New Grub Street
Part 1 out of 13
Etext prepared by John Handford
NEW GRUB STREET
by George Gissing
Chapter I. A Man of his Day
Chapter II. The House of Yule
Chapter III. Holiday
Chapter IV. An Author and his Wife
Chapter V. The Way Hither
Chapter VI. The Practical Friend
Chapter VII. Marian's Home
Chapter VIII. To the Winning Side
Chapter IX. Invita Minerva
Chapter X. The Friends of the Family
Chapter XI. Respite
Chapter XII. Work Without Hope
Chapter XIII. A Warning
Chapter XIV. Recruits
Chapter XV. The Last Resource
Chapter XVI. Rejection
Chapter XVII. The Parting
Chapter XVIII. The Old Home
Chapter XIX. The Past Revived
Chapter XX. The End of Waiting
Chapter XXI. Mr Yule leaves Town
Chapter XXII. The Legatees
Chapter XXIII. A Proposed Investment
Chapter XXIV. Jasper's Magnanimity
Chapter XXV . A Fruitless Meeting
Chapter XXVI. Married Woman's Property
Chapter XXVII. The Lonely Man
Chapter XXVIII. Interim
Chapter XXIX. Catastrophe
Chapter XXX. Waiting on Destiny
Chapter XXXI. A Rescue and a Summons
Chapter XXXII. Reardon becomes Practical
Chapter XXXIII. The Sunny Way
Chapter XXXIV. A Check
Chapter XXXV. Fever and Rest
Chapter XXXVI. Jasper's Delicate Case
Chapter XXXVII. Rewards
NEW GRUB STREET
CHAPTER I. A MAN OF HIS DAY
As the Milvains sat down to breakfast the clock of Wattleborough
parish church struck eight; it was two miles away, but the
strokes were borne very distinctly on the west wind this autumn
morning. Jasper, listening before he cracked an egg, remarked
'There's a man being hanged in London at this moment.'
'Surely it isn't necessary to let us know that,' said his sister
'And in such a tone, too!' protested his sister Dora.
'Who is it?' inquired Mrs Milvain, looking at her son with pained
'I don't know. It happened to catch my eye in the paper yesterday
that someone was to be hanged at Newgate this morning. There's a
certain satisfaction in reflecting that it is not oneself.'
'That's your selfish way of looking at things,' said Maud.
'Well,' returned Jasper, 'seeing that the fact came into my head,
what better use could I make of it? I could curse the brutality
of an age that sanctioned such things; or I could grow doleful
over the misery of the poor--fellow. But those emotions would be
as little profitable to others as to myself. It just happened
that I saw the thing in a light of consolation. Things are bad
with me, but not so bad as THAT. I might be going out between
Jack Ketch and the Chaplain to be hanged; instead of that, I am
eating a really fresh egg, and very excellent buttered toast,
with coffee as good as can be reasonably expected in this part of
the world.--(Do try boiling the milk, mother.)--The tone in which
I spoke was spontaneous; being so, it needs no justification.'
He was a young man of five-and-twenty, well built, though a
trifle meagre, and of pale complexion. He had hair that was very
nearly black, and a clean-shaven face, best described, perhaps,
as of bureaucratic type. The clothes he wore were of expensive
material, but had seen a good deal of service. His stand-up
collar curled over at the corners, and his necktie was lilac-
Of the two sisters, Dora, aged twenty, was the more like him in
visage, but she spoke with a gentleness which seemed to indicate
a different character. Maud, who was twenty-two, had bold,
handsome features, and very beautiful hair of russet tinge; hers
was not a face that readily smiled. Their mother had the look and
manners of an invalid, though she sat at table in the ordinary
way. All were dressed as ladies, though very simply. The room,
which looked upon a small patch of garden, was furnished with
old-fashioned comfort, only one or two objects suggesting the
decorative spirit of 1882.
'A man who comes to be hanged,' pursued Jasper, impartially, 'has
the satisfaction of knowing that he has brought society to its
last resource. He is a man of such fatal importance that nothing
will serve against him but the supreme effort of law. In a way,
you know, that is success.'
'In a way,' repeated Maud, scornfully.
'Suppose we talk of something else,' suggested Dora, who seemed
to fear a conflict between her sister and Jasper.
Almost at the same moment a diversion was afforded by the arrival
of the post. There was a letter for Mrs Milvain, a letter and
newspaper for her son. Whilst the girls and their mother talked
of unimportant news communicated by the one correspondent, Jasper
read the missive addressed to himself.
'This is from Reardon,' he remarked to the younger girl. 'Things
are going badly with him. He is just the kind of fellow to end by
poisoning or shooting himself.'
'Can't get anything done; and begins to be sore troubled on his
'Is he ill?'
'Overworked, I suppose. But it's just what I foresaw. He isn't
the kind of man to keep up literary production as a paying
business. In favourable circumstances he might write a fairly
good book once every two or three years. The failure of his last
depressed him, and now he is struggling hopelessly to get another
done before the winter season. Those people will come to grief.'
'The enjoyment with which he anticipates it!' murmured Maud,
looking at her mother.
'Not at all,' said Jasper. 'It's true I envied the fellow,
because he persuaded a handsome girl to believe in him and share
his risks, but I shall be very sorry if he goes to the--to the
dogs. He's my one serious friend. But it irritates me to see a
man making such large demands upon fortune. One must be more
modest--as I am. Because one book had a sort of success he
imagined his struggles were over. He got a hundred pounds for "On
Neutral Ground," and at once counted on a continuance of payments
in geometrical proportion. I hinted to him that he couldn't keep
it up, and he smiled with tolerance, no doubt thinking "He judges
me by himself." But I didn't do anything of the kind.--(Toast,
please, Dora.)--I'm a stronger man than Reardon; I can keep my
eyes open, and wait.'
'Is his wife the kind of person to grumble?' asked Mrs Milvain.
'Well, yes, I suspect that she is. The girl wasn't content to go
into modest rooms--they must furnish a flat. I rather wonder he
didn't start a carriage for her. Well, his next book brought only
another hundred, and now, even if he finishes this one, it's very
doubtful if he'll get as much. "The Optimist" was practically a
'Mr Yule may leave them some money,' said Dora.
'Yes. But he may live another ten years, and he would see them
both in Marylebone Workhouse before he advanced sixpence, or I'm
much mistaken in him. Her mother has only just enough to live
upon; can't possibly help them. Her brother wouldn't give or lend
'Has Mr Reardon no relatives!'
'I never heard him make mention of a single one. No, he has done
the fatal thing. A man in his position, if he marry at all, must
take either a work-girl or an heiress, and in many ways the work-
girl is preferable.'
'How can you say that?' asked Dora. 'You never cease talking
about the advantages of money.'
'Oh, I don't mean that for ME the work-girl would be preferable;
by no means; but for a man like Reardon. He is absurd enough to
be conscientious, likes to be called an "artist," and so on. He
might possibly earn a hundred and fifty a year if his mind were
at rest, and that would be enough if he had married a decent
little dressmaker. He wouldn't desire superfluities, and the
quality of his work would be its own reward. As it is, he's
'And I repeat,' said Maud, 'that you enjoy the prospect.'
'Nothing of the kind. If I seem to speak exultantly it's only
because my intellect enjoys the clear perception of a fact.--A
little marmalade, Dora; the home-made, please.'
'But this is very sad, Jasper,' said Mrs Milvain, in her half-
absent way. 'I suppose they can't even go for a holiday?'
'Quite out of the question.'
'Not even if you invited them to come here for a week?'
'Now, mother,' urged Maud, 'THAT'S impossible, you know very
'I thought we might make an effort, dear. A holiday might mean
everything to him.'
'No, no,' fell from Jasper, thoughtfully. 'I don't think you'd
get along very well with Mrs Reardon; and then, if her uncle is
coming to Mr Yule's, you know, that would be awkward.'
'I suppose it would; though those people would only stay a day or
two, Miss Harrow said.'
'Why can't Mr Yule make them friends, those two lots of people?'
asked Dora. 'You say he's on good terms with both.'
'I suppose he thinks it's no business of his.'
Jasper mused over the letter from his friend.
'Ten years hence,' he said, 'if Reardon is still alive, I shall
be lending him five-pound notes.'
A smile of irony rose to Maud's lips. Dora laughed.
'To be sure! To be sure!' exclaimed their brother. 'You have no
faith. But just understand the difference between a man like
Reardon and a man like me. He is the old type of unpractical
artist; I am the literary man of 1882. He won't make concessions,
or rather, he can't make them; he can't supply the market. I--
well, you may say that at present I do nothing; but that's a
great mistake, I am learning my business. Literature nowadays is
a trade. Putting aside men of genius, who may succeed by mere
cosmic force, your successful man of letters is your skilful
tradesman. He thinks first and foremost of the markets; when one
kind of goods begins to go off slackly, he is ready with
something new and appetising. He knows perfectly all the possible
sources of income. Whatever he has to sell he'll get payment for
it from all sorts of various quarters; none of your unpractical
selling for a lump sum to a middleman who will make six distinct
profits. Now, look you: if I had been in Reardon's place, I'd
have made four hundred at least out of "The Optimist"; I should
have gone shrewdly to work with magazines and newspapers and
foreign publishers, and--all sorts of people. Reardon can't do
that kind of thing, he's behind his age; he sells a manuscript as
if he lived in Sam Johnson's Grub Street. But our Grub Street of
to-day is quite a different place: it is supplied with
telegraphic communication, it knows what literary fare is in
demand in every part of the world, its inhabitants are men of
business, however seedy.'
'It sounds ignoble,' said Maud.
'I have nothing to do with that, my dear girl. Now, as I tell
you, I am slowly, but surely, learning the business. My line
won't be novels; I have failed in that direction, I'm not cut out
for the work. It's a pity, of course; there's a great deal of
money in it. But I have plenty of scope. In ten years, I repeat,
I shall be making my thousand a year.'
'I don't remember that you stated the exact sum before,' Maud
'Let it pass. And to those who have shall be given. When I have a
decent income of my own, I shall marry a woman with an income
somewhat larger, so that casualties may be provided for.'
Dora exclaimed, laughing:
'It would amuse me very much if the Reardons got a lot of money
at Mr Yule's death--and that can't be ten years off, I'm sure.'
'I don't see that there's any chance of their getting much,'
replied Jasper, meditatively. 'Mrs Reardon is only his niece. The
man's brother and sister will have the first helping, I suppose.
And then, if it comes to the second generation, the literary Yule
has a daughter, and by her being invited here I should think
she's the favourite niece. No, no; depend upon it they won't get
anything at all.'
Having finished his breakfast, he leaned back and began to unfold
the London paper that had come by post.
'Had Mr Reardon any hopes of that kind at the time of his
marriage, do you think?' inquired Mrs Milvain.
'Reardon? Good heavens, no! Would he were capable of such
In a few minutes Jasper was left alone in the room. When the
servant came to clear the table he strolled slowly away, humming
The house was pleasantly situated by the roadside in a little
village named Finden. Opposite stood the church, a plain, low,
square-towered building. As it was cattle-market to-day in the
town of Wattleborough, droves of beasts and sheep occasionally
went by, or the rattle of a grazier's cart sounded for a moment.
On ordinary days the road saw few vehicles, and pedestrians were
Mrs Milvain and her daughters had lived here for the last seven
years, since the death of the father, who was a veterinary
surgeon. The widow enjoyed an annuity of two hundred and forty
pounds, terminable with her life; the children had nothing of
their own. Maud acted irregularly as a teacher of music; Dora had
an engagement as visiting governess in a Wattleborough family.
Twice a year, as a rule, Jasper came down from London to spend a
fortnight with them; to-day marked the middle of his autumn
visit, and the strained relations between him and his sisters
which invariably made the second week rather trying for all in
the house had already become noticeable.
In the course of the morning Jasper had half an hour's private
talk with his mother, after which he set off to roam in the
sunshine. Shortly after he had left the house, Maud, her domestic
duties dismissed for the time, came into the parlour where Mrs
Milvain was reclining on the sofa.
'Jasper wants more money,' said the mother, when Maud had sat in
meditation for a few minutes.
'Of course. I knew that. I hope you told him he couldn't have
'I really didn't know what to say,' returned Mrs Milvain, in a
feeble tone of worry.
'Then you must leave the matter to me, that's all. There's no
money for him, and there's an end of it.'
Maud set her features in sullen determination. There was a brief
'What's he to do, Maud?'
'To do? How do other people do? What do Dora and I do?'
'You don't earn enough for your support, my dear.'
'Oh, well!' broke from the girl. 'Of course, if you grudge us our
food and lodging --'
'Don't be so quick-tempered. You know very well I am far from
grudging you anything, dear. But I only meant to say that Jasper
does earn something, you know.'
'It's a disgraceful thing that he doesn't earn as much as he
needs. We are sacrificed to him, as we always have been. Why
should we be pinching and stinting to keep him in idleness?'
'But you really can't call it idleness, Maud. He is studying his
'Pray call it trade; he prefers it. How do I know that he's
studying anything? What does he mean by "studying"? And to hear
him speak scornfully of his friend Mr Reardon, who seems to work
hard all through the year! It's disgusting, mother. At this rate
he will never earn his own living. Who hasn't seen or heard of
such men? If we had another hundred a year, I would say nothing.
But we can't live on what he leaves us, and I'm not going to let
you try. I shall tell Jasper plainly that he's got to work for
his own support.'
Another silence, and a longer one. Mrs Milvain furtively wiped a
tear from her cheek.
'It seems very cruel to refuse,' she said at length, 'when
another year may give him the opportunity he's waiting for.'
'Opportunity? What does he mean by his opportunity?'
'He says that it always comes, if a man knows how to wait.'
'And the people who support him may starve meanwhile! Now just
think a bit, mother. Suppose anything were to happen to you, what
becomes of Dora and me? And what becomes of Jasper, too? It's the
truest kindness to him to compel him to earn a living. He gets
more and more incapable of it.'
'You can't say that, Maud. He earns a little more each year. But
for that, I should have my doubts. He has made thirty pounds
already this year, and he only made about twenty-five the whole
of last. We must be fair to him, you know. I can't help feeling
that he knows what he's about. And if he does succeed, he'll pay
us all back.'
Maud began to gnaw her fingers, a disagreeable habit she had in
'Then why doesn't he live more economically?'
'I really don't see how he can live on less than a hundred and
fifty a year. London, you know --'
'The cheapest place in the world.'
'But I know what I'm saying. I've read quite enough about such
things. He might live very well indeed on thirty shillings a
week, even buying his clothes out of it.'
'But he has told us so often that it's no use to him to live like
that. He is obliged to go to places where he must spend a little,
or he makes no progress.'
'Well, all I can say is,' exclaimed the girl impatiently, 'it's
very lucky for him that he's got a mother who willingly
sacrifices her daughters to him.'
'That's how you always break out. You don't care what unkindness
'It's a simple truth.'
'Dora never speaks like that.'
'Because she's afraid to be honest.'
'No, because she has too much love for her mother. I can't bear
to talk to you, Maud. The older I get, and the weaker I get, the
more unfeeling you are to me.'
Scenes of this kind were no uncommon thing. The clash of tempers
lasted for several minutes, then Maud flung out of the room. An
hour later, at dinner-time, she was rather more caustic in her
remarks than usual, but this was the only sign that remained of
the stormy mood.
Jasper renewed the breakfast-table conversation.
'Look here,' he began, 'why don't you girls write something? I'm
convinced you could make money if you tried. There's a tremendous
sale for religious stories; why not patch one together? I am
'Why don't you do it yourself,' retorted Maud.
'I can't manage stories, as I have told you; but I think you
could. In your place, I'd make a speciality of Sunday-school
prize-books; you know the kind of thing I mean. They sell like
hot cakes. And there's so deuced little enterprise in the
business. If you'd give your mind to it, you might make hundreds
'Better say "abandon your mind to it."'
'Why, there you are! You're a sharp enough girl. You can quote as
well as anyone I know.'
'And please, why am I to take up an inferior kind of work?'
'Inferior? Oh, if you can be a George Eliot, begin at the
earliest opportunity. I merely suggested what seemed practicable.
But I don't think you have genius, Maud. People have got that
ancient prejudice so firmly rooted in their heads--that one
mustn't write save at the dictation of the Holy Spirit. I tell
you, writing is a business. Get together half-a-dozen fair
specimens of the Sunday-school prize; study them; discover the
essential points of such composition; hit upon new attractions;
then go to work methodically, so many pages a day. There's no
question of the divine afflatus; that belongs to another sphere
of life. We talk of literature as a trade, not of Homer, Dante,
and Shakespeare. If I could only get that into poor Reardon's
head. He thinks me a gross beast, often enough. What the devil--I
mean what on earth is there in typography to make everything it
deals with sacred? I don't advocate the propagation of vicious
literature; I speak only of good, coarse, marketable stuff for
the world's vulgar. You just give it a thought, Maud; talk it
over with Dora.'
He resumed presently:
'I maintain that we people of brains are justified in supplying
the mob with the food it likes. We are not geniuses, and if we
sit down in a spirit of long-eared gravity we shall produce only
commonplace stuff. Let us use our wits to earn money, and make
the best we can of our lives. If only I had the skill, I would
produce novels out-trashing the trashiest that ever sold fifty
thousand copies. But it needs skill, mind you: and to deny it is
a gross error of the literary pedants. To please the vulgar you
must, one way or another, incarnate the genius of vulgarity. For
my own part, I shan't be able to address the bulkiest multitude;
my talent doesn't lend itself to that form. I shall write for the
upper middle-class of intellect, the people who like to feel that
what they are reading has some special cleverness, but who can't
distinguish between stones and paste. That's why I'm so slow in
warming to the work. Every month I feel surer of myself, however.
That last thing of mine in The West End distinctly hit the mark;
it wasn't too flashy, it wasn't too solid. I heard fellows speak
of it in the train.'
Mrs Milvain kept glancing at Maud, with eyes which desired her
attention to these utterances. None the less, half an hour after
dinner, Jasper found himself encountered by his sister in the
garden, on her face a look which warned him of what was coming.
'I want you to tell me something, Jasper. How much longer shall
you look to mother for support? I mean it literally; let me have
an idea of how much longer it will be.'
He looked away and reflected.
'To leave a margin,' was his reply, 'let us say twelve months.'
'Better say your favourite "ten years" at once.'
'No. I speak by the card. In twelve months' time, if not before,
I shall begin to pay my debts. My dear girl, I have the honour to
be a tolerably long-headed individual. I know what I'm about.'
'And let us suppose mother were to die within half a year?'
'I should make shift to do very well.'
'You? And please--what of Dora and me?'
'You would write Sunday-school prizes.'
Maud turned away and left him.
He knocked the dust out of the pipe he had been smoking, and
again set off for a stroll along the lanes. On his countenance
was just a trace of solicitude, but for the most part he wore a
thoughtful smile. Now and then he stroked his smoothly-shaven
jaws with thumb and fingers. Occasionally he became observant of
wayside details--of the colour of a maple leaf, the shape of a
tall thistle, the consistency of a fungus. At the few people who
passed he looked keenly, surveying them from head to foot.
On turning, at the limit of his walk, he found himself almost
face to face with two persons, who were coming along in silent
companionship; their appearance interested him. The one was a man
of fifty, grizzled, hard featured, slightly bowed in the
shoulders; he wore a grey felt hat with a broad brim and a decent
suit of broadcloth. With him was a girl of perhaps two-and-
twenty, in a slate-coloured dress with very little ornament, and
a yellow straw hat of the shape originally appropriated to males;
her dark hair was cut short, and lay in innumerable crisp curls.
Father and daughter, obviously. The girl, to a casual eye, was
neither pretty nor beautiful, but she had a grave and impressive
face, with a complexion of ivory tone; her walk was gracefully
modest, and she seemed to be enjoying the country air.
Jasper mused concerning them. When he had walked a few yards, he
looked back; at the same moment the unknown man also turned his
'Where the deuce have I seen them--him and the girl too?' Milvain
And before he reached home the recollection he sought flashed
upon his mind.
'The Museum Reading-room, of course!'
CHAPTER II. THE HOUSE OF YULE
'I think' said Jasper, as he entered the room where his mother
and Maud were busy with plain needlework, 'I must have met Alfred
Yule and his daughter.'
'How did you recognise them?' Mrs Milvain inquired.
'I passed an old buffer and a pale-faced girl whom I know by
sight at the British Museum. It wasn't near Yule's house, but
they were taking a walk.'
'They may have come already. When Miss Harrow was here last, she
said "in about a fortnight."'
'No mistaking them for people of these parts, even if I hadn't
remembered their faces. Both of them are obvious dwellers in the
valley of the shadow of books.'
'Is Miss Yule such a fright then?' asked Maud.
'A fright! Not at all. A good example of the modern literary
girl. I suppose you have the oddest old-fashioned ideas of such
people. No, I rather like the look of her. Simpatica, I should
think, as that ass Whelpdale would say. A very delicate, pure
complexion, though morbid; nice eyes; figure not spoilt yet. But
of course I may be wrong about their identity.'
Later in the afternoon Jasper's conjecture was rendered a
certainty. Maud had walked to Wattleborough, where she would meet
Dora on the latter's return from her teaching, and Mrs Milvain
sat alone, in a mood of depression; there was a ring at the
door-bell, and the servant admitted Miss Harrow.
This lady acted as housekeeper to Mr John Yule, a wealthy
resident in this neighbourhood; she was the sister of his
deceased wife--a thin, soft-speaking, kindly woman of forty-five.
The greater part of her life she had spent as a governess; her
position now was more agreeable, and the removal of her anxiety
about the future had developed qualities of cheerfulness which
formerly no one would have suspected her to possess. The
acquaintance between Mrs Milvain and her was only of twelve
months' standing; prior to that, Mr Yule had inhabited a house at
the end of Wattleborough remote from Finden.
'Our London visitors came yesterday,' she began by saying.
Mrs Milvain mentioned her son's encounter an hour or two ago.
'No doubt it was they,' said the visitor. 'Mrs Yule hasn't come;
I hardly expected she would, you know. So very unfortunate when
there are difficulties of that kind, isn't it?'
She smiled confidentially.
'The poor girl must feel it,' said Mrs Milvain.
'I'm afraid she does. Of course it narrows the circle of her
friends at home. She's a sweet girl, and I should so like you to
meet her. Do come and have tea with us to-morrow afternoon, will
you? Or would it be too much for you just now?'
'Will you let the girls call? And then perhaps Miss Yule will be
so good as to come and see me?'
'I wonder whether Mr Milvain would like to meet her father? I
have thought that perhaps it might be some advantage to him.
Alfred is so closely connected with literary people, you know.'
'I feel sure he would be glad,' replied Mrs Milvain. 'But--what
of Jasper's friendship with Mrs Edmund Yule and the Reardons?
Mightn't it be a little awkward?'
'Oh, I don't think so, unless he himself felt it so. There would
be no need to mention that, I should say. And, really, it would
be so much better if those estrangements came to an end. John
makes no scruple of speaking freely about everyone, and I don't
think Alfred regards Mrs Edmund with any serious unkindness. If
Mr Milvain would walk over with the young ladies to-morrow, it
would be very pleasant.'
'Then I think I may promise that he will. I'm sure I don't know
where he is at this moment. We don't see very much of him, except
'He won't be with you much longer, I suppose?'
'Perhaps a week.'
Before Miss Harrow's departure Maud and Dora reached home. They
were curious to see the young lady from the valley of the shadow
of books, and gladly accepted the invitation offered them.
They set out on the following afternoon in their brother's
company. It was only a quarter of an hour's walk to Mr Yule's
habitation, a small house in a large garden. Jasper was coming
hither for the first time; his sisters now and then visited Miss
Harrow, but very rarely saw Mr Yule himself who made no secret of
the fact that he cared little for female society. In
Wattleborough and the neighbourhood opinions varied greatly as to
this gentleman's character, but women seldom spoke very
favourably of him. Miss Harrow was reticent concerning her
brother-in-law; no one, however, had any reason to believe that
she found life under his roof disagreeable. That she lived with
him at all was of course occasionally matter for comment, certain
Wattleborough ladies having their doubts regarding the position
of a deceased wife's sister under such circumstances; but no one
was seriously exercised about the relations between this sober
lady of forty-five and a man of sixty-three in broken health.
A word of the family history.
John, Alfred, and Edmund Yule were the sons of a Wattleborough
stationer. Each was well educated, up to the age of seventeen, at
the town's grammar school. The eldest, who was a hot-headed lad,
but showed capacities for business, worked at first with his
father, endeavouring to add a bookselling department to the trade
in stationery; but the life of home was not much to his taste,
and at one-and-twenty he obtained a clerk's place in the office
of a London newspaper. Three years after, his father died, and
the small patrimony which fell to him he used in making himself
practically acquainted with the details of paper manufacture, his
aim being to establish himself in partnership with an
acquaintance who had started a small paper-mill in Hertfordshire.
His speculation succeeded, and as years went on he became a
thriving manufacturer. His brother Alfred, in the meantime, had
drifted from work at a London bookseller's into the modern Grub
Street, his adventures in which region will concern us hereafter.
Edmund carried on the Wattleborough business, but with small
success. Between him and his eldest brother existed a good deal
of affection, and in the end John offered him a share in his
flourishing paper works; whereupon Edmund married, deeming
himself well established for life. But John's temper was a
difficult one; Edmund and he quarrelled, parted; and when the
younger died, aged about forty, he left but moderate provision
for his widow and two children.
Only when he had reached middle age did John marry; the
experiment could not be called successful, and Mrs Yule died
three years later, childless.
At fifty-four John Yule retired from active business; he came
back to the scenes of his early life, and began to take an
important part in the municipal affairs of Wattleborough. He was
then a remarkably robust man, fond of out-of-door exercise; he
made it one of his chief efforts to encourage the local Volunteer
movement, the cricket and football clubs, public sports of every
kind, showing no sympathy whatever with those persons who wished
to establish free libraries, lectures, and the like. At his own
expense he built for the Volunteers a handsome drill-shed; he
founded a public gymnasium; and finally he allowed it to be
rumoured that he was going to present the town with a park. But
by presuming too far upon the bodily vigour which prompted these
activities, he passed of a sudden into the state of a confirmed
invalid. On an autumn expedition in the Hebrides he slept one
night under the open sky, with the result that he had an all but
fatal attack of rheumatic fever. After that, though the direction
of his interests was unchanged, he could no longer set the
example to Wattleborough youth of muscular manliness. The
infliction did not improve his temper; for the next year or two
he was constantly at warfare with one or other of his colleagues
and friends, ill brooking that the familiar control of various
local interests should fall out of his hands. But before long he
appeared to resign himself to his fate, and at present
Wattleborough saw little of him. It seemed likely that he might
still found the park which was to bear his name; but perhaps it
would only be done in consequence of directions in his will. It
was believed that he could not live much longer.
With his kinsfolk he held very little communication. Alfred Yule,
a battered man of letters, had visited Wattleborough only
twice(including the present occasion) since John's return hither.
Mrs Edmund Yule, with her daughter--now Mrs Reardon--had been
only once, three years ago. These two families, as you have
heard, were not on terms of amity with each other, owing to
difficulties between Mrs Alfred and Mrs Edmund; but John seemed
to regard both impartially. Perhaps the only real warmth of
feeling he had ever known was bestowed upon Edmund, and Miss
Harrow had remarked that he spoke with somewhat more interest of
Edmund's daughter, Amy, than of Alfred's daughter, Marian. But it
was doubtful whether the sudden disappearance from the earth of
all his relatives would greatly have troubled him. He lived a
life of curious self-absorption, reading newspapers (little
else), and talking with old friends who had stuck to him in spite
of his irascibility.
Miss Harrow received her visitors in a small and soberly
furnished drawing-room. She was nervous, probably because of
Jasper Milvain, whom she had met but once--last spring--and who
on that occasion had struck her as an alarmingly modern young
man. In the shadow of a window-curtain sat a slight, simply-
dressed girl, whose short curly hair and thoughtful countenance
Jasper again recognised. When it was his turn to be presented to
Miss Yule, he saw that she doubted for an instant whether or not
to give her hand; yet she decided to do so, and there was
something very pleasant to him in its warm softness. She smiled
with a slight embarrassment, meeting his look only for a second.
'I have seen you several times, Miss Yule,' he said in a friendly
way, 'though without knowing your name. It was under the great
She laughed, readily understanding his phrase.
'I am there very often,' was her reply.
'What great dome?' asked Miss Harrow, with surprise.
'That of the British Museum Reading-room,' explained Jasper;
'known to some of us as the valley of the shadow of books. People
who often work there necessarily get to know each other by sight.
In the same way I knew Miss Yule's father when I happened to pass
him in the road yesterday.'
The three girls began to converse together, perforce of
trivialities. Marian Yule spoke in rather slow tones,
thoughtfully, gently; she had linked her fingers, and laid her
hands, palms downwards, upon her lap--a nervous action. Her
accent was pure, unpretentious; and she used none of the
fashionable turns of speech which would have suggested the habit
of intercourse with distinctly metropolitan society.
'You must wonder how we exist in this out-of-the-way place,'
'Rather, I envy you,' Marian answered, with a slight emphasis.
The door opened, and Alfred Yule presented himself. He was tall,
and his head seemed a disproportionate culmination to his meagre
body, it was so large and massively featured. Intellect and
uncertainty of temper were equally marked upon his visage; his
brows were knitted in a permanent expression of severity. He had
thin, smooth hair, grizzled whiskers, a shaven chin. In the
multitudinous wrinkles of his face lay a history of laborious and
stormy life; one readily divined in him a struggling and
embittered man. Though he looked older than his years, he had by
no means the appearance of being beyond the ripeness of his
'It pleases me to meet you, Mr Milvain,' he said, as he stretched
out his bony hand. 'Your name reminds me of a paper in The
Wayside a month or two ago, which you will perhaps allow a
veteran to say was not ill done.'
'I am grateful to you for noticing it,' replied Jasper.
There was positively a touch of visible warmth upon his cheek.
The allusion had come so unexpectedly that it caused him keen
Mr Yule seated himself awkwardly, crossed his legs, and began to
stroke the back of his left hand, which lay on his knee. He
seemed to have nothing more to say at present, and allowed Miss
Harrow and the girls to support conversation. Jasper listened
with a smile for a minute or two, then he addressed the
veteran.'Have you seen The Study this week, Mr Yule?'
'Did you notice that it contains a very favourable review of a
novel which was tremendously abused in the same columns three
Mr Yule started, but Jasper could perceive at once that his
emotion was not disagreeable.
'You don't say so.'
'Yes. The novel is Miss Hawk's "On the Boards." How will the
editor get out of this?'
'H'm! Of course Mr Fadge is not immediately responsible; but
it'll be unpleasant for him, decidedly unpleasant.' He smiled
grimly. 'You hear this, Marian?'
'How is it explained, father?'
'May be accident, of course; but--well, there's no knowing. I
think it very likely this will be the end of Mr Fadge's tenure of
office. Rackett, the proprietor, only wants a plausible excuse
for making a change. The paper has been going downhill for the
last year; I know of two publishing houses who have withdrawn
their advertising from it, and who never send their books for
review. Everyone foresaw that kind of thing from the day Mr Fadge
became editor. The tone of his paragraphs has been detestable.
Two reviews of the same novel, eh? And diametrically opposed? Ha!
Gradually he had passed from quiet appreciation of the joke to
undisguised mirth and pleasure. His utterance of the name 'Mr
Fadge' sufficiently intimated that he had some cause of personal
discontent with the editor of The Study.
'The author,' remarked Milvain, 'ought to make a good thing out
'Will, no doubt. Ought to write at once to the papers, calling
attention to this sample of critical impartiality. Ha! ha!'
He rose and went to the window, where for several minutes he
stood gazing at vacancy, the same grim smile still on his face.
Jasper in the meantime amused the ladies (his sisters had heard
him on the subject already) with a description of the two
antagonistic notices. But he did not trust himself to express so
freely as he had done at home his opinion of reviewing in
general; it was more than probable that both Yule and his
daughter did a good deal of such work.
'Suppose we go into the garden,' suggested Miss Harrow,
presently. 'It seems a shame to sit indoors on such a lovely
Hitherto there had been no mention of the master of the house.
But Mr Yule now remarked to Jasper:
'My brother would be glad if you would come and have a word with
him. He isn't quite well enough to leave his room to-day.'
So, as the ladies went gardenwards, Jasper followed the man of
letters upstairs to a room on the first floor. Here, in a deep
cane chair, which was placed by the open window, sat John Yule.
He was completely dressed, save that instead of coat he wore a
dressing-gown. The facial likeness between him and his brother
was very strong, but John's would universally have been judged
the finer countenance; illness notwithstanding, he had a
complexion which contrasted in its pure colour with Alfred's
parchmenty skin, and there was more finish about his features.
His abundant hair was reddish, his long moustache and trimmed
beard a lighter shade of the same hue.
'So you too are in league with the doctors,' was his bluff
greeting, as he held a hand to the young man and inspected him
with a look of slighting good-nature.
'Well, that certainly is one way of regarding the literary
profession,' admitted Jasper, who had heard enough of John's way
of thinking to understand the remark.
'A young fellow with all the world before him, too. Hang it, Mr
Milvain, is there no less pernicious work you can turn your hand
'I'm afraid not, Mr Yule. After all, you know, you must be held
in a measure responsible for my depravity.'
'I understand that you have devoted most of your life to the
making of paper. If that article were not so cheap and so
abundant, people wouldn't have so much temptation to scribble.'
Alfred Yule uttered a short laugh.
'I think you are cornered, John.'
'I wish,' answered John, 'that you were both condemned to write
on such paper as I chiefly made; it was a special kind of whitey-
brown, used by shopkeepers.'
He chuckled inwardly, and at the same time reached out for a box
of cigarettes on a table near him. His brother and Jasper each
took one as he offered them, and began to smoke.
'You would like to see literary production come entirely to an
end?' said Milvain.
'I should like to see the business of literature abolished.'
'There's a distinction, of course. But, on the whole, I should
say that even the business serves a good purpose.'
'It helps to spread civilisation.'
'Civilisation!' exclaimed John, scornfully. 'What do you mean by
civilisation? Do you call it civilising men to make them weak,
flabby creatures, with ruined eyes and dyspeptic stomachs? Who is
it that reads most of the stuff that's poured out daily by the
ton from the printing-press? Just the men and women who ought to
spend their leisure hours in open-air exercise; the people who
earn their bread by sedentary pursuits, and who need to live as
soon as they are free from the desk or the counter, not to moon
over small print. Your Board schools, your popular press, your
spread of education! Machinery for ruining the country, that's
what I call it.'
'You have done a good deal, I think, to counteract those
influences in Wattleborough.'
'I hope so; and if only I had kept the use of my limbs I'd have
done a good deal more. I have an idea of offering substantial
prizes to men and women engaged in sedentary work who take an
oath to abstain from all reading, and keep it for a certain
number of years. There's a good deal more need for that than for
abstinence from strong liquor. If I could have had my way I would
have revived prize-fighting.'
His brother laughed with contemptuous impatience.
'You would doubtless like to see military conscription introduced
into England?' said Jasper.
'Of course I should! You talk of civilising; there's no such way
of civilising the masses of the people as by fixed military
service. Before mental training must come training of the body.
Go about the Continent, and see the effect of military service on
loutish peasants and the lowest classes of town population. Do
you know why it isn't even more successful? Because the damnable
education movement interferes. If Germany would shut up her
schools and universities for the next quarter of a century and go
ahead like blazes with military training there'd be a nation such
as the world has never seen. After that, they might begin a
little book-teaching again--say an hour and a half a day for
everyone above nine years old. Do you suppose, Mr Milvain, that
society is going to be reformed by you people who write for
money? Why, you are the very first class that will be swept from
the face of the earth as soon as the reformation really begins!'
Alfred puffed at his cigarette. His thoughts were occupied with
Mr Fadge and The Study. He was considering whether he could aid
in bringing public contempt upon that literary organ and its
editor. Milvain listened to the elder man's diatribe with much
'You, now,' pursued John, 'what do you write about?'
'Nothing in particular. I make a salable page or two out of
whatever strikes my fancy.'
'Exactly! You don't even pretend that you've got anything to say.
You live by inducing people to give themselves mental
indigestion--and bodily, too, for that matter.'
'Do you know, Mr Yule, that you have suggested a capital idea to
me? If I were to take up your views, I think it isn't at all
unlikely that I might make a good thing of writing against
writing. It should be my literary specialty to rail against
literature. The reading public should pay me for telling them
that they oughtn't to read. I must think it over.'
'Carlyle has anticipated you,' threw in Alfred.
'Yes, but in an antiquated way. I would base my polemic on the
He developed the idea facetiously, whilst John regarded him as he
might have watched a performing monkey.
'There again! your new philosophy!' exclaimed the invalid. 'Why,
it isn't even wholesome stuff, the kind of reading that most of
you force on the public. Now there's the man who has married one
of my nieces--poor lass! Reardon, his name is. You know him, I
dare say. Just for curiosity I had a look at one of his books; it
was called "The Optimist." Of all the morbid trash I ever saw,
that beat everything. I thought of writing him a letter, advising
a couple of anti-bilious pills before bedtime for a few weeks.'
Jasper glanced at Alfred Yule, who wore a look of indifference.
'That man deserves penal servitude in my opinion,' pursued John.
'I'm not sure that it isn't my duty to offer him a couple of
hundred a year on condition that he writes no more.'
Milvain, with a clear vision of his friend in London, burst into
laughter. But at that point Alfred rose from his chair.
'Shall we rejoin the ladies?' he said, with a certain pedantry
of phrase and manner which often characterised him.
'Think over your ways whilst you're still young,' said John as he
shook hands with his visitor.
'Your brother speaks quite seriously, I suppose?' Jasper remarked
when he was in the garden with Alfred.
'I think so. It's amusing now and then, but gets rather tiresome
when you hear it often. By-the-bye, you are not personally
acquainted with Mr Fadge?'
'I didn't even know his name until you mentioned it.'
'The most malicious man in the literary world. There's no
uncharitableness in feeling a certain pleasure when he gets into
a scrape. I could tell you incredible stories about him; but that
kind of thing is probably as little to your taste as it is to
Miss Harrow and her companions, having caught sight of the pair,
came towards them. Tea was to be brought out into the garden.
'So you can sit with us and smoke, if you like,' said Miss Harrow
to Alfred. 'You are never quite at your ease, I think, without a
But the man of letters was too preoccupied for society. In a few
minutes he begged that the ladies would excuse his withdrawing;
he had two or three letters to write before post-time, which was
early at Finden.
Jasper, relieved by the veteran's departure, began at once to
make himself very agreeable company. When he chose to lay aside
the topic of his own difficulties and ambitions, he could
converse with a spontaneous gaiety which readily won the
good-will of listeners. Naturally he addressed himself very often
to Marian Yule, whose attention complimented him. She said
little, and evidently was at no time a free talker, but the smile
on her face indicated a mood of quiet enjoyment. When her eyes
wandered, it was to rest on the beauties of the garden, the
moving patches of golden sunshine, the forms of gleaming cloud.
Jasper liked to observe her as she turned her head: there seemed
to him a particular grace in the movement; her head and neck were
admirably formed, and the short hair drew attention to this.
It was agreed that Miss Harrow and Marian should come on the
second day after to have tea with the Milvains. And when Jasper
took leave of Alfred Yule, the latter expressed a wish that they
might have a walk together one of these mornings.
CHAPTER III. HOLIDAY
Jasper's favourite walk led him to a spot distant perhaps a mile
and a half from home. From a tract of common he turned into a
short lane which crossed the Great Western railway, and thence by
a stile into certain meadows forming a compact little valley. One
recommendation of this retreat was that it lay sheltered from all
winds; to Jasper a wind was objectionable. Along the bottom ran
a clear, shallow stream, overhung with elder and hawthorn bushes;
and close by the wooden bridge which spanned it was a great ash
tree, making shadow for cows and sheep when the sun lay hot upon
the open field. It was rare for anyone to come along this path,
save farm labourers morning and evening.
But to-day--the afternoon that followed his visit to John Yule's
house--he saw from a distance that his lounging-place on the
wooden bridge was occupied. Someone else had discovered the
pleasure there was in watching the sun-flecked sparkle of the
water as it flowed over the clean sand and stones. A girl in a
yellow-straw hat; yes, and precisely the person he had hoped, at
the first glance, that it might be. He made no haste as he drew
nearer on the descending path. At length his footstep was heard;
Marian Yule turned her head and clearly recognised him.
She assumed an upright position, letting one of her hands rest
upon the rail. After the exchange of ordinary greetings, Jasper
leaned back against the same support and showed himself disposed
'When I was here late in the spring,' he said, 'this ash was only
just budding, though everything else seemed in full leaf.'
'An ash, is it?' murmured Marian. 'I didn't know. I think an oak
is the only tree I can distinguish. Yet,' she added quickly, 'I
knew that the ash was late; some lines of Tennyson come to my
'Which are those?'
'Delaying, as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself when all the woods are green,
somewhere in the "Idylls."'
'I don't remember; so I won't pretend to--though I should do so
as a rule.'
She looked at him oddly, and seemed about to laugh, yet did not.
'You have had little experience of the country?' Jasper
'Very little. You, I think, have known it from childhood?'
'In a sort of way. I was born in Wattleborough, and my people
have always lived here. But I am not very rural in temperament. I
have really no friends here; either they have lost interest in
me, or I in them. What do you think of the girls, my sisters?'
The question, though put with perfect simplicity, was
'They are tolerably intellectual,' Jasper went on, when he saw
that it would be difficult for her to answer. 'I want to persuade
them to try their hands at literary work of some kind or other.
They give lessons, and both hate it.'
'Would literary work be less--burdensome?' said Marian, without
looking at him.
'Rather more so, you think?'
'It depends, of course, on--on several things.'
'To be sure,' Jasper agreed. 'I don't think they have any marked
faculty for such work; but as they certainly haven't for
teaching, that doesn't matter. It's a question of learning a
business. I am going through my apprenticeship, and find it a
long affair. Money would shorten it, and, unfortunately, I have
'Yes,' said Marian, turning her eyes upon the stream, 'money is a
help in everything.'
'Without it, one spends the best part of one's life in toiling
for that first foothold which money could at once purchase. To
have money is becoming of more and more importance in a literary
career; principally because to have money is to have friends.
Year by year, such influence grows of more account. A lucky man
will still occasionally succeed by dint of his own honest
perseverance, but the chances are dead against anyone who can't
make private interest with influential people; his work is simply
overwhelmed by that of the men who have better opportunities.'
'Don't you think that, even to-day, really good work will sooner
or later be recognised?'
'Later, rather than sooner; and very likely the man can't wait;
he starves in the meantime. You understand that I am not speaking
of genius; I mean marketable literary work. The quantity turned
out is so great that there's no hope for the special attention of
the public unless one can afford to advertise hugely. Take the
instance of a successful all-round man of letters; take Ralph
Warbury, whose name you'll see in the first magazine you happen
to open. But perhaps he is a friend of yours?'
'Well, I wasn't going to abuse him. I was only going to ask:Is
there any quality which distinguishes his work from that of
twenty struggling writers one could name? Of course not. He's a
clever, prolific man; so are they. But he began with money and
friends; he came from Oxford into the thick of advertised people;
his name was mentioned in print six times a week before he had
written a dozen articles. This kind of thing will become the
rule. Men won't succeed in literature that they may get into
society, but will get into society that they may succeed in
'Yes, I know it is true,' said Marian, in a low voice.
'There's a friend of mine who writes novels,' Jasper pursued.
'His books are not works of genius, but they are glaringly
distinct from the ordinary circulating novel. Well, after one or
two attempts, he made half a success; that is to say, the
publishers brought out a second edition of the book in a few
months. There was his opportunity. But he couldn't use it; he had
no friends, because he had no money. A book of half that merit,
if written by a man in the position of Warbury when he started,
would have established the reputation of a lifetime. His
influential friends would have referred to it in leaders, in
magazine articles, in speeches, in sermons. It would have run
through numerous editions, and the author would have had nothing
to do but to write another book and demand his price. But the
novel I'm speaking of was practically forgotten a year after its
appearance; it was whelmed beneath the flood of next season's
Marian urged a hesitating objection.
'But, under the circumstances, wasn't it in the author's power to
make friends? Was money really indispensable?'
'Why, yes--because he chose to marry. As a bachelor he might
possibly have got into the right circles, though his character
would in any case have made it difficult for him to curry favour.
But as a married man, without means, the situation was hopeless.
Once married you must live up to the standard of the society you
frequent; you can't be entertained without entertaining in
return. Now if his wife had brought him only a couple of thousand
pounds all might have been well. I should have advised him, in
sober seriousness, to live for two years at the rate of a
thousand a year. At the end of that time he would have been
earning enough to continue at pretty much the same rate of
'Well, I ought rather to say that the average man of letters
would be able to do that. As for Reardon--'
He stopped. The name had escaped him unawares.
'Reardon?' said Marian, looking up. 'You are speaking of him?'
'I have betrayed myself Miss Yule.'
'But what does it matter? You have only spoken in his favour.'
'I feared the name might affect you disagreeably.'
Marian delayed her reply.
'It is true,' she said, 'we are not on friendly terms with my
cousin's family. I have never met Mr Reardon. But I shouldn't
like you to think that the mention of his name is disagreeable to
'It made me slightly uncomfortable yesterday--the fact that I am
well acquainted with Mrs Edmund Yule, and that Reardon is my
friend. Yet I didn't see why that should prevent my making your
'Surely not. I shall say nothing about it; I mean, as you uttered
the name unintentionally.'
There was a pause in the dialogue. They had been speaking almost
confidentially, and Marian seemed to become suddenly aware of an
oddness in the situation. She turned towards the uphill path, as
if thinking of resuming her walk.
'You are tired of standing still,' said Jasper. 'May I walk back
a part of the way with you?'
'Thank you; I shall be glad.'
They went on for a few minutes in silence.
'Have you published anything with your signature, Miss Yule?'
Jasper at length inquired.
'Nothing. I only help father a little.'
The silence that again followed was broken this time by Marian.
'When you chanced to mention Mr Reardon's name,' she said, with a
diffident smile in which lay that suggestion of humour so
delightful upon a woman's face, 'you were going to say something
more about him?'
'Only that--' he broke off and laughed. 'Now, how boyish it was,
wasn't it? I remember doing just the same thing once when I came
home from school and had an exciting story to tell, with
preservation of anonymities. Of course I blurted out a name in
the first minute or two, to my father's great amusement. He told
me that I hadn't the diplomatic character. I have been trying to
acquire it ever since.
'It's one of the essentials of success in any kind of public
life. And I mean to succeed, you know. I feel that I am one of
the men who do succeed. But I beg your pardon; you asked me a
question. Really, I was only going to say of Reardon what I had
said before: that he hasn't the tact requisite for acquiring
'Then I may hope that it isn't his marriage with my cousin which
has proved a fatal misfortune?'
'In no case,' replied Milvain, averting his look, 'would he have
used his advantages.'
'And now? Do you think he has but poor prospects?'
'I wish I could see any chance of his being estimated at his
right value. It's very hard to say what is before him.'
'I knew my cousin Amy when we were children,' said Marian,
presently. 'She gave promise of beauty.'
'Yes, she is beautiful.'
'And--the kind of woman to be of help to such a husband?'
'I hardly know how to answer, Miss Yule,' said Jasper, looking
frankly at her. 'Perhaps I had better say that it's unfortunate
they are poor.'
Marian cast down her eyes.
'To whom isn't it a misfortune?' pursued her companion. 'Poverty
is the root of all social ills; its existence accounts even for
the ills that arise from wealth. The poor man is a man labouring
in fetters. I declare there is no word in our language which
sounds so hideous to me as "Poverty."'
Shortly after this they came to the bridge over the railway line.
Jasper looked at his watch.
'Will you indulge me in a piece of childishness?' he said. 'In
less than five minutes a London express goes by; I have often
watched it here, and it amuses me. Would it weary you to wait?'
'I should like to,' she replied with a laugh.
The line ran along a deep cutting, from either side of which grew
hazel bushes and a few larger trees. Leaning upon the parapet of
the bridge, Jasper kept his eye in the westward direction, where
the gleaming rails were visible for more than a mile. Suddenly he
raised his finger.
Marian had just caught the far-off sound of the train. She looked
eagerly, and in a few moments saw it approaching. The front of
the engine blackened nearer and nearer, coming on with dread
force and speed. A blinding rush, and there burst against the
bridge a great volley of sunlit steam. Milvain and his companion
ran to the opposite parapet, but already the whole train had
emerged, and in a few seconds it had disappeared round a sharp
curve. The leafy branches that grew out over the line swayed
violently backwards and forwards in the perturbed air.
'If I were ten years younger,' said Jasper, laughing, 'I should
say that was jolly! It enspirits me. It makes me feel eager to go
back and plunge into the fight again.'
'Upon me it has just the opposite effect,' fell from Marian, in
very low tones.
'Oh, don't say that! Well, it only means that you haven't had
enough holiday yet. I have been in the country more than a week;
a few days more and I must be off. How long do you think of
'Not much more than a week, I think.'
'By-the-bye, you are coming to have tea with us to-morrow,'
Jasper remarked a propos of nothing. Then he returned to another
subject that was in his thoughts.
'It was by a train like that that I first went up to London. Not
really the first time; I mean when I went to live there, seven
years ago. What spirits I was in! A boy of eighteen going to live
independently in London; think of it!'
'You went straight from school?'
'I was for two years at Redmayne College after leaving
Wattleborough Grammar School. Then my father died, and I spent
nearly half a year at home. I was meant to be a teacher, but the
prospect of entering a school by no means appealed to me. A
friend of mine was studying in London for some Civil Service
exam., so I declared that I would go and do the same thing.'
'Did you succeed?'
'Not I! I never worked properly for that kind of thing. I read
voraciously, and got to know London. I might have gone to the
dogs, you know; but by when I had been in London a year a pretty
clear purpose began to form in me. Strange to think that you were
growing up there all the time. I may have passed you in the
street now and then.'
'And I did at length see you at the British Museum, you know.'
They turned a corner of the road, and came full upon Marian's
father, who was walking in this direction with eyes fixed upon
'So here you are!' he exclaimed, looking at the girl, and for the
moment paying no attention to Jasper. 'I wondered whether I
should meet you.' Then, more dryly, 'How do you do, Mr Milvain?'
In a tone of easy indifference Jasper explained how he came to be
accompanying Miss Yule.
'Shall I walk on with you, father?' Marian asked, scrutinising
his rugged features.
'Just as you please; I don't know that I should have gone much
further. But we might take another way back.'
Jasper readily adapted himself to the wish he discerned in Mr
Yule; at once he offered leave-taking in the most natural way.
Nothing was said on either side about another meeting.
The young man proceeded homewards, but, on arriving, did not at
once enter the house. Behind the garden was a field used for the
grazing of horses; he entered it by the unfastened gate, and
strolled idly hither and thither, now and then standing to
observe a poor worn-out beast, all skin and bone, which had
presumably been sent here in the hope that a little more labour
might still be exacted from it if it were suffered to repose for
a few weeks. There were sores upon its back and legs; it stood in
a fixed attitude of despondency, just flicking away troublesome
flies with its grizzled tail.
It was tea-time when he went in. Maud was not at home, and Mrs
Milvain, tormented by a familiar headache, kept her room; so
Jasper and Dora sat down together. Each had an open book on the
table; throughout the meal they exchanged only a few words.
'Going to play a little?' Jasper suggested when they had gone
into the sitting-room.
'If you like.'
She sat down at the piano, whilst her brother lay on the sofa,
his hands clasped beneath his head. Dora did not play badly, but
an absentmindedness which was commonly observable in her had its
effect upon the music. She at length broke off idly in the middle
of a passage, and began to linger on careless chords. Then,
without turning her head, she asked:
'Were you serious in what you said about writing storybooks?'
'Quite. I see no reason why you shouldn't do something in that
way. But I tell you what; when I get back, I'll inquire into the
state of the market. I know a man who was once engaged at Jolly &
Monk's--the chief publishers of that kind of thing, you know; I
must look him up--what a mistake it is to neglect any
acquaintance!--and get some information out of him. But it's
obvious what an immense field there is for anyone who can just
hit the taste of the' new generation of Board school children.
Mustn't be too goody-goody; that kind of thing is falling out of
date. But you'd have to cultivate a particular kind of vulgarity.
There's an idea, by-the-bye. I'll write a paper on the
characteristics of that new generation; it may bring me a few
guineas, and it would be a help to you.'
'But what do you know about the subject?' asked Dora doubtfully.
'What a comical question! It is my business to know something
about every subject--or to know where to get the knowledge.'
'Well,' said Dora, after a pause, 'there's no doubt Maud and I
ought to think very seriously about the future. You are aware,
Jasper, that mother has not been able to save a penny of her
'I don't see how she could have done. Of course I know what
you're thinking; but for me, it would have been possible. I don't
mind confessing to you that the thought troubles me a little now
and then; I shouldn't like to see you two going off governessing
in strangers' houses. All I can say is, that I am very honestly
working for the end which I am convinced will be most profitable.
I shall not desert you; you needn't fear that. But just put your
heads together, and cultivate your writing faculty. Suppose you
could both together earn about a hundred a year in Grub Street,
it would be better than governessing; wouldn't it?'
'You say you don't know what Miss Yule writes?'
'Well, I know a little more about her than I did yesterday. I've
had an hour's talk with her this afternoon.'
'Met her down in the Leggatt fields. I find she doesn't write
independently; just helps her father. What the help amounts to I
can't say. There's something very attractive about her. She
quoted a line or two of Tennyson; the first time I ever heard a
woman speak blank verse with any kind of decency.'
'She was walking alone?'
'Yes. On the way back we met old Yule; he seemed rather grumpy, I
thought. I don't think she's the kind of girl to make a paying
business of literature. Her qualities are personal. And it's
pretty clear to me that the valley of the shadow of books by no
means agrees with her disposition. Possibly old Yule is something
of a tyrant.'
'He doesn't impress me very favourably. Do you think you will
keep up their acquaintance in London?'
'Can't say. I wonder what sort of a woman that mother really is?
Can't be so very gross, I should think.'
'Miss Harrow knows nothing about her, except that she was a quite
'But, dash it! by this time she must have got decent manners. Of
course there may be other objections. Mrs Reardon knows nothing
Midway in the following morning, as Jasper sat with a book in the
garden, he was surprised to see Alfred Yule enter by the gate.
'I thought,' began the visitor, who seemed in high spirits, 'that
you might like to see something I received this morning.'
He unfolded a London evening paper, and indicated a long letter
from a casual correspondent. It was written by the authoress of
'On the Boards,' and drew attention, with much expenditure of
witticism, to the conflicting notices of that book which had
appeared in The Study. Jasper read the thing with laughing
'Just what one expected!'
'And I have private letters on the subject,' added Mr Yule.
'There has been something like a personal conflict between Fadge
and the man who looks after the minor notices. Fadge,more suo,
charged the other man with a design to damage him and the paper.
There's talk of legal proceedings. An immense joke!'
He laughed in his peculiar croaking way.
'Do you feel disposed for a turn along the lanes, Mr Milvain?'
'By all means.--There's my mother at the window; will you come in
for a moment?'
With a step of quite unusual sprightliness Mr Yule entered the
house. He could talk of but one subject, and Mrs Milvain had to
listen to a laboured account of the blunder just committed by The
Study. It was Alfred's Yule's characteristic that he could do
nothing lighthandedly. He seemed always to converse with effort;
he took a seat with stiff ungainliness; he walked with a
stumbling or sprawling gait.
When he and Jasper set out for their ramble, his loquacity was in
strong contrast with the taciturn mood he had exhibited yesterday
and the day before. He fell upon the general aspects of
'. . . The evil of the time is the multiplication of ephemerides.
Hence a demand for essays, descriptive articles, fragments of
criticism, out of all proportion to the supply of even tolerable
work. The men who have an aptitude for turning out this kind of
thing in vast quantities are enlisted by every new periodical,
with the result that their productions are ultimately watered
down into worthlessness. . . . Well now, there's Fadge. Years ago
some of Fadge's work was not without a certain--a certain
conditional promise of--of comparative merit; but now his
writing, in my opinion, is altogether beneath consideration; how
Rackett could be so benighted as to give him The Study--
especially after a man like Henry Hawkridge--passes my
comprehension. Did you read a paper of his, a few months back, in
The Wayside, a preposterous rehabilitation of Elkanah Settle? Ha!
ha! That's what such men are driven to. Elkanah Settle! And he
hadn't even a competent acquaintance with his paltry subject.
Will you credit that he twice or thrice referred to Settle's
reply to "Absalom and Achitophel" by the title of "Absalom
Transposed," when every schoolgirl knows that the thing was
called "Achitophel Transposed"! This was monstrous enough, but
there was something still more contemptible. He positively, I
assure you, attributed the play of "Epsom Wells" to Crowne! I
should have presumed that every student of even the most trivial
primer of literature was aware that "Epsom Wells" was written by
Shadwell. . . . Now, if one were to take Shadwell for the subject
of a paper, one might very well show how unjustly his name has
fallen into contempt. It has often occurred to me to do this.
"But Shadwell never deviates into sense." The sneer, in my
opinion, is entirely unmerited. For my own part, I put Shadwell
very high among the dramatists of his time, and I think I could
show that his absolute worth is by no means inconsiderable.
Shadwell has distinct vigour of dramatic conception; his
dialogue. . . .'
And as he talked the man kept describing imaginary geometrical
figures with the end of his walking-stick; he very seldom raised
his eyes from the ground, and the stoop in his shoulders grew
more and more pronounced, until at a little distance one might
have taken him for a hunchback. At one point Jasper made a pause
to speak of the pleasant wooded prospect that lay before them;
his companion regarded it absently, and in a moment or two asked:
'Did you ever come across Cottle's poem on the Malvern Hills? No?
It contains a couple of the richest lines ever put into print:
It needs the evidence of close deduction
To know that I shall ever reach the top.
Perfectly serious poetry, mind you!'
He barked in laughter. Impossible to interest him in anything
apart from literature; yet one saw him to be a man of solid
understanding, and not without perception of humour. He had read
vastly; his memory was a literary cyclopaedia. His failings,
obvious enough, were the results of a strong and somewhat
pedantic individuality ceaselessly at conflict with unpropitious
Towards the young man his demeanour varied between a shy
cordiality and a dignified reserve which was in danger of seeming
pretentious. On the homeward part of the walk he made a few
discreet inquiries regarding Milvain's literary achievements and
prospects, and the frank self-confidence of the replies appeared
to interest him. But he expressed no desire to number Jasper
among his acquaintances in town, and of his own professional or
private concerns he said not a word.
'Whether he could be any use to me or not, I don't exactly know,'
Jasper remarked to his mother and sisters at dinner. 'I suspect
it's as much as he can do to keep a footing among the younger
tradesmen. But I think he might have said he was willing to help
me if he could.'
'Perhaps,' replied Maud, 'your large way of talking made him
think any such offer superfluous.'
'You have still to learn,' said Jasper, 'that modesty helps a man
in no department of modern life. People take you at your own
valuation. It's the men who declare boldly that they need no help
to whom practical help comes from all sides. As likely as not
Yule will mention my name to someone. "A young fellow who seems
to see his way pretty clear before him." The other man will
repeat it to somebody else, "A young fellow whose way is clear
before him," and so I come to the ears of a man who thinks "Just
the fellow I want; I must look him up and ask him if he'll do
such-and-such a thing." But I should like to see these Yules at
home; I must fish for an invitation.'
In the afternoon, Miss Harrow and Marian came at the expected
hour. Jasper purposely kept out of the way until he was summoned
to the tea-table.
The Milvain girls were so far from effusive, even towards old
acquaintances, that even the people who knew them best spoke of
them as rather cold and perhaps a trifle condescending; there
were people in Wattleborough who declared their airs of
superiority ridiculous and insufferable. The truth was that
nature had endowed them with a larger share of brains than was
common in their circle, and had added that touch of pride which
harmonised so ill with the restrictions of poverty. Their life
had a tone of melancholy, the painful reserve which characterises
a certain clearly defined class in the present day. Had they been
born twenty years earlier, the children of that veterinary
surgeon would have grown up to a very different, and in all
probability a much happier, existence, for their education would
have been limited to the strictly needful, and--certainly in the
case of the girls--nothing would have encouraged them to look
beyond the simple life possible to a poor man's offspring. But
whilst Maud and Dora were still with their homely schoolmistress,
Wattleborough saw fit to establish a Girls' High School, and the
moderateness of the fees enabled these sisters to receive an
intellectual training wholly incompatible with the material
conditions of their life. To the relatively poor (who are so much
worse off than the poor absolutely) education is in most cases a
mocking cruelty. The burden of their brother's support made it
very difficult for Maud and Dora even to dress as became their
intellectual station; amusements, holidays, the purchase of such
simple luxuries as were all but indispensable to them, could not
be thought of. It resulted that they held apart from the society
which would have welcomed them, for they could not bear to
receive without offering in turn. The necessity of giving lessons
galled them; they felt--and with every reason--that it made their
position ambiguous. So that, though they could not help knowing
many people, they had no intimates; they encouraged no one to
visit them, and visited other houses as little as might be.
In Marian Yule they divined a sympathetic nature. She was unlike
any girl with whom they had hitherto associated, and it was the
impulse of both to receive her with unusual friendliness. The
habit of reticence could not be at once overcome, and Marian's
own timidity was an obstacle in the way of free intercourse, but
Jasper's conversation at tea helped to smooth the course of
'I wish you lived anywhere near us,' Dora said to their visitor,
as the three girls walked in the garden afterwards, and Maud
echoed the wish.
'It would be very nice,' was Marian's reply. 'I have no friends
of my own age in London.'
She was about to add something, but in the end kept silence.
'You seem to get along with Miss Yule pretty well, after all,'
said Jasper, when the family were alone again.
'Did you anticipate anything else?' Maud asked.
'It seemed doubtful, up at Yule's house. Well, get her to come
here again before I go. But it's a pity she doesn't play the
piano,' he added, musingly.
For two days nothing was seen of the Yules. Jasper went each
afternoon to the stream in the valley, but did not again meet
Marian. In the meanwhile he was growing restless. A fortnight
always exhausted his capacity for enjoying the companionship of
his mother and sisters, and this time he seemed anxious to get to
the end of his holiday. For all that, there was no continuance of
the domestic bickering which had begun. Whatever the reason, Maud
behaved with unusual mildness to her brother, and Jasper in turn
was gently disposed to both the girls.
On the morning of the third day--it was Saturday--he kept silence
through breakfast, and just as all were about to rise from the
table, he made a sudden announcement:
'I shall go to London this afternoon.'
'This afternoon?' all exclaimed. 'But Monday is your day.'
'No, I shall go this afternoon, by the 2.45.'
And he left the room. Mrs Milvain and the girls exchanged looks.
'I suppose he thinks the Sunday will be too wearisome,' said the
'Perhaps so,' Maud agreed, carelessly.
Half an hour later, just as Dora was ready to leave the house for
her engagements in Wattleborough, her brother came into the hall
and took his hat, saying:
'I'll walk a little way with you, if you don't mind.'
When they were in the road, he asked her in an offhand manner:
'Do you think I ought to say good-bye to the Yules? Or won't it
'I should have thought you would wish to.'
'I don't care about it. And, you see, there's been no hint of a
wish on their part that I should see them in London. No, I'll
just leave you to say good-bye for me.'
'But they expect to see us to-day or to-morrow. You told them you
were not going till Monday, and you don't know but Mr Yule might
mean to say something yet.'
'Well, I had rather he didn't,' replied Jasper, with a laugh.
'I don't mind telling you,' he laughed again. 'I'm afraid of that
girl. No, it won't do! You understand that I'm a practical man,
and I shall keep clear of dangers. These days of holiday idleness
put all sorts of nonsense into one's head.'
Dora kept her eyes down, and smiled ambiguously.
'You must act as you think fit,' she remarked at length.
'Exactly. Now I'll turn back. You'll be with us at dinner?'
They parted. But Jasper did not keep to the straight way home.
First of all, he loitered to watch a reaping-machine at work;
then he turned into a lane which led up the hill on which was
John Yule's house. Even if he had purposed making a farewell
call, it was still far too early; all he wanted to do was to pass
an hour of the morning, which threatened to lie heavy on his
hands. So he rambled on, and went past the house, and took the
field-path which would lead him circuitously home again.
His mother desired to speak to him. She was in the dining-room;
in the parlour Maud was practising music.
'I think I ought to tell you of something I did yesterday,
Jasper,' Mrs Milvain began. 'You see, my dear, we have been
rather straitened lately, and my health, you know, grows so
uncertain, and, all things considered, I have been feeling very
anxious about the girls. So I wrote to your uncle William, and
told him that I must positively have that money. I must think of
my own children before his.'
The matter referred to was this. The deceased Mr Milvain had a
brother who was a struggling shopkeeper in a Midland town. Some
ten years ago, William Milvain, on the point of bankruptcy, had
borrowed a hundred and seventy pounds from his brother in
Wattleborough, and this debt was still unpaid; for on the death
of Jasper's father repayment of the loan was impossible for
William, and since then it had seemed hopeless that the sum would
ever be recovered. The poor shopkeeper had a large family, and
Mrs Milvain, notwithstanding her own position, had never felt
able to press him; her relative, however, often spoke of the
business, and declared his intention of paying whenever he could.
'You can't recover by law now, you know,' said Jasper.
'But we have a right to the money, law or no law. He must pay
'He will simply refuse--and be justified. Poverty doesn't allow
of honourable feeling, any more than of compassion. I'm sorry you
wrote like that. You won't get anything, and you might as well
have enjoyed the reputation of forbearance.'
Mrs Milvain was not able to appreciate this characteristic
remark. Anxiety weighed upon her, and she became irritable.
'I am obliged to say, Jasper, that you seem rather thoughtless.
If it were only myself I would make any sacrifice for you; but
you must remember--'
'Now listen, mother,' he interrupted, laying a hand on her
shoulder; 'I have been thinking about all this, and the fact of
the matter is, I shall do my best to ask you for no more money.
It may or may not be practicable, but I'll have a try. So don't
worry. If uncle writes that he can't pay, just explain why you
wrote, and keep him gently in mind of the thing, that's all. One
doesn't like to do brutal things if one can avoid them, you
The young man went to the parlour and listened to Maud's music
for awhile. But restlessness again drove him forth. Towards
eleven o'clock he was again ascending in the direction of John
Yule's house. Again he had no intention of calling, but when he
reached the iron gates he lingered.
'I will, by Jove!' he said within himself at last. 'Just to prove
I have complete command of myself. It's to be a display of
strength, not weakness.'
At the house door he inquired for Mr Alfred Yule. That gentleman
had gone in the carriage to Wattleborough, half an hour ago, with
Yes, she was within. Jasper entered the sitting-room, waited a
few moments, and Marian appeared. She wore a dress in which
Milvain had not yet seen her, and it had the effect of making him
regard her attentively. The smile with which she had come towards
him passed from her face, which was perchance a little warmer of
hue than commonly.
'I'm sorry your father is away, Miss Yule,' Jasper began, in an
animated voice. 'I wanted to say good-bye to him. I return to
London in a few hours.'
'You are going sooner than you intended?'
'Yes, I feel I mustn't waste any more time. I think the country
air is doing you good; you certainly look better than when I
passed you that first day.'
'I feel better, much.'
'My sisters are anxious to see you again. I shouldn't wonder if
they come up this afternoon.'
Marian had seated herself on the sofa, and her hands were linked
upon her lap in the same way as when Jasper spoke with her here
before, the palms downward. The beautiful outline of her bent
head was relieved against a broad strip of sunlight on the wall
'They deplore,' he continued in a moment, 'that they should come
to know you only to lose you again so soon.
'I have quite as much reason to be sorry,' she answered, looking
at him with the slightest possible smile. 'But perhaps they will
let me write to them, and hear from them now and then.'
'They would think it an honour. Country girls are not often
invited to correspond with literary ladies in London.'
He said it with as much jocoseness as civility allowed, then at
'Father will be very sorry,' Marian began, with one quick glance
towards the window and then another towards the door. 'Perhaps he
might possibly be able to see you before you go?'
Jasper stood in hesitation. There was a look on the girl's face
which, under other circumstances, would have suggested a ready
'I mean,' she added, hastily, 'he might just call, or even see
you at the station?'
'Oh, I shouldn't like to give Mr Yule any trouble. It's my own
fault, for deciding to go to-day. I shall leave by the 2.45.'
He offered his hand.
'I shall look for your name in the magazines, Miss Yule.'
'Oh, I don't think you will ever find it there.'
He laughed incredulously, shook hands with her a second time, and
strode out of the room, head erect--feeling proud of himself.
When Dora came home at dinner-time, he informed her of what he
'A very interesting girl,' he added impartially. 'I advise you to
make a friend of her. Who knows but you may live in London some
day, and then she might be valuable--morally, I mean. For myself,
I shall do my best not to see her again for a long time; she's
Jasper was unaccompanied when he went to the station. Whilst
waiting on the platform, he suffered from apprehension lest
Alfred Yule's seamed visage should present itself; but no
acquaintance approached him. Safe in the corner of his third-
class carriage, he smiled at the last glimpse of the familiar
fields, and began to think of something he had decided to write
for The West End.
CHAPTER IV. AN AUTHOR AND HIS WIFE
Eight flights of stairs, consisting alternately of eight and nine
Back to Full Books