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Title: Mary Gresley and an Editor's Tales
Author: Trollope, Anthony
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             MARY GRESLEY

                                  AND

                          AN EDITOR’S TALES.

                                  BY

                           ANTHONY TROLLOPE,

                               AUTHOR OF
                           “DOCTOR THORNE,”
                            “PHINEAS FINN,”
                           “LOTTA SCHMIDT,”
                             “ORLEY FARM,”
                                 ETC.

                             NEW EDITION.

                                LONDON:
                  CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193, PICCADILLY.
                                 1873.

               [_The right of translation is reserved._]



CONTENTS.


                             PAGE

MARY GRESLEY                    1

THE TURKISH BATH               49

JOSEPHINE DE MONTMORENCI       95

THE PANJANDRUM--

PART I.--HOPE                 141

PART II.--DESPAIR             189

THE SPOTTED DOG--

PART I.--THE ATTEMPT          227

PART II.--THE RESULT          275

MRS. BRUMBY                   321



MARY GRESLEY.



[Illustration]



MARY GRESLEY.


We have known many prettier girls than Mary Gresley, and many handsomer
women--but we never knew girl or woman gifted with a face which in
supplication was more suasive, in grief more sad, in mirth more merry.
It was a face that compelled sympathy, and it did so with the conviction
on the mind of the sympathiser that the girl was altogether unconscious
of her own power. In her intercourse with us there was, alas! much more
of sorrow than of mirth, and we may truly say that in her sufferings we
suffered; but still there came to us from our intercourse with her much
of delight mingled with the sorrow; and that delight arose, partly no
doubt from her woman’s charms, from the bright eye, the beseeching
mouth, the soft little hand, and the feminine grace of her unpretending
garments; but chiefly, we think, from the extreme humanity of the girl.
She had little, indeed none, of that which the world calls society, but
yet she was pre-eminently social. Her troubles were very heavy, but she
was making ever an unconscious effort to throw them aside, and to be
jocund in spite of their weight. She would even laugh at them, and at
herself as bearing them. She was a little fair-haired creature, with
broad brow and small nose and dimpled chin, with no brightness of
complexion, no luxuriance of hair, no swelling glory of bust and
shoulders; but with a pair of eyes which, as they looked at you, would
be gemmed always either with a tear or with some spark of laughter, and
with a mouth in the corners of which was ever lurking some little spark
of humour, unless when some unspoken prayer seemed to be hanging on her
lips. Of woman’s vanity she had absolutely none. Of her corporeal self,
as having charms to rivet man’s love, she thought no more than does a
dog. It was a fault with her that she lacked that quality of womanhood.
To be loved was to her all the world; unconscious desire for the
admiration of men was as strong in her as in other women; and her
instinct taught her, as such instincts do teach all women, that such
love and admiration was to be the fruit of what feminine gifts she
possessed; but the gifts on which she depended,--depending on them
without thinking on the matter,--were her softness, her trust, her
woman’s weakness, and that power of supplicating by her eye without
putting her petition into words which was absolutely irresistible. Where
is the man of fifty, who in the course of his life has not learned to
love some woman simply because it has come in his way to help her, and
to be good to her in her struggles? And if added to that source of
affection there be brightness, some spark of humour, social gifts, and a
strong flavour of that which we have ventured to call humanity, such
love may become almost a passion without the addition of much real
beauty.

But in thus talking of love we must guard ourselves somewhat from
miscomprehension. In love with Mary Gresley, after the common sense of
the word, we never were, nor would it have become us to be so. Had such
a state of being unfortunately befallen us, we certainly should be
silent on the subject. We were married and old; she was very young, and
engaged to be married, always talking to us of her engagement as a thing
fixed as the stars. She looked upon us, no doubt,--after she had ceased
to regard us simply in our editorial capacity,--as a subsidiary old
uncle whom Providence had supplied to her, in order that, if it were
possible, the troubles of her life might be somewhat eased by assistance
to her from that special quarter. We regarded her first almost as a
child, and then as a young woman to whom we owed that sort of protecting
care which a graybeard should ever be ready to give to the weakness of
feminine adolescence. Nevertheless we were in love with her, and we
think such a state of love to be a wholesome and natural condition. We
might, indeed, have loved her grandmother,--but the love would have been
very different. Had circumstances brought us into connection with her
grandmother, we hope we should have done our duty, and had that old lady
been our friend we should, we trust, have done it with alacrity. But in
our intercourse with Mary Gresley there was more than that. She charmed
us. We learned to love the hue of that dark gray stuff frock which she
seemed always to wear. When she would sit in the low arm-chair opposite
to us, looking up into our eyes as we spoke to her words which must
often have stabbed her little heart, we were wont to caress her with
that inward undemonstrative embrace that one spirit is able to confer
upon another. We thought of her constantly, perplexing our mind for her
succour. We forgave all her faults. We exaggerated her virtues. We
exerted ourselves for her with a zeal that was perhaps fatuous. Though
we attempted sometimes to look black at her, telling her that our time
was too precious to be wasted in conversation with her, she soon learned
to know how welcome she was to us. Her glove,--which, by-the-bye, was
never tattered, though she was very poor,--was an object of regard to
us. Her grandmother’s gloves would have been as unacceptable to us as
any other morsel of old kid or cotton. Our heart bled for her. Now the
heart may suffer much for the sorrows of a male friend, but it may
hardly for such be said to bleed. We loved her, in short, as we should
not have loved her, but that she was young and gentle, and could
smile,--and, above all, but that she looked at us with those bright,
beseeching, tear-laden eyes.

Sterne, in his latter days, when very near his end, wrote passionate
love-letters to various women, and has been called hard names by
Thackeray,--not for writing them, but because he thus showed himself to
be incapable of that sincerity which should have bound him to one love.
We do not ourselves much admire the sentimentalism of Sterne, finding
the expression of it to be mawkish, and thinking that too often he
misses the pathos for which he strives from a want of appreciation on
his own part of that which is really vigorous in language and touching
in sentiment. But we think that Thackeray has been somewhat wrong in
throwing that blame on Sterne’s heart which should have been attributed
to his taste. The love which he declared when he was old and sick and
dying,--a worn-out wreck of a man,--disgusts us, not because it was
felt, or not felt, but because it was told;--and told as though the
teller meant to offer more than that warmth of sympathy which woman’s
strength and woman’s weakness combined will ever produce in the hearts
of certain men. This is a sympathy with which neither age, nor crutches,
nor matrimony, nor position of any sort need consider itself to be
incompatible. It is unreasoning, and perhaps irrational. It gives to
outward form and grace that which only inward merit can deserve. It is
very dangerous because, unless watched, it leads to words which express
that which is not intended. But, though it may be controlled, it cannot
be killed. He, who is of his nature open to such impression, will feel
it while breath remains to him. It was that which destroyed the
character and happiness of Swift, and which made Sterne contemptible. We
do not doubt that such unreasoning sympathy, exacted by feminine
attraction, was always strong in Johnson’s heart;--but Johnson was
strong all over, and could guard himself equally from misconduct and
from ridicule. Such sympathy with women, such incapability of
withstanding the feminine magnet, was very strong with Goethe,--who
could guard himself from ridicule, but not from misconduct. To us the
child of whom we are speaking--for she was so then--was ever a child.
But she bore in her hand the power of that magnet, and we admit that the
needle within our bosom was swayed by it. Her story,--such as we have to
tell it,--was as follows.

Mary Gresley, at the time when we first knew her, was eighteen years
old, and was the daughter of a medical practitioner, who had lived and
died in a small town in one of the northern counties. For facility in
telling our story we will call that town Cornboro. Dr. Gresley, as he
seemed to have been called, though without proper claim to the title,
had been a diligent man, and fairly successful,--except in this, that he
died before he had been able to provide for those whom he left behind
him. The widow still had her own modest fortune, amounting to some
eighty pounds a year; and that, with the furniture of her house, was her
whole wealth, when she found herself thus left with the weight of the
world upon her shoulders. There was one other daughter older than Mary,
whom we never saw, but who was always mentioned as poor Fanny. There
had been no sons, and the family consisted of the mother and the two
girls. Mary had been only fifteen when her father died, and up to that
time had been regarded quite as a child by all who had known her. Mrs.
Gresley, in the hour of her need, did as widows do in such cases. She
sought advice from her clergyman and neighbours, and was counselled to
take a lodger into her house. No lodger could be found so fitting as the
curate, and when Mary was seventeen years old she and the curate were
engaged to be married. The curate paid thirty pounds a year for his
lodgings, and on this, with their own little income, the widow and her
two daughters had managed to live. The engagement was known to them all
as soon as it had been known to Mary. The love-making, indeed, had gone
on beneath the eyes of the mother. There had been not only no deceit, no
privacy, no separate interests, but, as far as we ever knew, no question
as to prudence in the making of the engagement. The two young people had
been brought together, had loved each other, as was so natural, and had
become engaged as a matter of course. It was an event as easy to be
foretold, or at least as easy to be believed, as the pairing of two
birds. From what we heard of this curate, the Rev. Arthur Donne,--for
we never saw him,--we fancy that he was a simple, pious, commonplace
young man, imbued with a strong idea that in being made a priest he had
been invested with a nobility and with some special capacity beyond that
of other men, slight in body, weak in health, but honest, true, and
warm-hearted. Then, the engagement having been completed, there arose
the question of matrimony. The salary of the curate was a hundred a
year. The whole income of the vicar, an old man, was, after payment made
to his curate, two hundred a year. Could the curate, in such
circumstances, afford to take to himself a penniless wife of seventeen?
Mrs. Gresley was willing that the marriage should take place, and that
they should all do as best they might on their joint income. The vicar’s
wife, who seems to have been a strong-minded, sage, though somewhat hard
woman, took Mary aside, and told her that such a thing must not be.
There would come, she said, children, and destitution, and ruin. She
knew perhaps more than Mary knew when Mary told us her story, sitting
opposite to us in the low arm-chair. It was the advice of the vicar’s
wife that the engagement should be broken off; but that, if the
breaking-off of the engagement were impossible, there should be an
indefinite period of waiting. Such engagements cannot be broken off.
Young hearts will not consent to be thus torn asunder. The vicar’s wife
was too strong for them to get themselves married in her teeth, and the
period of indefinite waiting was commenced.

And now for a moment we will go further back among Mary’s youthful days.
Child as she seemed to be, she had in very early years taken a pen in
her hand. The reader need hardly be told that had not such been the case
there would not have arisen any cause for friendship between her and us.
We are telling an Editor’s tale, and it was in our editorial capacity
that Mary first came to us. Well;--in her earliest attempts, in her very
young days, she wrote--Heaven knows what; poetry first, no doubt; then,
God help her, a tragedy; after that, when the curate-influence first
commenced, tales for the conversion of the ungodly;--and at last, before
her engagement was a fact, having tried her wing at fiction, in the form
of those false little dialogues between Tom the Saint and Bob the
Sinner, she had completed a novel in one volume. She was then seventeen,
was engaged to be married, and had completed her novel! Passing her in
the street you would almost have taken her for a child to whom you might
give an orange.

Hitherto her work had come from ambition,--or from a feeling of
restless piety inspired by the curate. Now there arose in her young mind
the question whether such talent as she possessed might not be turned to
account for ways and means, and used to shorten, perhaps absolutely to
annihilate, that uncertain period of waiting. The first novel was seen
by “a man of letters” in her neighbourhood, who pronounced it to be very
clever;--not indeed fit as yet for publication, faulty in grammar,
faulty even in spelling,--how I loved the tear that shone in her eye as
she confessed this delinquency!--faulty of course in construction, and
faulty in character;--but still clever. The man of letters had told her
that she must begin again.

Unfortunate man of letters in having thrust upon him so terrible a task!
In such circumstances what is the candid, honest, soft-hearted man of
letters to do? “Go, girl, and mend your stockings. Learn to make a pie.
If you work hard, it may be that some day your intellect will suffice to
you to read a book and understand it. For the writing of a book that
shall either interest or instruct a brother human being many gifts are
required. Have you just reason to believe that they have been given to
you?” That is what the candid, honest man of letters says who is not
soft-hearted;--and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it will
probably be the truth. The soft-hearted man of letters remembers that
this special case submitted to him may be the hundredth; and, unless the
blotted manuscript is conclusive against such possibility, he reconciles
it to his conscience to tune his counsel to that hope. Who can say that
he is wrong? Unless such evidence be conclusive, who can venture to
declare that this aspirant may not be the one who shall succeed? Who in
such emergency does not remember the day in which he also was one of the
hundred of whom the ninety-and-nine must fail;--and will not remember
also the many convictions on his own mind that he certainly would not be
the one appointed? The man of letters in the neighbourhood of Cornboro
to whom poor Mary’s manuscript was shown was not sufficiently
hard-hearted to make any strong attempt to deter her. He made no
reference to the easy stockings, or the wholesome pie,--pointed out the
manifest faults which he saw, and added, we do not doubt with much more
energy than he threw into his words of censure,--his comfortable
assurance that there was great promise in the work. Mary Gresley that
evening burned the manuscript, and began another, with the dictionary
close at her elbow.

Then, during her work, there occurred two circumstances which brought
upon her,--and, indeed, upon the household to which she
belonged,--intense sorrow and greatly-increased trouble. The first of
these applied more especially to herself. The Rev. Arthur Donne did not
approve of novels,--of other novels than those dialogues between Tom and
Bob, of the falsehood of which he was unconscious,--and expressed a
desire that the writing of them should be abandoned. How far the lover
went in his attempt to enforce obedience we, of course, could not know;
but he pronounced the edict, and the edict, though not obeyed, created
tribulation. Then there came forth another edict which had to be
obeyed,--an edict from the probable successor of the late Dr.
Gresley,--ordering the poor curate to seek employment in some clime more
congenial to his state of health than that in which he was then living.
He was told that his throat and lungs and general apparatus for living
and preaching were not strong enough for those hyperborean regions, and
that he must seek a southern climate. He did do so, and, before I became
acquainted with Mary, had transferred his services to a small town in
Dorsetshire. The engagement, of course, was to be as valid as ever,
though matrimony must be postponed, more indefinitely even than
heretofore. But if Mary could write novels and sell them, then how
glorious would it be to follow her lover into Dorsetshire! The Rev.
Arthur Donne went, and the curate who came in his place was a married
man, wanting a house, and not lodgings. So Mary Gresley persevered with
her second novel, and completed it before she was eighteen.

The literary friend in the neighbourhood,--to the chance of whose
acquaintance I was indebted for my subsequent friendship with Mary
Gresley,--found this work to be a great improvement on the first. He was
an elderly man, who had been engaged nearly all his life in the conduct
of a scientific and agricultural periodical, and was the last man whom I
should have taken as a sound critic on works of fiction;--but with
spelling, grammatical construction, and the composition of sentences he
was acquainted; and he assured Mary that her progress had been great.
Should she burn that second story? she asked him. She would if he so
recommended, and begin another the next day. Such was not his advice.

“I have a friend in London,” said he, “who has to do with such things,
and you shall go to him. I will give you a letter.” He gave her the
fatal letter, and she came to us.

She came up to town with her novel; but not only with her novel, for she
brought her mother with her. So great was her eloquence, so excellent
her suasive power either with her tongue or by that look of supplication
in her face, that she induced her mother to abandon her home in
Cornboro, and trust herself to London lodgings. The house was let
furnished to the new curate, and when I first heard of the Gresleys they
were living on the second floor in a small street near to the Euston
Square station. Poor Fanny, as she was called, was left in some humble
home at Cornboro, and Mary travelled up to try her fortune in the great
city. When we came to know her well we expressed our doubts as to the
wisdom of such a step. Yes; the vicar’s wife had been strong against the
move. Mary confessed as much. That lady had spoken most forcible words,
had uttered terrible predictions, had told sundry truths. But Mary had
prevailed, and the journey was made, and the lodgings were taken.

We can now come to the day on which we first saw her. She did not write,
but came direct to us with her manuscript in her hand. “A young woman,
Sir, wants to see you,” said the clerk, in that tone to which we were so
well accustomed, and which indicated the dislike which he had learned
from us to the reception of unknown visitors.

“Young woman! What young woman?”

“Well, Sir; she is a very young woman;--quite a girl like.”

“I suppose she has got a name. Who sent her? I cannot see any young
woman without knowing why. What does she want?”

“Got a manuscript in her hand, Sir.”

“I’ve no doubt she has, and a ton of manuscripts in drawers and
cupboards. Tell her to write. I won’t see any woman, young or old,
without knowing who she is.”

The man retired, and soon returned with an envelope belonging to the
office, on which was written, “Miss Mary Gresley, late of Cornboro.” He
also brought me a note from “the man of letters” down in Yorkshire. “Of
what sort is she?” I asked, looking at the introduction.

“She aint amiss as to looks,” said the clerk; “and she’s modest-like.”
Now certainly it is the fact that all female literary aspirants are not
“modest-like.” We read our friend’s letter through, while poor Mary was
standing at the counter below. How eagerly should we have run to greet
her, to save her from the gaze of the public, to welcome her at least
with a chair and the warmth of our editorial fire, had we guessed then
what were her qualities! It was not long before she knew the way up to
our sanctum without any clerk to show her, and not long before we knew
well the sound of that low but not timid knock at our door made always
with the handle of the parasol, with which her advent was heralded. We
will confess that there was always music to our ears in that light tap
from the little round wooden knob. The man of letters in Yorkshire, whom
we had known well for many years, had been never known to us with
intimacy. We had bought with him and sold with him, had talked with him,
and perhaps, walked with him; but he was not one with whom we had eaten,
or drunk, or prayed. A dull, well-instructed, honest man he was, fond of
his money, and, as we had thought, as unlikely as any man to be waked to
enthusiasm by the ambitious dreams of a young girl. But Mary had been
potent even over him, and he had written to me, saying that Miss Gresley
was a young lady of exceeding promise, in respect of whom he had a
strong presentiment that she would rise, if not to eminence, at least to
a good position as a writer. “But she is very young,” he added. Having
read this letter, we at last desired our clerk to send the lady up.

We remember her step as she came to the door, timid enough
then,--hesitating, but yet with an assumed lightness as though she was
determined to show us that she was not ashamed of what she was doing.
She had on her head a light straw hat, such as then was very unusual in
London,--and is not now, we believe, commonly worn in the streets of the
metropolis by ladies who believe themselves to know what they are about.
But it was a hat, worn upon her head, and not a straw plate done up with
ribbons, and reaching down the incline of the forehead as far as the top
of the nose. And she was dressed in a gray stuff frock, with a little
black band round her waist. As far as our memory goes, we never saw her
in any other dress, or with other hat or bonnet on her head. “And what
can we do for you,--Miss Gresley?” we said, standing up and holding the
literary gentleman’s letter in our hand. We had almost said, “my dear,”
seeing her youth and remembering our own age. We were afterwards glad
that we had not so addressed her; though it came before long that we did
call her “my dear,”--in quite another spirit.

She recoiled a little from the tone of our voice, but recovered herself
at once. “Mr. ---- thinks that you can do something for me. I have
written a novel, and I have brought it to you.”

“You are very young, are you not, to have written a novel?”

“I am young,” she said, “but perhaps older than you think. I am
eighteen.” Then for the first time there came into her eye that gleam of
a merry humour which never was allowed to dwell there long, but which
was so alluring when it showed itself.

“That is a ripe age,” we said laughing, and then we bade her seat
herself. At once we began to pour forth that long and dull and ugly
lesson which is so common to our life, in which we tried to explain to
our unwilling pupil that of all respectable professions for young women
literature is the most uncertain, the most heart-breaking, and the most
dangerous. “You hear of the few who are remunerated,” we said; “but you
hear nothing of the thousands that fail.”

“It is so noble!” she replied.

“But so hopeless.”

“There are those who succeed.”

“Yes, indeed. Even in a lottery one must gain the prize; but they who
trust to lotteries break their hearts.”

“But literature is not a lottery. If I am fit, I shall succeed. Mr. ----
thinks I may succeed.” Many more words of wisdom we spoke to her, and
well do we remember her reply when we had run all our line off the reel,
and had completed our sermon. “I shall go on all the same,” she said. “I
shall try, and try again,--and again.”

Her power over us, to a certain extent, was soon established. Of course
we promised to read the MS., and turned it over, no doubt with an
anxious countenance, to see of what kind was the writing. There is a
feminine scrawl of a nature so terrible that the task of reading it
becomes worse than the treadmill. “I know I can write well,--though I am
not quite sure about the spelling,” said Mary, as she observed the
glance of our eyes. She spoke truly. The writing was good, though the
erasures and alterations were very numerous. And then the story was
intended to fill only one volume. “I will copy it for you if you wish
it,” said Mary. “Though there are so many scratchings out, it has been
copied once.” We would not for worlds have given her such labour, and
then we promised to read the tale. We forget how it was brought about,
but she told us at that interview that her mother had obtained leave
from the pastrycook round the corner to sit there waiting till Mary
should rejoin her. “I thought it would be trouble enough for you to have
one of us here,” she said with her little laugh when I asked her why she
had not brought her mother on with her. I own that I felt that she had
been wise; and when I told her that if she would call on me again that
day week I would then have read at any rate so much of her work as would
enable me to give her my opinion, I did not invite her to bring her
mother with her. I knew that I could talk more freely to the girl
without the mother’s presence. Even when you are past fifty, and intend
only to preach a sermon, you do not wish to have a mother present.

When she was gone we took up the roll of paper and examined it. We
looked at the division into chapters, at the various mottoes the poor
child had chosen, pronounced to ourselves the name of the story,--it was
simply the name of the heroine, an easy-going, unaffected, well-chosen
name,--and read the last page of it. On such occasions the reader of the
work begins his task almost with a conviction that the labour which he
is about to undertake will be utterly thrown away. He feels all but sure
that the matter will be bad, that it will be better for all parties,
writer, intended readers, and intended publisher, that the written
words should not be conveyed into type,--that it will be his duty after
some fashion to convey that unwelcome opinion to the writer, and that
the writer will go away incredulous, and accusing mentally the Mentor of
the moment of all manner of literary sins, among which ignorance,
jealousy, and falsehood, will, in the poor author’s imagination, be most
prominent. And yet when the writer was asking for that opinion,
declaring his especial desire that the opinion should be candid,
protesting that his present wish is to have some gauge of his own
capability, and that he has come to you believing you to be above others
able to give him that gauge,--while his petition to you was being made,
he was in every respect sincere. He had come desirous to measure
himself, and had believed that you could measure him. When coming he did
not think that you would declare him to be an Apollo. He had told
himself, no doubt, how probable it was that you would point out to him
that he was a dwarf. You find him to be an ordinary man, measuring
perhaps five feet seven, and unable to reach the standard of the
particular regiment in which he is ambitious of serving. You tell him so
in what civillest words you know, and you are at once convicted in his
mind of jealousy, ignorance, and falsehood! And yet he is perhaps a
most excellent fellow, and capable of performing the best of
service,--only in some other regiment! As we looked at Miss Gresley’s
manuscript, tumbling it through our hands, we expected even from her
some such result. She had gained two things from us already by her
outward and inward gifts, such as they were,--first that we would read
her story, and secondly that we would read it quickly; but she had not
as yet gained from us any belief that by reading it we could serve it.

We did read it,--the most of it before we left our editorial chair on
that afternoon, so that we lost altogether the daily walk so essential
to our editorial health, and were put to the expense of a cab on our
return home. And we incurred some minimum of domestic discomfort from
the fact that we did not reach our own door till twenty minutes after
our appointed dinner hour. “I have this moment come from the office as
hard as a cab could bring me,” we said in answer to the mildest of
reproaches, explaining nothing as to the nature of the cause which had
kept us so long at our work.

We must not allow our readers to suppose that the intensity of our
application had arisen from the overwhelming interest of the story. It
was not that the story entranced us, but that our feeling for the
writer grew as we read the story. It was simple, unaffected, and almost
painfully unsensational. It contained, as I came to perceive afterwards,
little more than a recital of what her imagination told her might too
probably be the result of her own engagement. It was the story of two
young people who became engaged and could not be married. After a course
of years the man, with many true arguments, asked to be absolved. The
woman yields with an expressed conviction that her lover is right,
settles herself down for maiden life, then breaks her heart and dies.
The character of the man was utterly untrue to nature. That of the woman
was true, but commonplace. Other interest, or other character there was
none. The dialogues between the lovers were many and tedious, and hardly
a word was spoken between them which two lovers really would have
uttered. It was clearly not a work as to which I could tell my little
friend that she might depend upon it for fame or fortune. When I had
finished it I was obliged to tell myself that I could not advise her
even to publish it. But yet I could not say that she had mistaken her
own powers or applied herself to a profession beyond her reach. There
were a grace and delicacy in her work which were charming. Occasionally
she escaped from the trammels of grammar, but only so far that it would
be a pleasure to point out to her her errors. There was not a word that
a young lady should not have written; and there were throughout the
whole evident signs of honest work. We had six days to think it over
between our completion of the task and her second visit.

She came exactly at the hour appointed, and seated herself at once in
the arm-chair before us as soon as the young man had closed the door
behind him. There had been no great occasion for nervousness at her
first visit, and she had then, by an evident effort, overcome the
diffidence incidental to a meeting with a stranger. But now she did not
attempt to conceal her anxiety. “Well,” she said, leaning forward, and
looking up into our face, with her two hands folded together.

Even though Truth, standing full panoplied at our elbow, had positively
demanded it, we could not have told her then to mend her stockings and
bake her pies and desert the calling that she had chosen. She was simply
irresistible, and would, we fear, have constrained us into falsehood had
the question been between falsehood and absolute reprobation of her
work. To have spoken hard, heart-breaking words to her, would have been
like striking a child when it comes to kiss you. We fear that we were
not absolutely true at first, and that by that absence of truth we made
subsequent pain more painful. “Well,” she said, looking up into our
face. “Have you read it?” We told her that we had read every word of it.
“And it is no good?”

We fear that we began by telling her that it certainly was good,--after
a fashion, very good,--considering her youth and necessary inexperience,
very good indeed. As we said this she shook her head, and sent out a
spark or two from her eyes, intimating her conviction that excuses or
quasi praise founded on her youth would avail her nothing. “Would
anybody buy it from me?” she asked. No;--we did not think that any
publisher would pay her money for it. “Would they print it for me
without costing me anything?” Then we told her the truth as nearly as we
could. She lacked experience; and if, as she had declared to us before,
she was determined to persevere, she must try again, and must learn more
of that lesson of the world’s ways which was so necessary to those who
attempted to teach that lesson to others. “But I shall try again at
once,” she said. We shook our head, endeavouring to shake it kindly.
“Currer Bell was only a young girl when she succeeded,” she added. The
injury which Currer Bell did after this fashion was almost equal to that
perpetrated by Jack Sheppard, and yet Currer Bell was not very young
when she wrote.

She remained with us then for above an hour;--for more than two
probably, though the time was not specially marked by us; and before her
visit was brought to a close she had told us of her engagement with the
curate. Indeed, we believe that the greater part of her little history
as hitherto narrated was made known to us on that occasion. We asked
after her mother early in the interview, and learned that she was not on
this occasion kept waiting at the pastrycook’s shop. Mary had come
alone, making use of some friendly omnibus, of which she had learned the
route. When she told us that she and her mother had come up to London
solely with the view of forwarding her views in her intended profession,
we ventured to ask whether it would not be wiser for them to return to
Cornboro, seeing how improbable it was that she would have matter fit
for the press within any short period. Then she explained that they had
calculated that they would be able to live in London for twelve months,
if they spent nothing except on absolute necessaries. The poor girl
seemed to keep back nothing from us. “We have clothes that will carry
us through, and we shall be very careful. I came in an omnibus;--but I
shall walk if you will let me come again.” Then she asked me for advice.
How was she to set about further work with the best chance of turning it
to account?

It had been altogether the fault of that retired literary gentleman down
in the north, who had obtained what standing he had in the world of
letters by writing about guano and the cattle plague! Divested of all
responsibility, and fearing no further trouble to himself, he had
ventured to tell this girl that her work was full of promise. Promise
means probability, and in this case there was nothing beyond a remote
chance. That she and her mother should have left their little household
gods, and come up to London on such a chance, was a thing terrible to
the mind. But we felt before these two hours were over that we could not
throw her off now. We had become old friends, and there had been that
between us which gave her a positive claim upon our time. She had sat in
our arm-chair, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and her
hands stretched out, till we, caught by the charm of her unstudied
intimacy, had wheeled round our chair, and had placed ourselves, as
nearly as the circumstances would admit, in the same position. The
magnetism had already begun to act upon us. We soon found ourselves
taking it for granted that she was to remain in London and begin another
book. It was impossible to resist her. Before the interview was over,
we, who had been conversant with all these matters before she was born;
we, who had latterly come to regard our own editorial fault as being
chiefly that of personal harshness; we, who had repulsed aspirant
novelists by the score,--we had consented to be a party to the creation,
if not to the actual writing, of this new book!

It was to be done after this fashion. She was to fabricate a plot, and
to bring it to us, written on two sides of a sheet of letter paper. On
the reverse sides we were to criticise this plot, and prepare
emendations. Then she was to make out skeletons of the men and women who
were afterwards to be clothed with flesh and made alive with blood, and
covered with cuticles. After that she was to arrange her proportions;
and at last, before she began to write the story, she was to describe in
detail such part of it as was to be told in each chapter. On every
advancing wavelet of the work we were to give her our written remarks.
All this we promised to do because of the quiver in her lip, and the
alternate tear and sparkle in her eye. “Now that I have found a friend,
I feel sure that I can do it,” she said, as she held our hand tightly
before she left us.

In about a month, during which she had twice written to us and twice
been answered, she came with her plot. It was the old story, with some
additions and some change. There was matrimony instead of death at the
end, and an old aunt was brought in for the purpose of relenting and
producing an income. We added a few details, feeling as we did so that
we were the very worst of botchers. We doubt now whether the old, sad,
simple story was not the better of the two. Then, after another
lengthened interview, we sent our pupil back to create her skeletons.
When she came with the skeletons we were dear friends and learned to
call her Mary. Then it was that she first sat at our editorial table,
and wrote a love-letter to the curate. It was then mid-winter, wanting
but a few days to Christmas, and Arthur, as she called him, did not like
the cold weather. “He does not say so,” she said, “but I fear he is ill.
Don’t you think there are some people with whom everything is
unfortunate?” She wrote her letter, and had recovered her spirits before
she took her leave.

We then proposed to her to bring her mother to dine with us on Christmas
Day. We had made a clean breast of it at home in regard to our
heart-flutterings, and had been met with a suggestion that some kindness
might with propriety be shown to the old lady as well as to the young
one. We had felt grateful to the old lady for not coming to our office
with her daughter, and had at once assented. When we made the suggestion
to Mary there came first a blush over all her face, and then there
followed the well-known smile before the blush was gone. “You’ll all be
dressed fine,” she said. We protested that not a garment would be
changed by any of the family after the decent church-going in the
morning. “Just as I am?” she asked. “Just as you are,” we said, looking
at the dear gray frock, adding some mocking assertion that no possible
combination of millinery could improve her. “And mamma will be just the
same? Then we will come,” she said. We told her an absolute falsehood,
as to some necessity which would take us in a cab to Euston Square on
the afternoon of that Christmas Day, so that we could call and bring
them both to our house without trouble or expense. “You sha’n’t do
anything of the kind,” she said. However, we swore to our
falsehood,--perceiving, as we did so, that she did not believe a word
of it; but in the matter of the cab we had our own way.

We found the mother to be what we had expected,--a weak, ladylike,
lachrymose old lady, endowed with a profound admiration for her
daughter, and so bashful that she could not at all enjoy her
plum-pudding. We think that Mary did enjoy hers thoroughly. She made a
little speech to the mistress of the house, praising ourselves with warm
words and tearful eyes, and immediately won the heart of a new friend.
She allied herself warmly to our daughters, put up with the schoolboy
pleasantries of our sons, and before the evening was over was dressed up
as a ghost for the amusement of some neighbouring children who were
brought in to play snapdragon. Mrs. Gresley, as she drank her tea and
crumbled her bit of cake, seated on a distant sofa, was not so happy,
partly because she remembered her old gown, and partly because our wife
was a stranger to her. Mary had forgotten both circumstances before the
dinner was half over. She was the sweetest ghost that ever was seen. How
pleasant would be our ideas of departed spirits if such ghosts would
visit us frequently!

They repeated their visits to us not unfrequently during the twelve
months; but as the whole interest attaching to our intercourse had
reference to circumstances which took place in that editorial room of
ours, it will not be necessary to refer further to the hours, very
pleasant to ourselves, which she spent with us in our domestic life. She
was ever made welcome when she came, and was known by us as a dear,
well-bred, modest, clever little girl. The novel went on. That catalogue
of the skeletons gave us more trouble than all the rest, and many were
the tears which she shed over it, and sad were the misgivings by which
she was afflicted, though never vanquished! How was it to be expected
that a girl of eighteen should portray characters such as she had never
known? In her intercourse with the curate all the intellect had been on
her side. She had loved him because it was requisite to her to love some
one; and now, as she had loved him, she was as true as steel to him. But
there had been almost nothing for her to learn from him. The plan of the
novel went on, and as it did so we became more and more despondent as to
its success. And through it all we knew how contrary it was to our own
judgment to expect, even to dream of, anything but failure. Though we
went on working with her, finding it to be quite impossible to resist
her entreaties, we did tell her from day to day that, even presuming she
were entitled to hope for ultimate success, she must go through an
apprenticeship of ten years before she could reach it. Then she would
sit silent, repressing her tears, and searching for arguments with which
to support her cause.

“Working hard is apprenticeship,” she said to us once.

“Yes, Mary; but the work will be more useful, and the apprenticeship
more wholesome, if you will take them for what they are worth.”

“I shall be dead in ten years,” she said.

“If you thought so you would not intend to marry Mr. Donne. But even
were it certain that such would be your fate, how can that alter the
state of things? The world would know nothing of that; and if it did,
would the world buy your book out of pity?”

“I want no one to pity me,” she said; “but I want you to help me.” So we
went on helping her. At the end of four months she had not put pen to
paper on the absolute body of her projected novel; and yet she had
worked daily at it, arranging its future construction.

During the next month, when we were in the middle of March, a gleam of
real success came to her. We had told her frankly that we would publish
nothing of hers in the periodical which we were ourselves conducting.
She had become too dear to us for us not to feel that were we to do so,
we should be doing it rather for her sake than for that of our readers.
But we did procure for her the publication of two short stories
elsewhere. For these she received twelve guineas, and it seemed to her
that she had found an El Dorado of literary wealth. I shall never forget
her ecstasy when she knew that her work would be printed, or her renewed
triumph when the first humble cheque was given into her hands. There are
those who will think that such a triumph, as connected with literature,
must be sordid. For ourselves, we are ready to acknowledge that money
payment for work done is the best and most honest test of success. We
are sure that it is so felt by young barristers and young doctors, and
we do not see why rejoicing on such realisation of long-cherished hope
should be more vile with the literary aspirant than with them. “What do
you think I’ll do first with it?” she said. We thought she meant to send
something to her lover, and we told her so. “I’ll buy mamma a bonnet to
go to church in. I didn’t tell you before, but she hasn’t been these
three Sundays because she hasn’t one fit to be seen.” I changed the
cheque for her, and she went off and bought the bonnet.

Though I was successful for her in regard to the two stories, I could
not go beyond that. We could have filled pages of periodicals with her
writing had we been willing that she should work without remuneration.
She herself was anxious for such work, thinking that it would lead to
something better. But we opposed it, and, indeed, would not permit it,
believing that work so done can be serviceable to none but those who
accept it that pages may be filled without cost.

During the whole winter, while she was thus working, she was in a state
of alarm about her lover. Her hope was ever that when warm weather came
he would again be well and strong. We know nothing sadder than such hope
founded on such source. For does not the winter follow the summer, and
then again comes the killing spring? At this time she used to read us
passages from his letters, in which he seemed to speak of little but his
own health.

In her literary ambition he never seemed to have taken part since she
had declared her intention of writing profane novels. As regarded him,
his sole merit to us seemed to be in his truth to her. He told her that
in his opinion they two were as much joined together as though the
service of the Church had bound them; but even in saying that he spoke
ever of himself and not of her. Well;--May came, dangerous, doubtful,
deceitful May, and he was worse. Then, for the first time, the dread
word, consumption, passed her lips. It had already passed ours,
mentally, a score of times. We asked her what she herself would wish to
do. Would she desire to go down to Dorsetshire and see him? She thought
awhile, and said that she would wait a little longer.

The novel went on, and at length, in June, she was writing the actual
words on which, as she thought, so much depended. She had really brought
the story into some shape in the arrangement of her chapters; and
sometimes even I began to hope. There were moments in which with her
hope was almost certainty. Towards the end of June Mr. Donne declared
himself to be better. He was to have a holiday in August, and then he
intended to run up to London and see his betrothed. He still gave
details, which were distressing to us, of his own symptoms; but it was
manifest that he himself was not desponding, and she was governed in her
trust or in her despair altogether by him. But when August came the
period of his visit was postponed. The heat had made him weak, and he
was to come in September.

Early in August we ourselves went away for our annual recreation:--not
that we shoot grouse, or that we have any strong opinion that August and
September are the best months in the year for holiday-making,--but that
everybody does go in August. We ourselves are not specially fond of
August. In many places to which one goes a-touring mosquitoes bite in
that month. The heat, too, prevents one from walking. The inns are all
full, and the railways crowded. April and May are twice pleasanter
months in which to see the world and the country. But fashion is
everything, and no man or woman will stay in town in August for whom
there exists any practicability of leaving it. We went on the
10th,--just as though we had a moor, and one of the last things we did
before our departure was to read and revise the last-written chapter of
Mary’s story.

About the end of September we returned, and up to that time the lover
had not come to London. Immediately on our return we wrote to Mary, and
the next morning she was with us. She had seated herself on her usual
chair before she spoke, and we had taken her hand asked after herself
and her mother. Then, with something of mirth in our tone, we demanded
the work which she had done since our departure. “He is dying,” she
replied.

She did not weep as she spoke. It was not on such occasions as this that
the tears filled her eyes. But there was in her face a look of fixed and
settled misery which convinced us that she at least did not doubt the
truth of her own assertion. We muttered something as to our hope that
she was mistaken. “The doctor, there, has written to tell mamma that it
is so. Here is his letter.” The doctor’s letter was a good letter,
written with more of assurance than doctors can generally allow
themselves to express. “I fear that I am justified in telling you,” said
the doctor, “that it can only be a question of weeks.” We got up and
took her hand. There was not a word to be uttered.

“I must go to him,” she said, after a pause.

“Well;--yes. It will be better.”

“But we have no money.” It must be explained now that offers of slight,
very slight, pecuniary aid had been made by us both to Mary and to her
mother on more than one occasion. These had been refused with adamantine
firmness, but always with something of mirth, or at least of humour,
attached to the refusal. The mother would simply refer to the daughter,
and Mary would declare that they could manage to see the twelvemonth
through and go back to Cornboro, without becoming absolute beggars. She
would allude to their joint wardrobe, and would confess that there would
not have been a pair of boots between them but for that twelve guineas;
and indeed she seemed to have stretched that modest incoming so as to
cover a legion of purchases. And of these things she was never ashamed
to speak. We think there must have been at least two gray frocks,
because the frock was always clean, and never absolutely shabby. Our
girls at home declared that they had seen three. Of her frock, as it
happened, she never spoke to us, but the new boots and the new gloves,
“and ever so many things that I can’t tell you about, which we really
couldn’t have gone without,” all came out of the twelve guineas. That
she had taken, not only with delight, but with triumph. But pecuniary
assistance from ourselves she had always refused. “It would be a gift,”
she would say.

“Have it as you like.”

“But people don’t give other people money.”

“Don’t they? That’s all you know about the world.”

“Yes; to beggars. We hope we needn’t come to that.” It was thus that she
always answered us, but always with something of laughter in her eye,
as though their poverty was a joke. Now, when the demand upon her was
for that which did not concern her personal comfort, which referred to a
matter felt by her to be vitally important, she declared, without a
minute’s hesitation, that she had not money for the journey.

“Of course you can have money,” we said. “I suppose you will go at
once?”

“Oh yes,--at once. That is, in a day or two,--after he shall have
received my letter. Why should I wait?” We sat down to write a cheque,
and she, seeing what we were doing, asked how much it was to be.
“No;--half that will do,” she said. “Mamma will not go. We have talked
it over and decided it. Yes; I know all about that. I am going to see my
lover,--my dying lover; and I have to beg for the money to take me to
him. Of course I am a young girl; but in such a condition am I to stand
upon the ceremony of being taken care of? A housemaid wouldn’t want to
be taken care of at eighteen.” We did exactly as she bade us, and then
attempted to comfort her while the young man went to get money for the
cheque. What consolation was possible? It was simply necessary to admit
with frankness that sorrow had come from which there could be no present
release. “Yes,” she said. “Time will cure it,--in a way. One dies in
time, and then of course it is all cured.” “One hears of this kind of
thing often,” she said afterwards, still leaning forward in her chair,
still with something of the old expression in her eyes,--something
almost of humour in spite of her grief; “but it is the girl who dies.
When it is the girl, there isn’t, after all, so much harm done. A man
goes about the world and can shake it off; and then, there are plenty of
girls.” We could not tell her how infinitely more important, to our
thinking, was her life than that of him whom she was going to see now
for the last time; but there did spring up within our mind a feeling,
greatly opposed to that conviction which formerly we had endeavoured to
impress upon herself,--that she was destined to make for herself a
successful career.

She went, and remained by her lover’s bed-side for three weeks. She
wrote constantly to her mother, and once or twice to ourselves. She
never again allowed herself to entertain a gleam of hope, and she spoke
of her sorrow as a thing accomplished. In her last interview with us she
had hardly alluded to her novel, and in her letters she never mentioned
it. But she did say one word which made us guess what was coming. “You
will find me greatly changed in one thing,” she said; “so much changed
that I need never have troubled you.” The day for her return to London
was twice postponed, but at last she was brought to leave him. Stern
necessity was too strong for her. Let her pinch herself as she might,
she must live down in Dorsetshire,--and could not live on his means,
which were as narrow as her own. She left him; and on the day after her
arrival in London she walked across from Euston Square to our office.

“Yes,” she said, “it is all over. I shall never see him again on this
side of heaven’s gates.” We do not know that we ever saw a tear in her
eyes produced by her own sorrow. She was possessed of some wonderful
strength which seemed to suffice for the bearing of any burden. Then she
paused, and we could only sit silent, with our eyes fixed upon the rug.
“I have made him a promise,” she said at last. Of course we asked her
what was the promise, though at the moment we thought that we knew. “I
will make no more attempt at novel writing.”

“Such a promise should not have been asked,--or given,” we said
vehemently.

“It should have been asked,--because he thought it right,” she answered.
“And of course it was given. Must he not know better than I do? Is he
not one of God’s ordained priests? In all the world is there one so
bound to obey him as I?” There was nothing to be said for it at such a
moment as that. There is no enthusiasm equal to that produced by a
death-bed parting. “I grieve greatly,” she said, “that you should have
had so much vain labour with a poor girl who can never profit by it.”

“I don’t believe the labour will have been vain,” we answered, having
altogether changed those views of ours as to the futility of the pursuit
which she had adopted.

“I have destroyed it all,” she said.

“What;--burned the novel?”

“Every scrap of it. I told him that I would do so, and that he should
know that I had done it. Every page was burned after I got home last
night, and then I wrote to him before I went to bed.”

“Do you mean that you think it wicked that people should write novels?”
we asked.

“He thinks it to be a misapplication of God’s gifts, and that has been
enough for me. He shall judge for me, but I will not judge for others.
And what does it matter? I do not want to write a novel now.”

They remained in London till the end of the year for which the married
curate had taken their house, and then they returned to Cornboro. We saw
them frequently while they were still in town, and despatched them by
the train to the north just when the winter was beginning. At that time
the young clergyman was still living down in Dorsetshire, but he was
lying in his grave when Christmas came. Mary never saw him again, nor
did she attend his funeral. She wrote to us frequently then, as she did
for years afterwards. “I should have liked to have stood at his grave,”
she said; “but it was a luxury of sorrow that I wished to enjoy, and
they who cannot earn luxuries should not have them. They were going to
manage it for me here, but I knew I was right to refuse it.” Right,
indeed! As far as we knew her, she never moved a single point from what
was right.

All these things happened many years ago. Mary Gresley, on her return to
Cornboro, apprenticed herself, as it were, to the married curate there,
and called herself, I think, a female Scripture reader. I know that she
spent her days in working hard for the religious aid of the poor around
her. From time to time we endeavoured to instigate her to literary work;
and she answered our letters by sending us wonderful little dialogues
between Tom the Saint and Bob the Sinner. We are in no humour to
criticise them now; but we can assert, that though that mode of
religious teaching is most distasteful to us, the literary merit shown
even in such works as these was very manifest. And there came to be
apparent in them a gleam of humour which would sometimes make us think
that she was sitting opposite to us and looking at us, and that she was
Tom the Saint, and that we were Bob the Sinner. We said what we could to
turn her from her chosen path, throwing into our letters all the
eloquence and all the thought of which we were masters: but our
eloquence and our thought were equally in vain.

At last, when eight years had passed over her head after the death of
Mr. Donne, she married a missionary who was going out to some forlorn
country on the confines of African colonisation; and there she died. We
saw her on board the ship in which she sailed, and before we parted
there had come that tear into her eyes, the old look of supplication on
her lips, and the gleam of mirth across her face. We kissed her
once,--for the first and only time,--as we bade God bless her!



THE TURKISH BATH.



[Illustration]



THE TURKISH BATH.


It was in the month of August. The world had gone to the moors and the
Rhine, but we were still kept in town by the exigencies of our position.
We had been worked hard during the preceding year, and were not quite as
well as our best friends might have wished us;--and we resolved upon
taking a Turkish bath. This little story records the experience of one
individual man; but our readers, we hope, will, without a grudge, allow
us the use of the editorial we. We doubt whether the story could be told
at all in any other form. We resolved upon taking a Turkish bath, and at
about three o’clock in the day we strutted from the outer to the inner
room of the establishment in that light costume and with that air of
Arab dignity which are peculiar to the place.

As everybody has not taken a Turkish bath in Jermyn Street, we will give
the shortest possible description of the position. We had entered of
course in the usual way, leaving our hat and our boots and our
“valuables” among the numerous respectable assistants who throng the
approaches; and as we had entered we had observed a stout, middle-aged
gentleman on the other side of the street, clad in vestments somewhat
the worse for wear, and to our eyes particularly noticeable by reason of
the tattered condition of his gloves. A well-to-do man may have no
gloves, or may simply carry in his hands those which appertain to him
rather as a thing of custom than for any use for which he requires them.
But a tattered glove, worn on the hand, is to our eyes the surest sign
of a futile attempt at outer respectability. It is melancholy to us
beyond expression. Our brother editors, we do not doubt, are acquainted
with the tattered glove, and have known the sadness which it produces.
If there be an editor whose heart has not been softened by the feminine
tattered glove, that editor is not our brother. In this instance the
tattered glove was worn by a man; and though the usual indication of
poor circumstances was conveyed, there was nevertheless something jaunty
in the gentleman’s step which preserved him from the desecration of
pity. We barely saw him, but still were thinking of him as we passed
into the building with the oriental letters on it, and took off our
boots, and pulled out our watch and purse.

We were of course accommodated with two checked towels; and, having in
vain attempted to show that we were to the manner born by fastening the
larger of them satisfactorily round our own otherwise naked person, had
obtained the assistance of one of those very skilful eastern boys who
glide about the place and create envy by their familiarity with its
mysteries. With an absence of all bashfulness which soon grows upon one,
we had divested ourselves of our ordinary trappings beneath the gaze of
five or six young men lying on surrounding sofas,--among whom we
recognised young Walker of the Treasury, and hereby testify on his
behalf that he looks almost as fine a fellow without his clothes as he
does with them,--and had strutted through the doorway into the
bath-room, trailing our second towel behind us. Having observed the
matter closely in the course of perhaps half-a-dozen visits, we are
prepared to recommend that mode of entry to our young friends as being
at the same time easy and oriental. There are those who wear the second
towel as a shawl, thereby no doubt achieving a certain decency of garb;
but this is done to the utter loss of all dignity; and a feminine
appearance is produced, such as is sometimes that of a lady of fifty
looking after her maid-servants at seven o’clock in the morning and
intending to dress again before breakfast. And some there are who carry
it under the arm,--simply as a towel; but these are they who, from
English perversity, wilfully rob the institution of that picturesque
orientalism which should be its greatest charm. A few are able to wear
the article as a turban, and that no doubt should be done by all who are
competent to achieve the position. We have observed that men who can do
so enter the bath-room with an air and are received there with a respect
which no other arrangement of the towel will produce. We have tried
this; but as the turban gets over our eyes, and then falls altogether
off our brow, we have abandoned it. In regard to personal deportment,
depending partly on the step, somewhat on the eye, but chiefly on the
costume, it must be acknowledged that “the attempt and not the deed
confounds us.” It is not every man who can carry a blue towel as a
turban, and look like an Arab in the streets of Cairo, as he walks
slowly down the room in Jermyn Street with his arms crossed on his naked
breast. The attempt and not the deed does confound one shockingly. We,
therefore, recommend that the second towel should be trailed. The effect
is good, and there is no difficulty in the trailing which may not be
overcome.

We had trailed our way into the bath-room, and had slowly walked to one
of those arm-chairs in which it is our custom on such occasions to seat
ourselves and to await sudation. There are marble couches; and if a man
be able to lie on stone for half an hour without a movement beyond that
of clapping his hands, or a sound beyond a hollow-voiced demand for
water, the effect is not bad. But he loses everything if he tosses
himself uneasily on his hard couch, and we acknowledge that our own
elbows are always in the way of our own comfort, and that our bones
become sore. We think that the marble sofas must be intended for the
younger Turks. If a man can stretch himself on stone without suffering
for the best part of an hour,--or, more bravely perhaps, without
appearing to suffer, let him remember that all is not done even then.
Very much will depend on the manner in which he claps his hands, and the
hollowness of the voice in which he calls for water. There should, we
think, be two blows of the palms. One is very weak and proclaims its own
futility. Even to dull London ears it seems at once to want the eastern
tone. We have heard three given effectively, but we think that it
requires much practice; and even when it is perfect, the result is that
of western impatience rather than of eastern gravity. No word should be
pronounced, beyond that one word,--Water. The effect should be as though
the whole mind were so devoted to the sudorific process as to admit of
no extraneous idea. There should seem to be almost an agony in the
effort,--as though the man enduring it, conscious that with success he
would come forth a god, was aware that being as yet but mortal he may
perish in the attempt. Two claps of the hand and a call for water, and
that repeated with an interval of ten minutes, are all the external
signs of life that the young Turkish bather may allow to himself while
he is stretched upon his marble couch.

We had taken a chair,--well aware that nothing god-like could be thus
achieved, and contented to obtain the larger amount of human comfort.
The chairs are placed two and two, and a custom has grown up,--of which
we scarcely think that the origin has been eastern,--in accordance with
which friends occupying these chairs will spend their time in
conversation. The true devotee to the Turkish bath will, we think, never
speak at all; but when the speaking is low in tone, just something
between a whisper and an articulate sound, the slight murmuring hum
produced is not disagreeable. We cannot quite make up our mind whether
this use of the human voice be or be not oriental; but we think that it
adds to the mystery, and upon the whole it gratifies. Let it be
understood, however, that harsh, resonant, clearly-expressed speech is
damnable. The man who talks aloud to his friend about the trivial
affairs of life is selfish, ignorant, unpoetical,--and English in the
very worst sense of the word. Who but an ass proud of his own capacity
for braying would venture to dispel the illusions of a score of bathers
by observing aloud that the House sat till three o’clock that morning?

But though friends may talk in low voices, a man without a friend will
hardly fall into conversation at the Turkish bath. It is said that our
countrymen are unapt to speak to each other without introduction, and
this inaptitude is certainly not decreased by the fact that two men meet
each other with nothing on but a towel a piece. Finding yourself next to
a man in such a garb you hardly know where to begin. And then there lies
upon you the weight of that necessity of maintaining a certain dignity
of deportment which has undoubtedly grown upon you since you succeeded
in freeing yourself from your socks and trousers. For ourselves we have
to admit that the difficulty is much increased by the fact that we are
short-sighted, and are obligated, by the sudorific processes and by the
shampooing and washing that are to come, to leave our spectacles behind
us. The delicious wonder of the place is no doubt increased to us, but
our incapability of discerning aught of those around us in that low
gloomy light is complete. Jones from Friday Street, or even Walker from
the Treasury, is the same to us as one of those Asiatic slaves who
administer to our comfort, and flit about the place with admirable
decorum and self-respect. On this occasion we had barely seated
ourselves, when another bather, with slow, majestic step, came to the
other chair; and, with a manner admirably adapted to the place,
stretching out his naked legs, and throwing back his naked shoulders,
seated himself beside us. We are much given to speculations on the
characters and probable circumstances of those with whom we are brought
in contact. Our editorial duties require that it should be so. How
should we cater for the public did we not observe the public in all its
moods? We thought that we could see at once that this was no ordinary
man, and we may as well aver here, at the beginning of our story, that
subsequent circumstances proved our first conceptions to be correct.
The absolute features of the gentleman we did not, indeed, see plainly.
The gloom of the place and our own deficiency of sight forbade it. But
we could discern the thorough man of the world, the traveller who had
seen many climes, the cosmopolitan to whom East and West were alike, in
every motion that he made. We confess that we were anxious for
conversation, and that we struggled within ourselves for an apt subject,
thinking how we might begin. But the apt subject did not occur to us,
and we should have passed that half-hour of repose in silence had not
our companion been more ready than ourselves. “Sir,” said he, turning
round in his seat with a peculiar and captivating grace, “I shall not, I
hope, offend or transgress any rule of politeness by speaking to a
stranger.” There was ease and dignity in his manner, and at the same
time some slight touch of humour which was very charming. I thought that
I detected just a hint of an Irish accent in his tone; but if so the
dear brogue of his country, which is always delightful to me, had been
so nearly banished by intercourse with other tongues as to leave the
matter still a suspicion,--a suspicion, or rather a hope.

“By no means,” we answered, turning round on our left shoulder, but
missing the grace with which he had made his movement.

“There is nothing,” said he, “to my mind so absurd as that two men
should be seated together for an hour without venturing to open their
mouths because they do not know each other. And what matter does it make
whether a man has his breeches on or is without them?”

My hope had now become an assurance. As he named the article of clothing
which peculiarly denotes a man he gave a picturesque emphasis to the
word which was certainly Hibernian. Who does not know the dear sound?
And, as a chance companion for a few idle minutes, is there any one so
likely to prove himself agreeable as a well-informed, travelled
Irishman?

“And yet,” said we, “men do depend much on their outward paraphernalia.”

“Indeed and they do,” said our friend. “And why? Because they can trust
their tailors when they can’t trust themselves. Give me the man who can
make a speech without any of the accessories of the pulpit, who can
preach what sermon there is in him without a pulpit.” His words were
energetic, but his voice was just suited to the place. Had he spoken
aloud, so that others might have heard him, we should have left our
chair, and have retreated to one of the inner and hotter rooms at the
moment. His words were perfectly audible, but he spoke in a fitting
whisper. “It is a part of my creed,” he continued, “that we should never
lose even a quarter of an hour. What a strange mass of human beings one
finds in this city of London!”

“A mighty maze, but not without a plan,” we replied.

“Bedad,--and it’s hard enough to find the plan,” said he. It struck me
that after that he rose into a somewhat higher flight of speech, as
though he had remembered and was desirous of dropping his country. It is
the customary and perhaps the only fault of an Irishman. “Whether it be
there or not, we can expatiate free, as the poet says. How
unintelligible is London! New York or Constantinople one can
understand,--or even Paris. One knows what the world is doing in these
cities, and what men desire.”

“What men desire is nearly the same in all cities,” we remarked,--and
not without truth as we think.

“Is it money you mane?” he said, again relapsing. “Yes; money, no doubt,
is the grand desideratum,--the ‘to prepon,’ the ‘to kalon’ the ‘to
pan!’” Plato and Pope were evidently at his fingers’ ends. We did not
conclude from this slight evidence that he was thoroughly imbued with
the works either of the poet or the philosopher; but we hold that for
the ordinary purposes of conversation a superficial knowledge of many
things goes further than an intimacy with one or two. “Money,” continued
he, “is everything, no doubt;--rem--rem; rem, si possis recte, si
non,----; you know the rest. I don’t complain of that. I like money
myself. I know its value. I’ve had it, and,--I’m not ashamed to say it,
Sir,--I’ve been without it.”

“Our sympathies are completely with you in reference to the latter
position,” we said,--remembering, with a humility that we hope is
natural to us, that we were not always editors.

“What I complain of is,” said our new friend still whispering, as he
passed his hand over his arms and legs, to learn whether the temperature
of the room was producing its proper effect, “that if a man here in
London have a diamond, or a pair of boots, or any special skill at his
command, he cannot take his article to the proper mart, and obtain for
it the proper price.”

“Can he do that in Constantinople?” we enquired.

“Much better and more accurately than he can in London. And so he can in
Paris!” We did not believe this; but as we were thinking after what
fashion we would express our doubts, he branched off so quickly to a
matter of supply and demand with which we were specially interested,
that we lost the opportunity of arguing the general question. “A man of
letters,” he said, “a capable and an instructed man of letters, can
always get a market for his wares in Paris.”

“A capable and instructed man of letters will do so in London,” we said,
“as soon as he has proved his claims. He must prove them in Paris before
they can be allowed.”

“Yes;--he must prove them. By-the-bye, will you have a cheroot?” So
saying, he stretched out his hand, and took from the marble slab beside
him two cheroots which he had placed there. He then proceeded to explain
that he did not bring in his case because of the heat, but that he was
always “muni,”--that was his phrase,--with a couple, in the hope that he
might meet an acquaintance with whom to share them. I accepted his
offer, and when we had walked round the chamber to a light provided for
the purpose, we reseated ourselves. His manner of moving about the place
was so good that I felt it to be a pity that he should ever have a rag
on more than he wore at present. His tobacco, I must own, did not
appear to me to be of the first class; but then I am not in the habit of
smoking cheroots, and am no judge of the merits of the weed as grown in
the East. “Yes;--a man in Paris must prove his capability; but then how
easily he can do it, if the fact to be proved be there! And how certain
is the mart, if he have the thing to sell!”

We immediately denied that in this respect there was any difference
between the two capitals, pointing out what we believe to be a
fact,--that in one capital as in the other, there exists, and must ever
exist, extreme difficulty in proving the possession of an art so
difficult to define as capability of writing for the press. “Nothing but
success can prove it,” we said, as we slapped our thigh with an energy
altogether unbecoming our position as a Turkish bather.

“A man may have a talent then, and he cannot use it till he have used
it! He may possess a diamond, and cannot sell it till he have sold it!
What is a man to do who wishes to engage himself in any of the
multifarious duties of the English press? How is he to begin? In New
York I can tell such a one where to go at once. Let him show in
conversation that he is an educated man, and they will give him a trial
on the staff of any news paper;--they will let him run his venture for
the pages of any magazine. He may write his fingers off here, and not an
editor of them all will read a word that he writes.”

Here he touched us, and we were indignant. When he spoke of the
magazines we knew that he was wrong. “With newspapers,” we said, “we
imagine it to be impossible that contributions from the outside world
should be looked at; but papers sent to the magazines,--at any rate to
some of them,--are read.”

“I believe,” said he, “that a little farce is kept up. They keep a boy
to look at a line or two and then return the manuscript. The pages are
filled by the old stock-writers, who are sure of the market let them
send what they will,--padding-mongers who work eight hours a day, and
hardly know what they write about.” We again loudly expressed our
opinion that he was wrong, and that there did exist magazines, the
managers of which were sedulously anxious to obtain the assistance of
what he called literary capacity, wherever they could find it. Sitting
there at the Turkish bath with nothing but a towel round us, we could
not declare ourselves to a perfect stranger, and we think that as a rule
editors should be impalpable;--but we did express our opinion very
strongly.

“And you believe,” said he, with something of scorn in his voice, “that
if a man who had been writing English for the press in other
countries,--in New York say, or in Doblin,--a man of undoubted capacity,
mind you, were to make the attempt here, in London, he would get a
hearing.”

“Certainly he would,” said we.

“And would any editor see him unless he came with an introduction from
some special friend?”

We paused a moment before we answered this, because the question was to
us one having a very special meaning. Let an editor do his duty with
ever so pure a conscience, let him spend all his days and half his
nights reading manuscripts and holding the balance fairly between the
public and those who wish to feed the public, let his industry be never
so unwearied and his impartiality never so unflinching, still he will,
if possible, avoid the pain of personally repelling those to whom he is
obliged to give an unfavourable answer. But we at the Turkish bath were
quite unknown to the outer world, and might hazard an opinion, as any
stranger might have done. And we have seen very many such visitors as
those to whom our friend alluded; and may, perhaps, see many more.

“Yes,” said we. “An editor might or might not see such a gentleman:
but, if pressed, no doubt he would. An English editor would be quite as
likely to do so as a French editor.” This we declared with energy,
having felt ourselves to be ruffled by the assertion that these things
are managed better in Paris or in New York than in London.

“Then, Mr. ----, would you give me an interview, if I call with a little
manuscript which I have to-morrow morning?” said my Irish friend,
addressing us with a beseeching tone, and calling us by the very name by
which we are known among our neighbours and tradesmen. We felt that
everything was changed between us, and that the man had plunged a dagger
into us.

Yes; he had plunged a dagger into us. Had we had our clothes on, had we
felt ourselves to possess at the moment our usual form of life, we think
that we could have rebuked him. As it was we could only rise from our
chair, throw away the fag end of the filthy cheroot which he had given
us, and clap our hands half-a-dozen times for the Asiatic to come and
shampoo us. But the Irishman was at our elbow. “You will let me see you
to-morrow?” he said. “My name is Molloy,--Michael Molloy. I have not a
card about me, because my things are outside there.”

“A card would do no good at all,” we said, again clapping our hands for
the shampooer.

“I may call, then?” said Mr. Michael Molloy.

“Certainly;--yes, you can call if you please.” Then, having thus
ungraciously acceded to the request made to us, we sat down on the
marble bench and submitted ourselves to the black attendant. During the
whole of the following operation, while the man was pummelling our
breast and poking our ribs, and pinching our toes,--while he was washing
us down afterwards, and reducing us gradually from the warm water to the
cold,--we were thinking of Mr. Michael Molloy, and the manner in which
he had entrapped us into a confidential conversation. The scoundrel must
have plotted it from the very first, must have followed us into the
bath, and taken his seat beside us with a deliberately premeditated
scheme. He was, too, just the man whom we should not have chosen to see
with a worthless magazine article in his hand. We think that we can be
efficacious by letter, but we often feel ourselves to be weak when
brought face to face with our enemies. At that moment our anger was hot
against Mr. Molloy. And yet we were conscious of a something of pride
which mingled with our feelings. It was clear to us that Mr. Molloy was
no ordinary person; and it did in some degree gratify our feelings that
such a one should have taken so much trouble to encounter us. We had
found him to be a well-informed, pleasant gentleman; and the fact that
he was called Molloy and desired to write for the magazine over which we
presided, could not really be taken as detracting from his merits. There
had doubtless been a fraud committed on us,--a palpable fraud. The man
had extracted assurances from us by a false pretence that he did not
know us. But then the idea, on his part, that anything could be gained
by his doing so, was in itself a compliment to us. That such a man
should take so much trouble to approach us,--one who could quote Horace
and talk about the “to kalon,”--was an acknowledgment of our power. As
we returned to the outer chamber we looked round to see Mr. Molloy in
his usual garments, but he was not as yet there. We waited while we
smoked one of our own cigars, but he came not. He had, so far, gained
his aim; and, as we presumed, preferred to run the risk of too long a
course of hot air to risking his object by seeing us again on that
afternoon. At last we left the building, and are bound to confess that
our mind dwelt much on Mr. Michael Molloy during the remainder of that
evening.

It might be that after all we should gain much by the singular mode of
introduction which the man had adopted. He was certainly clever, and if
he could write as well as he could talk his services might be of value.
Punctually at the hour named he was announced, and we did not now for
one moment think of declining the interview. Mr. Molloy had so far
succeeded in his stratagem that we could not now resort to the certainly
not unusual practice of declaring ourselves to be too closely engaged to
see any one, and of sending him word that he should confide to writing
whatever he might have to say to us. It had, too, occurred to us that,
as Mr. Molloy had paid his three shillings and sixpence for the Turkish
bath, he would not prove to be one of that class of visitors whose
appeals to tender-hearted editors are so peculiarly painful. “I am
willing to work day and night for my wife and children; and if you will
use this short paper in your next number it will save us from starvation
for a month! Yes, Sir, from,--starvation!” Who is to resist such an
appeal as that, or to resent it? But the editor knows that he is bound
in honesty to resist it altogether,--so to steel himself against it that
it shall have no effect upon him, at least, as regards the magazine
which is in his hands. And yet if the short thing be only decently
written, if it be not absurdly bad, what harm will its publication do
to anyone? If the waste,--let us call it waste,--of half-a-dozen pages
will save a family from hunger for a month, will they not be well
wasted? But yet, again, such tenderness is absolutely incompatible with
common honesty,--and equally so with common prudence. We think that our
readers will see the difficulty, and understand how an editor may wish
to avoid those interviews with tattered gloves. But my friend, Mr.
Michael Molloy, had had three and sixpence to spend on a Turkish bath,
had had money wherewith to buy,--certainly, the very vilest of cigars.
We thought of all this as Mr. Michael Molloy was ushered into our room.

The first thing we saw was the tattered glove; and then we immediately
recognised the stout middle-aged gentleman whom we had seen on the other
side of Jermyn Street as we entered the bathing establishment. It had
never before occurred to us that the two persons were the same, not
though the impression made by the poverty-stricken appearance of the man
in the street had remained distinct upon our mind. The features of the
gentleman we had hardly even yet seen at all. Nevertheless we had known
and distinctly recognised his outward gait and mien, both with and
without his clothes. One tattered glove he now wore, and the other he
carried in his gloved hand. As we saw this we were aware at once that
all our preconception had been wrong, that that too common appeal would
be made, and that we must resist it as best we might. There was still a
certain jauntiness in his air as he addressed us. “I hope thin,” said he
as we shook hands with him, “ye’ll not take amiss the little ruse by
which we caught ye.”

“It was a ruse then, Mr. Molloy?”

“Divil a doubt o’ that, Mr. Editor.”

“But you were coming to the Turkish bath independently of our visit
there?”

“Sorrow a bath I’d’ve cum to at all, only I saw you go into the place.
I’d just three and ninepence in my pocket, and says I to myself, Mick,
me boy, it’s a good investment. There was three and sixpence for them
savages to rub me down, and threepence for the two cheroots from the
little shop round the corner. I wish they’d been better for your sake.”

It had been a plant from beginning to end, and the “to kalon” and the
half-dozen words from Horace had all been parts of Mr. Molloy’s little
game! And how well he had played it! The outward trappings of the man as
we now saw them were poor and mean, and he was mean-looking too, because
of his trappings. But there had been nothing mean about him as he
strutted along with a blue-checked towel round his body. How well the
fellow had understood it all, and had known his own capacity! “And now
that you are here, Mr. Molloy, what can we do for you?” we said with as
pleasant a smile as we were able to assume. Of course we knew what was
to follow. Out came the roll of paper of which we had already seen the
end projecting from his breast pocket, and we were assured that we
should find the contents of it exactly the thing for our magazine. There
is no longer any diffidence in such matters,--no reticence in preferring
claims and singing one’s own praises. All that has gone by since
competitive examination has become the order of the day. No man, no
woman, no girl, no boy, hesitates now to declare his or her own
excellence and capability. “It’s just a short thing on social manners,”
said Mr. Molloy, “and if ye’ll be so good as to cast ye’r eye over it, I
think ye’ll find I’ve hit the nail on the head. ‘The Five-o’clock
Tay-table’ is what I’ve called it.”

“Oh!--‘The Five-o’clock Tea-table.’”

“Don’t ye like the name?”

“About social manners, is it?”

“Just a rap on the knuckles for some of ’em. Sharp, short, and
decisive! I don’t doubt but what ye’ll like it.”

To declare, as though by instinct, that that was not the kind of thing
we wanted, was as much a matter of course as it is for a man buying a
horse to say that he does not like the brute’s legs or that he falls
away in his quarters. And Mr. Molloy treated our objection just as does
the horse-dealer those of his customers. He assured us with a
smile,--with a smile behind which we could see the craving eagerness of
his heart,--that his little article was just the thing for us. Our
immediate answer was of course ready. If he would leave the paper with
us, we would look at it and return it if it did not seem to suit us.

There is a half-promise about this reply which too often produces a
false satisfaction in the breast of a beginner. With such a one it is
the second interview which is to be dreaded. But my friend Mr. Molloy
was not new to the work, and was aware that if possible he should make
further use of the occasion which he had earned for himself at so
considerable a cost. “Ye’ll read it;--will ye?” he said.

“Oh, certainly. We’ll read it certainly.”

“And ye’ll use it if ye can?”

“As to that, Mr. Molloy, we can say nothing. We’ve got to look solely to
the interest of the periodical.”

“And, sure, what can ye do better for the periodical than print a paper
like that, which there is not a lady at the West End of the town won’t
be certain to read?”

“At any rate we’ll look at it, Mr. Molloy,” said we, standing up from
our chair.

But still he hesitated in his going,--and did not go. “I’m a married
man, Mr. ----,” he said. We simply bowed our head at the announcement.
“I wish you could see Mrs. Molloy,” he added. We murmured something as
to the pleasure it would give us to make the acquaintance of so
estimable a lady. “There isn’t a betther woman than herself this side of
heaven, though I say it that oughtn’t,” said he. “And we’ve three young
ones.” We knew the argument that was coming;--knew it so well, and yet
were so unable to accept it as any argument! “Sit down one moment, Mr.
----,” he continued, “till I tell you a short story.” We pleaded our
engagements, averring that they were peculiarly heavy at that moment.
“Sure, and we know what that manes,” said Mr. Molloy. “It’s just,--walk
out of this as quick as you came in. It’s that what it manes.” And yet
as he spoke there was a twinkle of humour in his eye that was almost
irresistible; and we ourselves,--we could not forbear to smile. When we
smiled we knew that we were lost. “Come, now, Mr. Editor; when you think
how much it cost me to get the inthroduction, you’ll listen to me for
five minutes any way.”

“We will listen to you,” we said, resuming our chair,--remembering as we
did so the three-and-sixpence, the two cigars, the “to kalon,” the line
from Pope, and the half line from Horace. The man had taken much trouble
with the view of placing himself where he now was. When we had been all
but naked together I had taken him to be the superior of the two, and
what were we that we should refuse him an interview simply because he
had wares to sell which we should only be too willing to buy at his
price if they were fit for our use?

Then he told his tale. As for Paris, Constantinople, and New York, he
frankly admitted that he knew nothing of those capitals. When we
reminded him, with some ill-nature as we thought afterwards, that he had
assumed an intimacy with the current literature of the three cities, he
told us that such remarks were “just the sparkling gims of conversation
in which a man shouldn’t expect to find rale diamonds.” Of “Doblin” he
knew every street, every lane, every newspaper, every editor; but the
poverty, dependence, and general poorness of a provincial press had
crushed him, and he had boldly resolved to try a fight in the
“methropolis of litherature.” He referred us to the managers of the
“Boyne Bouncer,” the “Clontarf Chronicle,” the “Donnybrook Debater,” and
the “Echoes of Erin,” assuring us that we should find him to be as well
esteemed as known in the offices of those widely-circulated
publications. His reading he told us was unbounded, and the pen was as
ready to his hand as is the plough to the hand of the husbandman. Did we
not think it a noble ambition in him thus to throw himself into the
great “areanay,” as he called it, and try his fortune in the
“methropolis of litherature?” He paused for a reply, and we were driven
to acknowledge that whatever might be said of our friend’s prudence, his
courage was undoubted. “I’ve got it here,” said he. “I’ve got it all
here.” And he touched his right breast with the fingers of his left
hand, which still wore the tattered glove.

He had succeeded in moving us. “Mr. Molloy,” we said, “we’ll read your
paper, and we’ll then do the best we can for you. We must tell you
fairly that we hardly like your subject, but if the writing be good you
can try your hand at something else.”

“Sure there’s nothing under the sun I won’t write about at your
bidding.”

“If we can be of service to you, Mr. Molloy, we will.” Then the editor
broke down, and the man spoke to the man. “I need not tell you, Mr.
Molloy, that the heart of one man of letters always warms to another.”

“It was because I knew ye was of that sort that I followed ye in
yonder,” he said, with a tear in his eye.

The butter-boat of benevolence was in our hand, and we proceeded to pour
out its contents freely. It is a vessel which an editor should lock up
carefully; and, should he lose the key, he will not be the worse for the
loss. We need not repeat here all the pretty things that we said to him,
explaining to him from a full heart with how much agony we were often
compelled to resist the entreaties of literary suppliants, declaring to
him how we had longed to publish tons of manuscript,--simply in order
that we might give pleasure to those who brought them to us. We told him
how accessible we were to a woman’s tear, to a man’s struggle, to a
girl’s face, and assured him of the daily wounds which were inflicted on
ourselves by the impossibility of reconciling our duties with our
sympathies. “Bedad, thin,” said Mr. Molloy, grasping our hand, “you’ll
find none of that difficulty wid me. If you’ll sympathise like a man,
I’ll work for you like a horse.” We assured him that we would, really
thinking it probable that he might do some useful work for the magazine;
and then we again stood up waiting for his departure.

“Now I’ll tell ye a plain truth,” said he, “and ye may do just as ye
plaise about it. There isn’t an ounce of tay or a pound of mait along
with Mrs. Molloy this moment; and, what’s more, there isn’t a shilling
between us to buy it. I never begged in my life;--not yet. But if you
can advance me a sovereign on that manuscript it will save me from
taking the coat on my back to a pawnbroker’s shop for whatever it’ll
fetch there.” We paused a moment as we thought of it all, and then we
handed him the coin for which he asked us. If the manuscript should be
worthless the loss would be our own. We would not grudge a slice from
the wholesome home-made loaf after we had used the butter-boat of
benevolence. “It don’t become me,” said Mr. Molloy, “to thank you for
such a thrifle as a loan of twenty shillings; but I’ll never forget the
feeling that has made you listen to me, and that too after I had been
rather down on you at thim baths.” We gave him a kindly nod of the head,
and then he took his departure.

“Ye’ll see me again anyways?” he said, and we promised that we would.

We were anxious enough about the manuscript, but we could not examine it
at that moment. When our office work was done we walked home with the
roll in our pocket, speculating as we went on the probable character of
Mr. Molloy. We still believed in him,--still believed in him in spite of
the manner in which he had descended in his language, and had fallen
into a natural flow of words which alone would not have given much
promise of him as a man of letters. But a human being, in regard to his
power of production, is the reverse of a rope. He is as strong as his
strongest part, and remembering the effect which Molloy’s words had had
upon us at the Turkish bath, we still thought that there must be
something in him. If so, how pleasant would it be to us to place such a
man on his legs,--modestly on his legs, so that he might earn for his
wife and bairns that meat and tea which he had told us that they were
now lacking. An editor is always striving to place some one modestly on
his legs in literature,--on his or her,--striving, and alas! so often
failing. Here had come a man in regard to whom, as I walked home with
his manuscript in my pocket, I did feel rather sanguine.

Of all the rubbish that I ever read in my life, that paper on the
Five-o’clock Tea-table was, I think, the worst. It was not only vulgar,
foolish, unconnected, and meaningless; but it was also ungrammatical and
unintelligible even in regard to the wording of it. The very spelling
was defective. The paper was one with which no editor, sub-editor, or
reader would have found it necessary to go beyond the first ten lines
before he would have known that to print it would have been quite out of
the question. We went through with it because of our interest in the
man; but as it was in the beginning, so it was to the end,--a farrago of
wretched nonsense, so bad that no one, without experience in such
matters, would believe it possible that even the writer should desire
the publication of it! It seemed to us to be impossible that Mr. Molloy
should ever have written a word for those Hibernian periodicals which he
had named to us. He had got our sovereign; and with that, as far as we
were concerned, there must be an end of Mr. Molloy. We doubted even
whether he would come for his own manuscript.

But he came. He came exactly at the hour appointed, and when we looked
at his face we felt convinced that he did not doubt his own success.
There was an air of expectant triumph about him which dismayed us. It
was clear enough that he was confident that he should take away with him
the full price of his article, after deducting the sovereign which he
had borrowed. “You like it thin,” he said, before we had been able to
compose our features to a proper form for the necessary announcement.

“Mr. Molloy,” we said, “it will not do. You must believe us that it will
not do.”

“Not do?”

“No, indeed. We need not explain further;--but,--but,--you had really
better turn your hand to some other occupation.”

“Some other occupa-ation!” he exclaimed, opening wide his eyes, and
holding up both his hands.

“Indeed we think so, Mr. Molloy.”

“And you’ve read it?”

“Every word of it;--on our honour.”

“And you won’t have it?”

“Well;--no, Mr. Molloy, certainly we cannot take it.”

“Ye reject my article on the Five-o’clock Tay-table!” Looking into his
face as he spoke, we could not but be certain that its rejection was to
him as astonishing as would have been its acceptance to the readers of
the magazine. He put his hand up to his head and stood wondering. “I
suppose ye’d better choose your own subject for yourself,” he said, as
though by this great surrender on his own part he was getting rid of all
the difficulty on ours.

“Mr. Molloy,” we began, “we may as well be candid with you----”

“I’ll tell you what it is,” said he, “I’ve taken such a liking to you
there’s nothing I won’t do to plaise ye. I’ll just put it in my pocket,
and begin another for ye as soon as the children have had their bit of
dinner.” At last we did succeed, or thought that we succeeded, in making
him understand that we regarded the case as being altogether hopeless,
and were convinced that it was beyond his powers to serve us. “And I’m
to be turned off like that,” he said, bursting into open tears as he
threw himself into a chair and hid his face upon the table. “Ah! wirra,
wirra, what’ll I do at all? Sure, and didn’t I think it was fixed as
firm between us as the Nelson monument? When ye handselled me with the
money, didn’t I think it was as good as done and done?” I begged him not
to regard the money, assuring him that he was welcome to the sovereign.
“There’s my wife’ll be brought to bed any day,” he went on to say, “and
not a ha’porth of anything ready for it! ’Deed, thin, and the world’s
hard. The world’s very hard!” And this was he who had talked to me about
Constantinople and New York at the baths, and had made me believe that
he was a well-informed, well-to-do man of the world!

Even now we did not suspect that he was lying to us. Why he should be
such as he seemed to be was a mystery; but even yet we believed in him
after a fashion. That he was sorely disappointed and broken-hearted
because of his wife, was so evident to us, that we offered him another
sovereign, regarding it as the proper price of that butter-boat of
benevolence which we had permitted ourselves to use. But he repudiated
our offer. “I’ve never begged,” said he, “and, for myself, I’d sooner
starve. And Mary Jane would sooner starve than I should beg. It will be
best for us both to put an end to ourselves and to have done with it.”
This was very melancholy; and as he lay with his head upon the table, we
did not see how we were to induce him to leave us.

“You’d better take the sovereign,--just for the present,” we said.

“Niver!” said he, looking up for a moment, “niver!” And still he
continued to sob. About this period of the interview, which before it
was ended was a very long interview, we ourselves made a suggestion the
imprudence of which we afterwards acknowledged to ourselves. We offered
to go to his lodgings and see his wife and children. Though the man
could not write a good magazine article, yet he might be a very fitting
object for our own personal kindness. And the more we saw of the man,
the more we liked him,--in spite of his incapacity. “The place is so
poor,” he said, objecting to our offer. After what had passed between
us, we felt that that could be no reason against our visit, and we began
for a moment to fear that he was deceiving us. “Not yet,” he cried, “not
quite yet. I will try once again;--once again. You will let me see you
once more?”

“And you will take the other sovereign,” we said,--trying him. He should
have had the other sovereign if he would have taken it; but we confess
that had he done so then we should have regarded him as an impostor. But
he did not take it, and left us in utter ignorance as to his true
character.

After an interval of three days he came again, and there was exactly the
same appearance. He wore the same tattered gloves. He had not pawned his
coat. There was the same hat,--shabby when observed closely, but still
carrying a decent appearance when not minutely examined. In his face
there was no sign of want, and at moments there was a cheeriness about
him which was almost refreshing. “I’ve got a something this time that I
think ye must like,--unless you’re harder to plaise than Rhadhamanthus.”
So saying, he tendered me another roll of paper, which I at once opened,
intending to read the first page of it. The essay was entitled the
“Church of England;--a Question for the People.” It was handed to me as
having been written within the last three days; and, from its bulk,
might have afforded fair work for a fortnight to a writer accustomed to
treat of subjects of such weight. As we had expected, the first page was
unintelligible, absurd, and farcical. We began to be angry with
ourselves for having placed ourselves in such a connection with a man so
utterly unable to do that which he pretended to do. “I think I’ve hit it
off now,” said he, watching our face as we were reading.

The reader need not be troubled with a minute narrative of the
circumstances as they occurred during the remainder of the interview.
What had happened before was repeated very closely. He wondered, he
remonstrated, he complained, and he wept. He talked of his wife and
family, and talked as though up to this last moment he had felt
confident of success. Judging from his face as he entered the room, we
did not doubt but that he had been confident. His subsequent despair was
unbounded, and we then renewed our offer to call on his wife. After some
hesitation he gave us an address in Hoxton, begging us to come after
seven in the evening if it were possible. He again declined the offer of
money, and left us, understanding that we would visit his wife on the
following evening. “You are quite sure about the manuscript?” he said as
he left us. We replied that we were quite sure.

On the following day we dined early at our club and walked in the
evening to the address which Mr. Molloy had given us in Hoxton. It was a
fine evening in August, and our walk made us very warm. The street named
was a decent little street, decent as far as cleanliness and newness
could make it; but there was a melancholy sameness about it, and an
apparent absence of object, which would have been very depressing to our
own spirits. It led nowhither, and had been erected solely with the view
of accommodating decent people with small incomes. We at once priced the
houses in our mind at ten and sixpence a week, and believed them to be
inhabited by pianoforte-tuners, coach-builders, firemen, and
public-office messengers. There was no squalor about the place, but it
was melancholy, light-coloured and depressive. We made our way to No.
14, and finding the door open entered the passage. “Come in,” cried the
voice of our friend; and in the little front parlour we found him seated
with a child on each knee, while a winning little girl of about twelve
was sitting in a corner of the room, mending her stockings. The room
itself and the appearance of all around us were the very opposite of
what we had expected. Everything no doubt was plain,--was, in a certain
sense, poor; but nothing was poverty-stricken. The children were
decently clothed and apparently were well fed. Mr. Molloy himself, when
he saw me, had that twinkle of humour in his eye which I had before
observed, and seemed to be afflicted at the moment with none of that
extreme agony which he had exhibited more than once in our presence.
“Please, Sir, mother aint in from the hospital,--not yet,” said the
little girl, rising up from her chair; but it’s past seven and she won’t
be long. “This announcement created some surprise. We had indeed heard
that of Mrs. Molloy which might make it very expedient that she should
seek the accommodation of an hospital, but we could not understand that
in such circumstances she should be able to come home regularly at
seven o’clock in the evening. Then there was a twinkle in our friend
Molloy’s eye which almost made us think for the moment that we had been
made the subject of some, hitherto unintelligible, hoax. And yet there
had been the man at the baths in Jermyn Street, and the two manuscripts
had been in our hands, and the man had wept as no man weeps for a joke.
“You would come, you know,” said Mr. Molloy, who had now put down the
two bairns and had risen from his seat to greet us.

“We are glad to see you so comfortable,” we replied.

“Father is quite comfortable, Sir,” said the little girl. We looked into
Mr. Molloy’s face and saw nothing but the twinkle in the eye. We had
certainly been “done” by the most elaborate hoax that had ever been
perpetrated. We did not regret the sovereign so much as those
outpourings from the butter-boat of benevolence of which we felt that we
had been cheated. “Here’s mother,” said the girl running to the door.
Mr. Molloy stood grinning in the middle of the room with the youngest
child again in his arms. He did not seem to be in the least ashamed of
what he had done, and even at that moment conveyed to us more of liking
for his affection for the little boy than of anger for the abominable
prank that he had played us.

That he had lied throughout was evident as soon as we saw Mrs. Molloy.
Whatever ailment might have made it necessary that she should visit the
hospital, it was not one which could interfere at all with her power of
going and returning. She was a strong hearty-looking woman of about
forty, with that mixture in her face of practical kindness with severity
in details which we often see in strong-minded women who are forced to
take upon themselves the management and government of those around them.
She courtesied, and took off her bonnet and shawl, and put a bottle into
a cupboard, as she addressed us. “Mick said as you was coming, Sir, and
I’m sure we is glad to see you;--only sorry for the trouble, Sir.”

We were so completely in the dark that we hardly knew how to be civil to
her,--hardly knew whether we ought to be civil to her or not. “We don’t
quite understand why we’ve been brought here,” we said, endeavouring to
maintain, at any rate a tone of good-humour. He was still embracing the
little boy, but there had now come a gleam of fun across his whole
countenance, and he seemed to be almost shaking his sides with laughter.
“Your husband represented himself as being in distress,” we said
gravely. We were restrained by a certain delicacy from informing the
woman of the kind of distress to which Mr. Molloy had especially
alluded,--most falsely.

“Lord love you, Sir,” said the woman, “just step in here.” Then she led
us into a little back room in which there was a bedstead, and an old
writing-desk or escritoire, covered with papers. Her story was soon
told. Her husband was a madman.

“Mad!” we said, preparing for escape from what might be to us most
serious peril.

“He wouldn’t hurt a mouse,” said Mrs. Molloy. “As for the children, he’s
that good to them, there aint a young woman in all London that’d be
better at handling ’em.” Then we heard her story, in which it appeared
to us that downright affection for the man was the predominant
characteristic. She herself was, as she told us, head day nurse at Saint
Patrick’s Hospital, going there every morning at eight, and remaining
till six or seven. For these services she received thirty shillings a
week and her board, and she spoke of herself and her husband as being
altogether removed from pecuniary distress. Indeed, while the money part
of the question was being discussed, she opened a little drawer in the
desk and handed us back our sovereign, almost without an observation.
Molloy himself had “come of decent people.” On this point she insisted
very often, and gave us to understand that he was at this moment in
receipt of a pension of a hundred a year from his family. He had been
well educated, she said, having been at Trinity College, Dublin, till he
had been forced to leave his university for some slight, but repeated
irregularity. Early in life he had proclaimed his passion for the press,
and when he and she were married absolutely was earning a living in
Dublin by some use of the scissors and paste-pot. The whole tenor of his
career I could not learn, though Mrs. Molloy would have told us
everything had time allowed. Even during the years of his sanity in
Dublin he had only been half-sane, treating all the world around him
with the effusions of his terribly fertile pen. “He’ll write all night
if I’ll let him have a candle,” said Mrs. Molloy. We asked her why she
did let him have a candle, and made some enquiry as to the family
expenditure in paper. The paper, she said, was given to him from the
office of a newspaper which she would not name, and which Molloy visited
regularly every day. “There aint a man in all London works harder,” said
Mrs. Molloy. “He is mad. I don’t say nothing against it. But there is
some of it so beautiful, I wonder they don’t print it.” This was the
only word she spoke with which we could not agree. “Ah, Sir,” said she;
“you haven’t seen his poetry!” We were obliged to tell her that seeing
poetry was the bane of our existence.

There was an easy absence of sham about this woman, and an acceptance of
life as it had come to her, which delighted us. She complained of
nothing, and was only anxious to explain the little eccentricities of
her husband. When we alluded to some of his marvellously untrue
assertions, she stopped us at once. “He do lie,” she said. “Certainly he
do. How he makes them all out is wonderful. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
It was evident to us that she not only loved her husband, but admired
him. She showed us heaps of manuscript with which the old drawers were
crammed; and yet that paper on the Church of England had been new work,
done expressly for us.

When the story had been told we went back to him, and he received us
with a smile. “Good-bye, Molloy,” we said. “Good-bye to you, Sir,” he
replied, shaking hands with us. We looked at him closely, and could
hardly believe that it was the man who had sat by us at the Turkish
bath.

He never troubled us again or came to our office, but we have often
called on him, and have found that others of our class do the same. We
have even helped to supply him with the paper which he continues to
use,--we presume for the benefit of other editors.

[Illustration]



JOSEPHINE DE MONTMORENCI.



[Illustration]



JOSEPHINE DE MONTMORENCI.


The little story which we are about to relate refers to circumstances
which occurred some years ago, and we desire therefore, that all readers
may avoid the fault of connecting the personages of the tale,--either
the editor who suffered so much, and who behaved, we think, so well, or
the ladies with whom he was concerned,--with any editor or with any
ladies known to such readers either personally or by name. For though
the story as told is a true story, we who tell it have used such craft
in the telling, that we defy the most astute to fix the time or to
recognise the characters. It will be sufficient if the curious will
accept it as a fact that at some date since magazines became common in
the land, a certain editor, sitting in his office, came upon the
perusal of the following letter, addressed to him by name:--

“19, King-Charles Street,

“1st May, 18--.

“DEAR SIR,

     “I think that literature needs no introduction, and, judging of you
     by the character which you have made for yourself in its paths, I
     do not doubt but you will feel as I do. I shall therefore write to
     you without reserve. I am a lady not possessing that modesty which
     should make me hold a low opinion of my own talents, and equally
     free from that feeling of self-belittlement which induces so many
     to speak humbly while they think proudly of their own acquirements.
     Though I am still young, I have written much for the press, and I
     believe I may boast that I have sometimes done so successfully.
     Hitherto I have kept back my name, but I hope soon to be allowed to
     see it on the title-page of a book which shall not shame me.

     “My object in troubling you is to announce the fact, agreeable
     enough to myself, that I have just completed a novel in three
     volumes, and to suggest to you that it should make its first
     appearance to the world in the pages of the magazine under your
     control. I will frankly tell you that I am not myself fond of this
     mode of publication; but Messrs. X., Y., Z., of Paternoster Row,
     with whom you are doubtless acquainted, have assured me that such
     will be the better course. In these matters one is still terribly
     subject to the tyranny of the publishers, who surely of all
     cormorants are the most greedy, and of all tyrants are the most
     arrogant. Though I have never seen you, I know you too well to
     suspect for a moment that my words will ever be repeated to my
     respectable friends in the Row.

     “Shall I wait upon you with my MS.,--or will you call for it? Or
     perhaps it may be better that I should send it to you. Young ladies
     should not run about,--even after editors; and it might be so
     probable that I should not find you at home. Messrs. X., Y., and Z.
     have read the MS.,--or more probably the young man whom they keep
     for the purpose has done so,--and the nod of approval has been
     vouchsafed. Perhaps this may suffice; but if a second examination
     be needful, the work is at your service.

“Yours faithfully, and in hopes of friendly relations,

“JOSEPHINE DE MONTMORENCI.

     “I am English, though my unfortunate name will sound French in your
     ears.”

For facility in the telling of our story we will call this especial
editor Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown’s first feeling on reading the letter was
decidedly averse to the writer. But such is always the feeling of
editors to would-be contributors, though contributions are the very food
on which an editor must live. But Mr. Brown was an unmarried man, who
loved the rustle of feminine apparel, who delighted in the brightness of
a woman’s eye when it would be bright for him, and was not indifferent
to the touch of a woman’s hand. As editors go, or went then, he knew his
business, and was not wont to deluge his pages with weak feminine ware
in return for smiles and flattering speeches,--as editors have done
before now; but still he liked an adventure, and was perhaps afflicted
by some slight flaw of judgment, in consequence of which the words of
pretty women found with him something of preponderating favour. Who is
there that will think evil of him because it was so?

He read the letter a second time, and did not send that curt,
heart-rending answer which is so common to editors,--“The editor’s
compliments and thanks, but his stock of novels is at present so great
that he cannot hope to find room for the work which has been so kindly
suggested.”

Of King-Charles Street, Brown could not remember that he had ever heard,
and he looked it out at once in the Directory. There was a King-Charles
Street in Camden Town, at No. 19 of which street it was stated that a
Mr. Puffle resided. But this told him nothing. Josephine de Montmorenci
might reside with Mrs. Puffle in Camden Town, and yet write a good
novel,--or be a very pretty girl. And there was a something in the tone
of the letter which made him think that the writer was no ordinary
person. She wrote with confidence. She asked no favour. And then she
declared that Messrs. X., Y., Z., with whom Mr. Brown was intimate, had
read and approved her novel. Before he answered the note he would call
in the Row and ask a question or two.

He did call, and saw Mr. Z. Mr. Z. remembered well that the MS. had been
in their house. He rather thought that X., who was out of town, had seen
Miss Montmorenci,--perhaps on more than one occasion. The novel had been
read, and,--well, Mr. Z. would not quite say approved; but it had been
thought that there was a good deal in it. “I think I remember X. telling
me that she was an uncommon pretty young woman,” said Z.,--“and there is
some mystery about her. I didn’t see her myself, but I am sure there was
a mystery.” Mr. Brown made up his mind that he would, at any rate, see
the MS.

He felt disposed to go at once to Camden Town, but still had fears that
in doing so he might seem to make himself too common. There are so many
things of which an editor is required to think! It is almost essential
that they who are ambitious of serving under him should believe that he
is enveloped in MSS. from morning to night,--that he cannot call an hour
his own,--that he is always bringing out that periodical of his in a
frenzy of mental exertion,--that he is to be approached only with
difficulty,--and that a call from him is a visit from a god. Mr. Brown
was a Jupiter, willing enough on occasions to go a little out of his way
after some literary Leda, or even on behalf of a Danae desirous of a
price for her compositions;--but he was obliged to acknowledge to
himself that the occasion had not as yet arisen. So he wrote to the
young lady as follows:--

“Office of the Olympus Magazine,

“4th May, 18--.

     “The Editor presents his compliments to Miss de Montmorenci, and
     will be very happy to see her MS. Perhaps she will send it to the
     above address. The Editor has seen Mr. Z., of Paternoster Row, who
     speaks highly of the work. A novel, however, may be very clever and
     yet hardly suit a magazine. Should it be accepted by the ‘Olympus,’
     some time must elapse before it appears. The Editor would be very
     happy to see Miss de Montmorenci if it would suit her to call any
     Friday between the hours of two and three.”

When the note was written Mr. Brown felt that it was cold;--but then it
behoves an editor to be cold. A gushing editor would ruin any
publication within six months. Young women are very nice; pretty young
women are especially nice; and of all pretty young women, clever young
women who write novels are perhaps as nice as any;--but to an editor
they are dangerous. Mr. Brown was at this time about forty, and had had
his experiences. The letter was cold, but he was afraid to make it
warmer. It was sent;--and when he received the following answer, it may
fairly be said that his editorial hair stood on end:

     “DEAR MR. BROWN,

     “I hate you and your compliments. That sort of communication means
     nothing, and I won’t send you my MS. unless you are more in
     earnest about it. I know the way in which rolls of paper are shoved
     into pigeon-holes and left there till they are musty, while the
     writers’ hearts are being broken. My heart may be broken some day,
     but not in that way.

     “I won’t come to you between two and three on Friday. It sounds a
     great deal too like a doctor’s appointment, and I don’t think much
     of you if you are only at your work one hour in the week. Indeed, I
     won’t go to you at all. If an interview is necessary you can come
     here. But I don’t know that it will be necessary.

     “Old X. is a fool and knows nothing about it. My own approval is to
     me very much more than his. I don’t suppose he’d know the inside of
     a book if he saw it. I have given the very best that is in me to my
     work, and I know that it is good. Even should you say that it is
     not I shall not believe you. But I don’t think you will say so,
     because I believe you to be in truth a clever fellow in spite of
     your ‘compliments’ and your ‘two and three o’clock on a Friday.’

     “If you want to see my MS., say so with some earnestness, and it
     shall be conveyed to you. And please to say how much I shall be
     paid for it, for I am as poor as Job. And name a date. I won’t be
     put off with your ‘some time must elapse.’ It shall see the light,
     or, at least, a part of it, within six months. That is my
     intention. And don’t talk nonsense to me about clever novels not
     suiting magazines,--unless you mean that as an excuse for
     publishing so many stupid ones as you do.

     “You will see that I am frank; but I really do mean what I say. I
     want it to come out in the ‘Olympus;’ and if we can I shall be so
     happy to come to terms with you.

“Yours as I find you,

“JOSEPHINE DE MONTMORENCI.”

“Thursday--King-Charles Street.”



This was an epistle to startle an editor as coming from a young lady;
but yet there was something in it that seemed to imply strength. Before
answering it Mr. Brown did a thing which he must be presumed to have
done as man and not as editor. He walked off to King-Charles Street in
Camden Town, and looked at the house. It was a nice little street, very
quiet, quite genteel, completely made up with what we vaguely call
gentlemen’s houses, with two windows to each drawing-room, and with a
balcony to some of them, the prettiest balcony in the street belonging
to No. 19, near the park, and equally removed from poverty and
splendour. Brown walked down the street, on the opposite side, towards
the park, and looked up at the house. He intended to walk at once
homewards, across the park, to his own little home in St. John’s Wood
Road; but when he had passed half a street away from the Puffle
residence, he turned to have another look, and retraced his steps. As he
passed the door it was opened, and there appeared upon the steps,--one
of the prettiest little women he had ever seen in his life. She was
dressed for walking, with that jaunty, broad, open bonnet which women
then wore, and seemed, as some women do seem, to be an amalgam of
softness, prettiness, archness, fun, and tenderness,--and she carried a
tiny blue parasol. She was fair, gray-eyed, dimpled, all alive, and
dressed so nicely and yet simply, that Mr. Brown was carried away for
the moment by a feeling that he would like to publish her novel, let it
be what it might. And he heard her speak. “Charles,” she said, “you
sha’n’t smoke.” Our editor could, of course, only pass on, and had not
an opportunity of even seeing Charles. At the corner of the street he
turned round and saw them walking the other way. Josephine was leaning
on Charles’s arm. She had, however, distinctly avowed herself to be a
young lady,--in other words, an unmarried woman. There was, no doubt, a
mystery, and Mr. Brown felt it to be incumbent on him to fathom it. His
next letter was as follows:--

     “MY DEAR MISS DE MONTMORENCI,

     “I am sorry that you should hate me and my compliments. I had
     intended to be as civil and as nice as possible. I am quite in
     earnest, and you had better send the MS. As to all the questions
     you ask, I cannot answer them to any purpose till I have read the
     story,--which I will promise to do without subjecting it to the
     pigeon-holes. If you do not like Friday, you shall come on Monday,
     or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Saturday, or even on
     Sunday, if you wish it;--and at any hour, only let it be fixed.

“Yours faithfully,

“JONATHAN BROWN.”

     “Friday.”

In the course of the next week the novel came, with another short note,
to which was attached no ordinary beginning or ending. “I send my
treasure, and, remember, I will have it back in a week if you do not
intend to keep it. I have not £5 left in the world, and I owe my
milliner ever so much, and money at the stables where I get a horse. And
I am determined to go to Dieppe in July. All must come out of my novel.
So do be a good man. If you are I will see you.” Herein she declared
plainly her own conviction that she had so far moved the editor by her
correspondence,--for she knew nothing, of course, of that ramble of his
through King-Charles Street,--as to have raised in his bosom a desire to
see her. Indeed, she made no secret of such conviction. “Do as I wish,”
she said plainly, “and I will gratify you by a personal interview.” But
the interview was not to be granted till the novel had been accepted and
the terms fixed,--such terms, too, as it would be very improbable that
any editor could accord.

“Not so Black as he’s Painted;”--that was the name of the novel which it
now became the duty of Mr. Brown to read. When he got it home, he found
that the writing was much worse than that of the letters. It was small,
and crowded, and carried through without those technical demarcations
which are so comfortable to printers, and so essential to readers. The
erasures were numerous, and bits of the story were written, as it were,
here and there. It was a manuscript to which Mr. Brown would not have
given a second glance, had there not been an adventure behind it. The
very sending of such a manuscript to any editor would have been an
impertinence, if it were sent by any but a pretty woman. Mr. Brown,
however, toiled over it, and did read it,--read it, or at least enough
of it to make him know what it was. The verdict which Mr. Z. had given
was quite true. No one could have called the story stupid. No mentor
experienced in such matters would have ventured on such evidence to tell
the aspirant that she had mistaken her walk in life, and had better sit
at home and darn her stockings. Out of those heaps of ambitious
manuscripts which are daily subjected to professional readers such
verdicts may safely be given in regard to four-fifths,--either that the
aspirant should darn her stockings, or that he should prune his fruit
trees. It is equally so with the works of one sex as with those of the
other. The necessity of saying so is very painful, and the actual
stocking, or the fruit tree itself, is not often named. The cowardly
professional reader indeed, unable to endure those thorns in the flesh
of which poor Thackeray spoke so feelingly, when hard-pressed for
definite answers, generally lies. He has been asked to be candid, but he
cannot bring himself to undertake a duty so onerous, so odious, and one
as to which he sees so little reason that he personally should perform
it. But in regard to these aspirations,--to which have been given so
much labour, which have produced so many hopes, offsprings which are so
dear to the poor parents,--the decision at least is easy. And there are
others in regard to which a hopeful reader finds no difficulty,--as to
which he feels assured that he is about to produce to the world the
fruit of some new-found genius. But there are doubtful cases which worry
the poor judge till he knows not how to trust his own judgment. At this
page he says, “Yes, certainly;” at the next he shakes his head as he
sits alone amidst his papers. Then he is dead against the aspirant.
Again there is improvement, and he asks himself,--where is he to find
anything that is better? As our editor read Josephine’s novel,--he had
learned to call her Josephine in that silent speech in which most of us
indulge, and which is so necessary to an editor,--he was divided between
Yes and No throughout the whole story. Once or twice he found himself
wiping his eyes, and then it was all “yes” with him. Then he found the
pages ran with a cruel heaviness, which seemed to demand decisive
editorial severity. A whole novel, too, is so great a piece of business!
There would be such difficulty were he to accept it! How much must he
cut out! How many of his own hours must he devote to the repairing of
mutilated sentences, and the remodelling of indistinct scenes! In regard
to a small piece an editor, when moved that way, can afford to be
good-natured. He can give to it the hour or so of his own work which it
may require. And if after all it be nothing--or, as will happen
sometimes, much worse than nothing,--the evil is of short duration. In
admitting such a thing he has done an injury,--but the injury is small.
It passes in the crowd, and is forgotten. The best Homer that ever
edited must sometimes nod. But a whole novel! A piece of work that would
last him perhaps for twelve months! No editor can afford to nod for so
long a period.

But then this tale, this novel of “Not so Black as he’s Painted,” this
story of a human devil, for whose crimes no doubt some Byronic apology
was made with great elaboration by the sensational Josephine, was not
exactly bad. Our editor had wept over it. Some tender-hearted Medora,
who on behalf of her hyena-in-love had gone through miseries enough to
kill half a regiment of heroines, had dimmed the judge’s eyes with
tears. What stronger proof of excellence can an editor have? But then
there were those long pages of metaphysical twaddle, sure to elicit
scorn and neglect from old and young. They, at any rate, must be cut
out. But in the cutting of them out a very mincemeat would be made of
the story. And yet Josephine de Montmorenci, with her impudent little
letters, had already made herself so attractive! What was our editor to
do?

He knew well the difficulty that would be before him should he once dare
to accept, and then undertake to alter. She would be as a tigress to
him,--as a tigress fighting for her young. That work of altering is so
ungracious, so precarious, so incapable of success in its performance!
The long-winded, far-fetched, high-stilted, unintelligible sentence
which you elide with so much confidence in your judgment, has been the
very apple of your author’s eye. In it she has intended to convey to the
world the fruits of her best meditation for the last twelve months.
Thinking much over many things in her solitude, she has at last invented
a truth, and there it lies. That wise men may adopt it, and candid women
admire it, is the hope, the solace, and at last almost the certainty of
her existence. She repeats the words to herself, and finds that they
will form a choice quotation to be used in coming books. It is for the
sake of that one newly-invented truth,--so she tells herself, though not
quite truly,--that she desires publication. You come,--and with a dash
of your pen you annihilate the precious gem! Is it in human nature that
you should be forgiven? Mr. Brown had had his experiences, and
understood all this well. Nevertheless he loved dearly to please a
pretty woman.

And it must be acknowledged that the letters of Josephine were such as
to make him sure that there might be an adventure if he chose to risk
the pages of his magazine. The novel had taken him four long evenings to
read, and at the end of the fourth he sat thinking of it for an hour.
Fortune either favoured him or the reverse,--as the reader may choose to
regard the question,--in this, that there was room for the story in his
periodical if he chose to take it. He wanted a novel,--but then he did
not want feminine metaphysics. He sat thinking of it, wondering in his
mind how that little smiling, soft creature with the gray eyes, and the
dimples, and the pretty walking-dress, could have written those
interminable pages as to the questionable criminality of crime; whether
a card-sharper might not be a hero; whether a murderer might not
sacrifice his all, even the secret of his murder, for the woman he
loved; whether devil might not be saint, and saint devil. At the end of
the hour he got up from his chair, stretched himself, with his hands in
his trousers-pockets, and said aloud, though alone, that he’d be d----
if he would. It was an act of great self-denial, a triumph of principle
over passion.

But though he had thus decided, he was not minded to throw over
altogether either Josephine or her novel. He might still, perhaps, do
something for her if he could find her amenable to reason. Thinking
kindly of her, very anxious to know her personally, and still desirous
of seeing the adventure to the end, he wrote the following note to her
that evening:--

‘Cross Bank, St. John’s Wood,

“Saturday Night.

“MY DEAR MISS DE MONTMORENCI,

     “I knew how it would be. I cannot give you an answer about your
     novel without seeing you. It so often happens that the answer can’t
     be Yes or No. You said something very cruel about dear old X., but
     after all he was quite right in his verdict about the book. There
     is a great deal in it; but it evidently was not written to suit
     the pages of a magazine. Will you come to me, or shall I come to
     you;--or shall I send the MS. back, and so let there be an end of
     it? You must decide. If you direct that the latter course be taken,
     I will obey; but I shall do so with most sincere regret, both on
     account of your undoubted aptitude for literary work, and because I
     am very anxious to become acquainted with my fair correspondent.
     You see I can be as frank as you are yourself.

“Yours most faithfully,

“JONATHAN BROWN.



“My advice to you would be to give up the idea of publishing this tale
in parts, and to make terms with X., Y., and Z.,--in endeavouring to do
which I shall be most happy to be of service to you.’

       *       *       *       *       *

This note he posted on the following day, and when he returned home on
the next night from his club, he found three replies from the divine,
but irritable and energetic, Josephine. We will give them according to
their chronology.

No. 1. “Monday Morning.--Let me have my MS. back,--and pray, without any
delay.--J. DE M.”

       *       *       *       *       *

No. 2. “Monday, 2 o’clock.--How can you have been so ill-natured,--and
after keeping it twelve days?” His answer had been written within a week
of the receipt of the parcel at his office, and he had acted with a
rapidity which nothing but some tender passion would have
instigated.--“What you say about being clever, and yet not fit for a
magazine, is rubbish. I know it is rubbish. I do not wish to see you.
Why should I see a man who will do nothing to oblige me? If X., Y., Z.
choose to buy it, at once, they shall have it. But I mean to be paid for
it, and I think you have behaved very ill to me.--JOSEPHINE.”

No. 3. “Monday Evening.--My dear Mr. Brown,--Can you wonder that I
should have lost my temper and almost my head? I have written twice
before to-day, and hardly know what I said. I cannot understand you
editing people. You are just like women;--you will and you won’t. I am
so unhappy. I had allowed myself to feel almost certain that you would
take it, and have told that cross man at the stables he should have his
money. Of course I can’t make you publish it;--but how you can put in
such yards of stupid stuff, all about nothing on earth, and then send
back a novel which you say yourself is very clever, is what I can’t
understand. I suppose it all goes by favour, and the people who write
are your uncles, and aunts, and grandmothers, and lady-loves. I can’t
make you do it, and therefore I suppose I must take your advice about
those old hugger-muggers in Paternoster Row. But there are ever so many
things you must arrange. I must have the money at once. And I won’t put
up with just a few pounds. I have been at work upon that novel for more
than two years, and I know that it is good. I hate to be grumbled at,
and complained of, and spoken to as if a publisher were doing me the
greatest favour in the world when he is just going to pick my brains to
make money of them. I did see old X., or old Z., or old Y., and the
snuffy old fellow told me that if I worked hard I might do something
some day. I have worked harder than ever he did,--sitting there and
squeezing brains, and sucking the juice out of them like an old ghoul. I
suppose I had better see you, because of money and all that. I’ll come,
or else send some one, at about two on Wednesday. I can’t put it off
till Friday, and I must be home by three. You might as well go to X.,
Y., Z., in the meantime, and let me know what they say.--J. DE M.”

There was an unparalleled impudence in all this which affronted,
amazed, and yet in part delighted our editor. Josephine evidently
regarded him as her humble slave, who had already received such favours
as entitled her to demand from him any service which she might require
of him. “You might as well go to X., Y., Z., and let me know what they
say!” And then that direct accusation against him,--that all went by
favour with him! “I think you have behaved very ill to me!” Why,--had he
not gone out of his way, very much out of his way indeed, to do her a
service? Was he not taking on her behalf an immense trouble for which he
looked for no remuneration,--unless remuneration should come in that
adventure of which she had but a dim foreboding? All this was
unparalleled impudence. But then impudence from pretty women is only
sauciness; and such sauciness is attractive. None but a very pretty
woman who openly trusted in her prettiness would dare to write such
letters, and the girl whom he had seen on the door-step was very pretty.
As to his going to X., Y., Z., before he had seen her, that was out of
the question. That very respectable firm in the Row would certainly not
give money for a novel without considerable caution, without much
talking, and a regular understanding and bargain. As a matter of course,
they would take time to consider. X., Y., and Z. were not in a hurry to
make money to pay a milliner or to satisfy a stable-keeper, and would
have but little sympathy for such troubles;--all which it would be Mr.
Brown’s unpleasant duty to explain to Josephine de Montmorenci.

But though this would be unpleasant, still there might be pleasure. He
could foresee that there would be a storm, with much pouting, some
violent complaint, and perhaps a deluge of tears. But it would be for
him to dry the tears and allay the storm. The young lady could do him no
harm, and must at last be driven to admit that his kindness was
disinterested. He waited, therefore, for the Wednesday, and was careful
to be at the office of his magazine at two o’clock. In the ordinary way
of his business the office would not have seen him on that day, but the
matter had now been present in his mind so long, and had been so much
considered, had assumed so large a proportion in his thoughts,--that he
regarded not at all this extra trouble. With an air of indifference he
told the lad who waited upon him as half clerk and half errand-boy, that
he expected a lady; and then he sat down, as though to compose himself
to his work. But no work was done. Letters were not even opened. His
mind was full of Josephine de Montmorenci. If all the truth is to be
told, it must be acknowledged that he did not even wear the clothes that
were common to him when he sat in his editorial chair. He had prepared
himself somewhat, and a new pair of gloves was in his hat. It might be
that circumstances would require him to accompany Josephine at least a
part of the way back to Camden Town.

At half-past two the lady was announced,--Miss de Montmorenci; and our
editor, with palpitating heart, rose to welcome the very figure, the
very same pretty walking-dress, the same little blue parasol, which he
had seen upon the steps of the house in King-Charles Street. He could
swear to the figure, and to the very step, although he could not as yet
see the veiled face. And this was a joy to him; for, though he had not
allowed himself to doubt much, he had doubted a little whether that
graceful houri might or might not be his Josephine. Now she was there,
present to him in his own castle, at his mercy as it were, so that he
might dry her tears and bid her hope, or tell her that there was no hope
so that she might still weep on, just as he pleased. It was not one of
those cases in which want of bread and utter poverty are to be
discussed. A horsekeeper’s bill and a visit to Dieppe were the
melodramatic incidents of the tragedy, if tragedy it must be. Mr. Brown
had in his time dealt with cases in which a starving mother or a dying
father was the motive to which appeal was made. At worst there could be
no more than a rose-water catastrophe; and it might be that triumph, and
gratitude, and smiles would come. He rose from his chair, and, giving
his hand gracefully to his visitor, led her to a seat.

“I am very glad to see you here, Miss de Montmorenci,” he said. Then the
veil was raised, and there was the pretty face half blushing half
smiling, wearing over all a mingled look of fun and fear.

“We are so much obliged to you, Mr. Brown, for all the trouble you have
taken,” she said.

“Don’t mention it. It comes in the way of my business to take such
trouble. The annoyance is in this, that I can so seldom do what is
wanted.”

“It is so good of you to do anything!”

“An editor is, of course, bound to think first of the periodical which
he produces.” This announcement Mr. Brown made, no doubt, with some
little air of assumed personal dignity. The fact was one which no
heaven-born editor ever forgets.

“Of course, Sir. And no doubt there are hundreds who want to get their
things taken.”

“A good many there are, certainly.”

“And everything can’t be published,” said the sagacious beauty.

“No, indeed; very much comes into our hands which cannot be published,”
replied the experienced editor. “But this novel of yours, perhaps, may
be published.”

“You think so?”

“Indeed I do. I cannot say what X., Y., and Z. may say to it. I’m afraid
they will not do more than offer half profits.”

“And that doesn’t mean any money paid at once?” asked the lady
plaintively.

“I’m afraid not.”

“Ah! if that could be managed!”

“I haven’t seen the publishers, and of course I can say nothing myself.
You see I’m so busy myself with my uncles, and aunts, and grandmothers,
and lady-loves----”

“Ah,--that was very naughty, Mr. Brown.”

“And then, you know, I have so many yards of stupid stuff to arrange.”

“Oh, Mr. Brown, you should forget all that!”

“So I will. I could not resist the temptation of telling you of it
again, because you are so much mistaken in your accusation. And now
about your novel.”

“It isn’t mine, you know.”

“Not yours?”

“Not my own, Mr. Brown.”

“Then whose is it?”

Mr. Brown, as he asked this question, felt that he had a right to be
offended. “Are you not Josephine de Montmorenci?”

“Me an author! Oh no, Mr. Brown,” said the pretty little woman. And our
editor almost thought that he could see a smile on her lips as she
spoke.

“Then who are you?” asked Mr. Brown.

“I am her sister;--or rather her sister-in-law. My name is Mrs. Puffle.”
How could Mrs. Puffle be the sister-in-law of Miss de Montmorenci? Some
such thought as this passed through the editor’s mind, but it was not
followed out to any conclusion. Relationships are complex things, and,
as we all know, give rise to most intricate questions. In the
half-moment that was allowed to him Mr. Brown reflected that Mrs. Puffle
might be the sister-in-law of a Miss de Montmorenci; or, at least, half
sister-in-law. It was even possible that Mrs. Puffle, young as she
looked, might have been previously married to a de Montmorenci. Of all
that, however, he would not now stop to unravel the details, but
endeavoured as he went on to take some comfort from the fact that
Puffle was no doubt Charles. Josephine might perhaps have no Charles.
And then it became evident to him that the little fair, smiling, dimpled
thing before him could hardly have written “Not so Black as he’s
Painted,” with all its metaphysics. Josephine must be made of sterner
stuff. And, after all, for an adventure, little dimples and a blue
parasol are hardly appropriate. There should be more of stature than
Mrs. Puffle possessed, with dark hair, and piercing eyes. The colour of
the dress should be black, with perhaps yellow trimmings; and the hand
should not be of pearly whiteness,--as Mrs. Puffle’s no doubt was,
though the well-fitting little glove gave no absolute information on
this subject. For such an adventure the appropriate colour of the skin
would be,--we will not say sallow exactly,--but running a little that
way. The beauty should be just toned by sadness; and the blood, as it
comes and goes, should show itself, not in blushes, but in the mellow,
changing lines of the brunette. All this Mr. Brown understood very well.

“Oh,--you are Mrs. Puffle,” said Brown, after a short but perhaps
insufficient pause. “You are Charles Puffle’s wife?”

“Do you know Charles?” asked the lady, putting up both her little
hands. “We don’t want him to hear anything about this. You haven’t told
him?”

“I’ve told him nothing as yet,” said Mr. Brown.

“Pray don’t. It’s a secret. Of course he’ll know it some day. Oh, Mr.
Brown, you won’t betray us. How very odd that you should know Charles!”

“Does he smoke as much as ever, Mrs. Puffle?”

“How very odd that he never should have mentioned it! Is it at his
office that you see him?”

“Well, no; not at his office. How is it that he manages to get away on
an afternoon as he does?”

“It’s very seldom,--only two or three times in a month,--when he really
has a headache from sitting at his work. Dear me, how odd! I thought he
told me everything, and he never mentioned your name.”

“You needn’t mention mine, Mrs. Puffle, and the secret shall be kept.
But you haven’t told me about the smoking. Is he as inveterate as ever?”

“Of course he smokes. They all smoke. I suppose then he used always to
be doing it before he married. I don’t think men ever tell the real
truth about things, though girls always tell everything.”

“And now about your sister’s novel?” asked Mr. Brown, who felt that he
had mystified the little woman sufficiently about her husband.

“Well, yes. She does want to get some money so badly! And it is
clever;--isn’t it? I don’t think I ever read anything cleverer. Isn’t it
enough to take your breath away when Orlando defends himself before the
lords?” This referred to a very high flown passage which Mr. Brown had
determined to cut out when he was thinking of printing the story for the
pages of the “Olympus.” “And she will be so broken-hearted! I hope you
are not angry with her because she wrote in that way.”

“Not in the least. I liked her letters. She wrote what she really
thought.”

“That is so good of you! I told her that I was sure you were
good-natured, because you answered so civilly. It was a kind of
experiment of hers, you know.”

“Oh,--an experiment!”

“It is so hard to get at people. Isn’t it? If she’d just written, ‘Dear
Sir, I send you a manuscript,’--you never would have looked at
it:--would you?”

“We read everything, Mrs. Puffle.”

“But the turn for all the things comes so slowly; doesn’t it? So Polly
thought----”

“Polly,--what did Polly think?”

“I mean Josephine. We call her Polly just as a nickname. She was so
anxious to get you to read it at once! And now what must we do?” Mr.
Brown sat silent awhile, thinking. Why did they call Josephine de
Montmorenci Polly? But there was the fact of the MS., let the name of
the author be what it might. On one thing he was determined. He would
take no steps till he had himself seen the lady who wrote the novel.
“You’ll go to the gentlemen in Paternoster Row immediately; won’t you?”
asked Mrs. Puffle, with a pretty little beseeching look which it was
very hard to resist.

“I think I must ask to see the authoress first,” said Mr. Brown.

“Won’t I do?” asked Mrs. Puffle. “Josephine is so particular. I mean she
dislikes so very much to talk about her own writings and her own works.”
Mr. Brown thought of the tenor of the letters which he had received, and
found that he could not reconcile with it this character which was given
to him of Miss de Montmorenci. “She has an idea,” continued Mrs. Puffle,
“that genius should not show itself publicly. Of course, she does not
say that herself. And she does not think herself to be a genius;--though
I think it. And she is a genius. There are things in ‘Not so Black as
he’s Painted’ which nobody but Polly could have written.”

Nevertheless Mr. Brown was firm. He explained that he could not possibly
treat with Messrs. X., Y., and Z.,--if any treating should become
possible,--without direct authority from the principal. He must have
from Miss de Montmorenci’s mouth what might be the arrangements to which
she would accede. If this could not be done he must wash his hands of
the affair. He did not doubt, he said, but that Miss de Montmorenci
might do quite as well with the publishers by herself, as she could with
any aid from him. Perhaps it would be better that she should see Mr. X.
herself. But if he, Brown, was to be honoured by any delegated
authority, he must see the author. In saying this he implied that he had
not the slightest desire to interfere further, and that he had no wish
to press himself on the lady. Mrs. Puffle, with just a tear, and then a
smile, and then a little coaxing twist of her lips, assured him that
their only hope was in him. She would carry his message to Josephine,
and he should have a further letter from that lady. “And you won’t tell
Charles that I have been here,” said Mrs. Puffle as she took her leave.

“Certainly not. I won’t say a word of it.”

“It is so odd that you should have known him.”

“Don’t let him smoke too much, Mrs. Puffle.”

“I don’t intend. I’ve brought him down to one cigar and a pipe a
day,--unless he smokes at the office.”

“They all do that;--nearly the whole day.”

“What; at the Post Office!”

“That’s why I mention it. I don’t think they’re allowed at any of the
other offices, but they do what they please there. I shall keep the MS.
till I hear from Josephine herself.” Then Mrs. Puffle took her leave
with many thanks, and a grateful pressure from her pretty little hand.

Two days after this there came the promised letter from Josephine.

     “DEAR MR. BROWN,

     “I cannot understand why you should not go to X., Y., and Z.
     without seeing me. I hardly ever see anybody; but, of course, you
     must come if you will. I got my sister to go because she is so
     gentle and nice, that I thought she could persuade anybody to do
     anything. She says that you know Mr. Puffle quite well, which seems
     to be so very odd. He doesn’t know that I ever write a word, and I
     didn’t think he had an acquaintance in the world whom I don’t know
     the name of. You’re quite wrong about one thing. They never smoke
     at the Post Office, and they wouldn’t be let to do it. If you
     choose to come, you must. I shall be at home any time on Friday
     morning,--that is, after half-past nine, when Charles goes away.

“Yours truly,

“J. DE M.



“We began to talk about editors after dinner, just for fun; and Charles
said that he didn’t know that he had ever seen one. Of course we didn’t
say anything about the ‘Olympus;’ but I don’t know why he should be so
mysterious.” Then there was a second postscript, written down in a
corner of the sheet of paper. “I know you’ll be sorry you came.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Our editor was now quite determined that he would see the adventure to
an end. He had at first thought that Josephine was keeping herself in
the background merely that she might enhance the favour of a personal
meeting when that favour should be accorded. A pretty woman believing
herself to be a genius, and thinking that good things should ever be
made scarce, might not improbably fall into such a foible. But now he
was convinced that she would prefer to keep herself unseen if her doing
so might be made compatible with her great object. Mr. Brown was not a
man to intrude himself unnecessarily upon any woman unwilling to receive
him; but in this case it was, so he thought, his duty to persevere. So
he wrote a pretty little note to Miss Josephine saying that he would be
with her at eleven o’clock on the day named.

Precisely at eleven o’clock he knocked at the door of the house in
King-Charles Street, which was almost instantaneously opened for him by
the fair hands of Mrs. Puffle herself. “H--sh,” said Mrs. Puffle; “we
don’t want the servants to know anything about it.” Mr. Brown, who cared
nothing for the servants of the Puffle establishment, and who was
becoming perhaps a little weary of the unravelled mystery of the affair,
simply bowed and followed the lady into the parlour. “My sister is up
stairs,” said Mrs. Puffle, “and we will go to her immediately.” Then she
paused, as though she were still struggling with some difficulty;--“I am
so sorry to say that Polly is not well.--But she means to see you,” Mrs.
Puffle added, as she saw that the editor, over whom they had so far
prevailed, made some sign as though he was about to retreat. “She never
is very well,” said Mrs. Puffle, “and her work does tell upon her so
much. Do you know, Mr. Brown, I think the mind sometimes eats up the
body; that is, when it is called upon for such great efforts.” They were
now upon the stairs, and Mr. Brown followed the little lady into her
drawing-room.

There, almost hidden in the depths of a low arm-chair, sat a little
wizened woman, not old indeed,--when Mr. Brown came to know her better,
he found that she had as yet only counted five-and-twenty summers,--but
with that look of mingled youth and age which is so painful to the
beholder. Who has not seen it,--the face in which the eye and the brow
are young and bright, but the mouth and the chin are old and haggard?
See such a one when she sleeps,--when the brightness of the eye is
hidden, and all the countenance is full of pain and decay, and then the
difference will be known to you between youth with that health which is
generally given to it, and youth accompanied by premature decrepitude.
“This is my sister-in-law,” said Mrs. Puffle, introducing the two
correspondents to each other. The editor looked at the little woman who
made some half attempt to rise, and thought that he could see in the
brightness of the eye some symptoms of the sauciness which had appeared
so very plainly in her letters. And there was a smile too about the
mouth, though the lips were thin and the chin poor, which seemed to
indicate that the owner of them did in some sort enjoy this unravelling
of her riddle,--as though she were saying to herself, “What do you think
now of the beautiful young woman who has made you write so many letters,
and read so long a manuscript, and come all the way at this hour of the
morning to Camden Town?” Mr. Brown shook hands with her, and muttered
something to the effect that he was sorry not to see her in better
health.

“No,” said Josephine de Montmorenci, “I am not very well. I never am. I
told you that you had better put up with seeing my sister.”

We say no more than the truth of Mr. Brown in declaring that he was now
more ready than ever to do whatever might be in his power to forward the
views of this young authoress. If he was interested before when he
believed her to be beautiful, he was doubly interested for her now when
he knew her to be a cripple;--for he had seen when she made that faint
attempt to rise that her spine was twisted, and that, when she stood up,
her head sank between her shoulders. “I am very glad to make your
acquaintance,” he said, seating himself near her. “I should never have
been satisfied without doing so.”

“It is so very good of you to come,” said Mrs. Puffle.

“Of course it is good of him,” said Josephine; “especially after the way
we wrote to him. The truth is, Mr. Brown, we were at our wits’ end to
catch you.”

This was an aspect of the affair which our editor certainly did not
like. An attempt to deceive anybody else might have been pardonable; but
deceit practised against himself was odious to him. Nevertheless, he did
forgive it. The poor little creature before him had worked hard, and had
done her best. To teach her to be less metaphysical in her writings, and
more straightforward in her own practices, should be his care. There is
something to a man inexpressibly sweet in the power of protecting the
weak; and no one had ever seemed to be weaker than Josephine. “Miss de
Montmorenci,” he said, “we will let bygones be bygones, and will say
nothing about the letters. It is no doubt the fact that you did write
the novel yourself?”

“Every word of it,” said Mrs. Puffle energetically.

“Oh, yes; I wrote it,” said Josephine.

“And you wish to have it published?”

“Indeed I do.”

“And you wish to get money for it?”

“That is the truest of all,” said Josephine.

“Oughtn’t one to be paid when one has worked so very hard?” said Mrs.
Puffle.

“Certainly one ought to be paid if it can be proved that one’s work is
worth buying,” replied the sage mentor of literature.

“But isn’t it worth buying?” demanded Mrs. Puffle.

“I must say that I think that publishers do buy some that are worse,”
observed Josephine.

Mr. Brown with words of wisdom explained to them as well as he was able
the real facts of the case. It might be that that manuscript, over which
the poor invalid had laboured for so many painful hours, would prove to
be an invaluable treasure of art, destined to give delight to thousands
of readers, and to be, when printed, a source of large profits to
publishers, booksellers, and author. Or, again, it might be that, with
all its undoubted merits,--and that there were such merits Mr. Brown was
eager in acknowledging,--the novel would fail to make any way with the
public. “A publisher,”--so said Mr. Brown,--“will hardly venture to pay
you a sum of money down, when the risk of failure is so great.”

“But Polly has written ever so many things before,” said Mrs. Puffle.

“That counts for nothing,” said Miss de Montmorenci. “They were short
pieces, and appeared without a name.”

“Were you paid for them?” asked Mr. Brown.

“I have never been paid a halfpenny for anything yet.”

“Isn’t that cruel,” said Mrs. Puffle, “to work, and work, and work, and
never get the wages which ought to be paid for it?”

“Perhaps there may be a good time coming,” said our editor. “Let us see
whether we can get Messrs. X., Y., and Z. to publish this at their own
expense, and with your name attached to it. Then, Miss de
Montmorenci----”

“I suppose we had better tell him all,” said Josephine.

“Oh, yes; tell everything. I am sure he won’t be angry; he is so
good-natured,” said Mrs. Puffle.

Mr. Brown looked first at one, and then at the other, feeling himself to
be rather uncomfortable. What was there that remained to be told? He was
good-natured, but he did not like being told of that virtue. “The name
you have heard is not my name,” said the lady who had written the
novel.

“Oh, indeed! I have heard Mrs. Puffle call you,--Polly.”

“My name is,--Maryanne.”

“It is a very good name,” said Mr. Brown,--“so good that I cannot quite
understand why you should go out of your way to assume another.”

“It is Maryanne,--Puffle.”

“Oh;--Puffle!” said Mr. Brown.

“And a very good name, too,” said Mrs. Puffle.

“I haven’t a word to say against it,” said Mr. Brown. “I wish I could
say quite as much as to that other name,--Josephine de Montmorenci.”

“But Maryanne Puffle would be quite unendurable on a title-page,” said
the owner of the unfortunate appellation.

“I don’t see it,” said Mr. Brown doggedly.

“Ever so many have done the same,” said Mrs. Puffle. “There’s Boz.”

“Calling yourself Boz isn’t like calling yourself Josephine de
Montmorenci,” said the editor, who could forgive the loss of beauty, but
not the assumed grandeur of the name.

“And Currer Bell, and Jacob Omnium, and Barry Cornwall,” said poor Polly
Puffle, pleading hard for her falsehood.

“And Michael Angelo Titmarsh! That was quite the same sort of thing,”
said Mrs. Puffle.

Our editor tried to explain to them that the sin of which he now
complained did not consist in the intention,--foolish as that had
been,--of putting such a name as Josephine de Montmorenci on the
title-page, but in having corresponded with him,--with him who had been
so willing to be a friend,--under a false name. “I really think you
ought to have told me sooner,” he said.

“If we had known you had been a friend of Charles’s we would have told
you at once,” said the young wife.

“I never had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Puffle in my life,” said
Mr. Brown. Mrs. Puffle opened her little mouth, and held up both her
little hands. Polly Puffle stared at her sister-in-law. “And what is
more,” continued Mr. Brown, “I never said that I had had that pleasure.”

“You didn’t tell me that Charles smoked at the Post Office,” exclaimed
Mrs. Puffle,--“which he swears that he never does, and that he would be
dismissed at once if he attempted it?” Mr. Brown was driven to a smile.
“I declare I don’t understand you, Mr. Brown.”

“It was his little Roland for our little Oliver,” said Miss Puffle.

Mr. Brown felt that his Roland had been very small, whereas the Oliver
by which he had been taken in was not small at all. But he was forced to
accept the bargain. What is a man against a woman in such a matter? What
can he be against two women, both young, of whom one was pretty and the
other an invalid? Of course he gave way, and of course he undertook the
mission to X., Y., and Z. We have not ourselves read “Not so Black as
he’s Painted,” but we can say that it came out in due course under the
hands of those enterprising publishers, and that it made what many of
the reviews called quite a success.

[Illustration]



THE PANJANDRUM.



[Illustration]



THE PANJANDRUM.

PART I.--HOPE.


We hardly feel certain that we are justified in giving the following
little story to the public as an Editor’s Tale, because at the time to
which it refers, and during the circumstances with which it deals, no
editorial power was, in fact, within our grasp. As the reader will
perceive, the ambition and the hopes, and something of a promise of the
privileges, were there; but the absolute chair was not mounted for us.
The great WE was not, in truth, ours to use. And, indeed, the interval
between the thing we then so cordially desired, and the thing as it has
since come to exist, was one of so many years, that there can be no
right on our part to connect the two periods. We shall, therefore, tell
our story, as might any ordinary individual, in the first person
singular, and speak of such sparks of editorship as did fly up around us
as having created but a dim coruscation, and as having been quite
insufficient to justify the delicious plural.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is now just thirty years ago since we determined to establish the
“Panjandrum” Magazine. The “we” here spoken of is not an editorial we,
but a small set of human beings who shall be personally introduced to
the reader. The name was intended to be delightfully meaningless, but we
all thought that it was euphonious, graphic, also,--and sententious,
even though it conveyed no definite idea. That question of a name had
occupied us a good deal, and had almost split us into parties. I,--for I
will now speak of myself as I,--I had wished to call it by the name of a
very respectable young publisher who was then commencing business, and
by whom we intended that the trade part of our enterprise should be
undertaken. “Colburn’s” was an old affair in those days, and I doubt
whether “Bentley’s” was not already in existence. “Blackwood’s” and
“Fraser’s” were at the top of the tree, and, as I think, the
“Metropolitan” was the only magazine then in much vogue not called by
the name of this or that enterprising publisher. But some of our
colleagues would not hear of this, and were ambitious of a title that
should describe our future energies and excellences. I think we should
have been called the “Pandrastic,” but that the one lady who joined our
party absolutely declined the name. At one moment we had almost carried
“Panurge.” The “Man’s” Magazine was thought of, not as opposed to
womanhood, but as intended to trump the “Gentleman’s.” But a hint was
given to us that we might seem to imply that our periodical was not
adapted for the perusal of females. We meant the word “man” in the great
generic sense;--but the somewhat obtuse outside world would not have so
taken it. “The H. B. P.” was for a time in the ascendant, and was
favoured by the lady, who drew for us a most delightful little circle
containing the letters illustrated;--what would now be called a
monogram, only that the letters were legible. The fact that nobody would
comprehend that “H. B. P.” intended to express the general opinion of
the shareholders that “Honesty is the Best Policy,” was felt to be a
recommendation rather than otherwise. I think it was the enterprising
young publisher who objected to the initials,--not, I am sure, from any
aversion to the spirit of the legend. Many other names were tried, and I
shall never forget the look which went round our circle when one young
and gallant, but too indiscreet reformer, suggested that were it not for
offence, whence offence should not come, the “Purge” was the very name
for us;--from all which it will be understood that it was our purpose to
put right many things that were wrong. The matter held us in discussion
for some months, and then we agreed to call the great future lever of
the age,--the “Panjandrum.”

When a new magazine is about to be established in these days, the first
question raised will probably be one of capital. A very considerable sum
of money, running far into four figures,--if not going beyond it,--has
to be mentioned, and made familiar to the ambitious promoters of the
enterprise. It was not so with us. Nor was it the case that our young
friend the publisher agreed to find the money, leaving it to us to find
the wit. I think we selected our young friend chiefly because, at that
time, he had no great business to speak of, and could devote his time to
the interests of the “Panjandrum.” As for ourselves we were all poor;
and in the way of capital a set of human beings more absurdly
inefficient for any purposes of trade could not have been brought
together. We found that for a sum of money which we hoped that we might
scrape together among us, we could procure paper and print for a couple
of thousand copies of our first number;--and, after that, we were to
obtain credit for the second number by the reputation of the first.
Literary advertising, such as is now common to us, was then unknown. The
cost of sticking up “The Panjandrum” at railway stations and on the tops
of the omnibuses, certainly would not be incurred. Of railway stations
there were but few in the country, and even omnibuses were in their
infancy. A few modest announcements in the weekly periodicals of the day
were thought to be sufficient; and, indeed, there pervaded us all an
assurance that the coming of the “Panjandrum” would be known to all men,
even before it had come. I doubt whether our desire was not concealment
rather than publicity. We measured the importance of the “Panjandrum” by
its significance to ourselves, and by the amount of heart which we
intended to throw into it. Ladies and gentlemen who get up magazines in
the present day are wiser. It is not heart that is wanted, but very big
letters on very big boards, and plenty of them.

We were all heart. It must be admitted now that we did not bestow upon
the matter of literary excellence quite so much attention as that
branch of the subject deserves. We were to write and edit our magazine
and have it published, not because we were good at writing or editing,
but because we had ideas which we wished to promulgate. Or it might be
the case with some of us that we only thought that we had ideas. But
there was certainly present to us all a great wish to do some good.
That, and a not altogether unwholesome appetite for a reputation which
should not be personal, were our great motives. I do not think that we
dreamed of making fortunes; though no doubt there might be present to
the mind of each of us an idea that an opening to the profession of
literature might be obtained through the pages of the “Panjandrum.” In
that matter of reputation we were quite agreed that fame was to be
sought, not for ourselves, nor for this or that name, but for the
“Panjandrum.” No man or woman was to declare himself to be the author of
this or that article;--nor indeed was any man or woman to declare
himself to be connected with a magazine. The only name to be known to a
curious public was that of the young publisher. All intercourse between
the writers and the printers was to be through him. If contributions
should come from the outside world,--as come they would,--they were to
be addressed to the Editor of the “Panjandrum,” at the publisher’s
establishment. It was within the scope of our plan to use any such
contribution that might please us altogether; but the contents of the
magazine were, as a rule, to come from ourselves. A magazine then, as
now, was expected to extend itself through something over a hundred and
twenty pages; but we had no fear as to our capacity for producing the
required amount. We feared rather that we might jostle each other in our
requirements for space.

We were six, and, young as I was then, I was to be the editor. But to
the functions of the editor was to be attached very little editorial
responsibility. What should and what should not appear in each monthly
number was to be settled in conclave. Upon one point, however, we were
fully agreed,--that no personal jealousy should ever arise among us so
as to cause quarrel or even embarrassment. As I had already written some
few slight papers for the press, it was considered probable that I might
be able to correct proofs, and do the fitting and dovetailing. My
editing was not to go beyond that. If by reason of parity of numbers in
voting there should arise a difficulty, the lady was to have a double
vote. Anything more noble, more chivalrous, more trusting, or, I may
add, more philanthropic than our scheme never was invented; and for the
persons, I will say that they were noble, chivalrous, trusting, and
philanthropic;--only they were so young!

Place aux dames. We will speak of the lady first,--more especially as
our meetings were held at her house. I fear that I may, at the very
outset of our enterprise, turn the hearts of my readers against her by
saying that Mrs. St. Quinten was separated from her husband. I must,
however, beg them to believe that this separation had been occasioned by
no moral fault or odious misconduct on her part. I will confess that I
did at that time believe that Mr. St. Quinten was an ogre, and that I
have since learned to think that he simply laboured under a strong and,
perhaps, monomaniacal objection to literary pursuits. As Mrs. St.
Quinten was devoted to them, harmony was impossible, and the marriage
was unfortunate. She was young, being perhaps about thirty; but I think
that she was the eldest amongst us. She was good-looking, with an ample
brow, and bright eyes, and large clever mouth; but no woman living was
ever further removed from any propensity to flirtation. There resided
with her a certain Miss Collins, an elderly, silent lady, who was
present at all our meetings, and who was considered to be pledged to
secrecy. Once a week we met and drank tea at Mrs. St. Quinten’s house.
It may be as well to explain that Mrs. St. Quinten really had an
available income, which was a condition of life unlike that of her
colleagues,--unless as regarded one, who was a fellow of an Oxford
college. She could certainly afford to give us tea and muffins once a
week;--but, in spite of our general impecuniosity, the expense of
commencing the magazine was to be borne equally by us all. I can assure
the reader, with reference to more than one of the members, that they
occasionally dined on bread and cheese, abstaining from meat and pudding
with the view of collecting the sum necessary for the great day.

The idea had originated, I think, between Mrs. St. Quinten and Churchill
Smith. Churchill Smith was a man with whom, I must own, I never felt
that perfect sympathy which bound me to the others. Perhaps among us all
he was the most gifted. Such at least was the opinion of Mrs. St.
Quinten and, perhaps, of himself. He was a cousin of the lady’s, and had
made himself particularly objectionable to the husband by instigating
his relative to write philosophical essays. It was his own speciality to
be an unbeliever and a German scholar; and we gave him credit for being
so deep in both arts that no man could go deeper. It had, however, been
decided among us very early in our arrangements,--and so decided, not
without great chance of absolute disruption,--that his infidelity was
not to bias the magazine. He was to take the line of deep thinking,
German poetry, and unintelligible speculation generally. He used to talk
of Comte, whose name I had never heard till it fell from his lips, and
was prepared to prove that Coleridge was very shallow. He was generally
dirty, unshorn, and, as I thought, disagreeable. He called Mrs. St.
Quinten Lydia, because of his cousinship, and no one knew how or where
he lived. I believe him to have been a most unselfish, abstemious
man,--one able to control all appetites of the flesh. I think that I
have since heard that he perished in a Russian prison.

My dearest friend among the number was Patrick Regan, a young Irish
barrister, who intended to shine at the English Bar. I think the world
would have used him better had his name been John Tomkins. The history
of his career shows very plainly that the undoubted brilliance of his
intellect, and his irrepressible personal humour and good-humour have
been always unfairly weighted by those Irish names. What attorney, with
any serious matter in hand, would willingly go to a barrister who
called himself Pat Regan? And then, too, there always remained with him
just a hint of a brogue,--and his nose was flat in the middle! I do not
believe that all the Irishmen with flattened noses have had the bone of
the feature broken by a crushing blow in a street row; and yet they
certainly look as though that peculiar appearance had been the result of
a fight with sticks. Pat has told me a score of times that he was born
so, and I believe him. He had a most happy knack of writing verses,
which I used to think quite equal to Mr. Barham’s, and he could rival
the droll Latinity of Father Prout who was coming out at that time with
his “Dulcis Julia Callage,” and the like. Pat’s father was an attorney
at Cork; but not prospering, I think, for poor Pat was always short of
money. He had, however, paid the fees, and was entitled to appear in wig
and gown wherever common-law barristers do congregate. He is
Attorney-General at one of the Turtle Islands this moment, with a salary
of £400 a year. I hear from him occasionally, and the other day he sent
me “Captain Crosbie is my name,” done into endecasyllabics. I doubt,
however, whether he ever made a penny by writing for the press. I cannot
say that Pat was our strongest prop. He sometimes laughed at
“Lydia,”--and then I was brought into disgrace, as having introduced
him to the company.

Jack Hallam, the next I will name, was also intended for the Bar: but, I
think, never was called. Of all the men I have encountered in life he
was certainly the most impecunious. Now he is a millionaire. He was one
as to whom all who knew him,--friends and foes alike,--were decided that
under no circumstances would he ever work, or by any possibility earn a
penny. Since then he has applied himself to various branches of
commerce, first at New York and then at San Francisco; he has laboured
for twenty-four years almost without a holiday, and has shown a
capability for sustaining toil which few men have equalled. He had been
introduced to our set by Walter Watt, of whom I will speak just now; and
certainly when I remember the brightness of his wit and the flow of his
words, and his energy when he was earnest, I am bound to acknowledge
that in searching for sheer intellect,--for what I may call power,--we
did not do wrong to enrol Jack Hallam. He had various crude ideas in his
head of what he would do for us,--having a leaning always to the side of
bitter mirth. I think he fancied that satire might be his forte. As it
is, they say that no man living has a quicker eye to the erection of a
block of buildings in a coming city. He made a fortune at Chicago, and
is said to have erected Omaha out of his own pocket. I am told that he
pays income-tax in the United States on nearly a million dollars per
annum. I wonder whether he would lend me five pounds if I asked him? I
never knew a man so free as Jack at borrowing half-a-crown or a clean
pocket-handkerchief.

Walter Watt was a fellow of ----. ---- I believe has fellows who do not
take orders. It must have had one such in those days, for nothing could
have induced our friend, Walter Watt, to go into the Church. How it came
to pass that the dons of a college at Oxford should have made a fellow
of so wild a creature was always a mystery to us. I have since been told
that at ---- the reward could hardly be refused to a man who had gone
out a “first” in classics and had got the “Newdegate.” Such had been the
career of young Watt. And, though I say that he was wild, his moral
conduct was not bad. He simply objected on principle to all authority,
and was of opinion that the goods of the world should be in common. I
must say of him that in regard to one individual his practice went even
beyond his preaching; for Jack Hallam certainly consumed more of the
fellowship than did Walter Watt himself. Jack was dark and swarthy.
Walter was a fair little man, with long hair falling on the sides of his
face, and cut away over his forehead,--as one sees it sometimes cut in a
picture. He had round blue eyes, a well-formed nose, and handsome mouth
and chin. He was very far gone in his ideas of reform, and was quite in
earnest in his hope that by means of the “Panjandrum” something might be
done to stay the general wickedness,--or rather ugliness of the world.
At that time Carlyle was becoming prominent as a thinker and writer
among us, and Watt was never tired of talking to us of the hero of
“Sartor Resartus.” He was an excellent and most unselfish man,--whose
chief fault was an inclination for the making of speeches, which he had
picked up at an Oxford debating society. He now lies buried at Kensal
Green. I thought to myself, when I saw another literary friend laid
there some eight years since, that the place had become very quickly
populated since I and Regan had seen poor Watt placed in his last home,
almost amidst a desert.

Of myself, I need only say that at that time I was very young, very
green, and very ardent as a politician. The Whigs were still in office;
but we, who were young then, and warm in our political convictions,
thought that the Whigs were doing nothing for us. It must be remembered
that things and ideas have advanced so quickly during the last thirty
years, that the Conservatism of 1870 goes infinitely further in the
cause of general reform than did the Radicalism of 1840. I was regarded
as a Democrat because I was loud against the Corn Laws; and was accused
of infidelity when I spoke against the Irish Church Endowments. I take
some pride to myself that I should have seen these evils to be evils
even thirty years ago. But to Household Suffrage I doubt whether even my
spirit had ascended. If I remember rightly I was great upon annual
parliaments; but I know that I was discriminative, and did not accept
all the points of the seven-starred charter. I had an idea in those
days,--I can confess it now after thirty years,--that I might be able to
indite short political essays which should be terse, argumentative, and
convincing, and at the same time full of wit and frolic. I never quite
succeeded in pleasing even myself in any such composition. At this time
I did a little humble work for the ----, but was quite resolved to fly
at higher game than that.

As I began with the lady, so I must end with her. I had seen and read
sheaves of her MS., and must express my conviction at this day, when all
illusions are gone, that she wrote with wonderful ease and with some
grace. A hard critic might perhaps say that it was slip-slop; but still
it was generally readable. I believe that in the recesses of her
privacy, and under the dark and secret guidance of Churchill Smith, she
did give way to German poetry and abstruse thought. I heard once that
there was a paper of hers on the essence of existence, in which she
answered that great question, as to personal entity, or as she put it,
“What is it, to be?” The paper never appeared before the Committee,
though I remember the question to have been once suggested for
discussion. Pat Regan answered it at once,--“A drop of something short,”
said he. I thought then that everything was at an end! Her translation
into a rhymed verse of a play of Schiller’s did come before us, and
nobody could have behaved better than she did, when she was told that it
hardly suited our project. What we expected from Mrs. St. Quinten in the
way of literary performance I cannot say that we ourselves had exactly
realised, but we knew that she was always ready for work. She gave us
tea and muffins, and bore with us when we were loud, and devoted her
time to our purposes, and believed in us. She had exquisite tact in
saving us from wordy quarrelling, and was never angry herself, except
when Pat Regan was too hard upon her. What became of her I never knew.
When the days of the “Panjandrum” were at an end she vanished from our
sight. I always hoped that Mr. St. Quinten reconciled himself to
literature, and took her back to his bosom.

While we were only determining that the thing should be, all went
smoothly with us. Columns, or the open page, made a little difficulty;
but the lady settled it for us in favour of the double column. It is a
style of page which certainly has a wiser look about it than the other;
and then it has the advantage of being clearly distinguished from the
ordinary empty book of the day. The word “padding,” as belonging to
literature, was then unknown; but the idea existed,--and perhaps the
thing. We were quite resolved that there should be no padding in the
“Panjandrum.” I think our most ecstatic, enthusiastic, and accordant
moments were those in which we resolved that it should be all good, all
better than anything else,--all best. We were to struggle after
excellence with an energy that should know no relaxing,--and the
excellence was not to be that which might produce for us the greatest
number of half-crowns, but of the sort which would increase truth in the
world, and would teach men to labour hard and bear their burdens nobly,
and become gods upon earth. I think our chief feeling was one of
impatience in having to wait to find to what heaven death would usher
us, who unfortunately had to be human before we could put on divinity.
We wanted heaven at once,--and were not deterred though Jack Hallam
would borrow ninepence and Pat Regan make his paltry little jokes.

We had worked hard for six months before we began to think of writing,
or even of apportioning to each contributor what should be written for
the first number. I shall never forget the delight there was in having
the young publisher in to tea, and in putting him through his figures,
and in feeling that it became us for the moment to condescend to matters
of trade. We felt him to be an inferior being; but still it was much for
us to have progressed so far towards reality as to have a real publisher
come to wait upon us. It was at that time clearly understood that I was
to be the editor, and I felt myself justified in taking some little lead
in arranging matters with our energetic young friend. A remark that I
made one evening was very mild,--simply some suggestion as to the
necessity of having a more than ordinarily well-educated set of
printers;--but I was snubbed infinitely by Churchill Smith. “Mr X.,”
said he, “can probably tell us more about printing than we can tell
him.” I felt so hurt that I was almost tempted to leave the room at
once. I knew very well that if I seceded Pat Regan would go with me, and
that the whole thing must fall to the ground. Mrs. St. Quinten, however,
threw instant oil upon the waters. “Churchill,” said she, “let us live
and learn. Mr. X., no doubt, knows. Why should we not share his
knowledge?” I smothered my feelings in the public cause, but I was
conscious of a wish that Mr. Smith might fall among the Philistines of
Cursitor Street, and so of necessity be absent from our meetings. There
was an idea among us that he crept out of his hiding-place, and came to
our conferences by by-ways; which was confirmed when our hostess
proposed that our evening should be changed from Thursday, the day first
appointed, to Sunday. We all acceded willingly, led away somewhat, I
fear, by an idea that it was the proper thing for advanced spirits such
as ours to go to work on that day which by ancient law is appointed for
rest.

Mrs. St. Quinten would always open our meeting with a little speech.
“Gentlemen and partners in this enterprise,” she would say, “the tea is
made, and the muffins are ready. Our hearts are bound together in the
work. We are all in earnest in the good cause of political reform and
social regeneration. Let the spirit of harmony prevail among us. Mr.
Hallam, perhaps you’ll take the cover off.” To see Jack Hallam eat
muffins was,--I will say “a caution,” if the use of the slang phrase may
be allowed to me for the occasion. It was presumed among us that on
these days he had not dined. Indeed, I doubt whether he often did
dine,--supper being his favourite meal. I have supped with him more than
once, at his invitation,--when to be without coin in my own pocket was
no disgrace,--and have wondered at the equanimity with which the vendors
of shell-fish have borne my friend’s intimation that he must owe them
the little amount due for our evening entertainment. On these occasions
his friend Watt was never with him, for Walter’s ideas as to the common
use of property were theoretical. Jack dashed at once into the more
manly course of practice. When he came to Mrs. St. Quinten’s one evening
in my best,--nay, why dally with the truth?--in my only pair of black
dress trousers, which I had lent him ten days before, on the occasion,
as I then believed, of a real dinner party, I almost denounced him
before his colleagues. I think I should have done so had I not felt that
he would in some fashion have so turned the tables on me that I should
have been the sufferer. There are men with whom one comes by the worst
in any contest, let justice on one’s own side be ever so strong and ever
so manifest.

But this is digression. After the little speech, Jack would begin upon
the muffins, and Churchill Smith,--always seated at his cousin’s left
hand,--would hang his head upon his hand, wearing a look of mingled
thought and sorrow on his brow. He never would eat muffins. We fancied
that he fed himself with penny hunches of bread as he walked along the
streets. As a man he was wild, unsociable, untamable; but, as a
philosopher, he had certainly put himself beyond most of those wants to
which Jack Hallam and others among us were still subject. “Lydia,” he
once said, when pressed hard to partake of the good things provided,
“man cannot live by muffins alone,--no, nor by tea and muffins. That by
which he can live is hard to find. I doubt we have not found it yet.”

This, to me, seemed to be rank apostasy,--infidelity to the cause which
he was bound to trust as long as he kept his place in that society. How
shall you do anything in the world, achieve any success, unless you
yourself believe in yourself? And if there be a partnership either in
mind or matter, your partner must be the same to you as yourself.
Confidence is so essential to the establishment of a magazine! I felt
then, at least, that the “Panjandrum” could have no chance without it,
and I rebuked Mr. Churchill Smith. “We know what you mean by that,” said
I;--“because we don’t talk German metaphysics, you think we aint worth
our salt.”

“So much worth it,” said he, “that I trust heartily you may find enough
to save you even yet.”

I was about to boil over with wrath; but Walter Watt was on his legs,
making a speech about the salt of the earth, before I had my words
ready. Churchill Smith would put up with Walter when he would endure
words from no one else. I used to think him mean enough to respect the
Oxford fellowship, but I have since fancied that he believed that he had
discovered a congenial spirit. In those days I certainly did despise
Watt’s fellowship, but in later life I have come to believe that men who
get rewards have generally earned them. Watt on this occasion made a
speech to which in my passion I hardly attended; but I well remember
how, when I was about to rise in my wrath, Mrs. St. Quinten put her hand
on my arm, and calmed me. “If you,” said she, “to whom we most trust for
orderly guidance, are to be the first to throw down the torch of
discord, what will become of us?”

“I haven’t thrown down any torch,” said I.

“Neither take one up,” said she, pouring out my tea for me as she spoke.

“As for myself,” said Regan, “I like metaphysics,--and I like them
German. Is there anything so stupid and pig-headed as that insular
feeling which makes us think nothing to be good that is not home-grown?”

“All the same,” said Jack, “who ever eat a good muffin out of London?”

“Mr. Hallam, Mary Jane is bringing up some more,” said our hostess. She
was an open-handed woman, and the supply of these delicacies never ran
low as long as the “Panjandrum” was a possibility.

It was, I think, on this evening that we decided finally for columns and
for a dark gray wrapper,--with a portrait of the Panjandrum in the
centre; a fancy portrait it must necessarily be; but we knew that we
could trust for that to the fertile pencil of Mrs. St. Quinten. I had
come prepared with a specimen cover, as to which I had in truth
consulted an artistic friend, and had taken with it no inconsiderable
labour. I am sure, looking back over the long interval of years at my
feelings on that occasion,--I am sure, I say, that I bore well the
alterations and changes which were made in that design until at last
nothing remained of it. But what matters a wrapper? Surely of any
printed and published work it is by the interior that you should judge
it. It is not that old conjuror’s head that has given its success to
“Blackwood,” nor yet those four agricultural boys that have made the
“Cornhill” what it is.

We had now decided on columns, on the cover, and the colour. We had
settled on the number of pages, and had thumbed four or five specimens
of paper submitted to us by our worthy publisher. In that matter we had
taken his advice, and chosen the cheapest; but still we liked the
thumbing of the paper. It was business. Paper was paper then, and bore a
high duty. I do not think that the system of illustration had commenced
in those days, though a series of portraits was being published by one
distinguished contemporary. We readily determined that we would attempt
nothing of that kind. There then arose a question as to the insertion of
a novel. Novels were not then, as now, held to be absolutely essential
for the success of a magazine. There were at that time magazines with
novels and magazines without them. The discreet young publisher
suggested to us that we were not able to pay for such a story as would
do us any credit. I myself, who was greedy for work, with bated breath
offered to make an attempt. It was received with but faint thanks, and
Walter Watt, rising on his legs, with eyes full of fire and arms
extended, denounced novels in the general. It was not for such purpose
that he was about to devote to the production of the “Panjandrum” any
erudition that he might have acquired and all the intellect that God had
given him. Let those who wanted novels go for them to the writer who
dealt with fiction in the open market. As for him, he at any rate would
search for truth. We reminded him of Blumine.[A] “Tell your novel in
three pages,” said he, “and tell it as that is told, and I will not
object to it.” We were enabled, however, to decide that there should be
no novel in the “Panjandrum.”

 [A] See “Sartor Resartus”

Then at length came the meeting at which we were to begin our real work
and divide our tasks among us. Hitherto Mr. X. had usually joined us,
but a hint had been given to him that on this and a few following
meetings we would not trespass on his time. It was quite understood
that he, as publisher, was to have nothing to do with the preparation or
arrangement of the matter to be published. We were, I think, a little
proud of keeping him at a distance when we came to the discussion of
that actual essence of our combined intellects which was to be issued to
the world under the grotesque name which we had selected. That mind and
matter should be kept separated was impressed very strongly upon all of
us. Now, we were “mind,” and Mr. X. was “matter.” He was matter at any
rate in reference to this special work, and, therefore, when we had
arrived at that vital point we told him,--I had been commissioned to do
so,--that we did not require his attendance just at present. I am bound
to say that Mr. X. behaved well to the end, but I do not think that he
ever warmed to the “Panjandrum” after that. I fancy that he owns two or
three periodicals now, and hires his editors quite as easily as he does
his butlers,--and with less regard to their characters.

I spent a nervous day in anticipation of that meeting. Pat Regan was
with me all day, and threatened dissolution. “There isn’t a fellow in
the world,” said he, “that I love better than Walter Watt, and I’d go to
Jamaica to serve him;”--when the time came, which it did, oh, so soon!
he was asked to go no further than Kensal Green;--“but----!” and then
Pat paused.

“You’re ready to quarrel with him,” said I, “simply because he won’t
laugh at your jokes.”

“There’s a good deal in that,” said Regan; “and when two men are in a
boat together each ought to laugh at the other’s jokes. But the question
isn’t as to our laughing. If we can’t make the public laugh sometimes we
may as well shut up shop. Walter is so intensely serious that nothing
less austere than lay sermons will suit his conscience.”

“Let him preach his sermon, and do you crack your jokes. Surely we can’t
be dull when we have you and Jack Hallam?”

“Jack’ll never write a line,” said Regan; “he only comes for the
muffins. Then think of Churchill Smith, and the sort of stuff he’ll
expect to force down our readers’ throats.”

“Smith is sour, but never tedious,” said I. Indeed, I expected great
things from Smith, and so I told my friend.

“‘Lydia’ will write,” said Pat. We used to call her Lydia behind her
back. “And so will Churchill Smith and Watt. I do not doubt that they
have quires written already. But no one will read a word of it. Jack,
and you, and I will intend to write, but we shall never do anything.”

This I felt to be most unjust, because, as I have said before, I was
already engaged upon the press. My work was not remunerative, but it was
regularly done. “I am afraid of nothing,” said I, “but distrust. You can
move a mountain if you will only believe that you can move it.”

“Just so;--but in order to avoid the confusion consequent on general
motion among the mountains, I and other men have been created without
that sort of faith.” It was always so with my poor friend, and,
consequently, he is now Attorney-General at a Turtle Island. Had he
believed as I did,--he and Jack,--I still think that the “Panjandrum”
might have been a great success. “Don’t you look so glum,” he went on to
say. “I’ll stick to it, and do my best. I did put Lord Bateman into
rhymed Latin verse for you last night.”

Then he repeated to me various stanzas, of which I still remember one:--

    “Tuam duxi, verum est, filiam, sed merum est;
      Si virgo mihi data fuit, virgo tibi redditur.
     Venit in ephippio mihi, et concipio
      Satis est si triga pro reditu conceditur.”

This cheered me a little, for I thought that Pat was good at these
things, and I was especially anxious to take the wind out of the sails
of “Fraser” and Father Prout. “Bring it with you,” said I to him, giving
him great praise. “It will raise our spirits to know that we have
something ready.” He did bring it; but “Lydia” required to have it all
translated to her, word by word. It went off heavily, and was at last
objected to by the lady. For the first and last time during our debates
Miss Collins ventured to give an opinion on the literary question under
discussion. She agreed, she said, with her friend in thinking that Mr.
Regan’s Latin poem should not be used. The translation was certainly as
good as the ballad, and I was angry. Miss Collins, at any rate, need not
have interfered.

At last the evening came, and we sat round the table, after the tea-cups
had been removed, each anxious for his allotted task. Pat had been so
far right in his views as to the diligence of three of our colleagues,
that they came furnished with piles of manuscript. Walter Watt, who was
afflicted with no false shame, boldly placed before him on the table a
heap of blotted paper. Churchhill Smith held in his hand a roll; but he
did not, in fact, unroll it during the evening. He was a man very fond
of his own ideas, of his own modes of thinking and manner of life, but
not prone to put himself forward. I do not mind owning that I disliked
him; but he had a power of self-abnegation which was, to say the least
of it, respectable. As I entered the room, my eyes fell on a mass of
dishevelled sheets of paper which lay on the sofa behind the chair on
which Mrs. St. Quinten always sat, and I knew that these were her
contributions. Pat Regan, as I have said, produced his unfortunate
translation, and promised with the greatest good-humour to do another
when he was told that his last performance did not quite suit Mrs. St.
Quinten’s views. Jack had nothing ready; nor, indeed, was anything
“ready” ever expected from him. I, however, had my own ideas as to what
Jack might do for us. For myself, I confess that I had in my pocket from
two to three hundred lines of what I conceived would be a very suitable
introduction, in verse, for the first number. It was my duty, I thought,
as editor, to provide the magazine with a few initiatory words. I did
not, however, produce the rhymes on that evening, having learned to feel
that any strong expression of self on the part of one member at that
board was not gratifying to the others. I did take some pains in
composing those lines, and thought at the time that I had been not
unhappy in mixing the useful with the sweet. How many hours shall I say
that I devoted to them? Alas, alas, it matters not now! Those words
which I did love well never met any eye but my own. Though I had them
then by heart, they were never sounded in any ear. It was not personal
glory that I desired. They were written that the first number of the
“Panjandrum” might appear becomingly before the public, and the first
number of the “Panjandrum” never appeared! I looked at them the other
day, thinking whether it might be too late for them to serve another
turn. I will never look at them again.

But from the first starting of the conception of the “Panjandrum” I had
had a great idea, and that idea was discussed at length on the evening
of which I am speaking. We must have something that should be sparkling,
clever, instructive, amusing, philosophical, remarkable, and new, all at
the same time! That such a thing might be achieved in literature I felt
convinced. And it must be the work of three or four together. It should
be something that should force itself into notice, and compel attention.
It should deal with the greatest questions of humanity, and deal with
them wisely,--but still should deal with them in a sportive spirit.
Philosophy and humour might, I was sure, be combined. Social science
might be taught with witty words, and abstract politics made as
agreeable as a novel. There had been the “Corn Law Rhymes,”--and the
“Noctes.” It was, however, essentially necessary that we should be new,
and therefore I endeavoured,--vainly endeavoured,--to get those old
things out of my head. Fraser’s people had done a great stroke of
business by calling their Editor Mr. Yorke. If I could get our people to
call me Mr. Lancaster, something might come of it. But yet it was so
needful that we should be new! The idea had been seething in my brain so
constantly that I had hardly eat or slept free from it for the last six
weeks. If I could roll Churchill Smith and Jack Hallam into one, throw
in a dash of Walter Watt’s fine political eagerness, make use of Regan’s
ready poetical facility, and then control it all by my own literary
experience, the thing would be done. But it is so hard to blend the
elements!

I had spoken often of it to Pat, and he had assented. “I’ll do anything
into rhyme,” he used to say, “if that’s what you mean.” It was not quite
what I meant. One cannot always convey one’s meaning to another; and
this difficulty is so infinitely increased when one is not quite clear
in one’s own mind! And then Pat, who was the kindest fellow in the
world, and who bore with the utmost patience a restless energy which
must often have troubled him sorely, had not really his heart in it as I
had. “If Churchill Smith will send me ever so much of his stuff, I’ll
put it into Latin or English verse, just as you please,--and I can’t say
more than that.” It was a great offer to make, but it did not exactly
reach the point at which I was aiming.

I had spoken to Smith about it also. I knew that if we were to achieve
success, we must do so in a great measure by the force of his
intellectual energy. I was not seeking pleasure, but success, and was
willing therefore to endure the probable discourtesy, or at least want
of cordiality, which I might encounter from the man. I must acknowledge
that he listened to me with a rapt attention. Attention so rapt is more
sometimes than one desires. Could he have helped me with a word or two
now and again I should have felt myself to be more comfortable with him.
I am inclined to think that two men get on better together in discussing
a subject when they each speak a little at random. It creates a
confidence, and enables a man to go on to the end. Churchill Smith heard
me without a word, and then remarked that he had been too slow quite to
catch my idea. Would I explain it again? I did explain it again,--though
no doubt I was flustered, and blundered. “Certainly,” said Churchill
Smith, “if we can all be witty and all wise, and all witty and wise at
the same time, and altogether, it will be very fine. But then, you see,
I’m never witty, and seldom wise.” The man was so uncongenial that there
was no getting anything from him. I did not dare to suggest to him that
he should submit the prose exposition of his ideas to the metrical
talent of our friend Regan.

As soon as we were assembled I rose upon my legs, saying that I proposed
to make a few preliminary observations. It certainly was the case that
at this moment Mrs. St. Quinten was rinsing the teapot, and Mary Jane
had not yet brought in the muffins. We all know that when men meet
together for special dinners, the speeches are not commenced till the
meal is over;--and I would have kept my seat till Jack had done his
worst with the delicacies, had it not been our practice to discuss our
business with our plates and cups and saucers still before us. “You
can’t drink your tea on your legs,” said Jack Hallam. “I have no such
intention,” said I. “What I have to lay before you will not take a
minute.” A suggestion, however, came from another quarter that I should
not be so formal; and Mrs. St. Quinten, touching my sleeve, whispered to
me a precaution against speech making. I sat down, and remarked in a
manner that I felt to be ludicrously inefficient, that I had been going
to propose that the magazine should be opened by a short introductory
paper. As the reader knows, I had the introduction then in my pocket.
“Let us dash into the middle of our work at once,” said Walter Watt. “No
one reads introductions,” said Regan;--my own friend, Pat Regan! “I own
I don’t think an introduction would do us any particular service,” said
“Lydia,” turning to me with that smile which was so often used to keep
us in good-humour. I can safely assert that it was never vainly used on
me. I did not even bring the verses out of my pocket, and thus I escaped
at least the tortures of that criticism to which I should have been
subjected had I been allowed to read them to the company. “So be it,”
said I. “Let us then dash into the middle of our work at once. It is
only necessary to have a point settled. Then we can progress.”

After that I was silent for awhile, thinking it well to keep myself in
the background. But no one seemed to be ready for speech. Walter Watt
fingered his manuscript uneasily, and Mrs. St. Quinten made some remark
not distinctly audible as to the sheets on the sofa. “But I must get rid
of the tray first,” she said. Churchill Smith sat perfectly still with
his roll in his pocket. “Mrs. St. Quinten and gentlemen,” I said, “I am
happy to tell you that I have had a contribution handed to me which will
go far to grace our first number. Our friend Regan has done ‘Lord
Bateman’ into Latin verse with a Latinity and a rhythm so excellent that
it will go far to make us at any rate equal to anything else in that
line.” Then I produced the translated ballad, and the little episode
took place which I have already described. Mrs. St. Quinten insisted on
understanding in detail, and it was rejected. “Then upon my word I don’t
know what you are to get,” said I. “Latin translations are not
indispensable,” said Walter Watt. “No doubt we can live without them,”
said Pat, with a fine good humour. He bore the disgrace of having his
first contribution rejected with admirable patience. There was nothing
he could not bear. To this day he bears being Attorney-General at the
Turtle Islands.

Something must be done. “Perhaps,” said I, turning to the lady, “Mrs.
St. Quinten will begin by giving us her ideas as to our first number.
She will tell us what she intends to do for us herself.” She was still
embarrassed by the tea-things. And I acknowledge that I was led to
appeal to her at that moment because it was so. If I could succeed in
extracting ideas they would be of infinitely more use to us than the
reading of manuscript. To get the thing “licked into shape” must be our
first object. As I had on this evening walked up to the sombre street
leading into the new road in which Mrs. St. Quinten lived I had declared
to myself a dozen times that to get the thing “licked into shape” was
the great desideratum. In my own imaginings I had licked it into some
shape. I had suggested to myself my own little introductory poem as a
commencement, and Pat Regan’s Latin ballad as a pretty finish to the
first number. Then there should be some thirty pages of dialogue,--or
trialogue,--or hexalogue if necessary, between the different members of
our Board, each giving, under an assumed name, his view of what a
perfect magazine should be. This I intended to be the beginning of a
conversational element which should be maintained in all subsequent
numbers, and which would enable us in that light and airy fashion which
becomes a magazine to discuss all subjects of politics, philosophy,
manners, literature, social science, and even religion if necessary,
without inflicting on our readers the dulness of a long unbroken essay.
I was very strong about these conversations, and saw my way to a great
success,--if I could only get my friends to act in concert with me. Very
much depended on the names to be chosen, and I had my doubts whether
Watt and Churchill Smith would consent to this slightly theatrical
arrangement. Mrs. St. Quinten had already given in her adhesion, but was
doubting whether she would call herself “Charlotte,”--partly after
Charlotte Corday and partly after the lady who cut bread and butter, or
“Mrs. Freeman,”--that name having, as she observed, been used before as
a nom de plume,--or “Sophronie,” after Madame de Sévigné, who was
pleased so to call herself among the learned ladies of Madame de
Rambouillet’s bower. I was altogether in favour of Mrs. Freeman, which
has the merit of simplicity; but that was a minor point. Jack Hallam had
chosen his appellation. Somewhere in the Lowlands he had seen over a
small shop-door the name of John Neverapenny; and “John Neverapenny” he
would be. I turned it over on my tongue a score of times, and thought
that perhaps it might do. Pat wanted to call himself “The O’Blazes,” but
was at last persuaded to adopt the quieter name of “Tipperary,” in which
county his family had been established since Ireland was,--settled I
think he said. For myself I was indifferent. They might give me what
title they pleased. I had had my own notion, but that had been rejected.
They might call me “Jones” or “Walker,” if they thought proper. But I
was very much wedded to the idea, and I still think that had it been
stoutly carried out the results would have been happy.

I was the first to acknowledge that the plan was not new. There had been
the “Noctes,” and some imitations even of the “Noctes.” But then, what
is new? The “Noctes” themselves had been imitations from older works. If
Socrates and Hippias had not conversed, neither probably would Mr. North
and his friends. “You might as well tell me,” said I, addressing my
colleagues, “that we must invent a new language, find new forms of
expression, print our ideas in an unknown type, and impress them on some
strange paper. Let our thoughts be new,” said I, “and then let us select
for their manifestation the most convenient form with which experience
provides us.” But they didn’t see it. Mrs. St. Quinten liked the romance
of being “Sophronie,” and to Jack and Pat there was some fun in the
nicknames; but in the real thing for which I was striving they had no
actual faith. “If I could only lick them into shape,” I had said to
myself at the last moment, as I was knocking at Mrs. St. Quinten’s door.

Mrs. St. Quinten was nearer, to my way of thinking, in this respect than
the others; and therefore I appealed to her while the tea-things were
still before her, thinking that I might obtain from her a suggestion in
favour of the conversations. The introductory poem and the Latin ballad
were gone. For spilt milk what wise man weeps? My verses had not even
left my pocket. Not one there knew that they had been written. And I was
determined that not one should know. But my conversations might still
live. Ah, if I could only blend the elements! “Sophronie,” said I,
taking courage, and speaking with a voice from which all sense of shame
and fear of failure were intended to be banished; “Sophronie will tell
us what she intends to do for us herself.”

I looked into my friend’s face and saw that she liked it. But she turned
to her cousin, Churchill Smith, as though for approval,--and met none.
“We had better be in earnest,” said Churchill Smith, without moving a
muscle in his face or giving the slightest return to the glance which
had fallen upon him from his cousin.

“No one can be more thoroughly in earnest than myself,” I replied.

“Let us have no calling of names,” said Churchill Smith. “It is
inappropriate, and especially so when a lady is concerned.”

“It has been done scores of times,” I rejoined; “and that too in the
very highest phases of civilisation, and among the most discreet of
matrons.”

“It seems to me to be twaddle,” said Walter Watt.

“To my taste it’s abominably vulgar,” said Churchill Smith.

“It has answered very well in other magazines,” said I.

“That’s just the reason we should avoid it,” said Walter Watt.

“I think the thing has been about worn out,” said Pat Regan.

I was now thrown upon my mettle. Rising again upon my legs,--for the
tea-things had now been removed,--I poured out my convictions, my hopes,
my fears, my ambitions. If we were thus to disagree on every point, how
should we ever blend the elements? If we could not forbear with one
another, how could we hope to act together upon the age as one great
force? If there was no agreement between us, how could we have the
strength of union? Then I adverted with all the eloquence of which I
was master to the great objects to be attained by these imaginary
conversations. “That we may work together, each using his own
words,--that is my desire,” I said. And I pointed out to them how
willing I was to be the least among them in this contest, to content
myself with simply acting as chorus, and pointing to the lessons of
wisdom which would fall from out of their mouths. I must say that they
listened to me on this occasion with great patience. Churchill Smith sat
there, with his great hollow eyes fixed upon me; and it seemed to me, as
he looked, that even he was being persuaded. I threw myself into my
words, and implored them to allow me on this occasion to put them on the
road to success. When I had finished speaking I looked around, and for a
moment I thought they were convinced. There was just a whispered word
between our Sophronie and her cousin, and then she turned to me and
spoke. I was still standing, and I bent down over her to catch the
sentence she should pronounce. “Give it up,” she said.

And I gave it up. With what a pang this was done few of my readers can
probably understand. It had been my dream from my youth upwards. I was
still young, no doubt, and looking back now I can see how insignificant
were the aspirations which were then in question. But there is no period
in a man’s life in which it does not seem to him that his ambition is
then, at that moment, culminating for him,--till the time comes in which
he begins to own to himself that his life is not fit for ambition. I had
believed that I might be the means of doing something, and of doing it
in this way. Very vague indeed had been my notions;--most crude my
ideas. I can see that now. What it was that my interlocutors were to say
to each other I had never clearly known. But I had felt that in this way
each might speak his own speech without confusion and with delight to
the reader. The elements, I had thought, might be so blent. Then there
came that little whisper between Churchill Smith and our Sophronie, and
I found that I had failed. “Give it up,” said she.

“Oh, of course,” I said, as I sat down; “only just settle what you mean
to do.” For some few minutes I hardly heard what matters were being
discussed among them, and, indeed, during the remainder of the evening I
took no real share in the conversation. I was too deeply wounded even to
listen. I was resolute at first to abandon the whole affair. I had
already managed to scrape together the sum of money which had been named
as the share necessary for each of us to contribute towards the
production of the first number, and that should be altogether at their
disposal. As for editing a periodical in the management of which I was
not allowed to have the slightest voice, that was manifestly out of the
question. Nor could I contribute when every contribution which I
suggested was rejected before it was seen. My money I could give them,
and that no doubt would be welcome. With these gloomy thoughts my mind
was so full that I actually did not hear the words with which Walter
Watt and Churchill Smith were discussing the papers proposed for the
first number.

There was nothing read that evening. No doubt it was visible to them all
that I was, as it were, a blighted spirit among them. They could not but
know how hard I had worked, how high had been my hopes, how keen was my
disappointment;--and they felt for me. Even Churchill Smith, as he shook
hands with me at the door, spoke a word of encouragement. “Do not expect
to do things too quickly,” said he. “I don’t expect to do anything,”
said I. “We may do something even yet,” said he, “if we can be humble,
and patient, and persevering. We may do something though it be ever so
little.” I was humble enough certainly, and knew that I had persevered.
As for patience;--well; I would endeavour even to be patient.

But, prior to that, Mrs. St. Quinten had explained to me the programme
which had now been settled between the party. We were not to meet again
till that day fortnight, and then each of us was to come provided with
matter that would fill twenty-one printed pages of the magazine. This,
with the title-page, would comprise the whole first number. We might all
do as we liked with our own pages,--each within his allotted
space,--filling the whole with one essay, or dividing it into two or
three short papers. In this way there might be scope for Pat Regan’s
verse, or for any little badinage in which Jack Hallam might wish to
express himself. And in order to facilitate our work, and for the sake
of general accommodation, a page or two might be lent or borrowed.
“Whatever anybody writes then,” I asked, “must be admitted?” Mrs. St.
Quinten explained to me that this had not been their decision. The whole
matter produced was of course to be read,--each contributor’s paper by
the contributor himself, and it was to be printed and inserted in the
first number, if any three would vote for its insertion. On this
occasion the author, of course, would have no vote. The votes were to
be handed in, written on slips of paper, so that there might be no
priority in voting,--so that no one should be required to express
himself before or after his neighbour. It was very complex, but I made
no objection.

As I walked home alone,--for I had no spirits to join Regan and Jack
Hallam, who went in search of supper at the Haymarket,--I turned over
Smith’s words in my mind, and resolved that I would be humble, patient,
and persevering,--so that something might be done, though it were, as he
said, ever so little. I would struggle still. Though everything was to
be managed in a manner adverse to my own ideas and wishes, I would still
struggle. I would still hope that the “Panjandrum” might become a great
fact in the literature of my country.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



PART II.--DESPAIR.


A fortnight had been given to us to prepare our matter, and during that
fortnight I saw none of my colleagues. I purposely kept myself apart
from them in order that I might thus give a fairer chance to the scheme
which had been adopted. Others might borrow or lend their pages, but I
would do the work allotted to me, and would attend the next meeting as
anxious for the establishment and maintenance of the Panjandrum as I had
been when I had hoped that the great consideration which I had given
personally to the matter might have been allowed to have some weight.
And gradually, as I devoted the first day of my fortnight to thinking of
my work, I taught myself to hope again, and to look forward to a time
when, by the sheer weight of my own industry and persistency, I might
acquire that influence with my companions of which I had dreamed of
becoming the master. After all, could I blame them for not trusting me,
when as yet I had given them no ground for such confidence? What had I
done that they should be willing to put their thoughts, their
aspirations, their very brains and inner selves under my control? But
something might be done which would force them to regard me as their
leader. So I worked hard at my twenty-one pages, and during the
fortnight spoke no word of the “Panjandrum” to any human being.

But my work did not get itself done without very great mental distress.
The choice of a subject had been left free to each contributor. For
myself I would almost have preferred that some one should have dictated
to me the matter to which I should devote myself. How would it be with
our first number if each of us were to write a political essay of
exactly twenty-one pages, or a poem of that length in blank verse, or a
humorous narrative? Good Heavens! How were we to expect success with the
public if there were no agreement between ourselves as to the nature of
our contributions no editorial power in existence for our mutual
support. I went down and saw Mr. X., and found him to be almost
indifferent as to the magazine. “You see, Sir,” said he, “the matter
isn’t in my hands. If I can give any assistance, I shall be very happy;
but it seems to me that you want some one with experience.” “I could
have put them right if they’d have let me,” I replied. He was very
civil, but it was quite clear to me that Mr. X.’s interest in the matter
was over since the day of his banishment from Mrs. St. Quinten’s
tea-table. “What do you think is a good sort of subject,” I asked
him,--as it were cursorily; “with a view, you know, to the eye of the
public, just at the present moment?” He declined to suggest any subject,
and I was thrown back among the depths of my own feelings and
convictions. Now, could we have blended our elements together, and
discussed all this in really amicable council, each would have corrected
what there might have been of rawness in the other, and in the freedom
of conversation our wits would have grown from the warmth of mutual
encouragement. Such, at least, was my belief then. Since that I have
learned to look at the business with eyes less enthusiastic. Let a man
have learned the trick of the pen, let him not smoke too many cigars
overnight, and let him get into his chair within half an hour after
breakfast, and I can tell you almost to a line how much of a magazine
article he will produce in three hours. It does not much matter what the
matter be,--only this, that if his task be that of reviewing, he may be
expected to supply a double quantity. Three days, three out of the
fourteen, passed by, and I could think of no fitting subject on which to
begin the task I had appointed myself of teaching the British public.
Politics at the moment were rather dull, and no very great question was
agitating the minds of men. Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister, and had
in the course of the Session been subjected to the usual party attacks.
We intended to go a great deal further than Lord Melbourne in advocating
Liberal measures, and were disposed to regard him and his colleagues as
antiquated fogies in Statecraft; but, nevertheless, as against Sir
Robert Peel, we should have given him the benefit of our defence. I did
not, however, feel any special call to write up Lord Melbourne. Lord
John was just then our pet minister; but even on his behalf I did not
find myself capable of filling twenty-one closely-printed pages with
matter which should really stir the public mind. In a first number, to
stir the public mind is everything. I didn’t think that my colleagues
sufficiently realised that fact,--though I had indeed endeavoured to
explain it to them. In the second, third, or fourth publication you may
descend gradually to an ordinary level; you may become,--not exactly
dull, for dulness in a magazine should be avoided,--but what I may
perhaps call “adagio” as compared with the “con forza” movement with
which the publication certainly should be opened. No reader expects to
be supplied from month to month with the cayenne pepper and shallot
style of literature; but in the preparation of a new literary banquet,
the first dish cannot be too highly spiced. I knew all that,--and then
turned it over in my mind whether I could not do something about the
ballot.

It had never occurred to me before that there could be any difficulty in
finding a subject. I had to reject the ballot because at that period of
my life I had, in fact, hardly studied the subject. I was Liberal, and
indeed Radical, in all my political ideas. I was ready to “go in” for
anything that was undoubtedly Liberal and Radical. In a general way I
was as firm in my politics as any member of the House of Commons, and
had thought as much on public subjects as some of them. I was an eager
supporter of the ballot. But when I took the pen in my hand there came
upon me a feeling that,--that,--that I didn’t exactly know how to say
anything about it that other people would care to read. The twenty-one
pages loomed before me as a wilderness, which, with such a staff, I
could never traverse. It had not occurred to me before that it would be
so difficult for a man to evoke from his mind ideas on a subject with
which he supposed himself to be familiar. And, such thoughts as I had, I
could clothe in no fitting words. On the fifth morning, driven to
despair, I did write a page or two upon the ballot; and then,--sinking
back in my chair, I began to ask myself a question, as to which doubt
was terrible to me. Was this the kind of work to which my gifts were
applicable? The pages which I had already written were manifestly not
adapted to stir the public mind. The sixth and seventh days I passed
altogether within my room, never once leaving the house. I drank green
tea. I eat meat very slightly cooked. I debarred myself from food for
several hours, so that the flesh might be kept well under. I sat up one
night, nearly till daybreak, with a wet towel round my head. On the next
I got up, and lit my own fire at four o’clock. Thinking that I might be
stretching the cord too tight, I took to reading a novel, but could not
remember the words as I read them, so painfully anxious was I to produce
the work I had undertaken to perform. On the morning of the eighth day
I was still without a subject.

I felt like the man who undertook to play the violin at a dance for five
shillings and a dinner,--the dinner to be paid in advance; but who, when
making his bargain, had forgotten that he had never learned a note of
music! I had undertaken even to lead the band, and, as it seemed, could
not evoke a sound. A horrid idea came upon me that I was struck, as it
were, with a sudden idiotcy. My mind had absolutely fled from me. I sat
in my arm-chair, looking at the wall, counting the pattern on the paper,
and hardly making any real effort to think. All the world seemed at once
to have become a blank to me. I went on muttering to myself, “No, the
ballot won’t do;” as though there was nothing else but the ballot with
which to stir the public mind. On the eighth morning I made a minute and
quite correct calculation of the number of words that were demanded of
me,--taking the whole as forty-two pages, because of the necessity of
recopying,--and I found that about four hours a day would be required
for the mere act of writing. The paper was there, and the pen and
ink;--but beyond that there was nothing ready. I had thought to rack my
brain, but I began to doubt whether I had a brain to rack. Of all those
matters of public interest which had hitherto been to me the very salt
of my life, I could not remember one which could possibly be converted
into twenty-one pages of type. Unconsciously I kept on muttering words
about the ballot. “The ballot be ----!” I said, aloud to myself in my
agony.

On that Sunday evening I began to consider what excuse I might best make
to my colleagues. I might send and say I was very sick. I might face
them, and quarrel with them,--because of their ill-treatment of me. Or I
might tell only half a lie, keeping within the letter of the truth, and
say that I had not yet finished my work. But no. I would not lie at all.
Late on that Sunday evening there came upon me a grand idea. I would
stand up before them and confess my inability to do the work I had
undertaken. I arranged the words of my little speech, and almost took
delight in them. “I, who have intended to be a teacher, am now aware
that I have hardly as yet become a pupil.” In such case the “Panjandrum”
would be at an end. The elements had not been happily blended; but
without me they could not, I was sure, be kept in any concert. The
“Panjandrum,”--which I had already learned to love as a mother loves
her first-born,--the dear old “Panjandrum” must perish before its birth.
I felt the pity of it! The thing itself,--the idea and theory of it, had
been very good. But how shall a man put forth a magazine when he finds
himself unable to write a page of it within the compass of a week? The
meditations of that Sunday were very bitter, but perhaps they were
useful. I had long since perceived that mankind are divided into two
classes,--those who shall speak, and those who shall listen to the
speech of others. In seeing clearly the existence of such a division I
had hitherto always assumed myself to belong to the first class. Might
it not be probable that I had made a mistake, and that it would become
me modestly to take my allotted place in the second?

On the Monday morning I began to think that I was ill, and resolved that
I would take my hat and go out into the park, and breathe some air,--let
the “Panjandrum” live or die. Such another week as the last would, I
fancied, send me to Hanwell. It was now November, and at ten o’clock,
when I looked out, there was a soft drizzling rain coming down, and the
pavement of the street was deserted. It was just the morning for work,
were work possible. There still lay on the little table in the corner
of the room the square single sheet of paper, with its margin doubled
down, all fitted for the printer,--only that the sheet was still blank.
I looked at the page, and I rubbed my brow, and I gazed into the
street,--and then determined that a two hours’ ring round the Regent’s
Park was the only chance left for me.

As I put on my thick boots and old hat and prepared myself for a
thorough wetting, I felt as though at last I had hit upon the right
plan. Violent exercise was needed, and then inspiration might come.
Inspiration would come the sooner if I could divest myself from all
effort in searching for it. I would take my walk and employ my mind,
simply, in observing the world around me. For some distance there was
but little of the world to observe. I was lodging at this period in a
quiet and eligible street not far from Theobald’s Road. Thence my way
lay through Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square, and Gower Street, and as
I went I found the pavement to be almost deserted. The thick soft rain
came down, not with a splash and various currents, running off and
leaving things washed though wet, but gently insinuating itself
everywhere, and covering even the flags with mud. I cared nothing for
the mud. I went through it all with a happy scorn for the poor
creatures who were endeavouring to defend their clothes with umbrellas.
“Let the heavens do their worst to me,” I said to myself as I spun along
with eager steps; and I was conscious of a feeling that external
injuries could avail me nothing if I could only cure the weakness that
was within.

The Park too was nearly empty. No place in London is ever empty now, but
thirty years ago the population was palpably thinner. I had not come
out, however, to find a crowd. A damp boy sweeping a crossing, or an old
woman trying to sell an apple, was sufficient to fill my mind with
thoughts as to the affairs of my fellow-creatures. Why should it have
been allotted to that old woman to sit there, placing all her hopes on
the chance sale of a few apples, the cold rain entering her very bones
and driving rheumatism into all her joints, while another old woman, of
whom I had read a paragraph that morning, was appointed to entertain
royalty, and go about the country with five or six carriages and four?
Was there injustice in this,--and if so, whence had the injustice come?
The reflection was probably not new; but, if properly thought out, might
it not suffice for the one-and-twenty pages? “Sally Brown, the
barrow-woman, _v._ the Duchess of ----!” Would it not be possible to
make the two women plead against each other in some imaginary court of
justice, beyond the limits of our conventional life,--some court in
which the duchess should be forced to argue her own case, and in which
the barrow-woman would decidedly get the better of her? If this could be
done how happy would have been my walk through the mud and slush!

As I was thinking of this I saw before me on the pathway a stout
woman,--apparently middle-aged, but her back was towards me,--leading a
girl who perhaps might be ten or eleven years old. They had come up one
of the streets from the New Road to the Park, and were hurrying along so
fast that the girl, who held the woman by the arm, was almost running.
The woman was evidently a servant, but in authority,--an upper nurse
perhaps, or a housekeeper. Why she should have brought her charge out in
the rain was a mystery; but I could see from the elasticity of the
child’s step that she was happy and very eager. She was a well-made
girl, with long well-rounded legs, which came freely down beneath her
frock, with strong firm boots, a straw hat, and a plaid shawl wound
carefully round her throat and waist. As I followed them those rapid
legs of hers seemed almost to twinkle in their motion as she kept pace
with the stout woman who was conducting her. The mud was all over her
stockings; but still there was about her an air of well-to-do comfort
which made me feel that the mud was no more than a joke to her. Every
now and then I caught something of a glimpse of her face as she half
turned herself round in talking to the woman. I could see, or at least I
could fancy that I saw, that she was fair, with large round eyes and
soft light brown hair. Children did not then wear wigs upon their backs,
and I was driven to exercise my fancy as to her locks. At last I
resolved that I would pass them and have one look at her--and I did so.
It put me to my best pace to do it, but gradually I overtook them and
could hear that the girl never ceased talking as she ran. As I went by
them I distinctly heard the words, “Oh, Anne, I do so wonder what he’s
like!” “You’ll see, Miss,” said Anne. I looked back and saw that she was
exactly as I had thought,--a fair, strong, healthy girl, with round eyes
and large mouth, broad well-formed nose, and light hair. Who was the
“he,” as to whom her anxiety was so great,--the “he” whom she was
tripping along through the rain and mud to see, and kiss, and love, and
wonder at? And why hadn’t she been taken in a cab? Would she be allowed
to take off those very dirty stockings before she was introduced to her
new-found brother, or wrapped in the arms of her stranger father?

I saw no more of them, and heard no further word; but I thought a great
deal of the girl. Ah, me, if she could have been a young unknown,
newly-found sister of my own, how warmly would I have welcomed her! How
little should I have cared for the mud on her stockings; how closely
would I have folded her in my arms; how anxious would I have been with
Anne as to those damp clothes; what delight would I have had in feeding
her, coaxing her, caressing her, and playing with her! There had seemed
to belong to her a wholesome strong health, which it had made me for the
moment happy even to witness. And then the sweet, eloquent anxiety of
her voice,--“Oh, Anne, I do so wonder what he’s like!” While I heard her
voice I had seemed to hear and know so much of her! And then she had
passed out of my ken for ever!

I thought no more about the duchess and the apple-woman, but devoted my
mind entirely to the girl and her brother. I was persuaded that it must
be a brother. Had it been a father there would have been more of awe in
her tone. It certainly was a brother. Gradually, as the unforced
imagination came to play upon the matter, a little picture fashioned
itself in my mind. The girl was my own sister--a sister whom I had never
seen till she was thus brought to me for protection and love; but she
was older, just budding into womanhood, instead of running beside her
nurse with twinkling legs. There, however, was the same broad, honest
face, the same round eyes, the same strong nose and mouth. She had come
to me for love and protection, having no other friend in the world to
trust. But, having me, I proudly declared to myself that she needed
nothing further. In two short months I was nothing to her,--or almost
nothing. I had a friend, and in two little months my friend had become
so much more than I ever could have been!

These wondrous castles in the air never get themselves well built when
the mind, with premeditated skill and labour, sets itself to work to
build them. It is when they come uncalled for that they stand erect and
strong before the mind’s eye, with every mullioned window perfect, the
rounded walls all there, the embrasures cut, the fosse dug, and the
drawbridge down. As I had made this castle for myself, as I had sat with
this girl by my side, calling her the sweetest names, as I had seen her
blush when my friend came near her, and had known at once, with a mixed
agony and joy, how the thing was to be, I swear that I never once
thought of the “Panjandrum.” I walked the whole round of the Regent’s
Park, perfecting the building; and I did perfect it, took the girl to
church, gave her away to my friend Walker, and came back and sobbed and
sputtered out my speech at the little breakfast, before it occurred to
me to suggest to myself that I might use the thing.

Churchill Smith and Walter Watt had been dead against a novel; and,
indeed, the matter had been put to the vote, and it had been decided
that there should be no novel. But, what is a novel? The purport of that
vote had been to negative a long serial tale, running on from number to
number, in a manner which has since become well understood by the
reading public. I had thought my colleagues wrong, and so thinking, it
was clearly my duty to correct their error, if I might do so without
infringing that loyalty and general obedience to expressed authority
which are so essential to such a society as ours. Before I had got back
to Theobald’s Road I had persuaded myself that a short tale would be the
very thing for the first number. It might not stir the public mind. To
do that I would leave to Churchill Smith and Walter Watt. But a
well-formed little story, such as that of which I had now the full
possession, would fall on the readers of the “Panjandrum” like sweet
rain in summer, making things fresh and green and joyous. I was quite
sure that it was needed. Walter Watt might say what he pleased, and
Churchill Smith might look at me as sternly as he would, sitting there
silent with his forehead on his hand; but I knew at least as much about
a magazine as they did. At any rate, I would write my tale. That very
morning it had seemed to me to be impossible to get anything written.
Now, as I hurried up stairs to get rid of my wet clothes, I felt that I
could not take the pen quickly enough into my hand. I had a thing to
say, and I would say it. If I could complete my story,--and I did not
doubt its completion from the very moment in which I realised its
conception,--I should be saved, at any rate, from the disgrace of
appearing empty-handed in Mrs. St. Quinten’s parlour. Within a quarter
of an hour of my arrival at home I had seated myself at my table and
written the name of the tale,--“The New Inmate.”

I doubt whether any five days in my life were ever happier than those
which were devoted to this piece of work. I began it that Monday
afternoon, and finished it on the Friday night. While I was at the task
all doubt vanished from my mind. I did not care a fig for Watt or
Smith, and was quite sure that I should carry Mrs. St. Quinten with me.
Each night I copied fairly what I had written in the day, and I came to
love the thing with an exceeding love. There was a deal of pathos in
it,--at least so I thought,--and I cried over it like a child. I had
strained all my means to prepare for the coming of the girl,--I am now
going back for a moment to my castle in the air,--and had furnished for
her a little sitting-room and as pretty a white-curtained chamber as a
girl ever took pleasure in calling her own. There were books for her,
and a small piano, and a low sofa, and all little feminine belongings. I
had said to myself that everything should be for her, and I had sold my
horse,--the horse of my imagination, the reader will understand, for I
had never in truth possessed such an animal,--and told my club friends
that I should no longer be one of them. Then the girl had come, and had
gone away to Walker,--as it seemed to me at once,--to Walker, who still
lived in lodgings, and had not even a second sitting-room for her
comfort,--to Walker, who was, indeed, a good fellow in his way, but
possessed of no particular attractions either in wit, manners, or
beauty! I wanted them to change with me, and to take my pretty home. I
should have been delighted to go to a garret, leaving them everything.
But Walker was proud, and would not have it so; and the girl protested
that the piano and the white dimity curtains were nothing to her. Walker
was everything;--Walker, of whom she had never heard, when she came but
a few weeks since to me as the only friend left to her in the world! I
worked myself up to such a pitch of feeling over my story, that I could
hardly write it for my tears. I saw myself standing all alone in that
pretty sitting-room after they were gone, and I pitied myself with an
exceeding pity. “Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi.” If
success was to be obtained by obeying that instruction, I might
certainly expect success.

The way in which my work went without a pause was delightful. When the
pen was not in my hand I was longing for it. While I was walking,
eating, or reading, I was still thinking of my story. I dreamt of it. It
came to me to be a matter that admitted of no doubt. The girl with the
muddy stockings, who had thus provided me in my need, was to me a
blessed memory. When I kissed my sister’s brow, on her first arrival,
she was in my arms,--palpably. All her sweetnesses were present to me,
as though I had her there, in the little street turning out of
Theobald’s Road. To this moment I can distinguish the voice in which she
spoke to me that little whispered word, when I asked her whether she
cared for Walker. When one thinks of it, the reality of it all is
appalling. What need is there of a sister or a friend in the flesh,--a
sister or a friend with probably so many faults,--when by a little
exercise of the mind they may be there at your elbow, faultless? It came
to pass that the tale was more dear to me than the magazine. As I read
it through for the third or fourth time on the Sunday morning, I was
chiefly anxious for the “Panjandrum,” in order that “The New Inmate”
might see the world.

We were to meet that evening at eight o’clock, and it was understood
that the sitting would be prolonged to a late hour, because of the
readings. It would fall to my lot to take the second reading, as coming
next to Mrs. St. Quinten, and I should, at any rate, not be subjected to
a weary audience. We had, however, promised each other to be very
patient; and I was resolved that, even to the production of Churchill
Smith, who would be the last, I would give an undivided and eager
attention. I determined also in my joy that I would vote against the
insertion of no colleague’s contribution. Were we not in a boat
together, and would not each do his best? Even though a paper might be
dull, better a little dulness than the crushing of a friend’s spirit. I
fear that I thought that “The New Inmate” might atone for much dulness.
I dined early on that day; then took a walk round the Regent’s Park, to
renew my thoughts on the very spot on which they had first occurred to
me, and after that, returning home, gave a last touch to my work. Though
it had been written after so hurried a fashion, there was not a word in
it which I had not weighed and found to be fitting.

I was the first at Mrs. St. Quinten’s house, and found that lady very
full of the magazine. She asked, however, no questions as to my
contribution. Of her own she at once spoke to me. “What do you think I
have done at last?” she said. In my reply to her question I made some
slight allusion to “The New Inmate,” but I don’t think she caught the
words. “I have reviewed Bishop Berkeley’s whole Theory on Matter,” said
she. What feeling I expressed by my gesture I cannot say, but I think it
must have been one of great awe. “And I have done it exhaustively,” she
continued; “so that the subject need not be continued. Churchill does
not like continuations.” Perhaps it did not signify much. If she were
heavy, I at any rate was light. If her work should prove difficult of
comprehension, mine was easy. If she spoke only to the wise and old, I
had addressed myself to babes and sucklings. I said something as to the
contrast, again naming my little story. But she was too full of Bishop
Berkeley to heed me. If she had worked as I had worked, of course she
was full of Bishop Berkeley. To me, “The New Inmate” at that moment was
more than all the bishops.

The other men soon came in, clustering together, and our number was
complete. Regan whispered to me that Jack Hallam had not written a line.
“And you?” I asked. “Oh, I am all right,” said he. “I don’t suppose
they’ll let it pass; but that’s their affair;--not mine.” Watt and Smith
took their places almost without speaking, and preparation was made for
the preliminary feast of the body. The after-feast was a matter of such
vital importance to us that we hardly possessed our customary
light-hearted elasticity. There was, however, an air of subdued triumph
about our “Lydia,”--of triumph subdued by the presence of her cousin. As
for myself, I was supremely happy. I said a word to Watt, asking him as
to his performance. “I don’t suppose you will like it,” he replied; “but
it is at any rate a fair specimen of that which it has been my ambition
to produce.” I assured him with enthusiasm that I was thoroughly
prepared to approve, and that, too, without carping criticism. “But we
must be critics,” he observed. Of Churchill Smith I asked no question.

When we had eaten and drunk we began the work of the evening by giving
in the names of our papers, and describing the nature of the work we had
done. Mrs. St. Quinten was the first, and read her title from a scrap of
paper. “A Review of Bishop Berkeley’s Theory.” Churchill Smith remarked
that it was a very dangerous subject. The lady begged him to wait till
he should hear the paper read. “Of course I will hear it read,” said her
cousin. To me it was evident that Smith would object to this essay
without any scruple, if he did not in truth approve of it. Then it was
my turn, and I explained in the quietest tone which I could assume that
I had written a little tale called “The New Inmate.” It was very simple,
I said, but I trusted it might not be rejected on that score. There was
silence for a moment, and I prompted Regan to proceed; but I was
interrupted by Walter Watt. “I thought,” said he, “that we had
positively decided against ‘prose fiction.’” I protested that the
decision had been given against novels, against long serial stories to
be continued from number to number. This was a little thing, completed
within my twenty-one allotted pages. “Our vote was taken as to prose
fiction,” said Watt. I appealed to Hallam, who at once took my part,--as
also did Regan. “Walter is quite correct as to the purport of our
decision,” said Churchill Smith. I turned to Mrs. St. Quinten. “I don’t
see why we shouldn’t have a short story,” she said. I then declared that
with their permission I would at any rate read it, and again requested
Regan to proceed. Upon this Walter Watt rose upon his feet, and made a
speech. The vote had been taken, and could not be rescinded. After such
a vote it was not open to me to read my story. The story, no doubt, was
very good,--he was pleased to say so,--but it was not matter of the sort
which they intended to use. Seeing the purpose which they had in view,
he thought that the reading of the story would be waste of time. “It
will clearly be waste of time,” said Churchill Smith. Walter Watt went
on to explain to us that if from one meeting to another we did not allow
ourselves to be bound by our own decisions, we should never appear
before the public.

I will acknowledge that I was enraged. It seemed to me impossible that
such folly should be allowed to prevail, or that after all my efforts I
should be treated by my own friends after such a fashion. I also got
upon my legs and protested loudly that Mr. Watt and Mr. Smith did not
even know what had been the subject under discussion, when the vote
adverse to novels had been taken. No record was kept of our proceedings;
and, as I clearly showed to them, Mr. Regan and Mr. Hallam were quite as
likely to hold correct views on this subject as were Mr. Watt and Mr.
Smith. All calling of men Pat, and Jack, and Walter, was for the moment
over. Watt admitted the truth of this argument, and declared that they
must again decide whether my story of “The New Inmate” was or was not a
novel in the sense intended when the previous vote was taken. If
not,--if the decision on that point should be in my favour,--then the
privilege of reading it would at any rate belong to me. I believed so
thoroughly in my own work that I desired nothing beyond this. We went to
work, therefore, and took the votes on the proposition,--Was or was not
the story of “The New Inmate” debarred by the previous resolution
against the admission of novels?

The decision manifestly rested with Mrs. St. Quinten. I was master,
easily master, of three votes. Hallam and Regan were altogether with me,
and in a matter of such import I had no hesitation in voting for
myself. Had the question been the acceptance or rejection of the story
for the magazine, then, by the nature of our constitution, I should have
had no voice in the matter. But this was not the case, and I recorded my
own vote in my own favour without a blush. Having done so, I turned to
Mrs. St. Quinten with an air of supplication in my face of which I
myself was aware, and of which I became at once ashamed. She looked
round at me almost furtively, keeping her eyes otherwise fixed upon
Churchill Smith’s immovable countenance. I did not condescend to speak a
word to her. What words I had to say, I had spoken to them all, and was
confident in the justice of my cause. I quickly dropped that look of
supplication and threw myself back in my chair. The moment was one of
intense interest, almost of agony, but I could not allow myself to think
that in very truth my work would be rejected by them before it was seen.
If such were to be their decision, how would it be possible that the
“Panjandrum” should ever be brought into existence? Who could endure
such ignominy and still persevere?

There was silence among us, which to me in the intensity of my feelings
seemed to last for minutes. Regan was the first to speak. “Now, Mrs. St.
Quinten,” he said, “it all rests with you.” An idea shot across my mind
at the moment, of the folly of which we had been guilty in placing our
most vital interests in the hands of a woman merely on the score of
gallantry. Two votes had been given to her as against one of ours simply
because,--she was a woman. It may be that there had been something in
the arrangement of compensation for the tea and muffins; but if so, how
poor was the cause for so great an effect! She sat there the arbiter of
our destinies. “You had better give your vote,” said Smith roughly. “You
think it is a novel?” she said, appealing to him. “There can be no doubt
of it,” he replied; “a novel is not a novel because it is long or short.
Such is the matter which we intended to declare that we would not put
forth in our magazine.” “I protest,” said I, jumping up,--“I protest
against this interference.”

Then there was a loud and very angry discussion whether Churchill Smith
was justified in his endeavour to bias Mrs. St. Quinten; and we were
nearly brought to a vote upon that. I myself was very anxious to have
that question decided,--to have any question decided in which Churchill
Smith could be shown to be in the wrong. But no one would back me, and
it seemed to me as though even Regan and Jack Hallam were falling off
from me,--though Jack had never yet restored to me that article of
clothing to which allusion was made in the first chapter of this little
history, and I had been almost as anxious for Pat’s Latin translation as
for my own production. It was decided without a vote that any amount of
free questioning as to each other’s opinions, and of free answering, was
to be considered fair. “I tell her my opinion. You can tell her yours,”
said Churchill Smith. “It is my opinion,” said I, “that you want to
dictate to everybody and to rule the whole thing.” “I think we did mean
to exclude all story-telling,” said Mrs. St. Quinten, and so the
decision was given against me.

Looking back at it I know that they were right on the exact point then
under discussion. They had intended to exclude all stories. But,--heaven
and earth,--was there ever such folly as that of which they had been
guilty in coming to such a resolution? I have often suggested to myself
since, that had “The New Inmate” been read on that evening, the
“Panjandrum” might have become a living reality, and that the fortieth
volume of the publication might now have been standing on the shelves of
many a well-filled library. The decision, however, had been given
against me, and I sat like one stricken dumb, paralysed, or turned to
stone. I remember it as though it were yesterday. I did not speak a
word, but simply moving my chair an inch or two, I turned my face away
from the lady who had thus blasted all my hopes. I fear that my eyes
were wet, and that a hot tear trickled down each cheek. No note of
triumph was sounded, and I verily believe they all suffered in my too
conspicuous sufferings. To both Watt and Smith it had been a matter of
pure conscience. Mrs. St. Quinten, woman-like, had obeyed the man in
whose strength she trusted. There was silence for a few moments, and
then Watt invited Regan to proceed. He had divided his work into three
portions, but what they were called, whether they were verse or prose,
translations or original, comic or serious, I never knew. I could not
listen then. For me to continue my services to the “Panjandrum” was an
impossibility. I had been crushed--so crushed that I had not vitality
left me to escape from the room, or I should not have remained there.
Pat Regan’s papers were nothing to me now. Watt I knew had written an
essay called “The Real Aristocrat,” which was published elsewhere
afterwards. Jack Hallam’s work was not ready. There was something said
of his delinquency, but I cared not what. I only wish that my work also
had been unready. Churchill Smith also had some essay, “On the Basis of
Political Right.” That, if I remember rightly, was its title. I often
talked the matter over in after days with Pat Regan, and I know that
from the moment in which my consternation was made apparent to them, the
thing went very heavily. At the time, and for some hours after the
adverse decision, I was altogether unmanned and unable to collect my
thoughts. Before the evening was over there occurred a further episode
in our affairs which awakened me.

The names of the papers had been given in, and Mrs. St. Quinten began to
read her essay. Nothing more than the drone of her voice reached the
tympanum of my ears. I did not look at her, or think of her, or care to
hear a word that she uttered. I believe I almost slept in my agony; but
sleeping or waking I was turning over in my mind, wearily and incapably,
the idea of declining to give any opinion as to the propriety of
inserting or rejecting the review of Bishop Berkeley’s theory, on the
score that my connection with the “Panjandrum” had been severed. But the
sound of the reading went on, and I did not make up my mind. I hardly
endeavoured to make it up, but sat dreamily revelling in my own
grievance, and pondering over the suicidal folly of the “Panjandrum”
Company. The reading went on and on without interruption, without
question and without applause. I know I slept during some portion of the
time, for I remember that Regan kicked my shin. And I remember, also, a
feeling of compassion for the reader, who was hardly able to rouse
herself up to the pitch of spirit necessary for the occasion,--but
allowed herself to be quelled by the cold steady gaze of her cousin
Churchill. Watt sat immovable, with his hands in his trousers pockets,
leaning back in his chair, the very picture of dispassionate criticism.
Jack Hallam amused himself by firing paper pellets at Regan, sundry of
which struck me on the head and face. Once Mrs. St. Quinten burst forth
in offence. “Mr. Hallam,” she said, “I am sorry to be so tedious.” “I
like it of all things,” said Jack. It was certainly very long. Half
comatose, as I was, with my own sufferings, I had begun to ask myself
before Mrs. St. Quinten had finished her task whether it would be
possible to endure three other readings lengthy as this. Ah! if I might
have read “My New Inmate,” how different would the feeling have been! Of
what the lady said about Berkeley, I did not catch a word; but the name
of the philosophical bishop seemed to be repeated usque ad nauseam. Of a
sudden I was aware that I had snored,--a kick from Pat Regan wounded my
shin; a pellet from Jack Hallam fell on my nose; and the essay was
completed. I looked up, and could see that drops of perspiration were
standing on the lady’s brow.

There was a pause, and even I was now aroused to attention. We were to
write our verdicts on paper,--simply the word, “Insert,” or
“Reject,”--and what should I write? Instead of doing so, should I
declare at once that I was severed from the “Panjandrum” by the
treatment I had received? That I was severed, in fact, I was very sure.
Could any human flesh and blood have continued its services to any
magazine after such humiliation as I had suffered? Nevertheless it might
perhaps be more manly were I to accept the responsibility of voting on
the present occasion,--and if so, how should I vote? I had not followed
a single sentence, and yet I was convinced that matter such as that
would never stir the British public mind. But as the thing went, we were
not called upon for our formal verdicts. “Lydia,” as soon as she had
done reading, turned at once to her cousin. She cared for no verdict but
his. “Well,” said she, “what do you think of it?” At first he did not
answer. “I know I read it badly,” she continued, “but I hope you caught
my meaning.”

“It is utter nonsense,” he said, without moving his head.

“Oh, Churchill!” she exclaimed.

“It is utter nonsense,” he repeated. “It is out of the question that it
should be published.” She glanced her eyes round the company, but
ventured no spoken appeal. Jack Hallam said something about unnecessary
severity and want of courtesy. Watt simply shook his head. “I say it is
trash,” said Smith, rising from his chair. “You shall not disgrace
yourself. Give it to me.” She put her hand upon the manuscript, as
though to save it. “Give it to me,” he said sternly, and took it from
her unresisting grasp. Then he stalked to the fire, and tearing the
sheets in pieces, thrust them between the bars.

Of course there was a great commotion. We were all up in a moment,
standing around her as though to console her. Miss Collins came in and
absolutely wept over her ill-used friend. For the instant I had
forgotten “The New Inmate,” as though it had never been written. She was
deluged in tears, hiding her face upon the table; but she uttered no
word of reproach, and ventured not a syllable in defence of her essay.
“I didn’t think it was so bad as that,” she murmured amidst her sobs. I
did not dare to accuse the man of cruelty. I myself had become so small
among them that my voice would have had no weight. But I did think him
cruel, and hated him on her account as well as on my own. Jack Hallam
remarked that for this night, at least, our work must be considered to
be over. “It is over altogether,” said Churchill Smith. “I have known
that for weeks past; and I have known, too, what fools we have been to
make the attempt. I hope, at least, that we may have learnt a lesson
that will be of service to us. Perhaps you had better go now, and I’ll
just say a word or two to my cousin before I leave her.”

How we got out of the room I hardly remember. There was, no doubt, some
leave-taking between us four and the unfortunate Lydia, but it amounted,
I think, to no more than mere decency required. To Churchill Smith I
know that I did not speak. I never saw either of the cousins again; nor,
as has been already told, did I ever distinctly hear what was their fate
in life. And yet how intimately connected with them had I been for the
last six or eight months! For not calling upon her, so that we might
have mingled the tears of our disappointment together, I much blamed
myself; but the subject which we must have discussed,--the failure,
namely, of the “Panjandrum,”--was one so sore and full of sorrow, that I
could not bring myself to face the interview. Churchill Smith, I know,
made various efforts to obtain literary employment; but never succeeded,
because he would yield no inch in the expression of his own violent
opinions. I doubt whether he ever earned as much as £10 by his writings.
I heard of his living,--and almost starving,--still in London, and then
that he went to fight for Polish freedom. It is believed that he died in
a Russian prison, but I could never find any one who knew with accuracy
the circumstances of his fate. He was a man who could go forth with his
life in his hand, and in meeting death could feel that he encountered
only that which he had expected. Mrs. St. Quinten certainly vanished
during the next summer from the street in which she had bestowed upon us
so many muffins, and what became of her I never heard.

On that evening Pat Regan and I consoled ourselves together as best we
might, Jack Hallam and Walter Watt having parted from us under the walls
of Marylebone Workhouse. Pat and I walked down to a modest house of
refreshment with which we were acquainted in Leicester Square, and there
arranged the obsequies of the “Panjandrum” over a pint of stout and a
baked potato. Pat’s equanimity was marvellous. It had not even yet been
ruffled, although the indignities thrown upon him had almost surpassed
those inflicted on myself. His “Lord Bateman” had been first rejected;
and, after that, his subsequent contributions had been absolutely
ignored, merely because Mr. Churchill Smith had not approved his
cousin’s essay upon Bishop Berkeley! “It was rot; real rot,” said Pat,
alluding to Lydia’s essay, and apologising for Smith. “But why not have
gone on and heard yours?” said I. “Mine would have been rot, too,” said
Pat. “It isn’t so easy, after all, to do this kind of thing.”

We agreed that the obsequies should be very private. Indeed, as the
“Panjandrum” had as yet not had a body of its own, it was hardly
necessary to open the earth for the purposes of interment. We agreed
simply to say nothing about it to any one. I would go to Mr. X. and tell
him that we had abandoned our project, and there would be an end of it.
As the night advanced, I offered to read “The New Inmate” to my friend;
but he truly remarked that of reading aloud they had surely had enough
that night. When he reflected that but for the violence of Mr. Smith’s
proceedings we might even then, at that moment, have been listening to
an essay upon the “Basis of Political Rights,” I think that he rejoiced
that the “Panjandrum” was no more.

On the following morning I called on Mr. X., and explained to him that
portion of the occurrences of the previous evening with which it was
necessary that he should be made acquainted. I thought that he was
rather brusque; but I cannot complain that he was, upon the whole,
unfriendly. “The truth is, Sir,” he said, “you none of you exactly knew
what you wanted to be after. You were very anxious to do something
grand, but hadn’t got this grand thing clear before your eye. People,
you know, may have too much genius, or may have too little.” Which of
the two he thought was our case he did not say; but he did promise to
hear my story of “The New Inmate” read, with reference to its possible
insertion in another periodical publication with which he had lately
become connected. Perhaps some of my readers may remember its appearance
in the first number of the “Marble Arch,” where it attracted no little
attention, and was supposed to have given assistance, not altogether
despicable, towards the establishment of that excellent periodical.

Such was the history of the “Panjandrum.”



THE SPOTTED DOG.



[Illustration]



THE SPOTTED DOG.



PART I.--THE ATTEMPT.


Some few years since we received the following letter:--

“DEAR SIR,

     “I write to you for literary employment, and I implore you to
     provide me with it if it be within your power to do so. My capacity
     for such work is not small, and my acquirements are considerable.
     My need is very great, and my views in regard to remuneration are
     modest. I was educated at ----, and was afterwards a scholar of
     ---- College, Cambridge. I left the university without a degree, in
     consequence of a quarrel with the college tutor. I was rusticated,
     and not allowed to return. After that I became for awhile a student
     for the Chancery Bar. I then lived for some years in Paris, and I
     understand and speak French as though it were my own language. For
     all purposes of literature I am equally conversant with German. I
     read Italian. I am, of course, familiar with Latin. In regard to
     Greek I will only say that I am less ignorant of it than
     nineteen-twentieths of our national scholars. I am well read in
     modern and ancient history. I have especially studied political
     economy. I have not neglected other matters necessary to the
     education of an enlightened man,--unless it be natural philosophy.
     I can write English, and can write it with rapidity. I am a
     poet;--at least, I so esteem myself. I am not a believer. My
     character will not bear investigation;--in saying which, I mean you
     to understand, not that I steal or cheat, but that I live in a
     dirty lodging, spend many of my hours in a public-house, and cannot
     pay tradesmen’s bills where tradesmen have been found to trust me.
     I have a wife and four children,--which burden forbids me to free
     myself from all care by a bare bodkin. I am just past forty, and
     since I quarrelled with my family because I could not understand
     The Trinity, I have never been the owner of a ten-pound note. My
     wife was not a lady. I married her because I was determined to take
     refuge from the conventional thraldom of so-called ‘gentlemen’
     amidst the liberty of the lower orders. My life, of course, has
     been a mistake. Indeed, to live at all,--is it not a folly?

     “I am at present employed on the staff of two or three of the
     ‘Penny Dreadfuls.’ Your august highness in literature has perhaps
     never heard of a ‘Penny Dreadful.’ I write for them matter, which
     we among ourselves call ‘blood and nastiness,’--and which is copied
     from one to another. For this I am paid forty-five shillings a
     week. For thirty shillings a week I will do any work that you may
     impose upon me for the term of six months. I write this letter as a
     last effort to rescue myself from the filth of my present position,
     but I entertain no hope of any success. If you ask it I will come
     and see you; but do not send for me unless you mean to employ me,
     as I am ashamed of myself. I live at No. 3, Cucumber Court, Gray’s
     Inn Lane;--but if you write, address to the care of Mr. Grimes, the
     Spotted Dog, Liquorpond Street. Now I have told you my whole life,
     and you may help me if you will. I do not expect an answer.

“Yours truly,

“JULIUS MACKENZIE.”



Indeed he had told us his whole life, and what a picture of a life he
had drawn! There was something in the letter which compelled attention.
It was impossible to throw it, half read, into the waste-paper basket,
and to think of it not at all. We did read it, probably twice, and then
put ourselves to work to consider how much of it might be true and how
much false. Had the man been a boy at ----, and then a scholar of his
college? We concluded that, so far, the narrative was true. Had he
abandoned his dependence on wealthy friends from conscientious scruples,
as he pretended; or had other and less creditable reasons caused the
severance? On that point we did not quite believe him. And then, as to
those assertions made by himself in regard to his own capabilities,--how
far did they gain credence with us? We think that we believed them all,
making some small discount,--with the exception of that one in which he
proclaimed himself to be a poet. A man may know whether he understands
French, and be quite ignorant whether the rhymed lines which he produces
are or are not poetry. When he told us that he was an infidel, and that
his character would not bear investigation, we went with him altogether.
His allusion to suicide we regarded as a foolish boast. We gave him
credit for the four children, but were not certain about the wife. We
quite believed the general assertion of his impecuniosity. That stuff
about “conventional thraldom” we hope we took at its worth. When he told
us that his life had been a mistake he spoke to us Gospel truth.

Of the “Penny Dreadfuls,” and of “blood and nastiness,” so called, we
had never before heard, but we did not think it remarkable that a man so
gifted as our correspondent should earn forty-five shillings a week by
writing for the cheaper periodicals. It did not, however, appear to us
probable that any one so remunerated would be willing to leave that
engagement for another which should give him only thirty shillings. When
he spoke of the “filth of his present position,” our heart began to
bleed for him. We know what it is so well, and can fathom so accurately
the degradation of the educated man who, having been ambitious in the
career of literature, falls into that slough of despond by which the
profession of literature is almost surrounded. There we were with him,
as brothers together. When we came to Mr. Grimes and the Spotted Dog, in
Liquorpond Street, we thought that we had better refrain from answering
the letter,--by which decision on our part he would not, according to
his own statement, be much disappointed. Mr. Julius Mackenzie! Perhaps
at this very time rich uncles and aunts were buttoning up their pockets
against the sinner because of his devotion to the Spotted Dog. There are
well-to-do people among the Mackenzies. It might be the case that that
heterodox want of comprehension in regard to The Trinity was the cause
of it: but we have observed that in most families, grievous as are
doubts upon such sacred subjects, they are not held to be cause of
hostility so invincible as is a thorough-going devotion to a Spotted
Dog. If the Spotted Dog had brought about these troubles, any
interposition from ourselves would be useless.

For twenty-four hours we had given up all idea of answering the letter;
but it then occurred to us that men who have become disreputable as
drunkards do not put forth their own abominations when making appeals
for aid. If this man were really given to drink he would hardly have
told us of his association with the public-house. Probably he was much
at the Spotted Dog, and hated himself for being there. The more we
thought of it the more we fancied that the gist of his letter might be
true. It seemed that the man had desired to tell the truth as he himself
believed it.

It so happened that at that time we had been asked to provide an index
to a certain learned manuscript in three volumes. The intended publisher
of the work had already procured an index from a professional compiler
of such matters; but the thing had been so badly done that it could not
be used. Some knowledge of the classics was required, though it was not
much more than a familiarity with the names of Latin and Greek authors,
to which perhaps should be added some acquaintance, with the names also,
of the better-known editors and commentators. The gentleman who had had
the task in hand had failed conspicuously, and I had been told by my
enterprising friend Mr. X----, the publisher, that £25 would be freely
paid on the proper accomplishment of the undertaking. The work,
apparently so trifling in its nature, demanded a scholar’s acquirements,
and could hardly be completed in less than two months. We had snubbed
the offer, saying that we should be ashamed to ask an educated man to
give his time and labour for so small a remuneration;--but to Mr. Julius
Mackenzie £25 for two months’ work would manifestly be a godsend. If Mr.
Julius Mackenzie did in truth possess the knowledge for which he gave
himself credit; if he was, as he said, “familiar with Latin,” and was
“less ignorant of Greek than nineteen-twentieths of our national
scholars,” he might perhaps be able to earn this £25. We certainly knew
no one else who could and who would do the work properly for that money.
We therefore wrote to Mr. Julius Mackenzie, and requested his presence.
Our note was short, cautious, and also courteous. We regretted that a
man so gifted should be driven by stress of circumstances to such need.
We could undertake nothing, but if it would not put him to too much
trouble to call upon us, we might perhaps be able to suggest something
to him. Precisely at the hour named Mr. Julius Mackenzie came to us.

We well remember his appearance, which was one unutterably painful to
behold. He was a tall man, very thin,--thin we might say as a
whipping-post, were it not that one’s idea of a whipping-post conveys
erectness and rigidity, whereas this man, as he stood before us, was
full of bends, and curves, and crookedness. His big head seemed to lean
forward over his miserably narrow chest. His back was bowed, and his
legs were crooked and tottering. He had told us that he was over forty,
but we doubted, and doubt now, whether he had not added something to his
years, in order partially to excuse the wan, worn weariness of his
countenance. He carried an infinity of thick, ragged, wild, dirty hair,
dark in colour, though not black, which age had not yet begun to
grizzle. He wore a miserable attempt at a beard, stubbly, uneven, and
half shorn,--as though it had been cut down within an inch of his chin
with blunt scissors. He had two ugly projecting teeth, and his cheeks
were hollow. His eyes were deep-set, but very bright, illuminating his
whole face; so that it was impossible to look at him and to think him to
be one wholly insignificant. His eyebrows were large and shaggy, but
well formed, not meeting across the brow, with single,
stiffly-projecting hairs,--a pair of eyebrows which added much strength
to his countenance. His nose was long and well shaped,--but red as a
huge carbuncle. The moment we saw him we connected that nose with the
Spotted Dog. It was not a blotched nose, not a nose covered with many
carbuncles, but a brightly red, smooth, well-formed nose, one glowing
carbuncle in itself. He was dressed in a long brown great-coat, which
was buttoned up round his throat, and which came nearly to his feet. The
binding of the coat was frayed, the buttons were half uncovered, the
button-holes were tattered, the velvet collar had become party-coloured
with dirt and usage. It was in the month of December, and a great-coat
was needed; but this great-coat looked as though it were worn because
other garments were not at his command. Not an inch of linen or even of
flannel shirt was visible. Below his coat we could only see his broken
boots and the soiled legs of his trousers, which had reached that age
which in trousers defies description. When we looked at him we could not
but ask ourselves whether this man had been born a gentleman and was
still a scholar. And yet there was that in his face which prompted us to
believe the account he had given of himself. As we looked at him we felt
sure that he possessed keen intellect, and that he was too much of a man
to boast of acquirements which he did not believe himself to possess. We
shook hands with him, asked him to sit down, and murmured something of
our sorrow that he should be in distress.

“I am pretty well used to it,” said he. There was nothing mean in his
voice;--there was indeed a touch of humour in it, and in his manner
there was nothing of the abjectness of supplication. We had his letter
in our hands, and we read a portion of it again as he sat opposite to
us. We then remarked that we did not understand how he, having a wife
and family dependent on him, could offer to give up a third of his
income with the mere object of changing the nature of his work. “You
don’t know what it is,” said he, “to write for the ‘Penny Dreadfuls.’
I’m at it seven hours a day, and hate the very words that I write. I
cursed myself afterwards for sending that letter. I know that to hope is
to be an ass. But I did send it, and here I am.”

We looked at his nose and felt that we must be careful before we
suggested to our learned friend Dr. ---- to put his manuscript into the
hands of Mr. Julius Mackenzie. If it had been a printed book the attempt
might have been made without much hazard, but our friend’s work, which
was elaborate, and very learned, had not yet reached the honours of the
printing-house. We had had our own doubts whether it might ever assume
the form of a real book; but our friend, who was a wealthy as well as a
learned man, was, as yet, very determined. He desired, at any rate, that
the thing should be perfected, and his publisher had therefore come to
us offering £25 for the codification and index. Were anything other than
good to befall his manuscript, his lamentations would be loud, not on
his own score,--but on behalf of learning in general. It behoved us
therefore to be cautious. We pretended to read the letter again, in
order that we might gain time for a decision, for we were greatly
frightened by that gleaming nose.

Let the reader understand that the nose was by no means Bardolphian. If
we have read Shakespeare aright Bardolph’s nose was a thing of terror
from its size as well as its hue. It was a mighty vat, into which had
ascended all the divinest particles distilled from the cellars of the
hostelrie in Eastcheap. Such at least is the idea which stage
representations have left upon all our minds. But the nose now before us
was a well-formed nose, would have been a commanding nose,--for the
power of command shows itself much in the nasal organ,--had it not been
for its colour. While we were thinking of this, and doubting much as to
our friend’s manuscript, Mr. Mackenzie interrupted us. “You think I am a
drunkard,” said he. The man’s mother-wit had enabled him to read our
inmost thoughts.

As we looked up the man had risen from his chair, and was standing over
us. He loomed upon us very tall, although his legs were crooked, and his
back bent. Those piercing eyes, and that nose which almost assumed an
air of authority as he carried it, were a great way above us. There
seemed to be an infinity of that old brown great-coat. He had divined
our thoughts, and we did not dare to contradict him. We felt that a
weak, vapid, unmanly smile was creeping over our face. We were smiling
as a man smiles who intends to imply some contemptuous assent with the
self-depreciating comment of his companion. Such a mode of expression is
in our estimation most cowardly, and most odious. We had not intended
it, but we knew that the smile had pervaded us. “Of course you do,” said
he. “I was a drunkard, but I am not one now. It doesn’t matter;--only I
wish you hadn’t sent for me. I’ll go away at once.”

So saying, he was about to depart, but we stopped him. We assured him
with much energy that we did not mean to offend him. He protested that
there was no offence. He was too well used to that kind of thing to be
made “more than wretched by it.” Such was his heart-breaking phrase. “As
for anger, I’ve lost all that long ago. Of course you take me for a
drunkard, and I should still be a drunkard, only----”

“Only what?” I asked.

“It don’t matter,” said he. “I need not trouble you more than I have
said already. You haven’t got anything for me to do, I suppose?” Then I
explained to him that I had something he might do, if I could venture
to entrust him with the work. With some trouble I got him to sit down
again, and to listen while I explained to him the circumstances. I had
been grievously afflicted when he alluded to his former habit of
drinking,--a former habit as he himself now stated,--but I entertained
no hesitation in raising questions as to his erudition. I felt almost
assured that his answers would be satisfactory, and that no discomfiture
would arise from such questioning. We were quickly able to perceive that
we at any rate could not examine him in classical literature. As soon as
we mentioned the name and nature of the work he went off at score, and
satisfied us amply that he was familiar at least with the title-pages of
editions. We began, indeed, to fear whether he might not be too caustic
a critic on our own friend’s performance. “Dr. ---- is only an amateur
himself,” said we, deprecating in advance any such exercise of the
red-nosed man’s too severe erudition. “We never get much beyond
dilettanteism here,” said he, “as far as Greek and Latin are concerned.”
What a terrible man he would have been could he have got upon the staff
of th e Saturday Review, instead of going to the Spotted Dog!

We endeavoured to bring the interview to an end by telling him that we
would consult the learned doctor from whom the manuscript had emanated;
and we hinted that a reference would be of course acceptable. His
impudence,--or perhaps we should rather call it his straightforward
sincere audacity,--was unbounded. “Mr. Grimes of the Spotted Dog knows
me better than any one else,” said he. We blew the breath out of our
mouth with astonishment. “I’m not asking you to go to him to find out
whether I know Latin and Greek,” said Mr. Mackenzie. “You must find that
out for yourself.” We assured him that we thought we had found that out.
“But he can tell you that I won’t pawn your manuscript.” The man was so
grim and brave that he almost frightened us. We hinted, however, that
literary reference should be given. The gentleman who paid him
forty-five shillings a week,--the manager, in short, of the “Penny
Dreadful,”--might tell us something of him. Then he wrote for us a name
on a scrap of paper, and added to it an address in the close vicinity of
Fleet Street, at which we remembered to have seen the title of a
periodical which we now knew to be a “Penny Dreadful.”

Before he took his leave he made us a speech, again standing up over us,
though we also were on our legs. It was that bend in his neck, combined
with his natural height, which gave him such an air of superiority in
conversation. He seemed to overshadow us, and to have his own way with
us, because he was enabled to look down upon us. There was a footstool
on our hearth-rug, and we remember to have attempted to stand upon that,
in order that we might escape this supervision; but we stumbled and had
to kick it from us, and something was added to our sense of inferiority
by this little failure. “I don’t expect much from this,” he said. “I
never do expect much. And I have misfortunes independent of my poverty
which make it impossible that I should be other than a miserable
wretch.”

“Bad health?” we asked.

“No;--nothing absolutely personal;--but never mind. I must not trouble
you with more of my history. But if you can do this thing for me, it may
be the means of redeeming me from utter degradation.” We then assured
him that we would do our best, and he left us with a promise that he
would call again on that day week.

The first step which we took on his behalf was one the very idea of
which had at first almost moved us to ridicule. We made enquiry
respecting Mr. Julius Mackenzie, of Mr. Grimes, the landlord of the
Spotted Dog. Though Mr. Grimes did keep the Spotted Dog, he might be a
man of sense and, possibly, of conscience. At any rate he would tell us
something, or confirm our doubts by refusing to tell us anything. We
found Mr. Grimes seated in a very neat little back parlour, and were
peculiarly taken by the appearance of a lady in a little cap and black
silk gown, whom we soon found to be Mrs. Grimes. Had we ventured to
employ our intellect in personifying for ourselves an imaginary Mrs.
Grimes as the landlady of a Spotted Dog public-house in Liquorpond
Street, the figure we should have built up for ourselves would have been
the very opposite of that which this lady presented to us. She was slim,
and young, and pretty, and had pleasant little tricks of words, in spite
of occasional slips in her grammar, which made us almost think that it
might be our duty to come very often to the Spotted Dog to enquire about
Mr. Julius Mackenzie. Mr. Grimes was a man about forty,--fully ten years
the senior of his wife,--with a clear gray eye, and a mouth and chin
from which we surmised that he would be competent to clear the Spotted
Dog of unruly visitors after twelve o’clock, whenever it might be his
wish to do so. We soon made known our request. Mr. Mackenzie had come to
us for literary employment. Could they tell us anything about Mr.
Mackenzie?

“He’s as clever an author, in the way of writing and that kind of thing,
as there is in all London,” said Mrs. Grimes with energy. Perhaps her
opinion ought not to have been taken for much, but it had its weight. We
explained, however, that at the present moment we were specially anxious
to know something of the gentleman’s character and mode of life. Mr.
Grimes, whose manner to us was quite courteous, sat silent, thinking how
to answer us. His more impulsive and friendly wife was again ready with
her assurance. “There aint an honester gentleman breathing;--and I say
he is a gentleman, though he’s that poor he hasn’t sometimes a shirt to
his back.”

“I don’t think he’s ever very well off for shirts,” said Mr. Grimes.

“I wouldn’t be slow to give him one of yours, John, only I know he
wouldn’t take it,” said Mrs. Grimes. “Well now, look here, Sir;--we’ve
that feeling for him that our young woman there would draw anything for
him he’d ask--money or no money. She’d never venture to name money to
him if he wanted a glass of anything,--hot or cold, beer or spirits.
Isn’t that so, John?”

“She’s fool enough for anything as far as I know,” said Mr. Grimes.

“She aint no fool at all; and I’d do the same if I was there, and so’d
you, John. There is nothing Mackenzie’d ask as he wouldn’t give him,”
said Mrs. Grimes, pointing with her thumb over her shoulder to her
husband, who was standing on the hearth-rug;--“that is, in the way of
drawing liquor, and refreshments, and such like. But he never raised a
glass to his lips in this house as he didn’t pay for, nor yet took a
biscuit out of that basket. He’s a gentleman all over, is Mackenzie.”

It was strong testimony; but still we had not quite got at the bottom of
the matter. “Doesn’t he raise a great many glasses to his lips?” we
asked.

“No he don’t,” said Mrs. Grimes,--“only in reason.”

“He’s had misfortunes,” said Mr. Grimes.

“Indeed he has,” said the lady,--“what I call the very troublesomest of
troubles. If you was troubled like him, John, where’d you be?”

“I know where you’d be,” said John.

“He’s got a bad wife, Sir; the worst as ever was,” continued Mrs.
Grimes. “Talk of drink;--there is nothing that woman wouldn’t do for it.
She’d pawn the very clothes off her children’s back in mid-winter to get
it. She’d rob the food out of her husband’s mouth for a drop of gin. As
for herself,--she aint no woman’s notions left of keeping herself any
way. She’d as soon be picked out of the gutter as not;--and as for words
out of her mouth or clothes on her back, she hasn’t got, Sir, not an
item of a female’s feelings left about her.”

Mrs. Grimes had been very eloquent, and had painted the “troublesomest
of all troubles” with glowing words. This was what the wretched man had
come to by marrying a woman who was not a lady in order that he might
escape the “conventional thraldom” of gentility! But still the drunken
wife was not all. There was the evidence of his own nose against
himself, and the additional fact that he had acknowledged himself to
have been formerly a drunkard. “I suppose he has drunk, himself?” we
said.

“He has drunk, in course,” said Mrs. Grimes.

“The world has been pretty rough with him, Sir,” said Mr. Grimes.

“But he don’t drink now,” continued the lady. “At least if he do, we
don’t see it. As for her, she wouldn’t show herself inside our door.”

“It aint often that man and wife draws their milk from the same cow,”
said Mr. Grimes.

“But Mackenzie is here every day of his life,” said Mrs. Grimes. “When
he’s got a sixpence to pay for it, he’ll come in here and have a glass
of beer and a bit of something to eat. We does make him a little extra
welcome, and that’s the truth of it. We knows what he is, and we knows
what he was. As for book learning, Sir;--it don’t matter what language
it is, it’s all as one to him. He knows ’em all round just as I know my
catechism.”

“Can’t you say fairer than that for him, Polly?” asked Mr. Grimes.

“Don’t you talk of catechisms, John, nor yet of nothing else as a man
ought to set his mind to;--unless it is keeping the Spotted Dog. But as
for Mackenzie;--he knows off by heart whole books full of learning.
There was some furreners here as come from,--I don’t know where it was
they come from, only it wasn’t France, nor yet Germany, and he talked to
them just as though he hadn’t been born in England at all. I don’t think
there ever was such a man for knowing things. He’ll go on with poetry
out of his own head till you think it comes from him like web from a
spider.” We could not help thinking of the wonderful companionship which
there must have been in that parlour while the reduced man was spinning
his web and Mrs. Grimes, with her needlework lying idle in her lap, was
sitting by, listening with rapt admiration. In passing by the Spotted
Dog one would not imagine such a scene to have its existence within.
But then so many things do have existence of which we imagine nothing!

Mr. Grimes ended the interview. “The fact is, Sir, if you can give him
employment better than what he has now, you’ll be helping a man who has
seen better days, and who only wants help to see ’em again. He’s got it
all there,” and Mr. Grimes put his finger up to his head.

“He’s got it all here too,” said Mrs. Grimes, laying her hand upon her
heart. Hereupon we took our leave, suggesting to these excellent friends
that if it should come to pass that we had further dealings with Mr.
Mackenzie we might perhaps trouble them again. They assured us that we
should always be welcome, and Mr. Grimes himself saw us to the door,
having made profuse offers of such good cheer as the house afforded. We
were upon the whole much taken with the Spotted Dog.

From thence we went to the office of the “Penny Dreadful,” in the
vicinity of Fleet Street. As we walked thither we could not but think of
Mrs. Grimes’s words. The troublesomest of troubles! We acknowledged to
ourselves that they were true words. Can there be any trouble more
troublesome than that of suffering from the shame inflicted by a
degraded wife? We had just parted from Mr. Grimes,--not, indeed, having
seen very much of him in the course of our interview;--but little as we
had seen, we were sure that he was assisted in his position by a buoyant
pride in that he called himself the master, and owner, and husband of
Mrs. Grimes. In the very step with which he passed in and out of his own
door you could see that there was nothing that he was ashamed of about
his household. When abroad he could talk of his “missus” with a
conviction that the picture which the word would convey to all who heard
him would redound to his honour. But what must have been the reflections
of Julius Mackenzie when his mind dwelt upon his wife? We remembered the
words of his letter. “I have a wife and four children, which burden
forbids me to free myself from all care with a bare bodkin.” As we
thought of them, and of the story which had been told to us at the
Spotted Dog, they lost that tone of rhodomontade with which they had
invested themselves when we first read them. A wife who is indifferent
to being picked out of the gutter, and who will pawn her children’s
clothes for gin, must be a trouble than which none can be more
troublesome.

We did not find that we ingratiated ourselves with the people at the
office of the periodical for which Mr. Mackenzie worked; and yet we
endeavoured to do so, assuming in our manner and tone something of the
familiarity of a common pursuit. After much delay we came upon a
gentleman sitting in a dark cupboard, who twisted round his stool to
face us while he spoke to us. We believe that he was the editor of more
than one “Penny Dreadful,” and that as many as a dozen serial novels
were being issued to the world at the same time under his supervision.
“Oh!” said he, “so you’re at that game, are you?” We assured him that we
were at no game at all, but were simply influenced by a desire to assist
a distressed scholar. “That be blowed,” said our brother. “Mackenzie’s
doing as well here as he’ll do anywhere. He’s a drunken blackguard, when
all’s said and done. So you’re going to buy him up, are you? You won’t
keep him long,--and then he’ll have to starve.” We assured the gentleman
that we had no desire to buy up Mr. Mackenzie; we explained our ideas as
to the freedom of the literary profession, in accordance with which Mr.
Mackenzie could not be wrong in applying to us for work; and we
especially deprecated any severity on our brother’s part towards the
man, more especially begging that nothing might be decided, as we were
far from thinking it certain that we could provide Mr. Mackenzie with
any literary employment. “That’s all right,” said our brother, twisting
back his stool. “He can’t work for both of us;--that’s all. He has his
bread here regular, week after week; and I don’t suppose you’ll do as
much as that for him.” Then we went away, shaking the dust off our feet,
and wondering much at the great development of literature which latter
years have produced. We had not even known of the existence of these
papers;--and yet there they were, going forth into the hands of hundreds
of thousands of readers, all of whom were being, more or less,
instructed in their modes of life and manner of thinking by the stories
which were thus brought before them.

But there might be truth in what our brother had said to us. Should Mr.
Mackenzie abandon his present engagement for the sake of the job which
we proposed to put in his hands, might he not thereby injure rather than
improve his prospects? We were acquainted with only one learned doctor
desirous of having his manuscripts codified and indexed at his own
expense. As for writing for the periodical with which we were connected,
we knew enough of the business to be aware that Mr. Mackenzie’s gifts of
erudition would very probably not so much assist him in attempting such
work as would his late training act against him. A man might be able to
read and even talk a dozen languages,--“just as though he hadn’t been
born in England at all,”--and yet not write the language with which we
dealt after the fashion which suited our readers. It might be that he
would fly much above our heads, and do work infinitely too big for us.
We did not regard our own heads as being very high. But, for such
altitude as they held, a certain class of writing was adapted. The
gentleman whom we had just left would require, no doubt, altogether
another style. It was probable that Mr. Mackenzie had already fitted
himself to his present audience. And, even were it not so, we could not
promise him forty-five shillings a week, or even that thirty shillings
for which he asked. There is nothing more dangerous than the attempt to
befriend a man in middle life by transplanting him from one soil to
another.

When Mr. Mackenzie came to us again we endeavoured to explain all this
to him. We had in the meantime seen our friend the Doctor, whose
beneficence of spirit in regard to the unfortunate man of letters was
extreme. He was charmed with our account of the man, and saw with his
mind’s eye the work, for the performance of which he was pining,
perfected in a manner that would be a blessing to the scholars of all
future ages. He was at first anxious to ask Julius Mackenzie down to his
rectory, and, even after we had explained to him that this would not at
present be expedient, was full of a dream of future friendship with a
man who would be able to discuss the digamma with him, who would have
studied Greek metres, and have an opinion of his own as to Porson’s
canon. We were in possession of the manuscript, and had our friend’s
authority for handing it over to Mr. Mackenzie.

He came to us according to appointment, and his nose seemed to be redder
than ever. We thought that we discovered a discouraging flavour of
spirits in his breath. Mrs. Grimes had declared that he drank,--only in
reason; but the ideas of the wife of a publican,--even though that wife
were Mrs. Grimes,--might be very different from our own as to what was
reasonable in that matter. And as we looked at him he seemed to be more
rough, more ragged, almost more wretched than before. It might be that,
in taking his part with my brother of the “Penny Dreadful,” with the
Doctor, and even with myself in thinking over his claims, I had endowed
him with higher qualities than I had been justified in giving to him. As
I considered him and his appearance I certainly could not assure myself
that he looked like a man worthy to be trusted. A policeman, seeing him
at a street corner, would have had an eye upon him in a moment. He
rubbed himself together within his old coat, as men do when they come
out of gin-shops. His eye was as bright as before, but we thought that
his mouth was meaner, and his nose redder. We were almost disenchanted
with him. We said nothing to him at first about the Spotted Dog, but
suggested to him our fears that if he undertook work at our hands he
would lose the much more permanent employment which he got from the
gentleman whom we had seen in the cupboard. We then explained to him
that we could promise to him no continuation of employment.

The violence with which he cursed the gentleman who had sat in the
cupboard appalled us, and had, we think, some effect in bringing back to
us that feeling of respect for him which we had almost lost. It may be
difficult to explain why we respected him because he cursed and swore
horribly. We do not like cursing and swearing, and were any of our
younger contributors to indulge themselves after that fashion in our
presence we should, at the very least,--frown upon them. We did not
frown upon Julius Mackenzie, but stood up, gazing into his face above
us, again feeling that the man was powerful. Perhaps we respected him
because he was not in the least afraid of us. He went on to assert that
he cared not,--not a straw, we will say,--for the gentleman in the
cupboard. He knew the gentleman in the cupboard very well; and the
gentleman in the cupboard knew him. As long as he took his work to the
gentleman in the cupboard, the gentleman in the cupboard would be only
too happy to purchase that work at the rate of sixpence for a page of
manuscript containing two hundred and fifty words. That was his rate of
payment for prose fiction, and at that rate he could earn forty-five
shillings a week. He wasn’t afraid of the gentleman in the cupboard. He
had had some words with the gentleman in the cupboard before now, and
they two understood each other very well. He hinted, moreover, that
there were other gentlemen in other cupboards; but with none of them
could he advance beyond forty-five shillings a week. For this he had to
sit, with his pen in his hand, seven hours seven days a week, and the
very paper, pens, and ink came to fifteenpence out of the money. He had
struck for wages once, and for a halcyon month or two had carried his
point of sevenpence halfpenny a page; but the gentlemen in the cupboards
had told him that it could not be. They, too, must live. His matter was
no doubt attractive; but any price above sixpence a page unfitted it for
their market. All this Mr. Julius Mackenzie explained to us with much
violence of expression. When I named Mrs. Grimes to him the tone of his
voice was altered. “Yes,” said he, “I thought they’d say a word for me.
They’re the best friends I’ve got now. I don’t know that you ought quite
to believe her, for I think she’d perhaps tell a lie to do me a
service.” We assured him that we did believe every word Mrs. Grimes had
said to us.

After much pausing over the matter we told him that we were empowered to
trust him with our friend’s work, and the manuscript was produced upon
the table. If he would undertake the work and perform it, he should be
paid £8: 6_s._: 8_d._ for each of the three volumes as they were
completed. And we undertook, moreover, on our own responsibility, to
advance him money in small amounts through the hands of Mrs. Grimes, if
he really settled himself to the task. At first he was in ecstasies, and
as we explained to him the way in which the index should be brought out
and the codification performed, he turned over the pages rapidly, and
showed us that he understood at any rate the nature of the work to be
done. But when we came to details he was less happy. In what workshop
was this new work to be performed? There was a moment in which we almost
thought of telling him to do the work in our own room; but we hesitated,
luckily, remembering that his continual presence with us for two or
three months would probably destroy us altogether. It appeared that his
present work was done sometimes at the Spotted Dog, and sometimes at
home in his lodgings. He said not a word to us about his wife, but we
could understand that there would be periods in which to work at home
would be impossible to him. He did not pretend to deny that there might
be danger on that score, nor did he ask permission to take the entire
manuscript at once away to his abode. We knew that if he took part he
must take the whole, as the work could not be done in parts. Counter
references would be needed. “My circumstances are bad;--very bad
indeed,” he said. We expressed the great trouble to which we should be
subjected if any evil should happen to the manuscript. “I will give it
up,” he said, towering over us again, and shaking his head. “I cannot
expect that I should be trusted.” But we were determined that it should
not be given up. Sooner than give the matter up we would make some
arrangement by hiring a place in which he might work. Even though we
were to pay ten shillings a week for a room for him out of the money,
the bargain would be a good one for him. At last we determined that we
would pay a second visit to the Spotted Dog, and consult Mrs. Grimes. We
felt that we should have a pleasure in arranging together with Mrs.
Grimes any scheme of benevolence on behalf of this unfortunate and
remarkable man. So we told him that we would think over the matter, and
send a letter to his address at the Spotted Dog, which he should receive
on the following morning. He then gathered himself up, rubbed himself
together again inside his coat, and took his departure.

As soon as he was gone we sat looking at the learned Doctor’s
manuscript, and thinking of what we had done. There lay the work of
years, by which our dear and venerable old friend expected that he would
take rank among the great commentators of modern times. We, in truth,
did not anticipate for him all the glory to which he looked forward. We
feared that there might be disappointment. Hot discussion on verbal
accuracies or on rules of metre are perhaps not so much in vogue now as
they were a hundred years ago. There might be disappointment and great
sorrow; but we could not with equanimity anticipate the prevention of
this sorrow by the possible loss or destruction of the manuscript which
had been entrusted to us. The Doctor himself had seemed to anticipate no
such danger. When we told him of Mackenzie’s learning and misfortunes,
he was eager at once that the thing should be done, merely stipulating
that he should have an interview with Mr. Mackenzie before he returned
to his rectory.

That same day we went to the Spotted Dog, and found Mrs. Grimes alone.
Mackenzie had been there immediately after leaving our room, and had
told her what had taken place. She was full of the subject and anxious
to give every possible assistance. She confessed at once that the papers
would not be safe in the rooms inhabited by Mackenzie and his wife. “He
pays five shillings a week,” she said, “for a wretched place round in
Cucumber Court. They are all huddled together, any way; and how he
manages to do a thing at all there,--in the way of author-work,--is a
wonder to everybody. Sometimes he can’t, and then he’ll sit for hours
together at the little table in our tap-room.” We went into the tap-room
and saw the little table. It was a wonder indeed that any one should be
able to compose and write tales of imagination in a place so dreary,
dark, and ill-omened. The little table was hardly more than a long slab
or plank, perhaps eighteen inches wide. When we visited the place there
were two brewers’ draymen seated there, and three draggled,
wretched-looking women. The carters were eating enormous hunches of
bread and bacon, which they cut and put into their mouths slowly,
solemnly, and in silence. The three women were seated on a bench, and
when I saw them had no signs of festivity before them. It must be
presumed that they had paid for something, or they would hardly have
been allowed to sit there. “It’s empty now,” said Mrs. Grimes, taking no
immediate notice of the men or of the women; “but sometimes he’ll sit
writing in that corner, when there’s such a jabber of voices as you
wouldn’t hear a cannon go off over at Reid’s, and that thick with smoke
you’d a’most cut it with a knife. Don’t he, Peter?” The man whom she
addressed endeavoured to prepare himself for answer by swallowing at the
moment three square inches of bread and bacon, which he had just put
into his mouth. He made an awful effort, but failed; and, failing,
nodded his head three times. “They all know him here, Sir,” continued
Mrs. Grimes. “He’ll go on writing, writing, writing, for hours together;
and nobody’ll say nothing to him. Will they, Peter?” Peter, who was now
half-way through the work he had laid out for himself, muttered some
inarticulate grunt of assent.

We then went back to the snug little room inside the bar. It was quite
clear to me that the man could not manipulate the Doctor’s manuscript,
of which he would have to spread a dozen sheets before him at the same
time, in the place I had just visited. Even could he have occupied the
chamber alone, the accommodation would not have been sufficient for the
purpose. It was equally clear that he could not be allowed to use Mrs.
Grimes’s snuggery. “How are we to get a place for him?” said I,
appealing to the lady. “He shall have a place,” she said, “I’ll go bail;
he sha’n’t lose the job for want of a workshop.” Then she sat down and
began to think it over. I was just about to propose the hiring of some
decent room in the neighbourhood, when she made a suggestion, which I
acknowledge startled me. “I’ll have a big table put into my own
bed-room,” said she, “and he shall do it there. There aint another hole
or corner about the place as’d suit; and he can lay the gentleman’s
papers all about on the bed, square and clean and orderly. Can’t he now?
And I can see after ’em, as he don’t lose ’em. Can’t I now?”

By this time there had sprung up an intimacy between ourselves and Mrs.
Grimes which seemed to justify an expression of the doubt which I then
threw on the propriety of such a disarrangement of her most private
domestic affairs. “Mr. Grimes will hardly approve of that,” we said.

“Oh, John won’t mind. What’ll it matter to John as long as Mackenzie is
out in time for him to go to bed? We aint early birds, morning or
night,--that’s true. In our line folks can’t be early. But from ten to
six there’s the room, and he shall have it. Come up and see, Sir.” So we
followed Mrs. Grimes up the narrow staircase to the marital bower. “It
aint large, but there’ll be room for the table, and for him to sit at
it;--won’t there now?”

It was a dark little room, with one small window looking out under the
low roof, and facing the heavy high dead wall of the brewery opposite.
But it was clean and sweet, and the furniture in it was all solid and
good, old-fashioned, and made of mahogany. Two or three of Mrs. Grimes’s
gowns were laid upon the bed, and other portions of her dress were hung
on pegs behind the doors. The only untidy article in the room was a pair
of “John’s” trousers, which he had failed to put out of sight. She was
not a bit abashed, but took them up and folded them and patted them, and
laid them in the capacious wardrobe. “We’ll have all these things away,”
she said, “and then he can have all his papers out upon the bed just as
he pleases.”

We own that there was something in the proposed arrangement which
dismayed us. We also were married, and what would our wife have said had
we proposed that a contributor,--even a contributor not red-nosed and
seething with gin,--that any best-disciplined contributor should be
invited to write an article within the precincts of our sanctum? We
could not bring ourselves to believe that Mr. Grimes would authorise the
proposition. There is something holy about the bed-room of a married
couple; and there would be a special desecration in the continued
presence of Mr. Julius Mackenzie. We thought it better that we should
explain something of all this to her. “Do you know,” we said, “this
seems to be hardly prudent?”

“Why not prudent?” she asked.

“Up in your bed-room, you know! Mr. Grimes will be sure to dislike it.”

“What,--John! Not he. I know what you’re a-thinking of, Mr. ----,” she
said. “But we’re different in our ways than what you are. Things to us
are only just what they are. We haven’t time, nor yet money, nor perhaps
edication, for seemings and thinkings as you have. If you was travelling
out amongst the wild Injeans, you’d ask any one to have a bit in your
bed-room as soon as look at ’em, if you’d got a bit for ’em to eat.
We’re travelling among wild Injeans all our lives, and a bed-room aint
no more to us than any other room. Mackenzie shall come up here, and
I’ll have the table fixed for him, just there by the window.” I hadn’t
another word to say to her, and I could not keep myself from thinking
for many an hour afterwards, whether it may not be a good thing for men,
and for women also, to believe that they are always travelling among
wild Indians.

When we went down Mr. Grimes himself was in the little parlour. He did
not seem at all surprised at seeing his wife enter the room from above
accompanied by a stranger. She at once began her story, and told the
arrangement which she proposed,--which she did, as I observed, without
any actual request for his sanction. Looking at Mr. Grimes’s face, I
thought that he did not quite like it; but he accepted it, almost
without a word, scratching his head and raising his eyebrows. “You
know, John, he could no more do it at home than he could fly,” said Mrs.
Grimes.

“Who said he could do it at home?”

“And he couldn’t do it in the tap-room;--could he? If so, there aint no
other place, and so that’s settled.” John Grimes again scratched his
head, and the matter was settled. Before we left the house Mackenzie
himself came in, and was told in our presence of the accommodation which
was to be prepared for him. “It’s just like you, Mrs. Grimes,” was all
he said in the way of thanks. Then Mrs. Grimes made her bargain with him
somewhat sternly. He should have the room for five hours a day,--ten
till three, or twelve till five; but he must settle which, and then
stick to his hours. “And I won’t have nothing up there in the way of
drink,” said John Grimes.

“Who’s asking to have drink there?” said Mackenzie.

“You’re not asking now, but maybe you will. I won’t have it, that’s
all.”

“That shall be all right, John,” said Mrs. Grimes, nodding her head.

“Women are that soft,--in the way of judgment,--that they’ll go and do
a’most anything, good or bad, when they’ve got their feelings up.” Such
was the only rebuke which in our hearing Mr. Grimes administered to his
pretty wife. Mackenzie whispered something to the publican, but Grimes
only shook his head. We understood it all thoroughly. He did not like
the scheme, but he would not contradict his wife in an act of real
kindness. We then made an appointment with the scholar for meeting our
friend and his future patron at our rooms, and took our leave of the
Spotted Dog. Before we went, however, Mrs. Grimes insisted on producing
some cherry-bounce, as she called it, which, after sundry refusals on
our part, was brought in on a small round shining tray, in a little
bottle covered all over with gold sprigs, with four tiny glasses
similarly ornamented. Mrs. Grimes poured out the liquor, using a very
sparing hand when she came to the glass which was intended for herself.
We find it, as a rule, easier to talk with the Grimeses of the world
than to eat with them or to drink with them. When the glass was handed
to us we did not know whether or no we were expected to say something.
We waited, however, till Mr. Grimes and Mackenzie had been provided with
their glasses. “Proud to see you at the Spotted Dog, Mr. ----,” said
Grimes. “That we are,” said Mrs. Grimes, smiling at us over her almost
imperceptible drop of drink. Julius Mackenzie just bobbed his head, and
swallowed the cordial at a gulp,--as a dog does a lump of meat, leaving
the impression on his friends around him that he has not got from it
half the enjoyment which it might have given him had he been a little
more patient in the process. I could not but think that had Mackenzie
allowed the cherry-bounce to trickle a little in his palate, as I did
myself, it would have gratified him more than it did in being chucked
down his throat with all the impetus which his elbow could give to the
glass. “That’s tidy tipple,” said Mr. Grimes, winking his eye. We
acknowledged that it was tidy. “My mother made it, as used to keep the
Pig and Magpie, at Colchester,” said Mrs. Grimes. In this way we learned
a good deal of Mrs. Grimes’s history. Her very earliest years had been
passed among wild Indians.

Then came the interview between the Doctor and Mr. Mackenzie. We must
confess that we greatly feared the impression which our younger friend
might make on the elder. We had of course told the Doctor of the red
nose, and he had accepted the information with a smile. But he was a man
who would feel the contamination of contact with a drunkard, and who
would shrink from an unpleasant association. There are vices of which
we habitually take altogether different views in accordance with the
manner in which they are brought under our notice. This vice of
drunkenness is often a joke in the mouths of those to whom the thing
itself is a horror. Even before our boys we talk of it as being rather
funny, though to see one of them funny himself would almost break our
hearts. The learned commentator had accepted our account of the red nose
as though it were simply a part of the undeserved misery of the wretched
man; but should he find the wretched man to be actually redolent of gin
his feelings might be changed. The Doctor was with us first, and the
volumes of the MS. were displayed upon the table. The compiler of them,
as he lifted here a page and there a page, handled them with the
gentleness of a lover. They had been exquisitely arranged, and were very
fair. The pagings, and the margins, and the chapterings, and all the
complementary paraphernalia of authorship, were perfect. “A lifetime, my
friend; just a lifetime!” the Doctor had said to us, speaking of his own
work while we were waiting for the man to whose hands was to be
entrusted the result of so much labour and scholarship. We wished at
that moment that we had never been called on to interfere in the
matter.

Mackenzie came, and the introduction was made. The Doctor was a
gentleman of the old school, very neat in his attire,--dressed in
perfect black, with kneebreeches and black gaiters, with a closely-shorn
chin, and an exquisitely white cravat. Though he was in truth simply the
rector of his parish, his parish was one which entitled him to call
himself a dean, and he wore a clerical rosette on his hat. He was a
well-made, tall, portly gentleman, with whom to take the slightest
liberty would have been impossible. His well-formed full face was
singularly expressive of benevolence, but there was in it too an air of
command which created an involuntary respect. He was a man whose means
were ample, and who could afford to keep two curates, so that the
appanages of a Church dignitary did in some sort belong to him. We doubt
whether he really understood what work meant,--even when he spoke with
so much pathos of the labour of his life; but he was a man not at all
exacting in regard to the work of others, and who was anxious to make
the world as smooth and rosy to those around him as it had been to
himself. He came forward, paused a moment, and then shook hands with
Mackenzie. Our work had been done, and we remained in the background
during the interview. It was now for the Doctor to satisfy himself with
the scholarship,--and, if he chose to take cognizance of the matter,
with the morals of his proposed assistant.

Mackenzie himself was more subdued in his manner than he had been when
talking with ourselves. The Doctor made a little speech, standing at the
table with one hand on one volume and the other on another. He told of
all his work, with a mixture of modesty as to the thing done, and
self-assertion as to his interest in doing it, which was charming. He
acknowledged that the sum proposed for the aid which he required was
inconsiderable;--but it had been fixed by the proposed publisher. Should
Mr. Mackenzie find that the labour was long he would willingly increase
it. Then he commenced a conversation respecting the Greek dramatists,
which had none of the air or tone of an examination, but which still
served the purpose of enabling Mackenzie to show his scholarship. In
that respect there was no doubt that the ragged, red-nosed, disreputable
man, who stood there longing for his job, was the greater proficient of
the two. We never discovered that he had had access to books in later
years; but his memory of the old things seemed to be perfect. When it
was suggested that references would be required, it seemed that he did
know his way into the library of the British Museum. “When I wasn’t
quite so shabby,” he said boldly, “I used to be there.” The Doctor
instantly produced a ten-pound note, and insisted that it should be
taken in advance. Mackenzie hesitated, and we suggested that it was
premature; but the Doctor was firm. “If an old scholar mayn’t assist one
younger than himself,” he said, “I don’t know when one man may aid
another. And this is no alms. It is simply a pledge for work to be
done.” Mackenzie took the money, muttering something of an assurance
that as far as his ability went, the work should be done well. “It
should certainly,” he said, “be done diligently.”

When money had passed, of course the thing was settled; but in truth the
bank-note had been given, not from judgment in settling the matter, but
from the generous impulse of the moment. There was, however, no
receding. The Doctor expressed by no hint a doubt as to the safety of
his manuscript. He was by far too fine a gentleman to give the man whom
he employed pain in that direction. If there were risk, he would now run
the risk. And so the thing was settled.

We did not, however, give the manuscript on that occasion into
Mackenzie’s hands, but took it down afterwards, locked in an old
despatch box of our own, to the Spotted Dog, and left the box with the
key of it in the hands of Mrs. Grimes. Again we went up into that lady’s
bed-room, and saw that the big table had been placed by the window for
Mackenzie’s accommodation. It so nearly filled the room, that as we
observed, John Grimes could not get round at all to his side of the bed.
It was arranged that Mackenzie was to begin on the morrow.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



PART II.--THE RESULT.


During the next month we saw a good deal of Mr. Julius Mackenzie, and
made ourselves quite at home in Mrs. Grimes’s bed-room. We went in and
out of the Spotted Dog as if we had known that establishment all our
lives, and spent many a quarter of an hour with the hostess in her
little parlour, discussing the prospects of Mr. Mackenzie and his
family. He had procured to himself decent, if not exactly new, garments
out of the money so liberally provided by my learned friend the Doctor,
and spent much of his time in the library of the British Museum. He
certainly worked very hard, for he did not altogether abandon his old
engagement. Before the end of the first month the index of the first
volume, nearly completed, had been sent down for the inspection of the
Doctor, and had been returned with ample eulogium and some little
criticism. The criticisms Mackenzie answered by letter, with true
scholarly spirit, and the Doctor was delighted. Nothing could be more
pleasant to him than a correspondence, prolonged almost indefinitely, as
to the respective merits of a τὀ or a τον, or on the demand for a
spondee or an iamb. When he found that the work was really in
industrious hands, he ceased to be clamorous for early publication, and
gave us to understand privately that Mr. Mackenzie was not to be limited
to the sum named. The matter of remuneration was, indeed, left very much
to ourselves, and Mackenzie had certainly found a most efficient friend
in the author whose works had been confided to his hands.

All this was very pleasant, and Mackenzie throughout that month worked
very hard. According to the statements made to me by Mrs. Grimes he took
no more gin than what was necessary for a hard-working man. As to the
exact quantity of that cordial which she imagined to be beneficial and
needful, we made no close enquiry. He certainly kept himself in a
condition for work, and so far all went on happily. Nevertheless, there
was a terrible skeleton in the cupboard,--or rather out of the
cupboard, for the skeleton could not be got to hide itself. A certain
portion of his prosperity reached the hands of his wife, and she was
behaving herself worse than ever. The four children had been covered
with decent garments under Mrs. Grimes’s care, and then Mrs. Mackenzie
had appeared at the Spotted Dog, loudly demanding a new outfit for
herself. She came not only once, but often, and Mr. Grimes was beginning
to protest that he saw too much of the family. We had become very
intimate with Mrs. Grimes, and she did not hesitate to confide to us her
fears lest “John should cut up rough,” before the thing was completed.
“You see,” she said, “it is against the house, no doubt, that woman
coming nigh it.” But still she was firm, and Mackenzie was not disturbed
in the possession of the bed-room. At last Mrs. Mackenzie was provided
with some articles of female attire;--and then, on the very next day,
she and the four children were again stripped almost naked. The wretched
creature must have steeped herself in gin to the shoulders, for in one
day she made a sweep of everything. She then came in a state of furious
intoxication to the Spotted Dog, and was removed by the police under the
express order of the landlord.

We can hardly say which was the most surprising to us, the loyalty of
Mrs. Grimes or the patience of John. During that night, as we were told
two days afterwards by his wife, he stormed with passion. The papers she
had locked up in order that he should not get at them and destroy them.
He swore that everything should be cleared out on the following morning.
But when the morning came he did not even say a word to Mackenzie, as
the wretched, downcast, broken-hearted creature passed up stairs to his
work. “You see I knows him, and how to deal with him,” said Mrs. Grimes,
speaking of her husband. “There aint another like himself
nowheres;--he’s that good. A softer-hearteder man there aint in the
public line. He can speak dreadful when his dander is up, and can
look----; oh, laws, he just can look at you! But he could no more put
his hands upon a woman, in the way of hurting,--no more than be an
archbishop.” Where could be the man, thought we to ourselves as this was
said to us, who could have put a hand,--in the way of hurting,--upon
Mrs. Grimes?

On that occasion, to the best of our belief, the policeman contented
himself with depositing Mrs. Mackenzie at her own lodgings. On the next
day she was picked up drunk in the street, and carried away to the
lock-up house. At the very moment in which the story was being told to
us by Mrs. Grimes, Mackenzie had gone to the police office to pay the
fine, and to bring his wife home. We asked with dismay and surprise why
he should interfere to rescue her--why he did not leave her in custody
as long as the police would keep her? “Who’d there be to look after the
children?” asked Mrs. Grimes, as though she were offended at our
suggestion. Then she went on to explain that in such a household as that
of poor Mackenzie the wife is absolutely a necessity, even though she be
an habitual drunkard. Intolerable as she was, her services were
necessary to him. “A husband as drinks is bad,” said Mrs. Grimes,--with
something, we thought, of an apologetic tone for the vice upon which her
own prosperity was partly built,--“but when a woman takes to it, it’s
the ---- devil.” We thought that she was right, as we pictured to
ourselves that man of letters satisfying the magistrate’s demand for his
wife’s misconduct, and taking the degraded, half-naked creature once
more home to his children.

We saw him about twelve o’clock on that day, and he had then, too
evidently, been endeavouring to support his misery by the free use of
alcohol. We did not speak of it down in the parlour; but even Mrs.
Grimes, we think, would have admitted that he had taken more than was
good for him. He was sitting up in the bed-room with his head hanging
upon his hand, with a swarm of our learned friend’s papers spread on the
table before him. Mrs. Grimes, when he entered the house, had gone up
stairs to give them out to him; but he had made no attempt to settle
himself to his work. “This kind of thing must come to an end,” he said
to us with a thick, husky voice. We muttered something to him as to the
need there was that he should exert a manly courage in his troubles.
“Manly!” he said. “Well, yes; manly. A man should be a man, of course.
There are some things which a man can’t bear. I’ve borne more than
enough, and I’ll have an end of it.”

We shall never forget that scene. After awhile he got up, and became
almost violent. Talk of bearing! Who had borne half as much as he? There
were things a man should not bear. As for manliness, he believed that
the truly manly thing would be to put an end to the lives of his wife,
his children, and himself at one swoop. Of course the judgment of a
mealy-mouthed world would be against him, but what would that matter to
him when he and they had vanished out of this miserable place into the
infinite realms of nothingness? Was he fit to live, or were they? Was
there any chance for his children but that of becoming thieves and
prostitutes? And for that poor wretch of a woman, from out of whose
bosom even her human instincts had been washed by gin,--would not death
to her be, indeed, a charity? There was but one drawback to all this.
When he should have destroyed them, how would it be with him if he
should afterwards fail to make sure work with his own life? In such case
it was not hanging that he would fear, but the self-reproach that would
come upon him in that he had succeeded in sending others out of their
misery, but had flinched when his own turn had come. Though he was drunk
when he said these horrid things, or so nearly drunk that he could not
perfect the articulation of his words, still there was a marvellous
eloquence with him. When we attempted to answer, and told him of that
canon which had been set against self-slaughter, he laughed us to scorn.
There was something terrible to us in the audacity of the arguments
which he used, when he asserted for himself the right to shuffle off
from his shoulders a burden which they had not been made broad enough
to bear. There was an intensity and a thorough hopelessness of suffering
in his case, an openness of acknowledged degradation, which robbed us
for the time of all that power which the respectable ones of the earth
have over the disreputable. When we came upon him with our wise saws,
our wisdom was shattered instantly, and flung back upon us in fragments.
What promise could we dare to hold out to him that further patience
would produce any result that could be beneficial? What further harm
could any such doing on his part bring upon him? Did we think that were
he brought out to stand at the gallows’ foot with the knowledge that ten
minutes would usher him into what folks called eternity, his sense of
suffering would be as great as it had been when he conducted that woman
out of court and along the streets to his home, amidst the jeering
congratulations of his neighbours? “When you have fallen so low,” said
he, “that you can fall no lower, the ordinary trammels of the world
cease to bind you.” Though his words were knocked against each other
with the dulled utterances of intoxication, his intellect was terribly
clear, and his scorn for himself, and for the world that had so treated
him, was irrepressible.

We must have been over an hour with him up there in the bed-room, and
even then we did not leave him. As it was manifest that he could do no
work on that day, we collected the papers together, and proposed that he
should take a walk with us. He was patient as we shovelled together the
Doctor’s pages, and did not object to our suggestion. We found it
necessary to call up Mrs. Grimes to assist us in putting away the “Opus
magnum,” and were astonished to find how much she had come to know about
the work. Added to the Doctor’s manuscript there were now the pages of
Mackenzie’s indexes,--and there were other pages of reference, for use
in making future indexes,--as to all of which Mrs. Grimes seemed to be
quite at home. We have no doubt that she was familiar with the names of
Greek tragedians, and could have pointed out to us in print the
performances of the chorus. “A little fresh air’ll do you a deal of
good, Mr. Mackenzie,” she said to the unfortunate man,--“only take a
biscuit in your pocket.” We got him out to the street, but he angrily
refused to take the biscuit which she endeavoured to force into his
hands.

That was a memorable walk. Turning from the end of Liquorpond Street up
Gray’s Inn Lane towards Holborn, we at once came upon the entrance into
a miserable court. “There,” said he; “it is down there that I live. She
is sleeping it off now, and the children are hanging about her,
wondering whether mother has got money to have another go at it when she
rises. I’d take you down to see it all, only it’d sicken you.” We did
not offer to go down the court, abstaining rather for his sake than for
our own. The look of the place was as of a spot squalid, fever-stricken,
and utterly degraded. And this man who was our companion had been born
and bred a gentleman,--had been nourished with that soft and gentle care
which comes of wealth and love combined,--had received the education
which the country gives to her most favoured sons, and had taken such
advantage of that education as is seldom taken by any of those favoured
ones;--and Cucumber Court, with a drunken wife and four half-clothed,
half-starved children, was the condition to which he had brought
himself! The world knows nothing higher nor brighter than had been his
outset in life,--nothing lower nor more debased than the result. And yet
he was one whose time and intellect had been employed upon the pursuit
of knowledge,--who even up to this day had high ideas of what should be
a man’s career,--who worked very hard and had always worked,--who as far
as we knew had struck upon no rocks in the pursuit of mere pleasure. It
had all come to him from that idea of his youth that it would be good
for him “to take refuge from the conventional thraldom of so-called
gentlemen amidst the liberty of the lower orders.” His life, as he had
himself owned, had indeed been a mistake.

We passed on from the court, and crossing the road went through the
squares of Gray’s Inn, down Chancery Lane, through the little iron gate
into Lincoln’s Inn, round through the old square,--than which we know no
place in London more conducive to suicide; and the new square,--which
has a gloom of its own, not so potent, and savouring only of madness,
till at last we found ourselves in the Temple Gardens. I do not know why
we had thus clung to the purlieus of the Law, except it was that he was
telling us how in his early days, when he had been sent away from
Cambridge,--as on this occasion he acknowledged to us, for an attempt to
pull the tutor’s nose, in revenge for a supposed insult,--he had
intended to push his fortunes as a barrister. He pointed up to a certain
window in a dark corner of that suicidal old court, and told us that for
one year he had there sat at the feet of a great Gamaliel in Chancery,
and had worked with all his energies. Of course we asked him why he had
left a prospect so alluring. Though his answers to us were not quite
explicit, we think that he did not attempt to conceal the truth. He
learned to drink, and that Gamaliel took upon himself to rebuke the
failing, and by the end of that year he had quarrelled irreconcilably
with his family. There had been great wrath at home when he was sent
from Cambridge, greater wrath when he expressed his opinion upon certain
questions of religious faith, and wrath to the final severance of all
family relations when he told the chosen Gamaliel that he should get
drunk as often as he pleased. After that he had “taken refuge among the
lower orders,” and his life, such as it was, had come of it.

In Fleet Street, as we came out of the Temple, we turned into an
eating-house and had some food. By this time the exercise and the air
had carried off the fumes of the liquor which he had taken, and I knew
that it would be well that he should eat. We had a mutton chop and a hot
potato and a pint of beer each, and sat down to table for the first and
last time as mutual friends. It was odd to see how in his converse with
us on that day he seemed to possess a double identity. Though the
hopeless misery of his condition was always present to him, was
constantly on his tongue, yet he could talk about his own career and
his own character as though they belonged to a third person. He could
even laugh at the wretched mistake he had made in life, and speculate as
to its consequences. For himself he was well aware that death was the
only release that he could expect. We did not dare to tell him that if
his wife should die, then things might be better with him. We could only
suggest to him that work itself, if he would do honest work, would
console him for many sufferings. “You don’t know the filth of it,” he
said to us. Ah, dear! how well we remember the terrible word, and the
gesture with which he pronounced it, and the gleam of his eyes as he
said it! His manner to us on this occasion was completely changed, and
we had a gratification in feeling that a sense had come back upon him of
his old associations. “I remember this room so well,” he said,--“when I
used to have friends and money.” And, indeed, the room was one which has
been made memorable by Genius. “I did not think ever to have found
myself here again.” We observed, however, that he could not eat the food
that was placed before him. A morsel or two of the meat he swallowed,
and struggled to eat the crust of his bread, but he could not make a
clean plate of it, as we did,--regretting that the nature of chops did
not allow of ampler dimensions. His beer was quickly finished, and we
suggested to him a second tankard. With a queer, half-abashed twinkle of
the eye, he accepted our offer, and then the second pint disappeared
also. We had our doubts on the subject, but at last decided against any
further offer. Had he chosen to call for it he must have had a third;
but he did not call for it. We left him at the door of the tavern, and
he then promised that in spite of all that he had suffered and all that
he had said he would make another effort to complete the Doctor’s work.
“Whether I go or stay,” he said, “I’d like to earn the money that I’ve
spent.” There was something terrible in that idea of his going! Whither
was he to go?

The Doctor heard nothing of the misfortune of these three or four
inauspicious days; and the work was again going on prosperously when he
came up again to London at the end of the second month. He told us
something of his banker, and something of his lawyer, and murmured a
word or two as to a new curate whom he needed; but we knew that he had
come up to London because he could not bear a longer absence from the
great object of his affections. He could not endure to be thus parted
from his manuscript, and was again childishly anxious that a portion of
it should be in the printer’s hands. “At sixty-five, Sir,” he said to
us, “a man has no time to dally with his work.” He had been dallying
with his work all his life, and we sincerely believed that it would be
well with him if he could be contented to dally with it to the end. If
all that Mackenzie said of it was true, the Doctor’s erudition was not
equalled by his originality, or by his judgment. Of that question,
however, we could take no cognizance. He was bent upon publishing, and
as he was willing and able to pay for his whim and was his own master,
nothing that we could do would keep him out of the printer’s hands.

He was desirous of seeing Mackenzie, and was anxious even to see him
once at his work. Of course he could meet his assistant in our editorial
room, and all the papers could easily be brought backwards and forwards
in the old despatch-box. But in the interest of all parties we hesitated
as to taking our revered and reverend friend to the Spotted Dog. Though
we had told him that his work was being done at a public-house, we
thought that his mind had conceived the idea of some modest inn, and
that he would be shocked at being introduced to a place which he would
regard simply as a gin-shop. Mrs. Grimes, or if not Mrs. Grimes, then
Mr. Grimes, might object to another visitor to their bed-room; and
Mackenzie himself would be thrown out of gear by the appearance of those
clerical gaiters upon the humble scene of his labours. We, therefore,
gave him such reasons as were available for submitting, at any rate for
the present, to having the papers brought up to him at our room. And we
ourselves went down to the Spotted Dog to make an appointment with
Mackenzie for the following day. We had last seen him about a week
before, and then the task was progressing well. He had told us that
another fortnight would finish it. We had enquired also of Mrs. Grimes
about the man’s wife. All she could tell us was that the woman had not
again troubled them at the Spotted Dog. She expressed her belief,
however, that the drunkard had been more than once in the hands of the
police since the day on which Mackenzie had walked with us through the
squares of the Inns of Court.

It was late when we reached the public-house on the occasion to which we
now allude, and the evening was dark and rainy. It was then the end of
January, and it might have been about six o’clock. We knew that we
should not find Mackenzie at the public-house; but it was probable that
Mrs. Grimes could send for him, or, at least, could make the
appointment for us. We went into the little parlour, where she was
seated with her husband, and we could immediately see, from the
countenance of both of them, that something was amiss. We began by
telling Mrs. Grimes that the Doctor had come to town. “Mackenzie aint
here, Sir,” said Mrs. Grimes, and we almost thought that the very tone
of her voice was altered. We explained that we had not expected to find
him at that hour, and asked if she could send for him. She only shook
her head. Grimes was standing with his back to the fire and his hands in
his trousers pockets. Up to this moment he had not spoken a word. We
asked if the man was drunk. She again shook her head. Could she bid him
to come to us to-morrow, and bring the box and the papers with him?
Again she shook her head.

“I’ve told her that I won’t have no more of it,” said Grimes; “nor yet I
won’t. He was drunk this morning,--as drunk as an owl.”

“He was sober, John, as you are, when he came for the papers this
afternoon at two o’clock.” So the box and the papers had all been taken
away!

“And she was here yesterday rampaging about the place, without as much
clothes on as would cover her nakedness,” said Mr. Grimes. “I won’t
have no more of it. I’ve done for that man what his own flesh and blood
wouldn’t do. I know that; and I won’t have no more of it. Mary Anne,
you’ll have that table cleared out after breakfast to-morrow.” When a
man, to whom his wife is usually Polly, addresses her as Mary Anne, then
it may be surmised that that man is in earnest. We knew that he was in
earnest, and she knew it also.

“He wasn’t drunk, John,--no, nor yet in liquor, when he come and took
away that box this afternoon.” We understood this reiterated assertion.
It was in some sort excusing to us her own breach of trust in having
allowed the manuscript to be withdrawn from her own charge, or was
assuring us that, at the worst, she had not been guilty of the
impropriety of allowing the man to take it away when he was unfit to
have it in his charge. As for blaming her, who could have thought of it?
Had Mackenzie at any time chosen to pass down stairs with the box in his
hands, it was not to be expected that she should stop him violently. And
now that he had done so we could not blame her; but we felt that a great
weight had fallen upon our own hearts. If evil should come to the
manuscript would not the Doctor’s wrath fall upon us with a crushing
weight? Something must be done at once. And we suggested that it would
be well that somebody should go round to Cucumber Court. “I’d go as soon
as look,” said Mrs. Grimes, “but he won’t let me.”

“You don’t stir a foot out of this to-night;--not that way,” said Mr.
Grimes.

“Who wants to stir?” said Mrs. Grimes.

We felt that there was something more to be told than we had yet heard,
and a great fear fell upon us. The woman’s manner to us was altered, and
we were sure that this had come not from altered feelings on her part,
but from circumstances which had frightened her. It was not her husband
that she feared, but the truth of something that her husband had said to
her. “If there is anything more to tell, for God’s sake tell it,” we
said, addressing ourselves rather to the man than to the woman. Then
Grimes did tell us his story. On the previous evening Mackenzie had
received three or four sovereigns from Mrs. Grimes, being, of course, a
portion of the Doctor’s payments; and early on that morning all
Liquorpond Street had been in a state of excitement with the drunken
fury of Mackenzie’s wife. She had found her way into the Spotted Dog,
and was being actually extruded by the strength of Grimes himself,--of
Grimes, who had been brought down, half dressed, from his bed-room by
the row,--when Mackenzie himself, equally drunk, appeared upon the
scene. “No, John;--not equally drunk,” said Mrs. Grimes. “Bother!”
exclaimed her husband, going on with his story. The man had struggled to
take the woman by the arm, and the two had fallen and rolled in the
street together. “I was looking out of the window, and it was awful to
see,” said Mrs. Grimes. We felt that it was “awful to hear.” A man,--and
such a man, rolling in the gutter with a drunken woman,--himself
drunk,--and that woman his wife! “There aint to be no more of it at the
Spotted Dog; that’s all,” said John Grimes, as he finished his part of
the story.

Then, at last, Mrs. Grimes became voluble. All this had occurred before
nine in the morning. “The woman must have been at it all night,” she
said. “So must the man,” said John. “Anyways he came back about dinner,
and he was sober then. I asked him not to go up, and offered to make him
a cup of tea. It was just as you’d gone out after dinner, John.”

“He won’t have no more tea here,” said John.

“And he didn’t have any then. He wouldn’t, he said, have any tea, but
went up stairs. What was I to do? I couldn’t tell him as he shouldn’t.
Well;--during the row in the morning John had said something as to
Mackenzie not coming about the premises any more.”

“Of course I did,” said Grimes.

“He was a little cut, then, no doubt,” continued the lady; “and I didn’t
think as he would have noticed what John had said.”

“I mean it to be noticed now.”

“He had noticed it then, Sir, though he wasn’t just as he should be at
that hour of the morning. Well;--what does he do? He goes up stairs and
packs up all the papers at once. Leastways, that’s as I suppose. They
aint there now. You can go and look if you please, Sir. Well; when he
came down, whether I was in the kitchen,--though it isn’t often as my
eyes is off the bar, or in the tap-room, or busy drawing, which I do do
sometimes, Sir, when there are a many calling for liquor, I can’t
say;--but if I aint never to stand upright again, I didn’t see him pass
out with the box. But Miss Wilcox did. You can ask her.” Miss Wilcox was
the young lady in the bar, whom we did not think ourselves called upon
to examine, feeling no doubt whatever as to the fact of the box having
been taken away by Mackenzie. In all this Mrs. Grimes seemed to defend
herself, as though some serious charge was to be brought against her;
whereas all that she had done had been done out of pure charity; and in
exercising her charity towards Mackenzie she had shown an almost
exaggerated kindness towards ourselves.

“If there’s anything wrong, it isn’t your fault,” we said.

“Nor yet mine,” said John Grimes.

“No, indeed,” we replied.

“It aint none of our faults,” continued he; “only this;--you can’t wash
a blackamoor white, nor it aint no use trying. He don’t come here any
more, that’s all. A man in drink we don’t mind. We has to put up with
it. And they aint that tarnation desperate as is a woman. As long as a
man can keep his legs he’ll try to steady hisself; but there is women
who, when they’ve liquor, gets a fury for rampaging. There aint a many
as can beat this one, Sir. She’s that strong, it took four of us to hold
her; though she can’t hardly do a stroke of work, she’s that weak when
she’s sober.”

We had now heard the whole story, and, while hearing it, had determined
that it was our duty to go round into Cucumber Court and seek the
manuscript and the box. We were unwilling to pry into the wretchedness
of the man’s home; but something was due to the Doctor; and we had to
make that appointment for the morrow, if it were still possible that
such an appointment should be kept. We asked for the number of the
house, remembering well the entrance into the court. Then there was a
whisper between John and his wife, and the husband offered to accompany
us. “It’s a roughish place,” he said, “but they know me.” “He’d better
go along with you,” said Mrs. Grimes. We, of course, were glad of such
companionship, and glad also to find that the landlord, upon whom we had
inflicted so much trouble, was still sufficiently our friend to take
this trouble on our behalf.

“It’s a dreary place enough,” said Grimes, as he led us up the narrow
archway. Indeed it was a dreary place. The court spread itself a little
in breadth, but very little, when the passage was passed, and there were
houses on each side of it. There was neither gutter nor, as far as we
saw, drain, but the broken flags were slippery with moist mud, and here
and there, strewed about between the houses, there were the remains of
cabbages and turnip-tops. The place swarmed with children, over whom one
ghastly gas-lamp at the end of the court threw a flickering and
uncertain light. There was a clamour of scolding voices, to which it
seemed that no heed was paid; and there was a smell of damp rotting
nastiness, amidst which it seemed to us to be almost impossible that
life should be continued. Grimes led the way without further speech, to
the middle house on the left hand of the court, and asked a man who was
sitting on the low threshold of the door whether Mackenzie was within.
“So that be you, Muster Grimes; be it?” said the man, without stirring.
“Yes; he’s there I guess, but they’ve been and took her.” Then we passed
on into the house. “No matter about that,” said the man, as we
apologised for kicking him in our passage. He had not moved, and it had
been impossible to enter without kicking him.

It seemed that Mackenzie held the two rooms on the ground floor, and we
entered them at once. There was no light, but we could see the glimmer
of a fire in the grate; and presently we became aware of the presence of
children. Grimes asked after Mackenzie, and a girl’s voice told us that
he was in the inner room. The publican then demanded a light, and the
girl with some hesitation, lit the end of a farthing candle, which was
fixed in a small bottle. We endeavoured to look round the room by the
glimmer which this afforded, but could see nothing but the presence of
four children, three of whom seemed to be seated in apathy on the
floor. Grimes, taking the candle in his hand, passed at once into the
other room, and we followed him. Holding the bottle something over his
head, he contrived to throw a gleam of light upon one of the two beds
with which the room was fitted, and there we saw the body of Julius
Mackenzie stretched in the torpor of dead intoxication. His head lay
against the wall, his body was across the bed, and his feet dangled on
to the floor. He still wore his dirty boots, and his clothes as he had
worn them in the morning. No sight so piteous, so wretched, and at the
same time so eloquent had we ever seen before. His eyes were closed, and
the light of his face was therefore quenched. His mouth was open, and
the slaver had fallen upon his beard. His dark, clotted hair had been
pulled over his face by the unconscious movement of his hands. There
came from him a stertorous sound of breathing, as though he were being
choked by the attitude in which he lay; and even in his drunkenness
there was an uneasy twitching as of pain about his face. And there sat,
and had been sitting for hours past, the four children in the other
room, knowing the condition of the parent whom they most respected, but
not even endeavouring to do anything for his comfort. What could they
do? They knew, by long training and thorough experience, that a fit of
drunkenness had to be got out of by sleep. To them there was nothing
shocking in it. It was but a periodical misfortune. “She’ll have to own
he’s been and done it now,” said Grimes, looking down upon the man, and
alluding to his wife’s good-natured obstinacy. He handed the candle to
us, and, with a mixture of tenderness and roughness, of which the
roughness was only in the manner and the tenderness was real, he raised
Mackenzie’s head and placed it on the bolster, and lifted the man’s legs
on to the bed. Then he took off the man’s boots, and the old silk
handkerchief from the neck, and pulled the trousers straight, and
arranged the folds of the coat. It was almost as though he were laying
out one that was dead. The eldest girl was now standing by us, and
Grimes asked her how long her father had been in that condition. “Jack
Hoggart brought him in just afore it was dark,” said the girl. Then it
was explained to us that Jack Hoggart was the man whom we had seen
sitting on the door-step.

“And your mother?” asked Grimes.

“The perlice took her afore dinner.”

“And you children;--what have you had to eat?” In answer to this the
girl only shook her head. Grimes took no immediate notice of this, but
called the drunken man by his name, and shook his shoulder, and looked
round to a broken ewer which stood on the little table, for water to
dash upon him;--but there was no water in the jug. He called again and
repeated the shaking, and at last Mackenzie opened his eyes, and in a
dull, half-conscious manner looked up at us. “Come, my man,” said
Grimes, “shake this off and have done with it.”

“Hadn’t you better try to get up?” we asked.

There was a faint attempt at rising, then a smile,--a smile which was
terrible to witness, so sad was all which it said; then a look of utter,
abject misery, coming, as we thought, from a momentary remembrance of
his degradation; and after that he sank back in the dull, brutal,
painless, death-like apathy of absolute unconsciousness.

“It’ll be morning afore he’ll move,” said the girl.

“She’s about right,” said Grimes. “He’s got it too heavy for us to do
anything but just leave him. We’ll take a look for the box and the
papers.”

And the man upon whom we were looking down had been born a gentleman,
and was a finished scholar,--one so well educated, so ripe in literary
acquirement, that we knew few whom we could call his equal. Judging of
the matter by the light of our reason, we cannot say that the horror of
the scene should have been enhanced to us by these recollections. Had
the man been a shoemaker or a coalheaver there would have been enough of
tragedy in it to make an angel weep,--that sight of the child standing
by the bedside of her drunken father, while the other parent was away in
custody,--and in no degree shocked at what she saw, because the thing
was so common to her! But the thought of what the man had been, of what
he was, of what he might have been, and the steps by which he had
brought himself to the foul degradation which we witnessed, filled us
with a dismay which we should hardly have felt had the gifts which he
had polluted and the intellect which he had wasted been less capable of
noble uses.

Our purpose in coming to the court was to rescue the Doctor’s papers
from danger, and we turned to accompany Grimes into the other room. As
we did so the publican asked the girl if she knew anything of a black
box which her father had taken away from the Spotted Dog. “The box is
here,” said the girl.

“And the papers?” asked Grimes. Thereupon the girl shook her head, and
we both hurried into the outer room. I hardly know who first discovered
the sight which we encountered, or whether it was shown to us by the
child. The whole fire-place was strewn with half-burnt sheets of
manuscript. There were scraps of pages of which almost the whole had
been destroyed, others which were hardly more than scorched, and heaps
of paper-ashes all lying tumbled together about the fender. We went down
on our knees to examine them, thinking at the moment that the poor
creature might in his despair have burned his own work and have spared
that of the Doctor. But it was not so. We found scores of charred pages
of the Doctor’s elaborate handwriting. By this time Grimes had found the
open box, and we perceived that the sheets remaining in it were tumbled
and huddled together in absolute confusion. There were pages of the
various volumes mixed with those which Mackenzie himself had written,
and they were all crushed, and rolled, and twisted as though they had
been thrust thither as waste-paper,--out of the way. “‘Twas mother as
done it,” said the girl, “and we put ’em back again when the perlice
took her.”

There was nothing more to learn,--nothing more by the hearing which any
useful clue could be obtained. What had been the exact course of the
scenes which had been enacted there that morning it little booted us to
enquire. It was enough and more than enough that we knew that the
mischief had been done. We went down on our knees before the fire, and
rescued from the ashes with our hands every fragment of manuscript that
we could find. Then we put the mass altogether in the box, and gazed
upon the wretched remnants almost in tears. “You had better go and get a
bit of some’at to eat,” said Grimes, handing a coin to the elder girl.
“It’s hard on them to starve ’cause their father’s drunk, Sir.” Then he
took the closed box in his hand and we followed him out into the street.
“I’ll send or step up to look after him to-morrow,” said Grimes, as he
put us and the box into a cab. We little thought when we made to the
drunkard that foolish request to arise, that we should never speak to
him again.

As we returned to our office in the cab that we might deposit the box
there ready for the following day, our mind was chiefly occupied in
thinking over the undeserved grievances which had fallen upon ourselves.
We had been moved by the charitable desire to do services to two
different persons,--to the learned Doctor and to the red-nosed drunkard,
and this had come of it! There had been nothing for us to gain by
assisting either the one or the other. We had taken infinite trouble,
attempting to bring together two men who wanted each other’s
services,--working hard in sheer benevolence;--and what had been the
result? We had spent half an hour on our knees in the undignified and
almost disreputable work of raking among Mrs. Mackenzie’s cinders, and
now we had to face the anger, the dismay, the reproach, and,--worse than
all,--the agony of the Doctor. As to Mackenzie,--we asserted to
ourselves again and again that nothing further could be done for him. He
had made his bed, and he must lie upon it; but, oh! why,--why had we
attempted to meddle with a being so degraded? We got out of the cab at
our office door, thinking of the Doctor’s countenance as we should see
it on the morrow. Our heart sank within us, and we asked ourselves, if
it was so bad with us now, how it would be with us when we returned to
the place on the following morning.

But on the following morning we did return. No doubt each individual
reader to whom we address ourselves has at some period felt that
indescribable load of personal, short-lived care, which causes the heart
to sink down into the boots. It is not great grief that does it;--nor is
it excessive fear; but the unpleasant operation comes from the mixture
of the two. It is the anticipation of some imperfectly-understood evil
that does it,--some evil out of which there might perhaps be an escape
if we could only see the way. In this case we saw no way out of it. The
Doctor was to be with us at one o’clock, and he would come with smiles,
expecting to meet his learned colleague. How should we break it to the
Doctor? We might indeed send to him, putting off the meeting, but the
advantage coming from that would be slight, if any. We must see the
injured Grecian sooner or later; and we had resolved, much as we feared,
that the evil hour should not be postponed. We spent an hour that
morning in arranging the fragments. Of the first volume about a third
had been destroyed. Of the second nearly every page had been either
burned or mutilated. Of the third but little had been injured.
Mackenzie’s own work had fared better than the Doctor’s; but there was
no comfort in that. After what had passed I thought it quite improbable
that the Doctor would make any use of Mackenzie’s work. So much of the
manuscript as could still be placed in continuous pages we laid out upon
the table, volume by volume,--that in the middle sinking down from its
original goodly bulk almost to the dimensions of a poor sermon;--and the
half-burned bits we left in the box. Then we sat ourselves down at our
accustomed table, and pretended to try to work. Our ears were very
sharp, and we heard the Doctor’s step upon our stairs within a minute or
two of the appointed time. Our heart went to the very toes of our
boots. We shuffled in our chair, rose from it, and sat down again,--and
were conscious that we were not equal to the occasion. Hitherto we had,
after some mild literary form, patronised the Doctor,--as a man of
letters in town will patronise his literary friend from the
country;--but we now feared him as a truant school-boy fears his master.
And yet it was so necessary that we should wear some air of
self-assurance!

In a moment he was with us, wearing that bland smile which we knew so
well, and which at the present moment almost overpowered us. We had been
sure that he would wear that smile, and had especially feared it. “Ah,”
said he, grasping us by the hand, “I thought I should have been late. I
see that our friend is not here yet.”

“Doctor,” we replied, “a great misfortune has happened.”

“A great misfortune! Mr. Mackenzie is not dead?”

“No;--he is not dead. Perhaps it would have been better that he had died
long since. He has destroyed your manuscript.” The Doctor’s face fell,
and his hands at the same time, and he stood looking at us. “I need not
tell you, Doctor, what my feelings are, and how great my remorse.”

“Destroyed it!” Then we took him by the hand and led him to the table.
He turned first upon the appetising and comparatively uninjured third
volume, and seemed to think that we had hoaxed him. “This is not
destroyed,” he said, with a smile. But before I could explain anything,
his hands were among the fragments in the box. “As I am a living man,
they have burned it!” he exclaimed. “I--I--I----” Then he turned from
us, and walked twice the length of the room, backwards and forwards,
while we stood still, patiently waiting the explosion of his wrath. “My
friend,” he said, when his walk was over, “a great man underwent the
same sorrow. Newton’s manuscript was burned. I will take it home with
me, and we will say no more about it.” I never thought very much of the
Doctor as a divine, but I hold him to have been as good a Christian as I
ever met.

But that plan of his of saying no more about it could not quite be
carried out. I was endeavouring to explain to him, as I thought it
necessary to do, the circumstances of the case, and he was protesting
his indifference to any such details, when there came a knock at the
door, and the boy who waited on us below ushered Mrs. Grimes into the
room. As the reader is aware, we had, during the last two months, become
very intimate with the landlady of the Spotted Dog, but we had never
hitherto had the pleasure of seeing her outside her own house. “Oh, Mr.
----” she began, and then she paused, seeing the Doctor.

We thought it expedient that there should be some introduction. “Mrs.
Grimes,” we said, “this is the gentleman whose invaluable manuscript has
been destroyed by that unfortunate drunkard.”

“Oh, then you’re the Doctor, Sir?” The Doctor bowed and smiled. His
heart must have been very heavy, but he bowed politely and smiled
sweetly. “Oh, dear,” she said, “I don’t know how to tell you!”

“To tell us what?” asked the Doctor.

“What has happened since?” we demanded. The woman stood shaking before
us, and then sank into a chair. Then arose to us at the moment some idea
that the drunken woman, in her mad rage, had done some great damage to
the Spotted Dog,--had set fire to the house, or injured Mr. Grimes
personally, or perhaps run a muck amidst the jugs and pitchers, window
glass, and gas lights. Something had been done which would give the
Grimeses a pecuniary claim on me or on the Doctor, and the woman had
been sent hither to make the first protest. Oh,--when should I see the
last of the results of my imprudence in having attempted to befriend
such a one as Julius Mackenzie! “If you have anything to tell, you had
better tell it,” we said, gravely.

“He’s been, and----”

“Not destroyed himself?” asked the Doctor.

“Oh yes, Sir. He have indeed,--from ear to ear,--and is now a lying at
the Spotted Dog!”

       *       *       *       *       *

And so, after all, that was the end of Julius Mackenzie! We need hardly
say that our feelings, which up to that moment had been very hostile to
the man, underwent a sudden revulsion. Poor, overburdened, struggling,
ill-used, abandoned creature! The world had been hard upon him, with a
severity which almost induced one to make complaint against Omnipotence.
The poor wretch had been willing to work, had been industrious in his
calling, had had capacity for work; and he had also struggled gallantly
against his evil fate, had recognised and endeavoured to perform his
duty to his children and to the miserable woman who had brought him to
his ruin!

And that sin of drunkenness had seemed to us to be in him rather the
reflex of her vice than the result of his own vicious tendencies. Still
it might be doubtful whether she had not learned the vice from him. They
had both in truth been drunkards as long as they had been known in the
neighbourhood of the Spotted Dog; but it was stated by all who had known
them there that he was never seen to be drunk unless when she had
disgraced him by the public exposure of her own abomination. Such as he
was he had now come to his end! This was the upshot of his loud claims
for liberty from his youth upwards;--liberty as against his father and
family; liberty as against his college tutor; liberty as against all
pastors, masters, and instructors; liberty as against the conventional
thraldom of the world. He was now lying a wretched corpse at the Spotted
Dog, with his throat cut from ear to ear, till the coroner’s jury should
have decided whether or not they would call him a suicide!

Mrs. Grimes had come to tell us that the coroner was to be at the
Spotted Dog at four o’clock, and to say that her husband hoped that we
would be present. We had seen Mackenzie so lately, and had so much to do
with the employment of the last days of his life, that we could not
refuse this request, though it came accompanied by no legal summons.
Then Mrs. Grimes again became voluble and poured out to us her
biography of Mackenzie as far as she knew it. He had been married to the
woman ten years, and certainly had been a drunkard before he married
her. “As for her, she’d been well-nigh suckled on gin,” said Mrs.
Grimes, “though he didn’t know it, poor fellow.” Whether this was true
or not, she had certainly taken to drink soon after her marriage, and
then his life had been passed in alternate fits of despondency and of
desperate efforts to improve his own condition and that of his children.
Mrs. Grimes declared to us that when the fit came on them,--when the
woman had begun and the man had followed,--they would expend upon drink
in two days what would have kept the family for a fortnight. “They say
as how it was nothing for them to swallow forty shillings’ worth of gin
in forty-eight hours.” The Doctor held up his hands in horror. “And it
didn’t, none of it, come our way,” said Mrs. Grimes. “Indeed, John
wouldn’t let us serve it for ’em.”

She sat there for half an hour, and during the whole time she was
telling us of the man’s life; but the reader will already have heard
more than enough of it. By what immediate demon the woman had been
instigated to burn the husband’s work almost immediately on its
production within her own home, we never heard. Doubtless there had
been some terrible scene in which the man’s sufferings must have been
carried almost beyond endurance. “And he had feelings, Sir, he had,”
said Mrs. Grimes; “he knew as a woman should be decent, and a man’s wife
especial; I’m sure we pitied him so, John and I, that we could have
cried over him. John would say a hard word to him at times, but he’d
have walked round London to do him a good turn. John aint to say
edicated hisself, but he do respect learning.”

When she had told us all, Mrs. Grimes went, and we were left alone with
the Doctor. He at once consented to accompany us to the Spotted Dog, and
we spent the hour that still remained to us in discussing the fate of
the unfortunate man. We doubt whether an allusion was made during the
time to the burned manuscript. If so, it was certainly not made by the
Doctor himself. The tragedy which had occurred in connection with it had
made him feel it to be unfitting even to mention his own loss. That such
a one should have gone to his account in such a manner, without hope,
without belief, and without fear,--as Burley said to Bothwell, and
Bothwell boasted to Burley,--that was the theme of the Doctor’s
discourse. “The mercy of God is infinite,” he said, bowing his head,
with closed eyes and folded hands. To threaten while the life is in the
man is human. To believe in the execution of those threats when the life
has passed away is almost beyond the power of humanity.

At the hour fixed we were at the Spotted Dog, and found there a crowd
assembled. The coroner was already seated in Mrs. Grimes’s little
parlour, and the body as we were told had been laid out in the tap-room.
The inquest was soon over. The fact that he had destroyed himself in the
low state of physical suffering and mental despondency which followed
his intoxication was not doubted. At the very time that he was doing it,
his wife was being taken from the lock-up house to the police office in
the police van. He was not penniless, for he had sent the children out
with money for their breakfasts, giving special caution as to the
youngest, a little toddling thing of three years old;--and then he had
done it. The eldest girl, returning to the house, had found him lying
dead upon the floor. We were called upon for our evidence, and went into
the tap-room accompanied by the Doctor. Alas! the very table which had
been dragged up stairs into the landlady’s bed-room with the charitable
object of assisting Mackenzie in his work,--the table at which we had
sat with him conning the Doctor’s pages--had now been dragged down again
and was used for another purpose. We had little to say as to the matter,
except that we had known the man to be industrious and capable, and that
we had, alas! seen him utterly prostrated by drink on the evening before
his death.

The saddest sight of all on this occasion was the appearance of
Mackenzie’s wife,--whom we had never before seen. She had been brought
there by a policeman, but whether she was still in custody we did not
know. She had been dressed, either by the decency of the police or by
the care of her neighbours, in an old black gown, which was a world too
large and too long for her. And on her head there was a black bonnet
which nearly enveloped her. She was a small woman, and, as far as we
could judge from the glance we got of her face, pale, and worn, and wan.
She had not such outward marks of a drunkard’s career as those which
poor Mackenzie always carried with him. She was taken up to the coroner,
and what answers she gave to him were spoken in so low a voice that they
did not reach us. The policeman, with whom we spoke, told us that she
did not feel it much,--that she was callous now and beyond the power of
mental suffering. “She’s frightened just this minute, Sir; but it isn’t
more than that,” said the policeman. We gave one glance along the table
at the burden which it bore, but we saw nothing beyond the outward lines
of that which had so lately been the figure of a man. We should have
liked to see the countenance once more. The morbid curiosity to see such
horrid sights is strong with most of us. But we did not wish to be
thought to wish to see it,--especially by our friend the Doctor,--and we
abstained from pushing our way to the head of the table. The Doctor
himself remained quiescent in the corner of the room the farthest from
the spectacle. When the matter was submitted to them, the jury lost not
a moment in declaring their verdict. They said that the man had
destroyed himself while suffering under temporary insanity produced by
intoxication. And that was the end of Julius Mackenzie, the scholar.

On the following day the Doctor returned to the country, taking with him
our black box, to the continued use of which, as a sarcophagus, he had
been made very welcome. For our share in bringing upon him the great
catastrophe of his life, he never uttered to us, either by spoken or
written word, a single reproach. That idea of suffering as the great
philosopher had suffered seemed to comfort him. “If Newton bore it,
surely I can,” he said to us with his bland smile, when we renewed the
expression of our regret. Something passed between us, coming more from
us than from him, as to the expediency of finding out some youthful
scholar who could go down to the rectory, and reconstruct from its ruins
the edifice of our friend’s learning. The Doctor had given us some
encouragement, and we had begun to make enquiry, when we received the
following letter:--

“---- Rectory, ---- ----, 18--.

     “DEAR MR. ----, --You were so kind as to say that you would
     endeavour to find for me an assistant in arranging and
     reconstructing the fragments of my work on The Metres of the Greek
     Dramatists. Your promise has been an additional kindness.” Dear,
     courteous, kind old gentleman! For we knew well that no slightest
     sting of sarcasm was intended to be conveyed in these words. “Your
     promise has been an additional kindness; but looking upon the
     matter carefully, and giving to it the best consideration in my
     power, I have determined to relinquish the design. That which has
     been destroyed cannot be replaced; and it may well be that it was
     not worth replacing. I am old now, and never could do again that
     which perhaps I was never fitted to do with any fair prospect of
     success. I will never turn again to the ashes of my unborn child;
     but will console myself with the memory of my grievance, knowing
     well, as I do so, that consolation from the severity of harsh but
     just criticism might have been more difficult to find. When I think
     of the end of my efforts as a scholar, my mind reverts to the
     terrible and fatal catastrophe of one whose scholarship was
     infinitely more finished and more ripe than mine.

     “Whenever it may suit you to come into this part of the country,
     pray remember that it will give very great pleasure to myself and
     to my daughter to welcome you at our parsonage.

“Believe me to be,

  “My dear Mr. ----,

    “Yours very sincerely,

      “---- ----.”



We never have found the time to accept the Doctor’s invitation, and our
eyes have never again rested on the black box containing the ashes of
the unborn child to which the Doctor will never turn again. We can
picture him to ourselves standing, full of thought, with his hand upon
the lid, but never venturing to turn the lock. Indeed, we do not doubt
but that the key of the box is put away among other secret treasures, a
lock of his wife’s hair, perhaps, and the little shoe of the boy who did
not live long enough to stand at his father’s knee. For a tender,
soft-hearted man was the Doctor, and one who fed much on the memories of
the past.

We often called upon Mr. and Mrs. Grimes at the Spotted Dog, and would
sit there talking of Mackenzie and his family. Mackenzie’s widow soon
vanished out of the neighbourhood, and no one there knew what was the
fate of her or of her children. And then also Mr. Grimes went and took
his wife with him. But they could not be said to vanish. Scratching his
head one day, he told me with a dolorous voice that he had--made his
fortune. “We’ve got as snug a little place as ever you see, just two
mile out of Colchester,” said Mrs. Grimes triumphantly,--“with thirty
acres of land just to amuse John. And as for the Spotted Dog, I’m that
sick of it, another year’d wear me to a dry bone.” We looked at her, and
saw no tendency that way. And we looked at John, and thought that he was
not triumphant.

Who followed Mr. and Mrs. Grimes at the Spotted Dog we have never
visited Liquorpond Street to see.



MRS. BRUMBY.



[Illustration]



MRS. BRUMBY.


We think that we are justified in asserting that of all the persons with
whom we have been brought in contact in the course of our editorial
experiences, men or women, boys or girls, Mrs. Brumby was the most
hateful and the most hated. We are sure of this,--that for some months
she was the most feared, during which period she made life a burden to
us, and more than once induced us to calculate whether it would not be
well that we should abandon our public duties and retire to some private
corner into which it would be impossible that Mrs. Brumby should follow
us. Years have rolled on since then, and we believe that Mrs. Brumby has
gone before the great Judge and been called upon to account for the
injuries she did us. We know that she went from these shores to a
distant land when her nefarious projects failed at home. She was then by
no means a young woman. We never could find that she left relative or
friend behind her, and we know of none now, except those close and
dearest friends of our own who supported us in our misery, who remember
even that she existed. Whether she be alive or whether she be dead, her
story shall be told,--not in a spirit of revenge, but with strict
justice.

What there was in her of good shall be set down with honesty; and indeed
there was much in her that was good. She was energetic, full of
resources, very brave, constant, devoted to the interests of the poor
creature whose name she bore, and by no means a fool. She was utterly
unscrupulous, dishonest, a liar, cruel, hard as a nether mill-stone to
all the world except Lieutenant Brumby,--harder to him than to all the
world besides when he made any faintest attempt at rebellion,--and as
far as we could judge, absolutely without conscience. Had she been a man
and had circumstances favoured her, she might have been a prime
minister, or an archbishop, or a chief justice. We intend no silly
satire on present or past holders of the great offices indicated; but we
think that they have generally been achieved by such a combination of
intellect, perseverance, audacity, and readiness as that which Mrs.
Brumby certainly possessed. And that freedom from the weakness of
scruple,--which in men who have risen in public life we may perhaps call
adaptability to compromise,--was in her so strong, that had she been a
man, she would have trimmed her bark to any wind that blew, and
certainly have sailed into some port. But she was a woman,--and the
ports were not open to her.

Those ports were not open to her which had she been a man would have
been within her reach; but,--fortunately for us and for the world at
large as to the general question, though so very unfortunately as
regarded this special case,--the port of literature is open to women. It
seems to be the only really desirable harbour to which a female captain
can steer her vessel with much hope of success. There are the Fine Arts,
no doubt. There seems to be no reason why a woman should not paint as
well as Titian. But they don’t. With the pen they hold their own, and
certainly run a better race against men on that course than on any
other. Mrs. Brumby, who was very desirous of running a race and winning
a place, and who had seen all this, put on her cap, and jacket, and
boots, chose her colours, and entered her name. Why, oh why, did she
select the course upon which we, wretched we, were bound by our duties
to regulate the running?

We may as well say at once that though Mrs. Brumby might have made a
very good prime minister, she could not write a paper for a magazine, or
produce literary work of any description that was worth paper and ink.
We feel sure that we may declare without hesitation that no perseverance
on her part, no labour however unswerving, no training however long,
would have enabled her to do in a fitting manner even a review for the
“Literary Curricle.” There was very much in her, but that was not in
her. We find it difficult to describe the special deficiency under which
she laboured;--but it existed and was past remedy. As a man suffering
from a chronic stiff joint cannot run, and cannot hope to run, so was it
with her. She could not combine words so as to make sentences, or
sentences so as to make paragraphs. She did not know what style meant.
We believe that had she ever read, Johnson, Gibbon, Archdeacon Coxe, Mr.
Grote, and Macaulay would have been all the same to her. And yet this
woman chose literature as her profession, and clung to it for awhile
with a persistence which brought her nearer to the rewards of success
than many come who are at all points worthy to receive them.

We have said that she was not a young woman when we knew her. We cannot
fancy her to have been ever young. We cannot bring our imagination to
picture to ourselves the person of Mrs. Brumby surrounded by the
advantages of youth. When we knew her she may probably have been forty
or forty-five, and she then possessed a rigidity of demeanour and a
sternness of presence which we think must have become her better than
any softer guise or more tender phase of manner could ever have done in
her earlier years. There was no attempt about her to disguise or modify
her sex, such as women have made since those days. She talked much about
her husband, the lieutenant, and she wore a double roll of very stiff
dark brown curls on each side of her face,--or rather over her
brows,--which would not have been worn by a woman meaning to throw off
as far as possible her femininity. Whether those curls were or were not
artificial we never knew. Our male acquaintances who saw her used to
swear that they were false, but a lady who once saw her, assured us that
they were real. She told us that there is a kind of hair growing on the
heads of some women, thick, short, crisp, and shiny, which will
maintain its curl unbroken and unruffled for days. She told us, also,
that women blessed with such hair are always pachy-dermatous and
strong-minded. Such certainly was the character of Mrs. Brumby. She was
a tall, thin woman, not very tall or very thin. For aught that we can
remember, her figure may have been good;--but we do remember well that
she never seemed to us to have any charm of womanhood. There was a
certain fire in her dark eyes,--eyes which were, we think, quite
black,--but it was the fire of contention and not of love. Her features
were well formed, her nose somewhat long, and her lips thin, and her
face too narrow, perhaps, for beauty. Her chin was long, and the space
from her nose to her upper lip was long. She always carried a
well-wearing brown complexion;--a complexion with which no man had a
right to find fault, but which, to a pondering, speculative man,
produced unconsciously a consideration whether, in a matter of kissing,
an ordinary mahogany table did not offer a preferable surface. When we
saw her she wore, we think always, a dark stuff dress,--a fur tippet in
winter and a most ill-arranged shawl in summer,--and a large commanding
bonnet, which grew in our eyes till it assumed all the attributes of a
helmet,--inspiring that reverence and creating that fear which
Minerva’s headgear is intended to produce. When we add our conviction
that Mrs. Brumby trusted nothing to female charms, that she neither
suffered nor enjoyed anything from female vanity, and that the
lieutenant was perfectly safe, let her roam the world alone, as she
might, in search of editors, we shall have said enough to introduce the
lady to our readers.

Of her early life, or their early lives, we know nothing; but the
unfortunate circumstances which brought us into contact with Mrs.
Brumby, made us also acquainted with the lieutenant. The lieutenant, we
think, was younger than his wife;--a good deal younger we used to
imagine, though his looks may have been deceptive. He was a confirmed
invalid, and there are phases of ill-health which give an appearance of
youthfulness rather than of age. What was his special ailing we never
heard,--though, as we shall mention further on, we had our own idea on
that subject; but he was always spoken of in our hearing as one who
always had been ill, who always was ill, who always would be ill, and
who never ought to think of getting well. He had been in some regiment
called the Duke of Sussex’s Own, and his wife used to imagine that her
claims upon the public as a woman of literature were enhanced by the
royalty of her husband’s corps. We never knew her attempt to make any
other use whatever of his services. He was not confined to his bed, and
could walk at any rate about the house; but she never asked him, or
allowed him to do anything. Whether he ever succeeded in getting his
face outside the door we do not know. He wore, when we saw him, an old
dressing-gown and slippers. He was a pale, slight, light-haired man, and
we fancy that he took a delight in novels.

Their settled income consisted of his half-pay and some very small
property which belonged to her. Together they might perhaps have
possessed £150 per annum. When we knew them they had lodgings in Harpur
Street, near Theobald’s Road, and she had resolved to push her way in
London as a woman of literature. She had been told that she would have
to deal with hard people, and that she must herself be hard;--that
advantage would be taken of her weakness, and that she must therefore
struggle vehemently to equal the strength of those with whom she would
be brought in contact;--that editors, publishers, and brother authors
would suck her brains and give her nothing for them, and that,
therefore, she must get what she could out of them, giving them as
little as possible in return. It was an evil lesson that she had
learned; but she omitted nothing in the performance of the duties which
that lesson imposed upon her.

She first came to us with a pressing introduction from an acquaintance
of ours who was connected with a weekly publication called the “Literary
Curricle.” The “Literary Curricle” was not in our estimation a strong
paper, and we will own that we despised it. We did not think very much
of the acquaintance by whom the strong introductory letter was written.
But Mrs. Brumby forced herself into our presence with the letter in her
hand, and before she left us extracted from us a promise that we would
read a manuscript which she pulled out of a bag which she carried with
her. Of that first interview a short account shall be given, but it must
first be explained that the editor of the “Literary Curricle” had
received Mrs. Brumby with another letter from another editor, whom she
had first taken by storm without any introduction whatever. This first
gentleman, whom we had not the pleasure of knowing, had, under what
pressure we who knew the lady can imagine, printed three or four short
paragraphs from Mrs. Brumby’s pen. Whether they reached publication we
never could learn, but we saw the printed slips. He, however, passed
her on to the “Literary Curricle,”--which dealt almost exclusively in
the reviewing of books,--and our friend at the office of that
influential “organ” sent her to us with an intimation that her very
peculiar and well-developed talents were adapted rather for the creation
of tales, or the composition of original treatises, than for reviewing.
The letter was very strong, and we learned afterwards that Mrs. Brumby
had consented to abandon her connection with the “Literary Curricle”
only on the receipt of a letter in her praise that should be very strong
indeed. She rejected the two first offered to her, and herself dictated
the epithets with which the third was loaded. On no other terms would
she leave the office of the “Literary Curricle.”

We cannot say that the letter, strong as it was, had much effect upon
us; but this effect it had perhaps,--that after reading it we could not
speak to the lady with that acerbity which we might have used had she
come to us without it. As it was we were not very civil, and began our
intercourse by assuring her that we could not avail ourselves of her
services. Having said so, and observing that she still kept her seat, we
rose from our chair, being well aware how potent a spell that movement
is wont to exercise upon visitors who are unwilling to go. She kept her
seat and argued the matter out with us. A magazine such as that which we
then conducted must, she surmised, require depth of erudition, keenness
of intellect, grasp of hand, force of expression, and lightness of
touch. That she possessed all these gifts she had, she alleged, brought
to us convincing evidence. There was the letter from the editor of the
“Literary Curricle,” with which she had been long connected, declaring
the fact! Did we mean to cast doubt upon the word of our own intimate
friend? For the gentleman at the office of the “Literary Curricle” had
written to us as “Dear ----,” though as far as we could remember we had
never spoken half-a-dozen words to him in our life. Then she repeated
the explanation, given by her godfather, of the abrupt termination of
the close connection which had long existed between her and the
“Curricle.” She could not bring herself to waste her energies in the
reviewing of books. At that moment we certainly did believe that she had
been long engaged on the “Curricle,” though there was certainly not a
word in our correspondent’s letter absolutely stating that to be the
fact. He declared to us her capabilities and excellences, but did not
say that he had ever used them himself. Indeed, he told us that great
as they were, they were hardly suited for his work. She, before she had
left us on that occasion, had committed herself to positive falsehoods.
She boasted of the income she had earned from two periodicals, whereas
up to that moment she had never received a shilling for what she had
written.

We find it difficult, even after so many years,--when the shame of the
thing has worn off together with the hairs of our head,--to explain how
it was that we allowed her to get, in the first instance, any hold upon
us. We did not care a brass farthing for the man who had written from
the “Literary Curricle.” His letter to us was an impertinence, and we
should have stated as much to Mrs. Brumby had we cared to go into such
matter with her. And our first feelings with regard to the lady herself
were feelings of dislike,--and almost of contempt even, though we did
believe that she had been a writer for the press. We disliked her nose,
and her lips, and her bonnet, and the colour of her face. We didn’t want
her. Though we were very much younger then than we are now, we had
already learned to set our backs up against strong-minded female
intruders. As we said before, we rose from our chair with the idea of
banishing her, not absolutely uncivilly, but altogether unceremoniously.
It never occurred to us during that meeting that she could be of any
possible service to us, or that we should ever be of any slightest
service to her. Nevertheless she had extracted from us a great many
words, and had made a great many observations herself before she left
us.

When a man speaks a great many words it is impossible that he should
remember what they all were. That we told Mrs. Brumby on that occasion
that we did not doubt but that we would use the manuscript which she
left in our hands, we are quite sure was not true. We never went so near
making a promise in our lives,--even when pressed by youth and
beauty,--and are quite sure that what we did say to Mrs. Brumby was by
no means near akin to this. That we undertook to read the manuscript we
think probable, and therein lay our first fault,--the unfortunate slip
from which our future troubles sprang, and grew to such terrible
dimensions. We cannot now remember how the hated parcel, the abominable
roll, came into our hands. We do remember the face and form and figure
of the woman as she brought it out of the large reticule which she
carried, and we remember also how we put our hands behind us to avoid
it, as she presented it to us. We told her flatly that we did not want
it, and would not have it;--and yet it came into our hands! We think
that it must have been placed close to our elbow, and that, being used
to such playthings, we took it up. We know that it was in our hands, and
that we did not know how to rid ourselves of it when she began to tell
us the story of the lieutenant. We were hard-hearted enough to inform
her,--as we have, under perhaps lesser compulsion, informed others
since,--that the distress of the man or of the woman should never be
accepted as a reason for publishing the works of the writer. She
answered us gallantly enough that she had never been weak enough or
foolish enough so to think “I base my claim to attention,” she said, “on
quite another ground. Do not suppose, Sir, that I am appealing to your
pity. I scorn to do so. But I wish you should know my position as a
married woman, and that you should understand that my husband, though
unfortunately an invalid, has been long attached to a regiment which is
peculiarly the Duke of Sussex’s own. You cannot but be aware of the
connection which His Royal Highness has long maintained with
literature.”

Mrs. Brumby could not write, but she could speak. The words she had just
uttered were absolutely devoid of sense. The absurdity of them was
ludicrous and gross. But they were not without a certain efficacy. They
did not fill us with any respect for her literary capacity because of
her connection with the Duke of Sussex, but they did make us feel that
she was able to speak up for herself. We are told sometimes that the
world accords to a man that treatment which he himself boldly demands;
and though the statement seems to be monstrous, there is much truth in
it. When Mrs. Brumby spoke of her husband’s regiment being “peculiarly
the Duke of Sussex’s own,” she used a tone which compelled from us more
courtesy than we had hitherto shown her. We knew that the duke was
neither a man of letters nor a warrior, though he had a library, and, as
we were now told, a regiment. Had he been both, his being so would have
formed no legitimate claim for Mrs. Brumby upon us. But, nevertheless,
the royal duke helped her to win her way. It was not his royalty, but
her audacity that was prevailing. She sat with us for more than an hour;
and when she left us the manuscript was with us, and we had no doubt
undertaken to read it. We are perfectly certain that at that time we had
not gone beyond this in the way of promising assistance to Mrs. Brumby.

The would-be author, who cannot make his way either by intellect or
favour, can hardly do better, perhaps, than establish a grievance. Let
there be anything of a case of ill-usage against editor or publisher,
and the aspirant, if he be energetic and unscrupulous, will greatly
increase his chance of working his way into print. Mrs. Brumby was both
energetic and unscrupulous, and she did establish her grievance. As soon
as she brought her first visit to a close, the roll, which was still in
our hands, was chucked across our table to a corner commodiously
supported by the wall, so that occasionally there was accumulated in it
a heap of such unwelcome manuscripts. In the doing of this, in the
moment of our so chucking the parcel, it was always our conscientious
intention to make a clearance of the whole heap, at the very furthest,
by the end of the week. We knew that strong hopes were bound up in those
various little packets, that eager thoughts were imprisoned there the
owners of which believed that they were endowed with wings fit for
aërial soaring, that young hearts,--ay, and old hearts, too,--sore with
deferred hope, were waiting to know whether their aspirations might now
be realised, whether those azure wings might at last be released from
bondage and allowed to try their strength in the broad sunlight of
public favour. We think, too, that we had a conscience; and, perhaps,
the heap was cleared as frequently as are the heaps of other editors.
But there it would grow, in the commodious corner of our big table, too
often for our own peace of mind. The aspect of each individual little
parcel would be known to us, and we would allow ourselves to fancy that
by certain external signs we could tell the nature of the interior. Some
of them would promise well,--so well as to create even almost an
appetite for their perusal. But there would be others from which we
would turn with aversion, which we seemed to abhor, which, when we
handled the heap, our fingers would refuse to touch, and which, thus
lying there neglected and ill-used, would have the dust of many days
added to those other marks which inspired disgust. We confess that as
soon as Mrs. Brumby’s back was turned her roll was sent in upon this
heap with that determined force which a strong feeling of dislike can
lend even to a man’s little finger. And there it lay for,--perhaps a
fortnight. When during that period we extracted first one packet and
then another for judgment, we would still leave Mrs. Brumby’s roll
behind in the corner. On such occasions a pang of conscience will touch
the heart; some idea of neglected duty will be present to the mind; a
silent promise will perhaps be made that it shall be the next; some
momentary sudden resolve will be half formed that for the future a rigid
order of succession shall be maintained, which no favour shall be
allowed to infringe. But, alas! when the hand is again at work
selecting, the odious ugly thing is left behind, till at last it becomes
infested with strange terrors, with an absolute power of its own, and
the guilty conscience will become afraid. All this happened in regard to
Mrs. Brumby’s manuscript. “Dear, dear, yes;--Mrs. Brumby!” we would
catch ourselves exclaiming with that silent inward voice which
occasionally makes itself audible to most of us. And then, quite
silently, without even whispered violence, we would devote Mrs. Brumby
to the infernal gods. And so the packet remained amidst the
heap,--perhaps for a fortnight.

“There’s a lady waiting in your room, Sir!” This was said to us one
morning on our reaching our office by the lad whom we used to call our
clerk. He is now managing a red-hot Tory newspaper down in Barsetshire,
has a long beard, a flaring eye, a round belly, and is upon the whole
the most arrogant personage we know. In the days of Mrs. Brumby he was a
little wizened fellow about eighteen years old, but looking three years
younger, modest, often almost dumb, and in regard to ourselves not only
reverential but timid. We turned upon him in great anger. What business
had any woman to be in our room in our absence? Were not our orders on
this subject exact and very urgent? Was he not kept at an expense of
14_s._ a week,--we did not actually throw the amount in his teeth, but
such was intended to be the effect of our rebuke,--at 14_s._ a week,
paid out of our own pocket,--nominally, indeed, as a clerk, but chiefly
for the very purpose of keeping female visitors out of our room? And
now, in our absence and in his, there was actually a woman among the
manuscripts! We felt from the first moment that it was Mrs. Brumby.

With bated breath and downcast eyes the lad explained to us his
inability to exclude her. “She walked straight in, right over me,” he
said; “and as for being alone,--she hasn’t been alone. I haven’t left
her, not a minute.”

We walked at once into our own room, feeling how fruitless it was to
discuss the matter further with the boy in the passage, and there we
found Mrs. Brumby seated in the chair opposite to our own. We had
gathered ourselves up, if we may so describe an action which was purely
mental, with a view to severity. We thought that her intrusion was
altogether unwarrantable, and that it behoved us to let her know that
such was the case. We entered the room with a clouded brow, and intended
that she should read our displeasure in our eyes. But Mrs. Brumby
could,--“gather herself up,” quite as well as we could do, and she did
so. She also could call clouds to her forehead and could flash anger
from her eyes. “Madam,” we exclaimed, as we paused for a moment, and
looked at her.

But she cared nothing for our “Madam,” and condescended to no apology.
Rising from her chair, she asked us why we had not kept the promise we
had made her to use her article in our next number. We don’t know how
far our readers will understand all that was included in this
accusation. Use her contribution in our next number! It had never
occurred to us as probable, or hardly as possible, that we should use it
in any number. Our eye glanced at the heap to see whether her fingers
had been at work, but we perceived that the heap had not been touched.
We have always flattered ourselves that no one can touch our heap
without our knowing it. She saw the motion of our eye, and at once
understood it. Mrs. Brumby, no doubt, possessed great intelligence, and,
moreover, a certain majesty of demeanour. There was always something of
the helmet of Minerva in the bonnet which she wore. Her shawl was an old
shawl, but she was never ashamed of it; and she could always put herself
forward, as though there were nothing behind her to be concealed, the
concealing of which was a burden to her. “I cannot suppose,” she said,
“that my paper has been altogether neglected!”

We picked out the roll with all the audacity we could assume, and
proceeded to explain how very much in error she was in supposing that we
had ever even hinted at its publication. We had certainly said that we
would read it, mentioning no time. We never did mention any time in
making any such promise. “You named a week, Sir,” said Mrs. Brumby, “and
now a month has passed by. You assured me that it would be accepted
unless returned within seven days. Of course it will be accepted now.”
We contradicted her flatly. We explained, we protested, we threatened.
We endeavoured to put the manuscript into her hand, and made a faint
attempt to stick it into her bag. She was indignant, dignified, and
very strong. She said nothing on that occasion about legal proceedings,
but stuck manfully to her assertion that we had bound ourselves to
decide upon her manuscript within a week. “Do you think, Sir,” said she,
“that I would entrust the very essence of my brain to the keeping of a
stranger, without some such assurance as that?” We acknowledged that we
had undertaken to read the paper, but again disowned the week. “And how
long would you be justified in taking?” demanded Mrs. Brumby. “If a
month, why not a year? Does it not occur to you, Sir, that when the very
best of my intellect, my inmost thoughts, lie there at your disposal,”
and she pointed to the heap, “it may be possible that a property has
been confided to you too valuable to justify neglect? Had I given you a
ring to keep you would have locked it up, but the best jewels of my mind
are left to the tender mercies of your charwoman.” What she said was
absolutely nonsense,--abominable, villanous trash; but she said it so
well that we found ourselves apologising for our own misconduct. There
had perhaps been a little undue delay. In our peculiar business such
would occasionally occur. When we had got to this, any expression of our
wrath at her intrusion was impossible. As we entered the room we had
intended almost to fling her manuscript at her head. We now found
ourselves handling it almost affectionately while we expressed regret
for our want of punctuality. Mrs. Brumby was gracious, and pardoned us,
but her forgiveness was not of the kind which denotes the intention of
the injured one to forget as well as forgive the trespass. She had
suffered from us a great injustice; but she would say no more on that
score now, on the condition that we would at once attend to her essay.
She thrice repeated the words, “at once,” and she did so without rebuke
from us. And then she made us a proposition, the like of which never
reached us before or since. Would we fix an hour within the next day or
two at which we would call upon her in Harpur Street and arrange as to
terms? The lieutenant, she said, would be delighted to make our
acquaintance. Call upon her!--upon Mrs. Brumby! Travel to Harpur Street,
Theobald’s Road, on the business of a chance bit of scribbling, which
was wholly indifferent to us except in so far as it was a trouble to us!
And then we were invited to make arrangements as to terms! Terms!! Had
the owner of the most illustrious lips in the land offered to make us
known in those days to the partner of her greatness, she could not have
done so with more assurance that she was conferring on us an honour,
than was assumed by Mrs. Brumby when she proposed to introduce us to the
lieutenant.

When many wrongs are concentrated in one short speech, and great
injuries inflicted by a few cleverly-combined words, it is generally
difficult to reply so that some of the wrongs shall not pass unnoticed.
We cannot always be so happy as was Mr. John Robinson, when in saying
that he hadn’t been “dead at all,” he did really say everything that the
occasion required. We were so dismayed by the proposition that we should
go to Harpur Street, so hurt in our own personal dignity, that we lost
ourselves in endeavouring to make it understood that such a journey on
our part was quite out of the question. “Were we to do that, Mrs.
Brumby, we should live in cabs and spend our entire days in making
visits.” She smiled at us as we endeavoured to express our indignation,
and said something as to circumstances being different in different
cases;--something also, if we remember right, she hinted as to the
intelligence needed for discovering the differences. She left our office
quicker than we had expected, saying that as we could not afford to
spend our time in cabs she would call again on the day but one
following. Her departure was almost abrupt, but she went apparently in
good-humour. It never occurred to us at the moment to suspect that she
hurried away before we should have had time to repudiate certain
suggestions which she had made.

When we found ourselves alone with the roll of paper in our hands, we
were very angry with Mrs. Brumby, but almost more angry with ourselves.
We were in no way bound to the woman, and yet she had in some degree
substantiated a claim upon us. We piqued ourselves specially on never
making any promise beyond the vaguest assurance that this or that
proposed contribution should receive consideration at some altogether
undefined time; but now we were positively pledged to read Mrs. Brumby’s
effusion and have our verdict ready by the day after to-morrow. We were
wont, too, to keep ourselves much secluded from strangers; and here was
Mrs. Brumby, who had already been with us twice, positively entitled to
a third audience. We had been scolded, and then forgiven, and then
ridiculed by a woman who was old, and ugly, and false! And there was
present to us a conviction that though she was old, and ugly, and false,
Mrs. Brumby was no ordinary woman. Perhaps it might be that she was
really qualified to give us valuable assistance in regard to the
magazine, as to which we must own we were sometimes driven to use
matter that was not quite so brilliant as, for our readers’ sakes, we
would have wished it to be. We feel ourselves compelled to admit that
old and ugly women, taken on the average, do better literary work than
they who are young and pretty. I did not like Mrs. Brumby, but it might
be that in her the age would find another De Staël. So thinking, we cut
the little string, and had the manuscript open in our own hands. We
cannot remember whether she had already indicated to us the subject of
the essay, but it was headed, “Costume in 18--.” There were perhaps
thirty closely-filled pages, of which we read perhaps a third. The
handwriting was unexceptionable, orderly, clean, and legible; but the
matter was undeniable twaddle. It proffered advice to women that they
should be simple, and to men that they should be cleanly in their
attire. Anything of less worth for the purpose of amusement or of
instruction could not be imagined. There was, in fact, nothing in it. It
has been our fate to look at a great many such essays, and to cause them
at once either to be destroyed or returned. There could be no doubt at
all as to Mrs. Brumby’s essay.

She came punctual as the clock. As she seated herself in our chair and
made some remark as to her hope that we were satisfied, we felt
something like fear steal across our bosom. We were about to give
offence, and dreaded the arguments that would follow. It was, however,
quite clear that we could not publish Mrs. Brumby’s essay on Costume,
and therefore, though she looked more like Minerva now than ever, we
must go through our task. We told her in half-a-dozen words that we had
read the paper, and that it would not suit our columns.

“Not suit your columns!” she said, looking at us by no means in sorrow,
but in great anger. “You do not mean to trifle with me like that after
all you have made me suffer?” We protested that we were responsible for
none of her sufferings. “Sir,” she said, “when I was last here you owned
the wrong you had done me.” We felt that we must protest against this,
and we rose in our wrath. There were two of us angry now.

“Madam,” we said, “you have kindly offered us your essay, and we have
courteously declined it. You will allow us to say that this must end the
matter.” There were allusions here to kindness and courtesy, but the
reader will understand that the sense of the words was altogether
changed by the tone of the voice.

“Indeed, Sir, the matter will not be ended so. If you think that your
position will enable you to trample upon those who make literature
really a profession, you are very much mistaken.”

“Mrs. Brumby,” we said, “we can give you no other answer, and as our
time is valuable----”

“Time valuable!” she exclaimed,--and as she stood up an artist might
have taken her for a model of Minerva had she only held a spear in her
hand. “And is no time valuable, do you think, but yours? I had, Sir,
your distinct promise that the paper should be published if it was left
in your hands above a week.”

“That is untrue, Madam.”

“Untrue, Sir?”

“Absolutely untrue.” Mrs. Brumby was undoubtedly a woman, and might be
very like a goddess, but we were not going to allow her to palm off upon
us without flat contradiction so absolute a falsehood as that. “We never
dreamed of publishing your paper.”

“Then why, Sir, have you troubled yourself to read it,--from the
beginning to the end?” We had certainly intimated that we had made
ourselves acquainted with the entire essay, but we had in fact skimmed
and skipped through about a third of it.

“How dare you say, Sir, you have never dreamed of publishing it, when
you know that you studied it with that view?”

“We didn’t read it all,” we said, “but we read quite enough.”

“And yet but this moment ago you told me that you had perused it
carefully.” The word peruse we certainly never used in our life. We
object to “perusing,” as we do to “commencing” and “performing.” We
“read,” and we “begin,” and we “do.” As to that assurance which the word
“carefully” would intend to convey, we believe that we were to that
extent guilty. “I think, Sir,” she continued, “that you had better see
the lieutenant.”

“With a view to fighting the gentleman?” we asked.

“No, Sir. An officer in the Duke of Sussex’s Own draws his sword against
no enemy so unworthy of his steel.” She had told me at a former
interview that the lieutenant was so confirmed an invalid as to be
barely able, on his best days, to drag himself out of bed. “One fights
with one’s equal, but the law gives redress from injury, whether it be
inflicted by equal, by superior, or by,--INFERIOR.” And Mrs. Brumby, as
she uttered the last word, wagged her helmet at us in a manner which
left no doubt as to the position which she assigned to us.

It became clearly necessary that an end should be put to an intercourse
which had become so very unpleasant. We told our Minerva very plainly
that we must beg her to leave us. There is, however, nothing more
difficult to achieve than the expulsion of a woman who is unwilling to
quit the place she occupies. We remember to have seen a lady take
possession of a seat in a mail coach to which she was not entitled, and
which had been booked and paid for by another person. The agent for the
coaching business desired her with many threats to descend, but she
simply replied that the journey to her was a matter of such moment that
she felt herself called upon to keep her place. The agent sent the
coachman to pull her out. The coachman threatened,--with his hands as
well as with his words,--and then set the guard at her. The guard
attacked her with inflamed visage and fearful words about Her Majesty’s
mails, and then set the ostlers at her. We thought the ostlers were
going to handle her roughly, but it ended by their scratching their
heads, and by a declaration on the part of one of them that she was “the
rummest go he’d ever seen.” She was a woman, and they couldn’t touch
her. A policeman was called upon for assistance, who offered to lock her
up, but he could only do so if allowed to lock up the whole coach as
well. It was ended by the production of another coach, by an exchange of
the luggage and passengers, by a delay of two hours, and an embarrassing
possession of the original vehicle by the lady in the midst of a crowd
of jeering boys and girls. We could tell Mrs. Brumby to go, and we could
direct our boy to open the door, and we could make motions indicatory of
departure with our left hand, but we could not forcibly turn her out of
the room. She asked us for the name of our lawyer, and we did write down
for her on a slip of paper the address of a most respectable firm, whom
we were pleased to regard as our attorneys, but who had never yet earned
six and eightpence from the magazine. Young Sharp, of the firm of Sharp
and Butterwell, was our friend, and would no doubt see to the matter for
us should it be necessary;--but we could not believe that the woman
would be so foolish. She made various assertions to us as to her
position in the world of literature, and it was on this occasion that
she brought out those printed slips which we have before mentioned. She
offered to refer the matter in dispute between us to the arbitration of
the editor of the “Curricle;” and when we indignantly declined such
interference, protesting that there was no matter in dispute, she again
informed us that if we thought to trample upon her we were very much
mistaken. Then there occurred a little episode which moved us to
laughter in the midst of our wrath. Our boy, in obedience to our
pressing commands that he should usher Mrs. Brumby out of our presence,
did lightly touch her arm. Feeling the degradation of the assault,
Minerva swung round upon the unfortunate lad and gave him a box on the
ear which we’ll be bound the editor of the “West Barsetshire Gazette”
remembers to this day. “Madam,” we said, as soon as we had swallowed
down the first involuntary attack of laughter, “if you conduct yourself
in this manner we must send for the police.”

“Do, Sir, if you dare,” replied Minerva, “and every man of letters in
the metropolis shall hear of your conduct.” There was nothing in her
threat to move us, but we confess that we were uncomfortable. “Before I
leave you, Sir,” she said, “I will give you one more chance. Will you
perform your contract with me and accept my contribution?”

“Certainly not,” we replied. She afterwards quoted this answer as
admitting a contract.

We are often told that everything must come to an end,--and there was an
end at last to Mrs. Brumby’s visit. She went from us with an assurance
that she should at once return home, pick up the lieutenant,--hinting
that the exertion, caused altogether by our wickedness, might be the
death of that gallant officer,--and go with him direct to her attorney.
The world of literature should hear of the terrible injustice which had
been done to her, and the courts of law should hear of it too.

We confess that we were grievously annoyed. By the time that Mrs. Brumby
had left the premises, our clerk had gone also. He had rushed off to the
nearest police-court to swear an information against her on account of
the box on the ear which she had given him, and we were unable to leave
our desk till he had returned. We found that for the present the doing
of any work in our line of business was quite out of the question. A
calm mind is required for the critical reading of manuscripts, and whose
mind could be calm after such insults as those we had received? We sat
in our chair, idle, reflective, indignant, making resolutions that we
would never again open our lips to a woman coming to us with a letter of
introduction and a contribution, till our lad returned to us. We were
forced to give him a sovereign before we could induce him to withdraw
his information. We object strongly to all bribery, but in this case we
could see the amount of ridicule which would be heaped upon our whole
establishment if some low-conditioned lawyer were allowed to
cross-examine us as to our intercourse with Mrs. Brumby. It was with
difficulty that the clerk arranged the matter the next day at the police
office, and his object was not effected without the farther payment by
us of £1 2s. 6d. for costs.

It was then understood between us and the clerk that on no excuse
whatever should Mrs. Brumby be again admitted to my room, and I thought
that the matter was over. “She shall have to fight her way through if
she does get in,” said the lad. “She aint going to knock me about any
more,--woman or no woman.” “O, dea, certe,” we exclaimed. “It shall be a
dear job to her if she touches me again,” said the clerk, catching up
the sound.

We really thought we had done with Mrs. Brumby, but at the end of four
or five days there came to us a letter, which we have still in our
possession, and which we will now venture to make public. It was as
follows. It was addressed not to ourselves but to Messrs. X., Y., and
Z., the very respectable proprietors of the periodical which we were
managing on their behalf.

“Pluck Court, Gray’s Inn, 31st March, 18--.

“GENTLEMEN,

     “We are instructed by our client, Lieutenant Brumby, late of the
     Duke of Sussex’s Own regiment, to call upon you for payment of the
     sum of twenty-five guineas due to him for a manuscript essay on
     Costume, supplied by his wife to the ---- Magazine, which is, we
     believe, your property, by special contract with Mr. ----, the
     Editor. We are also directed to require from you and from Mr. ----
     a full apology in writing for the assault committed on Mrs. Brumby
     in your Editor’s room on the 27th instant; and an assurance also
     that the columns of your periodical shall not be closed against
     that lady because of this transaction. We request that £1 13s. 8d.,
     our costs, may be forwarded to us, together with the above-named
     sum of twenty-five guineas.

“We are, gentlemen,

“Your obedient servants,

“BADGER AND BLISTER.

“Messrs. X., Y., Z., Paternoster Row.”

We were in the habit of looking in at the shop in Paternoster Row on the
first of every month, and on that inauspicious first of April the above
letter was handed to us by our friend Mr. X. “I hope you haven’t been
and put your foot in it,” said Mr. X. We protested that we had not put
our foot in it at all, and we told him the whole story. “Don’t let us
have a lawsuit, whatever you do,” said Mr. X. “The magazine isn’t worth
it.” We ridiculed the idea of a lawsuit, but we took away with us
Messrs. Badger and Blister’s letter and showed it to our legal adviser,
Mr. Sharp. Mr. Sharp was of opinion that Badger and Blister meant
fighting. When we pointed out to him the absolute absurdity of the whole
thing, he merely informed us that we did not know Badger and Blister.
“They’ll take up any case,” said he, “however hopeless, and work it with
superhuman energy, on the mere chance of getting something out of the
defendant. Whatever is got out of him becomes theirs. They never
disgorge.” We were quite confident that nothing could be got out of the
magazine on behalf of Mrs. Brumby, and we left the case in Mr. Sharp’s
hands, thinking that our trouble in the matter was over.

A fortnight elapsed, and then we were called upon to meet Mr. Sharp in
Paternoster Row. We found our friend Mr. X. with a somewhat unpleasant
visage. Mr. X. was a thriving man, usually just, and sometimes generous
but he didn’t like being “put upon.” Mr. Sharp had actually recommended
that some trifle should be paid to Mrs. Brumby, and Mr. X. seemed to
think that this expense would, in case that advice were followed, have
been incurred through fault on our part. “A ten-pound note will set it
all right,” said Mr. Sharp.

“Yes;--a ten-pound note,--just flung into the gutter. I wonder that you
allowed yourself to have anything to do with such a woman.” We protested
against this injustice, giving Mr. X. to know that he didn’t understand
and couldn’t understand our business. “I’m not so sure of that,” said
Mr. X. There was almost a quarrel, and we began to doubt whether Mrs.
Brumby would not be the means of taking the very bread from out of our
mouths. Mr. Sharp at last suggested that in spite of what he had seen
from Mrs. Brumby, the lieutenant would probably be a gentleman. “Not a
doubt about it,” said Mr. X., who was always fond of officers and of the
army, and at the moment seemed to think more of a paltry lieutenant than
of his own Editor.

Mr. Sharp actually pressed upon us and upon Mr. X. that we should call
upon the lieutenant and explain matters to him. Mrs. Brumby had always
been with us at twelve o’clock. “Go at noon,” said Mr. Sharp, “and
you’ll certainly find her out.” He instructed us to tell the lieutenant
“just the plain truth,” as he called it, and to explain that in no way
could the proprietors of a magazine be made liable to payment for an
article because the Editor in discharge of his duty had consented to
read it. “Perhaps the lieutenant doesn’t know that his name has been
used at all,” said Mr. Sharp. “At any rate, it will be well to learn
what sort of a man he is.”

“A high minded gentleman, no doubt,” said Mr. X. the name of whose
second boy was already down at the Horse Guards for a commission.

Though it was sorely against the grain, and in direct opposition to our
own opinion, we were constrained to go to Harpur Street, Theobald’s
Road, and to call upon Lieutenant Brumby. We had not explained to Mr. X.
or to Mr. Sharp what had passed between Mrs. Brumby and ourselves when
she suggested such a visit, but the memory of the words which we and she
had then spoken was on us as we endeavoured to dissuade our lawyer and
our publisher. Nevertheless, at their instigation, we made the visit.
The house in Harpur Street was small, and dingy, and old. The door was
opened for us by the normal lodging-house maid-of-all-work, who when we
asked for the lieutenant, left us in the passage, that she might go and
see. We sent up our name, and in a few minutes were ushered into a
sitting-room up two flights of stairs. The room was not untidy, but it
was as comfortless as any chamber we ever saw. The lieutenant was lying
on an old horsehair sofa, but we had been so far lucky as to find him
alone. Mr. Sharp had been correct in his prediction as to the customary
absence of the lady at that hour in the morning. In one corner of the
room we saw an old ram-shackle desk, at which, we did not doubt, were
written those essays on costume and other subjects, in the disposing of
which the lady displayed so much energy. The lieutenant himself was a
small gray man, dressed, or rather enveloped, in what I supposed to be
an old wrapper of his wife’s. He held in his hands a well-worn volume of
a novel, and when he rose to greet us he almost trembled with dismay and
bashfulness. His feet were thrust into slippers which were too old to
stick on them, and round his throat he wore a dirty, once white, woollen
comforter. We never learned what was the individual character of the
corps which specially belonged to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex; but if it
was conspicuous for dash and gallantry, Lieutenant Brumby could hardly
have held his own among his brother officers. We knew, however, from his
wife that he had been invalided, and as an invalid we respected him. We
proceeded to inform him that we had been called upon to pay him a sum of
twenty-five guineas, and to explain how entirely void of justice any
such claim must be. We suggested to him that he might be made to pay
some serious sum by the lawyers he employed, and that the matter to us
was an annoyance and a trouble,--chiefly because we had no wish to be
brought into conflict with any one so respectable as Lieutenant Brumby.
He looked at us with imploring eyes, as though begging us not to be too
hard upon him in the absence of his wife, trembled from head to foot,
and muttered a few words which were nearly inaudible. We will not state
as a fact that the lieutenant had taken to drinking spirits early in
life, but that certainly was our impression during the only interview we
ever had with him. When we pressed upon him as a question which he must
answer whether he did not think that he had better withdraw his claim,
he fell back upon his sofa, and began to sob. While he was thus weeping
Mrs. Brumby entered the room. She had in her hand the card which we had
given to the maid-of-all-work, and was therefore prepared for the
interview. “Sir,” she said, “I hope you have come to settle my husband’s
just demands.”

Amidst the husband’s wailings there had been one little sentence which
reached our ears. “She does it all,” he had said, throwing his eyes up
piteously towards our face. At that moment the door had been opened, and
Mrs. Brumby had entered the room. When she spoke of her husband’s “just
demands,” we turned to the poor prostrate lieutenant, and were deterred
from any severity towards him by the look of supplication in his eye,.
“The lieutenant is not well this morning,” said Mrs. Brumby, “and you
will therefore be pleased to address yourself to me.” We explained that
the absurd demand for payment had been made on the proprietors of the
magazine in the name of Lieutenant Brumby, and that we had therefore
been obliged, in the performance of a most unpleasant duty, to call upon
that gentleman; but she laughed our argument to scorn. “You have driven
me to take legal steps,” she said, “and as I am only a woman I must take
them in the name of my husband. But I am the person aggrieved, and if
you have any excuse to make you can make it to me. Your safer course,
Sir, will be to pay me the money that you owe me.”

I had come there on a fool’s errand, and before I could get away was
very angry both with Mr. Sharp and Mr. X. I could hardly get a word in
amidst the storm of indignant reproaches which was bursting over my head
during the whole of the visit. One would have thought from hearing her
that she had half filled the pages of the magazine for the last six
months, and that we, individually, had pocketed the proceeds of her
labour. She laughed in our face when we suggested that she could not
really intend to prosecute the suit, and told us to mind our own
business when we hinted that the law was an expensive amusement. “We,
Sir,” she said, “will have the amusement, and you will have to pay the
bill.” When we left her she was indignant, defiant, and self-confident.

And what will the reader suppose was the end of all this? The whole
truth has been told as accurately as we can tell it. As far as we know
our own business we were not wrong in any single step we took. Our
treatment of Mrs. Brumby was courteous, customary, and conciliatory. We
had treated her with more consideration than we had perhaps ever before
shown to an unknown, would-be contributor. She had been admitted thrice
to our presence. We had read at any rate enough of her trash to be sure
of its nature. On the other hand, we had been insulted, and our clerk
had had his ears boxed. What should have been the result? We will tell
the reader what was the result. Mr. X. paid £10 to Messrs. Badger and
Blister on behalf of the lieutenant; and we, under Mr. Sharp’s advice,
wrote a letter to Mrs. Brumby in which we expressed deep sorrow for our
clerk’s misconduct, and our own regret that we should have
delayed,--“the perusal of her manuscript.” We could not bring ourselves
to write the words ourselves with our own fingers, but signed the
document which Mr. Sharp put before us. Mr. Sharp had declared to
Messrs. X., Y., and Z., that unless some such arrangement were made, he
thought that we should be cast for a much greater sum before a jury. For
one whole morning in Paternoster Row we resisted this infamous tax, not
only on our patience, but,--as we then felt it,--on our honour. We
thought that our very old friend Mr. X. should have stood to us more
firmly, and not have demanded from us a task that was so peculiarly
repugnant to our feelings. “And it is peculiarly repugnant to my
feelings to pay £10 for nothing,” said Mr. X., who was not, we think,
without some little feeling of revenge against us; “but I prefer that to
a lawsuit.” And then he argued that the simple act on our part of
signing such a letter as that presented to us could cost us no trouble,
and ought to occasion us no sorrow. “What can come of it? Who’ll know
it?” said Mr. X. “We’ve got to pay £10, and that we shall feel.” It came
to that at last, that we were constrained to sign the letter,--and did
sign it. It did us no harm, and can have done Mrs. Brumby no good but
the moment in which we signed it was perhaps the bitterest we ever knew.

That in such a transaction Mrs. Brumby should have been so thoroughly
successful, and that we should have been so shamefully degraded, has
always appeared to us to be an injury too deep to remain unredressed for
ever. Can such wrongs be, and the heavens not fall! Our greatest comfort
has been in the reflection that neither the lieutenant nor his wife ever
saw a shilling of the £10. That, doubtless, never went beyond Badger and
Blister.

                               THE END.

         PRINTED BY W. H. SMITH AND SON, 186, STRAND, LONDON.





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