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´╗┐Title: John Ingerfield and Other Stories
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Ingerfield and Other Stories" ***

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Transcribed from the 1912 Frank Palmer edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



JOHN INGERFIELD AND OTHER STORIES


Contents

To the Gentle Reader

In Remembrance of John Ingerfield and of Anne, his Wife

The Woman of the Saeter

Variety Patter

Silhouettes

The Lease of the "Cross Keys"



TO THE GENTLE READER;
also
TO THE GENTLE CRITIC.


Once upon a time, I wrote a little story of a woman who was crushed to
death by a python.  A day or two after its publication, a friend stopped
me in the street.  "Charming little story of yours," he said, "that about
the woman and the snake; but it's not as funny as some of your things!"
The next week, a newspaper, referring to the tale, remarked, "We have
heard the incident related before with infinitely greater humour."

With this--and many similar experiences--in mind, I wish distinctly to
state that "John Ingerfield," "The Woman of the Saeter," and
"Silhouettes," are not intended to be amusing.  The two other
items--"Variety Patter," and "The Lease of the Cross Keys"--I give over
to the critics of the new humour to rend as they will; but "John
Ingerfield," "The Woman of the Saeter," and "Silhouettes," I repeat, I
should be glad if they would judge from some other standpoint than that
of humour, new or old.



IN REMEMBRANCE OF JOHN INGERFIELD, AND OF ANNE, HIS WIFE
A STORY OF OLD LONDON, IN TWO CHAPTERS


CHAPTER I.


If you take the Underground Railway to Whitechapel Road (the East
station), and from there take one of the yellow tramcars that start from
that point, and go down the Commercial Road, past the George, in front of
which starts--or used to stand--a high flagstaff, at the base of which
sits--or used to sit--an elderly female purveyor of pigs' trotters at
three-ha'pence apiece, until you come to where a railway arch crosses the
road obliquely, and there get down and turn to the right up a narrow,
noisy street leading to the river, and then to the right again up a still
narrower street, which you may know by its having a public-house at one
corner (as is in the nature of things) and a marine store-dealer's at the
other, outside which strangely stiff and unaccommodating garments of
gigantic size flutter ghost-like in the wind, you will come to a dingy
railed-in churchyard, surrounded on all sides by cheerless, many-peopled
houses.  Sad-looking little old houses they are, in spite of the tumult
of life about their ever open doors.  They and the ancient church in
their midst seem weary of the ceaseless jangle around them.  Perhaps,
standing there for so many years, listening to the long silence of the
dead, the fretful voices of the living sound foolish in their ears.

Peering through the railings on the side nearest the river, you will see
beneath the shadow of the soot-grimed church's soot-grimed porch--that
is, if the sun happen, by rare chance, to be strong enough to cast any
shadow at all in that region of grey light--a curiously high and narrow
headstone that once was white and straight, not tottering and bent with
age as it is now.  There is upon this stone a carving in bas-relief, as
you will see for yourself if you will make your way to it through the
gateway on the opposite side of the square.  It represents, so far as can
be made out, for it is much worn by time and dirt, a figure lying on the
ground with another figure bending over it, while at a little distance
stands a third object.  But this last is so indistinct that it might be
almost anything, from an angel to a post.

And below the carving are the words (already half obliterated) that I
have used for the title of this story.

Should you ever wander of a Sunday morning within sound of the cracked
bell that calls a few habit-bound, old-fashioned folk to worship within
those damp-stained walls, and drop into talk with the old men who on such
days sometimes sit, each in his brass-buttoned long brown coat, upon the
low stone coping underneath those broken railings, you might hear this
tale from them, as I did, more years ago than I care to recollect.

But lest you do not choose to go to all this trouble, or lest the old men
who could tell it you have grown tired of all talk, and are not to be
roused ever again into the telling of tales, and you yet wish for the
story, I will here set it down for you.

But I cannot recount it to you as they told it to me, for to me it was
only a tale that I heard and remembered, thinking to tell it again for
profit, while to them it was a thing that had been, and the threads of it
were interwoven with the woof of their own life.  As they talked, faces
that I did not see passed by among the crowd and turned and looked at
them, and voices that I did not hear spoke to them below the clamour of
the street, so that through their thin piping voices there quivered the
deep music of life and death, and my tale must be to theirs but as a
gossip's chatter to the story of him whose breast has felt the press of
battle.

* * * * *

John Ingerfield, oil and tallow refiner, of Lavender Wharf, Limehouse,
comes of a hard-headed, hard-fisted stock.  The first of the race that
the eye of Record, piercing the deepening mists upon the centuries behind
her, is able to discern with any clearness is a long-haired, sea-bronzed
personage, whom men call variously Inge or Unger.  Out of the wild North
Sea he has come.  Record observes him, one of a small, fierce group,
standing on the sands of desolate Northumbria, staring landward, his
worldly wealth upon his back.  This consists of a two-handed battle-axe,
value perhaps some forty stycas in the currency of the time.  A careful
man, with business capabilities, may, however, manipulate a small capital
to great advantage.  In what would appear, to those accustomed to our
slow modern methods, an incredibly short space of time, Inge's two-handed
battle-axe has developed into wide lands and many head of cattle; which
latter continue to multiply with a rapidity beyond the dreams of present-
day breeders.  Inge's descendants would seem to have inherited the genius
of their ancestor, for they prosper and their worldly goods increase.
They are a money-making race.  In all times, out of all things, by all
means, they make money.  They fight for money, marry for money, live for
money, are ready to die for money.

In the days when the most saleable and the highest priced article in the
markets of Europe was a strong arm and a cool head, then each Ingerfield
(as "Inge," long rooted in Yorkshire soil, had grown or been corrupted
to) was a soldier of fortune, and offered his strong arm and his cool
head to the highest bidder.  They fought for their price, and they took
good care that they obtained their price; but, the price settled, they
fought well, for they were staunch men and true, according to their
lights, though these lights may have been placed somewhat low down, near
the earth.

Then followed the days when the chief riches of the world lay tossed for
daring hands to grasp upon the bosom of the sea, and the sleeping spirit
of the old Norse Rover stirred in their veins, and the lilt of a wild sea-
song they had never heard kept ringing in their ears; and they built them
ships and sailed for the Spanish Main, and won much wealth, as was their
wont.

Later on, when Civilisation began to lay down and enforce sterner rules
for the game of life, and peaceful methods promised to prove more
profitable than violent, the Ingerfields became traders and merchants of
grave mien and sober life; for their ambition from generation to
generation remains ever the same, their various callings being but means
to an end.

A hard, stern race of men they would seem to have been, but just--so far
as they understood justice.  They have the reputation of having been good
husbands, fathers, and masters; but one cannot help thinking of them as
more respected than loved.

They were men to exact the uttermost farthing due to them, yet not
without a sense of the thing due from them, their own duty and
responsibility--nay, not altogether without their moments of heroism,
which is the duty of great men.  History relates how a certain Captain
Ingerfield, returning with much treasure from the West Indies--how
acquired it were, perhaps, best not to inquire too closely--is overhauled
upon the high seas by King's frigate.  Captain of King's frigate sends
polite message to Captain Ingerfield requesting him to be so kind as to
promptly hand over a certain member of his ship's company, who, by some
means or another, has made himself objectionable to King's friends, in
order that he (the said objectionable person) may be forthwith hanged
from the yard-arm.

Captain Ingerfield returns polite answer to Captain of King's frigate
that he (Captain Ingerfield) will, with much pleasure, hang any member of
his ship's company that needs hanging, but that neither the King of
England nor any one else on God Almighty's sea is going to do it for him.
Captain of King's frigate sends back word that if objectionable person be
not at once given up he shall be compelled with much regret to send
Ingerfield and his ship to the bottom of the Atlantic.  Replies Captain
Ingerfield, "That is just what he will have to do before I give up one of
my people," and fights the big frigate--fights it so fiercely that after
three hours Captain of King's frigate thinks it will be good to try
argument again, and sends therefore a further message, courteously
acknowledging Captain Ingerfield's courage and skill, and suggesting
that, he having done sufficient to vindicate his honour and renown, it
would be politic to now hand over the unimportant cause of contention,
and so escape with his treasure.

"Tell your Captain," shouts back this Ingerfield, who has discovered
there are sweeter things to fight for than even money, "that the _Wild
Goose_ has flown the seas with her belly full of treasure before now, and
will, if it be God's pleasure, so do again, but that master and man in
her sail together, fight together, and die together."

Whereupon King's frigate pounds away more vigorously than ever, and
succeeds eventually in carrying out her threat.  Down goes the _Wild
Goose_, her last chase ended--down she goes with a plunge, spit foremost
with her colours flying; and down with her goes every man left standing
on her decks; and at the bottom of the Atlantic they lie to this day,
master and man side by side, keeping guard upon their treasure.

Which incident, and it is well authenticated, goes far to prove that the
Ingerfields, hard men and grasping men though they be--men caring more
for the getting of money than for the getting of love--loving more the
cold grip of gold than the grip of kith or kin, yet bear buried in their
hearts the seeds of a nobler manhood, for which, however, the barren soil
of their ambition affords scant nourishment.

The John Ingerfield of this story is a man very typical of his race.  He
has discovered that the oil and tallow refining business, though not a
pleasant one, is an exceedingly lucrative one.  These are the good days
when George the Third is king, and London is rapidly becoming a city of
bright night.  Tallow and oil and all materials akin thereto are in ever-
growing request, and young John Ingerfield builds himself a large
refining house and warehouse in the growing suburb of Limehouse, which
lies between the teeming river and the quiet fields, gathers many people
round about him, puts his strong heart into his work, and prospers.

All the days of his youth he labours and garners, and lays out and
garners yet again.  In early middle age he finds himself a wealthy man.
The chief business of life, the getting of money, is practically done;
his enterprise is firmly established, and will continue to grow with ever
less need of husbandry.  It is time for him to think about the secondary
business of life, the getting together of a wife and home, for the
Ingerfields have ever been good citizens, worthy heads of families,
openhanded hosts, making a brave show among friends and neighbours.

John Ingerfield, sitting in his stiff, high-backed chair, in his stiffly,
but solidly, furnished dining-room, above his counting-house, sipping
slowly his one glass of port, takes counsel with himself.

What shall she be?

He is rich, and can afford a good article.  She must be young and
handsome, fit to grace the fine house he will take for her in fashionable
Bloomsbury, far from the odour and touch of oil and tallow.  She must be
well bred, with a gracious, noble manner, that will charm his guests and
reflect honour and credit upon himself; she must, above all, be of good
family, with a genealogical tree sufficiently umbrageous to hide Lavender
Wharf from the eyes of Society.

What else she may or may not be he does not very much care.  She will, of
course, be virtuous and moderately pious, as it is fit and proper that
women should be.  It will also be well that her disposition be gentle and
yielding, but that is of minor importance, at all events so far as he is
concerned: the Ingerfield husbands are not the class of men upon whom
wives vent their tempers.

Having decided in his mind _what_ she shall be, he proceeds to discuss
with himself _who_ she shall be.  His social circle is small.
Methodically, in thought, he makes the entire round of it, mentally
scrutinising every maiden that he knows.  Some are charming, some are
fair, some are rich; but no one of them approaches near to his carefully
considered ideal.

He keeps the subject in his mind, and muses on it in the intervals of
business.  At odd moments he jots down names as they occur to him upon a
slip of paper, which he pins for the purpose on the inside of the cover
of his desk.  He arranges them alphabetically, and when it is as complete
as his memory can make it, he goes critically down the list, making a few
notes against each.  As a result, it becomes clear to him that he must
seek among strangers for his wife.

He has a friend, or rather an acquaintance, an old school-fellow, who has
developed into one of those curious social flies that in all ages are to
be met with buzzing contentedly within the most exclusive circles, and
concerning whom, seeing that they are neither rare nor rich, nor
extraordinarily clever nor well born, one wonders "how the devil they got
there!"  Meeting this man by chance one afternoon, he links his arm in
his and invites him home to dinner.

So soon as they are left alone, with the walnuts and wine between them,
John Ingerfield says, thoughtfully cracking a hard nut between his
fingers--

"Will, I'm going to get married."

"Excellent idea--delighted to hear it, I'm sure," replies Will, somewhat
less interested in the information than in the delicately flavoured
Madeira he is lovingly sipping.  "Who's the lady?"

"I don't know, yet," is John Ingerfield's answer.

His friend glances slyly at him over his glass, not sure whether he is
expected to be amused or sympathetically helpful.

"I want you to find one for me."

Will Cathcart puts down his glass and stares at his host across the
table.

"Should be delighted to help you, Jack," he stammers, in an alarmed
tone--"'pon my soul I should; but really don't know a damned woman I
could recommend--'pon my soul I don't."

"You must see a good many: I wish you'd look out for one that you _could_
recommend."

"Certainly I will, my dear Jack!" answers the other, in a relieved voice.
"Never thought about 'em in that way before.  Daresay I shall come across
the very girl to suit you.  I'll keep my eyes open and let you know."

"I shall be obliged to you if you will," replies John Ingerfield,
quietly; "and it's your turn, I think, to oblige me, Will.  I have
obliged you, if you recollect."

"Shall never forget it, my dear Jack," murmurs Will, a little uneasily.
"It was uncommonly good of you.  You saved me from ruin, Jack: shall
think about it to my dying day--'pon my soul I shall."

"No need to let it worry you for so long a period as that," returns John,
with the faintest suspicion of a smile playing round his firm mouth.  "The
bill falls due at the end of next month.  You can discharge the debt
then, and the matter will be off your mind."

Will finds his chair growing uncomfortable under him, while the Madeira
somehow loses its flavour.  He gives a short, nervous laugh.

"By Jove," he says: "so soon as that?  The date had quite slipped my
memory."

"Fortunate that I reminded you," says John, the smile round his lips
deepening.

Will fidgets on his seat.  "I'm afraid, my dear Jack," he says, "I shall
have to get you to renew it, just for a month or two,--deuced awkward
thing, but I'm remarkably short of money this year.  Truth is, I can't
get what's owing to myself."

"That's very awkward, certainly," replies his friend, "because I am not
at all sure that I shall be able to renew it."

Will stares at him in some alarm.  "But what am I to do if I hav'n't the
money?"

John Ingerfield shrugs his shoulders.

"You don't mean, my dear Jack, that you would put me in prison?"

"Why not?  Other people have to go there who can't pay their debts."

Will Cathcart's alarm grows to serious proportions.  "But our
friendship," he cries, "our--"

"My dear Will," interrupts the other, "there are few friends I would lend
three hundred pounds to and make no effort to get it back.  You,
certainly, are not one of them."

"Let us make a bargain," he continues.  "Find me a wife, and on the day
of my marriage I will send you back that bill with, perhaps, a couple of
hundred added.  If by the end of next month you have not introduced me to
a lady fit to be, and willing to be, Mrs. John Ingerfield, I shall
decline to renew it."

John Ingerfield refills his own glass and hospitably pushes the bottle
towards his guest--who, however, contrary to his custom, takes no notice
of it, but stares hard at his shoe-buckles.

"Are you serious?" he says at length.

"Quite serious," is the answer.  "I want to marry.  My wife must be a
lady by birth and education.  She must be of good family--of family
sufficiently good, indeed, to compensate for the refinery.  She must be
young and beautiful and charming.  I am purely a business man.  I want a
woman capable of conducting the social department of my life.  I know of
no such lady myself.  I appeal to you, because you, I know, are intimate
with the class among whom she must be sought."

"There may be some difficulty in persuading a lady of the required
qualifications to accept the situation," says Cathcart, with a touch of
malice.

"I want you to find one who will," says John Ingerfield.

Early in the evening Will Cathcart takes leave of his host, and departs
thoughtful and anxious; and John Ingerfield strolls contemplatively up
and down his wharf, for the smell of oil and tallow has grown to be very
sweet to him, and it is pleasant to watch the moonbeams shining on the
piled-up casks.

Six weeks go by.  On the first day of the seventh John takes Will
Cathcart's acceptance from its place in the large safe, and lays it in
the smaller box beside his desk, devoted to more pressing and immediate
business.  Two days later Cathcart picks his way across the slimy yard,
passes through the counting-house, and enters his friend's inner sanctum,
closing the door behind him.

He wears a jubilant air, and slaps the grave John on the back.  "I've got
her, Jack," he cries.  "It's been hard work, I can tell you: sounding
suspicious old dowagers, bribing confidential servants, fishing for
information among friends of the family.  By Jove, I shall be able to
join the Duke's staff as spy-in-chief to His Majesty's entire forces
after this!"

"What is she like?" asks John, without stopping his writing.

"Like!  My dear Jack, you'll fall over head and ears in love with her the
moment you see her.  A little cold, perhaps, but that will just suit
you."

"Good family?" asks John, signing and folding the letter he has finished.

"So good that I was afraid at first it would be useless thinking of her.
But she's a sensible girl, no confounded nonsense about her, and the
family are poor as church mice.  In fact--well, to tell the truth, we
have become most excellent friends, and she told me herself frankly that
she meant to marry a rich man, and didn't much care whom."

"That sounds hopeful," remarks the would-be bridegroom, with his peculiar
dry smile: "when shall I have the pleasure of seeing her?"

"I want you to come with me to-night to the Garden," replies the other;
"she will be in Lady Heatherington's box, and I will introduce you."

So that evening John Ingerfield goes to Covent Garden Theatre, with the
blood running a trifle quicker in his veins, but not much, than would be
the case were he going to the docks to purchase tallow--examines,
covertly, the proposed article from the opposite side of the house, and
approves her--is introduced to her, and, on closer inspection, approves
her still more--receives an invitation to visit--visits frequently, and
each time is more satisfied of the rarity, serviceableness, and quality
of the article.

If all John Ingerfield requires for a wife is a beautiful social machine,
surely here he has found his ideal.  Anne Singleton, only daughter of
that persistently unfortunate but most charming of baronets, Sir Harry
Singleton (more charming, it is rumoured, outside his family circle than
within it), is a stately graceful, high-bred woman.  Her portrait, by
Reynolds, still to be seen above the carved wainscoting of one of the old
City halls, shows a wonderfully handsome and clever face, but at the same
time a wonderfully cold and heartless one.  It is the face of a woman
half weary of, half sneering at the world.  One reads in old family
letters, whereof the ink is now very faded and the paper very yellow,
long criticisms of this portrait.  The writers complain that if the
picture is at all like her she must have greatly changed since her
girlhood, for they remember her then as having a laughing and winsome
expression.

They say--they who knew her in after-life--that this earlier face came
back to her in the end, so that the many who remembered opening their
eyes and seeing her bending down over them could never recognise the
portrait of the beautiful sneering lady, even when they were told whom it
represented.

But at the time of John Ingerfield's strange wooing she was the Anne
Singleton of Sir Joshua's portrait, and John Ingerfield liked her the
better that she was.

He had no feeling of sentiment in the matter himself, and it simplified
the case that she had none either.  He offered her a plain bargain, and
she accepted it.  For all he knew or cared, her attitude towards this
subject of marriage was the usual one assumed by women.  Very young girls
had their heads full of romantic ideas.  It was better for her and for
him that she had got rid of them.

"Ours will be a union founded on good sense," said John Ingerfield.

"Let us hope the experiment will succeed," said Anne Singleton.



CHAPTER II.


But the experiment does not succeed.  The laws of God decree that man
shall purchase woman, that woman shall give herself to man, for other
coin than that of good sense.  Good sense is not a legal tender in the
marriage mart.  Men and women who enter therein with only sense in their
purse have no right to complain if, on reaching home, they find they have
concluded an unsatisfactory bargain.

John Ingerfield, when he asked Anne Singleton to be his wife, felt no
more love for her than he felt for any of the other sumptuous household
appointments he was purchasing about the same time, and made no pretence
of doing so.  Nor, had he done so, would she have believed him; for Anne
Singleton has learned much in her twenty-two summers and winters, and
knows that love is only a meteor in life's sky, and that the true
lodestar of this world is gold.  Anne Singleton has had her romance and
buried it deep down in her deep nature and over its grave, to keep its
ghost from rising, has piled the stones of indifference and contempt, as
many a woman has done before and since.  Once upon a time Anne Singleton
sat dreaming out a story.  It was a story old as the hills--older than
some of them--but to her, then, it was quite new and very wonderful.  It
contained all the usual stock material common to such stories: the lad
and the lass, the plighted troth, the richer suitors, the angry parents,
the love that was worth braving all the world for.  One day into this
dream there fell from the land of the waking a letter, a poor, pitiful
letter: "You know I love you and only you," it ran; "my heart will always
be yours till I die.  But my father threatens to stop my allowance, and,
as you know, I have nothing of my own except debts.  Some would call her
handsome, but how can I think of her beside you?  Oh, why was money ever
let to come into the world to curse us?" with many other puzzling
questions of a like character, and much severe condemnation of Fate and
Heaven and other parties generally, and much self-commiseration.

Anne Singleton took long to read the letter.  When she had finished it,
and had read it through again, she rose, and, crushing it her hand, flung
it in the fire with a laugh, and as the flame burnt up and died away felt
that her life had died with it, not knowing that bruised hearts can heal.

So when John Ingerfield comes wooing, and speaks to her no word of love
but only of money, she feels that here at last is a genuine voice that
she can trust.  Love of the lesser side of life is still left to her.  It
will be pleasant to be the wealthy mistress of a fine house, to give
great receptions, to exchange the secret poverty of home for display and
luxury.  These things are offered to her on the very terms she would have
suggested herself.  Accompanied by love she would have refused them,
knowing she could give none in return.

But a woman finds it one thing not to desire affection and another thing
not to possess it.  Day by day the atmosphere of the fine house in
Bloomsbury grows cold and colder about her heart.  Guests warm it at
times for a few hours, then depart, leaving it chillier than before.

For her husband she attempts to feel indifference, but living creatures
joined together cannot feel indifference for each other.  Even two dogs
in a leash are compelled to think of one another.  A man and wife must
love or hate, like or dislike, in degree as the bond connecting them is
drawn tight or allowed to hang slack.  By mutual desire their chains of
wedlock have been fastened as loosely as respect for security will
permit, with the happy consequence that her aversion to him does not
obtrude itself beyond the limits of politeness.

Her part of the contract she faithfully fulfils, for the Singletons also
have their code of honour.  Her beauty, her tact, her charm, her
influence, are devoted to his service--to the advancement of his
position, the furtherance of his ambition.  Doors that would otherwise
remain closed she opens to him.  Society, that would otherwise pass by
with a sneer, sits round his table.  His wishes and pleasures are hers.
In all things she yields him wifely duty, seeks to render herself
agreeable to him, suffers in silence his occasional caresses.  Whatever
was implied in the bargain, that she will perform to the letter.

He, on his side, likewise performs his part with businesslike
conscientiousness--nay, seeing that the pleasing of her brings no
personal gratification to himself--not without generosity.   He is ever
thoughtful of and deferential to her, awarding her at all times an
unvarying courteousness that is none the less sincere for being studied.
Her every expressed want is gratified, her every known distaste
respected.  Conscious of his presence being an oppression to her, he is
even careful not to intrude it upon her oftener than is necessary.

At times he asks himself, somewhat pertinently, what he has gained by
marriage--wonders whether this social race was quite the most interesting
game he could have elected to occupy his leisure--wonders whether, after
all, he would not have been happier over his counting-house than in these
sumptuous, glittering rooms, where he always seems, and feels himself to
be, the uninvited guest.

The only feeling that a closer intimacy has created in him for his wife
is that of indulgent contempt.  As there is no equality between man and
woman, so there can be no respect.  She is a different being.  He must
either look up to her as superior to himself, or down upon her as
inferior.  When a man does the former he is more or less in love, and
love to John Ingerfield is an unknown emotion.  Her beauty, her charm,
her social tact--even while he makes use of them for his own purposes, he
despises as the weapons of a weak nature.

So in their big, cold mansion John Ingerfield and Anne, his wife, sit far
apart, strangers to one another, neither desiring to know the other
nearer.

About his business he never speaks to her, and she never questions him.
To compensate for the slight shrinkage of time he is able to devote to
it, he becomes more strict and exacting; grows a harsher master to his
people, a sterner creditor, a greedier dealer, squeezing the uttermost
out of every one, feverish to grow richer, so that he may spend more upon
the game that day by day he finds more tiresome and uninteresting.

And the piled-up casks upon his wharves increase and multiply; and on the
dirty river his ships and barges lie in ever-lengthening lines; and round
his greasy cauldrons sweating, witch-like creatures swarm in ever-denser
numbers, stirring oil and tallow into gold.

Until one summer, from its nest in the far East, there flutters westward
a foul thing.  Hovering over Limehouse suburb, seeing it crowded and
unclean, liking its fetid smell, it settles down upon it.

Typhus is the creature's name.  At first it lurks there unnoticed,
battening upon the rich, rank food it finds around it, until, grown too
big to hide longer, it boldly shows its hideous head, and the white face
of Terror runs swiftly through alley and street, crying as it runs,
forces itself into John Ingerfield's counting-house, and tells its tale.
John Ingerfield sits for a while thinking.  Then he mounts his horse and
rides home at as hard a pace as the condition of the streets will allow.
In the hall he meets Anne going out, and stops her.

"Don't come too near me," he says quietly.  "Typhus fever has broken out
at Limehouse, and they say one can communicate it, even without having it
oneself.  You had better leave London for a few weeks.  Go down to your
father's: I will come and fetch you when it is all over."

He passes her, giving her a wide berth, and goes upstairs, where he
remains for some minutes in conversation with his valet.  Then, coming
down, he remounts and rides off again.

After a little while Anne goes up into his room.  His man is kneeling in
the middle of the floor, packing a valise.

"Where are you to take it?" she asks.

"Down to the wharf, ma'am," answers the man: "Mr. Ingerfield is going to
be there for a day or two."

Then Anne sits in the great empty drawing-room, and takes _her_ turn at
thinking.

John Ingerfield finds, on his return to Limehouse, that the evil has
greatly increased during the short time he has been away.  Fanned by fear
and ignorance, fed by poverty and dirt, the scourge is spreading through
the district like a fire.  Long smouldering in secret, it has now burst
forth at fifty different points at once.  Not a street, not a court but
has its "case."  Over a dozen of John's hands are down with it already.
Two more have sunk prostrate beside their work within the last hour.  The
panic grows grotesque.  Men and women tear their clothes off, looking to
see if they have anywhere upon them a rash or a patch of mottled skin,
find that they have, or imagine that they have, and rush, screaming, half-
undressed, into the street.  Two men, meeting in a narrow passage, both
rush back, too frightened to pass each other.  A boy stoops down and
scratches his leg--not an action that under ordinary circumstances would
excite much surprise in that neighbourhood.  In an instant there is a
wild stampede from the room, the strong trampling on the weak in their
eagerness to escape.

These are not the days of organised defence against disease.  There are
kind hearts and willing hands in London town, but they are not yet
closely enough banded together to meet a swift foe such as this.  There
are hospitals and charities galore, but these are mostly in the City,
maintained by the City Fathers for the exclusive benefit of poor citizens
and members of the guilds.  The few free hospitals are already
over-crowded and ill-prepared.  Squalid, outlying Limehouse, belonging to
nowhere, cared for by nobody, must fight for itself.

John Ingerfield calls the older men together, and with their help
attempts to instil some sense and reason into his terrified people.
Standing on the step of his counting-house, and addressing as many of
them as are not too scared to listen, he tells them of the danger of fear
and of the necessity for calmness and courage.

"We must face and fight this thing like men," he cries, in that deep, din-
conquering voice that has served the Ingerfields in good stead on many a
steel-swept field, on many a storm-struck sea; "there must be no cowardly
selfishness, no faint-hearted despair.  If we've got to die we'll die;
but please God we'll live.  Anyhow, we will stick together, and help each
other.  I mean to stop here with you, and do what I can for you.  None of
my people shall want."

John Ingerfield ceases, and as the vibrations of his strong tones roll
away a sweet voice from beside him rises clear and firm:--

"I have come down to be with you also, and to help my husband.  I shall
take charge of the nursing and tending of your sick, and I hope I shall
be of some real use to you.  My husband and I are so sorry for you in
your trouble.  I know you will be brave and patient.  We will all do our
best, and be hopeful."

He turns, half expecting to see only the empty air and to wonder at the
delirium in his brain.  She puts her hand in his, and their eyes meet;
and in that moment, for the first time in their lives, these two see one
another.

They speak no word.  There is no opportunity for words.  There is work to
be done, and done quickly, and Anne grasps it with the greed of a woman
long hungry for the joy of doing.  As John watches her moving swiftly and
quietly through the bewildered throng, questioning, comforting, gently
compelling, the thought comes to him, Ought he to allow her to be here,
risking her life for his people? followed by the thought, How is he going
to prevent it?  For in this hour the knowledge is born within him that
Anne is not his property; that he and she are fellow hands taking their
orders from the same Master; that though it be well for them to work
together and help each other, they must not hinder one another.

As yet John does not understand all this.  The idea is new and strange to
him.  He feels as the child in a fairy story on suddenly discovering that
the trees and flowers has he passed by carelessly a thousand times can
think and talk.  Once he whispers to her of the labour and the danger,
but she answers simply, "They are my people too, John: it is my work";
and he lets her have her way.

Anne has a true woman's instinct for nursing, and her strong sense stands
her in stead of experience.  A glance into one or two of the squalid dens
where these people live tells her that if her patients are to be saved
they must be nursed away from their own homes; and she determines to
convert the large counting-house--a long, lofty room at the opposite end
of the wharf to the refinery--into a temporary hospital.  Selecting some
seven or eight of the most reliable women to assist her, she proceeds to
prepare it for its purpose.  Ledgers might be volumes of poetry, bills of
lading mere street ballads, for all the respect that is shown to them.
The older clerks stand staring aghast, feeling that the end of all things
is surely at hand, and that the universe is rushing down into space,
until, their idleness being detected, they are themselves promptly
impressed for the sacrilegious work, and made to assist in the demolition
of their own temple.

Anne's commands are spoken very sweetly, and are accompanied by the
sweetest of smiles; but they are nevertheless commands, and somehow it
does not occur to any one to disobey them.  John--stern, masterful,
authoritative John, who has never been approached with anything more
dictatorial than a timid request since he left Merchant Taylors' School
nineteen years ago, who would have thought that something had suddenly
gone wrong with the laws of Nature if he had been--finds himself hurrying
along the street on his way to a druggist's shop, slackens his pace an
instant to ask himself why and wherefore he is doing so, recollects that
he was told to do so and to make haste back, marvels who could have dared
to tell him to do anything and to make haste back, remembers that it was
Anne, is not quite sure what to think about it, but hurries on.  He
"makes haste back," is praised for having been so quick, and feels
pleased with himself; is sent off again in another direction, with
instructions what to say when he gets there.  He starts off (he is
becoming used to being ordered about now).  Halfway there great alarm
seizes him, for on attempting to say over the message to himself, to be
sure that he has it quite right, he discovers he has forgotten it.  He
pauses, nervous and excited; cogitates as to whether it will be safe for
him to concoct a message of his own, weighs anxiously the
chances--supposing that he does so--of being found out.  Suddenly, to his
intense surprise and relief, every word of what he was told to say comes
back to him; and he hastens on, repeating it over and over to himself as
he walks, lest it should escape him again.

And then a few hundred yards farther on there occurs one of the most
extraordinary events that has ever happened in that street before or
since: John Ingerfield laughs.

John Ingerfield, of Lavender Wharf, after walking two-thirds of Creek
Lane, muttering to himself with his eyes on the ground, stops in the
middle of the road and laughs; and one small boy, who tells the story to
his dying day, sees him and hears him, and runs home at the top of his
speed with the wonderful news, and is conscientiously slapped by his
mother for telling lies.

All that day Anne works like a heroine, John helping her, and
occasionally getting in the way.  By night she has her little hospital
prepared and three beds already up and occupied; and, all now done that
can be done, she and John go upstairs to his old rooms above the counting-
house.

John ushers her into them with some misgiving, for by contrast with the
house at Bloomsbury they are poor and shabby.  He places her in the arm-
chair near the fire, begging her to rest quiet, and then assists his old
housekeeper, whose wits, never of the strongest, have been scared by the
day's proceeding, to lay the meal.

Anne's eyes follow him as he moves about the room.  Perhaps here, where
all the real part of his life has been passed, he is more his true self
than amid the unfamiliar surroundings of fashion; perhaps this simpler
frame shows him to greater advantage; but Anne wonders how it is she has
never noticed before that he is a well-set, handsome man.  Nor, indeed,
is he so very old-looking.  Is it a trick of the dim light, or what?  He
looks almost young.  But why should he not look young, seeing he is only
thirty-six, and at thirty-six a man is in his prime?  Anne wonders why
she has always thought of him as an elderly person.

A portrait of one of John's ancestors hangs over the great mantelpiece--of
that sturdy Captain Ingerfield who fought the King's frigate rather than
give up one of his people.  Anne glances from the dead face to the living
and notes the strong likeness between them.  Through her half-closed eyes
she sees the grim old captain hurling back his message of defiance, and
his face is the face she saw a few hours ago, saying, "I mean to stop
here with you and do what I can for you.  None of my people shall want."

John is placing a chair for her at the table, and the light from the
candles falls upon him.  She steals another glance at his face--a strong,
stern, handsome face, capable of becoming a noble face.  Anne wonders if
it has ever looked down tenderly at anyone; feels a sudden fierce pain at
the thought; dismisses the thought as impossible; wonders, nevertheless,
how tenderness would suit it; thinks she would like to see a look of
tenderness upon it, simply out of curiosity; wonders if she ever will.

She rouses herself from her reverie as John, with a smile, tells her
supper is ready, and they seat themselves opposite each other, an odd air
of embarrassment pervading.

Day by day their work grows harder; day by day the foe grows stronger,
fiercer, more all-conquering; and day by day, fighting side by side
against it, John Ingerfield and Anne, his wife, draw closer to each
other.  On the battle-field of life we learn the worth of strength.  Anne
feels it good, when growing weary, to glance up and find him near her;
feels it good, amid the troubled babel round her, to hear the deep,
strong music of his voice.

And John, watching Anne's fair figure moving to and fro among the
stricken and the mourning; watching her fair, fluttering hands, busy with
their holy work, her deep, soul-haunting eyes, changeful with the light
and shade of tenderness; listening to her sweet, clear voice, laughing
with the joyous, comforting the comfortless, gently commanding, softly
pleading, finds creeping into his brain strange new thoughts concerning
women--concerning this one woman in particular.

One day, rummaging over an old chest, he comes across a coloured picture-
book of Bible stories.  He turns the torn pages fondly, remembering the
Sunday afternoons of long ago.  At one picture, wherein are represented
many angels, he pauses; for in one of the younger angels of the group--one
not quite so severe of feature as her sisters--he fancies he can trace
resemblance to Anne.  He lingers long over it.  Suddenly there rushes
through his brain the thought, How good to stoop and kiss the sweet feet
of such a woman! and, thinking it, he blushes like a boy.

So from the soil of human suffering spring the flowers of human love and
joy, and from the flowers there fall the seeds of infinite pity for human
pain, God shaping all things to His ends.

Thinking of Anne, John's face grows gentler, his hand kinder; dreaming of
him, her heart grows stronger, deeper, fuller.  Every available room in
the warehouse has been turned into a ward, and the little hospital is
open free to all, for John and Anne feel that the whole world are their
people.  The piled-up casks are gone--shipped to Woolwich and Gravesend,
bundled anywhere out of the way, as though oil and tallow and the gold
they can be stirred into were matters of small moment in this world, not
to be thought of beside such a thing as the helping of a human brother in
sore strait.

All the labour of the day seems light to them, looking forward to the
hour when they sit together in John's old shabby dining-room above the
counting-house.  Yet a looker-on might imagine such times dull to them;
for they are strangely shy of one another, strangely sparing of
words--fearful of opening the flood-gates of speech, feeling the pressure
of the pent-up thought.

One evening, John, throwing out words, not as a sop to the necessity for
talk, but as a bait to catch Anne's voice, mentions girdle-cakes,
remembers that his old housekeeper used to be famous for the making of
them, and wonders if she has forgotten the art.

Anne, answering tremulously, as though girdle-cakes were a somewhat
delicate topic, claims to be a successful amateur of them herself.  John,
having been given always to understand that the talent for them was
exceedingly rare, and one usually hereditary, respectfully doubts Anne's
capabilities, deferentially suggesting that she is thinking of scones.
Anne indignantly repudiates the insinuation, knows quite well the
difference between girdle-cakes and scones, offers to prove her powers by
descending into the kitchen and making some then and there, if John will
accompany her and find the things for her.

John accepts the challenge, and, guiding Anne with one shy, awkward hand,
while holding aloft a candle in the other, leads the way.  It is past ten
o'clock, and the old housekeeper is in bed.  At each creaking stair they
pause, to listen if the noise has awakened her; then, finding all silent,
creep forward again, with suppressed laughter, wondering with alarm, half
feigned, half real, what the prim, methodical dame would say were she to
come down and catch them.

They reach the kitchen, thanks more to the suggestions of a friendly cat
than to John's acquaintanceship with the geography of his own house; and
Anne rakes together the fire and clears the table for her work.  What
possible use John is to her--what need there was for her stipulating that
he should accompany her, Anne might find it difficult, if examined, to
explain satisfactorily.  As for his "finding the things" for her, he has
not the faintest notion where they are, and possesses no natural aptitude
for discovery.  Told to find flour, he industriously searches for it in
the dresser drawers; sent for the rolling-pin--the nature and
characteristics of rolling-pins being described to him for his
guidance--he returns, after a prolonged absence, with the copper stick.
Anne laughs at him; but really it would seem as though she herself were
almost as stupid, for not until her hands are covered with flour does it
occur to her that she has not taken that preliminary step in all cooking
operations of rolling up her sleeves.

She holds out her arms to John, first one and then the other, asking him
sweetly if he minds doing it for her.  John is very slow and clumsy, but
Anne stands very patient.  Inch by inch he peels the black sleeve from
the white round arm.  Hundreds of times must he have seen those fair
arms, bare to the shoulder, sparkling with jewels; but never before has
he seen their wondrous beauty.  He longs to clasp them round his neck,
yet is fearful lest his trembling fingers touching them as he performs
his tantalising task may offend her.  Anne thanks him, and apologises for
having given him so much trouble, and he murmurs some meaningless reply,
and stands foolishly silent, watching her.

Anne seems to find one hand sufficient for her cake-making, for the other
rests idly on the table--very near to one of John's, as she would see
were not her eyes so intent upon her work.  How the impulse came to him,
where he--grave, sober, business-man John--learnt such story-book ways
can never be known; but in one instant he is down on both knees,
smothering the floury hand with kisses, and the next moment Anne's arms
are round his neck and her lips against his, and the barrier between them
is swept away, and the deep waters of their love rush together.

With that kiss they enter a new life whereinto one may not follow them.
One thinks it must have been a life made strangely beautiful by
self-forgetfulness, strangely sweet by mutual devotion--a life too ideal,
perhaps, to have remained for long undimmed by the mists of earth.

They who remember them at that time speak of them in hushed tones, as one
speaks of visions.  It would almost seem as though from their faces in
those days there shone a radiance, as though in their voices dwelt a
tenderness beyond the tenderness of man.

They seem never to rest, never to weary.  Day and night, through that
little stricken world, they come and go, bearing healing and peace, till
at last the plague, like some gorged beast of prey, slinks slowly back
towards its lair, and men raise their heads and breathe.

One afternoon, returning from a somewhat longer round than usual, John
feels a weariness creeping into his limbs, and quickens his step, eager
to reach home and rest.  Anne, who has been up all the previous night, is
asleep, and not wishing to disturb her, he goes into the dining-room and
sits down in the easy chair before the fire.  The room strikes cold.  He
stirs the logs, but they give out no greater heat.  He draws his chair
right in front of them, and sits leaning over them with his feet on the
hearth and his hands outstretched towards the blaze; yet he still
shivers.

Twilight fills the room and deepens into dusk.  He wonders listlessly how
it is that Time seems to be moving with such swift strides.  After a
while he hears a voice close to him, speaking in a slow, monotonous
tone--a voice curiously familiar to him, though he cannot tell to whom it
belongs.  He does not turn his head, but sits listening to it drowsily.
It is talking about tallow: one hundred and ninety-four casks of tallow,
and they must all stand one inside the other.  It cannot be done, the
voice complains pathetically.  They will not go inside each other.  It is
no good pushing them.  See! they only roll out again.

The voice grows wearily fretful.  Oh! why do they persist when they see
it is impossible?  What fools they all are!

Suddenly he recollects the voice, and starts up and stares wildly about
him, trying to remember where he is.  With a fierce straining of his will
he grips the brain that is slipping away from him, and holds it.  As soon
as he feels sure of himself he steals out of the room and down the
stairs.

In the hall he stands listening; the house is very silent.  He goes to
the head of the stairs leading to the kitchen and calls softly to the old
housekeeper, and she comes up to him, panting and grunting as she climbs
each step.  Keeping some distance from her, he asks in a whisper where
Anne is.  The woman answers that she is in the hospital.

"Tell her I have been called away suddenly on business," he says,
speaking in quick, low tones: "I shall be away for some days.  Tell her
to leave here and return home immediately.  They can do without her here
now.  Tell her to go back home at once.  I will join her there."

He moves toward the door but stops and faces round again.

"Tell her I beg and entreat her not to stop in this place an hour longer.
There is nothing to keep her now.  It is all over: there is nothing that
cannot be done by any one.  Tell her she must go home--this very night.
Tell her if she loves me to leave this place at once."

The woman, a little bewildered by his vehemence, promises, and disappears
down the stairs.  He takes his hat and cloak from the chair on which he
had thrown them, and turns once more to cross the hall.  As he does so,
the door opens and Anne enters.

He darts back into the shadow, squeezing himself against the wall.  Anne
calls to him laughingly, then, as he does not answer, with a frightened
accent:

"John,--John, dear.  Was not that you?  Are not you there?"

He holds his breath, and crouches still closer into the dark corner; and
Anne, thinking she must have been mistaken in the dim light, passes him
and goes upstairs.

Then he creeps stealthily to the door, lets himself out and closes it
softly behind him.

After the lapse of a few minutes the old housekeeper plods upstairs and
delivers John's message.  Anne, finding it altogether incomprehensible,
subjects the poor dame to severe examination, but fails to elicit
anything further.  What is the meaning of it?  What "business" can have
compelled John, who for ten weeks has never let the word escape his lips,
to leave her like this--without a word! without a kiss!  Then suddenly
she remembers the incident of a few moments ago, when she had called to
him, thinking she saw him, and he did not answer; and the whole truth
strikes her full in the heart.

She refastens the bonnet-strings she has been slowly untying, and goes
down and out into the wet street.

She makes her way rapidly to the house of the only doctor resident in the
neighbourhood--a big, brusque-mannered man, who throughout these terrible
two months has been their chief stay and help.  He meets her on her
entrance with an embarrassed air that tells its own tale, and at once
renders futile his clumsy attempts at acting:--

How should he know where John is?  Who told her John had the fever--a
great, strong, hulking fellow like that?  She has been working too hard,
and has got fever on the brain.  She must go straight back home, or she
will be having it herself.  She is more likely to take it than John.

Anne, waiting till he has finished jerking out sentences while stamping
up and down the room, says gently, taking no notice of his denials,--"If
you will not tell me I must find out from some one else--that is all."
Then, her quick eyes noting his momentary hesitation, she lays her little
hand on his rough paw, and, with the shamelessness of a woman who loves
deeply, wheedles everything out of him that he has promised to keep
secret.

He stops her, however, as she is leaving the room.  "Don't go in to him
now," he says; "he will worry about you.  Wait till to-morrow."

So, while John lies counting endless casks of tallow, Anne sits by his
side, tending her last "case."

Often in his delirium he calls her name, and she takes his fevered hand
in hers and holds it, and he falls asleep.

Each morning the doctor comes and looks at him, asks a few questions and
gives a few commonplace directions, but makes no comment.  It would be
idle his attempting to deceive her.

The days move slowly through the darkened room.  Anne watches his thin
hands grow thinner, his sunken eyes grow bigger; yet remains strangely
calm, almost contented.

Very near the end there comes an hour when John wakes as from a dream,
and remembers all things clearly.

He looks at her half gratefully, half reproachfully.

"Anne, why are you here?" he asks, in a low, laboured voice.  "Did they
not give you my message?"

For answer she turns her deep eyes upon him.

"Would you have gone away and left me here to die?" she questions him,
with a faint smile.

She bends her head down nearer to him, so that her soft hair falls about
his face.

"Our lives were one, dear," she whispers to him.  "I could not have lived
without you; God knew that.  We shall be together always."

She kisses him, and laying his head upon her breast, softly strokes it as
she might a child's; and he puts his weak arms around her.

Later on she feels them growing cold about her, and lays him gently back
upon the bed, looks for the last time into his eyes, then draws the lids
down over them.

His people ask that they may bury him in the churchyard hard by, so that
he may always be among them; and, Anne consenting, they do all things
needful with their own hands, wishful that no unloving labour may be
mingled with their work.  They lay him close to the porch, where, going
in and out the church, their feet will pass near to him; and one among
them who is cunning with the graver's chisel shapes the stone.

At the head he carves in bas-relief the figure of the good Samaritan
tending the brother fallen by the way, and underneath the letters, "In
Remembrance of John Ingerfield."

He thinks to put a verse of Scripture immediately after; but the gruff
doctor says, "Better leave a space, in case you want to add another
name."

So the stone remains a little while unfinished; till the same hand carves
thereon, a few weeks later, "And of Anne, his Wife."



THE WOMAN OF THE SAETER.


Wild-reindeer stalking is hardly so exciting a sport as the evening's
verandah talk in Norroway hotels would lead the trustful traveller to
suppose.  Under the charge of your guide, a very young man with the
dreamy, wistful eyes of those who live in valleys, you leave the
farmstead early in the forenoon, arriving towards twilight at the
desolate hut which, for so long as you remain upon the uplands, will be
your somewhat cheerless headquarters.

Next morning, in the chill, mist-laden dawn, you rise; and, after a
breakfast of coffee and dried fish, shoulder your Remington, and step
forth silently into the raw, damp air; the guide locking the door behind
you, the key grating harshly in the rusty lock.

For hour after hour you toil over the steep, stony ground, or wind
through the pines, speaking in whispers, lest your voice reach the quick
ears of your prey, that keeps its head ever pressed against the wind.
Here and there, in the hollows of the hills lie wide fields of snow, over
which you pick your steps thoughtfully, listening to the smothered
thunder of the torrent, tunnelling its way beneath your feet, and
wondering whether the frozen arch above it be at all points as firm as is
desirable.  Now and again, as in single file you walk cautiously along
some jagged ridge, you catch glimpses of the green world, three thousand
feet below you; though you gaze not long upon the view, for your
attention is chiefly directed to watching the footprints of the guide,
lest by deviating to the right or left you find yourself at one stride
back in the valley--or, to be more correct, are found there.

These things you do, and as exercise they are healthful and invigorating.
But a reindeer you never see, and unless, overcoming the prejudices of
your British-bred conscience, you care to take an occasional pop at a
fox, you had better have left your rifle at the hut, and, instead, have
brought a stick which would have been helpful.  Notwithstanding which the
guide continues sanguine, and in broken English, helped out by stirring
gesture, tells of the terrible slaughter generally done by sportsmen
under his superintendence, and of the vast herds that generally infest
these fields; and when you grow sceptical upon the subject of Reins he
whispers alluringly of Bears.

Once in a way you will come across a track, and will follow it
breathlessly for hours, and it will lead to a sheer precipice.  Whether
the explanation is suicide, or a reprehensible tendency on the part of
the animal towards practical joking, you are left to decide for yourself.
Then, with many rough miles between you and your rest, you abandon the
chase.

But I speak from personal experience merely.

All day long we had tramped through the pitiless rain, stopping only for
an hour at noon to eat some dried venison and smoke a pipe beneath the
shelter of an overhanging cliff.  Soon afterwards Michael knocked over a
ryper (a bird that will hardly take the trouble to hop out of your way)
with his gun-barrel, which incident cheered us a little; and, later on,
our flagging spirits were still further revived by the discovery of
apparently very recent deer-tracks.  These we followed, forgetful, in our
eagerness, of the lengthening distance back to the hut, of the fading
daylight, of the gathering mist.  The track led us higher and higher,
farther and farther into the mountains, until on the shores of a desolate
rock-bound vand it abruptly ended, and we stood staring at one another,
and the snow began to fall.

Unless in the next half-hour we could chance upon a saeter, this meant
passing the night upon the mountain.  Michael and I looked at the guide;
but though, with characteristic Norwegian sturdiness, he put a bold face
upon it, we could see that in that deepening darkness he knew no more
than we did.  Wasting no time on words, we made straight for the nearest
point of descent, knowing that any human habitation must be far below us.

Down we scrambled, heedless of torn clothes and bleeding hands, the
darkness pressing closer round us.  Then suddenly it became black--black
as pitch--and we could only hear each other.  Another step might mean
death.  We stretched out our hands, and felt each other.  Why we spoke in
whispers, I do not know, but we seemed afraid of our own voices.  We
agreed there was nothing for it but to stop where we were till morning,
clinging to the short grass; so we lay there side by side, for what may
have been five minutes or may have been an hour.  Then, attempting to
turn, I lost my grip and rolled.  I made convulsive efforts to clutch the
ground, but the incline was too steep.  How far I fell I could not say,
but at last something stopped me.  I felt it cautiously with my foot: it
did not yield, so I twisted myself round and touched it with my hand.  It
seemed planted firmly in the earth.  I passed my arm along to the right,
then to the left.  I shouted with joy.  It was a fence.

Rising and groping about me, I found an opening, and passed through, and
crept forward with palms outstretched until I touched the logs of a hut;
then, feeling my way round, discovered the door, and knocked.  There came
no response, so I knocked louder; then pushed, and the heavy woodwork
yielded, groaning.  But the darkness within was even darker than the
darkness without.  The others had contrived to crawl down and join me.
Michael struck a wax vesta and held it up, and slowly the room came out
of the darkness and stood round us.

Then something rather startling happened.  Giving one swift glance about
him, our guide uttered a cry, and rushed out into the night.  We followed
to the door, and called after him, but only a voice came to us out of the
blackness, and the only words that we could catch, shrieked back in
terror, were: "_Saetervronen_!  _Saetervronen_!"  ("The woman of the
saeter").

"Some foolish superstition about the place, I suppose," said Michael.  "In
these mountain solitudes men breed ghosts for company.  Let us make a
fire.  Perhaps, when he sees the light, his desire for food and shelter
may get the better of his fears."

We felt about in the small enclosure round the house, and gathered
juniper and birch-twigs, and kindled a fire upon the open stove built in
the corner of the room.  Fortunately, we had some dried reindeer and
bread in our bag, and on that and the ryper and the contents of our
flasks we supped.  Afterwards, to while away the time, we made an
inspection of the strange eyrie we had lighted on.

It was an old log-built saeter.  Some of these mountain farmsteads are as
old as the stone ruins of other countries.  Carvings of strange beasts
and demons were upon its blackened rafters, and on the lintel, in runic
letters, ran this legend: "Hund builded me in the days of Haarfager."  The
house consisted of two large apartments.  Originally, no doubt, these had
been separate dwellings standing beside one another, but they were now
connected by a long, low gallery.  Most of the scanty furniture was
almost as ancient as the walls themselves, but many articles of a
comparatively recent date had been added.  All was now, however, rotting
and falling into decay.

The place appeared to have been deserted suddenly by its last occupants.
Household utensils lay as they were left, rust and dirt encrusted on
them.  An open book, limp and mildewed, lay face downwards on the table,
while many others were scattered about both rooms, together with much
paper, scored with faded ink.  The curtains hung in shreds about the
windows; a woman's cloak, of an antiquated fashion, drooped from a nail
behind the door.  In an oak chest we found a tumbled heap of yellow
letters.  They were of various dates, extending over a period of four
months; and with them, apparently intended to receive them, lay a large
envelope, inscribed with an address in London that has since disappeared.

Strong curiosity overcoming faint scruples, we read them by the dull glow
of the burning juniper twigs, and, as we lay aside the last of them,
there rose from the depths below us a wailing cry, and all night long it
rose and died away, and rose again, and died away again; whether born of
our brain or of some human thing, God knows.

And these, a little altered and shortened, are the letters:--

_Extract from first letter_:

   "I cannot tell you, my dear Joyce, what a haven of peace this place is
   to me after the racket and fret of town.  I am almost quite recovered
   already, and am growing stronger every day; and, joy of joys, my brain
   has come back to me, fresher and more vigorous, I think, for its
   holiday.  In this silence and solitude my thoughts flow freely, and
   the difficulties of my task are disappearing as if by magic.  We are
   perched upon a tiny plateau halfway up the mountain.  On one side the
   rock rises almost perpendicularly, piercing the sky; while on the
   other, two thousand feet below us, the torrent hurls itself into the
   black waters of the fiord.  The house consists of two rooms--or,
   rather, it is two cabins connected by a passage.  The larger one we
   use as a living room, and the other is our sleeping apartment.  We
   have no servant, but do everything for ourselves.  I fear sometimes
   Muriel must find it lonely.  The nearest human habitation is eight
   miles away, across the mountain, and not a soul comes near us.  I
   spend as much time as I can with her, however, during the day, and
   make up for it by working at night after she has gone to sleep; and
   when I question her, she only laughs, and answers that she loves to
   have me all to herself.  (Here you will smile cynically, I know, and
   say, 'Humph, I wonder will she say the same when they have been
   married six years instead of six months.')  At the rate I am working
   now I shall have finished my first volume by the spring, and then, my
   dear fellow, you must try and come over, and we will walk and talk
   together 'amid these storm-reared temples of the gods.'  I have felt a
   new man since I arrived here.  Instead of having to 'cudgel my
   brains,' as we say, thoughts crowd upon me.  This work will make my
   name."

_Part of the third letter_, _the second being mere talk about the book_
(_a history apparently_) _that the man was writing_:

   "MY DEAR JOYCE,--I have written you two letters--this will make the
   third--but have been unable to post them.  Every day I have been
   expecting a visit from some farmer or villager, for the Norwegians are
   kindly people towards strangers--to say nothing of the inducements of
   trade.  A fortnight having passed, however, and the commissariat
   question having become serious, I yesterday set out before dawn, and
   made my way down to the valley; and this gives me something to tell
   you.  Nearing the village, I met a peasant woman.  To my intense
   surprise, instead of returning my salutation, she stared at me, as if
   I were some wild animal, and shrank away from me as far as the width
   of the road would permit.  In the village the same experience awaited
   me.  The children ran from me, the people avoided me.  At last a grey-
   haired old man appeared to take pity on me, and from him I learnt the
   explanation of the mystery.  It seems there is a strange superstition
   attaching to this house in which we are living.  My things were
   brought up here by the two men who accompanied me from Drontheim, but
   the natives are afraid to go near the place, and prefer to keep as far
   as possible from any one connected with it.

"The story is that the house was built by one Hund, 'a maker of runes'
(one of the old saga writers, no doubt), who lived here with his young
wife.  All went peacefully until, unfortunately for him, a certain maiden
stationed at a neighbouring saeter grew to love him.

"Forgive me if I am telling you what you know, but a 'saeter' is the name
given to the upland pastures to which, during the summer, are sent the
cattle, generally under the charge of one or more of the maids.  Here for
three months these girls will live in their lonely huts, entirely shut
off from the world.  Customs change little in this land.  Two or three
such stations are within climbing distance of this house, at this day,
looked after by the farmers' daughters, as in the days of Hund, 'maker of
runes.'

"Every night, by devious mountain paths, the woman would come and tap
lightly at Hund's door.  Hund had built himself two cabins, one behind
the other (these are now, as I think I have explained to you, connected
by a passage); the smaller one was the homestead; in the other he carved
and wrote, so that while the young wife slept the 'maker of runes' and
the saeter woman sat whispering.

"One night, however, the wife learnt all things, but said no word.  Then,
as now, the ravine in front of the enclosure was crossed by a slight
bridge of planks, and over this bridge the woman of the saeter passed and
repassed each night.  On a day when Hund had gone down to fish in the
fiord, the wife took an axe, and hacked and hewed at the bridge, yet it
still looked firm and solid; and that night, as Hund sat waiting in his
workshop, there struck upon his ears a piercing cry, and a crashing of
logs and rolling rock, and then again the dull roaring of the torrent far
below.

"But the woman did not die unavenged; for that winter a man, skating far
down the fiord, noticed a curious object embedded in the ice; and when,
stooping, he looked closer, he saw two corpses, one gripping the other by
the throat, and the bodies were the bodies of Hund and his young wife.

"Since then, they say, the woman of the saeter haunts Hund's house, and
if she sees a light within she taps upon the door, and no man may keep
her out.  Many, at different times, have tried to occupy the house, but
strange tales are told of them.  'Men do not live at Hund's saeter,' said
my old grey-haired friend, concluding his tale,--'they die there.'

"I have persuaded some of the braver of the villagers to bring what
provisions and other necessaries we require up to a plateau about a mile
from the house and leave them there.  That is the most I have been able
to do.  It comes somewhat as a shock to one to find men and women--fairly
educated and intelligent as many of them are--slaves to fears that one
would expect a child to laugh at.  But there is no reasoning with
superstition."

_Extract from the same letter_, _but from a part seemingly written a day
or two later_:

   "At home I should have forgotten such a tale an hour after I had heard
   it, but these mountain fastnesses seem strangely fit to be the last
   stronghold of the supernatural.  The woman haunts me already.  At
   night instead of working, I find myself listening for her tapping at
   the door; and yesterday an incident occurred that makes me fear for my
   own common sense.  I had gone out for a long walk alone, and the
   twilight was thickening into darkness as I neared home.  Suddenly
   looking up from my reverie, I saw, standing on a knoll the other side
   of the ravine, the figure of a woman.  She held a cloak about her
   head, and I could not see her face.  I took off my cap, and called out
   a good-night to her, but she never moved or spoke.  Then--God knows
   why, for my brain was full of other thoughts at the time--a clammy
   chill crept over me, and my tongue grew dry and parched.  I stood
   rooted to the spot, staring at her across the yawning gorge that
   divided us; and slowly she moved away, and passed into the gloom, and
   I continued my way.  I have said nothing to Muriel, and shall not.  The
   effect the story has had upon myself warns me not to do so."

_From a letter dated eleven days later_:

   "She has come.  I have known she would, since that evening I saw her
   on the mountain; and last night she came, and we have sat and looked
   into each other's eyes.  You will say, of course, that I am mad--that
   I have not recovered from my fever--that I have been working too
   hard--that I have heard a foolish tale, and that it has filled my
   overstrung brain with foolish fancies: I have told myself all that.
   But the thing came, nevertheless--a creature of flesh and blood? a
   creature of air? a creature of my own imagination?--what matter? it
   was real to me.

   "It came last night, as I sat working, alone.  Each night I have
   waited for it, listened for it--longed for it, I know now.  I heard
   the passing of its feet upon the bridge, the tapping of its hand upon
   the door, three times--tap, tap, tap.  I felt my loins grow cold, and
   a pricking pain about my head; and I gripped my chair with both hands,
   and waited, and again there came the tapping--tap, tap, tap.  I rose
   and slipped the bolt of the door leading to the other room, and again
   I waited, and again there came the tapping--tap, tap, tap.  Then I
   opened the heavy outer door, and the wind rushed past me, scattering
   my papers, and the woman entered in, and I closed the door behind her.
   She threw her hood back from her head, and unwound a kerchief from
   about her neck, and laid it on the table.  Then she crossed and sat
   before the fire, and I noticed her bare feet were damp with the night
   dew.

   "I stood over against her and gazed at her, and she smiled at me--a
   strange, wicked smile, but I could have laid my soul at her feet.  She
   never spoke or moved, and neither did I feel the need of spoken words,
   for I understood the meaning of those upon the Mount when they said,
   'Let us make here tabernacles: it is good for us to be here.'

   "How long a time passed thus I do not know, but suddenly the woman
   held her hand up, listening, and there came a faint sound from the
   other room.  Then swiftly she drew her hood about her face and passed
   out, closing the door softly behind her; and I drew back the bolt of
   the inner door and waited, and hearing nothing more, sat down, and
   must have fallen asleep in my chair.

   "I awoke, and instantly there flashed through my mind the thought of
   the kerchief the woman had left behind her, and I started from my
   chair to hide it.  But the table was already laid for breakfast, and
   my wife sat with her elbows on the table and her head between her
   hands, watching me with a look in her eyes that was new to me.

   "She kissed me, though her lips were cold; and I argued to myself that
   the whole thing must have been a dream.  But later in the day, passing
   the open door when her back was towards me, I saw her take the
   kerchief from a locked chest and look at it.

   "I have told myself it must have been a kerchief of her own, and that
   all the rest has been my imagination; that, if not, then my strange
   visitant was no spirit, but a woman; and that, if human thing knows
   human thing, it was no creature of flesh and blood that sat beside me
   last night.  Besides, what woman would she be?  The nearest saeter is
   a three-hours' climb to a strong man, and the paths are dangerous even
   in daylight: what woman would have found them in the night?  What
   woman would have chilled the air around her, and have made the blood
   flow cold through all my veins?  Yet if she come again I will speak to
   her.  I will stretch out my hand and see whether she be mortal thing
   or only air."

_The fifth letter_:

   "MY DEAR JOYCE,--Whether your eyes will ever see these letters is
   doubtful.  From this place I shall never send them.  They would read
   to you as the ravings of a madman.  If ever I return to England I may
   one day show them to you, but when I do it will be when I, with you,
   can laugh over them.  At present I write them merely to hide
   away,--putting the words down on paper saves my screaming them aloud.

   "She comes each night now, taking the same seat beside the embers, and
   fixing upon me those eyes, with the hell-light in them, that burn into
   my brain; and at rare times she smiles, and all my being passes out of
   me, and is hers.  I make no attempt to work.  I sit listening for her
   footsteps on the creaking bridge, for the rustling of her feet upon
   the grass, for the tapping of her hand upon the door.  No word is
   uttered between us.  Each day I say: 'When she comes to-night I will
   speak to her.  I will stretch out my hand and touch her.'  Yet when
   she enters, all thought and will goes out from me.

   "Last night, as I stood gazing at her, my soul filled with her
   wondrous beauty as a lake with moonlight, her lips parted, and she
   started from her chair; and, turning, I thought I saw a white face
   pressed against the window, but as I looked it vanished.  Then she
   drew her cloak about her, and passed out.  I slid back the bolt I
   always draw now, and stole into the other room, and, taking down the
   lantern, held it above the bed.  But Muriel's eyes were closed as if
   in sleep."

_Extract from the sixth letter_:

   "It is not the night I fear, but the day.  I hate the sight of this
   woman with whom I live, whom I call 'wife.'  I shrink from the blow of
   her cold lips, the curse of her stony eyes.  She has seen, she has
   learnt; I feel it, I know it.  Yet she winds her arms around my neck,
   and calls me sweetheart, and smoothes my hair with her soft, false
   hands.  We speak mocking words of love to one another, but I know her
   cruel eyes are ever following me.  She is plotting her revenge, and I
   hate her, I hate her, I hate her!"

_Part of the seventh letter_:

   "This morning I went down to the fiord.  I told her I should not be
   back until the evening.  She stood by the door watching me until we
   were mere specks to one another, and a promontory of the mountain shut
   me from view.  Then, turning aside from the track, I made my way,
   running and stumbling over the jagged ground, round to the other side
   of the mountain, and began to climb again.  It was slow, weary work.
   Often I had to go miles out of my road to avoid a ravine, and twice I
   reached a high point only to have to descend again.  But at length I
   crossed the ridge, and crept down to a spot from where, concealed, I
   could spy upon my own house.  She--my wife--stood by the flimsy
   bridge.  A short hatchet, such as butchers use, was in her hand.  She
   leant against a pine trunk, with her arm behind her, as one stands
   whose back aches with long stooping in some cramped position; and even
   at that distance I could see the cruel smile about her lips.

   "Then I recrossed the ridge, and crawled down again, and, waiting
   until evening, walked slowly up the path.  As I came in view of the
   house she saw me, and waved her handkerchief to me, and in answer I
   waved my hat, and shouted curses at her that the wind whirled away
   into the torrent.  She met me with a kiss, and I breathed no hint to
   her that I had seen.  Let her devil's work remain undisturbed.  Let it
   prove to me what manner of thing this is that haunts me.  If it be a
   spirit, then the bridge wilt bear it safely; if it be woman--

   "But I dismiss the thought.  If it be human thing, why does it sit
   gazing at me, never speaking? why does my tongue refuse to question
   it? why does all power forsake me in its presence, so that I stand as
   in a dream?  Yet if it be spirit, why do I hear the passing of her
   feet? and why does the night-rain glisten on her hair?

   "I force myself back into my chair.  It is far into the night, and I
   am alone, waiting, listening.  If it be spirit, she will come to me;
   and if it be woman, I shall hear her cry above the storm--unless it be
   a demon mocking me.

   "I have heard the cry.  It rose, piercing and shrill, above the storm,
   above the riving and rending of the bridge, above the downward
   crashing of the logs and loosened stones.  I hear it as I listen now.
   It is cleaving its way upward from the depths below.  It is wailing
   through the room as I sit writing.

   "I have crawled upon my belly to the utmost edge of the still standing
   pier, until I could feel with my hand the jagged splinters left by the
   fallen planks, and have looked down.  But the chasm was full to the
   brim with darkness.  I shouted, but the wind shook my voice into
   mocking laughter.  I sit here, feebly striking at the madness that is
   creeping nearer and nearer to me.  I tell myself the whole thing is
   but the fever in my brain.  The bridge was rotten.  The storm was
   strong.  The cry is but a single one among the many voices of the
   mountain.  Yet still I listen; and it rises, clear and shrill, above
   the moaning of the pines, above the sobbing of the waters.  It beats
   like blows upon my skull, and I know that she will never come again."

_Extract from the last letter_:

   "I shall address an envelope to you, and leave it among these letters.
   Then, should I never come back, some chance wanderer may one day find
   and post them to you, and you will know.

   "My books and writings remain untouched.  We sit together of a
   night--this woman I call 'wife' and I--she holding in her hands some
   knitted thing that never grows longer by a single stitch, and I with a
   volume before me that is ever open at the same page.  And day and
   night we watch each other stealthily, moving to and fro about the
   silent house; and at times, looking round swiftly, I catch the smile
   upon her lips before she has time to smooth it away.

   "We speak like strangers about this and that, making talk to hide our
   thoughts.  We make a pretence of busying ourselves about whatever will
   help us to keep apart from one another.

   "At night, sitting here between the shadows and the dull glow of the
   smouldering twigs, I sometimes think I hear the tapping I have learnt
   to listen for, and I start from my seat, and softly open the door and
   look out.  But only the Night stands there.  Then I close-to the
   latch, and she--the living woman--asks me in her purring voice what
   sound I heard, hiding a smile as she stoops low over her work; and I
   answer lightly, and, moving towards her, put my arm about her, feeling
   her softness and her suppleness, and wondering, supposing I held her
   close to me with one arm while pressing her from me with the other,
   how long before I should hear the cracking of her bones.

   "For here, amid these savage solitudes, I also am grown savage.  The
   old primeval passions of love and hate stir within me, and they are
   fierce and cruel and strong, beyond what you men of the later ages
   could understand.  The culture of the centuries has fallen from me as
   a flimsy garment whirled away by the mountain wind; the old savage
   instincts of the race lie bare.  One day I shall twine my fingers
   about her full white throat, and her eyes will slowly come towards me,
   and her lips will part, and the red tongue creep out; and backwards,
   step by step, I shall push her before me, gazing the while upon her
   bloodless face, and it will be my turn to smile.  Backwards through
   the open door, backwards along the garden path between the juniper
   bushes, backwards till her heels are overhanging the ravine, and she
   grips life with nothing but her little toes, I shall force her, step
   by step, before me.  Then I shall lean forward, closer, closer, till I
   kiss her purpling lips, and down, down, down, past the startled sea-
   birds, past the white spray of the foss, past the downward peeping
   pines, down, down, down, we will go together, till we find the thing
   that lies sleeping beneath the waters of the fiord."

With these words ended the last letter, unsigned.  At the first streak of
dawn we left the house, and, after much wandering, found our way back to
the valley.  But of our guide we heard no news.  Whether he remained
still upon the mountain, or whether by some false step he had perished
upon that night, we never learnt.



VARIETY PATTER.


My first appearance at a Music Hall was in the year one thousand eight
hundred and s---.  Well, I would rather not mention the exact date.  I
was fourteen at the time.  It was during the Christmas holidays, and my
aunt had given me five shillings to go and see Phelps--I think it was
Phelps--in _Coriolanus_--I think it was _Coriolanus_.  Anyhow, it was to
see a high-class and improving entertainment, I know.

I suggested that I should induce young Skegson, who lived in our road, to
go with me.  Skegson is a barrister now, and could not tell you the
difference between a knave of clubs and a club of knaves.  A few years
hence he will, if he works hard, be innocent enough for a judge.  But at
the period of which I speak he was a red-haired boy of worldly tastes,
notwithstanding which I loved him as a brother.  My dear mother wished to
see him before consenting to the arrangement, so as to be able to form
her own opinion as to whether he was a fit and proper companion for me;
and, accordingly, he was invited to tea.  He came, and made a most
favourable impression upon both my mother and my aunt.  He had a way of
talking about the advantages of application to study in early life, and
the duties of youth towards those placed in authority over it, that won
for him much esteem in grown-up circles.  The spirit of the Bar had
descended upon Skegson at a very early period of his career.

My aunt, indeed, was so much pleased with him that she gave him two
shillings towards his own expenses ("sprung half a dollar" was how he
explained the transaction when we were outside), and commended me to his
especial care.

Skegson was very silent during the journey.  An idea was evidently
maturing in his mind.  At the Angel he stopped and said: "Look here, I'll
tell you what we'll do.  Don't let's go and see that rot.  Let's go to a
Music Hall."

I gasped for breath.  I had heard of Music Halls.  A stout lady had
denounced them across our dinner table on one occasion--fixing the while
a steely eye upon her husband, who sat opposite and seemed
uncomfortable--as low, horrid places, where people smoked and drank, and
wore short skirts, and had added an opinion that they ought to be put
down by the police--whether the skirts or the halls she did not explain.
I also recollected that our charwoman, whose son had lately left London
for a protracted stay in Devonshire, had, in conversation with my mother,
dated his downfall from the day when he first visited one of these
places; and likewise that Mrs. Philcox's nursemaid, upon her confessing
that she had spent an evening at one with her young man, had been called
a shameless hussy, and summarily dismissed as being no longer a fit
associate for the baby.

But the spirit of lawlessness was strong within me in those days, so that
I hearkened to the voice of Skegson, the tempter, and he lured my feet
from the paths that led to virtue and Sadler's Wells, and we wandered
into the broad and crowded ways that branch off from the Angel towards
Merry Islington.

Skegson insisted that we should do the thing in style, so we stopped at a
shop near the Agricultural Hall and purchased some big cigars.  A huge
card in the window claimed for these that they were "the most
satisfactory twopenny smokes in London."  I smoked two of them during the
evening, and never felt more satisfied--using the word in its true sense,
as implying that a person has had enough of a thing, and does not desire
any more of it, just then--in all my life.  Where we went, and what we
saw, my memory is not very clear upon.  We sat at a little marble table.
I know it was marble because it was so hard, and cool to the head.  From
out of the smoky mist a ponderous creature of strange, undefined shape
floated heavily towards us, and deposited a squat tumbler in front of me
containing a pale yellowish liquor, which subsequent investigation has
led me to believe must have been Scotch whisky.  It seemed to me then the
most nauseous stuff I had ever swallowed.  It is curious to look back and
notice how one's tastes change.

I reached home very late and very sick.  That was my first dissipation,
and, as a lesson, it has been of more practical use to me than all the
good books and sermons in the world could have been.  I can remember to
this day standing in the middle of the room in my night-shirt, trying to
catch my bed as it came round.

Next morning I confessed everything to my mother, and, for several months
afterwards, was a reformed character.  Indeed, the pendulum of my
conscience swung too far the other way, and I grew exaggeratedly
remorseful and unhealthily moral.

There was published in those days, for the edification of young people, a
singularly pessimistic periodical, entitled _The Children's Band of Hope
Review_.  It was a magazine much in favour among grown-up people, and a
bound copy of Vol. IX. had lately been won by my sister as a prize for
punctuality (I fancy she must have exhausted all the virtue she ever
possessed, in that direction, upon the winning of that prize.  At all
events, I have noticed no ostentatious display of the quality in her
later life.)  I had formerly expressed contempt for this book, but now,
in my regenerate state, I took a morbid pleasure in poring over its
denunciations of sin and sinners.  There was one picture in it that
appeared peculiarly applicable to myself.  It represented a gaudily
costumed young man, standing on the topmost of three steep steps, smoking
a large cigar.  Behind him was a very small church, and below, a bright
and not altogether uninviting looking hell.  The picture was headed "The
Three Steps to Ruin," and the three stairs were labelled respectively
"Smoking," "Drinking," "Gambling."  I had already travelled two-thirds of
the road!  Was I going all the way, or should I be able to retrace those
steps?  I used to lie awake at night and think about it till I grew half
crazy.  Alas! since then I have completed the descent, so where my future
will be spent I do not care to think.

Another picture in the book that troubled me was the frontispiece.  This
was a highly-coloured print, illustrating the broad and narrow ways.  The
narrow way led upward past a Sunday-school and a lion to a city in the
clouds.  This city was referred to in the accompanying letterpress as a
place of "Rest and Peace," but inasmuch as the town was represented in
the illustration as surrounded by a perfect mob of angels, each one
blowing a trumpet twice his own size, and obviously blowing it for all he
was worth, a certain confusion of ideas would seem to have crept into the
allegory.

The other path--the "broad way"--which ended in what at first glance
appeared to be a highly successful display of fireworks, started from the
door of a tavern, and led past a Music Hall, on the steps of which stood
a gentleman smoking a cigar.  All the wicked people in this book smoked
cigars--all except one young man who had killed his mother and died
raving mad.  He had gone astray on short pipes.

This made it uncomfortably clear to me which direction I had chosen, and
I was greatly alarmed, until, on examining the picture more closely, I
noticed, with much satisfaction, that about midway the two paths were
connected by a handy little bridge, by the use of which it seemed
feasible, starting on the one path and ending up on the other, to combine
the practical advantages of both roads.  From subsequent observation I
have come to the conclusion that a good many people have made a note of
that little bridge.

My own belief in the possibility of such convenient compromise must, I
fear, have led to an ethical relapse, for there recurs to my mind a
somewhat painful scene of a few months' later date, in which I am seeking
to convince a singularly unresponsive landed proprietor that my presence
in his orchard is solely and entirely due to my having unfortunately lost
my way.

It was not until I was nearly seventeen that the idea occurred to me to
visit a Music Hall again.  Then, having regard to my double capacity of
"Man About Town" and journalist (for I had written a letter to _The Era_,
complaining of the way pit doors were made to open, and it had been
inserted), I felt I had no longer any right to neglect acquaintanceship
with so important a feature in the life of the people.  Accordingly, one
Saturday night, I wended my way to the "Pav."; and there the first person
that I ran against was my uncle.  He laid a heavy hand upon my shoulder,
and asked me, in severe tones, what I was doing there.  I felt this to be
an awkward question, for it would have been useless trying to make him
understand my real motives (one's own relations are never sympathetic),
and I was somewhat nonplussed for an answer, until the reflection
occurred to me: What was _he_ doing there?  This riddle I, in my turn,
propounded to him, with the result that we entered into treaty, by the
terms of which it was agreed that no future reference should be made to
the meeting by either of us--especially not in the presence of my
aunt--and the compact was ratified according to the usual custom, my
uncle paying the necessary expenses.

In those days, we sat, some four or six of us, round a little table, on
which were placed our drinks.  Now we have to balance them upon a narrow
ledge; and ladies, as they pass, dip the ends of their cloaks into them,
and gentlemen stir them up for us with the ferrules of their umbrellas,
or else sweep them off into our laps with their coat tails, saying as
they do so, "Oh, I beg your pardon."

Also, in those days, there were "chairmen"--affable gentlemen, who would
drink anything at anybody's expense, and drink any quantity of it, and
never seem to get any fuller.  I was introduced to a Music Hall chairman
once, and when I said to him, "What is your drink?" he took up the "list
of beverages" that lay before him, and, opening it, waved his hand
lightly across its entire contents, from clarets, past champagnes and
spirits, down to liqueurs.  "That's my drink, my boy," said he.  There
was nothing narrow-minded or exclusive about his tastes.

It was the chairman's duty to introduce the artists.  "Ladies and
gentlemen," he would shout, in a voice that united the musical
characteristics of a foghorn and a steam saw, "Miss 'Enerietta
Montressor, the popular serio-comic, will now happear."  These
announcements were invariably received with great applause by the
chairman himself, and generally with chilling indifference by the rest of
the audience.

It was also the privilege of the chairman to maintain order, and
reprimand evil-doers.  This he usually did very effectively, employing
for the purpose language both fit and forcible.  One chairman that I
remember seemed, however, to be curiously deficient in the necessary
qualities for this part of his duty.  He was a mild and sleepy little
man, and, unfortunately, he had to preside over an exceptionally rowdy
audience at a small hall in the South-East district.  On the night that I
was present, there occurred a great disturbance.  "Joss Jessop, the
Monarch of Mirth," a gentleman evidently high in local request was, for
some reason or other, not forthcoming, and in his place the management
proposed to offer a female performer on the zithern, one Signorina
Ballatino.

The little chairman made the announcement in a nervous, deprecatory tone,
as if he were rather ashamed of it himself.  "Ladies and gentlemen," he
began,--the poor are staunch sticklers for etiquette: I overheard a small
child explaining to her mother one night in Three Colts Street,
Limehouse, that she could not get into the house because there was a
"lady" on the doorstep, drunk,--"Signorina Ballatino, the
world-renowned--"

Here a voice from the gallery requested to know what had become of "Old
Joss," and was greeted by loud cries of "'Ear, 'ear."

The chairman, ignoring the interruption, continued:

"--the world-renowned performer on the zither--"

"On the whoter?" came in tones of plaintive inquiry from the back of the
hall.

"_Hon_ the zither," retorted the chairman, waxing mildly indignant; he
meant zithern, but he called it a zither.  "A hinstrument well-known to
anybody as 'as 'ad any learning."

This sally was received with much favour, and a gentleman who claimed to
be acquainted with the family history of the interrupter begged the
chairman to excuse that ill-bred person on the ground that his mother
used to get drunk with the twopence a week and never sent him to school.

Cheered by this breath of popularity, our little president endeavoured to
complete his introduction of the Signorina.  He again repeated that she
was the world-renowned performer on the zithern; and, undeterred by the
audible remark of a lady in the pit to the effect that she'd "never 'eard
on 'er," added:

"She will now, ladies and gentlemen, with your kind permission, give you
examples of the--"

"Blow yer zither!" here cried out the gentleman who had started the
agitation; "we want Joss Jessop."

This was the signal for much cheering and shrill whistling, in the midst
of which a wag with a piping voice suggested as a reason for the
favourite's non-appearance that he had not been paid his last week's
salary.

A temporary lull occurred at this point; and the chairman, seizing the
opportunity to complete his oft-impeded speech, suddenly remarked, "songs
of the Sunny South"; and immediately sat down and began hammering upon
the table.

Then Signora Ballatino, clothed in the costume of the Sunny South, where
clothes are less essential than in these colder climes, skipped airily
forward, and was most ungallantly greeted with a storm of groans and
hisses.  Her beloved instrument was unfeelingly alluded to as a pie-dish,
and she was advised to take it back and get the penny on it.  The
chairman, addressed by his Christian name of "Jimmee," was told to lie
down and let her sing him to sleep.  Every time she attempted to start
playing, shouts were raised for Joss.

At length the chairman, overcoming his evident disinclination to take any
sort of hand whatever in the game, rose and gently hinted at the
desirability of silence.  The suggestion not meeting with any support, he
proceeded to adopt sterner measures.  He addressed himself personally to
the ringleader of the rioters, the man who had first championed the cause
of the absent Joss.  This person was a brawny individual, who, judging
from appearances, followed in his business hours the calling of a
coalheaver.  "Yes, sir," said the chairman, pointing a finger towards
him, where he sat in the front row of the gallery; "you, sir, in the
flannel shirt.  I can see you.  Will you allow this lady to give her
entertainment?"

"No," answered he of the coalheaving profession, in stentorian tones.

"Then, sir," said the little chairman, working himself up into a state
suggestive of Jove about to launch a thunderbolt--"then, sir, all I can
say is that you are no gentleman."

This was a little too much, or rather a good deal too little, for the
Signora Ballatino.  She had hitherto been standing in a meek attitude of
pathetic appeal, wearing a fixed smile of ineffable sweetness but she
evidently felt that she could go a bit farther than that herself, even if
she was a lady.  Calling the chairman "an old messer," and telling him
for Gawd's sake to shut up if that was all he could do for his living,
she came down to the front, and took the case into her own hands.

She did not waste time on the rest of the audience.  She went direct for
that coalheaver, and thereupon ensued a slanging match the memory of
which sends a trill of admiration through me even to this day.  It was a
battle worthy of the gods.  He was a heaver of coals, quick and ready
beyond his kind.  During many years sojourn East and South, in the course
of many wanderings from Billingsgate to Limehouse Hole, from Petticoat
Lane to Whitechapel Road; out of eel-pie shop and penny gaff; out of
tavern and street, and court and doss-house, he had gathered together
slang words and terms and phrases, and they came back to him now, and he
stood up against her manfully.

But as well might the lamb stand up against the eagle, when the shadow of
its wings falls across the green pastures, and the wind flies before its
dark oncoming.  At the end of two minutes he lay gasping, dazed, and
speechless.

Then she began.

She announced her intention of "wiping down the bloomin' 'all" with him,
and making it respectable; and, metaphorically speaking, that is what she
did.  Her tongue hit him between the eyes, and knocked him down and
trampled on him.  It curled round and round him like a whip, and then it
uncurled and wound the other way.  It seized him by the scruff of his
neck, and tossed him up into the air, and caught him as he descended, and
flung him to the ground, and rolled him on it.  It played around him like
forked lightning, and blinded him.  It danced and shrieked about him like
a host of whirling fiends, and he tried to remember a prayer, and could
not.  It touched him lightly on the sole of his foot and the crown of his
head, and his hair stood up straight, and his limbs grew stiff.  The
people sitting near him drew away, not feeling it safe to be near, and
left him alone, surrounded by space, and language.

It was the most artistic piece of work of its kind that I have ever
heard.  Every phrase she flung at him seemed to have been woven on
purpose to entangle him and to embrace in its choking folds his people
and his gods, to strangle with its threads his every hope, ambition, and
belief.  Each term she put upon him clung to him like a garment, and
fitted him without a crease.  The last name that she called him one felt
to be, until one heard the next, the one name that he ought to have been
christened by.

For five and three-quarter minutes by the clock she spoke, and never for
one instant did she pause or falter; and in the whole of that onslaught
there was only one weak spot.

That was when she offered to make a better man than he was out of a Guy
Fawkes and a lump of coal.  You felt that one lump of coal would not have
been sufficient.

At the end, she gathered herself together for one supreme effort, and
hurled at him an insult so bitter with scorn so sharp with insight into
his career and character, so heavy with prophetic curse, that strong men
drew and held their breath while it passed over them, and women hid their
faces and shivered.

Then she folded her arms, and stood silent; and the house, from floor to
ceiling, rose and cheered her until there was no more breath left in its
lungs.

In that one night she stepped from oblivion into success.  She is now a
famous "artiste."

But she does not call herself Signora Ballatino, and she does not play
upon the zithern.  Her name has a homelier sound, and her speciality is
the delineation of coster character.



SILHOUETTES.


I fear I must be of a somewhat gruesome turn of mind.  My sympathies are
always with the melancholy side of life and nature.  I love the chill
October days, when the brown leaves lie thick and sodden underneath your
feet, and a low sound as of stifled sobbing is heard in the damp
woods--the evenings in late autumn time, when the white mist creeps
across the fields, making it seem as though old Earth, feeling the night
air cold to its poor bones, were drawing ghostly bedclothes round its
withered limbs.  I like the twilight of the long grey street, sad with
the wailing cry of the distant muffin man.  One thinks of him, as,
strangely mitred, he glides by through the gloom, jangling his harsh
bell, as the High Priest of the pale spirit of Indigestion, summoning the
devout to come forth and worship.  I find a sweetness in the aching
dreariness of Sabbath afternoons in genteel suburbs--in the evil-laden
desolateness of waste places by the river, when the yellow fog is
stealing inland across the ooze and mud, and the black tide gurgles
softly round worm-eaten piles.

I love the bleak moor, when the thin long line of the winding road lies
white on the darkening heath, while overhead some belated bird, vexed
with itself for being out so late, scurries across the dusky sky,
screaming angrily.  I love the lonely, sullen lake, hidden away in
mountain solitudes.  I suppose it was my childhood's surroundings that
instilled in me this affection for sombre hues.  One of my earliest
recollections is of a dreary marshland by the sea.  By day, the water
stood there in wide, shallow pools.  But when one looked in the evening
they were pools of blood that lay there.

It was a wild, dismal stretch of coast.  One day, I found myself there
all alone--I forget how it came about--and, oh, how small I felt amid the
sky and the sea and the sandhills!  I ran, and ran, and ran, but I never
seemed to move; and then I cried, and screamed, louder and louder, and
the circling seagulls screamed back mockingly at me.  It was an "unken"
spot, as they say up North.

In the far back days of the building of the world, a long, high ridge of
stones had been reared up by the sea, dividing the swampy grassland from
the sand.  Some of these stones--"pebbles," so they called them round
about--were as big as a man, and many as big as a fair-sized house; and
when the sea was angry--and very prone he was to anger by that lonely
shore, and very quick to wrath; often have I known him sink to sleep with
a peaceful smile on his rippling waves, to wake in fierce fury before the
night was spent--he would snatch up giant handfuls of these pebbles and
fling and toss them here and there, till the noise of their rolling and
crashing could be heard by the watchers in the village afar off.

"Old Nick's playing at marbles to-night," they would say to one another,
pausing to listen.  And then the women would close tight their doors, and
try not to hear the sound.

Far out to sea, by where the muddy mouth of the river yawned wide, there
rose ever a thin white line of surf, and underneath those crested waves
there dwelt a very fearsome thing, called the Bar.  I grew to hate and be
afraid of this mysterious Bar, for I heard it spoken of always with bated
breath, and I knew that it was very cruel to fisher folk, and hurt them
so sometimes that they would cry whole days and nights together with the
pain, or would sit with white scared faces, rocking themselves to and
fro.

Once when I was playing among the sandhills, there came by a tall, grey
woman, bending beneath a load of driftwood.  She paused when nearly
opposite to me, and, facing seaward, fixed her eyes upon the breaking
surf above the Bar.  "Ah, how I hate the sight of your white teeth!" she
muttered; then turned and passed on.

Another morning, walking through the village, I heard a low wailing come
from one of the cottages, while a little farther on a group of women were
gathered in the roadway, talking.  "Ay," said one of them, "I thought the
Bar was looking hungry last night."

So, putting one and the other together, I concluded that the "Bar" must
be an ogre, such as a body reads of in books, who lived in a coral castle
deep below the river's mouth, and fed upon the fishermen as he caught
them going down to the sea or coming home.

From my bedroom window, on moonlight nights, I could watch the silvery
foam, marking the spot beneath where he lay hid; and I would stand on tip-
toe, peering out, until at length I would come to fancy I could see his
hideous form floating below the waters.  Then, as the little white-sailed
boats stole by him, tremblingly, I used to tremble too, lest he should
suddenly open his grim jaws and gulp them down; and when they had all
safely reached the dark, soft sea beyond, I would steal back to the
bedside, and pray to God to make the Bar good, so that he would give up
eating the poor fishermen.

Another incident connected with that coast lives in my mind.  It was the
morning after a great storm--great even for that stormy coast--and the
passion-worn waters were still heaving with the memory of a fury that was
dead.  Old Nick had scattered his marbles far and wide, and there were
rents and fissures in the pebbly wall such as the oldest fisherman had
never known before.  Some of the hugest stones lay tossed a hundred yards
away, and the waters had dug pits here and there along the ridge so deep
that a tall man might stand in some of them, and yet his head not reach
the level of the sand.

Round one of these holes a small crowd was pressing eagerly, while one
man, standing in the hollow, was lifting the few remaining stones off
something that lay there at the bottom.  I pushed my way between the
straggling legs of a big fisher lad, and peered over with the rest.  A
ray of sunlight streamed down into the pit, and the thing at the bottom
gleamed white.  Sprawling there among the black pebbles it looked like a
huge spider.  One by one the last stones were lifted away, and the thing
was left bare, and then the crowd looked at one another and shivered.

"Wonder how he got there," said a woman at length; "somebody must ha'
helped him."

"Some foreign chap, no doubt," said the man who had lifted off the
stones; "washed ashore and buried here by the sea."

"What, six foot below the water-mark, wi' all they stones atop of him?"
said another.

"That's no foreign chap," cried a grizzled old woman, pressing forward.
"What's that that's aside him?"

Some one jumped down and took it from the stone where it lay glistening,
and handed it up to her, and she clutched it in her skinny hand.  It was
a gold earring, such as fishermen sometimes wear.  But this was a
somewhat large one, and of rather unusual shape.

"That's young Abram Parsons, I tell 'ee, as lies down there," cried the
old creature, wildly.  "I ought to know.  I gave him the pair o' these
forty year ago."

It may be only an idea of mine, born of after brooding upon the scene.  I
am inclined to think it must be so, for I was only a child at the time,
and would hardly have noticed such a thing.  But it seems to my
remembrance that as the old crone ceased, another woman in the crowd
raised her eyes slowly, and fixed them on a withered, ancient man, who
leant upon a stick, and that for a moment, unnoticed by the rest, these
two stood looking strangely at each other.

From these sea-scented scenes, my memory travels to a weary land where
dead ashes lie, and there is blackness--blackness everywhere.  Black
rivers flow between black banks; black, stunted trees grow in black
fields; black withered flowers by black wayside.  Black roads lead from
blackness past blackness to blackness; and along them trudge black,
savage-looking men and women; and by them black, old-looking children
play grim, unchildish games.

When the sun shines on this black land, it glitters black and hard; and
when the rain falls a black mist rises towards heaven, like the hopeless
prayer of a hopeless soul.

By night it is less dreary, for then the sky gleams with a lurid light,
and out of the darkness the red flames leap, and high up in the air they
gambol and writhe--the demon spawn of that evil land, they seem.

Visitors who came to our house would tell strange tales of this black
land, and some of the stories I am inclined to think were true.  One man
said he saw a young bull-dog fly at a boy and pin him by the throat.  The
lad jumped about with much sprightliness, and tried to knock the dog
away.  Whereupon the boy's father rushed out of the house, hard by, and
caught his son and heir roughly by the shoulder.  "Keep still, thee young
---, can't 'ee!" shouted the man angrily; "let 'un taste blood."

Another time, I heard a lady tell how she had visited a cottage during a
strike, to find the baby, together with the other children, almost dying
for want of food.  "Dear, dear me!" she cried, taking the wee wizened
mite from the mother's arms, "but I sent you down a quart of milk,
yesterday.  Hasn't the child had it?"

"Theer weer a little coom, thank 'ee kindly, ma'am," the father took upon
himself to answer; "but thee see it weer only just enow for the poops."

We lived in a big lonely house on the edge of a wide common.  One night,
I remember, just as I was reluctantly preparing to climb into bed, there
came a wild ringing at the gate, followed by a hoarse, shrieking cry, and
then a frenzied shaking of the iron bars.

Then hurrying footsteps sounded through the house, and the swift opening
and closing of doors; and I slipped back hastily into my knickerbockers
and ran out.  The women folk were gathered on the stairs, while my father
stood in the hall, calling to them to be quiet.  And still the wild
ringing of the bell continued, and, above it, the hoarse, shrieking cry.

My father opened the door and went out, and we could hear him striding
down the gravel path, and we clung to one another and waited.

After what seemed an endless time, we heard the heavy gate unbarred, and
quickly clanged to, and footsteps returning on the gravel.  Then the door
opened again, and my father entered, and behind him a crouching figure
that felt its way with its hands as it crept along, as a blind man might.
The figure stood up when it reached the middle of the hall, and mopped
its eyes with a dirty rag that it carried in its hand; after which it
held the rag over the umbrella-stand and wrung it out, as washerwomen
wring out clothes, and the dark drippings fell into the tray with a dull,
heavy splut.

My father whispered something to my mother, and she went out towards the
back; and, in a little while, we heard the stamping of hoofs--the angry
plunge of a spur-startled horse--the rhythmic throb of the long, straight
gallop, dying away into the distance.

My mother returned and spoke some reassuring words to the servants.  My
father, having made fast the door and extinguished all but one or two of
the lights, had gone into a small room on the right of the hall; the
crouching figure, still mopping that moisture from its eyes, following
him.  We could hear them talking there in low tones, my father
questioning, the other voice thick and interspersed with short panting
grunts.

We on the stairs huddled closer together, and, in the darkness, I felt my
mother's arm steal round me and encompass me, so that I was not afraid.
Then we waited, while the silence round our frightened whispers thickened
and grew heavy till the weight of it seemed to hurt us.

At length, out of its depths, there crept to our ears a faint murmur.  It
gathered strength like the sound of the oncoming of a wave upon a stony
shore, until it broke in a Babel of vehement voices just outside.  After
a few moments, the hubbub ceased, and there came a furious ringing--then
angry shouts demanding admittance.

Some of the women began to cry.  My father came out into the hall,
closing the room door behind him, and ordered them to be quiet, so
sternly that they were stunned into silence.  The furious ringing was
repeated; and, this time, threats mingled among the hoarse shouts.  My
mother's arm tightened around me, and I could hear the beating of her
heart.

The voices outside the gate sank into a low confused mumbling.  Soon they
died away altogether, and the silence flowed back.

My father turned up the hall lamp, and stood listening.

Suddenly, from the back of the house, rose the noise of a great crashing,
followed by oaths and savage laughter.

My father rushed forward, but was borne back; and, in an instant, the
hall was full of grim, ferocious faces.  My father, trembling a little
(or else it was the shadow cast by the flickering lamp), and with lips
tight pressed, stood confronting them; while we women and children, too
scared to even cry, shrank back up the stairs.

What followed during the next few moments is, in my memory, only a
confused tumult, above which my father's high, clear tones rise every now
and again, entreating, arguing, commanding.  I see nothing distinctly
until one of the grimmest of the faces thrusts itself before the others,
and a voice which, like Aaron's rod, swallows up all its fellows, says in
deep, determined bass, "Coom, we've had enow chatter, master.  Thee mun
give 'un up, or thee mun get out o' th' way an' we'll search th' house
for oursel'."

Then a light flashed into my father's eyes that kindled something inside
me, so that the fear went out of me, and I struggled to free myself from
my mother's arm, for the desire stirred me to fling myself down upon the
grimy faces below, and beat and stamp upon them with my fists.  Springing
across the hall, he snatched from the wall where it hung an ancient club,
part of a trophy of old armour, and planting his back against the door
through which they would have to pass, he shouted, "Then be damned to you
all, he's in this room!  Come and fetch him out."

(I recollect that speech well.  I puzzled over it, even at that time,
excited though I was.  I had always been told that only low, wicked
people ever used the word "damn," and I tried to reconcile things, and
failed.)

The men drew back and muttered among themselves.  It was an ugly-looking
weapon, studded with iron spikes.  My father held it secured to his hand
by a chain, and there was an ugly look about him also, now, that gave his
face a strange likeness to the dark faces round him.

But my mother grew very white and cold, and underneath her breath she
kept crying, "Oh, will they never come--will they never come?" and a
cricket somewhere about the house began to chirp.

Then all at once, without a word, my mother flew down the stairs, and
passed like a flash of light through the crowd of dusky figures.  How she
did it I could never understand, for the two heavy bolts had both been
drawn, but the next moment the door stood wide open; and a hum of voices,
cheery with the anticipation of a period of perfect bliss, was borne in
upon the cool night air.

My mother was always very quick of hearing.

* * * * *

Again, I see a wild crowd of grim faces, and my father's, very pale,
amongst them.  But this time the faces are very many, and they come and
go like faces in a dream.  The ground beneath my feet is wet and sloppy,
and a black rain is falling.  There are women's faces in the crowd, wild
and haggard, and long skinny arms stretch out threateningly towards my
father, and shrill, frenzied voices call out curses on him.  Boys' faces
also pass me in the grey light, and on some of them there is an impish
grin.

I seem to be in everybody's way; and to get out of it, I crawl into a
dark, draughty corner and crouch there among cinders.  Around me, great
engines fiercely strain and pant like living things fighting beyond their
strength.  Their gaunt arms whirl madly above me, and the ground rocks
with their throbbing.  Dark figures flit to and fro, pausing from time to
time to wipe the black sweat from their faces.

The pale light fades, and the flame-lit night lies red upon the land.  The
flitting figures take strange shapes.  I hear the hissing of wheels, the
furious clanking of iron chains, the hoarse shouting of many voices, the
hurrying tread of many feet; and, through all, the wailing and weeping
and cursing that never seem to cease.  I drop into a restless sleep, and
dream that I have broken a chapel window, stone-throwing, and have died
and gone to hell.

At length, a cold hand is laid upon my shoulder, and I awake.  The wild
faces have vanished and all is silent now, and I wonder if the whole
thing has been a dream.  My father lifts me into the dog-cart, and we
drive home through the chill dawn.

My mother opens the door softly as we alight.  She does not speak, only
looks her question.  "It's all over, Maggie," answers my father very
quietly, as he takes off his coat and lays it across a chair; "we've got
to begin the world afresh."

My mother's arms steal up about his neck; and I, feeling heavy with a
trouble I do not understand, creep off to bed.



THE LEASE OF THE "CROSS KEYS."


This story is about a shop: many stories are.  One Sunday evening this
Bishop had to preach a sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral.  The occasion was
a very special and important one, and every God-fearing newspaper in the
kingdom sent its own special representative to report the proceedings.

Now, of the three reporters thus commissioned, one was a man of
appearance so eminently respectable that no one would have thought of
taking him for a journalist.  People used to put him down for a County
Councillor or an Archdeacon at the very least.  As a matter of fact,
however, he was a sinful man, with a passion for gin.  He lived at Bow,
and, on the Sabbath in question, he left his home at five o'clock in the
afternoon, and started to walk to the scene of his labours.  The road
from Bow to the City on a wet and chilly Sunday evening is a cheerless
one; who can blame him if on his way he stopped once or twice to comfort
himself with "two" of his favourite beverage?  On reaching St. Paul's he
found he had twenty minutes to spare--just time enough for one final
"nip."  Half way down a narrow court leading out of the Churchyard he
found a quiet little hostelry, and, entering the private bar, whispered
insinuatingly across the counter:

"Two of gin hot, if you please, my dear."

His voice had the self-satisfied meekness of the successful ecclesiastic,
his bearing suggested rectitude tempered by desire to avoid observation.
The barmaid, impressed by his manner and appearance, drew the attention
of the landlord to him.  The landlord covertly took stock of so much of
him as could be seen between his buttoned-up coat and his drawn-down hat,
and wondered how so bland and innocent-looking a gentleman came to know
of gin.

A landlord's duty, however, is not to wonder, but to serve.  The gin was
given to the man, and the man drank it.  He liked it.  It was good gin:
he was a connoisseur, and he knew.  Indeed, so good did it seem to him
that he felt it would be a waste of opportunity not to have another
twopen'orth.  Therefore he had a second "go"; maybe a third.  Then he
returned to the Cathedral, and sat himself down with his notebook on his
knee and waited.

As the service proceeded there stole over him that spirit of indifference
to all earthly surroundings that religion and drink are alone able to
bestow.  He heard the good Bishop's text and wrote it down.  Then he
heard the Bishop's "sixthly and lastly," and took that down, and looked
at his notebook and wondered in a peaceful way what had become of the
"firstly" to "fifthly" inclusive.  He sat there wondering until the
people round him began to get up and move away, whereupon it struck him
swiftly and suddenly that be had been asleep, and had thereby escaped the
main body of the discourse.

What on earth was he to do?  He was representing one of the leading
religious papers.  A full report of the sermon was wanted that very
night.  Seizing the robe of a passing wandsman, he tremulously inquired
if the Bishop had yet left the Cathedral.  The wandsman answered that he
had not, but that he was just on the point of doing so.

"I must see him before he goes!" exclaimed the reporter, excitedly.

"You can't," replied the wandsman.  The journalist grew frantic.

"Tell him," he cried, "a penitent sinner desires to speak with him about
the sermon he has just delivered.  To-morrow it will be too late."

The wandsman was touched; so was the Bishop.  He said he would see the
poor fellow.

As soon as the door was shut the man, with tears in his eyes, told the
Bishop the truth--leaving out the gin.  He said that he was a poor man,
and not in good health, that he had been up half the night before, and
had walked all the way from Bow that evening.  He dwelt on the disastrous
results to himself and his family should he fail to obtain a report of
the sermon.  The Bishop felt sorry for the man.  Also, he was anxious
that his sermon should be reported.

"Well, I trust it will be a warning to you against going to sleep in
church," he said, with an indulgent smile.  "Luckily, I have brought my
notes with me, and if you will promise to be very careful of them, and to
bring them back to me the first thing in the morning, I will lend them to
you."

With this, the Bishop opened and handed to the man a neat little black
leather bag, inside which lay a neat little roll of manuscript.

"Better take the bag to keep it in," added the Bishop.  "Be sure and let
me have them both back early to-morrow."

The reporter, when he examined the contents of the bag under a lamp in
the Cathedral vestibule, could hardly believe his good fortune.  The
careful Bishop's notes were so full and clear that for all practical
purposes they were equal to a report.  His work was already done.  He
felt so pleased with himself that he determined to treat himself to
another "two" of gin, and, with this intent, made his way across to the
little "public" before-mentioned.

"It's really excellent gin you sell here," he said to the barmaid when he
had finished; "I think, my dear, I'll have just one more."

At eleven the landlord gently but firmly insisted on his leaving, and he
went, assisted, as far as the end of the court, by the potboy.  After he
was gone, the landlord noticed a neat little black bag on the seat where
he had been lying.  Examining it closely, he discovered a brass plate
between the handles, and upon the brass plate were engraved the owner's
name and title.  Opening the bag, the landlord saw a neat little roll of
manuscript, and across a corner of the manuscript was written the
Bishop's name and address.

The landlord blew a long, low whistle, and stood with his round eyes wide
open gazing down at the open bag.  Then he put on his hat and coat, and
taking the bag, went out down the court, chuckling hugely as he walked.
He went straight to the house of the Resident Canon and rang the bell.

"Tell Mr. ---," he said to the servant, "that I must see him to-night.  I
wouldn't disturb him at this late hour if it wasn't something very
important."

The landlord was ushered up.  Closing the door softly behind him, he
coughed deferentially.

"Well, Mr. Peters" (I will call him "Peters"), said the Canon, "what is
it?"

"Well, sir," said Mr. Peters, slowly and deliberately, "it's about that
there lease o' mine.  I do hope you gentlemen will see your way to makin'
it twenty-one year instead o' fourteen."

"God bless the man!" cried the Canon, jumping up indignantly, "you don't
mean to say you've come to me at eleven o'clock on a Sunday night to talk
about your lease?"

"Well, not entirely, sir," answered Peters, unabashed; "there's another
little thing I wished to speak to you about, and that's this"--saying
which, he laid the Bishop's bag before the Canon and told his story.

The Canon looked at Mr. Peters, and Mr. Peters looked at the Canon.

"There must be some mistake," said the Canon.

"There's no mistake," said the landlord.  "I had my suspicions when I
first clapped eyes on him.  I seed he wasn't our usual sort, and I seed
how he tried to hide his face.  If he weren't the Bishop, then I don't
know a Bishop when I sees one, that's all.  Besides, there's his bag, and
there's his sermon."

Mr. Peters folded his arms and waited.  The Canon pondered.  Such things
had been known to happen before in Church history.  Why not again?

"Does any one know of this besides yourself?" asked the Canon.

"Not a livin' soul," replied Mr. Peters, "as yet."

"I think--I think, Mr. Peters," said the Canon, "that we may be able to
extend your lease to twenty-one years."

"Thank you kindly, sir," said the landlord, and departed.  Next morning
the Canon waited on the Bishop and laid the bag before him.

"Oh," said the Bishop cheerfully, "he's sent it back by you, has he?"

"He has, sir," replied the Canon; "and thankful I am that it was to me he
brought it.  It is right," continued the Canon, "that I should inform
your lordship that I am aware of the circumstances under which it left
your hands."

The Canon's eye was severe, and the Bishop laughed uneasily.

"I suppose it wasn't quite the thing for me to do," he answered
apologetically; "but there, all's well that ends well," and the Bishop
laughed.

This stung the Canon.  "Oh, sir," he exclaimed, with a burst of fervour,
"in Heaven's name--for the sake of our Church, let me entreat--let me
pray you never to let such a thing occur again."

The Bishop turned upon him angrily.

"Why, what a fuss you make about a little thing!" he cried; then, seeing
the look of agony upon the other's face, he paused.

"How did you get that bag?" he asked.

"The landlord of the Cross Keys brought it me," answered the Canon; "you
left it there last night."

The Bishop gave a gasp, and sat down heavily.  When he recovered his
breath, he told the Canon the real history of the case; and the Canon is
still trying to believe it.





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