STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS: LONDON
Part 2 out of 3
I tried a last desperate stroke. "Will you come round to the front?" I
said to the Frenchman. "I'll let you in, and we can discuss the matter
quietly." Then, as we walked back together, I asked him eagerly what
he would take to abandon his claims and let the colonel think the
poodle was his after all.
He was furious--he considered himself insulted; with great emotion he
informed me that the dog was the pride of his life (it seems to be the
mission of black poodles to serve as domestic comforts of this
priceless kind!), that he would not part with him for twice his weight
"Figure," he began, as we joined the others, "zat zis gentilman 'ere
'as offer me money for ze dog! He agrees zat it is to me, you see?
Ver' well, zen, zere is no more to be said!"
"Why, Weatherhead, have /you/ lost faith too, then?" said the colonel.
I saw it was no good; all I wanted now was to get out of it creditably
and get rid of the Frenchman. "I'm sorry to say," I replied, "that I'm
afraid I've been deceived by the extraordinary likeness. I don't
think, on reflection, that that /is/ Bingo!"
"What do you think, Travers?" asked the colonel.
"Well, since you ask me," said Travers, with quite unnecessary
dryness, "I never did think so."
"Nor I," said the colonel; "I thought from the first that was never my
Bingo. Why, Bingo would make two of that beast!"
And Lilian and her aunt both protested that they had had their doubts
from the first.
"Zen you pairmeet zat I remove 'im?" said the Frenchman.
"Certainly," said the colonel; and, after some apologies on our part
for the mistake, he went off in triumph, with the detestable poodle
frisking after him.
When he had gone the colonel laid his hand kindly on my shoulder.
"Don't look so cut up about it, my boy," he said; "you did your best--
there was a sort of likeness to any one who didn't know Bingo as we
Just then the Frenchman again appeared at the hedge. "A thousand
pardons," he said, "but I find zis upon my dog; it is not to me.
Suffer me to restore it viz many compliments."
It was Bingo's collar. Travers took it from his hand and brought it to
"This was on the dog when you stopped that fellow, didn't you say?" he
One more lie--and I was so weary of falsehood! "Y-yes," I said,
reluctantly; "that was so."
"Very extraordinary," said Travers; "that's the wrong poodle beyond a
doubt, but when he's found he's wearing the right dog's collar! Now
how do you account for that?"
"My good fellow," I said, impatiently, "I'm not in the witness-box. I
/can't/ account for it. It-it's a mere coincidence!"
"But look here, my /dear/ Weatherhead," argued Travers (whether in
good faith or not I never could quite make out), "don't you see what a
tremendously important link it is? Here's a dog who (as I understand
the facts) had a silver collar, with his name engraved on it, round
his neck at the time he was lost. Here's that identical collar turning
up soon afterward round the neck of a totally different dog! We must
follow this up; we must get at the bottom of it somehow! With a clue
like this, we're sure to find out either the dog himself, or what's
become of him! Just try to recollect exactly what happened, there's a
good fellow. This is just the sort of thing I like!"
It was the sort of thing I did not enjoy at all. "You must excuse me
to-night, Travers," I said, uncomfortably; "you see, just now it's
rather a sore subject for me, and I'm not feeling very well!" I was
grateful just then for a reassuring glance of pity and confidence from
Lilian's sweet eyes, which revived my drooping spirits for the moment.
"Yes, we'll go into it to-morrow, Travers," said the colonel; "and
then--hullo, why, there's that confounded Frenchman /again/!"
It was indeed; he came prancing back delicately, with a malicious
enjoyment on his wrinkled face. "Once more I return to apologise," he
said. "My poodle 'as permit 'imself ze grave indiscretion to make a
very big 'ole at ze bottom of ze garden!"
I assured him that it was of no consequence. "Perhaps," he replied,
looking steadily at me through his keen, half-shut eyes, "you vill not
say zat ven you regard ze 'ole. And you others, I spik to you:
sometimes von loses a somzing vich is qvite near all ze time. It is
ver' droll, eh? my vord, ha, ha, ha!" And he ambled off, with an
aggressively fiendish laugh that chilled my blood.
"What the deuce did he mean by that, eh?" said the colonel, blankly.
"Don't know," said Travers; "suppose we go and inspect the hole?"
But before that I had contrived to draw near it myself, in deadly fear
lest the Frenchman's last words had contained some innuendo which I
had not understood.
It was light enough still for me to see something, at the unexpected
horror of which I very nearly fainted.
That thrice accursed poodle which I had been insane enough to attempt
to foist upon the colonel must, it seems, have buried his supper the
night before very near the spot in which I had laid Bingo, and in his
attempts to exhume his bone had brought the remains of my victim to
There the corpse lay, on the very top of the excavations. Time had
not, of course, improved its appearance, which was ghastly in the
extreme, but still plainly recognisable by the eye of affection.
"It's a very ordinary hole," I gasped, putting myself before it and
trying to turn them back. "Nothing in it--nothing at all!"
"Except one Algernon Weatherhead, Esq., eh?" whispered Travers,
jocosely, in my ear.
"No; but," persisted the colonel, advancing, "look here! Has the dog
damaged any of your shrubs?"
"No, no!" I cried, piteously; "quite the reverse. Let's all go indoors
now; it's getting so cold!"
"See, there /is/ a shrub or something uprooted," said the colonel,
still coming nearer that fatal hole. "Why, hullo, look there! What's
Lilian, who was by his side, gave a slight scream. "Uncle," she cried,
"it looks like--like /Bingo/!"
The colonel turned suddenly upon me. "Do you hear?" he demanded, in a
choked voice. "You hear what she says? Can't you speak out? Is that
I gave it up at last; I only longed to be allowed to crawl away under
something! "Yes," I said in a dull whisper, as I sat down heavily on a
garden seat, "yes . . . that's Bingo . . . misfortune . . . shoot him
. . . quite an accident!"
There was a terrible explosion after that; they saw at last how I had
deceived them, and put the very worst construction upon everything.
Even now I writhe impotently at times, and my cheeks smart and tingle
with humiliation, as I recall that scene--the colonel's very plain
speaking, Lilian's passionate reproaches and contempt, and her aunt's
speechless prostration of disappointment.
I made no attempt to defend myself; I was not, perhaps, the complete
villain they deemed me, but I felt dully that no doubt it all served
me perfectly right.
Still I do not think I am under any obligation to put their remarks
down in black and white here.
Travers had vanished at the first opportunity--whether out of
delicacy, or the fear of breaking out into unseasonable mirth, I
cannot say; and shortly afterward the others came to where I sat
silent with bowed head, and bade me a stern and final farewell.
And then, as the last gleam of Lilian's white dress vanished down the
garden path, I laid my head down on the table among the coffee-cups,
and cried like a beaten child.
I got leave as soon as I could, and went abroad. The morning after my
return I noticed, while shaving, that there was a small square marble
tablet placed against the wall of the colonel's garden. I got my
opera-glass and read--and pleasant reading it was--the following
IN AFFECTIONATE MEMORY
B I N G O,
SECRETLY AND CRUELLY PUT TO DEATH,
IN COLD BLOOD,
NEIGHBOUR AND FRIEND.
If this explanation of mine ever reaches my neighbours' eyes, I humbly
hope they will have the humanity either to take away or tone down that
tablet. They cannot conceive what I suffer when curious visitors
insist, as they do every day, on spelling out the words from our
windows, and asking me countless questions about them!
Sometimes I meet the Curries about the village, and as they pass me
with averted heads I feel myself growing crimson. Travers is almost
always with Lilian now. He has given her a dog,--a fox-terrier,--and
they take ostentatiously elaborate precautions to keep it out of my
I should like to assure them here that they need not be under any
alarm. I have shot one dog.
THAT BRUTE SIMMONS
Simmons's infamous behaviour toward his wife is still matter for
profound wonderment among the neighbours. The other women had all
along regarded him as a model husband, and certainly Mrs. Simmons was
a most conscientious wife. She toiled and slaved for that man, as any
woman in the whole street would have maintained, far more than any
husband had a right to expect. And now this was what she got for it.
Perhaps he had suddenly gone mad.
Before she married Simmons, Mrs. Simmons had been the widowed Mrs.
Ford. Ford had got a berth as donkeyman on a tramp steamer, and that
steamer had gone down with all hands off the Cape: a judgment, the
widow woman feared, for long years of contumacy, which had culminated
in the wickedness of taking to the sea, and taking to it as a
donkeyman--an immeasurable fall for a capable engine-fitter. Twelve
years as Mrs. Ford had left her still childless, and childless she
remained as Mrs. Simmons.
As for Simmons, he, it was held, was fortunate in that capable wife.
He was a moderately good carpenter and joiner, but no man of the
world, and he wanted one. Nobody could tell what might not have
happened to Tommy Simmons if there had been no Mrs. Simmons to take
care of him. He was a meek and quiet man, with a boyish face and
sparse, limp whiskers. He had no vices (even his pipe departed him
after his marriage), and Mrs. Simmons had ingrafted on him divers
exotic virtues. He went solemnly to chapel every Sunday, under a tall
hat, and put a penny--one returned to him for the purpose out of his
week's wages--in the plate. Then, Mrs. Simmons overseeing, he took off
his best clothes, and brushed them with solicitude and pains. On
Saturday afternoons he cleaned the knives, the forks, the boots, the
kettles, and the windows, patiently and conscientiously; on Tuesday
evenings he took the clothes to the mangling; and on Saturday nights
he attended Mrs. Simmons in her marketing, to carry the parcels.
Mrs. Simmons's own virtues were native and numerous. She was a
wonderful manager. Every penny of Tommy's thirty-six or thirty-eight
shillings a week was bestowed to the greatest advantage, and Tommy
never ventured to guess how much of it she saved. Her cleanliness in
housewifery was distracting to behold. She met Simmons at the front
door whenever he came home, and then and there he changed his boots
for slippers, balancing himself painfully on alternate feet on the
cold flags. This was because she scrubbed the passage and door-step
turn about with the wife of the downstairs family, and because the
stair-carpet was her own. She vigilantly supervised her husband all
through the process of "cleaning himself" after work, so as to come
between her walls and the possibility of random splashes; and if, in
spite of her diligence, a spot remained to tell the tale, she was at
pains to impress the fact on Simmons's memory, and to set forth at
length all the circumstances of his ungrateful selfishness. In the
beginning she had always escorted him to the ready-made clothes shop,
and had selected and paid for his clothes, for the reason that men are
such perfect fools, and shopkeepers do as they like with them. But she
presently improved on that. She found a man selling cheap remnants at
a street-corner, and straightway she conceived the idea of making
Simmons's clothes herself. Decision was one of her virtues, and a suit
of uproarious check tweeds was begun that afternoon from the pattern
furnished by an old one. More: it was finished by Sunday, when
Simmons, overcome by astonishment at the feat, was endued in it, and
pushed off to chapel ere he could recover his senses. The things were
not altogether comfortable, he found: the trousers hung tight against
his shins, but hung loose behind his heels; and when he sat, it was on
a wilderness of hard folds and seams. Also, his waistcoat collar
tickled his nape, but his coat collar went straining across from
shoulder to shoulder; while the main garment bagged generously below
his waist. Use made a habit of his discomfort, but it never reconciled
him to the chaff of his shopmates; for, as Mrs. Simmons elaborated
successive suits, each one modelled on the last, the primal accidents
of her design developed into principles, and grew even bolder and more
hideously pronounced. It was vain for Simmons to hint--as hint he did
--that he shouldn't like her to overwork herself, tailoring being bad
for the eyes, and there was a new tailor's in the Mile End Road, very
cheap, where . . . "Ho yus," she retorted, "you're very consid'rit I
dessay sittin' there actin' a livin' lie before your own wife Thomas
Simmons as though I couldn't see through you like a book a lot you
care about overworkin' me as long as /your/ turn's served throwin'
away money like dirt in the street on a lot o' swindlin' tailors an'
me workin' and' slavin' 'ere to save a 'a'penny an' this is my return
for it any one 'ud think you could pick up money in the 'orse-road an'
I b'lieve I'd be thought better of if I laid in bed all day like some
would that I do." So that Thomas Simmons avoided the subject, nor even
murmured when she resolved to cut his hair.
So his placid fortune endured for years. Then there came a golden
summer evening when Mrs. Simmons betook herself with a basket to do
some small shopping, and Simmons was left at home. He washed and put
away the tea-things, and then he fell to meditating on a new pair of
trousers, finished that day, and hanging behind the parlour door.
There they hung, in all their decent innocence of shape in the seat,
and they were shorter of leg, longer of waist, and wilder of pattern
than he had ever worn before. And as he looked on them the small devil
of Original Sin awoke and clamoured in his breast. He was ashamed of
it, of course, for well he knew the gratitude he owed his wife for
those same trousers, among other blessings. Still, there the small
devil was, and the small devil was fertile in base suggestions, and
could not be kept from hinting at the new crop of workshop gibes that
would spring at Tommy's first public appearance in such things.
"Pitch 'em in the dust-bin!" said the small devil at last. "It's all
they're fit for."
Simmons turned away in sheer horror of his wicked self, and for a
moment thought of washing the tea-things over again by way of
discipline. Then he made for the back room, but saw from the landing
that the front door was standing open, probably the fault of the child
downstairs. Now a front door standing open was a thing that Mrs.
Simmons would /not/ abide: it looked low. So Simmons went down, that
she might not be wroth with him for the thing when she came back; and,
as he shut the door, he looked forth into the street.
A man was loitering on the pavement, and prying curiously about the
door. His face was tanned, his hands were deep in the pockets of his
unbraced blue trousers, and well back on his head he wore the
high-crowned peaked cap, topped with a knob of wool, which is affected
by Jack ashore about the docks. He lurched a step nearer to the door,
and "Mrs. Ford ain't in, is she?" he said.
Simmons stared at him for a matter of five seconds, and then said,
"Mrs. Ford as was, then--Simmons now, ain't it?"
He said this with a furtive leer that Simmons neither liked nor
"No," said Simmons; "she ain't in now."
"You ain't her 'usband, are ye?"
The man took his pipe from his mouth and grinned silently and long.
"Blimy," he said at length, "you look like the sort o' bloke she'd
like," and with that he grinned again. Then, seeing that Simmons made
ready to shut the door, he put a foot on the sill and a hand against
the panel. "Don't be in a 'hurry, matey," he said; "I come 'ere t'
'ave a little talk with you, man to man, d' ye see?" And he frowned
Tommy Simmons felt uncomfortable, but the door would not shut, so he
parleyed. "Wotjer want?" he asked, "I dunno you."
"Then, if you'll excuse the liberty, I'll interdooce meself, in a
manner of speaking." He touched his cap with a bob of mock humility.
"I'm Bob Ford," he said, "come back out o' kingdom come so to say. Me
as went down with the /Mooltan/--safe dead five year gone. I come to
see my wife."
During this speech Thomas Simmons's jaw was dropping lower and lower.
At the end of it he poked his fingers up through his hair, looked down
at the mat, then up at the fanlight, then out into the street, then
hard at his visitor. But he found nothing to say.
"Come to see my wife," the man repeated. "So now we can talk it over--
as man to man."
Simmons slowly shut his mouth, and led the way upstairs mechanically,
his fingers still in his hair. A sense of the state of affairs sank
gradually into his brain, and the small devil woke again. Suppose this
man /was/ Ford? Suppose he /did/ claim his wife? Would it be a knock-
down blow? Would it hit him out?--or not? He thought of the trousers,
the tea-things, the mangling, the knives, the kettles, and the
windows; and he thought of them in the way of a backslider.
On the landing Ford clutched at his arm, and asked in a hoarse
whisper, " 'Ow long 'fore she's back?"
" 'Bout an hour, I expect," Simmons replied, having first of all
repeated the question in his own mind. And then he opened the parlour
"Ah," said Ford, looking about him, "you've bin pretty comf'table.
Them chairs an' things," jerking his pipe toward them, "was hers--
mine, that is to say, speakin' straight, and man to man." He sat down,
puffing meditatively at his pipe, and presently, "Well," he continued,
" 'ere I am agin, ol' Bob Ford, dead an' done for--gone down in the
/Mooltan/. On'y I /ain't/ done for, see?" And he pointed the stem of
his pipe at Simmons's waistcoat. "I ain't done for, 'cause why?
Cons'kence o' bein' picked up by a ol' German sailin'-'utch an' took
to 'Frisco 'fore the mast. I've 'ad a few years o' knockin' about
since then, an' now"--looking hard at Simmons--"I've come back to see
"She--she don't like smoke in 'ere," said Simmons, as it were at
"No, I bet she don't," Ford answered, taking his pipe from his mouth
and holding it low in his hand. "I know 'Anner. 'Ow d' you find 'er?
Do she make ye clean the winders?"
"Well," Simmons admitted, uneasily, "I--I do 'elp 'er sometimes, o'
"Ah! An' the knives too, I bet, an' the bloomin' kittles. I know.
W'y"--he rose and bent to look behind Simmons's head--"s' 'elp me, I
b'lieve she cuts yer 'air! Well, I'm dammed! Jes' wot she would do,
He inspected the blushing Simmons from divers points of vantage. Then
he lifted a leg of the trousers hanging behind the door. "I'd bet a
trifle," he said, "she made these 'ere trucks. No-body else 'ud do 'em
like that. Damme! they're wuss'n wot you've got on."
The small devil began to have the argument all its own way. If this
man took his wife back perhaps he'd have to wear those trousers.
"Ah," Ford pursued, "she ain't got no milder. An', my davy, wot a
Simmons began to feel that this was no longer his business. Plainly,
'Anner was this other man's wife, and he was bound in honour to
acknowledge the fact. The small devil put it to him as a matter of
"Well," said Ford, suddenly, "time's short an' this ain't business. I
won't be 'ard on you, matey. I ought prop'ly to stand on my rights,
but seein' as you're a well-meaning young man, so to speak, an' all
settled an' a-livin' 'ere quiet an' matrimonual, I'll"--this with a
burst of generosity--"damme! yus, I'll compound the felony an' take me
'ook. Come, I'll name a figure, as man to man, fust an' last, no less
an' no more. Five pound does it."
Simmons hadn't five pounds,--he hadn't even fivepence,--and he said
so. "An' I wouldn't think to come between a man an' 'is wife," he
added, "not on no account. It may be rough on me, but it's a dooty.
/I'll/ 'ook it."
"No," said Ford, hastily, clutching Simmons by the arm, "don't do
that. I'll make it a bit cheaper. Say three quid--come, that's
reasonable, ain't it? Three quid ain't much compensation for me goin'
away for ever--where the stormy winds do blow, so to say--an' never as
much as seein' me own wife agin for better nor wuss. Between man an'
man, now, three quid, an' I'll shunt. That's fair, ain't it?"
"Of course it's fair," Simmons replied, effusively. "It's more'n fair:
it's noble--downright noble, /I/ call it. But I ain't goin' to take a
mean advantage o' your good-'artedness, Mr. Ford. She's your wife, an'
I oughtn't to 'a' come between you. I apologise. You stop an' 'ave yer
proper rights. It's me as ought to shunt, an' I will." And he made a
step toward the door.
" 'Old on," quoth Ford, and got between Simmons and the door; "don't
do things rash. Look wot a loss it'll be to you with no 'ome to go to,
an' nobody to look after ye, an' all that. It'll be dreadful. Say a
couple--there, we won't quarrel, jest a single quid, between man an'
man, an' I'll stand a pot out o' the money. You can easy raise a quid
--the clock 'ud pretty nigh do it. A quid does it, an' I'll--"
There was a loud double knock at the front door. In the East End a
double knock is always for the upstairs lodgers.
"Oo's that?" asked Bob Ford, apprehensively.
"I'll see," said Thomas Simmons, in reply, and he made a rush for the
Bob Ford heard him open the front door. The he went to the window, and
just below him he saw the crown of a bonnet. It vanished, and borne to
him from within the door there fell upon his ear the sound of a well-
remembered female voice.
"Where ye goin' now with no 'at?" asked the voice, sharply.
"Awright, 'Anner--there's--there's somebody upstairs to see you,"
Simmons answered. And, as Bob Ford could see, a man went scuttling
down the street in the gathering dusk. And behold, it was Thomas
Ford reached the landing in three strides. His wife was still at the
front door, staring after Simmons. He flung into the back room, threw
open the window, dropped from the wash-house roof into the back yard,
scrambled desperately over the fence, and disappeared into the gloom.
He was seen by no living soul. And that is why Simmons's base
desertion--under his wife's very eyes, too--is still an astonishment
to the neighbours.
A ROSE OF THE GHETTO
One day it occurred to Leibel that he ought to get married. He went to
Sugarman the Shadchan forthwith.
"I have the very thing for you," said the great marriage broker.
"Is she pretty?" asked Leibel.
"Her father has a boot and shoe warehouse," replied Sugarman,
"Then there ought to be a dowry with her," said Leibel, eagerly.
"Certainly a dowry! A fine man like you!"
"How much do you think it would be?"
"Of course it is not a large warehouse; but then you could get your
boots at trade price, and your wife's, perhaps, for the cost of the
"When could I see her?"
"I will arrange for you to call next Sabbath afternoon."
"You won't charge me more than a sovereign?"
"Not a groschen more! Such a pious maiden! I'm sure you will be happy.
She has so much way-of-the-country [breeding]. And of course five per
cent on the dowry?"
"H'm! Well, I don't mind!" "Perhaps they won't give a dowry," he
thought with a consolatory sense of outwitting the Shadchan.
On the Saturday Leibel went to see the damsel, and on the Sunday he
went to see Sugarman the Shadchan.
"But your maiden squints!" he cried, resentfully.
"An excellent thing!" said Sugarman. "A wife who squints can never
look her husband straight in the face and overwhelm him. Who would
quail before a woman with a squint?"
"I could endure the squint," went on Leibel, dubiously, "but she also
"Well, what is better, in the event of a quarrel? The difficulty she
has in talking will keep her far more silent than most wives. You had
best secure her while you have the chance."
"But she halts on the left leg," cried Leibel, exasperated.
"/Gott in Himmel!/ Do you mean to say you do not see what an advantage
it is to have a wife unable to accompany you in all your goings?"
Leibel lost patience.
"Why, the girl is a hunchback!" he protested, furiously.
"My dear Leibel," said the marriage broker, deprecatingly shrugging
his shoulders and spreading out his palms, "you can't expect
Nevertheless Leibel persisted in his unreasonable attitude. He accused
Sugarman of wasting his time, of making a fool of him.
"A fool of you!" echoed the Shadchan, indignantly, "when I give you a
chance of a boot and shoe manufacturer's daughter? You will make a
fool of yourself if you refuse. I dare say her dowry would be enough
to set you up as a master tailor. At present you are compelled to
slave away as a cutter for thirty shillings a week. It is most unjust.
If you only had a few machines you would be able to employ your own
cutters. And they can be got so cheap nowadays."
This gave Leibel pause, and he departed without having definitely
broken the negotiations. His whole week was befogged by doubt, his
work became uncertain, his chalk marks lacked their usual decision,
and he did not always cut his coat according to his cloth. His
aberrations became so marked that pretty Rose Green, the sweater's
eldest daughter, who managed a machine in the same room, divined, with
all a woman's intuition, that he was in love.
"What is the matter?" she said, in rallying Yiddish, when they were
taking their lunch of bread and cheese and ginger-beer amid the
clatter of machines, whose serfs had not yet knocked off work.
"They are proposing me a match," he answered, sullenly.
"A match!" ejaculated Rose. "Thou!" She had worked by his side for
years, and familiarity bred the second person singular. Leibel nodded
his head, and put a mouthful of Dutch cheese into it.
"With whom?" asked Rose. Somehow he felt ashamed. He gurgled the
answer into the stone ginger-beer bottle, which he put to his thirsty
"With Leah Volcovitch!"
"Leah Volcovitch!" gasped Rose. "Leah, the boot and shoe
Leibel hung his head--he scarce knew why. He did not dare meet her
gaze. His droop said "Yes." There was a long pause.
"And why dost thou not have her?" said Rose. It was more than an
inquiry; there was contempt in it, and perhaps even pique.
Leibel did not reply. The embarrassing silence reigned again, and
reigned long. Rose broke it at last.
"Is it that thou likest me better?" she asked.
Leibel seemed to see a ball of lightning in the air; it burst, and he
felt the electric current strike right through his heart. The shock
threw his head up with a jerk, so that his eyes gazed into a face
whose beauty and tenderness were revealed to him for the first time.
The face of his old acquaintance had vanished; this was a cajoling,
coquettish, smiling face, suggesting undreamed-of things.
"/Nu/, yes," he replied, without perceptible pause.
"/Nu/, good!" she rejoined as quickly.
And in the ecstasy of that moment of mutual understanding Leibel
forgot to wonder why he had never thought of Rose before. Afterward he
remembered that she had always been his social superior.
The situation seemed too dream-like for explanation to the room just
yet. Leibel lovingly passed a bottle of ginger-beer, and Rose took a
sip, with a beautiful air of plighting troth, understood only of those
two. When Leibel quaffed the remnant it intoxicated him. The relics of
the bread and cheese were the ambrosia to this nectar. They did not
dare kiss; the suddenness of it all left them bashful, and the smack
of lips would have been like a cannon-peal announcing their
engagement. There was a subtler sweetness in this sense of a secret,
apart from the fact that neither cared to break the news to the master
tailor, a stern little old man. Leibel's chalk marks continued
indecisive that afternoon, which shows how correctly Rose had
connected them with love.
Before he left that night Rose said to him, "Art thou sure thou
wouldst not rather have Leah Volcovitch?"
"Not for all the boots and shoes in the world," replied Leibel,
"And I," protested Rose, "would rather go without my own than without
The landing outside the workshop was so badly lighted that their lips
came together in the darkness.
"Nay, nay; thou must not yet," said Rose. "Thou art still courting
Leah Volcovitch. For aught thou knowest, Sugarman the Shadchan may
have entangled thee beyond redemption."
"Not so," asserted Leibel. "I have only seen the maiden once."
"Yes. But Sugarman has seen her father several times," persisted Rose.
"For so misshapen a maiden his commission would be large. Thou must go
to Sugarman to-night, and tell him that thou canst not find it in thy
heart to go on with the match."
"Kiss me, and I will go," pleaded Leibel.
"Go, and I will kiss thee," said Rose, resolutely.
"And when shall we tell thy father?" he asked, pressing her hand, as
the next best thing to her lips.
"As soon as thou art free from Leah."
"But will he consent?"
"He will not be glad," said Rose, frankly. "But after mother's death--
peace be upon her--the rule passed from her hands into mine."
"Ah, that is well," said Leibel. He was a superficial thinker.
Leibel found Sugarman at supper. The great Shadchan offered him a
chair, but nothing else. Hospitality was associated in his mind with
special occasions only, and involved lemonade and "stuffed monkeys."
He was very put out--almost to the point of indigestion--to hear of
Leibel's final determination, and plied him with reproachful
"You don't mean to say that you give up a boot and shoe manufacturer
merely because his daughter has round shoulders!" he exclaimed,
"It is more than round shoulders--it is a hump!" cried Leibel.
"And suppose? See how much better off you will be when you get your
own machines! We do not refuse to let camels carry our burdens because
they have humps."
"Ah, but a wife is not a camel," said Leibel, with a sage air.
"And a cutter is not a master tailor," retorted Sugarman.
"Enough, enough!" cried Leibel. "I tell you, I would not have her if
she were a machine warehouse."
"There sticks something behind," persisted Sugarman, unconvinced.
Leibel shook his head. "Only her hump" he said with a flash of humour.
"Moses Mendelssohn had a hump," expostulated Sugarman, reproachfully.
"Yes, but he was a heretic," rejoined Leibel, who was not without
reading. "And then he was a man! A man with two humps could find a
wife for each. But a woman with a hump cannot expect a husband in
"Guard your tongue from evil," quoth the Shadchan, angrily. "If
everybody were to talk like you Leah Volcovitch would never be married
Leibel shrugged his shoulders, and reminded him that hunchbacked girls
who stammered and squinted and halted on left legs were not usually
led under the canopy.
"Nonsense! Stuff!" cried Sugarman, angrily. "That is because they do
not come to me."
"Leah Volcovitch /has/ come to you," said Leibel, "but she shall not
come to me." And he rose, anxious to escape.
Instantly Sugarman gave a sigh of resignation. "Be it so! Then I shall
have to look out for another, that's all."
"No, I don't want any," replied Leibel, quickly.
Sugarman stopped eating. "You don't want any?" he cried. "But you came
to me for one?"
"I--I--know," stammered Leibel. "But I've--I've altered my mind."
"One needs Hillel's patience to deal with you!" cried Sugarman. "But I
shall charge you, all the same, for my trouble. You cannot cancel an
order like this in the middle! No, no! You can play fast and loose
with Leah Volcovitch, but you shall not make a fool of me."
"But if I don't want one?" said Leibel, sullenly.
Sugarman gazed at him with a cunning look of suspicion. "Didn't I say
there was something sticking behind?"
Leibel felt guilty. "But whom have you got in your eye?" he inquired,
"Perhaps you may have some one in yours!" naively answered Sugarman.
Leibel gave a hypocritic long-drawn "U-m-m-m! I wonder if Rose Green--
where I work--" he said, and stopped.
"I fear not," said Sugarman. "She is on my list. Her father gave her
to me some months ago, but he is hard to please. Even the maiden
herself is not easy, being pretty."
"Perhaps she has waited for some one," suggested Leibel.
Sugarman's keen ear caught the note of complacent triumph.
"You have been asking her yourself!" he exclaimed, in horror-stricken
"And if I have?" said Leibel, defiantly.
"You have cheated me! And so has Eliphaz Green--I always knew he was
tricky! You have both defrauded me!"
"I did not mean to," said Leibel, mildly.
"You /did/ mean to. You had no business to take the matter out of my
hands. What right had you to propose to Rose Green?"
"I did not," cried Leibel, excitedly.
"Then you asked her father!"
"No; I have not asked her father yet."
"Then how do you know she will have you?"
"I--I know," stammered Leibel, feeling himself somehow a liar as well
as a thief. His brain was in a whirl; he could not remember how the
thing had come about. Certainly he had not proposed; nor could he say
that she had.
"You know she will have you," repeated Sugarman, reflectively. "And
does /she/ know?"
"Yes. In fact," he blurted out, "we arranged it together."
"Ah, you both know. And does her father know?"
"Ah, then I must get his consent," said Sugarman, decisively.
"I--I thought of speaking to him myself."
"Yourself!" echoed Sugarman, in horror. "Are you unsound in the head?
Why, that would be worse than the mistake you have already made!"
"What mistake?" asked Leibel, firing up.
"The mistake of asking the maiden herself. When you quarrel with her
after your marriage she will always throw it in your teeth that you
wished to marry her. Moreover, if you tell a maiden you love her, her
father will think you ought to marry her as she stands. Still, what is
done is done." And he sighed regretfully.
"And what more do I want? I love her."
"You piece of clay!" cried Sugarman, contemptuously. "Love will not
turn machines, much less buy them. You must have a dowry. Her father
has a big stocking; he can well afford it."
Leibel's eyes lit up. There was really no reason why he should not
have bread and cheese with his kisses.
"Now, if /you/ went to her father," pursued the Shadchan, "the odds
are that he would not even give you his daughter--to say nothing of
the dowry. After all, it is a cheek of you to aspire so high. As you
told me from the first, you haven't saved a penny. Even my commission
you won't be able to pay till you get the dowry. But if /I/ go I do
not despair of getting a substantial sum--to say nothing of the
"Yes, I think you had better go," said Leibel, eagerly.
"But if I do this thing for you I shall want a pound more," rejoined
"A pound more!" echoed Leibel, in dismay. "Why?"
"Because Rose Green's hump is of gold," replied Sugarman, oracularly.
"Also, she is fair to see, and many men desire her."
"But you have always your five per cent, on the dowry."
"It will be less than Volcovitch's," explained Sugarman. "You see,
Green has other and less beautiful daughters."
"Yes, but then it settles itself more easily. Say five shillings."
"Eliphaz Green is a hard man," said the Shadchan instead.
"Ten shillings is the most I will give!"
"Twelve and sixpence is the least I will take. Eliphaz Green haggles
They split the difference, and so eleven and threepence represented
the predominance of Eliphaz Green's stinginess over Volcovitch's.
The very next day Sugarman invaded the Green workroom. Rose bent over
her seams, her heart fluttering. Leibel had duly apprised her of the
roundabout manner in which she would have to be won, and she had
acquiesced in the comedy. At the least it would save her the trouble
Sugarman's entry was brusque and breathless. He was overwhelmed with
joyous emotion. His blue bandana trailed agitatedly from his coat-
"At last!" he cried, addressing the little white-haired master tailor;
"I have the very man for you."
"Yes?" grunted Eliphaz, unimpressed. The monosyllable was packed with
emotion. It said, "Have you really the face to come to me again with
an ideal man?"
"He has all the qualities that you desire," began the Shadchan, in a
tone that repudiated the implications of the monosyllable. "He is
young, strong, God-fearing--"
"Has he any money?" grumpily interrupted Eliphaz.
"He /will/ have money," replied Sugarman, unhesitatingly, "when he
"Ah!" The father's voice relaxed, and his foot lay limp on the
treadle. He worked one of his machines himself, and paid himself the
wages so as to enjoy the profit. "How much will he have?"
"I think he will have fifty pounds; and the least you can do is to let
him have fifty pounds," replied Sugarman, with the same happy
Eliphaz shook his head on principle.
"Yes, you will," said Sugarman, "when you learn how fine a man he is."
The flush of confusion and trepidation already on Leibel's countenance
became a rosy glow of modesty, for he could not help overhearing what
was being said, owing to the lull of the master tailor's machine.
"Tell me, then," rejoined Eliphaz.
"Tell me, first, if you will give fifty to a young, healthy, hard-
working, God-fearing man, whose idea it is to start as a master tailor
on his own account? And you know how profitable that is!"
"To a man like that," said Eliphaz, in a burst of enthusiasm, "I would
give as much as twenty-seven pounds ten!"
Sugarman groaned inwardly, but Leibel's heart leaped with joy. To get
four months' wages at a stroke! With twenty-seven pounds ten he could
certainly procure several machines, especially on the instalment
system. Out of the corners of his eyes he shot a glance at Rose, who
was beyond earshot.
"Unless you can promise thirty it is waste of time mentioning his
name," said Sugarman.
"Well, well--who is he?"
Sugarman bent down, lowering his voice into the father's ear.
"What! Leibel!" cried Eliphaz, outraged.
"Sh!" said Sugarman, "or he will overhear your delight, and ask more.
He has his nose high enough, as it is."
"B--b--b--ut," sputtered the bewildered parent, "I know Leibel myself.
I see him every day. I don't want a Shadchan to find me a man I know--
a mere hand in my own workshop!"
"Your talk has neither face nor figure," answered Sugarman, sternly.
"It is just the people one sees every day that one knows least. I
warrant that if I had not put it into your head you would never have
dreamt of Leibel as a son-in-law. Come now, confess."
Eliphaz grunted vaguely, and the Shadchan went on triumphantly: "I
thought as much. And yet where could you find a better man to keep
"He ought to be content with her alone," grumbled her father.
Sugarman saw the signs of weakening, and dashed in, full strength:
"It's a question whether he will have her at all. I have not been to
him about her yet. I awaited your approval of the idea." Leibel
admired the verbal accuracy of these statements, which he had just
"But I didn't know he would be having money," murmured Eliphaz.
"Of course you didn't know. That's what the Shadchan is for--to point
out the things that are under your nose."
"But where will he be getting this money from?"
"From you," said Sugarman, frankly.
"From whom else? Are you not his employer? It has been put by for his
"He has saved it?"
"He has not /spent/ it," said Sugarman, impatiently.
"But do you mean to say he has saved fifty pounds?"
"If he could manage to save fifty pounds out of your wages he would be
indeed a treasure," said Sugarman. "Perhaps it might be thirty."
"But you said fifty."
"Well, /you/ came down to thirty," retorted the Shadchan. "You cannot
expect him to have more than your daughter brings."
"I never said thirty," Eliphaz reminded him. "Twenty-seven ten was my
"Very well; that will do as a basis of negotiations," said Sugarman,
resignedly. "I will call upon him this evening. If I were to go over
and speak to him now, he would perceive you were anxious, and raise
his terms, and that will never do. Of course you will not mind
allowing me a pound more for finding you so economical a son-in-law?"
"Not a penny more."
"You need not fear," said Sugarman, resentfully. "It is not likely I
shall be able to persuade him to take so economical a father-in-law.
So you will be none the worse for promising."
"Be it so," said Eliphaz, with a gesture of weariness, and he started
his machine again.
"Twenty-seven pounds ten, remember," said Sugarman, above the whir.
Eliphaz nodded his head, whirring his wheel-work louder.
"And paid before the wedding, mind."
The machine took no notice.
"Before the wedding, mind," repeated Sugarman. "Before we go under the
"Go now, go now!" grunted Eliphaz, with a gesture of impatience. "It
shall all be well." And the white-haired head bowed immovably over its
In the evening Rose extracted from her father the motive of Sugarman's
visit, and confessed that the idea was to her liking.
"But dost thou think he will have me, little father?" she asked, with
"Any one would have my Rose."
"Ah, but Leibel is different. So many years he has sat at my side and
"He had his work to think of. He is a good, saving youth."
"At this very moment Sugarman is trying to persuade him--not so? I
suppose he will want much money."
"Be easy, my child." And he passed his discoloured hand over her hair.
Sugarman turned up the next day, and reported that Leibel was
unobtainable under thirty pounds, and Eliphaz, weary of the contest,
called over Leibel, till that moment carefully absorbed in his
scientific chalk marks, and mentioned the thing to him for the first
time. "I am not a man to bargain," Eliphaz said, and so he gave the
young man his tawny hand, and a bottle of rum sprang from somewhere,
and work was suspended for five minutes, and the "hands" all drank
amid surprised excitement. Sugarman's visits had prepared them to
congratulate Rose; but Leibel was a shock.
The formal engagement was marked by even greater junketing, and at
last the marriage day came. Leibel was resplendent in a diagonal
frockcoat, cut by his own hand; and Rose stepped from the cab a medley
of flowers, fairness, and white silk, and behind her came two
bridesmaids,--her sisters,--a trio that glorified the spectator-strewn
pavement outside the synagogue. Eliphaz looked almost tall in his
shiny high hat and frilled shirt-front. Sugarman arrived on foot,
carrying red-socked little Ebenezer tucked under his arm.
Leibel and Rose were not the only couple to be disposed of, for it was
the thirty-third day of the Omer--a day fruitful in marriages.
But at last their turn came. They did not, however, come in their
turn, and their special friends among the audience wondered why they
had lost their precedence. After several later marriages had taken
place a whisper began to circulate. The rumour of a hitch gained
ground steadily, and the sensation was proportionate. And, indeed, the
rose was not to be picked without a touch of the thorn.
Gradually the facts leaked out, and a buzz of talk and comment ran
through the waiting synagogue. Eliphaz had not paid up!
At first he declared he would put down the money immediately after the
ceremony. But the wary Sugarman, schooled by experience, demanded its
instant delivery on behalf of his other client. Hard pressed, Eliphaz
produced ten sovereigns from his trousers-pocket, and tendered them on
account. These Sugarman disdainfully refused, and the negotiations
were suspended. The bridegroom's party was encamped in one room, the
bride's in another, and after a painful delay Eliphaz sent an emissary
to say that half the amount should be forthcoming, the extra five
pounds in a bright new Bank of England note. Leibel, instructed and
encouraged by Sugarman, stood firm.
And then arose a hubbub of voices, a chaos of suggestions; friends
rushed to and fro between the camps, some emerging from their seats in
the synagogue to add to the confusion. But Eliphaz had taken his stand
upon a rock--he had no more ready money. To-morrow, the next day, he
would have some. And Leibel, pale and dogged, clutched tighter at
those machines that were slipping away momently from him. He had not
yet seen his bride that morning, and so her face was shadowy compared
with the tangibility of those machines. Most of the other maidens were
married women by now, and the situation was growing desperate. From
the female camp came terrible rumours of bridesmaids in hysterics, and
a bride that tore her wreath in a passion of shame and humiliation.
Eliphaz sent word that he would give an I O U for the balance, but
that he really could not muster any more current coin. Sugarman
instructed the ambassador to suggest that Eliphaz should raise the
money among his friends.
And the short spring day slipped away. In vain the minister, apprised
of the block, lengthened out the formulae for the other pairs, and
blessed them with more reposeful unction. It was impossible to stave
off the Leibel-Green item indefinitely, and at last Rose remained the
only orange-wreathed spinster in the synagogue. And then there was a
hush of solemn suspense, that swelled gradually into a steady rumble
of babbling tongues, as minute succeeded minute and the final bridal
party still failed to appear. The latest bulletin pictured the bride
in a dead faint. The afternoon was waning fast. The minister left his
post near the canopy, under which so many lives had been united, and
came to add his white tie to the forces for compromise. But he fared
no better than the others. Incensed at the obstinacy of the
antagonists, he declared he would close the synagogue. He gave the
couple ten minutes to marry in or quit. Then chaos came, and
pandemonium--a frantic babel of suggestion and exhortation from the
crowd. When five minutes had passed a legate from Eliphaz announced
that his side had scraped together twenty pounds, and that this was
their final bid.
Leibel wavered; the long day's combat had told upon him; the reports
of the bride's distress had weakened him. Even Sugarman had lost his
cocksureness of victory. A few minutes more and both commissions might
slip through his fingers. Once the parties left the synagogue, it
would not be easy to drive them there another day. But he cheered on
his man still: one could always surrender at the tenth minute.
At the eighth the buzz of tongues faltered suddenly, to be transposed
into a new key, so to speak. Through the gesticulating assembly swept
that murmur of expectation which crowds know when the procession is
coming at last. By some mysterious magnetism all were aware that the
BRIDE herself--the poor hysteric bride--had left the paternal camp,
was coming in person to plead with her mercenary lover.
And as the glory of her and the flowers and the white draperies loomed
upon Leibel's vision his heart melted in worship, and he knew his
citadel would crumble in ruins at her first glance, at her first
touch. Was it fair fighting? As his troubled vision cleared, and as
she came nigh unto him, he saw to his amazement that she was speckless
and composed--no trace of tears dimmed the fairness of her face, there
was no disarray in her bridal wreath.
The clock showed the ninth minute.
She put her hand appeallingly on his arm, while a heavenly light came
into her face--the expression of a Joan of Arc animating her country.
"Do not give in, Leibel!" she said. "Do not have me! Do not let them
persuade thee! By my life, thou must not! Go home!"
So at the eleventh minute the vanquished Eliphaz produced the balance,
and they all lived happily ever afterward.
AN IDYL OF LONDON
It was one o'clock, and many of the students in the National Gallery
had left off work and were refreshing themselves with lunch and
conversation. There was one old worker who had not stirred from his
place, but he had put down his brush, and had taken from his pocket a
small book, which was like its owner--thin and shabby of covering. He
seemed to find pleasure in reading it, for he turned over its pages
with all the tenderness characteristic of one who loves what he reads.
Now and again he glanced at his unfinished copy of the beautiful
portrait of Andrea del Sarto, and once his eyes rested on another copy
next to his, better and truer than his, and once he stopped to pick up
a girl's prune-coloured tie, which had fallen from the neighbouring
easel. After this he seemed to become unconscious of his surroundings,
as unconscious, indeed, as any one of the pictures near him. Any one
might have been justified in mistaking him for the portrait of a man,
but that his lips moved; for it was his custom to read softly to
The students passed back to their places, not troubling to notice him,
because they knew from experience that he never noticed them, and that
all greetings were wasted on him and all words were wanton expenditure
of breath. They had come to regard him very much in the same way as
many of us regard the wonders of nature, without astonishment, without
any questionings, and often without any interest. One girl, a new-
comer, did chance to say to her companion:
"How ill that old man looks!"
"Oh, he always looks like that," was the answer. "You will soon get
accustomed to him. Come along! I must finish my 'Blind Beggar' this
In a few minutes most of the workers were busy again, although there
were some who continued to chat quietly, and several young men who
seemed reluctant to leave their girl friends, and who were by no means
encouraged to go! One young man came to claim his book and pipe, which
he had left in the charge of a bright-eyed girl, who was copying Sir
Joshua's "Angels." She gave him his treasures, and received in
exchange a dark-red rose, which she fastened in her belt; and then he
returned to his portrait of Mrs. Siddons. But there was something in
his disconsolate manner which made one suspect that he thought less of
Mrs. Siddons's beauty than of the beauty of the girl who was wearing
the dark-red rose! The strangers, strolling through the rooms, stopped
now and again to peer curiously at the students' work. They were
stared at indignantly by the students themselves, but they made no
attempt to move away, and even ventured sometimes to pass criticisms
of no tender character on some of the copies. The fierce-looking man
who was copying "The Horse Fair" deliberately put down his brushes,
folded his arms, and waited defiantly until they had gone by; but
others, wiser in their generation, went on painting calmly. Several
workers were painting the new Raphael; one of them was a white-haired
old gentlewoman, whose hand was trembling, and yet skilful still. More
than once she turned to give a few hints to the young girl near her,
who looked in some distress and doubt. Just the needful help was
given, and then the girl plied her brush merrily, smiling the while
with pleasure and gratitude. There seemed to be a genial, kindly
influence at work, a certain homeliness too, which must needs assert
itself where many are gathered together, working side by side. All
made a harmony; the wonderful pictures, collected from many lands and
many centuries, each with its meaning and its message from the past;
the ever-present memories of the painters themselves, who had worked
and striven and conquered; and the living human beings, each with his
wealth of earnest endeavour and hope.
Meanwhile the old man read on uninterruptedly until two hands were put
over his book and a gentle voice said:
"Mr. Lindall, you have had no lunch again. Do you know, I begin to
hate Lucretius. He always makes you forget your food."
The old man looked up, and something like a smile passed over his
joyless face when he saw Helen Stanley bending over him.
"Ah," he answered, "you must not hate Lucretius. I have had more
pleasant hours with him than with any living person."
He rose and came forward to examine her copy of Andrea del Sarto's
"Yours is better than mine," he said, critically; "in fact, mine is a
failure. I think I shall only get a small price for mine; indeed, I
doubt whether I shall get sufficient to pay for my funeral."
"You speak dismally," she answered, smiling.
"I missed you yesterday," he continued, half dreamily. "I left my
work, and I wandered through the rooms, and I did not even read
Lucretius. Something seemed to have gone from my life. At first I
thought it must be my favourite Raphael, or the Murillo; but it was
neither the one nor the other; it was you. That was strange, wasn't
it? But you know we get accustomed to anything, and perhaps I should
have missed you less the second day, and by the end of a week I should
not have missed you at all. Mercifully, we have in us the power of
"I do not wish to plead for myself," she said, "but I do not believe
that you or any one could really forget. That which outsiders call
forgetfulness might be called by the better name of resignation."
"I don't care about talking any more now," he said, suddenly, and he
went to his easel and worked silently at his picture; and Helen
Stanley glanced at him, and thought she had never seen her old
companion look so forlorn and desolate as he did to-day. He looked as
if no gentle hand had ever been placed on him in kindliness and
affection, and that seemed to her a terrible thing; for she was one of
those prehistorically minded persons who persist in believing that
affection is as needful to human life as rain to flower life. When
first she came to work at the gallery--some twelve months ago--she had
noticed this old man, and had wished for his companionship; she was
herself lonely and sorrowful, and, although young, had to fight her
own battles, and had learned something of the difficulties of
fighting, and this had given her an experience beyond her years. She
was not more than twenty-four years of age, but she looked rather
older, and, though she had beautiful eyes, full of meaning and
kindness, her features were decidedly plain as well as unattractive.
There were some in the gallery who said among themselves that, as Mr.
Lindall had waited so many years before talking to any one, he might
have chosen some one better worth the waiting for! But they soon
became accustomed to seeing Helen Stanley and Mr. Lindall together,
and they laughed less than before; and meanwhile the acquaintance
ripened into a sort of friendship, half sulky on his part and wholly
kind on her part. He told her nothing about himself, and he asked
nothing about herself; for weeks he never even knew her name.
Sometimes he did not speak at all, and the two friends would work
silently side by side until it was time to go; and then he waited
until she was ready, and walked with her across Trafalgar Square,
where they parted and went their own ways.
But occasionally, when she least expected it, he would speak with
glowing enthusiasm on art; then his eyes seemed to become bright, and
his bent figure more erect, and his whole bearing proud and dignified.
There were times, too, when he would speak on other subjects: on the
morality of free thought--on Bruno, of blessed memory, on him, and
scores of others too. He would speak of the different schools of
philosophy; he would laugh at himself, and at all who, having given
time and thought to the study of life's complicated problems, had not
reached one step further than the Old-World thinkers. Perhaps he would
quote one of his favourite philosophers, and then suddenly relapse
into silence, returning to his wonted abstraction and to his
indifference to his surroundings. Helen Stanley had learned to
understand his ways and to appreciate his mind, and, without intruding
on him in any manner, had put herself gently into his life as his
quiet champion and his friend. No one in her presence dared speak
slightingly of the old man, or to make fun of his tumble-down
appearance, or of his worn-out silk hat with a crack in the side, or
of his rag of a black tie, which, together with his overcoat, had
"seen better days." Once she brought her needle and thread, and darned
the torn sleeve during her lunch-time; and, though he never knew it,
it was a satisfaction to her to have helped him.
To-day she noticed that he was painting badly, and that he seemed to
take no interest in his work; but she went on busily with her own
picture, and was so engrossed in it that she did not at first observe
that he had packed up his brushes and was preparing to go home.
"Three more strokes," he said, quietly, "and you will have finished
your picture. I shall never finish mine; perhaps you will be good
enough to set it right for me. I am not coming here again. I don't
seem to have caught the true expression; what do you think? But I am
not going to let it worry me, for I am sure you will promise to do
your best for me. See, I will hand over these colours and these
brushes to you, and no doubt you will accept the palette as well. I
have no further use for it."
Helen Stanley took the palette which he held out toward her, and
looked at him as though she would wish to question him.
"It is very hot here," he continued, "and I am going out. I am tired
He hesitated, and then added, "I should like you to come with me, if
you can spare the time."
She packed up her things at once, and the two friends moved slowly
away, he gazing absently at the pictures, and she wondering in her
mind as to the meaning of his strange mood.
When they were on the steps inside the building, he turned to Helen
Stanley and said:
"I should like to go back to the pictures once more. I feel as if I
must stand among them just a little longer. They have been my
companions for so long that they are almost part of myself. I can
close my eyes and recall them faithfully. But I want to take a last
look at them; I want to feel once more the presence of the great
masters, and to refresh my mind with their genius. When I look at
their work I think of their life, and can only wonder at their death.
It was so strange that they should die."
They went back together, and he took her to his favourite pictures,
but remained speechless before them, and she did not disturb his
thoughts. At last he said:
"I am ready to go. I have said farewell to them all. I know nothing
more wonderful than being among a number of fine pictures. It is
almost overwhelming. Once expects nature to be grand, but one does not
expect man to be grand."
"You know we don't agree there," she answered. "/I/ expect everything
grand and great from man."
They went out of the gallery, and into Trafalgar Square. It was a
scorching afternoon in August, but there was some cooling comfort in
seeing the dancing water of the fountains sparkling so brightly in the
"Do you mind stopping here a few minutes?" he said. "I should like to
sit down and watch. There is so much to see."
She led the way to a seat, one end of which was occupied by a workman,
who was sleeping soundly, and snoring too, his arms folded tightly
together. He had a little clay pipe in the corner of his mouth; it
seemed to be tucked in so snugly that there was not much danger of its
falling to the ground. At last Helen spoke to her companion.
"What do you mean by saying that you will not be able to finish your
picture? Perhaps you are not well. Indeed, you don't look well. You
make me anxious, for I have a great regard for you."
"I am ill and suffering," he answered, quietly. "I thought I should
have died yesterday; but I made up my mind to live until I saw you
again, and I thought I would ask you to spend the afternoon with me,
and go with me to Westminster Abbey, and sit with me in the cloisters.
I do not feel able to go by myself, and I know of no one to ask except
you; and I believed you would not refuse me, for you have been very
kind to me. I do not quite understand why you have been kind to me,
but I am wonderfully grateful to you. Today I heard some one in the
gallery say that you were plain. I turned round and I said, 'I beg
your pardon; /I/ think she is very beautiful.' I think they laughed,
and that puzzled me; for you have always seemed to me a very beautiful
At that moment the little clay pipe fell from the workman's mouth and
was broken into bits. He awoke with a start, gazed stupidly at the old
man and his companion, and at the broken clay pipe.
"Curse my luck!" he said, yawning. "I was fond of that damned little
The old man drew his own pipe and his own tobacco-pouch from his
"Take these, stranger," he said. "I don't want them. And good luck to
The man's face brightened up as he took the pipe and pouch.
"You're uncommon kind," he said. "Can you spare them?" he added,
holding them out half reluctantly.
"Yes," answered the old man; "I shall not smoke again. You may as well
have these matches too."
The labourer put them in his pocket, smiled his thanks, and walked
some little distance off; and Helen watched him examine his new pipe,
and then fill it with tobacco and light it.
Mr. Lindall proposed that they should be getting on their way to
Westminster, and they soon found themselves in the abbey. They sat
together in the Poets' Corner; a smile of quiet happiness broke over
the old man's tired face as he looked around and took in all the
solemn beauty and grandeur of the resting-place of the great.
"You know," he said, half to himself, half to his companion, "I have
no belief of any kind, and no hopes and no fears; but all through my
life it has been a comfort to me to sit quietly in a church or a
cathedral. The graceful arches, the sun shining through the stained
windows, the vaulted roof, the noble columns, have helped me to
understand the mystery which all our books of philosophy cannot make
clear, though we bend over them year after year, and grow old over
them, old in age and in spirit. Though I myself have never been
outwardly a worshipper, I have never sat in a place of worship but
that, for the time being, I have felt a better man. But directly the
voice of doctrine or dogma was raised the spell was broken for me, and
that which I hoped was being made clear had no further meaning for me.
There was only one voice which ever helped me, the voice of the organ,
arousing me, thrilling me, filling me with strange longing, with
welcome sadness, with solemn gladness. I have always thought that
music can give an answer when everything else is of no avail. I do not
know what you believe."
"I am so young to have found out," she said, almost pleadingly.
"Don't worry yourself," he answered, kindly. "Be brave and strong, and
let the rest go. I should like to live long enough to see what you
will make of your life. I believe you will never be false to yourself
or to any one. That is rare. I believe you will not let any lower
ideal take the place of your high ideal of what is beautiful and noble
in art, in life. I believe that you will never let despair get the
upper hand of you. If it does you may as well die; yes, you may as
well. And I entreat you not to lose your entire faith in humanity.
There is nothing like that for withering up the very core of the
heart. I tell you, humanity and nature have so much in common with
each other that if you lose part of your pleasure in the latter; you
will see less beauty in the trees, the flowers, and the fields, less
grandeur in the mighty mountains and the sea. The seasons will come
and go, and you will scarcely heed their coming and going: winter will
settle over your soul, just as it settled over mine. And you see what
They had now passed into the cloisters, and they sat down in one of
the recesses of the windows, and looked out upon the rich plot of
grass which the cloisters enclose. There was not a soul there except
themselves; the cool and the quiet and the beauty of the spot
refreshed these pilgrims, and they rested in calm enjoyment.
Helen was the first to break the silence.
"I am glad you have brought me here," she said; "I shall never grumble
now at not being able to afford a fortnight in the country. This is
better than anything else."
"It has always been my summer holiday to come here," he said. "When I
first came I was like you, young and hopeful, and I had wonderful
visions of what I intended to do and to be. Here it was I made a vow
that I would become a great painter, and win for myself a resting
place in this very abbey. There is humour in the situation, is there
"I don't like to hear you say that," she answered. "It is not always
possible for us to fulfil all our ambitions. Still, it is better to
have had them, and failed of them, than not to have had them at all."
"Possibly," he replied, coldly. Then he added, "I wish you would tell
me about yourself. You have always interested me."
"I have nothing to tell you about myself," she answered, frankly. "I
am alone in the world, without friends and without relations. The very
name I use is not a real name. I was a foundling. At times I am sorry
I do not belong to any one, and at other times I am glad. You know I
am fond of books and of art, so my life is not altogether empty; and I
find my pleasure in hard work. When I saw you at the gallery I wished
to know you, and I asked one of the students who you were. He told me
you were a misanthrope. Then I did not care so much about knowing you,
until one day you spoke to me about my painting, and that was the
beginning of our friendship."
"Forty years ago," he said, sadly, "the friend of my boyhood deceived
me. I had not thought it possible that he could be false to me. He
screened himself behind me, and became prosperous and respected at the
expense of my honour. I vowed I would never again make a friend. A few
years later, when I was beginning to hold up my head, the woman whom I
loved deceived me. Then I put from me all affection and all love.
Greater natures than mine are better able to bear these troubles, but
my heart contracted and withered up."
He paused for a moment, many recollections overpowering him. Then he
went on telling her the history of his life, unfolding to her the
story of his hopes and ambitions, describing to her the very home
where he was born, and the dark-eyed sister whom he had loved, and
with whom he had played over the daisied fields, and through the
carpeted woods, and all among the richly tinted bracken. One day he
was told she was dead, and that he must never speak her name; but he
spoke it all the day and all the night,--Beryl, nothing but Beryl,--
and he looked for her in the fields and in the woods and among the
bracken. It seemed as if he had unlocked the casket of his heart,
closed for so many years, and as if all the memories of the past and
all the secrets of his life were rushing out, glad to be free once
more, and grateful for the open air of sympathy.
"Beryl was as swift as a deer!" he exclaimed. "You would have laughed
to see her on the moor. Ah, it was hard to give up all the thoughts of
meeting her again. They told me I should see her in heaven, but I did
not care about heaven. I wanted Beryl on earth, as I knew her, a merry
laughing sister. I think you are right: we don't forget; we become
resigned in a dead, dull kind of way."
Suddenly he said, "I don't know why I have told you all this. And yet
it has been such a pleasure to me. You are the only person to whom I
could have spoken about myself, for no one else but you would have
"Don't you think," she said gently, "that you made a mistake in
letting your experiences embitter you? Because you had been unlucky in
one or two instances it did not follow that all the world was against
you. Perhaps you unconsciously put yourself against all the world, and
therefore saw every one in an unfavourable light. It seems so easy to
do that. Trouble comes to most people, doesn't it? And your philosophy
should have taught you to make the best of it. At least, that is my
notion of the value of philosophy."
She spoke hesitatingly, as though she gave utterance to these words
against her will.
"I am sure you are right, child," he said, eagerly.
He put his hands to his eyes, but he could not keep back the tears.
"I have been such a lonely old man," he sobbed; "no one can tell what
a lonely, loveless life mine has been. If I were not so old and so
tired I should like to begin all over again."
He sobbed for many minutes, and she did not know what to say to him of
comfort; but she took his hand within her own, and gently caressed it,
as one might do to a little child in pain. He looked up and smiled
through his tears.
"You have been very good to me," he said, "and I dare say you have
thought me ungrateful. You mended my coat for me one morning, and not
a day has passed but that I have looked at that darn and thought of
you. I liked to remember that you had done it for me. But you have
done far more than this for me: you have put some sweetness into my
life. Whatever becomes of me hereafter, I shall never be able to think
of my life on earth as anything but beautiful, because you thought
kindly of me and acted kindly for me. The other night, when this
terrible pain came over me, I wished you were near me; I wished to
hear your voice. There is very beautiful music in your voice."
"I would have come to you gladly," she said, smiling quietly at him.
"You must make a promise that when you feel ill again you will send
for me. Then you will see what a splendid nurse I am, and how soon you
will become strong and well under my care, strong enough to paint many
more pictures, each one better than the last. Now will you promise?"
"Yes," he said, and he raised her hand reverently to his lips.
"You are not angry with me for doing that?" he asked, suddenly. "I
should not like to vex you."
"I am not vexed," she answered, kindly.
"Then perhaps I may kiss it once more?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered; and again he raised her hand to his lips.
"Thank you," he said quietly; "that was kind of you. Do you see that
broken sun-ray yonder? Is it not golden? I find it very pleasant to
sit here; and I am quite happy, and almost free from pain. Lately I
have been troubled with a dull thudding pain near my heart; but now I
feel so strong that I believe I shall finish that Andrea del Sarto
"Of course you will," she answered, cheerily, "and I shall have to
confess that yours is better than mine! I am quite willing to yield
the palm to you."
"I must alter the expression of the mouth," he replied. "That is the
part which has worried me. I don't think I told you that I have had a
commission to copy Rembrandt's 'Old Jew.' I must set to work on that
"But you have given me your palette and brushes!" she laughed.
"You must be generous enough to lend them to me," he said, smiling.
"By the way, I intend to give you my books, all of them. Some day I
must show them to you. I especially value my philosophical books; they
have been my faithful companions through many years. I believe you do
not read Greek. That is a pity, because you would surely enjoy
Aristotle. I think I must teach you Greek; it would be an agreeable
legacy to leave you when I pass away into the Great Silence."
"I should like to learn," she said, wondering to hear him speak so
unreservedly. It seemed as if some vast barrier had been rolled aside,
and as if she were getting to know him better, having been allowed to
glance into his past life, to sympathise with his past mistakes, and
with the failure of his ambitions, and with the deadening of his
"You must read AEschylus," he continued, enthusiastically; "and, if I
mistake not, the Agamemnon will be an epoch in your life. You will
find that all these studies will serve to ennoble your art, and you
will be able to put mind into your work, and not merely form and
colour. Do you know, I feel so well that I believe I shall not only
live to finish Andrea del Sarto, but also to smoke another pipe?"
"You have been too rash to-day," she laughed, "giving away your pipe
and pouch, your palette and brushes, in this reckless manner! I must
get you a new pipe to-morrow. I wonder you did not part with your
"That reminds me," he said, fumbling in his pocket; "I think I have
dropped my Lucretius. I fancy I left it somewhere in the Poets'
Corner. It would grieve me to lose that book."
"Let me go and look for it," she said, and she advanced a few steps,
and then came back to him.
"You have been saying many kind words to me," she said, as she put her
hand on his arm, "and I have not told you that I value your
friendship, and am grateful to you for letting me be more than a mere
stranger to you. I have been very lonely in my life, for I am not one
to make friends easily, and it has been a great privilege to me to
talk with you. I want you to know this: for if I have been anything to
you, you have been a great deal to me. I have never met with much
sympathy from those of my own age: I have found them narrow and
unyielding, and they found me dull and uninteresting. They had passed
through few experiences and knew nothing about failure or success, and
some of them did not even understand the earnestness of endeavour, and
laughed at me when I spoke of a high ideal. So I withdrew into myself,
and should probably have grown still more isolated than I was before,
but that I met you, and, as time went on, we became friends. I shall
always remember your teaching, and I will try to keep to a high ideal
of life and art and endeavour, and I will not let despair creep into
my heart, and I will not lose my faith in humanity."
As she spoke a lingering ray of sunshine lit up her face and gently
caressed her soft brown hair; slight though her form, sombre her
clothes, and unlovely her features, she seemed a gracious presence
because of her earnestness.
"Now," she said, cheerily, "you rest here until I come back with your
Lucretius, and then I think I must be getting on my way home. But you
must fix a time for our first Greek lesson, for we must begin
When she had gone he walked in the cloisters, holding his hat in his
hand and his stick under his arm. There was a quiet smile on his face,
which was called forth by pleasant thoughts in his mind, and he did
not look quite so shrunken and shrivelled as usual. His eyes were
fixed on the ground, but he raised them, and observed a white cat
creeping toward him. It came and rubbed itself against his foot, and,
purring with all its might, seemed determined to win some kind of
notice from him. The old man stooped down to stroke it, and was just
touching its sleek coat when he suddenly withdrew his hand and groaned
deeply. He struggled to the recess, and sank back. The stick fell on
the stone with a clatter, and the battered hat rolled down beside it,
and the white cat fled away in terror; but realising that there was no
cause for alarm, it came back and crouched near the silent figure of
the old man, watching him intently. Then it stretched out its paw and
played with his hand, doing its utmost to coax him into a little fun;
but he would not be coaxed, and the cat lost all patience with him,
and left him to himself.
Meanwhile Helen Stanley was looking for the lost Lucretius in the
Poets' Corner. She found it laying near Chaucer's tomb, and was just
going to take it to her friend when she saw the workman to whom they
had spoken in Trafalgar Square. He recognised her at once, and came
"I've been having a quiet half-hour here," he said. "It does me a
sight of good to sit in the abbey."
"You should go into the cloisters," she said, kindly. "I have been
sitting there with my friend. He will be interested to hear that you
love this beautiful abbey."
"I should like to see him again," said the workman. "He had a kind way
about him, and that pipe he gave me is an uncommon good one. Still, I
am sorry I smashed the little clay pipe. I'd grown used to it. I'd
smoked it ever since my little girl died and left me alone in the
world. I used to bring my little girl here, and now I come alone. But
it isn't the same thing."
"No, it could not be the same thing," said Helen, gently. "But you
find some comfort here?"
"Some little comfort," he answered. "One can't expect much."
They went together into the cloisters, and as they came near the
recess where the old man rested Helen said:
"Why, he has fallen asleep! He must have been very tired. And he has
dropped his hat and stick. Thank you. If you will put them down there,
I will watch by his side until he wakes up. I don't suppose he will
sleep for long."
The workman stooped down to pick up the hat and stick, and glanced at
the sleeper. Something in the sleeper's countenance arrested his
attention. He turned to the girl, and saw that she was watching him.
"What is it?" she asked anxiously. "What is the matter with you?"
He tried to speak, but his voice failed him, and all he could do was
to point with trembling hand to the old man.
Helen looked, and a loud cry broke from her lips. The old man was
All that follows was spoken in a small tavern, a stone's throw from
Cheapside, the day before I left London. It was spoken in a dull
voice, across a greasy table-cloth, and amid an atmosphere so thick
with the reek of cooking that one longed to change it for the torrid
street again, to broil in an ampler furnace. Old Tom Pickford spoke
it, who has been a clerk for fifty-two years in Tweedy's East India
warehouse, and in all that time has never been out of London, but when
he takes a holiday spends it in hanging about Tweedy's, and observing
that unlovely place of business from the outside. The dust, if not the
iron, of Tweedy's has entered into his soul; and Tweedy's young men
know him as "the Mastodon." He is a thin, bald septuagenarian, with
sloping shoulders, and a habit of regarding the pavement when he
walks, so that he seems to steer his way by instinct rather than
sight. In general he keeps silence while eating his chop; and on this
occasion there was something unnatural in his utterance, a divorce of
manner between the speaker and his words, such as one would expect in
a sibyl disclaiming under stress of the god. I fancied it had
something to do with a black necktie that he wore instead of the blue
bird's-eye cravat familiar to Tweedy's, and with his extraordinary
conduct in refusing to-day the chop that the waiter brought, and
limiting his lunch to cheese and lettuce.
Having pulled the lettuce to pieces, he pushed himself back a little
from the table, looked over his spectacles at me, then at the table-
cloth, and began in a dreamy voice:
"Old Gabriel is dead. I heard the news at the office this morning, and
went out and bought a black tie. I am the oldest man in Tweedy's now--
older by six years than Sam Collins, who comes next; so there is no
mistake about it. Sam is looking for the place; I saw it in his eye
when he told me, and I expect he'll get it. But I'm the oldest clerk
in Tweedy's. Only God Almighty can alter that, and it's very
satisfactory to me. I don't care about the money. Sam Collins will be
stuck up over it, like enough; but he'll never write a hand like
Gabriel's, not if he lives to be a hundred; and he knows it, and knows
I'll be there to remind him of it. Gabriel's was a beautiful fist--so
small, too, if he chose. Why, once, in his spare hours, he wrote out
all the Psalms, with the headings, on one side of a folio sheet, and
had it framed and hung up in his parlour, out at Shepherd's Bush. He
died in the night--oh yes, quite easily. He was down at the office all
yesterday, and spoke to me as brisk as a bird. They found him dead in
his bed this morning.
"I seem cut up about it? Well, not exactly. Ah, you noticed that I
refused my chop to-day. Bless your soul, that's not on Gabriel's
account. I am well on in years, and I suppose it would be natural of
me to pity old men, and expect pity. But I can't; no, /it's only the
young that I pity/. If you /must/ know, I didn't take the chop to-day
because I haven't the money in my pocket to pay for it. You see, there
was this black tie that I gave eighteenpence for; but something else
happened this morning that I'll tell you about.
"I came down in a 'bus, as usual. You remember what muggy weather it
was up to ten o'clock--though you wouldn't think it, to feel the heat
now. Well, the 'bus was packed, inside and out. At least, there was
just room for one more inside when we pulled up by Charing Cross, and
there he got in--a boy with a stick and a bundle in a blue
"He wasn't more than thirteen; bound for the docks, you could tell at
a glance; and by the way he looked about you could tell as easily that
in stepping outside Charing Cross station he'd set foot on London
stones for the first time. God knows how it struck him--the slush and
drizzle, the ugly shop-fronts, the horses slipping in the brown mud,
the crowd on the pavement pushing him this side and that. The poor
little chap was standing in the middle of it with dazed eyes, like a
hare's, when the 'bus pulled up. His eyelids were pink and swollen;
but he wasn't crying, though he wanted to. Instead, he gave a gulp as
he came on board with stick and bundle, and tried to look brave as a
"I'd have given worlds to speak to him, but I couldn't. On my word,
sir, I should have cried. It wasn't so much the little chap's look.
But to the knot of his bundle there was tied a bunch of cottage
flowers,--sweet-williams, boy's-love, and a rose or two,--and the
sight and smell of them in that stuffy omnibus were like tears on
thirsty eyelids. It's the young that I pity, sir. For Gabriel, in his
bed up at Shepherd's Bush, there's no more to be said, as far as I can
see; and as for me, I'm the oldest clerk in Tweedy's, which is very
satisfactory. It's the young faces, set toward the road along which we
have travelled, that trouble me. Sometimes, sir, I lie awake in my
lodgings and listen, and the whole of this London seems filled with
the sound of children's feet running, and I can sob aloud. You may say
that it is only selfishness, and what I really pity is my own boyhood.
I dare say you're right. It's certain that, as I kept glancing at the
boy and his sea kit and his bunch of flowers, my mind went back to the
January morning, sixty-five years back, when the coach took me off for
the first time from the village where I was born to a London charity-
school. I was worse off than the boy in the omnibus, for I had just
lost father and mother. Yet it was the sticks and stones and flower-
beds that I mostly thought of. I went round and said good-bye to the
lilacs, and told them to be in flower by the time I came back. I said
to the rose-bush, 'You must be as high as my window next May; you know
you only missed it by three inches last summer.' Then I went to the
cow-house, and kissed the cows, one by one. They were to be sold by
auction the very next week, but I guessed nothing of it, and ordered
them not to forget me. And last I looked at the swallows' nests under
the thatch,--the last year's nests,--and told myself that they would
be filled again when I returned. I remembered this, and how I
stretched out my hands to the place from the coach-top; and how at
Reading, where we stopped, I spent the two shillings that I possessed
in a cocoanut and a bright clasp-knife; and how, when I opened it, the
nut was sour; and how I cried myself to sleep, and woke in London.
"The young men in Tweedy's, though they respect my long standing
there, make fun of me at times because I never take a holiday in the
country. Why, sir, /I dare not/. I should wander back to my old
village, and-- Well, I know how it would be then. I should find it
smaller and meaner; I should search about for the flowers and nests,
and listen for the music that I knew sixty-five years ago, and
remember; and they would not be discoverable. Also every face would
stare at me, for all the faces I know are dead. Then I should think I
had missed my way and come to the wrong place; or (worse) that no such
spot ever existed, and I have been cheating myself all these years;
that, in fact, I was mad all the while, and have no stable reason for
existing--I, the oldest clerk in Tweedy's! To be sure, there would be
my parents' headstones in the churchyard. But what are they, if the
churchyard itself is changed?
"As it is, with three hundred pounds per annum, and enough laid by to
keep him, if I fail, an old bachelor has no reason to grumble. But the
sight of that little chap's nosegay, and the thought of the mother who
tied it there, made my heart swell as I fancy the earth must swell
when rain is coming. His eyes filled once, and he brushed them under
the pretence of pulling his cap forward, and stole a glance round to
see if any one had noticed him. The other passengers were busy with
their own thoughts, and I pretended to stare out of the window
opposite; but there was the drop, sure enough, on his hand as he laid
it on his lap again.
"He was bound for the docks, and thence for the open sea, and I, that
was bound for Tweedy's only, had to get out at the top of Cheapside. I
know the 'bus conductor,--a very honest man,--and, in getting out, I
slipped half a crown into his hand to give to the boy, with my
blessing, at his journey's end. When I picture his face, sir, I wish I
had made it five shillings, and gone without a new tie and dinner
THE HIRED BABY
A dark, desolate December night, a night that clung to the metropolis
like a wet black shroud, a night in which the heavy, low-hanging
vapours melted every now and then into a slow, reluctant rain, cold as
icicle-drops in a rock cavern. People passed and repassed in the
streets like ghosts in a bad dream; the twinkling gas-light showed
them at one moment rising out of the fog, and then disappearing from
view as though suddenly engulfed in a vaporous ebon sea. With muffled,
angry shrieks, the metropolitan trains deposited their shoals of
shivering, coughing travelers at the several stations, where sleepy
officials, rendered vicious by the weather, snatched the tickets from
their hands with offensive haste and roughness. Omnibus conductors
grew ill-tempered and abusive without any seemingly adequate reason;
shopkeepers became flippant, disobliging, and careless of custom;
cabmen shouted derisive or denunciatory language after their rapidly
retreating fares; in short, everybody was in a discontented, almost
spiteful humour, with the exception of those few aggressively cheerful
persons who are in the habit of always making the best of everything,
even bad weather. Down the long wide vista of the Cromwell Road,
Kensington, the fog had it all its own way; it swept on steadily, like
thick smoke from a huge fire, choking the throats and blinding the
eyes of foot-passengers, stealing through the crannies of the houses,
and chilling the blood of even those luxurious individuals who, seated
in elegant drawing-rooms before blazing fires, easily forgot that
there were such bitter things as cold and poverty in that outside
world against which they had barred their windows. At one house in
particular--a house with gaudy glass doors and somewhat spoiled yellow
silk curtains at the windows, a house that plainly said to itself,
"Done up for show!" to all who cared to examine its exterior--there
stood a closed brougham, drawn by a prancing pair of fat horses. A
coachman of distinguished appearance sat on the box; a footman of
irreproachable figure stood waiting on the pavement, his yellow-gloved
hand resting elegantly on the polished silver knob of the carriage
door. Both these gentlemen were resolute and inflexible of face; they
looked as if they had determined on some great deed that should move
the world to wild applause; but, truth to tell, they had only just
finished a highly satisfactory "meat-tea," and before this grave
silence had fallen upon them, they had been discussing the
advisability of broiled steak and onions for supper. The coachman had
inclined to plain mutton-chops as being easier of digestion; the
footman had earnestly asseverated his belief in the superior
succulence and sweetness of the steak and onions, and in the end he
had gained his point. This weighty question being settled, they had
gradually grown reflective on the past, present, and future joys of
eating at some one else's expense, and in this bland and pleasing
state of meditation they were still absorbed. The horses were
impatient, and pawed the muddy ground with many a toss of their long
manes and tails, the steam from their glossy coats mingling with the
ever-thickening density of the fog. On the white stone steps of the
residence before which they waited was an almost invisible bundle,
apparently shapeless and immovable. Neither of the two gorgeous
personages in livery observed it; it was too far back in a dim corner,
too unobtrusive, for the casual regard of their lofty eyes. Suddenly
the glass doors before mentioned were thrown apart with a clattering
noise, a warmth and radiance from the entrance-hall thus displayed
streamed into the foggy street, and at the same instant the footman,
still with grave and imperturbable countenance, opened the brougham.
An elderly lady, richly dressed, with diamonds sparkling in her gray
hair, came rustling down the steps, bringing with her faint odours of
patchouly and violet-powder. She was followed by a girl of doll-like
prettiness, with a snub nose and petulant little mouth, who held up
her satin-and-lace skirts with a sort of fastidious disdain, as though
she scorned to set foot on earth that was not carpeted with the best
velvet pile. As they approached their carriage the inert dark bundle,
crouched in the corner, started into life--a woman, with wild hair and
wilder eyes, whose pale lips quivered with suppressed weeping as her
piteous voice broke into sudden clamour:
"Oh, lady!" she cried, "for the love of God, a trifle! Oh, lady,
But the "lady," with a contemptuous sniff and a shake of her scented
garments, passed her before she could continue her appeal, and she
turned with a sort of faint hope to the softer face of the girl.
"Oh, my dear, do have pity! Just the smallest little thing, and God
will bless you! You are rich and happy--and I am starving! Only a
penny! For the baby--the poor little baby!" And she made as though she
would open her tattered shawl and reveal some treasure hidden therein,
but shrunk back, repelled by the cold, merciless gaze that fell upon
her from those eyes, in which youth dwelt without tenderness.
"You have no business on our door step," said the girl, harshly. "Go
away directly, or I shall tell my servant to call a policeman."
Then, as she entered the brougham after her mother, she addressed the
respectable footman angrily, giving him the benefit of a strong nasal
"Howard, why do you let such dirty beggars come near the carriage?
What are you paid for, I should like to know? It is perfectly
disgraceful to the house!"
"Very sorry, miss!" said the footman, gravely. "I didn't see the--the
person before." Then shutting the brougham door, he turned with a
dignified air to the unfortunate creature, who still lingered near,
and, with a sweeping gesture of his gold-embroidered coat-sleeve, said
"Do you 'ear? Be hoff!"
Then, having thus performed his duty, he mounted the box beside his
friend the coachman, and the equipage rattled quickly away, its
gleaming lights soon lost in the smoke-laden vapours that drooped
downward like funeral hangings from the invisible sky to the scarcely
visible ground. Left to herself, the woman who had vainly sought
charity from those in whom no charity existed, looked up despairingly,
as one distraught, and seemed as though she would have given vent to
some fierce exclamation, when a feeble wail came pitifully forth from
the sheltering folds of her shawl. She restrained herself instantly,
and walked on at a rapid pace, scarcely heeding whither she went, till
she reached the Catholic church known as the "Oratory." Its unfinished
facade loomed darkly out of the fog; there was nothing picturesque or
inviting about it, yet there were people passing softly in and out,
and through the swinging to and fro of the red baize-covered doors
there came a comforting warm glimmer of light. The woman paused,
hesitated, and then, having apparently made up her mind, ascended the
broad steps, looked in, and finally entered. The place was strange to
her; she knew nothing of its religious meaning, and its cold,
uncompleted appearance oppressed her. There were only some half-dozen
persons scattered about, like black specks, in its vast white
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