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Title: If Winter Don't - A B C D E F Notsomuchinson
Author: Pain, Barry, 1864-1928
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.

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 Copyright, 1922, by

 All rights reserved

 First Printing, September 9, 1922
 Second Printing, October 19, 1922
 Third Printing, November 22, 1922
 Fourth Printing, December 5, 1922

 Printed in the United States of America

_These parodies do good to the book parodied; great good, sometimes;
they are kindly meant, and the parodist has usually keenly enjoyed the
book of which he sits down to make a fool._

                         R. L. STEVENSON.



"IF WINTER COMES" placed its author not only as a Best Seller, but as
one of the Great Novelists of to-day. Not always are those royalties
crowned by those laurels. Tarzan (of, if I remember rightly, the Apes)
never won the double event. And I am told by superior people that,
intellectually, Miss Ethel M. Dell takes the hindmost. Personally, I
found "If Winter Comes" a most sympathetic and interesting book. I
think there are only two points on which I should be disposed to
quarrel with it. Firstly, though Nona is a real creation, Effie is an
incredible piece of novelist's machinery. Secondly, I detest the
utilization of the Great War at the present day for the purposes of
fiction. It is altogether too easy. It buys the emotional situation
ready-made. It asks the reader's memory to supplement the writer's
imagination. And this is not my sole objection to its use.


I wonder if I might, without being thought blasphemous, say a word or
two about the Great Novelists of to-day. They have certain points of
resemblance. I do not think that over-states it.

They have the same little ways. They divide their chapters into
sections, and number the sections in plain figures. This is quite
pontifical, and lends your story the majesty of an Act of Parliament.
The first man who did it was a genius. And the other seven hundred and
eighteen showed judgment. I propose to use it myself when I remember

Then there is the three-dot trick. At one time those dots indicated an
omission. To-day, some of our best use them as an equivalent of the
cinema fade-out. Those dots prolong the effect of a word or sentence;
they lend it an afterglow. You see what I mean? Afterglow ...

One must mention, too, the staccato style--the style that makes the
printer send the boy out for another hundred gross of full-stops. All
the Great Novelists of to-day use it, more or less.


Let us see what can be done with it. Here, for instance, is a sentence
which was taught me in the nursery, for its alleged tongue-twisting
quality: "She stood at the door of Burgess's fish-sauce shop, Strand,
welcoming him in." In that form it is not impressive, but now note
what one of these staccato merchants might make of it.

"Across the roaring Strand red and green lights spelling on the gloom.
'BURGESS'S FISH-SAU.' A moment's darkness and again 'BURGESS'S
FISH-SAU.' Like that. Truncated. The final --CE not functioning. He
had to look though it hurt him. Hurt horrible. Damnably. And his eyes
traveled downward.

"Suddenly and beyond hope she! Isobel-at-the-last. Standing in the
doorway. White on black. Slim. Willowy. Incomparable. Incommensurable.
She saw him and her lips rounded to a call. He sensed it through the
traffic. Come in. Calling and calling. Come in.

"Come in....

"Out of the rain."

It is like a plaintive hymn sung to a banjo accompaniment.

Incidentally it illustrates another favorite trick of these
gentlemen--the introduction of a commonplace or even jarring detail
into a romantic scene in order to increase its appearance of reality.
It is quite a good trick.


And sometimes, not every day but sometimes, one gets a little weary
even of the best tricks. Need the author depend quite so much on the
printer for his effects? Scenes and passages in a book seem to be
standing very near the edge, and the wanton thought occurs to one that
a little shove would send them over. In fact, one gets irritable. And
then anything bad may happen. This parody for instance.



Luke Sharper. Age, thirty-four. Married, but not much. Private
residence, Jawbones, Halfpenny Hole, Surrey. Favorite recreation,
suffering. Favorite flower----

Oh, drop it! Let us rather listen to Mr. Alfred Jingle, solicitor,
talking to his artist friend.

"Met Sharper yesterday. Remember him at the old school? Flap Sharper
we called him. Not that they really did flap. His ears, I mean. They
just crept up and bent over when he was thinking hard. People came to
see it. Came from miles around.

"Rum chap. Rum ways. Never agreed with anybody present, including
himself. Always inventing circumstantial evidence to convict himself
of crimes he had never committed. Remember the window? Half-brick came
flying through it. Old Borkins looked out. Below stood Flap Sharper
with the other half-brick in his hand. Arm drawn back. No other boy in
sight. The two halves fitted exactly. It certainly looked like it.
Poor old Flap found that it felt like it, too. But he had never
chucked that half-brick. Ogilvie did it. Remember him? The one we
called Pink-eye. Have a drink?

"I offered Sharper my sympathy. Wouldn't have it. Said 'Why?'
Maintained that we had all got to suffer in this life, and it was
better to begin early. Excellent practice. Then his ears crept up and
bent over. Got it again later in the day for drawing a caricature of
old Borkins. Never did it, of course. Couldn't draw. Can't remember
who did it. Oh, you did, did you? Like you. Have another?

"Yes, we have a certain amount of business in Dilborough. I'm
generally down there once or twice a year. I walk over to Halfpenny
Hole and lunch with Sharper. It's a seven mile walk. But lunch at the
hotel is seven-and-six. Doing uncommonly well, is Sharper. He's in
Pentlove, Postlethwaite and Sharper. You know. The only jams that
really matter. Pickles, too. Chutney. Very hot stuff. Oh, yes,
Sharper's all right.

"You ought to run down and see Halfpenny Hole. What is it the agents
say? Old-world. It's very old-world. Only three houses in it, and all
different. Whether the garden settlement will spoil it or not is
another matter. You go and paint it before it gets spoilt.

"Strictly between ourselves, I am not quite sure that Sharper and his
wife hit it off. Oh, nothing much. It's just that when he speaks to
her she never answers, and when she speaks to him he never answers. In
fact, if she speaks at all he groans and moves his ears. Charming
woman, very. Quite pretty. There may be nothing in it. I saw no actual
violence. Sharper may merely have been suffering. He wouldn't be happy
if he wasn't. Have a drink. No?"


Halfpenny Hole lay in the bottom of a slope seven miles from
Dilborough. Dilborough was almost the same distance from Halfpenny
Hole. Jawbones was, I think we must say, an old-world house, and had
the date 1623 carved over the doorway. Luke Sharper had carved it
himself. A little further down the road there was--there's no other
word for it--an old-world bridge with--I'm afraid we must have it once
more--an old-world stream running underneath it. It gave one the
impression that it had always been like that. Always the stream under
the bridge. Never the bridge under the stream. But now that the Garden
Settlement had come things might be very different. Houses were going
up; Mr. Doom Dagshaw's Mammoth Circus was going up; even the rates
were going up.

At the end of his honeymoon Luke Sharper went to see a man about a
dog, and left his wife to prepare Jawbones for his accommodation. She
was a good housekeeper, and Luke acknowledged it. Whenever he thought
about her at all, he always added "but she _is_ a good housekeeper."
He was desperately fair.

"This," said Mabel, opening a door, as Luke began his visit of
inspection, "this is your den."

Luke's ears moved. He kissed her twice. "But, you know, I cannot bear
it. There are some words which I am unable to endure, such as
salt-cellar, tuberculosis, tennis-net and den."

"Very well," said Mabel, a little coldly, "we'll call it your cage.
And just look. There is a pair of my father's old slippers that I have
brought for you. Size thirteen. You've got none quite like that, have

He put one arm round her waist.

"Where did you say the dustbin was?" he asked.

"But," she said amazed, "you don't mean to say----Surely you wear

"I never was," he replied firmly. Nor did he.

"And now," said Mabel, "come into the kitchen and see the two maids
that I have engaged. Two nice respectable sisters named Morse--Ellen
Morse and----"

"There isn't an 'l' in Morse," he said gloomily.

"And Kate Morse," Mabel continued.

She opened the door into the spotless kitchen, and the two maids
sprang instantly to attention. One of them was cleaning silver, the
other was still lingering over tea. The first was very long, and the
second very short.

Luke slapped his leg enthusiastically. "Oh, by Jove," he said, "this
is ripping. Morse. Don't you see? Dot and Dash. Dot and Dash."

He howled with laughter. Dash dropped the tea-pot. Dot had hysterics.

"I think," said Mabel, without a smile, "we had better go into the

Everything in the garden was lovely.

"Luke," said Mabel, "I did not quite like what you said in the kitchen
just now. It was just a teeny-weeny----"

"Funny, wasn't it?" said Luke. "You must admit it was funny. Seemed to
come to me all of a flash. I'll bet that nothing more amusing has been
said in this house since the day it was built. Dot and Dash! Dot and
Dash! Oh, help!"

He rolled about the path in uncontrollable laughter.

Mabel looked sadder and sadder. He said that made it all the funnier,
and laughed more.

After dinner he wrote the joke out carefully. It seemed a pity that
_Punch_ should not have it. Mabel yawned, and said she would go up to

"Tired?" asked Luke.

"A little. There's something about you, Luke, that makes one feel
tired. By the way, did you ever know Mr. Mark Sabre?"

"God forbid--I mean, no."

"Well, he called one of his maids High Jinks and the other Low, but it
turned out later in the story that the one that was first Low became
High, while High became Low. I thought I'd just mention it to you as a

"Right-o. I'll be very careful. I may as well come up to bed myself.
The editor of _Punch_ will be a happy man to-morrow morning."

At intervals that night Mabel was awakened by screams of laughter.
Once she enquired what the cause was.

"Dot and Dash," he replied, chuckling. "Too good for words! Oh, can't
you see it?"

"Good-night again," said Mabel.

On the following night, when he returned from business, Mabel met him
in the hall.

"Darling," she said, "we've had trouble with the sink in the

"What did you do about it?"

"I sent for the plumber. He seemed such a nice, intelligent man."

"Have you kept him to dine with us?"

"No. Why on earth should I? He had a glass of beer in the kitchen."

"People dine with me sometimes," said Luke, "who are neither nice nor
intelligent. Oh, can't you see, Mabel, that we are all equal in the
sight of Heaven?"

"Yes," said Mabel, "but you're not in sight of Heaven--not by a long
way. I don't suppose you ever will be. Besides, if he had stayed, the
dinner could not have gone on."

Luke's ears twitched convulsively. "I can't see that," he said. "It is
unthinkable. How can you say that?"

"Well," said Mabel, "one of the vegetables we are to eat to-night
happens to be leeks. And, of course, he, being a plumber, would have
stopped them."

Luke did not swear. He simply went up to his bedroom in silence. There
he began ticking certain subjects off on his finger. Number One, Den.
Number Two, Slippers. Number Three, Dot and Dash. Number Four,
Plumber. She would never see. She would never understand. And he was
married to it. He put up both hands and pushed his ears back into

(I had fully intended to divide this chapter into sections and to
number them in plain figures. Careless of me. Thoughtless. Have a shot
at it in the next chapter? I think so. Yes, almost ...)



Pentlove, Postlethwaite and Sharper occupied a large factory, with
offices and showroom attached, in Dilborough. They had no address.
The name of the firm alone was quite sufficient to find them. Some
people added the word Dilborough; some simply put Surrey; some merely
England. They were known to everybody. Their motto--"Perfect
Purity"--was in every daily paper every day. And during those weeks
when the pickle manufacturing was going on, every little hamlet within
a radius of twenty miles was aware of the fact if the wind set in that

There was no Pentlove in the firm, and no Postlethwaite, and hardly
any Sharper. An ex-schoolmaster, Diggle by name, had secured the
entire control of the business. He had no partners, though Sharper had
a small interest in the firm. He had achieved this position by
unscrupulousness and low cunning. For of real ability he had not a
trace. In fact, the staff mostly called him Cain, because he was not
able. Another point of resemblance was that he was not much of a hand
at a sacrifice. He looked after the financial side of the business,
and did a good deal of general interference in every branch of it.

The manufacturing side was under the control of Arthur Dobson, a
red-faced man who had been with the firm for twenty years. He very
wisely maintained its tradition of the very highest quality coupled
with the very highest prices. "Perfect Purity." It was an admitted
fact that Pentlove, Postlethwaite and Sharper actually used limes in
the manufacture of lime juice. Another startling innovation was the
use of calves' feet in the preparation of calf's-foot jelly. This was
the more extravagant because, of course, only the front feet of the
calf may be used for this purpose. Three back feet make one back-yard.
Naturally the price was ruinous. But it all added to the reputation of
the firm. And the best hotels thought it worth while to advertise that
the pickles and preserves they provided were by Messrs. Pentlove,
Postlethwaite and Sharper. It may be as well to add that Arthur Dobson
was a knave. When he was talking to Cain he always slated Sharper.
When he was talking to Sharper he always slated Cain. His specialty
was the continuous discovery of some cheaper place in which to lunch.
He would ask Luke Sharper to join him in these perilous adventures,
but Luke, in his sunny way, always refused.

"Standoffish," said Dobson. "Damn standoffish."

Luke Sharper represented the literary side of the business. He
wrote all the advertisements. It was a rule of the firm that the
advertisements should be scholarly, and that none should appear which
did not contain at least one quotation from a classical language. Luke
had also initiated the production of various booklets dealing with the
materials and the methods of business. Nominally they were published;
practically they were given away to any considerable purchaser. Some
of these were written by Sharper himself. There was, for example, "The
Romance of the Raspberry," of which the _Dilborough Gazette_ had said:
"An elegant little brochure." This was a great triumph. Even Diggle
had to admit it. He had gone so far as to say that one of these fine
days he would really have to think about making Sharper a partner.
Other of the booklets were written in collaboration. For instance, in
the composition of "Thoughts on Purity," Sharper had the assistance of
the Reverend Noel Atall.

Luke kept a set of these booklets, bound in lilac morocco, in his room
at the office. He loved them. He was proud of them. He regarded them
as his children, and would sit for hours patting them gently. As the
issue of each booklet was limited to one hundred copies, and it was
customary to present one of them with each order of £20 or upwards,
some of them were out of print, and difficult to obtain. This had been
enough to start the collectors. In book catalogues there would
sometimes appear a complete set of the Pentlove, Postlethwaite and
Sharper booklets. And the price asked was gratifying. Luke fainted
with joy the first time he saw this in the catalogue.

At one time he had been in the habit of taking the booklet home in
order to read it aloud to Mabel. He never did it now. It was hopeless.
No insight. No sympathy. No appreciation. No anything. Blind and deaf
to beauty. But she really was a good housekeeper.


Luke bicycled from home to business every morning, and from business
to home every evening. He enjoyed this immensely. Every morning as he
rode off he said to himself: "Further from Mabel. Further and further
from Mabel. Every day, in every way, I'm getting further and further."
On his return journey in the evening he experienced the same relief in
getting further from old Cain, and further from the office.

At the middle point of his journey it always seemed to him that he did
not belong to the office any more, and that he did not belong to Mabel
either. He was all his own, in a world by himself. He would go on in a
snow-white ecstasy. Then he would get up, dust his clothes, and

He had some habits, which, to the stupid and censorious, might almost
seem childish. He cut for himself with his little hatchet a number of
pegs, and always carried some of them in his pocket. At every point on
the road where he fell off, he drove in a peg. It seemed to him a
splendid idea. In a wave of enthusiasm he told Mabel all about it.

"Isn't it absolutely splendid?" he asked.

"Dotty," said Mabel, briefly.

He went out into the woodshed and cut more pegs.

One Monday morning as he started on his ride he saw before him at
intervals all down the road little white specks. Yes, every one of
those pegs had been painted white by somebody.

Who could have done it? He decided at once that it must be Mabel. She
had repented of her harshness. She had made up her mind to try to
enter more into his secret soul. This was her silent way of showing
it. He determined that if this were so he would start kissing her
again that evening. It overcame him completely. He drove in one more
peg, and re-mounted.

"Mabel," he said that night at dinner, "It's good and sweet of you to
have painted all those pegs white. It must have taken you a long

"Never touched your rotten old pegs," said Mabel. "Pass the salt."

His ears twitched.


Later that evening he sat alone in his bedroom. He also used this room
as a study. He had been driven to this somewhat frowsty practice by
the fact that he could not possibly sit in any room that had ever been
called a den.

A tap at the door. Ellen Morse entered to turn the bed down. A bright
idea flashed across Luke's mind. His ears positively jumped.

He believed in liberty, equality and familiarity, especially
familiarity. So did Ellen Morse.

"Dot," he said, "was it you who painted my fall-pegs white?"

"Well, old bean," said Dot, "it was like this. I'll tell you."
She seated herself on the bed. "You see, this house has only got
four reception-rooms and eight bedrooms, and all the washing's done
at home, and all the dressmaking, and there's a good deal of
entertaining, mostly when you're not there, and everything has to be
right up to the mark. Well, as there were the whole two of us to do
it, your old woman thought time would be hanging heavy on our hands,
so now we do the garden as well. The other day Mr. Doom Dagshaw was
lunching here, and they were going to play tennis afterwards. Your bit
of skirt has some proper games with that Dagshaw. I watch them out of
the pantry window in my leisure moments. Well, anyhow, I'd to mark out
the tennis court, and I mixed up a bit more of the stuff than was
needed, and I thought I might as well use it up on your pegs. You see,
I get a half-Sunday off every three months, and it was only a
fourteen-mile walk there and back. And I'm sure I didn't know what
else to do with my holiday."

"Dot," said Luke, "you seem to be able to enter into things. You get
the hang of my ideas. Some do, some don't. If you can sneak off for
half-an-hour to-morrow evening we'll go and play at boats together."


"Yes. You know the bridge. We get two pieces of wood, throw them in
the stream on one side, then run across and watch them come out on the
other. And the one that comes out first, wins. Won't that be

"Well, you are one to think of things," said Dot.

(And now we'll have a little novelty. The Great Novelists of to-day
number their sections. We'll have a number without any section. This
has never been done be----



It can be hardly necessary to say that Mabel caught Luke and Dot
playing boats on the following evening. Luke was always discovered. He
was even detected when he had done nothing.

As he dressed for dinner that night, he reflected that once more Mabel
had disappointed him. He had expected her to get into a fury of
jealousy, and to suspect him of the most criminal intentions with
regard to Dot. This would have been real suffering for him, and he
would have enjoyed it. But all she had said to him was that she wished
he would behave a little more like a man and a little less like a
baby, and an imbecile baby at that. All she had said to Dot was that
she thought she could find her some other occupation. It was difficult
for him to keep his temper. But he exercised self-control. In fact, he
never spoke another word for the rest of the evening. It was a pity.
He was such a pleasant man. Why could not Mabel see it?

Things were no better at breakfast next morning.

Mabel said, "Just fancy, Mrs. Smith in a sable stole at church last
Sunday, and I know for a fact that he only gets three-ten. If it was
real sable it was wicked, and if it was not she was acting a lie."

Luke smote the table once with his clenched fist, spilt his tea, and
resumed his newspaper.

"Further from Mabel," he thought, as he mounted his bike. "Every day,
in every way, I'm getting further and further."

About two miles from Dilborough he became suddenly aware that two
motor-cars were approaching him. They were being driven abreast at
racing speed, and occupied the whole of the road. For one moment Luke
thought of remaining where he was, and causing Mabel to be a widow.
Then, murmuring to himself, "Safety first," he ran up the grassy slope
at the side of the road and fell off. Both the cars pulled up. A man's
voice sang out cheerily: "Hallo, Sharper. Hallo, hallo. Who gave you
leave to dismount?"

Luke recognized the voice. One of the cars was driven by Lord Tyburn,
and the other by his wife, Jona.

Luke hurriedly drove in a peg to mark the spot, and came down into the
road again.

"How's yourself?" said Lord Tyburn. "We've been away for two years.
Timbuctoo, Margate. All over the place. Only got back to Gallows last

Luke shook hands with him and with Jona.

"You've not changed much," said Jona. "Same funny old face."

"It is the only one that I happen to have, Lady Tyburn."

"Oh, drop it. Call me Jona. You always used to, Lukie, you know. And
Bill don't mind; do you, Bill?"

"That? Lord, no. But what you have been and done, Sharper, is to spoil
a very pretty and sporting event. Jona and I were racing to Halfpenny
Hole, and I'd got her absolutely beaten."

"Liar," said Jona, "I was leading--leading by inches."

"Ah, but I'd lots in reserve."

"Strong, silent man, ain't you?" said Jona.

They both laughed.

"Yes," said Luke, "I'm afraid I was rather in the way. I seem to be
almost always in the way. It happens at home. It happens at the
office. I say, I wonder what you two would have done if you'd met a

"Jumped it," said Jona, and laughed again.

"Sorry," said Lord Tyburn, "but I must rush off. I've just spotted my
agent, five fields away. So long, Sharper. Come up and inspect us

He drove the car up the grassy slope, smashed a way through the
hedge--after all, it was his own hedge--and vanished.

"He drives wonderfully," said Luke.

"He's that kind," said Jona. "He does everything well. He does himself
well. Are you glad to see me again, Lukie?"

The tips of his ears crept slowly forward. "I shall have to think for
a long time to know that I really am to see you again."

"'Fraid I can't wait a long time," said Jona. "See you again soon."

She waved her hand to him and drove off.

Luke rode on as if in a dream. Suddenly he became aware that he had
passed the door of his office. He thought of turning round in the
street and riding back, but he had turned round in the street once
before, and a great number of people had been hurt. He dismounted and
walked back.

As his custom was, he knocked at the door of Mr. Diggle's room and
entered. Mr. Diggle, who still retained much of his schoolmaster
manner, sat at his desk with his back to Sharper. He did not look

"That you, Sharper?" he said.

"Yes, sir. Good morning," said Sharper.

Diggle went on writing for a minute in silence, and then said
drearily: "Well, what is it?"

"Please can I have that partnership now?" asked Sharper.

"Not to-day. Don't fidget with your hands. Keep your ears quiet, if
possible. Close the door gently as you go out."

Luke went gloomily back to his own room. He had not done himself
justice. He never did do himself justice with Diggle. Diggle made him
feel as if he were fifteen.

But thoughts of Diggle did not long occupy his mind. Once more he
seemed to be standing in the road, with the warm fragrance of petrol
and lubricating oil playing on his face. Once more he saw her.


Some would have hesitated to call her beautiful. To Luke she was all
the beauty in the world. Concentrated. At one time Jona had had the
chance of marrying him, but apparently she did not know a good thing
when she saw it. Tyburn had the title and the property, and was
better-looking and more amusing, and had stationary ears. But had he
the character of a child martyr? He had not. Now Luke was great at
martyrdom; also at childishness.

For nearly an hour Luke sat with his manuscript before him. He was
writing another elegant little brochure. This one dealt with the
jam-pots of Ancient Assyria. During that hour he did not write one
single word, but thought continuously of Jona.

He pulled himself up abruptly. Why, he was married to Mabel. Of
course, he was. It was just as if he could not trust his memory for
anything these days. He had been rather rude to Mabel at breakfast.
Well, not rude exactly, but not friendly. Mrs. Smith had a sable
stole. He ought to have said something about it. He must try at once
to think of something that would be said about a sable stole.

He must make it up to Mabel in some way. What could he give her? He
could give her more of his society. He would stop work, go back to her
at once, and be just as nice as nice could be.

He put on his hat, and met Diggle in the passage.

"Where are you going?" said Diggle.

"I was going home, sir," said Luke, "I'm not very well this morning."

(For a Christian martyr he certainly did lie like sin.)

"Don't let it occur again," said Diggle.

He encountered Mabel in the hall of his house. She had a letter in her
hand. She seemed surprised to see him, and very far from pleased.

"What in goodness are you here for?" she said. "Forgotten something?"

He set his teeth. In spite of discouragement, he was going to be very
nice indeed.

"I am afraid," he said, "I rather forgot my manners at breakfast this
morning. Sorry."

"I didn't notice they were any worse than usual. You surely didn't
come back to say that?"

"Oh, no. I thought we'd take a holiday together. Like old times, what?
We'll go for a nice long walk, and take a packet of sandwiches

"Oh, don't be silly. I can't possibly go out. Probably Mr. Doom
Dagshaw is coming to lunch."

"He's a damned sweep," said Luke impulsively, and corrected himself.
"I mean to say, he's not a man whose society I'm particularly anxious
to cultivate."

"How was I to know you would come barging in like this? I never wanted
you to meet him."

More self-control needed.

"I shall be perfectly pleasant and chatty to him," said Luke

"This letter's just come for you," said Mabel. "The address is in Lady
Tyburn's handwriting."

He blushed profusely. His ears waved to and fro. Why on earth had not
Jona warned him that this was going to happen?

"Read it," said Mabel.

He glanced through it. It was very brief.

"Well?" asked Mabel.

"It's nothing. Nothing at all."

"I should like to see it, if you don't mind."

She took the letter and read aloud: "Lukie, dear. Just back from two
years' travel. You two might blow in to lunch one day. Any old day.
Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Jona."

"Most extraordinary," said Mabel. "Why does she call you Lukie?"

"Well, damn it all," said Luke, "she couldn't call me lucky. Oh, what
does it matter? We were boy and girl together. Innocent friends of
long standing."

"And what does this mean? Chops and tomato sauce? Chops! Gracious
Heavens! And tomato sauce."

"It's just a joke. Silly, no doubt."

"It might be an allusion to your complexion at the present moment. It
might be a mere substitute for some endearing word or promise,
agreeably to a preconcerted system of correspondence."

He had an uneasy feeling that he had heard or read all this before

"Merely a joke," he pleaded. "And what does it matter?"

"She's a cat, anyhow. She'd better keep off the grass, and I'll tell
her so. What did she say when she saw you this morning?"

"Hardly anything. Her husband was with her. I say, how on earth did
you know?"

"Her husband was not with her when I met her. But do you know what
this sudden return of yours means? This unusual desire to apologize
for your manners, and to take me out for the day? Guilty conscience.
I'm going into the garden to cut flowers for the luncheon table."

"Let me come with you and hold the scissors?"

"If you hold the scissors, how the dickens am I going to cut the
flowers? You're really too trying."

No, it was not going well. More self-control would be needed. A happy
idea struck him.

"Didn't you say that Mrs. Smith had a stable sole--I mean, a sable
stole, in church or somewhere?"

"And you don't try that on either."

"I don't suppose I should look well in it," he said brightly.

He followed her into the garden. The flowers were cut, and
subsequently arranged, in complete silence. He had the feeling that
anything he said might not be taken down, but would certainly be used
in evidence against him.

And then, in the hall, was heard the voice of Mr. Doom Dagshaw, the
proprietor of the Mammoth Circus at the Garden Settlement.

"Lunch ready? So it ought to be. Don't announce me. Waste of time. I
know my way about in this house."

He entered. He was a young man of sulky, somewhat dictatorial
expression. His dress had something of the clerical appearance, an
effect at which he distinctly aimed.

"Hallo," he said, and sat down on the table and yawned. Then he caught
sight of Luke.

"You here?" he said. "What for?"

"Just a little holiday," said Luke nervously, "a little treat for me.
You don't mind?"

Doom Dagshaw did not answer him, but turned to Mabel.

"Lunch is ready," he said, "let's get on to it."

They passed into the dining-room. Luke observing salmon at one end of
the table, and cutlets at the other, asked, with a smile, if those two
sentences generally ran concurrently.

"Oh, hold your jaw," said Dagshaw.

"That's the way to talk to him," said Mabel approvingly.

"Yours, too," Dagshaw added, turning to Mabel. "I'll do any talking
that has to be done. I'm here to talk about my circus. Yes, and to eat
ham. Isn't any? Ought to be. Give me three of those cutlets. You don't
realize what a circus is, you people. It's a church. It's a cathedral.
It's more."

"I hope," said Luke, "that it's getting on nicely, and will be a great

"Bound to be. Can't help it. When I bought the land from the Garden
Settlement Syndicate I made it a condition that there should be a
clause in every lease granted that a year's season ticket should be
taken for the Mammoth Circus."

"I don't quite see," said Mabel, "how it's like a church."

"The circus has a ring. The ring is a circle. The circle is the symbol
of eternity. Will anybody be able to see my highly-trained chimpanzee
in the trapeze act without realizing as he has never realized before,
the meaning of the word uplift? Think of the stars in their program.
And by what strenuous discipline and self-denial they have reached
their high position."

"'Per ardua ad astra,'" quoted Luke.

"Hold your jaw. Three more cutlets. Think of the clowns. They tumble
over, they fall from horses, they fail to jump through the rings. They
are lashed by the whip of the ring-master. What a lesson in reverence
is here. People who jeer, people who make fun, people who parody great
works of fiction always and invariably come to a bad end. It will be
not only a mammoth circus but a moral circus. It will be the greatest
ethical institution in this part of the world. Its work will be more
subtle than that of any other. Its appeal will be to the unconscious
rather than to the conscious mind. Freud never thought of that. I did
it myself. I am a genius. Potatoes."

After lunch it was suggested that Mr. Doom Dagshaw should take Mabel
up to the Garden Settlement to see the progress that was being made in
the building of the Mammoth Circus.

"You won't care to come?" said Mabel to her husband. And it seemed
less like a question than a command.

"No, not in my line," said Luke, still doing his best. "Hope you'll
enjoy yourselves."

When they had gone, Luke retired to his study-bedroom. There was a tap
at the door. It was Dot who entered.

"She's out," said Dot. "Boats?"

"Right-o. Gorgeous," said Luke.

       *       *       *       *       *

Normally dinner was at half-past seven. But Mabel did not get back
till a quarter to eight. It was eight o'clock before they began. Mabel
offered no explanation beyond saying that there really had been a
great deal of architectural detail to examine. Luke had prepared a
series of six pleasant and gratifying things to say about Mr. Doom
Dagshaw and the Mammoth Circus. He found himself absolutely unable to
say any of them. He could say other things. He could say "Windmill,
watermill" ten times over, very quickly, without a mistake. But
somehow he could not say Mammoth Circus.

Well, at any rate, he might be bright and amusing. At this time it was
customary--perhaps too customary--to ask if you had read a certain
book by a certain author, the name of the author being artfully
arranged so as to throw some light on the title of the book. Luke
remembered three of these which had been told him at the office.
Unfortunately they were all of them far too improper for general use.

So he just said any bright thing that came into his mind. Mabel looked
very tired. She admitted she was tired. She said she had walked about
a thousand miles.

"And then I come back to this kind of thing," she said.

The rest of the dinner, which was brief, passed in complete silence.
Then Mabel went into the drawing-room, and Luke remained behind and
lit a cigarette.

"This will never do," he said to himself. "I must keep it up. I must
be pleasant. I must say number one of those six sentences about Doom
Dagshaw and the Mammoth Circus, even it if splits my palate and my
tongue drops out."

He threw down his cigarette, walked firmly into the drawing-room, and
closed the door. "Mabel," he said, "I hope you enjoyed your visit to
the Doom Circus with Mr. Mammoth Dagshaw."

Mabel looked up coldly from the book she was reading.

"Back again already?" she said. "Well, what was it you were saying?"

"I was saying," said Luke gaily, "that I hoped you enjoyed your visit
to the Dammoth Circus with Mr. Dag Moomshaw."

"Port never did agree with you," said Mabel. "You shouldn't take it."
She resumed her book.

Luke tried the second of the pleasant sentences.

"Dagshaw always seems to me to be one of those masterful men who
sooner or later----"

He ducked his head just in time, and the book which Mabel had thrown
knocked over the vase of flowers behind him.

"If you can't let me read in peace," she said, "at any rate, you
shan't sneer at my friends. You're always doing it, and everybody
notices it. I simply can't understand you. You're like nothing on
earth. What have you done with that love-letter of yours?"

"Oh, come," he said, "I've had no love letter."

"You silly liar; I mean the letter from your Lady Tyburn. Have you
been kissing it?"

"Really, Mabel, this is absurd. I might as well ask you if you have
been kissing the Mammoth Circus."

"I'm going to bed," said Mabel abruptly. "I'm absolutely fed up with
you. I'm sick to death of you. I hate you. And I despise you."

She went out and slammed the door violently. Four more vases went
over, and three pictures fell.

Luke went over to the open window and looked out into the cool night.
At the house opposite a girl was singing very beautifully "The End of
a Perfect Day."


As he sat in his office on the following Thursday morning, the whistle
of the speaking-tube sounded shrilly and interrupted him in the act of
composition. He went angrily to the tube.

"What do you want to interrupt me for," he called, "when you know I'm
busy? What the devil do you want, anyway?"

"I want you, Lukie," said a gentle voice in reply.

"Come up at once," he said. "Awfully sorry. Frightfully glad you've
come. If there's a chance of making a mistake within a hundred miles
of me, I seldom miss it."

Lady Tyburn came radiantly into the room, drawing off her gloves.

"Nasty shock for you, isn't it?" she said. She held out both hands to
him. "Will you ... will you help yourself?"

"Thanks," he said, as he clasped them warmly. "I will have some of

After a minute or two she withdrew her hands and sat down.

"Has that dirty dog given you a partnership yet?" she asked.

"Diggle? Not yet. I ask him from time to time. He always seems too
busy to talk about it at any length. It's wonderful to see you here,

"You got my letter?"

"I did. In fact, there was some considerable beano about it at home.
But never mind about that."

"You didn't come to see me, so I was drawn here. Magnet and tin-tack."

He looked at her little white nose. "I see the point," he said.

"Say some more," she said, "I like to hear you talk, Funnyface. Funny
old ears. Funny old cocoanut with, oh, such a lot of milk in it. You
do think a lot of thinky thoughts, don't you. And you put them all
down in those dear little books of yours."

"Not all," said Luke, "I'm limited in my subjects. Jam, you know.
Pickles. Sardines. That hurts--to be limited. I want to be free. Here,
I am imprisoned. I am buried alive. Plunged, still teething, in the

"Still teething? I knew you were young at heart. Still, at the age of

"I had intended to say that I was plunged, still breathing, in the
tomb. I do get carried away so. Sometimes I form plans. I think I will
leave this business and write my biography. It would be a record, not
of the facts that are, but of the facts as I should like them to be."

"Brilliant," said Jona.

"I don't know," said Luke, wagging his ears, "I sometimes doubt
whether I am sufficiently in touch with real life. I must consult
somebody about it."

"Consult me. No, not now. Show me the first of the little books that
you ever wrote."

He handed her the little lilac-bound copy of "The Romance of a
Raspberry." She put it reverently to her lips, patted it gently, and
laid it down again.

"Do you talk it over with Mabel? Isn't Mabel tremendously proud of

"She is tremendously proud, but she has great self-restraint." He
recalled the end of the perfect day. "As a general rule," he added,
"when nothing happens to irritate her."

"Does she love you very much?"

"I don't remember her mentioning anything of the kind recently. But
it's you I want to talk about, Jona. Tell me about your life."

"I don't live. I'm marking time. You throw a brick into the

"No," said Luke, "not a brick. I sometimes play boats."

"I was going to say," Jona continued, "that the brick remains
motionless while the stream goes past it."

"But cannot we apply the principle of relativity here?" he asked. "May
it not be that the stream stands still while the brick goes past it?
It would appear so to the brick."

"That's one of your dinky, thinky thoughts, isn't it?"

A sound of uproar, of crashes and loud voices, came up from the street

"I wonder what that is?" said Luke.

"It's Bill, probably. He said he'd call for me." She crossed over to
the window and looked out. "Yes, that's Bill. Driving the team of
zebras he got from Doom Dagshaw. The horses don't seem to like it.
There's a cart and horse just gone in at that draper's window. Quite a
number of horses seem to have fallen down on the pavement. There's a
policeman with a note-book. He seems to be asking Bill questions. And
Bill's making him laugh. He manages those zebras perfectly. He does
everything well."

Luke had joined her at the window. "Who's the lady sitting beside
him?" he asked.

"One of his harem. Staying with us. Don't pity me. I deserve nothing.
I made a mistake once. Don't ask me what. Don't come down with me.
Good-bye, Lukie, dear."

Luke watched her as she drove off. And then Mr. Diggle entered without

"Who's your lady friend?" said Diggle, snappishly. "I mean the one
that's just gone off in the circus. Simply unendurable. The whole
street outside my business premises in confusion. I opened my window
to look out, and that man pointed me out with his whip and said to the
girl beside him: 'That's our Mr. Diggle. If you like our chutney, try
our cheddar.' I shall go down and speak to the policeman at once. This
sort of thing must be stopped. Come, come, Sharper, give me the name,

"The lady who called to see me," said Luke, "was Lady Tyburn. It was
her husband who was driving the zebras."

"That makes a difference. Our spirited young aristocracy! I understand
that the firm's productions are used exclusively up at Gallows. Glad
you mentioned the name, Sharper."

"And can I have that partnership now?" asked Luke.

"Not immediately. Get on with your work."

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was impossible to work with the image of Jona still in his
mind. He was puzzled. Grasping one ear in each hand he tried to think
it out. What had she meant by "help yourself," and "the magnet and the
tin-tack?" Why had she kissed "The Romance of the Raspberry?" What did
she mean by "I made a mistake?" It almost looked as if ...

No, it could not be that.

Still, really you know, when you came to think about it ...

He walked over to the window once more. In the street below the
policeman was instructing a group of drivers, the draper, and other
persons concerned, that all applications for compensation should be
sent in to Lord Tyburn, and that they would be dealt with strictly in



On his arrival at the office next morning Luke was somewhat surprised
to receive a visit in his office from Mr. Arthur Dobson. Apparently
Mr. Dobson had something on his mind. He wandered about nervously
saying incoherent things about the weather.

"Anything doing?" asked Luke.

"Nothing much. I say, I've found a new place to lunch at. It's run by
an Italian, Malodorato. Quite a little place, in Mud Lane. Still there
it is, you know. Five courses for one and threepence. That takes some

"Stuff must be pretty bad."

"Well, possibly yes. But think what a lot of it you get for your
money. Come and lunch there to-day."

"Thanks. I have promised to go up to Gallows to-day to lunch with the

"You and your aristocratic friends. Well, I could tell you something,
Mr. Sharper. I ought not to. It would have to be distinctly understood
that you don't breathe a word about it to a soul."

"Of course, of course."

"Very well, then. You look at that sheet of office paper. Old Cain has
got his name above the line, and yours and mine beneath it. Well, I
may tell you that in a few days' time the only name below the line
will be your own. I'm being taken into partnership."

"What a damned shame! I mean to say, I congratulate you. That old
blighter has been talking about taking me into partnership for the
last two years. At any rate, I have."

"I only talked to him about it once. You see, I happen to be the only
one of us three that understands the manufacturing side. You've never
been inside the factory in your life. Diggle hardly ever goes, except
to make a fool of himself by some damn silly suggestion. No, he keeps
to the financial side. He's got a whole pack of doubtful financial
dodges, and he'll get seven years for one of them some day. All I did
was to tell Diggle that I was applying for the post of manager in a
certain rival firm, having had twenty years' experience here. And I
asked him if he would give me a testimonial. He said: 'No, but I will
give you a partnership.' You don't seem to get hold of the right way
of doing things, Sharper."

"All the same," said Sharper, "I'm going straight off to Diggle's room
now, and I'm going to give him hell."

"Oh, I say, you can't do that. If he knew I'd told you, there'd be the
very devil of a row."

"Oh, he won't know. I may be a high-minded sufferer, but I'm a very
fair liar as well. I'll put it right for you."

He entered Mr. Diggle's room. Mr. Diggle, seated with his back to him,
continued the letter he was writing.

"Look here," said Sharper impulsively, "what have you been and done
with that partnership of mine?"

"That you, Sharper? Sit down. I shall be a minute or two. I said, sit
down. I did not ask you to twist your feet round the legs of the
chair. Refrain also from waggling your toes violently. It interrupts
my train of thought. Keep the hand still, if you please. Thank you."

There were three minutes of absolute silence during which Diggle, in
the most leisurely way possible, finished and blotted his letter.

"And now, Sharper," said Diggle, "I think you wished to say

"Well, I mean to say, what have you been and done with my

"I was not aware that you had one."

"No, but you promised me. And now you've gone and given it to Dobson."

"I promised you nothing. And that, I think, is what you have got.
Dobson is very gravely in error in telling you anything at all about
it. If you will kindly send him here, I will speak to him on the

"Dobson never said a single word about it. I'll take my Bible oath he
never did. He came into my room and began to speak in rather a
dictatorial way, and I said, 'You might be a partner,' and he

"I do not think so," said Diggle. "Dobson does not blush. If he did
blush it could not show on that complexion."

"But on my word of honor he did. White-faced men blush red. Red-faced
men blush purple. Any man of science will tell you that."

"The appointment of a partnership is entirely within my discretion. It
has nothing to do with you. If you have nothing further to say, I need
not detain you."

"I've a lot more to say, only I can't think of it. I never can. But
it's there. Inside my head. On the letter paper you and he will have
your names above the line, and mine will be below it."

"That merely shows that I know where to draw the line. I wish you

"It's not for myself I mind so much. It's those dear little books of
mine. All bound in lilac morocco. Sitting down. It's just as if they
were slighted. If this kind of thing goes on, I shan't play any more."

"I'm not asking you to. But you can return to your work. And you
remind me. I have had a bill from the binders of those books sent in
to the firm's account. I have explained that this should be charged to
your private account. You will get it in due course. Close the door
quietly, please, as you go out."

On his way back to his own room Luke again encountered Arthur Dobson.

"It's all right," said Luke, "I said you didn't tell me, but had given
it away by blushing when I chanced to speak of it."

"Couldn't you have thought of a better one than that?"

"Oh, it's all right. And I don't mind telling you I've given him a
pretty good dressing-down. I let him have the rough side of my

"Ah," said Dobson, "now that really is something like a lie."

Luke went back to his own room and sat there deep in thought. Why was
everybody so hard and cold? Diggle, Dobson, Mabel--they were all so
cruel and rude to him. Nobody loved him. Except Dot and Dash, and
possibly ...

No, that was not to be thought of.

All the same it reminded him that it was time for him to brush his
hair and wash his little hands, and go up to lunch at Gallows.


It was a large luncheon party, for Gallows was full of guests.
Everybody was very merry and bright, except Luke. Tyburn was specially
elated, for his little drive with the zebras had only cost thirteen
hundred altogether. There had apparently been a terrific rag the night
before. While the guests were at dinner, Tyburn arranged for a number
of wild beasts to be brought up from the Mammoth Circus. One was put
into the bedroom of each guest to greet him or her on going to bed.
No, there had been no real damage done. One of the lions had fainted.
It had been given sal volatile, and had recovered. Only three of the
animals and two of the guests were missing. And one of the guests was
a Bishop who had never been really wanted. Jona told the whole story

Why was it, Luke asked himself, that she was always so merry and
bright with others, and so very different when she was with him? Could
it be that she wore a mask to the rest of the world, and disclosed her
real self only to him? It could. It could also be just the other way
round. That was the annoying part of it.

He was depressed during lunch. The story of Tyburn's practical joke of
the previous evening had upset him. He did not like these practical
jokes. He was nervous. He felt that at any moment, at a preconcerted
signal, the table might blow up, or the ceiling fall down. Everybody
else would laugh, and he would hate it. He seldom laughed at anything
anybody else laughed at, though he enjoyed some little jokes of his
own that nobody else seemed to appreciate. Especially Mabel. She
seemed to be enjoying herself at the other side of the table, laughing
at the stories that Major Capstan was telling her. From the Major's
expression, Luke diagnosed that the stories were not quite--well, not
exactly--oh, you know. Would it be Doom Dagshaw or Major Capstan? Oh,
what was he thinking of?

Why had he not been put next to Jona? Why did the girl on his right,
whom he had never met before, persist in addressing him as Funnyface?
Why is a mouse when it spins? The world was full of conundrums.

In the garden after lunch, Jona came straight up to him.

"We are going to play games," she said.

"What games?"

"Well, this morning we played leap-frog down the stairs. That was a
little idea of Bill's."

Luke had noticed at lunch that two of the guests wore sticking-plaster
on their noses. This explained it.

"I don't think I should like playing leap-frog," he said. "I sometimes
play at boats with Dot."

"We'll play at hide-and-seek," said Jona. "You and I will hide
together. Come along."

They hid in the cool dusk of the tool-shed. Jona sat on the
wheelbarrow and talked, and talked, and talked.

At the end of half-an-hour, Luke had failed to ask her what she had
meant by certain things on the day that she had called at his office.
He made rather a specialty of not being able to say anything that he
particularly wanted to say.

He said: "It's funny they've not found us yet."

"Not so very funny," said Jona. "You see, I forgot to tell any of them
that we were going to play this game. Here's one of the gardeners
coming. Damn. I suppose we'd better join the rest of the crowd."

It was not until Mabel and Luke were leaving that Luke got a chance of
another word with Jona.

"We're leaving for town to-morrow," said Jona. "You'll write and tell
me everything that's in your old head, won't you?"

Luke felt that he ought not to write. Mabel would not like it. It
would be wrong.

"Thanks," he said, "we so seldom have any postage stamps in the house.
And I've lost my Onoto pen, and I sprained my wrist falling off my

"Oh, do write, Lukie dear." She held out her hand to him.

"Good-by," he said, and ran down the steps. At the bottom of the steps
stood the cab, an interesting antique, which was to convey Mabel home.
Mabel and Major Capstan were waiting near the door.

"You only took about twenty minutes saying good-by to Lady Tyburn,"
said Mabel. "I'm giving Major Capstan a lift. If you think it's fair
on the horse to ask it to draw the three of us, get in, of course.
Otherwise, it's beautiful weather for a nice walk."

"I will walk," said Luke. "I prefer it." He wished to be alone.

He sat down on the first milestone in the road, and meditated with his
head in his hands.

Mabel. His wife. He was very good to her. He had been perfectly
faithful to her. And was it worth while? What did she think about him?
How much did she care for him? There were two men after her. He seemed
to visualize the situation as a scrap from the stop-press of a

               1. MABEL.
               2. DOOM.
               3. CAPSTAN.

          Also ran. Luke Sharper, Esq.


He recalled some of the things Jona had said to him in the tool-shed.
She had been rather frank in speaking of her husband.

"Bill's wonderful," she said. "He caught the tiger last night. When
the keeper couldn't get it. He does everything well. He is the most
fascinating man in the world--until you get used to him. I've got used
to him. He fascinates all women. That would not matter so much, but
nearly all women fascinate him. I pretend not to notice it. I think he
does it partly to see how I will take it. I remain merry and bright.
With a breaking heart, you understand. How much longer I shall be able
to stand it, I do not know. Oh, my hands are so cold."

He had noticed a pair of the gardener's gloves lying on the
lawn-mower. He handed them to her. She flung them away, a little
petulantly it seemed to him.

He rose from the milestone and walked on. Certain words seemed to keep
time with his footsteps. "She wants me to write to her. And I ought
not. She wants me to write to her. And I ought not."

He passed the post-office, and turned back to it again. Went on, and
again turned back. This time he entered with his mind all bemused.

"Have you any nice stamps?" he asked.


Mabel looked very enraged as she entered the house. "Anything the
matter?" he enquired.

"Yes. You might not think so. As I do, probably you wouldn't. But
Ellen's got a new parasol, and Kate's got a swollen knee, and has got
to have it up."

"And I suppose it will be just the same with Ellen's parasol. I
suppose you wanted it the other way round--Dot to have the parasol and
Ellen to have the----"

"I wanted nothing of the kind. Why should I want my cook to go
peacocking about with a pink parasol, making a fool of herself, and
bringing disgrace on the house? Why should I want Kate to be
incapacitated from doing her proper work?"

"I think," said Luke, "I must go and see it."

"Go and see Kate's knee? Don't be indelicate."

"No, I meant the parasol. I should imagine that Dot's knee has solely
a pathological interest at present. But I did mean the parasol--I
swear it. How did it come about?"

"Love of finery. Vanity. Passion for wasting her money."

"Oh, this time I meant the knee--not the parasol."

"Well, that was just absolute selfishness. All servants love to get
swollen knees, and chilblains and chapped hands. They like to make a
fuss about themselves. And to make their employer pay a substitute to
do their work. They're all like that. It was just the same before I
married. Yes, every housemaid I employ. Contracts these swollen
kneeses. They only do it to annoy. Because they know it teases."

"But what are you going to do about it? Have you got medical advice?
Do you think a nurse will be needed? When I had the measles the only
things I fancied were----"

"Kate has not got measles. She's got a cold compress, and she's got
the entire contents of the plate-chest to clean. And when she's
finished that, I'll find her something else. If she thinks she can't
work sitting down, she will discover that she is mistaken."

"Wait a minute. I've got a joke. A real one this time. Dot with a
swollen knee. We shall have to call her Dot-and-go-one. See? Well, why
don't you laugh? I must go into the kitchen and tell them at once."

Mabel sighed deeply. There were simply no words for him. He was right
away outside, beyond the limit. In a few minutes he came back again.

"It certainly does look very pink," he said.

"That's the effect of the cold compress. Though why on earth you

"I didn't mean the knee, I meant the parasol. I'll swear I did."

"Well, whatever you meant, I wish you would keep out of the kitchen. I
wish you wouldn't address the servants by nicknames. I wish you
wouldn't be so abominably familiar with them."

"Familiar? Well, hang it all, when a poor girl's got a swollen knee
it's unfriendly not to show a little sympathy. It does no harm. I just
chatted her on the peak----"


"As I said, I just patted her on the cheek, and asked her how she was
getting on. No harm in that."

"And now perhaps you'll tell me what on earth I'm to do for a
substitute. I don't know of a single girl in this neighborhood who
could come in and help."

"I have it. I can save the situation. I have an idea. On the 16th
inst., at Jawbones, Halfpenny Hole, Surrey, Mr. Luke Sharper, of an
idea. Both doing well."

"Would you mind telling me what you are talking about?"

"I'm talking about old Vessunt. He's a foreman. Up at the factory.
Fine old chap. Religious but quite honest. He's got a daughter, Effie.
Very superior girl. And she's looking for a job. I can get her for you
to-morrow morning. Effie Vessunt. Rather bright and sparkling, what?"

"At any rate, I can see her."

"You can, even with the naked eye. But I say, you know, she really is
rather superior. She'll have to have her meals with us."

"If I engage her, she will feed in the kitchen."

"Mabel, must you always disagree with me? Have you no spirit of
compromise? Can't you meet me half way in a little thing like this?"

"If I met you half way the girl would have her meals in the passage.
And I don't suppose she'd like it, and anyhow she'd be in everybody's

"And this when I've just been of real use to you."

"So you ought to be. You were indirectly responsible for the accident
that gave Kate the swollen knee. It was your wretched old push-bike
that she fell over."

Luke wagged his ears. "Indirectly," he said. "There are many of us in
it indirectly. Dunlop, for instance. Niggers in a rubber plantation.
Factories in Coventry. A retail shop in High Holborn. And me. All
working together. Combining and elaborating in order to give Dot a
nasty one on the knee-cap. It's rather a great thought when you come
to think it out that way."

"I can't see why you want to ride that old job-lot of scrap-iron at
all. You might just as well go by train, now that the new line is
opened. All my friends do it. Why can't you go by train?"

"I believe I know the answer to that one. Don't tell me. I'll go
upstairs and think it out."

He went up to the frowsty study-bedroom, and sat down at his table.
Mechanically he drew from his pocket the sheet of thirty stamps with
which, after a few disparaging remarks, the lady at the post-office
had supplied him. He spread them out before him. Thirty stamps. Thirty
letters to Jona. He felt inclined to kiss every one of them.

He did not do so. He reflected that in the ordinary course of affixing
them to the envelope he would put them to his lips in any case. It was
not sense to do the same piece of work twice over.


Should he, or shouldn't he? He knew that he shouldn't. Mabel would not
like it. He ought to put Jona out of his mind, and to burn those
stamps. But that was not economical. It was possible to have thirty
stamps, and yet to avoid writing thirty love-letters to Jona. He
folded them up and put them back in his pocket.

What was it he had come up to do? He remembered. Mabel had asked him a
question. He ran downstairs and rejoined her.

"Because of the season ticket," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you asked me why I couldn't go by train. I could get a season
ticket, but I should lose it the first day. Then they fine you forty
shillings, and make you buy another. And that would go on, and on, and
on until I was bankrupt and a beggar. And we should have to go down
the High Street together, singing hymns. And you never did have any
voice, and----"

"Oh, that'll do," said Mabel, wearily.

"Look here," he said, brightly, "I've brought you a present, Mabel. I
think you will find these useful."

He produced the postage stamps from his pocket.

"Just a few stamps," he said.

"All right," said Mabel, not taking them. "Stick them down anywhere."

"They should be stuck down in the top right-hand corner," he said;
"but I leave it all entirely to you."

He went out. She had not even thanked him.


Effie Vessunt remained at Jawbones for a fortnight. At the end of that
time Dot's knee had, so to speak, submitted and returned to barracks,
and she could resume her ordinary work. Effie went to Bournemouth,
where she took a position as kennel maid.

Luke heard nothing from Jona. Occasionally he saw her name in the
newspaper as one of those present at some social function. Twice he
read that her husband had been fined for being drunk while driving a
motor-car. Beyond this, nothing. Luke adhered to his resolution. He
never sent her a letter. He wrote one. It was a long and passionate
letter, full of poetry and beauty. But he never posted it.

He made a paper boat of it. And launched it on that old-world stream.
It floated away under the bridge, and on and on for nearly twenty
yards. Then an old-world cow came down to the edge of the stream and
ate it. The cow died.

And so the months passed away. He completed another little monograph
for the firm entitled "Pulp," of which he said beautifully that it was
the beginning of all jam and the end of all books. Then he remembered
that Jona had rather seemed to encourage him in his idea of writing
his biography. He planned it all out in his mind. He pictured himself
wrongly suspected, loathed by everybody (except Jona), suffering
horribly, terribly ill. He thoroughly enjoyed it.

He enjoyed it so much that he felt he had to tell Mabel about it. He

"Mabel," he said, "have you ever realized that under certain
circumstances the most awful things would happen to me that ever
befell the hero of a melodrama? Just take the train of events. Effie
has an illegitimate child. She writes and tells you about it."

"But she wouldn't," said Mabel. "She was with me for a fortnight, and
I always kept her in her place."

"Well, she refuses to say who the father is."

"Why?" asked Mabel.

"Because the story can't possibly go on if she doesn't. Please don't
interrupt me again until I've finished. Effie has no money. She goes
to see her father, who will take her in, but not the child. It's an
accepted convention that the unmarried mother must be parted from her
child. So Effie and the baby turn up here. I say that they shall stay.
You say that in that case you'll go, which you do, having previously
dismissed Dot and Dash. In consequence, everybody in this neighborhood
cuts me, I am turned out of my business, and as the dates agree, I am
believed to be the father of the child. Effie has the housework to do
as well as the baby to look after, and in consequence, I am horribly
neglected. The handle of the front door is not polished, and when an
old friend comes down from London to see me, I have nothing to give
him for lunch except cold meat and a fruit tart that is no longer in
its first youth. So I take a week-end at Brighton without Effie. She
cleans my straw hat with oxalic acid, which I have bought for her. I
throw away the hat and buy another. While I am at Brighton she kills
herself and the baby with what is left of the oxalic acid. At the
inquest I am unable to say anything except 'Look here,' am severely
censured by the coroner's jury, and nearly lynched by the crowd
outside. I go back to the house and find a letter on the clock, which
entirely clears me and tells me that the father of the child is the
son of Dobson, the dirty dog who sneaked my partnership. So I go to
see Dobson and find that he has just got the news that his son is
dead. I therefore burn Effie's letter so as to get the sole evidence
of my innocence out of the way, and then have a hæmorrhage of the
brain. And you divorce me, and then----"

"Look here, Luke, you'd better go and lie down for a little. You've
been bicycling in the sun, you know."

"What do you mean? Wouldn't it happen so? Isn't it all absolutely

"Not absolutely," said Mabel. "The previous knowledge that one has of
you would go for something. There was never any sign of an attachment
of that kind between you and Effie. If you had been the father of the
child you would most certainly not have left her alone, without any
provision, at the time the child was born. I should be quite certain
of that. So would the two maids here. Effie would apply to young
Dobson, and failing him, to old Dobson. This is about the last house
to which she would come. Her instinct would be to keep away from the
neighborhood where she was known. If her own father agreed to take her
in, it's almost certain that he would take the baby as well. Your
ideas about that convention are exaggerated, and old-fashioned. If she
did come here, and you insisted on her staying, I should put up with
it, though I should not like it, until some arrangement could be made
for her to go elsewhere with her child. And that arrangement could be
made easily and quickly. I do not see why I should dismiss the maids,
and if I did they are paid with your money, and are much more devoted
to you than they are to me. You would only have to speak and they
would remain. No seducer would bring his victim and her child to the
house where his wife was living. You would be thought quixotic but not
guilty. If Effie saw that you were cut by everybody and that she had
brought trouble on you, she would be particularly careful not to cause
more serious trouble for you by committing suicide. And if she
committed suicide, she would not implicate you in it by making you buy
the poison. She would neither make fruit tart, nor clean a straw hat,
because she simply would not have the time. You don't know much about
young babies, do you? I should not divorce you, and should have no
evidence on which I could get a divorce. In fact, the whole thing's
skittles. By the way, when did Effie have her baby?"

"She never did," said Luke despondently. "That's always the way.
Whenever I make a beautiful thing, some cow always gets it. It's
happened before. If I wrote my beautiful biography, some cow would
parody it. The world's full of cows."

"Well, I'm sorry, of course," said Mabel. "You can do most incredibly
foolish things. You do frequently fail to say what you should say. But
even with those advantages, I doubt if it would be possible for you to
incur so much suffering and suspicion as you describe. I shall have to
think out some other little martyrdom for you."



Looking out of his window at the office in the afternoon, Luke Sharper
saw a motor-car stop in front of the draper's opposite. Lady Tyburn
got out and entered the shop. So she was back.

Putting on his hat, so far as his agitated ears would permit, Luke
rushed out into the street, crossed the road, and met her as she came

"Jona," he panted.

"Lukie, at last," she gasped.

"You were not long in the shop!"

"Just the same length that I am outside. I have been there three times
to-day. Standing there, looking up at your window. Every time I bought
a yard of elastic. Do you want any elastic?"

"No, thank you. Will you have a cup of tea?"

Emotion would not permit her to speak. But she nodded and got into the
car. He followed her. On the way to the confectioner's neither of them
spoke a word.

At the tea-room the following conversation took place: "Tea?"








And then they sat and gazed at one another, slowly champing buns in
which they took no interest whatever. After twenty minutes Lady Tyburn
said: "My chauffeur has had no tea. He must drive to Gallows and have
tea at once. Will you come too?"

"As far as the gates," he said. "I'll walk back. I'm not coming in."

"Do," she said. "Bill has borrowed a panther from the Mammoth Circus,
and they're having larks with it in the billiard-room."

Luke shook his head. "I don't like panthers," he said wearily. "I
don't like anything much. Mabel looks like a panther sometimes."

During the twenty minutes' drive up to Gallows neither of them spoke.

When they reached the gate, Jona said: "Better come up to the house
and finish our talk."

"No," said Luke; "stay here a little. There's something I must say to
you. I've been trying to say it for the last hour. It gets stuck. I
shall pull it out somehow."

Lady Tyburn sent the car away, and they sat down on the trunk of a
fallen tree. He sat on one side, and she on the other, back to back.
They could not bear to look one another in the face. Presently she

"You're trembling, Lukie. I can feel it. Trembling. Like a jelly."

"You're another," said Luke. "Oh, Jona. There's something I've been
trying to ask you for the last ten months, and perhaps there will
never be another opportunity. Do you remember when you came to my

She drove her elbow lightly into his ribs. It seemed to him to signify
she did remember.

"There were things you said--'Will you help yourself,' with your hands
out--'magnet and tin-tack'--'I made a mistake once.' You said those
things, Jona."

"What a memory the young man has got," said Jona, wistfully.

"Yes, but what did you mean?"

"Well, they were what is called conversation. You talk too, you know,

"But that doesn't tell me what you meant."

"They meant," she said in a plain, matter-of-fact way, "that I ought
not to have married Bill. I ought to have married you, Lukie. My
mistake entirely. Don't apologize."

She jerked herself backward, and he fell off the tree. He lay on the
grass moaning. "O crikey! O crikey! O crikey, crikey, crikey!"


He got up slowly. He was entirely covered with small pieces of dried
grass. Jona came round the end of the tree and began picking pieces of
grass off him.

"You're in a mess," she said.

"We're both in a mess," he said. "Right in. Up to the neck."

"I don't know how much longer I shall be able to stand it," said Jona.
"In London it was actresses. Down here it's ladies from the Mammoth
Circus. We have three equestriennes and a tight-rope dancer staying
with us, and he makes love to them all. He's not been sober--not
noticeably--for the last six weeks. I still keep up the bright
badinage, but it sometimes seems artificial. It's wearing thin.
Everything's wearing thin. Very thin. Oh Lukie!"

"Listen," said Luke resolutely. "I'm going to be noble. This is little
Lukie, underneath his straw hat, being noble. Some men would confess
their love for you. They would pour out in words the passion that was
consuming them. I shall not. In fact, you'll have to guess. Only, if
the time ever does come that you simply cannot stand it any longer,
apply to me. Applications should be sent to the office address in care
of Mabel. Write distinctly. Good-by, Jona."

He tore himself from her, and reeled away, not knowing what direction
he was taking.

After an hour he found himself standing in front of his own office.
It was just as well. He had left his bicycle there.

Diggle came down the stairs into the street, and Luke walked up to him
at once: "Can I have that partnership now?" said Luke.

Diggle glanced at his watch.

"Applications of this kind," he said, "should be made in office hours.
It is now after six. Good evening, Mr. Sharper."

Mechanically, automatically, not knowing what he did, Luke prepared
for his ride home to Jawbones. Then he became aware that he was
pushing something along on the pavement. What was it? It was a
bicycle. He pushed it into a policeman. The policeman asked him to
take it into the road.

He walked along in the road now, still wheeling his bicycle, and
looking all around him.

What a lot of shops seemed to be selling brooms. Yes, and soap. Long
bars of yellow soap. There were big advertisements on the boardings.
He read them aloud: "WASHO. WORKS BY ITSELF."

TRICK." There was a picture of a beautiful lady using Pingo, her face
expressing rapture.

What did it all mean?

He did not know. But it meant that spring was coming. Spring, with its
daffodils, its pretty little birds and all the other things.

He mounted and rode away. A meaningless string of words seemed to
circle round and round in his brain.

"Jona. Washo. Crikey."

At dinner that night, Mabel said: "We shall begin our spring-cleaning
to-morrow. I intend that it shall be done particularly thoroughly this
year. It will take some weeks and will probably cause you
inconvenience. But you like suffering, don't you?"

"Spring," said Luke, thoughtfully. "Not all daffodils. No."


A little later Mr. Alfred Jingle, solicitor, talking to his friend the
artist, may be permitted to throw some light on events.

"Saw Sharper yesterday. Don't like it. Awful. Went to his house. What?
Yes, looking for lunch. Brass knob on the front door blazing fit to
blind you. No curtains at any of the windows. Sound like a carpet
being beaten from the garden at the back. Sharper himself leaning out
of upstairs window. Face ashen grey. Ears twitching. 'Don't come in,'
he calls out, 'I'll come down. Lunch in Dilborough.'

"Terrific noise of Sharper falling downstairs. Out he comes, rubbing
knee. Hat bashed in.

"'Had a little accident,' he says. 'They took out the stair rods.
Carpet loose. We'll go in by train. Wouldn't ask you to lunch here.
Had dinner in the bath-room last night. Mabel's got her head in a

"I asked him what was the matter. And if he spent the entire day
leaning out of that window.

"'Yes, Jingle,' he said. 'I have to lean out. Do you know the smell of
size? They use it a good deal in spring-cleaning. It's like glue and
decayed fish. House is full of it. It hurts. Horribly. Damnably. I'm
glad you've come, Jingle. I was to have had lunch in the housemaid's
cupboard. But Mabel is an excellent housekeeper. Thorough.'

"Tried to cheer him up. Told him it would soon be over. And Summer
would come.

"'Ah,' he said, 'but if Summer don't! Size and spring-cleaning for
ever and ever. Do you believe in eternal punishment?'

"Lunched at the 'Crown.' Stuffed a whiskey into him. Had six myself.
No good. Said the cold beef tasted of size. Tried to switch him off;
on to politics. Hadn't anything to say on that subject, because there
was no room in his house in which there was enough space left to open
a paper.

"'Everything's put where everything else ought to be,' he said. 'Place
for everything, and my foot in a pail of soapsuds. Did you know that
Washo worked by itself? Have you tried Pingo for the paint? These
pickles taste of Pingo. Had to do the walls of my study-room with it.
Mabel made me. She's an excellent housekeeper. But the world does seem
to be entirely filled with dust, and the smell of decayed fish, don't
you think?'

"Cheerful talk for a luncheon party, wasn't it? That man's on the
verge of a breakdown. Don't like it at all. That wife of his is
overdoing it. Shall look him up again next week. His mind's not right.
He forgot to pay for the lunch. I suggested that I should do it, and
he let me. Something seriously wrong there. Seriously. Have a drink."


Three days later Mr. Alfred Jingle resumed the subject.

"I told you things were bad with Sharper. They're worse. Much. I was
there this morning. Enquired at his business place. They said their
Mr. Sharper had gone out. Took a cab to Halfpenny Hole. Halfway there
spotted Sharper sitting on a bank by the roadside with his bicycle
beside him. Face like a tortured hyena. I got out and asked him what
he was doing there.

"'Nowhere else to go,' he said. 'Spring-cleaning at home. And now
they've started spring-cleaning at the office. All my dear little
children piled up on the floor in the dust.'

"Told him I didn't know he had a family.

"'I mean my books. Lilac morocco. At my own expense. The firm wouldn't
stick it. Decorators were sending out for more size when I left. I
can't go back there. Even if there were no spring-cleaning I couldn't
go to Jawbones. Mabel gave me a list of things to buy in Dilborough.
Glass soap and soft paper. I mean soft soap and glass paper. Lots of
other things. I've forgotten to get any of them. All I can do is to
sit here until the world comes to an end.'

"Well, I shoved him into my cab, and drove back to the 'Crown' at
Dilborough. On the way I tried to buck him up a bit, but it was no
use. He was absolutely broken-down. I asked him whose turn it was to
pay for lunch, and he said he thought it was mine. Memory going. Well,
I stuffed a drink into him and took nine myself. I can tell you I
needed them. Then I got him to go back to business. Said he must save
those lilac-bound children of his. Bright idea, what? Then I told him
he could buy the things for his wife afterwards. He went like a lamb,
too broken to resist. I confess I am worried about him. I must try to
see him again if


a chance of doing so."

(And that shows you again, how the number of a chapter-section may be
used economically.)


Luke knocked at the door of Mr. Diggle's room, and entered.

"I'm back," he said. "Been lunching with a man. Can I have a

"Not to-day, Mr. Sharper," said Diggle. "You should be more
reasonable. The whole office is more or less disorganized by the
spring-cleaning. It seems to me that you try to make more trouble. You
go out a great deal for a business man."

"I have to. Things for my wife, you know. Soft glass and paper soap.
Things of that kind."

"I don't wish to hear about it. They will not be actually beginning on
your room till Monday. It may be in some slight disorder, but that
need not prevent you from going back there and getting on with your
work. You have to write that full-page advertisement for the _'Church
Times'_, you remember."

He went on to his own room. He picked up the little booklets from the
floor, dusted each one carefully, and wrapped it in white paper. As he
was finishing the last a letter was brought in to him. The messenger
was waiting for an answer. It was in Jona's handwriting.

"Darling Lukie," she wrote, "I can bear it no more. Take me away,
please. Shall I come along to your office, or will you call for the
goods? Jona."

He collapsed in a chair, his head buried in his hands.

Half-an-hour later the clerk came in to say that the messenger was
still waiting.

"Sit down," said Luke.

The clerk sat down for half-an-hour. Luke still meditated. Then the
office boy came in to fetch the clerk. It was necessary to do
something, to decide at once. His promise to Mabel had been quite
definite. He would bring back the spring-cleaning requisites on his
bicycle that evening. There had been a sardonic cruelty in sending him
to purchase the materials for his own torture. Still, he had promised.

Drawing a sheet of the firm's paper with the memo. head on it towards
him, he wrote as follows:

"Jona: I can't get away to elope with you to-day. My wife won't let
me. If you are still of the same mind on Saturday, the train I shall
take for Brighton leaves Victoria at eleven."

He sent the letter down to the messenger, and then Diggle entered.

"Do you want to see me about the partnership?" said Sharper.

"No. I wanted to see you about the full-page advertisement for the
_'Church Times.'_ Have you written it?"

"I've not, so to speak, written it."

"Well, Sharper, I've been talking to Dobson about you. I don't want to
hurt your feelings, but our office space here is very limited. We are
of the opinion that perhaps the amount of room you occupy here is
intrinsically of more value than any services which you render to the
business, or even the pleasure that your society naturally gives us. I
don't know if you take my meaning."

"Do you want to turn me out?" said Sharper.

"Don't put it like that. You don't seem to know anything about
business. You never do any work. You're playing about with Lady Tyburn
in a way that'll bring scandal on the firm. But we don't want to turn
you out. We don't want to do anything harsh. All we say is that we
think it would be better for all concerned if you don't come here
again. I think that will be all. Good evening, Mr. Sharper."

Luke went out and purchased the articles Mabel had asked him to buy.
He then went to four different chemists, and at each one purchased a
little oxalic acid, saying in each case that he wanted it to clean a
straw hat.

With his bicycle laden considerably above the Plimsoll mark, he
pedalled wearily homewards. He only fell off once, and it was a pity
that this broke the bottle of turpentine, for he happened to be
carrying it in the inside pocket of his coat.



"We shall dine in the kitchen," said Mabel. "The dining-room and
drawing-room are finished, but I am keeping them locked up until the
workmen are out of the house, and all the mess is cleared away."

"You are an excellent housekeeper," said Luke. "Won't it be jolly to
dine in the kitchen with Dot and Dash?"

"Ellen will sit in the garden while we are at dinner. Kate will wait
on us as usual. I am sorry to say that a workman spilt a pail of
whitewash in your room. Most of it went over your books. After dinner
we will sit in the den."

"Mabel," said Luke, "when I told you of the suffering that would
happen to me in consequence of Effie having the illegitimate child,
which she never did, you said that it was all impossible. Part of it
has come true. They don't want me to go to the business any more, and
they've said so."

"Have they?" said Mabel. "Of course I knew they would. I've been
expecting it for some time past. You see, you're not fitted for
business. I don't know that you're particularly fitted for anything.
Well, when you talked to me about that Effie nonsense, I told you I'd
arrange a little martyrdom for you if I could. Haven't I done it?"

"You have. In the interest of my sanity----"

"In the interests of your what?"

"In the interests of my sanity I shall go to Brighton for the

"Do," said Mabel. "You're terribly in the way here. It's about the
first sensible idea you've had for this last year."

By half-past ten next morning he was on the platform at Victoria
station. Would Jona be there?

Apparently not. He caught a distant glimpse of Lord Tyburn, but it was
not with him that he was proposing to elope. Besides, Tyburn was
accompanied by a somewhat highly painted and decorated young lady.
Luke waited till the last moment, and waited in vain. He stepped into
the train just as it was moving off.


At this point we will ask our Mr. Alfred Jingle to oblige again.

"Tell you what," he said to his artist friend. "I was wrong about
Sharper again. I thought he'd reached the limit of human mess and
martyrdom. He hadn't. He'd not got within a street of it. He's there
now. Right up to the limit and leaning over the edge.

"Down at Brighton this week-end with my old missus. Sitting out on
the pier. Sunday morning. Listening to the band. Overture to 'William
Tell.' Always is. Whenever I strike a band, it's 'William Tell' or
'Zampa.' Every time.

"Suddenly the missus says to me, 'Who's that old chap over there with
a face like a turnip?'

"I looked up. It was Luke Sharper. Looking ghastly. His hair was grey.
His face was grey. Even his flannel trousers were grey. All grey and
worn. I don't mean the trousers particularly. General effect, you
know. Ears drooping down with no life or motion in them. I went up to
him and asked him what brought him down to Brighton.

"'Go away,' he said. 'I'm a leper. I'm an outcast. I'm a pariah dog.
Go before I bring misery on you.'

"I told him I'd chance it, and asked him again what he was doing at

"'I've eloped,' he said.

"'With whom?' I asked.

"'Nobody. She never turned up. That's not my fault. In the sight of
Heaven we are all equal, and I'm an eloper. I'm a faithless hound.
That's not all, Jingle. They've thrown me out of the business. And
that's not all. I bought four packets of oxalic acid. I've put them
down where Mabel is bound to see them. There's one on her pillow, one
on the clock, one on the piano, and one on the mantelpiece. You see?
I'm a murderer. Mabel will take the hint, and will commit suicide.
That will upset Dot and Dash, and they will commit suicide too. I
only hope the man who spilt whitewash over my bookcase will commit
suicide as well. Don't come and see me in the condemned cell. I don't
want to see anybody any more. That's why I'm sitting on Brighton pier
on a warm Sunday morning.'

"'You've got this wrong, Sharper,' I said. 'I know your wife. She
won't commit suicide because you've gone. She possibly might have done
it if you had stopped. So your maids won't be upset, and they won't
commit suicide either. And the painter's man who spilt the whitewash
over your books will be enjoying the joke over his Sunday dinner.
You're no good at the leper-and-pariah business. Come over and be
introduced to my missus.'

"'What you say might be true if I were a real man, but I have horrible
doubts. I don't feel like a real man.'

"'Come off it,' I said. 'What do you feel like, then?'

"'I feel like a lot of tripe out of some damn-silly book.'

"Well, I took him over to the missus, and she got on the buzz. She's
an energetic talkist. He never got time to say he was a leper once.
Then some pals of hers came up to talk to her, and he and I escaped. I
asked him what he was going to do. He said he was going back to
Halfpenny Hole directly, in order to save the coroner's officer the
trouble of fetching him. Then he asked me to have a drink. We had
three each. He rushed off to the station, and left me to pay. A man in
that state is not fit to be alone. And it's not too safe for anybody
who happens to be with him. I let him go."


It was half-past five when Luke got back to Jawbones again. He rang
the bell. As the door was not opened, he rang again.

Then from the garden behind the house he heard the sound of voices and
laughter. He recognized the laugh. It was Dot's. It was a full-bodied,
fruity laugh. Luke walked round the house and into the garden to see
what was happening.

On the lawn sat Dot, Dash, and the first and second footmen from
Gallows. A table showed that tea, including bottled beer, had been
served with some profusion. But the banquet was over and all four
reclined in deck-chairs, smoking cigarettes.

Luke stared at them blankly. "Afraid I'm rather interrupting," he

"Well, old bean," said Dot. "You do come as a bit of a surprise. We'd
not expected you before Tuesday. But our two gentlemen friends--Albert
and Hector--I think you've met them--have to be back at their job at
six. So we shan't keep you long. The kitchen door's open if you care
to slip into the house and wait."

Luke's powerful mind made a rapid deduction. This could never have
happened if Mabel had not been powerless to prevent it. So Mabel must
have ... Yes, the oxalic acid.

"Can you tell me," he said in sepulchral tones, "where I shall find
the body of my poor wife?"

"Afraid I can't," said Dot. Her laughter jarred on him.

"Let us," he said, "be reverent. When did she die?"

Here Dash, under the pink parasol, broke in, "But she's alive. And
I'll bet she's a good deal livelier than she's been for years past. I
helped her pack, and it was some trousseau. The old girl's done a
bunk. See? Skipped it with a gentleman friend of hers."

"You might have mentioned that before," said Luke, aggrieved. "I quite
thought that something was the matter."

"Well, she's left a letter for you in your almost-silver cigarette
case. You'll find it in the bath-room, balanced on the hot-water tap.
You run along and read it. You're the least little bit in the way at
this tea party."


Seated on the edge of the bath, Luke read as follows:

"You could always see every point of view except one, and that was
your wife's.

"Once or twice the sting of your jelly-fish of a conscience made you
try to be nice to me. There are words and acts from a man to a woman
which may be lovely to the woman if they come spontaneously and
naturally. If they are produced as by a force-pump, they are an
insult. If you tried to hide the pump, it was a poor effort.

"When you took up with that Tyburn minx, I thought that you had
realized the situation, that you saw that I found life with you
detestable and intolerable, and that you meant to give me a chance to
divorce you. I employed a private detective with what I had saved out
of the house-money, and had you watched. The detective reported that
there was nothing good enough--or bad enough----for the High Court,
and that the woman seemed to be doing most of the work.

"So as the mixture of cowardice and selfishness which you call your
conscience would not let you give me a chance to divorce you, I
determined to make you divorce me. The first thing to do was to get
you out of the way. It is so trying and undignified to elope if a
husband is looking on, and possibly interfering. So I adopted a system
of intensive spring-cleaning. I don't think I left out anything which
could inconvenience and annoy you. It went on and on. No house has
been spring-cleaned like this since the world began. I fancy it was
the whitewash over your books that finally shunted you. You left in
the early morning. I packed at leisure and left in the evening, taking
with me a gentleman who financed that great success, Doom Dagshaw's
Mammoth Circus.

"As he is not in the book, I may mention that he is a Mr. Nathan
Samuel. But no matter. A nose by any other name would smell as
efficiently. He is a true Christian with no fault except his love for

"The necessary particulars will be sent to your solicitors, and I hope
you will then get busy.

"Ta-ta, old crock. Yours, Mabel.

"P.S.--You shouldn't leave oxalic acid about like that. Don't you know
it's a poison? I've hidden it underneath your dress-shirts, in case of

Luke put the letter down. There was a step outside the door and Dot

"Thought I should find you here," said Dot. "Everything all right?"

"Couldn't be better. But why did she leave the letter on the hot-water

"Oh, that was just a little joke of hers. She said you always got into
any hot water that might be going about, and so you'd be sure to find
it there."

"Do you see what this means, Dot? It means that in future we can play
at boats without any fear of interruption."

"M'yes," said Dot. "It's not the very devil of a game, is it? Been
over the house yet? I must say it does look nice, now all the cleaning
and decorating's finished. Albert and Hector both noticed it."

"Yes, very nice. I suppose you and Dash would like to be getting
dinner for me."

"That's what we're panting after. But it can't be done, because
there's nothing to eat. At least, there's nothing for you. Besides,
after this afternoon we are both emotionally worn-out. And that's not
all. Albert and Hector brought us a bit of news from Gallows. Just you
take my tip and ask no questions. You take the train into Dilborough
and dine at the 'Crown.' You might--I don't say you will, but you
might--get a bit of a surprise. If you hurry you'll catch the 7.5."

Luke thrust his wife's letter into his pocket, and hurried.


"No," said the sad-eyed waiter, in reply to Luke's enquiry. "No, we do
not serve the dinner on Sunday night. In Dilborough Sunday night,
there is what you call, nothing doing. You can have a nice chop."

"I hate chops," said Luke moodily. "All right, get me a chop."

"The lady who stay here, she have a chop too. She also say she hate
chops. You have to wait a little time perhaps, because the chef is out
Sunday evening. You wait in the drawing-room. It is very nice. Very
comfortable. There is a newspaper of last Friday evening."

Luke submitted and entered the fly-haunted drawing-room. He sat down
with his head in his hands. Mabel's letter had been characteristically
unlike her. Her letters were never in the least bit like herself. That
was perhaps their only attraction. It was only in the postscript that
he seemed actually to hear her speak.

"Poor Nathan Samuel!" he said to himself. "Poor Moses Nathan Modecai

The door opened and Jona came in, clad in a betrayed-heroine tea-gown.
She looked beautiful but tragic.

"Jona," he cried, springing to his feet.

She shrank back, covering her face with her hands.

"Don't speak to me," she said. "Don't come near me. I'm a leper, a
pariah, and an outcast."

"Oh, look here, hang it all, you can't, you know. That's mine. If
there's any lepering to be done, I do that. Outcast? How do you mean

"Haven't you heard?" she said.

"No," said Luke. "Come and sit on my knee, and tell me all your

"I oughtn't," she said, but she did.

"You didn't turn up at Victoria yesterday. Couldn't you leave your

"I couldn't," she said. "I couldn't, because I've not got a husband.
And have never had a husband. One of Bill's previous wives started to
make a fuss, and he made a clean breast of it to me. He'd married in
two different names before he married me, and both wives are still
living. He went to Brighton on Saturday to marry one more. Because he
wants to get his picture, as the peer convicted of trigamy, on the
back page of the '_Daily Mail_,' with the fourth wife inset. So you
see what has happened. It was my fault, but that's how I come to be
in the pariah class. Can you bear me any longer?"

"Yes," said Luke, "you're not heavy."

And then the sad-eyed waiter came in without knocking, and they broke

"I beg pardon," said the waiter. "Perhaps I interrupt a little. I come
to say the chops is ready. Shall I put the two places close together?"

"Very close together," said Luke.


They entered the dining-room.

"You needn't remain," said Luke to the waiter. "We'll help ourselves."

"Ver' good," said the waiter. "I understand. I am since three years of
experience in the week-end business. I come when you ring--not

Luke and Jona talked together earnestly for an hour. Then they
remembered they had been intending to dine. Luke removed the cover
from the dish and looked at two large melancholy chops, frozen hard.

"Can we?" said Luke.

"Not in this life," said Jona. "Get it removed."

Luke produced a visiting-card, and wrote on the back of it: "A Present
for a Good Dog. From Jona and Lukie!" He put the card in the dish and
replaced the cover. Then he investigated the wine list, rang the bell,
and ordered champagne and dry biscuits to be put in the drawing-room.

(The reader is requested to look out. Once more the numbers of the
section will be used as a part of the sections. The price of paper is
still very high.)

"Just imagine," said Luke. "Only this morning I was convinced that
life was hell. Absolute hell."

"And now?" asked Jona, shyly.

"Now I know that it's


he said, and kissed her.

Luke walked back. It was some time in the small hours that he entered
his house burglariously by forcing open the window of a room that had
once been called a den.

As he sat at breakfast the next morning, Dot said: "Hope they gave you
a good dinner at the 'Crown' last night."

"I don't know," he said. "I don't really remember what we


"All love and honey, what?" suggested Dot.

"Dot," said Luke, "don't be asi--


"Oh, that's all right," said Dot "You don't need to pay any at--


tion to my chaff."


Luke sold Jawbones for a much higher price than he had expected.

"You see," the agent explained, "the place is in such a perfect
condition. Everything up to the mark. Absolutely spotless."

"Yes," said Luke. "Mrs. Sharper was an excellent housekeeper. I've
always said so."

Luke had intended to pay Dot and Dash board-wages until he was free to
marry Jona, and then to take them into his service again. But this was
not to be.

"Sorry," said Dot, "but it won't do. Of course we wish you every
happiness, and no doubt in time you'll get used to not suffering so
much, and not being misunderstood so frequent. But me and Dash has
been brought up respectable, and respectable we shall remain. I've no
doubt your good lady thought it was all right, and went to church with
him, and signed the book and all that. But facts are facts, and the
fact is that for years and years she was living the life of open sin
with that Lord Tyburn. No, we couldn't stick it. Besides, I'm going to
marry Hector to take entire charge of a small flat, one in family, no
children or washing, every Sunday, and frequent outings. And my
sister's doing the same with Albert. All the same, here's luck."

Our friend, Mr. Alfred Jingle, solicitor, arranged everything
splendidly. He prevented Luke from inserting, in a moment of
enthusiasm, an advertisement under the Fashionable Intelligence in the
daily press that a divorce had been arranged and would shortly take
place, between Luke Sharper, Esq., formerly of Jawbones, Halfpenny
Hole, and Mabel, his wife. The case was undefended, and the day after
the decree was made absolute Luke married Jona.

Nor did Mr. Alfred Jingle forget, when he made out his bill of costs,
to include in his out-of-pocket expenses, the cost of certain
luncheons and drinks which Mr. Sharper would, no doubt, have defrayed
had he not at that time been in a condition of absent-mindedness
induced by martyrdom.

Not only did Lord Tyburn succeed in getting his photograph on to the
back page of the "_Daily Mail_." There was also another photograph of
the four ladies whom he had married, reading from left to right. He
did everything well.

                         THE END

Transcriber's Notes:

1. This book is a parody on the biographies of it's times; as a result,
very few changes have been made, other than obvious typesetter errors.

2. On the title page, there were two lines of words that were typeset
with "strikethroughs"; these have been indicated by the addition of
"=" before and after the lines.

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