The Yellow Book
An Illustrated Quarterly
Volume VI July 1895
I. The Next Time . . By Henry
James . . Page 11
II. Earth’s Complines . . Charles G.D. Roberts . 60
III. Tirala-tirala . . . Henry Harland . . 65
IV. The Golden Touch . Rosamund Marriott Watson 77
V. Long Odds . . . Kenneth Grahame . . 78
VI. A Letter Home . . Enoch Arnold Bennett . 93
VII. The Captain’s Book . George Egerton . . 103
VIII. A Song . . . . Dollie Radford . . . 121
IX. A New Poster . . Evelyn Sharp . . . 123
X. An Appreciation of Ouida G.S. Street . . . 167
XI. Justice . . . . Richard Garnett, LL.D., C.B. . . . . 177
XII. Lilla . . . . Prince Bojidar Karageorgevitch . . . . 178
XIII. In an American Newspaper office Charles Miner Thompson 187
XIV. A Madrigal . . . Olive Custance . . 215
XV. The Dead Wall . . H.B. Marriott Watson . 221
XVL. Mars . . . . Rose Haig Thomas . . 249
XVII. The Auction Room of Letters Arthur Waugh . . 257
XVIII. The Crimson Weaver . R. Murray Gilchrist . 269
XIX. The Digger . . . Edgar Prestage . . 283
XX. A Pen-and-ink Effect . Frances E. Huntley . . 286
XXI. Consolation . . . J.A. Blaikie . . . 295
XXII. A Beautiful Accident . Stanley V. Makower . 297
XXIII. Four Prose Fancies . Richard Le Gallienne . 307
XXIV. Two Letters to a Friend . Theodore Watts . . 333
The Yellow Book — Vol. VI. — July, 1895
Front Cover, by Patten Wilson
Title Page, by Patten Wilson
I. The Guitar Player . . By George Thomson . . Page 7
II. Durham . . . . F.G. Cotman . . 62
III. A Penelope . .Patten Wilson . . 87
IV. Sohrab Taking Leave of his Mother . .
V. The Yellow Book . . Gertrude D. Hammond . 117
VI. Star and Garter, Richmond P. Wilson Steer . . 164
VII. The Screen . . . Sir William Eden, Bart. . 183
VIII. Padstow . . . . Gertrude Prideaux-Brune 217
IX. Souvenir de Paris . . Charles Conder . . 253
X. Wasser-Thurm, Nürnberg Wilfred Ball . . . 266
XI. The Mirror . .Fred Hyland . . . 278
XII. Keynotes . .
XIII. Trees . . . . Alfred Thornton . . 292
XIV. Gossips . . . . A.S. Hartrick . . . 303
XV. Going to Church .William Strang . . 327
XVI. A Study . . .
Back Cover, by Patten Wilson
The half-tone Reproductions in this Volume are
by the Swan Electric Engraving Company.
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The Next Time
By Henry James
MRS. HIGHMORE’S errand this morning was odd enough to
deserve commemoration : she came to ask me to write a
notice of her great forthcoming work. Her great works have
come forth so frequently without my assistance that I was
sufficiently entitled, on this occasion, to open my eyes ; but what
really made me stare was the ground on which her request reposed,
and what leads me to record the incident is the train of memory
lighted by that explanation. Poor Ray Limbert, while we talked,
seemed to sit there between us : she reminded me that my acquaint-
ance with him had begun, eighteen years ago, with her having
come in precisely as she came in this morning to bespeak my
consideration for him. If she didn’t know then how little my
consideration was worth she is at least enlightened about its value
to-day, and it is just in that knowledge that the drollery of her
visit resides. As I hold up the torch to the dusky years—by which
I mean as I cipher up with a pen that stumbles and stops the
figured column of my reminiscences—I see that Limbert’s public
hour, or at least my small apprehension of it, is rounded by those
two occasions. It was finis with a little moralising flourish, that
Mrs. Highmore seemed to trace to-day at the bottom of the page.
” One of the most voluminous writers of the time,” she has often
repeated this sign ; but never, I dare say, in spite of her professional
command of appropriate emotion, with an equal sense of that
mystery and that sadness of things which, to people of imagination,
generally hover over the close of human histories. This romance
at any rate is bracketed by her early and her late appeal ; and
when its melancholy protrusions had caught the declining light
again from my half-hour’s talk with her, I took a private vow to re-
cover, while that light still lingers, something of the delicate flush,
to pick out, with a brief patience, the perplexing lesson.
It was wonderful to observe how, for herself, Mrs. Highmore
had already done so : she wouldn’t have hesitated to announce to
me what was the matter with Ralph Limbert, or at all events to
give me a glimpse of the high admonition she had read in his
career. There could have been no better proof of the vividness of
this parable, which we were really in our pleasant sympathy quite
at one about, than that Mrs. Highmore, of all hardened sinners,
should have been converted. This indeed was not news to me :
she impressed upon me that for the last ten years she had wanted
to do something artistic, something as to which she was prepared
not to care a rap whether or no it should sell. She brought home
to me further that it had been mainly seeing what her brother-in-
law did, and how he did it, that had wedded her to this perversity.
As he didn’t sell, dear soul, and as several persons, of whom I was
one, thought ever so much of him for it, the fancy had taken her—
taken her even quite early in her prolific—course of reaching, if
only once, the same heroic eminence. She yearned to be, like
Limbert, but of course only once, an exquisite failure. There
was something a failure was, a failure in the market, that a success
somehow wasn’t. A success was as prosaic as a good dinner : there
was nothing more to be said about it than that you had had it.
Who but vulgar people, in such a case, made gloating remarks
about the courses ? It was by such vulgar people, often, that a
success was attested. It made, if you came to look at it, nothing
but money ; that is it made so much that any other result showed
small in comparison. A failure, now, could make—oh, with the
aid of immense talent of course, for there were failures and failures
—such a reputation ! She did me the honour—she had often done
it—to intimate that what she meant by reputation was seeing me
toss a flower. If it took a failure to catch a failure I was by my
own admission well qualified to place the laurel. It was because
she had made so much money and Mr. Highmore had taken such
care of it that she could treat herself to an hour of pure glory.
She perfectly remembered that as often as I had heard her heave
that sigh I had been prompt with my declaration that a book sold
might easily be as glorious as a book unsold. Of course she knew
that, but she knew also that it was an age of flourishing rubbish
and that she had never heard me speak of anything that had ” done
well ” exactly as she had sometimes heard me speak of something
that hadn’t—with just two or three words of respect which, when
I used them, seemed to convey more than they commonly stood
for, seemed to hush up the discussion a little, as if for the very
beauty of the secret.
I may declare in regard to these allusions that, whatever I then
thought of myself as a holder of the scales, I had never scrupled to
laugh out at the humour of Mrs. Highmore’s pursuit of quality at
any price. It had never rescued her, even for a day, from the hard
doom of popularity, and, though I never gave her my word for it,
there was no reason at all why it should. The public would
have her, as her husband used roguishly to remark ; not indeed
that, making her bargains, standing up to her publishers and even,
in his higher flights, to her reviewers, he ever had a glimpse of her
attempted conspiracy against her genius, or rather, as I may say,
against mine. It was not that when she tried to be what she
called subtle (for wasn’t Limbert subtle, and wasn’t I ?) her fond
consumers, bless them, didn’t suspect the trick nor show what
they thought of it : they straightway rose, on the contrary, to the
morsel she had hoped to hold too high, and, making but a big,
cheerful bite of it, wagged their great collective tail artlessly for
more. It was not given to her not to please, nor granted even to
her best refinements to affright. I have always respected the
mystery of those humiliations, but I was fully aware this morning
that they were practically the reason why she had come to me.
Therefore when she said, with the flush of a bold joke in her kind,
coarse face, ” What I feel is, you know, that you could settle me if
you only would,” I knew quite well what she meant. She meant
that of old it had always appeared to be the fine blade, as some
one had hyperbolically called it, of my particular opinion that
snapped the silken thread by which Limbert’s chance in the market
was wont to hang. She meant that my favour was compromising,
that my praise indeed was fatal. I had made myself a little specialty
of seeing nothing in certain celebrities, of seeing overmuch in an
occasional nobody, and of judging from a point of view that, say
what I would for it (and I had a monstrous deal to say) remained
perverse and obscure. Mine was in short the love that killed, for
my subtlety, unlike Mrs. Highmore’s, produced no tremor of the
public tail. She had not forgotten how, toward the end, when his
case was worst, Limbert would absolutely come to me with a funny,
shy pathos in his eyes and say : ” My dear fellow, I think I’ve done
it this time if you’ll only keep quiet.” If my keeping quiet, in
those days, was to help him to appear to have hit the usual taste, for
the want of which he was starving, so now my breaking out was to
help Mrs. Highmore to appear to have hit the unusual.
The moral of all this was that I had frightened the public too
much for our late friend, but that as she was not starving this was
exactly what her grosser reputation required. And then, she
good-naturedly and delicately intimated, there would always be, if
further reasons were wanting, the price of my clever little article.
I think she gave that hint with a flattering impression—spoiled
child of the booksellers as she is—that the price of my clever little
articles is high. Whatever it is, at any rate, she had evidently
reflected that poor Limbert’s anxiety for his own profit used to
involve my sacrificing mine. Any inconvenience that my obliging
her might entail would not, in fine, be pecuniary. Her appeal, her
motive, her fantastic thirst for quality and her ingenious theory of
my influence struck me all as excellent comedy, and as I con-
sented, contingently, to oblige her (I could plead no inconvenience)
she left me the sheets of her new novel. I have been looking
them over, but I am frankly appalled at what she expects of me.
What is she thinking of, poor dear, and what has put it into her
head that ” quality ” has descended upon her ? Why does she
suppose that she has been ” artistic ” ? She hasn’t been anything
whatever, I surmise, that she has not inveterately been. What
does she imagine she has left out ? What does she conceive she
has put in ? She has neither left out nor put in anything. I shall
have to write her an embarrassed note. The book doesn’t exist,
and there’s nothing in life to say about it. How can there be any-
thing but the same old faithful rush for it ?
This rush had already begun when, early in the seventies, in the
interest of her prospective brother-in-law, she approached me on
the singular ground of the unencouraged sentiment I had enter-
tained for her sister. Pretty pink Maud had cast me out, but I appear
to have passed in the flurried little circle for a magnanimous youth.
Pretty pink Maud, so lovely then, before her troubles, that dusky
Jane was gratefully conscious of all she made up for, Maud Stannace,
very literary too, very languishing and extremely bullied by her
mother, had yielded, invidiously, as it might have struck me, to
Ray Limbert’s suit, which Mrs. Stannace was not the woman to
stomach. Mrs. Stannace was never the woman to do anything :
she had been shocked at the way her children, with the grubby taint
of their father’s blood (he had published pale Remains or flat Con-
versations of his father) breathed the alien air of authorship. If not
the daughter, nor even the niece, she was, if I am not mistaken, the
second cousin of a hundred earls, and a great stickler for relationship,
so that she had other views for her brilliant child, especially after her
quiet one (such had been her original discreet forecast of the pro-
ducer of eighty volumes) became the second wife of an ex-army-
surgeon, already the father of four children. Mrs. Stannace had
too manifestly dreamed it would be given to pretty pink Maud to
detach some one of the hundred (he wouldn’t be missed) from the
cluster. It was because she cared only for cousins that I unlearnt the
way to her house, which she had once reminded me was one of the
few paths of gentility indulgently open to me. Ralph Limbert,
who belonged to nobody and had done nothing—nothing even at
Cambridge—had only the uncanny spell he had cast upon her
younger daughter to recommend him ; but if her younger
daughter had a spark of filial feeling she wouldn’t commit the in-
decency of deserting for his sake a deeply dependent and intensely
These things I learned from Jane Highmore, who, as if her
books had been babies (they remained her only ones) had waited till
after marriage to show what she could do, and now bade fair to
surround her satisfied spouse (he took, for some mysterious reason,
a part of the credit) with a little family, in sets of triplets, which,
properly handled, would be the support of his declining years.
The young couple, neither of whom had a penny, were now virtu-
ally engaged : the thing was subject to Ralph’s putting his hand
on some regular employment. People more enamoured couldn’t
be conceived, and Mrs. Highmore, honest woman, who had more-
over a professional sense for a love-story, was eager to take them
under her wing. What was wanted was a decent opening for
Limbert, which it had occurred to her I might assist her to find,
though indeed I had not yet found any such matter for myself.
But it was well known that I was too particular, whereas poor
Ralph, with the easy manners of genius, was ready to accept
almost anything to which a salary, even a small one, was attached.
If he could only get a place on a newspaper, for instance, the rest
of his maintenance would come freely enough. It was true that
his two novels, one of which she had brought to leave with me,
had passed unperceived, and that to her, Mrs. Highmore person-
ally, they didn’t irresistibly appeal ; but she could none the less
assure me that I should have only to spend ten minutes with him
(and our encounter must speedily take place) to receive an impres-
sion of latent power.
Our encounter took place soon after I had read the volumes
Mrs. Highmore had left with me, in which I recognised an inten-
tion of a sort that I had now pretty well given up the hope of
meeting. I daresay that, without knowing it, I had been looking
out rather hungrily for an altar of sacrifice : at any rate, when I
came across Ralph Limbert I submitted to one of the rarest emo-
tions of my literary life, the sense of an activity in which I could
critically rest. The rest was deep and salutary, and it has not
been disturbed to this hour. It has been a long, large surrender,
the luxury of dropped discriminations. He couldn’t trouble me,
whatever he did, for I practically enjoyed him as much when he
was worse as when he was better. It was a case, I suppose, of
natural prearrangement, in which, I hasten to add, I keep excellent
company. We are a numerous band, partakers of the same repose,
who sit together in the shade of the tree, by the plash of the
fountain, with the glare of the desert around us and no great vice
that I know of but the habit perhaps of estimating people a little
too much by what they think of a certain style. If it had been
laid upon these few pages, however, to be the history of an
enthusiasm, I should not have undertaken them : they are con-
cerned with Ralph Limbert in relations to which I was a stranger,
or in which I participated only by sympathy. I used to talk about
his work, but I seldom talk now : the brotherhood of the faith
have become, like the Trappists, a silent order. If to the day of
his death, after mortal disenchantments, the impression he first
produced always evoked the word ” ingenuous, ” those to whom
his face was familiar can easily imagine what it must have been
when it still had the light of youth. I have never seen a man of
genius look so passive, a man of experience so off his guard. At
the period I made his acquaintance this freshness was all un-
brushed. His foot had begun to stumble, but he was full of big
intentions and of sweet Maud Stannace. Black-haired and pale,
deceptively languid, he had the eyes of a clever child and the
voice of a bronze bell. He saw more even than I had done in
the girl he was engaged to ; as time went on I became conscious
that we had both, properly enough, seen rather more than there was.
Our odd situation, that of the three of us, became perfectly possible
from the moment I observed that he had more patience with
her than I should have had. I was happy at not having to supply
this quantity, and she, on her side, found pleasure in being able
to be impertinent to me without incurring the reproach of a
Limbert’s novels appeared to have brought him no money; they
had only brought him, so far as I could then make out, tributes
that took up his time. These indeed brought him, from several
quarters, some other things, and on my part, at the end of three
months, The Blackport Beacon. I don’t to-day remember how I
obtained for him the London correspondence of the great northern
organ, unless it was through somebody’s having obtained it for
myself. I seem to recall that I got rid of it in Limbert’s interest,
persuaded the editor that he was much the better man. The better
man was naturally the man who had pledged himself to support a
charming wife. We were neither of us good, as the event proved,
but he had a rarer kind of badness. The Blackport Beacon had two
London correspondents—one a supposed haunter of political circles,
the other a votary of questions sketchily classified as literary.
They were both expected to be lively, and what was held out to
each was that it was honourably open to him to be livelier than the
other. I recollect the political correspondent of that period, and
that what it was reducible to was that Ray Limbert was to try to
be livelier than Pat Moyle. He had not yet seemed to me so can-
did as when he undertook this exploit, which brought matters to a
head with Mrs. Stannace, inasmuch as her opposition to the marriage
now logically fell to the ground. It’s all tears and laughter as I
look back upon that admirable time, in which nothing was so
romantic as our intense vision of the real. No fool’s paradise
ever rustled such a cradle-song. It was anything but Bohemia
—it was the very temple of Mrs. Grundy. We knew we
were too critical, and that made us sublimely indulgent; we
believed we did our duty, or wanted to, and that made us free to
dream. But we dreamed over the multiplication-table ; we were
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. B
nothing if not practical. Oh, the long smokes and sudden ideas,
the knowing hints and banished scruples ! The great thing was
for Limbert to bring out his next book, which was just what his
delightful engagement with the Beacon would give him leisure and
liberty to do. The kind of work, all human and elastic and sug-
gestive, was capital experience : in picking up things for his
bi-weekly letter he would pick up life as well, he would pick up
literature. The new publications, the new pictures, the new
people—there would be nothing too novel for us and nobody
too sacred. We introduced everything and everybody into Mrs.
Stannace’s drawing-room, of which I again became a familiar.
Mrs. Stannace, it was true, thought herself in strange company ;
she didn’t particularly mind the new books, though some of them
seemed queer enough, but to the new people she had decided
objections. It was notorious, however, that poor Lady Robeck
secretly wrote for one of the papers, and the thing had certainly,
in its glance at the doings of the great world, a side that might be
made attractive. But we were going to make every side attractive,
and we had everything to say about the kind of thing a paper like
the Beacon would want. To give it what it would want and
to give it nothing else was not doubtless an inspiring, but it was
a perfectly respectable task, especially for a man with an appealing
bride and a contentious mother-in-law. I thought Limbert’s first
letters as charming as the genre allowed, though I won’t deny
that in spite of my sense of the importance of concessions I was
just a trifle disconcerted at the way he had caught the tone. The
tone was of course to be caught, but need it have been caught so
in the act ? The creature was even cleverer, as Maud Stannace
said, than she had ventured to hope. Verily it was a good thing
to have a dose of the wisdom of the serpent. If it had to be
journalism—well, it was journalism. If he had to be ” chatty “—
well, he was chatty. Now and then he made a hit
stupid of me—brought the blood to my face. I hated him to be
so personal ; but still, if it would make his fortune— ! It
wouldn’t of course directly, but the book would, practically and
in the sense to which our pure ideas of fortune were confined ; and
these things were all for the book. The daily balm meanwhile
was in what one knew of the book—there were exquisite things
to know ; in the quiet monthly cheques from Blackport and in
the deeper rose of Maud’s little preparations, which were as dainty,
on their tiny scale, as if she had been a humming-bird building a
nest. When at the end of three months her betrothed had fairly
settled down to his correspondence—in which Mrs. Highmore
was the only person, so far as we could discover, disappointed,
even she moreover being in this particular tortuous and possibly
jealous; when the situation had assumed such a comfortable
shape it was quite time to prepare. I published at that moment
my first volume, mere faded ink to-day, a little collection of
literary impressions, odds and ends of criticism contributed to a
journal less remunerative but also less chatty than the Beacon,
small ironies and ecstasies, great phrases and mistakes ; and the very
week it came out poor Limbert devoted half of one of his letters
to it, with the happy sense, this time, of gratifying both himself
and me as well as the Blackport breakfast tables. I remember his
saying it wasn’t literature, the stuff, superficial stuff, he had to
write about me ; but what did that matter if it came back, as we
knew, to the making for literature in the roundabout way ? I
sold the thing, I remember, for ten pounds, and with the money I
bought in Vigo Street a quaint piece of old silver for Maud
Stannace, which I carried to her with my own hand as a wedding-
gift. In her mother’s small drawing-room, a faded bower of photo-
graphy, fenced in and bedimmed by folding screens out of which
sallow persons of fashion, with dashing signatures, looked at you
from retouched eyes and little windows of plush, I was left to wait
long enough to feel in the air of the house a hushed vibration
of disaster. When our young lady came in she was very pale,
and her eyes too had been retouched.
” Something horrid has happened,” I immediately said; and
having really, all along, but half believed in her mother’s meagre
permission, I risked with an unguarded groan the introduction of
Mrs. Stannace’s name.
” Yes, she has made a dreadful scene ; she insists on our putting
it off again. We’re very unhappy : poor Ray has been turned
off.” Her tears began to flow again.
I had such a good conscience that I stared. ” Turned off
” Why, his paper of course. The Beacon has given him
he calls the sack. They don’t like his letters—they’re not the
sort of thing they want.”
My blankness could only deepen. ” Then what sort of thing
do they want ?”
” Something more chatty.”
” More ?” I cried, aghast.
” More gossipy, more personal. They want ‘journalism.’
They want tremendous trash.”
” Why, that’s just what his letters have been ! ” I
This was strong, and I caught myself up, but the girl offered
me the pardon of a beautiful wan smile. ” So Ray himself
declares. He says he has stooped so low.”
” Very well—he must stoop lower. He must keep
” He can’t ! ” poor Maud wailed. ” He says he has tried all he
knows, has been abject, has gone on all fours, and that if they
don’t like that——”
” He accepts his dismissal ?” I demanded in dismay.
She gave a tragic shrug. ” What other course is open to him ?
He wrote to them that such work as he has done is the very worst
he can do for the money.”
” Then,” I inquired, with a flash of hope, ” they’ll offer him
more for worse ?”
” No, indeed,” she answered, ” they haven’t even offered him
to go on at a reduction. He isn’t funny enough.”
I reflected a moment. ” But surely such a thing as his notice
of my book—— !”
” It was your wretched book that was the last straw ! He should
have treated it superficially.”
” Well, if he didn’t——! ” I began. But then I checked myself.
” Je vous porte malheur.“
She didn’t deny this ; she only went on : ” What on earth is he
” He’s to do better than the monkeys ! He’s to write !”
” But what on earth are we to marry on ?”
I considered once more. ” You’re to marry on The Major
The Major Key was the new novel, and the great thing
fore was to finish it ; a consummation for which three months of
the Beacon had in some degree prepared the way. The action of
that journal was indeed a shock, but I didn’t know then the worst,
didn’t know that in addition to being a shock it was also a
symptom. It was the first hint of the difficulty to which poor
Limbert was eventually to succumb. His state was the happier,
however, for his not immediately seeing all that it meant. Diffi-
culty was the law of life, but one could thank heaven it was excep-
tionally present in that horrid quarter. There was the difficulty
that inspired, the difficulty of The Major Key to wit, which it
was, after all, base to sacrifice to the turning of somersaults for
pennies. These convictions Ray Limbert beguiled his fresh wait
by blandly entertaining : not indeed, I think, that the failure of
his attempt to be chatty didn’t leave him slightly humiliated. If
it was bad enough to have grinned through a horse-collar, it was
very bad indeed to have grinned in vain. Well, he would try no
more grinning, or at least no more horse-collars. The only success
worth one’s powder was success in the line of one’s idiosyncrasy.
Consistency was in itself distinction, and what was talent but the art
of being completely whatever it was that one happened to be ? One’s
things were characteristic or they were nothing. I look back rather
fondly on our having exchanged in those days these admirable re-
marks and many others ; on our having been very happy too, in spite
of postponements and obscurities, in spite also of such occasional
hauntings as could spring from our lurid glimpse of the fact that
even twaddle cunningly calculated was above some people’s heads.
It was easy to wave away spectres by the reflection that all one
had to do was not to write for those people ; and it was certainly
not for them that Limbert wrote while he hammered at The
Major Key. The taint of literature was fatal only in a certain
kind of air, which was precisely the kind against which we had
now closed our window. Mrs. Stannace rose from her crumpled
cushions as soon as she had obtained an adjournment, and Maud
looked pale and proud, quite victorious and superior, at her having
obtained nothing more. Maud behaved well, I thought, to her
mother, and well indeed, for a girl who had mainly been taught
to be flowerlike, to every one. What she gave Ray Limbert her
fine, abundant needs made him, then and ever, pay for ; but the
gift was liberal, almost wonderful—an assertion I make even while
remembering to how many clever women, early and late, his work
had been dear. It was not only that the woman he was to marry
was in love with him, but that (this was the strangeness) she had
really seen almost better than any one what he could do. The
greatest strangeness was that she didn’t want him to do something
different. This boundless belief was, indeed, the main way of her
devotion ; and, as an act of faith, it naturally asked for miracles.
She was a rare wife for a poet, if she was not perhaps the best
who could have been picked out for a poor man.
Well, we were to have the miracles at all events, and we were
in a perfect state of mind to receive them. There were more of
us every day, and we thought highly even of our friend’s odd jobs
and pot-boilers. The Beacon had had no successor, but he found
some quiet corners and stray chances. Perpetually poking the fire
and looking out of the window, he was certainly not a monster of
facility, but he was, thanks perhaps to a certain method in that
madness, a monster of certainty. It wasn’t every one, however,
who knew him for this : many editors printed him but once. He
was getting a small reputation as a man it was well to have the
first time : he created obscure apprehensions as to what might
happen the second. He was good for making an impression, but
no one seemed exactly to know what the impression was good
for when made. The reason was simply that they had not seen
yet The Major Key, that fiery-hearted rose as to which we
watched in private the formation of petal after petal. Nothing
mattered but that, for it had already elicited a splendid bid, much
talked about in Mrs. Highmore’s drawing-room, where, at this
point my reminiscences grow particularly thick. Her roses
bloomed all the year, and her sociability increased with her row of
prizes. We had an idea that we ” met every one ” there—so we
naturally thought when we met each other. Between our hostess
and Ray Limbert flourished the happiest relation, the only cloud
on which was that her husband eyed him rather askance. When
he was called clever this personage wanted to know what he had
to “show”; and it was certain that he had nothing that could
compare with Jane Highmore. Mr. Highmore took his stand on
accomplished work and, turning up his coat-tails, warmed his rear
with a good conscience at the neat bookcase in which the genera-
tions of triplets were chronologically arranged. The harmony
between his companions rested on the fact that, as I have already
hinted, each would have liked so much to be the other. Limbert
couldn’t but have a feeling about a woman who, in addition to
being the best creature and her sister’s backer, would have made,
could she have condescended, such a success with the Beacon.
On the other hand, Mrs. Highmore used freely to say : ” Do
you know, he’ll do exactly the thing that I want to do ? I shall
never do it myself, but he’ll do it instead. Yes, he’ll do my thing,
and I shall hate him for it—the wretch.” Hating him was her
pleasant humour, for the wretch was personally to her taste.
She prevailed on her own publisher to promise to take The
Major Key and to engage to pay a considerable sum down, as
the phrase is, on the presumption of its attracting attention. This
was good news for the evening’s end at Mrs. Highmore’s, when
there were only four or five left and cigarettes ran low ; but there
was better news to come, and I have never forgotten how, as it
was I who had the good fortune to bring it, I kept it back on one
of those occasions, for the sake of my effect, till only the right
people remained. The right people were now more and more
numerous, but this was a revelation addressed only to a choice
residuum—a residuum including of course Limbert himself, with
whom I haggled for another cigarette before I announced that as
a consequence of an interview I had had with him that afternoon,
and of a subtle argument I had brought to bear, Mrs. Highmore’s
pearl of publishers had agreed to put forth the new book as a
serial. He was to ” run ” it in his magazine, and he was to pay
ever so much more for the privilege. I produced a fine gasp
which presently found a more articulate relief, but poor Limbert’s
voice failed him once for all (he knew he was to walk away with
me) and it was some one else who asked me in what my subtle
argument had resided. I forget what florid description I then
gave of it : to-day I have no reason not to confess that it had
resided in the simple plea that the book was exquisite. I had said :
” Come, my dear friend, be original ; just risk it for that !” My
dear friend seemed to rise to the chance, and I followed up my
advantage, permitting him honestly no illusion as to the quality
of the work. He clutched interrogatively at two or three
attenuations, but I dashed them aside, leaving him face to face
with the formidable truth. It was just a pure gem : was he the
man not to flinch ? His danger appeared to have acted upon
him as the anaconda acts upon the rabbit ; fascinated and paralysed,
he had been engulfed in the long pink throat. When, a week
before, at my request, Limbert had let me possess for a day the
complete manuscript, beautifully copied out by Maud Stannace,
I had flushed with indignation at its having to be said of the author
of such pages that he hadn’t the common means to marry. I had
taken the field, in a great glow, to repair this scandal, and it was
therefore quite directly my fault if, three months later, when
The Major Key began to run, Mrs. Stannace was driven to the
wall. She had made a condition of a fixed income ; and at last
a fixed income was achieved.
She had to recognise it, and after much prostration among the
photographs she recognised it to the extent of accepting some of
the convenience of it in the form of a project for a common
household, to the expenses of which each party should propor-
tionately contribute. Jane Highmore made a great point of
her not being left alone, but Mrs. Stannace herself determined
the proportion, which, on Limbert’s side at least, and in spite
of many other fluctuations, was never altered. His income had
been ” fixed ” with a vengeance: having painfully stooped to
the comprehension of it, Mrs. Stannace rested on this effort
to the end and asked no further questions on the subject.
The Major Key, in other words, ran ever so long, and before
it was half out Limbert and Maud had been married and the
common household set up. These first months were probably
the happiest in the family annals, with wedding-bells and
budding laurels, the quiet, assured course of the book and the
friendly, familiar note, round the corner, of Mrs. Highmore’s big
guns. They gave Ralph time to block in another picture, as
well as to let me know, after a while, that he had the happ
y prospect of becoming a father. We had some dispute, at times, as
to whether The Major Key was making an impression, but our
contention could only be futile so long as we were not agreed as
to what an impression consisted of. Several persons wrote to the
author, and several others asked to be introduced to him : wasn’t
that an impression? One of the lively ” weeklies, ” snapping
at the deadly ” monthlies,” said the whole thing was “grossly
inartistic “—wasn’t that ? It was somewhere else proclaimed ” a
wonderfully subtle character-study “—wasn’t that too ? The
strongest effect doubtless was produced on the publisher when, in
its lemon-coloured volumes, like a little dish of three custards, the
book was at last served cold : he never got his money back and,
as far as I know, has never got it back to this day. The Major Key
was rather a great performance than a great success. It con-
verted readers into friends and friends into lovers ; it placed the
author, as the phrase is—placed him all too definitely ; but it
shrank to obscurity in the account of sales eventually rendered.
It was in short an exquisite thing, but it was scarcely a thing
to have published, and certainly not a thing to have married on.
I heard all about the matter, for my intervention had much ex-
posed me. Mrs. Highmore said the second volume had given her
ideas, and the ideas are probably to be found in some of her works,
to the circulation of which they have even perhaps contributed.
This was not absolutely yet the very thing she wanted to do, but
it was on the way to it. So much, she informed me, she par-
ticularly perceived in the light of a critical study which I put forth
in a little magazine ; which the publisher, in his advertisements,
quoted from profusely ; and as to which there sprang up some
absurd story that Limbert himself had written it. I remember
that on my asking some one why such an idiotic thing had been
said, my interlocutor replied : ” Oh, because, you know, it’s just
the way he would have written !” My spirit sank a little perhaps
as I reflected that with such analogies in our manner there might
prove to be some in our fate.
It was during the next four or five years that our eyes were
open to what, unless something could be done, that fate, at least
on Limbert’s part, might be. The thing to be done was of
course to write the book, the book that would make the differ-
ence, really justify the burden he had accepted and consummately
express his power. For the works that followed upon The Major
Key he had inevitably to accept conditions the reverse of brilliant,
at a time when the strain upon his resources had begun to show
sharpness. With three babies, in due course, an ailing wife, and a
complication still greater than these, it became highly important
that a man should do only his best. Whatever Limbert did was
his best ; so, at least, each time, I thought, and so I unfailingly said
somewhere, though it was not my saying it, heaven knows, that
made the desired difference. Every one else indeed said it, and
there was always the comfort, among multiplied worries, that his
position was quite assured. The two books that followed The
Major Key did more than anything else to assure it, and Jane
Highmore was always crying out : ” You stand alone, dear Ray ;
you stand absolutely alone !” Dear Ray used to tell me that he
felt the truth of this in feebly-attempted discussions with his book
seller. His sister-in-law gave him good advice into the bargain ;
she was a repository of knowing hints, of esoteric learning. These
things were doubtless not the less valuable to him for bearing
wholly on the question of how a reputation might be, with a
little gumption, as Mrs. Highmore said, ” worked ” : save when
she occasionally bore testimony to her desire to do, as Limbert
did, something some day for her own very self, I never heard
her speak of the literary motive as if it were distinguishable
from the pecuniary. She cocked up his hat, she pricked up
his prudence for him, reminding him that as one seemed to take
one’s self, so the silly world was ready to take one. It was a
fatal mistake to be too candid even with those who were all right—
not to look and to talk prosperous, not at least to pretend that one
had beautiful sales. To listen to her you would have thought
the profession of letters a wonderful game of bluff. Wherever
one’s idea began it ended somehow in inspired paragraphs in
the newspapers.” I pretend, I assure you, that you are going off
like wildfire—I can at least do that for you !” she often declared,
prevented as she was from doing much else by Mr. Highmore’s
insurmountable objection to their taking Mrs. Stannace.
I couldn’t help regarding the presence of this latter lady in
Limbert’s life as the major complication : whatever he attempted
it appeared given to him to achieve as best he could in the narrow
margin unswept by her pervasive skirts. I may have been mis-
taken in supposing that she practically lived on him, for though it
was not in him to follow adequately Mrs. Highmore’s counsel
there were exasperated confessions he never made, scanty domestic
curtains he rattled on their rings. I may exaggerate, in the
retrospect, his apparent anxieties, for these after all were the years
when his talent was freshest and when, as a writer, he most laid
down his line. It wasn’t of Mrs. Stannace, nor even, as time went
on, of Mrs. Limbert that we mainly talked when I got, at longer
intervals, a smokier hour in the little grey den from which we
could step out, as we used to say, to the lawn. The lawn was
the back-garden, and Limbert’s study was behind the dining-
room, with folding-doors not impervious to the clatter of the
children’s tea. We sometimes took refuge from it in the depths
—a bush and a half deep—of the shrubbery, where was a bench
that gave us a view, while we gossiped, of Mrs. Stannace’s tiara-
like headdress nodding at an upper window. Within doors and
without, Limbert’s life was overhung by an awful region that
figured in his conversation, comprehensively and with unpremedi-
tated art, as Upstairs. It was Upstairs that the thunder gathered,
that Mrs. Stannace kept her accounts and her state, that Mrs.
Limbert had her babies and her headaches, that the bells forever
jangled for the maids, that everything imperative, in short, took
place—everything that he had somehow, pen in hand, to meet
and dispose of in the little room on the garden-level. I don’t
think he liked to go Upstairs, but no special burst of confidence
was needed to make me feel that a terrible deal of service went.
It was the habit of the ladies of the Stannace family to be
extremely waited on, and I’ve never been in a house where three
maids and a nursery-governess gave such an impression of a
retinue. ” Oh, they’re so deucedly, so hereditarily fine!”—I
remember how that dropped from him in some worried hour.
Well, it was because Maud was so universally fine that we had
both been in love with her. It was not an air moreover for the
plaintive note : no private inconvenience could long outweigh,
for him, the great happiness of these years—the happiness
that sat with us when we talked and that made it always
amusing to talk, the sense of his being on the heels of success,
coming closer and closer, touching it at last, knowing that
he should touch it again and hold it fast and hold it high.
Of course when we said success we didn’t mean exactly what
Mrs. Highmore, for instance, meant. He used to quote at me,
as a definition, something from a nameless page of my own,
some stray dictum to the effect that the man of his craft had
achieved it when of a beautiful subject his expression was com-
plete. Wasn’t Lambert’s, in all conscience, complete ?
And yet it was bang upon this completeness that the turn
came, the turn I can’t say of his fortune—for what was that ?—but
of his confidence, of his spirits and, what was more to the point,
of his system. The whole occasion on which the first symptom
flared out is before me as I write. I had met them both at
dinner ; they were diners who had reached the penultimate stage
—the stage which in theory is a rigid selection and in practice a
wan submission. It was late in the season, and stronger spirits
than theirs were broken ; the night was close and the air of the
banquet such as to restrict conversation to the refusal of dishes
and consumption to the sniffing of a flower. It struck me all
the more that Mrs. Limbert was flying her flag. As vivid as a
page of her husband’s prose, she had one of those flickers of fresh
ness that are the miracle of her sex and one of those expensive
dresses that are the miracle of ours. She had also a neat brougham
in which she had offered to rescue an old lady from the possi-
bilities of a queer cab-horse ; so that when she had rolled away
with her charge I proposed a walk home with her husband, whom
I had overtaken on the doorstep. Before I had gone far with
him he told me he had news for me—he had accepted, of all
people and of all things, an ” editorial position.” It had come to
pass that very day, from one hour to another, without time for
appeals or ponderations : Mr. Bousefield, the proprietor of a
” high-class monthly,” making, as they said, a sudden change, had
dropped on him heavily out of the blue. It was all right—there
was a salary and an idea, and both of them, as such things went,
rather high. We took our way slowly through the empty streets,
and in the explanations and revelations that, as we lingered under
lamp-posts, I drew from him, I found, with an apprehension that
I tried to gulp down, a foretaste of the bitter end. He told me
more than he had ever told me yet. He couldn’t balance
accounts—that was the trouble ; his expenses were too rising a
tide. It was absolutely necessary that he should at last make
money, and now he must work only for that. The need, this last
year, had gathered the force of a crusher ; it had rolled over him
and laid him on his back. He had his scheme; this time he knew
what he was about ; on some good occasion, with leisure to talk
it over, he would tell me the blessed whole. His editorship would
help him, and for the rest he must help himself. If he couldn’t,
they would have to do something fundamental—change their life
altogether, give up London, move into the country, take a house
at thirty pounds a year, send their children to the Board-school. I
saw that he was excited, and he admitted that he was : he had
waked out of a trance. He had been on the wrong tack ; he had
piled mistake on mistake. It was the vision of his remedy that
now excited him : ineffably, grotesquely simple, it had yet come
to him only within a day or two. No, he wouldn’t tell me what
it was : he would give me the night to guess, and if I shouldn’t
guess it would be because I was as big an ass as himself. How
ever, a lone man might be an ass : it was nobody’s business. He
had five people to carry, and the back must be adjusted to the
burden. He was just going to adjust his back. As to the editor
ship, it was simply heaven-sent, being not at all another case of
The Blackport Beacon, but a case of the very opposite. The
proprietor, the great Mr. Bousefield, had approached him precisely
because his name, which was to be on the cover, didn’t represent
the chatty. The whole thing was to be—oh, on fiddling little
lines, of course—a protest against the chatty. Bousefield wanted
him to be himself; it was for himself Bousefield had picked him
out. Wasn’t it beautiful and brave of Bousefield ? He wanted
literature, he saw the great reaction coming, the way the cat was
going to jump. ” Where will you get literature ?” I wofully
asked ; to which he replied with a laugh that what he had to get
was not literature, but only what Bousefield would take for it.
In that single phrase, without more ado, I discovered his
famous remedy. What was before him for the future was not to
do his work, but to do what somebody else would take for it. I
had the question out with him on the next opportunity, and of all
the lively discussions into which we had been destined to drift it
lingers in my mind as the liveliest. This was not, I hasten to
add, because I disputed his conclusions : it was an effect of the
very force with which, when I had fathomed his wretched
premises, I embraced them. It was very well to talk, with Jane
Highmore, about his standing alone ; the eminent relief of this
position had brought him to the verge of ruin. Several persons
admired his books—nothing was less contestable ; but they
appeared to have a mortal objection to acquiring them by sub-
scription or by purchase : they begged, or borrowed, or stole, they
delegated one of the party perhaps to commit the volumes to
memory and repeat them, like the bards of old, to listening
multitudes. Some ingenious theory was required, at any rate, to
account for the inexorable limits of his circulation. It wasn’t a
thing for five people to live on ; therefore either the objects
circulated must change their nature, or the organisms to be
nourished must. The former change was perhaps the easier to
consider first. Limbert considered it with extraordinary ingenuity
from that time on, and the ingenuity, greater even than any I had
yet had occasion to admire in him, made the whole next stage of
his career rich in curiosity and suspense.
“I have been butting my head against a wall,” he had said in
those hours of confidence ; ” and with the same sublime imbecility,
if you’ll allow me the word, you, my dear fellow, have kept
sounding the charge. We’ve sat prating here of ‘success,’ heaven
help us, like chanting monks in a cloister, hugging the sweet
delusion that it lies somewhere in the work itself, in the expres-
sion, as you said, of one’s subject, or the intensification, as some-
body else somewhere said, of one’s note. One has been going on,
in short, as if the only thing to do were to accept the law of one’s
talent, and thinking that if certain consequences didn’t follow, it
was only because one hadn’t accepted enough. My disaster has
served me right—I mean for using that ignoble word at all. It’s
a mere distributor’s, a mere hawker’s word. What is ‘success’
anyhow ? When a book’s right, it’s right—shame to it surely if
it isn’t. When it sells it sells—it brings money like potatoes or
beer.The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. c
beer. If there’s dishonour one way and inconvenience the other,
it certainly is comfortable, but it as certainly isn’t glorious, to
have escaped them. People of delicacy don’t brag either about
their probity or about their luck. Success be hanged !—I want to
sell. It’s a question of life and death. I must study the way.
I’ve studied too much the other way—I know the other way
now, every inch of it. I must cultivate the market—it’s a science
like another. I must go in for an infernal cunning. It will be
very amusing, I foresee that ; the bustle of life will become
positively exhilarating. I haven’t been obvious—! must be
obvious. I haven’t been popular—I must be popular. It’s
another art—or perhaps it isn’t an art at all. It’s something else ;
one must find out what it is. Is it something awfully queer ?—
you blush !—something barely decent ? All the greater incentive
to curiosity ! Curiosity’s an immense motive ; we shall have
tremendous larks. They all do it ; it’s only a question of how.
Of course I’ve everything to unlearn; but what is life, as Jane
Highmore says, but a lesson ? I must get all I can, all she can
give me, from Jane. She can’t explain herself much ; she’s all
intuition ; her processes are obscure ; it’s the spirit that swoops
down and catches her up. But I must study her reverently in
her works. Yes, you’ve defied me before, but now my loins are
girded : I declare I’ll read one of them—I really will : I’ll put it
through if I perish !”
I won’t pretend that he made all these remarks at once ;
but there wasn’t one that he didn’t make at one time or another,
for suggestion and occasion were plentiful enough, his life being
now given up altogether to his new necessity. It wasn’t a
question of his having or not having, as they say, my intellectual
sympathy : the brute force of the pressure left no room for judg-
ment ; it made all emotion a mere recourse to the spy-glass. I
watched him as I should have watched a long race or a long chase,
irresistibly siding with him, but much occupied with the calcula-
tion of odds. I confess indeed that my heart, for the endless
stretch that he covered so fast, was often in my throat. I
saw him peg away over the sun-dappled plain, I saw him double
and wind and gain and lose ; and all the while I secretly enter-
tained a conviction. I wanted him to feed his many mouths, but
at the bottom of all things was my sense that if he should succeed
in doing so in this particular way I should think less well of
him, and I had an absolute terror of that. Meanwhile, so far as I
could, I backed him up, I helped him : all the more that I had
warned him immensely at first, smiled with a compassion it was
very good of him not to have found exasperating, over the com-
placency of his assumption that a man could escape from himself.
Ray Limbert, at all events, would certainly never escape ; but one
could make believe for him, make believe very hard—an under-
taking in which, at first, Mr. Bousefield was visibly a blessing.
Limbert was delightful on the business of this being at last my
chance too—my chance, so miraculously vouchsafed, to appear
with a certain luxuriance. He didn’t care how often he printed
me, for wasn’t it exactly in my direction Mr. Bousefield held that
the cat was going to jump ? This was the least he could do for
me. I might write on anything I liked—on anything at least
but Mr. Limbert’s second manner. He didn’t wish attention
strikingly called to his second manner ; it was to operate in-
sidiously ; people were to be left to believe they had discovered it
long ago. ” Ralph Limbert ?—why, when did we ever live with-
out him ? “—that’s what he wanted them to say. Besides, they
hated manners—let sleeping dogs lie. His understanding with
Mr. Bousefield—on which he had had not at all to insist ; it was
the excellent man who insisted—was that he should run one of his
beautiful stories in the magazine. As to the beauty of his story,
however, Limbert was going to be less admirably straight than as
to the beauty of everything else. That was another reason why
I mustn’t write about his new line : Mr. Bousefield was not to be
too definitely warned that such a periodical was exposed to prosti-
tution. By the time he should find it out for himself, the public—
le gros public—would have bitten, and then perhaps he would be
conciliated and forgive. Everything else would be literary in
short, and above all I would be ; only Ralph Limbert wouldn’t—
he’d chuck up the whole thing sooner. He’d be vulgar, he’d be
rudimentary, he’d be atrocious : he’d be elaborately what he hadn’t
I duly noticed that he had more trouble in making ” everything
else ” literary than he had at first allowed for ; but this was largely
counteracted by the ease with which he was able to obtain that
that mark should not be overshot. He had taken well to heart
the old lesson of the Beacon ; he remembered that he was after
all there to keep his contributors down much rather than to keep
them up. I thought at times that he kept them down a trifle
too far, but he assured me that I needn’t be nervous : he had his
limit—his limit was inexorable. He would reserve pure vulgarity
for his serial, over which he was sweating blood and water ;
elsewhere it should be qualified by the prime qualification, the
mediocrity that attaches, that endears. Bousefield, he allowed, was
proud, was difficult : nothing was really good enough for him but
the middling good ; but he himself was prepared for adverse
comment, resolute for his noble course. Hadn’t Limbert more-
over, in the event of a charge of laxity from headquarters, the
great strength of being able to point to my contributions ?
Therefore I must let myself go, I must abound in my peculiar
sense, I must be a resource in case of accidents. Limbert’s vision
of accidents hovered mainly over the sudden awakening of Mr.
Bousefield to the stuff that, in the department of fiction, his editor
was smuggling in. He would then have to confess in all humility
that this was not what the good old man wanted, but I should be
all the more there as a compensatory specimen. I would cross the
scent with something showily impossible, splendidly unpopular—
I must be sure to have something on hand. I always had plenty
on hand—poor Limbert needn’t have worried : the magazine was
forearmed, each month, by my care, with a retort to any possible
accusation of trifling with Mr. Bousefield’s standard. He had
admitted to Limbert, after much consideration indeed, that he was
prepared to be perfectly human ; but he had added that he was not
prepared for an abuse of this admission. The thing in the world
I think I least felt myself was an abuse, even though (as I had
never mentioned to my friendly editor) I too had my project for
a bigger reverberation. I daresay I trusted mine more than I
trusted Limbert’s ; at all events, the golden mean in which, as an
editor, in the special case, he saw his salvation, was something I
should be most sure of if I were to exhibit it myself. I exhibited
it, month after month, in the form of a monstrous levity, only
praying heaven that my editor might now not tell me, as he had
so often told me, that my result was awfully good. I knew what
that would signify—it would signify, sketchily speaking, disaster.
What he did tell me, heartily, was that it was just what his game
required: his new line had brought with it an earnest assumption—
earnest save when we privately laughed about it—of the locutions
proper to real bold enterprise. If I tried to keep him in the dark
even as he kept Mr. Bousefield, there was nothing to show that I was
not tolerably successful : each case therefore presented a promising
analogy for the other. He never noticed my descent, and it was
accordingly possible that Mr. Bousefield would never notice his.
But would nobody notice it at all ?—that was a question that
added a prospective zest to one’s possession of a critical sense. So
much depended upon it that I was rather relieved than otherwise
not to know the answer too soon. I waited in fact a year—the
year for which Limbert had cannily engaged, on trial, with Mr.
Bousefield ; the year as to which, through the same sharpened
shrewdness, it had been conveyed in the agreement between them
that Mr. Bousefield was not to intermeddle. It had been Lim-
bert’s general prayer that we would, during this period, let him
quite alone. His terror of my direct rays was a droll, dreadful
force that always operated : he explained it by the fact that I
understood him too well, expressed too much of his intention,
saved him too little from himself. The less he was saved, the
more he didn’t sell : I literally interpreted, and that was simply fatal.
I held my breath, accordingly ; I did more—I closed my eyes, I
guarded my treacherous ears. He induced several of us to do that
(ot such devotions we were capable) so that not even glancing at
the thing from month to month, and having nothing but his
shamed, anxious silence to go by, I participated only vaguely in
the little hum that surrounded his act of sacrifice. It was blown
about the town that the public would be surprised ; it was hinted,
it was printed, that he was making a desperate bid. His new
work was spoken of as ” more calculated for general acceptance. “
These tidings produced in some quarters much reprobation, and
nowhere more, I think, than on the part of certain persons who
had never read a word of him, or assuredly had never spent a
shilling on him, and who hung for hours over the other attractions
of the newspaper that announced his abasement. So much as-
perity cheered me a little—seemed to signify that he might really
be doing something. On the other hand, I had a distinct alarm ;
some one sent me, for some alien reason, an American journal
(containing frankly more than that source of discomposure) in
which was quoted a passage from our friend’s last instalment.
The passage—I couldn’t for my life help reading it—was simply
superb. Ah, he would have to move to the country if that was
the worst he could do ! It gave me a pang to see how little, after
all, he had improved since the days of his competition with Pat
Moyle. There was nothing in the passage quoted in the American
paper that Pat would for a moment have owned. During the last
weeks, as the opportunity of reading the complete thing drew
near, one’s suspense was barely endurable, and I shall never forget
the July evening on which I put it to rout. Coming home to
dinner I found the two volumes on my table, and I sat up with
them half the night, dazed, bewildered, rubbing my eyes, wonder-
ing at the monstrous joke. Was it a monstrous joke, his second
manner—was this the new line, the desperate bid, the scheme for
more general acceptance and the remedy for material failure ?
Had he made a fool of all his following, or had he, most injuriously,
made a still bigger fool of himself? Obvious ?—where the deuce
was it obvious ? Popular ?—how on earth could it be popular ?
The thing was charming with all his charm and powerful with all
his power ; it was an unscrupulous, an unsparing, a shameless,
merciless masterpiece. It was, no doubt, like the old letters to
the Beacon, the worst he could do ; but the perversity of the
effort, even though heroic, had been frustrated by the purity of the
gift. Under what illusion had he laboured, with what wavering,
treacherous compass had he steered ? His honour was inviolable,
his measurements were all wrong. I was thrilled with the whole
impression and with all that came crowding in its train. It was
too grand a collapse—it was too hideous a triumph ; I exulted
almost with tears—I lamented with a strange delight. Indeed as
the short night waned, and, threshing about in my emotion, I
fidgeted to my high-perched window for a glimpse of the summer
dawn, I became at last aware that I was staring at it out of eyes
that had compassionately and admiringly filled. The eastern sky,
over the London housetops, had a wonderful tragic crimson.
That was the colour of his magnificent mistake.
If something less had depended on my impression I daresay I
should have communicated it as soon as I had swallowed my
breakfast ; but the case was so embarrassing that I spent the first
half of the day in reconsidering it, dipping into the book again,
almost feverishly turning its leaves and trying to extract from
them, for my friend’s benefit, some symptom of re-assurance, some
ground for felicitation. But this rash challenge had consequences
merely dreadful ; the wretched volumes, imperturbable and
impeccable, with their shyer secrets and their second line of
defence, were like a beautiful woman more denuded or a great
symphony on a new hearing. There was something quite
exasperating in the way, as it were, they stood up to me. I
couldn’t, however, be dumb—that was to give the wrong tinge
to my disappointment ; so that, later in the afternoon, taking my
courage in both hands, I approached, with a vain indirectness,
poor Limbert’s door. A smart victoria waited before it, in
which, from the bottom of the street, I saw that a lady who had
apparently just issued from the house was settling herself. I
recognised Jane Highmore and instantly paused till she should
drive down to me. She presently met me half-way and as soon
as she saw me stopped her carriage in agitation. This was a
relief—it postponed a moment the sight of that pale, fine face of
Limbert’s fronting me for the right verdict. I gathered from the
flushed eagerness with which Mrs. Highmore asked me if I had
heard the news that a verdict of some sort had already been
” What news ?—about the book ?”
” About that horrid magazine. They’re shockingly upset.
He has lost his position—he has had a fearful flare-up with Mr.
I stood there blank, but not unconscious, in my blankness, of
how history repeats itself. There came to me across the years
Maud’s announcement of their ejection from the Beacon, and
dimly, confusedly the same explanation was in the air. This
time, however, I had been on my guard; I had had my suspicion.
” He has made it too flippant ?” I found breath after an instant to
Mrs. Highmore’s blankness exceeded my own. ” Too
flippant ? He has made it too oracular. Mr. Bousefield says
he has killed it.” Then perceiving my stupefaction : ” Don’t
you know what has happened ?” she pursued : ” isn’t it because
in his trouble, poor love, he has sent for you, that you’ve
come ? You’ve heard nothing at all ? Then you had better
know before you see them. Get in here with me—I’ll take you
a turn and tell you.” We were close to the Park, the Regent’s,
and when with extreme alacrity I had placed myself beside her
and the carriage had begun to enter it she went on : ” It was
what I feared, you know. It reeked with culture. He keyed it
up too high.”
I felt myself sinking in the general collapse. ” What are you
talking about ?”
” Why, about that beastly magazine. They’re all on the streets.
I shall have to take mamma.”
I pulled myself together. ” What on earth, then, did Bousefield
want ? He said he wanted elevation.”
” Yes, but Ray overdid it.”
” Why, Bousefield said it was a thing he couldn’t
” Well, Ray managed—he took Mr. Bousefield too literally. It
appears the thing has been doing dreadfully, but the proprietor
couldn’t say anything, because he had covenanted to leave the
editor quite free. He describes himself as having stood there in
a fever and seen his ship go down. A day or two ago the year
was up, so he could at last break out. Maud says he did break
out quite fearfully ; he came to the house and let poor Ray have
it. Ray gave it to him back ; he reminded him of his own idea of
the way the cat was going to jump.”
I gasped with dismay. ” Has Bousefield abandoned that idea ?
Isn’t the cat going to jump ?”
Mrs. Highmore hesitated. ” It appears that she doesn’t seem in
a hurry. Ray, at any rate, has jumped too far ahead of her. He
should have temporised a little, Mr. Bousefield says ; but I’m
beginning to think, you know,” said my companion, ” that Ray
Fresh from my emotions of the previous twenty-four hours, I
was scarcely in a position to disagree with her.
” He published too much pure thought.”
” Pure thought ?” I cried. ” Why, it struck me so often—
certainly in a due proportion of cases—as pure drivel !”
” Oh, you’re a worse purist than he ! Mr. Bousefield says that
of course he wanted things that were suggestive and clever, things
that he could point to with pride. But he contends that Ray
didn’t allow for human weakness. He gave everything in too stiff
Sensibly, I fear, to my neighbour, I winced at her words ; I felt
a prick that made me meditate. Then I said : ” Is that, by chance,
the way he gave me? Mrs. Highmore remained silent so long
that I had somehow the sense of a fresh pang ; and after a
minute, turning in my seat, I laid my hand on her arm, fixed my
eyes upon her face and pursued pressingly : ” Do you suppose it to
be to my ‘Occasional Remarks’ that Mr. Bousefield refers ?”
At last she met my look. ” Can you bear to hear it ?”
” I think I can bear anything now. “
” Well, then, it was really what I wanted to give you an inkling
of. It’s largely over you that they’ve quarrelled. Mr. Bousefield
wants him to chuck you.”
I grabbed her arm again. “And Limbert won’t
” He seems to cling to you. Mr. Bousefield says no magazine
can afford you.”
I gave a laugh that agitated the very coachman. ” Why, my
dear lady, has he any idea of my price ?”
” It isn’t your price—he says you’re dear at any price, you do so
much to sink the ship. Your ‘Remarks’ are called ‘Occasional,’
but nothing could be more deadly regular : you’re there month
after month, and you’re never anywhere else. And you supply no
” I supply the most delicious irony.”
“So Ray appears to have declared. Mr. Bousefield says that’s
not in the least a public want. No one can make out what
you’re talking about, and no one would care if he could. I’m
only quoting him, mind.”
” Quote, quote—if Limbert holds out. I think I must leave
you now, please : I must rush back to express to him what
” I’ll drive you to his door. That isn’t all,” said Mrs. High-
more. And on the way, when the carriage had turned, she
communicated the rest. ” Mr. Bousefield really arrived with an
ultimatum : it had the form of something or other by Minnie
” Minnie Meadows ?” I was stupefied.
” The new lady-humourist every one is talking about. It’s the
first of a series of screaming sketches for which poor Ray was to
find a place.”
” Is that Mr. Bousefield’s idea of literature
” No, but he says it’s the public’s, and you’ve got to take some
account of the public. Aux grands maux les grands remèdes.
They had a tremendous lot of ground to make up, and no one
would make it up like Minnie. She would be the best concession
they could make to human weakness ; she would strike this note,
at least, of showing that it was not going to be quite all—well,
you. Now Ray draws the line at Minnie ; he won’t stoop to
Minnie ; he declines to touch, to look at Minnie. When Mr.
Bousefield—rather imperiously, I believe—made Minnie ; sine quâ
non of his retention of his post he said something rather violent,
told him to go to some unmentionable place and take Minnie
with him. That of course put the fat on the fire. They had
really a considerable scene.”
” So had he with the Beacon man,” I musingly replied.
dear, he seems born for considerable scenes ! It’s on Minnie,
then, that they’ve really split ?” Mrs. Highmore exhaled her
despair in a sound which I took for an assent, and when we had
rolled a little further I rather inconsequently, and to her visible
surprise, broke out of my reverie. “It will never do in the
world—he must stoop to Minnie !”
” It’s too late and what I’ve told you isn’t all. Mr. Bouse-
field raises another objection.”
” What other, pray ?”
” Can’t you guess ?”
I wondered. ” No more of his fiction ?”
” Not a line. That’s something else the magazine can’t stand.
Now that his novel has run its course, Mr. Bousefield is distinctly
I fairly bounded in my place. ” Then it may do ?”
Mrs. Highmore looked bewildered. ” Why so, if he finds it
too dull ?”
” Dull ? Ralph Limbert ? He’s as sharp as a needle !”
” It comes to the same thing. Mr. Bousefield had counted
on something that would have a wider acceptance.” I collapsed
again ; my flicker of elation dropped to a throb of quieter comfort ;
and after a moment’s silence I asked my neighbour if she had
herself read the work our friend had just put forth. ” No,” she
replied, ” I gave him my word at the beginning, at his urgent
request, that I wouldn t.”
” Not even as a book ?”
” He begged me never to look at it at all. He said he was trying
a low experiment. Of course I knew what he meant, and I
entreated him to let me, just for curiosity, take a peep. But he
was firm, he declared he couldn’t bear the thought that a woman
like me should see him in the depths.”
” He’s only, thank God, in the depths of distress,” I replied.
“His experiment’s nothing worse than a failure.”
” Then Bousefield is right—his circulation
won’t budge ?”
” It won’t move one, as they say in Fleet Street. The book
has extraordinary beauty.”
” Poor duck, and he tried so hard !” Jane Highmore sighed
with real indulgence. ” What will, then, become of them ?”
I was silent an instant. ” You must take your mother.”
She was silent too. ” I must speak of it to Cecil !” she then
exclaimed. Cecil is Mr. Highmore, who then entertained, I knew,
strong views on the inadjustability of circumstances in general to
the idiosyncrasies of Mrs. Stannace. He held it supremely happy
that in an important relation she should have met her match. Her
match was Ray Limbert—not much of a writer, but a practical
man. ” The dear things still think, you know, ” my companion
continued, ” that the book will be the beginning of their fortune.
Their illusion, if you’re right, will be rudely dispelled.”
” That’s what makes me dread to face them. I’ve just spent
with his volumes an unforgettable night. His illusion has lasted
because so many of us have been pledged, till this moment, to
turn our faces the other way. We haven’t known the truth and
have therefore had nothing to say. Now that we do know it
indeed we have practically quite as little. I hang back from the
threshold. How can I follow up with a burst of enthusiasm such
a catastrophe as Mr. Bousefield’s visit ?”
As I turned uneasily about my neighbour more comfortably
snuggled. ” Well, I’m glad I haven’t read him, then, and
have nothing unpleasant to say to him !” We had drawn
near to Limbert’s door again, and I made the coachman stop short
of it. ” But he’ll try again, with that determination of his : he’ll
build his hopes on the next time.”
” On what else has he built them from the very first ? It’s
never the present, for him, that bears the fruit ; that’s always
postponed and for somebody else ; there has always to be another
try. I admit that his idea of a new line has made him try
harder than ever. It makes no difference,” I brooded, still timor-
ously lingering ; ” his achievement of his necessity, his hope of a
market, will continue to attach themselves to the future. But
the next time will disappoint him as each last time has done—and
then the next, and the next, and the next !”
I found myself seeing it all with an almost inspired clearness:
it evidently cast a chill on Mrs. Highmore. Then what on
earth will become of him ?” she plaintively asked.
” I don’t think I particularly care what may become of him,”
I returned, with a conscious, reckless increase of my exaltation ;
I feel it almost enough to be concerned with what may become of
one’s enjoyment of him. I don’t know, in short, what will become
of his circulation ; I am only quite at my ease as to what will
become of his work. It will simply keep all its value. He’ll try
again for the common with what he’ll believe to be a still more
infernal cunning, and again the common will fatally elude him, for
his infernal cunning will have been only his genius in an ineffectual
disguise. ” We sat drawn up by the pavement, and I faced poor
Limbert’s future as I saw it. It relieved me in a manner to know
the worst, and I prophesied with an assurance which, as I look
back upon it, strikes me as rather remarkable. ” Que voulez-vous ?”
I went on ; ” you can’t make of a silk purse a sow’s ear ! It’s
grievous indeed if you like—there are people who can’t be vulgar
for trying. He can’t—it wouldn’t come off, I promise you, even
once. It takes more than trying—it comes by grace. It happens
not to be given to Limbert to fall. He belongs to the heights—
he breathes there, he lives there, and it’s accordingly to the heights
I must ascend,” I said as I took leave of my conductress, ” to
carry him this wretched news from where we move !”
A few months were sufficient to show how right I had been about
his circulation. It didn’t move one, as I had said ; it stopped
short in the same place, fell off in a sheer descent, like some
precipice admired of tourists. The public, in other words, drew
the line for him as sharply as he had drawn it for Minnie Meadows
Minnie had skipped with a flouncing caper over his line, however ;
whereas the mark traced by a lustier cudgel had been a barrier in-
surmountable to Limbert. Those next times I had spoken of to
Jane Highmore, I see them simplified by retrocession. Again and
again he made his desperate bid—again and again he tried to. His
rupture with Mr. Bousefield caused him, I fear, in professional
circles, to be thought impracticable, and I am perfectly aware, to
speak candidly, that no sordid advantage ever accrued to him from
such public patronage of my performances as he had occasionally been
in a position to offer. I reflect for my comfort that any injury I
may have done him by untimely application of a faculty of analysis
which could point to no converts gained by honourable exercise
was at least equalled by the injury he did himself. More than once,
as I have hinted, I held my tongue at his request, but my frequent
plea that such favours weren’t politic never found him, when in
other connections there was an opportunity to give me a lift, any
thing but indifferent to the danger of the association. He let them
have me, in a word, whenever he could ; sometimes in periodicals
in which he had credit, sometimes only at dinner. He talked
about me when he couldn’t get me in, but it was always part of the
bargain that I shouldn’t make him a topic. ” How can I success-
fully serve you if you do ?” he used to ask : he was more afraid than
I thought he ought to have been of the charge of tit for tat. I
didn’t care, and I never could distinguish tat from tit ; but, as I
have intimated, I dropped into silence really more than anything
else because there was a certain fascinated observation of his course
which was quite testimony enough and to which, in this huddled
conclusion of it, he practically reduced me.
I see it all foreshortened, his wonderful remainder—see it from
the end backward, with the direction widening toward me as
if on a level with the eye. The migration to the country
promised him at first great things—smaller expenses, larger leisure,
conditions eminently conducive, on each occasion, to the possible
triumph of the next time. Mrs. Stannace, who altogether dis-
approved of it, gave as one of her reasons that her son-in-law,
living mainly in a village, on the edge of a goose-green, would be
deprived of that contact with the great world which was indis-
pensable to the painter of manners. She had the showiest
arguments for keeping him in touch, as she called it, with good
society ; wishing to know, with some force, where, from the
moment he ceased to represent it from observation, the novelist
could be said to be. In London, fortunately, a clever man was
just a clever man ; there were charming houses in which a
person of Ray’s undoubted ability, even though without the knack
of making the best use of it, could always be sure of a quiet
corner from which he might watch the social kaleidoscope. But
the kaleidoscope of the goose-green, what in the world was that,
and what such delusive thrift as drives about the land (with a
tearful account for flies from the inn) to leave cards on the
country magnates ? This solicitude for Lambert’s subject-matter
was the specious colour with which, deeply determined not to
affront mere tolerance in a cottage, Mrs. Stannace overlaid her
indisposition to place herself under the heel of Cecil Highmore.
She knew that he ruled Upstairs as well as down, and she clung to
the fable of the association of interests in the north of London.
The Highmores had a better address—they lived now in Stanhope
Gardens ; but Cecil was fearfully artful—he wouldn’t hear of an
association of interests, nor treat with his mother-in-law save as a
visitor. She didn’t like false positions ; but on the other hand she
didn’t like the sacrifice of everything she was accustomed to.
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. D
Her universe, at any rate, was a universe all of card-leavings and
charming houses, and it was fortunate that she couldn’t, Upstairs,
catch the sound of the doom to which, in his little grey den,
describing to me his diplomacy, Limbert consigned alike the
country magnates and the opportunities of London. Despoiled
of every guarantee, she went to Stanhope Gardens like a mere
maidservant, with restrictions on her very luggage, while, during
the year that followed this upheaval, Limbert, strolling with me
on the goose-green, to which I often ran down, played extrava-
gantly over the theme that, with what he was now going in for,
it was a positive comfort not to have the social kaleidoscope.
With a cold-blooded trick in view, what had life, or manners, or
the best society, or flies from the inn, to say to the question ? It
was as good a place as another to play his new game. He had
found a quieter corner than any corner of the great world, and a
damp old house at sixpence a year, which, beside leaving him all
his margin to educate his children, would allow of the supreme
luxury of his frankly presenting himself as a poor man. This was
a convenience that ces dames, as he called them, had never yet
fully permitted him.
It rankled in me at first to see his reward so meagre, his conquest
so mean, but the simplification effected had a charm that I finally
felt : it was a forcing-house for the three or four other fine mis-
carriages to which his scheme was evidently condemned. I
limited him to three or four, having had my sharp impression, in-
spite of the perpetual broad joke of the thing, that a spring had
really snapped within him on the occasion of that deeply discon-
certing sequel to the episode of his editorship. He never lost his
sense of the grotesque want, in the difference made, of adequate
relation to the effort that had been the intensest of his life. He
had from that moment a charge of shot in him, and it slowly
worked its way to a vital part. As he met his embarrassments,
each year, with his punctual false remedy, I wondered periodically
where he found the energy to return to the attack. He did it
every time with a redder and redder rage, but it was clear to me
that the fever must at last burn itself out. We got again and
again the irrepressible work of art, but what did he get, poor man,
who wanted something so different ? There were likewise
odder questions than this in the matter, phenomena more curious
and mysteries more puzzling, which often, for sympathy if not for
illumination, I intimately discussed with Mrs. Limbert. She had
her burdens, poor woman : after the removal from London, and
after a considerable interval, she twice again became a mother.
Mrs. Stannace too, in a more restricted sense, exhibited afresh, in
relation to the home she had abandoned, the same exemplary
character. In her poverty of guarantees, in Stanhope Gardens,
there had been least of all, it appeared, a proviso that she shouldn’t
resentfully revert again from Goneril to Regan. She came down
to the goose-green like Lear himself, with fewer knights, or at
least baronets, and the joint household was at last patched up. It
fell to pieces and was put together more than once again before
poor Limbert died. He was ridden to the end by the superstition
that he had broken up Mrs. Stannace’s original home on pretences
that had proved hollow, and that if he hadn’t given Maud what she
might have had he could at least give her back her mother. I
was always sure that a sense of the compensations he owed was
half the motive of the dogged pride with which he tried to
wake up the libraries. I believed Mrs. Stannace still had money,
though she pretended that, called upon at every turn to retrieve
deficits, she had long since poured it into the general fund. This
conviction haunted me ; I suspected her of secret hoards, and I
said to myself that she couldn’t be so infamous as not, some day on
her deathbed, to leave everything to her less opulent daughter.
My compassion for the Limberts led me to hover perhaps indis-
creetly round that closing scene, to dream of some happy day when
such an accession of means would make up a little for their present
This, however, was crude comfort, as, in the first place, I had
nothing definite to go by, and, in the second, I held it for more and
more indicated that Ray wouldn’t outlive her. I never ventured
to sound him as to what in this particular he hoped or feared, for
after the crisis marked by his leaving London I had new scruples
about suffering him to be reminded of where he fell short. The
poor man was in truth humiliated, and there were things as to
which that kept us both silent. In proportion as he tried more
fiercely for the market the old plaintive arithmetic, fertile in jokes,
dropped from our conversation. We joked immensely still about
the process, but our treatment of the results became sparing and
superficial. He talked as much as ever, with monstrous arts and
borrowed hints, of the traps he kept setting, but we all agreed to
take merely for granted that the animal was caught. This pro-
priety had really dawned upon me the day that, after Mr. Bouse-
field’s visit, Mrs. Highmore put me down at his door. Mr.
Bousefield, on that occasion, had been served up to me anew, but
after we had disposed of him we came to the book, which I was
obliged to confess I had already rushed through. It was from that
moment—the moment at which my terrible impression of it had
blinked out at his anxious query—that the image of his scared face
was to abide with me. I couldn’t attenuate then—the cat was out
of the bag ; but later, each of the next times, I did, I acknow-
ledge, attenuate. We all did religiously, so far as was possible ;
we cast ingenious ambiguities over the strong places, the beauties
that betrayed him most, and found ourselves in the queer position
of admirers banded to mislead a confiding artist. If we stifled our
cheers, however, and dissimulated our joy, our fond hypocrisy
accomplished little, for Lambert’s finger was on a pulse that told a
plainer story. It was a satisfaction to enjoy a greater freedom with
his wife, who entered at last, much to her honour, into the con-
spiracy, and whose sense of responsibility was flattered by the
frequency of our united appeal to her for some answer to the
marvellous riddle. We had all turned it over till we were tired of
it, threshing out the question why the note he strained every
chord to pitch for common ears should invariably insist on address-
ing itself to the angels. Being, as it were, ourselves the angels,
we had only a limited quarrel in each case with the event ; but its
inconsequent character, given the forces set in motion, was
peculiarly baffling. It was like an interminable sum that wouldn’t
come straight ; nobody had the time to handle so many figures.
Limbert gathered, to make his pudding, dry bones and dead husks ;
how then was one to formulate the law that made the dish prove a
feast ? What was the cerebral treachery that defied his own
vigilance ? There was some obscure interference of taste, some
obsession of the exquisite. All one could say was that genius was
a fatal disturber or that the unhappy man had no effectual flair.
When he went abroad to gather garlic he came home with
I hasten to add that if Mrs. Limbert was not directly illuminat-
ing, she was yet rich in anecdote and example, having found a
refuge from mystification exactly where the rest of us had found
it, in a more devoted embrace and the sense of a finer glory.
Her disappointments and eventually her privations had been many,
her discipline severe ; but she had ended by accepting the long
grind of life, and was now quite willing to be ground in good
company. She was essentially one of us—she always understood.
Touching and admirable at the last, when, through the unmistake-
able change in Limbert’s health, her troubles were thickest, was
the spectacle of the particular pride that she wouldn’t have
exchanged for prosperity. She had said to me once—only once, in
a gloomy hour in London days, when things were not going at all
—that one really had to think him a very great man, because if
one didn’t one would be rather ashamed of him. She had distinctly
felt it at first—and in a very tender place—that almost every one
passed him on the road ; but I believe that in these final years she
would almost have been ashamed of him if he had suddenly gone
into editions. It is certain indeed that her complacency was not
subjected to that shock. She would have liked the money im-
mensely, but she would have missed something she had taught
herself to regard as rather rare. There is another remark I re-
member her making, a remark to the effect that of course if she
could have chosen she would have liked him to be Shakespeare or
Scott, but that, failing this, she was very glad he wasn’t—well, she
named the two gentlemen, but I won’t. I daresay she sometimes
laughed to escape from an alternative. She contributed passion-
ately to the capture of the second manner, foraging for him further
afield than he could conveniently go, gleaning in the barest
stubble, picking up shreds to build the nest and, in particular in the
study of the great secret of how, as we always said, they all did it,
laying waste the circulating libraries. If Limbert had a weakness
he rather broke down in his reading. It was fortunately not till
after the appearance of The Hidden Heart that he broke down in
everything else. He had had rheumatic fever in the spring, when
the book was but half finished, and this ordeal, in addition to
interrupting his work, had enfeebled his powers of resistance and
greatly reduced his vitality. He recovered from the fever and was
able to take up the book again, but the organ of life was pro-
nounced ominously weak, and it was enjoined upon him with some
sharpness that he should lend himself to no worries. It might have
struck me as on the cards that his worries would now be surmount-
able, for when he began to mend he expressed to me a conviction
almost contagious that he had never yet made so adroit a bid as
in the idea of The Hidden Heart. It is grimly droll to reflect
that this superb little composition, the shortest of his novels, but
perhaps the loveliest, was planned from the first as an ” adventure-
story ” on approved lines. It was the way they all did the ad-
venture-story that he tried most dauntlessly to emulate. I wonder
how many readers ever divined to which of their bookshelves The
Hidden Heart was so exclusively addressed. High medical
advice early in the summer had been quite viciously clear as
to the inconvenience that might ensue to him should he neglect
to spend the winter in Egypt. He was not a man to neglect any-
thing ; but Egypt seemed to us all then as unattainable as a second
edition. He finished The Hidden Heart with the energy of
apprehension and desire, for if the book should happen to do what
” books of that class, ” as the publisher said, sometimes did h
e might well have a fund to draw on. As soon as I read the deep
and delicate thing I knew, as I had known in each case before,
exactly how well it would do. Poor Limbert, in this long business,
always figured to me an undiscourageable parent to whom only
girls kept being born. A bouncing boy, a son and heir, was
devoutly prayed for, and almanacks and old wives consulted ; but
the spell was inveterate, incurable, and The Hidden Heart proved,
so to speak, but another female child. When the winter arrived
accordingly Egypt was out of the question. Jane Highmore, to
my knowledge, wanted to lend him money, and there were even
greater devotees who did their best to induce him to lean on them.
There was so marked a ” movement ” among his friends that a
very considerable sum would have been at his disposal, but his
stiffness was invincible : it had its root, I think, in his sense, on
his own side, of sacrifices already made. He had sacrificed honour
and pride, and he had sacrificed them precisely to the question of
money. He would evidently, should he be able to go on, have to
continue to sacrifice them, but it must be all in the way to which
he had now, as he considered, hardened himself. He had spent
years in plotting for favour, and since on favour he must live it
could only be as a bargain and a price.
He got through the early part of the season better than we
feared, and I went down, in great elation, to spend Christmas on
the goose-green. He told me, late on Christmas eve, after our
simple domestic revels had sunk to rest and we sat together by the
fire, that he had been visited the night before, in wakeful hours,
by the finest fancy for a really good thing that he had ever felt
descend in the darkness. ” It’s just the vision of a situation that
contains, upon my honour, everything,” he said, “and I wonder
that I’ve never thought of it before.” He didn’t describe it
further, contrary to his common practice, and I only knew later,
by Mrs. Limbert, that he had begun Derogation and that he
was completely full of his subject. It was a subject, however,
that he was not to live to treat. The work went on for a couple
of months, in happy mystery, without revelations even to his
wife. He had not invited her to help him to get up his case—
she had not taken the field with him, as on his previous campaigns.
We only knew he was at it again, but that less even than ever
had been said about the impression to be made on the market. I
saw him in February, and thought him sufficiently at ease. The
great thing was that he was immensely interested and was pleased
with the omens. I got a strange, stirring sense that he had not
consulted the usual ones, and indeed that he had floated away into
a grand indifference, into a reckless consciousness of art. The
voice of the market had suddenly grown faint and far ; he had
come back at the last, as people so often do, to one of the moods,
the sincerities, of his prime. Was he really, with a blurred sense
of the pressing, doing something now only for himself? We
wondered and waited—we felt that he was a little confused.
What had happened, I was afterwards satisfied, was that he had
quite forgotten whether he generally sold or not. He had merely
waked up one morning again in the country of the blue, and he
had stayed there with a good conscience and a great idea. He
stayed till death knocked at the gate, for the pen dropped from his
hand only at the moment when, from sudden failure of the heart,
his eyes, as he sank back in his chair, closed for ever. Deroga-
tion is a splendid fragment ; it evidently would have been one of
his high successes. How far it would have waked up the libraries
is of course a very different question.
By Charles G. D. Roberts
BEFORE the feet of the dew
There came a call I knew,
Luring me into the garden
Where the tall white lilies grew.
I stood in the dusk between
The companies of green,
O’er whose aerial ranks
The lilies rose serene.
And the breathing air was stirred
By an unremembered word,
And wings not of a bird.
I heard the spent blooms sighing,
The expectant buds replying ;
I felt the life of the leaves,
Ephemeral, yet undying.
The spirits of earth were there
Thronging the shadowed air,
Serving among the lilies
In an ecstasy of prayer.
Their speech I could not tell ;
But the sap in each green cell,
And the pure initiate petals,
They knew that language well.
I felt the soul of the trees—
Of the white, eternal seas—
Of the flickering bats and night-moths
And my own soul kin to these.
And a spell came out of space
From the light of its starry place,
And I saw in the deep of my heart
The image of God’s face.
Tirala-tirala . . .
I WONDER what the secret of it is—why that little fragment of a
musical phrase has always had this instant, irresistible power to
move me. The tune of which it formed a part I have never
heard ; whether it was a merry tune or a sad tune, a pretty tune
or a stupid one, I have no means of guessing. A sequence of six
notes, like six words taken from the middle of a sentence, it stands
quite by itself, detached, fortuitous. If I were to pick it out for
you on the piano, you would scoff at it ; you would tell me that it
is altogether pointless and unsuggestive—that any six notes, struck
at haphazard, would signify as much. And I certainly could not,
with the least show of reason, maintain the contrary. I could only
wonder the more why it has always had, for me, this very singular
charm. As when I was a child, so now, after all these years, it is
a sort of talisman in my hands, a thing to conjure with. I have
but to breathe it never so softly to myself, and (if I choose) the
actual world melts away, and I am journeying on wings in
dreamland. Whether I choose or not, it always thrills my heart
with responsive echoes, it always wakes a sad, sweet emotion.
∗ ∗ ∗
I remember quite clearly the day when I first heard it ; quite
clearly, though it was more—oh, more than five-and-twenty years
ago, and the days that went before and came after it have entirely
lost their outlines, and merged into a vague golden blur. That
day, too, as I look backwards, glows in the distance with a golden
light ; and if I were to speak upon my impulse, I should vow it
was a smiling day of June, clothed in sunshine and crowned with
roses. But then, if I were to speak upon my impulse, I should
vow that it was June at Saint-Graal the whole year round.
When I stop to think, I remember that it was a rainy day, and
that the ground was sprinkled with dead leaves. I remember
standing at a window in my grandmother s room, and gazing out
with rueful eyes. It rained doggedly, relentlessly—even, it
seemed to me, defiantly, spitefully, as if it took a malicious
pleasure in penning me up within doors. The mountains, the
Pyrenees, a few miles to the south, were completely hidden by the
veil of waters. The sodden leaves, brown patches on the lawn
and in the pathways, struggled convulsively, like wounded birds,
to fly from the gusts of wind, but fell back fluttering heavily.
One could almost have touched the clouds, they hung so low, big
ragged tufts of sad-coloured cotton-wool, blown rapidly through
the air, just above the writhing tree-tops. Everywhere in the
house there was a faint fragrance of burning wood : fires had been
lighted to keep the dampness out.
∗ ∗ ∗
Indeed, if it had been a fair day, my adventure could scarcely
have befallen. I should have been abroad, in the garden or the
forest, playing with André, our farmer’s son ; angling, with a bit
of red worsted as bait, for frogs in the pond ; trying to catch
lizards on the terrace ; lying under a tree with Don Quixote or Le
Capitaine Fracasse ; visiting Manuela in her cottage ; or perhaps,
best of all, spending the afternoon with Hélène, at Granjolaye. It
was because the rain interdicted these methods of amusement that
I betook myself for solace to Constantinople.
∗ ∗ ∗
I don’t know why—I don’t think any one knew why—that part
of our house was called Constantinople ; but it had been called so
from time immemorial, and we all accepted it as a matter of
course. It was the topmost story of the East Wing—three
rooms : one little room, by way of ante-chamber, into which you
entered from a corkscrew staircase ; then another little room, at
your left ; and then a big room, a long dim room, with only two
windows, one at either end. And these rooms served as a sort of
Hades for departed household gods. They were crowded, crowded
to overflowing, with such wonderful old things ! Old furniture
—old straight-backed chairs, old card-tables, with green cloth
tops, and brass claws for feet, old desks and cabinets, the dismem-
bered relics of old four-post bedsteads ; old clothes—old hats,
boots, cloaks—green silk calashes, like bonnets meant for the ladies
of Brobdingnag—and old hoop-petticoats, the skeletons of dead
toilets ; old books, newspapers, pictures ; old lamps and candlesticks,
clocks, fire-irons, vases ; an old sedan-chair ; old spurs, old swords,
old guns and pistols: generations upon generations of superannuated
utilities and vanities, slumbering in one another’s shadows, under
a common sheet of dust, and giving off a thin, penetrating, ancient
When it rained, Constantinople was my ever-present refuge.
It was a land of penumbra and mystery, a realm of perpetual
wonderment, a mine of inexhaustible surprises. I never visited it
without finding something new, without getting a sensation.
One day, when André was there with me, we both saw a ghost—
yes, as plainly as at this moment I see the paper I’m writing on ;
but I won’t turn aside now to speak of that. And as for my finds,
on two or three occasions, at least, they had more than a subjective
metaphysical importance. The first was a chest filled with
jewellery and trinkets, an iron chest, studded with nails, in size
and shape like a small trunk, with a rounded lid. I dragged it out
of a dark corner, from amidst a quantity of rubbish, and (it wasn’t
even locked !) fancy the eyes I made when I beheld its contents:
half-a-dozen elaborately carved, high-backed tortoise-shell combs,
ranged in a morocco case ; a beautiful old-fashioned watch, in the
form of a miniature guitar ; an enamelled snuff-box ; and then no
end of rings, brooches, buckles, seals, and watch-keys, set with
precious stones—not very precious stones perhaps,—only garnets
amethysts, carnelians ; but mercy, how they glittered ! I ran off
in great excitement to call my grandmother ; and she called my
uncle Edmond ; and he, alas, applied the laws of seigniory to the
transaction, and I saw my trover appropriated. My other im-
portant finds were appropriated also, but about them I did not care
so much—they were only papers. One was a certificate, dated in
the Year III, and attesting that my grandfather’s father had taken
the oath of allegiance to the Republic. As I was a fierce Legiti-
mist, this document afforded me but moderate satisfaction. The
other was a Map of the World, covering a sheet of cardboard
nearly a yard square, executed in pen-and-ink, but with such a
complexity of hair-lines, delicate shading, and ornate lettering, that,
until you had examined it closely, you would have thought it a
carefully finished steel-engraving. It was signed ” Herminie de
Pontacq, 1814 “; that is to say, by my grandmother herself, who
in 1814 had been twelve years old ; dear me, only twelve years
old ! It was delightful and marvellous to think that my own
grandmother, in 1814, had been so industrious, and painstaking,
and accomplished a little girl. I assure you, I felt almost as proud
as if I had done it myself.
∗ ∗ ∗
The small room at the left of the ante-chamber was consecrated
to the roba of an uncle of my grandfather’s, who had been a sugar-
planter in the province of New Orleans, in the reign of Louis
XVI. He had also been a Colonel, and so the room was called
the Colonel’s room. Here were numberless mementoes of the
South : great palm-leaf fans, conch-shells, and branches of coral,
broad-brimmed hats of straw, monstrous white umbrellas, and, in
a corner, a collection of long slender wands, ending in thick
plumes of red and yellow feathers. These, I was informed, the
sugar-planter’s slaves, standing behind his chair, would flourish
about his head, to warn off the importunate winged insects that
abound là-bas. He had died at Paris in 1793, and of nothing more
romantic than a malignant fever, foolish person, when he might
so easily have been guillotined ! (It was a matter of permanent
regret with me that none of our family had been guillotined.) But
his widow had survived him for more than forty years, and her my
grandmother remembered perfectly. A fat old Spanish Créole lady,
fat and very lazy—oh, but very lazy indeed. At any rate, she
used to demand the queerest services of the negress who was in
constant attendance upon her. ” Nanette, Nanette, tourne tête à
moi. Veux”—summon your fortitude—” veux cracher !” Ah,
well, we are told, they made less case of such details in those robust
old times. How would she have fared, poor soul, had she fallen
amongst us squeamish decadents ?
∗ ∗ ∗
It was into the Colonel’s room that I turned to-day. There
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. E
was a cupboard in its wall that I had never thoroughly examined.
The lower shelves, indeed, I knew by heart ; they held, for the
most part, empty medicine bottles. But the upper ones ?
∗ ∗ ∗
I pause for a moment, and the flavour of that far-away after-
noon comes back fresher in my memory than yesterday’s. I am
perched on a chair, in the dim light of Constantinople, at Saint-
Graal ; my nostrils are full of a musty, ancient smell ; I can hear
the rain pat-pattering on the roof, the wind whistling at the window,
and, faintly, in a distant quarter of the house, my cousin Elodie
playing her exercises monotonously on the piano. I am balancing
myself on tip-toe, craning my neck, with only one care, one pre-
occupation, in the world—to get a survey of the top shelf of the
closet in the Colonel’s room. The next to the top, and the next
below that, I already command ; they are vacant of everything
save dust. But the top one is still above my head, and how to
reach it seems a terribly vexed problem, of which, for a little while,
motionless, with bent brows, I am rapt in meditation. And then,
suddenly, I have an inspiration—I see my way.
It was not for nothing that my great-aunt Radigonde—(think
of having had a great-aunt named Radigonde, and yet never having
seen her ! She died before I was born—isn’t Fate unkind ?)—it
was not for nothing that my great-aunt Radigonde, from 1820 till
its extinction in 1838, had subscribed to the Revue Rose—La
Revue Rose ; Echo du Bon Ton ; Miroir de la Mode ; paraissant tons
les mois ; dirigée par une Dame du Monde ; nor was it in vain, either,
that my great-aunt Radigonde had had the annual volumes of this
fashionable intelligencer bound. Three or four of them now, piled
one above the other on my chair, lent me the altitude I needed ;
and the top shelf yielded up its secret.
It was an abominably dusty secret, and it was quite a business to
wipe it off. Then I perceived that it was a box, a square box,
about eighteen inches long and half as deep, made of polished
mahogany, inlaid with scrolls and flourishes of satin-wood.
Opened, it proved to be a dressing-case. It was lined with pink
velvet and white brocaded silk. There was a looking-glass, in a pink
velvet frame, with an edge of gold lace, that swung up on a hinged
support of tarnished ormolu ; a sere and yellow looking-glass, that
gave back a reluctant, filmy image of my face. There were half-
a-dozen pear-shaped bottles, of wine-coloured glass, with tarnished
gilt tops. There was a thing that looked like the paw of a small
animal, the fur of which, at one end, was reddened, as if it had
been rubbed in some red powder. The velvet straps that had once
presumably held combs and brushes, had been despoiled by an earlier
hand than mine ; but of two pockets in the lid the treasures were
intact: a tortoise-shell housewife, containing a pair of scissors, a
thimble, and a bodkin, and a tortoise-shell purse, each prettily
incrusted with silver and lined with thin pink silk.
In front, between two of the gilt-topped bottles, an oval of pink
velvet, with a tiny bird in ormolu perched upon it, was evidently
movable—a cover to something. When I had lifted it, I saw, first,
a little pane of glass, and then, through that, the brass cylinder and
long steel comb of a musical box. Wasn’t it an amiable conceit,
whereby my lady should be entertained with tinkling harmonies
the while her eyes and fingers were busied in the composition of
her face ? Was it a frequent one in old dressing-cases ?
Oh, yes, the key was there—a gilt key, coquettishly decorated
with a bow of pink ribbon ; and when I had wound the mechanism
up, the cylinder, to my great relief, began to turn—to my relief,
for I had feared that the spring might be broken, or something :
springs are so apt to be broken in this disappointing world. The
cylinder began to turn—but, alas, in silence, or almost in silence,
emitting only a faintly audible, rusty gr-r-r-r, a sort of guttural
grumble ; until, all at once, when I was least expecting it—tirala-
tirala—it trilled out clearly, crisply, six silvery notes, and then
relapsed into its rusty gr-r-r-r.
So it would go on and on until it ran down. A minute or two of
creaking and croaking, hemming-and-hawing, as it were, whilst
it cleared its old asthmatic throat, then a sudden silvery tirala-
tirala, then a catch, a cough, and mutter-mutter-mutter. Or was
it more like an old woman maundering in her sleep, who should
suddenly quaver out a snatch from a ditty of her girlhood, and
afterwards mumble incoherently again ?
I suppose the pin-points on the cylinder, all save just those six,
were worn away ; or, possibly, those teeth of the steel comb were
the only ones that retained elasticity enough to vibrate.
∗ ∗ ∗
A sequence of six notes, as inconclusive as six words plucked at
random from the middle of a sentence ; as void of musical value
as six such words would be of literary value. I wonder why it
has always had this instant, irresistible power to move me. It has
always been a talisman in my hands, a thing to conjure with.
As when I was a child, so now, after twenty years, I have but to
breathe it to myself, and, if I will, the actual world melts away,
and I am journeying in dreamland. Whether I will or not, it
always stirs a sad, sweet emotion in my heart. I wonder why.
Tirala-tirala—I dare say, for another, any six notes, struck at hap-
hazard, would signify as much. But for me—ah, if I could seize
the sentiment it has for me, and translate it into English words,
I should have achieved a sort of miracle. For me, it is the voice
of a spirit, sighing something unutterable. It is an elixir, distilled
of unearthly things, six lucent drops ; I drink them, and I am
transported into another atmosphere, and I see visions. It is
Aladdin’s lamp ; I touch it, and cloud-capped towers and gorgeous
palaces are mine in the twinkling of an eye. It is my wishing-
cap, my magic-carpet, my key to the Castle of Enchantment.
∗ ∗ ∗
The Castle of Enchantment. . . . .
When I was a child the Castle of Enchantment meant—the
Future ; the great mysterious Future, away, away there, beneath
the uttermost horizon, where the sky is luminous with tints of
rose and pearl ; the ineffable Future, when I should be grown-up,
when I should be a Man, and when the world would be my garden,
the world and life, and all their riches, mine to explore, to adventure
in, to do as I pleased with ! The Future and the World, the real
World, the World that lay beyond our village, beyond the Forest
of Granjolaye, farther than Bayonne, farther even than Pau ; the
World one read of and heard strange legends of : Paris, and Bagdad,
and England, and Peru. Oh, how I longed to see it ; how hard
it was to wait ; how desperately hard to think of the immense
number of long years that must be worn through somehow,
before it could come true.
But—tirala-tirala !—my little broken bar of music was a touch-
stone. At the sound of it, at the thought of it, the Present was
spirited away ; Saint-Graal and all our countryside were left a
thousand miles behind ; and the Future and the World opened their
portals to me, and I wandered in them where I would. In a sort
of trance, with wide eyes and bated breath, I wandered in them,
through enraptured hours. Believe me, it was a Future, it was a
World, of quite unstinted magnificence. My many-pinnacled
Castle of Enchantment was built of gold and silver, ivory, ala-
baster, and mother-of-pearl ; the fountains in its courts ran with
perfumed waters ; and its pleasaunce was an orchard of pome-
granates—one had no need to spare one’s colours. I dare say,
too, that it was rather vague, wrapped in a good deal of roseate
haze, and of an architecture that could scarcely have been reduced
to ground-plans and elevations ; but what of that ? And oh, the
people, the people by whom the World and the Future were in-
habited, the cavalcading knights, the beautiful princesses ! And
their virtues, and their graces, and their talents ! There were no
ugly people, of course, no stupid people, no disagreeable people ;
everybody was young and handsome, gallant, generous, and
splendidly dressed. And everybody was astonishingly nice to me,
and it never seemed to occur to anybody that I wasn’t to have my
own way in everything. And I had it. Love and wealth, glory,
and all manner of romance—I had them for the wishing. The
stars left their courses to fight for me. And the winds of heaven
vied with each other to prosper my galleons.
To be sure, it was nothing more nor other than the day-dream
of every child. But it happened that that little accidental frag-
ment of a phrase of music had a quite peculiar power to send me
off dreaming it.
∗ ∗ ∗
I suppose it must be that we pass the Castle of Enchantment
while we are asleep. For surely, at first, it is before us—we are
moving towards it ; we can see it shining in the distance ; we shall
reach it to-morrow, next week, next year. And then—and then,
one morning, we wake up, and lo ! it is behind us. We have passed
it—we are sailing away from it—we can’t turn back. We have
passed the Castle of Enchantment ! And yet, it was only to
reach it that we made our weary voyage, toiling through hardships
and perils and discouragements, forcing our impatient hearts to
wait ; it was only the hope, the certain hope, of reaching it at last,
that made our toiling and our waiting possible. And now—we
have passed it. We are sailing away from it. We can’t turn
back. We can only look back—with the bitterness that every
heart knows. If we look forward, what is there to see, save grey
waters, and then a darkness that we fear to enter ?
∗ ∗ ∗
When I was a child, it was the great world and the future into
which my talisman carried me, dreaming desirous dreams ; the
great world, all gold and marble, peopled by beautiful princesses
and cavalcading knights ; the future, when I should be grown-up,
when I should be a Man.
Well, I am grown-up now, and I have seen something of the
great world—something of its gold and marble, its cavalcading
knights and beautiful princesses. But if I care to dream desirous
dreams, I touch my talisman, and wish myself back in the little
world of my childhood. Tirala-tirala—I breathe it softly, softly ;
and the sentiment of my childhood comes and fills my room like a
fragrance. I am at Saint-Graal again ; and my grandmother is
seated at her window, knitting ; and André is bringing up the
milk from the farm; and my cousin Elodie is playing her exercises
on the piano ; and Hélène and I are walking in the garden—
Hélène in her short white frock, with a red sash, and her black hair
loose down her back. All round us grow innumerable flowers,
and innumerable birds are singing in the air, and the frogs are
croaking, croaking in our pond. And farther off, the sun shines
tranquilly on the chestnut trees of the Forest of Granjolaye ; and
farther still, the Pyrenees gloom purple. . . . . It is not much,
perhaps it is not very wonderful ; but oh, how my heart yearns to
recover it, how it aches to realise that it never can.
∗ ∗ ∗
In the Morning (says Paraschkine) the Eastern Rim of the
Earth was piled high with Emeralds and Rubies, as if the Gods
had massed their Riches there ; but he—ingenuous Pilgrim—who
set forth to reach this Treasure-hoard, and to make the Gods’
Riches his, seemed presently to have lost his Way ; he could no
longer discern the faintest Glint of the Gems that had tempted
him : until, in the Afternoon, chancing to turn his Head, he saw
a bewildering Sight—the Emeralds and Rubies were behind him,
immeasurably far behind, piled up in the West.
Where is the Castle of Enchantment ? When do we pass it ?
Ah, well, thank goodness, we all have talismans (like my little
broken bit of a forgotten tune) whereby we are enabled sometimes
to visit it in spirit, and to lose ourselves during enraptured moments
among its glistening, labyrinthine halls.
The Golden Touch
By Rosamund Marriott Watson
THE amber dust of sunset fills
The limits of my narrow room,
And every sterile shadow thrills
To golden hope, to golden bloom.
Sweet through the splendour, shrill and sweet,
Somewhere a neighbouring cage-bird sings,
Sings of the Spring in this grey street
While golden glories gild his wings.
Clothed with the sun he breaks to song—
In vague remembrance, deep delight—
Of dim green worlds, forsaken long,
Of leaf-hung dawn and dewy night.
My prisoning bars, transfigured too,
Fade with the day, forsworn, forgot—
Melt in a golden mist—and you
Are here, although you know it not.
For every honest reader there exist some half-dozen honest
books, which he re-reads at regular intervals of six months
or thereabouts. Whatever the demands on him, however alarming
the arrears that gibber and grin in menacing row, for these he
somehow generally manages to find time. Nay, as the years flit
by, the day is only too apt to arrive when he reads no others at
all ; the hour will even come, in certain instances, when the
number falls to five, to four—perhaps to three. With this
same stride of time comes another practice too—that of formu-
lating general principles to account for or excuse one’s own line
of action ; and yet it ought not to be necessary to put forward
preface or apology for finding oneself immersed in Treasure Island
for about the twentieth time. The captain’s capacities for the
consumption of rum must always be a new delight and surprise ;
the approaching tap of the blind man’s stick, the moment of
breathless waiting in the dark and silent inn, are ever sure of their
thrill ; hence it came about that the other night I laid down the
familiar book at the end of Part the Second—where vice and virtue
spar a moment ere the close grip—with the natural if common-
place reflection that nineteen to six was good healthy odds.
But somehow I was in no hurry to take the book up again.
The mental comment with which I had laid it down had set up a
yeasty ferment and a bubble in my brain ; till at last, with a start,
I asked myself how long was it since I had been satisfied with
such a pitiful majority on the side of evil ? Why, a certain
number of years ago it would have been no majority at all—none,
at least, worth speaking of. What a change must have been
taking place in me unsuspected all this time, that I could tamely
accept, as I had just done, this pitiful compromise (I can call it
nothing else) with the base law of probabilities ! What a totally
different person I must have now become, from the hero who
sallied out to deal with a horde of painted Indians, armed only
with his virtue and his unerring smoothbore ! Well, there was
some little comfort in the fact that the fault was not entirely my
own, nor even that of the irresistible years.
Frankly, in the days I look back to, this same Treasure
would not have gone down at all. It was not that we were in
the least exacting. We did not ask for style ; the evolution of
character possessed no interest whatever for us ; and all scenery
and description we sternly skipped. One thing we did insist on
having, and that was good long odds against the hero ; and in those
fortunate days we generally got them. Just at present, however,
a sort of moral cowardice seems to have set in among writers of
this noblest class of fiction ; a truckling to likelihood, and a dirty
regard for statistics. Needless to say, this state of things is
bringing about its inevitable consequence. Already one hears
rumours that the boy of the period, instead of cutting down im-
palpable bandits or blowing up imaginary mines and magazines, is
moodily devoting himself to golf. The picture is a pitiful one.
Heaven hath blessed him, this urchin, with a healthy appetite for
pirates, a neat hand at the tomahawk, and a simple passion for
being marooned ; instead of which, he now plods about the country
playing golf. The fault is not his, of course ; the honest heart of
him beats sound as ever. The real culprits are these defaulting
writers, who, tainted by realism, basely shirk their duty, fall away
from the high standard of former days, and endeavour to represent
things as they possibly might have happened. Nineteen to six,
indeed ! No lad of spirit will put up with this sort of thing. He
will even rather play golf; and play golf he consequently does.
The magnificent demand of youth for odds—long odds, what-
ever the cost !—has a pathetic side to it, once one is in a position
to look back, thereon squinting gloomily through the wrong end of
the telescope. At the age of six or seven, the boy (in the person
of his hero of the hour) can take on a Genie, an Afreet or two, a
few Sultans and a couple of hostile armies, with a calmness re-
sembling indifference. At twelve he is already less exacting.
Three hundred naked Redskins, mounted on mustangs and yelling
like devils, pursue him across the prairie and completely satisfy his
more modest wants. At fifteen, ’tis enough if he may only lay his
frigate alongside of two French ships of the line ; and among the
swords he shall subsequently receive on his quarter-deck he will
not look for more than one Admiral’s ; while a year or two later
it suffices if he can but win fame and fortune at twenty-five, and
marry the Earl’s daughter in the face of a whole competitive
House of Lords. Henceforward all is declension. One really has
not the heart to follow him, step by dreary step, to the time when
he realises that a hero may think himself lucky if he can only hold
his own, and so on to the point when it dawns on him at last that
the gods have a nasty habit of turning the trump, and have even
been accused of playing with loaded dice—an aphorism any honest
boy would laugh to scorn.
Indeed, the boy may well be excused for rejecting with indigna-
tion these unworthy sneers at the bona fides of the autocrats who,
from afar, shift the pieces on this little board, and chuck them
aside when done with, one by one. For he but sees the world
without through the chequered lattice of the printed page, and
there invariably the hero, buffeted though he may be of men,
kicked by parents and guardians, reviled by colonels and first
lieutenants, always has the trump card up his sleeve, ready for
production in the penultimate chapter. What wonder, then, that the
gods appear to him as his cheerful backers, ready to put their money
on him whatever the starting price ? Nay, even willing to wink
and look the other way when he, their darling, gets a quiet lift
from one of themselves, who (perhaps) may ” have a bit on ? ”
Meanwhile, to the wistful gazer through the lattice, his cloistral
life begins to irk terribly. ‘Tis full time he was up and doing.
Through the garden gate, beyond the parish common, somewhere
over the encircling horizon, lie fame and fortune, and the title
and the bride. Pacific seas are calling, the thunder of their rollers
seems to thrill to him through the solid globe that interposes
between. Savages are growing to dusky manhood solely that he
may flesh his sword on them ; maidens are already entangling
themselves in perilous situations that he, and he alone, may burst
the bonds, eliminate the dragon, and swing them forth to freedom
and his side. The scarlet sunsets scorn him, a laggard and a
recreant ; behind them lie arrogant cities, plains of peril, and all the
tingling adventure of the sea. The very nights are big with
reproach, in their tame freedom from the watch-fire, the war-
whoop, the stealthy ambuscade ; and every hedgerow is a boundary,
every fence another bond. From this point his decadence dates.
At first the dice spring merrily out on the board. The gods
throw, and he ; and they again, and then he, and still with no
misgivings ; those blacklegs know enough to permit an occasional
win. All the same, early or late, comes that period in the game
when suspicion grows a sickening certainty. He asked for long
odds against him, and he has got them with a vengeance ; the
odds of the loaded dice. While as for that curled darling he
dreamed of, who was to sweep the board and declare himself the
chosen, where is he ? He has dropped by the roadside, many a
mile behind. From henceforth on they must not look to join hands
Some there are who have the rare courage, at the realising point,
to kick the board over and declare against further play. Stout-
hearted ones they, worthy of marble and brass ; but you meet them
not at every turn of the way. Such a man I forgathered with
by accident, one late autumn, on the almost deserted Lido. The
bathing-ladders were drawn up, the tramway was under repair ;
but the slant sun was still hot on the crinkled sand, and it was not
so much a case of paddling suggesting itself as of finding oneself
barefoot and paddling without any conscious process of thought.
So I paddled along dreamily, and thought of Ulysses, and how he
might have run the prow of his galley up on these very sands, and
sprung ashore and paddled ; and then it was that I met him—not
Ulysses, but the instance in point.
He was barelegged also, this elderly man of sixty or thereabouts:
and he had just found a cavallo del mare, and exhibited it with all
the delight of a boy ; and as we wandered together, cool-footed,
eastwards, I learnt by degrees how such a man as this, with the
mark of Cheapside still evident on him, came to be pacing the
sands of the Lido that evening with me. He had been Secretary,
it transpired, to some venerable Company or Corporation that
dated from Henry the Seventh ; and among his duties, which were
various and engrossing, was in especial that of ticking off, with a
blue pencil, the members of his governing body, as they made their
appearance at their weekly meeting ; in accordance with the practice
dating from Henry the Seventh. His week, as I have said, was a
busy one, and hinged on a Board day ; and as time went on these
Board days raced up and disappeared with an ever-increasing
rapidity, till at last his life seemed to consist of but fifty-two days
in the year—all Board days. And eternally he seemed to be tick-
ing off names with a feverish blue pencil. These names, too, that
he ticked—they flashed into sight and vanished with the same
nightmare gallop ; the whole business was a great humming
Zoetrope. Anon the Board would consist of Smith, Brown,
Jackson, &c., Life Members all ; in the briefest of spaces Smith
would drop out, and on would come Price, a neophyte—a mere
youngling, this Price. A few more Board days flash by, and out
would go Brown and maybe Jackson—on would come Cattermole,
Fraser, Davidson—beardless juniors every one. Round spun the un-
ceasing wheel ; in a twinkling Davidson, the fledgling, sat reverend
in the chair, while as for those others——! And all the time his blue
pencil, with him, its slave, fastened to one end of it, ticked steadily
on. To me, the hearer, it was evident that he must have been
gradually getting into the same state of mind as Rudyard Kipling’s
delightful lighthouse keeper, whom solitude and the ceaseless tides
caused to see streaks and lines in all things, till at last he barred a
waterway of the world against the ships that persisted in making the
water streaky. And this may account for an experience of his in
the Underground Railway one evening, when he was travelling home
after a painful Board day on which he had ticked up three new boys
into vacant places which seemed to have been hardly filled an hour.
He was alone, he said, and rather sleepy, and he hardly looked at
the stranger who got in at one of the stations, until he saw him
deposit in the hat-rack—where ordinary people put their umbrellas
—what might have been an umbrella, but looked, in the dim light
of the Underground, far more like a scythe. Then he sat up and
began to take notice. The elderly stranger—for he was both
gaunt and elderly—nay, as he looked at him longer he saw he was
old—oh so very old ! And one long white tuft of hair hung down
on his wrinkled forehead from under his top hat,—the stranger
squatted on the seat opposite him, produced a note-book and a pen-
cil—a blue pencil too!—and leaning forward, with a fiendish grin,
said, ” Now I’m going to tick off all you fellows—all you Secre-
taries—right back from the days of Henry the Seventh ! ”
The Secretary fell back helplessly in his seat. Terror-stricken,
he strove to close his ears against the raucous voice that was already
rattling off those quaint old Tudor names he remembered having
read on yellowing parchment ; but all was of no avail. The
stranger went steadily on, and each name as read was ruthlessly
scored out by the unerring blue pencil. The pace was tremendous.
Already they were in the Commonwealth ; past flew the Restora-
tion like a racehorse—the blue pencil wagged steadily like a night-
mare—Queen Anne and her coffee-houses,—in a second they were
left far behind ; and as they turned the corner and sped down the
straight of the Georgian era, the Secretary sweated, a doomed man.
The gracious reign of Victoria was full in sight—nay, on the
stranger’s lips was hovering the very name of Fladgate—Fladgate
whom the Secretary could himself just remember, a doddering old
pensioner—when the train shivered and squealed into St. James’s
Park Station. The Secretary flung the door open and fled like a
hare, though it was not his right station. He ran as far as the
Park itself, and there on the bridge over the water he halted,
mopped his brow, and gradually recovered his peace of mind. The
evening was pleasant, full of light and laughter and the sound of
distant barrel-organs. Before him, calm and cool, rose the walls
of the India Office, which in his simple way he had always con-
sidered a dream in stone. Beneath his feet a whole family of ducks
circled aimlessly, with content written on every feature ; or else,
reversing themselves in a position denoting supreme contempt for
all humanity above the surface, explored a new cool underworld a
few inches below. It was then (he said) that a true sense of his
situation began to steal over him ; and it was then that he awoke
to the face, of another life open to him should he choose to grasp
it. Neither the ducks nor the India Office (so he affirmed) carried
blue pencils, and why should he ? The very next Board day he
sent in his resignation, and, with a comfortable pension and some
reminiscence (perhaps) of that frontage of the India Office, crossed
the Channel and worked South till he came to Venice, where the
last trace of blue-pencil nightmare finally faded away.
” And are you never bored ? ” I tenderly inquired of him, as
we rocked homewards in a gondola between an apricot sky and an
” During the first six months I was” he answered, frankly ;
” then it passed away altogether, even as influenza does in time, or
the memory of a gaucherie. And now every day lasts as long as a
year of those Board days of old, and is fifty-two times as interesting.
Why, only take this afternoon, for example. I didn’t get over
here till two, but first I met some newly-arrived Americans, and
talked for a cycle with them ; and you never know what an
American will be surprised at, or, better still, what he will not be
surprised at ; and if you only think what that means—— Well,
presently they left (they had to get on to Rome), so I went up to
the platform over the sea and had oysters and a bottle of that
delightful yellow wine I always forget the name of ; and aeons
passed away in the consumption. Each oyster lasted a whole Board
day, and each glass of yellow wine three. Then I strolled along
the sands for a century or so, thinking of nothing in particular.
Lastly, I met you, and for some twelve months I’ve been boring
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. F
you with my uninteresting story. And even yet there’s the
whole evening to come ! Oh, I had lots of leeway to make up
when I came over here ; but I think I shall manage it yet—in
Venice ! ”
I could not help thinking, as I parted from him at the Piazzetta
steps, that (despite a certain incident in the Underground Rail-
way) here was one of the sanest creatures I had ever yet happened
But examples such as this (as I said) are rare ; the happy-starred
ones who know when to cut their losses. The most of us prefer
to fight on—mainly, perhaps, from cowardice, and the dread of a
plunge into a new element, new conditions, new surroundings—a
fiery trial for any humble, mistrustful creature of use-and-wont.
And yet it is not all merely a matter of funk. For a grim love
grows up for the sword-play itself, for the push and the hurtle of
battle, for the grips and the give-and-take—in fine, for the fight itself,
whatever the cause. In this exaltation, far from ignoble, we push
and worry along until a certain day of a mist and a choke, and we
are ticked off and done with.
This is the better way ; and the history of our race is ready to
justify us. With the tooth-and-claw business we began, and
we mastered it thoroughly ere we learnt any other trade. Since
that time we may have achieved a thing or two besides—evolved
an art, even, here and there, though the most of us bungled it.
But from first to last fighting was the art we were always
handiest at ; and we are generally safe if we stick to it, what-
ever the foe, whatever the weapons—most of all, whatever the
A Letter Home
By Enoch Arnold Bennett
RAIN was falling—it had fallen steadily through the night—but
the sky showed promise of fairer weather. As the first
streaks of dawn appeared, the wind died away, and the young
leaves on the trees were almost silent. The birds were insistently
clamorous, vociferating times without number that it was a healthy
spring morning and good to be alive.
A little, bedraggled crowd stood before the park gates, awaiting
the hour named on the notice board when they would be admitted
to such lodging and shelter as iron seats and overspreading
branches might afford. A weary, patient-eyed, dogged crowd—a
dozen men, a boy of thirteen, and a couple of women, both past
middle age—which had been gathering slowly since five o’clock.
The boy appeared to be the least uncomfortable. His feet were
bare, but he had slept well in an area in Grosvenor Place, and was
not very damp yet. The women had nodded on many doorsteps,
and were soaked. They stood apart from the men, who seemed
unconscious of their existence. The men were exactly such as
one would have expected to find there—beery and restless as to
the eyes, quaintly shod, and with nondescript greenish clothes which
for the most part bore traces of the yoke of the sandwich board.
Only one amongst them was different.
He was young, and his cap, and manner of wearing it, gave sign
of the sea. His face showed the rough outlines of his history.
Yet it was a transparently honest face, very pale, but still boyish
and fresh enough to make one wonder by what rapid descent he
had reached his present level. Perhaps the receding chin, the
heavy, pouting lower lip, and the ceaselessly twitching mouth
offered a key to the problem.
” Say, Darkey,” he said.
” Well ?”
” How much longer ?”
” Can’t ye see the clock ? It’s staring ye in the face.”
” No. Something queer’s come over my eyes.”
Darky was a short, sturdy man, who kept his head down and
his hands deep in his pockets. The rain-drops clinging to the
rim of an ancient hat fell every now and then into his grey
beard, which presented a drowned appearance. He was a person
of long and varied experiences ; he knew that queer feeling in the
eyes, and his heart softened.
” Come, lean against the pillar,” he said, ” if you don’t want to
tumble. Three of brandy’s what you want. There’s four minutes
to wait yet.”
With body flattened to the masonry, legs apart, and head
thrown back, Darkey’s companion felt more secure, and his
mercurial spirits began to revive. He took off his cap, and
brushing back his light brown curly hair with the hand which
held it, he looked down at Darkey through half-closed eyes, the
play of his features divided between a smile and a yawn. He had
a lively sense of humour, and the irony of his situation was not
lost on him. He took a grim, ferocious delight in calling up the
might-have-beens and the ” fatuous ineffectual yesterdays ” of life.
There is a certain sardonic satisfaction to be gleaned from a
frank recognition of the fact that you are the architect of your
own misfortune. He felt that satisfaction, and laughed at Darkey,
who was one of those who bleat about ” ill-luck ” and ” victims of
” No doubt,” he would say, ” you’re a very deserving fellow,
Darkey, who’s been treated badly. I’m not.” To have attained
such wisdom at twenty-five is not to have lived altogether in
A park-keeper presently arrived to unlock the gates, and the
band of outcasts straggled indolently towards the nearest sheltered
seats. Some went to sleep at once, in a sitting posture. Darkey
produced a clay pipe, and, charging it with a few shreds of tobacco
laboriously gathered from his waistcoat pocket, began to smoke.
He was accustomed to this sort of thing, and with a pipe in his
mouth could contrive to be moderately philosophical upon occasion.
He looked curiously at his companion, who lay stretched at full
length on another bench.
” I say, pal,” he remarked, ” I’ve known ye two days ; ye’ve
never told me yer name, and I don’t ask ye to. But I see ye’ve
not slep’ in a park before.”
” You hit it, Darkey ; but how ?”
” Well, if the keeper catches ye lying down he’ll be on to ye.
Lying down’s not allowed.”
The man raised himself on his elbow.
” Really now,” he said, ” that’s interesting. But I think I’ll
give the keeper the opportunity of moving me. Why, it’s quite
fine, the sun’s coming out and the sparrows are hopping round—
cheeky little devils ! I’m not sure that I don’t feel jolly.”
” I wish I’d got the price of a pint about me,” sighed Darkey,
and the other man dropped his head and appeared to sleep. Then
Darkey dozed a little and heard in his waking sleep the heavy,
crunching tread of an approaching park-keeper ; he started up to
warn his companion, but thought better of it, and closed his eyes
” Now then, there,” the park-keeper shouted to the man with
the sailor hat, ” get up ! This ain’t a fourpenny doss, you
know. No lying down.” A rough shake accompanied the
words, and the man sat up.
” All right, my friend.” The keeper, who was a good-humoured
man, passed on without further objurgation.
The face of the younger man had grown whiter.
” Look here, Darkey,” he said, ” I believe I’m done for.”
” Never say die.
” No, just die without speaking.” His head fell forward and
his eyes closed.
” At any rate, this is better than some deaths I’ve seen,” he
began again with a strange accession of liveliness. ” Darkey, did
I tell you the story of the five Japanese girls ?”
” What, in Suez Bay ?” said Darkey, who had heard many sea
stories during the last two days, and recollected them but hazily.
“No, man. This was at Nagasaki. We were taking in a
cargo of coal for Hong Kong. Hundreds of little Jap girls pass
the coal from hand to hand over the ship’s side in tiny baskets that
hold about a plateful. In that way you can get 3000 tons aboard
in two days.”
” Talking of platefuls reminds me of sausage and mash,” said
” Don’t interrupt. Well, five of these gay little dolls wanted
to go to Hong Kong, and they arranged with the Chinese sailors
to stow away ; I believe their friends paid those cold-blooded
fiends something to pass them down food on the voyage and give
them an airing at nights. We had a particularly lively trip,
battened everything down tight, and scarcely uncovered till we got
into port. Then I and another man found those five girls among
” Dead, eh ? ”
“They’d simply torn themselves to pieces. Their bits of frock
things were in strips, and they were scratched deep from top to
toe. The Chinese had never troubled their heads about them at
all, although they must have known it meant death. You may
bet there was a row. The Japanese authorities make you search
ship before sailing, now.”
” Well ?”
” Well, I sha’n’t die like that. That’s all.”
He stretched himself out once more, and for ten minutes
neither spoke. The park-keeper strolled up again.
” Get up, there ! ” he said shortly and gruffly.
” Up ye get, mate,” added Darkey, but the man on the bench
did not stir. One look at his face sufficed to startle the keeper,
and presently two policemen were wheeling an ambulance cart to
the hospital. Darkey followed, gave such information as he could,
and then went his own ways.
In the afternoon the patient regained full consciousness. His
eyes wandered vacantly about the illimitable ward, with its rows of
beds stretching away on either side of him. A woman with a
white cap, a white apron, and white wristbands bent over him,
and he felt something gratefully warm passing down his throat.
For just one second he was happy. Then his memory returned,
and the nurse saw that he was crying. When he caught the
nurse’s eye he ceased, and looked steadily at the distant ceiling.
” You’re better ? ”
” Yes.” He tried to speak boldly, decisively, nonchalantly.
He was filled with a sense of physical shame, the shame which
bodily helplessness always experiences in the presence of arrogant,
patronising health. He would have got up and walked briskly
away if he could. He hated to be waited on, to be humoured, to
be examined and theorised about. This woman would be wanting
to feel his pulse. She should not ; he would turn cantankerous.
No doubt they had been saying to each other, ” And so young,
too ! How sad !” Confound them.
” Have you any friends that you would like to send for ? ”
” No, none.”
The girl (she was only a girl) looked at him, and there was that
in her eye which overcame him.
” None at all ?”
” Not that I want to see.”
” Are your parents alive ?”
” My mother is, but she lives away in the North.”
” You’ve not seen her lately, perhaps ? ”
He did not reply, and the nurse spoke again, but her voice
sounded indistinct and far off.
When he awoke it was night. At the other end of the ward
was a long table covered with a white cloth, and on this table a
In the ring of light under the lamp was an open book, an ink-
stand and a pen. A nurse (not his nurse) was standing by the
table, her fingers idly drumming the cloth, and near her a man in
evening dress. Perhaps a doctor. They were conversing in low
tones. In the middle of the ward was an open stove, arid the
restless flames were reflected in all the brass knobs of the bedsteads
and in some shining metal balls which hung from an unlighted
chandelier. His part of the ward was almost in darkness. A con-
fused, subdued murmur of little coughs, breathings, rustlings, was
continually audible, and sometimes it rose above the conversation
at the table. He noticed all these things. He became conscious,
too, of a strangely familiar smell. What was it ? Ah, yes !
Acetic acid—his mother used it for her rheumatics.
Suddenly, magically, a great longing came over him. He must
see his mother, or his brothers, or his little sister—some one who
knew him, same one who belonged to him. He could have cried
out in his desire. This one thought consumed all his faculties.
If his mother could but walk in just now through that doorway ! If
only old Spot, even, could amble up to him, tongue out and tail
furiously wagging ! He tried to sit up, and he could not move !
Then despair settled on him, and weighed him down. He closed
The doctor and the nurse came slowly up the ward, pausing
here and there. They stopped before his bed, and he held his
” Not roused up again, I suppose ?”
” Hm ! He may flicker on for forty-eight hours. Not more.”
They went on, and with a sigh of relief he opened his. eyes
again. The doctor shook hands with the nurse, who returned to
the table and sat down.
Death ! The end of all this ! Yes, it was coming. He felt
it. His had been one of those wasted lives of which he used to
read in books. How strange ! Almost amusing ! He was one
of those sons who bring sorrow and shame into a family. Again,
how strange ! What a coincidence that he, just he and
the man in the next bed, should be one of those rare, legendary
good-for-nothings who go recklessly to ruin. And yet, he
was sure that he was not such a bad fellow after all. Only
somehow he had been careless. Yes, careless, that was the
word . . . . nothing worse. . . . . As to death, he was indiffer-
ent. Remembering his father’s death, he reflected that it
was probably less disturbing to die oneself than to watch
He smelt the acetic acid once more, and his thoughts reverted
to his mother. Poor mother ! No, great mother ! The
grandeur of her life’s struggle filled him with a sense of awe.
Strange that until that moment he had never seen the heroic
side of her humdrum, commonplace existence ! He must
write to her, now, at once, before it was too late. His
letter would trouble her, add another wrinkle to her face, but
he must write ; she must know that he had been thinking of
” Nurse,” he cried out, in a thin, weak voice.
” Ssh !” She was by his side directly, but not before he had lost
The following morning he managed with infinite labour to
scrawl a few lines :
” DEAR MAMMA,
” You will be surprised but not glad to get this
I’m done for, and you will never see me again. I’m sorry for
what I’ve done, and how I’ve treated you, but it’s no use saying
anything now. If Pater had only lived he might have kept me
in order. But you were too kind, you know. You’ve had a
hard struggle these last six years, and I hope Arthur and
Dick will stand by you better than I did, now they are
growing up. Give them my love, and kiss little Fannie for
” Mrs. Hancock—”
He got no further with the address.
By some strange turn of the wheel, Darkey gathered several
shillings during the next day or two, and feeling both elated and
benevolent, he called one afternoon at the hospital, “just to
inquire like. ” They told him the man was dead.
” By the way, he left a letter without an address. Mrs. Han-
cock—here it is.”
” That’ll be his mother , he did tell me about her—lived at
Endon, Staffordshire, he said. I ll see to it.”
They gave Darkey the letter.
” So his name’s Hancock,” he soliloquised, when he got into the
street. ” I knew a girl of that name—once. I’ll go and have a
pint of four half.”
At nine o’clock that night Darkey was still consuming four
half, and relating certain adventures by sea which, he averred, had
happened to himself. He was very drunk.
” Yes,” he said, ” and them five lil’ gals was lying there without
a stitch on ’em, dead as meat ; ‘s’true as I’m ‘ere. I’ve seen a
thing or two in my time, I can tell ye.”
” Talking about these Anarchists—” said a man who appeared
anxious to change the subject.
” An—kists,” Darkey interrupted. ” I tell ye what I’d do
with that muck.” He stopped to light his pipe, looked in vain
for a match, felt in his pockets, and pulled out a piece of paper—
” I tell you what I’d do. I’d—” He slowly and medita-
tively tore the letter in two, dropped one piece, on the floor,
thrust the other into a convenient gas jet, and applied it to the
” I’d get ’em ‘gether in a heap and I’d—Damn this
pipe.” He picked up the other half of the letter, and relighted
” After you, mate,” said a man sitting near, who was just
biting the end from a cigar.
The Captain’s Book
LET it be understood at the outset that this book was even more
fateful to its author than the forgotten pamphlet of one John
Stubbs, Puritan, whose right hand, with that of his publisher, was
chopped off in the reign of the great Queen, yelept virgin, ” wich
is writ sarkastic.”
The Captain, by courtesy, for he had never really attained to
more than lieutenant’s rank, and that, too, was due to a page in
the book blurred by a woman’s tears and a comrade’s handgrip. It
is not within my ken to say how the book was begotten, but I
can vouch for the fact that it proved ever a barrier to the success
of its author as a worth-while member of a tax-paying community.
It was with him as a laddie when he fished for troutlings in the
mill-stream, or went birds’-nesting in the hedgerows. It floated
as a nebulous magnetic spirit to lure him from set tasks in the
dame school of his tender years, to play truant in pleasant
meadows, with a stolen volume of forbidden lore in his satchel.
It transformed every itinerant ballad-monger into a troubadour.
It made the wooden-legged corporal who mended brogues between
his drunken bouts, and told tales of the Peninsular and Waterloo,
more wonderful than Prester John, and his feats greater than those of
any hero of Northern Saga. It gave him, to the despair of tutor and
parents, a leaning to the disreputable society of such members of
gipsydom or the mummers’ craft as paid flying visits with van or
show to the town of his birth.
Was it begotten by the reading of his first romance, this desire
that grew in him to write some day a great book, a book of which
the world would ring, that would stir men’s hearts to deeds of
valour, and women’s to vows of loyal love ? Did it sleep in a cell
of his brain at his birth, fateful inheritance of some roving
ancestor, with a light touch on the harp and a genius of lying on
his tongue ?
When the dame school was abandoned for college, and the
velvet cap with golden tassel and jean pantalettes with broidered
frills ceded to cloth small clothes with gilt button and college cap,
it still grew apace ; and when it crept between his dryer tasks and
let duller boys snatch prizes from his grasp, he whispered to
himself that some day he would let them know why he had failed
to be an easy first.
Years fled, the choice of a career became imperative ; but ever
the golden book with its purple letters on fairest vellum, its clasps
of jacinth and opal, its pageant of knights, ladies, courtiers and
clowns ; martial strains and dim cathedral choirs with mystic calls ;
its songs of the blood, leering satyrs, and the seven deadly sins in
guise of maidens fair ; whispered distractingly to his inner ear.
Indecision blinked at him with restless eyes and whispered many
callings : Art held up a pencil and said : You who can limn each
passing face, who are affectable to every shade of colour, can quicken
the inanimate world by the light of your fancy, if you follow me.
I am an arbitrary mistress, but in the end I will lead you through
the gate of the Temple of Fame ! And he was about to follow,
when the skirl of pipes and the echo of marching feet, the flutter
of pennants and strains of a music that roused to imperative life
the instincts of the fighting man, lulled to slumber by centuries of
peace, made him pause again. Visions of foreign lands, gallant
deeds for country and for fame, adventures by sea and shore that
would serve for the pages of the marvellous book, decided him
to abandon his true mistress and follow the jade of war.
It became so closely interwoven with the fibres of his being
that often it was hard to distinguish the existing from the
imagined, and every fact of life borrowed a colour from its
inscribing therein ; thus it came to pass, not seldom, that men
listening to his narration of the happened by the light of their
soberer reason, looked askance at his version and whispered to each
other : ” He is a liar ” ; and when the pain of their misunderstand-
ing had ceased to sting he told himself: ” They too will under-
stand when they read the book.”
One career after the other was tossed aside at the turn to success,
and those who had watched the opening days of the brilliant lad
with the many gifts, turned their faces away when they met him,
for they could not afford to know a wastrel of the chances of life.
Yet the Captain was rarely unhappy, for he alone conned the
pages of the magic book, ever present to him, a growing marvel,
in manhood as in childhood. When the girl of his early love,
weary of waiting for the home that was to harbour her, distrust-
ful of promises as lightly made as broken, turned from a world
of vanities and unsatisfied yearnings to take the veil as a Sister
of Mercy, it was a keen wound, soon to be treasured as a
melancholy sweet episode in the romance of the book. So
years sped by. The Captain married, and little children came
with reckless frequency, episodes of gay insouciance ; materials
of sorrow and pain, dark blots, with here and there a touch of
shame accumulated to supply its tragedy and its truth.
Former schoolfellows, plodding boys of sparser talents who had
The Yellow Book.—Vol. VI. G
kept a grip on the tool they had chosen, passed him in the race of
life, and drove by his shabby lodgings in neat broughams, and
forgot to greet him when they met.
What knew they of the witchery of the golden book, the
hashish of its whisperings, the incidents crowding to fill it with
all the experiences of humanity—a concordance of the soul of
man ? They merely looked upon him as belonging to the strange
race of the sons of men who never work in the immediate present,
but who lie in bed in the morning forming elaborate plans to
catch a sea-serpent.
Debts increased, little children clamoured for food and raiment;
yet the Captain, ever dreaming of his book, trod lightly and
whistled through life, mellow in note as a blackbird; tired women
stitching in narrow windows would lift their heads as they heard
him pass, and think wistfully of bird song and hazel copse down
country ways. Even when the wife of his choice, patient victim
of his procrastinations, closed her tired eyes from sheer weariness,
glad to be relieved of the burden of her sorrows, the Captain
found solace in weaving her in as the central figure of his book—
an apotheosis of heroic wifehood.
But the reaping must be as the sowing, and evil days must come
with the ingathering: his clothes grew shabbier, his friends fewer,
want rapped oftener at the door, gay romance gave place to sordid
reality, and the sore places of life blotted the pages, as the plates in
a book of surgery ; dire necessity forced the Captain to woo the
mistress he had jilted in early youth, but she laughed illusively.
The old spirit had flown from the pencil, his fingers had lost their
cunning, and younger men elbowed him out of the way; for a
man who has spent his life in dreaming ever fails to grasp the
” modern, ” the changeful spirit of the day. As time went on
the book became a subject of jest to his children, of good-natured
raillery to his friends ; the boys and girls fought their separate
ways, gathering educational manna from every bush ; and became
practical hard-headed men and women of the world, with a keen
eye to the main chance, a grip of the essentials of life, as befits the
offspring of a dreamer.
Something of scorn for his failures, of contempt for his ideals,
impatience with his shiftlessness, tinged their attitude to him always,
and, spreading wider, their attitude towards every one who bore
not the hall-mark of the world’s estimate of success. What is the
good of it, how much will it bring ? was their standard of worth.
Barney who had become a successful stockbroker, occasionally
found the former acquaintanceship of the old guv’nor with sundry
families of noble breeding of signal service to him. He never
failed to make capital of the ” old Dad’s ” intimate knowledge of
salmon-fishing, or the best places to go in search of big game and
the easiest way to get there. ” A fellow whose father is a crack
shot and an authority on salmon-fishing can’t be quite a cad, don’t
you know !” young De Vere would urge when asking his
governor to send City Barney an invitation.
Barney, in return, paid for the Captain’s cheap lodgings, and
gave him a hint that the ” missus ” only cared to see people on
invitation, as the chicks asked awkward questions before her folk
as to why grandpa lived in such a little house ? It didn’t do ! The
Captain would curl his grey moustache fiercely and turn to his
pipe and book, and lay the one as it burnt out as a marker in the
half-read page of the other, and close his eyes with a vehemence of
intention that boded ill for the performance, to map out the
chapters of the wonderful book.
Dick, who had inherited his facile invention, astounding memory,
and his adaptive mercurial temperament, without any of his tender-
ness of heart, had taken successfully to journalism as a stepping-
stone to whatever might offer ; and when the Piccadilly
treated all the clubs to a merry half-hour by its piquant details of
the early life of the latest created military baronet, or told how the
great porter brewer’s grandfather burnt the malt by accident and
so laid the foundation to his fortune, or gave a most piquant
version of an old scandal with modern touches as applicable to the
newest woman writer, brother journalists were green with envy.
Readers in the running said : ” That’s Dick O’Grady’s par.,” and
wondered where the deuce the fellow picked up his facts. And
Dick smiled at acquaintances with the winning smile that too was
an inheritance from the Captain, and stopped his hansom to greet
a club gossip useful to push him into the set he wished to enter,
told him a rattling good story of the latest ” star’s ” mother, whom
he happened to know was a canteen woman in the Curragh in
1856, and was promised a card in return for Lady C.’s crush ;
sometimes, too, he found a modernised version of the Captain’s
chivalrous manner to women of almost miraculous effect in con-
ciliating the esoteric petticoat influence of some leading daily ;
and, conscious of his debt, he would order a new dress suit and send
the old boy half a sovereign with a letter bemoaning the shortness
of ” oof, ” and asking three questions no one else in London could
answer him. His Sunday afternoon with the Captain was always
profitably spent ; he gleaned stores of workable anecdotes, and if
the stories he deftly drew out gained in malice as they lost in genial
humanity, and the rennet of his cynicism turned sour the milk of
human kindness that ran through the Captain’s worst tale—well,
he was the better latter-day journalist for that. Nowise deceived,
the old man would pocket the stray shillings, and wash the taste
of the interview down with a glass of his favourite Jamieson,
swearing he would make that cub, with the mind of a journalising
huckster, cry small when he published his book.
As the sons, so the daughters.
Mary, who married well and lived in Lancaster Gate, sometimes
took the children in a cab to see him ; but as her nurse’s sister let
apartments in the same terrace, she had to look after them herself,
and that was too fatiguing for frequent repetition. Kitty, the
black sheep of the family, who danced in burlesque, and showed
her pretty limbs as Captain of the Guard, and her pretty teeth in
her laughing song, stood to him best ; but even she was frankly
sceptical at mention of the golden book : ” Chuck it, dad, and
write naughty anecdotes of celebrities for Modern Society or some
of the papers ; nothing pays like scandal with just a grain of truth.
Like some tickets for Thursday ? No ! Well, buy some baccy.”
And she would take her rustling petticoats and powdered, laugh-
ing face, and saucy eyes, into a hansom with ill-concealed relief.
They had all grown beyond him and his dreams. Their
interests were frankly material ; they were keenly alive to his faults,
his subterfuges, his poor, sometimes mean, shifts to make ends
meet ; his silly reverence for everything that wore a gown, his
wasted talents that might have served their advancement ; they
resented him as a failure, and they let him know it.
One thing solely they were blind to, Dick as well as Barney
(which was the less excusable, seeing how like the chip was to the
block), level-headed Mary as easy-going Kitty—that they them-
selves were the result of the very faults they condemned. Their
acute sense of essentials, their world-insight, their calculating fore-
thought, each of the very qualities that assured their success in the
world of their desires was built up on the solid foundation of
sordid experience his make-shift life had brought in its wake.
His impecuniosity had taught them the value of money, his
happy-go-lucky procrastination the need of immediate action ;
he had been an unconscious object lesson to them from their
tenderest years, of the things to avoid unless a man wish to fail
The Captain saw it clearly enough, and sometimes a tiny flame
of his old spirit would flicker to life, and he would register a vow
to begin the next day—perhaps he would make ready a couple of
quills, dust his old desk, lay out some foolscap, and put away
treasured letters from old comrades his correspondence of late was
infrequent—and whisper with a smile : “To-morrow ! ” He would
cock his old hat jauntily and nod to Jeanet, his landlady’s little
daughter, and go on to the common with a paper and a pipe, and
lose himself in a happy dream of a glorious first chapter ; a marvel
of psychological insight into the life of a child, in which youth and
love, and the tender colours of hope and faith, would make young
readers’ eyes glow and old readers’ eyes glisten. Later on, Jeanet,
coming to seek him, would find him asleep with his chin on his
stick. She was a wise little maid, with the worldliness that is such
a pitiful side of London childhood, clever and practical, with a
strange affection for the old gentleman who treated her so court-
eously and called her ” My pretty Jane,” and was a mine of wonder-
ful lore. She was fiercely jealous of his stuck-up sons and daughters,
and resented their treatment with the keen intuition and loyal
devotion of childhood.
” Wake up, Captain ; you shouldn’t go to sleep like that ! “
with quaint reproof. ” Supper is ready, and I’ve got a new
” Have you, my pretty ? I, too, was dreaming of my book,
and to-morrow I must begin. ‘I am growing old, Jeanette.’
Lord, how divinely poor Paddy Blake used to sing that song.
Yes, it’s time to begin !”—with a sigh.
The child, a lanky, precocious thing of thirteen winters, in
whom he alone had seen a promise of beauty, and whose rare
intelligence he had striven to cultivate, was silent. Is it not of this
book, his book, of which he has told her so often in the long even-
ings when they have sat together, when the mother has gone with
Susie to a south-west music hall, that she has been thinking ?
Has she not learnt by heart the story of the youth and man, the
lady—so wondrous a white lady surely never lived in fiction before
—of the gentle nun tending wounded men in the wake of war and
pestilence, of gallant ” sojer ” friends, witch-women with amber
locks, little children buried at sea, and racy tales, expurgated for her
hearing, of camp and bar? Is she not the only one who ever be-
lieved implicitly in its greatness and fulfilment ? No wonder a
plan grew in her little head, and now she has almost carried it to
completion. She hurried the old man in, only to note with dismay
how feeble his steps, how laboured his breathing had become ; and
from that day she redoubled her watchfulness of his needs.
Some days later, Dick, sauntering up the Strand from one of his
numerous paper offices, was waylaid by an odd little maid with
resentful eyes, who gave him a piece of her mind with the
uncompromising bluntness of youth. She was too in earnest for
him to resent it ; besides, she interested him ; he had been seeking
a type of child-girl for a curtain-raiser, and she hit it off to the
life. He watched each expressive gesture, each trick of emphasis
and quaintness of idiom, noting them mentally for use ; he talked
of himself to draw her out.
” Don’t you tell me you got to work ‘ard “—in spite of the
Captain’s pains she lapses into her old ways of speech when
strongly moved—” you go about in ‘ansoms and wear expensive
flowers in your button ‘ole, an’ the Captain ‘e wants strengthenin’
things ‘e don’t ‘ave. I thought I’d tell you, if I was to be killed
And Dick smiled and promised to send a cheque next day,
honour bright !—in reply to her distrustful look, adding : ” You’ll
write and tell me how he is ! “
Jeanet waved her hand from the top of her ‘bus, and Dick
bared his head as to a duchess, and invented a lie on the spur of
the moment in reply to the enthusiastic query of an artist friend
who had seen the parting : ” Who’s the girl with the singular
face ?” Dick’s lies were always entertaining, and he never made
the mistake of lying about things that might be found out.
The cheque arrived, the Captain’s spirits rose with his renewed
health, and Jeanet came into his room one evening with an air of
triumph. Her thin checks were flushed with eagerness, and she
held something carefully wrapped up in tissue paper. The old
man laid down his pipe and his well-thumbed Sterne with a sigh,
and watched her with an amused twinkle in his faded old eyes.
Jeanet undid it carefully, and displayed a gorgeous scarlet-bound
book with gilt-edged leaves.
” See, Captain,” handing it to him with a little air of solemnity,
as if she were investing him with some strange order,” here it
He, falling into her mood, took it solemnly, turned to the back
—no title, just a square of gilt lines ; opened it—clean unwritten
Jeanet had been watching his face, and a delighted smile broke
over hers at his look of wondering question.
” An album, Jeanette ? I must do you a little sketch in it !”
” No, Captain, it is not for me ; it is for you. It’s for the
I got it on purpose, my own self, from Sophy’s young man—he’s a
bookbinder ; and now you must really and truly begin. I’m sorry
it’s not purple and gold, with those lovely clasps, you said ; but
afterwards, when it’s written, you can have one like that.” And,
sliding up to his chair, and flicking a speck of dust off his shabby
coat, ” You’ll begin it now, won’t you ? There is really a book
inside your head ; it isn’t a fairy tale you made up just for me, is
it ? And you’ll make a great name, and they’ll put your picture
in the papers, and all about you, and I’ll cut out all the pieces and
make an album, like Sophy does with her notices. She had a
lovely one in the Charing Cross Gazette. The young man who
wrote it owed mother rent, and she let him off for getting it in.
And then when your sons know you have really made the book—
they don’t believe in it,” with a note of scorn—” they’ll want to
take you away, but you won’t forget as how little Jeanet gave you
the book to write it in, will you ? “
The Captain blew his nose and wiped his glasses, and kissed
the little maid, and patted her head, and called her his little comfort,
and promised her a whole chapter to herself; and to-morrow he
would begin—without fail, to-morrow. Then he invited Jeanet
to supper, and they decided upon fried fish and baked potatoes,
and Jeanet laid the table-cloth, and he put on his threadbare
overcoat and she her hat, and they went out joyous as only
children at heart can be. The Captain chaffed the busy stout
women frying the pieces a golden brown, and insisted on carrying
the basket. Jeanet was careful not to get re-roasted potatoes, and
gave the old man a wise little lecture because he bade a rogue of
a news-boy to keep the halfpenny change from an evening paper ;
and he bought her a bunch of ragged bronze-brown chrysan-
themums, and she tried hard to see that they were prettier than
the close magenta ones.
They supped merrily, and whilst she mixed his punch for him
he unlocked an old workbox, and found her a little silver fish,
with a waggling tail, that had once served the dear white lady as a
tape-measure ; and then she sat at his feet and he told her more
wonderful stories of bygone days, but he lost the thread of his
story at times, and names bothered him ; sometimes, too,
the tears welled up and his lips trembled under his old grey
moustache, and his hand shook as he rubbed his glasses, and
though the fires had not long begun nor the chestnut roasters
taken up their winter places, and it seemed only a few weeks
back that delicate spirals of smoke rose up from all the squares,
with a pungent smell of burning leaves—surest London token
of the coming of the fall—the old man sat huddled over the
fire. His little friend, who had seen most of the serious sides
of life, observed him anxiously as she whispered good-bye with
” For I am going to Aunt Sarah’s for a week, and I wish I
wasn’t going, Captain dear, but I’ll write to you. I’ve filled the
inkpot fresh and put a hassock for your feet, and told Bessie to
mind your fire, and when I come back you’ll read me all you have
written in the book.”
The old man, seeing her face clouded, promised her with forced
gaiety to work like a Trojan, and kissed her little red hand with a
touch of old-time grace.
Five days later Jeanet got a shakily written letter in reply to
hers, with a comical little sketch of the Captain surrounded by
icebergs, with icicles hanging from his beard ; he wrote that he
missed her, felt seedy, but to-morrow surely he would be better,
and then he would write. Jeanet declared resolutely she must go
home, and the next day when the shadows were gathering thickly
and the lamplighter trotted from street to street, and the tinkle of
the muffin bell told the hour of tea, the little maid surprised her
family by her advent :
” How is the Captain ?” was her first question.
” Indeed he’s only middlin’. Bessy took him some gruel at
dinner-time and made up the fire, for he said he was going to
write, an’ he asked about you. La, she do make a fuss about the
Captain, ” she added to a crony, in for a gossip.
Jeanet stole upstairs, paused outside the door with a strange
disinclination to enter. She knocked twice with caught breath ;
no sound reached her from inside. She entered ; the cheap coal
had burnt out to slate and grey white ash ; the shadows filled the
room, accentuating the strange quiet. The Captain sat a little to
one side with his chin sunk on his breast and his old hands folded
on the closed book ; the quill pen shone whitely on the floor where
it had dropped to his feet. Some sudden spell of awe kept Jeanet
from touching the silent figure, and checked the cry of ” Captain “
on her lips. She went out, fetched in the lamp from the bracket
on the landing and turned it up to its full height—gave one look,
and uttered a long cry that brought them hurrying up from below,
and woke the lodger’s baby on the floor above.
And whilst they clustered round his chair and felt his heart and
talked volubly of doctor and telegrams, Jeanet took the book
reverently from under his hand, and hugging it to her breast burst
into tears—to her alone it was of signification, had not his own
always made a jest of it ?
” He would get up, the pore gentleman, he was fair set on
writin’ in his book ; I left ‘im sittin’ with the pen in ‘is ‘and,”
cried the girl.
When the ghastly details had been carried out and the Captain
lay with a restful smile on his face, and sons and daughters had
been and gone, and the undertaker’s young man was talking it
over in the kitchen, Jeanet stole with swollen lids and pinched
features to the bedside of her best friend—to open the book. It
had escaped every one’s thought, but she had lain awake all night
thinking of the wonderful tale it must hold, for the Captain,
Bessy said, had sat with it upon his knee each day since her
departure. How she regretted having gone away, her dear
Captain—well as the lips that had told her many of its wonders
were silenced for ever, she would read it here, at his side, before
they laid him away for ever.
She bolted the door and knelt down with a light on her face of
faith and devotion. She opened the wonderful book—paused at
the title with a look of surprise—turned the pages with eager
fingers—all fair, all unsullied—and in trembling letters across the
title-page of the golden book, that had been alike the dream of his
life and its fate—his own name.
The Yellow Book
By Miss Gertrude D. Hammond
OUTSIDE the hedge of roses
Which walls my garden round,
And many a flower encloses,
Lies fresh unfurrowed ground.
I have not delved, nor planted,
In that strange land, nor come
To sow in soil enchanted
Sweet promises of bloom.
My labours all have ended
Within my fragrant wall,
The blossoms I have tended
Have grown so sweet and tall.
But now in silver showers
Your laughter falls on me,
And fairer than all flowers
Your flower-face I see.
And bound no more by roses,
I break my barrier through,
And leave all it encloses,
Dear one, to follow you.
A New Poster
IT was the first of Mrs. Angelo Milton’s original dinner-parties.
Mrs. Angelo Milton had the reputation of being the most
original hostess, if not in London, certainly in South Kensington
where she lived. Such a reputation, in such a neighbourhood, was
not perhaps difficult of acquisition, and Mrs. Milton had managed
to acquire it by the simple though unusual method of being mildly
eccentric within the limits of conventionality. She was thus
characteristic neither of Bohemia nor of South Kensington ; she
amused the one, puzzled the other, and received them both on the
third Wednesday in the month. She was daring in her selection
of guests, clever in the way she made them entertain one another,
and commonplace in her own conversation. The object of her
life was to be distinguished, and in a great measure she succeeded
in it ; the only thing that was wanting was Mrs. Angelo Milton
herself. Her house, her receptions, her friends all bore the mark
of distinction ; as a drama, the scenic effect was superb and the
company far above the average, but the principal player remained
mediocre. She had none of the elements of individuality ; her
dress was perfect and of the fashionable type, her features were
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. H
intrinsically good, yet their whole effect was unsatisfactory ; her
very hair was abundant and ordinary. Yet she was clever—clever
enough to know her own defects and to play them off upon other
people, clever enough to have begun a fresh career at the age of
twenty-six and to have followed it with perseverance and success.
She belonged to the few who know how to invest the little capital
Nature has given them ; and none of the brilliant frequenters
of her house who came and talked about themselves to their
sympathetic hostess ever suspected that they were really there to
establish her personality and not to advertise their own.
A perfectly new dinner-party was the luckiest inspiration that
ever came to a tired hostess. To see her guests grouped at small
tables, to make them all co-operate in the labour of conversation,
to enjoy the triumphant consciousness of having combined them
in the happiest manner possible, and to have reduced her own
responsibility to the entertaining of three people only, was the
highest consummation Mrs. Angelo Milton had ever attained.
She sat in complete satisfaction, bathed in the becoming rose-
coloured light shed by numerous shaded candles ; and she even
allowed herself under the influence of the prevailing ease of
manner to become almost natural. She had selected her own party
with scrupulous care ; a pretty débutante for her vis-à-vis, who
neither eclipsed nor reflected her ; a black and white artist, very
new, for herself ; and an ugly boy to play with the débutante,
which he was doing very charmingly.
” Such an improvement on the ordinary dinner-party,” said little
Margaret Cousins, with the experience of a first season in her
” Awfully neat idea, is really ; no need to listen to what
the other chaps are saying, don’t you know,” said the ugly boy,
who was still young, though he had left Cambridge a year ago.
Do you ever listen to what the other chaps are saying, Mr.
Askew ?” asked the débutante.
This is daring of you,” the artist was saying in a lowered tone,
not because he had anything confidential to say, but because it
suited his style to be impressive.
” Since it proclaims my choice of companions ?” asked his
hostess, rather clumsily.
” I am more than sensible of the honour. But that was not my
meaning ; no. I meant because——”
” Because it gives my other guests the opportunity of criticising
my new French chef?” she interrupted again, but with all the
assurance of success.
” Say rather the opportunity of discussing their charming
hostess,” rejoined the artist, relieved from the necessity of rinding
his own reply.
” A new poster ? Really ?” said Margaret Cousins.
The artist turned round with a scarcely perceptible show of
” What, another ?” he asked carelessly.
The ugly boy said it was the same old thing, and then
explained that it was one of the new things, a scarlet background
with a black lady in one corner and a black tree with large roots
in another corner, and some black stars scattered about else
” Ah, yes, ” said the artist indifferently, ” it is an advertisement
for the Shakespeare Fountain Pen, or something to that effect. I
saw it this morning.”
” The Milton Fountain Pen, ” corrected his hostess with the smile
of conversation ; ” I have noticed it on the placards sometimes ; it
bears my name you see.”
The artist said the coincidence had not struck him at the time,
but that he should in future use no other pen on that account. The
ugly boy, who was occupied with his savoury, said nothing; the
débutante, who had passed it, asked a simple question as though she
wished for information.
” What has a black lady or a black tree got to do with Milton or
a fountain pen ?”
” Oh, nothing. It has got to advertise it, that’s all,” said the
artist, smiling indulgently.
The ugly boy, who was now at liberty, said it was howling
cheek of the painter chap to stick different things on a scarlet
sheet and call it an advertisement for something that wasn’t
” Perhaps,” said his vis-à-vis with his irritating amiability.
” I suppose you would have a penholder and a fountain with no
background at all ? That would be quite obvious of course.”
” What is a fountain pen ?” asked Mrs. Milton, who had an
idea that the general conversation was not being a success.
There were three more or less inaccurate definitions at once ; she
selected Margaret’s, and smiled across at her.
” Margaret always knows these things,” she told the others.
” Margaret is literary, and makes one feel dreadfully frivolous sometimes.”
Dicky Askew looked sad and felt that he could not talk any
more about the comic papers. The ugly boy’s literature was
mainly pink. Margaret blushed and looked pleased, and said,
” Oh, no,” and added something irrelevant about Milton and the
Puritan movement which suggested Macaulay.
” Margaret is still so deliciously young,” sighed Mrs. Angelo.
” How nice to be at the age of local examinations when one
hasn’t forgotten all about Milton and those improving people !
Really, it is as much as one can do now to get through the books
of the people one has to meet in society. By the way, ” she
added exclusively to the artist, ” Brindley Harrison is here to-
night : do you know him ? He is over there, just under the Burne-
Jones, talking to——yes, that one. Have you read his last ?”
After that the conversation remained particular and interesting
until the hostess had to give the signal for retreat, upon which
conventionality again claimed its victims, and there was no further
evidence of innovation either in the music or the conversation
that occupied the rest of the evening.
When the last carriage had rolled away, Mrs. Angelo Milton
rang the bell and ordered something to eat. Then she walked
round the room and extinguished all the wax lights herself, and
turned the gas low, and sat down in the firelight. She was silent
for a long time after the servants had left her, and she was terribly
lonely. It was not a loneliness that comes as a natural result of
departed company, but the much more subtle solitude of one who
is anticipating a new companionship. When she had eaten her
sandwiches mechanically, one by one, she stood up and leaned her
head on the cold marble of the mantel-shelf, and something like
an angry sob broke from her lips in the darkness.
” After seven years,” she murmured, ” to lose it all by loving
Adrian Marks !”
She turned up the gas again with an impatient movement, then
lighted a candle and held it up to a picture on the wall, a portrait
of a middle-aged man with a bald head.
” Jim ! ” she cried involuntarily, ” what would you say if you
were to meet him ?”
The idea struck her as so incongruous that she gave way to a
nervous spasm of laughter and returned hurriedly to her seat by
the fire. Her husband had been a successful commercial man,
and the source of his wealth had been the invention of the Milton
Fountain Pen. When he died in America, seven years ago, his
widow came to England with his fortune, assuring herself against
detection by prefixing an old family name to his notorious one,
and began the career for which she had pined through the whole
of her short married life. Those seven years in South Kensington
had given her what she wanted, position, association with artistic
circles, a certain measure of happiness ; she had worked hard for
all of these, and yet she was on the point of renouncing them
as the price of her attachment to Adrian Marks, the new
black and white artist. It seemed very paltry to her as she sat
in the empty drawing-room, away from his influence, and she
shivered involuntarily, although the fire had responded to her
touch and had broken into a cheerful blaze.
” What if I do marry him ?” she said, beginning to take down
her hair slowly. ” I lose my money—Jim’s money ; that means
that I lose my house, my position, my friends, all the fabric I have
built up with the labour of seven whole years. And the gain is
the passing love of a man. What fools women are !”
Yet she sat down and wrote to him then, in the great half-
lighted drawing-room, with her long brown hair falling round her
face—wrote him a pretty playful letter such as women love to write
to the men who admire them : a word about Ascot, something
about the late spring, and something somebody had told her about
At that moment her lover and the ugly boy were having supper
at the club. The original dinner-party did not seem to have
satisfied the hunger of any of its guests.
” I should go for her and chance it,” said the ugly boy.
” No you wouldn’t, Dicky, you would come across a pretty girl
on the way and never get any further.”
The ugly boy seemed rather proud than otherwise of this
tribute to his inconstancy, and ate the rest of his oysters with a
” Margaret Cousins is a seemly maiden, passing fair, and of a
goodly wit,” he said reflectively.
” You could say that of any of them. That’s the oddest thing
about women ; the essentials are always the same in the ones we
fall in love with,” said Adrian, ” but do keep to the point, little
boy. I’ll rave about Margaret after, if you’ll only talk about Mrs.
Angelo now. ”
” What’s her first name ? I can’t talk about a woman in con-
fidence and call her by her surname, especially when she’s a
” I don’t know that she’s got one. Heard from her this
morning though, let’s see what she signs herself ; ah. here we are
” That’s a bit off,” said Dicky in parenthesis, ” never heard of
a horse called Cynthia.”
” You see,” continued Adrian with a slightly worried air,
” she doesn’t know I twigged all about the Fountain Pen long
ago, and she doesn’t even know that I did the very poster we
were talking about this evening. Shut up, Dicky, any blind
idiot could have guessed that !—and she hasn’t an idea how
hard up I am, nor how many reasons there are for my marrying
” Play lightly,” objected Dicky, ” even for a woman that’s an
amazing amount of ignorance. And she’s in love with you, too.”
” Yes,” sighed Adrian, “she is in love with me. Do you
know, Dicky, it makes me almost hate myself sometimes when a
sweet unsuspecting woman like that takes me on trust and thinks
such an awful lot of me. I should have gone to the dogs long
ago if it had not been for my women friends.”
” Do you really think,” asked Dicky, lighting up a cigar, ” they
have made any difference ?”
Adrian looked across at his plain, shrewd little countenance
and shook his head slowly.
” Dicky, you are very young. But if you don’t mind we will
stick to the subject.”
Dicky said he was quite willing, and that women friends was
as far as they had got. Adrian went on rather more gloomily
than before :
” So you see it’s all right as far as she is concerned. And as for
myself—well, I suppose that’s settled too. I never meant to get
married at all, as you know, but I think it’s not a bad thing for a
man after all, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t marry Cynthia—do
you ? And of course I am extremely lucky to get such a good
and sympathetic woman to marry me at all.”
” At your age, and with your tailoring, it is wonderful,” said
the irrepressible Dicky. ” By the way, how old is Cynthia ?”
” From calculation I make it about thirty-two. She looks less.
I am thirty-eight, though of course you wouldn’t think it.
There is really everything to make our union a happy one. But
then, there’s the governor.”
” There always is,” assented Dicky sadly.
” And he has sworn to disinherit me if I marry into commerce.
He means it too, worse luck.”
” What a played-out idea ! Every decent chap marries into
dollars nowadays ; it’s the thing to do. But that needn’t matter ;
she’s got fifteen thousand a year—must have—couldn’t run that
show on less, eh ?”
” I haven’t seen the will ; she may lose it all if she marries
again. I m hanged if that would make any difference though,
Dicky. I declare I m fairly gone on her. I believe,” continued
Adrian in a glow of sentiment, ” I really believe I should propose
if neither of us had a penny ! I should like to know about that
” What a set of stale old properties you are inventing, Marks :
irate father, inconvenient will, beautiful lady. You might be
writing a novel in the last century.”
” You might remember, Dicky,” said Adrian impressively,
” that I have nothing to do with the spirit of any other century
than this one. Now, what’s your advice ? Shall I propose
or not ?”
Dicky Askew blinked his small eyes at him and considered for
” You’ll never have a better chance of being accepted, I should
say. Given a woman who on your own showing adores you so
much that she doesn’t see your imperfections, and to whom you
are so attached that her fortune does not matter a jot—well, there
doesn’t seem anything else to do.”
” Thanks awfully, little boy, you’ve helped me no end. I’ll
propose to-morrow, hanged if I don’t. Not sure if I don’t go
down to Somerset House first, though ; think about it in the
morning. After all, you must remember Cynthia is not the only
woman friend I’ve got who—I mean, the world is packed with
good unselfish women who are ready to give us sympathy and
” Fifteen thousand a year,” added Dicky maliciously.
Adrian paused before he strolled away.
” If there should be anything wrong about that will, there’s
always dear little Margaret Cousins,” he said thoughtfully.
” No, there isn’t,” shouted Dicky wrathfully ; ” you can leave
Margaret out of this show anyhow. She wouldn’t join anybody’s
army of women friends, so don’t you make any mistake about it.
You wouldn’t catch her wanting to save you from the clutches
all the other women, which is what your women friends are mostly
engaged in doing for you. Besides, she funks you no end—says
she can’t make you out, or something.”
” Really ?” said Adrian with a gratified smile, ” that’s excellent
material to go upon. I must cultivate her. See you again soon,
Margaret Cousins was lunching with Mrs. Angelo Milton the
next day when the man-servant brought in a visiting card. She
had come round to gossip over the dinner-party, to eat up the
remains, and to find out all there was to know about Dicky
Askew ; so she had a valid reason to grumble when her hostess
said she must go into the drawing-room at once.
” But make yourself at home, child, and have what you want
and ring for what you don’t,” she said rather absently as she
arranged her lace at the glass. ” It is an old friend ; I have not seen
him for years. You can play with the poodle till I come back,
can’t you, darling ?”
A sun-browned man, with an expectant smile on his face and
rather a nervous consciousness of the hat and stick in his hand,
was standing on the rug in the drawing-room when she went in.
There was no diffidence in his greeting, however, and no doubt
of a welcome in the hard hand he put out to her, though the one
she laid in it was cold and passive. They had nothing to say for
a minute or two, and when they had settled on two chairs rather
far apart, and he had deposited his belongings on the floor, the
few remarks they made were necessary and usual.
” So you have come to England after all, Willis ? You always
said you would.”
“Yes, Cynthia. It is an old promise of eight years’ standing,
isn’t it ?”
” When did you arrive ?”
” This morning only. I crossed in the night boat from Dieppe.
There was a fog in the Channel.”
” Was there? I believe there always is by the night boat.
Have you had lunch ?”
” I had a chop in the City : chose it myself, and saw it cooked.
Not your style, eh ? Well, and how long have you lived
” Oh, how did you find out my address ?”
” I went to your agents, of course. I saw that new poster of
yours at Victoria, though what it means the Lord only knows,
and that brought you back to my mind.”
” So it needed a new poster to do that ? Oh, Willis, how you
must have altered !”
It was the first human note in the conversation, and Willis
Ruthven broke into a relieved laugh.
” You haven’t altered much, Cynthia, in spite of your dandy
house,” he said, and brought his chair closer to hers.
” I don’t know. I fancy I must have. Or else it is you,” she
replied, meeting the kindly gaze of his keen eyes with something
” Why ?”
” Well, you look so—so physical,” she said, and laughed.
” In the old days, when Jim was there, you used to tell me I
was the intellectual one. ”
” Ah yes, when Jim was there. You seemed so by contrast to
the commercial element.”
There was distaste, almost contempt, in her voice, and he
” Don’t be hard on the commercial element; it has treated you
well enough,” he said gently, with a swift glance round the room.
” Oh yes, I know all that,” she cried impatiently, ” you have
dinned it into my ears so often. It has made England what it is,
and so on. I must say that it has not much to be proud of !
loathe the commercial spirit.”
” Yet you have so much of it yourself,” said Willis with a
” I ? The commercial spirit ?”
” Surely. Do you not trade with every bit of resource at your
command, and very profitably too ? It is your commercial spirit
that has made you use up that old Italian ancestor of yours for a
second name. You trade with your beauty, your wits, your
position ; Jim traded with the Milton Fountain Pen. Where is
the difference ?”
” I have always noticed, ” said Cynthia, biting her lip, ” that
men who have travelled about alone for eight years become
Margaret Cousins was very tired of playing with the poodle
long before her friend was at liberty. It was not until tea-time
that the front door banged and Mrs. Angelo called down the stairs
to her to come up to the boudoir.
” It is so much cosier to have tea here when we are alone, ”
she said cheerfully. ” I hope you have not been dull, dear. Do
you mind bringing the kettle ? Such an old friend, I have not
seen him for eight years.”
” He must be rather ancient,” said Margaret candidly. The
poodle had made her cross.
But Mrs. Angelo Milton did not hear her remark : she was
leaning back in her chair, smiling at her thoughts.
” Tell me, Margaret, she said suddenly, ” what do you think
women admire most in men ? Is it good looks ?”
” No,” said Margaret, thinking of the ugly boy.
” I am
” I am not sure, ” said Cynthia, thinking of Adrian Marks ; ” if
not, what is it ? ”
” Good tailoring perhaps, ” suggested Margaret, still thinking of
” Oh no,” said Mrs. Angelo, remembering the cut of Willis’s
frock-coat, ” I think it is temperament.”
” Conversation I should say,” corrected Margaret.
Cynthia put down her cup with decision.
” We are all wrong, Margaret. I have it. We like them to be
masterful. It doesn’t matter what they are if they know how to
master us. Let them do it by their looks, or their brains, or
their qualities ; but if they do it, we are theirs. And it isn’t a
flattering reflection for either sex.”
Margaret pouted, and recalled Dicky Askew, and refused to
agree. But Cynthia was convinced. She was thinking only of
Cynthia felt very unsettled during the next few days. When
a woman has half-unwillingly made up her mind to an action that
repels while it enthrals her, she can be easily deterred from it by
a very small disturbing element. And the disturbing element in
this case was the reappearance of Willis Ruthven. It was not
only that the revival of an old friendship had blunted the edge of
a new and untried one, nor wholly because the effete and decadent
culture of Adrian Marks suffered by contrast with the frank and
healthy personality of Willis. For she was affected on the other
hand by the dread of being again absorbed in the old atmosphere
she had hated, and this dread was kept alive by the knowledge that
her early history was no longer her own secret, but was shared by
some one else who saw no reason for concealing it. She had a real
and strong friendship for Willis Ruthven, one of many years’
growth, and she chafed at the influence it still had over her, now
that she wanted to turn her back for ever upon all that it recalled
to her mind. Willis represented the whole spirit of that time
she wished to forget ; he knew every detail of the past she had
tried to blot out of her life with a persistence that was almost
morbid. There was something pathetic in the way this woman,
who had lived two different lives, feared lest the first one should
claim her again for its own, something pitiful in the unconscious
comparison she drew between the two men who competed for her
thoughts, between the one who by his presence dragged her down
to the old level, and the one who dwelt only in the surroundings
It is probable that she would not have thought so much about
Adrian had not Willis gone out of town directly after his first
interview with her, and only testified his existence to her by a
refusal of a dinner invitation which annoyed her as much by its
brevity and curtness as by the business-like paper on which it was
written. Nor would she have bestowed so much notice on this
trifling occurrence had not Adrian Marks also piqued her, about
the same time, by neither calling upon her nor otherwise seeking
her society ; and although she made a point of frequenting the
houses where there was a possibility of meeting him, all her efforts
were attended with failure, as such conscious efforts always are.
She met Dicky Askew one hot day in June at an afternoon
reception. It was a great crush, and he was not looking particu-
larly happy on the crowded landing where the stream of people
coming upstairs had imprisoned him.
” Let’s sit out on the balcony,” he proposed ; ” I’m fairly played
with this awful crush—aren’t you ? I had to offend millions of
decent people by getting the mother into a chair, and I don’t
suppose she will be able to move until I go and dig her out
The ugly boy, although he cultivated a pose of selfishness like
the others in his set, had a great devotion for his mother, which
was so unusual a phenomenon among his friends that they never
quite took him seriously about it, and had to suspect him of ulterior
motives before they felt in a position to admire him for it. No
body ever did take the ugly boy seriously about anything, but
Cynthia was in the mood this afternoon to be touched by any sign
of natural affection, and she followed him outside the window
with more graciousness than she usually showed to any one so
” Have you seen your friend Mr. Marks lately ?” she asked him.
She felt that it was not necessary to lead up to the subject with
Dicky Askew. He looked steadily across the street at the house
opposite, and hesitated.
” Marks ? Not for millions of days. Have you ?”
” I ? Oh no. I don’t know why I asked you. I thought you
were such friends, that’s all. You always suggest Mr. Marks,
Dicky glanced doubtfully at her.
” The fact is,” he said with an impulse of confidence, ” we’ve
had a beastly row ; I’m afraid it’s really all up this time. I haven’t
seen him once since Sunday.”
Cynthia murmured something and waited eagerly for more.
The ugly boy grew expansive.
” The fact is,” he said again, leaning over the balustrade,
“Adrian is so beastly rotten. And she’s an awfully decent little
girl, don’t you see.”
” Ah,” said Cynthia, also leaning over the balustrade and
counting the paving-stones feverishly.
” It’s all tommy when a man talks about his women friends.
It won’t wash,” continued the ugly boy in a tone of disgust ; ” it
only means he likes to ring the changes like all the other boys, and
won’t own to it. The worst of it is that he does it so well.
She doesn’t care a jot for him, of course.”
” She doesn’t ?” said Cynthia joyfully.
Dicky looked at her reproachfully.
” What do you think ? I never meant she would chuck me
over for him. A fresh little nipper like that isn’t likely to go nuts
on a played-out painter chap. That would be common. All the
same, it isn’t fair on a fellow, is it ?”
” No,” said Cynthia sadly, ” it is not fair on a fellow.”
Something in her tone recalled Dicky for an instant from his
own absorbing interests.
” I say, you know,” he said with a smile, ” if you cared to help
me I don’t know why you shouldn’t. You may if you like, you
Cynthia failed to express any gratitude, and Dicky wandered on.
” If you weren’t playing so poorly with Adrian he wouldn’t be
fooling around with Margaret, and if you’d only just be decent to
him again, don’t you know—”
Here he was really obliged to stop, for he found Cynthia staring
at him coldly.
” Oh, hang,” he said impetuously, ” I’m fairly gone on Margaret,
don’t you see.”
” Margaret ?”
” Yes, of course. There isn’t anybody else, is there ?” said
Dicky, a little sulkily.
” Oh,” said Cynthia, with a slight curl of her lip, ” I don’t
think you need be jealous. Margaret is a dear child, but she
is not at all the sort of girl Mr. Marks would be likely to
” Wouldn’t he, though ?” cried Dicky fiercely. ” He couldn’t
help it—nobody could help it ; she’s the decentest little brick of a
” Oh, very well ; I thought you didn’t want him to admire
” No more I do, confound him ! But he can’t help admiring
her, for all that.”
” Then I don’t see how I am to help you. Supposing we
change the subject ; I am dreadfully tired of discussing other
people’s love affairs.”
” That sounds like a challenge to discuss your own,” said Dicky,
with a shrewd smile. He was an obstinate little fellow when he
had an object in view.
” Mr. Askew !” said Cynthia, rising with great dignity.
” Oh, I say, don’t,” he said, anxiously, and placed himself in front
of her ; ” I’m an awful ass, of course ; but I do know that Adrian
was right on you a week ago, and—what the dickens has happened
to everybody since ?”
She nodded to him enigmatically and disappeared in the crowd,
and he went to extricate his mother. They met again in the hall
as every one was leaving.
” I shall bring Adrian in to call to-morrow evening, may I ?”
” If it will tend to a reconciliation between you, I shall be
delighted,” she answered blandly.
So she sent a note round the next day to ask Margaret to drop
in to dinner, and assured herself that she was going through the
whole tiresome business in order to bring about the child’s
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. I
engagement with the ugly boy. Margaret’s chaperon was an
aunt who did not look after her much ; and the ugly boy was
getting on well in his profession and had good connections ; so
Mrs. Angelo felt she was only being virtuous when she put on her
most becoming demi-toilette and laid herself out to be amusing the
whole of dinner-time.
” By the way, Mr. Askew said he might come in to coffee,” she
said casually in the drawing-room afterwards ; ” that was why I
asked you to dinner.”
” I know; so is Mr. Marks. I met them both in the park
to-day. That is why I put on my yellow dress. Mr. Marks likes
me in yellow—I look peculiarly distinguished in it, he says ! ”
” Mr. Marks says a variety of extravagant things to his lady
” Oh, Cynthia, are there really such a lot of them ? Dicky is
always dinning Mr. Marks’ lady friends into my ears till I cease to
believe in them at all. There aren’t any, are there ?”
” Who is Dicky, dear ?”
” Dicky Askew, of course,” laughed Margaret. ” Is there
another Dicky ?”
” Apparently not for you ; but it is difficult to believe that you
met him for the first time only a fortnight ago.”
” Ah !” said little Margaret wisely, ” but that was at your
original dinner-party, and that counted for six ordinary meetings
with auntie. Besides, you didn’t give me a chance of talking to
any one else that evening ; I never spoke to Mr. Marks at all except
about that hideous new poster. Did you see it noticed in the
morning paper, by the way ?”
” What poster ?” asked Mrs. Angelo Milton.
” The Fountain Pen poster,” don’t you remember ? Why we
talked ever such a lot about it, and——”
” Oh, I can’t recall it, then. Posters don’t interest me in the
least ; they are a vulgar form of art, I never think of looking at
them. Are you getting on at the Slade, Margaret ?”
” Yes—no—I don’t know. But why don’t you like posters,
Cynthia?” persisted Margaret. ” Mr. Marks doesn’t call them
vulgar ; Mr. Marks paints them himself.”
” Mr. Marks didn’t paint that one, anyhow ; it is a hideous piece
“Then you do remember it ?” cried Margaret triumphantly.
” No, I don’t. How you do bother, child,” said Cynthia crossly.
” You’ve got posters on the brain. Mr. Marks has evidently been
making you one of his disciples.”
” Mr. Marks ?” said Margaret proudly. ” Oh yes, he has taught
me such a lot about pictures—”
She paused abruptly as the door opened, and the two men were
” Yes, very pretty, isn’t it ? A present from a friend in
America,” said Cynthia, and rose to receive them.
Poor Margaret did not learn any more about posters that even-
ing, for Mr. Marks spent it in the boudoir with his hostess. It is
true that the door between the two rooms was left half-open, and
that Cynthia sometimes raised her voice in the interests of pro-
priety to make a remark to the couple on the drawing-room sofa,
but the conversation could not, on the whole, be termed a general
one. Nor was it altogether fluent at first. Nobody but Cynthia
had really mastered the situation, and she was almost too nervous
to play her part. The ugly boy was quite happy at having planned
the whole meeting, and felt quite sure it was going to settle the
future of every one present, and he had consequently plenty to say,
but he found a curious difficulty in saying it, and Margaret, to
whom he said it, was an unwilling listener. She was cross at being
supposed to be in love with Dicky, and at having to endure his
conversation all the evening ; while Adrian Marks, who was far older
and more interesting, dismissed her with a hand-shake and strolled
after Cynthia into the other room.
Adrian Marks himself was full of pleasing sensations. A
comfortable chair in a softly lighted, pretty room, and a clever
woman to talk to, represented his favourite form of diversion ; and
the gratifying suspicion of having piqued her slightly by his re-
missness in calling added a zest to the situation.
But he had read the will at Somerset House, and he did not
mean it to be more than a pleasant evening.
” Do you mind the window being open ? It is hot in here,
and besides, I like to see the trees in the square—don’t you ? ”
said Cynthia, settling herself in the low window-seat.
” I like anything that affords an excuse for a good pose,” he
said, and looked at her and not at the trees.
It was a favourable opening, and Mrs. Angelo Milton followed
it up well. She had her own game to play this evening, and she
was going to stake her happiness to win it. All the thraldom of
her American life, all its sordidness and its gilded opulence, lay
clearly before her mind and tortured her with its vividness ;
it only needed a decided action on her part to put it away
from her for ever. And the man who could save her
from its haunting memories was Adrian, whom she thought
she loved sufficiently to marry because she had felt hurt
when he neglected her. She knew he loved her too in
his narrow, selfish way. And she felt tolerably sure she could
win him if she tried ; and, ignoble process though it was, she did
” You have been out of town ?” she asked him when they had
touched on various indifferent topics.
” Since I saw you? I hardly remember ; I think not—no.
Why do you ask ?”
” How absurd of me ! For the moment I forgot that of course
you did not pay conventional calls after dinner-parties like every
He paused just long enough to give weight to his answer.
” I should not so far dishonour a charmingly unconventional
dinner-party. When I have made a friendship with a woman I
never spoil it by afternoon calls.”
” That sounds rather interesting. But staying away altogether
is an odd kind of substitute, don’t you think ?”
” It is the only substitute for a man who is afraid of what may
result from an interview.”
“Afraid ? You ? After all your experience ? I often wonder
whether you have the same formula of conversation for all your
lady friends, Mr. Marks. ”
” Well, no. There is the attractive formula for the timid and
the reticent for the bold ; the intellectual for the young and the
playful for the old ; the decorous for the matron and the indecorous
for the maiden ; and so on.”
” And to which class do I belong ?”
” To no class, my dear lady. You are unique.”
” You said that so fluently that I shall suspect you of a common
formula after all.”
” True fluency is never the result of study, and my remark was
a spontaneous one. Won’t you acknowledge that you gave me
an excuse for spontaneity ?”
Cynthia looked into the depths of the plane-tree across the
road, and yawned lazily.
” We are being dreadfully brilliant, and I am always afraid of
you when you are brilliant. Won’t you smoke ? I have always
noticed that when a man has nothing to do with his hands he
becomes frankly untruthful.”
” You will join me, I hope ?”
” For the same reason ?”
” Oh no,” he said, taking a cigarette from the box she handed
over to him. ” But I have always noticed that when a woman
begins to smoke she becomes dangerously confidential.”
” You are quite safe,” she said drily. ” I never smoke. Mr.
Askew, will you have a cigarette ? Margaret doesn’t mind.”
The two from the drawing-room made a diversion by coming
in and fetching the cigarettes. There was a search for matches,
a few remarks about the beauty of the evening and the size of the
plane-tree, and then a gravitation towards the former arrangement.
This time, Adrian was sitting on the window-ledge, and Mrs.
Angelo had slipped into a low chair close by.
” Life is very full of stupid arrangements,” said the artist
presently. He was thinking of the amazing selfishness of the
first husband when he made his will.
” For example?” she murmured. She was thinking of the
small flat they would have to take when they were living on his
earnings alone, and she had sacrificed her fortune for the artistic
” The distribution of—people,” said the artist. He had almost
” Yes,” said Cynthia dreamily, ” the wrong ones have to be for
ever together, and if we try to sort ourselves differently the old
influences go on tugging at us until they prove strongest after all
and absorb us again. It is horrible.”
” It is merely the planetary system,” said Adrian, looking up at
the stars, “and it gives the clever people lots of copy. ”
” I don’t
” I don’t see why we should be sacrificed to the clever people,
they have so many compensations. It is the stupid people who
can only feel things, who are the really important factors of life,
and they have all the suffering,” cried Cynthia bitterly. She was
forgetting the part she had planned for herself.
” What are we talking about ?” said Adrian suddenly.
” You were being brilliant again,” she said, collecting herself
with an effort.
” And my cigarette has gone out,” he laughed, and went across
to a candle to light it.
They listened mechanically to the voices through the open door.
” It’s no use, it won’t draw, I tell you. Nobody could make it
draw, it’s got stuffed up with something. I am quite sure the
strings I have been eating are not tobacco at all. It’s the stupidest
cigarette I ever smoked.”
” It looks a bit played, doesn’t it ? You’ve used all my matches
and the spills hang out in the other room. Stick to it a moment
while I freeze on to a coal, will you ?”
Margaret evidently had no difficulty in sticking to the cigarette,
and Dicky must have achieved the extraordinary feat of freezing
on to a coal, for there was no more conversation in the drawing-
room for the next few moments, and when it began afresh a piano-
organ in the street below completely drowned it.
” That’s a good effect,” said Adrian, leaning over the window-
box, ” the lamps and the background of bushes, and the weird light
on that man’s face—awfully fine, isn’t it ?”
She came and looked out with him.
” Very,” she said ; ” have you been painting much lately ?”
” No. I’ve been literally off colour. Weather, I suppose.”
” Or a new lady friend ?” she suggested, under cover of the
clanging music in the street.
Her eyes had a fascinating light in them when she looked
mischievous, and Adrian mentally included his old father and the
late Mr. Milton in the same big curse. It was hard, and it grew
harder as the evening wore on, that every one should put
obstacles in the way of his marrying one of the few women he had
ever really liked. He felt quite sorry, too, for her, and wished
magnanimously he could do something to lessen her evident
infatuation. But he felt most sorry for himself.
” Possibly,” he replied gaily ; ” it is generally that. I am a bad
lot, you know, Mrs. Milton.”
He looked at her narrowly, but she only laughed and ran her
fingers through the lobelia in the window-box.
” You don’t think I am very bad, do you ?” he asked, bending
a little towards her.
” I think you would be exceedingly disappointed if I didn’t
think so,” she retorted, without looking at him. The organ had
moved on, and the strains of a popular air came faintly round the
corner and mingled with the rustle of the plane-trees and the
passing footfall of the policeman. The conversation in the
drawing-room was no longer distinguishable, and the only distrac-
tions came from outside. Adrian drew in his head and stood a
little behind her.
” I should like to know what you do think about me,” he said
curiously ; ” is it something very bad ?”
” It is something quite formless,” she replied indifferently.
” Do you think about me at all ?” he asked, putting his hands
in his pockets and keeping them there with an effort.
” As much, possibly, as you think about me.”
” And do you know how much that is ?”
” Just so much thought as a man is likely to bestow on one
woman when there are twenty others.”
She was acting now, not to gain her point, but to hide her real
feelings. And unconsciously she won her game, as it must always
” Why do you say that ?” he asked, coming nearer to her.
” It is not I who say it. I am merely repeating what you have
said to me dozens of times. What nonsense we are talking ! Shall
we go in to the others ?”
Ten o’clock struck slowly from a neighbouring church tower,
and they stood and counted the strokes in silence as though the
slight mental effort was a sort of relief to their constraint. Then
she moved a little and felt his touch on her bare arm.
” Don’t go, Cynthia.”
He crushed her hand against his lips and pulled her almost
roughly towards him.
” There are not twenty others,” he whispered.
When the two men left the house together half an hour later
Adrian uttered an exclamation in an unduly loud tone.
” I say, that’s rather strong, isn’t it ?” said Dicky, whose reflec-
tions were of a peculiarly happy nature.
” It’s not nearly strong enough for the fools who make wills,”
replied Adrian, and drove off alone in a hansom.
For a woman who has staked everything and won the game
sooner then she expected, Mrs. Angelo Milton wore a singularly
dissatisfied appearance when she came downstairs the next
morning. She wrote letters in her boudoir until the smell of the
window flowers became intolerable and she had to take refuge in
the drawing-room ; and there she had two separate quarrels with
the maid over the dusting of the ornaments and the arrangement
of the flowers, and ended with the inevitable threat that she would
in future do them both herself. This she began at once to carry
into effect by walking about the room with a duster and making
herself very hot and cross. When she had broken a valuable
Venetian glass, and made the startling discovery that all the dust
she dissipated settled somewhere else directly afterwards, she
hid the duster under a sofa cushion, collected all the flowers out of
all the vases and piled them in a heap in the fender. Then she
sat down on the hearth-rug and looked at them helplessly, and felt
very foolish, when Margaret came in without being announced and
laughed at her.
“My dear Cynthia, what is the matter, and whatever are you
doing on the floor ?” cried the girl.
” I’m doing the flowers,” cried Cynthia briskly ; ” how jolly you
look. Did you trim that hat yourself ?”
” Yes, it’s my old Louise, don’t you remember ? But what’s
the matter ?”
” Matter ?” cried Mrs. Angelo in a tone of amazement, ” what
should be the matter ? I am particularly happy this morning.
Something very nice that I wanted very much indeed has
happened to me, and I never felt more pleased about anything in
” You’ve got a very funny way of looking pleased,” said Margaret
candidly, ” and it’s more than I feel myself. I’ve come round to
tell you something, Cynthia, something very important and not
at all pleasant to either of us. But hadn’t you better get off the
floor first ?”
” Well, what is it, child ?” asked Mrs. Angelo when she had
limped with two cramped legs to the nearest chair.
” I only wish you to understand quite clearly that I am not in
love with Dicky Askew, whatever Dicky Askew may be
with me, and that I won’t be left alone with Dicky Askew
until I have heard all his stories twice over and he is obliged
to propose for the sake of more conversation. I never want
to speak to Dicky Askew again ; I should like him to be —
” My dear,” said Cynthia, ” I don’t keep Dicky Askew on the
premises. Did you really put on a new hat on purpose to come
and tell me something that doesn’t concern me at all ?”
” Doesn’t concern you ?” cried Margaret. ” I should like to
know whom it does concern then.”
“Dicky Askew, I should say. Really, my dear child, I am very
sorry I mistook your feelings ; I won’t make up a party for you
” It was not,” said Margaret with great dignity, ” the party that
I objected to. It was only Dicky Askew.”
“I did it out of kindness,” replied Cynthia, ignoring her in-
” Then I hope you will never ask me to dinner again out of
kindness, or if you do, please shut me in here with the man I am
not in love with,” responded Margaret. ” I should not have minded
at all if I had spent the evening with the man I was not in love
with, last night.”
” I think you are right,” said Cynthia quietly, and she stroked
the child’s hot cheek soothingly as she spoke, ” passing the evening
with the man you are in love with is very exhausting indeed. We
will try the opposite arrangement next time. Will you come out
with me this afternoon ?”
“Where to?” asked Margaret suspiciously.
” Hurlingham, of course.”
” It’s too bad,” cried the girl indignantly, ” you knew he was
going to be there ! One would think there was no one in the
world but Dicky Askew.”
” One would, to hear you talk,” said Cynthia.
When she was alone again, she went to the writing-table and
tried to write a letter. She made two rough copies and tore them
up, began a third and burst into tears in the middle. The anticipa-
tion of the artistic atmosphere for the rest of her life did not seem
to be exhilarating.
” Mr. Ruthven,” announced the man-servant.
” Oh, how do you do ?” said Cynthia with desperate com-
” What’s the matter ?” he asked bluntly, just as Margaret had
done, ” and what are all those flowers on the floor for ? It looks
like a funeral.”
” It isn’t—they’re not—oh don’t,” said Cynthia with an hys-
Willis had hold of her hand still and drew her on to the sofa
” Something seems to have disturbed you,” he said, and cleared
his throat sympathetically ; ” what is it, eh ?”
” I can’t very well tell you,” she replied with an effort to be
” Then don’t,” said Willis, in the tone he might have used in
soothing a child ; ” we’ll talk about something else instead. I was
down at Johnson’s just now—”
“Johnson’s ? Whatever did you go to my agent’s for ?” she
asked in a surprised tone.
” To ask him if your affairs were in a satisfactory condition,”
he replied frankly.
” Why did you want to know !”
” For reasons I will tell you presently.”
” And pray, what did he say about my affairs ?”
” Oh, excellent report, never been selling better, largely owing
to that new poster he says ; it just wanted that to freshen up the
sale a bit. Bless me, what have I said now, Cynthia ?”
” Oh, nothing. I am sick of that new poster. Margaret was
full of it yesterday. Everybody is full of it. Why did they want
a new poster to freshen up the sale just now ? I don’t want the
She wondered why he looked so pleased.
” Don’t you really, Cynthia ? Would you give it up willingly
if—if you, well, if the terms of the will had to be fulfilled ?”
She turned and looked at him with a hunted look in her
” How did you know ? What makes you ask me that ?” she
” Of course I knew, my dear,” he answered with his genial
smile ; ” why, I made Jim add that codicil myself.”
” You ? You made him ? Willis, I don’t understand. Why
did you ?”
” For the same reason that I have come here this morning,
Cynthia. Is it so difficult to understand, then ?”
There was a slight tremble in the bluff tones, but she did not
notice it. She was so absorbed in her own engrossing affairs
this morning that her faculties had grown incapable of receiving
any impression from outside. She continued to look at him
” What reason ?” she asked.
” Because I knew what you didn’t know then, poor child—that
Jim was dying. And I meant to come back for you after seven
years and take you for my own—if you would come. We were
such good friends, Cynthia, and—I thought perhaps you would
come. So I made Jim put in that clause about the property.
You see, I meant your love for me to stand the test of a sacrifice,
and I wanted mine to be free from a suspicion of self-interest.
Do you blame me very much, dear ?”
She let him finish his speech without interruption. Her first
impulse was to laugh hysterically ; every nerve and every instinct
she possessed seemed alive ; it almost hurt her to think ; and the
main impression she gathered from his words was the humorous
aspect of them in the confidence of success that underlay their
humility. Why was every one so sure of being accepted by
She did not speak for an instant or two. She sat and stared
stupidly in front of her. He came a little closer to her with a
smile on his face, and then she broke away from him with a
distracted cry. It seemed to his slowly awakening comprehension
as though the air he was breathing were shivered by the pain of
” Oh, Willis, don’t ! Go away, leave me, hate me, can’t you ?
Oh, don’t you see ? I can’t, I can’t. Take your eyes away, they
hurt me so. I cannot marry you now. What evil power sent
you here this morning ? Why couldn’t you wait until everybody
knew ? Don’t you understand, I—I have promised some one else ?
It was his turn now to be silent, and to stare in complete
stupefaction. She bore it as long as she could, and then with a
bitter sense of the comedy of the situation she stammered out a
trembling supplication :
” Oh, Willis, do scold me—or something. Don’t be so
ridiculously unlike yourself !”
She crouched away from him in the far corner of the sofa, and
buried her face in the cushions. There was no sound except the
rushing in her ears for several minutes. When he spoke again
it seemed as though a wave were receding slowly and unwillingly
on the sea-shore.
” I am very sorry, Cynthia. Of course I am going—to be
She was conscious that he rose from the sofa and stood a little
away from her.
” I suppose you wouldn’t mind my knowing his name ? Don’t
tell me if you would sooner not,” said his voice, grown gentler still.
A woman rarely finds it difficult to pronounce the name of
her lover, and Cynthia recovered some of her self-possession in
” I don’t suppose you have ever heard of him. His name is
There was one of those rapid transitions from artificial com-
posure to natural display of feeling, and Cynthia, listening dully
to his movements, heard the springs of the sofa suddenly creak
again as Willis dropped back heavily on to his seat.
” Bless my soul !” he said in his own voice and manner.
Cynthia raised herself and looked coldly at him.
” Adrian Marks ?” he repeated, smoothing his hair with a large
white handkerchief. ” Adrian Marks ?”
” Do you know him ?” asked Cynthia curtly.
” Know him ? Rather think I do ! Little unphysical bit of
a man—eh ? Hair getting thin on the top, sallow complexion, no
hands to speak of—should think I did know him, that’s all. Do
you really mean Adrian Marks ? Impossible !”
” He is an artist. I don’t expect you to understand what, that
means. And I am going to marry him, which I think ought to
spare him your jeers. And I really think we had better end this
” Bless my soul !” exclaimed Willis again, ” but we are only
at the beginning of it. My poor Cynthia, you must have wanted
to marry very badly.”
Mrs. Angelo made a struggle to retain her dignity.
” I don’t think you have at all grasped that I am engaged to
” Well, it is a bit difficult,” acknowledged Willis; ” why, I
could wipe the floor with him in one—Does he know about
the will ?”
” He did not know until I told him,” said Cynthia proudly,
making the most of her one advantage, ” and then he said my
poverty only made me more precious to him : Mr. Marks, also, is
ready to take me for myself.”
The insinuation in her last words was meant to impress her
hearer, but he only thrust his hands into his pockets and nodded
at his boots, and made a vulgar exclamation.
” You bet he is, quite ready,” he muttered incredulously.
” That sounds like Mr. Adrian Marks, doesn’t it ? Oh yes, of
Cynthia sat with burning cheeks and said nothing. Willis got
up with a sigh and looked down at her searchingly.
” Do you really think you are in love with Adrian Marks,
Cynthia ? Do you really ?”
It was the question she had put to herself doubtingly for many
weeks, but to hear it from the lips of another destroyed her last
remnant of composure.
” It is easy for you to sneer,” she cried angrily, ” you who
never had a thought apart from commerce, and the making of
gold, and the heartless game of getting on in the world. What
right have you to depreciate a man behind his back because he
lives by his intellect and his talent, and because he moves in a
world you have no suspicion of? It is mean and unmanly of
Willis by no means showed himself disconcerted at this out
burst. She was in the mood that was most familiar to him, the
one in which he had seen her most often before, and he brightened
considerably at the opportunities it offered him.
” Doesn’t he get paid for his pictures then, eh ?” he asked with
” I don’t mind how much you laugh,” cried Cynthia, ” I have
heard all those stale arguments before, and they are quite fruitless,
every one. I am glad I never need listen to them any more ; I
am glad there is some one who can lift me out of my old miserable
surroundings, and who can’t allude to them either because he
never knew anything about them. Adrian will never know any
more of my history than I choose to tell him, never ! I am glad
I am going to throw away my ill-gotten fortune, the price of
trade and robbery and everything I loathe. I am glad, glad,
Willis Ruthven gave a long whistle and strode over to the
window before he spoke.
” Who told you that Marks didn’t know anything about you?”
he asked sharply.
” What do you mean?” she said, with a vague feeling of
” Well, my dear girl, I suppose that the fool who painted that
nonsensical poster of yours must have known what he was paint-
ing it for, eh ? Not that the poster itself proves it, to be sure.”
Cynthia did not speak. The artistic atmosphere was being
” All I know is,” went on Willis from the window, ” that
when I was down at Johnson’s this morning, this dandy artist
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. K
you mention happened to descend from a world of his own in
order to look in about the payment for that particular poster.
Do you mean to tell me he doesn’t know who you are ? Bless
my soul, Cynthia, it’s time you had some one to look after
The delusion in which she had been living was shattered at one
blow. Cynthia cowered for a moment beneath it, and then
collected herself again with an instinct of self-preservation. She
rose and walked over to the fireplace and began picking up the
flowers. Her face was quite white, but she kept it turned away
from him, and when she spoke it was in a tone of exaggerated
” If you have said all you want to say, Willis, we will drop the
subject. You have given me a good deal of gratuitous informa-
tion about my private affairs, and I don’t find it very amusing. I
am rather busy this morning, too.”
But Willis had no intention of taking the hint to leave. He
came away from the window and spoke to her instead.
” You poor little woman, to think that I should have to be the
one to tell you what any man would have twigged in a brace of
shakes,” he said in a sympathetic tone as he rubbed his hat with
his coat sleeve, ” I always did have to look after you, didn’t I,
Cynthia nearly choked in an attempt to tell him to leave her, but
he stood up in the middle of the room and went on speaking,
quite unconscious of the storm that was raging in her mind.
” But there, of course it was only a fancy freak on your part.
Lord, what inexplicable creatures women are, to be sure. How-
ever a fine woman like you, Cynthia, with your taste and your
head could have—but there, of course you didn’t care about him
really, how could you ? Poor child, poor child. I won’t bother
you any more now ; you’ll like to think it over a bit—women like
to think things over, eh ? ”
And he really went that time, without the farewell greeting she
was dreading and yet longed for ; and she sat up and listened to
his retreating footstep on the stairs, and felt she would have done
anything in her power to make him come back and scold and com-
fort her all at once for her foolishness. Yet she did not make an
effort to recall him, but sat on the floor instead and wept hot
tears of shame and disappointment over his stick and gloves. And
Willis walked away down the street with his arms swinging and
his hat at the back of his head.
How he spent the day never transpired, but to Cynthia it was
the longest day of her life. She rang for the maid to clear up the
confusion of the drawing-room, and went upstairs to put powder
on her face.
Then she gave herself up to the consideration of her misfor-
tunes, and went without her lunch. She countermanded the
carriage and issued the mandate of ” Not at home, ” passed the
afternoon in her bedroom where she persuaded herself she was
going to be very ill, and took anti-pyrine, which she had heard was
a preventive against something. About five o’clock she changed
her dress, and made rather a substantial tea on finding to her dis-
gust that she was healthily hungry, and then she sat on the balcony
without a vestige of a headache left, and envied the cheerful people
who passed in their carriages, and wished somebody would call.
Somebody did call about an hour before dinner-time, but he sent
his card up first with a pencilled message upon it.
” You can show Mr. Ruthven up, and tell cook not to make a
second entrée to-night,” she said, making herself effective on a
couch near the window. She had decided that her attitude was to
be smiling indifference, but she never thought of it again when
Willis burst into the room in front of the stately footman, seized
both her hands in a friendly grasp and straightway burlesqued her
” My dear silly little woman,” he said, and looked at her and
” Willis, I’m not, I won’t be—”
” You’ll have to be,” he said, laughing more than ever, and
kissing the tips of her fingers on both hands.
” Let me go,” cried Cynthia fiercely.
” Do you mean that ?” he said, loosening his clasp and looking
directly at her.
Cynthia turned away from him, and stamped her foot.
” I don’t know,” she muttered sulkily.
” Of course you don’t,” said Willis jovially, ” women never do.
We always have to make up their minds for them. You’re as bad
as any of them, Cynthia.”
” You talk as though I had nothing to do but to listen to you,”
cried Cynthia angrily.
” You don’t look to me as though you had done much else since
you got up this morning,” replied Willis bluntly.
” Is that my fault ?” she exclaimed with burning cheeks. ” Can
I help your coming and wasting all my time ? When I tell you
to go, you don’t.”
” Tell me to go ? But you don’t,” said Willis.
” I—I do,” said Cynthia, looking down.
” When ? Now ?” he demanded.
” Yes, now,” she said, with her back to him and her hands
” If I go,” she heard him say slowly and deliberately behind
her, ” it will be for always, Cynthia.”
” I don’t care,” was her reply.
” For always, Cynthia,” he repeated doggedly.
She shrugged her shoulders and turned a little towards him.
” You know you couldn’t keep away,” she said scornfully.
” You know you couldn’t do without me,” he rejoined, and
began humming a tune.
” I have done without you for seven years.”
” And a pretty mess you’ve got yourself into at the end of
them,” cried Willis.
“I haven’t—it’s you. It would have been all right if you had
not interfered,” she said, facing him again.
” Would it? Then I’m to go, is that it?” he said, and
took no notice of her change of expression as he picked up his
” It is for always, Cynthia,” he said, and held out his hand.
Cynthia burst into tears.
” There, I knew” said Willis, coughing violently for no reason
” What did you know?” sobbed Cynthia, swaying towards
” That you would have to give in,” he laughed, coming nearer
” Why?” said she, struggling to free herself as he put his
arms round her.
” Because I said so, of course. Bless me, is that going to dis-
please you too ?”
” I hate you for saying that, but—I’m glad you did,” she
whispered.—”I suppose I must ask you to dinner,” she said
” They will be all my dinners in the future,” he said with
exultation in his voice. ” How will it please you to come to me
for all your pocket-money, eh ?”
” As much, possibly, as it will please you to find out how
much pocket-money I require,” retorted Cynthia.
” To think,” continued Willis, ” that I owe all my happiness
to that ridiculous poster—”
” You don’t,” cried Cynthia ; ” you owe it all to coming in this
morning ! I was writing to Adrian when you arrived. I should
never have listened to him at all if you had not gone out of town.
I am perfectly certain I shouldn’t,” she added firmly, in the hope
of convincing herself of this comfortable conclusion. Willis had
always been convinced of it, and kissed her with a proud sense of
” Do you want me to go and finish him off, or anything ?” he
Cynthia was alarmed at the vision of her late lover being
murdered in his studio by one blow from a heavy walking-
stick, and said she thought she would be meeting him herself at
Lady Houghton’s dance that evening. And she wondered
vaguely at the same moment why he had not been to see her all
The reason for his absence was quite simple. He had woke up
in the morning in a mood that strangely resembled Cynthia’s,
though it probably showed itself differently in him, and arose from
another cause. He stayed in bed and blamed himself until mid-
day ; and he tried to paint and blamed his model until sunset. He
called himself a fool in no measured terms for having allowed his
feelings to run away with him, and he considered carefully every
possible way of extricating himself from his predicament. The
day wore on, and he arrived at no satisfactory solution of the
difficulty. A letter did not commend itself to him because he
could not write letters ; women always had the best of it, he
reflected, when it came to letter-writing. Besides, what had he
to say except that he found he had made a mistake on the previous
evening ? It was not a graceful admission to make in any case,
but to say it in his best manner and in carefully chosen surround-
ings, satisfied his sense of the fitness of things more than the
idea of seeing it baldly represented in black and white. Besides,
he had really persuaded himself that he loved her very deeply, and
he had a lingering hope that an interview might present some
pathetic though compensating features that could never arise from
an exchange of letters. Yet the evening came and he had not
fixed a time nor a place for it.
He dined with Dicky Askew at his favourite restaurant ; and
the dinner was not so good as usual, and Dicky’s conversation
related entirely to Hurlingham and had a vagueness and an
absence of particulars about it which, at any other time, would have
aroused his suspicions, but which only succeeded this evening in
irritating him more than before. He dressed for Lady Houghton’s
dance in a dejected frame of mind, and he went forth in a hansom
like a victim who knows that his doom is awaiting him.
Margaret, with whom he had his first dance, found him
astonishingly dull. She was full of conversation herself, and she
rallied him on his mood as he led her into the conservatory after
one or two turns round the crowded room.
” Why weren’t you at Hurlingham this afternoon ?” she said.
” Is it necessary to go to Hurlingham ?” he asked with his
weary smile. It struck him that she was looking very pretty and
” Of course. Everybody does,” said Margaret conclusively,
” it is bright and amusing, and the best-dressed people go there.
There is polo too, I believe.”
” But I am not interested in polo,” objected Adrian.
” Oh, that doesn’t matter. Nobody is. I didn’t dream of
looking at the polo to-day. But it was perfectly thrilling,” she
added with a glow on her face.
” How young and fresh you are,” said the artist involuntarily.
” Is it only Hurlingham that can bring that look on to your face,
” Mr. Marks ! what have I said ? I only meant that I enjoyed
myself rather,” said Margaret, looking confused and blushing
furiously ; ” the drive and the air, you know, and—and the polo of
Adrian was silently rejoicing that she was, to the best of his
knowledge, completely untrammelled by any will.
” Don’t let me frighten you,” he murmured in his softest tones ;
” I was thinking that the man who could make you look like that
would be the happiest man in the world.”
Margaret was a little bewildered at first ; then her face cleared
up and she smiled up at him happily. She remembered that
Dicky had been dining with him.
” Do you think so really ?” she said, ” do you think he is ?”
“Well,” said Adrian, slightly startled, ” that of course depends
on whether you will make him so.”
The words escaped his lips without reflection. The intoxi-
cating scent of the hothouse plants, the swing of the music in
the next room, his own dissatisfaction—all combined to make him
seize the opportunity that she evidently meant to give him.
” Why of course I will !” cried Margaret, turning to him
with another blush and smile.
Adrian hardly allowed himself to breathe.
” Do you really mean that, darling ?” he said, bending towards
” Dicky !” cried the astonished girl, springing up to meet
the ugly boy who was coming to claim her, ” Dicky, tell
him ! I thought you had ; he doesn’t understand ! Where’s
And she fled across the tessellated floor and left the two friends
face to face.
The ugly boy laughed exultantly.
” Thought you’d guess, old man, after what I said at dinner.
Has she been trying to tell you, the little brick ? She knows
we’re pals, you see, that’s why.”
” Yes,” said Adrian faintly, ” I expect that’s why. Congratu-
late you, Dicky.”
” Thanks awfully, old chap. I knew you’d be glad,” laughed
Dicky, shaking his hand vigorously ; ” I am beastly lucky, eh ?
See you for a drink after this dance.”
Adrian stood irresolute for a moment when the ugly boy had
gone. He picked one or two flowers to pieces, ground his heel
savagely into them as they lay on the floor, and then strolled aim-
lessly round the edge of azalea under which he had been sitting
On the opposite side of it he found Mrs. Angelo Milton sitting
There were only two constructions to be placed on the situa-
tion and he desperately assumed the happiest.
” Oh, here you are,” he began, with a wretched attempt at
composure ; ” I have been looking for you everywhere.”
Cynthia looked him from head to foot without moving.
” I don’t think I have the pleasure,” she said, with a calm smile ;
” there seems to be some mistake.”
And Adrian took his dismissal and his departure simultaneously.
” Well, how did your puny little wall-painter take it ?” asked
Willis Ruthven the next day.
” He seemed surprised,” said Cynthia, and concealed a smile.
The Star and Garter, Richmond
By P. Wilson Steer
An Appreciation of Ouida
By G. S. Street
THE superfluous champion is a foolish being, but his super-
fluity lies, as a rule, not in his cause, but in his selection
of adversaries. In a world of compromises and transitions there
is generally much to be said on both sides, and there are few
causes or persons for whom a good word, in a fitting place and
time, may not be spoken. I acquit myself of impertinence in
stating what I find to like and to respect in the novels of Ouida.
For many years, with many thousands of readers they have been
popular, I know. But ever since I began to read reviews, to learn
from the most reputable authorities what I should admire or avoid,
I have found them mentioned with simple merriment or a frankly
contemptuous patronage. One had, now and then in boyhood,
vague ideas of being cultivated, vague aspirations towards
superiority : I thought, for my part, that of the many insuperable
obstacles in the way of this goal, this contempt of Ouida’s novels
was one of the most obvious. I enjoyed them as a boy, and I
enjoy them now ; I place them far above books whose praise is
in all critics’ mouths, and I think I have reason for the faith that
is in me.
One may write directly of ” Ouida ” as of a familiar institution,
without, I hope, an appearance of bad manners, using the
pseudonym for the books as a whole. The faults alleged against
her are a commonplace of criticism : it is said that her men and
her women are absurd, that her style is bad, that her sentiment is
crude or mawkish. It is convenient to make those charges points
of departure for my championship.
Everybody has laughed at Ouida’s typical guardsman, that
magnificent creature of evil life and bitter memories, sumptuous,
reckless, and prepared withal to perform heroic feats of physical
strength at a moment’s notice. Nobody, I admit, has met a
guardsman like him ; I admit his prodigality to be improbable in
its details, and the insolence of his manners to be deplorable. But
if you can keep from your mind the unlikenesses of his superficial
life, you come upon an ideal which is no doubt falsely elaborated, but
which, too, is the reverse of despicable. With all his faults, Ouida’s
guardsman is a man, and a man of a recognisably large nature.
The sort of man whom Ouida has set out to express in him, often
with unhappy results, is a man of strong passions and a zeal for
life. He grasps at the pleasures of life, and is eager for all its
activities ; he will endure privations in the cause of sport and dis-
comforts in the cause of friendship and risks in the cause of love.
His code of honour may not keep him out of the Divorce Court,
but, except in that connection, it saves him from lying and trickery.
His social philosophy, that of the essential male in a position of
advantage, is not enlightened, and his sense of humour is elementary ;
but his habit of life is clean and active ; he is ready to fight, and
he does not swagger. His one affectation is, that if by chance he
has done something great in the ways of sport or war, he looks as
if nothing had happened. There are things in life which he puts
before the main chance. Such, more or less, is the sort of man in
question, virile certainly, and one whom only the snobbery of intel-
lect can despise. His is not a very common type in a materialised
age, when even men of pleasure want their pleasure, as it were, at store
prices, and everybody is climbing pecuniary and social ladders ; it
is a type that, I confess, I respect and like. At least it is indis-
putable that such men have done much for our country. Now
Ouida, as I have admitted, has made many mistakes in her deal-
ings with this type of man : who has altogether avoided them ?
They are many who find the pictures of him in Mr. Rudyard
Kipling, superficially at least, far inferior to Mr. Kipling’s
” natives,” and his three immortal Tommies. Ouida has made
him ridiculously lavish, inclined to translate his genuine emotions
into terms of sentimentalism, and to say things of his social
inferiors which such a man may sometimes think, but is careful
not to say. To affirm that the subject is good and the treatment of
it bad, would be to give my case away. My contention is that
the treatment, with many imperfections, leaves one assured that
the subject has been, in essentials, perceived.
But her guardsman belongs to Ouida’s earlier manner, and it is
most unfair, in estimating her, to forget that this manner has been
mellowed and quieted. In ” Princess Napraxine ” and in
” Othmar “—the two most notable books, I think, of her later
period—there are types of men more reasonably conceived and ex-
pressed more subtly. Geraldine, the cosmopolitan, but charac-
teristic Englishman ; Napraxine, the amiable, well-bred savage ;
Des Vannes, the calculating sensualist ; Othmar himself, the dis-
appointed idealist, these are painted, now and then, in somewhat
glaring colours, but you cannot deny the humanity of the men or
the effectiveness of their portraits. And when you remember
how few are the male creations of women-writers which are in-
dubitable men, you must in reason give credit to Ouida for her
I submit that it is not an absolute condemnation to say of
Ouida’s women that they are ” hateful.” There are critics,
I know, who deny by implication the right of an author to
draw any character which is not good and pleasant. That there
may be, at one time or another, too pronounced a tendency to
describe only people who are wicked or unpleasant, to the neglect
of those who are sane and healthy and reputable, is certain ;
but the critics should remember that there is no great author
of English fiction who has limited himself to these. One may
regret that any writer should ignore them, but only stupidity or
malevolence refuses to such a writer what credit may be due to
him for what he has done, because of what he has left undone.
Of Ouida’s women much the same, mutatis mutandis, may be
said, as has been said so often of Thackeray’s : the good women
are simpletons or obtuse, only the wicked women interesting.
That criticism of Thackeray has always seemed to me to be
remarkably crude, even for a criticism : it argues surely a curious
ignorance of life or lack of charity to deny any ” goodness ” to
Beatrix Esmond or Ethel Newcome. But of Ouida it is
tolerably fair. There is an air of stupidity about her good and
self-sacrificing women, and since there is nobody, not incredibly
unfortunate, but has known women good in the most conven-
tional sense, and self-sacrificing, and wise and clever as well, it
follows that Ouida has not described the whole of life. But
perhaps she has not tried so to do. It is objected occasionally,
even against a short story, that its ” picture of life ” is so-and-so,
and far more plausibly can it be objected against a long tale of
novels : but I have a suspicion that some of the writers so in-
criminated have not attempted the large task attributed to
them. Granted, then, that Ouida has not put all the women in
the world into her novels : what of those she has ?
Certainly her best-drawn women are hateful : are they also
absurd ? I think they are not. They are over-emphasised
beyond doubt, so much so, sometimes, that they come near to
being merely an abstract quality—greed, belike, or animal
passion—clothed carelessly in flesh. To be that is to be of the
lowest class of characters in fiction, but they are never quite that.
A side of their nature may be presented alone, but its presentation
is not such as to exclude, as in the other case, what of that nature
may be left. And, after all, there have been women—or the
chroniclers lie sadly—in whom greed and passion seem to have
excluded most else. The critics may not have met them, but
Messalina and Barbara Villiers, and certain ladies of the Second
Empire, whose histories Ouida seems to have studied, have lived
all the same, and it is reasonable to suppose that a few such are
living now. One may be happy in not knowing them, in the
sphere of one’s life being too quiet and humdrum for their gorgeous
presence, but one hears of such women now and then.
They are not, I think, absurd in Ouida’s presentment, but I
confess they are not attractive. One’s general emotion with
regard to them is regret that nobody was able to score off or
discomfit them in some way. And that, it seems, was the
intention of their creator. She writes with a keenly pronounced
bias against them, she seeks to inform you how vile and baneful
they are. It is not a large-hearted attitude, and some would say
it is not artistic, but it is one we may easily understand and with
which in a measure we may sympathise. A novel is not a
sermon, but sæva indignatio is generally a
respectable quality. I
am not trying to prove that Ouida’s novels are very strict works
of art : I am trying to express what from any point of view may
be praised in them. In this instance I take Ouida to be an
effective preacher. She is enraged with these women because of
men, worth better things, who are ruined by them, or because of
better women for them discarded. It would have been more
philosophical to rail against the folly of the men, and were Ouida a
man, the abuse of the women might be contemptible—I have never
been able to admire the attitude of the honest yeoman towards
Lady Clara Vere de Vere ; but she is a woman, and ” those whom
the world loved well, putting silver and gold on them, ” one need
not pity for her scourging. It is effective. She is concerned to
show you the baseness and meanness possible to a type of woman :
at her best she shows you them naturally, analysing them in
action ; often her method is, in essentials, simple denunciation,
a preacher’s rather than a novelist’s ; but the impression is nearly
always distinct. You may be incredulous of details in speech or
action, but you have to admit that, given the medium, and the
convention, a fact of life is brought home with vigour to your
sympathies and antipathies. You must allow the convention—the
convention between you and the temperament of your author.
As when in parts of Byron a theatrical bent in his nature, joined
with a mode of his time, gives you expressions that on first appear-
ance are not real, not sincere, you may prove a fine taste by your
dislike, but you prove a narrow range of feeling and a poor imagin-
ation if you get beyond it ; so I venture to think in this matter of
Ouida’s guardsman and her wicked women, the magnificence, the
high key, the glaring colours may offend or amuse you, but they
should not render you blind to the humanity that is below the
And if the hateful women are unattractive, is there not in the
atmosphere that surrounds their misdeeds something—now and
again, just for a minute or two—vastly and vaguely agreeable ?
I speak of the atmosphere as I suppose it to be, not as idealised in
Ouida’s fashion. It is not the atmosphere, I should imagine, of
what in the dear old snobbish phrase was called ” high life “—gay
here and there, but mostly ordered and decorous : there is too much
ignored. It is the atmosphere, really, of a profuse Bohemianism,
of mysterious little houses, of comical lavishness, and unwisdom,
and intrigue. I do not pretend—as one did in boyhood—to know
anything about it save as a reader of fiction, but there are
moments when, in the quiet country or after a day’s hard work in
one’s garret, the thought of such an atmosphere is pleasant. We
—we others, the plodders and timid livers—could not live in it ;
better ten hours a day in a bank and a dinner of cold mutton ; but
fancy may wander in it agreeably for a brief time, and I am
grateful to Ouida for its suggestion.
I do not propose to discourse at length on Ouida’s style. As it
is, I do not admire it much. But I cannot see that it is worse
than the average English in the novels and newspapers of the
period. It is crude, slap-dash if you will, incorrect at times.
But it is eloquent, in its way. It does not seem to have taken
Swift for an ideal ; it is not simple, direct, restrained. But it is
expressive, and it is so easy to be crude, and slap-dash, and in-
correct, and with it all to express nothing. There are many
writers who are more correct than Ouida, and very many indeed
who are a hundred times less forcible, and (to my taste) less
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. L
tolerable to read. It may be true that to know fully the savour
and sense of English, and to use it as one having that knowledge,
a writer must be a scholar. I do not suppose that Ouida is a
scholar, but I am sure that the scholarship that is only just com-
petent to get a familiar quotation aright is not a very valuable
possession. In fine, I respect an unrestrained and incorrect
eloquence more than a merely correct and periphrastic nothingness.
I would not take Ouida’s for a model of style, but I prefer it to
some others with which I am acquainted.
Perhaps to be a good judge of sentiment one should not be an
easy subject for its influence. In that case nothing I can say on
the question of Ouida’s sentiment can be worth much, for I am
the prey of every sort of sentiment under heaven. If I belonged to a
race whose males wept more readily than those of my own, I should
be in a perpetual state of tears. Any of the recognised forms of
pathos affects me with certainty, so it be presented without (as is
sometimes the case) an overpowering invitation to hilarity. In
these days, however, if one does not insist on sentiment all day
long, if one has moods when some other emotion is agreeable, if one
is not prepared to accept every profession for an achievement of
pathos, one is called a ” cynic.” At times the pathos of Ouida
has amused me, and I too was a cynic. But, as a rule, I think it
genuine. Despised love, unmerited misfortunes, uncongenial sur-
roundings—she has used all these motives with effect. The
favourite pathos of her earlier books, that of the man who lives in
a whirl of pleasure with a ” broken heart, ” appeals very easily to a
frivolous mood, and may be made ridiculous to anybody by a
touch, but its contrasts may be used with inevitable effect, and so
Ouida has sometimes used them. Dog-like fidelity, especially to
a worthless man or woman, can be ridiculous to the coarse-grained
only. Love of beauty unattainable, as of the country in one
condemned to a sordid life in a town, can hardly be made absurd.
But the mere fact of unrequited affection, being so very common,
requires more than a little talent to be impressive, even to a senti-
mentalist, in a novel, and Ouida, I think, has made this common
fact impressive over and over again, because, however imperfect be
the expression, the feeling, being real, appeals without fail to a
The two qualities, I think, which underlie the best of Ouida’s
work, and which must have always saved it from commonness, are
a genuine and passionate love of beauty, as she conceives it, and a
genuine and passionate hatred of injustice and oppression. The
former quality is constantly to be found in her, in her descriptions
—accurate or not—of the country, in her scorn of elaborate
ugliness as contrasted with homely and simple seemliness, in her
railings against all the hideous works of man. It is not confined
to physical beauty. Love of liberty, loyalty, self-sacrifice—those
moral qualities which, pace the philosophers, must in our present
stage of development seem beautiful to us—she has set herself to
show us their beauty without stint of enthusiasm. Nobody can
read her tales of Italian peasant life without perceiving how full is
her hatred of inhumanity and wrong. In a book of essays recently
published by her this love and hatred have an expression which in
truth is not always judicious, but is not possibly to be mistaken.
They are qualities which, I believe, arc sufficiently rare in con-
temporary writers to deserve our attention and gratitude.
In fine, I take the merits in Ouida’s books to balance their
faults many times over. They are not finished works of art, they
do not approach that state so nearly as hundreds of books with a
hundred times less talent spent on them. Her faults, which are
obvious, have brought it about that she is placed, in the general
estimation of critics, below writers without a tenth of her ability.
I should be glad if my appreciation may suggest to better critics
than myself better arguments than mine for reconsidering their
By Richard Garnett, LL.D., C.B.
WHEN Deities from earth departute made,
Justice I marked in attitude to soar ;
No bandage veiled her eyes ; no blade she bore ;
Nor from her hand her wonted balance swayed.
” Goddess,” I cried, with tongue and heart dismayed,
” Bereft of thee and thine, how any more
Shall Grief be stilled ? or Faith with Hope adore ?
Wrong be annulled ? or Benefit repaid ?”
” Fear not,” she said, ” though far I seem to wend
Who omnipresent am, and whose award
Hath course by automatic Law sublime ;
My bandage blinds the vulgar ; on my sword
The malefactor falls ; my scales depend
In nicest balance from the hand of Time.”
Conte de neige pour mon neveu Rudi
Par le Prince Bojidar Karageorgevitch
ELLE était partie la petite Lilla, et Hélo savait qu’elle était partie
Aussi lorsqu’au dernier tournant de la route, là bas, trés loin,
où le lac finit, il n’avait plus vu le petit nuage d’or des cheveux de
Lilla briller sur le rouge de la carriole qui emportait la petite fille,
Hélo s’était senti comme sans son coeur, et s’était mis à errer
Un à un il avait repris tous les sentiers parcourus avec la chére
absente, il avait revu toutes les places où elle s’était reposée, s’était
arrêté devant les buissons qui tant de fois, les premiers jours, avaient
déchiré ses claires robes de princesse . . . .
Lilla était venue un matin, amenée par sa mère, qui, pour la,
convalescence de l’enfant, cherchait loin des villes, dans les mon-
tagnes du Jemtland, où les été sont une éternelle limpidité d’aurore,
l’air pur, ordonneé par les médecins à la petite malade.
La maison des parents de Hélo, plantée seule au bord du lac,
tout rouge, l’air presque d’un joujou avec son petite balcon et son
toit surplombant l’eau, avait séduit la voyageuse, et elle s’était
décidée à y rester jusqua’a la complète guérison de sa fille.
Lilla avait pour ses jeux et ses promenades un petit compagnon
Suédois tous deux, les enfants parlaient la même langue, lui avec
l’accent lent et guttural des gens de la montagne, la petite fille
avec le martellement, pressé un peu, des gens de ville, et Hélo ravi
l’écoutait pour sa jolie musique de voix sans souvent comprendre
les paroles . . . .
De suite les enfants avaient été amis.
La pâle et frêle petite fille, toute délicate de sa longue maladie,
semblait à Hélo une des fées du lac auxquelles il pensait lessoirs de
clair de lune, et lui charmait la petite Lilla par sa jolie fraicheur,
ses joues de santé, et la vérité de ses grands yeux verts.
Les enfants se parlaient peu. Dès le premier jour après s’être
dit leurs noms, ils étaient restés assis en silence, l’un à côté de
l’autre, un long temps à regarder le lac, et là bas, tout lå bas, dans
le bleu du loin, les pics recouverts de neige.
Au premier regard ils s’étaient compris, et les paroles, pour eux,
ne pouvaient guère ajouter à ce que savaient leurs âmes.
Ils se promenaient ensemble. Hélo quelquefois rapportait d’une
longue excursion Lilla toute fatiguée, si faible encore . . . .
Puis, un jour, des couleurs se mirent à ses joues ; les fraises
qu’elle mangeait dans les bois ne faisaient plus une tache rouge sur
ses lèvres, et peu à peu elle ressemblait à Hélo, gagnant son joli air
Les légères robes de la ville avaient été déchirées aux ronces des
sentiers, et un matin Hélo vit apparaître Lilla vêtue en petite
paysanne, coiffée d’un bonnet bleu à trois piéces, le court corsage
tout brodé, au dessus de la jupe sombre, coupée du tablier multi-
Et telle, elle lui semblait sienne. II lui avait pris la main pour la
première fois . . . . et en s’en allant vers le bois il l’avait tutoyée.
Maintenant que la santé était revenue à la petite fille, les enfants
faisaient la journée entière de longues excursions, les ascensions de
toutes les montagnes environnantes, et Hélo, tout fier, montrait à
sa petite amie son libre domaine planté de sapins, et où des fleurs
pâles comme des pétales de lune mettaient leurs taches claires sur,
le lourd tapis des mousses.
A la fin de juillet, la mère de Lilla avait décidé le départ pour
le dimanche prochain . . . .
Hélo avait passé le dernier jour entier prés de Lilla, puis
lorsqu’elle fut couchée, il était monté sur un inaccessible pic lui
cueillir un bouquet de roses de neige.
Et avec les fleurs dans les mains, semblable à quelque petite fée
des bois, toute rose de la santé revenue, elle lui avait envoyé un
baiser du haut de la voiture, puis elle s’était éloignée, éloignée
. . . . et là bas, au tournant du lac, elle venait de disparaître et
Hélo savait qu’il ne la reverrait plus . . . .
Hélo n’avait pas pleuré, aussi bien il sentait qu’il lui aurait fallu
pleurer toujours, car jamais il ne pourrait oublier Lilla, jamais se
consoler de ne plus la voir.
Et les soirs de lune, il s’asseyait devant la maison, sur le petit
bane où le premier jour ils étaient restés ensemble, puis doucement
il chantait et sa voix claire montait dans l’air pur, vibrait à l’écho
lointain et s’unissait à l’harmonie de la nuit.
Puis presque subitement vint l’hiver. Un matin Hélo vit
toute la campagne blanche de son calme tapis de neige. Et
de ne plus reconnaître ” leurs ” sentiers, de ne plus voir
” leurs ” buissons, la grande tache verte là haut de la pelouse où
ils s’asseyaient tous deux pour tresser des fleurs, Lilla lui avait
paru comme plus lointaine, partie dans un au-delà insaisissable à
Et par les sentiers, dans les clairières, sur le pic tant élevé qu’ils
avaient regardé ensemble, partout sur la neige, Hélo traçait le nom
qui était dans son coeur, écrivait Lilla, Lilla, Lilla . . . .
Puis il retournait aux endroits où il avait gravé dans la neige le
nom chéri. Le vent insensiblement effaçait les lettres. Des em-
preintes d’écureuils brodaient des arabesques tout autour, parfois
emportaient une moitiee du mot . . . . et l’enfant recommençait,
écrivait à nouveau aux mêmes places. Lilla, Lilla, Lilla . . . .
Hélo vivait son souvenir, inconsolable, insensible à tout ce qui
n’était pas sa pensée, comme absent, toujours en idée prés de Lilla,
loin de ses camarades dont il ne partageait plus les jeux, loin de
ses parents tout tristes de son immense chagrin, désolés de le voir
pâlir tous les jours davantage . . . .
Et le sombre hiver s’éclaircit ; de la pluie tomba, puis la brume
voila longtemps l’horizon, enfin dans le soleil reparu la neige
acheva de fonclre. Les ruisseaux reprirent leur babil, et tous
portant la neige sur laquelle le nom était tracé, chantaient : Lilla,
Lilla, Lilla : mais chantaient si doucement qu’Hélo seul pouvait
entendre leur murmure.
Avec le printemps les oiseaux et les fleurs aussi revinrent.
Tout chantait autour de la petite cabane rouge ; les mousses de
nouveau s’étoilaient de fleurs pâles sous les grands sapins sombres,
et Hélo, toujours errant, meurtri de souvenir, était pâle main-
tenant, pâle lui aussi comme les délicats pétales éclos au soleil du
* * *
La lune se levait dans le ciel bleu, profondément bleu, tout
diamanté d’étoiles. Les ruisseaux brillaient discrètement parmi
les buissons, disaient Lilla, Lilla, Lilla, en se dépêchant vers le lac,
et Hélo entendait le nom aimé, écoutait au loin comme un
froissement de grelots lui semblait-il : la voiture peut-être qui la
ramenait . . . .
Un chant d’oiseau s’éleva dans le silence, deux notes douces et
tendres comme l’air de la nuit, répétaient Lilla, Lilla . . . . puis
des branches de sapin s’embrassèrent dans la brise du soir, et elles
aussi chuchottèrent Lilla . . . .
Hélo revenait de la montagne, marchait vers le lac, et lorsqu’il
fut au bord il vit sur l’eau un large tapis d’or que la lune y étendait,
un tapis qui veloutait la route vers là bas . . . . là bas où l’oiseau
appelait Lilla, Lilla, où les sapins baisaient le nom chéri, où les
ruisseaux couraient le porter . . . . où peut-être elle était. . . . .
Et au bord du lac des roseaux se froissaient, leurs longues
feuilles de soie murmurant Lilla, Lilla. . . . .
Hélo se pencha vers eux, écouta, et c’était si doux la musique
qu’il leur entendait, puis le tapis d’or l’appelait, et comme un
reproche, plus éloigné maintenant, il entendit l’oiseau Lilla, Lilla
. . Lilla . . . . alors il s’avança sur le tapis de lune . . . . et
* * * * *
Jamais le lac ne rendit le petit corps frêle, les pâles joues de
fleurs, les grands yeux verts tout pensifs de l’image aimée . . . .
Et seulement pour que les parents puissent prier à la place où
Hélo avait disparu, des nénuphars, des iris et des myosotis pous-
sèrent prés des roseaux, formant une tombe de fleurs au dessus de
l’enfant qui dormait son dernier sommeil, bercé par les ruisseaux
chantant à jamais Lilla, Lilla, Lilla. . . . .
By Sir William Eden, Bart.
In an American Newspaper Office
By Charles Miner Thompson
HUNT was the night-editor of the respectable Dawn.
knowing journal declared that ” business men desire a news-
paper which they can take home to their families,” and, with the
immodest confidence of virtue, asserted that it ” filled this long-
felt want.” Its columns were carefully kept unspotted from
sensational crime. It was edited with the most solicitous regard
for the proprieties. Its proofs were reported to be read by Mrs.
Grundy herself. ” The duty of the press,” said the Dawn, ” is to
conserve the public morals. The editor, with a high ideal of the
function of journalism, will not follow the almost universal and
highly regrettable fashion of the times, and sacrifice decency to
dollars.” This truly disinterested paper sacrificed indecency on
the same altar, without a blush, and, with a pride that aped
humility, posed as the Dawn of a Better Day. By the same
token, Hunt occupied a position of eminence.
When he reached the editorial rooms in the evening he usually
found Master, his assistant, already seated at the big night-desk
hard at work. Hunt had not been so many years in existence, as
Master had been in journalism ; and his superiority in rank made
his senior sulky. A grumpy ” hello ” was all the greeting he ever
got. That so old a man should ” play baby ” struck Hunt as
comic, and his subordinate’s grudging welcome was become an
enjoyment which through force of indulgence he unconsciously
demanded. Therefore, to-night, when on coming into the office
he found Master’s chair empty he felt vaguely aggrieved. He
thought of himself, charitably, as missing the elder man : what he
did actually miss was the agreeable fillip which the spectacle of the
old man’s glumness always gave his sense of humour.
Perhaps, however, his indefinite feeling of discomfort was due
in part to the cheerless aspect of the room. Usually when he
entered the place it was lighted and occupied ; to-night no one
was about, and the one gas jet that was burning showed a mere
tooth of flame within its wire muzzle. The little closets of the
reporters, each with a desk and a chair in it, which were ranged
like so many doorless state-rooms against the sides of the apart-
ment, appeared dimly in the gloom as black, uncanny holes. On
the fourth side, under the gaslight and covered with a disorderly
array of shears, pencils, bottles of mucilage, and of ink, pens and
paper, was the big and battered night-desk. Recognisable above
it by persons unhappily familiar with such objects, were the electric
messenger call and fire alarm. Higher still, there perched in
solitary state upon a shelf a dusty and dented gas-meter. The
dirty floor was littered with rumpled and torn newspapers,
splotched with tobacco juice, and strewn with the ends of cigars
and cigarettes. Nauseating black beetles scampered everywhere,
lurked in corners and cracks, and rustled in the papers. Five were
drinking from the inkstand. The atmosphere was heavy with the
odours of damp paper, printer’s ink, and stale tobacco. ” Such, ”
reflected Hunt with grim humour, ” is the golden East from which
appears the worshipped Dawn.”
Hunt, however, was too thoroughly accustomed to the rooms
and too indifferent to dirt to be much or long depressed by them.
Having turned up the gas, he took off both his coat and his waist-
coat, for the close office was already uncomfortably warm. Yet it
was bitterly cold without, as became the last night of a March
most lion-like in its departure. Then from his soiled shirt he
removed the perfectly clean and highly polished collar and cuffs.
For neat keeping he placed these in the same drawer in which he
stored his tobacco. Thence he drew forth the next moment a big
briar-wood pipe. Having first regarded this companion of his
nights with much affection, and rubbed the bowl against his nose
to bring out the colour, he proceeded to fill it with tobacco, which
he pressed down with a finely solicitous little finger, and lighted
with deep satisfaction. As the first great puffs of smoke made
vague his features, he threw away the match with a superb dis-
regard of the inflammable piles of paper on the floor, and settled
himself with some show of heartiness to his work.
He was a small fellow, and young. His black hair, cut in the
style termed ” pompadour,” stood up over his forehead like the
bristles of a blacking-brush. His small black eyes darted alertly
everywhere and were full of humour. His tip-tilted nose seemed
at some time to have been used as a handle for raising his upper lip,
which was short and showed his teeth. His whole appearance
was odd and saucy ; you judged him knowing, cynical, and
amusing, and smiled upon him at once with amusement and
expectation. His nervous strength, which you saw at once was
immense, was as yet unexhausted by a life divided between severe
mental toil and vicious pleasure. From half-past seven in the
evening until four in the morning he was at the office of the
Dawn. Then he went to his lodging-house, there to sleep until
twelve o’clock. The afternoon he passed at the Press Club —
smoking, drinking, playing cards or billiards—and after dinner
repaired again to the office. His Sundays were spent partly in
sleep, partly in dissipation. He had taken a degree at one of the
smaller American colleges, had a considerable knowledge of English
literature, and was ambitious to write for the stage. He was the
son of a country deacon.
He was looking through the foreign news in the evening paper
with a view to the fabrication of ” special cablegrams ” to the
morrow’s Dawn when Burress, a reporter, entered.
” Hello,” he said, ” where’s the old man ?”
” Dunno,” answered Hunt without looking up from his work ;
” drunk probably.”
” I thought he’d kept pretty straight since he came here,” said
” He has,” retorted Hunt. ” That’s why I think he’s drunk.”
Burress laughed. He stepped to the desk for light by which to
read the letter and the assignment he had found in his box.
Gloom overspread his vacuous face when he found that his assign-
ment was to a meeting of some scientific club or other, and
required a long, disagreeable journey to the opposite end of the
town. Having shoved the clipping into his pocket in disgust, he
cocked his cigar in the corner of his mouth, half closed his eyes to
keep the smoke out of them, and began opening his letter with
the assistant night-editor’s shears. His unbuttoned ulster hanging
open in front, revealed the shabby clothes beneath. The overcoat
itself, however, was comparatively new, and together with the loud
” puff ” tie, the high silk hat, and the shoes of patent leather
which he wore, enabled him to present upon the street a delusive
appearance of smartness. The few inches of trouser-leg which
were visible beneath the long coat, were the Achilles heel of this
dandy, and worried him at times.
” Master’s got a letter from the boss in his box,” said he,
significantly. As he spoke he tore up his own letter (which was
a bill) and threw the pieces on the floor.
Hunt glanced at him keenly. ” Has he ?” he asked with interest.
” Yes,” said Burress, and the two exchanged understanding
” Well,” said Hunt crossly, ” I expected it. What else was
that kid Wilson put on the day-desk for ?”
” He’ll succeed him, will he?”
“Of course,” replied Hunt. ” And a pretty time I’ll have
breaking him in, too. As if I hadn’t got enough to do as it is !”
” Pretty tough on the old man, I call it,” remarked Burress,
” What do you expect in this office ?” asked Hunt sarcastically.
” Life tenure, high wages, and service pensions ? Do you take
the boss for an angel ? There isn’t any angel in journalism—
except possibly the one that does the recording. The old man
gets precious little ; but Wilson’ll get less, see ? ” The golden
exhalations ” of this dawn ain’t used up in salaries—not to any
” D—n him,” said Burress. This seemingly irrelevant curse
was directed against the proprietor. As becomes a conventional
expression of an emotion the edge of which habit has dulled, it
was delivered without animation. Hunt paid no attention to it,
and the reporter, even as he gave it forth, picked up the shears
again and began idly to clean his nails. ” How’ll the old man
take it, I wonder,” he said at length meditatively.
” Oh, he’ll get drunk now, sure.”
” Fearful wreck, ain’t he,” said Burress appreciatively.
” Yes, and he’s cracked too,” growled the night editor, bending
himself over some copy.
” I was
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. M
” I was talking to old Symonds the other day about him,” con-
tinued the reporter. ” He said he used to be the best newspaper
man in the city—managing editor of the Atlas once, you know.
Guess he was pretty lively too—great on practical jokes, Symonds
” Humph,” grunted Hunt, ” a cab-horse is merry beside him
now. But he knows his business just the same,” he added, think-
ing ruefully of Wilson.
” He played a great joke on Fox once—Fox at the Atlas, ”
continued Burress, snapping the shears together definitively, and
taking on the air of one about to tell a long tale which he thinks
amusing.” Symonds told me about it. It’s a devilish good story.
He said he—”
But here the large form of the old man himself appearing in
the doorway, caused Burress to stop in the middle of his phrase.
” Hello, Master,” said he, in some confusion. Hunt also looked
up, noted that his fat and elderly assistant had not been drinking,
and nodded briefly. Master, avoiding the younger men’s eyes, in
which he perceived and resented the curiosity, growled an answer-
ing ” hello.” He hung up his shabby overcoat, coat and waistcoat,
and for his greater comfort let his braces fall about his vast hips.
Then standing by the desk he opened and read the note he had
found in his box. The two young men watched him furtively.
Master was large and grossly fat. His face, which looked as if
moulded from damp newspaper, was deeply wrinkled ; his eyes
were dull and heavily ringed with dark circles ; and his flaccid
cheeks hung about his jaws like dewlaps. What little hair there
was about the sides of his head was unkempt and dirty. His
crown was completely bald. This condition Hunt made the
topic of endless jokes. ” What I like about you, Master,” he
would say, ” is that you have the courage of your baldness. You
don’t cultivate an isthmus of hair to adorn a forehead and define a
brow. You leave everything frank and open. But never you
mind, old man, always remember that ‘beauty draws us by a
single hair.’ ” Another time the nearness of Master’s oily pate
and tallow-like face to the gas jet led Hunt with unkind whimsi-
cality to congratulate him on not having a wick in the top of his
head. ” If you had,” he said, ” you’d burn out like a candle,
sure.” The old man’s whole body, moreover, looked weak, as if
force of habit rather than a solid framework of bone held its
flabby mass in place. He was at the same time repugnant and
As he ended his reading, he turned for a moment an expression
less gaze upon the young men. Then, crumpling the letter and
setting it aflame at the gas jet, he lit his pipe with it, let it burn
almost to his fingers, dropped it at just the right moment, and
carefully stamped out the blaze upon the floor. ” I got a letter
to-day,” he said apathetically, ” saying my old mother is dead, and
to-night I get the G. B. [Grand Bounce ; Anglice, the sack]
here. What’s the news with you fellows ?”
” Nothing much,” answered Hunt, startled and uncertain.
” That’s pretty tough,” said Burress weakly. Master grunted,
and the reporter, much embarrassed, made a clumsy escape :
” Well,” said he, ” I’ve got to be going. By-bye. See you
The old man seated himself opposite Hunt at the night-desk.
He spread his big thighs wide apart and his great stomach settled
between them like a half-filled sack in a corner. His sometime
clean shirt exhaled a faint odour of perspiration, had tobacco-spots
upon its rumpled bosom, and clung about his shoulders in a
multitude of fine wrinkles. A greasy ” string-tie ” of rusty black
hung disconsolate ends from under a soiled collar. His pear-
shaped face, looking more than usually battered and worn, fairly
exuded melancholy. He mopped his bald head mechanically, and
then stared a moment with dull eyes at the crumpled handkerchief
in his pudgy fist. Finally pulling himself together, he began to
work—well and rapidly, but with entire unconsciousness.
The office grew livelier. Reporters came in, chatted among
themselves a while, or wrote busily in their closets, and departed
again into the night. The regular procession of disreputable-
looking boys began to file into the room with telegraphic
despatches from the Associated Press. ” Copy ” in ever-
increasing volume was flung upon the night-desk. Hunt, with a
calculating eye upon the space of the paper gave the order sharply
to ” carve hell out of everything.” Thereupon some one began
to chant a rhyme current in the office :
” O’er the films
In a tone by no means bated,
Comes the cry reiterated,
Carve, Master, carve !”
The managing editor, emerging every now and then from his
den, like a bulldog from his kennel, swore viciously at Hunt, at
Master, at whatever reporters happened to be there. On all sides
rose the mingled noise of laughter, oaths, whistling, sharp question
and sharper answer, striking matches, scratching pens, grating
chairs, scuffling feet, the sharp snipping of shears through copy,
and their clatter when thrown down, the ringing of the bell of the
copy-box, the rattle of the box itself as it moved up and down in
its narrow passage-way to the composing-room, the tearing of
paper, the devil’s tattoo of a typewriter ; but though he heard it
Master was conscious of none of it. To the general hubbub,
the fire alarm added its deliberate strokes, like a clock. As it
ceased, the inattentive ” night locals ” asked what box it was.
Master answered him—correctly. Yet he was unconscious or
the striking bell, of the question, of his own answer, and in this
curious state, known to all who have been stunned by sudden mis-
fortune, in which the mind, though it seems occupied wholly with
its sense of leaden sorrow, still does its usual, familiar task, Master
worked on through the evening.
What he was conscious of was his misery. Its dull ache was
in his brain, which it numbed, and in his body, which felt heavy and
weak. His future was black. The metaphor is outworn ; but
the darkness which it has ceased to make visible to our accustomed
imagination was palpable to him. In the night you see dimly ;
perhaps not at all ; but you know where your path is leading, you
know that familiar and well-loved objects—trees, hills, the houses
of men—are about you, that your home is before you, that the
ground is firm under your feet. Not more dark than this is the
future of most of us. But imagine yourself set down in a
spacious blackness of which you know nothing, where the first
step may hurl you into an infinite abyss or bring you full against
some slimy wall, the horrid breadth and height of which are illimit-
able ; where, finally, what you stand upon is neither turf nor stone,
hillside nor plain, private path nor public way, but mysterious
unnameable ooze. In such a place Master was now set down.
Hard as his lot had been before, now it was harder. While his
old mother lived—a withered yet active dame, to think prim, small
thoughts in a prim, small house, far away from him, in the pure
country—his life, wrecked as he knew it to be, had still its worthy
use. By an arrangement with the cashier a part of his pay each
Saturday was safely sent to her : with the lesser remaining portion
he began his weekly ruinous carouse. Now that she was dead —
and he had a vision of her still face, with its air of demanding
nothing, which, to the living, with love still to bestow, is the
most painful sight in the faces of the dead—what had he for which
to live ? With what, indeed, was he to live ? He was discharged
—abruptly, cruelly, without notice. And he knew too well he
could not obtain work elsewhere. The thrifty proprietor of the
Dawn, who had hired him simply because, no one else wanting
him, he was cheap, might indeed find him useful for a time ; but
no editor willing to pay the honest price of capable and faithful
service would for a moment consider any request for employment
In one direction only was there light. Tunnelled through the
darkness as through black stone, and lighted with cruel distinctness,
there stretched a pathway. He saw himself going down this way
—first, a worn-out journalist doing odds and ends of ” space work ”
for a scanty and intermittent wage ; next, a drunken sot spending
his days partly in public parks, partly in shrinking visits to public-
houses, his nights in police stations ; and finally, when dead, tossed
into the earth so sodden and diseased a corpse that even the gorge
of grave-worms would rise at him. And though the darkness was
heartening in comparison with this hideous, inevitable path, the
eyes of his inward vision fixed themselves upon it, fascinated.
His bodily eyes meanwhile read ” copy “—drunks, petty larcenies,
fires, aldermanic doings, a ball, a dinner in fashionable society —
and his blue pencil marked this copy with paragraph-marks, struck
out superfluous passages, and wrote appropriate ” heads. ”
At this moment Burress entered, flushed and excited. ” There,
by George !” he exclaimed, throwing a bundle of copy down
before Master, ” here’s news for you. That’s better than your
scientific meeting, I guess !”
” What is it ?” said Hunt.
” A column suicide !” exclaimed Burress with pride. ” I
stumbled upon it in the luckiest manner. I was at the hotel
The word ” suicide ” pierced Master’s unconsciousness like a
bright sword. He was oblivious to the rest. Burress’s copy was
the first to which he gave his whole mind. It was an account of
the suicide of a man who seemed to have everything needful to
make him happy—reputation, namely, and wealth, a handsome,
accomplished wife and promising children. ” No cause, ” ran the
reporter’s conventional phrase, ” can be assigned for the rash act. ”
If this man had found life a vain thing, what, he asked, could it
hold of good for him ? And the idea of suicide, once suggested to
him, grew and waxed strong and became a resolve. Then, suddenly,
self-disgust seized him. What good resolution, he asked himself
savagely, had ever been kept by him ? He was weak, he was a
coward, he would never have the nerve —
As he pondered this other man’s obituary, he wondered in
bitterness of spirit what the account of his own death would be—
brief, he knew, and good-natured, but in every line, he foresaw,
breathing contempt. And he rebelled against this imaginary
notice with the rebellion of a man who, though he has failed,
knows himself better than many who succeed. There is no hatred
like that of the unjustly blamed for the unjustly praised. He
cursed the editor and proprietor of the Dawn, who, though he was
cruel and unscrupulous, yet prospered through the canny virtue of
sobriety. That the man had any virtue whatever was perhaps,
after all, where lay the sting. A passion of hate against this cool
calculator of the value of respectability blazed in him. With the
intensity of a strong fire swept by wind, he wished that he might
show this man to the world as he was, avenge his own wrongs,
drive a poisoned javelin at his enemy’s heart even from the door-sill
of death, and leave behind him as he stepped across it at least a
revenge accomplished. Upon the problem how to effect this his
mind fixed itself like a burning glass. Suddenly before his imagi-
nation the solution sprung up like the flame. He gave a short,
curious laugh, darted at Hunt (at that moment wrathfully crump-
ling in his fist several sheets of ” flimsy “) the cunning glance of
one insane, then rose and left the office. He returned shortly,
but in the interval he had drunk two glasses of neat brandy.
The night passed. The reporters one by one finished their
tasks and departed. Their cells once more became the homes
exclusively of darkness and black beetles. Only ” the night locals
man ” now remained. In his gas-lit cubby-hole, ornamented with
coloured lithographs of actresses in tights and cheap likenesses of
sporting and political celebrities, he sat contentedly smoking and
writing out with painful scratching pen his little chronicle of
minor crime. Old Master had toiled on doggedly. In the inter-
vals of the regular work of the desk he had busied himself with
some writing of his own. Hunt, noting this detail, had inferred
that he was occupied with some ” special ” to an ” outside ” news-
paper, and had had the careless and easy charity to hope that the
work would bring him a dollar or so. At three, Master went
home, and Hunt made his way to the composing-room to attend
to the ” make-up. ” The ” night locals ” man loafed about until
half-past three, the hour when the paper went to press, and then
he too departed.
Shortly afterwards, Hunt re-entered the now deserted editorial
room, and began to make ready for the street. As he finished,
the bell of the copy-box rang, and the fresh, damp newspaper—
the first from the press—was sent down. He glanced at one or
two of the heads about which he had certain doubts, found them
as they should be, and stepped at once into the elevator. There
the thought of the suicide occurring to him, he had curiosity
enough to look for the account. At what he saw he uttered a
” Here,” he shouted to the sleepy elevator boy, ” carry me back
But why, after all, take it from the paper ? No—it was
straight, Master had done it, he knew. Anyway, it was only a
couple of ” sticks.” Possibly, if he didn’t delay, there might yet
” No,” he cried to the boy ; ” I’ve changed my mind. Get
me downstairs like lightning, d’ye hear ? Come, get a move on
” What’s the matter with you, anyway,” growled the boy,
between wonder and wrath.
” Never you mind, but hustle—hustle, can’t you ?” cried Hunt,
now in an agony of impatience.
And when the elevator at last reached the ground floor, he ran
from the building at full speed and jumped into the first cab he
found. Neither whip nor curse was spared to get him rapidly to
Henry J. Conant, proprietor of the Dawn, was, as Hunt
forty years old himself, but his good angel died young. As he
wore a slight moustache and no beard, he looked even younger
than he was. His mouth, twisted by sensuality, was thin-lipped
and cruel. His eyes were hard, and their glances bore down yours
as a Scotch claymore might bear down a French rapier. He was
tall in person, gave much care to his dress, was overbearing in
manner, and said what he chose without regard for the feelings of
others. He was cynical, passionate, consistent only in so far as
consistency paid, and made his only ends in life money and power.
He had excellent control over himself : he allowed even his violent
temper to show itself in two cases only—when it could not harm
his interests, for pleasure ; when it could further them, for profit.
No one liked him : he had won his way without help from any one
by sheer force of will. Imagine a bull which had intellect and which
was not to be fooled by red cloaks. Rather than encounter such
an animal, the cautious toreador would resign. In this imaginary
beast is found the type of such men as Conant. He was an ugly
antagonist, and knew it.
Conant’s wife—a convenient woman, whose money had enabled
him to become the proprietor of the Dawn as well as its editor—
was a weak, sallow thing to whom he paid no attention. Her
only pleasure was to read her husband’s paper, of which she under-
stood nothing, and which seemed to her a daily miracle. Her only
use in life, in his opinion, was to keep his house. He lived in a
suburban town, ” nor,” to quote Hunt again, ” because he loved
men the less, but a low tax-rate more.”
When, five hours after the Dawn went to
press—that is to say,
at half-past eight o’clock—Conant came downstairs to breakfast,
his first act was to pick up the morning paper. The greatest
pleasure ot his day, his employes averred, was to seek out in its
columns causes for fault-finding, for excuse to make the day of his
managing editor a burden, and sharply to rebuke his night-editor
in the evening. Nor was he above ” cursing out ” any reporter
who was unlucky enough to offend him. He made no speciality
of dignity. Opening the paper, he ran his eye first over a
leading article which he himself had written on some question of
local politics. He read its execrable English with the complacency
of one whose only grammar has been the columns of newspapers.
Its political shrewdness flattered his pride : his rude thrusts at his
enemies pleased his malice. Then he looked through a paragraph
or two of a religious article, found himself bored, reflected with the
calm of one who has taught himself to accept facts which he does
not understand, that his readers liked that sort of thing, supposed it
was all right, and after a sniff of contempt at the column of book
reviews, and the concurrent thought that after all ” book-ads ”
paid, turned to the news columns. There almost the first ” head ”
to catch his eye was the suicide of a Mr. Mainwaring at the
H—hotel. Through this, using the ” cross-heads ” as an
index to the important points, he glanced hastily. At its close
a second article followed with the caption : ” Another Suicide : A
Well-known Newspaper Man kills himself at his Rooms.” Upon
this his attention became at once fixed. First in the ordinary
type of the paper came this short paragraph :
” Mr. John Master, a brilliant journalist long and favourably
known in newspaper circles, and at the time of his death connected
with the staff of the Dawn, committed suicide early this morning
at his rooms at 671, Ashley Street. Directly he left work at the
Dawn office at three o’clock this morning, Mr. Master proceeded
at once to his lodgings, and went to his room, which he entered
without attracting the attention of any of his sleeping fellow-
lodgers. At half-past three, Mr. Frank Bartlett, who occupies
the next apartment, was awakened by a pistol-shot, and on rushing
into the room of the unfortunate man, found him stretched upon
the bed with a bullet-hole in his forehead and the still smoking
42-calibre revolver clutched convulsively in his right hand. Mr.
Master leaves no family.”
The second portion of the article was in agate type. This, as
Conant noted with quick disapproval, was true even of the intro-
ductory sentence, which by rule should have been included in the
first paragraph and printed in the same type. As he read the
opening words of this longer part, Conant’s face seemed to stiffen
and harden visibly. They ran thus :
” At his bedside was found the following letter : ‘ Before God, I
declare the hypocritical editor and proprietor of this paper respon-
sible for my death. Oh, I know what will be said—that if I had
let rum alone I would have been all right. I know very well that
but for drink I might still be what I once was, one of the leading
newspaper men of the city. But because I was weak, was that
any reason why this man should take advantage of that weakness
for his own ends and careless of my sufferings ? No ! Read
what I say, and then see what you think of him ; see if you think
him the noble man who runs ” the only respectable daily ” in the
city. We come from the same town, and I know all about him.
And I propose to tell it too. ‘ ”
Conant instinctively darted a quick, cautious glance about the
room, as if to see whether any one was observing him, and with a
certain slight tightening of the lips, resumed his reading :
” ‘ I am the older man, and came to the city first. When he
came up to town with his miserable bit of experience in news-
paper work as correspondent from a country legislature to a
country weekly, I was managing editor of Facts, the biggest
sensational liar in town, and he came straight to me. I wasn’t a
saint. I accepted the profession as I found it, cynically, and
enjoyed its lies and its vulgarities, called the public an ass, and
thought myself its superior. Most journalists do. But at least I
was good-natured and generous, and I gave this raw youngster his
chance, and was rather proud to see him advance, as he did,
rapidly. I drank. I lost my place, got another not so good ; lost
that. As I went down, he went up. Finally, all I could get to
do was irregular work, space work, what not—no one would give
me regular employment. Meanwhile, he had got possession of
this paper—the devil knows how. I only know this, that while
he ran it for the stock company which owned it, as he did for
several years, it lost money rapidly, until they were all disgusted
and sick, and they sold it to him cheap as dirt. Now, just as
quick as he got it into his own hands, it began to make money.
There was some funny business or other, you may be sure of
that : and if he wants to sue me for libel, let him come to hell
after me if he wants to. He’ll be welcome—the devil’s proud of
him. ‘ ”
A shade of cynical amusement passed over Conant’s face at this
outburst. ” He’s simply playing into my hands,” he reflected,
“talking such rot. If his revelations don’t amount to any more
than that—” He relaxed his attitude a little, and took an
easier position in his chair.
” ‘ When he got control of the paper, then began economies.
The men who had served the paper long and faithfully, and by
right of their service and ability drew large salaries, were one by
one dismissed, and who took their places ? Boys and old sots
boys for strength, old sots for experience. They supplemented
each other well, and both were cheap. The sots did not stay
long neither did the boys. The sots went on sprees, and sots —
who happened to be sober took their places. The boys left on
their first demand for an increase of salary. They were told that
if they didn’t like their wages they could get out. There were
plenty of others. The force was kept horribly small besides, and
the men were worked within an inch of their lives. The boys
paid dear for their training. The office was a regular hell, where
men got thin and pale and nervous from overwork, and then broke
down and were discharged without notice. But the salary list
was the lowest in the city, and while this worthy proprietor got
the full benefit of these youngsters’ enthusiasm and strength, he
saved thousands of dollars a year in salaries alone. All the thanks
they got were curses for the blunders which of course they made.
This was the office at which I applied for work. It was abso-
lutely necessary for me to earn money. I had a feeble old mother
up-country who only had me to keep her from the workhouse. I
thought this worthy gentleman would do me a good turn, just as I
had done him one year before. He knew I could do good work.
He knew my mother. He believed my promise to keep straight
—I know he did. I saw it in his eye. And what did he do ?
He took advantage of my necessities to offer me less than the
other old sots, my likes. I cursed him inwardly and took his
offer. I had to, and he knew it. At the end of a month he
reduced my pay, and didn’t condescend to give me an explanation
for it. Still, I hung on, and kept straight. Then he set a green
young fellow to work on the day-desk, though the man on it
could do all the work on it himself by working like a nigger
every second of his time. I knew what that meant. He don’t
incur extra expense for nothing. He was training my successor.
Last night I got the G. B. Why ? Because I got 10 dols. a
week and the kid would do it for 8 dols. That’s why. Did my
former kindness to him, did the thought of my poor old mother
whom his action would send to the workhouse make him hesitate
one second to save that two dollars a week on my salary ? Not a
bit of it. I had served his turn, and he slung me aside as a
drunkard does an empty bottle, careless on what stones I was
broken. Thank God, my mother died day before yesterday. I
got the news along with my discharge. ‘ ”
” That’s all sorehead stuff,” was Conant’s mental comment.
” An editorial saying that if the complaints of all the disgruntled
and crank employés were believed—will fix that. My readers
are mostly employers of help. They’ll see the point. But “—and
the editor’s face suddenly clouded with wrath—” what did Hunt
mean by printing such stuff. He’ll get his walking papers so
quick he won’t know what’s happened to him.”
” ‘ And is there any need for this niggardliness, this cruel and
unjust under-payment ? No sir. ‘ ”
” What’s that ?” muttered Conant, straightening himself sud-
” ‘ There may have been once; but there isn’t now. He takes
great pains to keep the idea going that the paper makes nothing.
But I know better. I know the minimum amount of advertising
required to make the paper pay. There isn’t a day that the paper
doesn’t have more than that amount—not a day. When that day
comes there’ll be no paper. Any one who knows its kind-hearted
proprietor knows enough to know that. He doesn’t spend his
time working for the public good for pure philanthropy, and
besides, for a man utterly without principle, as he is, circulation
and advertising aren’t the only ways in which a paper can be
made to pay. This new traction road which every one should
know is a big swindle—has his paper ever said a word against it ?
And how when he has a mania for boiling down things and will
never print a political speech in full, be it never so important—
how, I say, does it happen that the speeches of this corporation’s
counsel before committees are reported verbatim every time, to the
exclusion oftentimes of legitimate news ? How does it happen that
speeches adverse to the corporation are never printed at all ? Go
in as advertising ? Oh, yes, they’re paid for ; but a good many
things go in as advertising which aren’t advertising by a long
chalk. How about this ” special correspondence ” from boom
towns South and West, which begins when the speculators take
hold of them, and stops when they let go ? Is that advertising
too ? It always cracks up the goods, and is paid for. So I
suppose it is. But the public—which is a fool—thinks it
gent and disinterested investigation, and nobody tells it different.
And I’m a fool, if a certain gang of political heelers in this town
don’t pay the paper regular tribute of hush-money. Nothing’s ever
said about their tricks, anyway, and the head of the paper is too
well informed not to know about them. And I happen to know
he’s ” in on the ground floor ” in a good many enterprises of this
same gang. There’s more ways than one to pay bribes. There
isn’t a column of this precious, respectable sheet that isn’t for sale
—except the religious column. Nobody wants to buy that.
Even once in a while its financial column, which he has shrewd-
ness enough to keep both honest and able most of the time, is
—oh, I know it—is worked in the interests of scheming and
sufficiently generous speculators ; and all this in a paper which
shrieks periodically at the ” regrettable sensationalism of the con-
temporary press.” Other papers feed their pig-headed readers’
swill, I know, but it’s good, honest swill, and the pigs grunt their
satisfaction over it. But this paper sells veal and calls it chicken,
though you’d think ” a discerning public ” would know there
couldn’t be much cooked chicken in a shop where there was so
much lively crowing. He has discovered that hypocrisy in
journalism pays, and he’s working it for all it is worth, and
making money hand over fist. Meanwhile, he is starving his
employés, even going so far as to sit up nights in devising
schemes to take all the ” fat ” from his compositors, and you should
hear him curse his night-editor if there happens to be three inches
overset. He crushes the life out of every one whom he gets in
his clutches that he himself may get the fatter, like an anaconda.
He’s through with me. He’s got the last bit of valuable service out
of me, and throws me on one side. But I don’t like to become
a sandwich man and advertise corn doctors, and die finally in a
police station of delirium tremens. That would please
much, or rather, it wouldn’t trouble him at all—he’d know
nothing about it. He has made me choose between that and
suicide. On his head be it ! Is there a hell ? I hope so, for if
there is, I’ll be there, and after a time shall see him there with
me. It’ll be a sight to endure torments for. I say to him, au
revoir ! ‘ ”
” It’ll be a fight to kill that,” said Conant, who looked pale.
While he read this letter, so vulgar in its lack of dignity, in its
cheap phraseology, in its desperate pettiness, yet withal so terrible
for him, his mind, active as a shuttle, was weaving about it a
varied commentary of thought and emotion. It ran in and out
of all the feelings—except pity. In those moments in which he
realised the full import of the latter part of the old journalist’s
dying communication to the world, he had the sickening sense of
defeat that is comparable only to the sensation of one hit in the
pit of the stomach. Over the few points which were not true,
and which he could disprove, he felt unreasonable exultation.
For Master’s sinister farewell he had only contempt. And it
ran in and out of all the thoughts—except those of regret. This
point was true ; but who would believe it on the word of a
revengeful and drunken employé, like Master ? Would not a
general denial, coupled with some eager—no, not eager—defama-
tion of Master’s character clear him ? That point wasn’t true :
could he disprove it ? What would people say to this ? Wouldn’t
the public be delighted with that ? How far could he count on
public sympathy ? Wouldn’t Master have the better part of
that ? Or could he by clever lying bring it to his side ? The
affair would hurt the circulation of the Dawn. But if he could
bring the public to think him abused, perhaps it would help the
paper—be an ” ad ” for it. What would be its effect upon his
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. N
political fortunes ? What would the other papers say ? How did
Hunt happen to print it ? Wouldn’t he fix Hunt ?
When he finished reading, the query that remained uppermost
in his mind was how widely Master’s damaging letter had been
printed. A pile of morning papers was by him. He took up
the Aurora—nothing there. He looked quickly through the
Atlas—nothing there. In the Palladium there was nothing; in
the Champion—nothing ; in the Union, the Democrat, the Free
Press, the People’s Argus—again and always there was nothing.
Was his own paper then the only one to defame him ? That was
not possible ! If Master had committed suicide how happened it
that no other journal had printed a line about the occurrence ?
His nostrils dilated a little, as he began to scent a mystery. He
picked up the Dawn again, and with eager, inquiring eyes read the
circumstances of the suicide. It took place at half-past three in
the morning, he was reminded. At half-past three ? Between
that hour and the time he usually went home, Master could not
have gone to his rooms and written the letter : the time was not
sufficient. Besides, half-past three was the hour at which the
Dawn went to press. For the suicide to become known to the
police and subsequently to the reporters, half-an-hour at least would
be necessary. For the night-local man to write his account and
for the compositors to put it into type would require at the very
lowest estimate another half-hour. Half-past four—Hunt would
not have held the presses an hour for an article defaming his own
chief, even had he dared and had the wicked will to do so.
Plainly, the report as it was printed must have been prepared and
put into type several hours before the suicide took place. What
did that mean ? He looked at the paper again in search of some
clue. The explanation struck him full in the face as he read the
He understood. Master, to avenge his discharge, had some-
how smuggled this account into the paper. In a little time now,
his morning sleep ended, his enemy would resort to some cheap
restaurant, and there with the Dawn propped up before him
against the sugar-bowl, would eat his breakfast and read and
chuckle in secure triumph.
” God !” And with this intense oath, Conant leaped in a rage
to his feet.
Thus outrageously to be scored, thus ignominiously to be
fooled, thus shamefully to have his own weapon, the Dawn,
wrested from his hand and turned against him by the most con-
temptible of his dependants—what could be more hideously
humiliating ? He thought of the delight of those rival news-
papers against whose sensational methods he had so often hypo-
critically thundered. He divined how they would dress up the
episode, and send it journeying abroad, like a skeleton in cap and
bells, for the amusement of the nation. He read the head-lines
under which they would place it. He heard what Homeric mirth
would shake newspaperdom that day ; what laughing congratula-
tions would be given Master. He foresaw what capital his
political opponents would make of the incident, with how
pleasant an anecdote it would furnish them, how the story
would follow him like his shadow, always present, the most
elusive and exasperating of enemies. And this Master, this sot,
this. . . . .
” God !”
He seized his hat and overcoat and hurried to the station. And
as he was being carried into the city by the too slow suburban
train, he set himself to devise some scheme whereby yet Master
might be thwarted. So rapid was the rush of his ideas that he
seemed to have forgotten his anger. In reality, this kept his
mind active, as the unseen fires in an engine make the visible
When with set and angry face he stepped into the editorial
rooms of the Dawn, there was an immediate hush among the
talking groups of reporters. He divined at once that this inter-
ruption of regular work was due to Master’s letter, and with an
access of anger he turned upon Somers, the managing editor.
This gentleman guessed what was coming and tried to ward
it off :
” I’ve sent a man,” he said quickly, ” to see if it’s true about
” True !” shouted Conant shrilly. “True! you fool, what’s
the date of this paper ? What’s the date of this paper, I say ?”
” Yes, I know,” answered Somers hurriedly ; ” it’s probably a
fake, but still—”
” Probably a fake, ” cried Conant, “you know as well
as I do
what game this contemptible bummer has played on the paper.
Here, give me some copy paper —I’ll settle his account. And you
Somers—you be d—d careful you don’t hire another man like
him in a hurry. It’ll be all your place is worth.”
Conant, not Somers, had hired Master ; but Somers thought best
to waive the point. Without answering, he handed his chief the
paper he desired. Conant took it, but immediately giving it back,
” No—I won’t write. You take down what I say. And be
Pacing up and down the floor, he began to dictate a plausible
” editorial. ” In it he represented himself as a benevolent person
—the fact that there were a dozen men present who knew he
was nothing of the sort was immaterial—who out of pure charity
had given Master employment. With righteous indignation he
explained to the discriminating public that again and again he
had been forced to caution this irreclaimable and ungrateful
drunkard against indulging his besetting vice, and that at last,
though with great reluctance, he had been compelled to discharge
him. During all the time that Master had remained in the
office, he had acted toward him with untold forbearance and done
everything possible to reform him. And what had been the
reward of his charitable kindness ? Master had played him a
most scurvy trick. He had taken advantage of the youth and
inexperience of the night-editor, to whom he acted as assistant,
to insert in the paper a lot of lies about its owner beside which
those of Ananias showed white. Then point by point he re-
hearsed the history of his relations with Master. To each one,
with the utmost skill, he gave a colouring favourable to himself,
damaging to Master. The public, he concluded, would know
which one to believe.
The managing editor wrote to Conant’s dictation with stolid
cynicism. The reporters about listened with a curious expression
on their faces : when there was no chance that the ” boss ” would
see them they exchanged solemn winks. When the article was
ended, Somers looked up inquiringly.
” Have that put into type at once,” said Conant. ” Rush it,
and have a proof pulled immediately. That’ll fix him. Run it
in all the evening editions, and to-morrow morning, d’ye hear ?”
Somers obediently put the copy in the box and rang the bell.
Just as the copy-box was whisked up to the composing-room,
Hunt, looking rather haggard, stepped into the room.
As the canons of realism and those of propriety do not coincide,
the abuse with which Conant greeted the young night-editor
cannot here be completely set down. ” Get out of here at once,”
he commanded in the highest, most strident tones of his harsh
voice, ” do you hear ? I want no man about who can let in the
paper as you’ve done. You’re either a fool or Master’s accom-
plice, I don’t care which. I won’t have you in this office, and if
I find that you’ve had anything to do with this affair, I’ll make
the city too hot to hold you—do you understand ? Get out before
I kick you out, you idiot. There are some April fool jokes that
can’t be played twice. Get out, I say !”
Hunt, utterly tired out as he was, staggered back against the
wall as if struck by a physical blow, and listened to this on-
slaught with an air of such genuine bewilderment that even
Conant was impressed by it.
” I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he whispered at
Conant thrust a copy of the Dawn under his nose. ”
he cried, ” look there ! See what a fine lot of stuff you let get
into my paper ! Do you mean to say you know nothing about
Hunt read the letter rapidly. Then taking a copy of the paper
from his own pocket, he compared the two.
” There,” he said, ” it wasn’t in the first edition. Yours is
the second. That went to press after I left the office. There
was only a harmless announcement of Master’s death in the first.
You’d better talk to the foreman.”
This idea struck Conant. He turned quickly to Somers. ” Is
the night-foreman here by any chance ?” he asked.
” Yes,” said Somers, ” he happens to be doing a day turn.”
” Then why in thunder didn’t you say so before ? Call him
A minute later, Hammond, a resolute-looking fellow whose
bare arms were covered with printer’s ink, appeared in the
” Why, “
” Why,” said Conant, rapping the paper fiercely, ” did you let
that get into the second edition ?”
” It came up all right, and so I printed it,” said Hammond
coolly. ” I didn’t read it—I don’t edit the paper.”
” Well, then why didn’t you set it in time for the first
” When you don’t make me let all the ‘ comps ‘ go the
moment there is any danger of their getting paid for waiting
time, perhaps I can have enough men about to set up late stuff to
catch the first edition. And perhaps you’d better spend a little
money and get us a few more cases of agate.”
” What did you print in agate for, anyway ?”
” It was marked agate, and your rule is for letters to be in
agate anyhow. That copy came up very late. I had all I could
do to get it into the paper. The proofs weren’t read. There
Foiled here, Conant turned again upon Hunt. ” When you
saw what you did in the paper, why didn’t you investigate ? It
don’t make any difference whether you saw the whole of it or not.
It was your business to see it. If you didn’t, so much the worse
for you. I won’t have any such jokes played in my paper.”
” There’s no joke about it,” said Hunt quietly. ” I went to
his room just as soon as I saw the notice in the paper. He’d
done just what he said. He’s dead.”
” What’s that ?” cried Conant. ” You’re lying. Master
hadn’t the sand. This is a new trick.”
“Well,” retorted Hunt hotly, ” if you don’t believe it, you just
wait till you read it in the afternoon papers, that’s all. I tell you
“Well, it’s d—d lucky for him he is, that’s all,” said Conant.
” That lets him out ; but it don’t help you a bit. Why didn’t
you investigate ? Instead of that, like a fool, you rushed off to
Master’s room, did you, and left that in the paper. Didn’t you
know any better than to rush off to that besotted hound ?”
” You don’t think, do you,” cried Hunt, ” that I was going to
let him kill himself if I could help it ?”
” That was none of your business,” retorted Conant. ” You
should have investigated. You’re responsible for what goes into
the paper. You don’t think, do you, that I hired you as Master’s
” No,” cried Hunt, ” I don’t—Cain.”
Conant paid no attention. The bell rang and the copy-box
clattered down with the proof of Conant’s editorial article.
Conant jumped for it, and looked through it rapidly. ” Here,”
he said to Somers, ” scratch out what’s said about the April fool,
and add a few words about the death : say, the most charitable
view is that his lies were the result of insanity. And send a
revised proof to all the papers.”
AH ! leave my soul like forest pool
In shadow smiling unafraid—
Let not thy laughter stir its cool
Clear depths, sweet maid,
Let not, I pray, thy sunlike hair
Pierce to the thoughts that slumber there !
My soul is still as summer noon—
Its inmost shrines are full of sleep ;
But when the stars of dreamland swoon
‘Twill wake and weep ;
The dawn of Love that brings thy blue
Bright eyes, will bring a sorrow too !
My soul is silent—trouble not
Its secret reveries with thy songs.
The rare red tint thy lips have got !
The whole world longs
To kiss them—therefore speak not, dear ;
My soul must struggle, should it hear.
* * * * *
I see thee, and my soul is swung
In golden trances of delight ;
I hear thee, and my tremulous tongue
Hurls forth a flight
Of bird-like songs, saluting thee.
Oh, come and dwell and dream with me.
The Dead Wall
By H. B. Marriott Watson
THE dawn stared raw and yellow out of the east at Rosewarne.
Its bleak and ugly face smouldered through morose vapours.
The wind blew sharp against the windows, shaking them in their
casements. The prospect from that lonely chamber overawed him
with menace ; it glowered upon him. The houses in the square,
wrapped in immitigable gloom, were to him ominous memorials of
death. They frightened him into a formless panic. Anchored in
that soundless sea, they terrified him with their very stillness. In
dreary ranks they rose, a great high wall of doom, lifting their
lank chimneys to the dreadful sky. They obsessed him with fore-
bodings to which he could put no term, for which he could find no
reason. Shrouded under its great terror, his poor mind fell into
deeper depression under the influence of those malign and ugly
signals. He strove to withdraw his thoughts and direct them upon
some different subject. He wrenched them round to the contem-
plation of his room, his walls, his wife. A dull pain throbbed in
the back of his head. He repeated aloud the topics upon which
he would have his mind revolve, but the words rang in his ears
without meaning. He touched the pictures on the wall, he spoke
their names, he covered his face and strained hard to recapture
coherent thought. The subjects mocked him : they were too
nimble and elusive for his tired brain ; they danced out of reach,
and he followed blindly till a deeper darkness fell. They grew
faint and shadowy, like wraiths in a mist, and he pursued the
glancing shadows. Finally, his brain grew blank ; it was as if
consciousness had lapsed ; and he found himself regarding a fly that
crawled upon the pane. Outside lay the oppression of that
appalling scene that horrified him—he knew not why.
Rosewarne was growing used to these nervous exhibitions. This
unequal struggle had been repeated through many weeks, but he
had always so far come out of it with personal security. The
dread that some day he would fail continually haunted him, and
increased the strain of the conflict. He wondered what lay at the
back of this horrible condition, and shuddered as he wondered.
And he knew now that he must not let himself adrift, but must
dispose the devils by every means. He broke into a whistle, and
moved about the room carelessly. It was a lively stave from the
streets that his lips framed, but it conveyed to him no sense of sound.
He perambulated the chamber with a false air of cheerfulness. He
eyed the bed with his head askew, winking as if to share a jest with
it. He patted the pillows, arranging and disarranging them in
turn. He laughed softly, merrily, emptily. He seized the dumb-
bells from the mantelpiece and whirled them about his head ; he
chafed his hands, he rubbed his flesh. Little by little the blood
moved with more content through his body, and the pulse of his
heart sank slowly.
Outside, the dawn brightened and the wind came faster. Rose-
warne looked forth and nodded ; then he turned and left the room,
his face flashing as he passed the mirror, like the distempered face
of a corpse. Across the landing he paused before a door, and,
bending to the keyhole, listened ; little low sounds of life came to
his ears, and suddenly his haggard face crowded with emotions.
He rose and softly descended the stairs to his study. The house
lay in the quiet of sleep, and within the solitude of that rich room
he, too, was as still as the sleepers. The inferior parts of the
window formed a blind of stained glass, but the grey light flowed
through the upper panes into a magnificent wilderness. The cold
ashes of the fire, by which he had sat at his task late into the
morning, lay still within the grate. The little ensigns of a human
presence, the scattered papers, the dirty hearth, all the instruments
of his work, looked mean and squalid within the spacious dignity
of that high room. He lit the gas and sat down to his table,
moving his restless fingers among the papers. It was as if his
members arrogantly claimed their independence, and refused the
commands of a weak brain. His mind had abrogated. His hands
shifted furtively like the hands of a pickpocket : they wandered
among the papers and returned to him. The clock droned out the
hour slowly, and at that he started, shook his wits together, and
began in haste to turn about the documents. He knew now the
sheet of which he had sent his hands in quest. Large and blue
and awful, it had been his ghost throughout the night. He could
see the figures scrawled upon it in his own tremulous writing, rows
upon rows of them, thin and sparse and self-respecting at the top,
but to the close, fevered, misshapen, and reckless, fighting and
jostling in a crowd for space upon the page. He laid his hand
upon the horrible thing ; he opened his ledgers ; and sat decipher-
ing once more his own ruin.
The tragedy lay bare to his shrinking eyes ; it leaped forth at
him from the blurred and confused figures. There was no need
to rehearse them ; he had reiterated them upon a hundred scrolls
in a hundred various ways these many weeks. They had become
his enemies, to deceive whom he had invoked the wreck of a fine
intelligence. He had used all the wiles and dodges of a cunning
mind to entrap them to his service. He had spent a weary cam-
paign upon them, storming them with fresh troops of figures,
deploying and ambuscading with all the subterfuge of a subtle
business mind. But there now, as at the outset of his hopeless
fight, the issue remained unchanged ; the terrible sum of his sin
abided, unsubtracted, undivided, unabridged. As he regarded it
at this moment it seemed to assume quickly a vaster proportion.
His crime cried out upon him, calling for vengeance in his ears.
Seizing a pen, eagerly, vacantly, he set forth anew to recompose
Rosewarne worked on for a couple of hours, holding his quiver-
ing fingers to the paper by the sheer remnants of his will. His
brain refused its offices, and he stumbled among the numerical
problems with false and blundering steps. To add one sum to
another he must ransack the litter of his mind ; the knowledge
that runs glibly to the tongue of a child he must rediscover
by persistent and arduous concentration. But still he kept
his seat, and jotted down his cyphers. About him the house
stirred slowly ; noises passed his door and faded ; the grim and
yellow sun rose higher and struck upon the table, contending with
the gaslight. But Rosewarne paid no heed ; he wrestled with his
numb brain and his shivering fingers, wrestled to the close of the
page ; where once more the hateful figures gleamed in bold ink,
menacing and blinking, his old ghost renewed and invested with
The pen dropped from his hand, his head fell upon his arms,
and as he lay in that helpless attitude of despair that protests not,
of misery that can make no appeal, the door fell softly open and his
” Freddy, whatever are you doing here like this ?” she said, with
surprise in her voice. ” Have you gone to sleep ?”
Rosewarne lifted his head sharply and turned to her. Athwart
the pallor of his face gleamed for an instant a soft flush of pleasure,
and his dull eyes lit up with affection.
” I was doing some work, Dorothy,” said he, ” and I was
Mrs. Rosewarne took a step nearer. Her fine grey eyes
regarded him with wonder and with inquiry, and in her voice a
little impatience mingled with a certain kindliness.
” It’s very absurd your working like this,” she said, ” and in
this cold room without a fire ? Aren’t you coming to break-
Rosewarne got up from his chair. ” Why, yes,” he laughed.
” Of course. I didn’t realise it was ready. Oh, Dolly dear,” he
paused and put his hand to his head with a look of perplexity ;
then his face lightened. ” Dolly, I’ve got something for you.”
” For me !” she asked, and the curve of her lips drooped in a
pretty smile of curiosity.
He fumbled in a drawer and withdrew a packet.
“Yes, darling. You know what day it is. It’s your birthday,
and you’re twenty—”
” Oh, for goodness’ sake, Freddy, don’t,” she interrupted with a
touch of impatience ; and then opening the packet examined the
contents with care. The light dawned in her eyes. ” How very
pretty ! I was in need of a bracelet. Freddy, you are a good
boy. But come, you mustn’t catch cold. Come into the dining-
room, and get warm, you simpleton.”
She patted him softly on the head, and fell again to the scrutiny
of her present. Rosewarne did not move, but watched her,
smiling. ” Aren’t you coming ?” she asked, looking up at last.
His eyes met hers and pleaded with them dumbly, but she made
no sign, returning once more to her jewels.
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. O
” Isn’t it worth a kiss, Dolly ?” he asked softly.
Mrs. Rosewarne looked at him vaguely. ” What ! Oh, well,
yes, if you like, I suppose.” She bent towards him, and he touched
her cheek gently. ” But it was very nice of you to think of me,”
she said, withdrawing. ” Come to breakfast now.”
Rosewarne followed her into the breakfast-room, with a fresh
access of impotence. He fumbled with his chair ; the napkin
fluttered out of his fingers ; he pulled a plate to him, and the
silver rattled under his clumsy action ; a fork clattered to the floor.
Mrs. Rosewarne winced.
” How very stupid you are to-day, Freddy !” she said pettishly.
He laughed a short meaningless laugh, and begged her pardon.
Her movements were full of gentle grace ; her breath came
easily and with the best breeding. Her teacup tinkled sweetly,
and only that and the soft sussurra of her sleeves marked her stately
presence at the table. She looked at the bracelet comfortably, and
lifted her cup to her lips. Rosewarne glanced at her timidly.
The sickly light shone clear upon the fine contours of her placid
face ; the evil magic of that dreary day was transmuted upon her
hair. She set down her cup and met his eyes.
” What a dreadful colour you are !” she said critically. The
ghastly yellow of his face repelled her. ” I wish you would set
better, and not rise at such ridiculous hours.”
“I slept ill, Dolly,” he answered with a faint smile. He
resumed his breakfast feverishly. The knuckles of his hands
seemed to stand out awkwardly ; his elbows waggled ; he mouthed
at his food in a frightened fashion.
” Good heavens, Freddy,” cried his wife, wrinkling her nose in
distaste, ” why do you eat like that ? It’s more like an animal
than a human being. Your manners are becoming perfectly
He started and dropped his knife. ” What the devil does it
matter how I eat ?” he exclaimed angrily. ” You—you—”
His ideas faded from him, and he sat staring at her in vacant
indignation. Then he put his hand to his head. ” Oh, forgive
me, Dolly ; forgive me, please. I’m tired and—”
” My dear man,” broke in Mrs. Rosewarne coldly, ” if you
will make yourself ill, what can you expect ?” She unfolded a
morning paper and ran her eyes down the columns ; Rosewarne
sat looking across the room into the fire. Suddenly she called to
him in a new voice. ” Mr. Maclagan came to town yesterday,
Freddy, and paid a visit to Downing Street.”
” Yes ?” he said, starting again.
She drew down the paper and looked at him over the edge, her
eyes filled with some excitement.
” Do you hear, Freddy dear ? Now is your chance to make
the arrangement final.”
He gazed at her, his face contorted in a desperate attempt to
concentrate his thoughts upon her words. What was she saying ?
And what did it mean ?
” Freddy, don’t you hear ?” she cried again in a voice in which
impatience blended with a certain eagerness. She leaned forward
and put a hand upon his arm. He clutched at it feverishly with
his fingers. ” Lord Hambleton is favourable, I know, and it only
remains to secure Maclagan,” she went on quickly. ” He, you
know, was inclined ro agree when you saw him before. I’m
sure that the nail is ready for the hammer. There is South
Wiltshire, where you are known, and no one yet settled upon by
the Party. See, dear ; you must call on him to-day, and that, with
another cheque for the Party, should place the matter beyond
doubt. Freddy ! Freddy ! Don’t you hear what I’m saying.
For goodness’ sake, don’t look like a corpse, if you are ill.”
” Yes, yes, Dolly,” said Rosewarne hurriedly.
” And for the love of decency, don’t Dolly me,” said Mrs.
Rosewarne with a petulant movement of her shoulders. ” It’s
bad enough to have to answer to an elderly Quaker name like
Rosewarne got up from the table. ” For God’s sake, be civil
to me, if you can’t be kind,” he said sharply. She regarded him
coldly. ” What is it you want ?” he asked.
Mrs. Rosewarne rapped her knuckles angrily upon the table.
” I imagined we had made that pretty clear between us long
ago,” she said with a sarcastic emphasis; ” we agreed that you
were to go into Parliament, and we laid our plans to that end.
The only thing wanting was the particular seat, and now it’s found
you ask me what I’m talking about.”
She looked at him with placid disdain. Rosewarne shuddered ;
he remembered now, as in a dream, the ambitions she had formed
” No, no, dear,” he said. ” Tell me. It’s all right. I’ll see
Lord—Lord Hambleton. The—”
Mrs. Rosewarne’s expression turned swiftly to complacency.
” No,” she said, ” leave him to me, Freddy. I shall see him
this afternoon at the Charters’s. You must see Maclagan to-day,
and we’ll meet and talk the matter over at dinner.”
She smiled upon him with a tolerant air of patronage. Rose-
warne stood by the window, restlessly twitching his fingers.
” You will not be in to lunch ?” he asked, dully.
” No ; I’m going to the Charters’s. We have each a long day
before us. It’s a sort of crisis in our lives. I’m tired of this
undistinguished competence. Any one can be the partner in a
bank. It is the House that opens the gate to success.”
She rose and swept her skirts behind her with a motion of her
arm. She regarded herself in the mirror with a face of satisfac-
tion, directing with nimble fingers an errant lock of her hair.
” And now you’ll be off, I suppose,” she said, and turned on him
laughing. ” Well, Freddy, pluck up your heart and speak your
best ; you have a tongue as neat as any one when you like. Don’t
wear so lugubrious a countenance, dear—come !”
She kissed him lightly on the forehead, laying her hands on his
shoulders, her eyes sparkling with excitement. Rosewarne put
out his arms and caught her. His eyes devoured her. ” Kiss me
again, Dolly,” he sputtered. ” Kiss me again. Kiss me on the
She laughed, a faint colour rose in her cheeks, and she struggled
in his clutch. ” Dolly, Dolly!” he pleaded. A frown of em-
barrassment gathered in her forehead.
” Do let me go,” she said sharply.
He obeyed ; his arms fell to his sides ; wistfully he watched her
withdraw. Stately in her flowing, rustling robes, receding from
him, she sailed through the doorway, and with the loss of that fine
vision the light and the flush fell from him, and all that remained
was an ignoble figure with discoloured cheeks and sunken head.
In that moment and with the chill of that departing grace fresh
upon him, he regarded his tragic position plainly and without
illusion. The poor rags of his last unvoiced hopes dropped from
his outcast soul. He had deferred the story of his ruin, in part
out of shame, but much, too, out of pity, and because of some shreds
of confidence in his own fortunes. And yet, implicit in that
silence he had kept, but unacknowledged in his own thoughts, had
been the fear of her demeanour in the crisis. He knew her for a
worldly woman, clad in great aspirations ; he had taken the
measure of her trivial vanities ; he had sounded the shallows of her
passionless heart ; and still he had trusted, still he had nursed an
empty faith in her affection. But now at this slight repulse
somehow the props swayed beneath his rickety platform, and his
thoughts ran in a darker current of despair. The bankruptcy, the
guilt, the horror of his defalcations, were no longer the Evil to
come, but merely now the steps by which he mounted to the real
tragedy of his life.
Rosewarne quietly took up his hat, and drawing on his coat,
passed out of the house and walked slowly towards the City.
It was upon two o’clock when Mrs. Rosewarne descended from
the portico of her house and was enclosed within her landau by
the footman. She was in a fervour which became her admirably ;
her cheeks were touched with points of colour, and her fine eyes
brightened as with the flash of steel. She itched to try the temper
of her diplomacy, and, as she entered the drawing-room of her
hostess, the thought that she was well equipped for the encounter
filled her anew with zest. Her eyes, piercing from that handsome
face, challenged the luncheon-party. Mrs. Charters gave her a
loud effusive welcome, as the beauty of the entertainment, and
a general murmur of greeting seemed to salute her ears. Stepping
a pace from the company and engaging easily with her hostess,
Mrs. Rosewarne denoted the guests with sharp glances. Of her
own disposition at the table she could have no certainty ; the
occasion was urgent ; and with a nod she summoned Lord Hamble-
ton to her side.
” And you, Lord Hambleton !” said she with a pretty air of
surprise, ” why, I heard you were in Scotland.”
” Scotland !” he said, shrugging his shoulders and smiling.
” What ! Scotland in January, and the session like a drawn sword
at one’s heart.”
” Ah !” she replied, ” I had forgotten the session. And yet
my poor husband talks enough about it.”
” Indeed !”
” Indeed !” said the Whip with good-humour, ” there is still
some one, then, who bothers about us. ”
She lifted her shoulders slightly, as one who would disclaim a
personal participation in the folly.
” Doesn’t every one ?” she asked.
” Why, we talk of ourselves,” said he laughing, ” but I did not
know any one else took an interest in us. We have outlived our
time, you see. We are early Victorians, so to speak. Representa-
tive government is a glorious tradition, like the English flag or
Balaclava—very brave, very wonderful, but very unimportant. I
know we bulk largely in the newspapers. It is our métier. But
I wonder why. The habit exists when the utility is fled.
Is it because the advertisers love us, do you think ? It is
the only reason I can conceive. We all owe our being to the
Births, Deaths and Marriages. The servant-girl, my dear Mrs.
Rosewarne, confers upon me the fame of a Tuesday’s issue, for
the shilling she expends upon a ‘ Wanted.’ Alas !” He pulled
his features into an expression of dismay. ” When the hoarding and
the sky-sign come in we shall go out.”
Mrs. Rosewarne laughed gently, a demure intelligence shining
from her eyes.
” And you,” said he quizzically, ” you don’t care for us ?”
” Oh, I !” she retorted with a sigh. ” Yes, I talk of you.
I am obliged to talk of you over the hearth-rug. I assure
you I have all your names by rote, and rattle them off like
” Ah !” said Lord Hambleton, peering into her face curiously ;
” I can appreciate your tone. You are weary of us.”
” Frankly, yes,” said she, smiling. They both laughed, and he
made a gesture of apology.
” Why ?” he asked.
The voice of a butler cried from the doorway ; there was a
sudden stir in the room, and then a little hush.
” We are separated, alas !” said Lord Hambleton.
” Not at all,” said Mrs. Charters, suddenly, at his elbow. ” I
believe you are neighbours.”
Mrs. Rosewarne’s heart bounded in her side, and then beat
placidly with its accustomed rhythm. Lord Hambleton looked at
her. ” That’s very nice,” he murmured.
At the table he turned to her with an immediate air of interest.
” Why?” he repeated.
Her gaze had wandered across the table with a profession of
gentle indifference. She was surveying the guests with a remote
abstraction ; plucked out of which she glanced at him with a
pretty hint of embarrassment, her forehead frowning as though to
recover the topic of their conversation.
” Why ?” she echoed ; and then : ” Oh yes,” said she, smiling as
out of a memory regained. ” Because—well, because, what does it
all avail ?”
” Nothing, I grant you,” he replied easily, ” or very little, save
to ourselves. You forget us. We have our business. Our fathers
gamed and we talk. Don’t forget us.”
He spoke in railing tones, almost jocosely, and she lifted her
eyebrows a line.
” Ah yes !” she assented. ” Yes, but me and the rest of us,
are we to keep you in your fun ?”
He paused before replying, and noted every particular distinc-
tion in her handsome face. They were at close quarters ; he
leaned a trifle nearer, and lowered his voice to a mocking con-
” Mrs. Rosewarne, you would never blow upon us, surely.”
He feigned to hang in suspense upon her answer ; the proximity
touched him with a queer elation ; she shot upon him one of her
” I can hold my tongue for a friend, Lord Hambleton.”
” Come,” he said, nodding, ” that is better. That is a very
Mrs. Rosewarne considered, smiling the while she continued her
meal. The approach was long, but to manoeuvre heightened
her spirits, and she was now to make a bolder movement.
” But why,” she asked, ” should you expect mercy from a
” I don’t, Heaven knows,” he responded promptly ; ” I wonder
at it, and admire.”
” I think you have had a very long innings,” said she,
thoughtfully, ” and were it in my power I would show no
Lord Hambleton laughed contentedly. ” Oh, well !” he said.
” There is no opportunity for women,” continued Mrs. Rose-
warne, wistfully ; ” there has never been.”
” Who would have suspected that you were ambitious ?” com-
mented Lord Hambleton, archly.
She threw up her jewelled fingers. ” Ambitious !” she said, im-
patiently. ” I am a woman. Where is the use ? That is your
business ; mine is the boudoir, naturally. We are always—in the
field, you call it, don’t you ? Men go to the wickets. My poor
husband would tear out his heart for a seat. He is sound, he is
good, he has wits, he is tolerable ; he would serve excellently well
upon a minor committee, and would never give a shadow of trouble.
He would never ask questions, or soar at Cabinets. Yet it is, I
suppose, ambition of a kind. But me ! What has it to do with me !
A woman knows nothing—of politics, no more than life. I can
enjoy no vicarious pomp. No ! give me the authority myself ;
give me a share in it, Lord Hambleton, and then I will tell you
if I am ambitious !”
She put her head aside, and appeared with this tirade to drop the
subject ; she made a feint of listening to a conversation across
the table. She smiled at the jest that reached her as if she had for-
gotten her companion. And yet she was aware that the aspect
of her face, at which he was staring, was that which best became
her. Lord Hambleton watched the long and delicate lines warm
with soft blood, and his own senses were strangely affected.
” But you would influence him,” he said presently. She came
back with a display of reluctance, and seemed to pause, searching
for his meaning.
” Oh !” she said, ” Heavens ! I have higher aims than that.
Make him Under-Secretary, and he would be worth influencing ;
but poor Freddy—” She shrugged her shoulders and looked
away again, as though impatient of the subject. Perhaps she was
really tired of the conversation, he reflected.
” Well, here we are,” he said, with deprecation in his voice,
” talking all the time on a subject which you professed at the
outset bored you. How unpardonable of me !”
” Bored me !” she said, opening her eyes at him and very
innocently. ” Oh, not talking with any one worth while.”
Lord Hambleton’s eyes dropped, and he was silent. The wine
had fired his blood no less than her beauty. He looked up again,
and met her glance by misadventure. A show of colour flooded
her face ; the pulses beat in her white throat. He did not know
why, but his hands trembled a little, and a bar seemed broken
down between them.
” Upon my soul !” he said, with an excited laugh, ” I believe
you would regenerate us all, if you were in the House !”
” I’m sure I should,” she said gaily. Her heart fluttered in
her side. ” But there is no chance of that ; I could only keep a
salon. Why isn’t it done ? There is no Recamier nowadays ;
there is no Blessington. There is even no Whip’s wife.”
She was conscious of a faint shudder as she made this impudent
stroke, and withdrew in a tremble into herself. She lay back in
her chair, frightened. The words fell opportunely into Lord
Hambleton’s heart ; he had no suspicion that they were deliberate,
and the blood danced lightly along his arteries.
” You would hold a salon bravely,” he said.
” Try me,” she said with the affectation of playful laughter.
He laughed with her, and ” Oh, we shall have everything out
of you by-and-bye,” said he. ” We will bide our time. What
we want just now more than anything is sound men. Now
” Poor Freddy is as sound as Big Ben, I suppose,” said
Mrs. Rosewarne, indifferently.
She felt the blood burning in her cheeks. Their eyes en-
countered. It seemed to him that they had a private secret
together. He scarce knew what it was, so far had his sensations
crowded upon his intelligence ; but some connection, woven
through the clatter of that public meal, held him and her in com-
mon. With her quick wit she was aware of his thought. She
felt flushed with her own beauty. It was not of her husband
he was thinking, and she was aware that he believed she too was
not considering him. The understanding lay between themselves.
She rose triumphant ; her heart spoke in loud acclamations.
” Ah, well,” she said, with a tiny sigh, ” I must wait, then, for
old age to found my salon.”
“No,” he replied, smiling at her; ” and why? We must
have your husband in the House. Then you may begin at
” My husband !” she echoed, as though recalled to some vague
and distasteful consideration.
” Yes. You must have this salon. It may save us.”
She looked at him, as if in doubt. He rose beside her. He
overtopped her by a head, and a certain strength about his
forehead attracted her. Ah ! If this had been her husband !
The regret flashed and was gone.
” Come and tell him,” she said suddenly.
He misinterpreted the fervour in her eyes. ” When ?” he
” To-night,” she murmured.
There was a momentary pause, and then, ” To-night,” he
assented, taking her hand.
Mrs. Rosewarne moved easily within the retinue of her admirers
in the drawing-room. She regarded the company with cool eyes
of triumph. She held their gazes ; the looks they passed upon her
fed her complacency ; she was sensible of her new distinction
among them. And when, later, she returned to her house, she
was still under the escort of success. The excitement ran like
rich wine in her body, and under its stimulus her pale face was
flushed with a tide of colour. She dressed for dinner, radiant, and
crowned, as she conceived, with incomparable splendour. The
presiding enthusiasm of her mind prevailed upon her beauty. In
the glass she considered her looks, and smilingly softened the
glory of her cheeks. Her thoughts reverted with amiable con-
tempt to her husband, and in a measure he too was exalted in her
own triumph. She descended the stairs, and swept into the
dining-room in the full current of her happiness ; and she had a
sudden sense of repulse upon finding the room vacant.
” Where is your master ?” she asked of the servant, who stood
in observant silence at the further end of the room.
Williams had seen him come in an hour ago ; he had retired to
his room. Should he go and inquire ?
” No : we will give him a few minutes,” said she, seating
She held communion with her own surprises. She anticipated
his sensations ; if he had failed with Maclagan, she, at least, had
had better fortune, and for a moment Freddy and she were
wrapt in common fellowship, set upon a common course. But
as the time wore on, and he made no appearance, she grew
restless and fidgeted ; a little annoyance mingled with her
good-humour ; the warmth of her success ebbed away. She
despatched Williams to bring the laggard down, and when he
had returned with the report that he could get no answer, she
picked up her skirts, and with lowering brows herself undertook
Mrs. Rosewarne paused outside her husband’s room, and
knocked. There was no response, and turning the handle of the
door impatiently, she entered. The lamp burned low, and Freddy
lay upon the bed, sprawling in an attitude of graceless comfort.
The noise of his hard breathing sounded in the chamber, and the
odour of strong spirit filled the air. In an access of angry disgust
she shook him by the shoulders, and he lifted a stupid face to her,
his eyes shot with blood.
” Is it you, Dolly ?” he asked thickly.
Her voice rose on a high note of anger.
” Do you know that thevgong has gone this half-hour ? Bah !
You have been drinking, you beast !”
He sat up, staring at her vacantly, and slowly his eyes grew
quick with life and fury.
” And what the devil is it to you if I have ?” he said savagely.
” Why, in hell’s name, don’t you leave me alone ? What are
you doing here ? What are you doing in my room ? It was
you relegated me to this. What are you doing here ?”
” I came, ” said she coldly, ” to call you to dinner ; but since
you have chosen to be the beast you are, I will leave you.”
At the word, she swept upon her heel and was gone. Rose-
warne sat for some minutes dully upon his bed. The flame of
his anger had leapt and died, and he was now hunched up physi-
cally and morally, like a craven : his wits dispersed, his mind
groping in a dreadful space for some palpable occasion of pain.
Presently his reason flowed once more, and piece by piece he
resumed the horrible round of life. Thereafter came a deep,
warm gush of reason and affection. He had been brutal ; he had
been the beast she termed him. He had used her evilly when
she meant but kindly by him. His heart wept for her and for
himself—she was his love and his darling. He would go and
pour forth his tears of regret upon her. She had naturally been
struck to the heart to see him thus unmanned and sapped in the
very foundations of his mind. She did not know. How could
she ? . . . . But he must tell her ! The thought fetched him
to a sudden term in the maudlin consideration of his streaming
emotions. Drawn at this instant before the presence of that
Terror, he trembled and rocked upon his couch. He threw the
gathering thoughts aside. He must not suffer them to cloud his
mind again. He must go forth and enter the room with the
pleading face of a penitent. It was her due ; it was his necessity
—nay, this control was demanded by the very terms of his being.
He set his dress in order ; he combed himself before the glass,
and regarded his own grimacing image. ” I will think of
nothing,” he murmured. ” I am a man. There is nothing
wrong. I can assume that for an hour. I shall go straight to
Dolly. I must ward it all off. It will suffice later. Now ! I
am going to begin—Now ! I will think of nothing. Do you
hear, you fool ! Oh, you damned, silly fool ! You know it is
fatal if you don’t. Stop. No figures ; no worries. Just thrust
them aside. It can’t matter that two and two make four when
they ought to make five. Now then ! From this moment I
stop. I am a man, ” he explained to his grimacing image. ” No
more figures. I will begin. No worries ! Now ! ” He pulled
out his watch. ” In five seconds I will start. ” He saw the
hand jump round. ” Now ! ” and then in the ear of his brain a
thin voice cried, softly insistent: ” Five thousand and that odd
two hundred. Is that all right ? Go back on it. Give them
just a glance. ” He paused, but the blood in his head stood still.
At the cross ways he trembled, dazed with the conflict of the two
desires. ” Well, one glance.”
At that the whole body of his madness rolled back upon him
through the rift. He threw up his hands, and, hiding his face in
the bed-clothes, groaned. ” Now ! ” he said again, flinging himself
peremptorily to his feet. He straightened his figure. ” Now !”
As if with a wild, reckless motion, he pulled to the door of his
mind, and shutting his eyes, marched out of the room, laughing
mechanically. ” Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy !” he muttered
under his breath.
Rosewarne entered the dining-room with a quick tread and a
moving galvanic smile.
” Dolly, forgive me,” he said ; ” I am late. Where are you ?
Oh, Williams, some fish. That will do.”
He started to talk in a very hurried manner, but with humble
cheerfulness. His wife stared at him coldly, answering in short,
colourless sentences. But he made amends for her reticence with
a continuous stream of talk. He chattered freely, and he ate
ravenously. He rambled on through numberless topics with no
apparent connection. All the reserves of his nature were enrolled
in that gallant essay to fence him from the Horror of his life, and
hedge him safely about with casual trifles. Of a sudden he saw
things clear about him. A certain bright wit shone in his
soliloquies ; he spoke with that incoherence and irresponsibility
which begets sometimes effective phrasing. His wife considered
him ; the novelty of his conversation struck her, its frivolity took
her with admiration. Slowly the barriers of her own reserve
broke down, the sense of satisfaction in herself grew upon
her, and by degrees her good-humour returned. She joined
in his talk, laughed a little, was inspired by his mood into newer,
fresher, wilder hopes. No word was said about the scene in the
bedroom ; it had dropped into past history, and their feet were
set to the future. And when Williams was gone, she turned
swiftly upon him, her zeal showing in her eyes.
” And now, Freddy,” she said, ” tell me all about Maclagan.”
His face started into haggard lines ; he lowered his eyes, and,
with a short laugh, shook his head.
” Later ; not now,” he said. ” You begin.”
She laughed also. ” I have seen Lord Hambleton,” she said
with a burst of excitement. ” He is coming to-night.” And
watched upon his face for the effect.
” Oh, you clever girl !” he cried, his eyes smiling, his lips
quivering slightly. ” You clever girl.”
Again she laughed. It almost seemed to her at that moment
that she loved him.
” Ah, you would think so, if you knew how I managed it.”
” But I know it, I know it,” he cried, seizing her hand across
the table. ” You are as clever as you are beautiful.”
He hardly recalled the point to which their conversation related ;
he was aware only of her proximity and her kindly eyes. She
returned the pressure of his ringers faintly, and looked at him
” You look tired, Freddy,” she said. ” I’m afraid you’ve had
a very wearisome day.”
” Yes,” he assented with a tiny laugh. ” I have had a bad
” Tell me,” she said abruptly, ” what about Maclagan ?”
He rose. ” Come into the study, then,” he said in another
voice. ” I can tell you better there.”
She followed him, laying a hand lightly upon his shoulder. She
took her seat within the comfortable armchair, stretching herself
out, with her feet to the fire and the red light upon her face and
bosom. Rosewarne leaned his elbow on the mantelpiece.
” Well ?” she asked presently in a tone of invitation.
He started. ” Dolly,” he said slowly, ” supposing I were to
” Good gracious, Freddy, don’t talk nonsense,” she interrupted
on his halting phrases. ” We haven’t come to talk about foolish
things like that.”
He made no answer, but stared harder into the fire. A sense
of irritation grew upon Mrs. Rosewarne. Had he failed in his
mission. If he had, at least she had succeeded in hers, and the
thought consoled her.
” Now, let me hear all about it. Do be quick,” she said.
He turned to her suddenly. ” Dolly, you must answer me ;
please answer me,” he cried in agitation. ” You could not bear
my death, could you ? Say you couldn’t.”
” Of course not,” she replied sharply. ” Why in the name of
all that is decent will you harp on that ? Don’t be morbid.”
” It will have to come to that,” he said brokenly.
” Pooh ! Don’t be foolish,” she retorted. She regarded him
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. P
critically. Even in the red light the colour of his face, which had
fallen into ugly lines, repelled her. ” Come, what is it ? Is any-
thing the matter with you ? Have you seen your doctor ? What
are you keeping from me ?”
The questions ran off her tongue sharply, even acrimoniously.
She had anew the sense of irritation that he had chosen this hour
to be ill.
” No,” he replied in a blank voice, ” I suppose I’m all right. I
don’t know. I’ve been—yes—I’m ill with the horrible trouble.
I’m—” He fell quickly upon his knees, burying his face in
her gown. ” Oh, Dolly, Dolly,” he sobbed, ” I have ruined you,
and you don’t know it. It is all over—all over.”
Her eyes opened in alarm, but she did not move. ” What
nonsense are you talking, Freddy ?” she asked in an uncertain
voice which rang harshly. ” You’re ill. You’ve been overwork-
ing. You mustn’t. What foolishness !”
She laughed faintly, with embarrassment, and almost mechani-
cally put out a hand and touched his hair as though vaguely to
reassure him of his mistake ; while all the time her heart thumped
on and her mind was wondering in a daze.
At her touch he raised his head, and clutched her, crying, ” Ah,
you do love me, Dolly. You do love me. I knew you loved
me. I knew you would be sorry for me.”
She sat motionless, fear reaching out arms for her heart. Slowly
she was beginning to understand.
” What is it that you have done ?” she asked in a dry voice.
He pressed her hand tightly, crushing her fingers. ” I have
taken money,” he whispered, ” trust money. I am ruined. I
must go to prison, unless I—”
She moistened her lips, impassive as ever.
” But you do love me,” he repeated, clinging to her. ” Yes,
you do love me, Dolly. Even if I have to do—that thing, you
love me still.”
Through all her being ran a repulsion for this creature at
her knees, but she was clogged with her emotions and sat
” Dolly, Dolly,” he cried pathetically. ” I shall have to do it.
I know I shall have to do it—I—” He looked up, gulping
down his sobs, as though seeking in her face for a contradiction.
He knew the warm tears would fall upon him. Through his
blurred vision he saw her mutely, indistinctly, raise her arms,
extracting her hand from his grasp. He felt—he knew—he
hoped—Ah, she would throw them about his neck and draw
him close in a passionate, pitiful embrace.
” Dolly, Dolly,” he whispered, ” I shall have to die.”
With a rough movement she thrust him from her and got upon
” Die !” she exclaimed in a voice full of ineffable bitterness.
” Die ! Oh, my God, yes. That is the least you can do.”
He lay where he had fallen to her push, huddled in a shapeless
heap, stirring faintly. It was to her eyes as if some vermin upon
which she had set her foot still moved with life. There was left
in him no power of thought, no capacity of emotion. He was
dimly conscious of misery, and he knew that she was standing by.
Far away a tune sounded, and reverberated in his ears ; it was the
singing of the empty air. She was staring upon him with disgust
” Poor worm !” she said in tense low tones ; and then her eyes
alighted on her heaving bosom and the glories of her gown. The
revulsion struck her like a blow, and she reeled under it. ” You
devil !” she cried. ” You have ruined my life.”
The sound of those sharp words smote upon his brain, and
whipped his ragged soul. He rose suddenly to his feet, his face
blazing with fury.
” Damn you,” he cried passionately. ” I have loved you. I have
sold my soul for you. I have ruined my mind for you. Damn
you, Dorothy. And you have no words for me. Damn you.”
His voice trailed away into a tremulous sob, and he stood
contemplating her with fixed eyes. She laughed hardly, with-
drawing her skirts from his vicinity. His gaze wandered from
her, and went furtively towards the mantelpiece. She followed it,
and saw a revolver lying upon the marble.
” Bah !” she said. ” You have not the courage.”
At that moment a knock fell upon the door ; after a pause she
moved and opened it.
” Lord Hambleton, ma’am,” said Williams. ” He is in the
Breathing hard, she looked round at her husband. Rosewarne’s
dull eyes were fixed upon her. They interceded with her; they
fawned upon her.
” I will be there in a moment,” she said clearly. Rosewarne
moved slowly to the table and sat down, resting his head in his
hands. He made no protest ; if he realised anything now, he
realised that he had expected this. The door shut to behind her ;
a dull pain started in the base of his brain ; into the redoubts of
his soul streamed swiftly the forces of sheer panic.
Mrs. Rosewarne entered the drawing-room, the tail of her dress
rustling over the carpet. Lord Hambleton turned with this sound
in his ears, stirring him pleasantly.
” Well,” said he, smiling, ” you see I’ve come.”
She gave him her hand and paused, confronting him. Her heart
thumped like a hammer upon her side ; her face was flushed with
colour, and her lips quivered.
” It is good of you,” she said tremulously ; ” won’t you sit
He did not heed her invitation, but shot a shrewd glance at her.
Her voice startled him ; the discomposure of her appearance
arrested his eyes. He wondered what had happened. It could
not be that his visit was the cause of this confusion. And yet he
noted it with a thrill of satisfaction, such as he had experienced in
the colloquy at Mrs. Charters’s.
” You are very good to look at like this,” he allowed himself to
say. He picked up the thread of their communion where it had
been dropped earlier that day. She was marvellously handsome ;
he had never admired a woman so much since his youth. The
faint light spreading from the lamps illumined her brilliant face
and threw up her figure in a kind of twilight against the wall.
Her heart palpitated audibly ; it seemed to her that she had a
sudden unreasonable desire to laugh. The squalid gloom of that
chamber beyond lifted ; it seemed remote and accidental. She was
here with the comfortable eyes of this man upon her, contem-
plating her with admiration. She was not a parcel of that tragedy
outside. She smiled broadly.
” Why, the better for my salon,” she said.
What had excited her ? he asked himself. ” Ah ! we will
arrange all that,” he answered with a familiar nod.
” You will ?” she asked eagerly—breathlessly.
” Why, certainly,” he replied. ” I think we can manage it—
She laughed aloud this time. ” Yes, both of us together,” she
He met her eyes. Was it wine ? he asked. Or was it—?
Lord Hambleton’s body tingled with sensation. He had not
suspected that matters had progressed so intimately between them.
Almost involuntarily he put out a hand towards her. She laughed
awkwardly, and he drew it back.
” You should have had it long ago,” he said. ” You have thrown
away a chance.”
” My life, you mean,” she cried, breaking in upon his melli-
fluous tones with a harsher note.
She shifted her head towards the door as if listening for a sound.
Her action struck him for the moment as ungainly.
” Things do not always fall out as we want them,” he said
” Not as you want them ?” she asked, coming back to regard
him. ” Why, what more do you want ?”
He watched her from his quiet eyes, which suddenly lost their
equable expression. To him she had always appeared a woman of
dispassion, but now the seeming surrender in her mind, the revolu-
tion in her character, flashed upon him with an extreme sense of
emotion. His heart beat faster.
” I think you know,” he said softly, and reaching forth, took
Swiftly she turned ; a look of dread rushed into her eyes. All on
a sudden the transactions of that neighbouring room leapt into
proximity. She saw Freddy handling the revolver ; she watched
him lean over the table and cock it in the light ; she saw him —
She gave a cry, and moved a step towards the door, with a
” What is it ?” asked Lord Hambleton in alarm. ” You are ill.
You—” She made no answer, and he seized her hand again.
” Let me ring for a glass of wine,” he whispered.
Mrs. Rosewarne laughed loudly in his face.
” No, no,” she said ; ” it is nothing. Pray, don’t. I shall be
She looked at him, and then turned her ear to the door again,
listening with a white face. He watched her anxiously, but in his
own mind the reason of her perturbation was clear. The thought
was sweet to him.
” Well,” said he ; ” and now to business.”
” Business !” she echoed, and moved quickly to him, ” I —
Please, you must excuse me, Lord Hambleton. My husband is
ill. Do you mind ? I—”
He rose abruptly. ” I am very sorry,” he said ; ” I will not
trouble you, then, just now.”
He took his hat. She had turned away and was hearkening with
all her senses for that report that did not come. He bit his lips.
Perhaps she had been overstrained. He could scarce say what
feeling ran uppermost in his mind. She hurried him to the door,
accompanying him herself.
” Must you go ?” she asked, stupidly, on the doorstep.
He looked at her ; perhaps she really was ill. But she was very
beautiful. She did not hear his answer. The rough wind blew
through the open door and scattered her hair and her skirts. Lord
Hambleton went down the steps. She watched him go. At that
moment, somehow, a great revulsion overwhelmed her. She had
listened, and there had been no discharge. What a fool she had
been ! Of course, he had no courage. She had the desire to rush
after Lord Hambleton and call him back. She had tortured herself
idly ; she had played a silly part in a melodrama. She recalled
Lord Hambleton’s ardent gaze. There was a man ! Ah, if this
thing were not fastened about her neck ! She stole back along
the hall—iofurious. Once more she was confronted with the squalor
of her position. Her indignation rose higher ; she could see that
pitiful creature crying for mercy, crying for affection. Bah !
He was too cowardly to die. Burning with the old anger, she
crossed to the study and opened the door. She would have it out
with him ; they should understand their position. With Lord
Hambleton the dignified prospects of her life had vanished, and she
was flung back upon a mean and ignominious lot.
Rosewarne was seated in the armchair ; the revolver rested where
it had lain upon the mantelpiece. He made no movement to
rise as she returned, and she stood for a second looking down upon
him from behind with curling lips. A bottle of whisky and a glass
stood upon the table at his elbow. It was probable that he had
drunk himself to sleep.
” Are you awake?” she called sharply. He made no sign.
She bent over angrily and shook him.
His head fell to her touch, and from his fingers a little phial
tumbled upon the floor.
By Rose Haig Thomas
NOT this cold grey world for me
With its dull monotony
Of sombre land and sea.
No ! a mad career
In another sphere,
Rather than linger here.
Then heigh for rosy Mars !
The king of all the stars !
Where prisms play
Pranks with the day—
There would I stay,
Where light is dark, and darkness bright,
And wisdom folly, weakness might.
Where right is wrong, and wrong made right,
Where night is day, and day is night,
And the night glows rich with a warm red light.
So heigh for rosy Mars
The king of all the stars !
Where purple fish leap in a scarlet sea,
In sportive play ;
Where deep waves roll, wine-red as Burgundy.
Throughout the day
Across the blazing heavens sails an azure sun ;
How his cerulean shades
Melt into mauve among the rosy blades !
And blood-red trees their golden shadows write
Over the violet glades.
There winged beings green as malachite
Flit in and out the cooling turquoise light
At the high noon.
And when the sun sets deeply darkly blue,
Bathing the bloody blades in opal dew,
Falls on a scarlet world a golden night,
Wherein slow riseth into sight
No pale-faced moon.
With giddy circlings, a strange steel-blue
And star-shaped satellite
Whirls through the golden blare.
As nervous starfish shun the touch,
So shoot her shrinking fingers forth,
Point East and South, point West and North,
Her mazy moving radiants such
A thousand changes wear.
They flash from her steely shield
Like a myriad scimitars,
As she laces her golden field
With its splutter of blue black stars.
Thus is the gamut set
From palest orange unto purplest jet.
Then the malachite beings grow glittering bronze
With feeling, with passion, agleam, aglow,
In touch with their molten rosy world.
Green fire flashes from their jewelled breasts,
Where flame a thousand ages,
Whilst their broad pinions spread, quiver to the quill.
Forth from each beauteous head leap forked tongues ;
A rushing sound as music of a stream
Stirs the still air with sweet strange speech
That writes its meanings on the atmosphere.
The flashing hieroglyphics scintillate,
Among the purple shades, fork-lightning quick.
Between the waving wings
The younger beings feel and see and hear,
And on their brains the branded image sinks
Of quiv’ring naked knowledge newly born.
The seeming solid ground uncertain heaves,
Stretching to slender threads the pliant chain,
The easy fetters of a lessened gravity.
These buoyant beings rise and madly dance
Wide stepping as the winds,, their waving wings
Mingling in one green cloud,
Which bronzing in the golden night
Drifts out of sight.
* * * * *
Gone is the scarlet sea,
The azure day,
And my rainbow reverie
Fades into grey.
The Auction Room of Letters
By Arthur Waugh
” THE present position of the literary man in England is very
much that of an auctioneer. He offers his goods for
sale ; other people, middlemen, come and bid for them, and the
prize goes to the highest bidder.” I have not the exact words by
me as I write ; nor, in a case of this sort, do exact words matter
very greatly. It is at least true that to this effect, and essentially
with this intention, a leading man of letters has within the last
month delivered himself upon the art which he espouses, that he
asks us to accept, as an illustration or parallelism, this comparison
of his calling with the huckstering of the auctioneer, and that such
a pronouncement appears, if one may conjecture assent from a har-
monious silence, to be received without disapproval by a large
number of his fellow-artists.
Now in the obiter dicta of distinguished men there is
food for reflection than is evident at first sight, and this playful—
or was it perhaps a reproachful ?—metaphor of auctioneer and
public, carries a good deal more of import on its back than
” many such like as’es of great charge,” which are bruited abroad
into fame from day to day. It contains in little the whole story
of the present position of authorship ; it reflects the past, it fore-
bodes the future, and it adorns its tale by pointing a strenuous
moral which these few pages will do their best to indicate. For
the situation, which one is first inclined to laugh away as ridicu-
lous, has its serious side as well, and it is a question whether the
time has not arrived when we should take the literary auctioneer at
his own valuation, and write him off the books.
The first thing that strikes one, I suppose, is the consideration
of how immensely things have changed in the last few years to
make such utterance as that which opens this paper possible.
Except for a few dingy and detached houses here and there, houses
which seem to break out in the centre of our trim red-brick lines
of villadom—like ghosts to trouble joy—except for these (and they
are few), Grub Street is no more. We all remember, or our
fathers at least have declared unto us, the old-world vision of the
publisher. He was a Colossus, set up at the receipt of custom,
under whose huge legs the wretched authors, petty men, peeped
about, striving to rivet his attention with humble tributes of care-
fully copied manuscript. For such as he regarded there remained
hard terms and an invidious reputation. To-day all this is changed.
It is now the author (have we not received it on his own authority ?)
who mounts into the rostrum, hammer in hand, and having at his
side a bundle of type-writing, distributes to the struggling middle-
men a printed synopsis of the material on offer, and proceeds to
start the bidding with a wholesome reserve price. Then the
publishers continue one against the other, pitting royalty against
royalty, advance against advance, till down comes the hammer and
off go the copy and the profits. Nor, mark you, is the auctioneer
contented yet ; the open market, he says, is still not open enough
for his desires. It seems that these men of business do not know
the secrets of their own beggarly trade (have we not this, too, on
the authority of the author ?). They are the victims of a miser-
able niggardliness which forbids them to bid to the value of the
material. Soon the auctioneer will do without them. He will out
into the square, with twenty thousand copies of his novel in bales
behind him, and will sell them to the surging public himself, like a
cheap-jack on bank holiday. Then, even if he tires in the mid-
summer heat, and is so sadly overwrought at night that his hand
declines the pen, he will still have had his reward, he will have sold
himself without favour, and the family stocking will gape with
shekels. Faugh ! ” an ounce of civet, good apothecary !” The air
We have had enough, I fancy, of this picture. In drawing it,
I doubt not, the author who is responsible for my elaboration did
so with more sincere regret for current circumstances than could
ever be felt by an alien to his art ; he merely stated a fact,
and that indisputable. There is, moreover, no possible profit in
lingering over trivial bickerings which the complacency of one
party and the self-advertisement of another have dragged into
the full view of the public press. Here, at least, the future
may be trusted to take care of its own ; there can be but one
end. The purpose of this paper is otherwise. It may be well,
perhaps, to consider by what steps the author reached the
rostrum, what he is doing there for art, and where he will
find himself when in the whirligig of time he is forced to
descend. Finally, it may be asked how all this is likely to serve
letters in the future, and what sort of literature is likely to
be produced under such conditions. For every man who sets
pen to paper, be he Laureate or the humblest journalist, must, so
far as he is worthy of his calling, prefer the welfare of literature to
the gains of his own exchequer, and much of the lamentable policy
which has ushered in this new era of letters has been due, it is but
fair to suppose, to an honest but misdirected desire to further her
claims to recognition. Is she, then, we may ask, likely to benefit
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. Q
by this perpetual insistence upon pecuniary reward ? And if not,
where will she suffer ?
The increase in the author’s emolument has been traced to
many sources ; yet the most likely origin has been strangely over-
looked. A little reflection, however, will show that the growth in
prices has advanced pari passu with the multiplication of periodical
literature. Forty or fifty years ago there were comparatively few
magazines, and the novelist was obliged to work in the large.
His every output was a full-length novel : the making of this took
time, and the rate of production was slow. By sure degrees, how-
ever, the taste for snippet literature has grown and grown ; one
magazine after another has leapt into success, and the demand for
the short story has become paramount. At the same time com-
petition has arisen. Each new magazine desires to open with the
best names : no author, however prolific, could keep pace with
the whole field : it becomes necessary, therefore, for editor to bid
against editor. The booths are set up, and business is astir.
Meanwhile, more and more material is forthcoming : the short
stories are collected into books : the many serials seek their
publishers. Obviously, therefore, the number of these industrious
middlemen must increase ; the same interests come to the surface,
and there follows a further competition to secure book-rights.
Then follows the question of time. Editors begin to look ahead.
If they cannot have Mr. X.’s next story, they invite a lien upon
the next but one, and in a very short time the author finds himself
bound far into the future. Here, then, by the simplest method of
evolution, we have the prevalent problems of competition and
literary mortgage. And very far afield have these things led us of
The air is full of rumours, the papers of paragraphs, which bear
evidence to the strain of rivalry between men of business reacting
upon authorship. We are told of one author who has bound
himself to the end of the century to produce stories of one
kind and another to fit the dates of his editors. Year
in, year out, in sickness or in health, in the heat of summer
and the bite of winter, is that author fixed to his desk, pen
in hand, covering reams of foolscap, for the satisfaction of
contracts entertained without the prejudice of circumstance.
We know of another author, exploited by a far-seeing editor,
whose work was so universally advertised by paragraph and table-
talk, that actually before his first book was in proof at the printers
it had been lauded by half the papers in London as a coming
wonder. Nor do exceptional examples of this kind stand unsup-
ported by a common environment. The very conversation of
literature is changed : its view of its own privileges is translated.
When two men of letters are discussing a third, do they set them-
selves to speak of the literary quality of his last volume, of its
sincerity, its distinction, its place in the progress of thought ?
Nine times out of ten the subject that chiefly interests them is
the rate of pay which he receives per thousand words. Indeed,
that same phrase, ” per thousand words ” has slain ten thousand
reputations. You might range the living novelists now, in a list
of their own recital, apportioning their fame by that ” rate per
thousand words.” Indeed, to hear and to read of some of them,
one verily believes that there are authors who think, feed, and
dream upon this rate of theirs, until they are half sick with green
jealousy when they hear that A. and B. have ” gone up ” by a
guinea this month, while they themselves have declined by a
shilling. And this, too, is called literary ambition.
Indeed, the reader of these random observations will by this
time have noticed, it may be with amusement, that they tend to
treat literature as though it were solely confined to the modern
novel. For the present context this must be the case. The con-
cerns of the auction-room are so far centred upon fiction alone.
For, as we have already noticed, this activity of the middleman is
necessarily dependent on the demand of the mob, and while it is
probable that more books are being read in this year of grace than
in any of its predecessors, it is also certain that at no time has the
general public been so blind to the claims of literary merit. For
poetry it has no taste and absolutely no judgment. If it is told
sufficiently often that a certain poem is fine literature, it will in
time come to believe it, much as it takes its religious tenets on
trust, because it has heard them so often promulgated. In neither
case can it appreciate for itself. For criticism, sociology, philo-
sophy it has no ear; it seeks amusement, and it buys the latest
story. Hence it comes that it is the field of fiction alone that is
given over to profitable money-making ; hence, too, it follows
that the successful novelist has come to regard the six-shilling
novel as the only vehicle of literary expression, and has taken
himself rather more seriously than circumstances have demanded.
Nevertheless, from a purely insular point of view he is, beyond
doubt, a very important person. It is ungracious in an English
man to reflect, even in passing, upon his motherland, still it is
difficult to avoid the confession that Napoleon’s definition of
us was regrettably true in its essentials. We are, by nature, a
nation of shopkeepers, and the thing that sells best among us has
gained a spurious but incalculable importance. The novelist,
therefore, has now his day, and he is making the best of it. He
looms large in the public gaze : he fills columns of the public
prints : the work he produces is, by virtue of its popularity, the
literature of the hour. It only remains to concede the situation,
and to consider whether, under the progress of present circum-
stances, it is likely to be the literature of the-future.
A literary critic, himself no less distinguished than the novelist
whose words are serving us for a text, has recently expressed his
view of the probable complications in store for the novelist. He
said, if my memory stands good, that the prevalence of the
pecuniary estimate was resulting in a pressure all along the line,
that the author, in demanding high terms of the publisher, was
pressing him to such a degree that he was, in turn, forced to press
the bookseller, and that the final result would be that the public
would refuse to respond, and that the old machinery would be
thrown out of gear. Well, there may be truth in this, but there
is a good deal to be said on the other side. The publisher, after
all, is no sucking-dove, no shorn lamb which needs our poor
protection, if his grasp of business principles is insufficient to
keep him out of unprofitable bargains, he can only thank his own
indiscretion if he finds himself in eventual liquidation. He starts
business as a business-man, and as a business-man he must be
judged. He is fairly sure to take care of himself. On the con-
trary, it is the novelist who must look to his own interests : for it
is they and not the publishers that are in jeopardy. We have seen
how this eternal care for pence results in injudicious contracts ;
let us now see whether these contracts will not, in reaction, end
in a lack even of those miserable pence for which they were
contrived. We are all slow to learn by experience, but really the
tardiness of the novelist is amazing. You would suppose that,
with the field of literature scattered, as it is, with dead and dying
reputations, the author would begin to lose some confidence in the
constancy of his public, but it is just this fickleness that he is
slowest to comprehend. He makes one immense, phenomenal
success, and in a flash the world is all before him. He will plant
vineyards and oliveyards, he will store up his grain in goodly
garners ; he will live happily for ever after. And all the while at
his ear Experience is whispering unheard, ” Thou fool ! this
night shall thy fame be required of thee.”
The British public is the most fickle body that ever drew
together for mutual protection, and in nothing is it more fickle
than in its literary predilections. The idol of its afternoon is an
outcast by sunset, and the only possibility of retaining its favour
lies in an assiduous and heart-whole study of its inclination. The
novelist who is to continue popular must work with every instinct
clear, every faculty alive ; he must change his course and tack
with the popular breeze ; his eye must follow every cloud, be
it no larger than a man’s hand, for the least shadow on the
horizon grows in an hour into a tempest. During the last few
years there has been success upon success that promised stability :
one reputation has trod upon another’s heels, has passed, and
lost outline. There is scarcely a prominent novelist of twelve
years ago who enjoys an equal favour to-day. All this your
optimist adventurer forgets. He forgets, too, that those grinding
contracts of his will press upon him at the very hour when he is
least in trim for work, that in their obligation he is bound, in
course of time, to turn out material unworthy of his best, and
that the public, reminded of this by its critics—reminded, too, by
a certain sense of selection which, to do it justice, it has acquired
in its study of fiction—will have no compunction, in the hour of
his distress, in bowing him to the door. Then the publisher, too,
will desert his auction-room, and his occupation will be gone.
You cannot serve Art and Mammon ; indeed, it is hard enough
to serve Mammon alone, for any length of time, with any con-
sistency of return. And if the novelist is likely, by mixing himself
overmuch with business interests to compass his own financial
ruin, is it probable that he will contrive, in the stress of his daily
avocations of the rostrum, to leave behind him the name of an
artist, a reputation that can endure ? No man deserving the
name of author ever yet wrote a book without some faint hope
that it might outlast himself; that he might be raising, if not
the fabric, at least the pedestal of a ” monument more enduring
than brass. ” Yet no book ever lived, it is safe to say, that was
thrown off ” in feverish haste to satisfy the demands of an impor-
tunate publisher. Nowadays, the word ‘ Dignity ‘ is supposed
to carry with it the trail of the prig : still, every profession,
sincerely followed, is capable of dignified repute. Where, then,
in all this turmoil of the market, is the boasted dignity of letters ?
If ever a calling existed in England whose record was studded
with things noble and of good report, it is the calling that can
boast the service of Shakspeare, of Milton, of Goldsmith, and of
Wordsworth. Surely the shadows of the great must move rest-
lessly in shame by Stratford Church and Chalfont stream when
they learn that the literary man is, upon his own confession and
at his own desire, translated into an unctuous auctioneer. But
shame should not be confined to the dead : it is high time that
it infected the living. There are signs, fortunately, that it is even
now doing so. It may be, indeed, that we ourselves are beginning
to appreciate that the new era of letters is not so much decadent
as vulgar ; it may even prove that the next development of the
problem will be a return to taste and a recrudescence of dignity.
If so, the uses of perversity will have gained another example,
and the cause of literature will have been served by what at
present appears the least promising of its issues.
The Wasser-Thurm, Nürnberg
By Wilfred Ball
The Crimson Weaver
By R. Murray Gilchrist
MY Master and I had wandered from our track and lost
ourselves on the side of a great ” edge.” It was a two-
days journey from the Valley of the Willow Brakes, and we had
roamed aimlessly ; eating at hollow-echoing inns where grey-
haired hostesses ministered, and sleeping side by side through the
dewless midsummer nights on beds of fresh-gathered heather.
Beyond a single-arched wall-less bridge that crossed a brown
stream whose waters leaped straight from the upland, we reached
the Domain of the Crimson Weaver. No sooner had we reached
the keystone when a beldam, wrinkled as a walnut and bald as an
egg, crept from a cabin of turf and osier and held out her hands
” Enter not the Domain of the Crimson Weaver!” she
shrieked. ” One I loved entered.—I am here to warn men.
Behold, I was beautiful once !”
She tore her ragged smock apart and discovered the foulness of
her bosom, where the heart pulsed behind a curtain of livid skin.
My Master drew money from his wallet and scattered it on the
” She is mad,” he said. ” The evil she hints cannot exist.
There is no fiend.”
So we passed on, but the bridge-keeper took no heed of the
coins. For awhile we heard her bellowed sighs issuing from the
openings of her den.
Strangely enough, the tenour of our talk changed from the
moment that we left the bridge. He had been telling me of the
Platonists, but when our feet pressed the sun-dried grass I was
impelled to question him of love. It was the first time I had
thought of the matter.
” How does passion first touch a man’s life?” I asked, laying
my hand on his arm.
His ruddy colour faded, he smiled wryly.
” You divine what passes in my brain,” he replied. ” I also
had begun to meditate. . . . . But I may not tell you. . . . . In
my boyhood—I was scarce older than you at the time—I loved the
true paragon. ‘Twere sacrilege to speak of the birth of passion.
Let it suffice that ere I tasted of wedlock the woman died, and
her death sealed for ever the door of that chamber of my heart.
. . . . Yet, if one might see therein, there is an altar crowned
with ever-burning tapers and with wreaths of unwithering
By this time we had reached the skirt of a yew-forest, traversed
in every direction by narrow paths. The air was moist and
heavy, but ever and anon a light wind touched the tree-tops and
bowed them, so that the pollen sank in golden veils to the ground.
Everywhere we saw half-ruined fountains, satyrs vomiting
senilely, nymphs emptying wine upon the lambent flames of
dying phoenixes, creatures that were neither satyrs nor nymphs,
nor gryphins, but grotesque adminglings of all, slain by one
another, with water gushing from wounds in belly and thigh.
At length the path we had chosen terminated beside an
oval mere that was surrounded by a colonnade of moss-grown
arches. Huge pike quivered on the muddy bed, crayfish moved
sluggishly amongst the weeds.
There was an island in the middle, where a leaden Diana, more
compassionate than a crocodile, caressed Actaeon’s horns ere
delivering him to his hounds. The huntress’ head and shoulders
were white with the excrement of a crowd of culvers that moved
as if entangled in a snare.
Northwards an avenue rose for the space of a mile, to fall
abruptly before an azure sky. For many years the yew-mast on
the pathway had been undisturbed by human foot ; it was covered
with a crust of greenish lichen.
My Master pressed my fingers. ” There is some evil in the
air of this place,” he said. ” I am strong, but you—you may not
endure. We will return.”
” ‘Tis an enchanted country,” I made answer, feverishly. ” At
the end of yonder avenue stands the palace of the sleeping maiden
who awaits the kiss. Nay, since we have pierced the country
thus far, let us not draw back. You are strong, Master—no evil
can touch us.”
So we fared to the place where the avenue sank, and then our
eyes fell on the wondrous sight of a palace, lying in a concave
pleasaunce, all treeless, but so bestarred with fainting flowers, that
neither blade of grass nor grain of earth was visible.
Then came a rustling of wings above our heads, and looking
skywards I saw flying towards the house a flock of culvers like
unto those that had drawn themselves over Diana’s head. The
hindmost bird dropped its neck, and behold it gazed upon us with
the face of a mannikin !
” They are charmed birds, made thus by the whim of the
Princess,” I said.
As the birds passed through the portals of a columbary that
crowned a western tower, their white wings beat against a silver
bell that glistened there, and the whole valley was filled with
My Master trembled and crossed himself. ” In the name of
our Mother,” he exclaimed, ” let us return. I dare not trust
your life here.”
But a great door in front of the palace swung open, and a
woman with a swaying walk came out to the terrace. She wore
a robe of crimson worn into tatters at skirt-hem and shoulders.
She had been forewarned of our presence, for her face turned
instantly in our direction. She smiled subtly, and her smile died
away into a most tempting sadness.
She caught up such remnants of her skirt as trailed behind, and
strutted about with the gait of a peacock. As the sun touched
the glossy fabric I saw eyes inwrought in deeper hue.
My Master still trembled, but he did not move, for the gaze
of the woman was fixed upon him. His brows twisted and his
white hair rose and stood erect, as if he viewed some unspeakable
Stooping, with sidelong motions of the head, she approached ;
bringing with her the smell of such an incense as when amidst
Eastern herbs burns the corse. . . . . She was perfect of feature as
the Diana, but her skin was deathly white and her lips fretted
She took no heed of me, but knelt at my Master’s feet—a
Magdalene before an impregnable priest.
” Prince and Lord, Tower of Chastity, hear !” she murmured.
” For lack of love I perish. See my robe in tatters !”
He strove to avert his face, but his eyes still dwelt upon her.
She half rose and shook nut-brown tresses over his knees.
Youth came back in a flood to my Master. His shrivelled
skin filled out ; the dying sunlight turned to gold the whiteness of
his hair. He would have raised her had I not caught his hands.
The anguish of foreboding made me cry :
” One forces roughly the door of your heart’s chamber. The
wreaths wither, the tapers bend and fall.”
He grew old again. The Crimson Weaver turned to me.
” O marplot!” she said laughingly, ” think not to vanquish
me with folly. I am too powerful. Once that a man enter my
domain he is mine.”
But I drew my Master away.
” ‘Tis I who am strong,” I whispered. ” We will go hence at
once. Surely we may find our way back to the bridge. The
journey is easy.”
The woman, seeing that the remembrance of an old love was
strong within him, sighed heavily, and returned to the palace.
As she reached the doorway the valves opened, and I saw in a
distant chamber beyond the hall an ivory loom with a golden
My Master and I walked again on the track we had made in
the yew-mast. But twilight was falling, and ere we could reach
the pool of Diana all was in utter darkness ; so at the foot of a
tree, where no anthill rose, we lay down and slept.
Dreams came to me—gorgeous visions from the romances of
eld. Everywhere I sought vainly for a beloved. There was the
Castle of the Ebony Dwarf, where a young queen reposed in the
innermost casket of the seventh crystal cabinet; there was the
Chamber of Gloom, where Lenore danced, and where I groped
for ages around columns of living flesh ; there was the White
Minaret, where twenty-one princesses poised themselves on balls of
burnished bronze ; there was Melisandra’s arbour, where the sacred
toads crawled over the enchanted cloak.
Unrest fretted me : I woke in spiritual pain. Dawn was
breaking—a bright yellow dawn, and the glades were full of
I turned to the place where my Master had lain. He was not
there. I felt with my hands over his bed : it was key-cold.
Terror of my loneliness overcame me, and I sat with covered face.
On the ground near my feet lay a broken riband, whereon was
strung a heart of chrysolite. It enclosed a knot of ash-coloured
hair—hair of the girl my Master had loved.
The mists gathered together and passed sunwards in one long
many-cornered veil. When the last shred had been drawn into the
great light, I gazed along the avenue, and saw the topmost bartizan
of the Crimson Weaver’s palace.
It was midday ere I dared start on my search. The culvers
beat about my head. I walked in pain, as though giant spiders
had woven about my body.
On the terrace strange beasts—dogs and pigs with human limbs,
—tore ravenously at something that lay beside the balustrade. At
sight of me they paused and lifted their snouts and bayed. Awhile
afterwards the culvers rang the silver bell, and the monsters dis-
persed hurriedly amongst the drooping blossoms of the pleasaunce,
and where they had swarmed I saw naught but a steaming
I approached the house and the door fell open, admitting me to
a chamber adorned with embellishments beyond the witchery of
art. There I lifted my voice and cried eagerly : ” My Master,
my Master, where is my Master ?” The alcoves sent out a
babble of echoes, blended together like a harp-cord on a
dulcimer : ” My Master, my Master, where is my Master ?
For the love of Christ, where is my Master ?” The echo
replied only, ” Where is my Master ?”
Above, swung a globe of topaz, where a hundred suns gambolled.
From its centre a convoluted horn, held by a crimson cord, sank
lower and lower. It stayed before my lips and I blew therein, and
heard the sweet voices of youth chant with one accord.
” Fall open, oh doors : fall open and show the way to the
Ere the last of the echoes had died a vista opened, and at the
end of an alabaster gallery I saw the Crimson Weaver at her
loom. She had doffed her tattered robe for one new and lustrous
as freshly drawn blood. And marvellous as her beauty had seemed
before, its wonder was now increased a hundredfold.
She came towards me with the same stately walk, but there was
now a lightness in her demeanour that suggested the growth of
Within arm’s length she curtseyed, and curtseying showed me
the firmness of her shoulders, the fulness of her breast. The sight
brought no pleasure : my cracking tongue appealed in agony :
” My Master, where is my Master ?”
She smiled happily. ” Nay, do not trouble. He is not here.
His soul talks with the culvers in the cote. He has forgotten you.
In the night we supped, and I gave him of Nepenthe.”
” Where is my Master ? Yesterday he told me of the shrine
in his heart—of ever-fresh flowers—of a love dead yet living.”
Her eyebrows curved mirthfully.
” ‘Tis foolish boys’ talk,” she said. ” If you sought till the end
of time you would never find him—unless I chose. Yet—if you
buy of me—myself to name the price.”
I looked around hopelessly at the unimaginable riches of her
home. All that I have is this Manor of the Willow Brakes—a
moorish park, an ancient house where the thatch gapes and the
casements swing loose.
” My possessions are pitiable,” I said, ” but they are all yours.
I give all to save him.”
” Fool, fool !” she cried. ” I have no need of gear. If I but
raise my hand, all the riches of the world fall to me. ‘Tis not
what I wish for.”
Into her eyes came such a glitter as the moon makes on the moist
skin of a sleeping snake. The firmness of her lips relaxed ; they
grew child-like in their softness. The atmosphere became almost
tangible : I could scarce breathe.
” What is it ? All that I can do, if it be no sin.”
” Come with me to my loom,” she said, ” and if you do the
thing I desire you shall see him. There is no evil in’t—in past
times kings have sighed for the same.”
So I followed slowly to the loom, before which she had seated
herself, and watched her deftly passing crimson thread over crimson
She was silent for a space, and in that space her beauty fascinated
me, so that I was no longer master of myself.
” What you wish for I will give, even if it be life.”
The loom ceased. ” A kiss of the mouth, and you shall see
him who passed in the night.”
She clasped her arms about my neck and pressed my lips. For
one moment heaven and earth ceased to be ; but there was one
paradise, where we were sole governours. . . . .
Then she moved back and drew aside the web and showed me
the head of my Master, and the bleeding heart whence a crimson
cord unravelled into many threads.
” I wear men’s lives,” the woman said. ” Life is necessary to me,
or even I—who have existed from the beginning—must die. But
yesterday I feared the end, and he came. His soul is not dead—
’tis truth that it plays with my culvers.”
I fell back.
” Another kiss, ” she said. ” Unless I wish, there is no escape
for you. Yet you may return to your home, though my power
over you shall never wane. Once more—lip to lip.”
I crouched against the wall like a terrified dog. She grew
angry ; her eyes darted fire.
” A kiss,” she cried, ” for the penalty !”
My poor Master’s head, ugly and cadaverous, glared from the
loom. I could not move.
The Crimson Weaver lifted her skirt, uncovering feet shapen
as those of a vulture. I fell prostrate. With her claws she
fumbled about the flesh of my breast. Moving away she bade me
pass from her sight. . . . .
So, half-dead, I lie here at the Manor of the Willow Brakes,
watching hour by hour the bloody clew ever unwinding from my
heart and passing over the western hills to the Palace of the Siren.
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. R
By Fred Hyland
I. The Mirror
From the Portuguese of Guerra Junqueiro
By Edgar Prestage
THE cock crows this December night . . .
The cock crows hoarsely this dark night . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
Villager sleep not ! Call the wight . . .
Black sorrow, hasten, call the wight ! . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
The digger is thy slave of right,
Out with his hoe, for he of right,
Black sorrow, is a slave to thee !
Howls the wind, the nests are shaking . . .
In dread night the nests are shaking . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery!
Cold as ermine snow is flaking . . .
In the dusk the snow is flaking . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
Maledict his way is making,
Hoe on shoulder he is making,
That digger, a dark phantom he !
The morning star doth purple grow . . .
The morning star doth pallid grow . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
The hills are bare, the frost below,
And stiff as bronze the frost below !
—Misery ! oh, misery !
How grimly bends he o’er his hoe,
And tears and trenches with his hoe,
That digger, a dark phantom he !
He digs and digs from dawn of day
Until the stroke of middle day . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
Then standing, sadly sets to pray,
Upon the lonely slope to pray,
—Misery ! oh, misery !
And putting down his hoe to say
” Hail Mary ! ” silently to say,
That digger, a dark phantom he !
He digs the savage mountainside,
From dawn to even, the mountainside . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
And with some broth Thou dost requite
Him, God ! and with six bairns requite,
—Misery ! oh, misery !
The Angelus rings through the night,
” Blessed be Thou, Heavenly Sire, this night ! ”
The digger cries, a phantom he !
Ten hills are dug . . . where is the wheat ?
Six mouths begotten . . . where is the wheat ?
—Misery ! oh, misery !
Upon his door comes Hunger’s beat,
And Death’s re-echoing the beat . . .
—Misery ! oh, misery !
“The peace of God, I now entreat !
The peace of God, I now entreat ! ”
The digger sighed, and ceased to dree !
HE was writing a letter, and, as his pen jerked over the paper,
he smiled with a fatuous softness. She had betrayed her-
self so helplessly—had cared so much. And he ? Well, yes, he
had cared, too, a little ; who could have been quite unresponsive to
that impetuous inquiring tenderness, that ardent generous admira-
tion ? He remembered it all, with amused regretful vanity—the
summer evenings by the window, the gay give-and-take of their
talk, the graver moments when their eyes met, and hers spoke
more eloquently than words. ” Eager tell-tales of her mind “—
how often he had quoted Matthew Arnold’s line when he thought
of her eyes ! It might have been written for her ; and when he
had told her so, she had not been angry. Little goose ! She ought
to have been, of course—but he might say anything, he knew.
Well ! they had been pretty days, those ; ” a fragrant memory “
—(she had taught him some of her phrases)—and now they were
over. Quite over ! The involuntariness of his sigh pleased him,
and the reluctance with which he took up his pen again seemed to
complete the romance of the moment.
She knew already. That was certain ; he had sent a telegram
on his wedding-day, thinking it might not be quite so bad if she
knew he had thought of her even then. And now he was writing.
Not to her—dear, no ! he had too much tact, knowledge of the
world, for that, he hoped ; but to her father. They had been
” pals ” ; he was so much older than she, ” quite fatherly,” he used
to say, delighting in her conscious look. . . . . So it was natural,
quite natural, for him to write and tell him how it had happened.
For in some ways it was a queer business, not quite what had
been expected of him, and yet—what every one had expected.
That he knew, and it galled him sorely. It was hardly a mésal-
liance, but—a mistake ? He felt that it might be called one ; a
horrid saying jingled in his ears, ” There’s no fool like an old
fool “—and yet he had chosen it so, always guessed that it would
end so. Romantic ? No ! There was the sting—not even
But she ? Would she look at it in that way ? Would she
smile and think that he had made a mess of it, compare herself
mentally—her fastidious high-bred self—with his bride and—pity
him ? He moved restlessly. No, she wouldn’t ; he knew her
better. She would mind—mind horribly. Her mouth would set
itself, her eyes would look bright and pained—oh ! she was brave
enough ; but she would be silent, sadder than her wont, and—
envious ? His smile grew broader. Poor little dear !
Well, his letter would be some comfort. He had finished it ;
now to read it over. . . . . Yes ! all was admirably conveyed, the
regret, the remembrance, the veiled messages to her, the (he
rather liked this part)—the hinted depreciation of his choice, the
insinuated unhappiness and foreboding—and then the allusion to
” his wife ” . . . . in fancy he heard the sharp quick breath, saw
the darkening of the blue eyes, the pain of the firm little mouth.
. . . . But perhaps she might not read it at all ; men didn’t hand
letters round. He must provide for that. It was written for her,
she must see it. How should he manage ? Ah ! that was it !
” Your daughter will help you to make out my scrawl ” in a
prominent postscript ; that was clear enough. Now to post it.
The end of the little episode, so delicate, so transient ! Men
were rather brutal, weren’t they ? Well, when girls fell in love
and were so charming ! It was a shame, though, he thought,
complacently. Poor little dear ! The letter slid into the
* * * * *
Everything was going on just the same—and he was married.
But then she had always known it must end so—every one had
known it. There were two sorts of knowing, though, she thought,
It all seemed quite natural ; even having no letter to expect
when the post came in seemed so natural, and it had been the
roseate moment of the day. Did everything happen so ? It was
odd. Browning’s poignant question came into her head : ” Does
truth sound bitter as one at first believes ?” She used to imagine
he had been wrong for once (” that omniscient Browning of
yours “), but now that she knew. . . . .
How was it ? She could laugh quite naturally, read and
interested in her book. Stay, though ! Yesterday she had been
reading a story in which the heroine had reminded her of herself,
and had, of course, loved and been beloved. She had shut that
book hastily and taken up a volume of essays, but soon she had re-
opened and devoured it with envious, aching eyes.
That was the day after the telegram had come. It had stung her
a little, though it had pleased her too. So even at that moment he
had thought of her ; but how sure he had been ! . . . . It galled her ;
and, besides, it seemed to proclaim it all to the curious eyes around
her. They were her own people, and she loved them and they
her ; but their eyes were curious. She caught stolen glances, inter-
change of looks, imagined them talking of her, ” Does she mind ? “
” Not so much as I expected ” ; oh, the torturing espionage of
family life. If she could only be quite alone ! She recalled the
scene. From her bedroom window she had seen the telegraph boy,
had thought nothing of it, telegrams were so frequent.” Effie !
Effie !” First her youngest brother, wide-eyed, observant, when
the room-door burst open ; then her father, half-understanding, but
innately unsympathetic for ” love-affairs,” gratified, too, at the
remembrance of him, careless or unconscious of the intolerable
under-meaning of the message. Something had told her what it
was, what the pink scrawl contained ; she had felt a burning rebel-
ion, a hard hatred of somebody or something.
” A telegram ? from whom ? Her voice was sharp and cold.
” From Luttrell ?” This was one of the things she loathed—
that she called him ” Luttrell,” tout court ; her morbid sense of
humour saw the painful absurdity of it—to speak so of a man you
cared for ! Incredible ! yet she did it. Was anything in life
what you had once fancied it ?
” From Luttrell ?” Bravado had forced the name from her—
and if it should not be from him ? Even now she could recall the
lash of the stinging thought.
” Yes—from Luttrell. Funny fellow ! fancy his thinking of
sending it ! Like to see it ?”
She had taken it with a laugh at the ” funny fellow,” had read
it . . . .
” So he’s really married. Well, she’s a pretty girl, and a clever
girl ; I daresay he’ll be very happy. A very clever girl.”
How often, in her wayward moments, she had laughed with
Luttrell over the “canonisation” of the newest fiancée or bride !
” She had fulfilled the whole duty of woman !” she used to
declare with ironic grandiosity, and he used to smile admiringly at
her spirited nonsense—and now it was he himself ! But she must
” Yes, she’s pretty. Clever ? Well, I never had the pleasure
of her acquaintance.” The tiny thrust had relieved her a little.
” And where do they go for their honeymoon, I wonder ?”
It was said : ” they,” ” their honeymoon.” Had her voice
really sounded so thin and cold ? She had felt just like it, ” thin
and cold,” a meagre, desolate sort of creature. ” Meagre !” how
descriptive ! Her lips curled into a small morbid smile. She
remembered the odd sensation.
Well, that was over ; the telegram-scene was two days ago now,
and she was going down to lunch in that odd, dreamy sort of way,
as if she was walking on air—everything was so natural, yet so
unreal !…. ” The post just in ? What letters ?” she said,
carelessly, passing through the hall.
” One from Luttrell.”
” Why, Effie, Luttrell doesn’t seem absorbed in his bride,” her
eldest brother said, reading his own letters. ” Strikes me he’d
She could have struck him—but this must be answered in its
own vein. Would it never end ? ” Bored on the honeymoon, I
suppose ; they say every one is. “
” He wouldn’t be, though of course he’d pretend he was—”
her father laughed, opening the envelope. ” Dear, dear ! what a
scrawl ! I can’t read it . . . . Effie, you read it out.”
” No, indeed. I can’t bear reading things aloud.”
” Well, I can’t. Take it, and read it to yourself, then ?”
” You’d better both read it.”
” Over his shoulder,” one of the brothers said, mockingly.
Well, if it had to be done.
She stood and read it over her father’s shoulder.
It was long, illegible ; she spelt it out slowly to her wondering,
faltering heart. This was what he had written—this ?
” A nice letter, very friendly. Eh, Effie ?”
” Yes, very—nice. Very—friendly.”
In her room at last. ” He wrote that ? That
Her eyes met the wide dark ones in the mirror.
” Poor girl ! oh, the poor, poor girl !” The mirror looked
clouded, vanished quite, grew clear again.
” To think I could ever have loved him !”
For a moment she hid her shamed, white face.
” Feel up for a game of tennis, Ronald, Sydney, Edith !” her
voice pealed out. One must do something to work off this mad
joyous thrill of freedom, liberty . . . . looking forward !
She dashed down the stairs with a wild whirl of frills and lace-
A Pen-and-Ink Effect
By Frances E. Huntley
By J. A. Blaikie
WHAT shall I grow,
When unto earth returned,
In peace I shall be laid
There, where so oft we walked in sun and shade ?
Flame-flowers burning as my soul hath burned,
Whitening in passion just as flowers may
Under the fiery sun’s consuming ray ?
No, no ! ah, no !
But so my garden-plot shall be
Sweet set with wilding bloom and grass,
Pale starry flowers there shall arise,
White for my spirit’s thought, pale for mine eyes,
That wheresoe’er you thither come or pass,
Then surely shall you know, and feel, and see,
At last, though late, at last all’s well with me ;
In all my bitter life so sweet a thought,
So dear as this, I have not known—
To rest where singing winds, far-blown
From sea and moor, with singing birds are caught
Amid the fostering grey of apple-trees,
Where spires immortal the green cypresses
Uprear, and praise the eternal blue,
And you shall join me in that quiet land,
And one day wake, and find your dreaming true,
And know me as I am, and understand.
A Beautiful Accident
By Stanley V. Makower
WHAT an exquisite feeling there is about this spring after-
noon. A tender grace clings to every object in the
scene. On one side of the road a row of shops : milliners, grocers,
florists, a little second-hand book-shop wedged in between a pastry-
cook and a chemist, and so on. On the other side a block of tall,
soft brown houses standing a little way back from the road, with
small, narrow gardens in front of them. It is about three o’clock
in the afternoon. All the people in the neighbourhood have come
out—more to enjoy the air than to attend to the business on which
they pretend to be bent. But the shops are well filled, and there
is a ceaseless clapping of heels outside on the pavement. Ladies
in twos and threes wander slowly along, talking, and stopping now
and then to gaze in at a shop window, and all the time the sun
shines lazily from a mild blue sky streaked here and there with
thin white clouds. Blue shadows are on the pavement and in
little pools of water left from the rain of yesterday ; carriages and
cabs in the road, and people crossing in and out of them. From
time to time some one goes into one of the houses on the other
side of the road.
First, it is a straggling schoolboy, with a load of books and a
lazy, reluctant air, as if he would rather stay outside. Then a
tall, elegant lady, with a light feather boa that quivers all over
with the soft breeze. Now an old and infirm man stands on his
doorstep listening to the pleasing bustle of the scene and sniffing
in the spring air. He, too, enjoys it, for it puts fresh life into
him, and awakens many dim reminiscences of spring. He does
not think of things that have happened : he is only conscious of
having felt like this before, and in a way very intimately associated
with his life. You can see it in his face as he looks in a kind of
meditative, satisfied way at the people who pass before him on the
The whole scene is perfect. You could not pick a fault in it
anywhere. Just now a child wanders across the road, following a
little hoop which quivers and rolls in front of it. The anxious
nurse runs after it to take its hand for fear of a passing carriage.
Perfect. It must have happened. If it had not you would have
missed something. A sense of uneasiness would have come to you
from the scene. But it does happen. The nurse and child reach
the other side of the road ; and now you see that the line they
took in crossing was also necessary to the whole picture. You
cannot tell why, but you feel that it is part of a scheme. Examine
everything round you : a satisfying proportion suggests itself to
you, an appropriateness in the relationship of one thing to another,
and this not through the cunning of an architect : for the build-
ings are in mixed styles, some very different from those standing
next to them, but the colours, softened by age, mingle into a
harmony made all the more subtle by the light haze that is over
How strange the houses opposite look as soon as the pictorial
view of them fades from the mind. It is so impossible to believe
that they contain all the attributes of the interior of a house and
that people actually live in them. They are so high, and then
those rows upon rows of windows—not mere pieces of glass fixed
in a flat wall such as would suggest that they were to let in the
light of the sun for human use—but elaborate contrivances of
some fanciful builder, with cornices and ornamental frames. No,
it is impossible to think of them as having anything to do with a
place where people dwell, and yet there is a consistent beauty
about the whole scene of which they are a part.
Look at a small window at the corner of a block right at the
top. This has a beauty of its own. You can look at it by day
or by night, in summer or winter, it is always beautiful. Only a
narrow border of wall separates it from the air above and on one
side. Look at it now.
The lower sash has been raised a little. In the middle, hanging
a little below the level to which the sash has been raised, is a tassel
on a fine cord belonging to a yellow blind now rolled up. This
tassel is gently swinging about in the breeze while the people are
walking to and fro below in the sunlit street. See how it bobs
backwards and forwards with a kind of silent laziness.
Now it is swinging sideways. It almost touches the white
muslin curtains that hang on each side. They are not quite still
either. Occasionally they flutter as a breath of wind catches
them. Standing on the sill outside is a tiny little pot with a
fuzzy green plant in it. The leaves are so small that you can
only just see that the wind is playing with them too, very
No one comes to the window ; very likely there is no one in
the room ; at all events, this tassel has nothing to do with the
inmates. It is part of the outside of the house : one gem in the
great beauty of the street outside. Besides, the inmates cannot
have intended things to be so. Are not windows made to see out
of ! Who would put pretty white curtains in front to flutter in
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. S
the wind and a tassel to swing about so gracefully ? No, they
have got there somehow, because the street wanted it—that
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
The sun has thrown a red glow on to the window pane. The
tassel is almost still. It is evening now, and all the pretty ladies
have gone home. Their afternoon lounge is over. The shops
are putting up great shutters, and all the street is growing black
Look at the little window. The yellow blind is down and a
light behind gives to it a soft, warm colour. In the centre is a
black shadow which we can recognise to be the shape of the back
of a small looking-glass. But we do not think of the looking-
glass. We only see a bright yellow ground with a queerly shaped
black shadow in the centre, and on each side of it a dark wing
formed by the shape of the muslin curtains. The little fuzzy
plant is gone. The rest of the street has lost the aspect that it
wore this afternoon, but the little window is still beautiful.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
And now it is a hot summer night and the stars are out, and
lovers are walking in couples along the dusty street, and there is
stillness in the air. It has been so hot all day. The sun blazed
down upon the white pavement and the people crawled lazily
along the streets. The window was wide open all day, but the
tassel hung straight down like a rod and never moved, and the
little fuzzy plant became quite brown and shrivelled as the
burning rays beat down upon it.
Now it is dark, and still there is something beautiful in the
window—a white patch up in the corner of the pane—the reflection
of a large brilliant star. And underneath, the lazy shuffling of
the lovers’ feet along the pavement. Surely no living person
could have lifted the sash so skilfully that the glass could catch
the image of that star ?
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
The heat has passed away. A mild damp wind is sweeping
over the street, whirling along the dry leaves from the trees in
the little gardens in front of the houses ; they rush and crackle
as they fly along the pavement. People hurry along, struggling
with the wind. They do not loiter at the shop windows. The
little window is closed. Occasionally the tassel moves in a
spasmodic way, and the white curtains shudder when the wind
rushes in through some crevice. So far there is nothing beautiful ;
but in a moment the light shifts. Look, now there is a thin
metallic blue reflection in the pane ; and now great masses of
white float swiftly across it. Watch them, one after another.
How quickly they pass ! Who put that window in such a position
that it might catch the beauty of these fleeting clouds ? Is it to
make up for the little fuzzy plant ? For that is gone for ever.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
A thin yellow fog is over the street, and under foot there is
a thick mud from the recent snow ; the air is very cold, and a
drizzling rain is trickling through the fog upon the few people
who are in the street. There is a cold silence about it to-day.
Occasionally you may hear the sticky noise made by a cart or
carriage making its way through the muddy floor of the street.
It is not dark enough to light the gas inside the houses, and so
the street looks dead and deserted.
As you look up at the little window, a yellow glimmer springs
up behind the water-bespattered pane. The thin yellow fog
round the window is scattered into single points of black and
pale green that tingle. The rest of the street is as before, but
now it seems a mere setting to this window, exactly the right
deadness of tone and feeling to set off the brilliance of this bit.
And then this patch of light appeared exactly at the right
moment. A second later, the lights spring up in all the
windows, and the character of the scene is changed. The little
window would have a fresh relation to the other things in the
street, but some singular beauty in its new form would surely
appear. It must : it is inevitable. And yet it was only an acci-
dent that that light appeared when it did. Some one may have
wanted to read and found it necessary to light the gas, but the
street has nothing to do with that, nor has the little window.
All that was necessary for it to preserve its reputation was a
particular light at a particular moment behind the watery pane.
So it happened—by accident of course : a beautiful accident.
By A. S. Hartrick
Four Prose Fancies
I.—On Loving One’s Enemies
LIKE all people who live apart from it, the Founder of the
Christian religion was possessed of a profound knowledge of
the world. As, according to the proverb, the woodlander sees
nothing of the wood, because of its trees, so those who live in the
world know nothing of it. They know its gaudy, glittering sur-
face, its Crystal Palace fireworks, and the paste-diamonds with
which it bedecks itself; they know its music halls and its night
clubs, its Piccadillies and its politics, its restaurants and its salons ;
but of the bad—or good ?—heart of it all, they know nothing. In
more meanings than one, it takes a saint to catch a sinner; and
Christ certainly knew as well as saved the sinner.
But none of His precepts show a truer knowledge of life and its
conditions than His commandment that we should love our enemies.
He realised—can we doubt?—that without enemies the Church
He bade His followers build could not hope to be established. He
knew that the spiritual fire He strove to kindle would spread but a
little unless the four winds of the world blew against it. Well,
indeed, may the Christian Church love its enemies, for it is they
who have made it.
Indeed, for a man, or a cause, that wants to get on there is
nothing like a few hearty, zealous enemies. Most of us would
never be heard of if it were not for our enemies. The unsuccess-
ful man counts up his friends, but the successful man numbers his
enemies. A friend of mine was lamenting, the other day, that he
could not find twelve people to disbelieve in him. He had been seek-
ing them for years, he sighed, and could not get beyond eleven. But,
even so, with only eleven he was a very successful man. In these
kind-hearted days enemies are becoming so rare that one has to go
out of one’s way to make them. The true interpretation, there-
fore, of the easiest of the commandments is— make your enemies,
and your enemies will make you.
So soon as the armed men begin to spring up in our fields, we
may be sure we have not sown in vain.
Properly understood, an enemy is but a negative embodiment
of our personalities or ideas. He is the involuntary witness to
our vitality. Much as he despises us, greatly as he may injure
us, he is none the less a creature of our making. It was we who
put into him the breath of his malignity, and inspired the activity
of his malice. Therefore, with his very existence so tremendous
a tribute, we can afford to smile at his self-conscious disclaimers of
our significance. Though he slay us, we made him —to ” make an
enemy,” is not that the phrase ?
Indeed, the fact that he is our enemy is his one raison
That alone should make us charitable to him. Live and let live.
Without us our enemy has no occupation, for to hate us is his
profession. Think of his wives and families !
The friendship of the little for the great is an old-established pro-
fession ; there is but one older—namely, the hatred of the little for
the great ; and, though it is perhaps less officially recognised, it is
without doubt the more lucrative. It is one of the shortest roads
to fame. Why is the name of Pontius Pilate an uneasy ghost or
history ? Think what fame it would have meant to be an enemy of
Socrates or Shakespeare ! Blackwood’s Magazine and The Quarterly
Review only survive to-day because they once did their best to
strangle the genius of Keats and Tennyson. Two or three
journals of our own time, by the same unfailing method, seek
that circulation from posterity which is denied them in the
This is particularly true in literature, where the literary enemy
is as organised a tradesman as the literary agent. Like the literary
agent, he naturally does his best to secure the biggest men. No
doubt the time will come when the literary cut-throat—shall we
call him ?—will publish dainty little books of testimonials from
authors, full of effusive gratitude for the manner in which they
have been slashed and bludgeoned into fame. ” Butcher to Mr.
Grant Allen ” may then become a familiar legend over literary
Ah ! did you stab at Shelley’s heart
With silly sneer and cruel lie ?
And Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Keats,
To murder did you nobly try ?
You failed, ’tis true ; but what of that ?
The world remembers still your name—
‘Tis fame, for you, to be the cur
That barks behind the heels of Fame.
Any one who is fortunate enough to have enemies will know
that all this is far from being fanciful. If one’s enemies have any
other raison d’être beyond the fact of their being our enemies —
what is it ? They are neither beautiful nor clever, wise nor good,
famous, nor, indeed, passably distinguished. Were they any of
these, they would not have taken to so humble a means of getting
their living. Instead of being our enemies, they could then have
afforded to employ enemies on their own account.
Who, indeed, are our enemies ? Broadly speaking, they are all
those people who lack what we possess.
If you are rich, every poor man is necessarily your enemy. If
you are beautiful, the great democracy of the plain and ugly will
mock you in the streets.
It will be the same with everything you possess. The brainless
will never forgive you for possessing brains, the weak will hate
you for your strength, and the evil for your good heart. If you
can write, all the bad writers are at once your foes. If you can
paint, the bad painters will talk you down. But more than any
talent or charm you may possess, the pearl of price for which you
will be most bitterly hated will be your success. You can be the
most wonderful person that ever existed so long as you don’t suc-
ceed, and nobody will mind. ” It is the sunshine,” says some one,
” that brings out the adder.” So powerful, indeed, is success that
it has been known to turn a friend into a foe. Those, then, who
wish to engage a few trusty enemies out of place need only
advertise among the unsuccessful.
P.S.—For one service we should be particularly thankful to our
enemies they save us so much in stimulants. Their unbelief
so helps our belief, their negatives make us so positive.
It is a curious truth that, whereas in every other art deliberate
choice of method and careful calculation of effect are expected
from the artist, in the greatest and most difficult art of all, the art
of life, this is not so. In literature, painting, or sculpture you first
evolve your conception, and then after long study of it, as it still
glows and shimmers in your imagination, you set about the
reverent selection of that form which shall be its most truthful
incarnation, in words, in paint, in marble. Now life, as has been
said many times, is an art too. Sententious morality from time
past has told us that we are each given a part to play, evidently
implying, with involuntary cynicism, that the art of life is—the
art of acting !
As with the actor we are each given a certain dramatic concep-
tion for the expression of which we have precisely the same artistic
materials—namely, our own bodies, sometimes including heart and
brains. One has often heard the complaint of a certain actor that
he acts himself. On the metaphorical stage of life the complaint
and the implied demand are just the reverse. How much more
interesting life would be if only more people had the courage and
skill to act themselves, instead of abjectly understudying some one
else. Of course, there are supers on the stage of life as on the
real stage. It is proper that these should dress and speak and think
alike. These one courteously excepts from the generalisation that
the composer of the play, as Marcus Aurelius calls him, has given
us a certain part to play—that part simply oneself : a part, need
one say, by no means as easy as it seems ; a part most difficult to
study, and requiring daily rehearsal. So difficult is it, indeed, that
most people throw up the part, and join the ranks of the supers
— who, curiously enough, are paid much more handsomely than
the principals. They enter one of the learned or idle professions,
join the army or take to trade, and so speedily rid themselves of
the irksome necessity of being anything more individual than
” the learned counsel,” ” the learned judge,” ” my lord bishop,” or
” the colonel,” names impersonal in application as the dignity of
” Pharaoh,” whereof the name and not the man was alone im-
portant. Henceforth they are the Church, the Law, the Army, the
City, or that vaguer profession, Society. Entering one of these,
they become as lost to the really living world as the monk who
voluntarily surrenders all will and character of his own at the
threshold of his monastery : bricks in a prison wall, privates in
the line, peas in a row. But, as I say, these are the parts that pay.
For playing the others, indeed, you are not paid, but expected to
It is full time we turned to those on whom falls the burden of
those real parts. Such, when quite young, if they be conscientious
artists, will carefully consider themselves, their gifts and possi-
bilities, study to discover their artistic raison d’être and how best
to fulfil it. He or she will say : Here am I, a creature of great
gifts and exquisite sensibilities, drawn by great dreams, and
vibrating to great emotions ; yet this potent and exquisite self is
as yet, I know, but unwrought material of the perfect work of
art it is intended that I should make of it—but the marble where
upon with patient chisel I must liberate the perfect and triumphant
ME ! As a poet listening with trembling ear to the voice of his
inspiration, so I tremulously ask myself—what is the divine con-
ception that is to become embodied in me, what is the divine
meaning of ME ? How best shall I express it in look, in word, in
deed, till my outer self becomes the truthful symbol of my inner
self—till, in fact, I have successfully placed the best of myself on
the outside !—for others besides myself to see, and know and love !
What is my part, and how am I to play it ?
Returning to the latter image, there are two difficulties that beset
one in playing a part on the stage of life, right at the outset. You
are not allowed to ” look ” it, or ” dress ” it ! What would an actor
think, who, asked to play Hamlet, found that he would be expected
to play it without make-up and in nineteenth-century costume ?
Yet many of us are in a like dilemma with similar parts. Actors
and audience must all wear the same drab clothes and the same
immobile expression. It is in vain you protest that you do not
really belong to this absurd and vulgar nineteenth century, that
you have been spirited into it by a cruel mistake, that you really
belong to mediaeval Florence, to Elizabethan, Caroline, or at
latest Queen Anne England, and that you would like to be
allowed to look and dress as like it as possible. It is no use ; if
you dare to look or dress like anything but your own tradesmen —
and other critics—it is at your peril. If you are beautiful, you are
expected to disguise a fact that is an open insult to every other
person you look at ; and you must, as a general rule, never look,
wear, feel, or say what everybody else is not also looking, wearing,
feeling, or saying.
Thus you get some hint of the difficulty of playing the part of
yourself on this stage of life. In these matters of dressing and
looking your part musicians seem granted an immunity denied to
all their fellow-artists. Perhaps it is taken for granted that the
musician is a fool—the British public is so intuitive. Yet it
takes the same view of the poet—without allowing him a like
immunity. And, by the way, what a fine conception of his part
had Tennyson : of the dignity, the mystery, the picturesqueness
of it. Tennyson would have felt it an artistic crime to look like
his publisher ; yet what poet is there left us to-day half so distin-
guished-looking as his publisher ?
Indeed, curiously enough, among no set of men does the desire
to look as commonplace as the rest of the world seem so strong as
among men of letters. Perhaps it is out of consideration for the
rest of the world ; but whatever the reason, immobility of ex-
pression and general mediocrity of style are more characteristic
of them at present than even the military.
It is surely a strange paradox that we should pride ourselves on
schooling to foolish insensibility, on eliminating from them every
mark of individual character, the faces that were intended subtly
and eloquently to image our moods—to look glad when we are
glad, sorry when we are sorry, angry in anger, and lovely in
The impassivity of the modern young man is indeed a weird
and wonderful thing. Is it a mark to hide from us the appalling
sins he none the less openly affects ? Is it meant to conceal that
once in his life he paid a wild visit to ” The Empire “—by kind
indulgence of the County Council ? that he once chucked a bar-
maid under the chin, that he once nearly got drunk, that he once
spoke to a young lady he did not know—and then ran away ?
One sighs for the young men of the days of Gautier and Hugo,
the young men with red waistcoats who made asses of themselves
at first nights and on the barricades, young men with romance in
their hearts and passion in their blood, fearlessly sentimental and
The lover then was not ashamed that you should catch radiant
glimpses of his love in his eyes—nay ! if you smiled kindly on
him, he would take you by the arm and insist on your breaking a
bottle with him in honour of his mistress. Joy and sorrow then
wore their appropriate colours, according, so to say, to the natural
sumptuary laws of the emotions—one of which is that the right
place for the heart is the sleeve.
It is the duty of those who are great, or to whom great
destinies of joy or sorrow have been dealt, to wear their dis-
tinctions for the world to see. It is good for the world, which in
its crude way indicates the rudiments of this dramatic art of life,
when it decrees that the bride shall walk radiant in orange
blossom, and the mourner sadden our streets with blacks—symbols
ever passing before us of the moving vicissitudes of life.
The mourner cannot always be sad, or the bride merry ; the
bride indeed sometimes weeps at the altar, and the mourner laughs
a savage cynical laugh at the grave ; but for those moments in
which they awhile forget parts more important than themselves,
the tailor and the dressmaker have provided symbolical garments,
just as military decorations have been provided for heroes without
the gift of looking heroic, and sacerdotal vestments for the priest,
who, like a policeman, is not always on duty.
In playing his part the conscientious artist in life, like any
other actor, must often seem to feel more than he really feels at a
given moment, say more than he means. In this he is far from
being insincere—though he must make up his mind to be accused
daily of insincerity and affectation. On the contrary, it will be
his very sincerity that necessitates his make-believe. With his
great part ever before him in its inspiring completeness, he must
be careful to allow no merely personal accident of momentary
feeling or action to jeopardise the general effect. There are
moments, for example, when a really true lover, owing to such
masterful natural facts as indigestion, a cold, or extreme sleepiness,
is unable to feel all that he knows he really feels. To ” tell the
truth,” as it is called under such circumstances, would simply be a
most dangerous form of lying. There is no duty we owe to
truth more imperative than that of lying stoutly on occasion —
for, indeed, there is often no other way of conveying the whole
truth than by telling the part-lie.
A watchful sincerity to our great conception ot ourselves is the
first and last condition of our creating that finest work of art—a
personality ; for a personality, like a poet, is not only born, but
III.—The Arbitrary Classification of Sex
In an essay on Vauvenargues Mr. John Morley speaks with
characteristic causticity of those epigrammatists ” who persist in
thinking of man and woman as two different species,” and who
make verbal capital out of the fancied distinction in the form of
smart epigrams beginning ” Les femmes.” It is one of Shake-
speare’s cardinal characteristics that he understood woman. Mr.
Meredith’s fame as a novelist is largely due to the fact that he too
understands women. The one spot on the sun of Robert Louis
Stevenson’s fame, so we are told, is that he could never draw a
woman. His capacity for drawing men counted for nothing,
apparently, beside this failure. Evidently the Sphinx has not the
face of a woman for nothing. That is why no one has yet read
her riddle, translated her mystic smile. Yet many people smile
mysteriously, without any profound meanings behind their smile,
with no other reason than a desire to mystify. Perhaps the
Sphinx smiles to herself just for the fun of seeing us take her
smile so seriously. And surely women must so smile as they hear
their psychology so gravely discussed. Of course, the superstition is
invaluable to them, and it is only natural that they should make
the most of it. Man is supposed to be a complete ignoramus in
regard to all the specialised female ” departments “—from the
supreme mystery of the female heart to the humble domestic
mysteries of a household. Similarly, men are supposed to have
no taste in women’s dress, yet for whom do women clothe them-
selves in the rainbow and the sea-foam, if not to please men ? And
was not the high-priest of that delicious and fascinating mystery
a man—if it be proper to call the late M. Worth a man ?—as the
best cooks are men, and the best waiters ?
It would seem to be assumed from all this mystification that
men are beings clear as daylight, both to themselves and to
women. Poor simple manageable souls, their wants are easily
satisfied, their psychology—which, it is implied, differs little from
their physiology—long since mapped out.
It may be so, but it is the opinion of some that men’s simplicity
is no less a fiction than women’s mysterious complexity, and that
human character is made up of much the same qualities in men
and women, irrespective of a merely rudimentary sexual dis-
tinction, which has, of course, its proper importance, and which
the present writer would be the last to wish away. From that
quaint distinction of sex springs, of course, all that makes life
in the smallest degree worth living, from great religions to tiny
flowers. Love and beauty and poetry ; ” Romeo and Juliet,”
” Helen of Troy,” Shakespeare’s plays, Burne-Jones’s pictures, and
Wagner’s operas—all such moving expressions of human life, as
a great scientist has shown us, spring from the all-important fact
that ” male and female created He them.”
This everybody knows, and few are fool enough to deny.
Many people, however, confuse this organic distinction of sex
with its time-worn conventional symbols ; just as religion is
commonly confused with its external rites and ceremonies. The
comparison naturally continues itself further ; for, as in religion so
The Yellow Book—Vol. VI. T
soon as some traditional garment of the faith has become outworn
or otherwise unsuitable, and the proposal is made to dispense with
or substitute it, an outcry immediately is raised that religion
itself is in danger—so with sex, no sooner does one or the other
sex propose to discard its arbitrary conventional characteristics,
or to supplement them by others borrowed from its fellow-sex,
than an outcry immediately is raised that sex itself is in danger.
Sex—the most potent force in the universe—in danger because
women wear knickerbockers instead of petticoats, or military men
take to corsets and cosmetics !
That parallel with religion may be pursued profitably one step
further. In religion, the test of your faith is not how you live,
not in your kindness of heart or purity of mind, but how you
believe—in the Trinity, in the Atonement ; and do you turn to
the East during the recital of the Apostles’ Creed ? These and
such, as every one knows, are the vital matters of religion. And
it is even so with sex. You are not asked for the realities of
manliness or womanliness ; but for the shadows, the arbitrary
externalities, the fashion of which changes from generation to
To be truly womanly you must never wear your hair short ;
to be truly manly you must never wear it long. To be truly
womanly you must dress as daintily as possible, however uncom-
fortably ; to be truly manly you must wear the most hideous
gear ever invented by the servility of tailors—a strange succession
of cylinders from head to heel ; cylinder on head, cylinder round
your body, cylinders on arms and cylinders on legs. To be truly
womanly you must be shrinking and clinging in manner and
trivial in conversation, you must have no ideas and rejoice that
you wish for none ; you must thank Heaven that you have
never ridden a bicycle or smoked a cigarette ; and you must be
prepared to do a thousand other absurd and ridiculous things.
To be truly manly you must be and do the opposite of all these
things, with this exception—that with you the possession of ideas
is optional. The finest specimens of British manhood are without
them, but that, I say, is, generally speaking, a matter for yourself.
It is indeed the only matter in which you have any choice. More
important matters, such as the cut of your clothes and hair, the
shape of your face, the length of your moustache and the pattern
of your cane—all these are very properly regulated for you by
laws of fashion, which you could never dream of breaking. You
may break every moral law there is—or rather, was—and still
remain a man. You may be a bully, a cad, a coward and a fool
in the poor heart and brains of you ; but so long as you wear the
mock regimentals of contemporary manhood, and are above all
things plain and undistinguished enough, your reputation for
manhood will be secure. There is nothing so dangerous to a
reputation for manhood as brains or beauty.
In short, to be a true woman you have only to be pretty and an
idiot, and to be a true man you have only to be brutal and a fool.
From these misconceptions of manliness and womanliness,
these superstitions of sex, many curious confusions have come
about. The, so to say, professional differentiation between the
sexes had at one time gone so far that men were credited with the
entire monopoly of a certain set of human qualities, and women
with the monopoly of a certain set of other human qualities ; yet
every one of these are qualities which one would have thought
were proper to, and necessary for, all human beings alike, male
In a dictionary of a date (1856) when everything on earth and
in heaven was settled and written in penny cyclopedias and books
of deportment, I find these delicious definitions :
Manly : becoming a man ; firm ; brave ; undaunted ;
noble ; stately ; not boyish or womanish.
Womanly : becoming a woman ; feminine; as womanly behaviour.
Under Woman we find the adjectives—soft, mild,
flexible, kind, civil, obliging, humane, tender, timorous, modest.
Who can doubt that the dictionary maker defined and distributed
his adjectives aright for the year 1856 ? Since then, however,
many alarming heresies have taken root steadily in our land, and
some are heard to declare that both these sets of adjectives apply
to men and women alike, and are, in facr, necessities of any decent
human outfit. Otherwise the conclusion is obvious, that no one
desirous of the adjective ” manly ” must ever be—soft, mild,
pitiful and flexible, kind, civil, obliging, humane, tender, timorous,
or modest ; and no one desirous of the adjective ” womanly “—be
firm, brave, undaunted, dignified, noble, or stately.
But surely the essentials of ” manliness ” and ” womanliness “
belong to man and woman alike—the externals are purely artistic
considerations, and subject to the vagaries of fashion. In art no one
would think of allowing fashion any serious artistic opinion. It is
usually the art which is out of fashion that is most truly art.
Similarly, fashions in manliness or womanliness have nothing to
do with real manliness or womanliness. Moreover, the adjectives
” manly ” or ” womanly,” applied to works of art, or the artistic
surfaces of men and women, are irrelevant—that is to say, imper-
tinent. You have no right to ask a poem or a picture to look
manly or womanly, any more than you have any right to ask a
man or a woman to look manly or womanly. There is no such
thing as looking manly or womanly. There is looking beautiful
or ugly, distinguished or commonplace. The one law or
externals is beauty in all its various manifestations. To ask the
sex of a beautiful person is as absurd as it would be to ask the
publisher the sex of a beautiful book. Such questions are for
midwives and doctors.
It was once the fashion for heroes to shed tears on the smallest
occasion, and it does not appear that they fought the worse for it :
some of the firmest, bravest, most undaunted, some dignified, most
noble, most stately human beings have been women ; as some of
the softest, mildest, most pitiful and flexible, most kind, civil,
obliging, humane, tender, timorous and modest human beings have
been men. Indeed, the bravest men that ever trod this planet
have worn corsets, and it needs more courage nowadays for a man
to wear his hair long than to machine-gun a whole African nation.
Moreover, quite the nicest women one knows ride bicycles—in the
IV.—The Fallacy of a Nation
It is, I am given to understand, a familiar axiom of mathe-
matics that no number of ciphers placed in front of significant
units, or tens or hundreds of units, adds in the smallest degree
to the numerical value of those units. The figure one becomes
of no more importance however many noughts are marshalled
in front of it—though, indeed, in the mathematics of human
nature this is not so. Is not a man or woman considered great
in proportion to the number of ciphers that walk in front of
him, from a humble brace of domestics to guards of honour and
imperial armies ?
A parallel profound truth of mathematics is that a nought, how-
ever many times it be multiplied, remains nought ; but again
we find the reverse obtain in the mathematics of human nature.
One might have supposed that the result of one nobody multiplied
even fifty million times would still be nobody. However, such is
far from being the case. Fifty million nobodies make—a nation.
Of course, there is no need for so many. I am reckoning as a
British subject, and speak of fifty million merely as an illustration
of the general fact that it is the multiplication of nobodies that
makes a nation. ” Increase and multiply ” was, it will be
remembered, the recipe for the Jewish nation.
Nobodies of the same colour, tongues, and prejudices, have but
to congregate together in a crowd sufficiently big for other similar
crowds to recognise them, and they are given a name of their own,
and become recognised as a nation—one of ” the Great Powers.”
Beyond those differences in colour, tongue, and prejudices,
there is really no difference between the component units—or
rather ciphers—of all these several national crowds. You have
seen a procession of various trades-unions filing towards Hyde Park,
each section with its particular banner of a strange device :
” the United Guild of Paperhangers,” ” the Ancient Order of
Plumbers,” and so on. And you may have marvelled to notice
how alike the members of the various carefully differentiated com-
panies were. So to say, they each and all might have been
plumbers ; and you couldn’t help feeling that it wouldn’t have
mattered much if some of the paperhangers had by mistake got
walking amongst the plumbers, or vice versa.
So the great trades-unions of the world file past, one with the
odd word ” Russia ” on its banner; another boasting itself
” Germany “—this with a particularly bumptious and self-im-
portant young man walking backward in front of it, in the manner
of a Salvation Army captain, and imperially waving an iron wand ;
still another ” nation ” calling itself ” France ” ; and yet another
boasting the biggest brass band, and called ” England.” Other
smaller bodies of nobodies—that is, smaller nations—file past with
humbler tread—though there is really no need for their doing so.
For, as we have said, they are in every particular like to those
haughtier nations who take precedence of them. In fact, one or
two of them such as Norway and Denmark—were a truer system
of human mathematics to obtain—are really of more importance
than the so-called greater nations, in that among their nobodies
they include a larger percentage of intellectual somebodies.
Remembering that percentage of wise men, the formula of a
nation were perhaps more truly stated in our first mathematical
image. The wise men in a nation are as the units with the
noughts in front of them. And when I say wise men I do not,
indeed, mean merely the literary men or the artists, but all those
somebodies with some real force of character, people with brains
and hearts, fighters and lovers, saints and thinkers, and the patient
industrious workers. Such, if you consider, are really no integral
part of the nation among which they are cast. They have no
part in what are grandiloquently called national interests—war,
politics, and horse-racing to wit. A change of Government leaves
them as unmoved as an election for the Board of Guardians. They
would as soon think of entering Parliament or the County Council,
as of yearning to manage the gasworks, or to go about with one
of those carts bearing the legend ” Aldermen and Burgesses of
the City of London ” conspicuously upon its front. Their main
concern in political change is the rise and fall of the income-tax,
and, be the Cabinet Tory or Liberal, their rate papers come in for
the same amount. It is likely that national changes would affect
them but little more. What would a foreign invasion mean more
than that we should pay our taxes to French, Russian, or German
officials, instead of to English ones ? French and Italians do
our cooking, Germans manage our music, Jews control our
money markets ; surely it would make little difference to us for
France, Russia, or Germany to undertake our government.
Japan, indeed, already dictates our foreign policy. The worst of
being conquered by Russia would be the necessity of learning
Russian ; whereas a little rubbing up of our French would make
us comfortable with France. Besides, to be conquered by France
would save us crossing the Channel to Paris, and then we might
hope for cafés in Regent Street, and an emancipated literature.
As a matter of fact, so-called national interests are merely certain
private interests on a large scale, the private interests of financiers,
ambitious politicians and soldiers, and great merchants. Broadly
speaking, there are no rival nations—there are rival markets, and
it is its Board of Trade and its Stock Exchange rather than its
Houses of Parliament that virtually govern a country. Thus
one seaport goes down and another comes up, industries forsake
one country to bless another, the military and naval strengths of
nations fluctuate this way and that ; and to those whom these
changes affect they are undoubtedly important matters—the great
capitalist, the soldier, and the politician ; but to the quiet man at
home with his wife, his children, his books and his flowers, to the
artist busied with braver translunary matters, to the saint with his
eyes filled with ” the white radiance of eternity,” to the shepherd
on the hillside, the milkmaid in love, or the angler at his sport —
what are these pompous commotions, these busy, bustling mimicries
of reality ? England will be just as good to live in though men
some day call her France. Let the big busybodies divide her
amongst them as they like, so that they leave one alone with one’s
fair share of the sky and the grass, and an occasional not too
The reader will perhaps forgive the hackneyed reference to Sir
Thomas Browne peacefully writing his Religio Medici amid all
the commotions of the Civil War, and to Gautier calmly cor-
recting the proofs of his new poems during the siege of Paris.
The milkman goes his rounds amid the crash of empires. It is
not his business to fight. His business is to distribute his milk —
as much after half-past seven as may be inconvenient. Similarly,
the business of the thinker is with his thought, the poet with his
poetry. It is the business of politicians to make national quarrels,
and the business of the soldier to fight them. But as for the poet
— let him correct his proofs, or beware the printer.
The idea, then, of a nation is a grandiloquent fallacy in the
interests of commerce and ambition—political and military. All
the great and good, clever and charming people belong to one
secret nation, for which there is no name unless it be the Chosen
People. They are the lost tribes of love, art and religion, lost and
swamped amid alien peoples, but ever dreaming of a time when
they shall meet once more in Jerusalem.
Yet though they are thus aliens, taking and wishing no part in
the organisation of the ” nations ” among which they dwell, this
does not prevent those nations taking part and credit in them.
And whenever a brave soldier wins a battle, or an intrepid traveller
discovers a new land, his particular nation flatters itself as though
it—the million nobodies—had done it. With a profound in-
difference to, indeed an active dislike of, art and poetry, there is
nothing on which a nation prides itself so much as upon its artists
and poets, whom, invariably, they starve, neglect, and even insult
as long as it is not too silly to do so.
Thus the average Englishman talks of Shakespeare—as though
he himself had written the plays ; of India as though he himself
had conquered it. And thus grow up such fictions as ” national
greatness” and ” public opinion.”
For what is ” national greatness ” but the glory reflected from
the memories of a few great individuals ? and what is ” public
opinion ” but the blustering echoes of the opinion of a few clever
young men on the morning papers ?
For how can people in themselves little become great by merely
congregating into a crowd, however large ? And surely fools do
not become wise, or worth listening to, merely by the fact of
their banding together.
A ” public opinion ” on any matter except football, prize-
fighting, and perhaps cricket, is merely ridiculous—by whatever
brutal physical powers it may be enforced—ridiculous as a town
council’s opinion upon art ; and a nation is merely a big fool with
I. Going to Church
Two Letters to a Friend
O LOVE, my love ! if I no more should see Thyself,
nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
How then should sound upon Life’s darkening slope
The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
The wind of Death’s imperishable wing ?
D. G. R.
Letter I.—After the Wedding
BRIGHT-BROWED as Summer’s self who claspt the land—
With eyes like English skies, where seemed to play
Deep azure dreams behind the tender grey—
All light and love, she moved : I see her stand
Beneath that tree ; I see the happy band
Of bridesmaids on the lawn where blossoms sway
In light so rare it seems as if the day
Glowed conscious of the future’s golden strand.
O Friend, if sun and wind and flowers and birds
In language deeper drawn than human words
From deeper founts than Time shall e’er destroy,
All spoke to thee in Summer’s rich caress,
Even so my heart, though wordless too, could bless :
It could but feel a joy to know thy joy.
Letter II.—After Death’s Mockery
When Death from out the dark, by one blind blow,
Strikes down Love’s heart of hearts—severs a life—
Cleaves it in twain as by a sudden knife,
Leaving the dreadful Present, dumb with woe,
Mocked by a Past whose rainbow-skies aglow
O’erarch Love’s bowers where all his flowers seem rife
In bloom of one sweet loving girl and wife—
Then Friendship’s voice must whisper, whisper low.
Though well I know ’tis thou who dost inherit
Heroic blood and faith that lends the spirit
Strength known to souls like thine of noblest strain,
Comfort I dare not proffer. What relief
Shall Friendship proffer Love in such wild grief?
I can but suffer pain to know thy pain :
I can but suffer pain ; and yet to me
Returns that day whose light seemed heavenly light,
Whose breath seemed incense rising to unite
That lawn—where every flower, and bird and bee
Seemed loving her who shone beneath that tree—
With lawns far off whose flower of higher delight
Behind Death’s icy peaks and fens of night
Bloomed ‘neath a heaven her eyes, not ours, could see.
Brother, did Nature mock us with that glory
Which seemed to prophesy Love’s rounded story ?
Or was it, that sweet Summer’s fond device
To show thee who shall stand on Eden slopes,
Where bloom the broken buds of earthly hopes—
Stand waiting ‘neath a tree of Paradise ?
The Yellow Book, vol. 6, July 1895. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021. https://1890s.ca/YBV6_all