Sketches in Lavender, Blue and Green
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 3 out of 4
violently. Hearing his voice in the hall, you go to meet him.
"Sorry I'm late," he sings out cheerily. "Fool of a cabman took me
to Alfred Place instead of--"
"Well, what do you want now you are come?" you interrupt, feeling
anything but genially inclined towards him. He is an old friend,
so you can be rude to him.
He laughs, and slaps you on the shoulder.
"Why, my dinner, my dear boy, I'm starving."
"Oh," you grunt in reply. "Well, you go and get it somewhere else,
then. You're not going to have it here."
"What the devil do you mean?" he says. "You asked me to dinner."
"I did nothing of the kind," you tell him. "I asked you to dinner
on Thursday, not on Friday."
He stares at you incredulously.
"How did I get Friday fixed in my mind?" inquiringly.
"Because yours is the sort of mind that would get Friday firmly
fixed into it, when Thursday was the day," you explain. "I thought
you had to be off to Edinburgh to-night," you add.
"Great Scott!" he cries, "so I have."
And without another word he dashes out, and you hear him rushing
down the road, shouting for the cab he has just dismissed.
As you return to your study you reflect that he will have to travel
all the way to Scotland in evening dress, and will have to send out
the hotel porter in the morning to buy him a suit of ready-made
clothes, and are glad.
Matters work out still more awkwardly when it is he who is the
host. I remember being with him on his house-boat one day. It was
a little after twelve, and we were sitting on the edge of the boat,
dangling our feet in the river--the spot was a lonely one, half-way
between Wallingford and Day's Lock. Suddenly round the bend
appeared two skiffs, each one containing six elaborately-dressed
persons. As soon as they caught sight of us they began waving
handkerchiefs and parasols.
"Hullo!" I said, "here's some people hailing you."
"Oh, they all do that about here," he answered, without looking up.
"Some beanfeast from Abingdon, I expect."
The boats draw nearer. When about two hundred yards off an elderly
gentleman raised himself up in the prow of the leading one and
shouted to us.
McQuae heard his voice, and gave a start that all but pitched him
into the water.
"Good God!" he cried, "I'd forgotten all about it."
"About what?" I asked.
"Why, it's the Palmers and the Grahams and the Hendersons. I've
asked them all over to lunch, and there's not a blessed thing on
board but two mutton chops and a pound of potatoes, and I've given
the boy a holiday."
Another day I was lunching with him at the Junior Hogarth, when a
man named Hallyard, a mutual friend, strolled across to us.
"What are you fellows going to do this afternoon?" he asked,
seating himself the opposite side of the table.
"I'm going to stop here and write letters," I answered.
"Come with me if you want something to do," said McQuae. "I'm
going to drive Leena down to Richmond." ("Leena" was the young
lady he recollected being engaged to. It transpired afterwards
that he was engaged to three girls at the time. The other two he
had forgotten all about.) "It's a roomy seat at the back."
"Oh, all right," said Hallyard, and they went away together in a
An hour and a half later Hallyard walked into the smoking-room
looking depressed and worn, and flung himself into a chair.
"I thought you were going to Richmond with McQuae," I said.
"So did I," he answered.
"Had an accident?" I asked.
He was decidedly curt in his replies.
"Cart upset?" I continued.
"No, only me."
His grammar and his nerves seemed thoroughly shaken.
I waited for an explanation, and after a while he gave it.
"We got to Putney," he said, "with just an occasional run into a
tram-car, and were going up the hill, when suddenly he turned a
corner. You know his style at a corner--over the curb, across the
road, and into the opposite lamp-post. Of course, as a rule one is
prepared for it, but I never reckoned on his turning up there, and
the first thing I recollect is finding myself sitting in the middle
of the street with a dozen fools grinning at me.
"It takes a man a few minutes in such a case to think where he is
and what has happened, and when I got up they were some distance
away. I ran after them for a quarter of a mile, shouting at the
top of my voice, and accompanied by a mob of boys, all yelling like
hell on a Bank Holiday. But one might as well have tried to hail
the dead, so I took the 'bus back.
"They might have guessed what had happened," he added, "by the
shifting of the cart, if they'd had any sense. I'm not a light-
He complained of soreness, and said he would go home. I suggested
a cab, but he replied that he would rather walk.
I met McQuae in the evening at the St. James's Theatre. It was a
first night, and he was taking sketches for The Graphic. The
moment he saw me he made his way across to me.
"The very man I wanted to see," he said. "Did I take Hallyard with
me in the cart to Richmond this afternoon?"
"You did," I replied.
"So Leena says," he answered, greatly bewildered, "but I'll swear
he wasn't there when we got to the Queen's Hotel."
"It's all right," I said, "you dropped him at Putney."
"Dropped him at Putney!" he repeated. "I've no recollection of
"He has," I answered. "You ask him about it. He's full of it."
Everybody said he never would get married; that it was absurd to
suppose he ever would remember the day, the church, and the girl,
all in one morning; that if he did get as far as the altar he would
forget what he had come for, and would give the bride away to his
own best man. Hallyard had an idea that he was already married,
but that the fact had slipped his memory. I myself felt sure that
if he did marry he would forget all about it the next day.
But everybody was wrong. By some miraculous means the ceremony got
itself accomplished, so that if Hallyard's idea be correct (as to
which there is every possibility), there will be trouble. As for
my own fears, I dismissed them the moment I saw the lady. She was
a charming, cheerful little woman, but did not look the type that
would let him forget all about it.
I had not seen him since his marriage, which had happened in the
spring. Working my way back from Scotland by easy stages, I
stopped for a few days at Scarboro'. After table d'hote I put on
my mackintosh, and went out for a walk. It was raining hard, but
after a month in Scotland one does not notice English weather, and
I wanted some air. Struggling along the dark beach with my head
against the wind, I stumbled over a crouching figure, seeking to
shelter itself a little from the storm under the lee of the Spa
I expected it to swear at me, but it seemed too broken-spirited to
"I beg your pardon," I said. "I did not see you."
At the sound of my voice it started to its feet.
"Is that you, old man?" it cried.
"McQuae!" I exclaimed.
"By Jove!" he said, "I was never so glad to see a man in all my
And he nearly shook my hand off.
"But what in thunder!" I said, "are you doing here? Why, you're
drenched to the skin."
He was dressed in flannels and a tennis-coat.
"Yes," he answered. "I never thought it would rain. It was a
I began to fear he had overworked himself into a brain fever.
"Why don't you go home?" I asked.
"I can't," he replied. "I don't know where I live. I've forgotten
"For heaven's sake," he said, "take me somewhere, and give me
something to eat. I'm literally starving."
"Haven't you any money?" I asked him, as we turned towards the
"Not a sou," he answered. "We got in here from York, the wife and
I, about eleven. We left our things at the station, and started to
hunt for apartments. As soon as we were fixed, I changed my
clothes and came out for a walk, telling Maud I should be back at
one to lunch. Like a fool, I never took the address, and never
noticed the way I was going.
"It's an awful business," he continued. "I don't see how I'm ever
going to find her. I hoped she might stroll down to the Spa in the
evening, and I've been hanging about the gates ever since six. I
hadn't the threepence to go in."
"But have you no notion of the sort of street or the kind of house
it was?" I enquired.
"Not a ghost," he replied. "I left it all to Maud, and didn't
"Have you tried any of the lodging-houses?" I asked.
"Tried!" he exclaimed bitterly. "I've been knocking at doors, and
asking if Mrs. McQuae lives there steadily all the afternoon, and
they slam the door in my face, mostly without answering. I told a
policeman--I thought perhaps he might suggest something--but the
idiot only burst out laughing, and that made me so mad that I gave
him a black eye, and had to cut. I expect they're on the lookout
for me now."
"I went into a restaurant," he continued gloomily, "and tried to
get them to trust me for a steak. But the proprietress said she'd
heard that tale before, and ordered me out before all the other
customers. I think I'd have drowned myself if you hadn't turned
After a change of clothes and some supper, he discussed the case
more calmly, but it was really a serious affair. They had shut up
their flat, and his wife's relatives were travelling abroad. There
was no one to whom he could send a letter to be forwarded; there
was no one with whom she would be likely to communicate. Their
chance of meeting again in this world appeared remote.
Nor did it seem to me--fond as he was of his wife, and anxious as
he undoubtedly was to recover her--that he looked forward to the
actual meeting, should it ever arrive, with any too pleasurable
"She will think it strange," he murmured reflectively, sitting on
the edge of the bed, and thoughtfully pulling off his socks. "She
is sure to think it strange."
The following day, which was Wednesday, we went to a solicitor, and
laid the case before him, and he instituted inquiries among all the
lodging-house keepers in Scarborough, with the result that on
Thursday afternoon McQuae was restored (after the manner of an
Adelphi hero in the last act) to his home and wife.
I asked him next time I met him what she had said.
"Oh, much what I expected," he replied.
But he never told me what he had expected.
A CHARMING WOMAN
"Not THE MR. --, REALLY?"
In her deep brown eyes there lurked pleased surprise, struggling
with wonder. She looked from myself to the friend who introduced
us with a bewitching smile of incredulity, tempered by hope.
He assured her, adding laughingly, "The only genuine and original,"
and left us.
"I've always thought of you as a staid, middle-aged man," she said,
with a delicious little laugh, then added in low soft tones, "I'm
so very pleased to meet you, really."
The words were conventional, but her voice crept round one like a
"Come and talk to me," she said, seating herself upon a small
settee, and making room for me.
I sat down awkwardly beside her, my head buzzing just a little, as
with one glass too many of champagne. I was in my literary
childhood. One small book and a few essays and criticisms,
scattered through various obscure periodicals had been as yet my
only contributions to current literature. The sudden discovery
that I was the Mr. Anybody, and that charming women thought of me,
and were delighted to meet me, was a brain-disturbing thought.
"And it was really you who wrote that clever book?" she continued,
"and all those brilliant things, in the magazines and journals.
Oh, it must be delightful to be clever."
She gave breath to a little sigh of vain regret that went to my
heart. To console her I commenced a laboured compliment, but she
stopped me with her fan. On after reflection I was glad she had--
it would have been one of those things better expressed otherwise.
"I know what you are going to say," she laughed, "but don't.
Besides, from you I should not know quite how to take it. You can
be so satirical."
I tried to look as though I could be, but in her case would not.
She let her ungloved hand rest for an instant upon mine. Had she
left it there for two, I should have gone down on my knees before
her, or have stood on my head at her feet--have made a fool of
myself in some way or another before the whole room full. She
timed it to a nicety.
"I don't want YOU to pay me compliments," she said, "I want us to
be friends. Of course, in years, I'm old enough to be your
mother." (By the register I should say she might have been thirty-
two, but looked twenty-six. I was twenty-three, and I fear foolish
for my age.) "But you know the world, and you're so different to
the other people one meets. Society is so hollow and artificial;
don't you find it so? You don't know how I long sometimes to get
away from it, to know someone to whom I could show my real self,
who would understand me. You'll come and see me sometimes--I'm
always at home on Wednesdays--and let me talk to you, won't you,
and you must tell me all your clever thoughts."
It occurred to me that, maybe, she would like to hear a few of them
there and then, but before I had got well started a hollow Society
man came up and suggested supper, and she was compelled to leave
me. As she disappeared, however, in the throng, she looked back
over her shoulder with a glance half pathetic, half comic, that I
understood. It said, "Pity me, I've got to be bored by this vapid,
shallow creature," and I did.
I sought her through all the rooms before I went. I wished to
assure her of my sympathy and support. I learned, however, from
the butler that she had left early, in company with the hollow
A fortnight later I ran against a young literary friend in Regent
Street, and we lunched together at the Monico.
"I met such a charming woman last night," he said, "a Mrs. Clifton
Courtenay, a delightful woman."
"Oh, do YOU know her?" I exclaimed. "Oh, we're very old friends.
She's always wanting me to go and see her. I really must."
"Oh, I didn't know YOU knew her," he answered. Somehow, the fact
of my knowing her seemed to lessen her importance in his eyes. But
soon he recovered his enthusiasm for her.
"A wonderfully clever woman," he continued. "I'm afraid I
disappointed her a little though." He said this, however, with a
laugh that contradicted his words. "She would not believe I was
THE Mr. Smith. She imagined from my book that I was quite an old
I could see nothing in my friend's book myself to suggest that the
author was, of necessity, anything over eighteen. The mistake
appeared to me to display want of acumen, but it had evidently
pleased him greatly.
"I felt quite sorry for her," he went on, "chained to that
bloodless, artificial society in which she lives. 'You can't
tell,' she said to me, 'how I long to meet someone to whom I could
show my real self--who would understand me.' I'm going to see her
I went with him. My conversation with her was not as confidential
as I had anticipated, owing to there being some eighty other people
present in a room intended for the accommodation of eight; but
after surging round for an hour in hot and aimless misery--as very
young men at such gatherings do, knowing as a rule only the man who
has brought them, and being unable to find him--I contrived to get
a few words with her.
She greeted me with a smile, in the light of which I at once forgot
my past discomfort, and let her fingers rest, with delicious
pressure, for a moment upon mine.
"How good of you to keep your promise," she said. "These people
have been tiring me so. Sit here, and tell me all you have been
She listened for about ten seconds, and then interrupted me with -
"And that clever friend of yours that you came with. I met him at
dear Lady Lennon's last week. Has HE written anything?"
I explained to her that he had.
"Tell me about it?" she said. "I get so little time for reading,
and then I only care to read the books that help me," and she gave
me a grateful look more eloquent than words.
I described the work to her, and wishing to do my friend justice I
even recited a few of the passages upon which, as I knew, he
especially prided himself.
One sentence in particular seemed to lay hold of her. "A good
woman's arms round a man's neck is a lifebelt thrown out to him
"How beautiful!" she murmured. "Say it again."
I said it again, and she repeated it after me.
Then a noisy old lady swooped down upon her, and I drifted away
into a corner, where I tried to look as if I were enjoying myself,
Later on, feeling it time to go, I sought my friend, and found him
talking to her in a corner. I approached and waited. They were
discussing the latest east-end murder. A drunken woman had been
killed by her husband, a hard-working artizan, who had been
maddened by the ruin of his home.
"Ah," she was saying, "what power a woman has to drag a man down or
lift him up. I never read a case in which a woman is concerned
without thinking of those beautiful lines of yours: 'A good
woman's arms round a man's neck is a lifebelt thrown out to him
Opinions differed concerning her religion and politics. Said the
Low Church parson: "An earnest Christian woman, sir, of that
unostentatious type that has always been the bulwark of our Church.
I am proud to know that woman, and I am proud to think that poor
words of mine have been the humble instrument to wean that true
woman's heart from the frivolities of fashion, and to fix her
thoughts upon higher things. A good Churchwoman, sir, a good
Churchwoman, in the best sense of the word."
Said the pale aristocratic-looking young Abbe to the Comtesse, the
light of old-world enthusiasm shining from his deep-set eyes: "I
have great hopes for our dear friend. She finds it hard to sever
the ties of time and love. We are all weak, but her heart turns
towards our mother Church as a child, though suckled among
strangers, yearns after many years for the bosom that has borne it.
We have spoken, and I, even I, may be the voice in the wilderness
leading the lost sheep back to the fold."
Said Sir Harry Bennett, the great Theosophist lecturer, writing to
a friend: "A singularly gifted woman, and a woman evidently
thirsting for the truth. A woman capable of willing her own life.
A woman not afraid of thought and reason, a lover of wisdom. I
have talked much with her at one time or another, and I have found
her grasp my meaning with a quickness of perception quite unusual
in my experience; and the arguments I have let fall, I am
convinced, have borne excellent fruit. I look forward to her
becoming, at no very distant date, a valued member of our little
band. Indeed, without betraying confidence, I may almost say I
regard her conversion as an accomplished fact."
Colonel Maxim always spoke of her as "a fair pillar of the State."
"With the enemy in our midst," said the florid old soldier, "it
behoves every true man--aye, and every true woman--to rally to the
defence of the country; and all honour, say I, to noble ladies such
as Mrs. Clifton Courtenay, who, laying aside their natural
shrinking from publicity, come forward in such a crisis as the
present to combat the forces of disorder and disloyalty now rampant
in the land."
"But," some listener would suggest, "I gathered from young Jocelyn
that Mrs. Clifton Courtenay held somewhat advanced views on social
and political questions."
"Jocelyn," the Colonel would reply with scorn; "pah! There may
have been a short space of time during which the fellow's long hair
and windy rhetoric impressed her. But I flatter myself I've put MY
spoke in Mr. Jocelyn's wheel. Why, damme, sir, she's consented to
stand for Grand Dame of the Bermondsey Branch of the Primrose
League next year. What's Jocelyn to say to that, the scoundrel!"
What Jocelyn said was:-
"I know the woman is weak. But I do not blame her; I pity her.
When the time comes, as soon it will, when woman is no longer a
puppet, dancing to the threads held by some brainless man--when a
woman is not threatened with social ostracism for daring to follow
her own conscience instead of that of her nearest male relative--
then will be the time to judge her. It is not for me to betray the
confidence reposed in me by a suffering woman, but you can tell
that interesting old fossil, Colonel Maxim, that he and the other
old women of the Bermondsey Branch of the Primrose League may elect
Mrs. Clifton Courtenay for their President, and make the most of
it; they have only got the outside of the woman. Her heart is
beating time to the tramp of an onward-marching people; her soul's
eyes are straining for the glory of a coming dawn."
But they all agreed she was a charming woman.
I never met it myself, but I knew Whibley very well indeed, so that
I came to hear a goodish deal about it.
It appeared to be devoted to Whibley, and Whibley was extremely
fond of it. Personally I am not interested in spirits, and no
spirit has ever interested itself in me. But I have friends whom
they patronise, and my mind is quite open on the subject. Of
Whibley's Spirit I wish to speak with every possible respect. It
was, I am willing to admit, as hard-working and conscientious a
spirit as any one could wish to live with. The only thing I have
to say against it is that it had no sense.
It came with a carved cabinet that Whibley had purchased in Wardour
Street for old oak, but which, as a matter of fact, was chestnut
wood, manufactured in Germany, and at first was harmless enough,
saying nothing but "Yes!" or "No!" and that only when spoken to.
Whibley would amuse himself of an evening asking it questions,
being careful to choose tolerably simple themes, such as, "Are you
there?" (to which the Spirit would sometimes answer "Yes!" and
sometimes "No!") "Can you hear me?" "Are you happy?"--and so on.
The Spirit made the cabinet crack--three times for "Yes" and twice
for "No." Now and then it would reply both "Yes!" and "No!" to the
same question, which Whibley attributed to over-scrupulousness.
When nobody asked it anything it would talk to itself, repeating
"Yes!" "No!" "No!" "Yes!" over and over again in an aimless,
lonesome sort of a way that made you feel sorry for it.
After a while Whibley bought a table, and encouraged it to launch
out into more active conversation. To please Whibley, I assisted
at some of the earlier seances, but during my presence it
invariably maintained a reticence bordering on positive dulness. I
gathered from Whibley that it disliked me, thinking that I was
unsympathetic. The complaint was unjust; I was not unsympathetic,
at least not at the commencement. I came to hear it talk, and I
wanted to hear it talk; I would have listened to it by the hour.
What tired me was its slowness in starting, and its foolishness
when it had started, in using long words that it did not know how
to spell. I remember on one occasion, Whibley, Jobstock (Whibley's
partner), and myself, sitting for two hours, trying to understand
what the thing meant by "H-e-s-t-u-r-n-e-m-y-s-f-e-a-r." It used
no stops whatever. It never so much as hinted where one sentence
ended and another began. It never even told us when it came to a
proper name. Its idea of an evening's conversation was to plump
down a hundred or so vowels and consonants in front of you and
leave you to make whatever sense out of them you could.
We fancied at first it was talking about somebody named Hester (it
had spelt Hester with a "u" before we allowed a margin for
spelling), and we tried to work the sentence out on that basis,
"Hester enemies fear," we thought it might be. Whibley had a niece
named Hester, and we decided the warning had reference to her. But
whether she was our enemy, and we were to fear her, or whether we
had to fear her enemies (and, if so, who were they?), or whether it
was our enemies who were to be frightened by Hester, or her
enemies, or enemies generally, still remained doubtful. We asked
the table if it meant the first suggestion, and it said "No." We
asked what it did mean, and it said "Yes."
This answer annoyed me, but Whibley explained that the Spirit was
angry with us for our stupidity (which seemed quaint). He informed
us that it always said first "No," and then "Yes," when it was
angry, and as it was his Spirit, and we were in his house, we kept
our feelings to ourselves and started afresh.
This time we abandoned the "Hestur" theory altogether. Jobstock
suggested "Haste" for the first word, and, thought the Spirit might
have gone on phonetically.
"Haste! you are here, Miss Sfear!" was what he made of it.
Whibley asked him sarcastically if he'd kindly explain what that
I think Jobstock was getting irritable. We had been sitting
cramped up round a wretched little one-legged table all the
evening, and this was almost the first bit of gossip we had got out
of it. To further excuse him, it should also be explained that the
gas had been put out by Whibley, and that the fire had gone out of
its own accord. He replied that it was hard labour enough to find
out what the thing said without having to make sense of it.
"It can't spell," he added, "and it's got a nasty, sulky temper.
If it was my spirit I'd hire another spirit to kick it."
Whibley was one of the mildest little men I ever knew, but chaff or
abuse of his Spirit roused the devil in him, and I feared we were
going to have a scene. Fortunately, I was able to get his mind
back to the consideration of "Hesturnemysfear" before anything
worse happened than a few muttered remarks about the laughter of
fools, and want of reverence for sacred subjects being the sign of
a shallow mind.
We tried "He's stern," and "His turn," and the "fear of
Hesturnemy," and tried to think who "Hesturnemy" might be. Three
times we went over the whole thing again from the beginning, which
meant six hundred and six tiltings of the table, and then suddenly
the explanation struck me--"Eastern Hemisphere."
Whibley had asked it for any information it might possess
concerning his wife's uncle, from whom he had not heard for months,
and that apparently was its idea of an address.
The fame of Whibley's Spirit became noised abroad, with the result
that Whibley was able to command the willing service of more
congenial assistants, and Jobstock and myself were dismissed. But
we bore no malice.
Under these more favourable conditions the Spirit plucked up
wonderfully, and talked everybody's head off. It could never have
been a cheerful companion, however, for its conversation was
chiefly confined to warnings and prognostications of evil. About
once a fortnight Whibley would drop round on me, in a friendly way,
to tell me that I was to beware of a man who lived in a street
beginning with a "C," or to inform me that if I would go to a town
on the coast where there were three churches I should meet someone
who would do me an irreparable injury, and, that I did not rush off
then and there in search of that town he regarded as flying in the
face of Providence.
In its passion for poking its ghostly nose into other people's
affairs it reminded me of my earthly friend Poppleton. Nothing
pleased it better than being appealed to for aid and advice, and
Whibley, who was a perfect slave to it, would hunt half over the
parish for people in trouble and bring them to it.
It would direct ladies, eager for divorce court evidence, to go to
the third house from the corner of the fifth street, past such and
such a church or public-house (it never would give a plain,
straightforward address), and ring the bottom bell but one twice.
They would thank it effusively, and next morning would start to
find the fifth street past the church, and would ring the bottom
bell but one of the third house from the corner twice, and a man in
his shirt sleeves would come to the door and ask them what they
They could not tell what they wanted, they did not know themselves,
and the man would use bad language, and slam the door in their
Then they would think that perhaps the Spirit meant the fifth
street the other way, or the third house from the opposite corner,
and would try again, with still more unpleasant results.
One July I met Whibley, mooning disconsolately along Princes
"Hullo!" I exclaimed, "what are you doing here? I thought you were
busy over that School Board case."
"Yes," he answered, "I ought really to be in London, but the truth
is I'm rather expecting something to happen down here."
"Oh!" I said, "and what's that?"
"Well," he replied hesitatingly, as though he would rather not talk
about it, "I don't exactly know yet."
"You've come from London to Edinburgh, and don't know what you've
come for!" I cried.
"Well, you see," he said, still more reluctantly, as it seemed to
me, "it was Maria's idea; she wished--"
"Maria!" I interrupted, looking perhaps a little sternly at him,
"who's Maria?" (His wife's name I knew was Emily Georgina Anne.)
"Oh! I forgot," he explained; "she never would tell her name
before you, would she? It's the Spirit, you know."
"Oh! that," I said, "it's she that has sent you here. Didn't she
tell you what for?"
"No," he answered, "that's what worries me. All she would say was,
'Go to Edinburgh--something will happen.'"
"And how long are you going to remain here?" I inquired.
"I don't know," he replied. "I've been here a week already, and
Jobstock writes quite angrily. I wouldn't have come if Maria
hadn't been so urgent. She repeated it three evenings running."
I hardly knew what to do. The little man was so dreadfully in
earnest about the business that one could not argue much with him.
"You are sure," I said, after thinking a while, "that this Maria is
a good Spirit? There are all sorts going about, I'm told. You're
sure this isn't the spirit of some deceased lunatic, playing the
fool with you?"
"I've thought of that," he admitted. "Of course that might be so.
If nothing happens soon I shall almost begin to suspect it."
"Well, I should certainly make some inquiries into its character
before I trusted it any further," I answered, and left him.
About a month later I ran against him outside the Law Courts.
"It was all right about Maria; something did happen in Edinburgh
while I was there. That very morning I met you one of my oldest
clients died quite suddenly at his house at Queensferry, only a few
miles outside the city."
"I'm glad of that," I answered, "I mean, of course, for Maria's
sake. It was lucky you went then."
"Well, not altogether," he replied, "at least, not in a worldly
sense. He left his affairs in a very complicated state, and his
eldest son went straight up to London to consult me about them,
and, not finding me there, and time being important, went to
Kebble. I was rather disappointed when I got back and heard about
"Umph!" I said; "she's not a smart spirit, anyway."
"No," he answered, "perhaps not. But, you see, something did
After that his affection for "Maria" increased tenfold, while her
attachment to himself became a burden to his friends. She grew too
big for her table, and, dispensing with all mechanical
intermediaries, talked to him direct. She followed him everywhere.
Mary's lamb couldn't have been a bigger nuisance. She would even
go with him into the bedroom, and carry on long conversations with
him in the middle of the night. His wife objected; she said it
seemed hardly decent, but there was no keeping her out.
She turned up with him at picnics and Christmas parties. Nobody
heard her speak to him, but it seemed necessary for him to reply to
her aloud, and to see him suddenly get up from his chair and slip
away to talk earnestly to nothing in a corner disturbed the
"I should really be glad," he once confessed to me, "to get a
little time to myself. She means kindly, but it IS a strain. And
then the others don't like it. It makes them nervous. I can see
One evening she caused quite a scene at the club. Whibley had been
playing whist, with the Major for a partner. At the end of the
game the Major, leaning across the table toward him, asked, in a
tone of deadly calm, "May I inquire, sir, whether there was any
earthly reason" (he emphasised "earthly") "for your following my
lead of spades with your only trump?"
"I--I--am very sorry, Major," replied Whibley apologetically. "I--
I--somehow felt I--I ought to play that queen."
"Entirely your own inspiration, or suggested?" persisted the Major,
who had, of course, heard of "Maria."
Whibley admitted the play had been suggested to him. The Major
rose from the table.
"Then, sir," said he, with concentrated indignation, "I decline to
continue this game. A human fool I can tolerate for a partner, but
if I am to be hampered by a damned spirit--"
"You've no right to say that," cried Whibley hotly.
"I apologise," returned the Major coldly; "we will say a blessed
spirit. I decline to play whist with spirits of any kind; and I
advise you, sir, if you intend giving many exhibitions with the
lady, first to teach her the rudiments of the game."
Saying which the Major put on his hat and left the club, and I made
Whibley drink a stiff glass of brandy and water, and sent him and
"Maria" home in a cab.
Whibley got rid of "Maria" at last. It cost him in round figures
about eight thousand pounds, but his family said it was worth it.
A Spanish Count hired a furnished house a few doors from Whibley's,
and one evening he was introduced to Whibley, and came home and had
a chat with him. Whibley told him about "Maria," and the Count
quite fell in love with her. He said that if only he had had such
a spirit to help and advise him, it might have altered his whole
He was the first man who had ever said a kind word about the
spirit, and Whibley loved him for it. The Count seemed as though
he could never see enough of Whibley after that evening, and the
three of them--Whibley, the Count, and "Maria"--would sit up half
the night talking together.
The precise particulars I never heard. Whibley was always very
reticent on the matter. Whether "Maria" really did exist, and the
Count deliberately set to work to bamboozle her (she was fool
enough for anything), or whether she was a mere hallucination of
Whibley's, and the man tricked Whibley by "hypnotic suggestions"
(as I believe it is called), I am not prepared to say. The only
thing certain is that "Maria" convinced Whibley that the Count had
discovered a secret gold mine in Peru. She said she knew all about
it, and counselled Whibley to beg the Count to let him put a few
thousands into the working of it. "Maria," it appeared, had known
the Count from his boyhood, and could answer for it that he was the
most honourable man in all South America. Possibly enough he was.
The Count was astonished to find that Whibley knew all about his
mine. Eight thousand pounds was needed to start the workings, but
he had not mentioned it to any one, as he wanted to keep the whole
thing to himself, and thought he could save the money on his
estates in Portugal. However, to oblige "Maria," he would let
Whibley supply the money. Whibley supplied it--in cash, and no one
has ever seen the Count since.
That broke up Whibley's faith in "Maria," and a sensible doctor,
getting hold of him threatened to prescribe a lunatic asylum for
him if ever he found him carrying on with any spirits again. That
completed the cure.
THE MAN WHO WENT WRONG
I first met Jack Burridge nearly ten years ago on a certain North-
The saddling bell had just rung for the chief event of the day. I
was sauntering along with my hands in my pockets, more interested
in the crowd than in the race, when a sporting friend, crossing on
his way to the paddock, seized me by the arm and whispered hoarsely
in my ear:-
"Put your shirt on Mrs. Waller."
"Put my -?" I began.
"Put your shirt on Mrs. Waller," he repeated still more
impressively, and disappeared in the throng.
I stared after him in blank amazement. Why should I put my shirt
on Mrs. Waller? Even if it would fit a lady. And how about
I was passing the grand stand, and, glancing up, I saw "Mrs.
Waller, twelve to one," chalked on a bookmaker's board. Then it
dawned upon me that "Mrs. Waller" was a horse, and, thinking
further upon the matter, I evolved the idea that my friend's
advice, expressed in more becoming language, was "Back 'Mrs.
Waller' for as much as you can possibly afford."
"Thank you," I said to myself, "I have backed cast-iron certainties
before. Next time I bet upon a horse I shall make the selection by
shutting my eyes and putting a pin through the card."
But the seed had taken root. My friend's words surged in my brain.
The birds passing overhead twittered, "Put your shirt on 'Mrs.
I reasoned with myself. I reminded myself of my few former
ventures. But the craving to put, if not my shirt, at all events
half a sovereign on "Mrs. Waller" only grew the stronger the more
strongly I battled against it. I felt that if "Mrs. Waller" won
and I had nothing on her, I should reproach myself to my dying day.
I was on the other side of the course. There was no time to get
back to the enclosure. The horses were already forming for the
start. A few yards off, under a white umbrella, an outside
bookmaker was shouting his final prices in stentorian tones. He
was a big, genial-looking man, with an honest red face.
"What price 'Mrs. Waller'?" I asked him.
"Fourteen to one," he answered, "and good luck to you."
I handed him half a sovereign, and he wrote me out a ticket. I
crammed it into my waistcoat pocket, and hurried off to see the
race. To my intense astonishment "Mrs. Waller" won. The novel
sensation of having backed the winner so excited me that I forgot
all about my money, and it was not until a good hour afterwards
that I recollected my bet.
Then I started off to search for the man under the white umbrella.
I went to where I thought I had left him, but no white umbrella
could I find.
Consoling myself with the reflection that my loss served me right
for having been fool enough to trust an outside "bookie," I turned
on my heel and began to make my way back to my seat. Suddenly a
voice hailed me:-
"Here you are, sir. It's Jack Burridge you want. Over here, sir."
I looked round, and there was Jack Burridge at my elbow.
"I saw you looking about, sir," he said, "but I could not make you
hear. You was looking the wrong side of the tent."
It was pleasant to find that his honest face had not belied him.
"It is very good of you," I said; "I had given up all hopes of
seeing you. Or," I added with a smile, "my seven pounds."
"Seven pun' ten," he corrected me; "you're forgetting your own thin
He handed me the money and went back to his stand.
On my way into the town I came across him again. A small crowd was
collected, thoughtfully watching a tramp knocking about a
Jack, pushing to the front, took in the scene and took off his coat
in the same instant.
"Now then, my fine old English gentleman," he sang out, "come and
have a try at me for a change."
The tramp was a burly ruffian, and I have seen better boxers than
Jack. He got himself a black eye, and a nasty cut over the lip,
before he hardly knew where he was. But in spite of that--and a
good deal more--he stuck to his man and finished him.
At the end, as he helped his adversary up, I heard him say to the
fellow in a kindly whisper:-
"You're too good a sort, you know, to whollop a woman. Why, you
very near give me a licking. You must have forgot yourself,
The fellow interested me. I waited and walked on with him. He
told me about his home in London, at Mile End--about his old father
and mother, his little brothers and sisters--and what he was saving
up to do for them. Kindliness oozed from every pore in his skin.
Many that we met knew him, and all, when they saw his round, red
face, smiled unconsciously. At the corner of the High Street a
pale-faced little drudge of a girl passed us, saying as she slipped
by "Good-evening, Mr. Burridge."
He made a dart and caught her by the shoulder.
"And how is father?" he asked.
"Oh, if you please, Mr. Burridge, he is out again. All the mills
is closed," answered the child.
"She don't get no better, sir."
"And who's keeping you all?"
"Oh, if you please, sir, Jimmy's earning something now," replied
He took a couple of sovereigns from his waistcoat pocket, and
closed the child's hand upon them.
"That's all right, my lass, that's all right," he said, stopping
her stammering thanks. "You write to me if things don't get
better. You know where to find Jack Burridge."
Strolling about the streets in the evening, I happened to pass the
inn where he was staying. The parlour window was open, and out
into the misty night his deep, cheery voice, trolling forth an old-
fashioned drinking song, came rolling like a wind, cleansing the
corners of one's heart with its breezy humanness. He was sitting
at the head of the table surrounded by a crowd of jovial cronies.
I lingered for a while watching the scene. It made the world
appear a less sombre dwelling-place than I had sometimes pictured
I determined, on my return to London, to look him up, and
accordingly one evening started to find the little by-street off
the Mile End Road in which he lived. As I turned the corner he
drove up in his dog-cart; it was a smart turn-out. On the seat
beside him sat a neat, withered little old woman, whom he
introduced to me as his mother.
"I tell 'im it's a fine gell as 'e oughter 'ave up 'ere aside 'im,"
said the old lady, preparing to dismount, "an old woman like me
takes all the paint off the show."
"Get along with yer," he replied laughingly, jumping down and
handing the reins to the lad who had been waiting, "you could give
some of the young uns points yet, mother. I allus promised the old
lady as she should ride behind her own 'oss one day," he continued,
turning to me, "didn't I, mother?"
"Ay, ay," replied the old soul, as she hobbled nimbly up the steps,
"ye're a good son, Jack, ye're a good son."
He led the way into the parlour. As he entered every face
lightened up with pleasure, a harmony of joyous welcome greeted
him. The old hard world had been shut out with the slam of the
front door. I seemed to have wandered into Dickensland. The red-
faced man with the small twinkling eyes and the lungs of leather
loomed before me, a large, fat household fairy. From his capacious
pockets came forth tobacco for the old father; a huge bunch of hot-
house grapes for a neighbour's sickly child, who was stopping with
them; a book of Henty's--beloved of boys--for a noisy youngster who
called him "uncle"; a bottle of port wine for a wan, elderly woman
with a swollen face--his widowed sister-in-law, as I subsequently
learned; sweets enough for the baby (whose baby I don't know) to
make it sick for a week; and a roll of music for his youngest
"We're a-going to make a lady of her," he said, drawing the child's
shy face against his gaudy waistcoat, and running his coarse hand
through her pretty curls; "and she shall marry a jockey when she
After supper he brewed some excellent whisky punch, and insisted
upon the old lady joining us, which she eventually did with much
coughing and protestation; but I noticed that she finished the
tumblerful. For the children he concocted a marvellous mixture,
which he called an "eye-composer," the chief ingredients being hot
lemonade, ginger wine, sugar, oranges, and raspberry vinegar. It
had the desired effect.
I stayed till late, listening to his inexhaustible fund of stories.
Over most of them he laughed with us himself--a great gusty laugh
that made the cheap glass ornaments upon the mantelpiece to
tremble; but now and then a recollection came to him that spread a
sudden gravity across his jovial face, bringing a curious quaver
into his deep voice.
Their tongues a little loosened by the punch, the old folks would
have sung his praises to the verge of tediousness had he not almost
sternly interrupted them.
"Shut up, mother," he cried at last, quite gruffly, "what I does I
does to please myself. I likes to see people comfortable about me.
If they wasn't, it's me as would be more upset than them."
I did not see him again for nearly two years. Then one October
evening, strolling about the East End, I met him coming out of a
little Chapel in the Burdett Road. He was so changed that I should
not have known him had not I overheard a woman as she passed him
say, "Good-evening, Mr. Burridge."
A pair of bushy side-whiskers had given to his red face an
aggressively respectable appearance. He was dressed in an ill-
fitting suit of black, and carried an umbrella in one hand and a
book in the other.
In some mysterious way he managed to look both thinner and shorter
than my recollection of him. Altogether, he suggested to me the
idea that he himself--the real man--had by some means or other been
extracted, leaving only his shrunken husk behind. The genial
juices of humanity had been squeezed out of him.
"Not Jack Burridge!" I exclaimed, confronting him in astonishment.
His little eyes wandered shiftily up and down the street. "No,
sir," he replied (his tones had lost their windy boisterousness--a
hard, metallic voice spoke to me), "not the one as you used to
know, praise be the Lord."
"And have you given up the old business?" I asked.
"Yes, sir," he replied, "that's all over; I've been a vile sinner
in my time, God forgive me for it. But, thank Heaven, I have
repented in time."
"Come and have a drink," I said, slipping my arm through his, "and
tell me all about it."
He disengaged himself from me, firmly but gently. "You mean well,
sir," he said, "but I have given up the drink."
Evidently he would have been rid of me, but a literary man,
scenting material for his stockpot, is not easily shaken off. I
asked after the old folks, and if they were still stopping with
"Yes," he said, "for the present. Of course, a man can't be
expected to keep people for ever; so many mouths to fill is hard
work these times, and everybody sponges on a man just because he's
"And how are you getting on?" I asked.
"Tolerably well, thank you, sir. The Lord provides for His
servants," he replied with a smug smile. "I have got a little shop
now in the Commercial Road."
"Whereabouts?" I persisted. "I would like to call and see you."
He gave me the address reluctantly, and said he would esteem it a
great pleasure if I would honour him by a visit, which was a
The following afternoon I went. I found the place to be a
pawnbroker's shop, and from all appearances he must have been doing
a very brisk business. He was out himself attending a temperance
committee, but his old father was behind the counter, and asked me
inside. Though it was a chilly day there was no fire in the
parlour, and the two old folks sat one each side of the empty
hearth, silent and sad. They seemed little more pleased to see me
than their son, but after a while Mrs. Burridge's natural garrulity
asserted itself, and we fell into chat.
I asked what had become of his sister-in-law, the lady with the
"I couldn't rightly tell you, sir," answered the old lady, "she
ain't livin' with us now. You see, sir," she continued, "John's
got different notions to what 'e used to 'ave. 'E don't cotten
much to them as ain't found grace, and poor Jane never did 'ave
"And the little one?" I inquired. "The one with the curls?"
"What, Bessie, sir?" said the old lady. "Oh, she's out at service,
sir; John don't think it good for young folks to be idle."
"Your son seems to have changed a good deal, Mrs. Burridge," I
"Ay, sir," she assented, "you may well say that. It nearly broke
my 'art at fust; everythin' so different to what it 'ad been. Not
as I'd stand in the boy's light. If our being a bit uncomfortable
like in this world is a-going to do 'im any good in the next me and
father ain't the ones to begrudge it, are we, old man?"
The "old man" concurred grumpily.
"Was it a sudden conversion?" I asked. "How did it come about?"
"It was a young woman as started 'im off," explained the old lady.
"She come round to our place one day a-collectin' for somethin' or
other, and Jack, in 'is free-'anded way, 'e give 'er a five-pun'
note. Next week she come agen for somethin' else, and stopped and
talked to 'im about 'is soul in the passage. She told 'im as 'e
was a-goin' straight to 'ell, and that 'e oughter give up the
bookmakin' and settle down to a respec'ble, God-fearin' business.
At fust 'e only laughed, but she lammed in tracts at 'im full of
the most awful language; and one day she fetched 'im round to one
of them revivalist chaps, as fair settled 'im.
"'E ain't never been his old self since then. 'E give up the
bettin' and bought this 'ere, though what's the difference blessed
if I can see. It makes my 'eart ache, it do, to 'ear my Jack a-
beatin' down the poor people--and it ain't like 'im. It went agen
'is grain at fust, I could see; but they told him as 'ow it was
folks's own fault that they was poor, and as 'ow it was the will of
God, because they was a drinkin', improvident lot.
"Then they made 'im sign the pledge. 'E'd allus been used to 'is
glass, Jack 'ad, and I think as knockin' it off 'ave soured 'im a
bit--seems as if all the sperit 'ad gone out of 'im--and of course
me and father 'ave 'ad to give up our little drop too. Then they
told 'im as 'e must give up smokin'- that was another way of goin'
straight to 'ell--and that ain't made 'im any the more cheerful
like, and father misses 'is little bit--don't ye, father?"
"Ay," answered the old fellow savagely; "can't say I thinks much of
these 'ere folks as is going to heaven; blowed if I don't think
they'll be a chirpier lot in t'other place."
An angry discussion in the shop interrupted us. Jack had returned,
and was threatening an excited woman with the police. It seemed
she had miscalculated the date, and had come a day too late with
Having got rid of her, he came into the parlour with the watch in
"It's providential she was late," he said, looking at it; "it's
worth ten times what I lent on it."
He packed his father back into the shop, and his mother down into
the kitchen to get his tea, and for a while we sat together
I found his conversation a strange mixture of self-laudation,
showing through a flimsy veil of self-disparagement, and of
satisfaction at the conviction that he was "saved," combined with
equally evident satisfaction that most other people weren't--
somewhat trying, however; and, remembering an appointment, rose to
He made no effort to stay me, but I could see that he was bursting
to tell me something. At last, taking a religious paper from his
pocket, and pointing to a column, he blurted out:
"You don't take any interest in the Lord's vineyard, I suppose,
I glanced at the part of the paper indicated. It announced a new
mission to the Chinese, and heading the subscription list stood the
name, "Mr. John Burridge, one hundred guineas."
"You subscribe largely, Mr. Burridge," I said, handing him back the
He rubbed his big hands together. "The Lord will repay a
hundredfold," he answered.
"In which case it's just as well to have a note of the advance down
in black and white, eh?" I added.
His little eyes looked sharply at me; but he made no reply, and,
shaking hands, I left him.
THE HOBBY RIDER
Bump. Bump. Bump-bump. Bump.
I sat up in bed and listened intently. It seemed to me as if
someone with a muffled hammer were trying to knock bricks out of
"Burglars," I said to myself (one assumes, as a matter of course,
that everything happening in this world after 1 a.m. is due to
burglars), and I reflected what a curiously literal, but at the
same time slow and cumbersome, method of housebreaking they had
The bumping continued irregularly, yet uninterruptedly.
My bed was by the window. I reached out my hand and drew aside a
corner of the curtain. The sunlight streamed into the room. I
looked at my watch: it was ten minutes past five.
A most unbusinesslike hour for burglars, I thought. Why, it will
be breakfast-time before they get in.
Suddenly there came a crash, and some substance striking against
the blind fell upon the floor. I sprang out of bed and threw open
A red-haired young gentleman, scantily clad in a sweater and a pair
of flannel trousers, stood on the lawn below me.
"Good morning," he said cheerily. "Do you mind throwing me back my
"What ball?" I said.
"My tennis ball," he answered. "It must be somewhere in the room;
it went clean through the window."
I found the ball and threw it back to him,
*** Quick tidied and spell-checked to here--page 155 ***
"What are you doing?" I asked. "Playing tennis?"
"No," he said. "I am just practising against the side of the
house. It improves your game wonderfully."
"It don't improve my night's rest," I answered somewhat surlily I
fear. "I came down here for peace and quiet. Can't you do it in
"Daytime!" he laughed. "Why it has been daytime for the last two
hours. Never mind, I'll go round the other side."
He disappeared round the corner, and set to work at the back, where
he woke up the dog. I heard another window smash, followed by a
sound as of somebody getting up violently in a distant part of the
house, and shortly afterwards I must have fallen asleep again.
I had come to spend a few weeks at a boarding establishment in
Deal. He was the only other young man in the house, and I was
naturally thrown a good deal upon his society. He was a pleasant,
genial young fellow, but he would have been better company had he
been a little less enthusiastic as regards tennis.
He played tennis ten hours a day on the average. He got up
romantic parties to play it by moonlight (when half his time was
generally taken up in separating his opponents), and godless
parties to play it on Sundays. On wet days I have seen him
practising services by himself in a mackintosh and goloshes.
He had been spending the winter with his people at Tangiers, and I
asked him how he liked the place.
"Oh, a beast of a hole!" he replied. "There is not a court
anywhere in the town. We tried playing on the roof, but the mater
thought it dangerous."
Switzerland he had been delighted with. He counselled me next time
I went to stay at Zermatt.
"There is a capital court at Zermatt," he said. "You might almost
fancy yourself at Wimbledon."
A mutual acquaintance whom I subsequently met told me that at the
top of the Jungfrau he had said to him, his eyes fixed the while
upon a small snow plateau enclosed by precipices a few hundred feet
below them -
"By Jove! That wouldn't make half a bad little tennis court--that
flat bit down there. Have to be careful you didn't run back too
When he was not playing tennis, or practising tennis, or reading
about tennis, he was talking about tennis. Renshaw was the
prominent figure in the tennis world at that time, and he mentioned
Renshaw until there grew up within my soul a dark desire to kill
Renshaw in a quiet, unostentatious way, and bury him.
One drenching afternoon he talked tennis to me for three hours on
end, referring to Renshaw, so far as I kept count, four thousand
nine hundred and thirteen times. After tea he drew his chair to
the window beside me, and commenced -
"Have you ever noticed how Renshaw--"
I said -
"Suppose someone took a gun--someone who could aim very straight--
and went out and shot Renshaw till he was quite dead, would you
tennis players drop him and talk about somebody else?"
"Oh, but who would shoot Renshaw?" he said indignantly.
"Never mind," I said, "supposing someone did?"
"Well, then, there would be his brother," he replied.
I had forgotten that.
"Well, we won't argue about how many of them there are," I said.
"Suppose someone killed the lot, should we hear less of Renshaw?"
"Never," he replied emphatically. "Renshaw will always be a name
wherever tennis is spoken of."
I dread to think what the result might have been had his answer
been other than it was.
The next year he dropped tennis completely and became an ardent
amateur photographer, whereupon all his friends implored him to
return to tennis, and sought to interest him in talk about services
and returns and volleys, and in anecdotes concerning Renshaw. But
he would not heed them.
Whatever he saw, wherever he went, he took. He took his friends,
and made them his enemies. He took babies, and brought despair to
fond mothers' hearts. He took young wives, and cast a shadow on
the home. Once there was a young man who loved not wisely, so his
friends thought, but the more they talked against her the more he
clung to her. Then a happy idea occurred to the father. He got
Begglely to photograph her in seven different positions.
When her lover saw the first, he said -
"What an awful looking thing! Who did it?"
When Begglely showed him the second, he said -
"But, my dear fellow, it's not a bit like her. You've made her
look an ugly old woman."
At the third he said -
"Whatever have you done to her feet? They can't be that size, you
know. It isn't in nature!"
At the fourth he exclaimed -
"But, heavens, man! Look at the shape you've made her. Where on
earth did you get the idea from?"
At the first glimpse of the fifth he staggered.
"Great Scott!" he cried with a shudder, "what a ghastly expression
you've got into it! It isn't human!"
Begglely was growing offended, but the father, who was standing by,
came to his defence.
"It's nothing to do with Begglely," exclaimed the old gentleman
suavely. "It can't be HIS fault. What is a photographer? Simply
an instrument in the hands of science. He arranges his apparatus,
and whatever is in front of it comes into it."
"No," continued the old gentleman, laying a constrained hand upon
Begglely, who was about to resume the exhibition, "don't--don't
show him the other two."
I was sorry for the poor girl, for I believe she really cared for
the youngster; and as for her looks, they were quite up to the
average. But some evil sprite seemed to have got into Begglely's
camera. It seized upon defects with the unerring instinct of a
born critic, and dilated upon them to the obscuration of all
virtues. A man with a pimple became a pimple with a man as
background. People with strongly marked features became merely
adjuncts to their own noses. One man in the neighbourhood had,
undetected, worn a wig for fourteen years. Begglely's camera
discovered the fraud in an instant, and so completely exposed it
that the man's friends wondered afterwards how the fact ever could
have escaped them. The thing seemed to take a pleasure in showing
humanity at its very worst. Babies usually came out with an
expression of low cunning. Most young girls had to take their
choice of appearing either as simpering idiots or embryo vixens.
To mild old ladies it generally gave a look of aggressive cynicism.
Our vicar, as excellent an old gentleman as ever breathed, Begglely
presented to us as a beetle-browed savage of a peculiarly low type
of intellect; while upon the leading solicitor of the town he
bestowed an expression of such thinly-veiled hypocrisy that few who
saw the photograph cared ever again to trust him with their
As regards myself I should, perhaps, make no comment, I am possibly
a prejudiced party. All I will say, therefore, is that if I in any
way resemble Begglely's photograph of me, then the critics are
fully justified in everything they have at any time, anywhere, said
of me--and more. Nor, I maintain--though I make no pretence of
possessing the figure of Apollo--is one of my legs twice the length
of the other, and neither does it curve upwards. This I can prove.
Begglely allowed that an accident had occurred to the negative
during the process of development, but this explanation does not
appear on the picture, and I cannot help feeling that an injustice
has been done me.
His perspective seemed to be governed by no law either human or
divine. I have seen a photograph of his uncle and a windmill,
judging from which I defy any unprejudiced person to say which is
the bigger, the uncle or the mill.
On one occasion he created quite a scandal in the parish by
exhibiting a well-known and eminently respectable maiden lady
nursing a young man on her knee. The gentleman's face was
indistinct, and he was dressed in a costume which, upon a man of
his size--one would have estimated him as rising 6 ft. 4 in.--
appeared absurdly juvenile. He had one arm round her neck, and she
was holding his other hand and smirking.
I, knowing something of Begglely's machine, willingly accepted the
lady's explanation, which was to the effect that the male in
question was her nephew, aged eleven; but the uncharitable
ridiculed this statement, and appearances were certainly against
It was in the early days of the photographic craze, and an
inexperienced world was rather pleased with the idea of being taken
on the cheap. The consequence was that nearly everyone for three
miles round sat or stood or leant or laid to Begglely at one time
or another, with the result that a less conceited parish than ours
it would have been difficult to discover. No one who had once
looked upon a photograph of himself taken by Begglely ever again
felt any pride in his personal appearance. The picture was
invariably a revelation to him.
Later, some evil-disposed person invented Kodaks, and Begglely went
everywhere slung on to a thing that looked like an overgrown
missionary box, and that bore a legend to the effect that if
Begglely would pull the button, a shameless Company would do the
rest. Life became a misery to Begglely's friends. Nobody dared to
do anything for fear of being taken in the act. He took an
instantaneous photograph of his own father swearing at the
gardener, and snapped his youngest sister and her lover at the
exact moment of farewell at the garden gate. Nothing was sacred to
him. He Kodaked his aunt's funeral from behind, and showed the
chief mourner but one whispering a funny story into the ear of the
third cousin as they stood behind their hats beside the grave.
Public indignation was at its highest when a new comer to the
neighbourhood, a young fellow named Haynoth, suggested the getting
together of a party for a summer's tour in Turkey. Everybody took
up the idea with enthusiasm, and recommended Begglely as the
"party." We had great hopes from that tour. Our idea was that
Begglely would pull his button outside a harem or behind a sultana,
and that a Bashi Bazouk or a Janissary would do the rest for us.
We were, however, partly doomed to disappointment--I say, "partly,"
because, although Begglely returned alive, he came back entirely
cured of his photographic craze. He said that every English-
speaking man, woman, or child whom he met abroad had its camera
with it, and that after a time the sight of a black cloth or the
click of a button began to madden him.
He told us that on the summit of Mount Tutra, in the Carpathians,
the English and American amateur photographers waiting to take "the
grand panorama" were formed by the Hungarian police in queue, two
abreast, each with his or her camera under his or her arm, and that
a man had to stand sometimes as long as three and a half hours
before his turn came round. He also told us that the beggars in
Constantinople went about with placards hung round their necks,
stating their charges for being photographed. One of these price
lists he brought back with him as a sample.
One snap shot, back or front .. ... ... 2 frcs.
" with expression ... ... 3 "
" surprised in quaint attitude . 4 "
" while saying prayers ... ... 5 "
" while fighting ... ... 10 "
He said that in some instances where a man had an exceptionally
villainous cast of countenance, or was exceptionally deformed, as
much as twenty francs were demanded and readily obtained.
He abandoned photography and took to golf. He showed people how,
by digging a hole here and putting a brickbat or two there, they
could convert a tennis-lawn into a miniature golf link,--and did it
for them. He persuaded elderly ladies and gentlemen that it was
the mildest exercise going, and would drag them for miles over wet
gorse and heather, and bring them home dead beat, coughing, and
full of evil thoughts.
The last time I saw him was in Switzerland, a few months ago. He
appeared indifferent to the subject of golf, but talked much about
whist. We met by chance at Grindelwald, and agreed to climb the
Faulhorn together next morning. Half-way up we rested, and I
strolled on a little way by myself to gain a view. Returning, I
found him with a "Cavendish" in his hand and a pack of cards spread
out before him on the grass, solving a problem.
THE MAN WHO DID NOT BELIEVE IN LUCK
He got in at Ipswich with seven different weekly papers under his
arm. I noticed that each one insured its reader against death or
injury by railway accident. He arranged his luggage upon the rack
above him, took off his hat and laid it on the seat beside him,
mopped his bald head with a red silk handkerchief, and then set to
work steadily to write his name and address upon each of the seven
papers. I sat opposite to him and read Punch. I always take the
old humour when travelling; I find it soothing to the nerves.
Passing over the points at Manningtree the train gave a lurch, and
a horse-shoe he had carefully placed in the rack above him slipped
through the netting, falling with a musical ring upon his head.
He appeared neither surprised nor angry. Having staunched the
wound with his handkerchief, he stooped and picked the horse-shoe
up, glanced at it with, as I thought, an expression of reproach,
and dropped it gently out of the window.
"Did it hurt you?" I asked.
It was a foolish question. I told myself so the moment I had
uttered it. The thing must have weighed three pounds at the least;
it was an exceptionally large and heavy shoe. The bump on his head
was swelling visibly before my eyes. Anyone but an idiot must have
seen that he was hurt. I expected an irritable reply. I should
have given one myself had I been in his place. Instead, however,
he seemed to regard the inquiry as a natural and kindly expression
"It did, a little," he replied.
"What were you doing with it?" I asked. It was an odd sort of
thing for a man to be travelling with.
"It was lying in the roadway just outside the station," he
explained; "I picked it up for luck."
He refolded his handkerchief so as to bring a cooler surface in
contact with the swelling, while I murmured something genial about
the inscrutability of Providence.
"Yes," he said, "I've had a deal of luck in my time, but it's never
turned out well."
"I was born on a Wednesday," he continued, "which, as I daresay you
know, is the luckiest day a man can be born on. My mother was a
widow, and none of my relatives would do anything for me. They
said it would be like taking coals to Newcastle, helping a boy born
on a Wednesday; and my uncle, when he died, left every penny of his
money to my brother Sam, as a slight compensation to him for having
been born on a Friday. All I ever got was advice upon the duties
and responsibilities of wealth, when it arrived, and entreaties
that I would not neglect those with claims upon me when I came to
be a rich man."
He paused while folding up his various insurance papers and placing
them in the inside breast-pocket of his coat.
"Then there are black cats," he went on; "they're said to be lucky.
Why, there never was a blacker cat than the one that followed me
into my rooms in Bolsover Street the very first night I took them."
"Didn't it bring you luck?" I enquired, finding that he had
A far-away look came into his eyes.
"Well, of course it all depends," he answered dreamily. "Maybe
we'd never have suited one another; you can always look at it that
way. Still, I'd like to have tried."
He sat staring out of the window, and for a while I did not care to
intrude upon his evidently painful memories.
"What happened then?" I asked, however, at last.
He roused himself from his reverie.
"Oh," he said. "Nothing extraordinary. She had to leave London
for a time, and gave me her pet canary to take charge of while she
"But it wasn't your fault," I urged.
"No, perhaps not," he agreed; "but it created a coldness which
others were not slow to take advantage of."
"I offered her the cat, too," he added, but more to himself than to
We sat and smoked in silence. I felt that the consolations of a
stranger would sound weak.
"Piebald horses are lucky, too," he observed, knocking the ashes
from his pipe against the window sash. "I had one of them once."
"What did it do to you?" I enquired.
"Lost me the best crib I ever had in my life," was the simple
rejoinder. "The governor stood it a good deal longer than I had
any right to expect; but you can't keep a man who is ALWAYS drunk.
It gives a firm a bad name."
"It would," I agreed.
"You see," he went on, "I never had the head for it. To some men
it would not have so much mattered, but the very first glass was
enough to upset me. I'd never been used to it."
"But why did you take it?" I persisted. "The horse didn't make you
drink, did he?"
"Well, it was this way," he explained, continuing to rub gently the
lump which was now about the size of an egg. "The animal had
belonged to a gentleman who travelled in the wine and spirit line,
and who had been accustomed to visit in the way of business almost
every public-house he came to. The result was you couldn't get
that little horse past a public-house --at least I couldn't. He
sighted them a quarter of a mile off, and made straight for the
door. I struggled with him at first, but it was five to ten
minutes' work getting him away, and folks used to gather round and
bet on us. I think, maybe, I'd have stuck to it, however, if it
hadn't been for a temperance chap who stopped one day and lectured
the crowd about it from the opposite side of the street. He called
me Pilgrim, and said the little horse was 'Pollion,' or some such
name, and kept on shouting out that I was to fight him for a
heavenly crown. After that they called us "Polly and the Pilgrim,
fighting for the crown." It riled me, that did, and at the very
next house at which he pulled up I got down and said I'd come for
two of Scotch. That was the beginning. It took me years to break
myself of the habit.
"But there," he continued, "it has always been the same. I hadn't
been a fortnight in my first situation before my employer gave me a
goose weighing eighteen pounds as a Christmas present."
"Well, that couldn't have done you any harm," I remarked. "That
was lucky enough."
"So the other clerks said at the time," he replied. "The old
gentleman had never been known to give anything away before in his
life. 'He's taken a fancy to you,' they said; 'you are a lucky
He sighed heavily. I felt there was a story attached.
"What did you do with it?" I asked.
"That was the trouble," he returned. "I didn't know what to do
with it. It was ten o'clock on Christmas Eve, just as I was
leaving, that he gave it to me. 'Tiddling Brothers have sent me a
goose, Biggles,' he said to me as I helped him on with his great-
coat. 'Very kind of 'em, but I don't want it myself; you can have
"Of course I thanked him, and was very grateful. He wished me a
merry Christmas and went out. I tied the thing up in brown paper,
and took it under my arm. It was a fine bird, but heavy.
"Under all the circumstances, and it being Christmas time, I
thought I would treat myself to a glass of beer. I went into a
quiet little house at the corner of the Lane and laid the goose on
"'That's a big 'un,' said the landlord; 'you'll get a good cut off
"His words set me thinking, and for the first time it struck me
that I didn't want the bird--that it was of no use to me at all. I
was going down to spend the holidays with my young lady's people in
"Was this the canary young lady?" I interrupted.
"No," he replied. "This was before that one. It was this goose
I'm telling you of that upset this one. Well, her folks were big
farmers; it would have been absurd taking a goose down to them, and
I knew no one in London to give it to, so when the landlord came
round again I asked him if he would care to buy it. I told him he
could have it cheap,
"'I don't want it myself,' he answered. 'I've got three in the
house already. Perhaps one of these gentlemen would like to make
"He turned to a couple of chaps who were sitting drinking gin.
They didn't look to me worth the price of a chicken between them.
The seediest said he'd like to look at it, however, and I undid the
parcel. He mauled the thing pretty considerably, and cross-
examined me as to how I come by it, ending by upsetting half a
tumbler of gin and water over it. Then he offered me half a crown
for it. It made me so angry that I took the brown paper and the
string in one hand and the goose in the other, and walked straight
out without saying a word.
"I carried it in this way for some distance, because I was excited
and didn't care how I carried it; but as I cooled, I began to
reflect how ridiculous I must look. One or two small boys
evidently noticed the same thing. I stopped under a lamp-post and
tried to tie it up again. I had a bag and an umbrella with me at
the same time, and the first thing I did was to drop the goose into
the gutter, which is just what I might have expected to do,
attempting to handle four separate articles and three yards of
string with one pair of hands. I picked up about a quart of mud
with that goose, and got the greater part of it over my hands and
clothes and a fair quantity over the brown paper; and then it began
"I bundled everything up into my arm and made for the nearest pub,
where I thought I would ask for a piece more string and make a neat
job of it.
"The bar was crowded. I pushed my way to the counter and flung the
goose down in front of me. The men nearest stopped talking to look
at it; and a young fellow standing next to me said -
"'Well, you've killed it.' I daresay I did seem a bit excited.
"I had intended making another effort to sell it here, but they
were clearly not the right sort. I had a pint of ale--for I was
feeling somewhat tired and hot--scraped as much of the mud off the
bird as I could, made a fresh parcel of it, and came out.
"Crossing the road a happy idea occurred to me. I thought I would
raffle it. At once I set to work to find a house where there might
seem to be a likely lot. It cost me three or four whiskies--for I
felt I didn't want any more beer, which is a thing that easily
upsets me--but at length I found just the crowd I wanted--a quiet
domestic-looking set in a homely little place off the Goswell Road.
"I explained my views to the landlord. He said he had no
objection; he supposed I would stand drinks round afterwards. I
said I should be delighted to do so, and showed him the bird.
"'It looks a bit poorly,' he said. He was a Devonshire man.
"'Oh, that's nothing,' I explained. 'I happened to drop it. That
will all wash off.'
"'It smells a bit queer, too,' he said.
"'That's mud,' I answered; 'you know what London mud is. And a
gentleman spilled some gin over it. Nobody will notice that when
"'Well,' he replied. 'I don't think I'll take a hand myself, but
if any other gent likes to, that's his affair.'
"Nobody seemed enthusiastic. I started it at sixpence, and took a
ticket myself. The potman had a free chance for superintending the
arrangements, and he succeeded in inducing five other men, much
against their will, to join us. I won it myself, and paid out
three and twopence for drinks. A solemn-looking individual who had
been snoring in a corner suddenly woke up as I was going out, and
offered me sevenpence ha'penny for it--why sevenpence ha'penny I
have never been able to understand. He would have taken it away, I
should never have seen it again, and my whole life might have been
different. But Fate has always been against me. I replied, with
perhaps unnecessary hauteur, that I wasn't a Christmas dinner fund
for the destitute, and walked out.
"It was getting late, and I had a long walk home to my lodgings. I
was beginning to wish I had never seen the bird. I estimated its
weight by this time to be thirty-six pounds.
"The idea occurred to me to sell it to a poulterer. I looked for a
shop, I found one in Myddleton Street. There wasn't a customer
near it, but by the way the man was shouting you might have thought
that he was doing all the trade of Clerkenwell. I took the goose
out of the parcel and laid it on the shelf before him.
"'What's this?' he asked.
"'It's a goose,' I said. 'You can have it cheap.'
"He just seized the thing by the neck and flung it at me. I
dodged, and it caught the side of my head. You can have no idea,
if you've never been hit on the head with a goose, how if hurts. I
picked it up and hit him back with it, and a policeman came up with
the usual, 'Now then, what's all this about?'
"I explained the facts. The poulterer stepped to the edge of the
curb and apostrophised the universe generally.
"'Look at that shop,' he said. "It's twenty minutes to twelve, and
there's seven dozen geese hanging there that I'm willing to give
away, and this fool asks me if I want to buy another.'
"I perceived then that my notion had been a foolish one, and I
followed the policeman's advice, and went away quietly, taking the
bird with me.
"Then said I to myself, 'I will give it away. I will select some
poor deserving person, and make him a present of the damned thing.'
I passed a good many people, but no one looked deserving enough.
It may have been the time or it may have been the neighbourhood,
but those I met seemed to me to be unworthy of the bird. I offered
it to a man in Judd Street, who I thought appeared hungry. He
turned out to be a drunken ruffian. I could not make him
understand what I meant, and he followed me down the road abusing
me at the top of his voice, until, turning a corner without knowing
it, he plunged down Tavistock Place, shouting after the wrong man.
In the Euston Road I stopped a half-starved child and pressed it
upon her. She answered 'Not me!' and ran away. I heard her
calling shrilly after me, 'Who stole the goose?'
"I dropped it in a dark part of Seymour Street. A man picked it up
and brought it after me. I was unequal to any more explanations or
arguments. I gave him twopence and plodded on with it once more.
The pubs were just closing, and I went into one for a final drink.
As a matter of fact I had had enough already, being, as I am,
unaccustomed to anything more than an occasional class of beer.
But I felt depressed, and I thought it might cheer me. I think I
had gin, which is a thing I loathe.
"I meant to fling it over into Oakley Square, but a policeman had
his eye on me, and followed me twice round the railings. In
Golding Road I sought to throw it down an area, but was frustrated
in like manner. The whole night police of London seemed to have
nothing else to do but prevent my getting rid of that goose.
"They appeared so anxious about it that I fancied they might like
to have it. I went up to one in Camden Street. I called him
'Bobby,' and asked him if he wanted a goose.
"'I'll tell you what I don't want,' he replied severely, 'and that
is none of your sauce.'
"He was very insulting, and I naturally answered him back. What
actually passed I forget, but it ended in his announcing his
intention of taking me in charge.
"I slipped out of his hands and bolted down King Street. He blew
his whistle and started after me. A man sprang out from a doorway
in College Street and tried to stop me. I tied him up with a butt
in the stomach, and cut through the Crescent, doubling back into
the Camden Road by Batt Street.
"At the Canal Bridge I looked behind me, and could see no one. I
dropped the goose over the parapet, and it fell with a splash into
"Heaving a sigh of relief, I turned and crossed into Randolph
Street, and there a constable collared me. I was arguing with him
when the first fool came up breathless. They told me I had better
explain the matter to the Inspector, and I thought so too.
"The Inspector asked me why I had run away when the other constable
wanted to take me in charge. I replied that it was because I did
not desire to spend my Christmas holidays in the lock-up, which he
evidently regarded as a singularly weak argument. He asked me what
I had thrown into the canal. I told him a goose. He asked me why
I had thrown a goose into the canal. I told him because I was sick
and tired of the animal.
"At this stage a sergeant came in to say that they had succeeded in
recovering the parcel. They opened it on the Inspector's table.
It contained a dead baby.
"I pointed out to them that it wasn't my parcel, and that it wasn't
my baby, but they hardly took the trouble to disguise the fact that
they did not believe me.
"The Inspector said it was too grave a case for bail, which, seeing
that I did not know a soul in London, was somewhat immaterial. I
got them to send a telegram to my young lady to say that I was
unavoidably detained in town, and passed as quiet and uneventful a
Christmas Day and Boxing Day as I ever wish to spend.
"In the end the evidence against me was held to be insufficient to
justify a conviction, and I got off on the minor charge of drunk
and disorderly. But I lost my situation and I lost my young lady,
and I don't care if I never see a goose again."
We were nearing Liverpool Street. He collected his luggage, and
taking up his hat made an attempt to put it on his head. But in
consequence of the swelling caused by the horseshoe it would not go
anywhere near him, and he laid it sadly back upon the seat.
"No," he said quietly, "I can't say that I believe very much in
DICK DUNKERMAN'S CAT
Richard Dunkerman and I had been old school-fellows, if a gentleman
belonging to the Upper Sixth, and arriving each morning in a
"topper" and a pair of gloves, and "a discredit to the Lower
Fourth," in a Scotch cap, can by any manner of means be classed
together. And though in those early days a certain amount of
coldness existed between us, originating in a poem, composed and
sung on occasions by myself in commemoration of an alleged painful
incident connected with a certain breaking-up day, and which, if I
remember rightly ran:-
Dicky, Dicky, Dunk,
Always in a funk,
Drank a glass of sherry wine,
And went home roaring drunk,
and kept alive by his brutal criticism of the same, expressed with
the bony part of the knee, yet in after life we came to know and
like each other better. I drifted into journalism, while he for
years had been an unsuccessful barrister and dramatist; but one
spring, to the astonishment of us all, he brought out the play of
the season, a somewhat impossible little comedy, but full of homely
sentiment and belief in human nature. It was about a couple of
months after its production that he first introduced me to
I was in love at the time. Her name was, I think, Naomi, and I
wanted to talk to somebody about her. Dick had a reputation for
taking an intelligent interest in other men's love affairs. He
would let a lover rave by the hour to him, taking brief notes the
while in a bulky red-covered volume labelled "Commonplace Book."
Of course everybody knew that he was using them merely as raw
material for his dramas, but we did not mind that so long as he
would only listen. I put on my hat and went round to his chambers.
We talked about indifferent matters for a quarter of an hour or so,
and then I launched forth upon my theme. I had exhausted her
beauty and goodness, and was well into my own feelings--the madness
of my ever imagining I had loved before, the utter impossibility of
my ever caring for any other woman, and my desire to die breathing
her name--before he made a move. I thought he had risen to reach
down, as usual, the "Commonplace Book," and so waited, but instead
he went to the door and opened it, and in glided one of the largest
and most beautiful black tom-cats I have ever seen. It sprang on
Dick's knee with a soft "cur-roo," and sat there upright, watching
me, and I went on with my tale.
After a few minutes Dick interrupted me with:-
"I thought you said her name was Naomi?"
"So it is," I replied. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing," he answered, "only just now you referred to her as
This was remarkable, as I had not seen Enid for years, and had
quite forgotten her. Somehow it took the glitter out of the
conversation. A dozen sentences later Dick stopped me again with:-
I began to get irritated. Julia, I remembered, had been cashier in
a city restaurant, and had, when I was little more than a boy,
almost inveigled me into an engagement. I found myself getting hot
at the recollection of the spooney rhapsodies I had hoarsely poured
into her powder-streaked ear while holding her flabby hand across
"Did I really say 'Julia'?" I answered somewhat sharply, "or are
"You certainly alluded to her as Julia," he replied mildly. "But
never mind, you go on as you like, I shall know whom you mean."
But the flame was dead within me. I tried to rekindle it, but
every time I glanced up and met the green eyes of the black Tom it
flickered out again. I recalled the thrill that had penetrated my
whole being when Naomi's hand had accidently touched mine in the
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