By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Old Maids' Club
Author: Zangwill, Israel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Old Maids' Club" ***

generously made available by the Google Books Library Project

      Images of the original pages are available through
      the Google Books Library Project. See

Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

      Small capitals were replaced with ALL CAPITALS.




Author of "The Bachelor's Club," "The Big Bow Mystery," etc.

With Numerous Illustrations by F. H. Townsend

New York
Tait, Sons & Company
Union Square

Copyright, 1892,
United States Book Company,

[All rights reserved.]


    THE READER                                              MY BOOK.

    MY BOOK                                              THE READER.

                 [Illustration: THE OLD MAIDS' CLUB.
                 By the Author of The Bachelors' Club]


    CHAPTER.                                                 PAGE.

        I. THE ALGEBRA OF LOVE, PLUS OTHER THINGS               9

       II. THE HONORARY TRIER                                  19

      III. THE MAN IN THE IRONED MASK                          27

       IV. THE CLUB GETS ADVERTISED                            43

        V. THE PRINCESS OF PORTMAN SQUARE                      50

       VI. THE GRAMMAR OF LOVE                                 86

      VII. THE IDYL OF TREPOLPEN                               98

     VIII. MORE ABOUT THE CHERUB                              125

       IX. OF WIVES AND THEIR MISTRESSES                       133

        X. THE GOOD YOUNG MEN WHO LIVED                        147

       XI. ADVENTURES IN SEARCH OF THE POLE                    161


     XIII. THE ENGLISH SHAKESPEARE                             198

      XIV. THE OLD YOUNG WOMAN AND THE NEW                     224

       XV. THE MYSTERIOUS ADVERTISER                           244

      XVI. THE CLUB BECOMES POPULAR                            264

     XVII. A MUSICAL BAR                                       277

    XVIII. THE BEAUTIFUL GHOUL                                 291

      XIX. LA FEMME INCOMPRISE                                 308

       XX. THE INAUGURAL SOIREE                                319

                          THE OLD MAIDS' CLUB.

                               CHAPTER I.

                          THE ALGEBRA OF LOVE,
                               PLUS OTHER


THE Old Maids' Club was founded by Lillie Dulcimer in her sweet
seventeenth year. She had always been precocious and could analyze her
own sensations before she could spell. In fact she divided her time
between making sensations and analyzing them. She never spoke Early
English--the dialect which so enraged Dr. Johnson--but, like John Stuart
Mill, she wrote a classical style from childhood. She kept a diary, not
necessarily as a guarantee of good faith, but for publication only. It
was labelled "Lillie Day by Day," and was posted up from her fifth year.
Judging by the analogy of the rest, one might construct the entry for
the first day of her life. If she had been able to record her thoughts,
her diary would probably have begun thus:--

"_Sunday, September 3rd:_ My birthday. Wept at the sight of the world in
which I was to be so miserable. The atmosphere was so stuffy--not at all
pleasing to the æsthetic faculties. Expected a more refined reception. A
lady, to whom I had never been introduced, fondled me and addressed me
as 'Petsie-tootsie-wootsie.' It appears that she is my mother, but this
hardly justifies her in degrading the language of Milton and
Shakespeare. Later on a man came in and kissed her. I could not help
thinking that they might respect my presence; and, if they must carry
on, continue to do so out of my sight as before. I understood later that
I must call the stranger 'Poppy,' and that I was not to resent his
familiarities, as he was very much attached to my mother by Act of
Parliament. Both the man and the woman seem to arrogate to themselves a
certain authority over me. How strange that two persons you have never
seen before in your life should claim such rights of interference! There
must be something rotten in the constitution of Society. It shall be one
of my life-tasks to discover what it is. I made a light lunch off milk,
but do not care for the beverage. The day passed slowly. I was
dreadfully bored by the conversation in the bedroom--it was so petty. I
was glad when night came. O, the intolerable _ennui_ of an English
Sunday! I divine already that I am destined to go through life
perpetually craving for I know not what, and that I shan't be happy till
I get it."

Lillie was a born heroine, being young and beautiful from her birth. In
her fourth year she conceived a Platonic affection for the boy who
brought the telegrams. His manners had such repose. This was followed by
a hopeless passion for a French cavalry officer with spurs. Every one
feared she would grow up to be a suicide or a poetess; for her earliest
nursery rhyme was an impromptu distich discovered by the nursery-maid,

    Woonded i crawl out from the battel,
    Life is as hollo as my rattel.

And her twelfth year was almost entirely devoted to literary composition
of a hopeless character, so far as publishers were concerned. It was
only the success of "Woman as a Waste Force," in her fourteenth year,
that induced them to compete for her early manuscripts and to give the
world the celebrated compilations, "Ibsen for Infants," "Browning for
Babies," "Carlyle for the Cradle," "Newman for the Nursery," "Leopardi
for the Little Ones," and "The Schoolgirl's Schopenhauer," which,
together with "Tracts for the Tots," make up the main productions of her
First Period. After the loss of the French cavalry officer she remained
_blasée_ till she was more than seven, when her second grand passion
took her. It was a very grand passion indeed this time--and it lasted a
full week. These things did not matter while Lillie had not yet arrived
at years of indiscretion; but when she got into her teens, her father
began to look about for a husband for her. He was a millionaire and had
always kept her supplied with every luxury. But Lillie did not care for
her father's selections, and sent them all away with fleas in their ears
instead of kind words. And her father was as unhappy as his selections.
In her sixteenth year her mother, who had been ailing for sixteen years,
breathed her last, and Lillie more freely. She had grown quite to like
Mrs. Dulcimer, and it prevented her having her own way. The situation
was now very simple. Mr. Dulcimer managed his immense affairs and Lillie
managed Mr. Dulcimer.

He made one last effort to get her to manage another man. He discovered
a young nobleman who seemed fond of her society and who was in the habit
of meeting her accidentally at the Academy. The gunpowder being thus
presumably laid, he set to work to strike the match. But the explosion
was not such as he expected. Lillie told him that no man was further
from her thoughts as a possible husband.

"But, Lillie," pleaded the millionaire, "not one of the objections you
have impressed upon me applies to Lord Silverdale. He is young, rich,

"Yes, yes, yes," answered Lillie, "I know."

"He is rich and cannot be after your money."


"He has a title, which you consider an advantage."

"I do."

"He is a man of taste and culture."

"He is."

"Well, what is it you don't like? Doesn't he ride or dance well?"

"He dances like an angel and rides like the devil."

"Well, what in the name of angels or devils is your objection then?"

"Father," said Lillie very solemnly, "he is all you claim, but----." The
little delicate cheek flushed modestly. She could not say it.

"But----" said the millionaire impatiently.

Lillie hid her face in her hands.

"But----" said the millionaire brutally.

"But I love him!"

"You what?" roared the millionaire.

"Yes, father, do not be angry with me. I love him dearly. Oh, do not
spurn me from you, but I love him with my whole heart and soul, and I
shall never marry any other man but him." The poor little girl burst
into a paroxysm of weeping.

"Then you _will_ marry him?" gasped the millionaire.

"No, father," she sobbed solemnly, "that is an illegitimate deduction
from my proposition. He is the one man on this earth I could never bring
myself to marry."

"You are mad!"

"No, father. I am only mathematical. I will never marry a man who does
not love me. And don't you see that, as I love him, the odds are that he
doesn't love me?"

"But he tells me he does!"

"What is his bare assertion--weighed against the doctrine of
probability! How many girls do you suppose Silverdale has met in his
varied career?"

"A thousand, I dare say."

"Ah, that's only reckoning English Society (and theatres). And then he
has seen Society (and theatres) in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Boston, a
hundred places! If we put the figure at three thousand it will be
moderate. Here am I, a single girl----"

"Who oughtn't to remain so," growled the millionaire.

"One single girl. How wildly improbable that out of three thousand
girls, Silverdale should just fall in love with me. It is 2999 to 1
against. Then there is the probability that he is not in love at
all--which makes the odds 5999 to 1. The problem is exactly analogous to
one which you will find in any Algebra. Out of a sack containing three
thousand coins, what are the odds that a man will draw the one marked

"The comparison of yourself to a marked coin is correct enough," said
the millionaire, thinking of the files of fortune-hunters to whom he had
given the sack. "Otherwise you are talking nonsense."

"Then Pascal, Laplace, Lagrange, De Moivre talked nonsense," said Lillie
hotly; "but I have not finished. We must also leave open the possibility
that the man will not be tempted to draw out any coin whatsoever. The
odds against the marked coin being drawn out are thus 5999 to 1. The
odds against Silverdale returning my affection are 6000 to 1. As Butler
rightly points out, probability is the only guide to conduct, which is,
we know from Matthew Arnold, three-fourths of life. Am I to risk ruining
three-fourths of my life, in defiance of the unerring dogmas of the
Doctrine of Chances? No, father, do not exact this sacrifice from me.
Ask me anything you please, and I will grant it--oh! so gladly--but do
not, oh, do not ask me to marry the man I love!"

The millionaire stroked her hair, and soothed her in piteous silence. He
had made his pile in pig-iron, and had not science enough to grapple
with the situation.

"Do you mean to say," he said at last, "that because you love a man, he
can't love you?"

"He can. But in all human probability he won't. Suppose you put on a fur
waistcoat and went out into the street, determined to invite to dinner
the first man in a straw hat, and supposing he replied that you had just
forestalled him, as he had gone out with a similar intention to look for
the first man in a fur waistcoat.--What would you say?"

The millionaire hesitated. "Well, I shouldn't like to insult the man,"
he said slowly.

"You see!" cried Lillie triumphantly.

"Well, then, dear," said he, after much pondering, "the only thing for
it is to marry a man you _don't_ love."

"Father!" said Lillie in terrible tones.

The millionaire hung his head shamefacedly at the outrage his suggestion
had put upon his daughter.

"Forgive me, Lillie," he said; "I shall never interfere again in your
matrimonial concerns."

So Lillie wiped her eyes and founded the Old Maids' Club.

She said it was one of her matrimonial concerns, and so her father could
not break his word, though an entire suite of rooms in his own
Kensington mansion was set aside for the rooms of the Club. Not that he
desired to interfere. Having read "The Bachelors' Club," he thought it
was the surest way of getting her married.

The object of the Club was defined by the foundress as "the
depolarization of the term 'Old Maid'; in other words, the dissipation
of all those disagreeable associations which have gradually and most
unjustly clustered about it; the restoration of the homely Saxon phrase
to its pristine purity, and the elevation of the enviable class denoted
by it to their due pedestal of privilege and homage."

The conditions of membership, drawn up by Lillie, were:

    1. Every candidate must be under twenty-five. 2. Every candidate
    must be beautiful and wealthy, and undertake to continue so. 3.
    Every candidate must have refused at least one advantageous
    offer of marriage.

The rationale of these rules was obvious. Disappointed, soured failures
were not wanted. There was no virtue in being an "Old Maid" when you had
passed twenty-five. Such creatures are merely old maids--Old Maids (with
capitals) were required to be in the flower of youth and the flush of
beauty. Their anti-matrimonial motives must be above suspicion. They
must despise and reject the married state, though they would be welcomed
therein with open arms.

Only thus would people's minds be disabused of the old-fashioned notions
about old maids.

The Old Maids were expected to obey an elaborate array of by-laws, and
respect a series of recommendations.

According to the by-laws they were required:

    1. To regard all men as brothers. 2. Not to keep cats, lap-dogs,
    parrots, pages, or other domestic pets. 3. Not to have less than
    one birthday per year. 4. To abjure medicine, art classes, and
    Catholicism. 5. Never to speak to a Curate. 6. Not to have any
    ideals or to take part in Woman's Rights Movements, Charity
    Concerts, or other Platform Demonstrations. 7. Not to wear caps,
    curls, or similar articles of attire.  8. Not to kiss females.

In addition to these there were the

                        GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

    Never refuse the last slice of bread, etc., lest you be accused
    of dreading celibacy. Never accept bits of wedding cake, lest
    you be suspected of putting them under your pillow. Do not
    express disapproval by a sniff. In travelling, choose smoking
    carriages; pack your umbrellas and parasols inside your trunk.
    Never distribute tracts. Always fondle children and show marked
    hostility to the household cat. Avoid eccentricities. Do not
    patronize Dorothy Restaurants or the establishments of the
    Aerated Bread Company. Never drink cocoa-nibs. In dress it is
    better to avoid Mittens, Crossovers, Fleecy Shawls, Elastic-side
    Boots, White Stockings, Black Silk Bodies, with Pendent Gold
    Chains, and Antique White Lace Collars. One-button White Kid
    Gloves are also inadvisable for afternoon concerts; nor should
    any glove be worn with fingers too long to pick up change at
    booking-offices. Parcels should not be wrapped in whitey-brown
    paper and not more than three should be carried at once. Watch
    Pockets should not be hung over the bed, sheets and mattresses
    should be left to the servants to air, and rooms should be kept
    in an untidy condition.

    Refrain from manufacturing jam, household remedies, gossip or
    gooseberry wine. Never nurse a cold or a relative. It is
    advisable not to have a married sister, as she might decease and
    the temptation to marry her husband is such as no mere human
    being ought to be exposed to. For cognate reasons eschew
    friendship with cripples and hunchbacks (especially when they
    have mastered the violin in twelve lessons), men of no moral
    character, drunkards who wish to reform themselves, very ugly
    men, and husbands with wives in lunatic asylums. Cultivate
    rather the acquaintance of handsome young men (who have been
    duly vaccinated), for this species is too conceited to be

On the same principle were the rules for admitting visitors:

    1. No unmarried lady admitted. 2. No married gentlemen admitted.

If they admitted single ladies there would be no privilege in being a
member, while if they did not admit single gentlemen, they might be
taunted with being afraid that they were not fireproof. When Lillie had
worked this out to her satisfaction she was greatly chagrined to find
the two rules were the same as for "The Bachelors' Club." To show their
club had no connection with the brother institution, she devised a
series of counterblasts to their misogynic maxims. These were woven on
all the antimacassars; the deadliest were:

    The husband is the only creature entirely selfish. He is a low
    organism, consisting mainly of a digestive apparatus and a rude
    mouth. The lover holds the cloak; the husband drops it. Wedding
    dresses are webs. Women like clinging robes; men like clinging
    women. The lover will always help the beloved to be helpless. A
    man likes his wife to be just clever enough to comprehend his
    cleverness and just stupid enough to admire it. Women who catch
    husbands rarely recover. Marriage is a lottery; every wife does
    not become a widow. Wrinkles are woman's marriage lines; but
    when she gets them her husband will no longer be bound.

    The woman who believes her husband loves her, is capable of
    believing that she loves him. A good man's love is the most
    intolerable of boredoms. A man often marries a woman because
    they have the same tastes and prefer himself to the rest of
    creation. If a woman could know what her lover really thought of
    her she would know what to think of him. Possession is nine
    points of the marriage law. It is impossible for a man to marry
    a clever woman. Marriages are made in heaven, but old maids go

Lillie also painted a cynical picture of dubious double-edged
incisiveness. It was called "Latter-day Love," and represented the ill
hap of Cupid, neglected and superfluous, his quiver full, his arrows
rusty, shivering with the cold, amid contented couples passing him by
with never an eye for the lugubrious legend, "Pity the Poor Blind."

The picture put the finishing touch to the rooms of the Club. When
Lillie Dulcimer had hung it up, she looked round upon the antimacassars
and felt a proud and happy girl.

The Old Maids' Club was now complete. Nothing was wanting except

                   [Illustration: _Latter-Day Love._]

                              CHAPTER II.

                          THE HONORARY TRIER.

Lord Silverdale was the first visitor to the Old Maids' Club. He found
the fair President throned alone among the epigrammatic antimacassars.
Lillie received him with dignity and informed him that he stood on holy
ground. The young man was shocked to hear of the change in her
condition. He, himself, had lately spent his time in plucking up courage
to ask her to change it--and now he had been forestalled.

"But you must come in and see us often," said Lillie. "It occurs to me
that the by-laws admit you."

"How many will you be?" murmured Silverdale, heartbroken.

"I don't know yet. I am waiting for the thing to get about. I have been
in communication with the first candidate, and expect her any moment.
She is a celebrated actress."

"And who elects her?"

"I, of course!" said Lillie, with an imperial flash in her passionate
brown eyes. She was a brunette, and her face sometimes looked like a
handsome thunder-cloud. "I am the President and the Committee and the
Oldest Old Maid. Isn't one of the rules that candidates shall not
believe in Women's Rights? None of the members will have any voice

"Well, if your actress is a comic opera star, she _won't_ have any voice

"Lord Silverdale," said Lillie sharply, "I hate puns. They spoiled the
Bachelors' Club."

His lordship, who was the greatest punster of the peers, and the peer of
the greatest punsters, muttered savagely that he would like to spoil the
Old Maids' Club. Lillie punned herself sometimes, but he dared not tell
her of it.

"And what will be the subscription?" he said aloud.

"There will be none. I supply the premises."

"Ah, that will never do! Half the pleasure of belonging to a club is the
feeling that you have not paid your subscription. And how about grub?"

"Grub! We are not men. We do not fulfil missions by eating."

"Unjust creature! Men sometimes fulfil missions by being eaten."

"Well, papa will supply buns, lemonade and ices. Turple the magnificent,
will always be within call to hand round the things."

"May I send you in a hundred-weight of chocolate creams?"

"Certainly. Why should weddings have a monopoly of presents? This is not
the only way in which you can be of service to me, if you will."

"Only discover it for me, my dear Miss Dulcimer. Where there's a way
there's a will."

"Well, I should like you to act as Trier."

"Eh! I beg your pardon?"

"Don't apologize; to try the candidates who wish to be Old Maids."

"Try them! No, no! I'm afraid I should be prejudiced against bringing
them in innocent."

"Don't be silly. You know what I mean. I could not tell so well as you
whether they possessed the true apostolic spirit. You are a man--your
instinct would be truer than mine. Whenever a new candidate applies, I
want you to come up and see her."

"Really, Miss Dulcimer, I--I can't tell by looking at her!"

"No, but you can by her looking at you."

"You exaggerate my insight."

"Not at all. It is most important that something of the kind should be
done. By the rules, all the Old Maids must be young and beautiful. And
it requires a high degree of will and intelligence----"

"To be both!"

"For such to give themselves body and soul to the cause. Every Old Maid
is double-faced till she has been proved single-hearted."

"And must I talk to them?"

"In plain English----"

"It's the only language I speak plainly."

"Wait till I finish, boy! In plain English, you must flirt with them."

"Flirt?" said Silverdale, aghast. "What! With young and beautiful

"I know it is hard, Lord Silverdale, but you will do it for my sake!"
They were sitting on an ottoman, and the lovely face which looked
pleadingly up into his was very near. The young man got up and walked up
and down.

"Hang it!" he murmured disconsolately. "Can't you try them on Turple the
magnificent. Or why not get a music-master or a professor of painting?"

"Music-masters touch the wrong chord, and professors of painting are
mostly old masters. You are young and polished and can flirt with tact
and taste."

"Thank you," said the poor young peer, making a wry face. "And therefore
I'm to be a flirtation machine."

"An electric battery if you like. I don't desire to mince my words.
There's no gain in not calling a spade a spade."

"And less in people calling a battery a rake."

"Is that a joke? I thought you clubmen enjoyed being called rakes."

"That is all most of us do enjoy. Take it from me that the last thing a
rake does is to sow wild oats."

"I know enough of agriculture not to be indebted to you for the
information. But I certainly thought you were a rake," said the little
girl, looking up at him with limpid brown eyes.

"You flatter me," he said with a mock bow; "you are young enough to know

"But you have seen Society (and theatres) in a dozen capitals!"

"I have been behind the scenes of both," he answered simply. "That is
the thing to keep a man steady."

"I thought it turned a man's head," she said musingly.

"It does. Only one begins manhood with his head screwed the wrong way
on. Homoeopathy is the sole curative principle in morals. Excuse this
sudden discharge of copy-book mottoes. I sometimes go off that way, but
you mustn't take me for a Maxim gun. I am not such a bore, I hope."

Lillie flew off at a feminine tangent.

"All of which only proves the wisdom of my choice in selecting you."

"What! To pepper them with pellets of platitude?" he said, dropping
despairingly into an arm-chair.

"No. With eyeshot. Take care!"

"What's the matter?"

"You're sitting on an epigram."

      [Illustration: "_Take care! You're sitting on an epigram._"]

The young man started up as if stung, and removed the antimacassar,
without, however, seeing the point.

"I hope you don't mind my inquiring whether you have any morals," said

"I have as many as Æsop. The strictest investigation courted. References
given and exchanged," said the peer lightly.

"Do be serious. You know I have an insatiable curiosity to know
everything about everything--to feel all sensations, think all thoughts.
That is the note of my being." The brown eyes had an eager, wistful

"Oh, yes--a note of interrogation."

"O that I were a man! What _do_ men think?"

"What do _you_ think? Men are human beings first and masculine
afterwards. And I think everybody is like a suburban Assembly
Hall--to-day a temperance lecture, to-morrow a dance, next day an
oratorio, then a farcical comedy, and on Sunday a religious service. But
about this appointment?"

"Well, let us settle it one way or another," Lillie said. "Here is my

"I have an alternative proposal," he said desperately.

"I cannot listen to any other. Will you, or will you not, become
Honorary Trier of the Old Maids' Club?"

"I'll try," he said at last.

"Yes or no?"

"Shall you be present at the trials?"

"Certainly, but I shall cultivate myopia."

"It's a short-sighted policy, Miss Dulcimer. Still, sustained by your
presence, I feel I could flirt with the most beautiful and charming girl
in the world. I could do it, even unsustained by the presence of the
other girl."

"Oh, no! You must not flirt with me. I am the only Old Maid with whom
flirtation is absolutely taboo."

"Then I consent," said Silverdale with apparent irrelevance. And seating
himself on the piano stool, after carefully removing an epigram from the
top of the instrument, he picked out "The Last Rose of Summer" with a
facile forefinger.

"Don't!" said Lillie. "Stick to your lute."

Thus admonished, the nobleman took down Lillie's banjo, which was
hanging on the wall, and struck a few passionate chords.

"Do you know," he said, "I always look on the banjo as the American
among musical instruments. It is the guitar with a twang. Wasn't it
invented in the States? Anyhow it is the most appropriate instrument to
which to sing you my Fin de Siècle Love Song."

"For Heaven's sake, don't use that poor overworked phrase!"

"Why not? It has only a few years to live. List to my sonnet."

So saying, he strummed the strings and sang in an aristocratic baritone:

                        AD CHLOEN.--A VALEDICTORY.

    O Chloe, you are very, very dear,
        And far above your rivals in the town,
    Who all in vain essay to beat you down,
        Embittered by your haughtiness austere.
    Too high you are for lowly me, I fear.
        You would not stoop to pick up e'en a crown,
    Nor cede the slightest lowering of a gown,
        Though in men's eyes far fairer to appear.

    With this my message, kindly current go,
        At half-penny per word--it should be less--
    To Chloe, telegraphical address
        (Thus written to economize two _d_)
    Of Messrs. Robinson, De Vere & Co.,
        Costumers, 90, Ludgate Hill, E. C.

Lillie laughed. "My actress's name is something like Chloe. It is
Clorinda--Clorinda Bell. She tells me she is very celebrated."

"Oh, yes, I've heard of her," he said.

"There is a sneer in your tones. Have you heard anything to her

"Only that she is virtuous and in Society."

"The very woman for an Old Maid! She is beautiful, too."

"Is she? I thought she was one of those actresses who reserve their
beauty for the stage."

"Oh, no. She always wears it. Here is her photograph. Isn't that a
lovely face?"

"It is a lovely photograph. Does she hope to achieve recognition by it,
I wonder?"


"I doubt all charms but yours."

"Well, you shall see her."

"All right, but mention her name clearly when you introduce me. Women
are such changing creatures--to-day pretty, to-morrow plain, yesterday
ugly. I have to be reintroduced to most of my female acquaintances three
times a week. May I wait to see Clorinda?"

"No, not to-day. She has to undergo the Preliminary Exam. Perhaps she
may not even matriculate. Where you come in is at the graduation stage."

"I see. To pass them as Bachelors--I mean Old Maids. I say, how will you
get them to wear stuff gowns?"

The bell rang loudly. "That may be she. Good-bye, Lord Silverdale.
Remember you are Honorary Trier of the Old Maids' Club, and don't forget
those chocolate creams."

                              CHAPTER III.

                      THE MAN IN THE IRONED MASK.

The episode that turned Clorinda Bell's thoughts in the direction of Old
Maidenhood was not wanting in strangeness. She was an actress of whom
everybody spoke well, excepting actresses. This was because she was so
respectable. Respectability is all very well for persons who possess no
other ability; but bohemians rightly feel that genius should be above
that sort of thing. Clorinda never went anywhere without her mother.
This lady--a portly taciturn dame, whose hair had felt the snows of
sixty winters--was as much a part of her as a thorn is of a rose. She
accompanied her always--except when she was singing--and loomed like
some more substantial shadow before or behind her at balls and
receptions, at concerts and operas, private views and church bazaars.
Her mother was always with her behind the scenes. She helped her to make
up and to unmake. She became the St. Peter of the dressing-room in her
absence. At the Green Room Club they will tell you how a royal personage
asking permission to come and congratulate her, received the answer: "I
shall be most honored--in the presence of my mother."

There were those who wished Clorinda had been born an orphan.

But the graver sort held Miss Bell up as a typical harbinger of the new
era, when actresses would keep mothers instead of dog-carts. There was
no intrinsic reason, they said, why actresses should not be received at
Court, and visit the homes of the poor. Clorinda was very charming. She
was tall and fair as a lily, with dashes of color stolen from the rose
and the daffodil, for her eyes had a sparkle and her cheeks a flush and
her hair was usually golden. Not the least of her physical charms was
the fact that she had numerous admirers. But it was understood that she
kept them at a distance and that they worshipped there. The Society
journals, to which Clorinda was indebted for considerable information
about herself, often stated that she intended to enter a convent, as her
higher nature found scant satisfaction in stage triumphs, and she had
refused to exchange her hand either for a coronet or a pile of dollars.
They frequently stated the opposite, but a Society journal cannot always
be contradicting a contemporary. It must sometimes contradict itself, as
a proof of impartiality. Clorinda let all these rumors surge about her
unheeded, and her managers had to pay for the advertisement. The money
came back to them, though, for Clorinda was a sure draw. She brought the
odor of sanctity over the footlights, and people have almost as much
curiosity to see a saint as a sinner--especially when the saint is

Gentlemen in particular paid frequent pilgrimages to the shrine of the
saint, and adored her from the ten-and-sixpenny pews. There was at this
period a noteworthy figure in London dress circles and stalls, an
inveterate first-nighter, whose identity was the subject of considerable
speculation. He was a mystery in a swallow-tail coat. No one had ever
seen him out of it. He seemed to go through life armed with a white
breastplate, starched shot-proof and dazzling as a grenadier's cuirass.
What wonder that a wit (who had become a dramatic critic through drink)
called him. "The Man in the Ironed Mask." Between the acts he wore a
cloak, a crush-hat and a cigarette. Nobody ever spoke to him nor did he
ever reply. He could not be dumb, because he had been heard to murmur
"Brava, bravissima," in a soft but incorrect foreign manner. He was very
handsome, with a high, white forehead of the Goth order of architecture,
and dark, Moorish eyes. Nobody even knew his name, for he went to the
play quite anonymously. The pit took him for a critic, and the critics
for a minor poet. He had appeared on the scene (or before it) only
twelve months ago, but already he was a distinguished man. Even the
actors and actresses had come to hear of him, and not a few had peeped
at him between their speeches. He was certainly a sight for the "gods."

Latterly he had taken to frequenting the _Lymarket_, where Miss Clorinda
Bell was "starring" for a season of legitimate drama. It was the only
kind the scrupulous actress would play in. Whenever there was no first
night on anywhere else, he went to see Clorinda. Only a few rivals and
the company knew of his constancy to the entertainment. Clorinda was, it
will be remembered, one of the company.

It was the _entr'acte_ and the orchestra was playing a gavotte, to which
the eighteenth-century figures on the drop scene were dancing. The Man
in the Ironed Mask strolled in the lobby among the critics, overhearing
the views they were not going to express in print. Clorinda Bell's
mother was brushing her child's magnificent hair into a more tragical
attitude in view of the fifth act. The little room was sacred to the
"star," the desire of so many moths. Neither maid nor dresser entered
it, for Mrs. Bell was as devoted to her daughter as her daughter to her,
and tended her as zealously as if she were a stranger.

"Yes, but why doesn't he speak?" said Clorinda.

"You haven't given him a chance, darling," said her mother.

"Nonsense--there is the language of flowers. All my lovers commence by
talking that."

"You get so many bouquets, dear. It may be--as you say his appearance is
so distinguished--that he dislikes so commonplace a method."

"Well, if he doesn't want to throw his love at my feet, he might have
tried to send it me in a billet-doux."

"That is also commonplace. Besides, he may know that all your letters
are delivered to me, and opened by me. The fact has often enough
appeared in print."

"Ah, yes, but genius will find out a way. You remember Lieutenant
Campbell, who was so hit the moment he saw me as Perdita that he went
across the road to the telegraph-office and wired, 'Meet me at supper,
top floor, Piccadilly Restaurant, 11.15,' so that the doorkeeper sent
the message direct to the prompter, who gave it me as I came off with
Florizel and Camilla. That is the sort of man I admire!"

"But you soon tired of him, darling."

"Oh, mother! How can you say so? I loved him the whole run of the

"Yes, dear, but it was only Shakespeare."

"Would you have love a Burlesque? 'A Winter's Tale' is long enough for
any flirtation. Let me see, was it Campbell or Belfort who shot himself?
I for----oh! oh! that hairpin is irritating me, mother."

"There! There! Is that easier?"

"Thanks! There's only the Man in the Ironed Mask irritating me now. His
dumb admiration provokes me."

"But you provoke his dumb admiration. And are you sure it is

"People don't go to see Shakespeare seventeen times. I wonder who he
is--an Italian count most likely. Ah, how his teeth flash beneath his

"You make me feel quite curious about him. Do you think I could peep at
him from the wing?"

"No, mother, you shall not be put to the inconvenience. It would give
you a crick in your neck. If you desire to see him, I will send for

"Very well, dear," said the older woman submissively, for she was
accustomed to the gratification of her daughter's whims.

So when the Man in the Ironed Mask resumed his seat, a programme girl
slipped a note into his hand. He read it, his face impassive as his
Ironed Mask. When the play was over, he sauntered round to the squalid
court in which the stage door was located and stalked nonchalantly up
the stairs. The doorkeeper was too impressed by his air not to take him
for granted. He seemed to go on instinctively till he arrived at a door
placarded, "Miss Clorinda Bell--Private."

He knocked, and the silvery accents he had been listening to all the
evening bade him come in. The beautiful Clorinda, clad in diaphanous
white and radiating perfumes, received him with an intoxicating smile.

"It is so kind of you to come and see me," she said.

He made a stately inclination. "The obligation is mine," he said. "I am
greatly interested in the drama. This is the seventeenth time I have
been to see you."

"I meant here," she said piqued, though the smile stayed on.

"Oh, but I understood----" His eyes wandered interrogatively about the

"Yes, I know my mother is out," she replied. "She is on the stage
picking up the bouquets. I believe she sent you a note. I do not know
why she wants to see you, but she will be back soon. If you do not mind
being left alone with me----"

"Pray do not apologize, Miss Bell," he said considerately.

"It is so good of you to say so. Won't you sit down?"

The Man in the Ironed Mask sat down beside the dazzling Clorinda and
stared expectantly at the door. There was a tense silence. His cloak
hung negligently upon his shoulders. He held his crush hat calmly in his

Clorinda was highly chagrined. She felt as if she could slap his face
and kiss the place to make it well.

"Did you like the play?" she said, at last.

He elevated his dark eyebrows. "Is it not obvious?"

"Not entirely. You might come to see the players."

"Quite so, quite so."

He leaned his handsome head on his arm and looked pensively at the
floor. It was some moments before he broke the silence again. But it was
only by rising to his feet. He walked towards the door.

"I am sorry I cannot stay any longer," he said.

"Oh, no! You mustn't go without seeing my mother. She will be terribly

"Not less so than myself at missing her. Good-night, Miss Bell." He made
his prim, courtly bow.

"Oh, but you must see her! Come again to-morrow night, anyhow,"
exclaimed Clorinda desperately. And when his footsteps had died away
down the stairs, she could not repress several tears of vexation. Then
she looked hurriedly into a little mirror and marvelled silently.

"Is he gone already?" said her mother, entering after knocking
cautiously at the door.

"Yes, he is insane."

"Madly in love with you?"

"Madly out of love with me."

He came again the next night, stolid and courteous. To Clorinda's
infinite regret her mother had been taken ill and had gone home early in
the carriage. It was raining hard. Clorinda would be reduced to a
hansom. "They call it the London gondola," she said, "but it is least
comfortable when there's most water. You have to be framed in like a
cucumber in a hothouse."

"Indeed! Personally I never travel in hansoms. And from what you tell me
I should not like to make the experiment to-night. Good-bye, Miss Bell;
present my regrets to your mother."

"Deuce take the donkey! He might at least offer me a seat in his
carriage," thought Clorinda. Aloud she said: "Under the circumstances
may I venture to ask you to see my mother at the house? Here is our
private address. Won't you come to tea to-morrow?"

He took the card, bowed silently and withdrew.

In such wise the courtship proceeded for some weeks, the invalid being
confined to her room at teatime and occupied in picking up bouquets by
night. He always came to tea in his cloak, and wore his Ironed Mask, and
was extremely solicitous about Clorinda's mother. It became evident that
so long as he had the ghost of an excuse for talking of the absent, he
would never talk of Clorinda herself. At last she was reduced to
intimating that she would be found at the matinée of a new piece next
day (to be given at the theatre by a débutante) and that there would be
plenty of room in her box. Clorinda was determined to eliminate her
mother, who was now become an impediment instead of a pretext.

But when the afternoon came, she looked for him in vain. She chatted
lightly with the acting-manager, who was lounging in the vestibule, but
her eye was scanning the horizon feverishly.

"Is this woman going to be a success?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," said the acting-manager promptly.

"How do you know?"

"I just saw the flowers drive up."

          [Illustration: "_I just saw the flowers drive up._"]

Clorinda laughed. "What's the piece like?"

"I only saw one rehearsal. It seemed great twaddle. But the low com. has
got a good catchword, so there's some chance of its going into the
evening bills."

"Oh, by the way, have you seen anything of that--that--the man in the
Ironed Mask, I think they call him?"

"Do you mean here--this afternoon?"


"No. Do you expect him?"

"Oh, no; but I was wondering if he would turn up. I hear he is so fond
of this theatre."

"Bless your soul, he'd never be seen at a matinée."

"Why not?" asked Clorinda, her heart fluttering violently.

"Because he'd have to be in morning dress," said the actor-manager,
laughing heartily.

To Clorinda his innocent merriment seemed the laughter of a mocking
fiend. She turned away sick at heart. There was nothing for it but to
propose outright at teatime. Clorinda did so, and was accepted without
further difficulty.

"And now, dearest," she said, after she had been allowed to press the
first kiss of troth upon his coy lips, "I should like to know who I am
going to be?"

"Clorinda Bell, of course," he said. "That is the advantage actresses
have. They need not take their husband's name in vain."

"Yes, but what am _I_ to call you, dearest?"

"Dearest?" he echoed enigmatically. "Let me be dearest--for a little

She forbore to press him further. For the moment it was enough to have
won him. The sweetness of that soothed her wounded vanity at his
indifference to the prize coveted by men and convents. Enough that she
was to be mated to a great man, whose speech and silence alike bore the
stamp of individuality.

"Dearest be it," she answered, looking fondly into his Moorish eyes.
"Dearest! Dearest!"

"Thank you, Clorinda. And now may I see your mother? I have never learnt
what she has to say to me."

"What does it matter now, dearest?"

"More than ever," he said gravely, "now she is to be my mother-in-law."

Clorinda bit her lip at the dignified rebuke, and rang for his
mother-in-law elect, who came from the sick room in her bonnet.

"Mother," she said, as the good dame sailed through the door, "let me
introduce you to my future husband."

                  [Illustration: _A Family Reunion._]

The old lady's face lit up with surprise and excitement. She stood still
for an instant, taking in the relationship so suddenly sprung upon her.
Then she darted with open arms towards the Man in the Ironed Mask and
strained his Mask to her bosom.

"My son! my son!" she cried, kissing him passionately. He blushed like a
stormy sunset and tried to disengage himself.

"Do not crumple him, mother," said Clorinda pettishly. "Your zeal is

"But he is my long-lost Absalom! Think of the rapture of having him
restored to me thus. O what a happy family we shall be! Bless you,
Clorinda. Bless you, my children. When is the wedding to be?"

The Man in the Ironed Mask had regained his composure.

"Mother," he said sternly, "I am glad to see you looking so well. I
always knew you would fall on your feet if I dropped you. I have no
right to ask it--but as you seem to expect me to marry your daughter, a
little information as to the circumstances under which you have supplied
me with a sister would be not unwelcome.

"Stupid boy! Don't you understand that Miss Bell was good enough to
engage me as mother and travelling companion when you left me to starve?
Or rather, the impresario who brought her over from America engaged me,
and Clorinda has been, oh, so good to me! My little drapery business
failed three months after you left me to get a stranger to serve. I had
no resource but--to go on the stage."

The old woman was babbling on, but the cold steel of Clorinda's gaze
silenced her.

The outraged actress turned haughtily to the Man in the Ironed Mask.

"So _this_ is your mother?" she said with infinite scorn.

"So this is _not_ your mother!" he said with infinite indignation.

"Were you ever really simple enough to suspect me of having a mother?"
she retorted contemptuously. "I had her on the hire system. Don't you
know that a combination of maid and mother is the newest thing in
actresses' wardrobes? It is safer then having a maid, and more
comfortable than having a mother."

"But I _have_ been a mother to you, Clorinda," the old dame pleaded.

"Oh, yes, you have always been a good, obedient woman. I am not finding
fault with you, and I have no wish to part with you. I do find fault and
I shall certainly part with your son."

"Nonsense," said the Man in the Ironed Mask. "The situation is
essentially unchanged. She is still the mother of one of us, she can
still become the mother-in-law of the other. Besides, Clorinda, that is
the only way of keeping the secret in the family."

"You threaten?"

"Certainly. You are a humbug. So am I. United we stand. Separated, you

"You fall, too."

"Not from such a height. I am still on the first rungs."

"Nor likely to get any higher."

"Indeed? Your experience of me should have taught you different. High as
you are, I can raise you yet higher if you will only lift me up to you."

"How do you climb?" she said, his old ascendency reasserting itself.

"By standing still. Profound meditation on the philosophy of modern
society has convinced me that the only way left for acquiring notoriety
is to do nothing. Every other way has been exploited and is suspected.
It is only a year since the discovery flashed upon me, it is only a year
that I have been putting it in practice. And yet, mark the result!
Already I am a known man. I had the _entrée_ to no society; for
half-a-guinea a night (frequently paid in paper money) I have mingled
with the most exclusive. When there was no _premiere_ anywhere, I went
to see you--not from any admiration of you, but because the _Lymarket_
is the haunt of the best society, and in addition, the virtue of
Shakespeare and of yourself attracts there a highly respectable class of
bishops whom I have not the opportunity of meeting elsewhere. By doing
nothing I fascinated you--somebody was sure to be fascinated by it at
last, as the dove flutters into the jaws of the lethargic serpent--by
continuing to do nothing I completed my conquest. Had I met your
advances, you would have repelled mine. My theories have been completely
demonstrated, and but for the accident of our having a common

"Speak for yourself," said Clorinda haughtily.

"It is for myself that I am speaking. When we are one, I shall continue
this policy of masterly inactivity of which I claim the invention,
though it has long been known in the germ. Everybody knows for instance
that not to trouble to answer letters is the surest way of acquiring the
reputation of a busy man, that not to accept invitations is an
infallible way of getting more, that not to care a jot about the
feelings of the rest of the household, is an unfailing means of
enforcing universal deference. But the glory still remains to him who
first grasped this great law in its generalized form, however familiar
one or two isolated cases of it may be to the world. 'Do nothing' is the
last word of social science, as 'Nil admirari' was its first. Just as
silence is less self-contradictory than speech, so is inaction a safer
foundation of fame than action. Inaction is perfect. The moment you do
anything you are in the region of incompleteness, of definiteness. Your
work may be outdone--or undone. Your inventions may be improved upon,
your victories annulled, your popular books ridiculed, your theories
superseded, your paintings decried, the seamy side of your explanations
shown up. Successful doing creates not only enemies but the material for
their malice to work upon. Only by not having done anything to deserve
success can you be sure of surviving the reaction which success always
brings. To be is higher than to do. To be is calm, large, elemental; to
do is trivial, artificial, fussy. To be has been the moth of the English
aristocracy, it is the secret of their persistence. _Qui s'excuse
s'accuse._ He who strives to justify his existence imperils it. To be is
inexpugnable, to do is dangerous. The same principle rules in all
departments of social life. What is a successful reception? A gathering
at which everybody _is_. Nobody does anything. Nobody enjoys anything.
There everybody _is_--if only for five minutes each, and whatever the
crush and discomfort. You are there--and there you _are_, don't you
know? What is a social lion? A man who _is_ everywhere. What is social
ambition? A desire to _be_ in better people's drawing-rooms. What is it
for which people barter health, happiness, even honor? To _be_ on
certain pieces of flooring inaccessible to the mass. What is the glory
of doing compared with the glory of being? Let others elect to do, I
elect to _be_."

"So long as you do not choose to be my husband----"

"It is husband or brother," he said, threateningly.

"Of course. I become your sister by rejecting you, do I not?"

"Don't trifle. You understand what I mean. I will let the world know
that your mother is mine."

They stood looking at each other in silent defiance. At last Clorinda

"A compromise! let the world know that my mother is yours."

"I see. Pose as your brother!"

"Yes. That will help you up a good many rungs. I shall not deny I am
your sister. My mother will certainly not deny that you are her son."

"Done! So long as my theories are not disproved. Conjugate the verb 'to
be,' and you shall be successful. Let me see. How does it run? I
am--your brother, thou art--my sister, she is--my mother,--we are--her
children, you are--my womankind, they are--all spoofed."

So the man in the Ironed Mask turned out to be the brother of the great
and good actress, Clorinda Bell. And several people had known it all
along, for what but fraternal interest had taken him so often to the
_Lymarket_? And when his identity leaked out, Society ran after him, and
he gave the interviewers interesting details of his sister's early
years. And everyone spoke of his mother, and of his solicitous
attendance upon her. And in due course the tale of his virtues reached a
romantic young heiress who wooed and won him. And so he continued
_being_, till he was--no more. By his own request they buried him in an
Ironed Mask, and put upon his tomb the profound inscription

                      "HERE LIES THE MAN WHO WAS."

                   *       *       *       *       *

And this was why Clorinda, disgusted with men and lovers, and unable to
marry her brother, caught at the notion of the Old Maids' Club and
called upon Lillie.

It was almost as good a cover as a mother, and it was well to have
something ready in case she lost her, as you cannot obtain a second
mother even on the hire system. But Lord Silverdale's report consisted
of one word, "Dangerous!"--and he rejoiced at the whim which enabled him
thus to protect the impulsive little girl he loved.

Clorinda divined from Lillie's embarrassment next day that she was to be

"I am afraid," she hastened to say, "that on second thoughts I must
withdraw my candidature, as I could not make a practice of coming here
without my mother."

Lillie referred to the rules. "Married women are admitted," she said
simply. "I presume, therefore, your mother----"

"It's just like your presumption," interrupted Clorinda, and flouncing
angrily out of the Club, she invited a journalist to tea.

Next day the _Moon_ said she was going to join the Old Maids' Club.

                              CHAPTER IV.

                       THE CLUB GETS ADVERTISED.

"I see you have disregarded my ruling, Miss Dulcimer!" said Lord
Silverdale, pointing to the paragraph in the _Moon_. "What is the use of
my trying the candidates if you're going to admit the plucked?"

"I am surprised at you, Lord Silverdale. I thought you had more wisdom
than to base a reproach on a _Moon_ paragraph. You might have known it
was not true."

"That is not my experience, Miss Dulcimer. I do not think a statement is
necessarily false because it appears in the newspapers. There is hardly
a paper in which I have not, at some time or other, come across a true
piece of news. Even the _Moon_ is not all made of green cheese."

"But you surely do not think I would accept Clorinda Bell after your
warning. Not but that I am astonished. She assured me she was ice."

"Precisely. And so I marked her 'Dangerous.' Are there any more
candidates to-day?"

"Heaps and heaps! From all parts of the kingdom letters have come from
ladies anxious to become Old Maids. There is even one application from
Paris. Ought I to entertain that?"

"Certainly. Candidates may hail from anywhere--excepting naturally the
United States.

"But what, I wonder, has caused this tide of applications?"

"The _Moon_, of course. The fiction that Clorinda Bell intended to take
the secular veil has attracted all these imitators. She has given the
Club a good advertisement in endeavoring merely to give herself one."

"You suspect her, then, of being herself responsible for the statement
that she was going to join the Club?"

"No. I am sure of it. Who but herself knew that she was not?"

"I can hardly imagine that she would employ such base arts."

"Higher arts are out of employment nowadays."

"Is there any way of finding out?"

"I am afraid not. She has no bosom friends. Stay--there is her mother!"

"Mothers do not tell their daughters' secrets. They do not know them."

"Well, there's her brother. I was introduced to him the other day at
Mrs. Leo Hunter's. But he seems such a reticent chap. Only opens his
mouth twice an hour, and then merely to show his teeth. Oh, I know! I'll
get at the _Moon_ man. My aunt, the philanthropist, who is quite a
journalist (sends so many paragraphs round about herself, you know),
will tell me who invents that sort of news, and I'll interview the

"Yes, won't it be fun to run her to earth?" said Lillie gleefully.

Silverdale took advantage of her good-humor.

"I hope the discovery of the baseness of your sex will turn you again to
mine." There was a pleading tenderness in his eyes.

"What! to your baseness? I thought you were so good."

"I am no good without you," he said boldly.

"Oh, that is too rich! Suppose I had never been born?"

"I should have wished I hadn't."

"But you wouldn't have known _I_ hadn't."

"You're getting too metaphysical for my limited understanding."

"Nonsense, you understand metaphysics as well as I do."

"Do not disparage yourself. You know I cannot endure metaphysics."

"Why not?"

"Because they are mostly made in Germany. And all Germans write as if
their aim was to be misunderstood. Listen to my simple English lay."

"Another love-song to Chloe?"

"No, a really great poem, suggested by the number of papers and poems I
have already seen this _Moon_ paragraph in."

He took down the banjo, thrummed it, and sang:

                      THE GRAND PARAGRAPHIC TOUR.

    I composed a little story
        About a cockatoo,
    With no desire of glory,
        To see what would ensue.

    It took the public liking
        From China to Peru.
    The point of it was striking,
        Though perfectly untrue.

    It began in a morning journal
        When gooseberries were due,
    The subject seemed eternal,
        So many scribes it drew.

    And in every evening column
        It made a great to-do,
    Sub-editors so solemn
        Just adding thereunto.

    In the London Correspondence
        'Twas written up anew,
    And then a fog came on dense
        And hid me quite from view.

    And some said they had heard it
        From keepers in the Zoo,
    While others who averred it
        Had _seen_ that cockatoo.

    It lived, my little fable,
        I chuckled and I crew
    As at my very table
        Friends twisted it askew.

    It leapt across the Channel,
        A bounding kangaroo.
    It did not shrink like flannel
        But gained in size and hue.

    It appeared in French and Spanish
        With errors not a few,
    In Russian, Greek and Danish,
        Inaccurately, too.

    And waxing more romantic
        With every wind that blew,
    It crossed the broad Atlantic
        And grew and grew and grew.

    At last, like boomerang, it
        Sped back across the blue,
    And tall and touched with twang, it
        Appeared whence first it flew.

    An annual affliction,
        It tours the wide world through,
    And I who bred the fiction
        Have come to think it true.

    Life's burden it has doubled,
        For peace of mind it slew,
    My dreams by it are troubled,
        My days are filled with rue.

    Its horrors yearly thicken,
        It sticks to me like glue,
    And sad and conscience-stricken
        I curse that cockatoo.

"That is what will happen with Clorinda Bell's membership of our club,"
continued the poet. "She will remain a member long after it has ceased
to exist. Once a thing has appeared in print, you cannot destroy it. A
published lie is immortal. Age cannot wither it, nor custom stale its
infinite variety. It thrives by contradiction. Give me a cup of tea and
I will go and interview the _Moon_-man at once."

The millionaire, hearing tea was on the tray, came in to join them, and
Silverdale soon went off to his aunt, Lady Goody-Goody Twoshoes, and got
the address of the man in the _Moon_.

"Lillie, what's this I see in the _Moon_ about Clorinda Bell joining
your Club?" asked the millionaire.

"An invention, father."

The millionaire looked disappointed.

"Will all your Old Maids be young?"

"Yes, papa. It is best to catch them young."

"I shall be dining at the Club sometimes," he announced irrelevantly.

"Oh, no, papa. You are not admissible during the sittings."

"Why? You let Lord Silverdale in."

"Yes, but he is not married."

"Oh!" and the millionaire went away with brighter brow.

                   [Illustration: _The Millionaire._]

The rest of the afternoon Lillie was busy conducting the Preliminary
Examination of a surpassingly beautiful girl who answered to the name of
"Princess," and would give no other name for the present, not even to
Turple the magnificent.

"You got my letter, I suppose?" asked the Princess.

"Oh, yes," said the President. "I should have written to you."

"I thought it best to come and see you about it at once, as I have
suddenly determined to go to Brighton, and I don't know when I may be
back. I had not heard of your Club till the other day, when I saw in the
_Moon_ that Clorinda Bell was going to join it, and anything she joins
must of course be strictly proper, so I haven't troubled to ask the
Honorable Miss Primpole's advice--she lives with me, you know. An only
orphan cannot be too careful!"

"You need not fear," said Lillie. "Miss Bell is not to be a member. We
have refused her."

"Oh, indeed! Well, perhaps it is as well not to bring the scent of the
footlights over the Club. It is hard upon Miss Bell, but if you were to
admit her, I suppose other actresses would want to come in. There are so
many of them that prefer to remain single."

"Are you sure _you_ do?"

"Positive. My experience of lovers has been so harassing and peculiar
that I shall never marry, and as my best friends cannot call me a
wall-flower, I venture to think you will find me a valuable ally in your
noble campaign against the degrading superstition that Old Maids are
women who have not found husbands, just as widows are women who have
lost them."

"I sincerely hope so," said Lillie enthusiastically. "You express my
views very neatly. May I ask what are the peculiar experiences you speak

"Certainly. Some months ago I amused myself by recording the strange
episodes of my first loves, and in anticipation of your request I have
brought the manuscript."

"Oh, please read it!" said Lillie excitedly.

"Of course I have not given the real names."

"No, I quite understand. Won't you have a chocolate cream before you

"Thank you. They look lovely. How awfully sweet!"

"Too sweet for you?" inquired Lillie anxiously.

"No, no. I mean they are just nice."

The Princess untied the pretty pink ribbon that enfolded the dainty,
scented manuscript, and pausing only to munch an occasional chocolate
cream, she read on till the shades of evening fell over the Old Maids'
Club and the soft glow of the candles illuminated its dainty complexion.

                               CHAPTER V.

                   "THE PRINCESS OF PORTMAN SQUARE."

I am an only child. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and
although there was no royal crest on it, yet no princess could be more
comfortable in the purple than I was in the ordinary trappings of
babyhood. From the cradle upwards I was surrounded with love and luxury.
My pet name "Princess" fitted me like a glove. I was the autocrat of the
nursery and my power scarce diminished when I rose to the drawing-room.
My parents were very obedient and did not even conceal from me that I
was beautiful. In short they did their best to spoil me, though I cannot
admit that they succeeded. I lost them both before I was sixteen. My
poor mother died first and my poor father followed within a week;
whether from grief or from a cold caught through standing bareheaded in
the churchyard, or from employing the same doctor, I cannot precisely

After the usual period of sorrow, I began to pick up a bit and to go out
under the care of my duenna, a faded flower of the aristocracy whose
declining years my guardian had soothed by quartering her on me. She was
a gentle old spinster, the seventh daughter of a penniless peer, and
although she has seen hard times and has almost been reduced to
marriage, yet she has scant respect for my ten thousand a year. She has
never lost the sense of condescension in living with me, and would be
horrified to hear she is in receipt of a salary. It is to this sense of
superiority on her part that I owe a good deal of the liberty I enjoy
under her régime. She does not expect in me that rigid obedience to
venerable forms and conventions which she prescribes for herself; she
regards it as a privilege of the higher gentlewoman to be bound hand and
foot by fashionable etiquette, and so long as my liberty does not
degenerate into license I am welcome to as much as I please of it. She
has continued to call me "Princess," finding doubtless some faint
reverberation of pleasure in the magnificent syllables. I should add
that her name is the Honorable Miss Primpole and that she is not afraid
of the butler.

Our town-house was situated in Portman Square and my parents tenanted it
during the season. There is nothing very poetic about the Square,
perhaps, not even in the summer, when the garden is in bloom, yet it was
here that I first learnt to love. This dull parallelogram was the
birthplace of a passion as spiritual and intangible as ever thrilled
maiden's heart. I fell in love with a Voice.

It was a rich, baritone Voice, with a compass of two and a half octaves,
rising from full bass organ-notes to sweet, flute-like tenor tones. It
was a glorious Voice, now resonant with martial ecstasy, now faint with
mystic rapture. Its vibrations were charged with inexpressible emotion,
and it sang of love and death and high heroic themes. I heard it first a
few months after my father's funeral. It was night. I had been indoors
all day, torpid and miserable, but roused myself at last and took a few
turns in the square. The air was warm and scented, a cloudless moon
flooded the roadway with mellow light and sketched in the silhouettes of
the trees in the background. I had reached the opposite side of the
square for the second time when the Voice broke out. My heart stood
still and I with it.

On the soft summer air the Voice rose and fell; it was accompanied on
the piano, but it seemed in subtler harmony with the moonlight and the
perfumed repose of the night. It came through an open window behind
which the singer sat in the gloaming. With the first tremors of that
Voice my soul forgot its weariness in a strange sweet trance that
trembled on pain. The song seemed to draw out all the hidden longing of
my maiden soul, as secret writing is made legible by fire. When the
Voice ceased, a great blackness fell upon all things, the air grew
bleak. I waited and waited but the Square remained silent. The footsteps
of stray pedestrians, the occasional roll of a carriage alone fell on my
anxious ear. I returned to my house, shivering as with cold. I had never
loved before. I had read and reflected a great deal about love, and was
absolutely ignorant of the subject. I did not know that I loved now--for
that discover only came later when I found myself wandering nightly to
the other side of the parallelogram, listening for the Voice. Rarely,
very rarely, was my pilgrimage rewarded, but twice or thrice a week the
Square became an enchanted garden, full of roses whose petals were
music. Round that baritone Voice I had built up an ideal man--tall and
straight-limbed and stalwart, fair-haired and blue-eyed and
noble-featured, like the hero of a Northern Saga. His soul was vast as
the sea, shaken with the storms of passion, dimpled with smiles of
tenderness. His spirit was at once mighty and delicate, throbbing with
elemental forces yet keen and swift to comprehend all subtleties of
thought and feeling. I could not understand myself, yet I felt that he
would understand me. He had the heart of a lion and of a little child;
he was as merciful as he was strong, as pure as he was wise. To be with
him were happiness, to feel his kiss ecstasy, to be gathered to his
breast, delirium, But alas! he never knew that I was waiting under his

I made several abortive attempts to discover who he was or to see him.
According to the Directory the house was occupied by Lady Westerton. I
concluded that he was her elder son. That he might be her husband--or
some other lady's--never even occurred to me. I do not know why I should
have attached the Voice to a bachelor, any more than I can explain why
he should be the eldest son, rather than the youngest. But romance has a
logic of its own. From the topmost window of my house I could see Lady
Westerton's house across the trees, but I never saw him leave or enter
it. Once, a week went by without my hearing him sing. I did not know
whether to think of him as a sick bird or as one flown to warmer climes.
I tried to construct his life from his periods of song, I watched the
lights in his window, my whole life circled round him. It was only when
I grew pale and feverish and was forced by the doctors and my guardian
to go yachting that my fancies gradually detached themselves from my
blue-eyed hero. The sea-salt freshened my thoughts, I became a
healthy-minded girl again, carolling joyously in my cabin and taking
pleasure in listening to my own voice. I threw my novels overboard
(metaphorically, that is) and set the Hon. Miss Primpole chatting
instead, when the seascape palled upon me. She had a great fund of
strictly respectable memories. Most people's recollections are of no use
to anybody but the owner, but hers afforded entertainment for both of
us. By the time I was back in London the Voice was no longer part even
of my dreams, though it seemed to belong to them. But for accident it
might have remained forever "a voice and nothing more." The accident
happened at a musical-afternoon in Kensington. I was introduced to a
tall, fair, handsome blue-eyed guardsman, Captain Athelstan by name. His
conversation was charming and I took a lot of it, while Miss Primpole
was busy flirting with a seductive Spaniard. You could not tell Miss
Primpole was flirting except by looking at the man. In the course of the
afternoon the hostess asked the captain to sing. As he went to the piano
my heart began to flutter with a strange foreboding. He had no music
with him, but plunged at once into the promontory chords. My agitation
increased tenfold. He was playing the prelude to one of the Voice's
songs--a strange, haunting song with a Schubert atmosphere, a song which
I had looked for in vain among the classics. At once he was transfigured
to my eyes, all my sleeping romantic fancies woke to delicious life, and
in the instant in which I waited, with bated breath, for the outbreak of
the Voice at the well-known turn of the melody, it was borne in upon me
that this was the only man I had ever loved or would ever love. My Saga
hero! my Berserker, my Norse giant!

[Illustration: _Miss Primpole was flirting with a seductive Spaniard._]

When the Voice started it was not _my_ Voice. It was a thin, throaty
tenor. Compared with the Voice of Portman Square, it was as a tinkling
rivulet to a rushing full-volumed river. I sank back on the lounge,
hiding my emotions behind my fan.

When the song was finished, he made his way through the "Bravas" to my

"Sweetly pretty!" I murmured.

"The song or the singing?" he asked with a smile.

"The song," I answered frankly. "Is it yours?"

"No, but the singing is!"

His good-humor was so delightful that I forgave his not having my Voice.

"What is its name?"

"It is anonymous--like the composer."

"Who is he?"

"I must not tell."

"Can you give me a copy of the song?"

He became embarrassed.

"I would with pleasure, if it were mine. But the fact is--I--I--had no
right to sing it at all, and the composer would be awfully vexed if he

"Original composer?"

"He is, indeed. He cannot bear to think of his songs being sung in

"Dear me! What a terrible mystery you are making of it," I laughed.

"O r-really there is no abracadabra about it. You misunderstand me. But
I deserve it all for breaking faith and exploiting his lovely song so as
to drown my beastly singing."

"You need not reproach yourself," I said. "I have heard it before."

He started perceptibly. "Impossible," he gasped.

"Thank you," I said freezingly.

"But how?"

"A little bird sang it me."

"It is you who are making the mystery now."

"Tit for tat. But I will discover yours."

"Not unless you are a witch!"

"A what?"

"A witch."

"I am," I said enigmatically. "So you see it's of no use hiding anything
from me. Come, tell me all, or I will belabor you with my broomstick."

"If you know, why should I tell you?"

"I want to see if you can tell the truth."

"No, I can't." We both laughed. "See what a cruel dilemma you place me
in!" he said beseechingly.

"Tell me, at least, why he won't publish his songs. Is he too modest,
too timid?"

"Neither. He loves art for art's sake--that is all."

"I don't understand."

"He writes to please himself. To create music is his highest pleasure.
He can't see what it has got to do with anybody else."

"But surely he wants the world to enjoy his work?"

"Why? That would be art for the world's sake, art for fame's sake, art
for money's sake!"

"What an extraordinary view!"

"Why so? The true artist--the man to whom creation is rapture--surely he
is his own world. Unless he is in need of money, why should he concern
himself with the outside universe? My friend cannot understand why
Schopenhauer should have troubled himself to chisel epigrams or Leopardi
lyrics to tell people that life was not worth living. Had either been a
true artist, he would have gone on living his own worthless life,
unruffled by the applause of the mob. My friend can understand a poet
translating into inspired song the sacred secrets of his soul, but he
cannot understand his scattering them broad-cast through the country,
still less taking a royalty on them. He says it is selling your soul in
the market-place, and almost as degrading as going on the stage."

"And do you agree with him?"

"Not entirely, otherwise I should never have yielded to the temptation
to sing his song to-night. Fortunately he will never hear of it. He
never goes into society, and I am his only friend."

"Dear me!" I said sarcastically. "Is he as careful to conceal his body
as his soul?"

His face grew grave. "He has an affliction," he said in low tones.

"Oh, forgive me!" I said remorsefully. Tears came into my eyes as the
vision of the Norse giant gave away to that of an English hunchback. My
adoring worship was transformed to an adoring matronly tenderness.
Divinely-gifted sufferer, if I cannot lean on thy strength, thou shalt
lean on mine! So ran my thought till the mist cleared from my eyes and I
saw again the glorious Saga-hero at my side, and grew strangely confused
and distraught.

"There is nothing to forgive," answered Captain Athelstan. "You did not
know him."

"You forget I am a witch. But I do not know him--it is true. I do not
even know his name. Yet within a week I undertake to become a friend of

He shook his head. "You do not know him."

"I admitted that," I answered pertly. "Give me a week, and he shall not
only know me, he shall abjure those sublime principles of his at my

The spirit of mischief moved me to throw down the challenge. Or was it
some deeper impulse?

He smiled sceptically.

"Of course if you know somebody who will introduce you," he began.

"Nobody shall introduce me," I interrupted.

"Well, he'll never speak to you first."

"You mean it would be unmaidenly for me to speak to him first. Well, I
will bind myself to do nothing of which Mrs. Grundy would disapprove.
And yet the result shall be as I say."

"Then I shall admit you are indeed a witch."

"You don't believe in my power, that is. Well, what will you wager?"

"If you achieve your impossibility, you will deserve anything."

"Will you back your incredulity with a pair of gloves?"

"With a hundred."

"Thank you. I am not a Briareus. Let us say one pair then."

"So be it."

"But no countermining. Promise me not to communicate with your
mysterious friend in the interval."

"I promise."

"But how shall I know the result?"

I pondered. "I will write--no, that would be hardly proper. Meet me in
the Royal Academy, Room Six, at the 'Portrait of a Gentleman,' about
noon to-morrow week."

"A week is a long time!" he sighed.

I arched my eyebrows. "A week a long time for such a task!" I exclaimed.

Next day I called at the house of the Voice. A gorgeous creature in
plush opened the door.

"I want to see--to see--gracious! I've forgotten his name," I said in
patent chagrin. I clucked my tongue, puckered my lips, tapped the step
with my parasol, then smiled pitifully at the creature in plush. He
turned out to be only human, for a responsive sympathetic smile
flickered across his pompous face. "You know--the singer," I said, as if
with a sudden inspiration.

"Oh. Lord Arthur!" he said.

"Yes, of course," I cried, with a little trill of laughter. "How stupid
of me! Please tell him I want to see him on an important matter."

"He--he's very busy, I'm afraid, miss."

"Oh, but he'll see me," I said confidently.

"Yes, miss; who shall I say, miss?"

"The Princess."

He made a startled obeisance, and ushered me into a little room on the
right of the hall. In a few moments he returned and said--"His lordship
will be down in a second, your highness."

Sixty minutes seemed to go to that second, so racked was I with
curiosity. At last I heard a step outside and a hand on the door, and at
that moment a horrible thought flashed into my mind. What certainty was
there my singer was a hunchback? Suppose his affliction were something
more loathly. What if he had a monstrous wen! For the instant after his
entry I was afraid to look up. When I did, I saw a short, dark-haired
young man, with proper limbs and refined features. But his face wore a
blank expression, and I wondered why I had not divined before that my
musician was blind!

He bowed and advanced towards me. He came straight in my direction so
that I saw he _could_ see. The blank expression gave place to one of

"I have ventured to call upon your lordship in reference to a Charity
Concert," I said sweetly; "I am one of your neighbors, living just
across the square, and as the good work is to be done in this district,
I dared to hope that I could persuade you to take part in it."

I happened to catch sight of my face in the glass of a chiffonier as I
spoke, and it was as pure and candid and beautiful as the face of one of
Guido's angels. When I ceased, I looked up at Lord Arthur's. It was
spasmodically agitated, the mouth was working wildly. A nervous dread
seized me.

After what seemed an endless interval, he uttered an explosive "Put!"
following it up by "f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-or two g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g----"

"It is very kind of you," I interrupted mercifully. "But I did not
propose to ask you for a subscription. I wanted to enlist your services
as a performer. But I fear I have made a mistake. I understood you
sang." Inwardly I was furious with the stupid creature in plush for
having misled me into such an unpleasant situation.

"I d-d-d-o s-s-s-s-s----" he answered.

As he stood there hissing, the truth flashed upon me at last. I had
heard that the most dreadful stammerers enunciate as easily as anybody
else when they sing, because the measured swing of the time keeps them
steady. My heart sank as I thought of the Voice so mutilated! Poor young
peer! Was this to be the end of all my beautiful visions?

As cheerfully as I could I cut short his sibilations. "Oh, that's all
right, then," I said. "Then I may put you down for a couple of items."

He shook his head, and held up his hands deprecatingly.

"Anything but that!" he stammered; "Make me a patron, a committee-man,
anything! I do not sing in public."

While he was saying this I thought long and deeply. The affliction was
after all less terrible than I had a right to expect, and I knew from
the advertisement columns that it was easily curable. Demosthenes, I
remembered, had stoned it to death. I felt my love reviving, as I looked
into his troubled face, instinct with the double aristocracy of rank and
genius. At the worst the singing Voice was unaffected by the disability,
and as for the conversational, well there was consolation in the
prospect of having the last word while one's husband was still having
the first. _En attendant_, I could have wished him to sing his replies
instead of speaking them, for not only should I thus enjoy his Voice but
the interchange of ideas would proceed less tardily. However that would
have made him into an operatic personage, and I did not want him to look
so ridiculous as all that.

It would be tedious to recount our interview at the length it extended
to. Suffice it to say that I gained my point. Without letting out that I
knew of his theories of art for art's sake, I yet artfully pleaded that
whatever one's views, charity alters cases, inverts everything,
justifies anything. "For instance," I said with charming _naïveté_, "I
would not have dared to call on you but in its sacred name." He agreed
to sing two songs--nay, two of his own songs. I was to write to him
particulars of time and place. He saw me to the door. I held out my hand
and he took it, and we looked at each other, smiling brightly.

"B-but I d-d-d-don't know your n-n-name," he said suddenly.
"P-p-p-rincess what?"

He spoke more fluently, now he had regained his composure.

"Princess," I answered, my eyes gleaming merrily. "That is all. The
Honorable Miss Primpole will give me a character, if you require one."
He laughed--his laugh was like the Voice--and followed me with his eyes
as I glided away.

I had won my gloves--and in a day. I thought remorsefully of the poor
Saga hero destined to wait a week in suspense as to the result. But it
was too late to remedy this, and the organization of the Charity Concert
needed all my thoughts. I was in for it now, and I resolved to carry it
through. But it was not so easy as I had lightly assumed. Getting the
artists, of course, was nothing--there are always so many professionals
out of work or anxious to be brought out, and so many amateurs in search
of amusement. I could have filled the Albert Hall with entertainers. Nor
did I anticipate any difficulty in disposing of the tickets. If you are
at all popular in society you can get a good deal of unpopularity by
forcing them on your friends. No, the real difficulty about this Charity
Concert was the discovery of an object in aid of which to give it. In my
innocence I had imagined that the world was simply bustling with
unexploited opportunities for well-doing. Alas! I soon found that
philanthropy was an over-crowded profession. There was not a single nook
or corner of the universe but had been ransacked by these restless
free-lances; not a gap, not a cranny but had been filled up. In vain I
explored the map, in the hopes of lighting on some undiscovered
hunting-ground in far Cathay or where the khamsin sweeps the Afric
deserts. I found that the wants of the most benighted savages were
carefully attended to, and that, even when they had none, they were
thoughtfully supplied with them. Anxiously I scanned the newspapers in
search of a calamity, the sufferers by which I might relieve, but only
one happened during that week, and that was snatched from between my
very fingers by a lady who had just been through the Divorce Court. In
my despair I bethought myself of the preacher I sat under. He was a very
handsome man, and published his sermons by request.

I went to him and I said: "How is the church?"

"It is all right, thank you," he said.

"Doesn't it want anything done to it?"

"No, it is in perfect repair. My congregation is so very good."

I groaned aloud. "But isn't there any improvement that you would like?"

"The last of the gargoyles was put up last week. Mediæval architecture
is always so picturesque. I have had the entire structure made mediæval,
you know."

"But isn't the outside in need of renovation?"

"What! When I have just had it made mediæval!"

"But the interior--there must be something defective somewhere!"

"Not to my knowledge."

"But think! think!" I cried desperately. "The
altar-cloths--organ--spires--is there nothing in need of anything?"

He shook his head.

"Wouldn't you like a colored window to somebody?"

"All the windows are taken up. My congregation is so very good."

"A memorial brass then?"

He mused.

"There is only one of my flock who has done anything memorable lately."

My heart gave a great leap of joy. "Then why do you neglect him?" I
asked indignantly. "If we do not perpetuate the memory of virtue----"

"He's alive," he interrupted.

I bit my lips in vexation.

"I think you need a few more choristers," I murmured.

"Oh no, we are sending some away."

"The Sunday School Fund--how is that?"

"I am looking about for a good investment for the surplus. Do you know
of any? A good mortgage, perhaps?"

"Is there none on the church?" I cried with a flicker of hope.

"Heaven forbid!"

I cudgelled my brains frantically.

"What do you think of a lightning-rod!"

"A premier necessity. I never preach in a building unprotected by one."

I made one last wild search.

"How about a reredos?"

He looked at me in awful, pained silence.

I saw I had stumbled. "I--I mean a new wing," I stammered.

"I am afraid you are not well this morning," said the preacher, patting
my hand soothingly. "Won't you come and talk it over, whatever it is,
another time?"

"No, no," I cried excitedly. "It must be settled at once. I have it. A
new peal of bells!"

"What is the matter with the bells?" he asked anxiously. "There isn't a
single one cracked."

I saw his dubiety, and profited by it. I learnt afterwards it was due to
his having no ear of his own.

"Cracked! Perhaps not," I replied in contemptuous accents. "But they
deserve to be. No wonder the newspapers keep correspondences going on
the subject."

"Yes, but what correspondents object to is the bells ringing at all."

"I don't wonder," I said. "I don't say your bells are worse than the
majority, or that I haven't got a specially sensitive ear for music, but
I know that when I hear their harsh clanging, I--well I don't feel
inclined to go to church and that's the truth. I am quite sure if you
had a really musical set of chimes, it would increase the spirituality
of the neighborhood."

"How so?" he asked sceptically.

"It would keep down swearing on Sunday."

"Oh!" He pondered a moment, then said: "But that would be a great

"Indeed? I thought bells were cheap."

"Certainly. Area bells, hand-bells, sleigh-bells. But Church-bells are
very costly. There are only a few foundries in the kingdom. But why are
you so concerned about my church?"

"Because I am giving a Charity Concert, and I should like to devote the
proceeds to something."

"A very exemplary desire. But I fear one bell is the most you could get
out of a Charity Concert."

I looked disappointed. "What a pity! It would have been such a nice
precedent to improve the tone of the Church. The 'constant readers'
would have had to cease their letters."

"No, no, impossible. A 'constant reader' seems to be so called because
he is a constant writer."

"But there might have been leaders about it."

"Hardly sensational enough for that! Stay I have an idea. In the
beautiful Ages of Faith, when a Church-bell was being cast, the pious
used to bring silver vessels to be fused with the bell-metal in the
furnace, so as to give the bell a finer tone. A mediæval practice is
always so poetical. Perhaps I could revive it. My congregation is so
very good."

"Good!" I echoed, clapping my hands. "But a Concert will not suffice--we
shall need a Bazaar," said the preacher.

"Oh, but I must have a Concert!"

"Certainly Bazaars include Concerts."

          [Illustration: _How the Duchess wanted to appear._]

That was how the Great Church Bazaar originated and how the Rev. Melitos
Smith came to resurrect the beautiful mediæval custom which brought him
so much kudos and extracted such touching sentiments from hardened
journalists. The Bazaar lasted a week, and raised a number of ladies in
the social scale, and married off three of my girl-friends, and cut me
off the visiting list of the Duchess of Dash. She was pining for a
chance of coming out in a comic opera chanson, but this being a Church
Bazaar I couldn't allow her to kick up her heels. Everything could be
bought at that Bazaar, from photographs of the Rev. Melitos Smith to
impracticable mouse-traps, from bread-and-cheese to kisses. There were
endless side-shows, and six gipsy girls scattered about the rooms, so
that you could have your fortune told in six different ways. I should
not like to say how much that Bazaar cost me when the bill for the Bells
came in, but then Lord Arthur sang daily in the Concert Hall, and I
could also deduct the price of the pair of gloves Captain Athelstan gave
me. For the Captain honorably stood the loss of his wager, nay, more,
cheerfully accepted his defeat, and there on the spot--before the
"Portrait of another Gentleman"--offered to enlist in the Bazaar. And
very useful he proved, too. We had to be together, organizing it, nearly
all day and I don't know what I should have done without him. I don't
know what his Regiment did without him, but then I have never been able
to find out when our gallant officers do their work. They seem always to
be saving it up for a rainy day.

I was never more surprised in my life than when, on the last night of
the Bazaar-boom, amid the buzz of a brisk wind-up, Lord Arthur and
Captain Athelstan came into the little presidential sanctum, which had
been run up for me, and requested a special interview.

"I can give you five minutes," I said, for I felt my finger was on the
pulse of the Bazaar, and my time correspondingly important.

They looked grateful, then embarrassed. Captain Athelstan opened his
mouth and closed it.

"_You_ had better tell her," he said, nervously, to Lord Arthur.

"N-n-no, y-y-y-y----"

"What is it, Captain Athelstan?" I interrupted, pointedly, for I had
only five minutes.

"Princess, we both love you," began the Captain, blushing like a
hobbledehoy, and rushing _in medias res_. I allowed them to call me
Princess, because it was not my Christian name.

"Is this the time--when I am busy feeling the pulse of the Bazaar?"

"You gave us five minutes," pleaded the Captain, determined to do or
die, now he was in the thick of it.

"Go on," I said, "I will forgive you everything--even your love of
me--if you are only brief."

"We both love you. We are great friends. We have no secrets. We told
each other. We are doubtful if you love either--or which. We have come

He fired off the short, sharp sentences as from a six-barrelled

"Captain Athelstan--Lord Arthur," I said. "I am deeply touched by the
honor you have done your friendship and me. I will be equally frank--and
brief--with you. I cannot choose either of you, because I love you both.
Like every girl, I formed an ideal of a lover. I have been fortunate in
finding my ideal in the flesh. I have been unfortunate in finding it in
two pieces. Fate has bisected it, and given the form to one and the
voice to the other. My ideal looks like you, Captain Athelstan, and
sings like you, Lord Arthur. It is a stupid position, I know, and I feel
like the donkey between two bundles of hay. But under the circumstances
I have no choice."

They looked at each other half-rapturously, half-despairingly.

"Then what's to be done?" cried the Captain.

"I don't know," I said, hopelessly. "Love seems not only blind, but a
blind alley, this time."

"D-do you m-m-ean," asked Lord Arthur, "'how happy could I be with
either, were t'other dear charmer away?'"

I was glad he sang it, because it precipitated matters.

"That is the precise position," I admitted.

"Oh, then, Arthur, my boy, I congratulate you," said the Captain,

"N-n-no, I'll g-g-go away," said the singer.

They wrangled for full ten minutes, but the position remained a block.

             [Illustration: _Bazaar proposal of Marriage._]

"Gentlemen," I interposed, "if either of you had consented to accept the
other's sacrifice, the problem would have been solved; only I should
have taken the other. But two self-sacrifices are as bad as none."

"Then let us toss up for you, Princess," said the Captain, impulsively.

"Oh, no!" I cried, with a shudder. "Submit my life to the chances of
head or tail! It would make me feel like a murderess, with you for
gentlemen of the jury."

A painful silence fell upon the sanctum. Unwitting of the tragedy
playing within, all the fun of the fair went on without.

"Listen," I said, at last. "I will be the wife of him who wins me.
Chance shall not decide, but prowess. Like the princesses of old, I will
set you a task. Whoever accomplishes it shall win my hand."

"Agreed," they said eagerly, though not simultaneously.

"Ay, but what shall it be?" I murmured.

"Why not a competition?" suggested the Captain.

"Very well, a competition--provided you promise to fight fair, and not
play into each other's hands."

They promised, and together we excogitated and rejected all sorts of
competitions. The difficulty was to find something in which each would
have a fair chance. At length we arranged that they should play a game
of chess, the winner to be mated. They agreed it would be a real "match
game." The five minutes had by this time lasted half an hour, so I
dismissed them, and hastened to feel the pulse of the Bazaar, which was
getting more and more feverish as the break-up drew nigh.

They played the game in Lord Arthur's study. Lord Arthur was white and
the Captain black. Everything was fair and above board. But they played
rather slowly. Every evening I sent the butler over to make inquiries.

"The Princess's compliments," he was told to say, "and how is it

"It is getting on," they told him, and he came back with a glad face. He
was a kind soul despite his calves, and he thought there was a child

Once a week I used to go over and look at it. Ostensibly I called in
connection with the Bazaar accounts. I could not see any difference in
the position from one week's end to another. There seemed to be a clump
of pawns in the middle, with all the other pieces looking idly on; there
was no thoroughfare anywhere.

They told me it always came like that when you played cautiously. They
said it was a French opening. I could not see any opening anywhere; it
certainly was not the English way of fighting. Picture my suspense
during those horrible weeks.

"Is this the way all match-games are played?" I said once.

"N-n-o," admitted Lord Arthur. "We for-g-g-ot to p-p-p-ut a

"What's the time-limit?" I asked the Captain, wishing my singer could
learn to put one to his sentences.

"So many moves must be made in an hour--usually fifteen. Otherwise the
younger champion would always win, merely by outliving the elder. We
forgot to include that condition."

At length our butler brought back word that "it couldn't last much
longer." His face was grave and he gave the message in low tones.

"What a blessing. It's been lingering long enough! I wish they would
polish it off," I murmured fretfully. After that I frequently caught him
looking at me as if I were Lucrezia Borgia.

The end came suddenly. The butler went across to make the usual inquiry.
He returned, with a foolish face of horror and whispered, "It is all
over. It has been drawn by perpetual check!"

"Great Heavens!" I cried. My consternation was so manifest that he
forgave the utterance of a peevish moment. I put on my nicest hat at
once and went over. We held a council of war afresh.

"Let's go by who catches the biggest trout," suggested the Captain.

"No," I said. "I will not be angled for. Besides, the biggest is not
grammatical. It should be the bigger."

Thus reproved, the Captain grew silent and we came to a deadlock once
more. I gave up the hunt at last.

"I think the best plan will be for you both to go away and travel. Go
round the world, see fresh faces, try to forget me. One of you will

"But suppose we both succeed?" asked the Captain.

"That would be more awkward than ever," I admitted.

"And if neither succeed?" asked Lord Arthur at some length.

"I should say neither succeeds," I remarked severely. "Neither takes a
singular verb."

"Pardon me," said Lord Arthur with some spirit. "The plurality is merely
apparent. 'Succeed' is subjunctive after if."

"Ah, true," I said. "Then suppose you go round the world and I give my
hand to whoever comes back and proposes to me first."

"Something like the man in Jules Verne!" cried the Captain. "Glorious!"

"Except that it can be done quicker now," I said.

Lord Arthur fell in joyously with the idea, which was a godsend to me,
for the worry of having about you two men whom you love and who love you
cannot be easily conceived by those who have not been through it. They,
too, were pining away and felt the journey would do them good. Captain
Athelstan applied for three months' furlough. He was to put a girdle
round the earth from West to East, Lord Arthur from East to West. It was
thought this would work fairly--as whatever advantages one outgoing
route had over the other would be lost on the return. Each drew up his
scheme and prepared his equipment. The starting-point was to be my
house, and consequently this was also the goal. After forty-eight days
had passed (the minimum time possible) I was to remain at home day and
night, awaiting the telegram which was to be sent the moment either
touched English soil again. On the receipt of the telegram I was to take
up my position at the front window on the ground floor, with a white
rose in my hair to show I was still unwon, and to wait there day and
night for the arrival of my offer of marriage, which I was not to have
the option of refusing. During the race they were not to write to me.

The long-looked-for day of their departure duly arrived. Two hansoms
were drawn up side by side, in front of the house. A white rose in my
hair, I sat at the window. A parting smile, a wave of my handkerchief,
and my lovers were off. In an instant they were out of sight. For a
month they were out of mind, too. After the exhausting emotions I had
undergone this period of my life was truly halcyon. I banished my lovers
from my memory and enjoyed what was left of the season and of my girlish
freedom. In two months I should be an affianced wife and it behoved me
to make the best of my short span of spinsterhood. The season waned,
fashion drifted to Cowes, I was left alone in empty London. Then my
thoughts went back to the two travellers. As day followed day, my
anxiety and curiosity mounted proportionately. The forty-eight days went
by, but there was no wire. They passed slowly--oh, so slowly--into
fifty, while I waited, waited, from dawn to midnight, with ears pricked
up, for that double rat-tat which came not or which came about something
else. The sands of September dribbled out, and my fate still hung in the
balance. I went about the house like an unquiet spirit. In imagination I
was seeing those two men sweeping towards me--one from the East of the
world, one from the West. And there I stood, rooted to the spot, while
from either side a man was speeding inevitably towards me, across oceans
and continents, through canals and tunnels, along deserts or rivers,
pressing into his service every human and animal force and every blind
energy that man had tamed. To my fevered imagination I seemed to be
between the jaws of a leviathan, which were closing upon me at a
terrific rate, yet which took days to snap together, so wide were they
apart, so gigantic was the monster. Which of the jaws would touch me

The fifties mounted into the sixties, but there was no telegram. The
tension became intolerable. Again and again I felt tempted to fly, but a
lingering sense of honor kept me to my post. On the sixty-first day my
patience was rewarded. Sitting at my window one morning I saw a
telegraph-boy sauntering along. He reached the gate. He paused. I rushed
to the door and down the steps, seized the envelope and tore it
frantically open.

               "_Coming, but suppose all over._--ARTHUR."

I leaned on the gate, half fainting. When I went to my room, I read the
wire again and noted it had been handed in at Liverpool. In four or five
hours at most I should cease to belong to myself. I communicated the
news to the Honorable Miss Primpole who congratulated me cordially. She
made no secret of her joy that the nobleman had won. For my part I was
still torn with conflicting emotions. Now that I knew it was to be the
one, I hankered after the other. Yet in the heart of the storm there was
peace in the thought that the long suspense was over. I ordered a
magnificent repast to be laid for the home-coming voyager, which would
also serve to celebrate our nuptials. The Honorable Miss Primpole
consented to grace the board and the butler to surrender the choicest
vintages garnered in my father's cellar.

Two hours and a half dragged by; then there came another wire--I opened
it with some curiosity, but as my eye caught the words I almost swooned
with excitement. It ran:

             "_Arrived, but presume too late._--ATHELSTAN."

With misty vision I strove to read the place of despatch. It was Dover.
A great wave of hope surged in my bosom. My Saga-hero might yet arrive
in time. Half frenziedly I turned over the leaves of Bradshaw. No, after
sending that wire, he would just have missed the train to Victoria!
Cruel! Cruel! But stay! there was another route. He might have booked
for Charing Cross. Yes! Heaven be praised, if he did that, he would just
catch a train. And of course he would do that--surely he would have
planned out every possibility while crossing the Channel, have arranged
for all--my Captain, my blue-eyed Berserker! But then Lord Arthur had
had two and a half hours' start.--I turned to Liverpool and essayed to
discover whether that was sufficient to balance the difference of the
two distances from London. Alas! my head swam before I had travelled two
stations. There were no less than four routes to Euston, to St. Pancras,
to King's Cross, to Paddington! Still I made out that if he had kept his
head very clear, and been very, very fortunate, he might just get level
with the Captain. But then on a longer route the chances of accidental
delays were more numerous. On the whole the odds were decidedly in favor
of the Captain. But one thing was certain--that they would both arrive
in time for supper. I ordered an additional cover to be laid, then I
threw myself upon a couch and tried to read. But I could not. Terrible
as was the strain, my thoughts refused to be distracted. The minutes
crawled along--gradually peace came back as I concluded that only by a
miracle could Lord Arthur win. At last I jumped up with a start, for the
shades of evening were falling and my toilette was yet to make. I
dressed myself in a dainty robe of white, trimmed with sprays of wild
flowers, and I stuck the white rose in my hair--the symbol that I was
yet unasked in wedlock, the white star of hope to the way-worn wanderer!
I did my best to be the fairest sight the travellers should have seen in
all the world.

The Honorable Miss Primpole started when she saw me. "What have you been
doing to yourself, Princess?" she said. "You're lovelier than I ever

And indeed the crisis had lent a flush to my cheek and a flash to my eye
which I would not willingly repay. My bosom rose and fell with
excitement. In half an hour I should be in my Saga-hero's arms! I went
down to the ground-floor front and seated myself at the open window and
gazed at the Square and the fiery streaks of sunset in the sky. The
Honorable Miss Primpole lay upon an ottoman, less excited. Every now and
again she asked,

"Do you see anything, Princess?"

"Nothing," I answered.

Of course she did not take my answer literally. Several times cabs and
carriages rattled past the window, but with no visible intention of
drawing up. Duskier, duskier grew the September evening, as I sat
peering into the twilight.

"Do you see anything, Princess?"


A moment after a hansom came dashing into sight--a head protruded from
it. I uttered a cry and leant forward, straining my eyes. Captain
Athelstan. Yes! No! No! Yes! No! _No!_ Will it be believed that (such is
the heart of woman) I felt a sensation of relief on finding the issue
still postponed? For in the moment when the Captain seemed to flash upon
my vision--it was borne in upon me like a chilling blast that I had lost
my Voice. Never would that glorious music swell for me as I sat alone
with my husband in the gloaming.

The streaks of sunset faded into gray ashes.

"Do you see anything, Princess?"


Even as I spoke I heard the gallop of hoofs in the quiet Square, and,
half paralyzed by the unexpected vision, I saw Lord Arthur dashing
furiously up on horseback--Lord Arthur, bronzed and bearded and
travel-stained, but Lord Arthur beyond a doubt. He took off his hat and
waved it frantically in the air when he caught sight of my white figure,
with the white rose of promise nestling in my hair. My poor Saga-hero!

                 [Illustration: _At the winning Post._]

He reined in his beautiful steed before my window and commenced his
proposal breathlessly.


Even Mr. Gladstone, if he had been racing as madly as Lord Arthur might
well have been flustered in his speech. The poor singer could not get
out the first word, try as he would. At last it came out like a
soda-water cork and '_you_' with it. But at the '_be_' there was--O dire
to tell!--another stoppage.


"Fire! Fire! Hooray!" The dull roar of an advancing crowd burst suddenly
upon our ears, mingled with the piercing exultation of small boys. The
thunderous clatter of the fire-engine seemed to rock the soil of the

But neither of us took eyes off the other.

"_Be!_" It was out at last. The end was near. In another second I should
say "Yes."

"Fire! Fire!" shrieked the small boys.


Lord Arthur's gallant steed shifted uneasily. The fire-engine was
thundering down upon it.


"_Will you be_----" The clarion notes of the Captain rang out above the
clatter of the fire-engine from which he madly jumped.

"_Wife?_" } the two travellers exclaimed together.
"_Mine?_" }

"Dead heat," I murmured, and fell back in a dead faint. My overwrought
nerves could stand no more.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless it was a gay supper-party; the air was thick with
travellers' tales, and the butler did not spare the champagne. We
could not help being tickled by the quaint termination of the
colossal globe-trotting competition, and we soothed Lord Arthur's
susceptibilities by insisting that if he had only remembered the shorter
proposal formula employed by his rival, he would have won by a word. It
was a pure fluke that the Captain was able to tie, for he had not
thought of telegraphing for a horse, but had taken a hansom at the
station, and only exchanged to the fire-engine when he heard people
shouting there was a fire in Seymour Street. Lord Arthur obliged five
times during the evening, and the Honorable Miss Primpole relaxed more
than ever before and accompanied him on the banjo. Before we parted, I
had been persuaded by my lovers to give them one last trial. That night
three months I was to give another magnificent repast, to which they
were both to be invited. During the interval each was to do his best to
become famous, and at the supper-party I was to choose the one who was
the more widely known throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.
They were to place before me what proofs and arguments they pleased, and
I was to decide whose name had penetrated to the greater number of
people. There was to be no appeal from my decision, nor any limitation
to what the candidates might do to force themselves upon the universal
consciousness, so long as they did not merely advertise themselves at so
much a column or poster. They could safely be trusted not to do anything
infamous in the attempt to become famous, and so there was no need to
impose conditions. I had a secret hope that Lord Arthur might thus be
induced to bring his talents before the world and get over his objection
to the degradation of public appearances. My hope was more than

              [Illustration: "_Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee._"]

I grieve to say neither strove to benefit his kind. His lordship went on
the music-hall stage, made up as a costermonger, and devoted his
wonderful voice and his musical genius to singing a cockney ballad with
a chorus consisting merely of the words "Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee"
repeated sixteen times. It caught on like a first-class epidemic. "Ba,
ba, ba, boodle-dee" microbes floated in every breeze. The cholera-chorus
raged from Piccadilly to Land's End, from Kensington to John o'Groats.
The swarthy miners hewed the coal to it. It dropped from passing
balloons, the sailors manned the capstan to it, and the sound of it
superseded fog-horns. Duchesses danced to it, and squalid infants cried
for it. Divines with difficulty kept it out of their sermons,
philosophers drew weighty lessons from it, critics traced its history,
and as it didn't mean anything the greatest Puritans hummed it
inaccurately. "Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee," sang Lord Arthur nightly at six
halls and three theatres, incidentally clearing off all the debts on the
family estates, and, like a flock of sheep, the great British public
took up the bleat, and in every hall and drawing-room blossomed the big
pearl buttons of the cockney costermonger.

But Captain Athelstan came to the front far more easily, if less
profitably. He sent a testimonial to the Perfect Cure Elixir. The Elixir
was accustomed to testimonials from the suffering millions. The spelling
generally had to be corrected before they were fit for publication. It
also received testimonials which were useless, such as: "I took only one
bottle of your Elixir and I got fourteen days." But a testimonial from a
Captain of the Guards was a gold-mine. The Captain's was the best name
the Elixir had ever had, and he had enjoyed more diseases than it had
hitherto professed to cure. Astonished by its own success the Elixir
resolved to make a big spurt and kill off all its rivals. For the next
few months Captain Athelstan was rammed down the throats of all England.
He came with the morning milk in all the daily papers, he arrived by the
first post in a circular, he stared at people from every dead wall when
they went out to business, he was with them at lunch, in little plaques
and placards in every restaurant, he nodded at them in every bar, rode
with them in every train and tram-car, either on the wall or on the back
of the ticket, joined them at dinner in the evening papers and supplied
the pipe lights after the meal. You took up a magazine and found he had
slipped between the sheets, you went to bed and his diseased figure
haunted your dreams. Life lost its sweetness, literature its charm. The
loathsome phantasm of the complexly-afflicted Captain got between you
and the sunshine. Stiff examination papers (compiled from the Captain)
were set at every breakfast-table, and you were sternly interrogated as
to whether you felt an all-gone sensation at the tip of your nose, and
you were earnestly adjured to look at your old diseases. You began to
read an eloquent description of the Alps, and lo! there was the Captain
perched on top. You started a thrilling story of the sea, and the
Captain bobbed up from the bottom; you began a poetical allegory
concerning the Valley of the Shadow, and you found the Captain had been
living there all his life--till he came upon the Elixir. A little
innocent child remarked, "Pater, it is almost bath-time," and you felt
for your handkerchief in view of a touching domestic idyl, but the
Captain froze your tears. "Why have sunstroke in India?" you were asked,
and the Captain supplied the answer. Something came like a thief in the
night. It was the Captain. You were startled to see that there was "A
Blight Over All Creation," but it turned out to be only the Captain.
Everything abutted on the Captain--Shakespeare and the musical glasses,
the Venus of Milo and the Mikado, Day and Night and all the seasons, the
potato harvest and the Durham Coal Strike, the advantages of early
rising, and the American Copyright Act. He was at the bottom of every
passage, he lurked in every avenue, he was at the end of every
perspective. The whole world was familiar with his physical symptoms,
and his sad history. The exploits of Julius Cæsar were but a blur in the
common mind, but everybody knew that the Captain's skin grew Gobelin
blue, that the whites of his eyes turned green, and his tongue stuck in
his cheek, and that the rest of his organism behaved with corresponding
gruesomeness. Everybody knew how they dropped off, "petrified by my
breath," and how his sympathetic friends told him in large capitals


and how his weeping mother, anxious to soothe his last hours, remarked
in reply to a request for another box of somebody else's pills,


and how

                   "HE THOUGHT IT WAS ONLY CHOLERA,"

but how one dose of the Elixir (which new-born babies clamored
for in preference to their mother's milk) had baffled all their
prognostications and made him a celebrity for life. In private the
Captain said that he really had these ailments, though he only
discovered the fact when he read the advertisements of the Elixir. But
the Mess had an inkling that it was all done for a wager, and christened
him "The Perfect Cure." To me he justified himself on the ground that he
had scrupulously described himself as having his tongue in his cheek,
and that he really suffered from love-sickness, which was worse than all
the ills the Elixir cured.

I need scarcely say that I was shocked by my lovers' practical methods
of acquiring that renown for which so many gifted souls have yearned in
vain, though I must admit that both gentlemen retained sufficient sense
of decorum to be revolted by the other's course of action. They
remonstrated with each other gently but firmly. The result was that
their friendship snapped and a week before the close of the competition
they crossed the Channel to fight a duel. I got to hear of it in time
and wired to Boulogne that if they killed each other I would marry
neither, that if only one survived I would never marry my lover's
murderer, and that a duel excited so much gossip that, if both survived,
they would be equally famous and the competition again a failure.

These simple considerations prevented any mishap. The Captain returned
to his Regiment and Lord Arthur went on to the Riviera to while away the
few remaining days and to get extra advertisement out of not appearing
at his halls through indisposition. At Monte Carlo he accidentally broke
the bank, and explained his system to the interviewers. To my chagrin,
for I was tired of see-sawing, this brought him level with the Captain
again. I had been prepared to adjudicate in favour of the latter, on the
ground that although "Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee" was better known than the
Patent Cure Elixir, yet the originator of the song remained unknown to
many to whom the Captain was a household word, and this in despite of
the extra attention secured to Lord Arthur by his rank. The second
supper-party was again sicklied over with the pale cast of thought.

"No more competitions!" I said. "You seem destined to tie with each
other instead of with me. I will return to my original idea. I will give
you a task which it is not likely both will perform. I will marry the
man who asks me, provided he comes, neither walking nor riding, neither
sailing nor driving, neither skating nor sliding nor flying, neither by
boat nor by balloon nor by bicycle, neither by swimming nor by floating
nor by anybody carrying or dragging or pushing him, neither by any
movement of hand or foot nor by any extraordinary method whatever. Till
this is achieved neither of you must look upon my face again."

"They looked aghast when I set the task. They went away and I have not
seen them from that day to this. I shall never marry now. So I may as
well devote myself to the cause of the Old Maids you are so nobly
championing." She rolled up the MS.

"But," said Lillie excitedly, breaking in for the first time, "what is
the way you want them to come?"

The Princess laughed a silvery laugh.

"No way. Don't you understand? It was a roundabout way of saying I was
tired of them."

"Oh!" said Lillie.

"You see, I got the idea from a fairy-tale," said the Princess. "There,
the doer evaded the conditions by being dragged at a horse's tail--I
have guarded against this, so that now the thing is impossible." Again
her mischievous laughter rang out through the misanthropic room.

Lillie smiled, too. She felt certain Lord Silverdale would find no flaw
in the Princess's armor, and she was exultant at so auspicious an
accession. For the sake of formality, however, she told her that she
would communicate her election by letter.

The next day a telegram came to the Club.

"_Compelled to withdraw candidature. Feat accomplished._ PRINCESS, HOTEL

Equally aghast and excited, Lillie wired back, "_How?_" and prepaid the

"_Lover happened to be here. Came up in lift as I was waiting to go

Still intensely piqued by curiosity and vexation, Lillie telegraphed.


"_Leave you to guess_," answered the electric current.

                              CHAPTER VI.

                          THE GRAMMAR OF LOVE.

The _Moon_-man's name was Wilkins, and he did nine-tenths of the
interviews in that model of the new journalism. Wilkins was the man to
catch the weasel asleep, hit off his features with a kodak, and badger
him the moment he awoke as to why he popped. Wilkins lived in a flat in
Chancery Lane, and had his whiskey and his feet on the table when
Silverdale turned the handle of the door in the gloaming.

"What do you want?" said Wilkins gruffly.

"I have come to ask you a few questions," said Silverdale politely.

"But I don't know you, sir," said Wilkins stiffly. "Don't you see I'm

"It is true I am a stranger, but remember, sir, I shall not be so when I
leave. I just want to interview you about that paragraph in the _Moon_,

"Look here!" roared Wilkins, letting his feet slide from the table with
a crash. "Let me tell you, sir, I have no time to listen to your
impertinence. My leisure is scant and valuable. I am a hard-worked man.
I can't be pestered with questions from inquisitive busybodies. What
next, sir? What I write in the _Moon_ is my business and nobody else's.
Damn it all, sir, is there to be nothing private? Are you going to poke
and pry into the concerns of the very journalist? No, sir, you have
wasted your time as well as mine. We never allow the public to go behind
what appears in our paper."

"But this is a mere private curiosity--what you tell me shall never be

"If it could be, I wouldn't tell it you. I never waste copy."

"Tell me--I am willing to pay for the information--who wrote the
paragraph about Clorinda Bell and the Old Maids' Club."

"Go to the devil!" roared Wilkins.

"I thought you would know more than he," said Silverdale, and left.
Wilkins came downstairs on his heels, in a huff, and walked towards
Ludgate Hill. Silverdale thought he would have another shot, and
followed him unseen. The two men jumped into a train, and after an
endless-seeming journey arrived at the Crystal Palace. A monster balloon
was going off from the grounds. Herr Nickeldorf, the great aeronaut, was
making in solitude an experimental night excursion to Calais, as if
anxious to meet his fate by moonlight alone. Wilkins rushed up to
Nickeldorf, who was standing among the ropes giving directions.

"Go avay!" said Nickeldorf, when he saw him. "I hafe nodings to say to
you. You makes me _schwitzen_." He jumped into the car and bade the men
let go.

Ordinarily Wilkins would have been satisfied with this ample material
for half a column, but he was still in a bad temper, and, as the car was
sailing slowly upwards, he jumped in, and the aeronaut gave himself up
for pumped. In an instant, moved by an irresistible impulse, Silverdale
gave a great leap and stood by the _Moon_-man's side. The balloon shot
up and the roar of the crowd became a faint murmur as the planet flew
from beneath their feet.

"Good-evening, Mr. Wilkins," said Lord Silverdale. "I should just like
to interview you about----"

"You jackanapes!" cried the _Moon_-man, pale with anger, "If you don't
go away at once, I'll kick you down stairs."

        [Illustration: _Go away, or I'll kick you Down Stairs._]

"My dear Mr. Wilkins," suavely replied Lord Silverdale, "I will
willingly go down, provided you accompany me. I am sure Herr Nickeldorf
is anxious to drop both of us."

"_Wirklich_," replied the aeronaut

"Well, lend us a parachute," said Silverdale.

"No, danks. Beobles never return barachutes."

"Well, we won't go without one. I forgot to bring mine with me. I didn't
know I was going to have such a high old time."

"By what right, sir," said Mr. Wilkins, who had been struggling with an
attack of speechlessness, "do you persecute me like this? _You_ are not
a member of the Fourth Estate."

"No, I belong merely to the Second."

"Eh? What? A Peer!"

"I am Lord Silverdale."

"No, indeed! Lord Silverdale!"

"Lord Silverdale!" echoed the aeronaut, letting two sand-bags fall into
the clouds. Most people lose their ballast in the presence of the

"Oh, I am so glad! I have long been anxious to meet your lordship," said
the _Moon_-man, taking out his notebook. "What is your lordship's
opinion of the best fifty books for the working man's library?"

"I have not yet written fifty books."

"Ah!" said the _Moon_-man, carefully noting down the reply. "And when is
your lordship's next book coming out?"

"I cannot say."

"Thank you," said the _Moon_-man, writing it down. "Will it be poetry or

"That is as the critics shall decide."

"Is it true that your lordship has been converted to Catholicism?"

"I believe not."

"Then how does your lordship account for the rumor?"

"I have an indirect connection with a sort of new nunnery, which it is
proposed to found--the Old Maids' Club."

"Oh, yes, the one that Clorinda Bell is going to join."

"Nonsense! who told you she was going to join?"

The _Moon_-man winced perceptibly at the question, as he replied
indignantly: "Herself!"

"Thank you. That's what I wanted to know. You may contradict it on the
authority of the president. She only said so to get an advertisement."

"Then why give her two by contradicting it?"

"That is the woman's cleverness. Let her have the advertisement, rather
than that her name should be connected with Miss Dulcimer's."

"Very well. Tell me something, please, about the Club."

"It is not organized yet. It is to consist of young and beautiful women,
vowed to celibacy to remove the reproach of the term 'Old Maid.'"

"It is a noble idea!" said the _Moon_-man, enthusiastically. "Oh, what a
humanitarian time we are having!"

"Lord Silverdale," said Herr Nickeldorf, who had been listening with all
his ears, "I hafe to you give de hospitality of my balloon. Vill you, in
return, take _mein frau_ into de Old Maids' Club?"

"As a visitor? With pleasure, as she is a married woman."

"_Nein, nein._ I mean as an old maid. _Ich habe sic nicht nöthig._ I do
not require her any longer."

"Ah, then, I am afraid we can't. You see she _isn't_ an old maid!"

"But she haf been."

"Ah, yes, but we do not recognize past services."

"Oh, _warum_ wasn't the Club founded before I married?" groaned the old
German. "_Himmel_, vat a terrible mistake! It is to her I owe it that I
am de most celebrated aeronaut in _der ganzeu welt_. It is the only
profession in wich I escape her _gewiss_. She haf de _kopf_ too veak to
rise mit me. Ah, when I come oop here, it is _Himmel_."

"Rather taking an unfair rise out of your partner, isn't it?" queried
the _Moon_-man with a sickly smile.

"And vat vould you haf done in--_was sagt man_--in my shoes?"

The _Moon_-man winced.

"Not put them on."

"You are not yourself married?"

The _Moon_-man winced.

"No, I'm only engaged."

"_Mein herr_," said the old German solemnly, "I haf nodings but drouble
from you. You make to me mein life von burden. But I cannot see you
going to de altar widout putting out de hand to safe you. It was stupid
to yourself engage at all--but, now dat you haf committed de mistake,
shtick to it!"

"How do you mean?"

"Keep yourself engaged. Do not change your gondition any more."

"What do you say, Lord Silverdale?" said the _Moon_-man, anxiously.

"I am hardly an authority. You see I have so rarely been married. It
depends on the character of your betrothed. Does she long to be of
service in the world?"

The _Moon_-man winced.

"Yes, that's why she fell in love with me. Thought a _Moon_-man must be
all noble sentiment like the _Moon_ itself!"

"She is, then, young," said Silverdale, musingly. "Is she also

The _Moon_-man winced.

"Bewitching. Why does your lordship ask?"

"Because her services might be valuable as an Old Maid."

"Oh, if you could only get Diana to see it in that light!"

"You seem anxious to be rid of her."

"I do. I confess it. It has been growing on me for some time. You see
hers is a soul perpetually seeking more light. She is always asking
questions. This thirst for information would be made only more raging by
marriage. You know what Stevenson says:--'To marry is to domesticate the
Recording Angel.' At present my occupations keep me away from her--but
she answers my letters with as many queries as a 'Constant Reader.' She
wants to know all I say, do, or feel, and I never see her without having
to submit to a string of inquiries. It's like having to fill up a census
paper once a week. If I don't see her for a fortnight she wants to know
how I am the moment we meet. If this is so before marriage, what will it
be after, when her opportunities of buttonholing me will be necessarily
more frequent?"

"But I see nothing to complain of in that!" said Lord Silverdale.
"Tender solicitude for one's betrothed is the usual thing with those
really in love. You wouldn't like her to be indifferent to what you were
doing, saying, feeling?"

The _Moon_-man winced.

"No, that's just the dilemma of it, Lord Silverdale. I am afraid your
lordship does not catch my drift. You see, with another man, it wouldn't
matter; as your lordship says, he would be glad of it. But to me all
that sort of thing's 'shop.' And I hate 'shop.' It's hard enough to be
out interviewing all day, without being reminded of its when you get
home and want to put your slippers on the fender and your feet inside
them and be happy. No, if there's one thing in this world I can't put up
with, it's 'shop' after business hours. I want to forget that I get my
gold in exchange for notes of interrogation. I shudder to be reminded
that there are such things in the world as questions--I tremble if I
hear a person invert the subject and predicate of a sentence. I can
hardly bear to read poetry because the frequent inversions make the
lines look as if they were going to be inquisitive. Now you understand
why I was so discourteous to your lordship, and I trust that you will
pardon the curt expression of my hyper-sensitive feelings. Now, too, you
understand why I shrink from the prospect of marriage, to the brink of
which I once bounded so heedlessly. No, it is evident a life of solitude
must be my portion. If I am ever to steep my wearied spirit in
forgetfulness of my daily grind, if my nervous system is to be preserved
from premature break-down, I must have no one about me who has a right
of interrogation, and my housekeeper must prepare my meals without even
the preliminary 'Chop or Steak, sir?' My home-life must be restful,
peaceful, balsamic--it must exhale a papaverous aroma of categorical

"But is there no way of getting a wife with a gift of categorical

"Please say, 'There is no way, etc.,' for unless you yourself speak
categorically, the sentences grate upon my ear. I can ask questions
myself, without experiencing the slightest inconvenience, but the moment
I am myself interrogated, every nerve in me quivers with torture. No, I
am afraid it is impossible to find a woman who will eschew the
interrogative form of proposition, and limit herself to the affirmative
and negative varieties; who will, for mere love of me, invariably place
the verb after the noun, and unalterably give the subject the precedence
over the predicate. Often and often, when my Diana, in all her dazzling
charms, looks up pleadingly into my face, I feel towards her as
Ahasuerus felt towards the suppliant Queen Esther, and I yearn to
stretch out my reporter's pencil towards her, and to say: 'Ask me what
you will--even if it be half my income--so long as you do not ask me a

"But isn't there--I mean there is--such a thing obtainable as a dumb

"Mutes are for funerals, and not for marriages. Besides, then, everybody
would be asking me why I married her. No, the more I think of it, the
more I see the futility of my dream of matrimonial felicity. Why, a
question lies at the very threshold of marriage--'Wilt thou have this
woman to be thy wedded wife?'--and to put up the banns is to loose upon
yourself an interviewer in a white-tie! No, leave me to my unhappy
destiny. I must dree my weird. And anything your lordship can do in the
way of enabling me to dree it by soliciting my Diana into the Old Maids'
Club, shall be received with the warmest thanksgiving and will allow me
to remain your lordship's most grateful and obedient servant, Daniel

"Enough!" said Lord Silverdale, deeply moved, "I will send her a
circular. But do you really think you would be happy if you lost her?"

"If," said the _Moon_-man moodily. "It would require a great many 'ifs'
to make me happy. As I once wrote:

    If cash were always present,
      And business always paid;
    If skies were always pleasant,
      And pipes were never laid;
    If toothache emigrated,
      Dyspepsia disappeared,
    And babies were cremated,
      And boys and girls were speared;
    If shirts were always creamy,
      And buttons never broke;
    If eyes were always beamy,
      And all could see a joke;

    If ladies never fumbled
      At railway pigeon holes;
    New villas never crumbled,
      And lawyers boasted souls;
    If beer was never swallowed,
      And cooks were never drunk,
    And trades were never followed,
      And thoughts were never thunk;
    If sorrow never troubled,
      And pleasure never cloyed,
    And animals were doubled,
      And humans all destroyed;
    _Then_--if there were no papers,
      And more words rhymed with "giving"--
    Existence would be capers,
      And life be worth the living.

Your lordship might give me a poem in exchange," concluded the
_Moon_-man conceitedly. "An advance quote from your next volume, say."

"Very well," and the peer good-naturedly began to recite the first fytte
of an old English romance.

    Ye white moon sailed o'er ye dark-blue vault,
    And safely steered mid ye fleet of starres,
    And threw down smiles to ye antient salt,
    While Venus flyrtede with wynkynge Mars.
    Along ye sea-washed slipperie slabbes
    Ye whelkes were stretchynge their weary limbs,
    While prior to going to bedde ye crabbes
    Were softlie chaunting their evenynge hymnes."

At this point a sudden shock threw both bards off their feet, inverting
them in a manner most disagreeable to the _Moon_-man. While they were
dropping into poetry, the balloon had been dropping into a wood, and the
aeronaut had thrown his grapnel into the branches of a tree.

"What's the matter?" they cried.

"Change here for London!" said the Herr, phlegmatically, "unless you
want to go mit me to Calais. In five more minutes I shall be crossing de

"No, no, put us down," said the _Moon_-man. "I never _could_ cross the
Channel. Oh, when are they going to make that tunnel?" Thereupon he
lowered himself into the tree, and Lord Silverdale followed his example.

             [Illustration: _Coming Down from the Clouds._]

"_Guten nacht!_" said the Herr. "Folkestone should be someveres about.
Fordunately, de moon is out, and you may be able to find it!"

"I say!" shrieked the _Moon_-man, as the balloon began to free itself on
its upward flight, "How far off is it?"

"I vill not be--_was heist es?_--interviewed. _Guten nacht._"

Soon the great sphere was no bigger than a star in the heavens.

"This is a nice go," said the _Moon_-man, when they had climbed down.

"Oh, don't trouble. I know the Southeast coast well. There is sure to be
a town within a four mile radius."

"Then let us take a hansom," said the _Moon_-man.

"Wilkins, are you--I mean you are--losing your head," said Lord
Silverdale. And linking the interviewer's arm in his, he fared forth
into the darkness.

"Do you know what I thought," said Wilkins, as they undressed in the
lonely roadside inn (for ballooning makes us acquainted with strange
bedfellows), "when I was sliding down the trunk with you on the branches

"No--what did you--I mean you did think what?"

"Well, I'm a bit superstitious, and I saw in the situation a forecast of
my future. That tree typifies my genealogical tree, for when I have
grown rich and prosperous by my trade, there will be a peer perched
somewhere on the upper branches. Debrett will discover him."

"Indeed I hope so," said the peer fervently, "for in the happy time when
you shall have retired from business you will be able to make Diana

                              CHAPTER VII.

                         THE IDYL OF TREPOLPEN.

"No, we can't have Diana," the President said, when Lord Silverdale
reported the matter. "That is, not if the _Moon_-man breaks off the
engagement. According to the rules, the candidate must have herself
discarded an advantageous marriage, and that Miss Diana will give up Mr.
Wilkins is extremely questionable."

"Like everything connected with the _Moon_-man's bride. However, my
aerial expedition has not been fruitless; if I have not brought you a
member from the clouds, at least we know how right I was to pluck
Clorinda Bell."

"Yes, and how right I was to appoint you Honorary Trier!" said Lillie.
"I have several more candidates for you, chosen from my last batch of
applications. While you were in the clouds, I was working. I have
already interviewed them. They fulfil all the conditions. It only
remains for you to do your part."

"Have they given good reasons for their refusal to marry their lovers?"

"Excellent reasons. Reasons so strange as to bear the stamp of truth.
Here is the first reduced to writing. It is compounded of what Miss
Ellaline Rand said to me and of what she left unsaid. Read it, while I
put another of these love stories into shape. I am so glad I founded the
Old Maids' Club. It has enlarged my experience incalculably."

Lord Silverdale took the manuscript and read.

                   *       *       *       *       *

When John Beveridge went to nurse his misanthropy in the obscure fishing
village of Trepolpen, he had not bargained for the presence of Ellaline
Rand. And yet there she was, living in a queer little cottage on the
very top of the steep hill which constituted Trepolpen, and sloped down
to a pebbly beach where the dark nets dried and the trawl boats were
drawn up. The people she was staying with were children of the soil and
the sea--the man, a rugged old fish-dealer who had been a smuggler in
his time; the woman, a chirpy grandame whose eyes were still good enough
to allow her to weave lace by lamplight. The season was early June, and
the glittering smile on the broad face of the Atlantic made the roar of
the breakers sound like stentorian laughter. There was always a whiff of
fish--a blend of mackerel and crabs and mullet--striking up from the
beach, but the salt in the air kept the odoriferous atoms fairly fresh.
Everything in Trepolpen was delightfully archaic, and even the far-away
suggestions of antiquity about the prevailing piscine flavor seemed in
poetic keeping with the spirit of the primitive little spot.

In a village of one street it is impossible not to live in it, unless
you are a coastguard, and then you don't live in the village. This was
why John Beveridge was a neighbor of Ellaline's. He lived much lower
down, where the laugh of the Atlantic was louder and the scent of the
fish was stronger, and before he knew of Ellaline's existence he used to
go down hill (which is easy), smoke his pipe and chat with the trawlers,
and lie on his back in the sun. After they had met, he grew less lazy
and used to take exercise by walking up to the top of the hill. Probably
by this time the sea-breezes had given him strength. Sometimes he met
Ellaline coming down; which was accident. Then he would turn and walk
down with her; which was design. The manner of their first meeting was
novel, but in such a place it could not be long delayed. Beveridge had
obeyed a call from the boatmen to come and help them drag in the seine.
He was tugging with all his might at the section of the netting, for the
fishers seemed to be in luck and the fish unfortunate. Suddenly he heard
the pit-pat of light feet running down the hill, and the next moment two
little white hands peeping out of white cuffs were gripping the net at
the side of his own fleshy brown ones. For some thirty seconds he was
content to divine the apparition from the hands. There was a flutter of
sweet expectation about his heart, a stirring of the sense of romance.

The day was divine. The sky was a brooding blue; the sea was a rippling
play of light on which the seine-boat danced lightly. One little brown
sail was visible far out in the bay, the sea-gulls hovering about it. It
seemed to Beveridge that the scene had only been waiting for those
gentle little hands, whose assistance in the operation of landing the
spoil was such a delicious farce. They could be no native lass's, these
soft fingers with their pink little nails like pretty sea-pearls. They
were fingers that spoke (in their mute digital dialect) of the crayon
and the violin-bow, rather than of the local harmonium. There was
something, too, about the coquettish cuffs, irresistibly at variance
with the village Wesleyanism. Gradually, as the net came in, Beveridge
let his eyes steal towards her face. The prevision of romance became a
certainty. It was a charming little face, as symmetrically proportioned
to the hands as the face of a watch is. The nose was retroussé and
piquant, but the eyes contradicted it, being demure and dreamy. There
was a little Cupid's bow of a mouth, and between the half-parted rosy
lips a gleam of white teeth clenched with the exertion of hauling in the
seine. A simple sailor's hat crowned a fluff of flaxen hair, and her
dress was of airy muslin.

She was so absorbed in the glee of hauling in the fish that it was some
moments before she seemed to notice that her neighbor's eyes were fixed
upon her, and that they were not set in the rugged tan of the local
masculine face. A little blush leapt into the rather pale cheeks and
went out again like a tiny spurt of rosy flame. Then she strained more
desperately than ever at the net. It was soon ashore, with its wild and
whirling mixture of mackerel, soles, dabs, squids, turbot--John
Beveridge was not certain but what his heart was already among the
things fluttering there in the net at her feet.

While the trawlers were sorting out the fish, spreading some on the
beach and packing the mackerel in baskets, Ellaline looked on, patently
interested in everything but her fellow amateur. After all, despite his
shaggy coat and the clay pipe in his mouth, he was of the town, towny;
some solicitor, artist, stockbroker, doctor, on a holiday; perhaps,
considering the time of year, only a clerk. What she had come to
Trepolpen for was something more primitive. And he! Surely he had seen
and loved pretty women enough, not to stir an inch nearer this dainty
vision. For what but to forget the wiles and treacheries of women of the
town had he buried himself here? And yet was it the unexpectedness, was
it that while bringing back the atmosphere of great cities she yet
seemed a creature of the woods and waters, he felt himself drawn to her?
He wanted to talk to her, to learn who she was and what she was doing
here, but he did not know how to begin, though he had the gift of many
tongues. Not that he deemed an introduction necessary--in Trepolpen,
where not to give everybody you met "good-morning" was to court a
reputation for surliness. And it would have been easy enough to open on
the weather, or the marine harvest they had both helped to gather in.
But somehow John Beveridge learnt embarrassment in the presence of this
muslined mermaiden, who seemed half of the world and half of the sea.
And so, amid the bustle of the beach, the minutes slipped away, and
Beveridge spoke no word but leaned against the cliff, content to drowse
in the light of the sun and Ellaline.

The dealers came down to the beach--men and women--among them a hale,
grizzly old fellow who clasped Ellaline's hand in his huge, gnarled
fist. The auction began. John Beveridge joined the crowd at a point
behind the strangely assorted couple. Of a sudden Ellaline turned to him
with her great limpid eyes looking candidly into his, and said, "Some of
those poor mackerel are not quite dead yet--I wonder if they suffer."
John Beveridge was taken aback. The last vestiges of his wonted
assurance were swept away before her sweet simplicity.

"I--I--really--I don't know--I've never thought about it," he stammered.

"Men never do," said Ellaline with a gentle reproachful look. "They
think only of their own pain. I do hope fish have no feelings."

"They are cold-blooded," he reminded her, beginning to recover himself.

"Ah!" she said musingly. "But what right have we to take away their
lives? They must be--oh so happy!--in the beautiful wide ocean! I am
sorry I had a hand in destroying them. I shall never do it again."

"You have very little to reproach yourself with," he said, smiling.

"Ah! now you are laughing at me. I know I'm not big and strong, and that
my muscles could have been dispensed with. But the will was there, the
intention was there," she said with her serious air.

"Oh, of course, you are a piscicide in intention," he admitted. "But you
will enjoy the mackerel all the same."

"No, I won't," she said with a charming little shake of the head, "I
won't eat any."

"What! you will nevermore eat fish?"

"Never," she said emphatically. "I love fish, but I won't eat 'em! only
tinned things, like sardines. Oh, what a little stupid I am! Don't laugh
at me again, please. I forgot the sardines must be caught first, before
they are tinned, mustn't they?"

"Not necessarily," he said. "It often suffices if sprats are caught."

She laughed. Her laugh was a low musical ripple, like one of the little
sunlit waves translated into sound.

"Twenty-two shillings!" cried the owner of a lot.

"I'll give 'ee eleven!" said Ellaline's companion, and the girl turned
her head to listen to the violent chaffering that ensued, and when she
went away she only gave John Beveridge a nod and a smile. But he
followed her with his eyes as she toiled up the hill, growing ever
smaller and daintier against the horizon. The second time he met her was
at the Cove, a little way from the village, where great foliage-crowned
cliffs came crescent-wise round a space of shining sand, girdled at its
outer margin by tumbling green, foam-crested surges. Huge mammoth-like
boulders stood about, bathing their feet in the incoming tide, the
cormorants perching cautiously down the precipitous half-worn path that
led to the sands. There was a point at which the landward margin of the
shore beneath first revealed itself to the descending pedestrian, and it
was a point so slippery that it was thoughtless of Fate to have included
Ellaline in the area of vision. She was lying, sheltered by a blue
sunshade, on the golden sand, with her head on the base of the cliff,
abstractedly tearing a long serpentine weed to dark green ribbons, and
gazing out dreamily into the throbbing depths of sea and sky. There was
an open book before her, but she did not seem to be reading. John
Beveridge saved himself by grasping a stinging bush, and he stole down
gently towards her, forgetting to swear.

He came to her with footsteps muffled by the soft sand, and stood
looking down at her, admiring the beauty of the delicate flushed young
face and the flaxen hair against the sober background of the aged cliff
with its mellow subtly-fused tints.

"Thinking of the little fishes--or of the gods?" he said at last in a
loud pleasant voice.

Ellaline gave a little shriek.

"Oh, where did you spring from?" she said, half raising herself.

"Not from the clouds," he said.

"Of course not. I was _not_ thinking of the gods," said Ellaline.

He laughed. "I am not even a Perseus," he said, "for the tide though
coming in is not yet dangerous enough to be likened to the sea-monster,
though you might very well pass for Andromeda."

Ellaline blushed and rose to her feet, adjusting a wrap round her
shoulders. "I do not know," she said with dignity, "what I have done to
encourage such a comparison."

John Beveridge saw he had slipped. This time there was not even a
stinging bush to cling to.

"You are beautiful, that is all I meant," he said apologetically.

"Is it worth while saying such commonplace things?" she said a little

It was an ambiguous remark. From her it could only mean that he had been
guilty of compliment.

"I am very sorry. A thousand pardons. But, pray, do not let me drive you
away. You seemed so happy here. I will go back." He made a half turn.

"Yes, I was happy," she said simply. "In my foolish little way I thought
I had discovered this spot--as if anything so beautiful could have
escaped the attention of those who have been near it all their lives."

Her words caused him a sudden pang of anxious jealousy. Must they not be
true of herself?

"And you, too, seemed to have discovered it," she went on. "Doubtless
you know all the coast well, for you were here before me. Do you know,"
she said, looking up at his face with her candid gray eyes, "this is the
first time in my life I have seen the sea, so you must not laugh if I
seem ignorant, but oh! how I love to lie and hear it roar, tossing its
mane like some great wild animal that I have tamed and that will not
harm me."

"There are other wild animals that you may tame, here by the sea," he

She considered for a moment gravely.

"That is rather pretty," she announced. "I shall re-remember that. But
please do not tell me again I am beautiful." She sat down on the sand,
with her back to the cliff, re-adjusting her parasol.

"Very well. I sit reproved," he replied, taking up his position by her
side. "What book is that you are reading?"

She handed him the little paper-covered, airily-printed volume,
suggesting summer in every leaf.

"Ah, it is _The Cherub That Sits Up Aloft_!" he said, with a shade of
superciliousness blent with amusement.

"Yes, have you read it?" she asked.

"No," he said, "I have heard of it. It's by that new woman who came out
last year and calls herself Andrew Dibdin, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Ellaline. "It's made an enormous hit, don't you know."

"Oh, yes, I know," he said, laughing. "It's a lot of sentimental rot,
isn't it? Do you like it?"

"I think it is sweetly pretty," she said, a teardrop of vexation
gathering on her eyelid. "If you haven't read it, why should you abuse

"Oh, one can't read everything," he said. "But one gets to pick up
enough about a book to know whether he cares to read it. Of course, I am
aware it is about a little baby on board a ship that makes charming
inarticulate orations and is worshipped by everybody, from the captain
to the little stowaway, and is regarded by the sailors as the sweet
little cherub that sits up aloft, etc., and that there is a sensational
description of a storm at sea--which is Clarke Russell and water, or
rather Clarke Russell and more water."

"Ah, I see you're a cynic," said Ellaline. "I don't like cynics."

"No, indeed, I am not," he pleaded. "It is false, not true, sentiment I
object to."

"And how do you know this is false sentiment?" she asked in honest
indignation. "When you haven't read it?"

"What does it matter?" he murmured, overwhelmed by her sense of duty.
She was evidently unaccustomed to the light flippancies of elegant

"Oh, nothing. To some people nothing matters. Will you promise to read
the book if I lend it you?"

"Of course I will," he said, delighted at the establishment of so
permanent a link. "Only I don't want to deprive you of it--I can wait
till you have finished with it."

"I have finished. I have read it over and over again. Take it." She
handed it to him. Their finger-tips met.

"I recant already," he said. "It must have something pure and good in it
to take captive a soul like yours."

And indeed the glamour of Ellaline was over every page of it. As he
read, he found tears of tenderness in his eyes, when otherwise they
might have sprung from laughter. He adored the little cherub who sat up
aloft on the officers' table and softened these crusty sea-dogs whose
hearts were become as ship's-biscuits. He could not tell what had come
over himself, that his own sere heart should be so quick again to the
beauties of homely virtue and duty, to the engaging simplicity and
pathos of childhood, to the purity of womanhood. Was it that Ellaline
was all these things incarnate?

He avowed his error and his conversion, and gradually they came to meet
often in the solitary creek, as was but right for the only two
intellectual people in Trepolpen. Sometimes, too, they wandered further
afield, amid the ferny lanes. But the Cove was their favorite trysting
place, and there lying with his head in her lap, he would talk to her of
books and men and one woman.

     [Illustration: Talked to her of books and men and one woman.]

He found her tastes were not limited to _The Cherub That Sits Up Aloft_,
for she liked Meredith. "Really," he said, "if you had not been
yourself, I should have doubted whether your admiration was genuine."

"Yes, his women are so real. But I do not pretend to care for the

"Style!" he said, "I call it a five-barred fence. To me style is
everything. Style alone is literature, whether it be the man or not."

"Oh, then you are of the school of Addiper?"

"Ah, have you heard of that? I am. I admire Addiper and agree with him.
Form is everything--literature is only a matter of form. And a book is
only a form of matter."

"I see," she said, smiling. "But I adore Addiper myself, though I regret
the future seems likely to be his. I have read all he has written. Every
line is so lucid. The form is exquisite. But as for the matter----!"

"No matter!" summed up John Beveridge, laughing heartily.

"I am so glad you agree with me sometimes," said Ellaline. "Because it
shows you don't think I am so very stupid after all."

"Of course I don't--except when you get so enthusiastic about literary
people and rave about Dibdin and Addiper and Blackwin and the rest. If
you mixed with them, my little girl, as I have done, you would soon lose
your rosy illusions. Although perhaps you are better with them."

"Ah, then you're not a novelist yourself?" she said anxiously.

"No, I am not. What makes you ask?"

"Nothing. Only sometimes, from your conversation, I suspected you might

"Thank you, Ellaline," he said, "for a very dubious compliment. No, I am
afraid I must forego that claim upon your admiration. Unless I tell a
lie and become a novelist by doing so. But then wouldn't it be the

"Are you, then, a painter or a musician?"

He shook his head. "No, I do not get my living by art."

"Not of any kind?"

"Not of any kind."

"How _do_ you get it?" she asked simply, a candid light shining in the
great gray eyes.

"My father was a successful saddle-maker. He is dead."

"Oh!" she said.

"Leather has made me, from childhood up--it has chastised, supported,
educated me, and given me the _entrée_ everywhere. So you see I cannot
hold a candle to your demigods."

"Ah, but there is nothing like leather," said Ellaline, and stroked the
head in her lap reassuringly.

The assurance permeated John Beveridge's frame like a pleasant cordial.
All that was hard and leathery in him seemed to be soaked soft. Here, at
last, was a woman who loved him for himself--an innocent, trusting woman
in whose weakness a man might find strength. Her pure lips were like the
wayside well at which the wearied wanderer from great stony cities might
drink and be refreshed. And yet, delightful as her love would be in his
droughty life, he felt that his could not prove less delightful to her.
That he, John Beveridge, with the roses thrusting themselves into his
eyes, should stoop to pick the simple little daisy at his feet, could
not fail to fill her with an admiring gratitude that would add the last
charm to her passion for him.

But it was not till a week afterwards that the formal proposal, so long
impending, broke. They were resting in a lane and discussing everything
they didn't want to discuss, the unspoken playing with subtle sweetness
about the spoken.

"Have you read Mr. Gladstone's latest?" she asked at last.

"No," he said; "has Mr. Gladstone ever a latest?"

"Oh, yes, take him day by day, like an evening paper. I'm referring to
his article on 'Ancient Beliefs in a Future State.'"

"What's that--the belief of old maids that they'll get married?"

"Now you are blasphemous," she cried with a pretty pout.

"How? Are old maids a sacred subject?"

"Everything old should be sacred to us," she said simply. "But you know
that is not what I mean."

"Then why do you say it?" he asked.

"Oh, what a tease you are!" she cried. "I shan't be sorry to be quit of
you. Your flippancy is quite dreadful."

"Why, do you believe in a future state?" he said.

"Of course I do. If we had only one life, it would not be worth living."

"But nine times one life _would_ be worth living. Is that the logic? If
so, happy cats! I wonder," he added irrelevantly, "why the number nine
always goes with cats--nine lives, nine tails, nine muses?"

Ellaline made a _moue_ and shrank petulantly away from him. "I will not
discuss our future state, unless you are prepared to do it seriously,"
she said.

"I am," he replied with sudden determination. "Let us enter it together.
I am tired of the life I've been leading, and I love you."

"What!" she said in a little horrified whisper. "You want us to commit
suicide together?"

"No, no--matrimony. I cannot do it alone--I have never had the courage
to do it at all. With you at my side, I should go forward, facing the
hereafter cheerfully, with faith and trust."

"I--I--am--afraid--I----" she stammered.

"Why should you be afraid?" he interrupted. "Have you no faith and trust
in me?"

"Oh, yes," she said with a frank smile, "if I had not confidence in you,
I should not be here with you."

"You angel!" he said, his eyes growing wet under her clear, limpid gaze.
"But you love me a little, too?"

"I do not," she said, shaking her head demurely.

John Beveridge groaned. After so decisive an avowal from the essence of
candor, what remained to be said? Nothing but to bid her and his hopes
farewell--the latter at once, the former as soon as she was escorted
back to Trepolpen. His affection had grown so ripe, he could not
exchange it for the green fruit of friendship. And yet, was this to be
the end of all that sweet idyllic interlude, a jarring note and then
silence for evermore?

"But could you never learn to love me?"

She laughed her girlish, ringing laugh.

"I am not so backward as all that," she said. "I mastered it in a dozen

He stared at her, a wild hope kindling in his eyes. "Did I hear aright?"
he asked in a horse tone.

She nodded, still smiling.

"Then I did not hear aright before?"

"Oh, yes, you did. I said I did not love you a little. I love you a
great deal."

There were tears in the gray eyes now, but they smiled on. He caught her
in his arms and the Devonshire lane was transformed to Eden. How
exquisite this angelic frankness, when the words pleased! How delicious
the frankness of her caress when words were _de trop_!

But at last she spoke again. "And now that I know you love me for
myself, I will tell you a secret." The little hands that had first
clasped his attention were laid on his shoulders, the dreamy face looked
up tenderly and proudly into his. "They say a woman cannot keep a
secret," she said. "But you will never believe that again, when I tell
you mine?"

"I never believed it," he said earnestly. "Consider how every woman
keeps the great secret of her age."

"Ah, that is not what I am going to tell you," she said archly. "It is
another of the great secrets of my age. You remember that book you liked
so much--_The Cherub That Sits Up Aloft_?"

"Yes!" he said wonderingly.

"Well, I wrote it!"

"You!" he exclaimed, startled. His image of her seemed a pillar of sand
upon which the simoom had burst. This fresh, simple maiden a complex
literary being, a slave of the midnight lamp.

"Yes, I--I am Andrew Dibdin--the authoress who drew tears from your

"You, Andrew Dibdin!" he repeated mechanically.

She nodded her head with a proud and happy smile. "I knew you would be
pleased--but I wanted you to love me, not my book."

"I love both," he exclaimed. The new conceptions had fitted themselves
into the old. He saw now what the charm of the little novel was--the
book was Ellaline between covers. He wondered he had not seen it before.
The grace, the purity, the pathos, the sweet candor, the recollections
of a childhood spent on the great waters in the company of kindly
mariners--all had flowed out at the point of her pen. She had put
herself into her work. He felt a subtle jealousy of the people who
bought her on the bookstalls for a shilling--or even for ninepence at
the booksellers'. He wanted to have her all to himself. He experienced a
mad desire to buy up the edition. But there would be a new one. He
realized the feelings of Othello. Oh, if he could but arrest her

"If you knew how happy it made me to hear you say you love my book!" she
replied. "At first I hated you because you sneered at it. All my friends
love my books--and I wanted you to be a friend of mine."

"I am more than that," he said exultantly. "And I want to love all your
books. What else have you written?"

"Only two others," she said apologetically. "You see I have only been in
literature six months and I only write straight from the heart."

"Yes, indeed!" he said. "You wear your heart upon your leaves."

Jealous as he was of her readers, he felt that there was balm in Gilead.
She was not a hack-writer, turning out books for the market of malice
aforethought; not the complex being he had figured in the first moment
of consternation, the literary quack with finger on the pulse of the
public. She did but write as the birds carolled--not the slave, but the
genius of the midnight lamp.

"But I must not wear my heart out," she replied, laughingly. "So I came
down here for a month to get fresh material. I am writing a novel of
Cornish peasant life--I want to photograph the people with all their
lights and shades, all their faiths and superstitions, all their ways of
speech and thought--the first thorough study ever made of a fast-fading
phase of Old English life. You see, I didn't know what to do; I feared
the public would be tired of my sailor-stories and I thought I'd locate
my next story on land. Accident determined its environment. I learnt, by
chance, that we had some poor relatives in Trepolpen, whom my people had
dropped, and so I thought I'd pick them up again, and turn them into
'copy,' and I welcomed the opportunity of making at the same time the
acquaintance of the sea, which, as I think I told you, I have never seen
before. You see I was poor myself till _The Cherub That Sits Up Aloft_
showered down the gold, and, being a Cockney, had never been able to
afford a trip to the seaside."

"My poor Ellaline!" he said, kissing her candid lips. She was such an
inveterate truth-teller that he could only respect and admire and
adore--though she fell from heaven. Her candor infected him. He felt an
overwhelming paroxysm of veracity.

The mask could be dropped now. Did she not love John Beveridge?

"Now I see why you rave so over literary people!" he said. "You are
dipped in ink yourself."

"Yes," she said with a happy smile, "there is nobody I admire so much as
our great writers."

"But you would not love me more, if I were a great writer?" he said

"No, certainly not. I couldn't," she said decisively.

He stooped and kissed her gratefully. "Thank you for that, my sweet
Ellaline. And now I think I can safely confess that I am Addiper."

She gave a little shriek. Her face turned white. "Addiper!" she

"Yes, dearest, it is my _nom de guerre_. I am Addiper, the writer you
admire so much, the man with whose school, you were pleased to say, the
future lies."

"Addiper!" she said again. "Impossible! why you said you did not get
your living by art of any kind."

"Of course I don't!" he said. "Books like mine--all style, no sentiment,
morals or theology--never pay. Fortunately I am able to publish them at
my own expense. I write only for writers. That is why you like me.
Successful writers are those who write for readers, just as popular
painters are those who paint for spectators."

The poor little face was ashen gray now. The surprise was too much for
the fragile little beauty. "Then you really are Addiper!" she said in
low, slow tones.

"Yes, dearest," he said not without a touch of pride. "I am Addiper--and
in you, love, I have found a fresh fount of inspiration. You shall be
the guiding star of my work, my rare Ellaline, my pearl, my beryl. Ah,
this is a great turning-point in my life. To-day I enter into my third

"This is not one of your teasing jokes?" she said appealingly, her
piteous eyes looking up into his.

"No, my Ellaline. Do you think I would hoax you thus--to dash you to
earth again?"

"Then," she said slowly and painfully, "then I can never marry you. We
must say 'good-bye.'"

Her lover gazed at her in dazed silence. The butterflies floated in the
summer air, a bee buzzed about a wayside flower, from afar came the
tinkle of a brook. A deep peace was on all things--only in the hearts of
the two littérateurs was pain and consternation.

             [Illustration: _The Confession of Ellaline._]

"You can never marry me!" repeated John Beveridge at last. "And why

"I have told you. Because you are Addiper."

"But that is no reason."

"Is it not?" she said. "I thought Addiper would have a subtler

"But what is it you object to in me?"

"To your genius, of course."

"To my genius!"

"Yes, no mock modesty. Between augurs it won't do. Every author must
know very well he stands apart from the world, or he would not set
himself to paint it. I know quite well I am not as other women. What is
the use of paltering with one's consciousness!"

Still the same delicious candor shone in the gray eyes. John Beveridge,
not at all grasping his dismissal, felt an unreasoning impulse to kiss

"Well, supposing I am a genius," he said instead. "Where's the harm?"

"No harm till you propose to yoke me with it! I never will marry a

"Oh, don't be so absurd, Ellaline!" he said. "You've been reading the
foolish nonsense about the geniuses necessarily making bad husbands. No
doubt in some prominent instances geniuses have not been working models
of the domestic virtues, but on the other hand there are scores of
instances to the contrary. And blockheads make quite as bad husbands as
your Shelleys and your Byrons. Besides it was only in the past that
geniuses were blackguards; to-day it is the correct thing to be correct.
Respectability nowadays adds chastity to the studies from the nude;
marital fidelity enhances the force of poems of passion: and
philanthropy adds the last touch to tragic acting. So why should I
suffer for the sins of my predecessors? If I may judge myself by my
present sensations, what I am gifted with is a genius for domesticity.
Do not sacrifice me, dearest, to an unproved and unscientific

"It is not of that I am thinking," Ellaline replied, shaking her head
sadly. "In my opinion the woman who refused Shakespeare merely on the
ground that he wrote Shakespeare's works, should be sent to Coventry as
a coward. No, do not fancy I am that. I may not be strong, but I have
courage enough to marry you if that were all. It is not because I am
afraid you would make me unhappy."

"Ah, there is something you are hiding from me," he said anxiously,
impressed by the gravity and sincerity of her tones.

"No, there is nothing. I cannot marry you, because you are a genius."

He saw what she meant now. She had been reading the modern works on
genius and insanity.

"Ah, you think me mad!" he cried.

"Mad--when you love me?" she said, with a melancholy smile.

"You know what I mean. You think that 'great wits to madness nearly are
allied,' that sane as I appear, there is in me a hidden vein of madness.
And yet, if anything, the generalization connecting genius with insanity
is more unsound than that connecting it with domestic infelicity. It
would require a genius to really prove such a connection, and as he
would, on his own theory, be a lunatic, what becomes of his theory?"

"Your argument involves a fallacy," replied Ellaline quietly. "It does
not follow that if a man is a lunatic everything he says or does has the
taint of madness. A genius who held that genius meant insanity might be
sane just on this one point."

"Or insane just on the one point. Seriously, Ellaline," said John
Beveridge, beginning to lose his temper, "you don't mean to say that you
believe that genius is really 'a psychical neurosis of the epileptoid
order.' If you do you must be mad yourself, that's all I can say."

"Of course I should have to admit I am mad myself if I held the theory
that genius meant insanity. But I don't."

"You don't!" he said, staring blankly at her. "You don't believe I'm
insane, and you don't believe I'll make a bad husband--I should be
insane if I did, my sweet little Ellaline. And you still wish to cry

"I must."

"Then you no longer love me!"

"Oh, I beg of you, do not say that! You do not know how hard it is for
me to give you up--do not make our parting harder."

"Ellaline, in heaven's name vex me no further. What is this terrible
mystery? Why can you no longer think of me?"

"If you only thought of me a little you would guess. But men are so
selfish. If it were only you that had genius the thing would be simple.
But you forget that I, too----" She paused; a little modest blush
completed the sentence.

"Yes, I know you are a genius, my rare Ellaline. But what then?" he
cried. "I only love you the more for it."

"Yes, but if we marry," said Ellaline, "we two geniuses, look what will

He stared at her afresh--she met his gaze unflinchingly. "What new
scientific bogie have you been conjuring up." he murmured.

"Oh, I wish you would drive science out of your head," she replied
pettishly. "What have I to do with science? Really, if you go on so
stupidly I shall believe you're not a genius after all."

"And then you will marry me?" he said eagerly.

"Don't be so stupid! To speak plainly, for you seem as dull as a
clod-hopper to-day, I cannot afford to marry a genius, and a recognized
genius to boot. I am only a struggling young authoress, with a
considerable following, it is true, but still without an unquestioned
position. The high-class organs that review you all to yourself still
take me as one of a batch and are not always as complimentary as they
might be. The moment I marry you and my rushlight is hidden in your
bushel, out it goes. I become absorbed simply in you, a little satellite
circling round your planetary glory. I shall have no independent
existence--the fame I have toiled and struggled for will be eclipsed in
yours. 'Mrs. Addiper--the wife of the celebrated writer, scribbles a
little herself, don't you know! Wonder what he could see in her!' That's
how people will talk of me. When I go into a room we shall be announced,
'Mr. and Mrs. Addiper'--and everybody will rush round you and hang on
your words, and I shall be talked to only by the way of getting you at
second-hand, as a medium through which your personality is partially
radiated. And parties will be given 'To meet Mr. Addiper,' and I shall
accompany you for the same reason that your dress-coat will--because it
is the etiquette."

"But, Ellaline----" he protested.

"Let me finish. I could not even afford to marry you, if my literary
position were equal to yours. Such a union would do nothing to enhance
my reputation. No woman of genius should marry a man of genius--were she
even the greater of the two she would become merged in him, even as she
would take his name. The man I must marry, the man I have been waiting
to fall in love with and be loved by, is a plain honest gentleman,
unknown to fame and innocent of all aspiration but that of making me
happy. He must devote his life to mine, sink himself in me, sacrifice
himself on the altar of my fame, live only for the enhancement of my
reputation. Such a man I thought I had found in you--but you deceived
me. I thought here is a man who loves me only for myself, but whose love
will increase tenfold when he learns that I stand on a pedestal of
glory, and who will rejoice at the privilege of passing the rest of his
days uplifting that pedestal to the gaze of the world, a man who will
say of me what I can hardly say of myself, who will drive the bargains
with my publishers, wrap me up against the knowledge of malicious
criticisms, conduct my correspondence, receive inconvenient callers,
arrange my interviews, and send incessant paragraphs to the papers about
me, commencing Mrs. John Beveridge (Andrew Dibdin), varied by Andrew
Dibdin (Mrs. John Beveridge). Here is a man who will be a living
gratuitous advertisement, inserted daily in the great sheets of the
times, a steadfast column of eulogy, a pillar of praise. Here is a man
who will be as much a halo as a husband. When I enter a drawing-room
with him (so ran my innocent, maiden dream) there will be a thrill of
excitement, everybody will cluster round me, he will efface himself or
be effaced, and, even if he finds anybody to talk to, it is about me he
will talk. Invitations to our own 'At Homes' will be eagerly sought
for--not for his sake, but for mine. All that is famous in literature
and art will crowd our salon--not for his sake, but for mine. And while
I shall be the cynosure of every eye, it will be his to note down the
names of the illustrious gazers in society paragraphs beginning Mrs.
John Beveridge (Andrew Dibdin), alternating with Andrew Dibdin (Mrs.
John Beveridge). And am I to give up all this, merely because I love

           [Illustration: _So ran my Innocent Maiden Dream._]

"Yes, why not!" he said passionately. "What is fame, reputation, weighed
against love? What is it to be on the World's lips, if the lips we love
are to be taken away?"

"How pretty!" she said with simple admiration. "If you will not claim
the phrase, I should like to give it to my next heroine."

"Claim it!" he said bitterly. "I do not want any phrases. I want you."

"Do you not see it is impossible? If you could become obscure again, it
might be. You say fame is nothing weighed against love. Come now, would
you give up your genius, your reputation, just to marry me?"

He was silent.

"Come!" she repeated. "I have been frank with you, have I not!"

"You have," he admitted, with a melancholy grimace.

"Well, be equally frank with me. Would you sacrifice these things to
your love for me?"

"I could not if I would."

"But would you, if you could?"

He did not answer.

"Of course you wouldn't," she said. "I know you as I know myself."

"What is the use of thinking of what can never be!" he said impatiently.

"Just so. That is what I say. I can never give you my hand; so give me
yours and we'll turn homewards."

He gave her his hand and she jumped lightly to her feet. Then he got up
and shook himself, and looked still in a sort of daze, at the gentle
face and the dainty figure.

He seized her passionately by the arms.

"And must this be the end?" he cried hoarsely.

"Finis," she said decisively, though the renewed pallor of her face
showed what it cost her to complete the idyl.

"An unhappy ending?" he said in hopeless interrogation.

"It is not my style," she said simply, "but, after all, this is only
real life."

He burst forth in a torrent of half reproachful regrets--he, Addiper,
the chaste, the severe, the self-contained.

"And you the sweet, innocent girl who won the heart I no longer hoped to
feel living, you would coldly abandon the love for whose existence you
are responsible! You, who were to be so fresh and pure an influence on
my work, are content to deprive literature of those masterpieces our
union would have called into being! Oh, but you cannot unshackle
yourself thus from my life--for good or evil your meeting with me
determined my third manner. Hitherto I thought it was for good; now I
fear it will be for evil."

"You seem to have forgotten _all_ your manners," she said, annoyed. "And
if our meeting was for evil, at least our parting shall be for good."

John Beveridge and Ellaline Rand spake no more, but walked home in
silence through the country lanes on which the sunlight seemed to lie
cold. The past was put a dream--not for these two the simple emotions
which cross with joy or sorrow the web of common life. At the cottage
near the top of the hill, where the sounds and scents of the sea were
faintest, they parted. The idyl of Trepolpen was ended.

And John Beveridge went downhill.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                         MORE ABOUT THE CHERUB.

The trial interview between Lord Silverdale and Ellaline Rand took place
in the rooms of the Old Maids' Club in the presence of the President.
Lillie, encouraged by the rush of candidates, occupied herself in
embroidering another epigrammatic antimacassar--"It is man who is vain
of woman's dress." She had deliberately placed herself out of earshot.
To Miss Rand, Lord Silverdale was a casual visitor with whom she had
drifted into conversation, yet she behaved as prettily as if she knew
she was undergoing the _viva-voce_ portion of the examination for

There are two classes of flirts--those who love to flirt, and those who
flirt to love. There is little to be said against the latter, for they
are merely experimenting. They intend to fall in love, but they can
hardly compass it without preliminary acquaintance, and by giving
themselves a wide and varied selection, are more likely to discover the
fitting object of affection. It is easy to confound both classes of
flirts together, and heartbroken lovers generally do so, when they do
not use a stronger expression. But so far as Lord Silverdale could tell,
there was nothing in Miss Rand's behavior to justify him in relegating
her to either class, or to make him doubt the genuineness of the
anti-hymeneal feelings provoked by her disappointment in Trepolpen. Her
manner was simple and artless--she gushed, indeed, but charmingly, like
a daintily sculptured figure on a marble fountain in a fair pleasaunce.
You could be as little offended by her gush, as by her candid
confessions of her own talents. The Lord had given her a good conceit of
herself, and given it her so gracefully, that it was one of her chiefest
charms. She spoke with his lordship of Shakespeare and others of her
profession, and mentioned that she was about to establish a paper called
_The Cherub_, after her popular story _The Cherub That Sits Up Aloft_.

"I want to get into closer touch with my readers," she explained,
helping herself charmingly to the chocolate creams. "In a book, you
cannot get into direct _rapport_ with your public. Your characters are
your rivals and distract attention from the personality of the author.
In a journal I shall be able to chat with them freely, open my heart to
them and gather them to it. There is a legitimate curiosity to learn all
about me--the same curiosity that I feel about other authors. Why should
I allow myself to be viewed in the refracting medium of alien ink? Let
me sketch myself to my readers, tell them what I eat and drink, and how
I write, and when, what clothes I wear and how much I pay for them, what
I think of this or that book of mine, of this or that character of my
creation, what my friends think of me, and what I think of my friends.
All the features of the paper will combine to make my face. I shall
occupy all the stories, and every column will have me at the top. In
this way I hope, not only to gratify my yearnings for sympathy, but to
stimulate the circulation of my books. Nay more, with the eye of my
admirers thus encouragingly upon me, I shall work more zealously. You
see, Lord Silverdale, we authors are a race apart--without the public
hanging upon our words, we are like butterflies in a London fog, or
actors playing to an empty auditorium."

"I have noticed that," said Lord Silverdale dryly, "before authors
succeed, it takes them a year to write a book, after they succeed it
takes them only a month."

"You see I am right," said Ellaline eagerly. "That's what the sun of
public sympathy does. It ripens work quickly."

"Yes, and when the sun is very burning, it sometimes takes the authors
no time at all."

"Ah, now you are laughing at me. You are speaking of 'ghosts.'"

"Yes. Ghost stories are published all the year round--not merely at
Christmas. Don't think I'm finding fault. I look upon an author who
keeps his ghost, as I do on a tradesmen who keeps his carriage. It is a
sign he has succeeded."

"Oh, but it's very wicked, giving the public underweight like that!"
said Ellaline in her sweet, serious way. "How can anybody write as well
as yourself? But why I mentioned about _The Cherub_ is because it has
just struck me the paper might become the organ of the Old Maids' Club,
for I should make a point of speaking freely of my aims and aspirations
in joining it. I presume you know all about Miss Dulcimer's scheme?"

"Oh, yes! But I don't think it feasible."

"You don't?" she said, with a little tremor of astonishment in her
voice. "And why not?" She looked anxiously into his eyes for the reply.

"The candidates are too charming to remain single," he explained,

She smiled back a little at him, those sweet gray eyes still looking
into his.

"_You_ are not a literary man?" she said irrelevantly.

"I am afraid I must plead guilty to trying to be," he said. "The
evidence is down in black and white."

The smile died away and for an instant Ellaline's brow went into black
for it. She accepted an ice from Turple the magnificent, but took her
leave shortly afterwards, Lillie promising to write to her.

"Well?" said the President when she was left alone with the Honorary

That functionary looked dubious. "Up till the very last she seemed
single-hearted in her zeal. Then she asked whether _I_ was a literary
man. You know her story. What do you conclude?"

"I can hardly come to a conclusion. Do you think there is still a danger
of her marrying to get someone to advertise her?"

"I think it depends on _The Cherub_. If _The Cherub_ is born and lives,
it will be a more effectual advertising medium than even a husband, and
may replace him. A paper of your own can puff you rather better than a
husband of your own, it has a larger circulation and more opportunities.
An authoress-editress, her worth is far above rubies! Her correspondents
praise her in the gates and her staff shall rise up and call her
blessed. It may well be that she will arrive at that stage at which a
husband is an incubus and marriage a manacle. In that day the honor of
the Club will be safe in her hands."

"What do you suggest then?" said Lillie anxiously.

"That you wait till she is delivered of _The Cherub_ before deciding."

"Very well," she replied resignedly. "Only I hope we shall be able to
admit her. Her conception of the use of man is so sublime!"

Lord Silverdale smiled. "Ah, if the truth were known," he said, "I
daresay it would be that pretty women regard man merely as a beast of
draught and burden, a creature to draw their checks and carry their

Lillie answered, "And men look on pretty women either as home pets or as
drawing-room decorations."

Silverdale said further, "I do not look on you as either."

To which, Lillie, "Why do you say such obvious things? It is unworthy of
you. Have you anything worthy of you in your pocket to-day?"

"Nothing of your hearing. Just a little poem about another Cherub."

                          AN ANCIENT PASSION.

    Mine is no passion of to-day,
      Upblazing like a rocket,
    To-morrow doomed to die away
      And leave you out of pocket.

    Nor is she one who snared my love
      By just the woman's graces:
    I loved her when, a sucking dove,
      She cooed and made grimaces.

    And when the pretty darling cried,
      I often stooped and kissed her,
    Though cold and faint her lips replied,
      As though she were my sister.

    I loved her long but loved her still
      When she discarded long-clothes,
    Yet here if she had had her will
      Would this romantic song close.

    For, though we wandered hand in hand,
      Companions close and chronic,
    She always made me understand
      _Her_ motives were Platonic.

    She said me "Nay" with merry mien,
      Not weeping like the cayman,
    When she was Mab, the Fairy Queen,
      And I Tom King, highwayman.

    'Twas at a Children's Fancy Ball,
      I got that first rejection,
    It did not kill my love at all
      But heightened its complexion.

    My love to tell, when she grew up,
      Necessitates italics.
    Her hair was like the buttercup
      (Corolla not the calyx).

    Her form was slim, her eye was bright,
      Her mouth a jewel-casket,
    Her hand it was so soft and white
      I often used to ask it.

    And so from year to year I wooed,
      My passion growing fiercer,
    Though she in modest maiden mood
      Addressed me as "My _dear_ sir."

    At twenty she was still as coy,
      Her heart was like Diana's.
    The future held for me no joy,
      Save smoking choice Havanas.

    At last my perseverance woke
      A sweet responsive passion,
    And of her love for me she spoke
      In woman's wordless fashion.

    I told her, when her speech was done,
      The task would be above her
    To make a happy man of one
      Who long had ceased to love her.

Lillie put on an innocently analytical frown. "I think you behaved very
badly," she exclaimed. "You might have waited a little longer."

"Do you think so? Then I will go and leave you to your labors," said
Lord Silverdale with his wonted irrelevancy.

Lillie sat for a long time with pen in hand, thinking without writing.
As a change from writing without thinking this was perhaps a relief.

                 [Illustration: _Rejected Addresses._]

"A penny for your thoughts," said the millionaire, stealing in upon her

Lillie started.

"I am not Ellaline Rand," she said smiling. "Wait till _The Cherub_
comes out, and you will get hers at that price."

"Was Ellaline the girl who has just gone?"

"Did you see her? I thought you were gardening."

"So I was, but I happened to go into the dining-room for a moment and
saw her from the window. I suppose she will be here often."

"I suppose so," said Lillie dubiously.

The millionaire rubbed his hands.

"Miss Eustasia Pallas," announced Turple the magnificent.

"A new candidate, probably," said the President.

"Father, you must go and play in the garden."

The millionaire left the room meekly.

                              CHAPTER IX.

                     OF WIVES AND THEIR MISTRESSES.

"No, no," said Miss Eustasia Pallas. "You misapprehend me. It is not
because it would be necessary to have a husband and a home of one's own,
that I object to marriage, but because it would be impossible to do
without servants. While a girl lives at home, she can cultivate her soul
while her mother attends to the _ménage_. But after marriage, the higher
life is impossible. You must have servants. You cannot do your own dirty
work--not merely because it is dirty, but because it is the thief of
time. You can hardly get literature, music, and religion adequately into
your life even with the whole day at your disposal; but if you had to
make your own bed, too, I am afraid you wouldn't find time to lie on

"Then why object to servants?" inquired Lillie.

"Because servants are the asphyxiators of the soul. But for them I
should long since have married."

"I do not quite follow you. Surely if you had servants to relieve you of
all the grosser duties, the spiritual could then claim your individual

"Ah, that is a pretty theory. It sounds very plausible. In practice,
alas! it does not work. Like the servants. I have kept my eyes open
almost from the first day of my life. I have observed my mother's
household and other people's--I speak of the great middle-classes,
mainly--and my unalterable conviction is, that every faithful wife who
aspires to be housekeeper too, becomes the servant of her servants. They
rule not only her but all her thoughts. Her life circles round them. She
can talk of nothing else. Whether she visits, or is visited, servants
are the staple of her conversation. Their curious habits and customs,
their love-affairs, their laches, their impertinences, these gradually
become the whole food of thought, ousting every higher aim and idea. I
have watched a girl--my bosom-friend at Girton--deteriorate from a
maiden to a wife, from a wife to a bondswoman. First she talked Shelley,
then Charley, then Mary Ann. Gradually her soul shrank. She lost her
character. She became a mere parasite on the servant's kitchen, a slave
to the cook's drink and the housemaid's followers. Those who knew my
mother before she was married speak of her as a bright, bonny girl, all
enthusiasm and energy, interesting herself in all the life of her day
and even taking a side in politics. But when I knew her, she was haggard
and narrow. She never read, nor sang, nor played, nor went to the
Academy. The greatest historical occurrences left her sympathies
untouched. She did not even care whether Australia or England conquered
at cricket, or whether Browning lived or died. You could not get her to
discuss Whistler or the relations of Greek drama to Gaiety Burlesque, or
any other subject that interests ordinary human beings. She did not want
a vote. She did not want any alteration in the divorce laws. She did not
want Russia to be a free country or the Empire to be federated. She did
not want darkest England to be supplied with lamps. She did not want the
working classes to lead better and nobler lives. She did not want to
preserve the Commons or to abolish the House of Lords. She did not want
to do good or even to be happy. All she wanted was a cook or a housemaid
or a coachman, as the case might be, and she was perpetually asking all
her acquaintance if they knew of a good one, or had heard of the
outrageous behavior of the last.

"In her early married days, my father's income was not a twentieth of
what it is to-day, and so she was fairly happy, with only one servant to
tyrannize over her. But she always had hard mistresses, even in those
comparatively easy years. Poor mother! One scene remains vividly stamped
upon my mind. We had a girl named Selina who would not get up in the
morning. We had nothing to complain of in the time of her going to
bed--I think she went about nine--but the earliest she ever rose was
eight, and my father always had to catch the eight-twenty train to the
City, so you may imagine how much breakfast he got. My mother spoke to
Selina about it nearly every day and Selina admitted the indictment. She
said she could not help it, she seemed to dream such long dreams and
never wake up in the middle. My mother had had such difficulty in
getting Selina that she hesitated to send her away and start hunting for
a new Selina, but the case seemed hopeless. The winter came on and we
took to sending Selina to bed at six o'clock, that my father might be
sure of a hot cup of coffee before leaving home in the morning. But she
said the mornings were so cold and dark it was impossible to get out of
bed, though she tried very hard and did her best. I think she spent only
nine hours out of bed on the average. My father gave up the hope of
breakfast. He used to leave by an earlier train and get something at a
restaurant. This grieved my mother very much--she calculated it cost her
a bonnet a month. She became determined to convert Selina from the error
of her ways. She told me she was going to appeal to Selina's higher
nature. Reprimand had failed, but the soul that cannot be coerced can be
touched. That was in the days when my mother still read poetry and was
semi-independent. One bleak bitter dawn my mother rose shivering,
dressed herself and went down into the kitchen, to the entire
disconcertion of the chronology of the black-beetles. She made the fire
and put the kettle on to boil and swept the kitchen. She also swept the
breakfast-room and lighted the fire and laid the breakfast. Then she sat
down, put on a saintly expression and waited for Selina.

"An hour went by, but Selina did not make her appearance. The first
half-hour passed quickly because my mother was busy thinking out the
exact phrases in which to touch her higher nature. It required tact--a
single clumsy turn of language--and she might offend Selina instead of
elevating her. It was really quite a literary effort, the adequate
expression of my mother's conception of the dignity and pathos of the
situation, in fact it was that most difficult branch of literature, the
dramatic, for my mother constructed the entire dialogue, speaking for
Selina as well as for herself. Like all leading ladies, especially when
they write their own plays, my mother allotted herself the 'tag,' and
the last words of the dialogue were:--

"'There! there! my good girl! Dry your eyes. The past shall be
forgotten. From to-morrow a new life shall begin. Come, Selina! drink
that nice hot cup of tea--don't cry and let it get cold. That's right.

"The second half-hour was rather slower, my mother listening eagerly for
Selina's footsteps, and pricking up her ears at every sound. The mice
ran about the wainscoting, the kettle sang blithely, the little flames
leaped in the grate, the kitchen and the breakfast-room were cheerful
and cosy and redolent of the goodly savors of breakfast. A pile of hot
toast lay upon a plate. Only Selina was wanting.

"All at once my mother heard the hall-door bang, and running to the
window she saw a figure going out into the gray freezing fog. It was my
father hurrying to catch his train. In the excitement of the experiment
my mother had forgotten to tell him that for this morning at least,
breakfast could be had at home. He might have had such beautiful tea and
coffee, such lovely toast, such exquisite eggs, and there he was
hastening along in the raw air on an empty stomach. My mother rapped on
the panes with her knuckles but my father was late and did not hear. Her
own soul a little ruffled, my mother sat down again in the kitchen and
waited for Selina. Gradually she forgot her chagrin, after all it was
the last time my father would ever have to depart breakfastless. She
went over the dialogue again, polishing it up and adding little touches.

"I think it was past nine when Selina left her bedroom, unwashed and
rubbing her eyes. By that time my mother had thrice resisted the
temptation to go up and shake her, and it was coming on a fourth time
when she heard Selina's massive footstep on the stair. Instantly my
mother's irritation ceased. She reassumed her look of sublime martyrdom.
She had spread a nice white cloth on the kitchen table and Selina's
breakfast stood appetizingly upon it. Tears came into her eyes as she
thought of how Selina would be shaken to her depths by the sight.

"Selina threw open the kitchen door with a peevish push, for she
disliked having to get up early in these cold, dark winter mornings and
vented her irritation even upon insensitive woodwork. But when she saw
the deep red glow of the fire, instead of the dusky chillness of the
normal morning kitchen, she uttered a cry of joy, and rushing forwards
warmed her hands eagerly at the flame.

"'Oh, thank you, missus,' she said with genuine gratitude.

"Selina did not seem at all surprised. But my mother did. She became
confused and nervous. She forgot her words, as if from an attack of
stage-fright. There was no prompter and so for a moment my mother
remained speechless.

"Selina, having warmed her hands sufficiently, drew her chair to the
table and lifted the cosy from the tea-pot.

"'Why, you've let it get cold,' she said reproachfully, feeling the side
of the pot.

"This was more than my mother could stand.

"'It's you that have let it get cold,' she cried hotly.

"Now this was pure impromptu 'gag,' and my mother would have done better
to confine herself to the rehearsed dialogue.

"'Oh, missus!' cried Selina. 'How can you say that? Why, this is the
first moment I've come down.'

"'Yes,' said my mother, gladly seizing the opportunity of slipping back
into the text. 'Somebody had to do the work, Selina. In this world no
work can go undone. If those whose duty it is do not do it, it must fall
on the shoulders of other people. That is why I got up at seven this
morning instead of you and have tidied up the place and made the
master's breakfast.'

"'That was real good of you!' exclaimed Selina, with impulsive

"My mother began to feel that the elaborate set piece was going off in a
damp sort of way, but she kept up her courage and her saintly expression
and continued,

"'It was freezing when I got out of my warm bed, and before I could get
the fire alight here I almost perished with cold. I shouldn't be
surprised if I have laid the seeds of consumption.'

"'Ah,' said Selina with satisfaction. 'Now you see what I have had to
put up with.' She took another piece of toast.

"Selina's failure to give the cues extremely disconcerted my mother.
Instead of being able to make the high moral remarks she had intended,
she was forced to invent _repartées_ on the spur of the moment. The
ethical quality of these improvisations was distinctly inferior.

"'But you are paid for it, I'm not,' she retorted sharply.

"'I know. That is why I say it is so good of you,' replied Selina, with
inextinguishable admiration. 'But you'll reap the benefit of it. Now
that I've had my breakfast without any trouble I shall be able to go
about my work a deal better. It's such a struggle to get up, I assure
you, missus, it tires me out for the day. Might I have another egg?'

"My mother savagely pushed her another egg.

"'I'm thinking it would be a good plan,' said Selina, meditatively
opening the egg with her fingers, 'if you would get up instead of me
every morning. But perhaps that was what you were thinking of.'

"'Oh, you would like me to, would you?' said my mother.

"'I should be very grateful, I should indeed,' said Selina earnestly.
'And I'm sure the work would be better done. There don't seem to be a
speck of dust anywhere,'--she rubbed her dirty thumb admiringly along
the dresser--'and I'm sure the tea and toast are lots nicer than any
I've ever made.'

"My mother waved her hand deprecatingly, but Selina continued:

"'Oh yes, you know they are. You've often told me I was no use at all in
the kitchen. I don't need to be told of my shortcomings, missus. All you
say of me is quite true. You would be ever so much more satisfied if you
cooked everything yourself. I'm sure you would.'

"'And what would _you_ do under this beautiful scheme?' inquired my
mother with withering sarcasm.

"'I haven't thought of that yet,' said Selina simply. 'But no doubt, if
I looked around carefully, I should find something to occupy me. I
couldn't be long out of work, I feel sure.'

"Well, that was how mother's attempt to elevate Selina by moral means
came to be a fiasco. The next time she tried to elevate her, it was by
physical means. My mother left the suburb, and moved to a London flat
very near the sky. She had given up hopes of improving Selina's
matutinal habits, and made the breakfast hour later through my father
having now no train to catch, but she thought she would cure her of
followers. Selina's flirtations were not confined to our tradespeople
and the local constabulary. She would exchange remarks about the weather
with the most casual pedestrian in trousers. My mother thought she would
remove her from danger by raising her high above all earthly
temptations. We made the tradesmen send up their goods by lift and the
only person she could flirt with was the old lift attendant. My father
grumbled a good deal in the early days because the lift was always at
the other extreme when he wanted it, but Selina's moral welfare came
before all other considerations.

"By and by they began to renovate the exterior of the adjoining mansion.
They put up a scaffolding, which grew higher and higher as the work
advanced, and men swarmed upon it. At first my mother contemplated them
with equanimity because they were British working-men and we were
nearest heaven. But as the months went by, they began to get nearer and
nearer. There came a time when Selina's smile was distinctly visible to
the man engaged on the section of the scaffolding immediately below.
That smile encouraged him. It seemed to say 'Excelsior.' He was a
veritable Don Juan, that laborer. At every flat he flirted with the maid
in possession. By counting the storeys in our mansion you could
calculate the number of his _amours_. With every rise he left a
love-passage behind him. He was a typical man--always looking higher,
and, when he had raised himself to a more elevated position, spurning
yesterday's love from beneath his feet. He seemed to mount on broken
hearts. And now he was aspiring to the highest of all--Selina. Oh it is
cruel! My mother had secluded Selina like a virgin Princess in an
enchanted inaccessible tower and yet here was the Prince calmly scaling
the tower, without any possibility of interference. Long before he had
reached the top the consumption of Bass in our flat went up by leaps and
bounds. Selina, my mother ultimately discovered, used to lower the beer
by strings. It appeared, moreover, that she had two strings to her bow,
for a swain in a slouch hat had been likewise climbing the height, at an
insidious angle which had screened him from my mother's observation
hitherto. Neither of these men did much work, but it made them very

                  [Illustration: _Lowering the Beer._]

"That destroyed the last vestige of my mother's faith in Selina's soul.
Like all disappointed women, she became crabbed and cynical. When my
father's rising fortunes brought her more and more under the dominion of
servants, the exposure and out-manoeuvring of her taskmasters came to be
the only pleasure of her life. She spent a great deal of time in the
police-courts--the constant prosecution she suffered from, curtailed the
last relics of her leisure. Everybody has heard of the law's delay, but
few know how much time prosecutors have to lose, hanging about the Court
waiting for their case to be called. When a servant robbed her, my
mother rarely got off with less than seven days. The moment she had
engaged a servant, she became morbidly suspicious of him or her. Often,
when she had dressed for dinner, it would suddenly strike her that if
she ransacked a certain cupboard something or other would be discovered,
and off she would go to spoil her spotless silks. She had a mania for
'Spring cleanings' once a month, so as to keep the drones busy. Often I
would bring a friend home, only to find the dining-room in the hall and
the drawing-room on the landing. And yet to the end she retained a
certain guileless, girlish simplicity--a fresh fund of hope which was
not without a charm and pathos of its own. To the very last she believed
that, faultless, flawless servants existed somewhere and she didn't
intend to be happy till she got them; so that it was said of her by my
sister's intended that she passed her life on the doorstep, either
receiving an angel or expelling a fiend. It showed what a fine trustful
nature had been turned to gall. She is at rest now, poor mother, her
life's long slavery ended by the soft touch of all-merciful Death. Let
us hope that she has opened her sorrow-stricken eyes on a brighter land,
where earthly distinctions are annulled and the poor heavy-laden
mistress may mix on equal terms with the radiant parlor-maid and the
buxom cook."

The tears were in Lillie's eyes as Miss Eustasia Pallas concluded her
affecting recital.

"But don't you think," said the President, conquering her emotion, "that
with such an awful example in your memory, you could never yourself sink
into such a serfage, even if you married?"

"I dare not trust myself," said Eustasia. "I have seen the fall of too
many other women. Why should I expect immunity from the general fate? I
think myself strong--but who can fathom her own weakness. Why, I have
actually been talking servants to you all the time. Think how continuous
is the temptation, how subtle. Were it not better to possess my soul in
peace and to cultivate it nobly and wisely and become a shining light of
the higher spinsterhood?"

Eustasia passed the preliminary examination and also the viva voce, and
Lillie was again in high feather. But before the election was formally
confirmed, she was chagrined to receive the following letter.

              [Illustration: _Drew up the Advertisement._]


    "I have good news for you. Knowing your anxiety to find for me a
    way out of my matrimonial dilemma, I am pleased to be able to
    inform you that it has been found by my friend and literary
    adviser, Percy Swinshel Spatt, the well known philosopher and
    idealist. I met him writing down his thoughts in Bond Street. In
    the course of a dialogue upon the Beautiful, I put my puzzle to
    him and he solved it in a moment. 'Why _must_ you keep a
    servant?' he asked, for it is his habit to question every
    statement he does not make. 'Why not rather keep a mistress?
    Become a servant yourself and all your difficulties vanish.' It
    was like a flash of lightning. 'Yes,' I said, when I had
    recovered from the dazzle, 'but that would mean separation from
    my husband.' 'Why?' he replied with his usual habit. 'In many
    houses they prefer to take married couples.' 'Ah, but where
    should I find a man of like mind, a man to whom leisure for the
    cultivation of his soul was the one great necessity of life?'
    'It is a curious coincidence, Eustasia,' he replied, 'that I was
    just myself contemplating keeping a master and retiring into a
    hermitage below stairs, to devote myself to philosophical
    contemplation. As a butler or a footman in a really aristocratic
    establishment, my duties would be nominal, and the other
    servants and my employers would attend to all my wants. Abstract
    speculation would naturally indue me with the grave silence and
    dignity which seem to be the chief duties of these superior
    creatures. It is possible, Eustasia, that I am not the first to
    perceive the advantages of this way of living and that plush is
    but the disguise of the philosopher. As for you, Eustasia, you
    could become a parlor-maid. Thus we should live together
    peacefully, with no sordid housekeeping cares, no squalid
    interests in rates or taxes, devoted heart and soul to the
    higher life.' 'You light up for me perspectives of Paradise,' I
    cried enthusiastically. 'Then let us get the key of the garden
    at once,' he replied rapturously, and turning over a new leaf of
    his philosophical note-book, he set to work then and there to
    draw up the advertisement: 'Wanted--by a young married couple,
    etc.' Of course we had to be a little previous, because I could
    not consent to marry him unless we had a situation to go to. We
    were only putting what the Greek grammars call a proleptic
    construction upon the situation. Well, it seems good servants
    are so scarce we got a place at once--the exact thing we were
    looking for. We are concealing our real names (lest the
    profession be overrun by jealous friends from Newnham and Girton
    and Oxford and Cambridge) so that I was able to give Percy a
    character and Percy to give me a character. We are going into
    our place next Monday afternoon, so, to avoid obtaining the
    situation by false pretences, we shall have to go before the
    Registrar on the Monday morning. Our honeymoon will be spent in
    the delightful and unexploited retreat of the back kitchen.

            "Yours, in the higher sisterhood,
                                                  "EUSTASIA PALLAS."

                               CHAPTER X.

                     THE GOOD YOUNG MEN WHO LIVED.

"It is, indeed, a happy solution," said Lord Silverdale enviously. "To
spend your life in the service of other men, yet to save it for
yourself! It reconciles all ideals."

"Well, you can very easily try it," said Lillie. "I have just heard from
the Princess of Portman Square--she is reorganizing her household in
view of her nuptials. Shall I write you a recommendation?"

"No, but I will read you an Address to an Egyptian Tipcat," replied his
lordship, with the irrelevancy which was growing upon him. "You know the
recent excavations have shown that the little Egyptians used to play
'pussy-cat' five thousand years ago."

                    ADDRESS TO AN EGYPTIAN TIP-CAT.

    And thou has flown about--how strange a story--
      Full five and forty centuries ago,
    Ere Fayoum, fired with military glory,
      Received from Gurod, with purpureal show,
      The sea-born captives of the spear and bow;
    And thou has blacked, perhaps, the very finest eye
    That sparkled in the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty.

    The sight of thee brings visions panoramic
      Of manlier games, as _Faro_, _Pyramids_.
    What hands, now tinct with substances balsamic,
      Have set thee leaping like the sportive kids,
      What time the passers-by did close their lids?
    Did the stern Priesthood strive thy cult to smother,
    Or wast thou worshipped, like thy purring brother?

    Where is the youth by whom thou wast created
      And tipped profusely? Doth he frisk in glee
    In Aahlu, or lives he, transmigrated,
      The lower life Osiris did decree,
      Of fowl, or fly, or fish, or fox, or flea?
    Or, fallen deeper, is he politician,
    Stumping the land, his country's quack physician?

    Thou Sphynx in wood, unchanged, serene, immortal,
      How many States and Temples have decayed
    And generations passed the mystic portal
      Whilst thou, still young, hast gone on being played?
      Say, when thy popularity shall fade?
    And art thou--here's my last, if not my stiffest--
    As good a bouncer as the hieroglyphist?

"Why, did the hieroglyphists use to brag?" asked Lillie.

"Shamefully. You can no more believe in their statements than in
epitaphs. There seems something peculiarly mendacious about stone as a
recording medium. Only it must be admitted on behalf of the
hieroglyphists that it may be the Egyptologists who are the braggers.
There never was an ancient inscription which is not capable of being
taken in a dozen different ways, like a party-leader's speech. Every
word has six possible meanings and half a dozen probable ones. The
_savants_ only pretend to understand the stones."

So saying Lord Silverdale took his departure. On the doorstep he met a
young lady carrying a brown paper parcel. She smiled so sweetly at him
that he raised his hat and wondered where he had met her.

But it was only another candidate. She faced Turple the magnificent and
smiled on, unawed. Turple ended by relaxing his muscles a whit, then
ashamed of himself he announced gruffly, "Miss Mary Friscoe."

After the preliminary formalities, and after having duly assured herself
that there was no male ear within earshot, Miss Friscoe delivered
herself of the following candid confession.

"I am a pretty girl, as you can see. I wear sweet frocks and smiles, and
my eyes are of Heaven's own blue. Men are fond of gazing into them. Men
are so artistic. They admire the beautiful and tell her so. Women are so
different. I have overheard my girl friends call me 'that silly little

"I hold that any woman can twist any man round her little finger or his
arm round her waist, therefore I consider it no conceit to say I have
attracted considerable attention. If I had accepted all the offers I
received, my marriages could easily have filled a column of _The Times_.
I know there are women who think that men are coarse, unsentimental
creatures, given over to slang, tobacco, billiards, betting, brandies
and sodas, smoking-room stories, flirtations with barmaids, dress and
general depravity. But the women who say or write that are soured
creatures, who have never been loved, have never fathomed the depth and
purity of men's souls.

"I have been loved. I have been loved much and often, and I speak as one
who knows. Man is the most maligned animal in creation. He is the least
gross and carnal of creatures, the most exquisitely pure and refined in
thought and deed; the most capable of disinterested devotion,
self-sacrifice, chivalry, tenderness. Every man is his own Bayard.

"If men had their deserts we women--heartless, frivolous, venal
creatures that we are--would go down on our knees to them, and beg them
to marry us. I am a woman and again I speak as one who knows. For I am
not a bad specimen of my sex. Even my best friends admit I am only
silly. I am really a very generous and kind-hearted little thing. I
never keep my tailor waiting longer than a year, I have made quite a
number of penwipers for the poor, and I have never told an unnecessary
lie in my life. I give a great deal of affection to my mother and even a
little assistance in the household. I do not smoke scented cigarettes. I
read travels and biographies as well as novels, play the guitar rather
well, attend a Drawing Class, rise long before noon, am good-tempered,
wear my ball-dresses more than once, turn winter dresses into spring
frocks by stripping off the fur and putting on galon, and diversify my
gowns by changing the sleeves. In short, I am a superior, thoroughly
domesticated girl. And yet I have never met a man who has not had the
advantage of me in all the virtues.

"There was George Holly,--I regret I cannot mention my lovers in
chronological order, but my memories are so vague, they all seem to
fuse into one another. Perhaps it is because there is a lack of
distinctiveness about men--a monotonous goodness which has its charm but
is extremely confusing. One thing I do remember though, about George--at
least, I think it was George. His moustache was rather bristly, and the
little curled tips used to tickle one's nose comically. I was very
disappointed in George, I had heard such a lot of talk about him; but
when I got to really know him I found he was not a bit like it. How I
came to really know him was like this. 'Mary,' he said, as we sat on the
stairs, high up, so as not to be in the way of the waiters. 'Won't you
say "yes" and make me the happiest man alive? Never man loved as I love
now. Answer me. Do not torture me with suspense.' I was silent;
speechless with happiness to think that I had won this true manly heart.
I looked down at my fan. My lips were forming the affirmative
monosyllable, when George continued passionately,

"'Ah, Mary, speak! Mary, the only woman I ever loved.'

"I turned pale with emotion. Tears came into my eyes.

"'Is this true?' I articulated. 'Am I really the only woman you ever

"'By my hopes of a hereafter, yes!' George was a bit slangy in his
general conversation. The shallow world never knew the poetry he could
rise to. 'This is the first time I have known what it is to love, Mary,
my sweet, my own.'

"'No, not your own,' I interrupted coldly, for my heart was like ice
within me. 'I belong to myself, and I intend to. Will you give me your
arm into the ballroom--Mr. Daythorpe must be looking for me everywhere.'

"It sounds very wicked to say it, I know, but I cannot delay my
confession longer. I love, I adore, I doat on wicked men, men who love
not wisely but too well. When I learnt history at school I could always
answer questions about the reign of Charles II., it was such a
deliciously wicked period. I love Burns, Lord Byron, De Musset,
Lovelace--all the nice naughty men of history or fiction. I like Ouida's
guardsman, whose love is a tornado, and Charlotte Bronte's Rochester,
and Byron's Don Juan. I hate, I detest milksops. And a good man always
seems to me a milksop. It is a flaw--a terrible flaw in my composition,
I know--but I cannot help it. It makes me miserable, but what can I do?
Nature will out.

"That was how I came to find George out, to discover he was not the
terrible cavalier, the abandoned squire of dames the world said he was.
His reputation was purely bogus. The gossips might buzz, but I had it on
the highest authority. I was the first woman he had ever loved. What
pleasure is there in such a conquest? It grieved me to break his heart,
but I had no option.

"Daythorpe was another fellow who taught me the same lesson of the
purity and high emotions of his cruelly libelled sex. He, too, when
driven into a corner (far from the madding crowd) confessed that I was
the only woman he had ever loved. I have tried them all--poets and
musicians, barristers and business-men. They all had suffered from the
same incapacity for affection till they met me. It was quite pathetic to
discover how truly all men were brothers. The only difference was that
while some added I was the only woman they ever could love, others
insisted that never man had loved before as they did now. The latter
lovers always remind me of advertisers offering a superior article to
anything in the trade. Nowhere could I meet the man I longed for--the
man who had lived and loved. Once I felt stirrings towards a handsome
young widower, but he went out of his way to assure me he had never
cared for his first wife. After that, of course, he had no chance.

                    [Illustration: _Platonic Love._]

"Unable to discover any but good young men, I resigned myself perforce
to spinsterhood. I resolved to cultivate only Platonic relations. I told
young men to come to me and tell me their troubles. I encouraged them to
sit at my feet and confide in me while I held their hands to give them
courage. But even so they would never confess anything worth hearing,
and if they did love anybody it invariably turned out to be me and me
only. Yes, I grieve to say these Platonic young men were just as good as
the others; leaving out the audacity of their proposing to me when I had
given them no encouragement. Here again I found men distressingly alike.
They are constitutionally unable to be girls' chums, they are always
hankering to convert the friendship into love. Time after time
anticipations of a genuine comradeship were rudely dispelled by fatuous
philandering. Yet I never ceased to be surprised, and I never lost hope.
Such, I suppose, is the simple trustfulness of a girl's nature. In time
I got to know when the explosion was coming, and this deadened the
shock. I found it was usually preceded by suicidal remarks of a
retrospective character. My comrades would tell me of their past lives,
of the days when the world's oyster was yet unopened by them. In those
dark days (tears of self-pity came into their eyes as they spoke of
them) they were on the point of suicide--to a man. Only, one little
thing always came to save them--their first brief, the acceptance of
their first article, poem or song, the opportune deaths of aunts, the
chance hearing of an organ-note rolling through the portal of a village
church on a Sunday afternoon, a letter from an old schoolmaster. The
obvious survival of the narrators rather spoiled the sensational thrill
for me, but they themselves were always keenly touched by the story. And
from suicide in the past to suicide in the future was an easy
transition. Alas, I was the connecting link. They loved me--and unless I
returned their love, that early suicide would prove to have been merely
postponed. In the course of conversation it transpired that I was the
first woman they had ever loved. I remember once rejecting on this
account two such Platonic failures, within ten minutes of each other.
One was a well-known caricaturist, and the other was the editor of a
lady's paper. Each left me, declaring his heart was broken, that I had
led him on shamelessly, that I was a heartless jilt and that he would go
and kill himself. My brother Tom accidentally told me he saw them
together about an hour afterwards at a bar in the Strand, asking each
other what was their poison. So I learnt that they had spoken the
truth. I had driven them to drink. And according to Tom the drink at
this particular bar is superior to strychnine. He says men always take
it in preference."

                   [Illustration: _Driven to Drink._]

"And have you then finally decided to abandon Platonics?" asked Lillie,
when the flow of words came to an end.


"And you have decided to enroll in our ranks?"

Miss Mary Friscoe hesitated.

"Well about that part I'm not quite so certain. To tell the truth, there
is one young man of my acquaintance who has never yet proposed. When I
started for here in disgust at the goodness of mankind I forgot him, but
in talking he has come back to my mind. I have a strong suspicion he is
quite wicked. He is always painting actresses. Don't you think it would
be unfair to him to take my vows without giving him a chance?"

"Well, yes," said Lillie musingly, "perhaps it would. You would feel
easier afterwards. Otherwise you might always reproach yourself with the
thought that you had perhaps turned away from a bad man's love. You
might feel that the world was not so good as you had imagined in your
girlish cynicism, and then you might regret having joined us."

"Quite so," said Miss Friscoe eagerly. "But he shall be the very last
man I will listen to."

"When do you propose to be proposed to by him?"

"The sooner the better. This very day, if you like. I am going straight
from here to my Drawing Class."

"Very well. Then you will come to-morrow and tell me your final


                   *       *       *       *       *

Miss Mary Friscoe arrived at the Drawing Class late. Her fellow students
of both sexes were already at their easels and her entry distracted
everybody. It was a motley gathering, working in motley media--charcoal,
chalk, pencil, oil, water-color. One girl was modelling in clay, and one
young gentleman, opera-glass in hand, was making enlarged colored copies
of photographs. It was this young gentleman that Mary came out for to
see. His name was Bertie Smythe. He was rich, but he would always be a
poor artist. His ambition was to paint the nude.

There were lilies of the valley in the bosom of Mary's art-gown, and
when she arrived she unfolded the brown paper parcel she carried and
took therefrom a cardboard box containing a snow-white collar and
spotless cuffs, which she proceeded to adjust upon her person. She then
went to the drawing-board rack and stood helpless, unable to reach down
her board, which was quite two inches above her head. There was a rush
of embryo R.A.'S. Those who failed to hand her the board got down the
cast and dusted it for her and fixed it up according to her minute and
detailed directions, and adjusted her easel, and brought her a trestle,
and lent her lead-pencils, and cut them for her, and gave her chunks of
stale bread, for all which services she rewarded them with bewitching
smiles and profuse thanks and a thousand apologies. It took her a long
time getting to work on the charcoal cluster of plums which had occupied
her ever since the commencement of the term, because she never ventured
to commence without holding long confabulations with her fellow-students
as to whether the light was falling in exactly the same way as last
time. She got them to cock their heads on one side and survey the
sketch, to retreat and look at it knowingly, to measure the visual angle
with a stick of charcoal, or even to manipulate delicately the great
work itself. Meantime she fluttered about it, chattering, alternately
enraptured and dissatisfied, and when at last she started, it was by
rubbing everything out.

The best position for drawing happened to be next to Bertie Smythe.
That artist was now engaged in copying the portrait of an actress.

"Oh, Mr. Smythe," said Mary suddenly, in a confidential whisper. "I've
got such a beautiful face for you to paint."

"I know you have!" flashed Bertie, in the same intimate tone.

"What a tease you are, twisting my words like that," said Mary, rapping
him playfully on the knuckles with her mahl-stick. "You know what I mean
quite well. It's a cousin of mine in the country."

"I see--it runs in the family," said Bertie.

"What runs in the family?" asked Mary.

"Beautiful faces, of course."

"Oh, that's too bad of you," said Mary pouting. "You know I don't like
compliments." She rubbed a pellet of bread fretfully into her drawing.

"I don't pay compliments. I tell the truth," said Bertie, meeting her
gaze unflinchingly.

"Oh, look at that funny little curl Miss Roberts is wearing to-night!"

"Bother Miss Roberts. When are you going to let me have _your_ face to

"My cousin's, you mean," said Mary, rubbing away harder than ever.

"No, I don't. I mean yours."

"I never give away photographs to gentlemen."

"Well, sit to me then."

"Sit to you! Where?"

"In my studio."

"Good gracious! What are you talking about?"


"Oh, you are too tiresome. I shall never get this finished," grumbled
Mary, concentrating herself so vigorously on the drawing that she
absent-mindedly erased the last vestiges of it. She took up her
plumb-line and held it in front of her cast and became absorbed in
contemplating it.

"You haven't answered my question, Miss Friscoe," whispered Bertie

"What question?"

"When are you going to lend me your face?"

"Look, there's Mr. Biskett going home already!"

"Hang Mr. Biskett! I say, Mary----" he began passionately.

"How are you getting on, Mr. Smythe?" came the creaking voice of Potts,
the drawing-master, behind him.

"Pretty well, thank you; how's yourself?" mechanically replied Bertie,
greatly flustered by his inopportune arrival.

Potts stared and Mary burst into a ringing laugh.

"Look at _my_ drawing, Mr. Potts," she said. "It _will_ come so funny."

"Why, there's nothing there," said Potts.

"Dear me, no more there is," said Mary. "I--I was entirely dissatisfied
with it. You might just sketch it in for me."

Potts was accustomed to doing the work of most of the lady students.
They used to let him do a little bit on each of his rounds till the
thing was completed. He set to work on Mary's drawing, leaving her to
finish being proposed to.

"And you really love me?" Mary was saying, while Potts was sketching the
second plum.

"Can you doubt it?" Bertie whispered tremulously.

"Yes, I do doubt it. You have loved so many girls, you know. Oh, I have
heard all about your conquests."

She thought it was best to take the bull by the horns, and her breath
came thick and fast as she waited for the reply that would make or mar
her life.

Bertie's face lit up with pleasure.

"Oh, but----" he began.

"Ah, yes, I know," she interrupted triumphantly. "What about that
actress you are painting now?"

"Oh, well," said Bertie. "If you say 'yes,' I promise never to speak to
her again."

"And you will give up your bad habits?" she continued joyfully.

"Every one. Even my cigarettes, if you say the word. My whole life shall
be devoted to making you happy. You shall never hear a cross word from
my lips."

Mary's face fell, her lip twitched. What was the use of marrying a
milksop like that? Where would be the fun of a union without mutual
recriminations and sweet reconciliations? She even began to doubt
whether he was wicked after all.

"Did you ever really love that actress?" she whispered anxiously.

"No, of course I didn't," said Bertie soothingly. "To tell the truth, I
have never spoken to her in my life. I bought her photo in the
Burlington arcade and I only talk with the fellows about ballet girls in
order, not to be behind the times. I never knew what love was till I met
you. You are the only----"

Crash! bang! went his three-legged easel, upset by Mary's irrepressible
movement of pique. The eyes of the class were on them in a moment, but
only Mary knew that in that crash her last hope of happiness had fallen,

                   *       *       *       *       *

"I do trust Miss Friscoe's last chance will not prove a blank again,"
said Lord Silverdale, when Lillie had told him of the poor girl's

"Why?" asked the President.

"Because I shrink from the _viva voce_ examination."

"Why?" asked the President.

"I am afraid I should be so dangerous."

"Why?" asked the President.

"Because _I have_ loved before. I shall be desperately in love with
another woman all through the interview."

"Oh, I am so sorry, but you are inadmissible," said Lillie, when Miss
Friscoe came to announce her willingness to join the Club.

"Why?" asked the candidate.

"Because you belong to an art-class. It is forbidden by our by-laws. How
stupid of me not to think of it yesterday!"

"But I am ready to give it up."

"Oh, I couldn't dream of allowing that on any account," said the
President. "I hear you draw so well."

So Mary never went before the Honorary Trier.

                              CHAPTER XI.


"Oh, by the way, Miss Friscoe will not trouble you, you will be glad to
hear," said Lillie, lightly.

"Indeed?" said Silverdale. "Then she has drawn a prize after all! I
cannot say as much for the young man. I hardly think she is a credit to
your sex. Somehow, she reminded me of a woman I used to know, and of
some verses I wrote upon her."

("If he had given me a chance, and not gone on to read his poetry so
quickly," wrote Lillie in her diary that night, "I might have told him
that his inference about Miss Friscoe was incorrect. But it is such a
trifle--it is not worth telling him now, especially as he practically
intimated she would have been an undesirable member, and I only saved
him the trouble of trying her.")

Lord Silverdale read his verses without the accompaniment of the banjo,
an instrument too frivolous for the tragic muse.

                        LA FEMME QUE NE RIT PAS.

    It was fair with a loveliness mystic,
      Like the faces that Raphael drew,
    Enigmatic, intense, cabalistic,
      But surcharged with the light of the true:
    Such a face, such a hauntingly magic
      Incarnation of wistful regret,
    It was tenebrous, tender, and tragic,
      I dream of it yet.

    And there lives in my charmed recollection,
      The sweet mouth with its lips cruelly curled,
    As with bitter ironic rejection
      Of the gods of the frivolous world.
    Yet not even disdain on her features
      Was enthroned, for a heavenly peace
    Often linked her with bright seraph creatures
      Or statues of Greece.

    I met her at dinners and dances,
      Or on yachts that by moonlight went trips,
    And was thrilled by her marvellous glances,
      And the sneer or repose of her lips.
    Never smile o'er her features did play light,
      Never laughter illumined her eyes;
    She grew to seem sundered from daylight
      And sun-kindled skies.

    Were they human at all, these dusk glories
      Of eyes? And their owner, was she
    A Swinburnian Lady Dolores,
      Or a sprite from some shadowy sea?
    A Cassandra at sea-trip and _soirée_,
      Or Proserpina visiting earth?
    Ah, what Harpy pursued her as quarry
      To strangle so mirth?

    Ah, but now I am wiser and sadder,
      And my spirit can never again
    At the sight of your fairness feel gladder,
      O ladies, who coolly obtain
    Our enamelled and painted complexion
      On conditions (which really are "style,")
    _You must never by day risk detection
      And nevermore smile._

"I don't see where the connection with Miss Friscoe comes in," said

"No? Why simply if she acquired an enamelled complexion, it might be the
salvation of her, don't you see? Like Henry I., she could never smile

Lillie smiled. Then producing a manuscript, she said: "I think you will
be interested in this story of another of the candidates who applied
during your expedition to the clouds. It is quite unique, and for
amusement I have written it from the man's point of view."

"May I come in?" interrupted the millionaire, popping his head through
the door. "Are there any Old Maids here?"

"Only me," said Lillie.

"Oh, then, I'll call another time."

"No, you may come in, father. Lord Silverdale and I have finished our
business for the day. You can take that away with you and read it at
your leisure, Lord Silverdale."

The millionaire came in, but without _empressement_.

That night Lord Silverdale, who was suffering from insomnia, took the
manuscript to bed with him, but he could not sleep till he had finished

                   *       *       *       *       *

I, Anton Mendoza, bachelor, born thirty years ago by the grace of the
Holy Virgin, on the _fête_-day of San Anton, patron of pigs and old
maids, after sundry adventures by sea and land, found myself in the
autumn of last year in the pestiferous atmosphere of London. I had
picked up bad English and a good sum of money in South America, and by
the aid of the two was enabled to thread my way through the mazes of the
metropolis. I soon tired of the neighborhood of the Alhambra (in the
proximity of which I had with mistaken patriotism established myself),
for the wealthy quarters of all great cities have more affinities than
differences, and after a few days of sight-seeing I resolved to fare
forth in quest of the real sights of London. Mounting the box of the
first omnibus that came along, I threw the reins of my fortunes into the
hands of the driver, and drew a little blue ticket from the lottery of
fate. I scanned the slip of paper curiously and learned therefrom that I
was going fast to "The Angel," which I shrewdly divined to be a
public-house, knowing that these islanders display no poetry and
imagination save in connection with beer. My intuition was correct, and
though it was the forenoon I alighted amid a double stream of
pedestrians, the one branch flowing into "The Angel," and the other
issuing therefrom. Extricating myself, I looked at my compass, and
following the direction of the needle soon found myself in a network of
unlovely streets. For an hour I paced forwards without chancing on aught
of interest, save many weary organ-grinders, seemingly serenading their
mistresses with upward glances at their chamber-windows, and I was
commencing to fear that my blue ticket would prove a blank, when a
savory odor of garlic struck on my nostrils and apprised me that my walk
had given me an appetite. Glancing sideways I saw a door swinging, the
same bearing in painted letters on the glass the words: "Menotti's
Restaurant--Ici on parle Francais." It looked a queer little place, and
the little back street into which I had strayed seemed hardly auspicious
of cleanly fare. Still the jewel of good cookery harbors often in the
plainest caskets, and I set the door swinging again and passed into a
narrow room walled with cracked mirrors and furnished with a few little
tables, a rusty waiter, and a proprietorial looking person perpetually
bent over a speaking tube. As noon was barely arrived, I was not
surprised to find the place all but empty. At the extreme end of the
restaurant I caught a glimpse of a stout dark man with iron-gray
whiskers. I thought I would go and lunch at the table of the solitary
customer and scrape acquaintance, and thus perhaps achieve an adventure.
But hardly had I seated myself opposite him than a shock traversed his
face, the morsel he had just swallowed seemed to stick in his throat, he
rose coughing violently, and clapping his palm over his mouth with the
fingers spread out almost as if he wished to hide his face, turned his
back quickly, seized his hat, threw half-a-crown to the waiter and
scuttled from the establishment.

         [Illustration: _He scuttled from the Establishment._]

I was considerably surprised at his abrupt departure, as if I had
brought some infection with me. The momentary glimpse I had caught of
his face had convinced me I had never seen it before, that it had no
place in the photograph album of my brain, though now it would be fixed
there forever. The nose hooked itself on to my memory at once. It must
be that he had mistaken me for somebody else, somebody whom he had
reason to fear. Perhaps he was a criminal and imagined me a detective. I
called the proprietor and inquired of him in French who the man was and
what was the matter with him. But he shook his head and answered: "That
man there puzzles me. There is a mystery behind."

"Why, has he done anything strange before to-day?"

"No, not precisely."

"How then?"

"I will tell you. He comes here once a year."

"Once a year?" I repeated.

"No more. This has been going on for twelve years."

"What are you telling me there?" I murmured.

"It is true."

"But how have you remembered him from year to year?"

"I was struck by his face and his air the very first time. He seemed
anxious, ill at ease, worried. He left his chop half eaten."

"Ha!" I murmured.

"Also he looks different from most of my clients. They are not of that
type. Of course I forget him immediately--it is not my affair. But when
he comes the second time I recall him on the instant, though a year has
passed. Again he looks perturbed, restless. I say to myself: 'Aha, thou
art not a happy man, there is something which preys on thy mind.
However, thy money is good and to the devil with the rest.' So it goes
on. After three or four visits I commence to look out for him, and I
discover that it is only once a year he does me the honor to arrive.
There are twelve years that I know him--I have seen him twelve times."

"And he has always this nervous air?"

"Not always. That varies. Sometimes he appears calm, sometimes even

"Perhaps it is your fare," I said slily.

"Ah, no, monsieur, that does not vary. It is always of the first

"Does he always come on the same date?"

"No, monsieur. There is the puzzle. It is never exactly a year between
his visits--sometimes it is more, sometimes it is less."

"There is, indeed, the puzzle," I agreed. "If it were always the same
date, it would be a clue. Ah, an idea! He comes not always on the same
date of the month, but he comes, perhaps, on the same day of the week,

Again the proprietor dashed me back into the depths of perplexity.

"No," he said, decisively. "Monday, Wednesday, Saturday,--it is all the
same. The only thing that changes not is the man and his dress. Always
the same broadcloth frock-coat and the same high hat and the same seals
at the heavy watch-chain. He is a rich man, that sees itself."

I wrinkled my brow and tugged the ends of my moustache in the effort to
find a solution. The proprietor tugged the ends of his own moustache in
sympathetic silence.

"Does he always slink out if anybody sits down opposite to him?" I
inquired again.

"On the contrary. He talks and chats quite freely with his neighbors
when there are any. I have seen his countenance light up when a man has
come to seat himself next to him."

"Then to-day is the first time he has behaved so strangely?"


Again I was silent. I looked at myself curiously in the cracked mirror.

"Do you see anything strange in my appearance?" I asked the proprietor.

"Nothing in the world," said the proprietor, shaking his head

"Nothing in the world," echoed the waiter, emphatically.

"Then why does he object to me, when he doesn't object to anybody else?"

"Pardon," said the proprietor. "It is, after all, but rarely that a
stranger sits at his table. He comes ordinarily so early for his lunch
that my clients have not yet arrived, and I have only the honor to serve
an accidental customer like yourself."

"Ah, then, there is some regularity about the time of day at least?"

"Ah, yes, there is that," said the proprietor, reflectively. "But even
here there is no hard and fast line. He may be an hour earlier, he may
be an hour later."

"What a droll of a man!" I said laughing, even as I wondered. "And you
have not been able to discover anything about him, though he has given
it you in twelve?"

"It is not my affair," he repeated, shrugging his shoulders.

"You know not his name even?"

"How should I know it?"

"Ah, very well, you shall see!" I said, buttoning up my coat resolutely
and rising to my feet. "You shall see that I will find out everything in
once. I, a stranger in London, who love the oceans and the forests
better than the cities, I, who know only the secrets of Nature, behold,
I will solve you this mystery of humanity."

"As monsieur pleases," replied the proprietor. "For me the only question
is what monsieur will have for his lunch."

"I want no lunch," I cried. Then seeing his downcast face and
remembering the man must be out of sight by this time and nothing was to
be gained by haste, I ordered some broth and a veal and ham pie, and
strode to the door to make sure there was no immediate chance of coming
upon him. The little by-street was almost deserted, there was not a sign
of my man. I returned to my seat and devoted myself to my inner man
instead. Then I rebuttoned my coat afresh--though with less
facility--and sauntered out joyously. Now at last I had found something
to interest me in London. The confidence born of a good meal was strong
in my bosom as I pushed those swinging doors open and cried "_Au
revoir_," to my host, for I designed to return and to dazzle him with my

"_Au revoir_, monsieur, a thousand thanks," cried the proprietor,
popping up from his speaking-tube. "But where are you going? Where do
you hope to find this man?"

"I go not to find the man," I replied airily.

"_Comment!_" he exclaimed in his astonishment.

"I go to seek the woman," I said in imposing accents. And waving my hand
amicably I sallied forth into the dingy little street.

But alas for human anticipations! The whole of that day I paced the dead
and alive streets of North London without striking the faintest
indication of a trail. After a week's futile wanderings I began to
realize the immensity of the English metropolis--immense not only by its
actual area, but by the multiplicity of its streets and windings, and by
the indifference of each household to its neighbors, which makes every
roof the cover of manifold mysterious existences and potentialities. To
look for a needle in a bundle of hay were child's play to the task of
finding a face in a London suburb, even assuming as I did my enigma
lived in the northern district. I dared not return to the restaurant to
inquire if perchance he had been seen. I was ashamed to confess myself
baffled. I shifted my quarters from Leicester Square to Green Lanes and
walked every day within a four mile radius of the restaurant, but
fortune turned her face (and his) from me and I raged at my own folly in
undertaking so futile a quest. At last, "Patience!" I cried. "Patience,
and shuffle the cards!" It was my pet proverb when off the track of
anything. To cut yourself adrift from the old plan and look at the
problem with new eyes--that was my recipe. I tried it by going into the
country for some stag hunting, which I had ascertained from a farmer
whom I met in a coffee-house, could be obtained in some of the villages
in the next county. But English field-sports I found little to my taste,
for the deer had been unhorned and was let out of a cart, and it was
only playing at sport. The Holy Mother save me from such bloodless
make-believe! Though the hunting season was in full swing I returned in
disgust to the town, and again confiding my fortunes to a common or
garden omnibus, I surveyed the street panorama from my seat on the roof
till the vehicle turned round for the backward journey. This time I
found myself in Canonbury, a district within the radius I had previously
explored. The coincidence gave me fresh hope--it seemed a happy augury
of ultimate success. The saints would guide my footsteps after all; for
he who wills aught intensely cajoles Providence. The dusk had fallen and
the night lamps had been lit in the heavens and on the earth, though
without imparting cheerfulness to the rigid rows of highly respectable
houses. I walked through street after street of gray barracks, tall
narrow structures holding themselves with the military stiffness and
ranged in serried columns, the very greenery that relieved their fronts
growing sympathetically symmetrical and sombre. I sighed for my native
orange-groves, I longed for a whiff of the blue Mediterranean, I strove
to recall the breezy expanses of the South American Pampas whence I had
come, and had it not been for the interest of my search, I should have
fled like St. Anthony from the lady, though for very opposite reasons.
It seemed scarcely possible that romance should brood behind those dull
façades; the grosser spirit of prose seemed to shroud them as in a fog.

Suddenly, as I paced with clogged footsteps in these heavy regions, I
heard a voice calling somebody, and looking in the direction of the
sound I could not but fancy it was myself whose attention was sought. A
gentleman standing at the hall-door of one of the houses, at the top of
the white steps, was beckoning in my direction. I halted, and gazing on
all sides ascertained I was the sole pedestrian. Puzzled as to what he
could want of me, I tried to scan his features by the rays of a street
lamp which faced the house and under which I stood. They revealed a
pleasant but not English-looking face, bearded and bronzed, but they
revealed nothing as to the owner's designs. He stood there still
beckoning, and the latent hypnotism of the appeal drew me towards the
gate. I paused with my hand on the lock. What in the name of all the
saints could he possibly want with me? I had sundry valuables about my
person, but then they included a loaded revolver, so why refuse the

"Do come in," he said in English, seeing my hesitation. "_We are only
waiting for you._"

          [Illustration: _I accepted the strange invitation._]

The mysterious language of the invitation sealed my fate. Evidently I
had again been mistaken for somebody else. Was it that I resembled
someone this man knew? If so, it would probably be the same someone the
other man had dreaded. I seemed to feel the end of a clew at last, the
other end which was tied to him I sought. Putting my hand to my breast
pocket to make sure it held my pistol, I drew back the handle of the
gate and ascended the steps. There was an expression of satisfaction on
the face of my inviter, and, turning his back upon me he threw the door
wide open and held it courteously as I entered. A whiff of warm stuffy
air smote my nostrils as I stepped into the hall where an india-rubber
plant stood upon a rack heavily laden with overcoats. My host preceded
me a few paces and opened a door on the right. A confused babble of
guttural speech broke upon my ear, and over his shoulder I caught a
glimpse of a strange scene--a medley of swarthy men, wearing their hats,
a venerable-looking old man who seemed their chief being prominent in a
grim, black skull cap; there was a strange weird wick burning in a cup
of oil on the mantelpiece, and on a sofa at the extreme end of the room
sat a beautiful young lady weeping silently.

My heart gave a great leap. Instinct told me I had found the woman. I
made the sign of the cross and entered.

A strange look of relief passed over the faces of the company as I
entered. Instinctively I removed my hat, but he who had summoned me
deprecated the courtesy with a gesture, remarking, "We are commencing at

I stared at him, more puzzled than ever, but kept silence lest speech
should betray me and snatch the solution from me on the very eve of my
arrival at it.

It was gathering in my mind that I must strikingly resemble one of the
band, that the man of the restaurant had betrayed us, and that he went
in fear of our vengeance. Only thus could I account for my reception
both by him and by the rest of the gang.

The patriarchal-looking chieftain got up and turned his back to the
company, as if surveying them through the mirror. He then addressed them
at great length with averted face in a strange language, the others
following him attentively and accompanying his remarks with an
undercurrent of murmured sympathy, occasionally breaking out into loud
exclamations of assent in the same tongue. I listened with all my ears,
but could not form the least idea as to what the language was. There
were gutturals in it as in German, but I can always detect German if I
cannot understand it. There was never a word which had the faintest
analogy with any of the European tongues. I came to the conclusion it
was a patter of their own. The leader spoke hurriedly for the most part,
but in his slower passages there was a rise and fall of the voice almost
amounting to a musical inflection. Near the end, after an emphatic
speech frequently interrupted by applause, he dropped his voice to a
whisper and a hushed silence fell upon the room. The beautiful girl on
the couch got up and, holding a richly-bound book in her hand, perused
it quietly. Her lovely eyes were heavy with tears. I drifted upon a
current of wonder into perusing her face, and it was with a start that,
at the sudden resumption of the leader's speech, I woke from my dreams.
The address came to a final close soon after, and then another member
wound up the proceedings with a little speech, which was received with
great enthusiasm.

While he was speaking, I studied the back of the patriarch's head. He
moved it, and my eyes accidentally lighted on something on the
mantelpiece which sent a thrill through my whole being. It was a
photograph, and unless some hallucination tricked my vision, the
photograph of the man I sought. I trembled with excitement. My instinct
had been correct. I had found the woman. Saint Antony had guided my
footsteps aright. The company was slowly dispersing, chatting as it
went. Everybody took leave of the beautiful girl, who had by this time
dried her eyes and resumed the queen. I should have to go with them, and
without an inkling of comprehension of what had passed! What had they
been plotting? What part had I been playing in these uncanny
transactions? What had they been doing to bring suffering to this fair
girl, before whom all bowed in mock homage? Was she the unwilling
accomplice of their discreditable designs? I could not see an inch in
the bewildering fog. And was I to depart like the rest, doomed to cudgel
my brains till they ached like caned schoolboys? No, my duty was clear.
A gentle creature was in trouble--it was my business to stay and succor

Then suddenly the thought flashed upon me that she loved the man who had
betrayed us, that she had pleaded with fear for his life, and that her
petition had been granted. The solution seemed almost complete, yet it
found me no more willing to go. Had I not still to discover for what end
we were leagued together?

As I stood motionless, thus musing, the minutes and the company slipped
away. I was left with the man of the doorstep, the second speaker, and
the beautiful girl.

While I was wondering by what pretext to remain, the second speaker came
up to me and said cordially: "We are so much obliged to you for coming.
It was very good of you."

His English was that of a native, as I enviously noted. He was a young,
good-looking fellow, but, as I gazed at him, a vague resemblance to the
stranger of the restaurant and to the photograph on the mantelpiece
forced itself on my attention.

"Oh, it was no trouble; no trouble at all," I remarked cheerfully. "I
will come again if you like."

"Thank you; but this is our last night, with the exception of Saturday,
when one can get together twenty quite easily, so there is no need to
trouble you, as you perhaps do not reside in the neighborhood."

"Oh, but I do," I hastened to correct him.

"In that case we shall be very pleased to see you," he replied readily.
"I don't remember seeing you before in the district. I presume you are a

"Yes, that's it," I exclaimed glibly, secretly more puzzled than ever.
He did not remember seeing me before, nor did the man of the doorstep
vouchsafe any information as to my identity. Then I could certainly not
have been mistaken for somebody else. And yet--what was the meaning of
that significant invitation: "_We are waiting only for you?_"

"I thought you were a stranger," he replied. "I haven't the pleasure of
knowing your name."

This was the climax. But I concealed my astonishment, having always
found the _nil admirari_ principle the safest in enterprises of this
nature. Should I tell him my real name? Yes, why not? I was utterly
unknown in London, and my real name would be as effective a disguise as
a pseudonym.

"Mendoza," I replied.

"Ah," said the man of the doorstep. "Any relation to the Mendozas of

"I think not," I replied, with an air of reflection.

"Ah well," said the second speaker, "we are all brothers."

"And sisters." I remarked gallantly, bowing to the beautiful maiden. On
second thoughts it struck me the remark was rather meaningless, but
second thoughts have an awkward way of succeeding first thoughts, which
sometimes interferes with their usefulness. On third thoughts I went on
in my best English, "May I in return be favored with the pleasure of
knowing your name?"

The second speaker smiled in a melancholy way and said, "I beg you
pardon, I forgot we were as strange to you as you to us. My name is
Radowski, Philip Radowski; this is my friend Martin, and this my sister

I distributed elaborate bows to the trinity.

"You will have a little refreshment before you go?" said Fanny, with a
simple charm that would have made it impossible to refuse, even if I had
been as anxious to go as I was to stay.

"Oh no, I could not think of troubling you," I replied warmly, and in
due course I was sipping a glass of excellent old port and crumbling a

This seemed to me the best time for putting out a feeler, and I remarked
lightly, pointing to the photograph on the mantelpiece, "I did not see
that gentleman here to-night." Instantly a portentous expression
gathered upon all the faces. I saw I had said the wrong thing. The
beautiful Fanny's mouth quivered, her eyes grew wistful and pathetic.

"My father is dead," she said in a low tone.

Dead? Her father? A great shock of horror and surprise traversed my
frame. His secret had gone with him to the grave.

"Dead?" I repeated involuntarily. "Oh, forgive me, I did not know."

"Of course not, of course not. I understand perfectly," put in her
brother soothingly. "You did not know whom it was we had lost. Yes, it
was our father."

"Has he been dead long?"

He seemed a little surprised at the question, but answered: "It is he we
are mourning now."

I nodded my head, as if comprehending.

"Ah, he was a good man," said Martin. "I wish we were all so sure of

"There are very few Jews like him left," said Fanny quietly.

"Alas, he was one of the pious old school," assented Martin, shaking his
head dolefully.

My heart was thumping violently as a great wave of light flooded my
brain. These people then were Jews--that strange, scattered race of
heretics I had often heard of, but never before come into contact with
in my wild adventurous existence. The strange scene I had witnessed was
not, then, a meeting of conspirators, but a religious funereal
ceremonial; the sorrow of Fanny was filial grief; the address of the
venerable old man a Hebrew prayer-reading; the short speech of Philip
Radowski probably a psalm in the ancient language all spoke so fluently.
But what had I come to do in that galley?

All these thoughts flashed upon me in the twinkling of an eye. There was
scarce a pause between Martin's observation and Radowski's remark that
followed it.

"He was, indeed, pious. It was wonderful how he withstood the influence
of his English friends. You would never imagine he left Poland quite
thirty years ago."

So I had found the Pole! But was it too late? Anyhow I resolved to know
what _I_ had been summoned for? The saints spared me the trouble of the

"Yes," returned Martin, "when you think how ready he was to go to the
houses of mourners, I think it perfectly disgraceful that we had such
difficulty in getting together ten brother-Jews for the services in his
memory. But for the kindness of Mr. Mendoza I don't know what we should
have done to-night. In your place, Philip, I confess I should have felt
tempted to violate the law altogether. I can't see that it matters to
the Almighty whether you have nine men or ten men or five men. And I
don't see why Fanny couldn't count in quite as well as any man."

"Oh! Martin," said Fanny with a shocked look. "How can you talk so
irreligiously? Once we begin to break the law where are we to stop? Jews
and Christians may as well intermarry at once." Her righteous
indignation was beautiful to see.

Two things were clear now. First, I had been mistaken for a Jew,
probably on account of my foreign appearance. Secondly, Fanny would
never wed a Christian. But for the first fact I would have regretted the
second. For a third thing was clear--that I loved the glorious Jewess
with all the love of a child of the South. We are not tame rabbits, we
Andalusians: the flash from beauty's eye fires our blood and we love
instantly and dare greatly. My heart glowed with gratitude to my patron
saint for having brought about the mistake; a Jew I was and a Jew I
would remain.

"You are quite right, Miss Radowski," I said, "Jew and Christian might
as well intermarry at once."

"I am glad to hear you say so," said Fanny, turning her lovely orbs
towards me. "Most young men nowadays are so irreligious."

Martin darted a savage glance at me. I saw at once how the land lay. He
was either engaged to my darling or a _fiancé_ in the making. I surveyed
him impassively from his head to his shoes and decided to stand in them.
It was impossible to permit a man of such dubious religious principles
to link his life with a spiritually-minded woman like Fanny. Such a
union could only bring unhappiness to both. What she needed was a good
pious Jew, one of the old school. With the help of the saints I vowed to
supply her needs.

"I think modern young women are quite as irreligious as modern young
men," retorted Martin, as he left the room.

"Yes, it is so," sighed Fanny, the arrow glancing off unheeded. Then,
uplifting her beautiful eyes heavenwards, she murmured: "Ah, if they had
been blessed with fathers like mine."

Martin, who had only gone out for an instant, returned with Fanny's hat
and a feather boa, and observing, "You must really take a walk at
once--you have been confined indoors a whole week," helped her to put
them on. I felt sure his zeal for her health was overbalanced by his
enthusiasm for my departure. I could not very well attach myself to the
walking party--especially as I only felt an attachment for one member of
it. Disregarding the interruption I remarked in tones of fervent piety:

"It will be an eternal regret to me that I missed knowing your father."

She gave me a grateful look.

"Look!" she said, seating herself on the sofa for a moment and picking
up the richly-bound book lying upon it. "Look at the motto of
exhortation he wrote in my prayer-book before he died. Our minister says
it is in the purest Hebrew."

I went to her side and leaned over the richly-bound book, which appeared
to be printed backwards, and scanned the inscription with an air of

"Read it," she said. "Read it aloud! It comforts me to hear it."

     [Illustration: _"Read it aloud," she said. "It comforts me."_]

I coughed violently and felt myself growing pale. The eyes of Martin
were upon me with an expression that seemed waiting to become sardonic.
I called inwardly upon the Holy Mother. There seemed to be only a few
words and after a second's hesitation I murmured something in my most
inarticulate manner, producing some sounds approximately like those I
had heard during the service.

Fanny looked up at me, puzzled.

"I do not understand your pronunciation," she said.

I felt ready to sink into the sofa.

"Ah, I am not surprised," put in her brother. "From Mr. Mendoza's name
and appearance I should take him to be a Sephardi like the Mendozas of
Highbury. They pronounce quite differently from us, Fanny."

I commended him to the grace of the Virgin.

"That is so," I admitted. "And I found it not at all easy to follow your

"Are you an English Sephardi or a native Sephardi?" asked Martin.

"A native!" I replied readily. "I was born there." Where "there" was I
had no idea.

"Do you know," said Fanny, looking so sweetly into my face, "I should
like to see your country. Spain has always seemed to me so romantic, and
I dote on Spanish olives."

I was delighted to find I had spoken the truth as to my nativity.

"I shall be charmed to escort you," I said, smiling.

She smiled in response.

"It is easy enough to go anywhere nowadays," said Martin surlily.

"I wish you would go to the devil," I thought. "That would certainly be
easy enough."

But it would have been premature to force my own company upon Fanny any
longer. I relied upon the presence of death and her brother to hinder
Martin's suit from developing beyond the point it had already reached.
It remained to be seen whether the damage was irreparable. I went again
on the Saturday night, following with interest the service that had
seemed a council-meeting. This time it began with singing, in which
everybody joined and in which I took part with hearty inarticulateness.
But a little experience convinced me that my course was beset with
pitfalls, that not Mary Jane aspiring to personify a duchess could glide
on thinner ice than I attempting to behave as one of these strange
people, with their endless and all-embracing network of religious
etiquette. To my joy I discovered that I could pursue my suit without
going to synagogue, a place of dire peril, for it seems that the
Spaniards are a distinct sect, mightily proud of their blood and their
peculiar pronunciation, and the Radowskis, being Poles, did not expect
to see me worshipping with themselves, which enabled me to continue my
devotions in the Holy Chapel of St. Vincent. It also enabled me to skate
over many awkward moments, the Poles being indifferently informed as to
the etiquette of their Peninsular cousins. That I should have been twice
taken for one of their own race rather surprised me, for my
physiognomical relationship to it seemed of the slightest. The dark
complexion, the foreign air, doubtless gave me a superficial
resemblance, and in the face it is the surface that tells. I read up
Spanish history and learnt that many Jews had become Christians during
the persecutions of the Holy Inquisition, and that many had escaped the
fires of the _auto-da-fé_ by feigning conversion, the while secretly
performing their strange rites, and handing down to their descendants
the traditions of secrecy and of Judaism, these unhappy people being
styled Marranos. Perchance I was sprung from some such source, but there
was no hint of it in my genealogy so far as known to me; my name Mendoza
was a good old Andalusian name, and my ancestors had for generations
been good sons of the only true Church. The question has no interest for
me now.

For, although like Cæsar I am entitled to say that I came, saw, and
conquered, conquering not only Fanny but my rival, yet am I still a
bachelor. I had driven Martin on one side as easily as a steamer bearing
down upon a skiff, yet my own lips betrayed me. It was the desire to
penetrate the mystery of the restaurant that undid me, for if a woman
cannot keep a secret, a man cannot refrain from fathoming one. The
rose-gardens of Love were open for my walking when the demon in
possession prompted me to speech that silvered the red roses with
hoar-frost and ice.

One day I sat holding her dear hand in mine. She permitted me no more
complex caresses, being still in black. Such was the sense of duty of
this beautiful, warm-blooded Oriental creature, that she was as cold as
her father's tombstone, and equally eulogistic of his virtues. She spoke
of them now, though I would fain have diverted the talk to hers. Failing
that, I seized the opportunity to solve the haunting puzzle.

"Do you know, I fancy I once saw your father," I said, earnestly.

"Indeed!" she observed, with much interest. "Where?"

"In a restaurant not many miles from here. It was before noon."

"In a restaurant?" she repeated. "Hardly very likely. There isn't any
restaurant near here he would be likely to go to, and certainly not at
the time you mention, when he would be in the city. You must be

I shook my head. "I don't think so. I remember his face so well. When I
saw his photograph I recognized him at once."

"How long ago was it?"

"I can tell you exactly," I said. "The date is graven on my heart. It
was the twenty-fourth of October."

"This year?"

"This year."

"The twenty-fourth of October!" she repeated musingly. "Only a few weeks
before he died. Poor father, peace be upon him! The twenty-fourth of
October, did you say?" she added, suddenly.

"What is the matter?" I asked. "You are agitated."

"No, it is nothing. It cannot be," she added, more calmly. "Of course
not." She smiled faintly. "I thought----" she paused.

"You thought what?"

"Oh, well, I'll show you I was mistaken." She rose, went to the
book-case, drew out a little brown-paper covered volume, and turned over
the pages scrutinizingly. Suddenly a change came over the beautiful
face; she stood motionless, pale as a statue.

A chill shadow fell across my heart, distracted between tense curiosity
and dread of a tragic solution.

"My dear Fanny, what in Heaven's name is it?" I breathed.

"Don't speak of Heaven," said Fanny, in strange, harsh tones, "when you
libel the dead thus."

"Libel the dead? How?"

"Why, the twenty-fourth of October was _Yom Kippur_."

"Well," I said, unimpressed and uncomprehending, "and what of it?"

She stared at me, staggered and clutched at the book-case for support.

"What of it?" she cried, in passionate emotion. "Do you dare to say that
you saw my poor father, who was righteousness itself, breaking his fast
in a restaurant on the Day of Atonement? Perhaps you will insinuate next
that his speedy death was Heaven's punishment on him for his blasphemy!"

In the same instant I saw the truth and my terrible blunder. This
fast-day must be of awful solemnity, and Fanny's father must have gone
systematically to a surreptitious breakfast in that queer,
out-of-the-way restaurant. His nervousness, his want of ease, his terror
at the sight of me, whom he mistook for a brother-Jew, were all
accounted for. Once a year--the discrepancy in the date being explained
by the discord between Jewish and Christian chronology--he hied his way
furtively to this unholy meal, enjoying it and a reputation for sanctity
at the same time. But to expose her father's hypocrisy to the trusting,
innocent girl would be hardly the way to advance love-matters. It might
be difficult even to repair the mischief I had already done.

"I beg your pardon," I said humbly. "You were right. I was misled by
some chance resemblance. If your father was the pious Jew you paint him,
it is impossible he could have been the man I saw. Yes, and now I think
of it, the eyebrows were bushier and the chin plumper than those of the

A sigh of satisfaction escaped her lips. Then her face grew rigid again
as she turned it upon me, and asked in low tones that cut through me
like an icy blast: "Yes, but what were _you_ doing in the restaurant on
the Day of Atonement?"

"I--I----?" I stammered.

Her look was terrible.

"I--I--was only having a cup of chocolate," I replied, with a burst of

As everybody knows, since the pronunciamento of Pope Paul V., chocolate
may be imbibed by good Catholics without breaking the fasts of the
Church. But, alas! it seems these fanatical Eastern flagellants allow
not even a drop of cold water to pass their lips for over twenty-four

"I am glad you confess it," said Fanny, witheringly. "It shows you have
still one redeeming trait. And I am glad you spoke ill of my poor
father, for it has led to the revelation of your true character before
it was too late. You will, of course, understand, Mr. Mendoza, that our
acquaintance is at an end."

"Fanny!" I cried, frantically.

"Spare me a scene, I beg of you," she said, coldly. "You, you the man
who pretended to such ardent piety, to such enthusiasm for our holy
religion, are an apostate from the faith into which you were born, a
blasphemer, an atheist."

I stared at her in dumb horror. I had entangled myself inextricably. How
could I now explain that it was her father who was the renegade, not I?

"Good-bye," said Fanny. "Heaven make you a better Jew."

I moved desperately towards her, but she waved me back. "Don't touch
me," she cried. "Go, go!"

"But is there no hope for me?" I exclaimed, looking wildly into the
cold, statue-like face, that seemed more beautiful than ever, now it was
fading from my vision.

"None," she said. Then, in a breaking voice, she murmured, "Neither for
you nor for me."

"Ah, you love me still," I cried, striving to embrace her. "You will be
my wife."

She struggled away from me. "No, no," she said, with a gesture of
horror. "It would be sacrilege to my dead father's memory. Rather would
I marry a Christian, yes, even a Catholic, than an apostate Jew like
you. Leave me, I pray you; or, must I ring the bell?"

I went--a sadder and a wiser man. But even my wisdom availed me not, for
when I repaired to the restaurant to impart it to the proprietor, the
last consolation was denied me. He had sold his business and returned to

To-morrow I start for Turkestan.

                              CHAPTER XII.


"Well, have you seen this Fanny Radowski?" said Lord Silverdale, when he
returned the manuscript to the President of the Old Maids' Club.

"Of course. Didn't I tell you I had the story from her own mouth, though
I have put it into Mendoza's?"

"Ah, yes, I remember now. It certainly is funny, her refusing a good
Catholic on the ground that he was a bad Jew. But then according to the
story she doesn't know he's a Catholic?"

"No, it was I who divined the joke of the situation. Lookers-on always
see more of the game. I saw at once that if Mendoza were really a Jew,
he would never have been such an ass as to make the slip he did; and so
from this and several other things she told me about her lover, I
constructed deductively the history you have read. She says she first
met him at a mourning service in memory of her father, and that it is a
custom among her people when they have not enough men to form a
religious quorum (the number is the mystical ten) to invite any brother
Jew who may be passing to step in, whether he is an acquaintance or

"I gathered that from the narrative," said Lord Silverdale. "And so she
wishes to be an object lesson in female celibacy, does she?"

"She is most anxious to enlist in the Cause."

"Is she really beautiful, et cetera?"

"She is magnificent."

"Then I should say the very member we are looking for. A Jewess will be
an extremely valuable element of the Club, for her race exalts marriage
even above happiness, and an old maid is even more despised than among
us. The lovely Miss Radowski will be an eloquent protest against the
prejudices of her people."

Lillie Dulcimer shook her head quietly. "The racial accident which makes
her seem a desirable member to you, makes me regard her as impossible."

"How so?" cried Silverdale in amazement. "You surely are not going to
degrade your Club by anti-Semitism."

"Heaven forefend! But a Jewess can never be a whole Old Maid."

"I don't understand."

"Look at it mathematically a moment."

Silverdale made a grimace.

"Consider! A Jewess, orthodox like Miss Radowski, can only be an Old
Maid fractionally. An Old Maid must make 'the grand refusal!'--she must
refuse mankind at large. Now Miss Radowski, being cut off by her creed
from marrying into any but an insignificant percentage of mankind, is
proportionately less valuable as an object-lesson; she is unfitted for
the functions of Old Maidenhood in their full potentiality. Already by
her religion she is condemned to almost total celibacy. She cannot
renounce what she never possessed. There are in the world, roughly
speaking, eight million Jews among a population of a thousand millions.
The force of the example, in other words, her value as an Old Maid, may
therefore be represented by .008."

"I am glad you express her as a decimal rather than a vulgar fraction,"
said Lord Silverdale laughing. "But I must own your reckoning seems
correct. As a mathematical wrangler you are terrible. So I shall not
need to try Miss Radowski?"

"No; we cannot entertain her application," said Lillie peremptorily, the
thunder-cloud no bigger than a man's hand gathering on her brow at the
suspicion that Silverdale did not take her mathematics seriously.
Considering that in keeping him at arm's length her motive were merely
mathematical (though Lord Silverdale was not aware of this) she was
peculiarly sensitive on the point. She changed the subject quickly by
asking what poem he had brought her.

"Do not call them poems," he answered.

"It is only between ourselves. There are no critics about."

"Thank you so much. I have brought one suggested by the strange farrago
of religions that figured in your last human document. It is a pæan on
the growing hospitality of the people towards the gods of other nations.
There was a time when free trade in divinities was tabu, each nation
protecting, and protected by, its own. Now foreign gods are all the


    I'm a Christo-Jewish Quaker,
    Moslem, Atheist and Shaker,
    Auld Licht Church of England Fakir,
    Antinomian Baptist, Deist,
    Gnostic, Neo-Pagan Theist,
    Presbyterianish Papist,
    Comtist, Mormon, Darwin-apist,
    Trappist, High Church Unitarian,
    Sandemanian Sabbatarian,
    Plymouth Brother, Walworth Jumper,
    Southcote South-Place Bible-Thumper,
    Christadelphian, Platonic,
    Old Moravian, Masonic,
    Corybantic Christi-antic,
    Anabaptist, Neo-Buddhist,
    Zoroastrian Talmudist,
    Laotsean, Theosophic,
    Table-rapping, Philosophic,
    Mediæval, Monkish, Mystic,
    Modern, Mephistophelistic,
    Hellenistic, Calvinistic,
    Brahministic, Cabbalistic,
    Humanistic, Tolstoistic,
    Rather Robert Elsmeristic,
    Altruistic, Hedonistic
    And Agnostic Manichæan,
    Worshipping the Galilean.

    For with equal zeal I follow
    Sivah, Allah, Zeus, Apollo,
    Mumbo Jumbo, Dagon, Brahma,
    Buddha _alias_ Gautama,
    Jahvé, Juggernaut and Juno--
    Plus some gods that but the few know.

    Though I reverence the Mishna,
    I can bend the knee to Vishna;
    I obey the latest mode in
    Recognizing Thor and Odin,
    Just as freely as the Virgin;
    For the Pope and Mr. Spurgeon,
    Moses, Paul and Zoroaster,
    Each to me is seer and master.
    I consider Heine, Hegel,
    Schopenhauer, Shelley, Schlegel,
    Diderot, Savonarola,
    Dante, Rousseau, Goethe, Zola,
    Whitman, Renan (priest of Paris),
    Transcendental Prophet Harris,
    Ibsen, Carlyle, Huxley, Pater
    Each than all the others greater.
    And I read the Zend-Avesta,
    Koran, Bible, Roman Gesta,
    Ind's Upanischads and Spencer
    With affection e'er intenser.
    For these many appellations
    Of the gods of different nations,
    _I_ believe--from Baal to Sun-god--
    All at bottom cover _one_ god.
    _Him_ I worship--dropping gammon--
    And his mighty name is MAMMON.

"You are very hard upon the century--or rather upon the end of it," said

"The century is dying unshriven," said the satirist solemnly. "Its
conscience must be stirred. Truly, was there ever an age which had so
much light and so little sweetness? In the reckless fight for gold
Society has become a mutual swindling association. Cupidity has ousted
Cupid, and everything is bought and sold."

"Except your poems, Lord Silverdale," laughed Lillie.

It was tit for the tat of his raillery of her mathematics.

Before his lordship had time to make the clever retort the thought of
next day, Turple the magnificent brought in a card.

"Miss Winifred Woodpecker?" said Lillie queryingly. "I suppose it's
another candidate. Show her in."

Miss Woodpecker was a tall stately girl, of the kind that pass for
lilies in the flowery language of the novelists.

"Have I the pleasure of speaking to Miss Dulcimer?"

"Yes, I am Miss Dulcimer," said Lillie.

"And where is the Old Maids' Club?" further inquired Miss Woodpecker,
looking around curiously.

"Here," replied Lillie, indicating the epigrammatic antimacassars with a
sweeping gesture. "No, don't go, Lord Silverdale. Miss Woodpecker, this
is my friend Lord Silverdale. He knows all about the Club, so you
needn't mind speaking before him."

"Well, you know, I read the leader in the _Hurrygraph_ about your Club
this morning."

"Oh, is there a leader?" said Lillie feverishly. "Have you seen it, Lord

"I am not sure. At first I fancied it referred to the Club, but there
was such a lot about Ptolemy, Rosa Bonheur's animals and the Suez Canal
that I can hardly venture to say what the leader itself was about. And
so, Miss Woodpecker, you have thought about joining our institution for
elevating female celibacy into a fine art?"

"I wish to join at once. Is there any entrance fee?"

"There _is_--experience. Have you had a desirable proposal of marriage?"

"Eminently desirable."

"And still you do not intend to marry?"

"Not while I live."

"Ah, that is all the guarantee we want," said Lord Silverdale smiling.
"Afterwards--in heaven--there is no marrying, nor giving in marriage."

"That is what makes it heaven," added Lillie. "But tell us your story."

"It was in this way. I was staying at a boarding-house in Brighton with
a female cousin, and a handsome young man in the house fell in love with
me and we were engaged. Then my mother came down. Immediately afterwards
my lover disappeared. He left a note for me containing nothing but the
following verses."

She handed a double tear-stained sheet of letter-paper to the President,
who read aloud as follows:

                        A VISION OF THE FUTURE.

"Well is it for man that he knoweth not what the future will bring

    She had a sweetly spiritual face,
    Touched with a noble, stately grace,
    Poetic heritage of race.

    Her form was graceful, slim and sweet,
    Her frock was exquisitely neat,
    With airy tread she paced the street.

    She seemed some fantasy of dream,
    A flash of loveliness supreme,
    A poet's visionary gleam.

    And yet she was of mortal birth,
    A lovely child of lovely earth,
    For kisses made and joy and mirth.

    Sweet whirling thoughts my bosom throng,
    To link her life with mine I long,
    And shrine her in immortal song.

    I steal another glance--and lo!
    Dread shudders through my being flow,
    My veins are filled with liquid snow.

    Another form beside her walks,
    Of servants and expenses talks,
    Her nose is not unlike a hawk's.

    Her face is plump, her figure fat,
    She's prose embodied, stout gone flat,--
    A comfortable Persian cat.

    Her life is full of petty fuss,
    She wobbles like an omnibus,
    And yet it was not always thus.

    Alas for perishable grace!
    How unmistakably I trace
    The daughter's in the mother's face.

    Beneath the beak I see the nose,
    The poetry beneath the prose,
    The figure 'neath the adipose.

    And so I sadly turn away:
    How _can_ I love a clod of clay,
    Doomed to grow earthlier day by day?

    Vain, vain the hope from Fate to flee,
    What special Providence for me?
    I know that what hath been will be.

             [Illustration: _The Present and the Future._]

Lillie and Silverdale looked at each other.

"Well, but," said Lillie at last, "according to this he refused you, not
you him. Our rules----"

"You mistake me," interrupted Winifred Woodpecker. "When the first fit
of anguish was over, I saw my Frank was right, and I have refused all
the offers I have had since--five in all. It would not be fair to a
lover to chain him to a beauty so transient. In ten or twenty years from
now I shall go the way of all flesh. Under such circumstances is not
marriage a contract entered into under false pretences? There is no
chance of the law of this country allowing a time-limit to be placed in
the contract; celibacy is the only honest policy for a woman."

Involuntarily Lillie's hand seized the candidate's and gripped it
sympathetically. She divined a sister soul.

"You teach me a new point of view," she said, "a finer shade of ethical

Silverdale groaned inwardly; he saw a new weapon going into the
anti-hymeneal armory, and the Old Maids' Club on the point of being
strengthened by the accession of its first member.

"The law will have to accommodate itself to these finer shades," pursued
Lillie energetically. "It is a rusty machine out of harmony with the
age. Science has discovered that the entire physical organism is renewed
every seven years, and yet the law calmly goes on assuming that the new
man and the new woman are still bound by the contract of their
predecessors and still possess the good-will of the original
partnership. It seems to me if the short lease principle demanded by
physiology is not to be conceded, there should at any rate be provincial
and American rights in marriage as well as London rights. In the
metropolis the matrimonial contract should hold good with A, in the
country with B, neither party infringing the other's privileges, in
accordance with theatrical analogy."

"That is a literal latitudinarianism in morals you will never get the
world to agree to," laughed Lord Silverdale. "At least not in theory; we
cannot formally sanction theatrical practice."

"Do not laugh," said Lillie. "Law must be brought more in touch with

"Isn't it rather _vice versâ_? Life must be brought more in touch with
law. However, if Miss Woodpecker feels these fine ethical shades, won't
she be ineligible?"

"How so?" said the President in indignant surprise.

"By our second rule every candidate must be beautiful and undertake to
continue so."

Poor little Lillie drooped her head.

And now it befalls to reveal to the world the jealously-guarded secret
of the English Shakespeare, for how else can the tale be told of how the
Old Maids' Club was within an ace of robbing him of his bride?

                             CHAPTER XIII.

                       "THE ENGLISH SHAKESPEARE."

By a thorough knowledge of the natural laws which govern the operations
of human nature and by a careful application of the fine properties of
well-selected men, and a judicious use of every available instrument of
log-rolling, the Mutual Depreciation Society gradually built up a
constitution strong enough to defy every tendency to disintegration.
Hundreds of subtle malcontents floated round, ready to attack wherever
there was a weak point, but foiled by ignorance of the Society's
existence, and the members escaped many a fatal shaft by keeping
themselves entirely to themselves. The idea of the Mutual Depreciation
Society was that every member should say what he thought of the others.
The founders, who all took equal shares in it, were

    Tom Brown,
    Dick Jones,
    Harry Robinson.

Their object in founding the Mutual Depreciation Society was of course
to achieve literary success, but they soon perceived that their phalanx
was too small for this, and as they had no power to add to their number
except by inviting strangers from without, they took steps to induce
three other gentlemen to solicit the privileges of membership. The
second batch comprised,

    Taffy Owen,
    Andrew Mackay,
    Patrick Boyle.

           [Illustration: _Tom Brown, the Supreme Thinker._]

These six gentlemen being all blessed with youth, health and
incompetence, resolved to capture the town. Their tactics were very
simple, though their first operations were hampered by their ignorance
of one another's. Thus, it was some time before it was discovered that
Andrew Mackay, who had been deployed to seize the _Saturday Slasher_,
had no real acquaintance with the editor's fencing-master, while Dick
Jones, who had undertaken to bombard the _Acadæum_, had started under
the impression that the eminent critic to whom he had dedicated his
poems (by permission) was still connected with the staff. But these
difficulties were eliminated as soon as the Society got into working
order. Everything comes to him who will not wait, and almost before they
had time to wink our six gentlemen had secured the makings of an
Influence. Each had loyally done his best for himself and the rest, and
the first spoils of the campaign, as announced amid applause by the
Secretary at the monthly dinner, were

    Two Morning Papers,
    Two Evening Papers,
    Two Weekly Papers.

They were not the most influential, nor even the best circulated, still
it was not a bad beginning, though of course only a nucleus. By putting
out tentacles in every direction, by undertaking to write even on
subjects with which they were acquainted, they gradually secured a more
or less tenacious connection with the majority of the better journals
and magazines. On taking stock they found that the account stood thus:

    Three Morning Papers,
    Four Evening Papers,
    Eleven Weekly Papers,
    Thirteen London Letters,
    Seven Dramatic Columns,
    Six Monthly Magazines,
    Thirteen Influences on Advertisements,
    Nine Friendships with Eminent Editors,
    Seventeen ditto with Eminent Sub-editors,
    Six ditto with Lady Journalists,
    Fifty-three Loans (at two-and-six each) to Pressmen,
    One hundred and nine Mentions of Editor's Womenkind at
        Fashionable Receptions.

It showed what could be achieved by six men, working together shoulder
to shoulder for the highest aims in a spirit of mutual good-will and
brotherhood. They were undoubtedly greatly helped by having all been to
Oxford or Cambridge, but still much was the legitimate result of their
own manoeuvres.

By the time the secret campaign had reached this stage, many
well-meaning, unsuspecting men, not included in the above inventory, had
been pressed into the service of the Society, with the members of which
they were connected by the thousand and one ties which spring up
naturally in the intercourse of the world, so that there was hardly any
journal in the three kingdoms on which the Society could not, by some
hook or the other, fasten a paragraph, if we except such publications as
the _Newgate Calendar_ and _Lloyds' Shipping List_, which record history
rather than make it.

Indeed, the success of the Society in this department was such as to
suggest the advisability of having themselves formally incorporated
under the Companies' Acts for the manufacture and distribution of
paragraphs, for which they had unequalled facilities, and had obtained
valuable concessions, and it was only the publicity required by law
which debarred them from enlarging their home trade to a profitable
industry for the benefit of non-members. For, by the peculiar nature of
the machinery, it could only be worked if people were unaware of its
existence. They resolved, however, that when they had made their pile,
they would start the newspaper of the future, which any philosopher with
an eye to the trend of things can see will be a journal written by
advertisers for gentlemen, and will contain nothing calculated to bring
a blush to the cheek of the young person except cosmetics.

Contemporaneously with the execution of one side of the Plan of
Campaign, the Society was working the supplementary side. Day and night,
week-days and Sundays, in season and out, these six gentlemen praised
themselves and one another, or got themselves and one another praised by
non-members. There are many ways in which you can praise an author, from
blame downwards. There is the puff categorical and the puff allusive,
the lie direct and the eulogy insinuative, the downright abuse and the
subtle innuendo, the exaltation of your man or the depression of his
rival. The attacking method of log-rolling must not be confounded with
depreciation. In their outside campaign, the members used every variety
of puff, but depreciation was strictly reserved for their private
gatherings. For this was the wisdom of the Club, and herein lay its
immense superiority over every other log-rolling club, that whereas in
those childish cliques every man is expected to admire every other, or
to say so, in the Mutual Depreciation Society the obligation was all the
other way. Every man was bound by the rules to sneer at the work of his
fellow-members and, if he should happen to admire any of it, at least to
have the grace to keep his feelings to himself. In practice, however,
the latter contingency never arose, and each was able honestly to
express all he thought, for it is impossible for men to work together
for a common object without discovering that they do not deserve to get
it. Needless to point out how this sagacious provision strengthened them
in their campaign, for not having to keep up the tension of mutual
admiration, and being able to relax and breathe (and express themselves)
freely at their monthly symposia, as well as to slang one another in the
street, they were able to write one another up with a clear conscience.
It is well to found on human nature. Every other basis proves shifting
sand. The success of the Mutual Depreciation Society justified their
belief in human nature.

Not only did they depreciate one another, but they made reparation to
the non-members they were always trying to write down during business
hours, by eulogizing them in the most generous manner in those blessed
hours of leisure when knife answers fork and soul speaks to soul. At
such times even popular authors were allowed to have a little merit.

It was at one of these periods of soul-expansion, when the most
petty-souled feels inclined to loosen the last two buttons of his
waistcoat, that the idea of the English Shakespeare was first mooted.
But we are anticipating, which is imprudent, as anticipations are seldom

One of the worst features of prosperity is that it is cloying, and when
the first gloss of novelty and adventure had worn off, the free lances
of the Mutual Depreciation Society began to bore one another. You can
get tired even of hearing your own dispraises; and the members were
compelled to spice their mutual adverse criticism in the highest manner,
so as to compensate for its staleness. The jaded appetite must needs be
pampered if it is to experience anything of that relish which a natural
healthy hunger for adverse criticism can command so easily.

This was the sort of thing that went on at the dinners:

"I say, Tom," said Andrew Mackay, "what in Heaven's name made you
publish your waste-paper basket under the name of 'Stray Thoughts?' For
utter and incomprehensible idiocy they are only surpassed by Dick's last
volume of poems. I shouldn't have thought such things could come even
out of a lunatic asylum, certainly not without a keeper. Really you
fellows ought to consider me a little----"

"We do. We consider you as little as they make them," they interrupted

"It isn't fair to throw all the work on me," he went on. "How can I go
on saying that Tom Brown is the supreme thinker of the time, the deepest
intellect since Hegel, with a gift of style that rivals Berkeley's, if
you go on turning out twaddle that a copy-book would boggle at? How can
I keep repeating that for sure and consummate art, for unfailing
certainty of insight, for unerring visualization, for objective
subjectivity and for subjective objectivity, for Swinburnian sweep of
music and Shakespearean depth of suggestiveness, Dick Jones can give
forty in a hundred (spot stroke barred) to all other contemporary poets,
if you continue to spue out rhymes as false as your teeth, rhythms as
musical as your voice when you read them, and words that would drive a
drawing-room composer mad with envy to set them? I maintain, it is not
sticking to the bargain to expose me to the danger of being found out.
You ought at least to have the decency to wrap up your fatuousness in
longer words or more abstruse themes. You're both so beastly
intelligible that a child can understand you're asses."

"Tut, tut, Andrew," said Taffy Owen, "it's all very well of you to talk
who've only got to do the criticism. And I think it's deuced ungrateful
of you after we've written you up into the position of leading English
critic to want us to give you straw for your bricks! Do we ever complain
when you call us cataclysmic, creative, esemplastic, or even epicene? We
know it's rot, but we put up with it. When you said that Robinson's last
novel had all the glow and genius of Dickens without his humor, all the
ripe wisdom of Thackeray without his social knowingness, all the
imaginativeness of Shakespeare without his definiteness of
characterization, we all saw at once that you were incautiously allowing
the donkey's ears to protrude too obviously from beneath the lion's
skin. But did anyone grumble? Did Robinson, though the edition was sold
out the day after? Did I, though you had just called me a modern
Buddhist with the soul of an ancient Greek and the radiant fragrance of
a Cingalese tea-planter? I know these phrases take the public and I try
to be patient."

"Owen is right," Harry Robinson put in emphatically. "When you said I
was a cross between a Scandinavian skald and a Dutch painter, I bore my
cross in silence."

"Yes, but what else can a fellow say, when you give the public such
heterogeneous and formless balderdash that there is nothing for it but
to pretend it's a new style, an epoch-making work, the foundation of a
new era in literary art? Really I think you others have out and away the
best of it. It's much easier to write bad books than to eulogize their
merits in an adequately plausible manner. I think it's playing it too
low upon a chap, the way you fellows are going on. It's taking a mean
advantage of my position."

"And who put you into that position, I should like to know?" yelled Dick
Jones, becoming poetically excited. "Didn't we lift you up into it on
the point of our pens?"

"Fortunately they were not very pointed," ejaculated the great critic,
wriggling uncomfortably at the suggestion. "I don't deny that, of
course. All I say is, you're giving me away now."

"You give yourself away," shrieked Owen vehemently, "with a pound of
that Cingalese tea. How is it Boyle managed to crack up our plays
without being driven to any of this new-fangled nonsense?"

"Plays!" said Patrick, looking up moodily. "Anything is good enough for
plays. You see I can always fall back on the acting and crack up that. I
had to do that with Owen's thing at the _Lymarket_. My notice read like
a gushing account of the play, in reality it was all devoted to the
players. The trick of it is not easy. Those who can read between the
lines could see that there were only three of them about the piece
itself, and yet the outside public would never dream I was shirking the
expression of an opinion about the merits of the play or the pinning
myself to any definite statement. The only time, Owen, I dare say, that
your plays are literature is when they are a frost, for that both
explains the failure and justifies you. But, an you love me, Taffy, or
if you have any care for my reputation, do not, I beg of you, be enticed
into the new folly of printing your plays."

"But things have come to that stage I _must_ do it," said Owen, "or
incur the suspicion of illiterateness."

"No, no!" pleaded Patrick in horror. "Sooner than that I will damn all
the other printed plays _en bloc_, and say that the real literary
playwrights, conscious of their position, are too dignified to resort to
this cheap method of self-assertion."

"But you will not carry out your threat? Remember how dangerously near
you came to exposing me over your _Naquette_."

The Club laughed. Everyone knew the incident, for it was Patrick's stock
grievance against the dramatist. Patrick being out of town, had written
his eulogy of this play of Owen's from his inner consciousness. On the
fourth night in deference to Owen's persuasions he had gone to see

After the tragedy, Owen found him seated moodily in the stalls, long
after the audience had filed out.

"Knocked you, old man, this time, eh?" queried Owen laughing

        [Illustration: "_Knocked you, old man, this time, eh?_"]

"Yes, all to pieces!" snarled Patrick savagely. "I shall never believe
in my critical judgment again. I dare not look my notice in the face.
When I wrote _Naquette_ was a masterpiece, I thought at least there
would be some merit in it--I didn't bargain for such rot as this."

In this wise things would have gone on--from bad to worse--had Heaven
not created Cecilia nineteen years before.

Cecilia was a tall, fair girl, with dreamy eyes and unpronounced
opinions, who longed for the ineffable with an unspeakable yearning.

Frank Grey loved her. He always knew he was going to and one day he did
it. After that it was impossible to drop the habit. And at last he went
so far as to propose. He was a young lawyer, with a fondness for manly
sports and a wealth of blonde moustache.

"Cecilia," he said, "I love you. Will you be mine?"

He had a habit of using unconventional phrases.

"No, Frank," she said gently, and there was a world and several
satellites of tenderness in her tremulous tones. "It cannot be."

"Ah, do not decide so quickly," he pleaded. "I will not press you for an

"I would press you for an answer, if I could," replied Cecilia, "but I
do not love you."

"Why not?" he demanded desperately.

"Because you are not what I should like you to be?"

"And what would you like me to be?" he demanded eagerly.

"If I told you, you would try to become it?"

"I would," he said, enthusiastically. "Be it what it may, I would leave
no stone unturned. I would work, strive, study, reform--anything,

"I feared so," she said despondently. "That is why I will not tell you.
Don't you understand that your charm to me is your being just
yourself--your simple, honest, manly self? I will not have my enjoyment
of your individuality spoilt by your transmogrification into some
unnatural product of the forcing house. No, Frank, let us be true to
ourselves, not to each other. I shall always remain your friend, looking
up to you as to something stanch, sturdy, stalwart, coming to consult
you (unprofessionally) in all my difficulties. I will tell you all my
secrets, Frank, so that you will know more of me than if I married you.
Dear friend, let it remain as I say. It is for the best."

So Frank went away broken-hearted, and joined the Mutual Depreciation
Society. He did not care what became of him. How they came to let him in
was this. He was the one man in the world outside who knew all about
them, having been engaged as the Society's legal adviser. It was he who
made their publishers and managers sit in an erect position. In applying
for a more intimate connection, he stated that he had met with a
misfortune, and a little monthly abuse would enliven him. The Society
decided that, as he was already half one of themselves, and as he had
never written a line in his life, and so could not diminish their
takings, nothing but good could ensue from the infusion of new blood. In
fact, they wanted it badly. Their mutual recriminations had degenerated
into mere platitudes. With a new man to insult and be insulted by,
something of the old animation would be restored to their proceedings.
The wisdom of the policy was early seen, for the first fruit of it was
the English Shakespeare, who for a whole year daily opened out new and
exciting perspectives of sensation and amusement to a _blasé_ Society.
Andrew Mackay had written an enthusiastic article in the so-called
_Nineteenth Century_ on "The Cochin-China Shakespeare," and set all
tongues wagging about the new literary phenomenon with whose verses the
boatmen of the Irrawady rocked their children to sleep on the cradle of
the river, and whose dramas were played in eight hours slices in the
strolling-booths of Shanghai. Andrew had already arranged with Anyman to
bring out a translation from the original Cochin-Chinese, for there was
no language he could not translate from, provided it were sufficiently

"Cochin-Chinese Shakespeare, indeed!" said Dick Jones, at the next
symposium. "Why, judging from the copious extracts you gave from his
greatest drama, Baby Bantam, it is _the_ most tedious drivel. You might
have written it yourself. Where is the Shakespearean quality of this,
which is, you say, the whole of Act Thirteen?

"'Hang-ho: Out, Fu-sia, does your mother know you are?

"'Fu-sia: I have no mother, but I have a child.'"

"Where is the Shakespearean quality?" repeated Andrew. "Do you not feel
the perfect pathos of those two lines, the infiniteness of incisive
significance? To me they paint the whole scene in two strokes of
matchless simplicity, strophe and anti-strophe. Fu-sia the repentant
outcast and Hang-ho whose honest love she rejected, stand out as in a
flash of lightning. Nay, Shakespeare himself never wrote an act of such
tragic brevity, packed so full of the sense of anagke. Why, so far from
it being tedious drivel, a lady in whose opinion I have great confidence
and to whom I sent my article, told me afterwards that she couldn't
sleep till she had read it."

[Illustration: "_She told me she couldn't sleep till she had read it._"]

The Mutual Depreciation Society burst into a roar of laughter and Andrew
realized that he had put his foot into it.

"Don't you think it a shame," broke in Frank Grey, "that we English
are debarred from having a Shakespeare. There's been one discovered
lately in Belgium, and we have already a Dutch Shakespeare, a French
Shakespeare, a German Shakespeare, and an American Shakespeare. English
is the only language in which we can't get one. It seems cruel that we
should be just the one nation in the world to be cut off from having a
nineteenth century Shakespeare. Every patriotic Briton must surely
desire that we could discover an English Shakespeare to put beside these
vaunted foreign phenomena."

"But an English Shakespeare is a bull," said Patrick Boyle, who had a
keen eye for such.

"Precisely. A John Bull," replied Frank.

"Peace. I would willingly look out for one," said Andrew Mackay,
thoughtfully. "But I cannot venture to insinuate yet that Shakespeare
did not write English. The time is scarcely ripe, though it is maturing
fast. Otherwise the idea is tempting."

"But why take the words in their natural meaning?" demanded Tom Brown,
the philosopher, in astonishment. "Is it not unapparent that an English
Shakespeare would be a great writer more saturated with Anglo-Saxon
spirit than Shakespeare, who was cosmic and for all time and for every
place? Hamlet, Othello, Lady Macbeth--these are world-types, not English
characters. Our English Shakespeare must be more autochthonic, more
chauviniste; or more provincial and more _borné_, if you like to put it
that way. His scenes must be rooted in English life, and his personages
must smack of British soil." There was much table-thumping when the
philosopher ceased.

"Excellent!" said Andrew. "He must be found. It will be the greatest
boom of the century. But whom can we discover?"

"There is John P. Smith," said Tom Brown.

"No, why John P. Smith? He has merit," objected Taffy Owen. "And then he
has never been in our set."

"And besides he would not be satisfied," said Patrick Boyle.

"That is true," said Andrew Mackay reflectively. "I know, Owen, _you_
would like to be the subject of the discovery. But I am afraid it is too
late. I have taken your measurements and laid down the chart of your
genius too definitely to alter now. You are permanently established in
business as the dainty neo-Hellenic Buddhist who has chosen to express
himself through farcical comedy. If you were just starting life, I could
work you into this English Shakespeardom--I am always happy to put a
good thing in the way of a friend--but at your age it is not easy to go
into a new line."

"Well, but," put in Harry Robinson, "if none of us is to be the English
Shakespeare, why should we give over the appointment to an outsider?
Charity begins at home."

"That _is_ a difficulty," admitted Andrew, puckering his brow. "It
brings us to a standstill. Seductive, therefore, as the idea is, I am
afraid it has occurred to us too late."

They sat in thoughtful silence. Then suddenly Frank Grey flashed in with
a suggestion that took their breath away for a moment and restored it to
them, charged with "Bravos" the moment after.

"But why should he exist at all?"

Why indeed? The more they pondered the matter, the less necessity they
saw for it.

"'Pon my word, Grey, you are right," said Andrew. "Right as Talleyrand
when he told the thief who insisted that he must live: _Mais, monsieur,
je n'en vois pas la nécessité_."

"It's an inspiration!" said Tom Brown, moved out of his usual apathy.
"We all remember how Whateley proved that the Emperor Napoleon never
existed--and the plausible way he did it. How few persons actually saw
the Emperor? How did even these know that what they saw _was_ the
Emperor? Conversely, it should be as easy as possible for us six to put
a non-existent English Shakespeare on the market. You remember what
Voltaire said of God--that if there were none it would be necessary to
invent Him. In like manner patriotism calls upon us to invent the
English Shakespeare."

"Yes, won't it be awful fun?" said Patrick Boyle.

The idea was taken up eagerly--the _modus operandi_ was discussed, and
the members parted, effervescing with enthusiasm and anxious to start
the campaign immediately. The English Shakespeare was to be named
Fladpick, a cognomen which once seen would hook itself on to the memory.

The very next day a leading article in the _Daily Herald_ casually
quoted Fladpick's famous line:

    "Coffined in English yew, he sleeps in peace."

And throughout the next month, in the most out-of-the-way and unlikely
quarters, the word Fladpick lurked and sprang upon the reader. Lines and
phrases from Fladpick were quoted. Gradually the thing worked up,
gathering momentum on its way, and going more and more of itself, like
an ever-swelling snowball which needs but the first push down the
mountain-side. Soon a leprosy of Fladpick broke out over the journalism
of the day. The very office-boys caught the infection, and in their book
reviews they dragged in Fladpick with an air of antediluvian
acquaintance. Writers were said not to possess Fladpick's imagination,
though they might have more sense of style, or they were said not to
possess Fladpick's sense of style, though they might have more
imagination. Certain epithets and tricks of manner were described as
quite Fladpickian, while others were mentioned as extravagant and as
disdained by writers like, say, Fladpick. Young authors were paternally
invited to mould themselves on Fladpick, while others were
contemptuously dismissed as mere imitators of Fladpick. By this time
Fladpick's poetic dramas began to be asked for at the libraries, and the
libraries said that they were all out. This increased the demand so much
that the libraries told their subscribers they must wait till the new
edition, which was being hurried through the press, was published. When
things had reached this stage, queries about Fladpick appeared in the
literary and professionally inquisitive papers, and answers were given,
with reference to the editions of Fladpick's book. It began to leak out
that he was a young Englishman who had lived all his life in Tartary,
and that his book had been published by a local firm and enjoyed no
inconsiderable reputation among the English Tartars there, but that the
copies which had found their way to England were extremely scarce and
had come into the hands of only a few _cognoscenti_, who being such were
enabled to create for him the reputation he so thoroughly deserved. The
next step was to contradict this, and the press teemed with biographies
and counter-biographies. _Dazzler_ also wired numerous interviews, but
an authoritative statement was inserted in the _Acadæum_, signed by
Andrew Mackay, stating that they were unfounded, and paragraphs began to
appear detailing how Fladpick spent his life in dodging the
interviewers. Anecdotes of Fladpick were highly valued by editors of
newspapers, and very plenteous they were, for Fladpick was known to be a
cosmopolitan, always sailing from pole to pole and caring little for
residence in the country of which he yet bade fair to be the laureate.
These anecdotes girdled the globe even more quickly than their hero, and
they returned from foreign parts bronzed and almost unrecognizable, to
set out immediately on fresh journeys in their new guise.

A parody of one of his plays was inserted in a comic paper, and it was
bruited abroad that Andrew Mackay was collaborating with him in
preparing one of his dramas for representation at the Independent
Theatre. This set the older critics by the ears, and they protested
vehemently in their theatrical columns against the infamous ethics
propagated by the new writer, quoting largely from the specimens of his
work given in Mackay's article in the _Fortnightly Review_. Patrick, who
wrote the dramatic criticism for seven papers, led the attack upon the
audacious iconoclast. Journalesia was convulsed by the quarrel, and even
young ladies asked their partners in the giddy waltz whether they were
Fladpickiets or Anti-Fladpickiets. You could never be certain of
escaping Fladpick at dinner, for the lady you took down was apt to take
you down by her contempt of your ignorance of Fladpick's awfully sweet
writings. Any amount of people promised one another introductions to
Fladpick, and those who had met him enjoyed quite a reflected reputation
in Belgravian circles. As to the Fladpickian parties, which brother
geniuses like Dick Jones and Harry Robinson gave to the great writer, it
was next to impossible to secure an invitation to them, and
comparatively few boasted of the privilege. Fladpick reaped a good deal
of _kudos_ from refusing to be lionized and preferring the society of
men of letters like himself, during his rare halting moments in England.

Long before this stage Mackay had seen his way to introducing the
catch-word of the conspiracy, "The English Shakespeare." He defended
vehemently the ethics of the great writer, claiming they were at core
essentially at one with those of the great nation from whence he sprang
and whose very life-blood had passed into his work. This brought about a
reaction, and all over the country the scribblers hastened to do justice
to the maligned writer, and an elaborate analysis of his most subtle
characters was announced as having been undertaken by Mr. Patrick Boyle.
And when it was stated that he was to be included in the Contemporary
Men of Letters Series, the advance orders for the work were far in
advance of the demand for Fladpick's actual writings. "Shakespearean,"
"The English Shakespeare," was now constantly used in connection with
his work, and even the most hard-worked reviewers promised themselves to
skim his book in their next summer holidays. About this time, too,
_Dazzler_ unconsciously helped the Society by announcing that Fladpick
was dying of consumption in a snow-hut in Greenland, and it was felt
that he must either die or go to a warmer climate, if not both. The news
of his phthisic weakness put the seal upon his genius, and the great
heart of the nation went out to him in his lonely snow-hut, but returned
on learning that the report was a _canard_. Still, the danger he had
passed through endeared him to his country, and within a few months
Fladpick, the English Shakespeare, was definitely added to the glories
of the national literature, founding a whole school of writers in his
own country, attracting considerable attention on the Continent, and
being universally regarded as the centre of the Victorian Renaissance.

But this was the final stage. A little before it was reached Cecilia
came to Frank Grey to pour her latest trouble into his ear, for she had
carefully kept her promise of bothering him with her most intimate
details, and the love-sick young lawyer had listened to her petty
psychology with a patience which would have brought him in considerable
fees if invested in the usual way. But this time the worry was genuine.

"Frank," she said, "I am in love."

The young man turned as white as a sheet. The sword of Damocles had
fallen at last, sundering them forever.

"With whom?" he gasped.

"With Mr. Fladpick!"

"The English Shakespeare?"

"The same!"

"But you have never seen him!"

"I have seen his soul. I have divined him from his writings. I have
studied Andrew Mackay's essays on him. I feel that he and I are _en

"But this is madness!"

"I know it is. I have tried to fight against it. I have applied for
admission to the Old Maids' Club, so as to stifle my hopeless passion.
Once I have joined Miss Dulcimer's Society, I shall perhaps find peace

"Great Heavens! Think; think before you take this terrible step. Are you
sure it is love you feel, not admiration?"

"No, it is love. At first I thought it was admiration, and probably it
was, for I was not likely to be mistaken in the analysis of my feelings,
in which I have had much practice. But gradually I felt it efflorescing
and sending forth tender shoots clad in delicate green buds, and a sweet
wonder came upon me, and I knew that love was struggling to get itself
born in my soul. Then suddenly the news came that he I loved was ill,
dying in that lonely snow-hut in grim Greenland, and then in the tempest
of grief that shook me I knew that my life was bound up with his.
Watered by my hot tears, the love in my heart bourgeoned and blossomed
like some strange tropical passion-flower, and when the reassuring
message that he was strong and well flashed through the world, I felt
that if he lived not for me, the universe were a blank and next year's
daisies would grow over my early grave."

         [Illustration: "_He I loved was dying in Greenland._"]

She burst into tears. "A great writer has always been the ideal which I
would not tell you of. It is the one thing I have kept from you. But oh,
Frank, Frank, he can never be mine. He will probably never know of my
existence and the most I can ever hope for is his autograph. To-morrow I
shall join the Old Maids' Club, and then all will be over." A paroxysm
of hopeless sobs punctuated her remarks.

It was a terrible position. Frank groaned inwardly.

How was he to explain to this fair young thing that she loved nobody and
could never hope to marry him? There was no doubt that with her intense
nature and her dreamy blue eyes she would pine away and die. Or worse,
she would live to be an old maid.

He made an effort to laugh it off.

"Tush!" he said, "all this is mere imagination. I don't believe you
really love anybody!"

"Frank!" She drew herself up, stony and rigid, the warm tears on her
poor white face frozen to ice. "Have you nothing better than this to say
to me, after I have shown you my inmost soul?"

The wretched young lawyer's face returned from white to red. He could
have faced a football team in open combat, but these complex psychical
positions were beyond the healthy young Philistine.

"For--or--give me," he stammered. "I--I am--I--that is to say,
Fladpick--oh how can I explain what I mean?"

Cecilia sobbed on. Every sob seemed to stick in Frank's own throat. His
impotence maddened him. Was he to let the woman he loved fret herself to
death for a shadow? And yet to undeceive her were scarcely less fatal.
He could have cut out the tongue that first invented Fladpick. Verily,
his sin was finding him out.

"Why can you not explain what you mean?" wept Cecilia.

"Because I--oh, hang it all--because I am the cause of your grief."

"You?" she said. A strange, wonderful look came into her eyes. The
thought shot from her eyes to his and dazzled them.

Yes! why not? why should he not sacrifice himself to save this delicate
creature from a premature tomb? Why should he not become "the English
Shakespeare?" True, it was a heavy burden to sustain, but what will a
man not dare or suffer for the woman he loves? Moreover, was he not
responsible for Fladpick's being, and thus for all the evil done by his
Frankenstein? He had employed Fladpick for his own amusement and the
Employers' Liability Act was heavy upon him. The path of abnegation, of
duty, was clear. He saw it and he went for it then and there--went, like
a brave young Englishman, to meet his marriage.

"Yes," he said, "I am glad you love Mr. Fladpick."

"Why?" she murmured breathlessly.

"Because I love you."

"But--I--do--not--love--you," she said slowly.

"You will, when I tell you it is I who have provoked your love."

"Frank, is this true?"

"On my word of honor as an Englishman."

"You are Fladpick?"

"If I am not, he does not exist. There is no such person."

"Oh, Frank, this is no cruel jest?"

"Cecilia, it is the sacred truth. Fladpick is nobody, if he is not Frank

"But you never lived in Tartary?"

"Of course not. All that about Fladpick is the veriest poetry. But I did
not mind it, for nobody suspected me. I'll introduce you to Andrew
Mackay himself, and you shall hear from his own lips how the newspapers
have lied about Fladpick."

"My noble, modest boy! So this was why you were so embarrassed before!
But why not have told _me_ that you were Fladpick?"

"Because I wanted you to love me for myself alone."

She fell into his arms.

"Frank--Frank--Fladpick, my own, my English Shakespeare," she sobbed

At the next meeting of the Mutual Depreciation Society, a bombshell in a
stamped envelope was handed to Mr. Andrew Mackay. He tore open the
envelope and the explosion followed--as follows:


    "I hereby beg to tender the resignation of my membership in your
    valued Society, as well as to anticipate your objections to my
    retaining the post of legal adviser I have the honor to hold. I
    am about to marry--the cynic will say I am laying the foundation
    of a Mutual Depreciation Society of my own. But this is not the
    reason of my retirement. That is to be sought in my having
    accepted the position of the English Shakespeare which you were
    good enough to open up for me. It would be a pity to let the
    pedestal stand empty. From the various excerpts you were kind
    enough to invent, especially from the copious extracts in Mr.
    Mackay's articles, I have been able to piece together a
    considerable body of poetic work, and by carefully collecting
    every existing fragment, and studying the most authoritative
    expositions of my aims and methods, I have constructed several
    dramas, much as Professor Owen re-constructed the mastodon from
    the bones that were extant. As you know I had never written a
    line in my life before, but by the copious aid of your excellent
    and genuinely helpful criticism I was enabled to get along
    without much difficulty. I find that to write blank verse you
    have only to invert the order of the words and keep on your
    guard against rhyme. You may be interested to know that the last
    line in the last tragedy is:

             'Coffined in English yew he sleeps in peace.'

    When written, I got my dramas privately printed with a Tartary
    trademark, after which I smudged the book and sold the copyright
    to Makemillion & Co. for ten thousand pounds. Needless to say I
    shall never write another book. In taking leave of you I cannot
    help feeling that, if I owe you some gratitude for the lofty
    pinnacle to which you have raised me, you are also not
    unindebted to me for finally removing the shadow of apprehension
    that must have dogged you in your sober moments--I mean the fear
    of being found out. Mr. Andrew Mackay, in particular, as the
    most deeply committed, I feel owes me what he can never hope to
    repay for my gallantry in filling the mantle designed by him,
    whose emptiness might one day have been exposed, to his
    immediate downfall.

                "I am, gentlemen,
                    "Your most sincere and humble Depreciator,
                                      "THE ENGLISH SHAKESPEARE."

                              CHAPTER XIV.

                    THE OLD YOUNG WOMAN AND THE NEW.

"Providence has granted what I dared not hope for," wrote Cecilia to the

"If she had hoped for it, Providence would not have granted it,"
interpolated the Honorary Trier.

"This is hardly the moment for jesting," said Lillie, with marked pique.

"Pardon me. The moment for jesting is surely when you have received a
blow. In a happy crisis jesting is a waste of good jokes. The retiring
candidate does not state _what_ Providence has granted, does she?"

"No," said Lillie savagely. "She was extremely reticent about her
history--reticent almost to the point of indiscretion. But I daresay
it's a husband."

"Ah, then it can hardly be Providence that has granted it," said

"Providence is not always kindly," said Lillie laughing. The gibe at
Benedicts restored her good-humor and when the millionaire strolled into
the Club she did not immediately expel him.

"Well, Lillie," he said, "when are you going to give the _soirée_ to
celebrate the foundation of the Club? I am staying in town expressly for

"As soon as possible, father. I am only waiting for some more members."

"Why, have you any difficulty about getting enough? I seem always to be
meeting young ladies on the staircases."

"We are so exclusive."

"So it seems. You exclude even me," grumbled the millionaire. "I can't
make out why you are so hard to please. A more desirable lot of young
ladies I never wish to see. I should never have believed it possible
that such a number of pretty girls would be anxious to remain single
merely for the sake of a principle."

"You see!" said Lillie eagerly, "we shall be a standing proof to men of
how little they have understood our sex."

"Men do not need any proof of that," remarked Lord Silverdale dryly.

This time it was Lillie whom Turple the magnificent prevented from
making the retort which was not on the tip of her tongue.

"A gentleman who gives his name as a lady is waiting in the ante-room,"
he announced.

They all stared hard at Turple the magnificent, almost tempted to
believe he was joking and that the end of the world was at hand.

But the countenance of Turple the magnificent was as stolid and
expressionless as a Bath bun. He might have been beaming behind his
face, possibly even the Old Maids' Club tickled him vastly, so that his
mental midriff was agitated convulsively; but this could not be known by

Lillie took the card he tendered her and read aloud: "Nelly Nimrod."

"Nelly Nimrod!" cried the Honorary Trier. "Why, that's the famous girl
who travelled from Charing Cross to China-Tartary on an elephant and
wrote a book about it under the pen-name of Wee Winnie."

"Shall I show him in?" interposed Turple the magnificent.

"Certainly," said Lillie eagerly. "Father, you must go."

"Oh, no! Not if it's only a gentleman."

"It may be only no lady," murmured Silverdale. Lillie caught the words
and turned upon him the dusky splendors of her fulminant eyes.

"_Et tu, Brute!_" she said. "Do you too hold that false theory that
womanliness consists in childishness?"

"No, nor that other false theory that it consists in manliness,"
retorted the Honorary Trier.

The entry of Nelly Nimrod put an end to the dispute. In the excitement
of the moment no one noticed that the millionaire was still leaning
against an epigram.

"Good-morning, Miss Dulcimer. I am charmed to make your acquaintance,"
said Wee Winnie, gripping the President's soft hand with painful
cordiality. She was elegantly attired in a white double-breasted
waistcoat, a zouave jacket, a check-tweed skirt, gaiters, a three inch
collar, a tricorner hat, a pair of tanned gloves and an eyeglass. In her
hand she carried an ebony stick. Her hair was parted at the side. Nelly
was nothing if not original, so that when the spectator looked down for
the divided skirt he was astonished not to find it. Wee Winnie in fact
considered it ungraceful and _Divide et Impera_ a contradiction in
terms. She was a tall girl, and looked handsome even under the most
masculine conditions.

"I am happy to make yours," returned the President. "Is it to join the
Old Maids' Club that you have called?"

"It is. Wherever there is a crusade you will always find me in the van.
I don't precisely know your objects yet, but any woman who strikes out
anything new commands my warmest sympathies."

"Be seated, Miss Nimrod. Allow me to introduce Lord Silverdale--an old
friend of mine."

"And of mine," replied Nelly, bowing with a sweet smile.

"Indeed!" cried Lillie flushing.

"In the spirit, only in the spirit," said Nelly. "His lordship's 'Poems
of Passion' formed my sole reading in the deserts of China-Tartary."

"In the letter, you should say then," said the peer. "By the way, you
are confusing me with a minor poet, Silverplume, and his book is not
called Poems of Passion but Poems of Compassion."

"Ah well, there isn't much difference," said Nelly.

"No, according to the proverb Compassion _is_ akin to Passion," admitted

"Well, Miss Nimrod," put in Lillie, "our object is easily defined. We
are an association of young and beautiful girls devoted to celibacy in
order to modify the meaning of the term 'Old Maid.'"

Nelly Nimrod started up enthusiastically.

"Bravo, old girl!" she cried, slapping the President on the back. "Put
me down for a flag. I catch the conception of the campaign. It is

"But it is not war," said Lillie. "Our methods are peaceful,
unaggressive. Our platform is merely metaphorical. Our lesson is the
self-sufficiency of spinsterhood. We preach it by existing."

"Not exist by preaching it," added Silverdale. "This is not one of the
cliques of the shrieking sisterhood?"

"What do you mean by the term shrieking sisterhood," said Nelly. "I use
it to denote the mice-fearing classes."

"Hear, hear," said Lillie. "It is true, Miss Nimrod, that our members
are required not to exhibit in public, but only because that is a part
of the old unhappy signification of 'Old Maid.'"

"I quite understand. You would not call a book a public exhibition of
oneself, I suppose."

"Certainly not--if it is an autobiography," said Silverdale.

"That's all right then. My book _is_ autobiographical."

"I knew a celebrity once," said Silverdale, "a dreadfully shy person.
All his life he lived retired from the world, and even after his death
he concealed himself behind an autobiography."

Lillie frowned at these ironical insinuations, though Miss Nimrod
appeared impervious to them.

"I have not concealed myself," she said simply. "All I thought and did
is written in my book."

"I liked that part about the fleas," murmured the millionaire.

"What's that? Didn't catch that," said Nelly, looking round in the
direction of the voice.

"Good gracious, father, haven't you gone?" cried Lillie, no less
startled. "It's too bad. You are spoiling one of my best epigrams.
Couldn't you lean against something else?"

Before the millionaire could be got rid of, Turple the magnificent

"A lady who gives the name of a gentleman," he said.

The assemblage pricked up its ears.

"What name?" asked Lillie.

"Miss Jack, she said."

"That's her surname," said Lillie, in a disappointed tone.

Turple the magnificent stood reproved a moment, then he went out to
fetch the lady. The gathering was already so large that Lillie thought
there was nothing to be gained by keeping her waiting.

Miss Jack proved to be an extremely eligible candidate so far as
appearances went. She bowed stiffly on being introduced to Miss Nimrod.

"May I ask if that is to be the uniform of the Old Maids' Club?" she
inquired of the President. "Because if so I am afraid I have made a
mistaken journey. It is as a protest against unconventional females that
I designed to join you."

    [Illustration: "_Is that the uniform of the Old Maids' Club?_"]

"Is it to me you are referring as an unconventional female?" asked Miss
Nimrod, bridling up.

"Certainly," replied Miss Jack, with exquisite politeness. "I lay stress
upon your sex, merely because it is not obvious."

"Well, I _am_ an unconventional female, and I glory in it," said Nelly
Nimrod, seating herself astride the sofa. "I did not expect to hear the
provincial suburban note struck within these walls. I claim the right of
every woman to lead her own life in her own toilettes."

"And a pretty life you have led!"

"I have, indeed!" cried Miss Nimrod, goaded almost to oratory by Miss
Jack's taunts. "Not the ugly, unlovely life of the average woman. I have
exhausted all the sensations which are the common guerdon of youth and
health and high spirits, and which have for the most part been selfishly
monopolized by man. The splendid audacity of youth has burnt in my veins
and fired me to burst my swaddling clothes and strike for the
emancipation of my sex. I have not merely played cricket in a white
shirt and lawn tennis in a blue serge skirt, I have not only skated in
low-heeled boots and fenced in corduroy knickerbockers, but I have
sailed the seas in an oil-skin jacket and a sou'-wester and swum them in
nothing and walked beneath them in the diver's mail. I have waded after
salmon in long boots and caught trout in tweed knickerbockers and spats.
Nay, more! I have proclaimed the dignity of womanhood upon the moors,
and have shot grouse in brown leather gaiters and a sweet Norfolk jacket
with half-inch tucks. But this is not the climax, I have----"

              [Illustration: _Wee Winnie on her Travels._]

"Yes, I know. You are Wee Winnie. You travelled alone from Charing Cross
to China-Tartary. I have not read your book, but I have heard of it."

"And what have you heard of it?"

"That it is in bad taste."

"Your remark is in worse," interposed Lillie severely.

"Ladies, ladies!" murmured Silverdale. "This is the first time we have
had two of them in the room together," he thought. "I suppose when the
thing is once started we shall change the name to the Kilkenny Cats'

"In bad taste, is it?" said Miss Nimrod, promptly whipping a book out of
her skirt pocket. "Well, here is the book. If you can find one passage
in bad taste I'll--I'll delete it in the next edition. There!"

She pushed the book into the hands of Miss Jack, who took it rather

"What's this?" asked Miss Jack, pointing to a weird illustration.

"That's a picture of me on my elephant, sketched by myself. Do you mean
to say there's any bad taste about that?"

"Oh, no; I merely asked for information. I didn't know what animal it

"You astonish me," said the artist. "Have you never been to a circus?
Yes, this is Mumbo Jumbo himself."

"Surely, Miss Jack," said Lord Silverdale gravely. "You must have heard,
if you have not read, how Miss Nimrod chartered an elephant, packed up
her Kodak and a few bonnet-boxes and rode him on the curb through
Central Asia. But may I ask, Miss Nimrod, why you did not enrich the
book with more sketches? There is only this one. All the rest are

"Well, you see, Lord Silverdale, it's simpler to photograph."

"Perhaps, but your readers miss the artistic quality that pervades this
sketch. I am glad you made an exception in its favor."

"Oh, only because one can't Kodak oneself. Everything else I caught as I
flew past."

"Did you catch any Tartars?"

"Hundreds. I destroyed most of them."

"By the way, you did not come across Mr. Fladpick in Tartary?"

"The English Shakespeare? Oh, yes! I lunched with him. He is charm----"

"Ah, here are the fleas!" interrupted Miss Jack.

The millionaire started as if he had been stung.

"I won't have them taken apart from the context, I warn you. That
wouldn't be fair," said Miss Nimrod.

"Very well, I will read the whole passage," said Miss Jack.

"'Mumbo Jumbo bucked violently (_see illustration_) but I settled myself
tightly on the saddle and gave myself up to meditations on the vanity of
Life-guardsmen. Mumbo Jumbo seemed, however, determined to have his
fling, and bounded about with the agility of an india-rubber ball. At
last his convulsions became so terrific that I grew quite nervous about
my fragile bonnet-boxes. They might easily dash one another to bits. I
determined to have leather hat-boxes the next time I travelled in
untrodden paths. "Steady, my beauty, steady!" I cried. Recognizing my
familiar accents, my pet easied a little. To pacify him entirely I
whistled 'Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee,' to him, but his contortions
recommenced and became quite grotesque. First he lifted one paw high in
the air, then he twirled his trunk round the corner, then the first paw
came down with a thud that shook the desert, while the other three paws
flew up towards the sky. It suddenly occurred to me that he was dancing
to the air of 'Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee,' and I laughed so loud and long,
that any stray Mahatma who happened to be smoking at the door of his
cave in the cool of the evening must have thought me mad. But while I
was laughing, Mumbo Jumbo continued to stand upon his tail, so that I
saw it could not be 'Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee' he was suffering from. I
wondered whether perhaps he could be teething--or should I say, tusking?
I do not know whether elephants get a second set, or whether they cut
their wisdom tusks, but, as they are so sagacious, I suppose they do.
Suddenly the consciousness of what was really the matter with him
flashed sharply upon my brain. I looked down upon my hand, and there,
poised lightly yet firmly, like a butterfly on a lily, was a giant flea.
Instantly, without uttering a single cry or reeling in my saddle, I
grasped the situation; and coolly seizing the noxious insect with my
other hand, I choked the life out of him, while Mumbo Jumbo cantered
along in restored calm. The sensitive beast had evidently been suffering
untold agonies.'"

"Now, Lord Silverdale," said Miss Nimrod, "I appeal to you. Is there
anything in that passage in the least calculated to bring a blush to the
cheek of the young person?"

"No, there is not," said his lordship emphatically. "Only I wish you had
caught that flea with your Kodak."

"Why?" said Miss Nimrod.

"Because I have always longed to see him. A flea that could penetrate
the pachydermatous hide of an elephant must have been, indeed, a
monster. In England we only see that sort under microscopes. They seem
to thrive nowhere else. Yours must have been one that had escaped from
under the lens. He was magnified three thousand diameters and he never
recovered from it. You probably took him over in your trunk."

"Oh, no, I'm sure I didn't," protested Miss Nimrod.

"Well, then, Mumbo Jumbo did in his."

"Excuse me," interposed Miss Jack. "We are getting off the point. I did
not say the passage was calculated to raise a blush, I said it was a
grave error of taste."

"It is a mere flea-bite," broke in the millionaire, impatiently. "I
liked it when I first read it, and I like it now I hear it again. It is
a touch of nature that brings the Tartary traveller home to every

"Besides," added Lord Silverdale. "The introduction of the butterfly and
the lily makes it quite poetical."

"Ladies and gentlemen," interposed the President, at last, "we are not
here to discuss entomology or æsthetics. You stated, Miss Jack, that you
thought of joining us as a protest against female unconventionally."

"I said unconventional females," persisted Miss Jack.

"Even so, I do not follow you," said Lillie.

"It is extremely simple. I am unable to marry because I have a frank
nature, not given to feigning or fawning. I cannot bring a husband what
he expects nowadays in a wife."

"What is that?" inquired Lillie curiously.

"A chum," answered Miss Jack. "Formerly a man wanted a wife, now he
wants a woman to sympathize with his intellectual interests, to talk
with him intelligently about his business, discuss politics with
him--nay, almost to smoke with him. Tobacco for two is destined to be
the ideal of the immediate future. The girls he favors are those who
flatter him by imitating him. It is women like Wee Winnie who have
depraved his taste. There is nothing the natural man craves less for
than a clever, learned wife. Only he has been talked over into believing
that he needs intellectual companionship, and now he won't be happy till
he gets it. I have escaped politics and affairs all my life, and I am
determined not to marry into them."

"What a humiliating confession!" sneered Miss Nimrod. "It is a pity you
don't wear doll's-clothes."

"I claim for every woman the right to live her own life in her own
toilettes," retorted Miss Jack. "The sneers about dolls are threadbare.
I have watched these intellectual camaraderies, and I say they are a
worse injustice to woman than any you decry."

"That sounds a promising paradox," muttered Lord Silverdale.

"The man expects the woman to talk politics--but he refuses to take a
reciprocal interest in the woman's sphere of work. He will not talk
nursery or servants. He will preach economy, but he will not talk it."

"That is true," said Lillie impressed. "What reply would you make to
that, Miss Nimrod?"

"There is no possible reply," said Miss Jack hurriedly. "So much for the
mock equality which is the cant of the new husbandry. How stands the
account with the new young womanhood? The young ladies who are clamoring
for equality with men want to eat their cake and to have it too. They
want to wear masculine hats, yet to keep them on in the presence of
gentlemen; to compete with men in the market-place, yet to take their
seats inside omnibuses on wet days and outside them on sunny; to be
'pals' with men in theatres and restaurants and shirk their share of the
expenses. I once knew a girl named Miss Friscoe who cultivated Platonic
relations with young men, but never once did she pay her half of the

"Pardon me," interrupted Wee Winnie. "My whole life gives the lie to
your superficial sarcasm. In my anxiety to escape these obvious
objurgations I have even, I admit it, gone to the opposite extreme. I
have made it a point to do unto men as they would have done unto me, if
I had not anticipated them. I always defray the bill at the restaurants,
buy the stalls at the box-office and receive the curses of the cabman.
If I see a young gentleman to the train, I always get his ticket for him
and help him into the carriage. If I convey him to a ball, I bring him a
button-hole, compliment him upon his costume and say soft nothings about
his moustache, while if I go to a dance alone I stroll in about one in
the morning, survey mankind through my eyeglass, loll a few minutes in
the doorway, then go downstairs to interview the supper, and having
sated myself with chicken, champagne and trifle return to my club."

"To your club!" exclaimed the millionaire.

"Yes--do you think the Old Maids' is the only one in London? Mine is the
Lady Travellers'--do you know it, Miss Dulcimer?"

"No--o," said Lillie shamefacedly. "I only know the Writers'."

"Why, are you a member of that? I'm a member, too. It's getting a great
club now, what with Ellaline Rand (Andrew Dibdin, you know) and Frank
Maddox and Lillie Dulcimer. I wonder we haven't met there."

"I'm so taken up with my own club," explained Lillie.

"Naturally. But you must come and dine with me some evening at the Lady
Travellers'--snug little club--much cosier than the Junior Widows', and
they give you a better bottle of wine, and then the decorations are so
sweetly pretty. The only advantage the Junior Widows' has over the Lady
Travellers' is the lovely smoking-room lined with mirrors, which makes
it much nicer when you have men to dinner. I always ask them there."

"Why, are you allowed to have men?" asked Miss Jack.

"Certainly--in the dining and smoking rooms. Then of course there are
special gentlemen's nights. We get down a lot of music-hall talent just
to let them have a peep into Bohemia."

"But how can you be a member of the Junior Widows'?" asked the

"Oh, I'm not an original member. But when they were in want of funds
they let a lot of married women and girls in, without asking questions."

"I suppose, though, they all look forward to becoming widows in time,"
observed Silverdale cheerfully.

"Oh no," replied Miss Nimrod emphatically. "I don't say that if they
hadn't let me in, the lovely smoking-room lined with mirrors mightn't
have tempted me to marry so as to qualify myself. But as it is, thank
Heaven, I'm an Old Maid for life. Why should I give up my freedom and
the comforts of my club and saddle myself with a husband who would want
to monopolize my society and who would be jealous of my bachelor friends
and want me to cut them, who would hanker to read my letters, who would
watch my comings and goings, and open my parcels of cosmetics marked
confectionery? Doubtless in the bad old times which Miss Jack has the
inaptitude to regret, marriage was the key to comparative freedom, but
in these days when woman has at last emancipated herself from the
thraldom of mothers, it would be the height of folly to replace them by
husbands. Will you tell me, Miss Jack, what marriage has to offer to a
woman like me?"

"Nothing," replied Miss Jack.

"Aha! You admit it!" cried Miss Nimrod triumphantly. "Why should I
embrace a profession to which I feel no call? Marriage has practically
nothing to offer any independent woman except a trousseau, wedding
presents, and the jealousy of her female friends. But what are these
weighed against the cramping of her individuality? Perhaps even children
come to fetter her life still more and she has daughters who grow up to
be younger than herself. No, the future lies with the Old Maid; the
woman who will retain her youth and her individuality till death; who
dies, but does not surrender. The ebbing tide is with you, Miss Jack;
the flowing tide is with us. The Old Maids' Club will be the keystone of
the arch of the civilization of to-morrow, and Miss Dulcimer's name will
go down to posterity linked with----"

"Lord Silverdale's," said the millionaire.

"Father! What are you saying?" murmured Lillie, abashed before her

"I was reminding Miss Nimrod of the part his lordship has played in the
movement. It is not fair posterity should give you all the credit."

"I have done nothing for the club--nothing," said the peer modestly.

"And I will do the same," said Miss Jack. "I came here under the
delusion that I was going to associate myself with a protest against the
defeminization of my sex, with a band of noble women who were resolved
never to marry till the good old times were restored and marriages
became true marriages once more. But instead of that I find--Wee

"You are, indeed, fortunate beyond your deserts," replied that lady.
"You may even hope to encounter a suitable husband some day."

"I do hope," said Miss Jack frankly. "But I will never marry till I meet
a thoroughly conventional man."

"There I have the advantage of you," said Miss Nimrod. "I shall never
marry till I meet a thoroughly _un_conventional man."

"A thoroughly unconventional man would never want to marry at all," said

"Of course not. That is the beauty of the situation. That is the paradox
which guarantees my spinsterhood. Well, I've had a charming afternoon,
Miss Dulcimer, but I must really run away now. I hate keeping men
waiting, and I have an appointment with a couple of friends at the
Junior Widows'. Such fun! While riding in the park before lunch, I met
Guy Fledgely out for a constitutional with his father, the baronet. I
asked Guy if he would have a chop with me at the club this evening, and
what do you think? The baronet coughed and looked at Guy meaningly, and
Guy blushed and hemmed and hawed and looked sheepish and at last gave me
to understand he never went out to dine with a lady unless accompanied
by his father. So I had to ask the old man, too. Isn't it awful? By the
way, Miss Jack, I should be awfully delighted if you would join our

   [Illustration: "I asked them to have a chop at the club with me."]

"Thank you, Wee Winnie," said Miss Jack, disdainfully.

"But think how thoroughly conventional the baronet is! He won't even let
his son go out without a chaperon."

"That is true," admitted Miss Jack, visibly impressed. "He is about the
most conventional man I ever heard of."

"A widower, too," pursued Miss Nimrod, pressing her advantage.

Miss Jack hesitated.

"And he dines seven sharp at the Junior Widows'."

"Ah then, there is no time to lose," said Miss Jack. They went out arm
in arm.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Have you seen Patrick Boyle's poem in the _Playgoers' Review_?" asked
Lillie, when the club was clear.

"You mean the great dramatic critic's? No, I haven't seen it, but I have
seen extracts and eulogies in every paper."

"I have it here complete," said Lillie. "It is quite interesting to find
there is a heart beneath the critic's waistcoat. Read it aloud. No, you
don't want the banjo!"

Lord Silverdale obeyed. The poem was entitled.

                       CRITICUS IN STABULIS (?).

    Rallying-point of all playgoers earnest,
      Packed with incongruous types of humanity,
    Easily pleased, yet of critics the sternest,
      Crudely ignoring that all things are vanity.
    Pit, in thee laughter and tears blend in medley--
      Would I could sit in thy cozy concavity!
    No! to the stalls I am drawn, to the deadly
                      Centre of gravity.

    Florin, or shilling, or sixpence admission,
      Often I've paid in my raw juvenility,
    Purchasing Banbury cakes in addition,
      Ginger-beer, too, to my highest ability.
    Villains I hissed like a venomous gander,
      Virtue I loved next to cheesecakes or chocolate;
    Now no atrocity raises my dander,
                      No crime can shock o' late.

    Then I could dote on a red melodrama,
      Now I demand but limelight on Philosophy,
    Learned allusions to Buddha and Brahma,
      Science and Faith and a touch of Theosophy.
    Farces I slate, on Burlesque I am scathing,
      Pantomime shakes for a week my serenity;
    Nothing restores my composure but bathing
                      Deep in Ibsenity.

    Actors were Gods to my boyish devotion,
      Actresses angels--in tights and low bodices;
    Drowned is that pretty and puerile notion,
      Thrown overboard in the first of my Odysseys.
    Syrens may sing submarine fascinations,
      Adult Ulysses remain analytical,
    Flat notes recording, or reedy vibrations,
                      Tranquilly critical.

    Here in the stalls we are stiff as if starch, meant
      Only for shirt-fronts, to faces had mounted up;
    Dowagers' wills may be read on their parchment,
      Beautiful busts on your thumbs may be counted up.
    Girls in the pit are remarkably rosy,
      Each claspt by lover who passes the paper-bag;
    Here I can't even, the girls are so prosy,
                      One digit taper bag.

    Yet could I sit in the pit of the Surrey,
      Munching an orange or spooning with 'Arriet;
    Sadly I fear I should be in no hurry
      Backward to drive my existence's chariot.
    "Squeezes" are ill compensated by crushes--
      Stalls may be dull, but they're jolly luxurious;
    Really the way o'er past joys we can gush is
                      Awfully curious!

    Life is a chaos of comic confusion,
      Past things alone take a halo harmonious;
    So from illusion we wake to illusion,
      Each as the rest just as true and erroneous.
    _Fin de siècle_ I am, and so be it!
      Here's to the problems of sad sociology!
    This is my weird,--like a man I must dree it,
                      Great is chronology!

    Even so, once the great drama allured me,
      Which we all play on the stage universal;
    "Going behind" the "green" curtain has cured me.
      All my hope now is 'tis not a _rehearsal_.
    Still I've played on; to old men's parts I grew from
      Juvenile lead, as I'd risen from small-boy,
    So I'll play on till I get my last cue from
                      Death, the old call-boy.

"Hum! Not at all bad," concluded Lord Silverdale. "I wonder who wrote

                              CHAPTER XV.

                       THE MYSTERIOUS ADVERTISER.

                                               "JUNIOR WIDOWS' CLUB.


    "Just a line to tell you what a lovely evening we have had. The
    baronet seemed greatly taken with Miss Jack and she with him,
    and they behaved in a conventional manner. Guy and I were able
    to have a real long chat and he told me all his troubles. It
    appears that he has just been thrown over by his promised bride
    under circumstances of a most peculiar character. I gave him the
    sympathy he needed, but at the same time thought to myself, aha!
    here is another member for the Old Maids' Club. You rely on me,
    I will build you up a phalanx of Old Maids that shall just swamp
    the memory of Hippolyte and her Amazons. I got out of Guy the
    name and address of the girl who jilted him. I shall call upon
    Miss Sybil Hotspur the first thing in the morning, and if I do
    not land her my name is not

                                            "Yours cheerily,
                                                       "WEE WINNIE."

"This may be awkward," said the Honorary Trier, returning the letter to
the President. "Miss Nimrod seems to take her own election for granted."

"And to think that we are anxious for members," added Lillie.

"Well, we ought to have somebody to replace Miss Jack," said Silverdale,
with a suspicion of a smile. "But do you propose to accept Wee Winnie?"

"I don't know--she is certainly a remarkable girl. Such originality and
individuality! Suppose we let things slide a little."

"Very well; we will not commit ourselves yet by saying anything to Miss

"Miss Nimrod," announced Turple the magnificent.

"Aha! Here we are again!" cried Wee Winnie. "How are you, everybody? How
is the old gentleman? Isn't he here?"

"He is very well, thank you, but he is not one of us," said Lillie.

"Oh! Well, anyhow, I've got another of us."

"Miss Sybil Hotspur?"

"The same. I found her raging like a volcano."

"What--smoking?" queried Silverdale.

"No, no, she is one of the old sort. She merely fumes," said Wee Winnie,
laughing as if she had made a joke. "She was raving against the
infidelity of men. Poor Guy! How his ears must have tingled. He has sent
her a long explanation, but she laughs it to scorn. I persuaded her to
let you see it--it is so quaint."

"Have you it with you?" asked Lillie eagerly. Her appetite for tales of
real life was growing by what it fed upon.

"Yes--here is his letter, several quires long. But before you can
understand it, you must know how the breach came about."

"Lord Silverdale, pass Miss Nimrod the chocolate creams. Or would you
like some lemonade?"

"Lemonade by all means," replied Wee Winnie, taking up her favorite
attitude astride the sofa. "With just a wee drappie of whiskey in it, if
you please. I daresay I shall be as dry as a lime-kiln before I've
finished the story and read you this letter."

Turple the magnificent duly attended to Miss Nimrod's wants. Whatever he
felt, he made no sign. He was simply Turple the magnificent.

"One fine day," said Wee Winnie, "or rather, one day that began fine, a
merry party made an excursion into the country. Sybil Hotspur and her
_fiancé_, Guy Fledgely, (and of course the baronet) were of the party.
After picknicking on the grass, the party broke up into twos till
tea-time. The baronet was good enough to pair off with an unattached
young lady, and so Sybil and Guy were free to wander away into a copse.
The sun was very hot, and the young man had not spared the fizz. First
he took off his coat, to be cooler, then with an afterthought he
converted it into a pillow and went to sleep. Meantime Sybil, under the
protection of her parasol, steadily perused one of Addiper's early
works, chaster in style than in substance, and sneering in exquisitely
chiselled epigrams at the weaknesses of his sex. Sybil stole an
involuntary glance at Guy--sleeping so peacefully like a babe in the
wood, with the squirrels peeping at him trustfully. She felt that
Addiper was a jaundiced cynic--that her Guy at least would be faithful
unto death. At that instant she saw a folded sheet of paper on the
ground near Guy's shoulder. It might have slipped from the inner pocket
of the coat on which his head was resting, but if it had she could not
put it back without disturbing his slumbers. Besides, it might not
belong to him at all. She picked up the paper, opened it, and turned
pale as death. This is what she read.

"Manager of _Daily Hurrygraph_. Please insert enclosed series, in order
named, on alternate days, commencing to-day week. Postal order

"'1. Dearest, dearest, dearest. Remember the grotto.--POPSY.

"'2. Dearest, dearest, dearest. This is worse than silence. Sobs are
cheap to-day.--POPSY.

"'3. Dearest, dearest, dearest. Only Anastasia and the dog. Thought I
should have died. Cruel heart, hope on. The white band of hope!
Watchman, what of the night? Shall we say 11.15 from Paddington since
the sea will not give up its dead? I have drained the dregs. The rest is
silence. Answer to-morrow or I shall dree my weird.--POPSY.'

"There was no signature to the letter, but the writing was that which
had hitherto borne to poor Sybil the daily assurances of her lover's
devotion. She looked at the sleeping traitor so savagely that he moved
uncomfortably, even in his sleep. Like a serpent that scrap of paper had
entered into her Eden, and she put it in her bosom that it might sting
her. Unnoticed, the shadows had been lengthening, the sky had grown
gray, as if in harmony with her blighted hopes. Roughly she roused the
sleeper, and hastily they wended their way back to the rendezvous, to
find tea just over and the rush to the station just beginning. There was
no time to talk till they were seated face to face in the railway
carriage. The party had just caught the train, and bundling in anyhow
had become separated. Sybil and Guy were alone again.

"Then Sybil plucked from her breast the serpent and held it up.

"'Guy,' she said. 'What is this?'

"He turned pale. 'W--w--here did you get that from?' he stammered.

"'What is this?' she repeated, and read in unsympathetic accents:
'Dearest, dearest, dearest. Remember the grotto.--POPSY.'

"'Who is "dearest"?' she continued.

"'You, of course,' he said with ghastly playfulness.

[Illustration: _"Dearest, is you," he said with ghastly playfulness._]

"'Indeed. Then allow me to say, sir, I _will_ remember the grotto. I
shall never forget it, Popsy. If you wish to communicate with me, a
penny postage stamp is, I believe, adequate. Perhaps I am also
Anastasia, to say nothing of the dog. Or shall we say the 11-15 from
Paddington, Popsy?'

"'Sybil, darling,' he broke in piteously. 'Give me back that paper, you
wouldn't understand.'

"Sybil silently replaced the serpent in her bosom and leant back

"'I can explain all,' he cried wildly.

"'I am listening,' Sybil said.

"'The fact is--I--I----' The young man flushed and stammered. Sybil's
pursed lips gave him no assistance.

"'It may seem incredible--you will not believe it.'

"Sybil made no sign.

"'I--I--am the victim of a disease.'

"Sybil stared scornfully.

"'I--I--don't look at me like that, or I can't tell you. I--I--I didn't
like to tell you before, but I always knew you would have to know some
day. Perhaps it is better it has come out before our marriage. Listen!'

"The young man leant over and breathed solemnly in her ear: '_I suffer
from an hereditary tendency to advertise in the agony column_.'

"Sybil made no reply. The train drew up at a station. Without a word
Sybil left the carriage and rejoined her friends in the next

"What an extraordinary excuse," exclaimed Lillie.

"So Sybil thought," replied Wee Winnie. "From that day to this--almost a
week--she has never spoken to him. And yet Guy persists in his
explanation, even to me; which is so superfluous that I am almost
inclined to believe in its truth. At any rate I will now read you his

    "'DEAR SYBIL:--

    "'Perhaps for the last time I address you thus, for if after
    reading this you still refuse to believe me, I shall not
    trespass upon your patience again. But for the sake of our past
    love I beg you to read what follows in a trusting spirit, and if
    not in a trusting spirit, at least to read it. It is the story
    of how my father became a baronet, and when you know that, you
    will perhaps learn to pity and to bear with me.

    "'When a young man my father was bitten by the passion for
    contributing to the agony column. Some young men spend their
    money in one way, some in another; this was my father's
    dissipation. He loved to insert mysterious words and sentences
    in the advertisement columns of the newspapers, so as to enjoy
    the sensation of giving food for speculation to a whole people.
    To sit quietly at home and with a stroke of the pen influence
    the thoughts of millions of his countrymen--this gave my father
    the keenest satisfaction. When you come to analyze it, what more
    does the greatest author do?

    "'The agony column is the royal road to successful authorship,
    if the publication of fiction in leading newspapers be any test
    of success; for my father used sometimes to conduct whole
    romances by correspondence, after the fashion of the then
    reigning Wilkie Collins. And the agony column is also the most
    innocuous method for satisfying that crave for supplying topics
    of conversation which sometimes leads people to crime. I make
    this analysis to show you that there was no antecedent
    improbability about what you seem to consider a wild excuse. The
    desire to contribute to this department of journalism is no
    isolated psychical freak; it is related to many other
    manifestations of mental activity, and is perfectly
    intelligible. But this desire, like every other, may be given
    its head till it runs away with the whole man. So it was with my
    father. He began--half in fun--with a small advertisement, one
    insertion. Unfortunately--or fortunately--he made a little hit
    with it. He heard two men discussing it in a café. The next week
    he tried again--unsuccessfully this time, so far as he knew. But
    the third advertisement was again a topic of conversation. Even
    in his own office (he was training for an architect), he heard
    the fellows saying, "Did you see that funny advertisement this
    morning--'Be careful not to break the baby.'"

    "'You can imagine how intoxicating this sort of thing is and how
    the craving for the secret enjoyment it brings may grow on a
    man. Gradually my father became the victim of a passion fiercer
    than the gambler's, yet akin to it. For, he never knew whether
    his money would procure him the gratification he yearned for or
    not; it was all a fluke. The most promising mysteries would
    attract no attention, and even a carefully planned novelette,
    that ran for a week with as many as three characters
    intervening, would fall still-born upon the tapis of
    conversation. But every failure only spurred him to fresh
    effort. All his spare coin, all his savings, went into the tills
    of the newspaper cashiers. He cut down his expenses to the
    uttermost farthing, living abstemiously and dressing almost
    shabbily, and sacrificing everything to his ambitions. It was
    lucky he was not in a bank; for he had only a moderate income,
    and who knows to what he might have been driven? At last my
    father struck oil. Tired of the unfruitful field of romance,
    whose best days seemed to be over, my father returned to that
    rudimentary literature which pleases the widest number of
    readers, while it has the never-failing charm of the primitive
    for the jaded disciples of culture. He wrote only polysyllabic

    "'Thus for a whole week in every morning agony column he
    published in large capitals the word:


    This was an instantaneous success. But it was only a _succès
    d'estime_. People talked of it, but they could not remember it.
    It had no seeds of permanence in it. It could never be more than
    a nine days' wonder. It was an artificial, esoteric novelty,
    that might please the cliques but could never touch the masses.
    It lacked the simplicity of real greatness, that unmistakable
    elemental _cachet_ which commends things to the great heart of
    the people. After a bit, this dawned upon my father; and,
    profiting by his experience, he determined to create something
    which should be immortal.

    "'For days he racked his brains, unable to please himself. He
    had the critical fastidiousness of the true artist, and his
    ideal ever hovered before him, unseizable. Grotesque words
    floated about him in abundance, every current of air brought him
    new suggestions, he lived in a world of strange sounds. But the
    great combination came not.

    "'Late one night, as he sat brooding by his dying fire, there
    came a sudden rapping at his chamber door. A flash of joy
    illumined his face, he started to his feet.

    "'"I have it!" he cried.

    "'"Have what?" said his friend Marple, bursting into the room
    without further parley.

    "'"Influenza," surlily answered my father, for he was not to be
    caught napping, and Marple went away hurriedly. Marple was
    something in the city. The two young men were great friends, but
    there are some things which cannot be told even to friends. It
    was not influenza my father had got. To his fevered
    onomatopoeic fancy, Marple's quick quadruple rap had translated
    itself into the word: OLOTUTU.

    "'At this hour of the day, my dear Sybil, it is superfluous to
    say anything about this word, with which you have been familiar
    from your cradle. It has now been before the public over a
    quarter of a century, and it has long since won immortality.
    Little did you think when we sat in the railway carriage
    yesterday, that the "Olotutu" that glared at you from the
    partition was the far-away cause of the cloud now hanging over
    our lives. But it may be interesting to you to learn that in the
    early days many people put the accent on the second syllable,
    whereas all the world now knows, the accent is on the first, and
    the "o" of "ol" is short. When my father found he had set the
    Thames on fire, he was almost beside himself with joy. At the
    office the clerks, in the intervals of wondering about "Olotutu"
    wondered if he had come into a fortune. He determined to follow
    up his success: to back the winning word, to consecrate his life
    to "Olotutu," to put all his money on it. Thenceforwards for the
    next three months you very rarely opened a paper without seeing
    the word, "Olotutu." It stood always by itself, self-complete
    and independent, rigid and austere, in provoking sphynx-like
    solitude. Sybil, imagine to yourself my father's rapture! To be
    the one man in all England who had the clue to the enigma of
    "Olotutu!" At last the burden of his secret became intolerable.
    He felt he must breathe a hint of it or die. One night while
    Marple was smoking in his rooms and wondering about "Olotutu,"
    my father proudly told him all.

    "'"Great heavens!" exclaimed Marple. "Tip us your flipper, old
    man! You are a millionaire."

    "'"A what?" gasped my father.

    "'"A millionaire!"

    "'"Are you a lunatic?"

    "'"Are you an idiot? Don't you see that there is a fortune in

    "'"A fortune! How?"

    "'"By bringing it out as a Joint Stock Company."

    "'"But--but--but you don't understand. 'Olotutu' is only----"

    "'"Only an income for life," interrupted Marple excitedly. "Look
    here, old boy, I'll get you up a syndicate to run it in
    twenty-four hours."

    "'"Do you mean to say----?"

    "'"No, I mean to do. I'm an ass not to quietly annex it all to
    myself, but I always said I was too honest for the City. Give me
    'Olotutu' and we'll divide the profits. Glory! Hooray!"

    "'He capered about the floor wildly.

    "'"But what profits? Where from?" asked my father, still
    unenlightened, for, outside architecture, he was a greenhorn.

    "'Marple sang the "Ba, ba, ba, boodle-dee" of the day, and
    continued his wild career.

    "'My father seized him by the throat and pushed him into a

    "'"Speak, man," he cried agitatedly. "Stop your tomfoolery and
    talk sense."

    "'"I am talking cents--which is better," said Marple, with a
    boisterous burst of laughter. "A word that all the world is
    talking about is a gold-mine--a real gold-mine. I mean, not one
    on a prospectus. Don't you see that 'Olotutu' is a household
    word, and that everybody imagines it is the name of some new
    patent, something which the proprietor has been keeping dark? I
    did myself. When at last 'Olotutu' _is_ put upon the market it
    will come into the world under the fierce light that beats upon
    a boom, and it will be snapped up like currant cake at a
    tea-fight. Why, Nemo's Fruit Pepper, which has been on every
    hoarding for twenty years, is not half so much talked about as
    'Olotutu.' What you achieved is an immense preliminary
    advertisement--and you were calmly thinking of stopping there!
    Within sight of Pactolus!"

    "'"I had achieved _my_ end!" replied my father with dignity.
    "Art for art's sake--I did not work for money."

    "'"Then you refuse half the profits?"

    "'"Oh, no, no! If the artist's work brings him money, he cannot
    help it. I think I catch your idea now. You wish to put some
    commodity upon the market attached to the name of 'Olotutu.' We
    have a pedestal but no statue, a cloak but nothing to cover."

    "'"We shall have plenty to cover soon," observed Marple winking.
    And he sat himself unceremoniously at my writing-desk and began
    scribbling away for dear life.

    "'"I suppose then," went on my father, "we shall have to get
    hold of some article and manufacture it."

    "'"Nonsense," jerked Marple. "Where are we to get the capital

    "'"Oh, I see you will get the syndicate to do it?"

    "'"Good gracious, man!" yelped Marple. "Do you suppose the
    syndicate will have any capital? Let me write in peace."

    "'"But who _is_ going to manufacture 'Olotutu' then?" persisted
    my father.

    "'"The British Public of course," thundered Marple. My father
    was silenced. The feverish scratching of Marple's pen continued,
    working my father up to an indescribable nervous tension.

    "'"But what will 'Olotutu' be?" he inquired at last. "A patent
    medicine, a tobacco, a soap, a mine, a comic paper, a beverage,
    a tooth-powder, a hair-restorer?"

    "'"Look here, old man!" roared Marple. "How do you expect me to
    bother about details? This thing has got to be worked at once.
    The best part of the Company season is already over. But
    'Olotutu' is going to make it up. Mark my words the shares of
    'Olotutu' will be at a premium on the day of issue. Another
    sheet of paper, quick."

    "'"What for?"

    "'"I want to write to a firm of Chartered Accountants and
    Valuers to give an estimate of the profits!"

    "'"An estimate of the profits?"

    "'"Don't talk like a parrot!"

    "'"But how can they estimate the profits?"

    "'"How? what do you suppose they're chartered for? You or I
    couldn't do it; of course not. But it's the business of
    accountants! That's what they're for. Pass me more
    writing-paper--reams of it!"

       [Illustration: _The public curiosity amounted to frenzy._]

    "'Marple spent the whole of that night writing letters to what
    he called his tame guinea-pigs; and the very next day large
    bills bearing the solitary word "Olotutu" were posted up all
    over London till the public curiosity mounted to frenzy. The
    bill-posters earnt many a half-crown by misinforming the
    inquisitive. Marple worked like a horse. First he drew up the
    Prospectus, leaving blanks for the Board of Directors of the
    Company. Then he filled up the blanks. It was not easy. One lord
    was only induced to serve on Marple's convincing representations
    of the good 'Olotutu' would do to the masses. When the Board was
    complete, Marple had still to get the Syndicate from which the
    Directors were to acquire "Olotutu," but he left this till the
    end, knowing there would be no difficulty there. I have never
    been able to gather from my father exactly what went on, nor
    does my father profess to know exactly himself, but he tells
    with regret how he used to worry Marple daily by inquiring if he
    had yet decided what "Olotutu" was to be, as if Marple had not
    his hands full enough without that. Marple turned round on him
    one day and shrieked: "That's your affair, not mine. You're
    selling 'Olotutu' to me, aren't you? I can't be buyer and
    seller, too."

    "'This, by the way, does not seem to be as impossible as it
    sounds for, according to my father, when the company came out,
    Marple bought and sold "Olotutu" in the most mysterious manner,
    rigging the market, watering the shares, cornering the bears,
    and doing other extraordinary things, each and all at a profit.
    He was not satisfied with his share of the price paid for
    "Olotutu" by the syndicate, nor with his share of the enormously
    higher price paid to the syndicate by the public, but went in
    for Stock Exchange manoeuvres six-deep, coming out an easy
    winner on settling day. One of my father's most treasured
    collections is the complete set of proofs of the prospectus. It
    went through thirteen editions before it reached the public; no
    author could revise his book more lovingly than Marple revised
    that prospectus. What tales printers could tell to be sure! The
    most noticeable variations in the text of my father's collection
    are the omission or addition of cyphers. Some of the editions
    have £120,000 for the share capital of the Company, where others
    have £1,200,000 and others £12,000. Sometimes the directors
    appear to have extenuated "nought," sometimes to have set down
    "nought" in malice. As for the number of debenture shares, the
    amounts to be paid up on allotment, the contracts with divers
    obscure individuals, the number of shares to be taken up by the
    directors and the number to be accepted by the vendors in part
    payment, these vary indefinitely; but in no edition, not even in
    those still void of the names of the directors, do the profits
    guaranteed by the directors fall below twenty-five per cent.
    Sometimes the complex and brain-baffling calculations that fill
    page three result in a bigger profit, sometimes in a smaller,
    but they are always cheering to contemplate.

    "'There is not very much about "Olotutu" itself even in the last
    edition, but from the very first, there is a great deal about
    the power of the company to manufacture, import, export, and
    deal in all kinds of materials, commodities, and articles
    necessary for and useful in carrying on the same; to carry on
    any other operations or business which the company might from
    time to time deem expedient in connection with its main business
    for the time being; to purchase, take in exchange, or on lease,
    hire, or otherwise, in any part of the world, for any estate, or
    interests, any lands, factories, buildings, easements, patent
    rights, brands and trademarks, concessions, privileges,
    machinery, plant, stock-in-trade, utensils, necessary or
    convenient, for the purposes of the company, or to sell,
    exchange, let or rent royalty, share of profits, or otherwise
    use and grant licenses, easements and other rights of and over,
    and in any other manner deal with or dispose of the whole or any
    part of the undertaking, business and property of the Company,
    and in consideration to accept cash or shares, stock, debenture
    or securities of any company whose objects were or included
    objects similar to those of the Company.

    "'The actual nature of "Olotutu" does not seem to have been
    settled till the ninth edition, but all the editions include the
    analyst's report, certifying that "Olotutu" contains no
    injurious ingredients and is far purer and safer than any other
    (here there was a blank in the first eight editions in the
    market). From this it is evident that Marple has made up his
    mind to something chemical, though it is equally apparent that
    he kept an open mind regards its precise character, for in the
    ninth edition the blank is filled up with "purgative," in the
    tenth with "meat extract," in the eleventh with "hair-dye," in
    the twelfth with "cod liver oil," and it is only in the
    thirteenth edition that the final decision seems to have been
    arrived at in favor of "soap." This of course, my dear Sybil,
    you already know. Indeed, if I mistake not, "Olotutu," the only
    absolutely scentless soap in the market, is your own pet soap. I
    hope it will not shock you too much if I tell you in the
    strictest confidence that except in price, stamp, and copious
    paper-wrapping, "Olotutu" is simply bars of yellow soap chopped
    small. It was here, perhaps, that Marple's genius showed to the
    highest advantage. The public was overdone with patent scented
    soaps; there seemed something unhealthy or at least
    molly-coddling about their use; the time was ripe for return to
    the rude and primitive. "Absolutely scentless" became the
    trademark of "Olotutu" and the public, being absolutely
    senseless (_pace_, my dear Sybil), somehow concluded that
    because the soap was devoid of scent it was impregnated with

    "'Is there need to prolong the story? My father, so unexpectedly
    enriched, abandoned architecture and married almost immediately.
    Soon he became the idol of a popular constituency, and, voting
    steadily with his party, was made a baronet. I was born a few
    months after the first dividend was announced. It was a dividend
    of thirty-three per cent, for "Olotutu" had become an
    indispensable adjunct to every toilet-table and the financial
    papers published leaders, boasting of having put their clients
    up to a good thing, and "Olotutu" was on everybody's tongue and
    got into everybody's eyes.

    "'Can you wonder, then, that I was born with a congenital
    craving for springing mysteries upon the public? Can you still
    disbelieve that I suffer from an hereditary tendency to
    advertise in the agony column?

    "'At periodic intervals an irresistible prompting to force
    uncouth words upon the universal consciousness seizes me; at
    other times I am driven to beguile the public with
    pseudo-sensational communications to imaginary personages. It
    was fortunate my father early discovered my penchant and told me
    the story of his life, for I think the very knowledge that I am
    the victim of heredity helps me to defy my own instincts. No man
    likes to feel he is the shuttlecock of blind forces. Still they
    are occasionally too strong for me, and my present attack has
    been unusually severe and protracted. I have been passing
    through my father's early phases and conducting romances by
    correspondence. Complimentary to the series of messages signed
    Popsy, I had prepared a series signed Wopsy to go in on
    alternate days, and if you had only continued your search in my
    coat-pocket you would have discovered these proofs of my
    innocence. May I trust it is now re-established, and that
    "Olotutu" has washed away the apparent stain on my character?
    With anxious heart I await your reply.

                        "'Ever yours devotedly,

"Sybil's reply was: 'I have read your letter. Do not write to me again.'
She was so set against him," concluded Miss Nimrod, "she would not even
write this but wired it."

"Then she does not believe the story of how Guy Fledgely's father became
a baronet," said Lord Silverdale.

"She does not. She says 'Olotutu' won't wash stains."

"Well, I suppose you will be bringing her up," said the President.

"I will--in the way she should go;" answered Wee Winnie. "To-day is
Saturday; I will bring her on Monday. Meantime as it is getting very
late, and as I have finished my lemonade, I will bid you good
afternoon--have you used 'Olotutu?'" And with this facetious inquiry
Miss Nimrod twirled her stick and was off.

An hour later Lillie received a wire from Wee Winnie.

"_Olotutu. Wretches just reconciled. Letter follows._"

And this was the letter that came by the first post on Monday.

                   *       *       *       *       *


    "We have lost Sybil. She takes in the _Hurrygraph_ and reads the
    agony column religiously. So all the week she has been exposed
    to a terrible bombardment.

    "As thus (Tuesday.) 'My lost darling. A thousand demons are
    knocking at my door. Say you forgive me or I will let them

    "Or thus. (Wednesday.) 'My lost darling. You are making a
    terrible mistake. I am innocent. I am writing this on my bended
    knees. The fathers have eaten a sour grape.

    "The bitter cry of the outcast lover increased daily in
    intensity, till on Saturday it became delirious.

    "'My lost darling. Save, O Save! I have opened the door. They
    are there--in their thousands. The children's teeth are set on
    edge. The grave is dug. Betwixt two worlds I fall to the ground.
    Adieu forever.--BOBO.'

    "Will you believe that the poor little fool thought all this was
    meant for her, and that in consequence she thawed day by day
    till on Saturday she melted entirely and gushed on Guy's
    shoulder? Guy admitted that he had inserted these
    advertisements, but he did not tell her (as he afterwards told
    me in confidence, and as I now tell you in confidence) that they
    had been sent in before the quarrel occurred and constituted his
    Agony Column romance for the week, the Popsy Wopsy romance not
    being intended for publication till next week. He had concocted
    these cries of despairing passion without the least idea they
    would so nearly cover his own case. But he says that as his
    hereditary craze got him into the scrape, it was only fair his
    hereditary craze should get him out of it.

    "So that's the end of Sybil Hotspur. But let us not lament her
    too much. One so frail and fickle was not of the stuff of which
    Old Maids are made. Courage! Wee Winnie is on the warpath.

                         "Yours affectionately,

                              CHAPTER XVI.

                       THE CLUB BECOMES POPULAR.

The influence of Wee Winnie on the war-path was soon apparent. On the
following Wednesday morning the ante-room of the Club was as crowded
with candidates as if Lillie had advertised for a clerk with three
tongues at ten pounds a year. Silverdale had gone down to Fleet Street
to inquire if anything had been heard of Miss Ellaline Rand's projected
paper, and Lillie grappled with the applicants single-handed.

Turple the magnificent, was told to usher them into the confessional one
by one, but the first two candidates insisted that they were one, and as
he could not tell which one he gave way.

It is said that the shepherd knows every sheep of his flock
individually, and that a superintendent can tell one policeman from
another. Some music-hall managers even profess to distinguish between
one pair of singing sisters and all the other pairs. But even the most
trained eye would be puzzled to detect any difference between these two
lovely young creatures. They were as like as two peas or two cues, or
the two gentlemen who mount and descend together the mirror-lined
staircase of a restaurant. Interrogated as to the motives of their
would-be renunciation, one of them replied: "My sister and myself are
twins. We were born so. When the news was announced to our father, he is
reported to have exclaimed, 'What a misfortune!' His sympathy was not
misplaced, for from our nursery days upward our perfect resemblance to
each other has brought us perpetual annoyance. Do what we would, we
never could never get mistaken for each other. The pleasing delusion
that either of us would be saddled with the misdeeds of the other has
got us into scrapes without number. At school we each played all sorts
of pranks, making sure the other would be punished for them. Alas! the
consequences have always recoiled on the head of the guilty party. We
were not even whipped for neglecting each other's lessons. It was always
for neglecting our own. But in spite of the stern refusal of experience
to favor us with the usual imbroglio, we always went on hoping that the
luck would turn. We read Shakespeare's _Comedy of Errors_, and that
confirmed us in our evil courses. When we grew up, it would be hard to
say which was the giddier, for each hoped that the other would have to
bear the burden of her escapades. You will have gathered from our
friskiness that our parents were strict Puritans, but at last they
allowed an eligible young curate to visit the house with a view to
matrimony. He was too good for us; our parents were as much as we wanted
in that line. Unfortunately, in this crisis, unknown to each other, the
old temptation seized us. Each felt it a unique chance of trying if the
thing wouldn't work. When the other was out of the room, each made love
to the unwelcome suitor so as to make him fall in love with her sister.
Wretched victims of mendacious farce-writers! The result was that he
fell in love with us both!"

She paused a moment overcome with emotion, then resumed. "He proposed to
us both simultaneously, vowed he could not live without us. He exclaimed
passionately that he could not be happy with either were t'other dear
charmer away. He said he was ready to become a Mormon for love of us."

          [Illustration: _He was willing to become a Mormon._]

"And what was your reply?" said Lillie anxiously.

The fresh young voices broke out into a duet: "We told him to ask papa."

"We were both so overwhelmed by this catastrophe," pursued the
story-teller, "that we vowed for mutual self-protection against our
besetting temptation to fribble at the other's expense, never to let
each other out of sight. In the farces all the mistakes happen through
the twins being on only one at a time. Thus have we balanced each
other's tendencies to indiscretion before it was too late, and saved
ourselves from ourselves. This necessity of being always together,
imposed on us by our unhappy resemblance, naturally excludes either from

Lillie was not favorably impressed with these skittish sisters. "I
sympathize intensely with the sufferings of either," she said slily, "in
being constrained to the society of the other. But your motives of
celibacy are not sufficiently pure, nor have you fulfilled our prime
condition, for even granting that your reply to the eligible young
Churchman was tantamount to a rejection, it still only amounts to a half
rejection each, which is fifty per cent. below our standard."

She rang the bell. Turple the magnificent ushered the twins out and the
next candidate in. She was an ethereal blonde in a simple white frock,
and her story was as simple.

"Read this Rondeau," she said. "It will tell you all."

Lillie took the lines. They were headed


    The lovely May at last is here,
          Long summer days are drawing near,
    And nights with cloudless moonshine rich;
          In woodlands green, on waters clear,
    Soft-couched in fern, or on the mere,
          Gliding like some white water-witch,
    Or lunching in a leafy niche,
          I see my sweet-faced sister dear,
                The lovely May.

    _She_ is engaged--and her career
          Is one of skittles blent with beer,
    While I, plain sewing left to stitch,
          Can ne'er expect those pleasures which,
    At this bright season of the year,
                The lovely may.

Lillie looked up interrogatively. "But surely _you_ have nothing to
complain of in the way of loveliness?" she said.

"No, of course not. _I am_ the lovely May. It was my sister who wrote
that. She died in June and I found it among her manuscripts. Remorse set
in at the thought of Maria stitching while I was otherwise engaged. I
disengaged myself at once. What's fair for one is fair for all. Women
should combine. While there's one woman who can't get a husband, no man
should be allowed to get a wife."

"Hear, hear!" cried Lillie enthusiastically. "Only I am afraid there
will always be blacklegs among us who will betray their sex for the sake
of a husband."

"Alas, yes," agreed the lovely May. "I fear such was the nature of my
sister Maria. She coveted even my first husband."

"What!" gasped the President. "Are you a widow?"

"Certainly! I left off black when I was engaged again, and when I was
disengaged I dared not resume it for fear of seeming to mourn my

"We cannot have widows in the Old Maids' Club," said Lillie regretfully.

"Then I shall start a new Widows' Club and Old Maids shall have no place
in it." And the lovely May sailed out, all smiles and tears.

The newcomer was a most divinely tall and most divinely fair brunette
with a brooding, morbid expression. Candidate gave the name of Miss

Being invited to make a statement, she said: "I have abandoned the idea
of marrying. I have no money. Ergo, I cannot afford to marry a poor man.
And I am resolved never to marry a rich one. I want to be loved for
myself, not for my want of money. You may stare, but I know what I am
talking about. What other attraction have I? Good looks? Plenty of girls
with money have that, who would be glad to marry the men I have
rejected. In the town I came from I lived with my cousin, who was an
heiress. She was far lovelier than I. Yet all the moneyed men were at my
feet. They were afraid of being suspected of fortune-hunting and anxious
to vindicate their elevation of character. Why should I marry to gratify
a man's vanity, his cravings after cheap quixotism?"

"Your attitude on the great question of the age does you infinite
credit, but as you have no banking account to put it to, you traverse
the regulation requiring a property qualification," said the President.

"Is there no way over the difficulty?"

"I fear not: unless you marry a rich man, and that disqualifies you
under another rule." And Miss Summerson passed sadly into the outer
darkness, to be replaced by a young lady who gave the name of Nell
Lightfoot. She wore a charming hat and a smile like the spreading of
sunshine over a crystal pool. "I met a young Scotchman," she said, "at a
New Year's dance, and we were favorably impressed by each other. On the
fourteenth of the following February I received from him a Valentine,
containing a proposal of marriage and a revelation of the degradation of
masculine nature. It would seem he had two strings to his bow--the other
being a rich widow whom he had met in a Devonshire lane. Being a
Scotchman he had for economy's sake composed a Valentine which with a
few slight alterations would do for both of us. Unfortunately for
himself he sent me the original draft by mistake and here is his

                          VERACIOUS VALENTINE.

    Though the weather is snowy and dreary
      And a shiver careers down my spine,
    Yet the heart in my bosom is cheery,
      For I feel I've exchanged mine for thine.
    Do not call it delusion, my dearie,
      But become my own loved Valentine.

    For that { stormy June day you       } remember,
             { New Year's dance you must }
    When we { sheltered together from rain,
            { waltzed to a languorous strain,
    While the sky, like the Fifth of November,  }
    And our souls glowed despite 'twas December }
      Gleamed with lightening outrivalling P { ain. }
      With a burning but glorious p          {      }
    Ah me! In my fire's dying ember
      I can see that { dank Devonshire lane.
                     { bright ball-room again.

    And } I spoke { of the love that I   } bore you,
    Yet }         { not then, fearing to }
      And of how for a widow I          } yearned,
      Though for maidenly love my heart }
    Not a schoolgirl { and fealty I swore you,
                     { I'd gazed on before you,
      And you listened till sunshine re-   } turned,
      Had my heart with such sweet madness }
    Then { you } parted { from me who } adore you,
         { we  }        { but still I }
      And my heart and umbrella you spurned.     }
      Though you may not my love have discerned, }

    Not repelled by { hoarded-up } money,
                    { having no  }
      I adore you, my { Belle, } for yourself,
                      { Nell,  }
    You are sweeter than music or honey;
      And Dan Cupid's a sensuous elf,
    Who is drawn to the fair and the sunny,
      And is blind unto nothing but pelf.

    Need we feel a less genuine passion
      Because we { shall } live in May-fair?
                 { can't }
    Love { blooms rich } in the hothouse of fashion,
         { oft fades   }
      'Tis { an orchid that flourishes there;
           { a moss-rose that needs the fresh air;
    Yet I would not my own darling lass shun
      Were she even as { poor } as she's { fair.
                       { rich }          { rare.

    There are fools who adore a complexion
      That's like strawberries mingled with cream. }
      As with Nubian blacking a gleam              }
    A brunette   } is my own predilection,
    But a blonde }
      And the glances from { dark } eyes that beam
                           { blue }
    Then refuse not my deathless affection,
      Neither shatter my amorous dream.

    You're the very first { woman  } who's thrilled me
                          { maiden }
      With the passion that tongue cannot tell.
    Of none else have I thought since you filled me
      With { despair in that Devonshire dell.      }
           { unrest when the waltz wove its spell. }
    When your final refusal has killed me.
      On my heart will be found graven { Belle.
                                       { Nell.

"How strange!" said Lillie. "You combine the disqualifications of two of
the previous candidates. You are apparently poor and you have received
only half a proposal."

A flaming blonde, whose brow was crowned with an aurora of auburn hair,
was the next to burst upon the epigrammatic scene. She spoke English
with an excellent Parisian accent. "One has called me a young woman in a
hurry," she said, "and the description does not want of truth. I am
impatient; I have large ideas; I am ambitious. If I were a grocer I
should contract for the Sahara. I fall in love, and when Alice Leroux
falls in love it is like the volcano which goes to make eruption. Figure
to yourself that my man is shy--but of a shyness of the most
ridiculous--that it is necessary to make a thousand sweet eyes at him
before he comprehends that he loves me. And when he comprehends it, he
does not speak. _Mon Dieu_, he does not speak, though I speak, me, with
fan, my eyes, my fingers, almost with my lips. He walks with me--but he
does not speak. He takes me to the spectacle--but he does not speak. He
promenades himself in boat with me--but he does not speak. I encircle
him with my arms, and I speak with my lips at last--one, two, three,
four, five, kisses. Overwhelmed, astonished, he returns me my
kisses--hesitatingly, stupidly, but in fine, he returns them And then at
last--with our faces together, my arm round his graceful waist--he
speaks. The first words of love comes from his mouth--and what think you
that he say? Say then."

 [Illustration: _I encircle him with my arms and speak with my lips._]

"I love you?" murmured Lillie.

"A thousand thunders! No! He says: 'Miss Leroux--Alice; may I call you

"I see nothing to wonder at in that," replied Lillie quietly. "Remember
that for a man to kiss you is a less serious step than for him to call
you Alice. That were a stage on the road to marriage, and should only be
reached through the gate of betrothal. Changes of name are the outward
marks of a woman's development as much as changes of form accompany the
growth of the caterpillar. You, for instance, began life as Alice. In
due course you became Miss Alice; if you were the eldest daughter you
became Miss Leroux at once; if you were not, you inherited the name only
on your sister's death or marriage; when you are betrothed you will
revert to the simple Alice, and when you are married you will become
Mrs. Something Else; and every time you get married, if you are careful
to select husbands of varying patronymics, you will be furnished with a
change of name as well as of address. Providence, which has conferred so
many sufferings upon woman, has given her this one advantage over man,
who in the majority of instance is doomed to the monotony of ossified
nomenclature, and has to wear the same name on his tombstone which he
wore on his Eton collar."

"That is all a heap of galimatias," replied the Parisienne with the
flaming hair "If I kiss a man, I, surely he may call me Alice without
demanding it? Bah! Let him love your misses with _eau sucrée_ in their
veins. When he insulted me with his stupidity, I became furious. I threw
him--how you say?--overboard on the instant."

"Good heavens!" gasped Lillie. "Then you are a murderess!"

"Figure you to yourself that I speak at the foot of the letter? Know you
not the idioms of your own barbarian tongue? It seems to me you are as
mad as he. Perhaps you are his sister."

"Certainly. Our rules require us to regard all men as brothers."

"_He!_ What?"

"We have rejected the love of all men; consequently we have to regard
them all as our brothers."

"That man there my brother!" shrieked Alice. "Never! Never of my life! I
would rather marry first!" And she went off to do so.

The last of these competitors for the Old Maiden Stakes was a whirlwind
in petticoats who welcomed the President very affably. "Good-morning,
Miss Dulcimer," she said. "I've heard of you. I'm from Boston way. You
know I travel about the world in search of culture. I'm spending the day
in Europe, so I thought I'd look you up. Would you be so good as to
epitomize your scheme in twenty words? I've got to see the Madonna del
Cardellino in the Uffizi at Florence before ten to-morrow, and I want to
hear an act of the _Meistersingers_ at Bayreuth after tea."

"I'm rather tired," pleaded Lillie, overwhelmed by the dynamic energy
radiating from every square inch of the Bostonian's superficies. "I have
had a hard morning's work. Couldn't you call again to-morrow?"

"Impossible. I have just wired to Damietta to secure rooms commanding a
view of Professor Tickledroppe's excavations on the banks of the Nile. I
dote on archæological treasures and thought I should like to see the Old
Maids. Are they on view?"

"No, they are not here," said Lillie evasively. "But do you want to join

"Shall I have time? I remember I once wasted a week getting married.
Some women waste their whole lives that way. Marriage is an incident of
life's novel--they make it the whole plot. I don't say it isn't an
interesting experience. Every woman ought to go through it once, but
with the infinite possibilities of culture lying all round us it's mere
Philistinism to give one husbandman more than a week of your society.
Mine is a physician practising in Philadelphia. Judging by the checks he
sends me he must be a successful man. Well, I am real glad to have had
this little talk with you, it's been so interesting. I will become an
Honorary Member of your charming Club with pleasure."

"You cannot if you are married. You can only be a visitor."

"What's my being married got to do with it?" inquired the American in
astonishment. "This is the first time I have ever heard that the name of
a club has anything to do with the membership. Are the members of the
Savage Club savages, of the Garrick Garricks, of the Supper Club

"We are not men," Lillie said haughtily. "I could pass over your
relation to the hub of the universe, but when it comes to having a
private hub I have no option."

"Well, this may be your English idea of hospitality to travellers of
culture," replied the Bostonian warmly, "but if you come to our crack
Crank Club in the fall you shall be as welcome as a brand new poet.
Good-bye. Hope we shall meet again. I shall be in Hong Kong in June if
you like to drop in. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Lillie, pressing one hand against the visitor's and the
other to her aching forehead.

Silverdale found her dissolved in tears. "In future," he said, when she
had explained her troubles, "I shall hang the rules and by-laws in the
waiting room. The candidates will then be able to eliminate themselves.
By the way, Ellaline Rand's _Cherub_ is going to sit up aloft,--on a
third floor in Fleet Street."

                             CHAPTER XVII.

                             A MUSICAL BAR.

When Turple the magnificent, looking uneasy, brought up Frank Maddox's
card, Lillie uttered a cry of surprise and pleasure. Frank Maddox was a
magic name to her as to all the elect of the world of sweetness and
light. After a moment of nervous anxiety lest it should not be _the_
Frank Maddox, her fears were dispelled by the entry of the great
authority on art and music, whose face was familiar to her from
frontispiece portraits. Few critics possessed such charms of style and
feature as Frank Maddox, who had a delicious _retroussé_ nose, a dainty
rosebud mouth, blue eyes, and a wealth of golden hair.

Lillie's best hopes were confirmed. The famous critic wished to become
an Old Maid. The President and the new and promising candidate had a
delightful chat over a cup of tea and the prospects of the Club. The two
girls speedily became friends.

"But if you join us, hadn't you better go back to your maiden name?"
inquired Lillie.

"Perhaps so," said Frank Maddox thoughtfully. "My pen-name does sound
odd under the peculiar circumstances. On the other hand to revert to
Laura Spragg now might be indiscreet. People would couple my name with
Frank Maddox's--you know the way of the world. The gossips get their
facts so distorted, and I couldn't even deny the connection."

"But of course you _have_ had your romance?" asked Lillie. "You know one
romance per head is our charge for admission?"

"Oh, yes! I have had my romance. In three vols. Shall I tell it you?"

"If you please."

"Listen, then. Volume the First: Frank Maddox is in her study. Outside
the sun is setting in furrows of gold-laced sagging storm-clouds, dun

"Oh, please, I always skip that," laughed Lillie. "I know that two
lovers cannot walk in a lane without the author seeing the sunset, which
is the last thing in the world the lovers see. But when the sky begins
to look black, I always begin to skip."

"Forgive me. I didn't mean to do it. Remember I'm an habitual
art-critic. I thought I was describing a harmony of Whistler's or a
movement from a sonata. It shall not occur again. To the heroine enter
the hero--shabby, close-cropped, pale. Their eyes meet. He is
thunderstruck to find the heroine a woman; blushes, stammers, and offers
to go away. Struck by something of innate refinement in his manner, she
presses him to avow the object of his visit. At last, in dignified
language, infinitely touching in its reticence, he confesses he called
on Mr. Frank Maddox, the writer he admires so much, to ask a little
pecuniary help. He is starving. Original, isn't it, to have your hero
hungry in the first chapter? He speaks vaguely of having ambitions
which, unless he goes under in the struggle for existence may some day
be realized. There are so many men in London like that. However, the
heroine is moved by his destitute condition and sitting down to her
desk, she writes out a note, folds it up and gives it to him. 'There!'
she says, 'there's a prescription against starvation.' 'But how am I to
take it?' he asked. 'It must be taken before breakfast, the first thing
in the morning,' she replied, 'to the editor of the _Moon_. Give him the
note; he will change it for you. Don't mention my name.'

     [Illustration: "_There's a prescription against starvation._"]

"He thanked me and withdrew."

"And what was in the note?" asked Lillie curiously.

"I can't quite remember. But something of this sort. 'The numerous
admirers of Frank Maddox will be gratified to hear that she has in the
press a volume of essays on the part played by color-blindness in the
symphonic movements of the time. The great critic is still in town but
leaves for Torquay next Tuesday.' For that the editor of the _Moon_ gave
him half-a-crown."

"Do you call that charity?" said Lillie, astonished.

"Certainly. Charity begins at home. Do many people give charity except
to advertise themselves? Philanthropy by paragraph is a perquisite of
fame. Why, I have a pensioner who comes in for all my _Acadæum_
paragraphs. That _Moon_ part saved our hero from starvation. Years
afterwards I learnt he had frittered away two-pence in having his hair

"It seems strange for a starving man to get his hair cut," said Lillie.

"Not when you know the cause," replied Frank Maddox. "It was his way of
disguising himself. And this brings me to Volume Two. The years pass.
Once again I am in my study. There is a breath of wind among the elms in
the front garden, and the sky is strewn with vaporous sprays of
apple-blossom----I beg your pardon. Re-enter the hero, spruce,
frock-coated, dignified. He recalls himself to my memory--but I remember
him only too well. He tells me that my half-crown saved him at the
turning-point of his career, that he has now achieved fame and gold,
that he loves my writing more passionately than ever, and that he has
come to ask me to crown his life. The whole thing is so romantic that I
am about to whisper 'yes' when an instinct of common sense comes to my
aid and my half-opened lips murmur instead: 'But the name you sent
up--Horace Paul--it is not known to me. You say you have won fame. I, at
least, have never heard of you.'

"'Of course not,' he replies. 'How should you? If I were Horace Paul you
would not marry me; just as I should certainly not marry you if you were
Frank Maddox. But what of Paul Horace?'"

"Paul Horace," cried Lillie. "The great composer!"

"That is just what I exclaimed. And my hero answers: 'The composer,
great or little. None but a few intimates connect me with him. The
change of name is too simple. I always had a longing--call it morbid if
you will--for obscurity in the midst of renown. I have weekly harvests
of hair to escape any suspicion of musical attainments. But you and I,
dearest--think of what our life will be enriched by our common love of
the noblest of the arts. Outside, the marigolds nod to the violets, the
sapphire--excuse me, I mean to say----' thus he rambled on, growing in
enthusiasm with every ardent phrase, the while a deadly coldness was
fastening round my heart. For I felt that it could not be."

"And why?" inquired Lillie in astonishment. "It seems one of the
marriages made in heaven."

"I dared not tell him why; and I can only tell you on condition you
promise to keep my secret."

"I promise."

"Listen," whispered the great critic. "I know nothing about music or
art, and I was afraid he would find me out."

Lillie fell back in her chair, white and trembling. Another idol
shivered! "But how----?" she gasped.

"There, then, don't take on so," said the great critic kindly. "I did
not think you, too, were such an admirer of mine, else I might have
spared you the shock. You ask how it is done. Well, I didn't set out to
criticise. I can at least plead that in extenuation. My nature is not
wilfully perverse. There was a time when I was as pure and above
criticism as yourself." She paused and furtively wiped away a tear, then
resumed more calmly, "I drifted into it. For years I toiled on, without
ever a thought of musical and art criticism sullying my maiden
meditations. My downfall was gradual. In early maidenhood I earnt my
living as a type-writer. I had always had literary yearnings, but the
hard facts of life allowed me only this rough approximation to my ideal.
Accident brought excellent literature to my machine, and it required all
my native honesty not to steal the plots of the novelists and the good
things of the playwrights. The latter was the harder temptation to
resist, for when the play was good enough to be worth stealing from, I
knew it would never be produced and my crime never discovered. Still in
spite of my honesty, I benefited indirectly by my type-writing, for
contact with so much admirable work fostered the graceful literary style
which, between you and me, is my only merit. In time I plucked up
courage to ask one of my clients, a journalist, if he could put some
newspaper work in my way. 'What can you do?' he asked in surprise.
'Anything,' I replied with maiden modesty. 'I see, that's your special
line,' he said musingly. 'Unfortunately we are full up in that
department. You see, everyone turns his hand to that--it's like
schoolmastering, the first thing people think of. It's a pity you are a
girl, because the way to journalistic distinction lies through the
position of office-boy. Office-girl sounds strange. I doubt whether they
would have you except on a Freethought organ. Our office-boy has to
sweep out the office and review the novels, else you might commence
humbly as a critic of literature. It isn't a bad post either, for he
supplements his income by picking rejected matter out of the waste paper
basket and surreptitiously lodging it in the printer's copy pigeonhole.
His income in fees from journalistic aspirants must be considerable.
Yes, had you been a boy you might have made a pretty good thing out of
literature! Then there is no chance at all for me on your paper?' I
inquired desperately. 'None,' he said sadly. 'Our editor is an awful old
fogey. He is vehemently opposed to the work of outsiders, and if you
were to send him his own leaders in envelopes he would say they were
rot. For once he would be a just critic. You see, therefore, what your
own chance is. Even I, who have been on the staff for years, couldn't do
anything to help you. No, I am afraid there is no hope for you unless
you approach our office-boy.' I thanked him warmly for his advice and
encouragement, and within a fortnight an article of mine appeared in the
paper. It was called 'The Manuscripts of Authors,' and revealed in a
refined and ladylike way the secrets of the chirographic characteristics
of the manuscripts I had to type-write. My friend said I was exceedingly

"Exceedingly practical," agreed Lillie with a suspicion of a sneer.

"Because most amateur journalists write about abstract principles,
whereas I had sliced out for the public a bit of concrete fact, and the
great heart of the people went out to hear the details of the way Brown
wrote his books, Jones his jokes, and Robinson his recitations. The
article made a hit, and annoyed the authors very much."

"So, I should think," said Lillie. "Didn't they withdraw their custom
from you instanter?"

           [Illustration: _The office boy edits the paper._]

"Why? They didn't know it was I. Only my journalistic friend knew; and
he was too much of a gentleman to give away my secret. I wrote to the
editor under the name of Frank Maddox, thanking him for having inserted
my article, and the editor said to my friend, 'Egad, I fancy I've made a
discovery there. Why, if I were to pay any attention to your idea of
keeping strictly to the old grooves, the paper would stagnate, my boy,
simply stagnate.' The editor was right, for my friend assured me the
paper would have died long before, if the office-boy had not
condescended to edit it. Anyhow, it was to that office-boy I owed my
introduction to literature. The editor was very proud of having
discovered me, and, being installed in his good graces, I passed rapidly
into dramatic criticism, and was even allowed to understudy the
office-boy as literary reviewer. He could not stomach historical novels,
and handed over to me all works with pronouns in the second person.
Gradually I rose to higher things, but it was not until I had been
musical and art critic for over eighteen months that the editor learnt
that the writer whose virile style he had often dilated upon to my
friend was a woman."

"And what did he do when he learnt it?" asked Lillie.

"He swore----"

"Profane man!" cried Lillie.

"That he loved me--me whom he had never seen. Of course, I declined him
with thanks; happily there was a valid excuse, because he had written
his communication on both sides of the paper. But even this technical
touch did not mollify him, and he replied that my failure to appreciate
him showed I could no longer be trusted as a critic. Fortunately my work
had been signed, my fame was established. I collected my articles into a
book and joined another paper."

"But you haven't yet told me how it is done?"

"Oh, that is the least. You see, to be a critic it is not essential to
know anything--you must simply be able to write. To be a great critic
you must simply be able to write _well_. In my omniscience, or catholic
ignorance, I naturally looked about for the subject on which I could
most profitably employ my gift of style with the least chance of being
found out. A moment's consideration will convince you that the most
difficult branches of criticism are the easiest. Of musical and artistic
matters not one person in a thousand understands aught but the
rudiments: here, then, is the field in which the critical ignoramus may
expatiate at large with the minimum danger of discovery. Nay, with no
scintilla of danger; for the subject matter is so obscure and abstruse
that the grossest of errors may put on a bold face and parade as a
profundity, or, driven to bay, proclaim itself a paradox. Only say what
you have not got to say authoritatively and well, and the world shall
fall down and worship you. The place of art in religion has undergone a
peculiar historical development. First men worshipped the object of art;
then they worshipped the artist; and nowadays they worship the art

"It is true," said Lillie reflectively. "This age has witnessed the
apotheosis of the art critic."

"And of all critics. And yet what can be more evident than that the art
of criticism was never in such a critical condition? Nobody asks to see
the critic's credentials. He is taken at his own valuation. There ought
to be an examination to protect the public. Even schoolmasters are now
required to have certificates; while those who pretend to train the
larger mind in the way it should think are left to work their mischief
uncontrolled. No dramatic critic should be allowed to practise without
an elementary knowledge of human life, law, Shakespeare, and French. The
musical critic should be required to be able to perform on some one
instrument other than his own trumpet, to distinguish tune from
tonality, to construe the regular sonata, to comprehend the plot of _Il
Trovatore_, and to understand the motives of Wagner. The art critic
should be able to discriminate between a pastel and a water-color, an
impressionist drawing and a rough sketch, to know the Dutch school from
the Italian, and the female figure from the male, to translate
morbidezza and chiaroscuro, and failing this, to be aware of the
existence and uses of a vanishing point. A doctor's certificate should
also be produced to testify that the examinee is in possession of all
the normal faculties; deafness, blindness, and color-blindness being
regarded as disqualifications, and no one should be allowed to practise
unless he enjoyed a character for common honesty supplemented by a
testimonial from a clergyman, for although art is non-moral the critic
should be moral. This would be merely the passman stage; there could
always be examinations in honors for the graduates. Once the art critics
were educated, the progress of the public would be rapid. They would no
longer be ready to admire the canvases of Michael Angelo, who, as I
learnt the other day for the first time, painted frescoes, nor would
they prefer him, as unhesitatingly as they do now, to Buonarotti, which
is his surname, nor would they imagine Raffaelle's Cartoons appeared in
_Puncinello_. All these mistakes I have myself made, though no one
discovered them; while in the realm of music no one has more
misrepresented the masters, more discouraged the overtures of young

"But still I do not understand how it is done," urged Lillie.

"You shall have my formula in a nutshell. I had to be a musical critic
and an art critic. I was ignorant of music and knew nothing of art. But
I was a dab at language. When I was talking of music, I used the
nomenclature of art. I spoke of light and shade, color and form,
delicacy of outline, depth and atmosphere, perspective, foreground and
background, nocturnes and harmonies in blue. I analyzed symphonies
pictorially and explained what I saw defiling before me as the music
swept on. Sunsets and belvedere towers, swarthy Paynims on Shetland
ponies, cypress plumes and Fra Angelico's cherubs, lumps of green clay
and delicate pillared loggias, fennel tufts and rococo and scarlet
anemones, and over all the trail of the serpent. Thus I created an epoch
in musical criticism. On the other hand, when I had to deal with art, I
was careful to eschew every suggestion of the visual vocabulary and to
confine myself to musical phrases. In talking of pictures, I dwelt upon
their counter-point and their orchestration, their changes of key and
the evolution of their ideas, their piano and forte-passages, and their
bars of rest, their allegro and diminuendo aspects, their suspensions on
the dominant. I spoke of them as symphonies and sonatas and masses, said
one was too staccato and another too full of consecutive sevenths, and a
third in need of transposition to the minor. Thus I created an epoch in
art criticism. In both departments the vague and shifting terms I
introduced enabled me to evade mistakes and avoid detection, while the
creation of two epochs gave me the very first place in contemporary
criticism. There is nothing in which I would not undertake to create an
epoch. I do not say I have always been happy, and it has been a source
of constant regret to me that I had not even learnt to play the piano
when a girl and that unplayed music still remained to me little black

"And so you did not dare marry the composer?"

"No, nor tell him why. Volume Three: I said I admired him so much that I
wanted to go on devoting critical essays to him, and my praises would be
discounted by the public if I were his wife. Was it not imprudent for
him to alienate the leading critic by marrying her? Rather would I
sacrifice myself and continue to criticise him. But I love him, and it
is for his sake I would become an Old Maid."

"I would rather you didn't," said Lillie, her face still white. "I have
found so much inspiration in your books that I could not bear to be
daily reminded I ought not to have found it."

Poor president! The lessons of experience were hard! The Club taught her
much she were happier without.

That day Lord Silverdale appropriately intoned (with banjo obligato) a
patter-song which he pretended to have written at the Academy, whence he
had just come with the conventional splitting headache.

                      AFTER THE ACADEMY--A JINGLE.

                        (NOT BY ALFRED JINGLE.)

    Brain a-whirling, pavement twirling,
    Cranium aching, almost baking,
    Mind a muddle, puddle, fuddle.
    Million pictures, million mixtures,
    Small and great 'uns, Brown's and Leighton's,
    Sky and wall 'uns, short and tall 'uns,
    Pseudo classic for, alas! _Sic
    Transit gloria sub Victoriâ_),
    Landscape, figure, white or nigger,
    Steely etchings, inky sketchings,
    Genre, portrait (not one caught trait),
    Eke historic (kings plethoric),
    Realistic, prize-fight-fistic,
    Entozoic, nude, heroic,
    Coarse, poetic, homiletic,
    Still-life (flowers, tropic bowers),
    Pure domestic, making breast tick
    With emotion; endless ocean,
    Glaze or scrumble, craze and jumble,
    Varnish mastic, sculpture plastic,
    Canvas, paper (oh, for taper!)
    Oil and water, (oh, for slaughter!)
    Children, cattle, 'busses, battle,
    Seamen, satyrs, lions, waiters,
    Nymphs and peasants, peers and pheasants,
    Dogs and flunkeys, gods and monkeys
    Half-dressed ladies, views of Hades,
    Phillis tripping, seas and shipping,
    Hearth and meadow, brooks and bread-dough,
    Doves and dreamers, stars and steamers,
    Saucepans, blossoms, rags, opossums,
    Tramway, cloudland, wild and ploughed land,
    Gents and mountains, clocks and fountains,
    Pan and pansy--these of fancy
    Have possession in procession
    Never-ending, ever blending,
    All a-flitter and a-glitter,
    Ever prancing, ever dancing,
    Ever whirling, ever curling,
    Ever swirling, ever twirling,
    Ever bobbing, ever throbbing.
    Ho, some brandy--is it handy?
    Air seems tainting, I am fainting.
    Hang all--no, _don't_ hang all--painting!

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                          THE BEAUTIFUL GHOUL.

Wee Winnie called at the Club, while the President was still under the
cloud of depression, and Lillie had to force herself to look cheerful,
lest Miss Nimrod should mistake the melancholy, engendered by so many
revelations of the seamy side of life, for loss of faith in the Club or
its prospects.

Avid of experience as was the introspective little girl, she felt almost
fated for the present.

Miss Nimrod was astonished to hear of the number of rejections, and to
learn that she had whipped up the Writers, and the Junior Widows, and
her private friends to such little purpose. But in the end she agreed
with Lillie that, as no doubt somewhere or other in the wide universe
ideal Old Maids were blooming and breathing, it would be folly to clog
themselves up in advance with inferior specimens.

The millionaire, who was pottering about in blue spectacles, strolled
into the club while Wee Winnie was uttering magnificent rhapsodies about
the pages the Club would occupy in the histories of England, but this
time Lillie was determined the dignity of the by-laws should be
maintained, and had her father shown out by Turple the magnificent. Miss
Nimrod went, too, and so Lord Silverdale had the pleasure of finding
Lillie alone.

"You ought to present me with a pair of white gloves," he said,

"Why?" asked Lillie.

"I haven't had a single candidate to try for days."

"No," said Lillie with a suspicion of weariness in her voice. "They all
broke down in the elementary stage."

Even as she spoke Turple the magnificent ushered in Miss Margaret
Linbridge. Lord Silverdale, doubly vexed at having been a little too
previous in the counting of his chickens, took up his hat to go, but
Lillie murmured: "Please amuse yourself in the library for a quarter of
an hour, as I may want you to do the trying at once."

"How do you expect me to amuse myself in the library?" he grumbled. "You
don't keep one of my books."

Miss Margaret Linbridge's story was simple, almost commonplace.

"I had spent Christmas with a married sister in Plymouth," she said,
"and was returning to London by the express on the first of January. My
prospects for the New Year were bright--or seemed so to my then
unsophisticated eyes. I was engaged to be married to Richard
Westbourne--a good and good-looking young man, not devoid of pecuniary
attractions. My brother, with whom I lived and on whom I was dependent,
was a struggling young firework-manufacturer, and would, I knew, be glad
to see me married, even if it cost him a portion of his stock to express
his joy. The little seaside holiday had made me look my prettiest, and
when my brother-in-law saw me into a first-class carriage and left me
with a fraternally-legal kiss, I rather pitied him for having to go back
to my sister. There was only one other person in the carriage beside
myself--a stern old gentleman, who sat crumpled up in the opposite
corner and read a paper steadily.

"The train flew along the white frosty landscape at express rates, but
the old gentleman never looked up from his paper. The temperature was
chill and I coughed. The old gentleman evinced no symptom of sympathy. I
rolled up my veil the better to see the curmudgeon, and smiled to think
what a fool he was, but he betrayed no sign of sharing my amusement.

"At last, as he was turning his page, I said in my most dulcet tones:
'Oh, pray excuse my appropriating the entire foot-warmer. I don't know
why there is only one, but I will share it with you with pleasure.'

"'Thank you,' he said gruffly, 'I'm not cold.'

"'Oh, aren't you!' I murmured inwardly, adding aloud with a severe
wintry tone, 'Gentlemen of your age usually are.'

"'Yes, but I'm not a gentleman of my age,' he growled, mistaking the
imbecile statement for repartee.

"'I beg your pardon,' said I. 'I was judging by appearances. Is that the
_Saturday Slasher_ you have there?'

"He shook himself impatiently. 'No, it is not.'

"'I beg your pardon,' said I. 'I was again judging by appearances. May I
ask what it is?'

"'_Threepenny Bits!_' he jerked back.

"'What's that?' I asked. 'I know _Broken Bits_.'

"'This is a superior edition of _Broken Bits_ at the price indicated by
the title. It contains the same matter, but is issued at a price adapted
to the means of the moneyed and intellectual classes. No self-respecting
person can be seen reading penny weeklies--it throws doubt not only on
his income, but on his mental calibre. The idea of this first-class
edition (so to speak) should make the fortune of the proprietor, and
deservedly so. Of course, the thousand pound railway assurance scheme is
likewise trebled, though this part of the paper does not attract me
personally, for my next-of-kin is a hypocritical young rogue. But
imagine the horror of being found dead with a penny weekly in one's
pocket! You can't even explain it away.'

"He had hardly finished the sentence before a terrible shock, as of a
ton of dynamite exploding under the foot-warmer, lifted me into the air;
the carriage collapsed like matchwood, and I had the feeling of being
thrown into the next world. For a moment I recovered a gleam of
consciousness, just enough to show me I was lying dying amid the
_débris_, and that my companion lay, already dead, in a fragment of the
compartment, _Threepenny Bits_ clenched in his lifeless hand.

"With a last fond touch I smoothed my hair, which had got rather ruffled
in the catastrophe, and extracting with infinite agony a puff from my
pocket I dabbed it spasmodically over my face. I dared not consult my
hand-mirror, I was afraid it would reveal a distorted countenance and
unnecessarily sadden my last moments. Whatever my appearance, I had done
my best for it, and I wanted to die with the consciousness of duty
fulfilled. Murmuring a prayer that those who found my body would not
imitate me in judging by appearances, if they should prove discreditable
after all, I closed my eyes upon the world in which I had been so young
and happy. My whole life passed in review before me, all my dearly loved
bonnets, my entire wardrobe from infancy upwards. Now I was an innocent
child with a white sash and pink ribbons, straying amid the sunny
meadows and plucking the daisies to adorn my hats; anon a merry maiden
sporting amid the jocund schoolboys and receiving tribute in toffy; then
again a sedate virgin in original gowns and tailor-made jackets.
Suddenly a strange idea jostled through the throng of bitter-sweet
memories. _Threepenny Bits!_

"The old gentleman's next-of-kin would come in for three thousand
pounds! I should die and leave nothing to my relatives but regrets; my
generous brother would be forever inconsolable now, and my funeral might
be mean and unworthy. And yet if the old misogynist had only been
courteous enough to lend me the paper, seeing I had nothing to read, it
might have been found on my body. _De mortuis nil nisi bonum._ Why
reveal his breach of etiquette to the world? Why should I not enable him
to achieve posthumous politeness! Besides, his heir was a hypocritical
rogue, and it were a crime against society to place so large a sum at
his disposal. Overwhelmed as I was by the agonies of death, I steeled
myself to this last duty. I wriggled painfully towards the corpse, and
stretching out my neatly-gloved fingers, with a last mighty effort I
pulled the paper cautiously from the dead hand which lay heavy upon it.
Then I clasped it passionately to my heart and died."

        [Illustration: _I pulled the paper from the dead hand._]

"Died?" echoed Lillie excitedly.

"Well--lost consciousness. You are particular to a shade. Myself I see
no difference between a fainting fit and death except that one attack of
the latter is fatal."

"As to that," answered Lillie. "I consider we die every night and dream
we are alive. To fall asleep is to die painlessly. It is, perhaps, a
pity we are resurrected to tea and toast and toilette. However, I am
glad you did not really die. I feared I was in for a tale of
re-incarnation or spooks or hypnotism or telepathy or astral bodies. One
hears so many marvellous stories, now that we have left off believing in
miracles. Really, man's credulity is the perpetual miracle."

"I have not left off believing in miracles," replied Miss Linbridge
seriously. "How could I? Was I not saved by one? A very gallant miracle,
too, for it took no trouble to save my crusty old fellow-traveller,
while it left me without a scratch. I am afraid I should not have been
grateful for salvation without good looks. To face life without a pretty
face were worse than death. You agree with me?"

"Not entirely. There are higher things in life than beautiful faces,"
said Lillie gravely.

"Certainly. Beautiful bonnets," said the candidate with laughing levity.
"And lower things--beautiful boots. But you would not seriously argue
that there is anything else so indispensable to a woman as beauty, or
that to live plain is worth the trouble of living?"

"Why not? Plain living and high thinking!" murmured Lillie.

"All nonsense! We needn't pretend--we aren't with men. You would talk
differently if you were born ugly! Goodness gracious, don't we know that
a girl may have a whole cemetery of virtues and no man will look at her
if she is devoid of charms of face or purse. It's all nonsense what
Ruskin says about a well-bred modest girl being necessarily beautiful.
It is only a pleasing fiction that morality is invaluable to the
complexion. Of course if Ruskin's girl chose to dress with care, she
could express her goodness less plainly; but as a rule goodness and
dowdiness are synonymous. I think the function of a woman is to look
well, and our severest reprobation should be extended to those
conscienceless creatures who allow themselves to be seen in the company
of gentlemen in frumpish attire. It is a breach of etiquette towards the
other sex. A woman must do credit to the man who stakes his reputation
for good taste by being seen in her society. She must achieve beauty for
his sake, and should no more leave her boudoir without it than if she
were an actress leaving her dressing-room."

"That the man expects the woman to make his friends envy him is true,"
answered Lillie, "and I have myself expressed this in yonder epigram,
_It is man who is vain of woman's dress_. But were we created merely to
gratify man's vanity?"

"Is not that a place in nature to be vain of? We are certainly not proud
of him. Think of the average husband over whom the woman has to shed the
halo of her beauty. It is like poetry and prose bound together. It is
because I intend to be permanently beautiful that I have come to cast in
my lot with the Old Maids' Club. Your rules ordain it so--and rightly."

"The Club must be beautiful, certainly, but merely to escape being
twitted with ugliness by the shallow; for the rest, it should disdain
beauty. However, pray continue your story. It left off at a most
interesting point. You lost consciousness!"

"Yes, but as my chivalrous miracle had saved me from damage, I was found
unconsciously beautiful (which I have always heard is the most graceful
way of wearing your beauty). I soon came to myself with the aid of a
dark-eyed doctor, and I then learnt that the old gentleman had been too
weak to sustain the shock and that his poor old pulse had ceased to
beat. My rescuers had not disturbed _Threepenny Bits_ from its position
'twixt my hand and heart in case I should die and need it; so when the
line was cleared and I was sent on to London after a pleasant lunch with
the dark-eyed doctor, I had the journal to read after all, despite the
discourtesy of the deceased. When I arrived at Paddington I found
Richard Westbourne walking the platform like Hamlet's ghost, white and
trembling. He was scanning the carriages feverishly, as the train glided
in with its habitual nonchalance.

"'My darling!' he cried when he caught sight of my dainty hat with its
sweet trimmings. 'Thank Heaven!' He twisted the door violently open and
kissed me before the crowd. Fortunately I had my lovely spotted veil all
down, so he only pressed the tulle to my lips.

"'What is the matter?' I said ingenuously.

"'The accident!' he gasped. Weren't you in the accident?'

"'Of course I was. But I was not very much crumpled. If I had sat in the
other corner I should have been killed!"

"'My heroine!' he cried. 'How brave of you!' He made as if he would
rumple my hair but I drew back.

"'Were you waiting for me?' I asked.

"'Of course. Hours and hours. O the agony of it! See, here is the
evening paper! It gives you as dead.'

"'Where?' I cried, nervously. His trembling forefinger pointed to the
place. 'A beautiful young lady was also extricated in an unconscious
condition from this carriage.'

"'Isn't it wonderful the news should be in London before me?' I
murmured. 'But I suppose they will have names and fuller particulars in
a later edition.'

"'Of course. But fancy my having to be in London, unable to get to you
for love or money!'

"'Yes, it was very hard for me to be there all alone,' I murmured. 'But
please run and see after my luggage, there are three portmanteaus and a
little black one, and three bonnet boxes, and two parasols, and call a
hansom, oh--and a brown paper parcel, and a long narrow cardboard
box--and get me the latest editions of the evening papers--and please
see that the driver isn't drunk, and don't take a knock-kneed horse or
one that paws the ground, you know those hansom doors fly open and shoot
you out like rubbish--I do so hate them--and oh! Richard, don't forget
those novels from Mudie's,--they're done up with a strap. Three bonnet
boxes, remember, and _all_ the evening papers, mind.'

"When we were bowling homewards he kept expressing his joy by word and
deed, so that I was unable to read my papers. At last, annoyed, I said:
'You wouldn't be so glad if you knew that my resurrection cost three
thousand pounds.'

"'How do you mean?'

"'Why, if I had died, somebody would have had three thousand pounds.
This number of _Threepenny Bits_ would have been found on my body, and
would have entitled my heir to that amount of assurance money. I need
not tell you who my heir is, nor to whom I had left my little all.'

"I looked into his face and from the tenderness that overflowed it I saw
he fancied himself the favored mortal. There is no end to the conceit of
young men. A sensible fellow would have known at once that my brother
was the only person reasonably entitled to my scanty belongings.
However, there is no good done by disturbing a lover's complacency.

"'I do not want your money,' he answered, again passionately pressing my
tulle veil to my lips. 'I infinitely prefer your life.'

"'What a bloodthirsty highwayman!'

"'I shall steal another kiss. I would rather have you than all the gold
in the world.'

"'Still, gold is the next best thing,' I said, smiling at his
affectionateness which my absence had evidently fostered. 'So being on
the point of death, as I thought, I resolved to make death worth dying,
and leave a heap of gold to the man I loved. This number of _Threepenny
Bits_ was not mine originally. When the crash occurred it was being read
by the old gentleman in the opposite corner but his next of kin is a
hypocritical young scapegrace (so he told me) and I thought it would be
far nicer for _my_ heir to come in for the money. So I took it from his
body the very instant before I fainted dead away!'

"'My heroine!' he cried again. 'So you thought of your Richard even at
the point of death. What a sweet assurance of your love!'

"'Yes, an assurance of three thousand pounds,' I answered, laughing
merrily. 'And now, perhaps, you will let me read the details of the
catastrophe. The reporters seem to know ever so much more about it than
I do. It's getting dusk and I can hardly see--I wonder what was the name
of old grizzly-growler--ah! here it is--"The pocket-book contained
letters addressed to Josiah Twaddon, Esquire, and----"'

"'Twaddon, did you say?' gasped Richard, clutching the paper

"'Yes--don't! You've torn it. Twaddon, I can see it plainly.'

"'Does it give his address?' Richard panted.

"'Yes,' I said, surprised. I was just going on to read that, '4,
Bucklesbury Buildings----'

"'Great heavens!' he cried.

"'What is it? Why are you so pale and agitated? Was he anything to you.
Ah, I guess it--by my prophetic soul, your uncle!'

"'Yes,' he answered bitterly. 'My uncle! My mother's brother! Wretched
woman, what have you done?'

"My heart was beating painfully and I felt hot all over, but outwardly I

"'You know what I have done,' I replied icily.

"'Yes, robbed me of three thousand pounds!' he cried.

"'How dare you say that?' I answered indignantly. 'Why, it was for you I
meant them.'

"The statement was not, perhaps, strictly accurate, but my indignation
was sufficiently righteous to cover a whole pack of lies.

"'Your intentions may have been strictly honorable,' he retorted, 'but
your behavior was abominable. Great heavens! Do you know that you could
be prosecuted?'

"'Nonsense!' I said stoutly, though my heart misgave me. 'What for?'

"'What for? You, a plunderer of the dead, a harpy, a ghoul, ask what

"'But the thing was of no value!' I urged.

"'Of no intrinsic value, perhaps, but of immense value under the
peculiar circumstances. Why, if anyone chose to initiate a prosecution,
you would be sent to jail as a common thief."

"'Pardon me,' I said haughtily. 'You forget you are speaking to a lady.
As such, I can never be more than a kleptomaniac. You might make me
suffer from hysteria yesterday, but the worst that could befall me now
would be a most interesting advertisement. Prosecute me and you will
create for me an army of friends all over the world. If it is thus that
lovers behave, it is better to have friends. I shall be glad of the

       [Illustration: _I can never be more than a kleptomaniac._]

"'You know I could not prosecute you,' he answered more gently.

"'After your language to me you are capable of anything. Your uncle
called you a rogue with his dying breath, and statements made with that
are generally veracious. Prosecute me if you will--I have done you out
of three thousand pounds and I am glad of it. Only one favor I will ask
of you--for the sake of our old relations, give me fair warning!'

"'That you may flee the country?'

"'No, that I may get a new collection of photographs.'

"'You will submit to being taken by the police?'

"'Yes--after I have been taken by the photographer.'

"'But look at the position you will be in?'

"'I shall be in six different positions--one for each of the chief
illustrated papers.'

"'Your flippancy is ill-timed, Margaret,' said Richard sternly.

"'Flippant, good heavens! Do you know me so little as to consider me
capable of flippancy? Richard, this is the last straw. You have called
me a thief, you have threatened to place me in the felon's dock, and I
have answered you with soft words, but no man shall call me flippant and
continue to be engaged to me!'

"'But, Maggie, darling!' His tone was changing. He saw he had
gone too far. 'Consider! It is not only I that am the loser by
your--indiscretion, your generous indiscretion----'

"'My indiscreet generosity,' I corrected.

"He accepted my 'indiscreet generosity' and went on. 'Cannot you see
that, as my future wife, you will also suffer?'

"'But surely you will come in for something under your uncle's will all
the same,' I reminded him.

"'Not a stiver. He never made a will, he never saved any money. He was
the most selfish brute that ever breathed. All the money he couldn't
spend on himself he gave away in charity so as to get the kudos during
his lifetime, pretending that there was no merit in post-mortem
philanthropy. And now all the good he might have done by his death you
have cancelled.'

"I sat mute, my complexion altered for the worse by pangs of

"'But I can make amends,' I murmured at last.

"'How?' he asked eagerly.

"'I can tell the truth--at least partially. I can make an affidavit that
_Threepenny Bits_ belonged to my fellow-passenger, that he lent it me
just before the accident, or that, seeing he was dead, I took it to hand
over to his relatives.'

"For a moment his face brightened up, then it grew dark as suddenly as
if it had been lit by electricity. 'They will not believe you,' he said.
'Even if you were a stranger, the paper would contest my claim. But
considering your relation to me, considering that the money would fall
to you as much as to me, no common-sense jury would credit your

"'Well, then, we must break off our engagement.'

"'What would be the good of that? They would ferret out our past
relations, would suspect their resumption immediately after the

"'Well, then, we must break off our engagement,' I repeated decisively.
'I could never marry a prosecutor in posse--a man in whose heart was
smouldering a petty sense of pecuniary injury.'

"'If you married me, I should cease to be a prosecutor in posse,' he
said soothingly. 'As the law stands, a husband cannot give evidence
against his wife in criminal cases.'

"'Oh, well, then you'd become a persecutor in esse,' I retorted. 'You'd
always have something to throw in my teeth, and for my part I could
never forgive you the wrong I have done you. We could not possibly live

"My demeanor was so chilling, my tone so resolute that Richard was
panic-stricken. He vowed, protested, stormed, entreated, but nothing
could move me.

"'A kindly accident has shown me your soul,' I answered, 'and the sight
is not encouraging. Fortunately I have seen it in time. You remember
when you took me to see _The Doll's House_, you said that Norah was
quite right in all she did. I daresay it was because the actress was so
charming--but let that pass. And yet what are you but another Helmer?
Just see how exact is the parallel between our story and Ibsen's. Norah
in all innocence forged her husband's name in order to get the money to
restore him to health. I, in all innocence, steal a threepenny paper, in
order to leave you three thousand pounds by my death. When things turn
out wrong, you turn round on me just as Helmer turned round on
Norah--forgetting for whose sake the deed was done. If Norah was
justified in leaving her husband, how much more justified must I be in
leaving my betrothed!'"

"The cases are not quite on all fours," interrupted the President who
had pricked up her ears at the mention of the "Woman's Poet." "You must
not forget that you did not really sin for his sake but for your

"That is an irrelevant detail," replied the beautiful ghoul. "He thought
I did--which comes to the same thing. Besides, my telling him I did only
increases the resemblance between me and Norah. She was an awful fibber,
if you remember. Richard, of course, disclaimed the likeness to Helmer,
though in doing so he was more like him than ever. But I would give him
no word of hope. 'We could never be happy together,' I said. 'Our union
would never be real. There would always be the three thousand pounds
between us.'

"'Well, that would be fifteen hundred each,' he answered with ghastly

"'This ill-timed flippancy ends all,' I said solemnly. 'Henceforth, Mr.
Westbourne, we must be strangers.'

"He sat like one turned to stone. Not till the cab arrived at my
brother's house did he speak again.

                [Illustration: _The Old Maid arrives._]

"Then he said in low tones: 'Maggie, can I never become anything to you
but a stranger?'

"'The greatest miracle of all would have to happen then, Richard,' I
quoted coldly. Then, rejecting his proffered assistance, I alighted from
the vehicle, passed majestically across the threshold and mounted the
stairs with stately step, not a sign, not the slightest tremor of a
muscle betraying what I felt. Only when I was safe in my own little
room, with its lavender-scented sheets and its thousand childish
associations did my pent-up emotions overpower me. I threw myself upon
my little white bed in a paroxysm of laughter. I had come out of a
disagreeable situation agreeably, leaving Dick in the wrong, and I felt
sure I could whistle him back as easily as the hansom."

"And what became of Richard?" asked Lillie.

"I left him to settle with the cabman. I have never seen him since."

Lillie gave a little shudder. "You speak as if the cabman had settled
with him. But are you sure you are willing to renounce all mankind
because you find one man unsatisfactory?"

"All. I was very young when I got engaged. I did not want to be a burden
on my brother. But now his firework factory is a brilliant success. He
lives in a golden rain. Having only myself to please now, I don't see
why I should have to please a husband. The more I think of marriage the
less I think of it. I have not kept my eyes open for nothing. I am sure
it wouldn't suit me. Husbands are anything but the creatures a young
girl's romantic fancy pictures. They have a way of disarranging the most
careful toilettes. They ruffle your hair and your temper. They disorder
the furniture--and put their feet on the mantelpiece. They scratch the
fenders, read books and stretch themselves on the most valuable sofas.
If they help in the household they only make more work. The trail of
tobacco is over all you prize. All day long the smoke gets into your
eyes. Filthy pipes clog your cabinets, your window-curtains reek of
stale cigars. You have bartered your liberty for a mess of cigar-ash.
There is an odor of bar saloons about the house and boon companions come
to welter in whiskey and water. Their talk is of science and art and
politics and it makes them guffaw noisily and dig one another in the
ribs. There is not a man in the world to whom I would trust my sensitive
fragility--they are all coarse, clumsy creatures with a code of morals
that they don't profess and a creed of chivalry that they never
practise. Falsehood abides permanently in their mouth like artificial
teeth and corruption lurks beneath the whited sepulchres of their
shirt-fronts. They adore us in secret and deride us when they are
together. They feign a contempt for us which we feel for them." These
sentiments re-instated Miss Linbridge in the good opinion of the
President, conscious heretofore of a jarring chord. She ordered in some
refreshments to get an opportunity of whispering to Turple the
magnificent that the Honorary Trier might return.

"Oh, by the way," said Miss Linbridge, "I hunted out that copy of
_Threepenny Bits_ before coming out. I've kept it in a drawer as a
curiosity. Here it is!"

Lillie took the paper and examined it anxiously.

"What's that? _You_ reading _Threepenny Bits_?" said Silverdale coming

"It is only an old number," said Lillie, "whereby hangs a tale. Miss
Linbridge was in a railway accident with it."

"Miss Linbridge, Lord Silverdale."

The Honorary Trier bowed.

"Oh what a pity it was an old number," he said. "Miss Linbridge might
have had a claim for damages."

"How very ungallant," said Lillie. "Miss Linbridge could have had no
claim unless she had been killed."

"Besides," added Miss Linbridge laughing at Lillie's bull, "it wasn't an
old number then. The accident happened on New Year's Day."

"Even then it would have been too old," answered Silverdale, "for it is
dated December 2d and the assurance policy is only valid during the week
of issue."

"What is that?" gasped Miss Linbridge. Her face was passing through a
variety of shades.

"Yes," said Lillie. "Here is the condition in print. You don't seem to
have noticed it was a back number. But of course I don't wonder at
that--there's no topical interest whatever, one week's very much like
another. And see! Here is even 'Specimen Copy' marked on the outside
sheet. Richard's uncle must have had it given to him in the street."

"The miracle!" exclaimed Miss Linbridge in exultant tones, and
repossessing herself of the paper she darted from the Club.

                              CHAPTER XIX.

                          LA FEMME INCOMPRISE.

Lord Silverdale had gone and there was now no need for Lillie to
preserve the factitious cheerfulness with which she had listened to his
usual poem, while her thoughts were full of other and even more
depressing things. Margaret Linbridge's miracle had almost undermined
the President's faith in the steadfastness of her sex; she turned
mentally to the yet unaccepted Wee Winnie for consolation, condemning
her own half-hearted attitude towards that sturdy soul, and almost
persuading herself that salvation lay in spats. At any rate long skirts
seemed the last thing in the world to find true women in.

But providence had not exhausted its miracles, and Lillie was not to
spend a miserable afternoon. The miracle was speeding along towards her
on the top of an omnibus--a miracle of beauty and smartness. On reaching
the vicinity of the Old Maid's Club, the miracle, which was of course of
the female gender, tapped the driver amicably upon the hat with her
parasol and said "Stop please." The _petite_ creature was the spirit of
self-help itself and scorned the aid of the gentleman in front of her,
preferring to knock off his hat and crush the driver's so long as the
independence of womanhood was maintained. But she maintained it
charmingly and without malice and gave the conductor a sweet smile in
addition to his fare as she tripped away to the Old Maids' Club.

            [Illustration: _Amicably said, "Stop please."_]

Lillie was fascinated the instant Turple the magnificent announced "Miss
Wilkins" in suave tones. The mere advent of a candidate raised her
spirits and she found herself chatting freely with her visitor even
before she had put her through the catechism. But the catechism came at

"Why do I want to join you?" asked the miracle. "Because I am disgusted
with my lover--because I am a _femme incomprise_. Oh, don't stare at me
as if I were a medley of megrims and fashionable ailments, I'm the very
opposite of that. Mine is a buoyant, breezy, healthy nature,
straightforward and simple. That's why I complain of being
misunderstood. My lover is a poet--and the misunderstanding I have to
endure at his hands is something appalling. Every man is a bit of a poet
where woman is concerned, and so every woman is more or less
misunderstood, but when you are unfortunate enough to excite the
affection of a real whole poet--well, that way madness lies. Your words
are twisted into meanings you never intended, your motives are
misconstrued, and your simplest actions are distorted. Silverplume, for
it is the well-known author of 'Poems of Compassion' that I have had the
misfortune to captivate, never calls without laying a sonnet next day;
in which remarks, that must be most misleading to those who do not know
me, occur with painful frequency. His allowance is two kisses per
day--one of salutation, one of farewell. We have only been actually
engaged two months, yet I have counted up two hundred and thirty-nine
distinct and separate kisses in the voluminous 'Sonnet Series' which he
has devoted to our engagement, and, what is worse, he describes himself
as depositing them.

    "'Where at thy flower-mouth exiguous
      The purple passion mantles to the brim.'

It sounds as if I was berouged like a dowager. Purple passion, indeed!
I let him kiss me because he appears to like it and because there
seems something wrong about it--but as for really caring a pin one way
or another, well, you Miss Dulcimer, know how much there is in that!
This 'Sonnet Series' promises to be endless, the course of our
acquaintanceship is depicted in its most minute phases with the most
elaborate inaccuracy--if I smile, if I say: 'How do you do?' if I put my
hand to my forehead, if I look into the fire, down go fourteen lines
giving a whole world of significance to my meanest actions, and making
Himalayas out of the most microscopic molehills. I am credited with
thoughts I never dreamed of and sentiments I never felt, till I ask
myself whether any other woman was ever so cruelly misunderstood as I? I
grow afraid to do or say anything, lest I bring upon my head a new
sonnet. But even so I cannot help _looking_ something or the other; and
when I come to read the sonnet I find it is always the other. Once I
refused to see him for a whole week, but that only resulted in seven
'Sonnets of Absence,' imaginatively depicting what I was saying and
doing each day, and containing a detailed analysis of his own
sensations, as well as reminiscences of past happy hours together. Most
of them I had no recollection of, and the only one I could at all share
was that of a morning we spent on the Ramsgate cliffs where Silverplume
put his handkerchief over his face and fell asleep. In the last line of
the sonnet it came out:

    "'There mid the poppies of the planisphere,
      I swooned for very joy and wearihead.'

But I knew it by the poppies. Then, dear Miss Dulcimer, you should just
see the things he calls me--'Love's gonfalon and lodestar' and what-not.
Very often I can't even find them in the dictionary and it makes me
uneasy. Heaven knows what he may be saying about me! When he talks of

    "'The rack of unevasive lunar things'

I do not so much complain, because it's their concern if they are
libelled. It is different with incomprehensible remarks flung
unmistakably at my own head such as

    "'O chariest of Caryatides.'

It sounds like a reproach and I should like to know what I have done to
deserve it. And then his general remarks are so monotonously
unintelligible. One of his longest poetical epistles, which is burnt
into my memory because I had to pay twopence for extra postage, began
with this lament:

    "'O sweet are roses in the summer time
      And Indian naiads' weary walruses
      And yet two-morrow never comes to-day.'

I cannot see any way out of it all except by breaking off our
engagement. When we were first engaged, I don't deny I rather liked
being written about in lovely-sounding lines but it is a sweet one is
soon surfeited with, and Silverplume has raved about me to that extent
that he has made me look ridiculous in the eyes of all my friends. If he
had been moderate, they would have been envious; now they laugh when
they read of my wonderful charms, of my lithe snake's mouth, and my face
which shames the sun and my Epipsychidiontic eyes (whatever that may be)
and my

    "'Wee waist that holds the cosmos in its span,'

and say he is poking fun at me. But Silverplume is quite serious--I am
sure of that, and it is the worst feature of the case. He carries on
just the same in conversation, with the most improper allusions to
heathen goddesses, and seems really to believe that I am absorbed in the
sunset when I am thinking what to wear to-morrow. Just to give you an
idea of how he misinterprets my silence let me read to you one of his
sonnets called:


    "'Walking a space betwixt the double Naught,
    The What Is Bound to Be and What Has Been,
    How sweet with Thee beneath the moonlit treen,
    O woman-soul immaculately wrought,
    To sit and catch a harmony uncaught
    Within a world that mocks with margarine,
    In chastened silence, mystic, epicene,
    Exchanging incommunicable thought.

    "'Diana, Death may doom and Time may toss,
    And sundry other kindred things occur,
    But Hell itself can never turn to loss,
    Though Mephistopheles his stumps should stir,
    That day, when introduced at Charing Cross,
    I smiled and doffed my silken cylinder.'

"Another distressing feature about Silverplume--indeed, I think about
all men--is their continuous capacity for love-making. You know, my dear
Miss Dulcimer, with us it is a matter of times and seasons--we are
creatures of strange and subtle susceptibilities, sometimes we are in
the mood for love and ready to respond to all shades of sentimentality,
but at other moments (and these the majority) men's amorous advances jar
horribly. Men do not know this. Ever ready to make love themselves they
think all moments are the same to us as to them. And of all men, poets
are the most prepared to make love at a moment's notice. So that
Silverplume himself is almost more trying than his verses."

"But after all you need not read them," observed Lillie. "They please
him and they do not hurt you. And you have always the consolation of
remembering it is not you he loves but the paragon he has evolved from
his inner consciousness. Even taking into account his perennial
affectionateness, your reason for refusing him seems scarcely strong

"Ah, wait a moment--You have not heard the worst! I might perhaps have
tolerated his metrical misinterpretations--indeed on my sending him a
vigorous protest against the inaccuracies of his last collection (they
came out so much more glaringly when brought all together from the
various scattered publications to which Silverplume originally
contributed them) he sent me back a semi-apologetic explanation thus

                              "'TO CELIA.'

      "(You know of course my name is Diana, but that is his way.)

    "''Tis not alone thy sweet eyes' gleam
        Nor sunny glances,
    For which I weave so oft a dream
        Of dainty fancies.

    "''Tis not alone thy witching play
        Of grace fantastic
    That makes me chant so oft a lay

    "'Both editors and thee I see,
        Thy face, their purses.
    I offer heart and soul to thee,
        To them my verses.'

"I was partially mollified by this, for if his poems were not merely
complimentary, and he really got paid for them, one might put up with
inspiring them. We were reconciled and he took me to a reception at the
house of a wealthy friend of his, a fellow-member of the Sonneteers'
Society. It was here that I saw a sight that froze my young blood and
warned me upon the edge of what a precipice I was standing. When we got
into the drawing-room, the first thing we saw was an awful apparition in
a corner--a hideous, unkempt, unwashed man in a dressing-gown and
slippers, with his eyes rolling wildly and his lips moving rhythmically.
It was the host.

"'Don't speak to him,' whispered the hostess. 'He doesn't see us. He has
been like that all day. He came down to look to the decorations this
morning, when the idea took him and he has been glued to the spot ever
since. He has forgotten all about the reception--he doesn't know we're
here and I thought it best not to disturb him till he is safely
delivered of the sonnet.'

"'You are quite right,' everybody said in sympathetic awestruck tones
and left a magic circle round the poet in labor. But I felt a shudder
run through my whole being. 'Goodness gracious, Silverplume,' I said,
'is this the way you poets go on?'"

"'No, no, Diana,' he assured me. 'It is all tommyrot (I quote
Silverplume's words). The beggar is just bringing out a new volume, and
although his wife has always distributed the most lavish hospitality to
the critics, he has never been able to get himself taken seriously as a
poet. There will be lots of critics here to-night and he is playing his
last card. If he is not a genius now, he never will be.'

            [Illustration: _The poet plays his last card._]

"'Oh, of course,' I replied sceptically, 'two of a trade.' I made him
take me away and that was the end of our engagement. Even as it was,
Silverplume's neglect of his appearance had been a constant thorn in my
side, and if this was so before marriage, what could I hope for after?
It was all very well for him to say his friend was only shamming, but
even so, how did I know he would not be reduced to that sort of thing
himself when his popularity faded and younger rivals came along."

Lillie, who seemed to have some _arrière-pensée_, entered into an
animated defence of the poet, but Miss Wilkins stood her ground and
refused to withdraw her candidature.

"I don't want you to withdraw your candidature," said Lillie, frankly.
"I shall be charmed to entertain it. I am only arguing upon the general

And, indeed, Lillie was enraptured with Miss Wilkins. It was the
attraction of opposites. A matter-of-fact woman who could reject a
poet's love appealed to her with irresistible piquancy. Miss Wilkins
stayed on to tea (by which time she had become Diana) and they gossiped
on all sorts of subjects, and Lillie gave her the outlines of the
queerest stories of past candidates and in the Old Maids' Club that
afternoon all went merry as a marriage bell.

"Well, good-bye, Lillie," said Diana at last.

"Good-bye, Diana," returned Lillie. "Now _I_ understand you I hope you
won't consider yourself a _femme incomprmise_ any longer."

"It is only the men I complained of, dear."

"But we must ever remain _incomprises_ by man," said Lillie. "_Femme
incomprise_--why, it is the badge of all our sex."

"Yes," answered Diana. "A woman letting down her back hair is tragic to
a man; to us she only recalls bedroom gossip. Good-bye."

And nodding brightly the brisk little creature sallied into the street
and captured a passing 'bus.

                              CHAPTER XX.

                         THE INAUGURAL SOIREE.

"Oh, Lord Silverdale," cried Lillie exultantly when he made his usual
visit the next afternoon. "At last I have an unexceptional candidate. We
shall get under weigh at last. I am so pleased because papa keeps
bothering about that inaugural _soirée_. You know he is staying in town
expressly for it. But what is the matter?--You don't seem to be glad at
my news."

"I am afraid you will be grieved at mine," he replied gravely. "Look at
this in to-day's _Moon_."

Sobered by his manner, she took the paper. Then her face grew white. She
read, in large capitals:

    "The Old Maids' Club.
    "Interview with the President.
    "Sensational Stories of Skittish Spinsters.
    "Wee Winnie and Lillie Dulcimer."

"I called at the Old Maids' Club yesterday," writes a _Moon_ woman, "to
get some wrinkles, which ought to be abundant in such a Club, though
they are not. Miss Dulcimer, the well-known authoress, is one of the
loveliest and jolliest girls of the day. Of course I went as a
candidate, with a trumped-up story about my unhappy past, which Miss
Dulcimer will, I am sure, forgive me, in view of the fact that it was
the only way of making her talk freely for the benefit of my readers."

Lillie's eye glanced rapidly down the collection of distortions. Then
she dropped the _Moon_.

"This is outrageous," she said. "I can never forgive her."

"Why, is this the candidate you were telling me about?" asked Silverdale
in deeper concern.

"I am afraid it is!" said Lillie, almost weeping. "I took to her so, we
talked ever so long. Even Wee Winnie did not possess the material for
all these inaccuracies."

"What is this woman's name?"

"Wilkins--I already called her Diana."

"Diana?" cried Silverdale. "Wilkins? Great heavens, can it be?"

"What is the matter?"

"It must be. Wilkins has married his Diana. It was Mrs. Diana Wilkins
who called upon you--not Miss at all."

"What _are_ you talking about? Who are these people?"

"Don't you remember Wilkins, the _Moon_-man that I was up in a balloon
with? He was in a frightful quandary then about his approaching
marriage. He did not know what to do. It tortured him to hear anyone ask
a question because he was always interviewing people and he got to hate
the very sound of an interrogation.--I told you about it at the time,
don't you remember?--and he knew that marriage would bring into his life
a person who would be sure to ask him questions after business hours. I
was very sorry for the man and tried to think of a way out, but in vain,
and I even promised him to bring the Old Maids' Club under the notice of
his Diana. Now it seems he has hit on the brilliant solution of making
her into a Lady Interviewer, so that her nerves, too, shall be
hypersensitive to interrogatives, and husband and wife shall sit at home
in a balsamic restfulness permeated by none but categorical
propositions. Ah me! well, I envy them!"

"You envy them?" said Lillie.

"Why not? They are well matched."

"But you are as happy as Wilkins, surely."

"Query. It takes two to find happiness."

"What nonsense!" said Lillie.

She had been already so upset by the treachery and loss of the
misunderstood Diana, that she felt ready to break down and shed hot
tears over these heretical sentiments of Silverdale's. He had been so
good, so patient. Why should he show the cloven hoof just to-day?

"Miss Dolly Vane," announced Turple the magnificent.

A strange apparition presented itself--an ancient lady quaintly attired.
Her dress fell in voluminous folds--the curious full skirt was bordered
with velvet, and there were huge lace frills on the elbow-sleeves. Her
hair was smoothed over her ears and she wore a Leghorn hat. There were
the remains of beauty on her withered face but her eyes were wild and
wandering. She curtseyed to the couple with old-fashioned grace, and
took the chair which Lord Silverdale handed her.

Lillie looked at her inquiringly.

"Have I the pleasure of speaking to Miss Dulcimer?" said the old lady.
Her tones were cracked and quavering.

"I am Miss Dulcimer," replied Lillie. "What can I do for you?"

"Ah, yes, I have been reading about you in the _Moon_ to-day. Wee Winnie
and Lillie Dulcimer! Wee Winnie! It reminds me of myself. They call me
Little Dolly, you know." She simpered in a ghastly manner.

Lillie's face was growing pale. She could not speak.

"Yes, yes of course," said Silverdale smiling. "They call you Little

"Little Dolly!" she repeated to herself, mumbling and chuckling. "Little

"So you have been reading about Miss Dulcimer!" said Silverdale

"Yes, yes," said the old lady, looking up with a start. "Little Lillie
Dulcimer. Foundress of the Old Maids' Club. That's the thing for me, I
thought to myself. That'll punish Philip. That'll punish him for being
away so long. When he comes home and finds Little Dolly is an old maid,
won't he be sorry, poor Philip? But I can't help it. I said I would
punish him and I will."

All the blood had left Lillie's cheek--she trembled and caught hold of
Lord Silverdale's arm.

"I shan't have you now, Philip," the creaking tones of the old lady
continued after a pause. "The rules will not allow it, will they, Miss
Dulcimer? It is not enough that I am young and beautiful, I must reject
somebody--and I have nobody else to reject but you, Philip. You are the
only man I have ever loved. Oh my Philip! My poor Philip!"

She began to wring her hands. Lillie pressed closer to Lord Silverdale
and her grasp on his arm tightened.

"Very well, we will put your name on the books at once," said the
Honorary Trier, in bluff, hearty tones.

Little Dolly looked up smiling. "Then I'm an old maid!" she cried
ecstatically. "Already! Little Dolly an old maid! Already! Ha! ha! ha!
ha! ha!"

She went off into a burst of uncanny laughter. Lord Silverdale felt
Lillie shuddering violently. He disengaged himself from her grasp and
placed her on the sofa. Then offering his arm to Miss Dolly Vane, who
accepted it with a charming smile, and a curtsey to Miss Dulcimer, he
led her from the apartment. When he returned Lillie was weeping
half-hysterically on the sofa.

"My darling!" he whispered. "Calm yourself." He laid his hand tenderly
on her hair. Presently the sobs ceased.

"Oh, Lord Silverdale!" she said in a shaken voice. "How good you are!
Poor old lady! Poor old lady!"

"Do not distress yourself. I have taken care she shall get home safely."

"Little Dolly! how tragic it was!" whispered Lillie.

"Yes, it was tragic. Probably it is not now so sad to her as it is to
us, but it is tragic enough, heaven knows. Lillie,"--he trembled as he
addressed her thus for the first time--"I am not sorry this has
happened. The time has come to put an end to all this make-believe. This
Old Maids' Club of yours is a hollow mockery. You are playing round the
fringes of tragedy--it is like warming your hands at a house on fire,
wherein wretched beings are shrieking for help. You are young and rich
and beautiful--Heaven pity the women who have none of these charms. Life
is a cruel tragedy for many--never crueller than when its remorseless
laws condemn gentle loving women to a crabbed and solitary old age. To
some all the smiles of fortune, the homage of all mankind--to others all
the frowns of fate and universal neglect, aggravated by contumely. You
have felt this, I know, and it is as a protest that you conceived your
club. Still can it ever be a serious success? I love you, Lillie, and
you have known it all along. If I have entered into the joke, believe
me, I have sometimes taken it as seriously as you. Come! Say you love
me, too, and let us end the tragi-comedy."

Lillie was obstinately silent for a moment, then she dried her eyes, and
with a wan little smile said, in tones which she vainly strove to render
those of the usual formula: "What poem have you brought me to-day?"

"To-day I have brought no poem, but I have lived one," said Lord
Silverdale, taking her soft unresisting hand. "But, like Lady Clara Vere
de Vere, you put strange memories in my head, and I will tell you some
verses I made in the country in my callow youth, when the world was new.


    "A rich-toned landscape, touched with darkling gold
      Of misty, throbbing corn-fields, and with haze
    Of softly-tinted hills and dreaming wold,
      Lies warm with raiment of soft summer rays,
    And in the magic air there lives a free
    And subtle feeling of the distant sea.

    "The perfect day slips softly to its end,
      The sunset paints the tender evening sky,
    The shadows shroud the hills with gray, and lend
      A softened touch of ancient mystery,
    And ere the silent change of heaven's light
    I feel the coming glory of the night.

    "O for the sweet and sacred earnest gaze
      Of eyes divine with strange and yearning tears
    To feel with me the beauty of our days,
      The glorious sadness of our mortal years
    The noble misery of the spirit's strife,
    The joy and splendour of the body's life."

Lillie's hand pressed her lover's with involuntary tenderness, but she
had turned her face away. Presently she murmured:

"But think what you are asking me to do? How can I, the President of the
Old Maid's Club, be the first recreant?"

"But you are also the last to leave the ship," he replied, smiling.
"Besides, you are not legally elected. You never came before the
Honorary Trier. You were never a member at all, so have nothing to undo.
If you had stood your trial fairly, I should have plucked you, my
Lillie, plucked you and worn you nearest my heart. It is I who have a
position to resign--the Honorary Triership--and I resign it instanter. A
nice trying time I have had, to be sure!"

"Now, now! I set my face against punning!" said Lillie, showing it now,
for the smiles had come to hide the tears.

"Pardon, Rainbow," he answered.

"Why do you call me Rainbow?"

"Because you look it," he said. "Because your face is made of sunshine
and tears. Go and look in the glass. Also because--well, wait and I will
fashion my other reason into rhyme and send it you on our wedding morn."

"Poetry made while you wait," said Lillie, laughing. The laugh froze
suddenly on her lips, and a look of horror overswept her face.

"What is it, dearest?" cried her lover, in alarm.

"Wee Winnie! How can we face Wee Winnie?"

"There is no need to break the truth to her--we can simply get rid of
her by telling her she has never been elected, and never will be."

"Why," said Lillie, with a comic _moue_, "that would be harder to tell
her than the truth. But we must first of all tell father. I am afraid he
will be dreadfully disappointed at missing that inaugural _soirée_ after
all. You know he has been staying in town expressly for it. We have some
bad quarters of an hour before us."

They sought the millionaire in his sanctum but found him not. They
inquired of Turple the magnificent, and learned that he was in the
garden. As they turned away, the lovers both simultaneously remarked
something peculiar about the face of Turple the magnificent. Moved by a
common impulse, they turned back and gazed at it. For some seconds they
could not at all grasp the change that had come over it--but at last,
and almost at the same instant, they realized what was the matter.

_Turple the magnificent was smiling._

Filled with strange apprehensions, Silverdale and Lillie hurried into
the garden, where their vague alarm was exchanged for definite
consternation. The millionaire was pacing the gravel-paths in the
society of a strange and beautiful lady. On closer inspection, the lady
turned out to be only too familiar.

"Why it's Wee Winnie masquerading as a woman!" exclaimed Lord

And so it proved--Nelly Nimrod in all the flush of her womanly beauty,
her mannish attire discarded.

"Why, what is this, father?" murmured Lillie.

"My child," said the millionaire solemnly. "As _you_ have resolved to be
an Old Maid, I--I--well I thought it only _my_ duty to marry. Even the
poorest millionaire cannot shirk the responsibilities of wealth."

"But father!" said Lillie in dismay. "I have changed my mind. I am going
to marry Lord Silverdale."

"Bless ye, my children!" said the millionaire. "You are a woman, Lillie,
and it is a woman's privilege to change her mind. But I am a man and
have no such privilege. I must marry all the same."

"But Miss Nimrod has changed her mind, too," said Lillie, quite losing
her temper. "And _she_ is not a woman."

"Gently, gently," said the millionaire. "Respect your stepmother to be,
if you have no respect for my future wife."

"Lillie," said Miss Nimrod appealingly, "do not misjudge me. I have
_not_ changed my mind."

"But you said you could never marry, on the ground that while you would
only marry an unconventional man, an unconventional man wouldn't want to
marry you."

"Well? Your father is the man I sought. He _didn't_ want to marry me,"
she explained frankly.

"Oh," said Lillie, taken utterly aback, and regarding her father

"It is true," he said, laughing uneasily. "I fell in love with Wee
Winnie, but now Nelly says she wants to settle down."

"You ought to be grateful to me, Lillie," added Nelly, "for it was
solely in the interest of the Old Maid's Club that I consented to marry
your father. He was always a danger to the Club; at any moment he might
have put forth autocratic authority and wound it up. So I thought that
by marrying him I should be able to influence him in its favor."

"No doubt you _will_ make him see the desirability of women remaining
old maids," retorted Lillie unappeased.

"Come, come, Lillie, be sensible!" said the millionaire. "Nelly shall
give Lillie a good dinner at the Junior Widows, one of those charming
dinners you and I have had there, and Lillie please send out the cards
for the inaugural _soirée_. I am not going to be done out of that and
nothing can now be gained by delay."

"But, sir, how can we inaugurate a Club which has never had any
members?" asked Silverdale.

"But what does that matter? Aren't there plenty of candidates without
them? Besides, nobody'll know. Each of the candidates will think the
others are the members. Tell you what, boy, they shall all dance at
Lillie's wedding, and we'll make that the inaugural _soirée_."

"But that would be to publish my failure to the world," remonstrated

"Nonsense, dear. It'll be published without that. Trust the _Moon_.
Isn't it better to take the bull by the horns?"

"Well, yes, perhaps you're right," said Lillie hesitating. "But I hope
the world will understand that it is only desperation at the collapse of
the Old Maids' Club that has driven me to commit matrimony."

She went back to the Club to write out the cards.

"What do you think of my stepmother?" she inquired pathetically of the
ex-Honorary Trier.

"What do I think?" said Lord Silverdale seriously. "I think she is the
punishment of Providence for your interference with its designs."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The explanatory poem duly came to hand on Lillie's wedding morn. It was
written on vellum in the bridegroom's best hand and ran--


    Ah, why I call you "Rainbow," sweet?
    The shadows 'fore your eyes retreat,
    The ground grows light beneath your feet.

    You smile in your superior way,
    A Rainbow has no feet, you say?
    Nay, be not so precise to-day.

    Created but to soothe and bless,
    You followed logic to excess,
    Repressing thoughts of tenderness.

    My life was chilled and wan and hoary,
    You came, the Bow of ancient story,
    To kiss the grayness into glory.

    And now, as Rainbow fair to see,
    A promise sweet you are to me
    Of sorrow never more to be.

Besides the friends of the happy pair, nearly all the candidates were
present at the inaugural _soirée_ of the Old Maids' Club. Not quite
all--because Lillie who was rapidly growing conventional did not care to
have Clorinda Bell even accompanied by her mother, or by her brother,
the Man in the Ironed Mask. Nor did she invite the twins, nor the
osculatory Alice. But she conquered her prejudices in other instances,
and Frank Maddox, the art critic, came under the convoy of the composer,
Paul Horace, and Miss Mary Friscoe was brought by Bertie Smythe. The
Writers' Club also sent Ellaline Rand, and an account of the proceedings
appeared in the first number of the _Cherub_. The "Princess" was brought
by Miss Primpole, and Captain Athelstan and Lord Arthur came together in
unimpaired friendship. Eustasia Pallas and her husband, Percy Swinshell
Spatt, both their faces full of the peace that passeth understanding,
got a night off for the occasion and came in a hansom paid for out of
the week's beer-money. Turple the magnificent, who had seen them at home
in the servants' hall, was outraged in his deepest instincts and
multiplied occasions for offering them refreshments merely for the
pleasure of snorting in their proximity. The great Fladpick (Frank
Gray), accompanied by his newly-won bride, Cecilia, made the evening
memorable by the presence of the English Shakespeare, Guy Fledgely
brought Miss Sybil Hotspur, and his father, the baronet, was under the
care of Miss Jack. The lady from Boston wired congratulations on the
success of the Club from Yokohama whither she had gone to pick up
lacquer-work. Poor Miss Summerson, the lovely May, and the victim of the
Valentine were a triad that was much admired. Miss Fanny Radowski, whose
Oriental loveliness excited much attention, came, with Martin. Winifred
Woodpecker was accompanied by her mother, the resemblance between the
two being generally remarked, and Miss Margaret Linbridge seemed to
afford Richard Westbourne copious opportunities for jealousy. Even
Wilkins was there with his Diana, in an unprofessional capacity, Lillie
having relented towards her interviewer on learning that she had been
really engaged to Silverplume once and that she had not entirely drawn
on the stores of journalistic fancy. Silverplume himself was there,
unconscious to what he owed the invitation, and paying marked attention
to the unattached beauties. Miss Nimrod promenaded the rooms on the arm
of the millionaire. She had improved vastly since she had become
effeminate, and Lillie felt she could put up with her, now she would not
have to live with her. Even Silverdale's aunt, Lady Goody-Goody Twoshoes
could find no fault with Nelly now.

It was a brilliant scene. The apartments of the Old Maids' Club had been
artistically decked with the most gorgeous flowers that the millionaire
could afford, and the epigrams had been carefully removed so as to leave
the rooms free for dancing. As Lillie's father gazed around, he felt
that not many millionaires could secure such a galaxy of beauty as
circled in the giddy dance in his gilded saloon. It was, indeed, an
unexampled gathering of pretty girls--this inaugural _soirée_ of the Old
Maids' Club, and the millionaire's shirt-front heaved with pride and
pleasure and the Letter-Day Cupid that still hung on the wall seemed to
take heart of grace again.

"You got my verses this morning, Rainbow mine?" said Silverdale, when
the carriage drove off, and the honeymoon began.

It was almost the first moment they had had together the whole day.

"Yes," said Lillie softly. "And I wanted to tell you there are two lines
which are truer than you meant."

"I am indeed, a poet, then! Which are they?"

Lillie blushed sweetly. Presently she murmured,

    "'You followed logic to excess,
    Repressing thoughts of tenderness.'

"How did you know that?" she asked, her brown eyes looking ingenuously
into his.

"Love's divination, I suppose."

"My father didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"About my discovery in the algebra of love?"

"Algebra of love?"

"No, of course he didn't. I don't suppose he ever really understood it,"
said Lillie with a pathetic smile. "I think I ought to tell you now what
it was that made me so--so--you understand."

She put her little warm hand lightly into his and nestled against his
shoulder, as if to make amends.

After a delicious silence, for Lord Silverdale betrayed no signs of
impatience, Lillie confessed all.

"So you see I have loved you all along!" she concluded. "Only I did not
dare hope that the chance would come to pass, against which the odds
were 5999."

"But great heavens!" cried Lord Silverdale, "do you mean to say this is
why you were so cold to me all those long weary months?"

"It is the only reason," faltered Lillie. "But would you have had me
defy the probabilities?"

"No, no, of course not. I wouldn't dream of such a thing. But you have
miscalculated them!"

"Miscalculated them?"

Lillie began to tremble violently.

"Yes, there is a fallacy in your ratiocination."

"A fallacy!" she whispered hoarsely.

"Yes, you have calculated on the theory that the probabilities are
independent, whereas they are interdependent. In the algebra of love
this is the typical class of probabilities. The two events--your falling
in love with me, my falling in love with you--are related; they are not
absolutely isolated phenomena as you have superficially assumed. It is
our common qualities which make us gravitate together, and what makes me
love you is the same thing that makes you love me. Thus the odds against
our loving each other are immensely less than you have ciphered out."

Lillie had fallen back, huddled up, in her corner of the carriage, her
face covered with her hands.

"Forgive me," said Lord Silverdale penitently. "I had no right to
correct your mathematics on your wedding-day. Say two and two are six
and I will make it so."

"Two and two are not six and you know it," said Lillie firmly, raising
her wet face. "It is I who have to ask forgiveness for being so cruel to
you. But if I have sinned, I have sinned in ignorance. You will believe
that, dearest?"

"I believe anything that comes from my Rainbow's lips," said Lord
Silverdale. "Why, they are quite white! Let me kiss them rosy again."

Like a naughty child that has been chastened by affliction she held up
her face obediently to meet his. The lips were already blushing.

"But confess," she said, while an arch indefinable light came into the
brown eyes, "confess we have had a most original courtship."


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

Throughout the document, the oe-ligature was replaced with "oe".

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of the
speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up
paragraphs and so that they are next to the text they illustrate. Thus
the page number of the illustration might not match the page number in
the List of Illustrations, and the order of illustrations may not be the
same in the List of Illustrations and in the book.

Errors in punctuation and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected
unless otherwise noted.

Some corrections were made to quotation marks. Some of the use
of quotation marks was not consistent with current standards, but was
internally consistent and left unchanged. Some unpaired quotation marks
and an unpaired parenthesis mark were left as-is.

On the title page, a quotation mark was added before "THE BACHELOR'S

On page 17, "thy" was replaced with "they".

On page 20, a single quotation mark is replaced with a double quotation

On page 23, a double quotation mark was added after "What do men think?"

On page 25, a period was added after "Here is her photograph".

On page 27, "repectable" was replaced with "respectable".

On page 54, "promonitory" was replaced with "promontory".

On page 56, the comma after "I laughed" was replaced with a period.

On page 60, the comma after "blank expression" was deleted.

On page 72, a double quotation mark was added before "The plurality is
merely apparent."

On page 88, "æronaut" was replaced with "aeronaut".

On page 99, a comma was added after "(which is easy)".

On page 103, "did no" was replaced with "did not".

On page 111, the comma after "I love you was replaced with a period.

On page 112, a quotation mark was removed after "then silence any

On page 119, a closing single quotation mark was added after "the
epileptoid order".

On page 120, a period was removed after "Mr. and".

On page 124, a quotation mark was added after "only real life.".

On page 124, "The past was put" was replaced with "The past was but".

On page 127, "abut" was replaced with "about".

On page 136, the double quotation marks around "tag" were replaced with
single quotation marks.

On page 138, double quotation marks were replaced with single quotation
marks around "Now you see what I have had to put up with."

In the caption of the illustration that originally was on page 145,
"Advertsement" was replaced with "Advertisement".

On page 157, a quotation mark was added before "You know I don't".

On page 176, "might" was replaced with "night".

On page 186, a quotation mark was added after "those of the

On page 200, a comma was added after "Eleven Weekly Papers".

On page 242, a period was added after "rehearsal".

On page 244, "Miss Jacks" was replaced with "Miss Jack".

On page 244, a comma was removed after "conventional".

On page 253, "onomatopoeiac" was replaced with "onomatopoeic".

On page 261, a quotation mark was added before "Sybil's reply".

On page 264, "decend" was replaced with "descend".

On page 272, "then" was replaced with "them".

On page 276, a quotation mark was added after "in Fleet Street.".

On page 280, "well" was replaced with "will".

On page 280, a quotation mark was removed before "Years afterwards".

On page 288, "I no not" was replaced with "I do not".

On page 289, a period was after "become an Old Maid".

On page 299, the double quotation after "I had left my little all." was
changed to a single quotation mark.

On page 301, the double quotation mark was deleted after "Bucklesbury

On page 309, the quotation mark was removed in the subtitle of Chapter

On page 318, "incompromise" was replaced with "incomprise".

On page 323, a quotation mark was added after "My poor Philip!".

On page 324, "body's li" was replaced with "body's life.".

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Old Maids' Club" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.