woo such beauty?
Rachel. I have no lover, Sir.
Fitzhugh (taking her hand). Can Hodge be so blind?
Rachel (innocently). Are you making love to me?
Fitzhugh. Upon my word I(He gets up from the log, which
really comfortable.) What is your name?
Rachel. Rachel. (She rises.)
Fitzhugh. It is the most beautiful name in the world. Rachel,
be my wife?
Rachel. But we have known each other such a short time!
Fitzhugh (lying bravely). We have known each other for
Rachel. And you are a rich gentleman, while I
Fitzhugh. A gentleman, I hope, but richno. To-morrow I
shall be a
beggar. No, not a beggar if I have your love, Rachel.
Rachel (making a lucky shot at his name). Hugh! (
Fitzhugh. Let us plight our troth here. See, I give you my
Rachel. And I give you mine.
(She takes one from the end of a chain which is round her
neck, and puts it on his finger. Fitzhugh looks at
Fitzhugh. Heavens! They are the same ring! (In great
Child, child, who are you? How came you by the crest of the
Rachel. Ah, who am I? I never had any parents. When they
found me they
found that ring on me, and I have kept it ever since!
Fitzhugh. Let me look at you! It must be! The Squire's
(Gaffers Jarge and Willyum, having entered
unobserved at the
back some time ago, have been putting in a lot of heavy
Jarge (at last). Lor' bless 'ee, Willyum, if it bain't
a-kissin' our Rachel.
Willyum. Zo it du be. Here du be goings-on! What will t'
Jarge (struck with an idea). Zay, bor, don't 'ee zee a
loikeness atween t' maid and t' Squire?
Willyum. Jarge, if you bain't right, lad. Happen she do have
(Hearing something, Fitzhugh and Rachel
Fitzhugh. Ah, my men! I'm your new Squire. Do you know who
Willyum. Why, her du be our Rachel.
Fitzhugh. On the contrary, allow me to introduce you to Miss
daughter of the late Squire!
Jarge. Well, this du be a day! To think of our Rachel now!
Fitzhugh. My Rachel now!
Rachel (who, it is to be hoped, has been amusing herself
since her last speech). Your Rachel always. [CURTAIN.
XLV. THE LITERARY LIFE
The Scene is the Editor's room in the Office of The Lark. Two
walls of the room are completely hidden from floor to ceiling by
magnificently bound books; the third wall at the back is hidden by
boxes of immensely expensive cigars. The windows, of course, are in the
fourth wall, which, however, need not be described, as it is never
quite practicable on the stage. The floor of this apartment is chastely
covered with rugs shot by the Editor in his travels, or in the
Tottenham Court Road; or, in some cases, presented by admiring readers
from abroad. The furniture is both elegant and commodious.
William Smith, Editor, comes in. He is superbly dressed
fur coat and an expensive cigar. There is a blue pencil
his ear, and a sheaf of what we call in the profession
typewritten manuscripts under his arm. He sits down at
desk and pulls the telephone towards him.
Smith (at the telephone). Hallo, is that you,
Jones?... Yes, it's
me. Just come up a moment. (Puts down telephone and
open his letters.)
Enter Jones, his favourite sub-editor. He is
commonly, and is covered with ink. He salutes respectfully
he comes into the room.
Jones. Good afternoon, chief.
Smith. Good afternoon. Have a cigar?
Jones. Thank you, chief.
Smith. Have you anything to tell me?
Jones. The circulation is still going up, chief. It was three
and eight last week.
Smith (testily). How often have I told you not to call
except when there are ladies present? Why can't you do what
Jones. Sorry, sir, but the fact is there are ladies present.
Smith (fingering his moustache). Show them up. Who are
Jones. There is only one. She says she's the lady who has
writing our anonymous Secrets of the Boudoir series which
made such a sensation.
Smith (in amazement). I thought you told me you wrote
Jones (simply). I did.
Smith. Then why
Jones. I mean I did tell you. The truth is they came in
and I thought they were more likely to be accepted if I
had written them. (With great emotion.) Forgive me,
it was for the paper's sake. (In matter-of-fact tones.
were one or two peculiarities of style I had to alter. She
Smith (sternly). How many cheques for them have you
accepted for the
Jones. Eight. For a thousand pounds each.
Smith (with tears in his eyes). If your mother were to
Jones (sadly). Ah, chief, I never had a mother.
Smith (slightly put out, but recovering himself quickly
). What would
your father say if
Jones. Alas, I have no relations. I was a foundling.
Smith (nettled). In that case I shall certainly tell
the master of
your workhouse. To think that there should be a thief in
Jones (with great pathos). Chief, chief, I am not so
vile as that. I
have carefully kept all the cheques in an old stocking,
Smith (in surprise). Do you wear stockings?
Jones When I bicycle. And as soon as the contributor comes
Smith (stretching out his hand and grasping that of Jones
). My dear
boy, forgive me. You have been hasty, perhaps, but zealous.
any case, your honesty is above suspicion. Leave me now. I
much to think of. (Rests his head on his hands. Then,
dreamily.) You have never seen your father; for thirty
I have not seen my wife.... Ah, Arabella!
Jones. Yes, sir. (Rings bell.)
Smith. She would split her infinitives.... We
left me.... I have never seen her again.
Jones. (excitedly). Did you say she split her
Smith. Yes. That was what led to our separation. Why?
Jones. Nothing, onlyit's very odd. I wonder
Boy. Did you ring, Sir?
Smith. No. But you can show the lady up. (Exit Boy.)
clear out, Jones. I'll explain to her about the money.
Smith. Right you are, Sir. (Exit.)
(Smith leans back in his chair and stares in front of him.)
Smith (to himself). Arabella!
Enter Boy, followed by a stylishly dressed lady of
Boy. Mrs. Robinson. (Exit.)
(Mrs. Robinson stops short in the middle of the room and
stares at the Editor; then staggers and drops on to the
Smith (in wonder). Arabella!
Mrs. Robinson. William!
(They fall into each other's arms.)
Arabella. I had begun to almost despair. (Smith winces.
) Almost to
despair, I mean, darling.
Smith (with a great effort). No, no, dear. You were
Arabella. How sweet of you to think so, William.
Smith. Yes, yes, it's the least I can say.... I have been
without you, dear.... And now, what shall we do? Shall we
married again quietly?
Arabella. Wouldn't that be bigamy?
Smith. I think not, but I will ask the printer's reader. He
everything. You see, there will be such a lot to explain,
Arabella. Dear, can you afford to marry?
Smith. Well, my salary as editor is only twenty thousand a
year, but I
do a little reviewing for other papers.
Arabella. And I havenothing. How can I come to you without
Smith. Yes, that's true.... (Suddenly) By Jove,
though, you have
got something! You have eight thousand pounds! We owe you
for your articles. (With a return to his professional
Did I tell you how greatly we all appreciated them? (
telephone.) Is that you, Jones? Just come here a
Arabella) Jones is my sub-editor; he is keeping your money
Jones (producing an old stocking). I've just been
round to my rooms
to get that money(sees Arabella)oh, I beg your
Smith (waving an introduction). Mrs. Smithmy wife.
This is our
sub-editor, dearMr. Jones. (Arabella puts her hand to
heart and seems about to faint.) Why, what's the
Arabella (hoarsely). Where did you get that stocking?
Smith (pleasantly). It's one he wears when he goes
Jones. No; I misled you this afternoon, chief. This stocking
the luggage I had when I first entered the Leamington
Arabella (throwing herself into his arms). My son!
This is your
father! Williamour boy!
Smith (shaking hands with Jones). How are you? I say,
that was one of my stockings?
Arabella (to her boy.) When I saw you on the stairs
you seemed to
dimly remind me
Jones. To remind you dimly, mother.
Smith. No, my boy. In future, nothing but split infinitives
appear in our paper. Please remember that.
Jones (with emotion). I will endeavour to always
remember it, dad.
[This series is designed to assist parents in choosing a career
for their sons. The author has devoted considerable time to research
among the best authorities, and the results are now laid before the
public in the hope that they will bring encouragement to those who are
hesitating at the doors of any of the great professions.]
XLVI. THE SOLICITOR
The office was at its busiest, for it was Friday afternoon. John
Blunt leant back in his comfortable chair and toyed with the key of the
safe, while he tried to realise his new position. He, John Blunt, was
junior partner in the great London firm of Macnaughton, Macnaughton,
Macnaughton, Macnaughton &Macnaughton.
He closed his eyes, and his thoughts wandered back to the day when
he had first entered the doors of the firm as one of two hundred and
seventy-eight applicants for the post of office-boy. They had been
interviewed in batches, and old Mr. Sanderson, the senior partner, had
taken the first batch.
I like your face, my boy, he had said heartily to John.
And I like yours, replied John, not to be outdone in politeness.
Now I wonder if you can spell 'mortgage'?
One 'm,' said John tentatively.
Mr. Sanderson was delighted with the lad's knowledge, and engaged
him at once.
For three years John had done his duty faithfully. During this time
he had saved the firm more than once by his readinessparticularly on
one occasion, when he had called old Mr. Sanderson's attention to the
fact that he had signed a letter to a firm of stockbrokers, Your
loving husband, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton &
Macnaughton. Mr. Sanderson, always a little absent-minded, corrected
the error, and promised the boy his articles. Five years later John
Blunt was a solicitor.
And now he was actually junior partner in the firmthe firm of
which it was said in the City, If a man has Macnaughton, Macnaughton,
Macnaughton, Macnaughton &Macnaughton behind him he is all right. The
City is always coining pithy little epigrams like this.
There was a knock at the door of the enquiry office and a
prosperous-looking gentleman came in.
Can I see Mr. Macnaughton? he said politely to the office-boy.
There isn't no Mr. Macnaughton, replied the latter. They all died
Well, well, can I see one of the partners?
You can't see Mr. Sanderson, because he's having his lunch, said
the boy. Mr. Thorpe hasn't come back from lunch yet, Mr. Peters has
just gone out to lunch, Mr. Williams is expected back from lunch every
minute, Mr. Gourlay went out to lunch an hour ago, Mr. Beamish
Tut, tut, isn't anybody in?
Mr. Blunt is in, said the boy, and took up the telephone. If you
wait a moment I'll see if he's awake.
Half an hour later Mr. Masters was shown into John Blunt's room.
I'm sorry I was engaged, said John. A most important client. Now
what can I do for you, Mr.erMasters?
I wish to make my will.
By all means, said John cordially.
I have only one child, to whom I intend to leave all my money.
Ha! said John, with a frown. This will be a lengthy and difficult
But you can do it? asked Mr. Masters anxiously. They told me at
the hairdresser's that Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton,
Macnaughton & Macnaughton was the cleverest firm in London.
We can do it, said John simply, but it will require all our care;
and I think it would be best if I were to come and stay with you for
the weekend. We could go into it properly then.
Thank you, said Mr. Masters, clasping the other's hand. I was
just going to suggest it. My motor-car is outside. Let us go at once.
I will follow you in a moment, said John, and, pausing only to
snatch a handful of money from the safe for incidental expenses and to
tell the boy that he would be back on Monday, he picked up the
well-filled week-end bag which he always kept ready, and hurried after
Inside the car Mr. Masters was confidential.
My daughter, he said, comes of age to-morrow.
Oh, it's a daughter? said John in surprise. Is she pretty?
She is considered to be the prettiest girl in the county.
Really? said John. He thought a moment, and added, Can we stop at
a post-office? I must send an important business telegram. He took out
a form and wrote Macmacmacmacmac, London. Shall not be back till
The car stopped and then sped on again.
Amy has never been any trouble to me, said Mr. Masters, but I am
getting old now, and I would give a thousand pounds to see her happily
To whom would you give it? asked John, whipping out his
Tut, tut, a mere figure of speech. But I would settle a hundred
thousand pounds on her on the wedding-day.
Indeed? said John thoughtfully. Can we stop at another
post-office? he added, bringing out his fountain-pen again.
He took out a second telegraph form and wrote:
Macmacmacmacmac, London. Shall not be back till Friday. Blunt.
The car dashed on again, and an hour later arrived at a commodious
mansion standing in its own well-timbered grounds of upwards of several
acres. At the front door a graceful figure was standing.
My solicitor, dear, Mr. Blunt, said Mr. Masters.
It is very good of you to come all this way on my father's
business, she said shyly.
Not at all, said John. A week oror a fortnightor he
looked at her againorthree weeks, and the thing is done.
Is making a will so very difficult?
It's a very tricky and complicated affair indeed. However, I think
we shall pull it off. Ermight I send an important business telegram?
Macmacmacmacmac, London, wrote John. Very knotty case. Date of
return uncertain. Please send more cash for incidental expenses.
* * * * *
Yes, you have guessed what happened. It is an every-day experience
in a solicitor's life. John Blunt and Amy Masters were married at St.
George's, Hanover Square, last May. The wedding was a quiet one owing
to mourning in the bride's familythe result of a too sudden perusal
of Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton, Macnaughton &Macnaughton's
bill of costs. As Mr. Masters said with his expiring breath: he didn't
mind paying for our Mr. Blunt's skill; nor yet for our Mr. Blunt's
valuable timeeven if most of it was spent in courting Amy; nor,
again, for our Mr. Blunt's tips to servants; but he did object to being
charged the first-class railway fare both ways when our Mr. Blunt had
come down and gone up again in the car. And perhaps I ought to add that
that is the drawback to this fine profession. One is so often
XLVII. THE PAINTER
Mr. Paul Samways was in a mood of deep depression. The artistic
temperament is peculiarly given to these moods, but in Paul's case
there was reason why he should take a gloomy view of things. His
masterpiece, The Shot Tower from Battersea Bridge, together with the
companion picture Battersea Bridge from the Shot Tower, had been
purchased by a dealer for seventeen and sixpence. His sepia monochrome,
Night, had brought him an I.O.U. for five shillings. These were his
sole earnings for the last six weeks, and starvation stared him in the
If only I had a little capital! he cried aloud in despair. Enough
to support me until my Academy picture is finished. His Academy
picture was a masterly study entitled, Roll on, thou deep and dark
blue ocean, roll, and he had been compelled to stop halfway across the
Channel through sheer lack of ultramarine.
The clock struck two, reminding him that he had not lunched. He rose
wearily and went to the little cupboard which served as a larder. There
was but little there to make a satisfying mealhalf a loaf of bread, a
corner of cheese, and a small tube of Chinese white. Mechanically he
set the things out....
He had finished and was clearing away when there came a knock at the
door. His charwoman, whose duty it was to clean his brushes every week,
came in with a card.
A lady to see you, Sir, she said.
Paul read the card in astonishment.
The Duchess of Winchester, he exclaimed. What on earthShow her
in, please. Hastily picking up a brush and the first tube which came
to hand, he placed himself in a dramatic position before his easel and
set to work.
How do you do, Mr. Samways? said the Duchess.
G-good afternoon, said Paul, embarrassed both by the presence of a
duchess in his studio and by his sudden discovery that he was touching
up a sunset with a tube of carbolic tooth paste.
Our mutual friend, Lord Ernest Topwood, recommended me to come to
Paul, who had never met Lord Ernest, but had once seen his name in a
ha'penny paper beneath a photograph of Mr. Arnold Bennett, bowed
As you probably guess, I want you to paint my daughter's portrait.
Paul opened his mouth to say that he was only a landscape painter,
and then closed it again. After all, it was hardly fair to bother her
Grace with technicalities.
I hope you can undertake this commission, she said pleadingly.
I shall be delighted, said Paul. I am rather busy just now, but I
could begin at two o'clock on Monday.
Excellent, said the Duchess. Till Monday, then. And Paul, still
clutching the tooth paste, conducted her to her carriage.
Punctually at 3.15 on Monday Lady Hermione appeared. Paul drew a
deep breath of astonishment when he saw her, for she was lovely beyond
compare. All his skill as a landscape painter would be needed if he
were to do justice to her beauty. As quickly as possible he placed her
in position and set to work....
May I let my face go for a moment? said Lady Hermione after three
hours of it.
Yes, let us stop, said Paul. He had outlined her in charcoal and
burnt cork, and it would be too dark to do any more that evening.
Tell me where you first met Lord Ernest? she asked, as she came
down to the fire.
At the Savoy in June, said Paul boldly.
Lady Hermione laughed merrily. Paul, who had not regarded his last
remark as one of his best things, looked at her in surprise.
But your portrait of him was in the Academy in May! she smiled.
Paul made up his mind quickly.
Lady Hermione, he said with gravity, do not speak to me of Lord
Ernest again. Nor, he added hurriedly, to Lord Ernest of me. When
your picture is finished I will tell you why. Now it is time you went.
He woke the Duchess up, and made a few commonplace remarks about the
weather. Remember, he whispered to Lady Hermione as he saw them to
their car. She nodded and smiled.
The sittings went on daily. Sometimes Paul would paint rapidly with
great sweeps of the brush; sometimes he would spend an hour trying to
get on his palette the exact shade of green bice for the famous
Winchester emeralds; sometimes in despair he would take a sponge and
wipe the whole picture out, and then start madly again. And sometimes
he would stop work altogether and tell Lady Hermione about his
home-life in Worcestershire. But always, when he woke the Duchess up at
the end of the sitting, he would say Remember! and Lady Hermione
would nod back at him.
It was a spring-like day in March when the picture was finished, and
nothing remained to do but to paint in the signature.
It is beautiful! said Lady Hermione, with enthusiasm. Beautiful!
Is it at all like me?
Paul looked from her to the picture, and back to her again.
No, he said. Not a bit. You know, I am really a landscape
What do you mean? she cried. You are Peter Samways, A.R.A., the
famous portrait painter!
No, he said sadly. That was my secret. I am Paul Samways. A
member of the Amateur Rowing Association, it is true, but only an
unknown landscape painter. Peter Samways lives in the next studio, and
he is not even a relation.
Then you have deceived me! You have brought me here under false
pretences! She stamped her foot angrily. My father will not buy that
picture, and I forbid you to exhibit it as a portrait of myself.
My dear Lady Hermione, said Paul, you need not be alarmed. I
propose to exhibit the picture as 'When the Heart is Young.' Nobody
will recognise a likeness to you in it. And if the Duke does not buy it
I have no doubt that some other purchaser will come along.
Lady Hermione looked at him thoughtfully. Why did you do it? she
Because I fell in love with you.
She dropped her eyes, and then raised them gaily to his. Mother is
still asleep, she whispered.
Hermione! he cried, dropping his palette and putting his brush
behind his ear.
She held out her arms to him.
* * * * *
As everybody remembers, When the Heart is Young, by Paul Samways,
was the feature of the Exhibition. It was bought for £10,000 by a
retired bottle-manufacturer, whom it reminded a little of his late
mother. Paul woke to find himself famous. But the success which began
for him from this day did not spoil his simple and generous nature. He
never forgot his brother artists, whose feet were not yet on the top of
the ladder. Indeed one of his first acts after he was married was to
give a commission to Peter Samways, A.R.A.nothing less than the
painting of his wife's portrait. And Lady Hermione was delighted with
XLVIII. THE BARRISTER
The New Bailey was crowded with a gay and fashionable throng. It was
a remarkable case of shop-lifting. Aurora Delaine, 19, was charged with
feloniously stealing and conveying certain articles the property of the
Universal Stores, to wit, thirty-five yards of book muslin, ten pairs
of gloves, a sponge, two gimlets, five jars of cold cream, a copy of
the Clergy List, three hat-guards, a mariner's compass, a box of
drawing-pins, an egg-breaker, six blouses, and a cabman's whistle. The
theft had been proved by Albert Jobson, a shopwalker, who gave evidence
to the effect that he followed her through the different departments
and saw her take the things mentioned in the indictment.
Just a moment, interrupted the Judge. Who is defending the
There was an unexpected silence. Rupert Carleton, who had dropped
idly into court, looked round in sudden excitement. The poor girl had
no counsel! What if heyes, he would seize the chance! He stood up
boldly. I am, my Lord, he said.
Rupert Carleton was still in the twenties, but he had been a
briefless barrister for some years. Yet, though briefs would not come,
he had been very far from idle. He had stood for Parliament in both the
Conservative and Liberal interests (not to mention his own), he had
written half-a-dozen unproduced plays, and he was engaged to be
married. But success in his own profession had been delayed. Now at
last was his opportunity.
He pulled his wig down firmly over his ears, took out a pair of
pince-nez and rose to cross-examine. It was the cross-examination
which was to make him famous, the cross-examination which is now given
as a model in every legal text-book.
Mr. Jobson, he began suavely, you say that you saw the accused
steal these various articles, and that they were afterwards found upon
I put it to you, said Rupert, and waited intently for the answer,
that that is a pure invention on your part?
With a superhuman effort Rupert hid his disappointment. Unexpected
as the answer was, he preserved his impassivity.
I suggest, he tried again, that you followed her about and
concealed this collection of things in her cloak with a view to
advertising your winter sale?
No. I saw her steal them.
Rupert frowned; the man seemed impervious to the simplest
suggestion. With masterly decision he tapped his pince-nez and
fell back upon his third line of defence. You saw her steal them? What
you mean is that you saw her take them from the different counters and
put them in her bag?
With the intention of paying for them in the ordinary way?
Please be very careful. You said in your evidence that prisoner
when told she would be charged, cried, 'To think that I should have
come to this! Will no one save me?' I suggest that she went up to you
with her collection of purchases, pulled out her purse, and said, 'What
does all this come to? I can't get any one to serve me.'
The obstinacy of some people! Rupert put back his pince-nez
in his pocket and brought out another pair. The historic
We will let that pass for the moment, he said. He consulted a
blank sheet of paper and then looked sternly at Mr. Jobson. Mr.
Jobson, how many times have you been married?
Quite so. He hesitated and then decided to risk it. I suggest
that your wife left you?
It was a long shot, but once again the bold course had paid. Rupert
heaved a sigh of relief.
Will you tell the gentlemen of the jury, he said with deadly
politeness, why she left you.
A lesser man might have been embarrassed, but Rupert's iron nerve
did not fail him.
Exactly! he said. And was that or was that not on the night when
you were turned out of the Hampstead Parliament for intoxication?
I never was.
Indeed? Will you cast your mind back to the night of April 24th,
1897? What were you doing on that night?
I have no idea, said Jobson, after casting his mind back and
waiting in vain for some result.
In that case you cannot swear that you were not being turned out of
the Hampstead Parliament
But I never belonged to it.
Rupert leaped at the damaging admission.
What? You told the Court you lived at Hampstead, and yet you say
that you never belonged to the Hampstead Parliament? Is that
your idea of patriotism?
I said I lived at Hackney.
To the Hackney Parliament, I should say. I am suggesting that you
were turned out of the Hackney Parliament
I don't belong to that either.
Exactly! said Rupert triumphantly. Having been turned out for
And never did belong.
Indeed? May I take it then that you prefer to spend your evenings
in the public-house?
If you want to know, said Jobson angrily, I belong to the Hackney
Chess Circle, and that takes up most of my evenings.
Rupert gave a sigh of satisfaction and turned to the jury.
At last, gentlemen, we have got it. I thought we should
arrive at the truth in the end, in spite of Mr. Jobson's
prevarications. He turned to the witness. Now, Sir, he said sternly,
you have already told the Court that you have no idea what you were
doing on the night of April 24th, 1897. I put it to you once more that
this blankness of memory is due to the fact that you were in a state of
intoxication on the premises of the Hackney Chess Circle. Can you swear
on your oath that this is not so?
A murmur of admiration for the relentless way in which the truth had
been tracked down ran through the Court. Rupert drew himself up and put
on both pairs of pince-nez at once.
Come, Sir! he said; the jury is waiting.
But it was not Albert Jobson who answered. It was the counsel for
the prosecution. My lord, he said, getting up slowly, this has come
as a complete surprise to me. In the circumstances I must advise my
clients to withdraw from the case.
A very proper decision, said his lordship. The prisoner is
discharged without a stain on her character.
* * * * *
Briefs poured in upon Rupert next day, and he was engaged for all
the big Chancery cases. Within a week his six plays were accepted, and
within a fortnight he had entered Parliament as the miners' Member for
Coalville. His marriage took place at the end of a month. The wedding
presents were even more numerous and costly than usual, and included
thirty-five yards of book-muslin, ten pairs of gloves, a sponge, two
gimlets, five jars of cold cream, a copy of the Clergy List, three hat
guards, a mariner's compass, a box of drawing-pins, an egg-breaker, six
blouses, and a cabman's whistle. They were marked quite simply, From a
XLIX. THE CIVIL SERVANT
It was three o'clock, and the afternoon sun reddened the western
windows of one of the busiest of Government offices. In an airy room on
the third floor Richard Dale was batting. Standing in front of the
coal-box with the fire-shovel in his hands he was a model of the
strenuous young Englishman; and as for the third time he turned the
Government india-rubber neatly in the direction of square-leg and so
completed his fifty the bowler could hardly repress a sigh of envious
admiration. Even the reserved Matthews, who was too old for cricket,
looked up a moment from his putting and said, Well played, Dick!
The fourth occupant of the room was busy at his desk, as if to give
the lie to the thoughtless accusation that the Civil Service cultivates
the body at the expense of the mind. The eager shouts of the players
seemed to annoy him, for he frowned and bit his pen, or else passed his
fingers restlessly through his hair.
How the dickens do you expect any one to think in this confounded
noise? he cried suddenly.
What's the matter, Ashby?
You're the matter. How am I going to get these verses done for
The Evening Surprise if you make such a row? Why don't you go out
Good idea. Come on, Dale. You coming, Matthews? They went out,
leaving the room to Ashby.
In his youth Harold Ashby had often been told by his relations that
he had a literary bent. His letters home from school were generally
pronounced to be good enough for Punch and some of them,
together with a certificate of character from his Vicar, were actually
sent to that paper. But as he grew up he realised that his genius was
better fitted for work of a more solid character. His post in the Civil
Service gave him full leisure for his Adam: A Fragment, his
History of the Microscope, and his Studies in Rural Campanology, and yet left him ample time in which to contribute to the journalism
of the day.
The poem he was now finishing for The Evening Surprise was
his first contribution to that paper, but he had little doubt that it
would be accepted. It was called quite simply Love and Death, and it
began like this:
(All other things above).
Am I afraid to die?
There were six more lines which I have forgotten, but I suppose they
gave the reason for this absurd diffidence.
Having written the poem out neatly, Harold put it in an envelope and
took it round to The Evening Surprise. The strain of composition
had left him rather weak, and he decided to give his brain a rest for
the next few days. So it happened that he was at the wickets on the
following Wednesday afternoon when the commissionaire brought him in
the historic letter. He opened it hastily, the shovel under his arm.
Dear Sir, wrote the editor of The Evening Surprise, will
you come round and see me as soon as convenient?
Harold lost no time. Explaining that he would finish his innings
later, he put his coat on, took his hat and stick, and dashed out.
How do you do? said the editor. I wanted to talk to you about
your work. We all liked your little poem very much. It will be coming
Thursday, said Harold helpfully.
I was wondering whether we couldn't get you to join our staff. Does
the idea of doing Aunt Miriam's Cosy Corner in our afternoon edition
appeal to you at all?
No, said Harold. Not a bit.
Ah, that's a pity. He tapped his desk thoughtfully. Well, then,
how would you like to be a war correspondent?
Very much, said Harold. I was considered to write rather good
letters home from school.
Splendid! There's this little war in Mexico. When can you start?
All expenses and fifty pounds a week. You're not very busy at the
office just now, I suppose?
I could get sick leave easily enough, said Harold, if it wasn't
for more than eight or nine months.
Do; that will be excellent. Here's a blank cheque for your outfit.
Can you get off to-morrow? But I suppose you'll have one or two things
to finish up at the office first?
Well, said Harold cautiously, I was in, and I'd made
ninety-six. But if I go back and finish my innings now, and then have
to-morrow for buying things, I could get off on Friday.
Good, said the editor. Well, here's luck. Come back alive if you
can, and if you do we shan't forget you.
Harold spent the next day buying a war correspondent's outfit: the
camel, the travelling bath, the putties, the pith helmet, the quinine,
the sleeping-bag, and the thousand-and-one other necessities of active
service. On the Friday his colleagues at the office came down in a body
to Southampton to see him off. Little did they think that nearly a year
would elapse before he again set foot upon England.
I shall not describe all his famous coups at Mexico.
Sufficient to say that experience taught him quickly all that he had
need to learn; and that whereas he was more than a week late with his
cabled account of the first engagement of the war he was frequently
more than a week early afterwards. Indeed the battle of Parson's Nose,
so realistically described in his last telegram, is still waiting to be
fought. It is to be hoped that it will be in time for his aptly-named
book, With the Mexicans in Mexico, which is coming out next
On his return to England Harold found that time had wrought many
changes. To begin with, the editor of The Evening Surprise had
passed on to The Morning Exclamation.
You had better take his place, said the ducal proprietor to
Right, said Harold. I suppose I shall have to resign my post at
Just as you like. I don't see why you should.
I should miss the cricket, said Harold wistfully, and the salary.
I'll go round see what I can arrange.
But there were also changes at the office. Harold had been rising
steadily in salary and seniority during his absence, and he found to
his delight that he was now a Principal Clerk. He found too that he had
acquired quite a reputation in the office for quickness and efficiency
in his new work.
The first thing to arrange about was his holiday. He had had no
holiday for more than a year, and there were some eight weeks owing to
Hullo, said the Assistant Secretary as Harold came in, you're
looking well. I suppose you can manage to get away for the weekends?
I've been away on sick leave for some time, said Harold
Have you? You've kept it very secret. Come out and have lunch with
me, and we'll do a matinée afterwards.
Harold went out with him happily. It would be pleasant to accept the
editorship of The Evening Surprise without giving up the
Governmental work which was so dear to him, and the Assistant
Secretary's words made this possible, for a year or so anyhow. Then,
when his absence from the office began to be noticed, it would be time
to think of retiring on an adequate pension.
L. THE ACTOR
Mr. Levinski, the famous actor-manager, dragged himself from beneath
the car, took the snow out of his mouth, and swore heartily. Mortal men
are liable to motor accidents; even king's cars have backfired; but it
seems strange that actor-managers are not specially exempt from these
occurrences. Mr. Levinski was not only angry; he was also a little
shocked. When an actor-manager has to walk two miles to the nearest
town on a winter evening, one may be pardoned a doubt as to whether all
is quite right with the world.
But the completest tragedy has its compensations for some one. The
pitiable arrival of Mr. Levinski at The Duke's Head, unrecognised and
with his fur coat slightly ruffled, might make a sceptic of the most
devout optimist, and yet Eustace Merrowby can never look back upon that
evening without a sigh of thankfulness; for to him it was the beginning
of his career. The story has often been told sincein about a dozen
weekly papers, half-a-dozen daily papers and three dozen provincial
papersbut it will always bear telling again.
There was no train to London that night, and Mr. Levinski had been
compelled to put up at The Duke's Head. However, he had dined and was
feeling slightly better. He summoned the manager of the hotel.
What does one do in this damn place? he asked with a yawn.
The manager, instantly recognising that he was speaking to a member
of the aristocracy, made haste to reply. Othello was being played at
the town theatre. His daughter, who had already been three times, told
him that it was very sweet. He was sure his lordship....
Mr. Levinski dismissed him, and considered the point. He had to
amuse himself with something that evening, and the choice apparently
lay between Othello and the local Directory. He picked up the
Directory. By a lucky chance for Eustace Merrowby it was three years
old. Mr. Levinski put on his fur coat and went to see Othello.
For some time he was as bored as he had expected to be, but halfway
through the Third Act he began to wake up. There was something in the
playing of the principal actor which moved him strangely. He looked at
his programme. OthelloMR. EUSTACE MERROWBY. Mr. Levinski
frowned thoughtfully. Merrowby, he said to himself. I don't know the
name, but he's the man I want. He took out the gold pencil presented
to him by the Emperor(the station-master had had a tie-pin)and
wrote a note.
He was finishing breakfast next morning when Mr. Merrowby was
Ah, good morning, said Mr. Levinski, good morning. You find me
very busy, and here he began to turn the pages of the Directory
backwards and forwards, but I can give you a moment. What is it you
You asked me to call on you, said Eustace.
Did I, did I? He passed his hand across his brow with a noble
gesture. I am so busy I forget. Ah, now I remember. I saw you play
Othello last night. You are the man I want. I am producing 'Oom
Baas,' the great South African drama, next April, at my theatre.
Perhaps you know?
I have read about it in the papers, said Eustace. In all the
papers (he might have added) every day, for the last six months.
Good. Then you may have heard that one of the scenes is an ostrich
farm. I want you to play 'Tommy.'
One of the ostriches? asked Eustace.
I do not offer the part of an ostrich to a man who has played
Othello. Tommy is the Kaffir boy who looks after the farm. It is a
black part, like your present one, but not so long. In London you
cannot expect to take the leading parts just yet.
This is very kind of you, said Eustace gratefully. I have always
longed to get to London. And to start in your theatre!it's a
Good, said Mr. Levinski. Then that's settled. He waved Eustace
away and took up the Directory again with a business-like air.
And so Eustace Merrowby came to London. It is a great thing for a
young actor to come to London. As Mr. Levinski had warned him, his new
part was not so big as that of Othello; he had to say Hofo
tsetse!which was alleged to be Kaffir for Down, Sir! to the big
ostrich. But to be at the St. George's Theatre at all was an honour
which most men would envy him, and his association with a real ostrich
was bound to bring him before the public in the pages of the
Eustace, curiously enough, was not very nervous on the first night.
He was fairly certain that he was word-perfect; and if only the ostrich
didn't kick him in the back of the neckas it had tried to once at
rehearsalthe evening seemed likely to be a triumph for him. And so it
was with a feeling of pleasurable anticipation that, on the morning
after, he gathered the papers round him at breakfast, and prepared to
read what the critics had to say.
He had a remarkable Press. I give a few examples of the notices he
obtained from the leading papers:
Mr. Eustace Merrowby was Tommy.Daily Telegraph.
The cast included Mr. Eustace Merrowby.Times.
... Mr. Eustace Merrowby ... Daily Chronicle.
We have no space in which to mention all the other performers.
This criticism only concerns the two actors we have mentioned, and
does not apply to the rest of the cast.Sportsman.
Where all were so good it would be invidious to single out anybody
for special praise.Daily Mail.
The acting deserved a better play.Daily News.
... Tommy ...Morning Post.
As Eustace read the papers he felt that his future was secure. True,
The Era, careful never to miss a single performer, had yet to say,
Mr. Eustace Merrowby was capital as Tommy, and The Stage,
Tommy was capitally played by Mr. Eustace Merrowby; but even without
this he had become one of the Men who Countone whose private life was
of more interest to the public than that of any scientist, general or
diplomat in the country.
Into Eustace Merrowby's subsequent career I cannot go at full
length. It is perhaps as a member of the Garrick Club that he has
attained his fullest development. All the good things of the Garrick
which were not previously said by Sydney Smith may safely be put down
to Eustace; and there is no doubt that he is the ringleader in all the
subsequent practical jokes which have made the club famous. It was he
who pinned to the back of an unpopular member of the committee a sheet
of paper bearing the words
and the occasion on which he drew the chair from beneath a certain
eminent author as the latter was about to sit down is still referred to
hilariously by the older members.
Finally, as a convincing proof of his greatness, let it be said that
everybody has at least heard the name Eustace Merrowbyeven though
some may be under the impression that it is the trade-mark of a sauce;
and that half the young ladies of Wandsworth Common and Winchmore Hill
are in love with him. If this be not success, what is?
LI. THE COLLECTOR
When Peter Plimsoll, the Glue King, died, his parting advice to his
sons to stick to the business was followed only by John, the elder.
Adrian, the younger, had a soul above adhesion. He disposed of his
share in the concern and settled down to follow the life of a gentleman
of taste and culture and (more particularly) patron of the arts. He
began in a modest way by collecting ink-pots. His range at first was
catholic, and it was not until he had acquired a hundred and
forty-seven ink-pots of various designs that he decided to make a
specialty of historic ones. This decision was hastened by the discovery
that one of Queen Elizabeth's inkstandssupposed (by the owner) to be
the identical one with whose aid she wrote her last letter to
Raleighwas about to be put on the market. At some expense Adrian
obtained an introduction, through a third party, to the owner, at more
expense the owner obtained, through the same gentleman, an introduction
to Adrian; and in less than a month the great Elizabeth Ink-pot was
safely established in Adrian's house. It was the beginning of the
This was twenty years ago. Let us to-day take a walk through the
galleries of Mr. Adrian Plimsoll's charming residence which, as the
world knows, overlooks the park. Any friend of mine is always welcome
at Number Fifteen. We will start with the North Gallery; I fear that I
shall only have time to point out a few of the choicest gems.
This is a Pontesiori sword of the thirteenth centurythe only
example of the master's art without any notches.
On the left is a Capricci comfit-box. If you have never heard of
Capricci, you oughtn't to come to a house like this.
Here we have before us the historic de Montigny topaz. Ask your
little boy to tell you about it.
In the East Gallery, of course, the chief treasure is the Santo di
Santo amulet, described so minutely in his Vindicia Veritatis by
John of Flanders. The original MS. of this book is in the South
Gallery. You must glance at it when we get there. It will save you the
trouble of ordering a copy from your library; they would be sure to
keep you waiting....
With some such words as these I lead my friends round Number
Fifteen. The many treasures in the private parts of the house I may not
show, of course; the bathroom, for instance, in which hangs the finest
collection of portraits of philatelists that Europe can boast. You must
spend a night with Adrian to be admitted to their company; and as one
of the elect, I can assure you that nothing can be more stimulating on
a winter's morning than to catch the eye of Frisby Dranger, F.Ph.S.,
behind the taps as your head first emerges from the icy waters.
* * * * *
Adrian Plimsoll sat at breakfast, sipping his hot water and
crumbling a dry biscuit. A light was in his eye, a flush upon his
pallid countenance. He had just heard from a trusty agent that the
Scutori breast-plate had been seen in Devonshire. His car was ready to
take him to the station.
But alas! a disappointment awaited him. On close examination the
breast-plate turned out to be a common Risoldo of inferior working.
Adrian left the house in disgust and started on his seven-mile walk
back to the station. To complete his misery a sudden storm came on.
Cursing alternately his agent and Risoldo, he made his way to a cottage
and asked for shelter.
An old woman greeted him civilly and bade him come in.
If I may just wait till the storm is over, said Adrian, and he sat
down in her parlour and looked appraisingly (as was his habit) round
the room. The grandfather clock in the corner was genuine, but he was
beyond grandfather clocks. There was nothing else of any value; three
china dogs and some odd trinkets on the chimney-piece; a print or
Stay! What was that behind the youngest dog?
May I look at that old bracelet? he asked, his voice trembling a
little; and without waiting for permission he walked over and took up
the circle of tarnished metal in his hands. As he examined it his
colour came and went, his heart seemed to stop beating. With a
tremendous effort he composed himself and returned to his chair.
It was the Emperor's Bracelet!
Of course you know the history of this most famous of all bracelets.
Made by Spurius Quintus of Rome in 47 B. C., it was given by Cæsar to
Cleopatra, who tried without success to dissolve it in vinegar.
Returning to Rome by way of Antony it was worn at a minor conflagration
by Nero, after which it was lost sight of for many centuries. It was
eventually heard of during the reign of Canute (or Knut, as his
admirers called him); and John is known to have lost it in the Wash,
whence it was recovered a century afterwards. It must have travelled
thence to France, for it was seen once in the possession of Louis XI;
and from there to Spain, for Philip The Handsome presented it to Joanna
on her wedding day. Columbus took it to America, but fortunately
brought it back again; Peter The Great threw it at an indifferent
musician; on one of its later visits to England Pope wrote a couplet to
it. And the most astonishing thing in its whole history was that now
for more than a hundred years it had vanished completely. To turn up
again in a little Devonshire cottage! Verily truth is stranger than
That's rather a curious bracelet of yours, said Adrian casually.
Myerwife has one just like it which she asked me to match. Is it
an old friend, or would you care to sell it?
My mother gave it me, said the old woman, and she had it from
hers. I don't know no further than that. I didn't mean to sell it,
Quite right, said Adrian, and after all, I can easily get
But I won't say a bit of money wouldn't be useful. What would you
think a fair price, Sir? Five shillings?
Adrian's heart jumped. To get the Emperor's Bracelet for five
But the spirit of the collector rose up strong within him. He
My good woman, he said, they turn out bracelets like that in
Birmingham at two shillings apiece. And quite new. I'll give you
Make it one-and-sixpence, she pleaded. Times are hard.
Adrian reflected. He was not, strictly speaking, impoverished. He
could afford one-and-sixpence.
One-and-tuppence, he said.
No, no, one-and-sixpence, she repeated obstinately.
Adrian reflected again. After all, he could always sell it for ten
thousand pounds, if the worst came to the worst.
Well, well, he sighed, one-and-sixpence let it be.
He counted out the money carefully. Then putting the precious
bracelet in his pocket he rose to go.
* * * * *
Adrian has no relations living now. When he dies he proposes to
leave the Plimsoll Collection to the nation, having, as far as he can
foreseeno particular use for it in the next world. This is really
very generous of him, and, no doubt, when the time comes, the papers
will say so. But it is a pity that he cannot be appreciated properly in
his lifetime. Personally I should like to see him knighted.
LII. THE STATESMAN
On a certain night in the middle of the season all London was
gathered in Lady Marchpane's drawing-room; all London, that is, which
was worth knowinga qualification which accounted for the absence of
several million people who had never heard of Lady Marchpane. In one
corner of the room an Ambassador, with a few ribbons across his chest,
could have been seen chatting to the latest American Duchess; in
another corner one of our largest Advertisers was exchanging epigrams
with a titled Newspaper Proprietor. Famous Generals rubbed shoulders
with Post-Impressionist Artists; Financiers whispered sweet nothings to
Breeders of prize Poms; even an Actor-Manager might have been seen
accepting an apology from a Royalty who had jostled him.
Hallo, said Algy Lascelles, catching sight of the dignified figure
of Rupert Meryton in the crowd; how's William?
A rare smile lit up Rupert's distinguished features. He was
Under-Secretary for Invasion Affairs, and William was Algy's pleasant
way of referring to the Bill which he was now piloting through the
House of Commons. It was a measure for doing something or other by
means of a what d'you call itI cannot be more precise without
precipitating a European Conflict.
I think we shall get it through, said Rupert calmly.
Lady Marchpane was talking about it just now. She's rather
interested, you know.
Rupert's lips closed about his mouth in a firm line. He looked over
Algy's head into the crowd. Oh! he said coldly.
It was barely ten years ago that young Meryton, just down from
Oxford, had startled the political world by capturing the important
seat of Cricklewood (E.) for the Tariffadicalsas, to avoid plunging
the country into Civil War, I must call them. This was at a
by-election, and the Liberatives had immediately dissolved, only to
come into power after the General Election with an increased majority.
Through the years that followed, Rupert Meryton, by his pertinacity in
asking the Invasion Secretary questions which had been answered by him
on the previous day, and by his regard for the dignity of the House, as
shown in his invariable comment, Come, comenot quite the Gentleman,
upon any display of bad manners opposite, established a clear right to
a post in the subsequent Tariffadical Government. He had now been
Under-Secretary for two years, and in this Bill his first real chance
Oh, there you are, Mr. Meryton, said a voice. Come and talk to me
a moment. With a nod to a couple of Archbishops Lady Marchpane led the
way to a little gallery whither the crowd had not penetrated. Priceless
Correggios, Tintorettos and G. K. Chestertons hung upon the walls, but
it was not to show him these that she had come. Dropping into a
wonderful old Chippendale chair, she motioned him to a Blundell-Maple
opposite her, and looked at him with a curious smile.
Well, she said, about the Bill?
Rupert's lips closed about his mouth in a firm line. (He was rather
good at this.) Folding his arms, he gazed steadily into Lady
Marchpane's still beautiful eyes.
It will go through, he said. Through all its stages, he added
It must not go through, said Lady Marchpane gently.
Rupert could not repress a start, but he was master of himself again
in a moment.
I cannot add anything to my previous statement, he said.
If it goes through, began Lady Marchpane
I must refer you, said Rupert, to my answer of yesterday.
Come, come, Mr. Meryton, what is the good of fencing with me? You
know the position. Or shall I state it for you again?
I cannot believe you are serious.
I am perfectly serious. There are reasons, financial reasonsand
others, why I do not want this Bill to pass. In return for my silence
upon a certain matter, you are going to prevent it passing. You know to
what I refer. On the 4th of May last
Stop! cried Rupert hoarsely.
On the 4th of May last, Lady Marchpane went on relentlessly, you
and Iin the absence of my husband abroadhad tea together at an
A.B.C. (Rupert covered his face with his hands.) I am no fonder of
scandal than you are, but if you do not meet my wishes I shall
certainly confess the truth to Marchpane.
You will be ruined too! said Rupert.
My husband will forgive me and take me back. She paused
significantly. Will Marjorie Hale(Rupert covered his hands with his
face)will the good Miss Hale forgive you? She is very strict, is she
not? And rich? And rising young politicians want money more than
scandal. She raised her head suddenly at the sound of footsteps. Ah,
Archbishop, I was just calling Mr. Meryton's attention to this
wonderful Botticell(she looked at it more closely)this wonderful
Dana Gibson. A beautiful piece of work, is it not? The intruders
passed on to the supper-room, and they were alone again.
What am I to do? said Rupert sullenly.
The fate of the Bill is settled to-day week, when you make your big
speech. You must speak against it. Confess frankly you were mistaken.
It will be a close thing, anyhow. Your influence will turn the scale.
It will ruin me politically.
You will marry Marjorie Hale and be rich. No rich man is ever
ruined politically. Or socially. She patted his hand gently. You'll
He got up slowly. You'll see next week, he said.
It is not meet that we should watch the unhappy Rupert through the
long-drawn hours of the night, as he wrestled with the terrible
problem. A moment's sudden madness on that May afternoon had brought
him to the cross-roads. On the one hand, reputation, wealth, the girl
that he loved; on the other, his own honour andso, at least, he had
said several times on the platformthe safety of England. He rose in
the morning weary, but with his mind made up.
The Bill should go through!
Rupert Meryton was a speaker of a not unusual type. Although he
provided the opinions himself, he always depended upon his secretary
for the arguments with which to support them and the actual words in
which to give them being. But on this occasion he felt that a special
effort was required of him. He would show Lady Marchpane that the
blackmail of yesterday had only roused him to a still greater sacrifice
on behalf of his country. He would write his own speech.
On the fateful night the House was crowded. It seemed that all the
guests at Lady Marchpane's a week before were in the Distinguished
Strangers' Gallery or behind the Ladies' Grille. From the Press Gallery
Our Special Word-painter looked down upon the statesmen beneath him,
his eagle eye ready to detect on the moment the Angry Flush, the Wince,
or the Sudden Paling of enemy, the Grim Smile or the Lofty Calm of
The Rt. Hon. Rupert Meryton, Tariffadical Member for Cricklewood
(E.) rose to his feet amidst cheers.
Mr. Speaker, he said, I riseerto-night, Sirh'r'm,
toer So much of his speech I may give, but urgent State reasons
compel me to withhold the rest. Were it ever known with which Bill the
secret history that I have disclosed concerns itself, the Great Powers
in an instant would be at each other's throats. But though I may not
disclose the speech I can tell of its effect on the House. And its
effect was curious. It was, in short, the exact opposite of what Rupert
Meryton, that promising Under Secretary, had intended.
It was the first speech that he had ever prepared himself. Than
Rupert there was no more dignified figure in the House of Commons; his
honour was proof, as we have seen, against the most insidious
temptations; yet, since one man cannot have all the virtues, he was
distinctly stupid. It would have been a hopeless speech anyhow; but, to
make matters worse, he had, in the most important part of it, attempted
irony. And at the beginning of the ironical passage even the
Tariffadical word-painters had to confess that it was their own
stalwarts who suddenly paled.
As Lady Marchpane had said, it was bound to be a close thing. The
Liberatives and the Unialists, of course, were solid against the Bill,
but there was also something of a cave in the Tariffadical Party. It
was bound to be a close thing, and Rupert's speech just made the
difference. When he sat down the waverers and doubters had made up
The Bill was defeated.
* * * * *
That the Tariffadicals should resign was natural; perhaps it was
equally natural that Rupert's secretary should resign too. He said that
his reputation would be gone if Rupert made any more speeches on his
own, and that he wasn't going to risk it. Without his secretary Rupert
was lost at the General Election which followed. Fortunately he had a
grateful friend in Lady Marchpane. She exerted her influence with the
Liberatives, and got him an appointment as Governor of the Stickjaw
Islands. Here, with his beautiful and rich wife, Sir Rupert Meryton
maintains a regal state, and upon his name no breath of scandal rests.
Indeed his only trouble so far has been with the Stickjaw languagea
difficult language, but one which, perhaps fortunately, does not lend
itself to irony.
LIII. THE MAGNATE
It was in October, 19, that the word Zinc first began to be
heard in financial circles. City men, pushing their dominoes
regretfully away, and murmuring Zinc in apologetic tones, were back
in their offices by three o'clock, forgetting in their haste to leave
the usual twopence under the cup for the waitress. Clubmen, glancing at
the tape on their way to the smoking-room, said to their neighbours,
Zinc's moved a point, I see, before covering themselves up with the
Times. In the trains, returning husbands asked each other loudly,
What's all this about zinc?all save the very innocent ones, who
whispered, I say, what is zinc exactly? The music-halls took
it up. No sooner had the word Zinc left the lips of an acknowledged
comedian than the house was in roars of laughter. The furore at the
Collodium when Octavius Octo, in his world-famous part of the landlady
of a boarding-house, remarked, I know why my ole man's so late. 'E's
buying zinc, is still remembered in the bars round Piccadilly.
* * * * *
To explain it properly it will be necessary (my readers will be
alarmed to hear) to go back some thirty years. This, as a simple
calculation shows, takes us to June, 18. It was in June, 18, that
Felix Moses, a stout young man of attractive appearance (if you care
for that style), took his courage in both hands, and told Phyllida
Sloan that he was worth ten thousand a year and was changing his name
to Mountenay. Miss Sloan, seeing that it was the beginning of a
proposal, said hastily that she was changing hers to Abraham.
You're marrying Leo Abraham? asked Felix in amazement. Ah! A
gust of jealousy swept over him. He licked his lips. There was a
dangerous look in his eyesa look that was destined in after days to
make Emperors and rival financiers quail. Ah! he said softly. Leo
Abraham! I shall not forget!
* * * * *
And now it will be necessary (my readers will be relieved to learn)
to jump forward some thirty years. This obviously takes us to
September, 19. Let us, on this fine September morning, take a peep
into No., Throgneedle Street, E. C., and see how the business of
the mother city is carried on.
On the fourth floor we come to the sanctum of the great man himself.
Mr. Felix MountenayNo admittance, is painted upon the outer door.
It is a name which is known and feared all over Europe. Mr. Mountenay's
private detective stands on one side of the door; on the other side is
Mr. Mountenay's private wolfhound. Murmuring the word, Press,
however, we pass hastily through, and find ourselves before Mr.
Mountenay himself. Mr. Mountenay is at work; let us watch him through a
typical five minutes.
For a moment he stands meditating in the middle of the room. Kings
are tottering on their thrones. Empires hang upon his nod. What will he
decide? Suddenly he blows a cloud of smoke from his cigar, and rushes
to the telephone.
Hallo! Is that you, Jones?... What are Margarine Prefs.
at?... What? ... No, Margarine Prefs. idiot.... Ah! Then sell.
Keep on selling till I tell you to stop.... Yes.
He hangs up the receiver. For two minutes he paces the room, smoking
rapidly. He stops a moment ... but it is only to remove his cigar-band,
which is in danger of burning. Then he resumes his pacings. Another
minute goes rapidly by. He rushes to the telephone again.
Hallo! Is that you, Jones?... What are Margarine Prefs. down to
now?... Ah! Then buy. Keep on buying.... Yes.
He hangs up the receiver. By this master-stroke he has made a
quarter of a million. It may seem to you or me an easy way of doing it.
Ah, but what, we must ask ourselves, of the great brain that conceived
the idea, the foresight which told the exact moment when to put it into
action, the cool courage which seized the momentwhat of the grasp of
affairs, the knowledge of men? Ah! Can we grudge it him, that he earns
a quarter of a million more quickly than we do?
Yet Mr. Felix Mountenay is not happy. When we have brought off a
coup for a hundred thousand even, we smile gaily. Mr. Mountenay did not
smile. Fiercely he bit another inch off his cigar and muttered to
The words were Leo Abraham! Wait!
* * * * *
This is positively the last row of stars. Let us take advantage of
them to jump forward another month. It was October 1st, 19. (If that
was a Sunday, then it was October 2nd. Anyhow, it was October.)
Mr. Felix Mountenay was sleeping in his office. For once that iron
brain relaxed. He had made a little over three million in the last
month and the strain was too much for him. But a knock at the door
restored him instantly to his own cool self.
I beg your pardon, Sir, said his secretary, but somebody is
The word Zinc touched a chord in Mr. Mountenay's brain which had
lain dormant for years. Zinc! Why did zinc remind him of Leo Abraham?
Fetch the Encyclopædia Britannica, quick! he cried.
The secretary, a man of herculean build, returned with some of it.
With the luck which proverbially attends rich men Mr. Mountenay picked
up the Z volume at once. As he read the Zinc article it all came back
to him. Leo Abraham had owned an empty zinc-mine! Was his enemy in his
clutches at last?
Buy! he said briefly.
In a fortnight the secretary had returned.
Well, said Mr. Mountenay, have you bought all the zinc that there
Yes, Sir, said the Secretary. And a lot that there isn't, he
Good! He paused a moment. When Mr. Leo Abraham calls, he added
grimly, show him up at once.
It was a month later that a haggard man climbed the stairs of
No., Throgneedle Street, and was shown into Mr. Mountenay's room.
Well, said the financier softly, what can I do for you?
I want some zinc, said Leo Abergavenny.
Zinc, said Mr. Mountenay with a smile, is a million pounds a ton.
Or an acre, or a gallon, or however you prefer to buy it, he added
Leo went white.
You wish to ruin me?
I do. A promise I made to your wife some years ago.
My wife? cried Leo. What do you mean? I'm not married.
It was Mr. Mountenay's turn to go white. He went it.
Not married? But Miss Sloan
Mr. Leo Abergavenny sat down and mopped his face.
I don't know what you mean, he said. I asked Miss Sloan to marry
me, and told her I was changing my name to Abergavenny. And she said
that she was changing hers to Moses. Naturally, I thought
Stop! cried Mr. Mountenay. He sat down heavily. Something seemed
to have gone out of his life; in a moment the world was empty. He
looked up at his old rival, and forced a laugh.
Well, well, he said, she deceived us both. Let us drink to our
lucky escape. He rang the bell.
And then, he said in a purring voice, we can have a little talk
about zinc. After all, business is still business.
LIV. THE ADVENTURER
Lionel Norwood, from his earliest days, had been marked out for a
life of crime. When quite a child he was discovered by his nurse
killing flies on the window-pane. This was before the character of the
house-fly had become a matter of common talk among scientists, and
Lionel (like all great men, a little before his time) had pleaded
hygiene in vain. He was smacked hastily and bundled off to a
preparatory school, where his aptitude for smuggling sweets would have
lost him many a half-holiday had not his services been required at
outside-left in the hockey eleven. With some difficulty he managed to
pass into Eton, and three years laterwith, one would imagine, still
more difficultymanaged to get superannuated. At Cambridge he went
down-hill rapidly. He would think nothing of smoking a cigar in
academical costume, and on at least one occasion he drove a dogcart on
Sunday. No wonder that he was requested, early in his second year, to
give up his struggle with the Little-go and betake himself back to
London is always glad to welcome such people as Lionel Norwood. In
no other city is it so simple for a man of easy conscience to earn a
living by his wits. If Lionel ever had any scruples (which, after a
perusal of the above account of his early days, it may be permitted one
to doubt) they were removed by an accident to his solicitor, who was
run over in the Argentine on the very day that he arrived there with
what was left of Lionel's money. Reduced suddenly to poverty, Norwood
had no choice but to enter upon a life of crime.
Except, perhaps, that he used slightly less hair-oil than most, he
seemed just the ordinary man about town as he sat in his dressing-gown
one fine summer morning and smoked a cigarette. His rooms were
furnished quietly and in the best of taste. No signs of his nefarious
profession showed themselves to the casual visitor. The appealing
letters from the Princess whom he was blackmailing, the wire apparatus
which shot the two of spades down his sleeve during the coon-can nights
at the club, the thimble and pea with which he had performed the
three-card trick so successfully at Epsom last weekall these were
hidden away from the common gaze. It was a young gentleman of fashion
who lounged in his chair and toyed with a priceless straight-cut.
There was a tap at the door, and Masters, his confidential valet,
Well, said Lionel, have you looked through the post?
Yes, Sir, said the man. There's the usual cheque from Her
Highness, a request for more time from the lady in Tite Street with
twopence to pay on the envelope, and banknotes from the Professor as
expected. The young gentleman of Hill Street has gone abroad suddenly,
Ah! said Lionel, with a sudden frown. I suppose you'd better
cross him off our list, Masters.
Yes, Sir. I had ventured to do so, Sir. I think that's all, except
that Mr. Snooks is glad to accept your kind invitation to dinner and
bridge to-night. Will you wear the hair-spring coat, Sir, or the metal
Lionel made no answer. He sat plunged in thought. When he spoke it
was about another matter.
Masters, he said, I have found out Lord Fairlie's secret at last.
I shall go to see him this afternoon.
Yes, Sir. Will you wear your revolver, Sir, as it's a first call?
I think so. If this comes off, Masters, it will make our fortune.
I hope so, I'm sure, Sir. Masters placed the whisky within reach
and left the room silently.
Alone, Lionel picked up his paper and turned to the Agony Column.
As everybody knows, the Agony Column of a daily paper is not
actually so domestic as it seems. When Mother apparently says
to Floss, Come home at once. Father gone away for week. Bert
and Sid longing to see you, what is really happening is that Barney
Hoker is telling Jud Batson to meet him outside the Duke of
Westminster's little place at 3 a.m. precisely on Tuesday morning, not
forgetting to bring his jemmy and a dark lantern with him. And Floss's
announcement next day, Coming home with George, is Jud's way of
saying that he will turn up all right, and half thinks of bringing his
automatic pistol with him too, in case of accidents.
In this languagewhich, of course, takes some little
learningLionel Norwood had long been an expert. The advertisement
which he was now reading was unusually elaborate:
Lost, in a taxi between Baker Street and Shepherd's Bush, a
gold-mounted umbrella with initials 'J. P.' on it. If Ellen will return
to her father immediately all will be forgiven. White spot on foreleg.
Mother very anxious and desires to return thanks for kind enquiries.
Answers to the name of Ponto. Bis dat qui cito dat.
What did it mean? For Lionel it had no secrets. He was reading the
revelation by one of his agents of the skeleton in Lord Fairlie's
Lord Fairlie was one of the most distinguished members of the
Cabinet. His vein of high seriousness, his lofty demeanour, the
sincerity of his manner, endeared him not only to his own party, but
even (astounding as it may seem) to a few high-minded men upon the
other side, who admitted, in moments of expansion which they probably
regretted afterwards, that he might, after all, be as devoted to his
country as they were. For years now his life had been without blemish.
It was impossible to believe that even in his youth he could have sown
any wild oats; terrible to think that these wild oats might now be
coming home to roost.
What do you require of me? he said courteously to Lionel, as the
latter was shown into his study.
Lionel went to the point at once.
I am here, my lord, he said, on business. In the course of my
ordinary avocationsthe parliamentary atmosphere seemed to be
affecting his languageI ascertained a certain secret in your past
life which, if it were revealed, might conceivably have a not
undamaging effect upon your career. For my silence in this matter I
must demand a sum of fifty thousand pounds.
Lord Fairlie had grown paler and paler as this speech proceeded.
What have you discovered? he whispered. Alas! he knew only too
well what the damning answer would be.
Twenty years ago, said Lionel, you wrote a humorous
Lord Fairlie gave a strangled cry. His keen mind recognised in a
flash what a hold this knowledge would give his enemies. Shafts of
Folly, his book had been called. Already he saw the leading
articles of the future:
We confess ourselves somewhat at a loss to know whether Lord
Fairlie's speech at Plymouth yesterday was intended as a supplement to
his earlier work, Shafts of Folly, or as a serious offering to a
nation impatient of levity in such a crisis....
The Cabinet's jester, in whom twenty years ago the country lost an
excellent clown without gaining a statesman, was in great form last
Lord Fairlie has amused us in the past with his clever little
parodies; he may amuse us in the future; but as a statesman we can only
view him with disgust....
Well? said Lionel at last. I think your lordship is wise enough
to understand. The discovery of a sense of humour in a man of your
But Lord Fairlie was already writing out the cheque.
LV. THE EXPLORER
As the evening wore onand one young man after another asked
Jocelyn Montrevor if she were going to Ascot, what? or to Henley, what?
or what? she wondered more and more if this were all that life would
ever hold for her. Would she never meet a man, a real man who had done
something? These boys around her were very pleasant, she admitted to
herself; very useful, indeed, she added, as one approached her with
some refreshment; but they were only boys.
Here you are, said Freddy, handing her an ice in three colours.
I've had it made specially cold for you. They only had the green, pink
and yellow jerseys left; I hope you don't mind. The green part is
arsenic, I believe. If you don't want the wafer I'll take it home and
put it between the sashes of my bedroom window. The rattling kept me
awake all last night. That's why I'm looking so ill, by-the-way.
Jocelyn smiled kindly and went on with her ice.
That reminds me, Freddy went on, we've got a nut here to-night.
The genuine thing. None of your society Barcelonas or suburban
Filberts. One of the real Cob family; the driving-from-the-sixth-tee,
inset-on-the-right, and New-Year's-message-to-the-country touch. In
short, a celebrity.
Who? asked Jocelyn eagerly. Perhaps here was a man.
Worrall Brice, the explorer. Don't say you haven't heard of him or
Aunt Alice will cry.
Heard of him? Of course she had heard of him. Who hadn't?
Worrall Brice's adventures in distant parts of the empire would have
filled a bookhad, in fact, already filled three. A glance at his flat
in St. James' Street gave you some idea of the adventures he had been
through. Here were the polished spurs of his companion in the famous
ride through Australia from south to northall that had been left by
the cannibals of the Wogga-Wogga River after their banquet. Here was
the poisoned arrow which, by the merciful intervention of Providence,
just missed Worrall and pierced the heart of one of his black
attendants, the post-mortem happily revealing the presence of a new and
interesting poison. Here, again, was the rope with which he was hanged
by mistake as a spy in South Americaa mistake which would certainly
have had fatal results if he had not had the presence of mind to hold
his breath during the performance. In yet another corner you might see
his favourite mascot, a tooth of the shark which bit him off the coast
of China. Spears, knives and guns lined the walls; every inch of the
floor was covered by skins. His flat was typical of the mana man who
had done things.
Introduce him to me, commanded Jocelyn. Where is he?
She looked up suddenly and saw him entering the ballroom. He was of
commanding height and his face was the face of the man who has been
exposed to the forces of Nature. The wind, the waves, the sun, the
mosquito had set their mark upon him. Down one side of his cheek was a
newly healed scar, a scratch from a hippopotamus in its last
death-struggle. A legacy from a bison seared his brow.
He walked with the soft, easy tread of the python, or the Pathan, or
some animal with a pth in it. Probably I mean the panther. He bore
himself confidently, and his mouth was a trap from which no superfluous
word escaped. He was the strong, silent man of Jocelyn's dreams.
Mr. Worrall Brice, Miss Montrevor, said Freddy, and left them.
Worrall Brice bowed and stood beside her with folded arms, his gaze
fixed above her head.
I shall not expect you to dance, said Jocelyn, with a confidential
smile which implied that he and she were above such frivolities. As a
matter of fact, he could have taught her the Wogga-Wogga one-step, the
Bimbo, the Kiyi, the Ju-bu, the Head-hunter's Hug and many other
cannibalistic steps which, later on, were to become the rage of London
and the basis of a revue.
I have often imagined you as you kept watch over your camp, she
went on, and I have seemed myself to hear the savages and lions
roaring outside the circle of fire, what time in the swamps the
crocodiles were barking.
Yes, he said.
It must be a wonderful life.
If I were a man I should want to lead such a life; to get away from
all this, and she waved her hand round the room, back to Nature. To
know that I could not eat until I had first killed my dinner; that I
could not live unless I slew the enemy! That must be fine!
Yes, said Worrall.
I can't get Freddy to see it. He is quite content to have shot a
few grouse ... and once to have wounded a beater. There must be more in
life than that.
I suppose I am elemental. Beneath the veneer of civilisation I am a
savage. To wake up with the war-cry of the enemy in my ears, to sleep
with theerbarking of the crocodile in my dreams, that is life!
Worrall Brice tugged at his moustache and gazed into space over her
head. Then he spoke.
Crocodiles don't bark, he said.
Jocelyn looked at him in astonishment. But in your book, Through
Trackless Paths! she cried, I know it almost by heart. It was you
who taught me. What are the beautiful words? 'On the banks of the
sleepy river two great crocodiles were barking.'
Not 'barking,' said Worrall. 'Basking.' It was a misprint.
Oh! said Jocelyn. She had a moment's awful memory of all the
occasions when she had insisted that crocodiles barked. There had been
a particularly fierce argument with Meta Richards, who had refused to
weigh even the printed word of Worrall Brice against the silence of the
Reptile House on her last visit to the Zoo.
Well, smiled Jocelyn, you must teach me about these things. Will
you come and see me?
Yes, said Worrall. He rather liked to stand and gaze into the
distance while pretty women talked to him. And Jocelyn was very pretty.
We live in South Kensington. Come on Sunday, won't you? 99, Peele
Yes, said Worrall.
* * * * *
On Sunday Jocelyn waited eagerly for him in the drawing-room of
Peele Crescent. Her father was asleep in the library, her mother was
dead; so she would have the great man to herself for an afternoon.
Later she would have him for always, for she meant to marry him. And
when they were married she was not so sure that they would live with
the noise of the crocodile barking or coughing, or whatever it did, in
their ears. She saw herself in that little house in Green Street, with
the noise of motor-horns and taxi-whistles to soothe her to sleep.
Yet what a man he was! What had he said to her? She went over all
his words.... They were not many.
At six o'clock she was still waiting in the drawing-room at Peele
At six-thirty Worrall Brice had got as far as Peele Place....
At six-forty-five he was back in Peele Square again....
At seven o'clock, just as he was giving himself up for lost, he met
a taxi and returned to St. James' Street. He was a great Traveller, but
South Kensington had been too much for him.
Next week he went back unmarried to the jungle. It was the narrowest
escape he had had.
LVI. THE NEWSPAPER PROPRIETOR
The great Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires,
paced the floor of his luxurious apartment with bowed head, his
corrugated countenance furrowed with lines of anxiety. He had just
returned from a lunch with all his favourite advertisers ... but it was
not this which troubled him. He was thinking out a new policy for
The Daily Vane.
Suddenly he remembered something. Coming up to town in his third
motor, he had glanced through the nineteen periodicals which his house
had published that morning, and in one case had noted matter for
serious criticism. This was obviously the first business he must deal
He seated himself at his desk and pushed the bell marked 38.
Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of sandwiches.
What do you want? said Strong coldly.
You rang for me, Sir, replied the trembling menial.
Go away, said Strong. Recognising magnanimously, however, that the
mistake was his own, he pressed bell 28. In another moment the editor
of Sloppy Chunks was before him.
In to-day's number, said Strong, as he toyed with a blue pencil,
you apologise for a mistake in last week's number. He waited sternly.
It was a very bad mistake, Sir, I'm afraid. We did a great
You know my rule, said Strong. The mistake of last week I could
have overlooked. The apology of this week is a more serious matter. You
will ask for a month's salary on your way out. He pressed a button and
the editor disappeared through the trap-door.
Alone again, Hector Strong thought keenly for a moment. Then he
pressed bell 38. Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of
What do you mean by this? roared Strong, his iron self-control for
a moment giving way.
I b-beg your pardon, Sir, stammered the man. I th-thought
Get out! As the footman retired, Strong passed his hand across his
forehead. My memory is bad to-day, he murmured, and pushed bell 48.
A tall, thin man entered.
Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Brownlow, said the Proprietor. He toyed
with his blue pencil. Let me see, which of our papers are under your
charge at the moment?
Mr. Brownlow reflected.
Just now, he said, I am editing Snippety Snips, The
Whoop, The Girls' Own Aunt, Parings, The Sunday
Sermon, Slosh and Back Chat.
Ah! Well, I want you to take on Sloppy Chunks, too, for a
little while. Mr. Symes has had to leave us.
Yes, Sir. Mr. Brownlow bowed and moved to the door.
By the way, Strong said, your last number of Slosh was
very good. Very good indeed. I congratulate you. Good day.
Left alone, Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires,
resumed his pacings. His two mistakes with the bell told him that he
was distinctly not himself this afternoon. Was it only the need of a
new policy for The Vane which troubled him? Or was it
Could it be Lady Dorothy?
Lady Dorothy Neal was something of an enigma to Hector Strong. He
was making more than a million pounds a year, and yet she did not want
to marry him. Sometimes he wondered if the woman were quite sane. Yet,
mad or sane, he loved her.
A secretary knocked and entered. He waited submissively for
half-an-hour until the Proprietor looked up.
Lady Dorothy Neal would like to see you for a moment, Sir.
Show her in.
Lady Dorothy came in brightly.
What nice-looking men you have here, she said. Who is the one in
the blue waistcoat? He has curly hair.
You didn't come to talk about him? said Hector
I didn't come to talk to him really, but if you keep me
waiting half-an-hourWhy, what are you doing?
Strong looked up from the note he was writing. The tender lines had
gone from his face, and he had become the stern man of action again.
I am giving instructions that the services of my commissionaire,
hall-boy, and fifth secretary will no longer be required.
Don't do that, pleaded Dorothy.
Strong tore up the note and turned to her. What do you want of me?
She blushed and looked down. II have written aa play, she
He smiled indulgently. He did not write plays himself but he knew
that other people did.
When does it come off? he asked.
The manager says it will have to at the end of the week. It came
on a week ago.
Well, he smiled, if people don't want to go, I can't make them.
Yes you can, she said boldly.
He gave a start. His brain working at lightning speed saw the
possibilities in an instant. At one stroke he could win Lady Dorothy's
gratitude, provide The Daily Vane with a temporary policy and
give a convincing exhibition of the power of his press.
Oh, Mr. Strong
Hector, he whispered. As he rose from his desk to go to her, he
accidentally pressed the button of the trap-door. The next moment he
* * * * *
That the British public is always ready to welcome the advent of a
clean and wholesome home-grown play is shown by the startling success
of Christina's Mistake, which is attracting such crowds to The
King's every night. So wrote The Daily Vane, and continued in
the same strain for a column.
Clubland is keenly exercised, wrote The Evening Vane, over
a problem of etiquette which arises in the Second Act of Christina's
Mistake, the great autumn success at The King's Theatre. The point
is shortly this. Should a woman ... And so on.
A pretty story is going the rounds, said Slosh, anent that
charming little lady, Estelle Rito, who plays the part of a governess
in Christina's Mistake, for which (Manager Barodo informs me)
advance booking up to Christmas has already been taken. It seems that
Miss Rito when shopping in the purlieus of Bond Street ...
Sloppy Chunks had a joke which set all the world laughing. It
BETWEEN THE ACTS.
Flossie. Who's the lady in the box with Mr. Johnson?
Gussie. Hush! It's his wife!
And Flossie giggled so much that she could hardly listen to the last
Act of Christina's Mistake, which she had been looking forward
to for weeks!
The Sunday Sermon offered free tickets to a hundred unmarried
suburban girls, to which class Christina's Mistake might be
supposed to make a special religious appeal. But they had to collect
coupons first for The Sunday Sermon.
And finally The Times of two months later, said:
A marriage has been arranged between Lady Dorothy Neal, daughter of
the Earl of Skye, and the Hon. Geoffrey Bollinger.
Than a successful revenge nothing is sweeter in life. Hector Strong
was not the man to spare any one who had done him an injury. Yet I
think his method of revenging himself upon Lady Dorothy savoured of the
diabolical. He printed a photograph of her in The Daily Picture
Gallery. It was headed The Beautiful Lady Dorothy Neal.