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Title: Unvarnished Tales
Author: Mackay, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Unvarnished Tales" ***

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Transcribed from the 1886 edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                             [Picture: Cover]



                            UNVARNISHED TALES.


                                    BY
                             WILLIAM MACKAY.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                                 LONDON:
                    SWAN SONNENSCHEIN, LOWREY AND CO.,
                           PATERNOSTER SQUARE.

                                  1886.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

      Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

                                * * * * *

                                    TO
                         REGINALD SHIRLEY BROOKS.

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS.

                                                 PAGE
        I.  A QUEER QUEST                           1
       II.  THE SAWDUST MAN’S CURSE                11
      III.  LORD LUNDY’S SNUFF-BOX                 23
       IV.  “ONE WAS RENT AND LEFT TO DIE”         32
        V.  THE GRIGSBY LIVING                     41
       VI.  RES EST SACRA MISER                    51
      VII.  MR. GREY                               60
     VIII.  THE PRODIGAL’S RETURN                  69
       IX.  A PHILANTHROPIC “MASHER”               78
        X.  A DISHONOURED BILL                     87
       XI.  A MAN OF GENIUS                        96
      XII.  A DIGNIFIED DIPSOMANIAC               106
     XIII.  “OLD BOOTS”                           115
      XIV.  A MISSING HEIRESS                     124
       XV.  TEDDY MARTIN’S BRIEF                  135
      XVI.  BLUEBEARD’S CUPBOARD                  144
     XVII.  TRUE TO POLL                          154
    XVIII.  JOHN PHILP, MASTER CARPENTER          166
      XIX.  PICTURES ON THE LINE                  177
       XX.  THE DEVIL’S PLAYTHINGS                186
      XXI.  LOVE AND A DIARY                      199

I.
_A QUEER QUEST_.


IN the _Times_ newspaper of Monday, 1st July, 18–, there appeared a
notice of Mr. White’s last novel.  The notice—for one cannot dignify with
the name of review an article which did not exceed a quarter of a
column—contained the following sentence:—

    “Mr. White’s novels appear to us to lack but one element.  Having
    achieved that one thing needful, Mr. White at once and without cavil
    takes his place in the first rank of modern novelists.  In one word,
    Mr. White must learn to study Human Nature from the life.  His
    characters are too often evolved from his inner consciousness, and as
    beings thus produced are apt to be wanting in backbone, it is not
    surprising that many of this popular author’s works are weak and
    flabby—shadows without substance—pictures without colour.  If Mr.
    White were to give one-half of the time to the study of the men and
    women by whom he is surrounded, which he gives to the elaboration of
    plot and the cultivation of style, we do not know that there is any
    seat in the republic of letters which we would deny him.”

Mr. White was a timid gentleman, with thin reddish hair—a very tall
forehead and weak eyes.  He was also a very well tailored man, and lived
in a neatly-appointed villa, in the Hilgrove Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W.
He was married, but had no children.  He was by profession a briefless
barrister, but he made his name by writing novels.  It so happened that
the public applauded Mr. White from the very first moment that he
appealed to them—at least in book form: his tentative efforts in
periodicals having fallen very short of creating a _furor_.  _His_
nonsense, which, it must be confessed, was not of a very rollicking
description, suited _their_ nonsense.  And that was the whole secret of
his success.  Being a very industrious man, he wrote a great many
fictions, and being modest withal, attributed his fame to hard work
rather than to any endowment of genius.

When Mr. White neglected his grilled bone, his buttered toast, his hot
coffee, and his new-laid egg, and seemed spell-bound by what appeared in
the _Times_ newspaper, his wife instinctively knew that there was a
notice of her husband’s book in that great organ, and she guessed by the
twitching of his mouth, and the flushing of his face, that the notice was
the reverse of favourable.

“It is quite true.  It is quite true,” said Mr. White, aloud, but to
himself, as he laid the paper down.

“What is quite true?” asked Mrs. White, who, while greatly appreciating
the pecuniary results of her husband’s labour, had but little sympathy
with the work itself.

“I am all wrong,” he replied, grimly.

“Good gracious!  What is the matter with you?”

“I am wanting in backbone,” he explained, gloomily—“criminally deficient
in backbone.”

“Why, John, you must be mad,” said the wife of his bosom.  And, indeed,
there was a seeming irrelevancy in his remarks, which favoured his
helpmate’s theory.  But John knew quite well what _he_ was about.

“Tell Edward to fetch my coat and hat,” he said, having trifled with his
breakfast instead of eating it like a Briton; “and lend me your
scissors.”

The dutiful young woman handed her lord and master the scissors, with
which he proceeded to cut out the _Times_ review—the which, when
carefully abstracted, he placed in his pocket-book.  But before Edward
came with his coat and hat, Mrs. White, with natural and justifiable
curiosity asked,—

“Where are you going so early, John?”

“I am going,” said John, quoting from the article, “I am going among the
men and women by whom I am surrounded.  I am going to study human
character from the life.”

Mrs. White shrugged her little shoulders, elevated her little eyebrows,
kissed her husband, and when she heard the hall-door close behind him,
she said very quietly, as though she were making an observation which did
not affect her even remotely,—

“He doesn’t seem to study _me_ very much.”

John White’s great crony was Anthony Lomax, of Paper Buildings.  And John
White took a ticket to the Temple Station, being determined to consult
his old friend on this new revelation which the great _Times_ newspaper
had opened up to him.  He was fortunate in finding Mr. Lomax at home,
devouring a frugal meal of brandy and soda, preparatory to appearing
before Vice-Chancellor Bacon in the celebrated case of Breeks _v._
Woolfer.

“You see,” said John White, with characteristic modesty, “you see I never
thought of achieving a first rank.  My books take well and I make
money—thank heaven.  But this fellow in the newspaper absolutely says
that I am possessed of genius!”

“And haven’t _I_ always said it?” asked Tony, with an offended air;
“haven’t we all always said it?”

“Yes; but you are friends, don’t you know?”

“Not a bit.  Do I ever tell Jones that he has genius?  Do I ever tell
Sandford that he has genius—although he _is_ a Fellow of Merton?  Did I
ever tell Barlow that his works would set the Thames on fire?  Never!
Friendship in my case never interferes with strict impartiality.”

This pleased Mr. White.  He absolutely blushed with pleasure.  A kind
word from Lomax was more real satisfaction to him than a page of praise
from the _Sultry Review_—which is not, perhaps, rating the eulogy of Mr.
Lomax very highly.

“And are they right about the—the want of backbone?” he inquired,
nervously, “and the necessity to study character from the life?”

“As right as nine-pence, my boy.  Doctors analyse dead bodies, and pull
live ones about.  Artists draw, I am told, from the nude.  Actors imitate
particular individuals.  Yes, I think the _Times_ rascal is absolutely
right.”

“Then I shall commence and study from the life at once.  But where now,”
he asked plaintively, “where would you advise me to commence?  You don’t
know of any very likely place for the acquirement of the backbone?”

“Well, my boy, there’s Breeks and Woolfer; if you’ll step over to the
Vice-Chancellor’s Court—it’s quite full of character.”

But the novelist only shuddered at the mention of the case, and saying
gently that he thought he would take his own course, bade his friend
“Good-bye,” and departed much disturbed in his mind at the magnitude and
amount of the task the censor of Printing-house Square had set for him.

                                * * * * *

Three months and a couple of weeks had passed away.  It was now the 15th
of October, 18–, and Tony Lomax once more sat in his chambers.  He had
been away for his holidays, and had just returned, brown and invigorated,
and ready to grapple with and subdue that insatiable monster, “Breeks and
Woolfer.”  He was sitting with his legs stretched well under his table,
his coat was off notwithstanding the chilliness of the weather, and his
white shirt-sleeves were rolled up to his elbows.  He looked the picture
of rude health and high animal spirits.

A feeble knock on the panel of his door.  A loud and cheery “Come in”
from Tony.  The door opened, and Mr. White entered, glanced nervously
round, and gliding up to Lomax, said in a whisper,—

“Are we alone?”

Lomax could hardly believe his eyes.  The dapper little friend of his
youth had grown prematurely old.  His thin red hair was no longer neatly
arranged.  His weak eyes had a wild and nervous shifting.  His hands
moved convulsively.  His lips were dry, and his throat—to judge from his
voice—parched.

“What in heaven’s name—!” exclaimed Lomax, starting from his seat.

“Hush,” said the other, in extreme agitation, “don’t speak so loudly.
_They might hear you_.”

“Who might hear me?”

“The human characters—from the life—don’t you know.  I have plenty of
backbone now—too much, Tony.  It’s very awful!”

Lomax saw how it was, attempted to calm him, and induced him to take a
seat, and to release his hat from his trembling fingers.  Then he said,
with something of a tremor in his voice,—

“Now, old man, tell us all about it.”

John White looked nervously about the room, again asked whether they were
quite alone, and commenced, in a husky whisper, to tell his narrative,
with awful rapidity.

“It was all right at first, Tony, and I made some capital notes, but in a
few days I tired.  All the human characters seemed so much alike when
studied in the life.  So brutally alike.  It pained me.  The monotony of
it made me giddy.  But then the worst came, Tony.  Whenever I went out to
study a character—from the life—the character began to study me.  I tried
to brave it and bear up against it, because you know, Tony, the _Times_
said I had genius and only wanted backbone.  But just fancy to yourself
setting out to study murderers and thieves, and all sorts and conditions
of unmentionable men, and the murderers and thieves and
unmentionables—from the life—turning round and studying you!  What do you
think of that?  Study _you_—d’ye hear?—from the life!  Ay, and follow
you, too—to your club, to your home:—to your very bed!”

The trembling hands searched for the hat.  Mr. White had jumped from his
chair, and uttered a wild shriek, that sounded like “_Here they
are_—_from the life_,” and had fled out on to the pavement of Paper
Buildings.

Poor White died at Hanwell just two years ago—and Lomax married his
widow.  She, poor creature, finds in her new husband a practical person,
whom she can understand, and seems all the happier for the change.



II.
_THE SAWDUST MAN’S CURSE_.


HARP ALLEY is a little nagged passage nestling under the heavy shadows of
Drury Lane Theatre.  None of the merchants who pursue business in the
reeking enclosure can be truthfully described as doing a roaring trade.
A manufacturer of spangles, who has hidden his commercial light under the
bushel of Harp Alley, does a brisk business during the months preceding
Christmas—his stock being in great demand for the decoration of the
gorgeous characters of Pantomime.  No one ever stops at the old book
shop, where the same old plays which were offered ten years ago in a box
at a penny each are offered at a penny still.  And a steel engraving of
David Garrick as Richard the Third, greatly perturbed by apparitions, has
during the same interval failed to find a purchaser at half-a-crown.
There is an old clothes shop in the Alley, owned by an adventurous
speculator of the Semitic persuasion, where you can borrow a dress suit
for the evening, and become a magnificent swell on the new hire system.

The best trade done in Harp Alley is done by the owner of the “Piping
Bulfinch”—a public-house much resorted to in the present day by
scene-shifters, stage carpenters, property men, and other humble
ornaments of the British Drama, with a fine capacity for four ale and bad
language.  At the time of this story, the inner bar of the “Piping
Bulfinch”—a reserved space with a door marked “private”—was the resort of
certain actors and authors having a greater wealth of brain than of
pocket.  In those days the cuff-shooter was not, and a _jeune premier_
would be satisfied with something less than the wages of an ambassador.
Only the very superior sort of actor and manager and dramatic author
belonged to a Club.  The rank and file met unostentatiously in bars, and
did their business or criticised their neighbours over “goes” of gin and
whiskey, or half pints of ale and stout.  I do not intend to mention here
the names of those who were wont to meet of an afternoon at the “Piping
Bulfinch.”  Some are dead.  Some are alive and famous.  Others are alive
and wrecks.  And all of them seem desirous to forget the struggling
period when they patronised the snug but sombre hostlery in Harp Alley.

Informally established as a _réunion_, this little society became known
to the outer world, and the gentle layman penetrated to the recesses of
the inner bar and forced his babbling company upon the playwright and the
player.  So that in self-defence the mummers and the drama-makers hired
from the landlord of the “Piping Bulfinch” a large room that opened off
the public bar.  Towards defraying the expenses, each member of the
coterie subscribed one shilling per week.  They had a room of their own.
They were now a Club; and that is the true history of the establishment
of the Otway—for such was the style and title which these able but
impecunious men of genius gave to this Association, when shrinking from
contact with the profane vulgar, they withdrew behind the closed door of
their own private and particular room.

And every Wednesday came to be known as Sawdust Day.

In those days of struggle what small incidents afforded interest and even
excitement! and the weekly advent of the man bearing the sack of sawdust
which was to be sprinkled on the floor of the Club-room, was looked
forward to with keen enjoyment.  He was a strange reflective man—the man
who bore in this weekly sacrifice to respectability—this thin and
shifting substitute for a carpet—this indoor Goodwin sands.  But he
greatly prized the opportunity afforded him of entering the Club.  He
laughed respectfully (to himself) at the jokes which were bandied about.
He accepted with gratified smile the chaff which was levelled at him and
at his sawdust.  He became indeed a part of the Club itself, and
lengthened his weekly visit as much as possible, always discovering, when
it appeared time to go, some refractory spot on the floor which required
replenishing and smoothing.  The Sawdust man may have been a broken down
dramatist, a poor poet whose literary wares were a drug in the market;
and here in this bright association of wits and good fellows he found
solace once a-week.

Twelve happy months sped over the grey locks and closely shaven features
of the Sawdust man.  And the fifty-two days of congenial fellowship—so,
poor man, he chose to consider it—compensated for the three hundred and
thirteen other days upon which he sprinkled the yellow refuse among the
unsympathetic feet of the market-men in the public-houses about Covent
Garden.  Pride, we are credibly informed, led to the overthrow of the
Prince of Darkness; and Pride entering into the bosom of a new member of
the Otway led to eventual decline and fall of that remarkable society.
In an evil moment it was proposed at a meeting of the Committee that the
Club-room should be carpeted!  After a long and angry discussion the
resolution was carried by a bare majority.  The carpet was purchased, and
the poor dealer in the waste of the saw-pits was dismissed for ever from
the only Paradise of which he had any knowledge.

Not unchallenged, however, was the innovation.  A few days after the
dismissal of the weekly visitor, the following letter was received by the
Secretary of the Club.  It was duly affixed to the notice-board above the
mantel-piece, where for some time it afforded the greatest amusement to
the members, and was provocative of many _facetiæ_ on the part of the
chartered wags.  But there were some of the older ornaments of the Otway,
I think, who regarded the document with some misgiving, and counted it as
an ill omen.  Here is the text of the Awful Denunciation:—

                               “TO THE OTWAYS.

                        “_Pride comes before a fall_.

    “Beware!  You are haughty now.  You will soon be humble.  My curse is
    upon you.  For you have driven me forth into the world—alone.  May
    your Club be overrun by outsiders.  May money rule you instead of
    brains.  May your skill fail you and your wit wither away.  May you
    be abandoned by the pewter and the pipe.  May your plays be damned,
    and your articles rejected.  And aping your betters, may you become
    the laughing stock of the world.  [Signed]

                                                        “THE SAWDUST MAN.”

“There is insanity in Sawdust,” said Gadsby, after he had read the
startling anathema.

“More drunk than mad, I expect,” suggested the charitable Tapham.

“Swallowed his own sack, perhaps,” added Ponsonby, in defence of the
latter theory.

But old and judicious Otways shook their heads and sighed.  The Sawdust
man had become a part of their artistic career.  His removal affected
them.  His curse depressed them beyond measure.  On the morning after the
receipt of the Curse, the members arriving at the Club found out in the
upper panel of the door the word

                                 ICHABOD.

No one was ever able to ascertain when or how this amateur wood-carving
had been accomplished.  It was a mystery.  But it led to this result.
Senior members of the Otway entertained some fine old crusted
superstitions, and after this handwriting on the door began to agitate
for a removal to more commodious apartments.  And now the curse began to
work.  For in order to keep up the more commodious rooms, and to pay for
the increased service, there were necessitated two things.  In the first
place, an increased entrance fee and subscription, and in the second
place, a certain healthy relaxing of the first rule of the Club, whereby
all those who were not professionally connected with art, literature, or
the drama, were rigorously excluded.

In two years from the date of the instalment of the Club in its more
commodious chambers, the institution had grown marvellously in
respectability, but it had lost its character, and was now a collection
of individuals of the most various and most nondescript kind.  And at the
end of the last of those two years, a gentleman was elected to
membership, who worked with the utmost good-will to efface what little
traces of Bohemian beginnings still clung about the Otway.  About this
person or his antecedents little was known.  He was immensely wealthy.
He had suddenly acquired his money.  And his qualification as a member of
the Club was a work on Papua and New Guinea, which had been eagerly
welcomed by the learned societies, had been solemnly reviewed by the
_Quarterly_, and which was known by several to be the work, not of the
new member at all, but of a Museum hack named Geyser, who for a
consideration in hard cash, permitted Mr. Thistleton—that was the new
member’s name—to figure on the title.  Appended to his name were the
letters F.R.G.S., and other formidable distinctions which it may be
presumed, can also be obtained by the common commercial operation known
as exchange and barter.

Shortly after the advent of this great man, questions arose as to the
propriety of drinking beer out of pewter in the Club-rooms.  And as Mr.
Thistleton was always ready to stand a bottle of wine to anybody who
cared to call for it, the consumption of beer fell steadily off, and it
became in time, the very worst possible sort of form for an Otway to be
seen imbibing the produce of hops.  Clay pipes had long ago been
disestablished by a by-law of the committee.  Cigars at ninepence and a
shilling were supplied for the post-prandial smoke.  And it was an
understood thing that members should always dine in evening dress.  When
this rule came into force, it occasioned the withdrawal of some old
Otways, who, although eminent in their particular walks of literature and
art, hadn’t got a single dress-suit among ’em.  The places of these
talented but socially incomplete persons were speedily filled by
gentlemen who, if devoid of genius, were possessed of dress suits of the
very latest design, and had gold and silver and precious stones.  And the
flash of a diamond is, I take it, a much more agreeable scintillation
than the flash of the greatest wit in the world.

Mr. Thistleton not only elevated the members of the Otway by means of
champagne of great price; he endeavoured to give them reflected glory by
inviting to the house-dinner personages of repute in Society.  A Cabinet
Minister once dined with him.  At another time, an Indian Prince, dressed
in the most gorgeous Oriental toggery, sat down to the Otway repast.
Indeed, there seemed to be, practically, no limit to his influence with
the great ones of the earth, and it was apparently his delight to exert
that influence, with a view of introducing his brother members to all
that was esteemed, wealthy, and wise, in London Society.

At last there visited England an Indian Prince, compared to whom the
other Indian princes were mere nobodies.  This mighty potentate was in
due course brought down to the Otway, and was graciously pleased to
express his approval of all that he saw and heard.  And the Club, in
order to show its appreciation of the compliment of the wise man from the
East, invited him to a banquet.  Princes have an awkward habit of making
requests that are commands.  And when dinner was over this dusky heathen
had induced the members of the Club to guarantee him a donation of five
thousand pounds, towards his fund for providing tom-toms for the Nautch
girls of Hindustan.  Their solemn word was given to their copper-coloured
guest.  There was no retreating from their promise.  The sequel is soon
told.  In order to raise the amount the effects of the Otway were offered
at public auction.  All the members attended the sale, and watched their
works of art, their luxurious furniture, their rare wines, and their
ninepenny cigars disappear under the hammer of the auctioneer.

Mr. Thistleton bought in everything.  He bid with a persistency and a
viciousness that astonished the man in the rostrum.  When the last
article was knocked down to him, he turned upon his late fellow-members,
now dissolved and houseless, and with a demoniac shout of derisive
laughter cried, “I am avenged.”  He had grown a beard, and he had become
rich, two wonderful disguises.  But there was no doubt about it.  It was
the Sawdust Man.



III.
_LORD LUNDY’S SNUFF-BOX_.


“NOT another farthing, Tom.  Not another farthing.”

“But my dear father—”

“But me no buts, Tom, as the man says in the playbook.  You have an ample
allowance.  I never object to a hundred or two in advance to pay your
club subscriptions, or for any other legitimate purpose.  But
extravagance like yours means vice, and vice I never _will_ encourage.”

Lord Lundy shook his grey head at his son, heaved a sigh, felt in the
left-hand pocket of his vest, missed something, heaved another sigh, and
became absorbed in the Report with which he had been engrossed when his
son entered the library.

“I only want a paltry two hundred,” pleaded Tom, not by any means willing
to give up without a struggle.

His father once more looked up from his statistics, and without altering
his tone replied,—

“Harkye, Tom.  I have said my say.  You know the position which I hold as
the patron of religious and philanthropic societies.  You are aware of
the repute which I bear.  With your proceedings, and those of your
associates, rumour is busy.  Such rumours reflect upon me.  Common
decency should suggest to you that I am the last person in the world to
whom you should apply for fresh means wherewith to procure fresh
indulgence.”

“Indeed, sir—”

“Enough, Tom.  I am busy.  Good-morning.”

It was useless to argue further.  The Hon. Tom Foote, with downcast
countenance, withdrew; reflected that he must once more have recourse to
his friends, Shadrach, Mesech, and Abednego in Throgmorton Street; and
inwardly apostrophised his stern parent as Old Father Adamant.

When Tom left the library Lord Lundy rang the bell.  When the menial
entered his lordship was still feeling in the left-hand pocket of his
vest.

“Oh, James,” he said, “tell my man to look for the snuff-box I usually
carry.  Must have dropped it somewhere.”

James bowed and departed on his mission.

Meanwhile Tom, descending into Grosvenor Square, hailed a passing hansom;
but when the driver pulled up by the kerb he was undecided in what
direction to drive.

“Shall I go to the Raleigh and consult Bruiser, or shall I go direct to
old Abednego, or shall I see Dot and explain matters?”  This to himself.
Then, suddenly making up his mind to see Dot, he gave his cabman an
address in the vicinity of the Regent’s Park, and abandoned himself to
his fate.

To his great delight, and, indeed, surprise, he found Dot in the very
best of tempers.  Her little villa was surrounded by a wall which
protected it from the vulgar stare of the passer-by, and Tom found her in
her breakfast-room arranging flowers and humming an air out of _Diana_, a
burlesque which she was at that time engaged in illustrating at the
Mausoleum Theatre.  She was arrayed in a morning-gown of light-blue,
trimmed with some fluffy stuff strangely suggestive of powder-puffs.  She
received her guest with considerable warmth; asked her “poor old boy” why
he looked so “glum,” and when in reply he admitted that he had been
unable to obtain the trifling sum which she had requested, burst out
laughing, and said,—

“Don’t look so solemn, Dolly,”—’twas her pet name for him.  “I shall be
able to do without it for the present.  A wealthy connection of mine has
just died leaving me sufficient for all immediate wants.  And now what’s
the news?”

Tom having mentally blessed the rich and opportune relative, and having
regretted aloud that any person should have deprived him of the coveted
opportunity of playing the part of relieving officer, declared that there
was no news.

He then began to look about the room.  This is a habit which most men
have in visiting rooms where others, perchance, may be received—others
that they know not of.  There is a suspicion of the very furniture.  A
jealousy of articles left behind.  Great Heavens! what heart-burnings
have been caused by the discovery of a strange cigar-case or a ring with
an unfamiliar monogram.

Tom, strolling up to the mantel-piece while chatting to Dot, or listening
to her artless prattle, perceived, nestling between the ormolu timepiece
and a vase of early primroses, a snuff-box.  He took it up and
involuntarily ejaculated,—

“Halloa!”

Dot looked up, and observing the object of his curiosity, exclaimed,—

“Oh, put that down, it—it’s nothing.”

“Nothing?” said Tom.  “It’s a snuff-box.  Come, where did you get it?”

Dot pouted.  She must not be cross-examined.  It was an insult to her.
Did Dolly doubt her?

But Dolly was in perfect temper.  He declared himself as devoid of doubt
as a minor prophet, and having calmed the rising emotions of the lady,
said, with the greatest _sang-froid_,—

“Lend me the snuff-box till to-morrow at this hour, and I’ll bring you
the two hundred.  Yes, and a fifty into the bargain.”

“Only a loan, mind,” stipulated the girl, who, like most of her charming
sex, had a mind irrevocably fixed on the main chance.

“Of course—only a loan,” replied the elated Tom; “d’ye think I’m going to
turn snuff-taker?”

Whether Tom’s logic or the hope of Tom’s money mollified Miss Dot, it is
certain that when, an hour after, he left Laburnum Villa, Regent’s Park,
N.W., he had the snuff-box in his pocket.

It was from Lady Lundy that his lordship had imbibed his religion and his
philanthropy.  She was, indeed, a marvellous woman, and had been known on
at least one occasion to take the chair from which indisposition had
driven her husband.  If ever a nobleman could have been said to be
hen-pecked, that devoted aristocrat was Lord Lundy.  And Tom, although
more audacious in his expressions of defiance, also stood in considerable
awe of his mother.  When on the evening of the day during which all the
events of this unvarnished tale arrived, Tom sat down to dinner, both his
father and his mother were surprised at the flow of his animal spirits,
the redundancy of his anecdotes, and the impudent way in which he
relegated to some future occasion all discussion concerning Outcast
London, or the heathen living in dark places of the earth.

Being a Christian household, certain Christian customs were observed in
the Lundy establishment; so when Lady Lundy left the room her husband and
her son remained to discuss a glass of claret.

“You seem in excellent spirits to-night, my boy,” said the father.  And
the remark was not uncalled for; because when last father and son had
met, the latter was extremely downcast.

“Pretty well, thank you,” replied the youth.

“And to what may I attribute this change?”

“I’ve taken your advice, sir, and have commenced to do something useful.
I have gone into trade.”

“God bless my soul!  _Trade_!”

“Yes.  I’m dealing in articles—if I may call them so—of _virtue_.”

“You’re joking.”

“Never more serious, I assure you.  To prove it I will sell you
something.”

“What?”

“A snuff-box.”

The philanthropist laughed.

“And so it is you who have been hiding my favourite box.  Hand it over
this minute, you rascal.”

But Tom shook his head.

“No; this can’t be _yours_.  This is a snuff-box with a history.  It
belonged, my dear father, to a great philanthropist; and it was
discovered in a breakfast-room in the Regent’s Park.”

At this Tom exhibited the pretty receptacle, saying,—

“How much do you say for this highly authenticated heirloom?”

“The two hundred you asked for this morning, Tom,” replied the father,
with more coolness than might reasonably been expected under the
circumstances.

“Not enough,” said the son.

“Three hundred—five hundred!” gasped the philanthropist.

“Say a thousand,” insinuated Tom.

“I’ll be d—d if I do!” replied the philanthropist, with the utmost
decision.

“Then,” said Tom, rising, “I’ll take it to her ladyship, and see what
she’ll give me for it—and for its story.”

“Tom, sit down, I command you.  Not a word of this.  The money is yours.”

How Tom managed with Dot about retaining the snuff-box history does not
say.  But it has been noticed with considerable alarm that Tom has now a
greater influence over Lord Lundy than ever was obtained even by her
ladyship.



IV.
“_ONE WAS RENT AND LEFT TO DIE_.”


AFTER the traveller passes the City of Oxford the Thames greatly changes
its aspect.  Locks are deserted by their keepers.  One has to open these
waterways for oneself, and there is usually a difficulty in finding the
bolts rust-eaten and honey-combed into a very corrugated species of
small-pox.  For traffic has ceased a great way below, and the gentle
dwellers by the banks are a dull and slow race of men given greatly to
the consumption of beer.  You may proceed to great distances without
seeing a human being.  It is a narrow Thames hereabouts and a shallow.
Yet it is infinitely pleasant in the early spring, when the birds sing
against each other in what to us appear songs of unaffected gladness, but
which are really cries of baffled envy—of angry jealousy.  For even the
note of the nightingale is now relegated by the advance of knowledge to a
place among our shattered illusions.

Innocent lambs, sweetly unconscious of the rapidly growing mint, bleat
feebly at the unexpected apparition of a boat containing a human being in
flannels, and the great kine slaking their thirst gaze with meek
contemptuous eyes at the intruder.  How cool the rushes show standing by
the water’s edge, unheeding as yet the earlier efforts of a sun
rehearsing for his summer effects.  And above all, the deep cerulean with
its white clouds, motionless as those of the painted canvas in the
theatre—seeming more intensely white as the black wings of the rook pass
beneath with lazy sweep.

Twenty miles above Oxford—more than twenty or less than twenty, for I do
not wish the place identified—is the village of —.  It is situated about
a mile and a half from the banks of the Thames, and is a place which was
at one time of some consideration, but now is half asleep.  It has done
its business and retired.  Some wealthy men live in the place and its
vicinity.  The labourers look fat on a wage of a shilling or so a day,
and once a year there is a fair, which is greatly deplored by the godly
as calculated to undermine the morals of the simple villagers, whom to my
own knowledge stand in need of no such temptation, being by nature
somewhat prone to forget that part of the moral law which inculcates
advice regarding the regulation of a man’s desires.

The prettiest girl in — was Jessie Bracebridge.  She had long golden hair
rigidly suppressed under her garden hat, and soft blue eyes and a figure
lithe but rounded.  Her dress was plain to a fault.  For she was the only
daughter of William Bracebridge, cobbler and Methodist local preacher, a
pious enthusiast of great original power and extraordinary will; but a
pious enthusiast whose notions of Duty if carried out to their fullest by
mankind generally, would render the world a very uncomfortable place to
live in.  In the year 1741 the Rev. John Wesley had visited —, and, as
appears from his “Journal,” being greatly scandalised by the fact that
the Vicar hunted three days a week in the season, and that every second
name inserted in the registry of birth was that of an illegitimate
infant, established a conventicle in the village and set apart a local or
lay preacher to look after his converts until such time as he could send
a regularly ordained minister to supply their spiritual wants.  The lay
preacher was named Bracebridge, and the Bracebridge whose name appears in
this unvarnished tale was grandson of the friend of John Wesley.
Bracebridge was indeed in a sort of Apostolical Succession.

In the glorious spring weather of 18–, Jessie Bracebridge had wandered
down to the river and stood among the reeds looking across the great
expanse of meadow beyond the other shore, and wishing that her mother
were alive again, and wondering if people might be really good and
relatively happy without being so strict and stern as her father, or so
instant as he was in season and out of season.  Perhaps, too, she was
indulging in day dreams of the great world outside, for she was in her
seventeenth year, and had read of the wonders of cities, and,
notwithstanding her father’s denunciation of the wickedness in them,
longed perhaps to see and judge for herself.  Suddenly her thoughts were
diverted.  A lamb more silly than its companions—if indeed one lamb can
be more silly than another—had approached too near the edge of the
stream, and the bank giving way under its small weight it fell into the
stream and wakened the echoes with piteous bleating.  At that catastrophe
Jessie shrieked aloud, regarding the quadruped’s as a life only less
precious than that of a human being.

A skiff came round the bend of the stream, and its occupant was soon
pulling toward the shrieking maiden.  In her distress she pointed to the
drowning lamb, and he, not without difficulty, rescued the woolly
unfortunate, and then returned to receive the thanks which he considered
were his due—for although we are all agreed that virtue is its own
reward, few of us are satisfied with that intangible recompense.  He was
a frank-looking, bronzed, and brown-haired English youth, and she blushed
as, with the candid impulse of his nature, he expressed his sorrow for
her distress and his unfeigned delight that he had been in a position to
render a service which had given her pleasure.

It was a short interview but it was a fatal one.  She had looked and
loved.  He had looked and loved.  They met again.  And again.  And for
the first time in her life she had a secret from the father whom she
feared.

But ah! for her what unthought of bliss in these meetings.  How she
listened as her lover, her hero, talked of the world of wealth and
fashion—of the grand mansions of London, of the historic colleges of
Oxford.  He sang to her songs of the world, and even taught her, who
heretofore regarded as morally wrong anything in the way of a musical
exercise not contained in the compilation of John and Charles Wesley, to
warble such ditties.  Of these it gave him a dreamy pleasure to hear her
sing to him a composition—which commenced or ended—for I forget
which—with the words—

    “We threw two leaflets you and I,
       To the river as it wandered on,
    One was rent and left to die,
       The other floated onward all alone.”

An ominous quatrain.

Tom was the name of this sweet-voiced young lover.  And Tom was the son
of an eminent judge, who has since exchanged the ermine for a crown of
glory.  Tom was at that time a student of Magdalen College, Oxford.  And
Jessie, as you know, was the daughter of a Methodist cobbler.  Yet they
loved all the spring till he went away to the Continent and forgot all
about that pleasant spooning.

                                * * * * *

On the following spring Judge —, his revered parent, went the Oxford
Circuit.  One day after the Court had risen, he called at his son’s
chambers in Magdalen College.  There was an affectionate greeting between
father and son, and the latter, whom as we have seen, was a most
impulsive and kind-hearted young fellow, saw that his father was not
looking well.

“You look ill,” he said, in his sweet musical tones.  “The pestilential
atmosphere of those infernal courts.”

“No.  I have been engaged in trying a very sad case.”

Tom smiled incredulously.

“The idea of a judge of your experience affected by anything that
transpires in a Court of Justice.”

“And yet so it is.”

“The story must be an exceptionally terrible one.”

“No.  It is only exceptionally sad.  I will tell it to you briefly.  A
young woman was charged with the murder of her infant.  The young woman
was unmarried.  So far the story is unfortunately an ordinary one.  She
refused to make any defence or divulge anything with regard to the
parentage of the child.  A plea of not guilty was entered, and I assigned
counsel to defend her.  But the facts were too strong.  The legal guilt
of the unfortunate, and, I may say, very beautiful victim was clearly
established by the witnesses for the Crown.  But one witness appeared for
the defence, and he volunteered his evidence.  He was a tall, gaunt man,
with a highly intelligent face.  He was dressed in broadcloth.  He
entered the box, and said, in slow tones—the tones of a man suffering an
unutterable agony—‘My lord, I wish to speak to the character of my
daughter.’  He had no sooner spoken the words than the prisoner uttered a
shriek, which, to my dying day, I shall remember.  She shrieked the word
‘Father,’ and fell to the floor of the dock.  There was great confusion
in court for some minutes.  A medical man was sent for.  When he arrived
he pronounced the prisoner dead.  The prosecuting counsel rose and
announced the fact to the court.  The father still stood in the
witness-box.  His face was ghastly pale, his hands clenched before him,
his eyes were cast towards the roof of the building and looked bright, as
though he could see through that obstacle to something above.  Amid a
dead silence, in deep and infinitely pathetic tones he repeated the
words, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name
of the Lord.’  I’m not ashamed to tell you that tears fell on my
note-book from these old eyes of mine.”

“And the man’s name?” asked Tom, casually.

“William Bracebridge, of —.”

For one moment a deadly paleness spread over the face of the son.  But in
an instant he regained his self-possession, and with his characteristic,
frank, engaging manner, said,—

“Dear old dad, no wonder the scene upset you.  It is, indeed, a sad
story.  Try a Laranaga, and let us talk of something else.”



V.
_THE GRIGSBY LIVING_.


GRIGSBY is in Kent, and although, in respect of its hops and
cherry-orchards, it is called upon to pay extraordinary tithes, its
inhabitants seem comfortable and contented.  An occasional agitator
happening upon Grigsby endeavours to arouse the farmers as to the
iniquity of the landowners.  But these political missionaries receive but
scant welcome, and packing up their carpet-bags depart by early trains.

Much of the neglect bestowed upon the disciples of those who consider
that land should be let at prairie rates may be traced to the fact that
for ten generations the Bodkins have been established in the vicinity.
And the present baronet, Sir Lionel de Stacy Bodkin, is as popular with
his tenants and with the country-side generally, as anyone of his
predecessors.  The Bodkins were good landlords and stuck by the farmers.
And the farmers, with a fine bucolic sentiment of reciprocity, stuck by
the Bodkins.

One of the Bodkins always went into the Church, and was presented with
the Grigsby living.  Here he ministered to the living Bodkins and
delivered his sage platitudes to the unheeding ears of the Bodkin
effigies that lay in the chancel

    “—staring right on
    With calm eternal eyes.”

Twenty-five years ago a curious break occurred in this apostolic
succession of Bodkins.  Montagu being the baronet’s third son, and being,
into the bargain, “the mildest-mannered man” of whom it is possible to
form any adequate conception, had been destined for the Grigsby living,
and for the emoluments therefrom accruing, including tithes ordinary and
extraordinary.

Montagu had passed just a year at Christ Church, Oxford, when his uncle,
who then had the living, died suddenly.  And although Montagu was not a
man of very brilliant parts, he knew that by no process of selection or
patronage understood even by the Church, could his ordination be so
hurried as to permit of his stepping into the shoes of his deceased
uncle, and he further felt that the inhabitants of Grigsby, being
presumably possessed of immortal souls—the said souls standing in weekly
need of saving—the living must be temporarily held by someone outside the
pale of the family.

During the first weeks following the death of the Rev. Reginald de Stacy
Bodkin, M.A., the subject was not broached in the family.  But when after
a reasonable time grief had become ameliorated, and nothing so
demonstrative as a paroxysm permissible, the son approached his father
and observed, with his peculiar drawl,—

“The situation is decidedly awkward and complicated—don’t you know.”

“Not at all—not at all,” replied the parent, with decision.  “I’ll see
that it’s all right.  Go back to Oxford.  By the time you’re ordained,
Grigsby living will be ready for you.”

Montagu was still doubtful, and said hesitatingly,—

“Don’t you think that I’d better study for the Bar?”

Notwithstanding the general gloom, the baronet smiled as he answered,—

“My dear boy, when you are ordained I can present you with a living.  If
you go to the Bar, I think it quite unlikely that you will be able to
pick one up.  No.  Leave everything to me and go back to Oxford.”

So he left everything to his father and went back to Oxford.

                                * * * * *

Five-and-twenty miles from Grigsby is Limpus-on-the-Wold, which is, I
believe, one of the very poorest parishes in all England.  It is not only
poor, but it is wide-spread.  Its inhabitants are dense, and the work of
its rector somewhat wearing.  At the time of this unvarnished tale the
rector of Limpus was Dr. Shotter, one of the most learned and pious
clergymen in the Church.  But care, ill-health, anxiety, and the death of
his wife, had told on him.  Moreover, he was an old man.  He had
completed his seventieth year, and now calmly waited an early call to the
land of shadows, whither his wife had preceded him.

Worn to a mere skeleton, with a small hectic spot burning on his cheek
and a hacking cough racking his frame, he sat at the open casement
inhaling the heavy perfumes of a hot July afternoon.  He was tended by
his daughter, a staid woman of forty, who placed her hand on his forehead
when the fit of coughing came, and handed him his draught, or spoke words
of hope and encouragement, when the old man gave it as his opinion that
the end was very near.

Then was heard the rattle of a heavy vehicle on the road, and presently a
drag and four steaming greys drew up before the door of the rectory.  A
man of about fifty years of age descended from the box seat, entered the
rectory garden, and in a few moments Dr. Shotter’s daughter was reading
from a card the name of Sir Lionel de Stacy Bodkin, Bart.

The baronet was admitted, and by his fine, genial, hearty manner soon
found his way into the good graces of the rector.

“Badly-drained unhealthy hole this,” he remarked with candour, alluding
not to the house in particular but to Limpus generally.

The Doctor of Divinity nodded assent, and had a terrible fit of coughing.

“You must get out of it, my dear sir.  The place is killing you.
Limpus-on-the-Wold wants a young man with an iron constitution.  You are
an old man, but with many years of useful work before you.”

Dr. Shotter shook his head and avowed that he had but little interest in
the life that now is, and made touching reference to another and a better
country, an allusion which caused his daughter to weep.

“Tut, tut,” said the baronet; “the beastly vapours of this place have
depressed you.  Now, what would you think of Grigsby?”

“A paradise,” sighed the old pastor.

“Then, sir, enter that paradise.  It is mine to give.  Genius like yours,
sir, should be taken care of in its old age.  My dear madam,” he
continued, turning to the daughter, “add your solicitations to mine.
There is no hard work, there is the most charming air in Kent, and there
is a stipend which will permit the purchase of those luxuries to which an
invalid is entitled.”

“It is like a dream, sir; it seems too good to believe,” said the
daughter.  Nevertheless, she argued with her father, and urged him till
he was beaten down to a solitary argument, which was that he was too weak
to be moved with safety.  The kindly-hearted baronet, however, speedily
dispelled that difficulty.  When the time came he would arrange that the
man of God should be removed by easy stages and in the most comfortable
of vehicles.

And that is the manner in which the Rev. Dionysius Shotter, D.D., was
appointed to the Grigsby living five-and-twenty years ago.

                                * * * * *

When Sir Lionel had praised the air of Grigsby he had not done it more
than justice.  Compared with Limpus it was indeed a paradise, and, to the
great delight of his daughter Rachel, Dr. Shotter lost his cough before
he had been two months in the new place.  He began absolutely to put on
flesh, found himself capable of walking a mile without inconvenience, and
displayed a vigour in his pulpit discourses which would have roused
feelings of envy, malice, hatred, and all un-charitableness in the breast
of his curate—had that divine been capable of such worldly emotions.

If the prayers of a righteous man avail much, then should Sir Lionel
Bodkin have been one of the most blessed of mortals; for the revivified
minister prayed night and day for his benefactor, and called frequently
at Bodkin Towers to return his personal thanks and to exhibit the
beneficial results of the air of Grigsby on a constitution which he had
regarded as shattered beyond hope of remedy.

“I don’t know how it is, Rachel,” he observed, after one of these visits,
“but it seems to me that Sir Lionel does not seem to exhibit much joy and
thankfulness at my marvellous recovery and daily access of strength.”

“Your fancy, pa dear,” replied his daughter.

“Perhaps so.  And yet, when I said to him to-day that, next to Divine
Providence, I owed my thanks to Sir Lionel Bodkin, he replied, rather
testily, I thought, ‘Thank Providence, my dear doctor, and not me.’”

“It is only his brusque manner, dear; under a rough exterior he hides the
kindest heart.”

“It must be so.  It must be so,” slowly repeated the aged divine, in a
tone which did not argue absolute conviction.

Meanwhile, Montagu, at Christ Church, was zealously preparing himself for
the holy office to which he would soon be called.  And a year after the
installation of the new rector he received a letter which, neither in its
subject-matter nor in its tone, was one which a pious father should have
despatched to a boy about to become a light of the Establishment.  The
letter read:—

    “MY DEAR MONTY,—My plans about the living have been all upset.
    Before offering it to the present incumbent, I made the most thorough
    inquiries of his medical man, and found that he could not possibly
    live more than two or three years.  In fact, when I brought him down
    here he was little better than a corpse—and a corpse with a daughter
    as old-looking as your mother.  But thanks to the change, the light
    duties, and the damned air of Grigsby, the old doctor seems to have
    taken a new lease of life, and, upon my soul, I see no reason in the
    world why he shouldn’t live to be a hundred.  It is impossible for me
    to explain to the old idiot the reasons why I placed him in the
    position.  Besides, I don’t believe that even then he would resign.
    I see no immediate chance of your having the living.  But, of course,
    he may die.  At all events, we must hope for the best.—Your
    affectionate father,

                                                             “L. de S. B.”

The above letter was written twenty-four years ago.  The Rev. Montagu
Bodkin is curate in a fashionable church in London.  He has grey hairs on
his head now.  He is married to a sister of Lady Ashminton, and is
greatly blessed with progeny.  The living which lies in the gift of the
Bodkin family, is still held by the Rev. Dionysius Shotter, D.D., a hale
old man of ninety-five, who is never tired of singing the praises of his
lately deceased patron, or of extolling the qualities of the air of
Grigsby.



VI.
_RES EST SACRA MISER_.


“YOU refuse absolutely to give up the papers.  You decline to comply with
the order of the Court.  Then, sir, I shall commit you for contempt.  In
prison you will have leisure in which to reflect on the enormity of your
conduct.”

“But, my lord—”

“Not another word, sir.  Your duty is to respect the Court, not to argue
with it.  Officer, remove your prisoner!”

And William Sadd was hurried away, placed in a fly, driven off to Marston
Castle, and handed over to the safe custody of the governor of that
establishment.  The gates of Marston Castle never closed on a prisoner
more innocent of offence.

William Sadd was an inventor.  His name will be chiefly known to the
public in connection with a patent corkscrew, but he had devised many
other useful implements from which he derived a comfortable income; for
Sadd was a Scotchman, and had carefully protected his rights against all
persons piratically inclined.  He was born near Glasgow, where he
remained for some five-and-twenty years.  Then, like many of his
countrymen, he came to England, and settled in the town of —, a
manufacturing community in the North.

He was a sanguine, good-tempered little man, and had married a sanguine
and good-tempered little wife, who bore him three sanguine and
good-tempered little boys.  He had at one time possessed a chum—another
Scotch inventor.  This man of genius—McAllister by name—had died, leaving
certain papers to his friend as he lay on his death-bed.  These
documents, chiefly relating to uncompleted inventions, he confided to his
friend with a last injunction that he should under no circumstances
surrender them, but complete and patent them for the benefit of mankind
and of his own pocket.  Sadd gave the promise readily enough, feeling
that nothing was more unlikely than that the papers would be inquired
after.  Much to his surprise, however, McAllister’s executors, having by
some means heard of the existence of the documents, applied for them as
essential evidence in a case then in hand.  Sadd replied that they were
not essential nor even relevant.  His assertion, however, availed him
nothing.  Finally, the judge made an order for their production.  Sadd
calmly, but determinedly, refused to comply with the mandate, and was
thereupon ordered to be confined in Marston Castle.

Although William Sadd felt acutely that it was an inconvenient thing to
be separated from his family even for one night, he was sustained by the
thought that he had done his duty, that he was the victim of a
misconception on the part of the learned judge, and that his solicitor
would, no doubt, set things right in the morning.  When, about an hour
after his introduction to the debtors and first-class misdemeanants
occupying a common room in the Castle, his solicitor visited him, he
became quite indignant with that luminary for suggesting that he should
give up the papers.  He urged the man of law to have His Lordship
informed by the mouth of eminent counsel that the documents had no
earthly bearing on the case.

“The whole thing’s jest re-deeckless,” said the prisoner, absolutely
smiling at the absurdity of the judge’s order.

His solicitor only shook his head and went away.

Among the other prisoners William Sadd became instantly popular.  He had
the latest news from the outer world, and as he was going to rejoin it on
the morrow, he essayed to execute all kinds of commissions for this
brotherhood of misfortune.  His cheery conversation had aroused the
drooping spirits of those around him, when suddenly one and all became
depressed again.  William, following the eyes of the other victims,
glanced towards the door, and, seeing a clergyman enter, instinctively
rose to his feet.  His example was not followed by any of the others, who
turned sulkily away from beholding the ecclesiastic.

The new arrival was the Rev. Joseph Thorns, Chaplain of Marston Castle,
and was familiarly alluded to by his congregation as “Holy Jo.”  He was a
man of small stature, and was afflicted with a deformity between the
shoulders, the knowledge of which had permanently soured a temper not
originally angelic.  He strode up to the latest arrival, who bowed
respectfully, and pulling out a note-book, asked brusquely,—

“Your name?”

The prisoner told him: but with the air of a man who regarded the
formality of taking it down in a book as an operation quite superfluous,
he being merely a lodger for the night.

“For what have you been committed?”

“Well, ye ken,” replied Mr. Sadd, “it’s jest a bit mistake.  I’ve been
neglacted by my soleecitor.”

“I see,” said the Chaplain.  “Contempt of Court,” and he wrote that down
opposite the inventor’s name.  “What religion?”

“A’m a member of the Auld Kirk,” replied the contemptuous prisoner.

“I should have thought that even in the Auld Kirk,” said the clergyman,
“they would have taught you to obey the law.  Here is a book for you,”
and he handed him a copy of the hymn-book used in the chapel, turned
sharply round, and left the long, bare apartment, now looking longer and
more bare than ever in the eyes of the latest inmate.  Sadd soon,
however, recovered his accustomed spirits, and eventually became
sufficiently composed to look through the hymnal.  As he by no means
relished the chaplain’s sneer at the Church of his fathers, he observed
somewhat maliciously to his companions, holding up the book of sacred
songs,—

“Comparrit wi’ the Psawlms of David, they’re a wheen blithers,” an
observation which was heartily applauded by the other misdemeanants as
indirectly reflecting on the parson.

The next day Mrs. Sadd appeared upon the scene, conveying a basket of
delicacies not included in the prison fare, and conveying also the
information that it would take some days before the judge was in a temper
to be addressed on the subject of Sadd’s contempt.  When three days had
passed, and the judge was tackled by an eminent Queen’s Counsel, he
absolutely refused to reconsider his sentence.

“Let the prisoner surrender the documents, and then the Court will
consider whether or not he has purged the contempt.”

Thus my lord on the Bench.

But Sadd was firm, and through his solicitor petitioned the Home
Secretary.  The Home Secretary, having taken three weeks to consider the
matter, refused to interfere with the order of the judge.

Then the spirits of the sanguine inventor fell suddenly to zero.  Nor
were they manifestly revived by the daily visits of his wife, for she,
poor woman, with tears in her eyes, begged and prayed her recalcitrant
husband to give up the documents.  But even his love for her did not
induce him to forget his duty to the dead.

Sadd was committed to Marston Castle in the early part of November.  And
before a month had passed over his head he had become the most melancholy
and morose of those resorting to the common room.  The others had some
hope of release.  It seemed that he must remain there for ever, unless he
relinquished the sacred papers.  His cheeks became sunken, his shoulders
bent, and his hair prematurely grey.  He sat apart from his fellows and
mumbled continually to himself.

It was during the first week in December that the others thought he had
gone mad.  His “little woman,” as he fondly called her, did not pay her
customary visits.  His solicitor looked in and informed him that Mrs.
Sadd was dangerously ill in bed, and urgently pleaded this as an
additional reason for complying with the order of the Court.  Duty to the
dead, love for the living—these conflicting emotions tore his heart.  In
an agony of spirit he motioned his solicitor to withdraw.  Then he burst
out crying like a child, and never again opened his lips to mortal man.

On Christmas Day there was service in the jail chapel.  Mr. Thorns
preached an excellent sermon from the text—“The law is good if a man use
it lawfully.”  This exemplary cleric dwelt with great severity on the
evil that is in the world, and particularly on the evil which brought men
into jails.  He then proceeded to inform his attentive congregation of a
fact which one would have thought was painfully obvious to them—that
punishment did not fall only on the wrong doer, but also upon those who
were near and dear to him.  “Picture to yourselves,” went on the minister
of the Gospel, “picture your wives on this holy anniversary, seated in
silence and sadness, surrounded by their weeping children.  Think of
their untold agony as these innocent children—inheritors of a parent’s
brand—put the tormenting question, ‘Where’s father?’  Picture—”

It all happened in a moment; a prisoner had burst from the benches
occupied by the first-class misdemeanants; had scaled the pulpit like a
wild cat; had caught the chaplain by the throat; had suddenly released
his grasp; and, with a groan which those who heard it will never forget,
had fallen back on to the stone pavement in front of the pulpit—dead.

When the body was searched the precious documents were found stitched
beneath his waistcoat.  They disclosed an unfinished scheme of the late
Mr. McAllister’s for so dealing with horsehair as to render the wigs of
judges not only awful to the multitude, but comfortable to the wearer.



VII.
_MR. GREY_.


FOR five and twenty years, and on every day during term time, Reginald
Grey took his place on the seats devoted to the Junior Bar in one of the
Courts allotted to Vice-Chancellors.  He did not live to attend before
Vice-Chancellors in the spick-and-span mausoleum, that goes by the name
of the Royal Courts of Justice.  When he was at the Bar, the
Vice-Chancellors sat in dingy buildings in Lincoln’s Inn Fields—the same,
indeed, which have been so fully described in _Bleak House_.

To the reporters, barristers, general public, and to successive
Vice-Chancellors, Reginald was as well known as “the Fields” themselves.
He was a modest, self-contained man, and he never held a brief.  But he
must have known a wonderful deal of law, for he never missed a case, and
he listened to every argument and suggestion as though Coke _in propriâ
personâ_ were lecturing him upon Littleton.  Even when lunch time came
Reginald did not hurry out of Court with the chattering, surging crowd of
litigants and lawyers’ clerks.  He sat quietly in the position which he
had taken up, and when the Court was quite empty, drew a penny bun from
his pocket, which he devoured, gazing absently up at the roof of the
Court.  When the Court resumed its duties, he brushed the crumbs from his
trousers, and when the Vice-Chancellor entered, he rose with the rest of
the Bar and bowed to his lordship with every dignity.

Wigs, gowns, and bands are, as articles of attire, subject to the very
same law of decay which affects a great-coat or a suit of sables, and the
years had not spared the robes which denoted Mr. Grey’s professional
status.  His wig was discoloured by dust, smoke, and other accidents.
Whole wisps of horsehair stuck out here and there, and one of the little
tails which depend behind had fallen bodily away—had perhaps been eaten
away by rats.  His bands were most disreputable specimens of
man-millinery; for indeed he was his own laundress, and washed those
symbolic rags in his own basin, drying them before his fire in his
chambers in Gray’s Inn.  His stuff gown was a frayed and ragged garment;
no ragman would have advanced sixpence on it.  For five and twenty years
had it—but there! it is about the man himself I would speak.  There is
something to my mind so pathetic in the sight of these forensic shreds
and patches, that I cannot bear to dwell on their dilapidation.

There was only one man in Court who took the slightest notice of Mr.
Grey: and he was a tall, florid, bustling, and—as he once had a case of
mine, I take the liberty of adding—impudent gentleman, with an
impressively loud and boisterous manner.  When he saw Grey even in his
scarecrow days he would sometimes throw him a hearty “How d’ye do,
Grey?”—but sometimes, I imagine, he pretended not to see him.  This
counsel learned in the law was none other than Mr. Stanley Overton.  Grey
took a great interest in him, following him from court to court, and
listening to him with rapt attention as he bullied his opponents and even
the Court; for a more vulgar, bullying, swaggering man than Overton while
he was at the Bar I never encountered.  He toned down greatly after his
elevation.

As Grey grew from month to month more worn and shabby, so did Overton
become more sleek and resplendent.  When once a man commences in earnest
there is no stopping him.  The proverb which tells us about the facility
of the descent to Avernus is only half a truth.  The ascent to the stars
is equally easy, and is achieved every day both by the brave man and the
bully.  It is as easy as the descent, and is a very great deal more
comfortable.

Some people were surprised when Overton was made a Vice-Chancellor.  In
fact, the surprise was very general.  But it was not shared by Grey.
That devoted man thought it the most natural thing in the world.  He
would not again have to follow this luminary in its erratic circuit from
court to court.  His idol was now enthroned.  The worship would in future
be offered in one temple, and not in two or three.

On the morning when Overton took his seat as Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Grey
took _his_ place in the back benches.  And when the newly-made judge
entered, flushed with victory and imposing in brand-new wig and robes,
the whole Bar rose with great rustling of stuff and silk.  Grey rose too;
and a solicitor’s clerk who sat next him saw his face turn ashen white,
while two great tears rolled down his emaciated cheeks; and when he sat
down he leaned his head on the ledge in front of him, covered his eyes
with his poor thin hand and sighed.

At four o’clock that evening, when the Court rose to go, Grey remained in
that position till everyone had left.  An usher found him, and touched
him on the elbow.  He started, looked about him on the emptiness in a
dazed sort of way, and, without saying a word, walked quietly off, the
usher observing to his plump assistant that Mr. Reginald Grey was “a rum
old file.”

Mr. Grey’s chambers were very, very high up in one of the gaunt sets in
Gray’s Inn.  Indeed, they were at the top of the building—mere garrets.
When he arrived at them he found his laundress arranging the tea
things—he seldom dined—and there was a decided odour of the savoury
kipper about the apartment.

“Ah!  Mrs. Tracy,” he said, assuming a thin affectation of gaiety, “this
has been a great day for the Inn—a great day.”

“Indeed, sir,” assented that slipshod female.

“Yes, they’ve made a Vice-Chancellor of my old friend, Stanley Overton.”

“Oh, indeed, sir.  Which I’m sure, I’m ’appy to ’ear it, an’ ’appy to
’ear as he’s a friend of _yours_, Mr. Grey.”

“A very old friend indeed, Mrs. Tracy.  Why, we were boys together.  We
were at school together.  We were at college together.  And we were both
called to the Bar the same day.”

“Law!” exclaimed Mrs. Tracy.

Indeed, what _could_ she say?  Mr. Grey had always been a remarkably
reserved, reticent man—a “little queer,” the good lady thought—and,
beyond what was necessary in the way of speech, quite silent and
inscrutable.

“Yes, indeed, ma’am,” went on the poor barrister, “and I’ll tell you
something that will surprise you even more.  We were both in love with
the same lady.”

This indeed _did_ surprise the draggle-tailed bed-maker, and she looked
her astonishment.

“It’s quite true; and the strange thing is that she preferred me, or at
least she told me so.  And when I left my home in Devonshire I was
engaged to her.”

Mrs. Tracy did not now think that the gentleman was a “little queer”—she
was convinced that he was stark staring mad.  She looked apprehensively
at the poor thin knife that lay on the table.  Reticent!  Why, the man
was as garrulous and confidential as a village gossip.

He continued:

“You see, Overton was always a more pushing man, and a cleverer man too;
and after we were called he borrowed a hundred pounds from me and went
down to Devonshire.  Some wicked stories got circulated about my doings
in London, in consequence of which my sweetheart ceased to care for me,
and Overton, who was always a plucky fellow, ran away with her and
married her.”

His voice trembled as he narrated that episode; but he returned to the
affectation of gaiety, and said,—

“Yes, Mrs. Tracy, and she’s now Lady Overton; and of course I’m very glad
of it, for her sake.”

“Of course, sir,” acquiesces Mrs. Tracy.

“And the funny thing is,” he added, with the most pitiable attempt at
hilarity, “he never paid me back that hundred pounds—ha, ha, ha!”

It was a mockery of laughter, the cachinnation of a ghost.

“And to-night, Mrs. Tracy,” he said, “I am going home.”

“To Devonshire, sir?”

“I _said_ home,” he answered; “but you will come as usual in the morning,
and see that all is right.  You can go, Mrs. Tracy.  Good-bye.”

And to the utter astonishment of the poor woman, he shook hands with her,
and, I fear, retained her hand for a moment, and there was the suspicion
of moisture in his eyes.

The next morning, when Mrs. Tracy came to see that all was right, she
found Mr. Reginald Grey stretched lifeless on the hearthrug.  A revolver
lay beside him, and there was a bullet through his forehead.  In his left
hand was an open locket, containing a little wisp of straw-coloured hair.



VIII.
_THE PRODIGAL’S RETURN_.


“LEAVE my house!” shouted the Rev. Stanley Blewton to his son.  Two
women—they were the Prodigal’s mother and sister—wept and pleaded.  But
the man of God was inexorable.

“Silence!” he exclaimed.  “And”—turning to his son—“never cross this
threshold again.”

“Father!” cried the boy.

“Thief!” retorted the reverend gentleman.

The face of his progeny burnt red, his eyes flashed, and he clenched his
fists.  The women meanwhile redoubled their sobs.

“But, hold,” added Mr. Blewton, as his son turned to go.  “You shall be
treated beyond your deserts.  Here are ten pounds.  Use them discreetly.
They are the last you will ever have from me.”

“Keep your money, sir,” answered Master Henry Blewton—he was but
seventeen years of age, and inherited the hot temper of his parent.,
“Mother, good-bye.  Maude, God bless you.  I am innocent.”

He kissed his mother and sister.  The flush of resentment had died from
his face.  He turned to his father, and extending his hand, said,—

“Wish me good-bye, sir.  Time will set me right.”

But an ominous sneer played about the thin lips of the clergyman.  He
pointed to the door, and his last words to his son were,—

“I will have no parley with one who has brought dishonour on my name.
Go!”

Henry Blewton cast one longing look at his mother and sister, and then
walked straight into the hall, took his hat off the peg, and, as the door
closed on him, Mrs. Blewton screamed in her agony, and fell into a faint
that looked like death.

The Rev. Stanley Blewton was a man with a sense of honour pushed to its
extremest point.  He had no forgiveness for the sinner who brought
discredit on an honest name.  Like all good Christians, he was bound, I
presume, to accept the story of the thief on the cross.  But as long as
there remained another text in the Bible he would never select that
particular scripture as the text of a discourse.  His only son had
through his influence obtained a good appointment in a clerical insurance
office, in which the reverend gentleman was a shareholder.  He had been
accused by his superiors of peculation.  His father’s position, backing
his remonstrances, kept the case from coming into the police court.  The
matter was “squared,” as the slang term has it.  A public scandal was
averted.  But certain persons at least would know the secret.  The
Blewton name was smirched.  This his reverence would never forgive.

Henry walked with a rapid pace down Brixton Hill, for on that reputable
eminence his father’s house was situated; passed through Kennington,
along the Westminster Bridge Road, crossed the bridge, passed under the
shadow of the clock tower, and went up to a recruiting sergeant who stood
at the corner of Parliament Street.

During that walk the circumstances of Henry Blewton underwent many
important changes.  To begin with, he had changed his name, his age, and
his occupation.  He enlisted, passed the doctor with credit, and
blossomed eventually into Private Nott of a valiant regiment of the line.

From that moment all trace of Henry Blewton became lost to his friends
and relatives, and for years they mourned for him as people mourn for the
dead.  His concluding prophecy, delivered with such meaning to his
father, came true.  Time set him right.  He had not been a year in the
army before the real delinquent was discovered; and, as the genuine
sinner had no influential acquaintances on the directorate of the
company, his case was remitted to the Old Bailey for the consideration of
a judge and jury.  He was found guilty, and sentenced to a term of
imprisonment.  Thus was the character of Henry Blewton vindicated.

Useless, alas! now were the regrets and repentances of his reverend
father.  Vain were the efforts of the private detectives whom he engaged.
The advertisements that he caused to be inserted in the papers brought no
response, and, after five years of fruitless labour and unavailing
self-reproach, his family came to the conclusion that he was dead.  He
had perished from hunger, perhaps, or had hurried himself into the
presence of his Maker, goaded to distraction by the paternal taunts.  The
reflection that his innocence had been established ameliorated to some
little extent the pangs of mother and sister.  But the very thought which
gave them consolation added to the poignancy of the father’s feelings.
He mourned in secret, and cried with the man of yore,—

“Would to God I had died for him!  My son, my son!”

At the very point where Brixton Rise merges into Brixton Hill there is an
avenue.  It is a very well-kept avenue, and a stately row of young trees
runs along each side of it.  A notice-board informs the passers-by that
there is “No Thoroughfare,” and that this trimly-kept approach is
“Private.”  On some fine days honest people are beguiled by the spectacle
of half-a-dozen men with cropped hair and unbecoming uniform repairing
the roadway.  These operators are directed by another person.  He is also
in uniform, and carries side arms and a musket—for the avenue leads to
Brixton Gaol, and the sullen road-menders are inmates of that suburban
retreat.  It is perhaps within the knowledge of the reader that military
prisoners are now received in the Brixton seminary; if not, the reader
must take it from me that it is so.

One wild November morning the gates of Brixton Gaol opened and let loose
a prisoner who had been confined for an assault on his superior officer,
that gallant captain having contributed somewhat to the offence by
dubbing the man a thief.  He was a fine, soldierly-looking young fellow
of two-and-twenty, though he looked much more.  When he came to the end
of the avenue he found the chaplain waiting there, notwithstanding the
inclemency of the weather.

“Good-morning,” said the chaplain—a kind-hearted Devonshire parson, who
took more than the usual perfunctory interest in his patients, as he was
wont to call them.

“Good-morning, sir,” replied the soldier, respectfully, and with an
accent of surprise.

“You have no money, I suppose?”

“Not a sou, your reverence,” replied the man.

“Then,” said the chaplain, “here are two shillings.  They will at least
keep you for a day or two.  Seek work and keep honest.  God bless you.”

“Heaven reward you!” replied the man, writhing under the kindness of the
clergyman.  The visitant to the outer world did not move, however.  He
looked up and down the hill, as if hesitating in what direction he should
go.

“That,” said the parson, pointing down the hill, “that is the way to
London”—saying which he turned up the avenue, and so re-entered the
precincts of the gaol.  But the man did not take the direction indicated
by his benefactor.  There was something in the atmosphere of Brixton
which seemed to agree with him.  He found its attractions more
considerable than do most visitors to the noted locality.  He wandered in
an aimless way up and down by-streets.  But the police—always solicitous
about the welfare of discharged prisoners—kept their eyes on him.  He had
an uncomfortable feeling that he was being watched.  And he repeated with
something of bitter irony in his tone the parting admonition of the
chaplain.

“‘Seek work and keep honest!’  No easy matter, Mr. Parson, with these
sleuth-hounds on the trail.”

Towards evening he entered a small beer-house in the Cornwall Road, a
thoroughfare not far removed from the gaol.  Here he refreshed himself
with bread and cheese and beer.  Here also he found company who did not
object to his society, for it is a comforting reflection that there are
more wicked people outside gaols than in them.  And among these excellent
fellows he spent the time, until at the hour of twelve the landlord was
obliged to turn his customers into the bleak and blustrous night.

The man bade good-bye to his companions, and sought the high road.  He
proceeded up the hill with his back turned on London.  When he came to
the substantial house of the Rev. Stanley Blewton he stopped, looked up
and down the road to see that he was not followed, and then passed into
the clergyman’s front garden, creeping forward under the shadow of the
bushes.

At one o’clock in the morning the reverend occupant of the house was
wakened by a noise below; he listened, warned his wife to keep quiet,
drew on his trousers, took his revolver, and crept downstairs in his
naked feet.  Yes, the thief had entered the library.  Mr. Blewton was, as
we have seen, a person of some determination.  He opened the library door
and said,—

“Speak, or I’ll fire.”

“It is—”  But the voice was not allowed to proceed.  The sound indicated
the position of the robber.  The minister fired two barrels in the
direction of the voice, and heard a body fall with a groan of—

“Oh—father—you—have—killed—me!”

Then there was silence.  Then another groan, and the fall of another man.
When the servants came with a light they found the dead body of the
father stretched by the dead body of the son.



IX.
_A PHILANTHROPIC_ “_MASHER_.”


AN elderly man with a pleasant expression, iron-grey hair, and
faultlessly dressed may occasionally be seen walking along the shady side
of St. James’s Street in the early afternoon.  He gazes a good deal under
the bonnets of the pretty women.  But there is a demure and
half-respectful expression in his glance which withers any rising feeling
of resentment.  His age and his unmistakably sympathetic half-smile give
him an immunity which would not be extended to younger and bolder men.
He is known to society as the Hon. Archibald Flodden.

Flodden is a member of three excellent clubs.  His name is on some
extremely desirable visiting lists.  He goes to church when in town every
Sunday morning.  His conduct in public is most exemplary.  And yet,
somehow, Flodden has no men friends.  He has money, and therefore can
always command the society of a select circle of parasites.  But men who
ought to be in his own set—or of whose set he ought to be—do not care for
his company.  Nor do the female leaders of society give him great
countenance.  He is not, perhaps, regarded exactly as a _mauvais sujet_.
But it is generally admitted that there is something queer about Flodden.

This sentiment was not, of course, inspired originally by the fact that
after two years of domestic infelicity his wife left him, taking her
infant daughter with her.  Society naturally took the man’s part.  The
wife placed herself outside the pale, and Flodden never asked her to
re-enter it.  He took the matter philosophically, gave up his house in
Sloane Square, took chambers in the Albany, refused all communication
with his wife, and led the life of a sedate and philanthropic bachelor.
For eighteen years he has led this blameless and almost idyllic life, and
yet there exists in society an undefined distrust of him which is utterly
unaccountable.

But though the great ladies of society, guided by an infallible instinct,
do not regard the Hon. Archie Flodden with favour, there are certain
other desirable persons who worship him as the very _beau ideal_ knight.
These are ladies of the middle-class, the wives of professional men, or
the gushing ornaments of suburban Bohemia.  Their experience of gentlemen
is, perhaps, limited.  They may be excused, therefore, in mistaking
Flodden’s tinsel of politeness for the gold of real gallantry.

It is quite surprising the number of interesting young persons of the
emotional and impressionable kind who have acquired a sincere, romantic,
but quite Platonic, regard for Mr. Flodden.  Happy chance has in the
majority of instances procured the introduction; and, as a rule, the male
relatives of the ladies are quite unaware of the discreet intimacy
existing between Flodden and their women-folk.  Indeed, these male
relatives are all mere brutes, and it is part of Flodden’s edifying
mission to sympathise with these dear creatures, to express distress that
their sweetness should be wasted on such clods of earth, and generally to
insinuate comparisons between himself and the lawful husband, which are
infinitely detrimental to the latter.

This hoary-headed squire of dames has the pleasantest possible little
five o’clock teas at his chambers in the Albany, and sometimes as many as
eight, or even nine, of his young friends will join him at that simple
repast.  Lord Roach (“Cock” Roach he used to be called in his regiment),
who lives in the next set, seeing the ladies file out at half-past six or
so, has put it about that Flodden keeps a dancing academy.  But, though
there is occasionally a little piano playing, there has never been a
dance; indeed, the entertainment is chiefly conversational.  Mr. Flodden
never used a rude or an improper expression.  He has, however, a
wonderful knack of leading the conversation into doubtful topics.  The
chaste annals of the Divorce Court afforded him much agreeable food for
comment.  He would argue with some of his impressionable admirers as to
the possibility of a purely Platonic affection, and at times he would
scribble off an epigram in choice French on some living beauty, notorious
for the number of her amours.  These trifles, written in a formal but
trembling hand, have found themselves in the private albums of many an
honest house in the suburbs.  The ladies who were the objects of his
disinterested regard invariably alluded to him as “a dear, kind
creature,” the “most gentlemanly person,” “so sympathetic,” and the rest.
The more gushing, recklessly declared him to be a “duck.”  Dean Swift,
remembering his own definition of the phrase, would have called him “a
nice man.”

One hot afternoon in the July of last year, Mr. Flodden sat in his
luxurious chambers surrounded by half-a-dozen of his female admirers,
descanting on the superiority of French art as illustrated by the
examples which adorned his walls.  Having exhausted this topic, he
proceeded to one more calculated to stimulate the curiosity of his
guests.

“I have got a little surprise for you, my dear ladies: a fresh addition
to our charmed, and may I say charming, circle.”

Six fragile cups descended from twelve ruby lips, and twelve eyes opened
wide with curiosity.

“Such a charming creature—so young, so beautiful, so romantic, and so
unfortunate.”  Six long-drawn sighs.

“Husband a cruel brute; absolutely beats her.”

Twelve eyes cast in mute appeal to the heaven that exists above Albany
ceilings.  Then the still, small voice of a sympathetic inquirer—

“And where did you meet this—this—paragon?”

“A secret, my dear madam, an absolute and positive secret.  She was on
her way to give lessons—she sings divinely—in order to maintain her
keeper in tobacco and beer.  Faugh!”

Six more long-drawn sighs.

“If she keep her appointment she will be here directly.  She is a shy,
reserved little creature, but should, I think, in such genial society
thaw somewhat.  Yes, she really must thaw.”

In five minutes Flodden’s man—a highly-respectable person, well versed in
his master’s little ways—announced Mrs. Bird.  This was the lady who had
so greatly fascinated the philanthropist, thereby driving six sympathetic
souls into paroxysms of jealousy.

It must be admitted that anything less reserved or shy than Mrs. Bird had
never before been presented to six neglected matrons.  Mrs. Bird was
stylishly dressed, greatly made up, and exhibited the undefinable
_cachet_ of the professional.  She called Mr. Flodden “old chappie,”
shook hands, unintroduced, with the assembled tea-drinkers, hoped they
were quite jolly, and then asked the master of the establishment for a
brandy and soda.  That worthy man of the world had turned red and white
and even blue.  He was completely thunder-struck.  It was evident he must
stop the compromising flow of her conversation.  The modest woman of his
rambles had suddenly become transformed into a something too terrible for
contemplation.  A brilliant idea.  He would ask her to sing.  Mrs. Bird
was a woman of a most obliging disposition.  She sat down at the piano
and dashed off a showy prelude and commenced her song.  You remember the
effect of Captain Shandon’s tipsy ditty upon the good Colonel Newcome; an
effect somewhat similar was now produced on the neglected wives.  Mrs.
Bird warbled out with unctuous accent one of the most notorious ballads
of a Parisian _café chantant_.  The matrons rose for shawls, and the
songstress, apprehending their intention, jumped from the piano and burst
into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.  Flodden looked humiliated beyond
measure; there was not a pennyweight of philanthropy left in him.

“This is awful!” he exclaimed; “in heaven’s name who and what are you?”

“I am your daughter Gwendolyn,” she hissed.

At that moment voices were heard from without—Flodden’s man shouting,
“You sha’n’t go in,” and another voice consigning Flodden’s man to Hades.
Then the door was thrust open, and a cad in loud check trousers, a
green-coloured Newmarket coat, a white hat and innumerable rings, stood
bowing to the assembled company.  He eventually fixed a somewhat
bloodshot eye on the philanthropist and said,—

“Now, then, my festive fossil, when next you go a followin’ other men’s
wives, you see as they ain’t your own daughters!  I’m the Great O’Daniel,
the star comique.  Gwen’s my wife, an’ you’re my pa-in-lor.  Here’s a
horder; give us a turn and bring your lady friends with you.  My new
song, ‘The Elderly Masher,’ is no end of a go.  Come along, Gwen.
Good-bye, par.  Ladies, bong joor!”

So saying he tucked Gwendolyn under his arm, bowed, and left the
apartment.  The other guests retired in solemn silence, wiser, and, let
us hope better, women.

And that was Mr. Flodden’s last five o’clock tea at the Albany.



X.
_A DISHONOURED BILL_.


THE bill itself, considering the prospects of the acceptor, was not for a
very alarming amount.  He was heir to a baronetcy and £50,000 per annum.
The bill was for “a monkey”—or, in more intelligible phraseology than
that usually adopted by the acceptor himself, for the sum of five hundred
pounds sterling.  The extraordinary circumstance about the bill was that
the acceptor, Harry Jermyn, paid Abednego, of Throgmorton Street,
interest at the rate of sixty per cent. per annum for the accommodation,
and that in addition he had to take part of the proceeds in the shape of
a park hack, which he found difficulty in selling to a cab proprietor for
a five-pound note.  The consideration deducted from the bill in respect
of this animal was fifty pounds.

Harry Jermyn was a _mauvais sujet_; that is to say, he was a young
gentleman kept by his father on a short allowance.  He gambled a little,
went to all the races, was a member of the Raleigh and other social
centres of a similar kind, and evinced a considerable interest in the
drama—that is to say, at theatres where the sacred lamp was kept burning.
In fact, he resembled hundreds of other young men of our acquaintance;
and probably he would not have been called a _mauvais sujet_ were it not
that the old baronet restricted him to means inadequate to supply his
simple desires.

Mr. Abednego was not a _mauvais sujet_.  He was a most respectable man;
had a house in Mayfair, another in Richmond, and a mansion in Scotland
which he modestly called his shooting box.  He occasionally entertained
live lords, who borrowed his money and sneered at him behind his back.
He had contrived to obtain a seat on a county bench, and was a Colonel of
Volunteers in the same happy county, by reason of which he was known to
society at large as Colonel Abednego.

When Harry Jermyn’s bill fell due he rushed down in a hansom to
Abednego’s office in Throgmorton Street, and was—after an ominous
delay—admitted to the sanctum of the great Abednego himself.  That
potentate did not rise, but nodded quickly to his visitor, with a short,
and by no means encouraging, “Mornin’.”

Harry was a man with a fine flow of animal spirits, and was not to be
dashed by the studied coolness of his reception.

“I say, old chappie,” he replied, with the greatest good humour, “what’s
the matter?  Feel a little chippy this morning? or lost a point or two at
sixpenny whist last night—eh?”

“Mr. Jermyn, this is the City,” said the money-lender.  “What is your
business?”

“Well, the fact is, old boy,” answered Jermyn, sitting on the edge of the
table opposite the financier, “that damn bill of mine falls due
to-morrow.”

“Well?”

“And of course you’ll renew?”

“Of course I’ll do nothing of the kind,” answered Abednego, rising and
taking out his watch.

Harry’s jaw fell considerably.  His former experience of this exemplary
man had not prepared him for this.  It had only prepared him for the
incurring of fresh interest and the possession of park hacks anything
_but_ fresh.

“But look here, old man, I _must_ have the coin, don’t you know?”

Young Jermyn considered this sort of argument unanswerable.  His host
resumed his seat, and looking the young man in the face, said,—

“Well, I found her expensive myself.  I’m not surprised that _you_ do.”

Harry jumped from his seat on the table, and exclaimed, “What in Hades do
you mean?”

“I mean Baby Somerville of the Frivolity.”

“You scoundrel!” shouted the borrower, “she is my wife.  I have married
her.”

“You lie,” quietly answered Mr. Abednego.

Of course a blow followed.  When Abednego had pulled himself together,
and wiped the blood from his face, he said, in tones now quivering with
rage,—

“You young scoundrel, you shall suffer for this!”

That was the end of the interview.  Jermyn withdrew at once, wrathful and
defeated, and next day the bill for “a monkey” was dishonoured.

Now, strange as it may appear, Harry Jermyn had really married Baby
Somerville of the Frivolity, a shapely, vain, and heartless woman,
incapable of an affection, except perhaps for some brute of a chorus man.
There was a period in her career, however, when she was considered _chic_
by a certain number of men about town.  Jermyn unfortunately allowed his
passion to take an honourable direction.  He wanted to have her all to
himself; and she, knowing him to be heir to a baronetcy, without any
conventional coyness consented to be his wife.  But at the time of his
marriage, and until he heard it on the day before his bill was
dishonoured, he had no suspicion that Abednego had been among the
admirers of his wife; and when he taxed her with it, she denied the fact
with such accent of sincerity that he clasped her to his heart and called
her by a hundred endearing names.  He was, you see, an indubitable
_mauvais sujet_.

Mr. and Mrs. Jermyn were spending the early days of their married life on
the upper Thames, where, to her credit be it said, the lady affected a
pretty interest in waving corn, and floating lily leaves, and shrilling
larks, and other beauties which, I am told, abound in the neighbourhood
of that incomparable stream; and, on the Sunday following the unpleasant
interview with the magnate of Throgmorton Street, Mr. Jermyn was sculling
his young bride in the skiff which he had purchased for her, and called
after her name.

It was a glorious July day, and the river was crowded with craft of every
description.

The lock at — was open and half full when they reached it.  Jermyn took
his skiff gently in, and held on to the side of a launch, the deck of
which was crowded with laughing women and men in gorgeous array.  In the
cabin a lunch was laid, and cases of champagne reposed pleasantly in the
stern.  Jermyn cursed his indiscretion a moment after, when he discovered
that a number of the sirens on deck were members of the Frivolity chorus.
But the worst was to come.  Abednego, flashing with diamonds, exquisitely
raddled as to his cheeks, stood at the tiller, and addressing Mrs.
Jermyn, said, with an air of easy familiarity,—

“Hallo, Baby, how are you gettin’ on, eh?”

That was bad enough, but when Harry turned sharply round on his wife, he
saw her big eyes turned longingly on the resplendent Hebrew, and her
smile cast boldly on his painted countenance.  At that moment the devil
entered into Jermyn’s soul as surely as ever it took possession of the
Gadarene swine.  His lips turned blue, his face was livid; but he made no
other sign.  His was the last boat to leave the lock.  He rowed steadily
on, and never spoke to the woman he had loved so well and so unwisely.

Mr. Abednego had enjoyed a real good time on board the launch, and on his
way down stopped at the famous riparian village of —.  Here also Jermyn
landed some time after.  He sent his wife home by train, and put up at
the same hotel as that occupied by his opulent rival.

No one ever knew how it happened.  Close to the village there is a lock,
and by the lock is what is called a hook—a horseshoe of water running
round from a point above it, and, after making a vast circuit, emerging
at a point below.  For the most part this hook is shallow, but in places
it is deep as the wells described by Herodotus.  At six o’clock on the
following morning, Abednego, who was fond of the water, repaired to a
remote part of the hook.  Five minutes after Harry Jermyn also proceeded
to the bathing place.  He must, however, have selected a spot out of
sight of the “Colonel,” for that gentleman was unfortunately drowned
without Jermyn’s even having seen him.  A certain mark was discovered
round Abednego’s throat, but the coroner very sagely informed the jury
that with that they had nothing to do—it might be a mark of
long-standing.  Mr. Jermyn volunteered evidence as to having seen nobody
in the vicinity of the hook.  Verdict in accordance with such evidence as
was produced—“Accidental death.”

Six months afterwards the famous case of Jermyn _v._ Jermyn, Smith,
Jones, and Another was heard, which, as the public will recollect,
resulted in a verdict for the husband, who is now a prematurely aged and
curiously reticent man—the inheritor of a baronetcy and fifty thousand
pounds a year.



XI.
_A MAN OF GENIUS_.


FELIX CARTER was always on the look out for unappreciated genius, the
which, when discovered, he would clothe, feed, and house until the time
came—as it invariably did come—when he found out that the gold was
tinsel.  He never for one moment suspected that he himself was the happy
possessor of that divine endowment which he so reverenced in others.  And
yet his friends all swore that if any man ever were gifted with genius,
Felix Carter was that individual.  He was a sort of artistic Admirable
Crichton.  He painted exquisite pictures.  He had written three novels.
Plays of his had been produced with success.  And he played the violin
like a very Paganini.  Acquaintances spoke of him as being eccentric.
But every man is accounted eccentric whose talents cover a wide area and
whose heart is abnormally large.

Play writing, novel spinning, and violin practice Felix regarded as
recreations.  His real profession was that of an artist.  And his big
bachelor establishment in a North Western suburb of London will be
remembered as the scene of some brilliant receptions, at not a few of
which Carter’s latest Man of Genius would put in an appearance, to the
great surprise of guests, who very properly refused to see any merit
whatever in his utterances.  Sometimes three or four undesirable
pensioners would be quartered on the establishment.  And although
Carter’s friends deplored the circumstance, not one of them dare
remonstrate.  He was the victim of perpetual disappointment in his
_protégés_, but would resent any interference with his practical
philanthropy.

One of Carter’s Men of Genius lived with him and on him for a period of
more than six months.  It was amusing always to hear his enthusiasm over
this big, blotchy-faced loafer.  He bored all his friends by a
description of his first meeting him, of his desire to see him again, and
of the happy coincidence of their second encounter.  Carter was greatly
given to prowling about unknown London for the purpose of picking up
“effects.”  He knew the opium-smoking quarter.  He had been in a thieves’
kitchen, and he knew his way to the most disreputable common
lodging-houses in the metropolis.  He occasionally dropped in at the
“White Elephant,” a public-house situated in a slum off Fleet Street,
where every night in the week a discussion took place on the events of
the day.  This discussion was carried on in a hall at the back of the
“White Elephant,” and was mainly contributed to by subsidized speakers
whose feats of oratory were intended to encourage the ambitious vestryman
who smoked his pipe there, or the occasional young barrister who dropped
in upon his way to or from the Temple.  But the audience generally was
made up of solicitors’ clerks, solicitors who had been struck off the
Rolls, with here and there a fiery disciple of Bradlaugh from the
unsavoury fastnesses of Clerkenwell.  It was in this resort that Carter
first saw and admired Joseph Addison, the large and very loathsome person
who eventually shared his home.

“I tell you,” he would say, “Joseph is the most wonderful chap.  By Jove,
sir, you should have heard the way he pegged into those Radicals.  He
made them squirm.  I wish old Gladstone had been there to hear him, upon
my soul I do.”

Unfortunately it happened that late one night Felix encountered his
paragon lying asleep under a bench in St. James’s Park.  It is more than
probable that the creature was drunk after a day of successful sponging.
But his admirer only saw a man full of gifts and faculties suffering from
cold and hunger.

“By Gad, old boy,” he said in describing the scene, “I could have cried
to see a man, who could talk Sir William Harcourt’s head off, perishing
for want of a penny roll.”

So Addison was treated as reverently as if he had been his great
namesake, was made free of Carter’s house, was introduced to his studio
friends, and was generally rendered a great deal more comfortable than he
deserved to be.  His appearance was sadly against him.  His eyes were
shifty and blood-shot; his bushy black whiskers were never submitted to
the torture of the comb; his finger nails were invariably dirty, and his
expression was that of effrontery struggling with awkwardness.  His
clothes of seedy black vainly endeavouring to conceal an unwashed shirt
seemed as if they had been persistently slept in, and his eyeglass
depending from a white string completed the picture of a rakish
adventurer.

It is true that these deficiences of attire were gradually ameliorated,
and Joseph Addison appeared in the linen and jackets of our friend, to
which, however, this hopeless and abominable ale-house ornament managed
to impart a debauched and dissipated air.  Of this Carter saw nothing.
Nor did he consider it extraordinary that the unsightly incubus should
drink his brandy at eleven o’clock in the morning, or that he should
smoke his Latakia out of his favourite pipes.  All these little
familiarities he set down as being so many eccentricities of genius.

“What’s a bottle of brandy to me if it makes Joseph talk!  I tell you I
have heard that man emit epigrams by the hour.  He’s a little shy before
strangers.  But you should hear him when we’re alone.  By the lord Harry,
Rochfoucauld isn’t in it with him.”

And so Felix Carter, a man of taste, refinement, culture, and genius,
worshipped this idol of mud, this tavern sponge, this bar-soiled,
gin-soddened impostor.  So Titania was enamoured of an ass.

Although it was perfectly true that Joseph Addison never ventured on any
epigrams before Carter’s friends, he committed some of them to writing,
for the benefit of posterity.  These wonderful sentiments Addison’s hand
had traced with charcoal on the white-washed walls of the studio, and
Carter would point them out with genuine enthusiasm as though they were

                   —jewels five words long
    That on the stretched forefinger of all time
    Sparkle for ever.

Respect and love for Carter induced his associates to affect a great
belief in the value of these jewels of thought scrawled on the walls in
the most vulgar hand imaginable.  That there may be no doubt as to the
literary and philosophical value of the gems, I will reproduce them here.
On one wall—just where Carter could see it as he painted, was inscribed
the legend—

                          GOD LOVES THE WORKER.

Opposite the entrance to the studio appeared in characters of greater
magnitude the intimation—

                            LABOUR IS PRAYER.

While above the mantel-piece, between two beautiful “studies” from the
nude, ran the inscription—

                           LABOR OMNIA VINCIT.

As the Latinity of this recondite quotation was impeccable, I presume
that Mr. Addison had extracted it from Bartlett’s Dictionary of
Quotations.

Had it not been for the large heart and simple faith of the artist, one
would have been inclined to see nothing in the unholy alliance but its
ludicrous side.  But knowing how firm was the faith of the victim in his
new discovery, there was a dash of pathos in it which checked laughter.

Many attempts were made to expose the fraud.  Secret meetings of the
admirers of Carter met in adjoining studios.  All sorts of conspiracies
were set on foot.  Most ingenious devices were proposed and unanimously
adopted.  But they were unavailing.  All were frustrated by the
unsuspicious nature of Carter, or by the low cunning of the beer-swilling
brute who was living in easy idleness on his money.  It is generally
believed that at this period certain of the younger and more enthusiastic
followers of Carter had set on foot a plot for the extermination of
Addison, and that his early assassination was by some deemed feasible and
desirable.

“I will tell you what it is,” said Carter on one occasion to the most
plain-spoken of his friends, “I’ve found out why all you fellows fail to
see that Addison is a Man of Genius.”

“And what may the reason be?” asked Plain Speaker.

“You’re all jealous of his ability—that’s what it is.”

“Bah!”

“It’s all very well to say ‘Bah,’” said Carter, waxing enthusiastic as he
invariably did on this theme, “but it’s impossible to explain your
dislike on any other theory.  Joseph is worth a dozen of the fellows who
make money by literature in these days.  I have written books myself, and
ought to know something about it.  You’ll find him out one of these
days.”

“And so will you,” was Plain Speaker’s response.

Herein Plain Speaker indulged in unconscious prophecy.  That which
friendly conspirators could not bring about was contrived by the
omnipotent finger of Fate.

Felix Carter went to the Isle of Wight to execute a commission for an
invalid magnate in that pleasant settlement, and as he was anxious that a
trustworthy and gentlemanly person should take charge of his house during
his absence, he left his friend and _protégé_, Joseph Addison, in that
responsible position.  The artist had been about a week at work when he
came upon the following gratifying item in one of the London papers:—

                            “POLICE INTELLIGENCE.

    “BOW STREET.  A THIEF.—_Joseph Addison_ alias _Ward_, alias _Peters_,
    40, was charged before Mr. Flowers with stealing from the
    waiting-room of the Charing Cross Station a black bag containing
    jewellery, the property of M. Laurent of Paris.  On the prisoner were
    found a gold watch, an opera-glass, a silver fruit-knife, and a
    valuable cigar-case.  These articles bear the initials ‘F. C.’  The
    prisoner was remanded for further inquiries.”

“My initials!” sighed Carter.

“Our friend will now get plenty of that labour which he affects to love,”
said Plain Speaker.



XII.
_A DIGNIFIED DIPSOMANIAC_.


“A MOST remarkable man, sir,” said the Secretary of the Teetotal Union to
the President.

“But don’t he strike you as being a trifle—a trifle soiled, eh?” asked
the President, glancing down at his own immaculate shirt-cuffs.

“N—no,” replied the Secretary, hesitatingly.  “He’s a most dignified
man—most dignified.  An’ in his dress shoot most impressive.”

“But really, now, Mr. Bottle, I thought, d’ye know, that he rather smelt
of beer.  Just a little, eh?” suggested the President.

“Beer!” echoed the Secretary, in a tone of mingled astonishment and
indignation.  “Beer!  Why, sir, he’s one of the most ardent spirits
engaged in the teetotal cause.  He has been one of us for upwards of ten
years or more.”

“And before that, eh?”

“He was on the Press.”

“Hum!” observed the President.

“But he’s quite reformed _now_,” answered the Secretary, to the objection
implied in the President’s monosyllable.

“And you say he is really eloquent?”

“Remarkably so—_very_, remarkably so.  In fact, I may say a puffick J. B.
Gough.”

“Has he written in favour of the cause?”

“Largely, sir.  His tracks is well known.”

“Then send him in again.”

The subject of this conversation—which took place in the Committee Room
of the Teetotal Union, in Aldersgate Street, City—stood in an outer
chamber, gravely contemplative.  All that Mr. Bottle, the Secretary, had
urged in favour of his dignified demeanour, was quite justified by his
appearance.  But the reflections of Alderman Lamb, the President, were
also to a great extent borne out by what little of him was visible to the
naked eye.  Indeed, the remarkable man was a trifle more than soiled.  He
was very dirty.  He might be described as an old-young man.  He had curly
grey hair, thin and rather distinguished features, a small nervous hand,
an imperturbable solemnity of expression, and a dignity of pose worthy
the immortal Mr. Turveydrop.

At the bidding of the Secretary, he re-entered the sanctum of the
President, to whom he bowed low and impressively.  He sat in the chair
offered to him, and looked at Mr. Lamb as though he would have said to
that worthy Alderman and Spectacle Maker, “Will you have your case
disposed of now, or do you wish it sent to the Assizes?”

“Our Mr. Bottle,” began the President, as Mr. Browley, the remarkable
man, bowed condescendingly to that functionary, “our Mr. Bottle suggests
that you should temporarily fill the place of one of our regular
lecturers.  A lecture is announced for to-morrow night at the Temperance
Hall, New Cut.  The remuneration is small—two pounds, in fact.  Will you
accept the offer?”

“Sir,” replied Mr. Browley, in solemn tones, “you honour me.  I accept.”

“_I_,” went on the Alderman, “will be in the chair.”

“You overwhelm me with honours,” replied Mr. Browley, with another
obeisance.

“And may I ask,” said the President, “the title of your lecture?”

“With pleasure, sir.  Indeed, you have a right to know.  I call it an
Oration.  It is entitled, ‘The Demon Drink.’”

“Capital, capital,” said the Alderman, rubbing his hands as if relishing
the idea of being made personally acquainted with the Demon in question;
“and you won’t forget the hour—eight o’clock at the Temperance Hall.
Good-bye, Mr. Browley; glad to have made your acquaintance.”

But Mr. Browley made no motion of withdrawal.  With a slight movement of
the right hand he signalled that he was about to speak.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but there is a slight preliminary.  I have made it
a rule in dealing with religious and philanthropic societies always to
extort a small sum in advance as a pledge of good faith.  I am not in any
want of money, nor do I doubt your ability and willingness to pay it.
But I have made it a rule, and I invariably insist on compliance with it.
If you will pay me half a sovereign—not necessarily for publication, but
as a guarantee of good faith—I will accept that amount.”

“Certainly, my dear sir.  Mr. Bottle, pray let the gentleman have ten
shillings, or a sovereign if he wants it.”

“I said _half_ a sovereign,” said the lecturer, impressively.

That sum was handed to him by Mr. Bottle, who took his receipt, and Mr.
Browley appeared once more in the outer air.

For a remarkable man with a great interest in the temperance cause, it
must be admitted that his first two visits were somewhat singular in
their nature.  His first visit was to a pawnbroker’s, where he redeemed a
dress suit pledged for three shillings, and his next visit was to a
public-house, where he called for a pint of bitter and Burton—in a
pewter.

“That’s both meat and drink,” he murmured, as he licked his lips.  It was
evident that the remarkable man spoke from conviction, for he hardly
passed a tavern on his way from town to the remoter slums of Islington
without eating and drinking after the same fashion—with this slight
variation, that at the last half-dozen houses of call he substituted for
the beer that decoction which Mr. Eccles alludes to as “cool, refreshing
gin.”

He reeled at last into his own street, and staggered into the one room
occupied by himself and his wife.  He threw the bundle of dress clothes
on the bed.

“Maggie! get me that ‘Demon Drink.’  I’m going to deliver the ‘Demon’
to-morrow.  D’ye hear?”

“But, John, remember what the doctor said at the hospital.  All
excitement is so bad for you.”

“Damn the doctors.  Produce the ‘Demon,’ d’ye hear?”

And so alternately damning the doctors and demanding the Demon, he sank
on the bed and snored the snore of the drunk.  She knelt by his side and
wept, and—God help her!—prayed.  She remembered him, you see, when he
returned from College with his University honours thick upon him, and
before the Demon had got him—tight.

There was a great audience the next night at the New Cut Hall, and Mr.
Browley, in his dress clothes, looked somewhat more presentable than on
the previous day.  His wife had managed to procure linen, and the worthy
Alderman in the chair was quite pleased and encouraged by the improved
appearance of the lecturer; though it is true he once whispered to Mr.
Bottle that he thought he detected a very strong smell of drink in the
room.

Mr. Browley was in due course presented to the large and highly expectant
audience.  And it must be admitted that rarely had an audience the
opportunity of listening to an oration of such force and vigour.  The
whole figure of the lecturer seemed to change, his face glowed, the
assumption of _hauteur_ left him as he assailed the drink Demon and
portrayed his victims.  Now a torrent of applause followed some
well-aimed hit at the vendors of drink, and now some pathetic anecdote
drew tears from the eyes of his auditors.  The Alderman was enchanted,
and applauded vociferously; now agreeing with his secretary, that Mr.
Browley was indeed a very remarkable man.

Presently the lecturer proceeded to deal with the awful disease which
turns the habitual drunkard into a dangerous maniac.  He described the
progress and effect of _delirium tremens_.  His eyes now flashed wildly
as he portrayed to the affrighted audience devils from the pit of hell;
and goblin forms and pursuing shapes of beast and reptile.  His body
swayed to and fro: he spoke in gasps; his mouth seemed parched and hot.
Now his eye-balls appeared to shoot from his head, and his arms were
moved in front of him as if to ward off the creatures of his fancies.
The effect was electrical.  The audience rose at him, and followed his
effort with long-continued applause.

In the middle of it all the lecturer’s face appeared to grow livid, his
eyes fixed, and his limbs stiff.  He placed his left hand to his temple,
and with his stretched forefinger pointed in front of him.  Then he
moaned as a wild animal moans in pain, and fell backward on the platform.
A wild shriek burst from the back of the hall as his wife rushed forward,
jumped upon the platform, and threw herself on the prostrate body.

A doctor arrived in due course.

“Drunk?” inquired Mr. Bottle, when he had examined him.

“No.  Dead!” answered the physician.



XIII.
“_OLD BOOTS_.”


ABOUT five years ago, on days when the sun shone warmly, an old man might
have been observed taking the air in Kennington Park.  He was one of
those seedy and aimless old gentlemen usually described as having seen
better days.  He was generally supposed to have been engaged in the City
in early life, and to live upon a small pension tendered to him out of
the generosity of his old employers.  He lived in humble apartments in a
street which ran off the Camberwell New Road, and he attended twice on
Sundays the conventicle of a strict sect of Dissenters, by whose minister
he was much respected, although his small means prevented his subscribing
liberally to the chapel funds.

In Kennington Park he was treated with less respect—the geniuses of that
famous resort having christened him “Old Boots,” in friendly recognition
of the very disreputable manner in which he was shod, and the fact that
his boots were never subjected to the necessary operations of the
blacking brush.

Accompanying him in his walks was his only daughter, a maiden of nineteen
or twenty years—a sparkling brunette, who, by her talent as an amateur
milliner, was enabled out of very poor materials to dress herself
becomingly and even with taste.  She appeared quite devoted to the old
gentleman, and many who saw them at once admired her for her filial
affection, and also deplored the fact that a young woman so elegant and
amiable should have her chances of matrimony spoiled by the caprice of an
old man.

For, although Mr. Lowndes—that was the old gentleman’s name—attended his
religious duties with great regularity, he was shy of making
acquaintances, and reticent with a few whom chance had forced upon his
society.  And this by such people of the world as vegetate in Camberwell
was put down to his selfishness.  He was unwilling, they said, to give
his daughter a chance of marrying, not because his love for her was
great, but because he did not wish to lose so invaluable a nurse.

In this they did “Old Boots” a grievous wrong, for he loved Jessie better
than anything else in the world.

Among the very few whose acquaintance the Lowndes family had made was a
Mr. Evelyn Jones, a clerk in a bank in the City.  This exemplary young
gentleman belonged to the same conventicle as Mr. Lowndes, was a teacher
in the Sunday-school, and bade fair to become a bright and shining light
in the City.  But these circumstances would not in themselves have led to
a friendship.  The fact is that he lodged in the same house as the
superannuated City man and his daughter, and was in the habit of
purchasing out of his own small means certain delicacies which the old
man was too poor to provide.  Evelyn was a frank, unsuspicious youth, and
was permitted sometimes to join his fellow-lodgers for half-an-hour of an
evening, when it was quite apparent that his pleasure was contributed to
rather by the presence of Jessie than by the highly-improving
conversation of her parent.

“How much do you think a man could afford to marry on?” he asked, during
one of these visits.

“It depends,” replied Mr. Lowndes, “on the man; but more especially upon
the woman.  But why do you ask?”

“Because I’ve got a rise of ten pounds to-day.”

“And what, may I ask,” went on the old man, “does that make your salary?”

“Ninety pounds a-year,” replied Evelyn, with a flush of honest pride.

The old man smiled and shook his head.

“Isn’t that enough to keep a house on—a very _small_ house, you know?”

The old man shook his head again.

“And how much _would_ be enough?” queried the youth.

“I don’t think any young couple should commence housekeeping on less than
a thousand a-year.”

Evelyn looked in blank amazement at his host.

“A thousand a-year!” he exclaimed.

“That was the amount I mentioned,” replied the old gentleman, with some
asperity.

“But I shall never make such an income,” he said, in great despondency.

“Then you should never get married,” added the philosopher, calmly.
Feeling, however, that he had been a little too harsh in his manner, he
went on,—

“But you must not despair.  Much money is made in the City by honesty and
application.  Be industrious, my young friend, and be honest.  Heaven has
rewarded other City men for the illustration of these qualities; Heaven
may reward you.  And now good evening.  Jessie and I have some private
business to transact.”

Poor Jones was dreadfully cast down by this interview.  Because, truth to
tell, he had fallen in love with the patient and beautiful lady who
attended so assiduously on her broken-down father.  And he had thus
artfully contrived to obtain from the old gentleman a general opinion on
the subject of matrimony.  The result of his investigations was that he
came to regard Mr. Lowndes as a perfect monster of selfishness.

“He guessed at what I was driving,” said Evelyn to himself, when he
gained his own room.  “He suspects that I want to marry Jessie, and has
put a thousand a-year upon her as his price for making the sacrifice.”

Now, Evelyn Jones had been bred in the country, and had imbibed certain
old-fashioned notions on the matter of courtship from his parents.  He
would have considered it a dishonourable act on his part to approach
Jessie with an offer of marriage without having first consulted her only
surviving parent.  He inferred from a hundred little signs that she was
not indifferent to him.  But his highly moral training prevented his
taking advantage of these circumstances to press his suit.

“I wish she had a mother,” he sighed; “I’d soon talk her over.  And to
hear that selfish old paragon talking of a thousand pounds!  I’ll be
bound he never had so much money in his whole life.”

Depressed spirits are but temporary afflictions with the young and
sanguine.  What appears at first to be an overmastering despair clears
off.  “Hope springs eternal” in the lover’s breast.  And in a week’s time
Evelyn Jones had recovered his equanimity, and determined once more to
address “Old Boots” on the subject nearest to his heart.  He purchased a
pound of grapes and a bottle of port, and having returned to the suburban
delights of his apartments off the Camberwell New Road, he watched the
door of his fellow-lodger until he saw Miss Lowndes disappear to the
lower regions to consult with her landlady.

This was his opportunity.  He knocked at the door of Mr. Lowndes, and was
bidden in short and querulous tones to enter.  He presented his gifts to
the old man, who, under the circumstances, could not do less than request
him to remain.  The port was opened—and so was the conversation.  At
first it meandered lightly among generalities.  But eventually the young
man “plucked up a spirit,” as the phrase hath it.

“D’you remember, Mr. Lowndes, my talking to you on the subject of
matrimony?”

“I do,” answered the other, curtly.

“Well, _I_ am in love.  _I_ want to marry.”

“And I say again, that on ninety pounds a-year it would be idiotcy.”

“But,” persisted the ardent Jones, “she is so good, such a clever
housekeeper that I think she could make ninety pounds a-year go very far
indeed.”

“And who, may I ask, is this paragon?”

“Oh!  Mr. Lowndes, forgive me—pity me.  I love your daughter.”

Mr. Jones, in all the scenes which his lively imagination had conjured up
as likely to follow his proposal, did not imagine that which really
occurred.  Lowndes jumped from his chair; he became erect, his eyes
flashed as he cried,—

“You scoundrel!  You fool!  Have you breathed word of this to her?”

“Not a word, upon my soul.”

“Old Boots” sank back into his chair, apparently much relieved.

“Then don’t,” he said, menacingly.  “Tomorrow I will leave this.  Do not
attempt to follow us.  The consequences be on your own head if you do.”

At that moment the door of the sitting-room opened, and two men entered,
followed by Jessie, pale and alarmed.

One of the men spoke,—

“Mr. Morton,” he observed, quietly, “we have tracked you at last.  You
are arrested for the robbery of ten thousand pounds from the British
Bullion Bank.”

“Old Boots” stood before them erect and even dignified.  Jessie flew to
him, and throwing her arms round his neck, wept bitterly.

“I am ready,” said Mr. Morton, the peccant secretary of the Bullion Bank.
“May I request you to show some consideration for this innocent lady.”

Evelyn Jones stood forward.

“I, sir, do not shrink from knowing you in your—your misfortune.  I will
take care of your daughter.”

“You brainless puppy!” shrieked the prisoner.  “_She is my wife_.”

And so indeed she was.



XIV.
_A MISSING HEIRESS_.


A RECENT case of a Missing Heiress—how recent does not matter—attracted a
large amount of public attention.  Stimulating paragraphs first suggested
that an heiress _was_ missing.  And eventually still more stimulating
paragraphs announced that she had been found—and found under
circumstances the most romantic in the world.  If the mothers of Missing
Heiresses deposit their little charges on strange doorsteps and at an
early age, it is no reasonable matter of surprise that difficulty should
arise in satisfactorily tracing them.  And the heroine of the case under
consideration will have the satisfaction of knowing that had it not been
for the untiring and disinterested efforts of the heir-at-law, she must
have continued to perform menial duties to the end of time.  The Missing
Heiress having been suddenly transformed into a Discovered Heroine, did
not thereupon cease to be an object of public interest.  Indeed the
interest increased.  Editors of penny dreadfuls set their young men to
“work up” exciting fictions on the basis of facts, and a sensational
evening paper discussed the circumstances in a leading article full of
that learning, good taste, and common sense, for which the organ in
question has been for so long and so justly celebrated.  The righteous
example of the sensational broadsheet has been followed with more or less
success by the editors of the provincial papers, and the story of the
Missing Heiress has become as familiar in our mouths as “household
words.”  But while Society and its organs have been discussing the
romantic history of the Heiress from the area, neither Society nor its
journals have so much as heard of the story of Mrs. Stubbs, the wife of
the umbrella-maker of Blandy Street, Manchester.  And there is nothing
more certain in the world than this: that had there been no Missing
Heiress there would have been no story to tell of the wife of the
umbrella-maker of Blandy Street, Manchester.

When the good fairy of that romance of real life to which we have alluded
determined to assure himself of the existence of the Missing Heiress, he
went to considerable expense in advertising, in consulting lawyers, in
having conferences with detectives, and the like.  And it was quite
surprising to find how many Missing Heiresses turned up to tell the story
of how they had been left upon a certain night on a certain doorstep.
Stubbs first heard of the affair from the landlady of the “Six Bells,”
and he immediately came to the conclusion that Mrs. Stubbs was the lady
in question.  Mrs. Stubbs was a foundling.  Mrs. Stubbs had been found on
a doorstep.  Mrs. Stubbs had been found on a doorstep in the very
identical town where the Missing Heiress had been deposited.

“It tuk my brothe away,” said Stubbs, in afterwards describing his
sensations.

Stubbs was a small and secretive umbrella-maker, and kept the news to
himself until he had seen a man of law.  But though Stubbs kept the news
to himself he was unable to disguise its effects.  If the truth must be
told, Stubbs was a short-tempered, tyrannical man, habitually cruel and
contemptuous to the wife of his bosom.  She had for a short time after
marriage attempted to assert her position and maintain her individuality.

But Stubbs being a Republican and a Freethinker, stood upon his undoubted
rights, reduced his wife to what he described as her “proper spear,” and
became thenceforward and for ever “mawster in his hown ’ouse.”  As he
himself explained to the President of the Republican Circle—an
influential society holding weekly meetings at the “Six Bells,”—

“I said as ’ow I’d break her, an’ she’s broke.”

On the same evening that brought to Mr. Stubbs the intelligence
concerning the Missing Heiress, Mrs. Stubbs was in a great distress of
mind because she was behindhand with her husband’s tea.  A domestic
failure of this kind was always calculated to arouse the dormant
eloquence of her lord.  Indeed, a very trivial shortcoming on the part of
Mrs. Stubbs was apt to bring down on her devoted head hard words and
sometimes, I regret to say, hard blows.  In her efforts to expedite
matters on this particular evening, Mrs. Stubbs—as is occasionally the
case—instead of forwarding domestic affairs had delayed them.  And when
the door suddenly opened, and her irate lord stood on the threshold,
_she_ stood in the midst of a “confusion worse confounded.”  With
trembling accents, and not daring to lift her eyes, she faltered,—

“I’m so sorry I’m a bit late, John, but—”

To her intense surprise, John replied in tones more faltering and
deferential than her own,—

“It’s orright, Mary, dear.  Better late than never, don’t ye know.”

“He calls me ‘dear,’” said Mary to herself, lifting her eyes to ascertain
whether her husband was sober.  Yes.  He was evidently under no alcoholic
influence.  And yet there he stood, blushing, stammering, and holding in
his hand the hat which heretofore in his own house he invariably carried
on his head.

“I’m afraid,” he said, hesitatingly, and blushing more than ever.  “I’m
afraid I’ve been a bit inattentive to you, Mary.”

As Mary had never had to complain of his want of attention she very
wisely replied,—

“Not at all, John.”

“But I ’_ave_,” he insisted, “and you’re lookin’ pale like.  Let’s git
our tea over an’ go to a theayter.”

The surprise of Mrs. Stubbs blossomed into a wild and astounded
amazement.  She looked straight at Mr. Stubbs to see whether he was in
earnest, and coming to the conclusion that sincerity was defined there,
she deliberately went up to her husband and kissed him.  He submitted to
the infliction with a good grace, though still blushing consumedly.  The
play was to Mrs. Stubbs the height of earthly bliss.  She was a person of
small intellect and simple tastes, and followed with childlike wonder the
moving histories illustrated on the stage.  It mattered not to her
whether the play was comedy or tragedy; burlesque or melodrama.  There
were colour and ornament and music.  These sufficed.  And from the rise
of the curtain till its fall she watched the proceedings open-mouthed and
wondering.  That her husband should not only permit her to enjoy her
favourite amusement, but absolutely offer himself to accompany her to the
theatre overwhelmed her, and so in the first moment of surprise she had
kissed him.

His conduct all through the evening was delightful.  He comported himself
like a very squire of dames; purchased for her ginger-beer and oranges,
and reminded her, as she coyly suggested, of the happy days of their
courtship.  His conduct then was but a foretaste of his conduct for many
days to come.  He discovered that Mary was overworked, and insisted on
having a girl in to assist her in the house.  Every moment, when not
employed in his small shop—it was little better than a stall—he spent in
his house, usually appearing with a votive offering in the shape of a
lobster or a basket of mushrooms, or even a box of chocolate creams.
Except on “meeting evenings,” he never now entered the “Six Bells,” but
spent the precious hours at home like a devoted husband, smoking his
pipe, sipping gin and water, and reading for her such extracts from the
daily broadsheets as contained no allusion direct or remote to Missing
Heiresses.

The lawyer who had been consulted by Mr. Stubbs was like his client, a
Member of the Republican Circle.  Also, like his client, he was a
Socialist and Freethinker; and his name was Chatham.  From the first
instruction given him by Mr Stubbs, he expressed the greatest confidence
in the claim of his wife, and prosecuted his inquiries with the utmost
zeal and goodwill.  Mr. Stubbs had at the time of his important discovery
a hundred pounds in the bank.  The most of this money soon found its way
into the office of Mr. Chatham.  Inquiries of the kind cost something.
There are so many journeys to be made, so many witnesses to be
interviewed; so many reams of foolscap to be crossed, all at the rate of
so much per folio.  But Mr. Stubbs, strong in the belief that his wife
would soon be worth untold gold grudged none of it.  Indeed, when it was
all gone, he borrowed other sums.  It was, after all, only the proverbial
sprat to catch the proverbial whale.  The blubber would repay him when
realised.  Until everything was made clear, however, he preferred to keep
his wife in the dark.  And the interval—it could only be a short one—he
magnanimously devoted to cultivating the acquaintance of a helpmeet whom
he had long neglected.

When the hundred pounds had all gone, and when the obliging persons who
had lent him sums of money to “go on with,” became clamorous for
repayment, he had his moments of depression.  He was, however, sustained
by the assurance of his lawyer, and consoled by the unremitting attention
of his wife.  At times when the fit of melancholy was particularly bad,
he would break into some exclamation such as in less happy days he had
used to Mrs. Stubbs.  But he immediately checked himself, and called her
his “angel,” and his “guiding star.”  And she, poor woman, accepted the
amendment, soothed and comforted her ruffled consort, and expressed a
belief that his monetary troubles would soon be over.

Her prophecy was verified.  His monetary troubles _were_ soon over.  Once
again Mrs. Stubbs was expecting her husband’s return to tea.  But there
was no confusion now.  The table was laid, the kettle boiling, the bread
and butter cut, and the shrimps and water-cresses gracing the festive
board.  The master of the house was late.  But he would soon return, no
doubt bearing a peace-offering—now invariably delivered to his spouse
when he failed to be punctual.  She was thus reflecting when the door
burst suddenly open, and John Stubbs entered with his hat on his head.
His face was pale, his eyes seemed to start from his head.  He approached
the table, struck it with his closed fist and—I regret to have to record
it—called his wife “a she devil.”  It was one of the dear old words of an
earlier and more tempestuous period.  She bore it in silence.  But when
he yelled,—

“She’s found, you swindler!  D’ye hear, y’imposter, the real Heiress is
found, ye deceitful hussy,” she was puzzled beyond measure.

“Where’s my money?” he howled, as he pulled the cloth from the table and
dashed the shrimps and water-cresses to the ground.  “Where’s my hundred
pounds.  Where’s the money I spent in bonnets an’ in theayters an’ in
chocolate creams?  Eh, you thing!  _You_ born on a doorstep!  Bah!”

He then proceeded to demolish the furniture, and his wife displaying that
discretion which is the better part of valour, watched her opportunity,
and when his back was turned fled out into the street.  She believed that
he was mad.  Perhaps he was—for he managed that night to fall into the
river and die there.  After the inquest the members of the Republican
Circle, with whom he was deservedly popular, gave him a semi-public
funeral with banners and music.  Towards the cost of the obsequies Mr.
Chatham contributed a guinea.  And to this day Mrs. Stubbs, who is doing
very well in the laundry line of business, has never been able to guess
the cause of her deceased husband’s insanity.



XV.
_TEDDY MARTIN’S BRIEF_.


TEDDY MARTIN occupied chambers in Lime Court, Temple.  His rooms were
situated on the first floor, and from his front window the visitor could
command an uninterrupted view of the sun-dial over the way, upon which
was inscribed one of those useful moral legends which in earlier times
our rude forefathers were accustomed to carve upon such slabs as marked
the flight of time.  Those who trod the well-worn flags of Lime Court
would sometimes hear the tinkling of a piano welling out over the
geraniums in those front windows, and sometimes the piano would tinkle an
accompaniment to snatches of opera-bouffe sung by a showy but somewhat
unsympathetic female voice.  Barristers’ clerks passing beneath and
hearing this harmony would wink knowingly at each other, and interchange
opinions regarding the Martin _ménage_.

All the world knows of Martin’s celebrated “Crystal Ale” at nine
shillings the nine-gallon cask.  Teddy Martin was the son of the maker of
that famous brew.  It will be, therefore, inferred that the young man was
not quite so dependent on the support of solicitors as other members of
his Inn.  Indeed, his allowance was so large as to make him the envy of
many brilliant but impecunious members of the Junior Bar, who hated him
for his prosperity, and grudged him the briefs which at long intervals
were confided to his care.

Like many other young gentlemen of taste and fortune, Teddy Martin was a
persistent supporter of the British Drama.  He was quite catholic in his
tastes.  Irving was not too dull for him; nor was the Gaiety too fast.
If, indeed, the truth must be told, he preferred those theatres at which
burlesque entertainment formed the staple fare; and even found amusement
in the festive society of those vestals whose agreeable mission it is to
keep burning the sacred lamp of burlesque.  He formed acquaintance with
the ladies of the chorus.  A member of the Junior Bar, he cultivated the
society of members of the Junior Stage.

It was the voice of one of these sirens which woke the echoes in Lime
Court after the shadows had fallen and the lamp had been lit in the court
below, and which scandalised Mr. Solon, Q.C., struggling with a brief of
several hundred folios in the chambers beneath.

Martin has never inquired into my domestic secrets, and I have no wish to
inquire into Martin’s.  Topsy Varden, it is true, left the stage shortly
after she had become acquainted with Mr. Martin; had appeared in his
chambers, and had taken possession of his piano.  I have met her there,
but know no more than the porter whether she resided in Lime Court _en
permanence_ or whether she only visited Mr. Martin, for whom she seemed
to have a great partiality.  Perhaps she came early in the morning and
returned late at night to her mother in Camden Town.

At that time I was writing dramatic notices for the _Slough of Despond_—a
Society organ—and was, when I visited Teddy’s chambers, the subject of a
vast amount of agreeable wheedling on the part of Miss Varden, who
assured me that she never would be happy off the stage—_that_ she
wouldn’t; that she knew of my influence with Jones of the Royal Bandbox,
and with Robinson of the Royal Potentates’ Theatres, and that if I didn’t
get her a “shop” at one of the houses in question I was a wretch—_that_ I
was.  In fact, she talked of nothing else; didn’t appear to know anything
that was going on in the world, and never read any newspaper except the
_Mummers’ Mouthpiece_.

One morning I called on Teddy Martin, and found him at breakfast.  Topsy
had arrived very early that morning, apparently, for she was at breakfast
with her admirer, and had done him the compliment to come in a white
morning gown, with wonderful arrangements in lace at the throat and
wrists.  I found the ingenuous Martin in high glee over a brief for the
prosecution in a case in which he was to appear that day at the Old
Bailey.

“Come with me, my boy,” he exclaimed; “it’s a great case.  And if only my
learned leader _would_ absent himself, I’d give them a taste of my
quality.”

I had nothing better to do, and consented.

“Take _me_ too,” said Miss Topsy, with an admirable affectation of
piteous imploring.  It was bad enough for Topsy to visit at his chambers,
but he was not likely to run the risk of flaunting her gay presence in
the temple of justice herself.  He put her off with a kind word, adding:

“But you’ll be here when we return; we’ll all go to dinner at Verrey’s,
have a box at the theatre, and enjoy ourselves amazingly, eh?  And you’ll
come with us, old fellow, won’t you?”

Again I consented.  We took leave of the fair young creature, and when we
got to the bottom of the court, heard strains of “The Blue Alsatian
Mountains” trilling over the flower-boxes on the window-sill.

“Capital girl that,” said Teddy, pressing my arm; “good as gold—all
heart, and that sort of thing.”

“Of course,” I answered.  The expression of one’s real sentiments under
such circumstances is not only extremely ill-bred, but it will most
assuredly serve to fan the flame in your friend’s heart, and gain for
yourself his everlasting distrust.  So I said “Of course,” and we tramped
through Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill, and turned into the Old Bailey,
closely followed by Teddy’s little clerk bearing Teddy’s blue bag, with
his initials beautifully worked in white silk on the outside.

The case in which Teddy was concerned lasted all day.  But besides
opening it in a somewhat abashed and hesitating way, and thereafter
cross-examining an utterly unimportant witness, I could not see that
Teddy had much more to do with the case than myself, who had been
accommodated with a seat in the row of benches apportioned to the bar,
situated just behind my friend.  All the real work was performed by Mr.
Rowland, Q.C., who prosecuted for the Treasury; and to his skill,
resource, and mastery of details, it appeared to me, the conviction of
the prisoner was entirely attributable.  I merely mention this because I
subsequently heard Teddy take to himself all the credit of having secured
the verdict on that memorable occasion.

After the unfortunate man in the dock had been sentenced and removed to
the seclusion of his cell, Teddy packed up his papers, stuffed them into
his bag, and leaving that receptacle to be removed by his clerk,
accompanied me back to Lime Court.  The piano was still going, and the
voice of the siren gave forth the brisk chorus of a bouffe drinking-song.

Topsy Varden must have visited her home with her mother in Camden Town
during our absence in Court, for she had abandoned the white breakfast
gown of the morning, and was arrayed in a costly dinner dress, so
arranged as to exhibit a great amount of her arms and chest.  As Teddy
saluted her it was evident that his admiration was sincere.  Her
reciprocal expression was that of an actress—hollow, insincere,
worthless.

“I’ve had such a win, Topsy!”

“Have you been bettin’?  Am I on?” were the rapid questions of this child
of art.

“You little silly!  I mean at the Old Bailey.  I’ve got my man convicted.
He’s to be hanged by the neck until death by strangulation ensues.”

“La!” exclaimed Topsy.  She would have been much more interested if the
win had been on the turf.  She, however, thought it well to add, “What
did he do?”

“Shot a bobby—desperate character—think he’d have shot _me_ if he’d had a
chance.  Funny defence that,” he said, turning to me.

The defence had been that his brain had been turned—that he had been a
respectable working man until a dearly beloved sister of his had left him
and “gone wrong.”  He had been “queer” ever since, said some of the
witnesses.  But that was surely no reason why he should go about the
streets shooting policemen.  So the jury did its duty and the judge did
_his_—with a black cap on his head.

As this explanation of the defence was given, I noticed that Topsy’s
expressionless face grew pale, and her bosom rose and fell quickly above
her dress.  Her voice was thick as she asked,—

“And—who—was—he?  What—was—his—name?”

My friend replied briefly,—

“Jabez Omrod.”

Topsy sprang towards him with flashing eyes, as though to clutch his
throat; but before she could accomplish her object, she fell back, and in
falling moaned almost inarticulately,—

“You have killed my brother!”

                                * * * * *

Since that day Teddy has never held a brief, nor does he appear anxious
to hold one.  His interest in the minor ornaments of the drama has
considerably abated.  I know not what has become of the ill-fated Topsy.
Perhaps she has returned for good to her mother in Camden Town.



XVI.
_BLUEBEARD’S CUPBOARD_.


MR. AUGUSTUS LINCOLN was the manager of the Theatre Royal, Sheppey
Island.  He was an actor of the old school, and illustrated with great
success the charnel house department of dramatic literature.  Regarded
simply from an artistic point of view, the performances given at the
Theatre Royal may be described as fine and even formidable
representations, but commercially considered they could scarcely be
regarded as triumphs.  The Sheppey Islanders were, at the time of which
we are writing, people of a low and degraded taste, and showed a
grovelling preference for the entertainments given at the music-halls.
The permission to indulge in beer and tobacco, which is accorded in Caves
of Harmony, may have had something to do with this preference; but it
must be admitted that the Islanders considered “Hamlet,” “The Stranger,”
and “The Iron Chest,” a trifle gloomy, even when illuminated by the
genius of Mr. Augustus Lincoln.  Indeed, had it not been for an accident,
this enterprising lessee and manager would have been obliged, long before
the incidents about to be related, to shut up his theatre and appear in a
highly popular _rôle_ on the stage of the Bankruptcy Court.

Mr. Lincoln’s accident was the Amateur.  That most industrious and most
sanguine of mortals, having hawked his comedies, melodramas, and romantic
plays to all the London managers with all the customary want of success,
determined that Something must be Done.  If caterers in the West End,
blind to their own interests, and careless of the intellectual elevation
of their patrons, refused to give him a show, as the bald phraseology of
the stage has it, the amateur, with fine philanthropic feeling,
determined to give himself a show.  Now the Theatre Royal, Sheppey
Island, was very often closed, and on such occasions, when he could raise
a sufficient sum to pay for the advertisement, the circumstance was duly
announced in the _Era_.  It was through the medium of that highly
diverting miscellany that Lincoln and the Amateur were brought together.
And from the moment that introduction was effected, Lincoln never knew
what it was to have the brokers in the house, an incident which, up to
that time, was of not unfrequent occurrence.

The manager was an enthusiast in his way, and threw his whole heart and
soul into playing the leading characters in the amateur comedies,
melodramas, and romantic plays which he placed on his stage.  And the
ambitious authors who resorted to this means of publicity, were as a
rule, so extremely pleased with the histrionic efforts of Mr. Lincoln,
that in addition to the sum agreed upon for the representation, most of
the mute inglorious ones would insist on making a little present to the
conscientious manager-actor.  But Mr. Lincoln was as proud as an
Elliston, and carried himself with as much dignity.  So that whenever the
token of the Amateur’s gratitude was offered in the shape of money, the
offended manager would draw himself grandly up and say, “Sir, I cannot
accept a gift of money; though should you like to present me with a new
hat, I shall not say you nay.”  The Amateur usually took the hint, and in
a few days a band-box containing a hat, was duly delivered at the stage
door of the Theatre Royal.  Yet strange to say, no Sheppey Islander had
ever seen Mr. Lincoln in a new hat.  Indeed, they had never seen him
except in a very old one, which by a judicious use of oil and a silk
handkerchief, showed bravely enough when cocked on the side of Mr.
Lincoln’s head.

It is, of course, easy to guess the reason of this.  The Amateur donors
never thought of consulting their benefactor as to the size of his head,
or as to the peculiar shape which he most affected.  And so it happened,
that not one of the head-dresses sent to him was of any practical
benefit.  For if it happened to be anything like a fit, it was sure to be
of a shape to which Mr. Lincoln would not condescend.  He had not,
however, discarded them, but had placed them carefully in a cupboard in
his bedroom, which cupboard he always kept carefully locked, carrying the
key of it on his bunch.  At rare intervals he would exhibit his
collection to some old crony—just as a collector would show his pictures,
or a connoisseur his cellar.  Connected with each hat was a memory.  The
entire assortment was a sort of history of the Theatre Royal, Sheppey
Island, and as he pointed out the trophies he would couple with each the
name of the amateur drama, the triumphant success of which it was
intended to commemorate.  Thus he would point to a tall beaver, with
preposterous brim, such as comic artists place on the head of John Bull,
and say,—“That is my Queen of Circassia’s hat;” or he would exhibit a
light gossamer of most undoubtedly dandaical proportions, saying,—“That
is my Murdered Monk’s hat;”—so on through the collection.  There was a
“Prodigal Son’s” hat, and an “Act on the Square” hat.  The hat of the
“Pilgrim Fathers—a Nautical Drama,” and the hat of “The Little Pig that
Paid the Rent; an Irish Tragedy.”

Mr. Lincoln was more proud of his hats than of any other circumstance
connected with his theatrical career—save one, and that was, that Mr.
Gladstone had seen him play Hamlet and had expressed himself entirely
satisfied with the performance.

In an evil moment, and at the mature age of fifty-two, Mr. Augustus
Lincoln fell in love, and as often happens with the intellectually great,
he fell in love with the very last person in the world whom he ought to
have sought.  Milly Brassey was a pert, pink-cheeked, saucy-eyed beauty,
who played chamber-maid parts in his company.  The Amateurs thought very
much of Milly, and as she was not proud in the matter of receiving
presents, it may be taken for granted that the sealskin jacket and
diamond rings came from the gifted creatures whose works she had helped
to illustrate.  Off the stage she was a giddy, giggling little woman,
always ready for a flirtation, and was madly loved by the _jeune
premier_, and the low comedian of the company.  Indeed, it is a matter of
notoriety that a hostile meeting would have taken place between these
jealous lovers had it not transpired that Milly was about to be led to
the altar by the manager himself.  So instead of meeting in Greenwich
Park over the murderous muzzles of revolvers, they met in the “Goat and
Compasses” over two glasses of cold gin.

Lincoln’s wedding was a very quiet affair.  After all, no such very great
change was to take place in the life of the bride.  She was already a
member of Lincoln’s company.  She had now become a member of his
household as well.  Milly was a clever little actress, and if she did not
really love her husband, she made that devoted man think that she did.
His faith in her was unlimited, and although others thought that she
flirted alternately with Philip Beresford, the _jeune premier_, and with
Alf. Wild, the low comedian, Lincoln with a firm belief in his wife’s
honesty and a still firmer belief in his own charms, saw nothing
whatever.  He was perfectly contented, and the amateurs, increasing in
perseverance and impatience, brought him month after month new dramas for
illustration, and new hats in token of esteem.

All might have gone well had it not been for the hats.  Everybody in
Lincoln’s company wanted a hat.  Neither a _jeune premier_, nor a low
comedian, can afford an unstinted indulgence in hats on two pounds a
week, even when that modest stipend is regularly paid.  Actors usually
carry large ulster-cloaks that cover a multitude of sins.  But a bad hat
or a bad boot is always _en évidence_.  To say that Milly was gifted with
curiosity is simply to say that Milly was a woman.  That she soon began
to question her husband as to the contents of the locked cupboard,
therefore goes without saying.  But although Lincoln would have trusted
her with almost any other secret, he was reticent concerning this.  He
had a sort of prescience that the volatile Milly might turn his
collection into ridicule, and merely observing in answer to his wife’s
queries that it was “Bluebeard’s Cupboard,” refused to be further
cross-examined on the subject.  Milly promised not to annoy him any more
in the matter, and religiously kept her promise; only when he was out she
tried every key in the house on the lock that kept her from a delightful
mystery, and at last she found one that fitted, and opening “Bluebeard’s
Cupboard” found it full,—not of heads without hats, but of hats without
heads.  So full was the cupboard of these samples of the hatter’s art,
that she selected two, feeling confident, that from so large a bag, a
brace would never be missed.  These she secreted, and when her husband
returned (he had gone to meet an Amateur, who was big with a tragedy
called “The Paralytic”), she met him with a kiss, and they were quite
happy till it was time to go to the theatre.

A week afterwards another Amateur wanted to see Mr. Lincoln.  On this
occasion the appointment was made at a Club in Adelphi Terrace.  The
interview was a short one, and Mr. Lincoln was able to bend his steps
eastward some two hours before the time he had mentioned to Milly.  He
had to make a call in Greenwich, and in the Main Street of that
highly-depressing village, he happened to look over the blind in a
pastrycook’s window.  He stopped suddenly, and shouted in a tone of the
utmost consternation, “My ‘Murdered Monk’s’ hat!”  And then after a
pause, “My ‘Prodigal Son’s’ hat.”  He looked again, and saw that the hats
covered the empty heads of Philip Beresford and Alf. Wild, between whom
sat his wife devouring open tarts, and laughing consumedly at her own
jokes.  He entered stealthily, and soon heard enough to show that he, her
husband, was the subject of her witticisms.  He strode up to them, and
smashed the hats over the heads of the wearers, calling them varlets and
minions.  The Amateur of Adelphi Terrace had been good.  So he was
enabled to put his hand in his waistcoat pocket, and withdraw six
sovereigns.  Handing two to each, he said solemnly, “In lieu of a week’s
notice.  Begone!” and then on his wife making a gesture of remonstrance,
he said, in louder tones, “D’ye hear.  _All_ of ye.  Begone!”  They went.
And he has never seen any of them since.



XVII.
_TRUE TO POLL_.


IT was a splendid morning in the leafy month of June—though down by the
East India Docks “leafy” is scarcely the adjective which one would
naturally select to qualify any month of the whole twelve.  It was the
morning on which Jack Tarpey, mariner, led Polly Andrews, spinster, to
the altar.  There is no altar in a Registrar’s Office, consequently the
expression which I have used must be regarded as somewhat figurative.
But an altar is by no means essential to the civil ceremony, and Jack and
Poll were as much married as if they had been united by the Archbishop of
Canterbury himself, assisted by all the “Honourable and Reverends” in the
service of the Church of England, as by law established.  There, in a
small parlour near the Commercial Road, Jack and Poll were made man and
wife, or, to put it in the forcible language of the former, “had tied a
knot with their lips as they couldn’t undo with their teeth.”  The bride
was accompanied by a lady friend—for, alas! she was an orphan—while the
bridegroom was accompanied by his “shipmet,” young Joey Copper, who was
selected to discharge the onerous duties devolving upon him, for a reason
which may also be given in Jack’s own words: “Why,” he said, “do I ’ave
Joey for my best man?  Stan’ by, mate, an’ I’ll tell ye.  I ’ave’s Joey
for my best man because he _is_ the best man in all this ’ere blessed
world.  That’s why I ’ave’s Joey, d’ye see?”  It may be taken for granted
that they saw; because no one, having once asked the question, thought of
putting it a second time.

Breakfast was provided at the residence of the landlord of the
bridegroom, a house of public entertainment, at the corner of one of the
somewhat melancholy streets abutting on the East India Docks.  The sign
of the house was the “Tartar Frigate,” and mine host had obligingly set
apart his back parlour for the entertainment of Jack and his party, now
increased by an addition of two other “shipmets.”  The landlord of the
“Tartar Frigate” was not, perhaps, a Gunter, but he understood the tastes
of his patrons, and gave them what he called “a greasy and substawnshul
set out.”  There was a fine round of boiled beef, with carrots, boiled
potatoes, and suet dumplings of great weight and sappiness.  Following
this there was a liberal dish of plum-duff; and to wind up with, there
was half a Dutch cheese and pats of butter, about the composition of
which, the less said here or elsewhere the better.  The more solid part
of the repast having been removed, all hands were piped to hot grog; a
fiddler was introduced into the apartment, and all was jollity and
dancing, until some difference of opinion arose between Jack’s male
guests, as to which of the three should claim Poll’s lady friend as a
partner.  Jack, like the gallant and honest fellow that he was, stopped
all disputes by announcing that there was to be no quarrel on his
wedding-day, and that the proceedings, so far as he was concerned, were
at an end.  Then the punctilious tar paid the reckoning, and conveyed his
wife to the apartments which she had engaged for them in Belt Alley, E.

A life on the Ocean Wave is regarded by some as the most jolly and
enjoyable of all possible lives.  But it must be admitted that the Ocean
Wave is a relentless master, and has no more regard for the tender
feelings of the mariner, and those who are dear to him, than the whale
that swallowed Jonah.  Jack and Poll had not been married three weeks,
before his ship—_The Promise of the May_—was ready for sea, and Jack was
ordered to join.  Now I would call to my aid that which is not permitted
to the Unvarnished writer—the lyre of the poet.  For how shall I attune
my harsh prose to the music of their sighs, the liquid measure of their
tears?

It came, that final, that inevitable scene.

They stood on the quay, his arms round her waist, her head on his manly
shoulder.

“Good-bye, lass,” he whispered, as he drew the back of his hand across
his eyes.

“Goo—goo—good-bye,” she said, in an agony of sobbing.

“You’ll always think o’ me, Poll?”

“Aw—aw—always,” she cried, shaken with emotion.

“An’ you’ll always be true to me?”

“Aw—aw—always,” she moaned.

“Kiss me, lass.”

Their lips met in a fervent salute.  Then he was led away to his ship by
Joey Copper, his best man; and she, in a half fainting, half hysterical
state, was conducted back to her apartments by her faithful female
companion.

                                * * * * *

It was a splendid morning in the leafy month of August—for Samuel Taylor
Coleridge to the contrary, I cannot conceive why June should be held to
form a monopoly of leafiness—and Billy Bunting of the _Avalanche_ was
proceeding along Lantern Lane, close to the Docks, when he beheld a
female in distress.  A hulking tramp with designs upon her purse, had
compelled the lady to stop, and she was crying in vain to the great brick
wall on either side, to help her.  To “bear down upon” them, to call upon
the villain to “belay there;” to knock him senseless in the roadway, and
to offer his assistance to beauty in distress—to do all this, was, as is
well-known to those conversant with the literature of the Rolling
Deep—the work of a moment.

Billy loved a pretty face, and it was a pretty-one, of that plump and red
kind so admired by sailors, which through tears looked up at Billy now.
Giving the prostrate form of the tramp a kick, he gallantly offered his
arm to the maiden, saying,—

“I must tow you out of the way of that skulking land-shark, my beauty.”

She, nothing displeased, took the offered arm; and declared that she was
“_so_ obliged she couldn’t tell.”

“An’ wot’s yer name, my pretty poppet?”

“Polly,” she replied, with a blush that enhanced her many charms.

“An’ yer t’other name is—”

“Smith,” she replied, coyly.

“H’m.  Wot d’ye think of Bunting as a name—come now?”

“Sweetly bee-utiful,” she murmured.

“That’s _my_ name.”

“No!” she exclaimed in a tone that betokened a delighted surprise.

Those who make long voyages must needs put up with short courtships, and
Billy Bunting had not been many days acquainted with Miss Smith before
she had promised to be his, and the marriage was duly solemnised at the
Little Bethel, Lancington St., by Mr. Morth, the esteemed pastor of that
conventicle.  They spent the day at Gravesend, enjoying its natural and
artificial beauties, including the Rosherville Gardens, where they were
almost as happy as the advertisements of that pleasaunce would lead one
to suppose.  And then they returned to their humble lodging in Belt
Alley, E.

Alas! for the brevity of human happiness.  Poor Polly Andrews was no
sooner married to her Jack Tarpey than the _Promise of the May_ was
ordered on a twelve months’ voyage.  And Polly Smith has been but a brief
fortnight the adored wife of Billy Bunting when the _Avalanche_ is ready
to go sailing about the world for a similar period.  But, cheer up, brave
hearts!  Courage, dear souls!

    “There’s a sweet little Cherub that sits up aloft
    To keep watch o’er the life of poor Jack.”

And the little Cherub who, from that elevated position, is solicitous
concerning the well-being of poor Jack, will no doubt exhibit an equal
solicitude in the case of poor Billy Bunting.  But it is useless to
preach philosophy to breaking hearts.  It was a sad scene that which took
place on the quay as Polly bid her Bill adieu.  She could but hope; he
could but hope, and a year after all is only three hundred and sixty-five
miserable little days.  It will soon be over.

But the _Avalanche_ was not to be a year out of port.

And here comes the interesting part of this strange narrative.

At the beginning of September, in the year of which I am writing, a very
violent and lasting gale burst over certain Northern latitudes.  And
nowhere was that gale felt more severely than in the Bay of Biscay.  Many
lives were lost in that ill-omened water—for why it should be called a
“Bay” while the Adriatic is called a “Sea,” I have never since the happy
days of boyhood been able to discover.  The waves rose mountains high,
the wind blew a hurricane, and everything that out-lived the first fury
of the elements scudded along under bare poles.  That everything did
_not_ out-live the first fury of the elements will appear presently.

One of the vessels encountering that memorable storm was the _Avalanche_.
She encountered it, and overcame it, but with considerable loss to
herself.  Her mainmast had been snapped in two like a brittle twig.  Her
canvas was in shreds, part of her bulwarks was swept away, and the pumps
were continually at work, to lessen the volume of water that half filled
her hold.  Though all was calm now, she could not move.

“There she lay” several days, “in the Bay of Biscay O!”  At last the
inevitable “sail in sight appeared.”  It was a sail however that promised
no assistance.  For when examined through the glass it appeared to be a
raft, with a solitary human being on board.  There was much speculation
as it bore down upon them; at last the raft touched the _Avalanche_, and
its sole occupant, worn out with hunger, thirst, anxiety, and fear, was
helped up the side of the _Avalanche_, and fell upon the deck in a faint
that looked uncommonly like death.  Unremitting attention and a judicious
administration of rum brought him to; and when he was sufficiently
restored he informed his rescuers that his name was Jack Tarpey, of the
_Promise of the May_; which doomed vessel having encountered the late
gales in the Bay succumbed to the last and worst, and went down with all
hands, save three who had taken to the raft, His two companions had died
of cold and exhaustion.  He alone survived of all the crew.

Billy Bunting was a tender-hearted fellow, and “took to” this shipwrecked
mariner.  They became indeed such chums that Jack bade fair to forget the
excellent Joey Copper: now no more.  At last relief came to the
_Avalanche_, and the disabled vessel was assisted on her homeward way.
As the days sped on, the friendship between Jack and Billy increased.
They had a bond of sympathy in common.  Both had married Polls, and both
these Polls lived in Belt Alley, E.

“She’s that fond o’ me, Jack—bless her,” Billy would say.

“Ah, she do love me, Bill—bless ’er old ’art,” Jack would reply.

It was a long and weary business getting the _Avalanche_ into dock.  And
it was a long and weary time before Bill and Jack were allowed to go
ashore—for Jack had joined the crew of the _Avalanche_.  But the day of
emancipation did eventually arrive.  And more exultant mariners never
left a ship.  Neither of these happy-go-lucky sons of Neptune could
remember the number of his house in Belt Alley, but each could swear to
the external appearance of it.  So they chartered a four-wheeler, and as
they drove down the alley each had his eye on the window.

“Stop!” shouted Bill, “that’s my ’ouse.”

“An’ mine,” echoed Jack, thinking that affairs were now culminating
towards a coincidence.  A blind was pulled suddenly down, and cabby
thought he heard boys practising with a pistol in the back-yard.  The
mariners heard nothing.  They were both knocking at the same door.  There
was no answer.  They knocked again.  Still no answer.  They broke the
door down.  On the floor lay a plump, red-faced girl, shot through the
heart, a pistol in her hand.  Both exclaimed at the same moment,—

“Polly!”

On searching her boxes, they found that she had piously preserved copies
of the certificates of her marriage to each—together with vouchers for
two other unions since contracted.



XVIII.
_JOHN PHILP_, _MASTER CARPENTER_.


ABOUT ten years ago Mr. Landor was the lessee and manager of the
Lugubreum Theatre, and John Philp was his master carpenter.  In those
days the staple of the Lugubreum entertainment was melodrama, preceded by
farce.  Mr. Landor found Philp, who was about thirty-five years of age,
exceedingly useful.  He was quick, intelligent, and ingenious.  He had
been brought up to the stage-carpentering business from his earliest
days, and had omitted to soak his faculties in gin, as is too often the
practice with gentlemen of his profession.  Philp’s powers of invention
were indeed notorious, and many famous contrivances, without which
certain celebrated sensational scenes must have miserably failed, could
be traced to his suggestions.  He was, withal, a modest, cheery-little
fellow, much beloved by his associates, and greatly respected by his
employer, who regarded him as one of his most valuable allies.

John Philp lived in a part of old Camberwell, that had not then been
disturbed by the invasion of the speculative builder.  He rented a
substantially built little cottage of five rooms, with quite a large
garden in the back.  Philp’s gardening was, it must be admitted, of a
somewhat theatrical kind.  He had erected a flagstaff painted in stripes,
on the top of which was a weather-cock of his own contrivance—an
indicator which to the very last he believed told him what way the wind
blew.  At the end of the garden was a formidable grotto—the effect of
which was somewhat marred by the introduction of pieces of coloured
glass.  On the side walk were placed two wooden pedestals, also painted
in various bright colours; upon these stood statuettes of his favourite
great men.  Upon one was William Shakespear—copied from the famous work
once erected in Garrick’s Villa, and now standing in the British Museum.
And upon the other was Mr. Dion Boucicault, appealing to the dog
Tatters—an animal which is often alluded to in the _Shaughraun_, but
never appears in that interesting production.

John Philp’s widowed mother lived with him in Artesian Cottages, and kept
house for him.  She was a brisk, wholesome-looking old lady, and was very
proud of her son—as indeed she had a right to be—and would grow garrulous
about his merits, his personal beauty, and his infantile maladies, at the
mere mention of his name.  John was very much attached to the old
lady—devoting his Sunday afternoons to her entertainment.  What happy
days those were when she sat in an arbour in the Greyhound at Dulwich,
drinking tea, while John sipped his ale and smoked his pipe.  What royal
times, too, when the funds permitted a trip to Gravesend; and when
shrimps and most marvellous water-cresses formed an addition to the
feast.  And what words can describe that period of delirious excitement
when a buoyant exchequer and the closing of the Lugubreum for repairs,
permitted that memorable week at Margate.  Alas! such happiness was to be
short-lived.  And the beginning of the sorrow of Mrs. Philp was to be
mysteriously bound up with the success in this country of _opera bouffe_.

Mr. Landor was an astute man, and had no exalted notion of his functions
as a manager.  He laughed at those who prated about “High Art,” and the
rest of it, and spoke of himself as a business man, whose object in life
was to make money, by supplying a certain commodity for which there
existed a public demand.  Now the public demand for melodrama and farce
became very slack.  Heavy villains and sensational “sets” became a drug
in the market; and Mr. Landor having duly weighed the pros and cons of
the matter, determined to alter the character of his theatre and make
_opera bouffe_ his leading suit.  Old supporters of the Lugubreum
growled.  But the public came.  The dissemination of paper was stopped.
The free list was entirely suspended.  And the Lugubreum was doing a
roaring trade.  Philp still held his position as head carpenter, with
labours necessarily lightened, but with salary undiminished.

For the successful illustration of burlesque, one of the most essential
elements is a chorus of shapely young women, who have no objection to as
liberal a display of their personal charms as a manager may deem
advisable.  And among the chorus ladies engaged to Mr. Landor was Miss
Carry Adair.  This fascinating damsel was the daughter of a lodging-house
keeper in Islington, named O’Flaherty, and in assisting her mother—whose
education had been somewhat neglected—to cook the accounts of the young
city gentlemen who lodged with them, acquired those habits of caution and
economy, which have characterised her throughout her career.  At the age
of eighteen she left her mother’s care, and was employed by a court
dressmaker in Bond Street in the capacity of a live model, to display to
their best advantage the goods of her employer.  While acting in this
useful, if humble capacity, she was seen by Sir Mornington Cresswell, who
had come to inspect a court dress ordered by Lady Cresswell.  Sir
Mornington is a well-known philanthropist, and took an immediate interest
in the young woman, urging her to take suitable apartments in the region
abutting on Regent’s Park, and finally obtaining for her an engagement at
the Lugubreum.  Sir Mornington being one of those reserved and unassuming
Christians, who do not let the left hand know what the right is doing,
kept the latest instance of his kindly and discriminating philanthropy a
secret from his wife.

Carry Adair was a great success in her new vocation.  She was tall, of
liberal contour, had big expressionless eyes, and masses of magnificent
brown hair.  It was her mission in life to be “a doosid fine woman.”  The
callow connoisseurs of the stalls proclaimed her to be a “doosid fine
woman.”  And so her reputation was made, although as far as histrionic
capability is concerned, she was absolutely devoid of it.  She was
withal, an excessively discreet young person, and was never known to
indulge in the unseemly jests, which, in the dressing-rooms, formed the
current coin of conversation; and, indeed, had been known on many
occasions to rebuke her companions when a _double entendre_ offended her
keen susceptibilities.  It was this trait in her character which won the
sympathies of John Philp.  He was sensible, no doubt, of her merely
physical attributes.  But he regarded her as an innocent and artless
girl, thrown into the society of those who were by no means particular.
He longed to shield her from the evil which is in the world, and as a
preliminary to this missionary enterprise he fell hopelessly in love with
her.  He had given himself, body and soul, to the thrall of a woman who
had no more capacity for an honest affection than the table upon which I
am writing.

And she—what did she do?  She led him on.  She permitted him to hold her
heavy sealskin as she enveloped herself in it.  She permitted him to kiss
the diamonds that covered her fingers.  And then in the very
dressing-room where she would not permit the use of an indelicate
expression, she mimicked the comic agony of her lover, for the
edification of the Lotties and the Totties who shrieked with laughter at
her irresistible sallies.  For Carry was not without a certain flow of
vulgar humour, which she had acquired probably while waiting on her young
city gentlemen in the Islingtonian lodging-house.  On the evening when
poor John Philp brought himself to ask the awful question, she was
particularly amusing.  She showed how he blushed and stammered as he
described his little place in Camberwell; how he spoke of his mother’s
devotion; and the happy effects of living on a gravel soil.  Then she
narrated with some spirit how she squeezed his hand, and begged for time
to consider the proposal.  Carry being the possessor of some means, was
in the habit of treating her friends of the dressing room; so her jokes
all took immensely, and the Lotties and Totties agreed that poor John
Philp was an “old stoopid.”

                                * * * * *

About a fortnight after John Philp’s proposal, Landor was coming down the
steps of Evans’s Hotel in Covent Garden at twelve o’clock one night.  He
was passed on the steps by Miss Adair, enveloped in a white satin opera
cloak, and apparently in full evening dress.  She was on the arm of a
young gentleman with a little yellow moustache—an _avant courrier_ of
that Crutch and Toothpick Brigade which has since become famous.  The
manager saw her enter a brougham which was waiting in front.  She was
followed by the young gentleman, and was driven rapidly off.  The vehicle
was followed on foot by a man with pale face and livid lips, and without
any hat on.  In the face of that pursuing figure, Mr. Landor recognised
John Philp, the master carpenter.  And being a man of the world he
shrugged his shoulders, lit another cigarette, and went on to the Garrick
Club, of which institution he is one of the most agreeable ornaments.

John Philp never again entered the stage-door of the Lugubreum.  He threw
up his situation, alleging illness as an excuse.  He wanted change of
air.  Landor regretted his determination, and looked out for somebody to
take his place.  Three months after he received a letter from his old
_employé_, asking him “for God’s sake” to come and see him.  Landor went;
Artesian Cottage had evidently been somewhat neglected.  The creepers
were trailing about in slovenly branches, and the little garden path was
covered with grass.  Mrs. Philp looked worn and weary, and accompanied
with sobs the answers which she gave the manager.  She led the way into
her son’s bedroom.  He was a shadow of his former self, but a smile
overspread his countenance as he recognised his old master.  He stretched
his poor transparent hand across the counterpane, and grasping the
manager’s hand, said feebly,—

“It _is_ kind of you, sir.”

Then he motioned his mother to leave the room.

“I’m breaking up fast, sir,” he said, “but afore I go I wished to give
you something—as—as a keepsake.  You’ve been a good friend to me, sir,
but I’m afraid I seemed ungrateful.”

The manager answered him that he had always valued and respected him.

Then John put his hand under the pillow, and drew out a ring with a small
diamond set in it.  This he handed to Landor.

“I bought it for her,” he stuttered; “I wanted to show her that a working
man could buy jewels as well as the swells.  I pinched myself to get it,
an’ the very night I ’ad it in my pocket to give her, I followed her ’ome
to—to—I can’t say it, sir—it chokes me.”

Landor took the ring.  The master carpenter fell back on his pillow.  An
expression of satisfied calm was upon his face.  The great change was
coming.  Landor summoned his mother.  Hearing her voice John Philp opened
his eyes and stared round the room.  Then he raised himself, and with a
last dying effort shrieked,—

“It’s the di’monds as does it; damn ’em.”

He fell back, and Landor closed his eyes and drew the sheet over his
face.



XIX.
_PICTURES ON THE LINE_.


ALL through his own part of the country John Osbaldiston was familiarly
known as “Nails.”  And this expressive locution was adopted in the first
place to indicate the business out of which the millionaire had amassed
his fortune; and in the second place to give some necessarily inadequate
notion of the hardness of his nature.  As John Osbaldiston was a
millionaire it may be taken for granted that his nick-name was never
mentioned before his face.  Besides being the possessor of enormous
wealth the retired nail-maker was a Justice of the Peace, a
Deputy-Lieutenant, and lived in confident expectation that when the
Radicals came in—if they ever _did_ come in—he should be rewarded for his
unswerving devotion by a baronetcy.  The beauty of this hope was somewhat
marred when Osbaldiston reflected that his wife was dead, and that he had
no son to inherit the title.  He was a hard, pompous man, full of
prejudices, and the happiest moments of his life were those which he
spent upon the bench sentencing the peccant rustics.  Fortunately for the
country side, John Osbaldiston never sat on the bench alone, and his own
view as to the depravity of human nature could not take effect in
sentences unless a majority of the bench was with him.  And the majority
never was with him.

John Osbaldiston’s father had founded the business in the town of
Belchester and had purchased the estate upon which John now lived, and to
which he had greatly added; absorbing the estates of the smaller country
gentlemen as in other days he had absorbed the business of the smaller
nail-makers.  The house on the estate was a large, solid building,
without any pretensions to architectural beauty, but capable of holding
in its vast apartments half the _élite_ of the county, if half the
_élite_ of the county should ever feel inclined to visit it together.
John Osbaldiston was a great picture buyer, and his galleries were the
envy of his neighbours, and even of patrons of the Fine Arts living at a
distance.  Indeed, the fame of the Osbaldiston collection had travelled
almost as far as his nails.  He was not much of a critic.  Some people
said that he was not much of a judge, but bought pictures as farmers buy
sheep—by the brand.  Whatever truth there may be in these reflections,
one thing is certain, that many of the best examples of the most esteemed
painters had found their way into the galleries of Bradland Hall—as the
Osbaldiston house was called.  Whether the contemplation of these
accumulated works of art gave the millionaire any artistic pleasure it is
impossible to say; but he was very proud of their possession, and it gave
him an exquisite sense of satisfaction when at any sale in London his
agent outbid the agent of his blue-blooded neighbour, the Duke of
Sandown, for the possession of an example which both were anxious to
acquire.  But, notwithstanding this pride of possession, the nail-maker
of Belchester was not ostentatious.  His nature was a puzzle.  He was as
inscrutable as he was hard.

The Master of Bradland Hall had one possession which gave him more
anxiety than all his other treasures put together; and that possession
was his daughter Bella, a thoughtless, light-hearted, high-spirited girl
of seventeen, who had been a source of untold trouble to a succession of
nursery-governesses, governesses, masters, mistresses, and professors.
Her nature was as soft as the paternal nature was hard.  She was easily
led, though difficult to drive, and worst of all, was not awed to any
appreciable extent by the frowns of her father, when he did frown at her,
which, comparatively speaking, was seldom.  What little affection he had
to bestow was given to his only child—the child of his old age; and it
must be admitted at once, that if Bella reciprocated the affection, she
had a most undemonstrative way of doing it.  The daughter had a way of
putting her father down, which amounted almost to snubbing.  Done in
private, the old gentleman bore such unfilial ebullitions in silence;
though when performed before the menials he resented it with great
bitterness.  I have already said that John Osbaldiston was full of
prejudices.  For the purposes of this narrative it is necessary to
mention but one of them.  He had a rooted antipathy to railways and
everything connected with them.  This was no doubt strange in a man who
had made his money in connection with iron, and whose commercial course
was entirely connected with the manufacturing town of Belchester.  But
his rooted antipathy may be accounted for by the fact that, on two
occasions he came into collision with a railway company—not on the lines,
but in the law courts—and that on each occasion he was beaten by the
defendant company.  The first occasion was a mere affair connected with
alleged negligence resulting in the loss of a consignment of nails.  But
the second occasion was when the Great Nor’-West by Western Railway
Company proposed to have a branch line from Belchester to Balt—a little
village situated on the Bradland estate.  Osbaldiston spent thousands and
thousands in opposing the Bill, and when finally it was passed, went to
law on the question of compensation; though, on a fine night, with the
wind blowing towards him, the shriek of the engine could barely be heard
at the Hall.  It was then that John Osbaldiston declared his eternal
hatred of all railways whatsoever, and swore a great oath that he would
never travel by that means of transit, so long as there was any other
mode of conveyance available.

In the early spring of 1879, John Osbaldiston was sitting in his library
delivering himself of portentous platitudes on the subject of frivolity,
for the edification of Miss Bella, when the afternoon post arrived, and
brought a letter bearing the Belchester postmark.  Having perused it,
John Osbaldiston settled his neck in his collar, and handed the
communication to his daughter, who read it out with many interjections of
disapproval.  The following is a copy of the letter.

                                                    “BELCHESTER INSTITUTE,
                                                       BELCHESTER —, 1879.

    “DEAR SIR,—A Committee having been appointed to consider the
    long-mooted question of opening a Loan Exhibition of Works of Art, in
    connection with the Institute, it has been resolved to hold the
    proposed Exhibition in the summer of the present year.  Regarding
    your own long and honourable connection with the town, it has been
    resolved to consult you generally on the subject, and to request you
    to lend us a few examples from your magnificent collection.  When it
    is known that you have contributed to the walls of our Exhibition,
    the example upon the minds of other collectors will be prodigious,
    and the success of our efforts be secured.

                                                   “Your obedient servant,
                                                   AMOS BLACK, _Hon. Sec._

    “JOHN OSBALDISTON, ESQ., J.P., D.L.”

“Well, I never,” exclaimed Bella.  “Such impudence!”

“I see nothing impudent about it,” replied the father, sternly.  “I owe
everything to Belchester.  Belchester shall not find me ungrateful.”

“Of course not, dear papa.  But supposing Belchester rewards your
gratitude by poking its umbrellas through your Titians or by cutting
little bits out of your Turners!”

“Belchester has trusted _me_.  _I_ will trust Belchester,” replied her
parent, pompously.

“But you _can’t_ send to Belchester,” she said, trying another tack.

“And why, pray?”

“Because there is no way of sending them except by the Great Nor’-West by
Western Railway Company’s branch line.”

“They shall go by van,” he replied decisively.

And there was an end of the matter.

The distance between Bradland Hall and Belchester is nearly thirty miles,
and when John Osbaldiston had replied to the Secretary of the Belchester
Institute, graciously according to the request of the Committee, he
personally saw to the selection and packing of the pictures, in a van
also selected with great care.  He made arrangement for a change of
horses on the road, and he consigned the precious cargo to two men, in
whose steadiness, and sobriety, and general possession of character, he
could place the utmost confidence.  These selected characters quite
justified the confidence reposed in them, and drove so steadily and so
slowly, that the roadside population might have supposed the van to
contain a corpse.

Two miles from Belchester there is a level crossing; and over this
crossing the van containing Osbaldiston’s masterpieces had to be taken.
Just as the hoofs of the off horse left the up line his knees seemed to
give way, he fell, and seemed unable to get up again.  Every effort was
made to raise him; but in vain.  Then attempts were made to move the van
which stood right across the rails.  But too late.  It all seemed to
occur in a moment.  The express came rushing up.  The van was knocked
into matchwood, and the masterpieces from Bradland Hall were master
_pieces_ indeed—mere fragments of frame and canvas, some strewed by the
side of the line, and some adhering to the engine and carriages of the
express, which lay on its side a short distance further on.

A telegram brought John Osbaldiston to the spot in process of time.  And
he spent many days in Belchester mad with himself, with the Institute,
with the railway, and with the world in general.  When he returned home
his anger was increased.  He found a letter from Bella:—

    “DEAR PA.—I knew you would never consent, so I have run away to be
    married.  He is a man very highly connected, but has been
    unfortunate, and is at present a guard on the Nor’-West by Western.
    He is so handsome, and we are so happy.  Do forgive us.

                                                                  “BELLA.”

“Never!” cried the crushed nail-maker.  And he never did.



XX.
_THE DEVIL’S PLAYTHINGS_.


ON the first day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and seventy-five the following advertisement appeared in the
_Times_ newspaper.

    “HOUSEMAID AND COMPANION.—Wanted immediately a smart active young
    woman, who thoroughly understands her business: a small house, and
    only one in family: washing given out: must have first-class
    references; good wages given; send copies of discharges to Mrs. G.,
    Lambird Cottage, Thornton Heath.”

The “Mrs. G.” who advertised in these terms was a widow lady, named
Gillison, and among those who applied for the situation was Susan
Copeland, of the village of Stockbury in the county of Kent.  How a copy
of the _Times_ happened to arrive in Stockbury, does not appear upon the
evidence.  But in all probability it had been sent to the Vicar, and the
wife of that worthy clergyman, who had an insatiable thirst for the
knowledge that is to be obtained from advertisements, came upon this
“Want” of Mrs. Gillison, and brought it before the notice of Susan
Copeland.  Susan was the model villager, the prize-girl of Stockbury, and
having served brilliantly as an under nurse to the Vicar’s family, she
was now anxious, as the saying goes, “to better herself.”  Susan was a
tall brown-eyed girl.  She affected great simplicity in her dress, wore
her hair brushed flat down on her forehead, and in a general way looked
more like a Puritan maiden than is customary with the daughters of
Kentish farmers.  Susan was eighteen years of age, and was engaged to
Thomas Ash.  As Susan Copeland was the model girl of Stockbury, it was
only right that she should become engaged to the model young man.  And
that young man was Tom.  He had secured all the prizes in the Boys’
department, while she had been sedulously engaged in acquiring all the
honours from the Girls’.  Indeed, these two swooped down upon the prize
list, and by reason of their superior attainments and conspicuous virtue
swept off all before them.

Satisfied with the Vicar’s report, Mrs. Gillison of Thornton Heath
engaged Susan in the real and somewhat unusual capacity of “Housemaid and
Companion” at a yearly salary of £20, which to a Stockbury girl appeared
a tolerable fortune.  And it was arranged that Thomas Ash should take his
betrothed to London, and deliver her safely at the house of Mrs.
Gillison.  There was much sorrow in the village of Stockbury, when Susan
took her departure for the great metropolis, and her boxes contained many
tokens of the affectionate esteem in which she was held by her
contemporaries.  All thoughts of rivalry were now lost in a universal
sentiment of sorrow.  It was felt that in losing Miss Copeland, Stockbury
was robbed of much of its moral lustre.  It is not necessary to enumerate
the presents which her friends forced upon her.  Most of them had taken
the shape of literature, and ranged from the “Dairyman’s Daughter” to the
hymnal of the inimitable Watts; from “Baxter’s Saints’ Rest” presented by
the Vicar to a highly coloured history of Jack and the Beanstalk, the
gift of a small brother.  So beloved, respected, and lamented, Susan left
her native village proudly escorted by the man who hereafter was to lead
her to the altar.

Mrs. Gillison, when she had duly inspected, cross-examined, and
examined-in-chief her new “housemaid and companion,” professed herself
entirely satisfied; and Susan, who had a fine literary taste of her own,
was delighted to find that her duties would be very light and that she
would have the coveted leisure in which to improve her mind.  Mrs.
Gillison was an active, smart little woman, who did her own cooking.
There was, moreover, a boy kept on the premises to carry coal, clean
boots, and perform other menial offices.  Indeed, Susan’s duties were, in
the first place, to keep clean the few rooms, of which Lambird Cottage
consisted, and to afford to Mrs. Gillison that companionship which is
found desirable by widow ladies of a certain age.  Mrs. Gillison was not
a lady of much education—her husband had been a pork butcher in the
Walworth Road—and it was part of Susan’s duty to read to her in the
evening the entertaining fictions which she purchased when she took her
walks abroad.  The old lady was omniverous, but chiefly relished the
stirring fictions compiled by the Penny Dreadful authors, and at times
had appetite for such boy’s literature as dealt with pirates or robbers,
or the wild Indians of the West.  Dickens she rated “a low feller,” but
she revelled in Ouida, and was particularly partial to the earlier
fictions of Bulwer Lytton.  Susan Copeland’s excursions into the field of
fiction had hitherto gone no further than “Ministering Children,” and
other books with a religious purpose.  Her mind, therefore, became
greatly expanded while reading for her mistress, and she became possessed
of many views of life, which were to her at once strange and stimulating.

When Susan had been three months with the widow of the pork butcher her
mistress handed her five golden sovereigns, that being the amount of
wages then due, and Susan went out to the contiguous village of Croydon
to purchase a new bonnet.  She had never before purchased a head-dress so
fashionable.  Her tastes, however, had improved since she left the little
village of Stockbury, and she wanted a bonnet which would suit the new
style of doing her hair; for, with the consent of her mistress, she no
longer wore her hair brushed flat down on the forehead like a Puritan,
but adopted the fashionable “fringe” just then, to the eternal shame of
English womanhood, coming into vogue.  A “housemaid and companion” is a
more privileged person than a housemaid, or a companion, and when Susan
returned from Croydon with her purchase she walked into Mrs. Gillison’s
sitting-room without knocking at the door.  Mrs. Gillison was sitting at
the table and started when her servant entered—started, then grew pale,
then grew red, and then looked down with a shamefaced expression, more
like that of a peccant school-girl than that of a grown woman.  On the
table before her lay a pack of cards with their faces exposed.  Mrs.
Gillison had, in fact, been discovered in the act of playing “Patience.”
It would be ridiculous to assert that the mere act of engaging in this
very monotonous and even foolish pursuit is wicked in itself, and should
occasion a blush on the cheek of matured innocence.  But Susan Copeland
had been brought up to consider cards the devil’s plaything, and Mrs.
Gillison had often heard her express her opinions on the subject, when
she happened upon an allusion to the card-table in any of the novels
which she read.  Indeed, so great was the confusion of the widow at being
discovered in the midst of an occupation which that model Sunday scholar
regarded with honest and hearty aversion that not only did she blush, she
added to her sin by uttering a deliberate falsehood.

“I—I—was only tellin’ my fortune,” she said in an apologetic tone.

But in the countenance of her maid she saw pictured neither aversion nor
reproach, but only awakened interest and active curiosity.  She took up a
King and an Ace, regarded them carefully, and then said slowly,—

“And so these are real cards?”

Much relieved her mistress answered,—

“Of course.  There ain’t much harm in ’em, is there?”

“Not to _look_ at,” replied the cautious handmaiden.  “But I suppose the
wickedness is in playing with them.”

“Not a bit.  There never was a better man than my husband, and me an’ him
played cribbage every night of our lives.”

Susan never took her eyes off the King and Ace which she still held.  She
was fascinated.  She had even forgotten about her new bonnet.  She said
in a dreamy, half-conscious sort of way,—

“I believe it must be in the playing the wickedness is.  I would like to
see what it is.  Will you show me—so that I may avoid it?”

Never in her life did Mrs. Gillison comply more willingly with a request.

“Of course, my dear, of course.  Sit down opposite me there.  Pick ’em
all up.  That’s right.  Now hand ’em to me.  This is the way we shuffle.
D’ye see?  And that’s the way we cut.  There’s no harm in that, is there?
Now run an’ fetch the cribbage board off my chest of drawers.  It’s a
long board with ivory in it, an’ a lot of little holes at the side.  Run
along.”

In another half hour Susan had begun to master the intricacies of the
game, and was pegging away with an ardour which astonished even Mrs.
Gillison, who was delighted at this new departure.  The last words she
said to herself as she turned into bed were,—

“What a treasure that girl is to be sure!”

Strange to relate the following evening found Mrs. Gillison and Susan
Copeland sitting at the same table with the same cribbage board between
them, evincing the same determined interest in the game.  Susan had quite
made up her mind that she had not yet arrived at the sinful phase of card
playing.

“I suppose,” she ventured on this occasion, “that the sin of it is when
you play for money.”

“I don’t see no sin in playin’ for money.  Me an’ my husband always
played sixpence a game.”

“Suppose—suppose,” said Susan, doubtfully, “that we try—just to see.”

Mrs. Gillison was delighted.  She was at heart as determined a gambler as
ever punted at Monaco.  She had now discovered in her Paragon the only
virtue in which she had considered her wanting.  So they continued their
game—only playing for sixpences.  When Mrs. Gillison retired _that_ night
her last observation was,—

“’Ow that gurl do improve in her card playin’ to be sure.”

And indeed Mrs. Gillison did not do her _protégée_ more than justice.
She did improve with rapid strides.  The same faculty which enabled her
to take away the village school prizes from all comers, now gave her the
power of acquiring the mysteries of the pack.  In time she began to
consider cribbage a somewhat slow amusement, and her mistress, nothing
loath, undertook to open up for her the beauties of _écarté_.  This Susan
considered an altogether more agreeable pastime.  And after she had
played it a week her mistress on going to bed made _this_ remark,—

“The way that gurl turns up the King is astonishin’.”

It was astonishing.  In fact, Susan turned the King up with such success
that at the end of twelve months her mistress owed her five hundred
pounds which she could not pay.  Then it was that Susan discovered the
sinfulness of cards.  It consisted in playing and not paying.  She told
her mistress so, and considered that she was only doing her duty as a
religious and well brought-up young woman in warning that abandoned
person of the danger of giving way to habits of dishonesty.  This little
monetary difficulty occasioned unpleasantness between mistress and maid.
Relations between them became strained.  Mrs. Gillison was—to use her own
expression—dying for a game of cards, and Susan Copeland refused to play
except for ready money.  Eventually it became so apparent that the
unscrupulous old woman either would not or could not pay what she had
lost, that Susan in the defence of her just rights was obliged to call in
her legal adviser.

Thomas Ash, still true to his Susan, and pining at a separation so
lengthened, had obtained a situation in the London police, and although
he had not succeeded in getting put upon the Thornton Heath district he
felt that he was near his sweetheart, and could occasionally have an
interview with her when off duty.  One evening Susan told her mistress
that her friend had called, and the old lady, now looking worn and faded,
followed her maid to the kitchen, where, to her great surprise and
terror, she beheld a policeman of formidable size and severe aspect.  She
burst out crying and begged Susan to spare her—not to arrest her and she
would pay all—she would indeed.  Thomas Ash reassured the lady, informing
her that he was present in his private capacity to advise, not in his
public capacity to arrest.  He was present to assist, not to alarm.  The
advice which he gave was simple and direct.  He advised her to sell her
house and furniture, and so settle Susan’s demand.  The defaulting
gambler at first refused, but Thomas Ash put the heinousness of her crime
in such a very strong light that she at last consented, and Lambird
Cottage with its contents became the property of strangers.

Ash left the police and took a beer house called the “Spotted Cow,” and
in due course married Susan.  They are greatly respected by their
customers, and have shown unexampled kindness to the wretched woman, who
tried to rob the gentle Susan.  They have, for a consideration paid
quarterly, given Mrs. Gillison a home, and she endeavours to prove her
gratitude by doing all the kitchen work, mending the socks of the only
child, and preparing the linen, for another which is daily expected.
Sometimes Susan will lend her six pennies of an evening with which to
play cribbage, and they play quite happily till the Paragon has won the
pennies all back again.



XXI.
_LOVE AND A DIARY_.


YOU will find recorded in a hundred places the history of the flirt, who,
carrying her affectation of coldness too far, is misunderstood at last by
her lover.  He, devoted man, leaves her presence to wander about the
world, while she atones for her indiscretion by a life-long repentance.
This capricious maiden figures in comedy, tragedy, and farce.  She is the
heroine of innumerable novels, and her folly and fidelity form the theme
of at least one popular song.  In this Tale she figures once again; and
the only excuse for presenting her is that she appears in connection with
a circumstance or coincidence so strange as to appear incredible.  It is
nevertheless absolutely true.

Those who have followed the red deer on Exmoor need not be told that
Dulverton is a hunting centre, situated on the border of Somerset.  Such
readers will recall, not unpleasantly, the morning bustle in the yard of
the “Lion” when there has been a meet in the neighbourhood.  The rubbing
down of nags, the excitement of grooms, the greetings of red-coated
sportsmen.  Among those who most enthusiastically supported the Devon and
Somerset Stag hounds at the date of this story’s commencement were Squire
Arbery and his daughter Kate.  She was an excellent horsewoman, and
understood the long, precipitous coombes, and knew how to take the
deceptive moor-bog, which showed as solid ground to the uninitiated, and
was generally in at the death, when the stag, with glassy eye,
outstretched tongue, and quivering flank, fell beneath the fangs of the
pack.

Kate Arbery had performed in such scenes, times without number, and had
invariably succeeded in exciting the admiration of the field.  The
admiration of one unfortunate wight had developed into a passion.  His
name was Chilcott.  The Chilcotts were hunting men from all time, and
Henry Chilcott valued his accomplishments because he believed they would
give him favour in the eyes of Miss Arbery.  Henry was young and
enthusiastic.  His brother Arthur, who was two years his senior, regarded
the infatuation of Henry as one of the heaviest misfortunes which could
have befallen him.

“Take my word for it, Harry, she has no heart,” he would say to him at
times.

But the other replied lightly that he couldn’t see how such an anatomical
omission was possible, and fell more and more hopelessly in love every
day.  These people belonged to the same sphere, and opportunities for the
interchange of sentiment were frequent.  Upon Henry Chilcott the effect
of such interchanges of sentiment with Kate Arbery varied.  Sometimes he
would return to his home elated, beaming, and hilarious.  At other times
he would come back down-hearted, misanthropic, and despairing.  And his
brother, interpreting the symptoms, knew that Kate had given him high
reasons for hope, or that she had treated him with studied coldness and
hauteur.  Harry’s nature was a singularly simple and unsuspecting one.
He attributed her varying moods to anything but the right cause.  But
after a year of assiduous attention and of much love-making of the kind
when no word of love has been spoken, Harry Chilcott determined to know
the worst.

There had been a meet at Anstey Barrows, and after a long and exciting
chase the stag was killed at the Water’s-meet on the Lynn.  But few of
those who saw the stag break were in at the death.  Among those few were
Kate Arbery and her admirer.  After they had witnessed the agreeable
spectacle of disembowelling “the stag of ten,” an operation completed
with great nicety and despatch by the huntsmen, they rode together slowly
in the direction of home—for their horses were by no means so fresh as
when they streamed away towards the water from Anstey Barrows.  Then he
spoke.  And she, full of high spirits and the keen sense of enjoyment
born of sport, at first bantered her gallant, and then snubbed him.  She
was simply borne away by a fine flow of animal spirits.  He accepted her
answers seriously and in silence.  He had received his sentence, and he
had no right to question the wisdom of the judge.  Though she might, he
thought, have been less cruelly severe in her manner of awarding it.

The grey shades of evening were closing in by the time they reached her
father’s gates.  As they were flung open, Kate saw that Harry held his
horse in.

“You’ll come up to the house, will you not?” she said.

He answered sorrowfully,—

“No, I wish to say good-bye.”

“Oh! good-bye, then.”

“But I mean,” he said, “shake hands with me.  For it is good-bye for
ever.”

Had he been a close observer of human nature he would have seen that Kate
reddened and then turned white.  She recovered herself in a moment,
however.  He approached her.  She held out her hand.  He bent over it and
said “Good-bye.”  She felt a hot tear fall that seemed to burn through
her glove.  But she only said with supreme airiness of manner,
“Good-bye,” and galloped up through the avenue of chestnuts.

Harry was as good as his word.  He took the portion of goods that fell to
him, and went into a far country.  And now Miss Arbery began to evince an
interest in Arthur Chilcott, which she had never before exhibited.  She
made all sorts of excuses for seeing that gentleman, and at last she did
what she might have done before, confessed her love for Harry, and
commanded his brother to bring him back to her.  Ladies do occasionally
make preposterous demands of this sort, imagining that it is the duty of
Society at large, to repair the evil of their own making.  But Arthur was
cynical.  He professed himself unable to reconcile Kate’s expressions
with Kate’s actions.

“I will prove to you that I love him.  You are his brother.  You shall
see my diary.  You shall read my confessions.  And then you will bring
him back, will you not?” she pleaded.

To a woman in her present state of mind, Arthur Chilcott knew that he
might as well say “Yes” as anything else.  Besides which “yes” is more
easily said than any other word in the language.  So he said it; and
received, with many injunctions as to strict secrecy, the precious diary.
It was folded up in brown paper.  He put it into his pocket; took leave
of Miss Arbery and the Squire, and went home.

Arthur Chilcott, though capable of advising well when consulted about the
affairs of others, was not triumphantly discreet in the conduct of his
own.  And soon after the departure of his brother, he became very badly
afflicted with the mania for that species of gambling, which goes by the
name of speculation.  He dabbled in all sorts and conditions of stocks,
and in the course of a couple of years, had muddled away his whole
fortune.  Chilcott Manor, with the fine grounds attached, had to be
brought to the hammer.  The pictures, books, plate, and wines were duly
entered in the unsympathetic pages of the auctioneer, and Arthur came up
to London, to live in chambers, heartily wishing that he had never
indulged in any sport more hazardous than hunting the red-deer of Exmoor.

Harry Chilcott, after many wanderings in foreign lands, during the course
of which he had never forwarded an address, or any indication of the
course of his aimless adventures, arrived in London.  He was tolerably
well cured of his passion—or fancied that he was, which is perhaps not
exactly the same thing.  Happening to pass through Holborn one day, he
stopped at the second-hand bookshop of Mr. Whalley, and began turning
over the volumes that lay higgledy-piggledy in a deal box bearing the
intimation, “All these at fourpence.”  Of course this intimation did not
mean that the whole boxful would be sold for that ridiculously inadequate
sum, but that each volume could be purchased for a simple groat.  The box
contained a miscellaneous and somewhat battered assortment of literary
works.  There was an odd volume of Swift’s “Letters to Stella;” a
“Euclid” minus the title page; volume the fourth of Rollin’s “Ancient
History;” three or four numbers of “Blackwood;” a “Book of Common Prayer”
with one clasp, an incomplete copy of “The Whole Duty of Man” and—

And! what is this?

Harry Chilcott took up a little book of manuscript.  His hand trembled as
he opened it and gazed at the handwriting.  He turned eagerly to the
flyleaf.  One word was written there—

                                 “KATE.”

It was enough.  He ran into the shop, deposited fourpence, and rushed
with his prize to the Charing Cross Hotel, at which establishment,
probably for economical reasons, he was staying.  He locked himself into
his room, and as he read page after page, uttered that scrap of
autobiographical intelligence, which at some time or other most of the
sons of Adam have felt impelled to repeat—“What a fool I have been!”
Against the dates of an entire twelve months were entries in which Kate
Arbery confessed her affection; entries in which she admitted regret that
she should have teased her lover; entries in which she vowed that she
would never marry mortal man unless Harry Chilcott asked her to be his.

Finally he turned to the date of the day following that upon which he had
bidden her “good-bye for ever.”  And he read thus,—

“(Date.)  I have not slept all night thinking of my darling.  How could I
have been so cruel?  He is so patient—so kind.  But he did not _mean_
‘good-bye.’  It cannot be.  I _must_ see him.  You will come back to me,
Harry, I _know_ you will.  I could cry my eyes out with vexation.”

And so on.

The infatuated man shut the book, and absolutely shouted with
exultation,—

“Yes!  Kate, I have got your message, and I fly to your arms.”

Before carrying into effect this resolution he purchased garments more
suitable to the accepted lover than the rough, and, indeed, eccentric
clothes which he had picked up on his travels.  Then he wrote to his
brother Arthur, believing that unhappy speculator still to be in the
neighbourhood of Dulverton, and the following evening he and his
portmanteau were delivered safe and sound at the door of the “Lion.”
There was great commotion in the principal room of that famous inn.
Indeed, a high carousal was being carried on, and loud songs and louder
laughter filled the establishment.  Harry was in high spirits himself,
and would have joined the hilarious farmers had it not been that the
waiter, who conducted him to his room, informed him that the roysterers
downstairs were celebrating the marriage of Miss Kate Arbery to Parson
Snowe, a ceremony which had been performed that morning in the parish
church.

For about an hour the disappointed lover sat silent.  Then he took the
Diary and wrote in it, “A wedding present for Parson Snowe.”  He wrapped
the volume up, addressed it to the reverend bridegroom, and trudged to
the post-office with it.  Arrived there, however, his better nature
triumphed.  He went back to the “Lion,” and undoing the packet turned
once more to the page in which Kate commanded him to come back.  He
reverently kissed the entry.  Then he thrust Kate’s Diary into the
flames, and silently watched it burn away to white ashes.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                                * * * * *

      Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

                                * * * * *



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1.  ROYAL FAVOUR.  Second Edition.

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2.  IN TROUBLED TIMES.  Fourth Edition.

    “It earns for her a distinct and honourable position amongst
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                                * * * * *

HISTORY OF A WALKING-STICK, in Ten Notches.  By RICHARD LE FREE.

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THE LEAVEN OF MALICE.  By HAMILTON EVELAC.

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    successfully used, and several of the minor personages appeal at once
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THE COASTGUARD’S SECRET.  By R. S. HICHENS.

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THE OTWAY’S CHILD.  By HOPE STANFORD.

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THE BOSOM OF THE DEEP.  By J. E. MUDDOCK.

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A WAYSIDE VIOLET.  By the Author of “Fair Faces and True Hearts,” “Born
to Luck,” etc.

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MEREVALE.  By Mrs. JOHN BRADSHAW, Author of “Roger North.”

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THE BLISS OF REVENGE.  By T. E. JACOB.

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    “The style is good, and the mode of narration taking, the interest in
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THE BASILISK.  By H. P. STEPHENS and WARHAM ST. LEDGER.

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       Will tend to your edification;
    The plot is ingenious, the tale is well told,
       And full of most startling sensation!”—_Punch_.

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THE YOUNG MARQUISE.  By MANUS.

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BARTHOLOMEW LEGATE.  By FLORENCE GREGG.  [_Shortly_.]

IS LOVE A CRIME?  By Mrs. JAGGER.  [_Shortly_.]

ERNEST DACENT.  By Mrs. BATTY.  [_Shortly_.]

MAN OF THE PEOPLE.  By JNO. ROBERTSON.

RURICK.  By ANNIE GRANT.

OF SUSPICION.  By JANE NUTT.  [_Shortly_.]

                                * * * * *



TIME.
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE OF CURRENT TOPICS, LITERATURE & ART.


                      Edited by E. M. ABDY-WILLIAMS.

              1_s._  128 Pages.         1_s._  _Large_ 8vo.

_TIME_ represents no party or _clique_, and whilst ranking amongst the
political and literary Monthlies, it provides matter for all classes of
readers.  Its Staff comprises many of the most prominent writers of the
day, amongst whom a few may be mentioned:—

E. M. ABDY-WILLIAMS.    FRED. GALE, “The Old    D. CHRISTIE MURRAY.
                        Buffer.”
F. ANSTEY, Author of                            T. P. O’CONNOR, M.P.
“Vice-Versa.”           Miss GORDON CUMMING.
                                                WALTER PATER, M.A.
WILLIAM ARCHER, M.A.    Major ARTHUR
                        GRIFFITHS.              Sir E. J. REED,
Rev. S. A. BARNETT.                             K.C.B., M.P.
                        Rev. H. R. HAWEIS,
A. A. BAUMANN, M.P.     M.A.                    Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL.

WALTER BESANT.          JULIAN HAWTHORNE.       “RITA.”

Miss M.                 RICHARD JEFFERIES.      J. E. THOROLD ROGERS,
BETHAM-EDWARDS.                                 M.P.
                        Rev. HARRY JONES,
Dr. KARL BLIND.         M.A.                    WILLIAM SHARP.

Lord BRABOURNE.         W. F. KIRBY (Brit.      G. A. SIMCOX, M.A.
                        Mus.).
BRET HARTE.                                     WILLIAM SIME.
                        ANDREW LANG, M.A.
OSCAR BROWNING, M.A.                            G. R. SIMS.
                        T. H. LEARY, D.C.L.
Prof. LEWIS CAMPBELL,                           STEPNIAK.
M.A.                    VERNON LEE.
                                                Rev. C. W. STUBBS,
FRANCES POWER COBBE.    Mrs. LEITH ADAMS.       M.A.

W. L. COURTNEY.         Sir J. LUBBOCK,         Prof. J. SULLY, M.A.
                        Bart., M.P.
MAY CROMMELIN.                                  J. ADDINGTON SYMONDS,
                        JUSTIN MCCARTHY, M.P.   M.A.
H. SUTHERLAND
EDWARDS.                WILLIAM MACKAY.         BERTHA THOMAS.

F. E. FRANCILLON.       KATHARINE MACQUOID.     H. D. TRAILL.

Rev. HILDERIC FRIEND,   CHARLES MARVIN.         Sir JULIUS VOGEL,
F.L.S.                                          K.C.M.G.
                        JEAN MIDDLEMASS.
                                                WILLIAM WALLACE.
                        ALFRED MILNER, M.A.
                                                Prof. C. D. YONGE,
                                                M.A.

NEW SERIES OF NOVELS.
3/6 each.


                            MRS. LEITH ADAMS.

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                           CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.

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2.  THE FLAG OF DISTRESS.

DAISY DARLING.  By E. SPENCER-CHURCHILL.

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THE PRIMA DONNA.  By SARAH WILLIAMS (“Sadie”).

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CYPRESS BEACH.  By W. H. BABCOCK.

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                  _New Dutch Novel_.  _Second Edition_.

ANNA: The Professor’s Daughter.  By MARIE DAAL.

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                                * * * * *

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FRENCH ART AND ENGLISH MORALS.  By JOHN TREVOR.

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                                * * * * *



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          _Just published_, _crown_ 8_vo_, _cloth_, 2_s._ 6_d._

                      A SHORT HISTORY OF PARLIAMENT.

                         BY B. C. SKOTTOWE, M.A.

                           STEPNIAK’S NEW BOOK.

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States.  Is now ready at all Libraries.  8vo, 12_s._ 6_d._

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RECONNOITRING CENTRAL ASIA.  By CHARLES MARVIN.  Adventures of English
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FROM PARIS TO PEKIN OVER SIBERIAN SNOWS: A Narrative of a Journey by
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across the Gobi Desert and the Great Wall, and by Mule Palanquin through
China to Pekin.  By VICTOR MEIGNAN.  At all Libraries.  Demy 8vo, with
Map and 15 Plates, 16_s._

    “A lively record of travel.”—_Athenæum_.

    “The story is lucid and never tedious.”—_Contemporary Review_.

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    “A delightful work of travel. . . .  The work cannot fail to be
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                Demy 8vo, cloth extra, gilt top, 10_s._ 6_d._

EMIGRANT LIFE IN KANSAS.  By PERCY G. EBBUTT.

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    “There is a vast amount of information in this artless and racy
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 New and Revised Editions of the Works of W. H. PRESCOTT.  Edited by JOHN
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1.  HISTORY OF THE REIGN OF FERDINAND and ISABELLA.

2.  HISTORY OF THE CONQUEST OF PERU.

3.  HISTORY OF THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO.

                   NEW BOOK BY MR. SYDNEY E. WILLIAMS.

PARTY AND PATRIOTISM; or, The Degeneracy of Politics.  Crown 8vo, cloth,
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RADICAL PIONEERS OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.  By J. BOWLES DALY, LL.D.  Crown
8vo, with copious Index, cloth extra, 6_s._

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SIX CENTURIES OF WORK AND WAGES.  By J. E. THOROLD ROGERS, M.P.  Second
Edition, in One Volume.  8vo, 15_s._

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THE PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL ECONOMY.  By YVES GUYOT, Hon. Member Cobden
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THE WANDERINGS OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS.  By Professor VICTOR HEHN and JAMES
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                                * * * * *



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BRITISH BUTTERFLIES, MOTHS, and BEETLES.  By W. F. KIRBY, of the British
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FUNGI, LICHENS, etc.  By PETER GRAY.

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CRUSTACEANS AND SPIDERS.  By F. A. SKUSE.  [_Shortly_.]

                              EXTRA VOLUME.

HANDBOOK OF ENGLISH COINS.  By LLEWELLYNN JEWETT, F.S.A.  With a chapter
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                     8_vo_, _limp cloth_, 2_s._ 6_d._

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    “It is among the most comprehensive and convenient books of its
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                                * * * * *



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