Tommy and Co.
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 1 out of 4
Scanned and proofed by David Price
Tommy and Co.
by Jerome K. Jerome
STORY THE FIRST--Peter Hope plans his Prospectus
"Come in!" said Peter Hope.
Peter Hope was tall and thin, clean-shaven but for a pair of side
whiskers close-cropped and terminating just below the ear, with
hair of the kind referred to by sympathetic barbers as "getting a
little thin on the top, sir," but arranged with economy, that
everywhere is poverty's true helpmate. About Mr. Peter Hope's
linen, which was white though somewhat frayed, there was a self-
assertiveness that invariably arrested the attention of even the
most casual observer. Decidedly there was too much of it--its
ostentation aided and abetted by the retiring nature of the cut-
away coat, whose chief aim clearly was to slip off and disappear
behind its owner's back. "I'm a poor old thing," it seemed to say.
"I don't shine--or, rather, I shine too much among these up-to-date
young modes. I only hamper you. You would be much more
comfortable without me." To persuade it to accompany him, its
proprietor had to employ force, keeping fastened the lowest of its
three buttons. At every step, it struggled for its liberty.
Another characteristic of Peter's, linking him to the past, was his
black silk cravat, secured by a couple of gold pins chained
together. Watching him as he now sat writing, his long legs
encased in tightly strapped grey trousering, crossed beneath the
table, the lamplight falling on his fresh-complexioned face, upon
the shapely hand that steadied the half-written sheet, a stranger
might have rubbed his eyes, wondering by what hallucination he thus
found himself in presence seemingly of some young beau belonging to
the early 'forties; but looking closer, would have seen the many
"Come in!" repeated Mr. Peter Hope, raising his voice, but not his
The door opened, and a small, white face, out of which gleamed a
pair of bright, black eyes, was thrust sideways into the room.
"Come in!" repeated Mr. Peter Hope for the third time. "Who is
A hand not over clean, grasping a greasy cloth cap, appeared below
"Not ready yet," said Mr. Hope. "Sit down and wait."
The door opened wider, and the whole of the figure slid in and,
closing the door behind it, sat itself down upon the extreme edge
of the chair nearest.
"Which are you--Central News or Courier?" demanded Mr. Peter Hope,
but without looking up from his work.
The bright, black eyes, which had just commenced an examination of
the room by a careful scrutiny of the smoke-grimed ceiling,
descended and fixed themselves upon the one clearly defined bald
patch upon his head that, had he been aware of it, would have
troubled Mr. Peter Hope. But the full, red lips beneath the
turned-up nose remained motionless.
That he had received no answer to his question appeared to have
escaped the attention of Mr. Peter Hope. The thin, white hand
moved steadily to and fro across the paper. Three more sheets were
added to those upon the floor. Then Mr. Peter Hope pushed back his
chair and turned his gaze for the first time upon his visitor.
To Peter Hope, hack journalist, long familiar with the genus
Printer's Devil, small white faces, tangled hair, dirty hands, and
greasy caps were common objects in the neighbourhood of that buried
rivulet, the Fleet. But this was a new species. Peter Hope sought
his spectacles, found them after some trouble under a heap of
newspapers, adjusted them upon his high, arched nose, leant
forward, and looked long and up and down.
"God bless my soul!" said Mr. Peter Hope. "What is it?"
The figure rose to its full height of five foot one and came
Over a tight-fitting garibaldi of blue silk, excessively decollete,
it wore what once had been a boy's pepper-and-salt jacket. A
worsted comforter wound round the neck still left a wide expanse of
throat showing above the garibaldi. Below the jacket fell a long,
black skirt, the train of which had been looped up about the waist
and fastened with a cricket-belt.
"Who are you? What do you want?" asked Mr. Peter Hope.
For answer, the figure, passing the greasy cap into its other hand,
stooped down and, seizing the front of the long skirt, began to
haul it up.
"Don't do that!" said Mr. Peter Hope. "I say, you know, you--"
But by this time the skirt had practically disappeared, leaving to
view a pair of much-patched trousers, diving into the right-hand
pocket of which the dirty hand drew forth a folded paper, which,
having opened and smoothed out, it laid upon the desk.
Mr. Peter Hope pushed up his spectacles till they rested on his
eyebrows, and read aloud--"'Steak and Kidney Pie, 4d.; Do. (large
size), 6d.; Boiled Mutton--'"
"That's where I've been for the last two weeks," said the figure,--
"Hammond's Eating House!"
The listener noted with surprise that the voice--though it told him
as plainly as if he had risen and drawn aside the red rep curtains,
that outside in Gough Square the yellow fog lay like the ghost of a
dead sea--betrayed no Cockney accent, found no difficulty with its
"You ask for Emma. She'll say a good word for me. She told me
"But, my good--" Mr. Peter Hope, checking himself, sought again the
assistance of his glasses. The glasses being unable to decide the
point, their owner had to put the question bluntly:
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
"You don't know!"
"What's the difference?"
Mr. Peter Hope stood up, and taking the strange figure by the
shoulders, turned it round slowly twice, apparently under the
impression that the process might afford to him some clue. But it
"What is your name?"
"Anything you like. I dunno. I've had so many of 'em."
"What do you want? What have you come for?"
"You're Mr. Hope, ain't you, second floor, 16, Gough Square?"
"That is my name."
"You want somebody to do for you?"
"You mean a housekeeper!"
"Didn't say anything about housekeeper. Said you wanted somebody
to do for you--cook and clean the place up. Heard 'em talking
about it in the shop this afternoon. Old lady in green bonnet was
asking Mother Hammond if she knew of anyone."
"Mrs. Postwhistle--yes, I did ask her to look out for someone for
me. Why, do you know of anyone? Have you been sent by anybody?"
"You don't want anything too 'laborate in the way o' cooking? You
was a simple old chap, so they said; not much trouble."
"No--no. I don't want much--someone clean and respectable. But
why couldn't she come herself? Who is it?"
"Well, what's wrong about me?"
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Peter Hope.
"Why won't I do? I can make beds and clean rooms--all that sort o'
thing. As for cooking, I've got a natural aptitude for it. You
ask Emma; she'll tell you. You don't want nothing 'laborate?"
"Elizabeth," said Mr. Peter Hope, as he crossed and, taking up the
poker, proceeded to stir the fire, "are we awake or asleep?"
Elizabeth thus appealed to, raised herself on her hind legs and dug
her claws into her master's thigh. Mr. Hope's trousers being thin,
it was the most practical answer she could have given him.
"Done a lot of looking after other people for their benefit,"
continued Tommy. "Don't see why I shouldn't do it for my own."
"My dear--I do wish I knew whether you were a boy or a girl. Do
you seriously suggest that I should engage you as my housekeeper?"
asked Mr. Peter Hope, now upright with his back to the fire.
"I'd do for you all right," persisted Tommy. "You give me my grub
and a shake-down and, say, sixpence a week, and I'll grumble less
than most of 'em."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Mr. Peter Hope.
"You won't try me?"
"Of course not; you must be mad."
"All right. No harm done." The dirty hand reached out towards the
desk, and possessing itself again of Hammond's Bill of Fare,
commenced the operations necessary for bearing it away in safety.
"Here's a shilling for you," said Mr. Peter Hope.
"Rather not," said Tommy. "Thanks all the same."
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Peter Hope.
"Rather not," repeated Tommy. "Never know where that sort of thing
may lead you to."
"All right," said Mr. Peter Hope, replacing the coin in his pocket.
The figure moved towards the door.
"Wait a minute. Wait a minute," said Mr. Peter Hope irritably.
The figure, with its hand upon the door, stood still.
"Are you going back to Hammond's?"
"No. I've finished there. Only took me on for a couple o' weeks,
while one of the gals was ill. She came back this morning."
"Who are your people?"
Tommy seemed puzzled. "What d'ye mean?"
"Well, whom do you live with?"
"You've got nobody to look after you--to take care of you?"
"Take care of me! D'ye think I'm a bloomin' kid?"
"Then where are you going to now?"
Peter Hope's irritation was growing.
"I mean, where are you going to sleep? Got any money for a
"Yes, I've got some money," answered Tommy. "But I don't think
much o' lodgings. Not a particular nice class as you meet there.
I shall sleep out to-night. 'Tain't raining."
Elizabeth uttered a piercing cry.
"Serves you right!" growled Peter savagely. "How can anyone help
treading on you when you will get just between one's legs. Told
you of it a hundred times."
The truth of the matter was that Peter was becoming very angry with
himself. For no reason whatever, as he told himself, his memory
would persist in wandering to Ilford Cemetery, in a certain
desolate corner of which lay a fragile little woman whose lungs had
been but ill adapted to breathing London fogs; with, on the top of
her, a still smaller and still more fragile mite of humanity that,
in compliment to its only relative worth a penny-piece, had been
christened Thomas--a name common enough in all conscience, as Peter
had reminded himself more than once. In the name of common sense,
what had dead and buried Tommy Hope to do with this affair? The
whole thing was the veriest sentiment, and sentiment was Mr. Peter
Hope's abomination. Had he not penned articles innumerable
pointing out its baneful influence upon the age? Had he not always
condemned it, wherever he had come across it in play or book? Now
and then the suspicion had crossed Peter's mind that, in spite of
all this, he was somewhat of a sentimentalist himself--things had
suggested this to him. The fear had always made him savage.
"You wait here till I come back," he growled, seizing the
astonished Tommy by the worsted comforter and spinning it into the
centre of the room. "Sit down, and don't you dare to move." And
Peter went out and slammed the door behind him.
"Bit off his chump, ain't he?" remarked Tommy to Elizabeth, as the
sound of Peter's descending footsteps died away. People had a way
of addressing remarks to Elizabeth. Something in her manner
"Oh, well, it's all in the day's work," commented Tommy cheerfully,
and sat down as bid.
Five minutes passed, maybe ten. Then Peter returned, accompanied
by a large, restful lady, to whom surprise--one felt it
instinctively--had always been, and always would remain, an unknown
"That's the--the article," explained Peter.
Mrs. Postwhistle compressed her lips and slightly tossed her head.
It was the attitude of not ill-natured contempt from which she
regarded most human affairs.
"That's right," said Mrs. Postwhistle; "I remember seeing 'er
there--leastways, it was an 'er right enough then. What 'ave you
done with your clothes?"
"They weren't mine," explained Tommy. "They were things what Mrs.
Hammond had lent me."
"Is that your own?" asked Mrs. Postwhistle, indicating the blue
"What went with it?"
"Tights. They were too far gone."
"What made you give up the tumbling business and go to Mrs.
"It gave me up. Hurt myself."
"Who were you with last?"
"And before that?"
"Oh! heaps of 'em."
"Nobody ever told you whether you was a boy or a girl?"
"Nobody as I'd care to believe. Some of them called me the one,
some of them the other. It depended upon what was wanted."
"How old are you?"
Mrs. Postwhistle turned to Peter, who was jingling keys.
"Well, there's the bed upstairs. It's for you to decide."
"What I don't want to do," explained Peter, sinking his voice to a
confidential whisper, "is to make a fool of myself."
"That's always a good rule," agreed Mrs. Postwhistle, "for those to
whom it's possible."
"Anyhow," said Peter, "one night can't do any harm. To-morrow we
can think what's to be done."
"To-morrow"had always been Peter's lucky day. At the mere mention
of the magic date his spirits invariably rose. He now turned upon
Tommy a countenance from which all hesitation was banished.
"Very well, Tommy," said Mr. Peter Hope, "you can sleep here to-
night. Go with Mrs. Postwhistle, and she'll show you your room."
The black eyes shone.
"You're going to give me a trial?"
"We'll talk about all that to-morrow." The black eyes clouded.
"Look here. I tell you straight, it ain't no good."
"What do you mean? What isn't any good?" demanded Peter.
"You'll want to send me to prison."
"Oh, yes. You'll call it a school, I know. You ain't the first
that's tried that on. It won't work." The bright, black eyes were
flashing passionately. "I ain't done any harm. I'm willing to
work. I can keep myself. I always have. What's it got to do with
Had the bright, black eyes retained their expression of passionate
defiance, Peter Hope might have retained his common sense. Only
Fate arranged that instead they should suddenly fill with wild
tears. And at sight of them Peter's common sense went out of the
room disgusted, and there was born the history of many things.
"Don't be silly," said Peter. "You didn't understand. Of course
I'm going to give you a trial. You're going to 'do' for me. I
merely meant that we'd leave the details till to-morrow. Come,
housekeepers don't cry."
The little wet face looked up.
"You mean it? Honour bright?"
"Honour bright. Now go and wash yourself. Then you shall get me
The odd figure, still heaving from its paroxysm of sobs, stood up.
"And I have my grub, my lodging, and sixpence a week?"
"Yes, yes; I think that's a fair arrangement," agreed Mr. Peter
Hope, considering. "Don't you, Mrs. Postwhistle?"
"With a frock--or a suit of trousers--thrown in," suggested Mrs.
Postwhistle. "It's generally done."
"If it's the custom, certainly," agreed Mr. Peter Hope. "Sixpence
a week and clothes."
And this time it was Peter that, in company with Elizabeth, sat
waiting the return of Tommy.
"I rather hope," said Peter, "it's a boy. It was the fogs, you
know. If only I could have afforded to send him away!"
Elizabeth looked thoughtful. The door opened.
"Ah! that's better, much better," said Mr. Peter Hope. "'Pon my
word, you look quite respectable."
By the practical Mrs. Postwhistle a working agreement, benefiting
both parties, had been arrived at with the long-trained skirt;
while an ample shawl arranged with judgment disguised the nakedness
that lay below. Peter, a fastidious gentleman, observed with
satisfaction that the hands, now clean, had been well cared for.
"Give me that cap," said Peter. He threw it in the glowing fire.
It burned brightly, diffusing strange odours.
"There's a travelling cap of mine hanging up in the passage. You
can wear that for the present. Take this half-sovereign and get me
some cold meat and beer for supper. You'll find everything else
you want in that sideboard or else in the kitchen. Don't ask me a
hundred questions, and don't make a noise," and Peter went back to
"Good idea, that half-sovereign," said Peter. "Shan't be bothered
with 'Master Tommy' any more, don't expect. Starting a nursery at
our time of life. Madness." Peter's pen scratched and spluttered.
Elizabeth kept an eye upon the door.
"Quarter of an hour," said Peter, looking at his watch. "Told you
so." The article on which Peter was now engaged appeared to be of
a worrying nature.
"Then why," said Peter, "why did he refuse that shilling?
Artfulness," concluded Peter, "pure artfulness. Elizabeth, old
girl, we've got out of this business cheaply. Good idea, that
half-sovereign." Peter gave vent to a chuckle that had the effect
of alarming Elizabeth.
But luck evidently was not with Peter that night.
"Pingle's was sold out," explained Tommy, entering with parcels;
"had to go to Bow's in Farringdon Street."
"Oh!" said Peter, without looking up.
Tommy passed through into the little kitchen behind. Peter wrote
on rapidly, making up for lost time.
"Good!" murmured Peter, smiling to himself, "that's a neat phrase.
That ought to irritate them."
Now, as he wrote, while with noiseless footsteps Tommy, unseen
behind him, moved to and fro and in and out the little kitchen,
there came to Peter Hope this very curious experience: it felt to
him as if for a long time he had been ill--so ill as not even to
have been aware of it--and that now he was beginning to be himself
again; consciousness of things returning to him. This solidly
furnished, long, oak-panelled room with its air of old-world
dignity and repose--this sober, kindly room in which for more than
half his life he had lived and worked--why had he forgotten it? It
came forward greeting him with an amused smile, as of some old
friend long parted from. The faded photos, in stiff, wooden frames
upon the chimney-piece, among them that of the fragile little woman
with the unadaptable lungs.
"God bless my soul!" said Mr. Peter Hope, pushing back his chair.
"It's thirty years ago. How time does fly! Why, let me see, I
"D'you like it with a head on it?" demanded Tommy, who had been
waiting patiently for signs.
Peter shook himself awake and went to his supper.
A bright idea occurred to Peter in the night. "Of course; why
didn't I think of it before? Settle the question at once." Peter
fell into an easy sleep.
"Tommy," said Peter, as he sat himself down to breakfast the next
morning. "By-the-by," asked Peter with a puzzled expression,
putting down his cup, "what is this?"
"Cauffee," informed him Tommy. "You said cauffee."
"Oh!" replied Peter. "For the future, Tommy, if you don't mind, I
will take tea of a morning."
"All the same to me," explained the agreeable Tommy, "it's your
"What I was about to say," continued Peter, "was that you're not
looking very well, Tommy."
"I'm all right," asserted Tommy; "never nothing the matter with
"Not that you know of, perhaps; but one can be in a very bad way,
Tommy, without being aware of it. I cannot have anyone about me
that I am not sure is in thoroughly sound health."
"If you mean you've changed your mind and want to get rid of me--"
began Tommy, with its chin in the air.
"I don't want any of your uppishness," snapped Peter, who had wound
himself up for the occasion to a degree of assertiveness that
surprised even himself. "If you are a thoroughly strong and
healthy person, as I think you are, I shall be very glad to retain
your services. But upon that point I must be satisfied. It is the
custom," explained Peter. "It is always done in good families.
Run round to this address"--Peter wrote it upon a leaf of his
notebook--"and ask Dr. Smith to come and see me before he begins
his round. You go at once, and don't let us have any argument."
"That is the way to talk to that young person--clearly," said Peter
to himself, listening to Tommy's footsteps dying down the stairs.
Hearing the street-door slam, Peter stole into the kitchen and
brewed himself a cup of coffee.
Dr. Smith, who had commenced life as Herr Schmidt, but who in
consequence of difference of opinion with his Government was now an
Englishman with strong Tory prejudices, had but one sorrow: it was
that strangers would mistake him for a foreigner. He was short and
stout, with bushy eyebrows and a grey moustache, and looked so
fierce that children cried when they saw him, until he patted them
on the head and addressed them as "mein leedle frent" in a voice so
soft and tender that they had to leave off howling just to wonder
where it came from. He and Peter, who was a vehement Radical, had
been cronies for many years, and had each an indulgent contempt for
the other's understanding, tempered by a sincere affection for one
another they would have found it difficult to account for.
"What tink you is de matter wid de leedle wench?" demanded Dr.
Smith, Peter having opened the case. Peter glanced round the room.
The kitchen door was closed.
"How do you know it's a wench?"
The eyes beneath the bushy brows grew rounder. "If id is not a
wench, why dress it--"
"Haven't dressed it," interrupted Peter. "Just what I'm waiting to
do--so soon as I know."
And Peter recounted the events of the preceding evening.
Tears gathered in the doctor's small, round eyes. His absurd
sentimentalism was the quality in his friend that most irritated
"Poor leedle waif!" murmured the soft-hearted old gentleman. "Id
was de good Providence dat guided her--or him, whichever id be."
"Providence be hanged!" snarled Peter. "What was my Providence
doing--landing me with a gutter-brat to look after?"
"So like you Radicals," sneered the doctor, "to despise a fellow
human creature just because id may not have been born in burble and
"I didn't send for you to argue politics," retorted Peter,
controlling his indignation by an effort. "I want you to tell me
whether it's a boy or a girl, so that I may know what to do with
"What mean you to do wid id?" inquired the doctor.
"I don't know," confessed Peter. "If it's a boy, as I rather think
it is, maybe I'll be able to find it a place in one of the offices-
-after I've taught it a little civilisation."
"And if id be a girl?"
"How can it be a girl when it wears trousers?" demanded Peter.
"Why anticipate difficulties?"
Peter, alone, paced to and fro the room, his hands behind his back,
his ear on the alert to catch the slightest sound from above.
"I do hope it is a boy," said Peter, glancing up.
Peter's eyes rested on the photo of the fragile little woman gazing
down at him from its stiff frame upon the chimney-piece. Thirty
years ago, in this same room, Peter had paced to and fro, his hands
behind his back, his ear alert to catch the slightest sound from
above, had said to himself the same words.
"It's odd," mused Peter--"very odd indeed."
The door opened. The stout doctor, preceded at a little distance
by his watch-chain, entered and closed the door behind him.
"A very healthy child," said the doctor, "as fine a child as any
one could wish to see. A girl."
The two old gentlemen looked at one another. Elizabeth, possibly
relieved in her mind, began to purr.
"What am I to do with it?" demanded Peter.
"A very awkward bosition for you," agreed the sympathetic doctor.
"I was a fool!" declared Peter.
"You haf no one here to look after de leedle wench when you are
away," pointed out the thoughtful doctor.
"And from what I've seen of the imp," added Peter, "it will want
some looking after."
"I tink--I tink," said the helpful doctor, "I see a way out!"
The doctor thrust his fierce face forward and tapped knowingly with
his right forefinger the right side of his round nose. "I will
take charge of de leedle wench."
"To me de case will not present de same difficulties. I haf a
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Whateley."
"She is a goot woman when you know her," explained the doctor.
"She only wants managing."
"Pooh!" ejaculated Peter.
"Why do you say dat?" inquired the doctor.
"You! bringing up a headstrong girl. The idea!"
"I should be kind, but firm."
"You don't know her."
"How long haf you known her?"
"Anyhow, I'm not a soft-hearted sentimentalist that would just ruin
"Girls are not boys," persisted the doctor; "dey want different
"Well, I'm not a brute!" snarled Peter. "Besides, suppose she
turns out rubbish! What do you know about her?"
"I take my chance," agreed the generous doctor.
"It wouldn't be fair," retorted honest Peter.
"Tink it over," said the doctor. "A place is never home widout de
leedle feet. We Englishmen love de home. You are different. You
haf no sentiment."
"I cannot help feeling," explained Peter, "a sense of duty in this
matter. The child came to me. It is as if this thing had been
laid upon me."
"If you look upon id dat way, Peter," sighed the doctor.
"With sentiment," went on Peter, "I have nothing to do; but duty--
duty is quite another thing." Peter, feeling himself an ancient
Roman, thanked the doctor and shook hands with him.
Tommy, summoned, appeared.
"The doctor, Tommy," said Peter, without looking up from his
writing, "gives a very satisfactory account of you. So you can
"Told you so," returned Tommy. "Might have saved your money."
"But we shall have to find you another name."
"If you are to be a housekeeper, you must be a girl."
"Don't like girls."
"Can't say I think much of them myself, Tommy. We must make the
best of it. To begin with, we must get you proper clothes."
"Hate skirts. They hamper you."
"Tommy," said Peter severely, "don't argue."
"Pointing out facts ain't arguing," argued Tommy. "They do hamper
you. You try 'em."
The clothes were quickly made, and after a while they came to fit;
but the name proved more difficult of adjustment. A sweet-faced,
laughing lady, known to fame by a title respectable and orthodox,
appears an honoured guest to-day at many a literary gathering. But
the old fellows, pressing round, still call her "Tommy."
The week's trial came to an end. Peter, whose digestion was
delicate, had had a happy thought.
"What I propose, Tommy--I mean Jane," said Peter, "is that we
should get in a woman to do just the mere cooking. That will give
you more time to--to attend to other things, Tommy--Jane, I mean."
"What other things?" chin in the air.
"The--the keeping of the rooms in order, Tommy. The--the dusting."
"Don't want twenty-four hours a day to dust four rooms."
"Then there are messages, Tommy. It would be a great advantage to
me to have someone I could send on a message without feeling I was
interfering with the housework."
"What are you driving at?" demanded Tommy. "Why, I don't have half
enough to do as it is. I can do all--"
Peter put his foot down. "When I say a thing, I mean a thing. The
sooner you understand that, the better. How dare you argue with
me! Fiddle-de-dee!" For two pins Peter would have employed an
expletive even stronger, so determined was he feeling.
Tommy without another word left the room. Peter looked at
Elizabeth and winked.
Poor Peter! His triumph was short-lived. Five minutes later,
Tommy returned, clad in the long, black skirt, supported by the
cricket belt, the blue garibaldi cut decollete, the pepper-and-salt
jacket, the worsted comforter, the red lips very tightly pressed,
the long lashes over the black eyes moving very rapidly.
"Tommy" (severely), "what is this tomfoolery?"
"I understand. I ain't no good to you. Thanks for giving me a
trial. My fault."
"Tommy" (less severely), "don't be an idiot."
"Ain't an idiot. 'Twas Emma. Told me I was good at cooking. Said
I'd got an aptitude for it. She meant well."
"Tommy" (no trace of severity), "sit down. Emma was quite right.
Your cooking is--is promising. As Emma puts it, you have aptitude.
Your--perseverance, your hopefulness proves it."
"Then why d'ye want to get someone else in to do it?"
If Peter could have answered truthfully! If Peter could have
"My dear, I am a lonely old gentleman. I did not know it until--
until the other day. Now I cannot forget it again. Wife and child
died many years ago. I was poor, or I might have saved them. That
made me hard. The clock of my life stood still. I hid away the
key. I did not want to think. You crept to me out of the cruel
fog, awakened old dreams. Do not go away any more"--perhaps Tommy,
in spite of her fierce independence, would have consented to be
useful; and thus Peter might have gained his end at less cost of
indigestion. But the penalty for being an anti-sentimentalist is
that you must not talk like this even to yourself. So Peter had to
cast about for other methods.
"Why shouldn't I keep two servants if I like?" It did seem hard on
the old gentleman.
"What's the sense of paying two to do the work of one? You would
only be keeping me on out of charity." The black eyes flashed. "I
ain't a beggar."
"And you really think, Tommy--I should say Jane, you can manage
the--the whole of it? You won't mind being sent on a message,
perhaps in the very middle of your cooking. It was that I was
thinking of, Tommy--some cooks would."
"You go easy," advised him Tommy, "till I complain of having too
much to do."
Peter returned to his desk. Elizabeth looked up. It seemed to
Peter that Elizabeth winked.
The fortnight that followed was a period of trouble to Peter, for
Tommy, her suspicions having been aroused, was sceptical of
"business" demanding that Peter should dine with this man at the
club, lunch with this editor at the Cheshire Cheese. At once the
chin would go up into the air, the black eyes cloud threateningly.
Peter, an unmarried man for thirty years, lacking experience, would
under cross-examination contradict himself, become confused, break
down over essential points.
"Really," grumbled Peter to himself one evening, sawing at a mutton
chop, "really there's no other word for it--I'm henpecked."
Peter that day had looked forward to a little dinner at a favourite
restaurant, with his "dear old friend Blenkinsopp, a bit of a
gourmet, Tommy--that means a man who likes what you would call
elaborate cooking!"--forgetful at the moment that he had used up
"Blenkinsopp" three days before for a farewell supper,
"Blenkinsopp" having to set out the next morning for Egypt. Peter
was not facile at invention. Names in particular had always been a
difficulty to him.
"I like a spirit of independence," continued Peter to himself.
"Wish she hadn't quite so much of it. Wonder where she got it
The situation was becoming more serious to Peter than he cared to
admit. For day by day, in spite of her tyrannies, Tommy was
growing more and more indispensable to Peter. Tommy was the first
audience that for thirty years had laughed at Peter's jokes; Tommy
was the first public that for thirty years had been convinced that
Peter was the most brilliant journalist in Fleet Street; Tommy was
the first anxiety that for thirty years had rendered it needful
that Peter each night should mount stealthily the creaking stairs,
steal with shaded candle to a bedside. If only Tommy wouldn't "do"
for him! If only she could be persuaded to "do" something else.
Another happy thought occurred to Peter.
"Tommy--I mean Jane," said Peter, "I know what I'll do with you."
"What's the game now?"
"I'll make a journalist of you."
"Don't talk rot."
"It isn't rot. Besides, I won't have you answer me like that. As
a Devil--that means, Tommy, the unseen person in the background
that helps a journalist to do his work--you would be invaluable to
me. It would pay me, Tommy--pay me very handsomely. I should make
money out of you."
This appeared to be an argument that Tommy understood. Peter, with
secret delight, noticed that the chin retained its normal level.
"I did help a chap to sell papers, once," remembered Tommy; "he
said I was fly at it."
"I told you so," exclaimed Peter triumphantly. "The methods are
different, but the instinct required is the same. We will get a
woman in to relieve you of the housework."
The chin shot up into the air.
"I could do it in my spare time."
"You see, Tommy, I should want you to go about with me--to be
always with me."
"Better try me first. Maybe you're making an error."
Peter was learning the wisdom of the serpent.
"Quite right, Tommy. We will first see what you can do. Perhaps,
after all, it may turn out that you are better as a cook." In his
heart Peter doubted this.
But the seed had fallen upon good ground. It was Tommy herself
that manoeuvred her first essay in journalism. A great man had
come to London--was staying in apartments especially prepared for
him in St. James's Palace. Said every journalist in London to
himself: "If I could obtain an interview with this Big Man, what a
big thing it would be for me!" For a week past, Peter had carried
everywhere about with him a paper headed: "Interview of Our
Special Correspondent with Prince Blank," questions down left-hand
column, very narrow; space for answers right-hand side, very wide.
But the Big Man was experienced.
"I wonder," said Peter, spreading the neatly folded paper on the
desk before him, "I wonder if there can be any way of getting at
him--any dodge or trick, any piece of low cunning, any plausible
lie that I haven't thought of."
"Old Man Martin--called himself Martini--was just such another,"
commented Tommy. "Come pay time, Saturday afternoon, you just
couldn't get at him--simply wasn't any way. I was a bit too good
for him once, though," remembered Tommy, with a touch of pride in
her voice; "got half a quid out of him that time. It did surprise
"No," communed Peter to himself aloud, "I don't honestly think
there can be any method, creditable or discreditable, that I
haven't tried." Peter flung the one-sided interview into the
wastepaper-basket, and slipping his notebook into his pocket,
departed to drink tea with a lady novelist, whose great desire, as
stated in a postscript to her invitation, was to avoid publicity,
Tommy, as soon as Peter's back was turned, fished it out again.
An hour later in the fog around St. James's Palace stood an Imp,
clad in patched trousers and a pepper-and-salt jacket turned up
about the neck, gazing with admiring eyes upon the sentry.
"Now, then, young seventeen-and-sixpence the soot," said the
sentry, "what do you want?"
"Makes you a bit anxious, don't it," suggested the Imp, "having a
big pot like him to look after?"
"Does get a bit on yer mind, if yer thinks about it," agreed the
"How do you find him to talk to, like?"
"Well," said the sentry, bringing his right leg into action for the
purpose of relieving his left, "ain't 'ad much to do with 'im
myself, not person'ly, as yet. Oh, 'e ain't a bad sort when yer
"That's his shake-down, ain't it?" asked the Imp, "where the lights
"That's it," admitted sentry. "You ain't an Anarchist? Tell me if
"I'll let you know if I feel it coming on," the Imp assured him.
Had the sentry been a man of swift and penetrating observation--
which he wasn't--he might have asked the question in more serious a
tone. For he would have remarked that the Imp's black eyes were
resting lovingly upon a rain-water-pipe, giving to a skilful
climber easy access to the terrace underneath the Prince's windows.
"I would like to see him," said the Imp.
"Friend o' yours?" asked the sentry.
"Well, not exactly," admitted the Imp. "But there, you know,
everybody's talking about him down our street."
"Well, yer'll 'ave to be quick about it," said the sentry. 'E's
Tommy's face fell. "I thought it wasn't till Friday morning."
"Ah!" said the sentry, "that's what the papers say, is it?" The
sentry's voice took unconsciously the accent of those from whom no
secret is hid. "I'll tell yer what yer can do," continued the
sentry, enjoying an unaccustomed sense of importance. The sentry
glanced left, then right. "'E's a slipping off all by 'imself down
to Osborne by the 6.40 from Waterloo. Nobody knows it--'cept, o'
course, just a few of us. That's 'is way all over. 'E just 'ates-
A footstep sounded down the corridor. The sentry became
At Waterloo, Tommy inspected the 6.40 train. Only one compartment
indicated possibilities, an extra large one at the end of the coach
next the guard's van. It was labelled "Reserved," and in the place
of the usual fittings was furnished with a table and four easy-
chairs. Having noticed its position, Tommy took a walk up the
platform and disappeared into the fog.
Twenty minutes later, Prince Blank stepped hurriedly across the
platform, unnoticed save by half a dozen obsequious officials, and
entered the compartment reserved for him. The obsequious officials
bowed. Prince Blank, in military fashion, raised his hand. The
6.40 steamed out slowly.
Prince Blank, who was a stout gentleman, though he tried to
disguise the fact, seldom found himself alone. When he did, he
generally indulged himself in a little healthy relaxation. With
two hours' run to Southampton before him, free from all possibility
of intrusion, Prince Blank let loose the buttons of his powerfully
built waistcoat, rested his bald head on the top of his chair,
stretched his great legs across another, and closed his terrible,
For an instant it seemed to Prince Blank that a draught had entered
into the carriage. As, however, the sensation immediately passed
away, he did not trouble to wake up. Then the Prince dreamed that
somebody was in the carriage with him--was sitting opposite to him.
This being an annoying sort of dream, the Prince opened his eyes
for the purpose of dispelling it. There was somebody sitting
opposite to him--a very grimy little person, wiping blood off its
face and hands with a dingy handkerchief. Had the Prince been a
man capable of surprise, he would have been surprised.
"It's all right," assured him Tommy. "I ain't here to do any harm.
I ain't an Anarchist."
The Prince, by a muscular effort, retired some four or five inches
and commenced to rebutton his waistcoat.
"How did you get here?" asked the Prince.
"'Twas a bigger job than I'd reckoned on," admitted Tommy, seeking
a dry inch in the smeared handkerchief, and finding none. "But
that don't matter," added Tommy cheerfully, "now I'm here."
"If you do not wish me to hand you over to the police at
Southampton, you had better answer my questions," remarked the
Tommy was not afraid of princes, but in the lexicon of her harassed
youth "Police" had always been a word of dread.
"I wanted to get at you."
"I gather that."
"There didn't seem any other way. It's jolly difficult to get at
you. You're so jolly artful."
"Tell me how you managed it."
"There's a little bridge for signals just outside Waterloo. I
could see that the train would have to pass under it. So I climbed
up and waited. It being a foggy night, you see, nobody twigged me.
I say, you are Prince Blank, ain't you?"
"I am Prince Blank."
"Should have been mad if I'd landed the wrong man."
"I knew which was your carriage--leastways, I guessed it; and as it
came along, I did a drop." Tommy spread out her arms and legs to
illustrate the action. "The lamps, you know," explained Tommy,
still dabbing at her face--"one of them caught me."
"And from the roof?"
"Oh, well, it was easy after that. There's an iron thing at the
back, and steps. You've only got to walk downstairs and round the
corner, and there you are. Bit of luck your other door not being
locked. I hadn't thought of that. Haven't got such a thing as a
handkerchief about you, have you?"
The Prince drew one from his sleeve and passed it to her. "You
mean to tell me, boy--"
"Ain't a boy," explained Tommy. "I'm a girl!"
She said it sadly. Deeming her new friends such as could be
trusted, Tommy had accepted their statement that she really was a
girl. But for many a long year to come the thought of her lost
manhood tinged her voice with bitterness.
Tommy nodded her head.
"Umph!" said the Prince; "I have heard a good deal about the
English girl. I was beginning to think it exaggerated. Stand up."
Tommy obeyed. It was not altogether her way; but with those eyes
beneath their shaggy brows bent upon her, it seemed the simplest
thing to do.
"So. And now that you are here, what do you want?"
"To interview you."
Tommy drew forth her list of questions.
The shaggy brows contracted.
"Who put you up to this absurdity? Who was it? Tell me at once."
"Don't lie to me. His name?"
The terrible, small eyes flashed fire. But Tommy also had a pair
of eyes. Before their blaze of indignation the great man
positively quailed. This type of opponent was new to him.
"I'm not lying."
"I beg your pardon," said the Prince.
And at this point it occurred to the Prince, who being really a
great man, had naturally a sense of humour, that a conference
conducted on these lines between the leading statesman of an Empire
and an impertinent hussy of, say, twelve years old at the outside,
might end by becoming ridiculous. So the Prince took up his chair
and put it down again beside Tommy's, and employing skilfully his
undoubted diplomatic gifts, drew from her bit by bit the whole
"I'm inclined, Miss Jane," said the Great Man, the story ended, "to
agree with our friend Mr. Hope. I should say your metier was
"And you'll let me interview you?" asked Tommy, showing her white
The Great Man, laying a hand heavier than he guessed on Tommy's
shoulder, rose. "I think you are entitled to it."
"What's your views?" demanded Tommy, reading, "of the future
political and social relationships--"
"Perhaps," suggested the Great Man, "it will be simpler if I write
"Well," concurred Tommy; "my spelling is a bit rocky."
The Great Man drew a chair to the table.
"You won't miss out anything--will you?" insisted Tommy.
"I shall endeavour, Miss Jane, to give you no cause for complaint,"
gravely he assured her, and sat down to write.
Not till the train began to slacken speed had the Prince finished.
Then, blotting and refolding the paper, he stood up.
"I have added some instructions on the back of the last page,"
explained the Prince, "to which you will draw Mr. Hope's particular
attention. I would wish you to promise me, Miss Jane, never again
to have recourse to dangerous acrobatic tricks, not even in the
sacred cause of journalism."
"Of course, if you hadn't been so jolly difficult to get at--"
"My fault, I know," agreed the Prince. "There is not the least
doubt as to which sex you belong to. Nevertheless, I want you to
promise me. Come," urged the Prince, "I have done a good deal for
you--more than you know."
"All right," consented Tommy a little sulkily. Tommy hated making
promises, because she always kept them. "I promise."
"There is your Interview." The first Southampton platform lamp
shone in upon the Prince and Tommy as they stood facing one
another. The Prince, who had acquired the reputation, not
altogether unjustly, of an ill-tempered and savage old gentleman,
did a strange thing: taking the little, blood-smeared face between
his paws, he kissed it. Tommy always remembered the smoky flavour
of the bristly grey moustache.
"One thing more," said the Prince sternly--"not a word of all this.
Don't open your mouth to speak of it till you are back in Gough
"Do you take me for a mug?" answered Tommy.
They behaved very oddly to Tommy after the Prince had disappeared.
Everybody took a deal of trouble for her, but none of them seemed
to know why they were doing it. They looked at her and went away,
and came again and looked at her. And the more they thought about
it, the more puzzled they became. Some of them asked her
questions, but what Tommy really didn't know, added to what she
didn't mean to tell, was so prodigious that Curiosity itself paled
at contemplation of it.
They washed and brushed her up and gave her an excellent supper;
and putting her into a first-class compartment labelled "Reserved,"
sent her back to Waterloo, and thence in a cab to Gough Square,
where she arrived about midnight, suffering from a sense of self-
importance, traces of which to this day are still discernible.
Such and thus was the beginning of all things. Tommy, having
talked for half an hour at the rate of two hundred words a minute,
had suddenly dropped her head upon the table, had been aroused with
difficulty and persuaded to go to bed. Peter, in the deep easy-
chair before the fire, sat long into the night. Elizabeth, liking
quiet company, purred softly. Out of the shadows crept to Peter
Hope an old forgotten dream--the dream of a wonderful new Journal,
price one penny weekly, of which the Editor should come to be one
Thomas Hope, son of Peter Hope, its honoured Founder and
Originator: a powerful Journal that should supply a long-felt
want, popular, but at the same time elevating--a pleasure to the
public, a profit to its owners. "Do you not remember me?"
whispered the Dream. "We had long talks together. The morning and
the noonday pass. The evening still is ours. The twilight also
brings its promise."
Elizabeth stopped purring and looked up surprised. Peter was
laughing to himself.
STORY THE SECOND--William Clodd appoints himself Managing Director
Mrs. Postwhistle sat on a Windsor-chair in the centre of Rolls
Court. Mrs. Postwhistle, who, in the days of her Hebehood, had
been likened by admiring frequenters of the old Mitre in Chancery
Lane to the ladies, somewhat emaciated, that an English artist,
since become famous, was then commencing to popularise, had
developed with the passing years, yet still retained a face of
placid youthfulness. The two facts, taken in conjunction, had
resulted in an asset to her income not to be despised. The
wanderer through Rolls Court this summer's afternoon, presuming him
to be familiar with current journalism, would have retired haunted
by the sense that the restful-looking lady on the Windsor-chair was
someone that he ought to know. Glancing through almost any
illustrated paper of the period, the problem would have been solved
for him. A photograph of Mrs. Postwhistle, taken quite recently,
he would have encountered with this legend: "BEFORE use of
Professor Hardtop's certain cure for corpulency." Beside it a
photograph of Mrs. Postwhistle, then Arabella Higgins, taken twenty
years ago, the legend slightly varied: "AFTER use," etc. The face
was the same, the figure--there was no denying it--had undergone
Mrs. Postwhistle had reached with her chair the centre of Rolls
Court in course of following the sun. The little shop, over the
lintel of which ran: "Timothy Postwhistle, Grocer and Provision
Merchant," she had left behind her in the shadow. Old inhabitants
of St. Dunstan-in-the-West retained recollection of a gentlemanly
figure, always in a very gorgeous waistcoat, with Dundreary
whiskers, to be seen occasionally there behind the counter. All
customers it would refer, with the air of a Lord High Chamberlain
introducing debutantes, to Mrs. Postwhistle, evidently regarding
itself purely as ornamental. For the last ten years, however, no
one had noticed it there, and Mrs. Postwhistle had a facility
amounting almost to genius for ignoring or misunderstanding
questions it was not to her taste to answer. Most things were
suspected, nothing known. St. Dunstan-in-the-West had turned to
"If I wasn't wanting to see 'im," remarked to herself Mrs.
Postwhistle, who was knitting with one eye upon the shop, "'e'd a
been 'ere 'fore I'd 'ad time to clear the dinner things away;
certain to 'ave been. It's a strange world."
Mrs. Postwhistle was desirous for the arrival of a gentleman not
usually awaited with impatience by the ladies of Rolls Court--to
wit, one William Clodd, rent-collector, whose day for St. Dunstan-
in-the-West was Tuesday.
"At last," said Mrs. Postwhistle, though without hope that Mr.
Clodd, who had just appeared at the other end of the court, could
possibly hear her. "Was beginning to be afraid as you'd tumbled
over yerself in your 'urry and 'urt yerself."
Mr. Clodd, perceiving Mrs. Postwhistle, decided to abandon method
and take No. 7 first.
Mr. Clodd was a short, thick-set, bullet-headed young man, with
ways that were bustling, and eyes that, though kind, suggested
"Ah!" said Mr. Clodd admiringly, as he pocketed the six half-crowns
that the lady handed up to him. "If only they were all like you,
"Wouldn't be no need of chaps like you to worry 'em," pointed out
"It's an irony of fate, my being a rent-collector, when you come to
think of it," remarked Mr. Clodd, writing out the receipt. "If I
had my way, I'd put an end to landlordism, root and branch. Curse
of the country."
"Just the very thing I wanted to talk to you about," returned the
lady--"that lodger o' mine."
"Ah! don't pay, don't he? You just hand him over to me. I'll soon
have it out of him."
"It's not that," explained Mrs. Postwhistle. "If a Saturday
morning 'appened to come round as 'e didn't pay up without me
asking, I should know I'd made a mistake--that it must be Friday.
If I don't 'appen to be in at 'alf-past ten, 'e puts it in an
envelope and leaves it on the table."
"Wonder if his mother has got any more like him?" mused Mr. Clodd.
"Could do with a few about this neighbourhood. What is it you want
to say about him, then? Merely to brag about him?"
"I wanted to ask you," continued Mrs. Postwhistle, "'ow I could get
rid of 'im. It was rather a curious agreement."
"Why do you want to get rid of him? Too noisy?"
"Noisy! Why, the cat makes more noise about the 'ouse than 'e
does. 'E'd make 'is fortune as a burglar."
"Come home late?"
"Never known 'im out after the shutters are up."
"Gives you too much trouble then?"
"I can't say that of 'im. Never know whether 'e's in the 'ouse or
isn't, without going upstairs and knocking at the door."
"Here, you tell it your own way," suggested the bewildered Clodd.
"If it was anyone else but you, I should say you didn't know your
"'E gets on my nerves," said Mrs. Postwhistle. "You ain't in a
'urry for five minutes?"
Mr. Clodd was always in a hurry. "But I can forget it talking to
you," added the gallant Mr. Clodd.
Mrs. Postwhistle led the way into the little parlour.
"Just the name of it," consented Mr. Clodd. "Cheerfulness combined
with temperance; that's the ideal."
"I'll tell you what 'appened only last night," commenced Mrs.
Postwhistle, seating herself the opposite side of the loo-table.
"A letter came for 'im by the seven o'clock post. I'd seen 'im go
out two hours before, and though I'd been sitting in the shop the
whole blessed time, I never saw or 'eard 'im pass through. E's
like that. It's like 'aving a ghost for a lodger. I opened 'is
door without knocking and went in. If you'll believe me, 'e was
clinging with 'is arms and legs to the top of the bedstead--it's
one of those old-fashioned, four-post things--'is 'ead touching the
ceiling. 'E 'adn't got too much clothes on, and was cracking nuts
with 'is teeth and eating 'em. 'E threw a 'andful of shells at me,
and making the most awful faces at me, started off gibbering softly
"All play, I suppose? No real vice?" commented the interested Mr.
"It will go on for a week, that will," continued Mrs. Postwhistle--
"'e fancying 'imself a monkey. Last week he was a tortoise, and
was crawling about on his stomach with a tea-tray tied on to 'is
back. 'E's as sensible as most men, if that's saying much, the
moment 'e's outside the front door; but in the 'ouse--well, I
suppose the fact is that 'e's a lunatic."
"Don't seem no hiding anything from you," Mrs. Postwhistle remarked
Mr. Clodd in tones of admiration. "Does he ever get violent?"
"Don't know what 'e would be like if 'e 'appened to fancy 'imself
something really dangerous," answered Mrs. Postwhistle. "I am a
bit nervous of this new monkey game, I don't mind confessing to
you--the things that they do according to the picture-books. Up to
now, except for imagining 'imself a mole, and taking all his meals
underneath the carpet, it's been mostly birds and cats and 'armless
sort o' things I 'aven't seemed to mind so much."
"How did you get hold of him?" demanded Mr. Clodd. "Have much
trouble in finding him, or did somebody come and tell you about
"Old Gladman, of Chancery Lane, the law stationer, brought 'im 'ere
one evening about two months ago--said 'e was a sort of distant
relative of 'is, a bit soft in the 'ead, but perfectly 'armless--
wanted to put 'im with someone who wouldn't impose on 'im. Well,
what between 'aving been empty for over five weeks, the poor old
gaby 'imself looking as gentle as a lamb, and the figure being
reasonable, I rather jumped at the idea; and old Gladman,
explaining as 'ow 'e wanted the thing settled and done with, got me
to sign a letter."
"Kept a copy of it?" asked the business-like Clodd.
"No. But I can remember what it was. Gladman 'ad it all ready.
So long as the money was paid punctual and 'e didn't make no
disturbance and didn't fall sick, I was to go on boarding and
lodging 'im for seventeen-and-sixpence a week. It didn't strike me
as anything to be objected to at the time; but 'e payin' regular,
as I've explained to you, and be'aving, so far as disturbance is
concerned, more like a Christian martyr than a man, well, it looks
to me as if I'd got to live and die with 'im."
"Give him rope, and possibly he'll have a week at being a howling
hyaena, or a laughing jackass, or something of that sort that will
lead to a disturbance," thought Mr. Clodd, "in which case, of
course, you would have your remedy."
"Yes," thought Mrs. Postwhistle, "and possibly also 'e may take it
into what 'e calls is 'ead to be a tiger or a bull, and then
perhaps before 'e's through with it I'll be beyond the reach of
"Leave it to me," said Mr. Clodd, rising and searching for his hat.
"I know old Gladman; I'll have a talk with him."
"You might get a look at that letter if you can," suggested Mrs.
Postwhistle, "and tell me what you think about it. I don't want to
spend the rest of my days in a lunatic asylum of my own if I can
"You leave it to me," was Mr. Clodd's parting assurance.
The July moon had thrown a silver veil over the grimness of Rolls
Court when, five hours later, Mr. Clodd's nailed boots echoed again
upon its uneven pavement; but Mr. Clodd had no eye for moon or
stars or such-like; always he had things more important to think
"Seen the old 'umbug?" asked Mrs. Postwhistle, who was partial to
the air, leading the way into the parlour.
"First and foremost commenced," Mr. Clodd, as he laid aside his
hat, "it is quite understood that you really do want to get rid of
him? What's that?" demanded Mr. Clodd, a heavy thud upon the floor
above having caused him to start out of his chair.
"'E came in an hour after you'd gone," explained Mrs. Postwhistle,
"bringing with him a curtain pole as 'e'd picked up for a shilling
in Clare Market. 'E's rested one end upon the mantelpiece and tied
the other to the back of the easy-chair--'is idea is to twine
'imself round it and go to sleep upon it. Yes, you've got it quite
right without a single blunder. I do want to get rid of 'im"
"Then," said Mr. Clodd, reseating himself, "it can be done."
"Thank God for that!" was Mrs. Postwhistle's pious ejaculation.
"It is just as I thought," continued Mr. Clodd. "The old innocent-
-he's Gladman's brother-in-law, by the way--has got a small
annuity. I couldn't get the actual figure, but I guess it's about
sufficient to pay for his keep and leave old Gladman, who is
running him, a very decent profit. They don't want to send him to
an asylum. They can't say he's a pauper, and to put him into a
private establishment would swallow up, most likely, the whole of
his income. On the other hand, they don't want the bother of
looking after him themselves. I talked pretty straight to the old
man--let him see I understood the business; and--well, to cut a
long story short, I'm willing to take on the job, provided you
really want to have done with it, and Gladman is willing in that
case to let you off your contract."
Mrs. Postwhistle went to the cupboard to get Mr. Clodd a drink.
Another thud upon the floor above--one suggestive of exceptional
velocity--arrived at the precise moment when Mrs. Postwhistle, the
tumbler level with her eye, was in the act of measuring.
"I call this making a disturbance," said Mrs. Postwhistle,
regarding the broken fragments.
"It's only for another night," comforted her Mr. Clodd. "I'll take
him away some time to-morrow. Meanwhile, if I were you, I should
spread a mattress underneath that perch of his before I went to
bed. I should like him handed over to me in reasonable repair."
"It will deaden the sound a bit, any'ow," agreed Mrs. Postwhistle.
"Success to temperance," drank Mr. Clodd, and rose to go.
"I take it you've fixed things up all right for yourself," said
Mrs. Postwhistle; "and nobody can blame you if you 'ave. 'Eaven
bless you, is what I say."
"We shall get on together," prophesied Mr. Clodd. "I'm fond of
Early the next morning a four-wheeled cab drew up at the entrance
to Rolls Court, and in it and upon it went away Clodd and Clodd's
Lunatic (as afterwards he came to be known), together with all the
belongings of Clodd's Lunatic, the curtain-pole included; and there
appeared again behind the fanlight of the little grocer's shop the
intimation: "Lodgings for a Single Man," which caught the eye a
few days later of a weird-looking, lanky, rawboned laddie, whose
language Mrs. Postwhistle found difficulty for a time in
comprehending; and that is why one sometimes meets to-day
worshippers of Kail Yard literature wandering disconsolately about
St. Dunstan-in-the-West, seeking Rolls Court, discomforted because
it is no more. But that is the history of the "Wee Laddie," and
this of the beginnings of William Clodd, now Sir William Clodd,
Bart., M.P., proprietor of a quarter of a hundred newspapers,
magazines, and journals: "Truthful Billy" we called him then.
No one can say of Clodd that he did not deserve whatever profit his
unlicensed lunatic asylum may have brought him. A kindly man was
William Clodd when indulgence in sentiment did not interfere with
"There's no harm in him," asserted Mr. Clodd, talking the matter
over with one Mr. Peter Hope, journalist, of Gough Square. "He's
just a bit dotty, same as you or I might get with nothing to do and
all day long to do it in. Kid's play, that's all it is. The best
plan, I find, is to treat it as a game and take a hand in it. Last
week he wanted to be a lion. I could see that was going to be
awkward, he roaring for raw meat and thinking to prowl about the
house at night. Well, I didn't nag him--that's no good. I just
got a gun and shot him. He's a duck now, and I'm trying to keep
him one: sits for an hour beside his bath on three china eggs I've
bought him. Wish some of the sane ones were as little trouble."
The summer came again. Clodd and his Lunatic, a mild-looking
little old gentleman of somewhat clerical cut, one often met with
arm-in-arm, bustling about the streets and courts that were the
scene of Clodd's rent-collecting labours. Their evident attachment
to one another was curiously displayed; Clodd, the young and red-
haired, treating his white-haired, withered companion with fatherly
indulgence; the other glancing up from time to time into Clodd's
face with a winning expression of infantile affection.
"We are getting much better," explained Clodd, the pair meeting
Peter Hope one day at the corner of Newcastle Street. "The more we
are out in the open air, and the more we have to do and think
about, the better for us--eh?"
The mild-looking little old gentleman hanging on Clodd's arm smiled
"Between ourselves," added Mr. Clodd, sinking his voice, "we are
not half as foolish as folks think we are."
Peter Hope went his way down the Strand.
"Clodd's a good sort--a good sort," said Peter Hope, who, having in
his time lived much alone, had fallen into the habit of speaking
his thoughts aloud; "but he's not the man to waste his time. I
With the winter Clodd's Lunatic fell ill.
Clodd bustled round to Chancery Lane.
"To tell you the truth," confessed Mr. Gladman, "we never thought
he would live so long as he has."
"There's the annuity you've got to think of," said Clodd, whom his
admirers of to-day (and they are many, for he must be a millionaire
by this time) are fond of alluding to as "that frank, outspoken
Englishman." "Wouldn't it be worth your while to try what taking
him away from the fogs might do for him?"
Old Gladman seemed inclined to consider the question, but Mrs.
Gladman, a brisk, cheerful little woman, had made up her mind.
"We've had what there is to have," said Mrs. Gladman. "He's
seventy-three. What's the sense of risking good money? Be
No one could say--no one ever did say--that Clodd, under the
circumstances, did not do his best. Perhaps, after all, nothing
could have helped. The little old gentleman, at Clodd's
suggestion, played at being a dormouse and lay very still. If he
grew restless, thereby bringing on his cough, Clodd, as a terrible
black cat, was watching to pounce upon him. Only by keeping very
quiet and artfully pretending to be asleep could he hope to escape
the ruthless Clodd.
Doctor William Smith (ne Wilhelm Schmidt) shrugged his fat
shoulders. "We can do noding. Dese fogs of ours: id is de one
ting dat enables the foreigner to crow over us. Keep him quiet.
De dormouse--id is a goot idea."
That evening William Clodd mounted to the second floor of 16, Gough
Square, where dwelt his friend, Peter Hope, and knocked briskly at
"Come in," said a decided voice, which was not Peter Hope's.
Mr. William Clodd's ambition was, and always had been, to be the
owner or part-owner of a paper. To-day, as I have said, he owns a
quarter of a hundred, and is in negotiation, so rumour goes, for
seven more. But twenty years ago "Clodd and Co., Limited," was but
in embryo. And Peter Hope, journalist, had likewise and for many a
long year cherished the ambition to be, before he died, the owner
or part-owner of a paper. Peter Hope to-day owns nothing, except
perhaps the knowledge, if such things be permitted, that whenever
and wherever his name is mentioned, kind thoughts arise unbidden--
that someone of the party will surely say: "Dear old Peter! What
a good fellow he was!" Which also may be in its way a valuable
possession: who knows? But twenty years ago Peter's horizon was
limited by Fleet Street.
Peter Hope was forty-seven, so he said, a dreamer and a scholar.
William Clodd was three-and-twenty, a born hustler, very wide
awake. Meeting one day by accident upon an omnibus, when Clodd
lent Peter, who had come out without his purse, threepence to pay
his fare with; drifting into acquaintanceship, each had come to
acquire a liking and respect for the other. The dreamer thought
with wonder of Clodd's shrewd practicability; the cute young man of
business was lost in admiration of what seemed to him his old
friend's marvellous learning. Both had arrived at the conclusion
that a weekly journal with Peter Hope as editor, and William Clodd
as manager, would be bound to be successful.
"If only we could scrape together a thousand pounds!" had sighed
"The moment we lay our hands upon the coin, we'll start that paper.
Remember, it's a bargain," had answered William Clodd.
Mr. William Clodd turned the handle and walked in. With the door
still in his hand he paused to look round the room. It was the
first time he had seen it. His meetings hitherto with Peter Hope
had been chance rencontres in street or restaurant. Always had he
been curious to view the sanctuary of so much erudition.
A large, oak-panelled room, its three high windows, each with a
low, cushioned seat beneath it, giving on to Gough Square. Thirty-
five years before, Peter Hope, then a young dandy with side
whiskers close-cropped and terminating just below the ear; with
wavy, brown hair, giving to his fresh-complexioned face an
appearance almost girlish; in cut-away blue coat, flowered
waistcoat, black silk cravat secured by two gold pins chained
together, and tightly strapped grey trouserings, had, aided and
abetted by a fragile little lady in crinoline and much-flounced
skirt, and bodice somewhat low, with corkscrew curls each movement
of her head set ringing, planned and furnished it in accordance
with the sober canons then in vogue, spending thereupon more than
they should, as is to be expected from the young to whom the future
promises all things. The fine Brussels carpet! A little too
bright, had thought the shaking curls. "The colours will tone
down, miss--ma'am." The shopman knew. Only by the help of the
round island underneath the massive Empire table, by excursions
into untrodden corners, could Peter recollect the rainbow floor his
feet had pressed when he was twenty-one. The noble bookcase,
surmounted by Minerva's bust. Really it was too expensive. But
the nodding curls had been so obstinate. Peter's silly books and
papers must be put away in order; the curls did not intend to
permit any excuse for untidiness. So, too, the handsome, brass-
bound desk; it must be worthy of the beautiful thoughts Peter would
pen upon it. The great sideboard, supported by two such angry-
looking mahogany lions; it must be strong to support the weight of
silver clever Peter would one day purchase to place upon it. The
few oil paintings in their heavy frames. A solidly furnished,
sober apartment; about it that subtle atmosphere of dignity one
finds but in old rooms long undisturbed, where one seems to read
upon the walls: "I, Joy and Sorrow, twain in one, have dwelt
here." One item only there was that seemed out of place among its
grave surroundings--a guitar, hanging from the wall, ornamented
with a ridiculous blue bow, somewhat faded.
"Mr. William Clodd?" demanded the decided voice.
Clodd started and closed the door.
"Guessed it in once," admitted Mr. Clodd.
"I thought so," said the decided voice. "We got your note this
afternoon. Mr. Hope will be back at eight. Will you kindly hang
up your hat and coat in the hall? You will find a box of cigars on
the mantelpiece. Excuse my being busy. I must finish this, then
I'll talk to you."
The owner of the decided voice went on writing. Clodd, having done
as he was bid, sat himself in the easy-chair before the fire and
smoked. Of the person behind the desk Mr. Clodd could see but the
head and shoulders. It had black, curly hair, cut short. It's
only garment visible below the white collar and red tie might have
been a boy's jacket designed more like a girl's, or a girl's
designed more like a boy's; partaking of the genius of English
statesmanship, it appeared to be a compromise. Mr. Clodd remarked
the long, drooping lashes over the bright, black eyes.
"It's a girl," said Mr. Clodd to himself; "rather a pretty girl."
Mr. Clodd, continuing downward, arrived at the nose.
"No," said Mr. Clodd to himself, "it's a boy--a cheeky young
beggar, I should say."
The person at the desk, giving a grunt of satisfaction, gathered
together sheets of manuscript and arranged them; then, resting its
elbows on the desk and taking its head between its hands, regarded
"Don't you hurry yourself," said Mr. Clodd; "but when you really
have finished, tell me what you think of me."
"I beg your pardon," apologised the person at the desk. "I have
got into a habit of staring at people. I know it's rude. I'm
trying to break myself of it."
"Tell me your name," suggested Mr. Clodd, "and I'll forgive you."
"Tommy," was the answer--"I mean Jane."
"Make up your mind," advised Mr. Clodd; "don't let me influence
you. I only want the truth."
"You see," explained the person at the desk, "everybody calls me
Tommy, because that used to be my name. But now it's Jane."
"I see," said Mr. Clodd. "And which am I to call you?"
The person at the desk pondered. "Well, if this scheme you and Mr.
Hope have been talking about really comes to anything, we shall be
a good deal thrown together, you see, and then I expect you'll call
me Tommy--most people do."
"You've heard about the scheme? Mr. Hope has told you?"
"Why, of course," replied Tommy. "I'm Mr. Hope's devil."
For the moment Clodd doubted whether his old friend had not started
a rival establishment to his own.
"I help him in his work," Tommy relieved his mind by explaining.
"In journalistic circles we call it devilling."
"I understand," said Mr. Clodd. "And what do you think, Tommy, of
the scheme? I may as well start calling you Tommy, because,
between you and me, I think the idea will come to something."
Tommy fixed her black eyes upon him. She seemed to be looking him
"You are staring again, Tommy," Clodd reminded her. "You'll have
trouble breaking yourself of that habit, I can see."
"I was trying to make up my mind about you. Everything depends
upon the business man."
"Glad to hear you say so," replied the self-satisfied Clodd.
"If you are very clever-- Do you mind coming nearer to the lamp? I
can't quite see you over there."
Clodd never could understand why he did it--never could understand
why, from first to last, he always did what Tommy wished him to do;
his only consolation being that other folks seemed just as
helpless. He rose and, crossing the long room, stood at attention
before the large desk, nervousness, to which he was somewhat of a
stranger, taking possession of him.
"You don't LOOK very clever."
Clodd experienced another new sensation--that of falling in his own
"And yet one can see that you ARE clever."
The mercury of Clodd's conceit shot upward to a point that in the
case of anyone less physically robust might have been dangerous to
Clodd held out his hand. "We'll pull it through, Tommy. The
Guv'nor shall find the literature; you and I will make it go. I
And Peter Hope, entering at the moment, caught a spark from the
light that shone in the eyes of William Clodd and Tommy, whose
other name was Jane, as, gripping hands, they stood with the desk
between them, laughing they knew not why. And the years fell from
old Peter, and, again a boy, he also laughed he knew not why. He
had sipped from the wine-cup of youth.
"It's all settled, Guv'nor!" cried Clodd. "Tommy and I have fixed
things up. We'll start with the New Year."
"You've got the money?"
"I'm reckoning on it. I don't see very well how I can miss it."
"Just about. You get to work."
"I've saved a little," began Peter. "It ought to have been more,
but somehow it isn't."
"Perhaps we shall want it," Clodd replied; "perhaps we shan't. You
are supplying the brains."
The three for a few moments remained silent.
"I think, Tommy," said Peter, "I think a bottle of the old Madeira-
"Not to-night," said Clodd; "next time."
"To drink success," urged Peter.
"One man's success generally means some other poor devil's
misfortune," answered Clodd.
"Can't be helped, of course, but don't want to think about it to-
night. Must be getting back to my dormouse. Good night."
Clodd shook hands and bustled out.
"I thought as much," mused Peter aloud.
"What an odd mixture the man is! Kind--no one could have been
kinder to the poor old fellow. Yet all the while-- We are an odd
mixture, Tommy," said Peter Hope, "an odd mixture, we men and
women." Peter was a philosopher.
The white-whiskered old dormouse soon coughed himself to sleep for
"I shall want you and the missis to come to the funeral, Gladman,"
said Mr. Clodd, as he swung into the stationer's shop; "and bring
Pincer with you. I'm writing to him."
"Don't see what good we can do," demurred Gladman.
"Well, you three are his only relatives; it's only decent you
should be present," urged Clodd. "Besides, there's the will to be
read. You may care to hear it."
The dry old law stationer opened wide his watery eyes.
"His will! Why, what had he got to leave? There was nothing but
"You turn up at the funeral," Clodd told him, "and you'll learn all
about it. Bonner's clerk will be there and will bring it with him.
Everything is going to be done comme il faut, as the French say."
"I ought to have known of this," began Mr. Gladman.
"Glad to find you taking so much interest in the old chap," said
Clodd. "Pity he's dead and can't thank you."
"I warn you," shouted old Gladman, whose voice was rising to a
scream, "he was a helpless imbecile, incapable of acting for
himself! If any undue influence--"
"See you on Friday," broke in Clodd, who was busy.
Friday's ceremony was not a sociable affair. Mrs. Gladman spoke
occasionally in a shrill whisper to Mr. Gladman, who replied with
grunts. Both employed the remainder of their time in scowling at
Clodd. Mr. Pincer, a stout, heavy gentleman connected with the
House of Commons, maintained a ministerial reserve. The
undertaker's foreman expressed himself as thankful when it was
over. He criticised it as the humpiest funeral he had ever known;
for a time he had serious thoughts of changing his profession.
The solicitor's clerk was waiting for the party on its return from
Kensal Green. Clodd again offered hospitality. Mr. Pincer this
time allowed himself a glass of weak whisky-and-water, and sipped
it with an air of doing so without prejudice. The clerk had one a
little stronger, Mrs. Gladman, dispensing with consultation,
declined shrilly for self and partner. Clodd, explaining that he
always followed legal precedent, mixed himself one also and drank
"To our next happy meeting." Then the clerk read.
It was a short and simple will, dated the previous August. It
appeared that the old gentleman, unknown to his relatives, had died
possessed of shares in a silver mine, once despaired of, now
prospering. Taking them at present value, they would produce a sum
well over two thousand pounds. The old gentleman had bequeathed
five hundred pounds to his brother-in-law, Mr. Gladman; five
hundred pounds to his only other living relative, his first cousin,
Mr. Pincer; the residue to his friend, William Clodd, as a return
for the many kindnesses that gentleman had shown him.
Mr. Gladman rose, more amused than angry.
"And you think you are going to pocket that one thousand to twelve
hundred pounds. You really do?" he asked Mr. Clodd, who, with legs
stretched out before him, sat with his hands deep in his trousers
"That's the idea," admitted Mr. Clodd.
Mr. Gladman laughed, but without much lightening the atmosphere.
"Upon my word, Clodd, you amuse me--you quite amuse me," repeated
"You always had a sense of humour," commented Mr. Clodd.
"You villain! You double-dyed villain!" screamed Mr. Gladman,
suddenly changing his tone. "You think the law is going to allow
you to swindle honest men! You think we are going to sit still for
you to rob us! That will--" Mr. Gladman pointed a lank forefinger
dramatically towards the table.
"You mean to dispute it?" inquired Mr. Clodd.
For a moment Mr. Gladman stood aghast at the other's coolness, but
soon found his voice again.
"Dispute it!" he shrieked. "Do you dispute that you influenced
him?--dictated it to him word for word, made the poor old helpless
idiot sign it, he utterly incapable of even understanding--"
"Don't chatter so much," interrupted Mr. Clodd. "It's not a pretty
voice, yours. What I asked you was, do you intend to dispute it?"
"If you will kindly excuse us," struck in Mrs. Gladman, addressing
Mr. Clodd with an air of much politeness, "we shall just have time,
if we go now, to catch our solicitor before he leaves his office."
Mr. Gladman took up his hat from underneath his chair.
"One moment," suggested Mr. Clodd. "I did influence him to make
that will. If you don't like it, there's an end of it."
"Of course," commenced Mr. Gladman in a mollified tone.
"Sit down," suggested Mr. Clodd. "Let's try another one." Mr.
Clodd turned to the clerk. "The previous one, Mr. Wright, if you
please; the one dated June the 10th."
An equally short and simple document, it bequeathed three hundred
pounds to Mr. William Clodd in acknowledgment of kindnesses
received, the residue to the Royal Zoological Society of London,
the deceased having been always interested in and fond of animals.
The relatives, "Who have never shown me the slightest affection or
given themselves the slightest trouble concerning me, and who have
already received considerable sums out of my income," being by name
"I may mention," observed Mr. Clodd, no one else appearing inclined
to break the silence, "that in suggesting the Royal Zoological
Society to my poor old friend as a fitting object for his
benevolence, I had in mind a very similar case that occurred five
years ago. A bequest to them was disputed on the grounds that the
testator was of unsound mind. They had to take their case to the
House of Lords before they finally won it."
"Anyhow," remarked Mr. Gladman, licking his lips, which were dry,
"you won't get anything, Mr. Clodd--no, not even your three-hundred
pounds, clever as you think yourself. My brother-in-law's money
will go to the lawyers."
Then Mr. Pincer rose and spoke slowly and clearly. "If there must
be a lunatic connected with our family, which I don't see why there
should be, it seems to me to be you, Nathaniel Gladman."
Mr. Gladman stared back with open mouth. Mr. Pincer went on
"As for my poor old cousin Joe, he had his eccentricities, but that
was all. I for one am prepared to swear that he was of sound mind
in August last and quite capable of making his own will. It seems
to me that the other thing, dated in June, is just waste paper."
Mr. Pincer having delivered himself, sat down again. Mr. Gladman
showed signs of returning language.
"Oh! what's the use of quarrelling?" chirped in cheery Mrs.
Gladman. "It's five hundred pounds we never expected. Live and
let live is what I always say."
"It's the damned artfulness of the thing," said Mr. Gladman, still
very white about the gills.
"Oh, you have a little something to thaw your face," suggested his
Mr. and Mrs. Gladman, on the strength of the five hundred pounds,
went home in a cab. Mr. Pincer stayed behind and made a night of
it with Mr. Clodd and Bonner's clerk, at Clodd's expense.
The residue worked out at eleven hundred and sixty-nine pounds and
a few shillings. The capital of the new company, "established for
the purpose of carrying on the business of newspaper publishers and
distributors, printers, advertising agents, and any other trade and
enterprise affiliated to the same," was one thousand pounds in one
pound shares, fully paid up; of which William Clodd, Esquire, was
registered proprietor of four hundred and sixty-three; Peter Hope,
M.A., of 16, Gough Square, of also four hundred and sixty-three;
Miss Jane Hope, adopted daughter of said Peter Hope (her real name
nobody, herself included, ever having known), and generally called
Tommy, of three, paid for by herself after a battle royal with
William Clodd; Mrs. Postwhistle, of Rolls Court, of ten, presented
by the promoter; Mr. Pincer, of the House of Commons, also of ten
(still owing for); Dr. Smith (ne Schmidt) of fifty; James Douglas
Alexander Calder McTear (otherwise the "Wee Laddie"), residing then
in Mrs. Postwhistle's first floor front, of one, paid for by poem
published in the first number: "The Song of the Pen."
Choosing a title for the paper cost much thought. Driven to
despair, they called it Good Humour.
STORY THE THIRD: Grindley Junior drops into the Position of
Few are the ways of the West Central district that have changed
less within the last half-century than Nevill's Court, leading from
Great New Street into Fetter Lane. Its north side still consists
of the same quaint row of small low shops that stood there--doing
perhaps a little brisker business--when George the Fourth was King;
its southern side of the same three substantial houses each behind
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