Tommy and Co.
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 2 out of 4
a strip of garden, pleasant by contrast with surrounding grimness,
built long ago--some say before Queen Anne was dead.
Out of the largest of these, passing through the garden, then well
cared for, came one sunny Sunday morning, some fifteen years before
the commencement proper of this story, one Solomon Appleyard,
pushing in front of him a perambulator. At the brick wall
surmounted by wooden railings that divides the garden from the
court, Solomon paused, hearing behind him the voice of Mrs.
Appleyard speaking from the doorstep.
"If I don't see you again until dinner-time, I'll try and get on
without you, understand. Don't think of nothing but your pipe and
forget the child. And be careful of the crossings."
Mrs. Appleyard retired into the darkness. Solomon, steering the
perambulator carefully, emerged from Nevill's Court without
accident. The quiet streets drew Solomon westward. A vacant seat
beneath the shade overlooking the Long Water in Kensington Gardens
invited to rest.
"Piper?" suggested a small boy to Solomon. "Sunday Times,
"My boy," said Mr. Appleyard, speaking slowly, "when you've been
mewed up with newspapers eighteen hours a day for six days a week,
you can do without 'em for a morning. Take 'em away. I want to
forget the smell of 'em."
Solomon, having assured himself that the party in the perambulator
was still breathing, crossed his legs and lit his pipe.
The exclamation had been wrung from Solomon Appleyard by the
approach of a stout, short man clad in a remarkably ill-fitting
"What, Sol, my boy?"
"It looked like you," said Solomon. "And then I said to myself:
'No; surely it can't be Hezekiah; he'll be at chapel.'"
"You run about," said Hezekiah, addressing a youth of some four
summers he had been leading by the hand. "Don't you go out of my
sight; and whatever you do, don't you do injury to those new
clothes of yours, or you'll wish you'd never been put into them.
The truth is," continued Hezekiah to his friend, his sole surviving
son and heir being out of earshot, "the morning tempted me.
'Tain't often I get a bit of fresh air."
"The business," replied Hezekiah, "is going up by leaps and bounds-
-leaps and bounds. But, of course, all that means harder work for
me. It's from six in the morning till twelve o'clock at night."
"There's nothing I know of," returned Solomon, who was something of
a pessimist, "that's given away free gratis for nothing except
"Keeping yourself up to the mark ain't too easy," continued
Hezekiah; "and when it comes to other folks! play's all they think
of. Talk religion to them--why, they laugh at you! What the
world's coming to, I don't know. How's the printing business
"The printing business," responded the other, removing his pipe and
speaking somewhat sadly, "the printing business looks like being a
big thing. Capital, of course, is what hampers me--or, rather, the
want of it. But Janet, she's careful; she don't waste much, Janet
"Now, with Anne," replied Hezekiah, "it's all the other way--
pleasure, gaiety, a day at Rosherville or the Crystal Palace--
anything to waste money."
"Ah! she was always fond of her bit of fun," remembered Solomon.
"Fun!" retorted Hezekiah. "I like a bit of fun myself. But not if
you've got to pay for it. Where's the fun in that?"
"What I ask myself sometimes," said Solomon, looking straight in
front of him, "is what do we do it for?"
"What do we do what for?"
"Work like blessed slaves, depriving ourselves of all enjoyments.
What's the sense of it? What--"
A voice from the perambulator beside him broke the thread of
Solomon Appleyard's discourse. The sole surviving son of Hezekiah
Grindley, seeking distraction and finding none, had crept back
unperceived. A perambulator! A thing his experience told him out
of which excitement in some form or another could generally be
obtained. You worried it and took your chance. Either it howled,
in which case you had to run for your life, followed--and,
unfortunately, overtaken nine times out of ten--by a whirlwind of
vengeance; or it gurgled: in which case the heavens smiled and
halos descended on your head. In either event you escaped the
deadly ennui that is the result of continuous virtue. Master
Grindley, his star having pointed out to him a peacock's feather
lying on the ground, had, with one eye upon his unobservant parent,
removed the complicated coverings sheltering Miss Helvetia
Appleyard from the world, and anticipating by a quarter of a
century the prime enjoyment of British youth, had set to work to
tickle that lady on the nose. Miss Helvetia Appleyard awakened,
did precisely what the tickled British maiden of to-day may be
relied upon to do under corresponding circumstances: she first of
all took swift and comprehensive survey of the male thing behind
the feather. Had he been displeasing in her eyes, she would, one
may rely upon it, have anteceded the behaviour in similar case of
her descendant of to-day--that is to say, have expressed resentment
in no uncertain terms. Master Nathaniel Grindley proving, however,
to her taste, that which might have been considered impertinence
became accepted as a fit and proper form of introduction. Miss
Appleyard smiled graciously--nay, further, intimated desire for
"That your only one?" asked the paternal Grindley.
"She's the only one," replied Solomon, speaking in tones less
Miss Appleyard had with the help of Grindley junior wriggled
herself into a sitting posture. Grindley junior continued his
attentions, the lady indicating by signs the various points at
which she was most susceptible.
"Pretty picture they make together, eh?" suggested Hezekiah in a
whisper to his friend.
"Never saw her take to anyone like that before," returned Solomon,
likewise in a whisper.
A neighbouring church clock chimed twelve. Solomon Appleyard,
knocking the ashes from his pipe, arose.
"Don't know any reason myself why we shouldn't see a little more of
one another than we do," suggested Grindley senior, shaking hands.
"Give us a look-up one Sunday afternoon," suggested Solomon.
"Bring the youngster with you."
Solomon Appleyard and Hezekiah Grindley had started life within a
few months of one another some five-and-thirty years before.
Likewise within a few hundred yards of one another, Solomon at his
father's bookselling and printing establishment on the east side of
the High Street of a small Yorkshire town; Hezekiah at his father's
grocery shop upon the west side, opposite. Both had married
farmers' daughters. Solomon's natural bent towards gaiety Fate had
corrected by directing his affections to a partner instinct with
Yorkshire shrewdness; and with shrewdness go other qualities that
make for success rather than for happiness. Hezekiah, had
circumstances been equal, might have been his friend's rival for
Janet's capable and saving hand, had not sweet-tempered, laughing
Annie Glossop--directed by Providence to her moral welfare, one
must presume--fallen in love with him. Between Jane's virtues and
Annie's three hundred golden sovereigns Hezekiah had not hesitated
a moment. Golden sovereigns were solid facts; wifely virtues, by a
serious-minded and strong-willed husband, could be instilled--at
all events, light-heartedness suppressed. The two men, Hezekiah
urged by his own ambition, Solomon by his wife's, had arrived in
London within a year of one another: Hezekiah to open a grocer's
shop in Kensington, which those who should have known assured him
was a hopeless neighbourhood. But Hezekiah had the instinct of the
money-maker. Solomon, after looking about him, had fixed upon the
roomy, substantial house in Nevill's Court as a promising
foundation for a printer's business.
That was ten years ago. The two friends, scorning delights, living
laborious days, had seen but little of one another. Light-hearted
Annie had borne to her dour partner two children who had died.
Nathaniel George, with the luck supposed to wait on number three,
had lived on, and, inheriting fortunately the temperament of his
mother, had brought sunshine into the gloomy rooms above the shop
in High Street, Kensington. Mrs. Grindley, grown weak and fretful,
had rested from her labours.
Mrs. Appleyard's guardian angel, prudent like his protege, had
waited till Solomon's business was well established before
despatching the stork to Nevill's Court, with a little girl. Later
had sent a boy, who, not finding the close air of St. Dunstan to
his liking, had found his way back again; thus passing out of this
story and all others. And there remained to carry on the legend of
the Grindleys and the Appleyards only Nathaniel George, now aged
five, and Janet Helvetia, quite a beginner, who took lift
There are no such things as facts. Narrow-minded folk--surveyors,
auctioneers, and such like--would have insisted that the garden
between the old Georgian house and Nevill's Court was a strip of
land one hundred and eighteen feet by ninety-two, containing a
laburnum tree, six laurel bushes, and a dwarf deodora. To
Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia it was the land of Thule, "the
furthest boundaries of which no man has reached." On rainy Sunday
afternoons they played in the great, gloomy pressroom, where silent
ogres, standing motionless, stretched out iron arms to seize them
as they ran. Then just when Nathaniel George was eight, and Janet
Helvetia four and a half, Hezekiah launched the celebrated
"Grindley's Sauce." It added a relish to chops and steaks,
transformed cold mutton into a luxury, and swelled the head of
Hezekiah Grindley--which was big enough in all conscience as it
was--and shrivelled up his little hard heart. The Grindleys and
the Appleyards visited no more. As a sensible fellow ought to have
seen for himself, so thought Hezekiah, the Sauce had altered all
things. The possibility of a marriage between their children,
things having remained equal, might have been a pretty fancy; but
the son of the great Grindley, whose name in three-foot letters
faced the world from every hoarding, would have to look higher than
a printer's daughter. Solomon, a sudden and vehement convert to
the principles of mediaeval feudalism, would rather see his only
child, granddaughter of the author of The History of Kettlewell and
other works, dead and buried than married to a grocer's son, even
though he might inherit a fortune made out of poisoning the public
with a mixture of mustard and sour beer. It was many years before
Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia met one another again, and when
they did they had forgotten one another,
Hezekiah S. Grindley, a short, stout, and pompous gentleman, sat
under a palm in the gorgeously furnished drawing-room of his big
house at Notting Hill. Mrs. Grindley, a thin, faded woman, the
despair of her dressmaker, sat as near to the fire as its massive
and imposing copper outworks would permit, and shivered. Grindley
junior, a fair-haired, well-shaped youth, with eyes that the other
sex found attractive, leant with his hands in his pockets against a
scrupulously robed statue of Diana, and appeared uncomfortable.
"I'm making the money--making it hand over fist. All you'll have
to do will be to spend it," Grindley senior was explaining to his
son and heir.
"I'll do that all right, dad."
"I'm not so sure of it," was his father's opinion. "You've got to
prove yourself worthy to spend it. Don't you think I shall be
content to have slaved all these years merely to provide a
brainless young idiot with the means of self-indulgence. I leave
my money to somebody worthy of me. Understand, sir?--somebody
worthy of me."
Mrs. Grindley commenced a sentence; Mr. Grindley turned his small
eyes upon her. The sentence remained unfinished.
"You were about to say something," her husband reminded her.
Mrs. Grindley said it was nothing.
"If it is anything worth hearing--if it is anything that will
assist the discussion, let's have it." Mr. Grindley waited. "If
not, if you yourself do not consider it worth finishing, why have
Mr. Grindley returned to his son and heir. "You haven't done too
well at school--in fact, your school career has disappointed me."
"I know I'm not clever," Grindley junior offered as an excuse.
"Why not? Why aren't you clever?"
His son and heir was unable to explain.
"You are my son--why aren't you clever? It's laziness, sir; sheer
"I'll try and do better at Oxford, sir--honour bright I will!"
"You had better," advised him his father; "because I warn you, your
whole future depends upon it. You know me. You've got to be a
credit to me, to be worthy of the name of Grindley--or the name, my
boy, is all you'll have."
Old Grindley meant it, and his son knew that he meant it. The old
Puritan principles and instincts were strong in the old gentleman--
formed, perhaps, the better part of him. Idleness was an
abomination to him; devotion to pleasure, other than the pleasure
of money-making, a grievous sin in his eyes. Grindley junior fully
intended to do well at Oxford, and might have succeeded. In
accusing himself of lack of cleverness, he did himself an
injustice. He had brains, he had energy, he had character. Our
virtues can be our stumbling-blocks as well as our vices. Young
Grindley had one admirable virtue that needs, above all others,
careful controlling: he was amiability itself. Before the charm
and sweetness of it, Oxford snobbishness went down. The Sauce,
against the earnest counsel of its own advertisement, was
forgotten; the pickles passed by. To escape the natural result of
his popularity would have needed a stronger will than young
Grindley possessed. For a time the true state of affairs was
hidden from the eye of Grindley senior. To "slack" it this term,
with the full determination of "swotting" it the next, is always
easy; the difficulty beginning only with the new term. Possibly
with luck young Grindley might have retrieved his position and
covered up the traces of his folly, but for an unfortunate
accident. Returning to college with some other choice spirits at
two o'clock in the morning, it occurred to young Grindley that
trouble might be saved all round by cutting out a pane of glass
with a diamond ring and entering his rooms, which were on the
ground-floor, by the window. That, in mistake for his own, he
should have selected the bedroom of the College Rector was a
misfortune that might have occurred to anyone who had commenced the
evening on champagne and finished it on whisky. Young Grindley,
having been warned already twice before, was "sent down." And
then, of course, the whole history of the three wasted years came
out. Old Grindley in his study chair having talked for half an
hour at the top of his voice, chose, partly by reason of physical
necessity, partly by reason of dormant dramatic instinct, to speak
quietly and slowly.
"I'll give you one chance more, my boy, and one only. I've tried
you as a gentleman--perhaps that was my mistake. Now I'll try you
as a grocer."
"As a what?"
"As a grocer, sir--g-r-o-c-e-r--grocer, a man who stands behind a
counter in a white apron and his shirt-sleeves; who sells tea and
sugar and candied peel and such-like things to customers--old
ladies, little girls; who rises at six in the morning, takes down
the shutters, sweeps out the shop, cleans the windows; who has half
an hour for his dinner of corned beef and bread; who puts up the
shutters at ten o'clock at night, tidies up the shop, has his
supper, and goes to bed, feeling his day has not been wasted. I
meant to spare you. I was wrong. You shall go through the mill as
I went through it. If at the end of two years you've done well
with your time, learned something--learned to be a man, at all
events--you can come to me and thank me."
"I'm afraid, sir," suggested Grindley junior, whose handsome face
during the last few minutes had grown very white, "I might not make
a very satisfactory grocer. You see, sir, I've had no experience."
"I am glad you have some sense," returned his father drily. "You
are quite right. Even a grocer's business requires learning. It
will cost me a little money; but it will be the last I shall ever
spend upon you. For the first year you will have to be
apprenticed, and I shall allow you something to live on. It shall
be more than I had at your age--we'll say a pound a week. After
that I shall expect you to keep yourself."
Grindley senior rose. "You need not give me your answer till the
evening. You are of age. I have no control over you unless you
are willing to agree. You can go my way, or you can go your own."
Young Grindley, who had inherited a good deal of his father's grit,
felt very much inclined to go his own; but, hampered on the other
hand by the sweetness of disposition he had inherited from his
mother, was unable to withstand the argument of that lady's tears,
so that evening accepted old Grindley's terms, asking only as a
favour that the scene of his probation might be in some out-of-the-
way neighbourhood where there would be little chance of his being
met by old friends.
"I have thought of all that," answered his father. "My object
isn't to humiliate you more than is necessary for your good. The
shop I have already selected, on the assumption that you would
submit, is as quiet and out-of-the-way as you could wish. It is in
a turning off Fetter Lane, where you'll see few other people than
printers and caretakers. You'll lodge with a woman, a Mrs.
Postwhistle, who seems a very sensible person. She'll board you
and lodge you, and every Saturday you'll receive a post-office
order for six shillings, out of which you'll find yourself in
clothes. You can take with you sufficient to last you for the
first six months, but no more. At the end of the year you can
change if you like and go to another shop, or make your own
arrangements with Mrs. Postwhistle. If all is settled, you go
there to-morrow. You go out of this house to-morrow in any event."
Mrs. Postwhistle was a large, placid lady of philosophic
temperament. Hitherto the little grocer's shop in Rolls Court,
Fetter Lane, had been easy of management by her own unaided
efforts; but the neighbourhood was rapidly changing. Other
grocers' shops were disappearing one by one, making way for huge
blocks of buildings, where hundreds of iron presses, singing day
and night, spread to the earth the song of the Mighty Pen. There
were hours when the little shop could hardly accommodate its crowd
of customers. Mrs. Postwhistle, of a bulk not to be moved quickly,
had, after mature consideration, conquering a natural
disinclination to change, decided to seek assistance.
Young Grindley, alighting from a four-wheeled cab in Fetter Lane,
marched up the court, followed by a weak-kneed wastrel staggering
under the weight of a small box. In the doorway of the little
shop, young Grindley paused and raised his hat.
The lady, from her chair behind the counter, rose slowly.
"I am Mr. Nathaniel Grindley, the new assistant."
The weak-kneed wastrel let fall the box with a thud upon the floor.
Mrs. Postwhistle looked her new assistant up and down.
"Oh!" said Mrs. Postwhistle. "Well, I shouldn't 'ave felt
instinctively it must be you, not if I'd 'ad to pick you out of a
crowd. But if you tell me so, why, I suppose you are. Come in."
The weak-kneed wastrel, receiving to his astonishment a shilling,
Grindley senior had selected wisely. Mrs. Postwhistle's theory was
that although very few people in this world understood their own
business, they understood it better than anyone else could
understand it for them. If handsome, well-educated young
gentlemen, who gave shillings to wastrels, felt they wanted to
become smart and capable grocers' assistants, that was their
affair. Her business was to teach them their work, and, for her
own sake, to see that they did it. A month went by. Mrs.
Postwhistle found her new assistant hard-working, willing, somewhat
clumsy, but with a smile and a laugh that transformed mistakes, for
which another would have been soundly rated, into welcome
variations of the day's monotony.
"If you were the sort of woman that cared to make your fortune,"
said one William Clodd, an old friend of Mrs. Postwhistle's, young
Grindley having descended into the cellar to grind coffee, "I'd
tell you what to do. Take a bun-shop somewhere in the
neighbourhood of a girls' school, and put that assistant of yours
in the window. You'd do a roaring business."
"There's a mystery about 'im," said Mrs. Postwhistle.
"Know what it is?"
"If I knew what it was, I shouldn't be calling it a mystery,"
replied Mrs. Postwhistle, who was a stylist in her way.
"How did you get him? Win him in a raffle?"
"Jones, the agent, sent 'im to me all in a 'urry. An assistant is
what I really wanted, not an apprentice; but the premium was good,
and the references everything one could desire."
"Grindley, Grindley," murmured Clodd. "Any relation to the Sauce,
"A bit more wholesome, I should say, from the look of him," thought
The question of a post office to meet its growing need had long
been under discussion by the neighbourhood. Mrs. Postwhistle was
approached upon the subject. Grindley junior, eager for anything
that might bring variety into his new, cramped existence, undertook
to qualify himself.
Within two months the arrangements were complete. Grindley junior
divided his time between dispensing groceries and despatching
telegrams and letters, and was grateful for the change.
Grindley junior's mind was fixed upon the fashioning of a
cornucopia to receive a quarter of a pound of moist. The customer,
an extremely young lady, was seeking to hasten his operations by
tapping incessantly with a penny on the counter. It did not hurry
him; it only worried him. Grindley junior had not acquired
facility in the fashioning of cornucopias--the vertex would
invariably become unrolled at the last moment, allowing the
contents to dribble out on to the floor or counter. Grindley
junior was sweet-tempered as a rule, but when engaged upon the
fashioning of a cornucopia, was irritable.
"Hurry up, old man!" urged the extremely young lady. "I've got
another appointment in less than half an hour."
"Oh, damn the thing!" said Grindley junior, as the paper for the
fourth time reverted to its original shape.
An older lady, standing behind the extremely young lady and holding
a telegram-form in her hand, looked indignant.
"Temper, temper," remarked the extremely young lady in reproving
The fifth time was more successful. The extremely young lady went
out, commenting upon the waste of time always resulting when boys
were employed to do the work of men. The older lady, a haughty
person, handed across her telegram with the request that it should
be sent off at once.
Grindley junior took his pencil from his pocket and commenced to
"Digniori, not digniorus," commented Grindley junior, correcting
the word, "datur digniori, dative singular." Grindley junior,
still irritable from the struggle with the cornucopia, spoke
The haughty lady withdrew her eyes from a spot some ten miles
beyond the back of the shop, where hitherto they had been resting,
and fixed them for the first time upon Grindley junior.
"Thank you," said the haughty lady.
Grindley junior looked up and immediately, to his annoyance, felt
that he was blushing. Grindley junior blushed easily--it annoyed
him very much.
The haughty young lady also blushed. She did not often blush; when
she did, she felt angry with herself.
"A shilling and a penny," demanded Grindley junior.
The haughty young lady counted out the money and departed.
Grindley junior, peeping from behind a tin of Abernethy biscuits,
noticed that as she passed the window she turned and looked back.
She was a very pretty, haughty lady. Grindley junior rather
admired dark, level brows and finely cut, tremulous lips,
especially when combined with a mass of soft, brown hair, and a
rich olive complexion that flushed and paled as one looked at it.
"Might send that telegram off if you've nothing else to do, and
there's no particular reason for keeping it back," suggested Mrs.
"It's only just been handed in," explained Grindley junior,
"You've been looking at it for the last five minutes by the clock,"
said Mrs. Postwhistle.
Grindley junior sat down to the machine. The name and address of
the sender was Helvetia Appleyard, Nevill's Court.
Three days passed--singularly empty days they appeared to Grindley
junior. On the fourth, Helvetia Appleyard had occasion to despatch
another telegram--this time entirely in English.
"One-and-fourpence," sighed Grindley junior.
Miss Appleyard drew forth her purse. The shop was empty.
"How did you come to know Latin?" inquired Miss Appleyard in quite
a casual tone.
"I picked up a little at school. It was a phrase I happened to
remember," confessed Grindley junior, wondering why he should be
feeling ashamed of himself.
"I am always sorry," said Miss Appleyard, "when I see anyone
content with the lower life whose talents might, perhaps, fit him
for the higher." Something about the tone and manner of Miss
Appleyard reminded Grindley junior of his former Rector. Each
seemed to have arrived by different roads at the same philosophical
aloofness from the world, tempered by chastened interest in human
phenomena. "Would you like to try to raise yourself--to improve
yourself--to educate yourself?"
An unseen little rogue, who was enjoying himself immensely,
whispered to Grindley junior to say nothing but "Yes," he should.
"Will you let me help you?" asked Miss Appleyard. And the simple
and heartfelt gratitude with which Grindley junior closed upon the
offer proved to Miss Appleyard how true it is that to do good to
others is the highest joy.
Miss Appleyard had come prepared for possible acceptance. "You had
better begin with this," thought Miss Appleyard. "I have marked
the passages that you should learn by heart. Make a note of
anything you do not understand, and I will explain it to you when--
when next I happen to be passing."
Grindley junior took the book--Bell's Introduction to the Study of
the Classics, for Use of Beginners--and held it between both hands.
Its price was ninepence, but Grindley junior appeared to regard it
as a volume of great value.
"It will be hard work at first," Miss Appleyard warned him; "but
you must persevere. I have taken an interest in you; you must try
not to disappoint me."
And Miss Appleyard, feeling all the sensations of a Hypatia,
departed, taking light with her and forgetting to pay for the
telegram. Miss Appleyard belonged to the class that young ladies
who pride themselves on being tiresomely ignorant and foolish sneer
at as "blue-stockings"; that is to say, possessing brains, she had
felt the necessity of using them. Solomon Appleyard, widower, a
sensible old gentleman, prospering in the printing business, and
seeing no necessity for a woman regarding herself as nothing but a
doll, a somewhat uninteresting plaything the newness once worn off,
thankfully encouraged her. Miss Appleyard had returned from Girton
wise in many things, but not in knowledge of the world, which
knowledge, too early acquired, does not always make for good in
young man or woman. A serious little virgin, Miss Appleyard's
ambition was to help the human race. What more useful work could
have come to her hand than the raising of this poor but intelligent
young grocer's assistant unto the knowledge and the love of higher
things. That Grindley junior happened to be an exceedingly good-
looking and charming young grocer's assistant had nothing to do
with the matter, so Miss Appleyard would have informed you. In her
own reasoning she was convinced that her interest in him would have
been the same had he been the least attractive of his sex. That
there could be danger in such relationship never occurred to her.
Miss Appleyard, a convinced Radical, could not conceive the
possibility of a grocer's assistant regarding the daughter of a
well-to-do printer in any other light than that of a graciously
condescending patron. That there could be danger to herself! you
would have been sorry you had suggested the idea. The expression
of lofty scorn would have made you feel yourself contemptible.
Miss Appleyard's judgment of mankind was justified; no more
promising pupil could have been selected. It was really marvellous
the progress made by Grindley junior, under the tutelage of
Helvetia Appleyard. His earnestness, his enthusiasm, it quite
touched the heart of Helvetia Appleyard. There were many points,
it is true, that puzzled Grindley junior. Each time the list of
them grew longer. But when Helvetia Appleyard explained them, all
became clear. She marvelled herself at her own wisdom, that in a
moment made darkness luminous to this young man; his rapt attention
while she talked, it was most encouraging. The boy must surely be
a genius. To think that but for her intuition he might have
remained wasted in a grocer's shop! To rescue such a gem from
oblivion, to polish it, was surely the duty of a conscientious
Hypatia. Two visits--three visits a week to the little shop in
Rolls Court were quite inadequate, so many passages there were
requiring elucidation. London in early morning became their
classroom: the great, wide, empty, silent streets; the mist-
curtained parks, the silence broken only by the blackbirds' amorous
whistle, the thrushes' invitation to delight; the old gardens,
hidden behind narrow ways. Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia
would rest upon a seat, no living creature within sight, save
perhaps a passing policeman or some dissipated cat. Janet Helvetia
would expound. Nathaniel George, his fine eyes fixed on hers,
seemed never to tire of drinking in her wisdom.
There were times when Janet Helvetia, to reassure herself as to the
maidenly correctness of her behaviour, had to recall quite forcibly
the fact that she was the daughter of Solomon Appleyard, owner of
the big printing establishment; and he a simple grocer. One day,
raised a little in the social scale, thanks to her, Nathaniel
George would marry someone in his own rank of life. Reflecting
upon the future of Nathaniel George, Janet Helvetia could not
escape a shade of sadness. It was difficult to imagine precisely
the wife she would have chosen for Nathaniel George. She hoped he
would do nothing foolish. Rising young men so often marry wives
that hamper rather than help them.
One Sunday morning in late autumn, they walked and talked in the
shady garden of Lincoln's Inn. Greek they thought it was they had
been talking; as a matter of fact, a much older language. A young
gardener was watering flowers, and as they passed him he grinned.
It was not an offensive grin, rather a sympathetic grin; but Miss
Appleyard didn't like being grinned at. What was there to grin at?
Her personal appearance? some gaucherie in her dress? Impossible.
No lady in all St. Dunstan was ever more precise. She glanced at
her companion: a clean-looking, well-groomed, well-dressed youth.
Suddenly it occurred to Miss Appleyard that she and Grindley junior
were holding each other's hand. Miss Appleyard was justly
"How dare you!" said Miss Appleyard. "I am exceedingly angry with
you. How dare you!"
The olive skin was scarlet. There were tears in the hazel eyes.
"Leave me this minute!" commanded Miss Appleyard.
Instead of which, Grindley junior seized both her hands.
"I love you! I adore you! I worship you!" poured forth young
Grindley, forgetful of all Miss Appleyard had ever told him
concerning the folly of tautology.
"You had no right," said Miss Appleyard.
"I couldn't help it," pleaded young Grindley. "And that isn't the
Miss Appleyard paled visibly. For a grocer's assistant to dare to
fall in love with her, especially after all the trouble she had
taken with him! What could be worse?
"I'm not a grocer," continued young Grindley, deeply conscious of
crime. "I mean, not a real grocer."
And Grindley junior then and there made a clean breast of the whole
sad, terrible tale of shameless deceit, practised by the greatest
villain the world had ever produced, upon the noblest and most
beautiful maiden that ever turned grim London town into a fairy
city of enchanted ways.
Not at first could Miss Appleyard entirely grasp it; not till hours
later, when she sat alone in her own room, where, fortunately for
himself, Grindley junior was not, did the whole force and meaning
of the thing come home to her. It was a large room, taking up half
of the top story of the big Georgian house in Nevill's Court; but
even as it was, Miss Appleyard felt cramped.
"For a year--for nearly a whole year," said Miss Appleyard,
addressing the bust of William Shakespeare, "have I been slaving my
life out, teaching him elementary Latin and the first five books of
As it has been remarked, it was fortunate for Grindley junior he
was out of reach. The bust of William Shakespeare maintained its
irritating aspect of benign philosophy.
"I suppose I should," mused Miss Appleyard, "if he had told me at
first--as he ought to have told me--of course I should naturally
have had nothing more to do with him. I suppose," mused Miss
Appleyard, "a man in love, if he is really in love, doesn't quite
know what he's doing. I suppose one ought to make allowances.
But, oh! when I think of it--"
And then Grindley junior's guardian angel must surely have slipped
into the room, for Miss Appleyard, irritated beyond endurance at
the philosophical indifference of the bust of William Shakespeare,
turned away from it, and as she did so, caught sight of herself in
the looking-glass. Miss Appleyard approached the glass a little
nearer. A woman's hair is never quite as it should be. Miss
Appleyard, standing before the glass, began, she knew not why, to
find reasons excusing Grindley junior. After all, was not
forgiveness an excellent thing in woman? None of us are quite
perfect. The guardian angel of Grindley junior seized the
That evening Solomon Appleyard sat upright in his chair, feeling
confused. So far as he could understand it, a certain young man, a
grocer's assistant, but not a grocer's assistant--but that, of
course, was not his fault, his father being an old brute--had
behaved most abominably; but not, on reflection, as badly as he
might have done, and had acted on the whole very honourably, taking
into consideration the fact that one supposed he could hardly help
it. Helvetia was, of course, very indignant with him, but on the
other hand, did not quite see what else she could have done, she
being not at all sure whether she really cared for him or whether
she didn't; that everything had been quite proper and would not
have happened if she had known it; that everything was her fault,
except most things, which weren't; but that of the two she blamed
herself entirely, seeing that she could not have guessed anything
of the kind. And did he, Solomon Appleyard, think that she ought
to be very angry and never marry anybody else, or was she justified
in overlooking it and engaging herself to the only man she felt she
could ever love?
"You mustn't think, Dad, that I meant to deceive you. I should
have told you at the beginning--you know I would--if it hadn't all
happened so suddenly."
"Let me see," said Solomon Appleyard, "did you tell me his name, or
"Nathaniel," said Miss Appleyard. "Didn't I mention it?"
"Don't happen to know his surname, do you," inquired her father.
"Grindley," explained Miss Appleyard--"the son of Grindley, the
Miss Appleyard experienced one of the surprises of her life. Never
before to her recollection had her father thwarted a single wish of
her life. A widower for the last twelve years, his chief delight
had been to humour her. His voice, as he passionately swore that
never with his consent should his daughter marry the son of
Hezekiah Grindley, sounded strange to her. Pleadings, even tears,
for the first time in her life proved fruitless.
Here was a pretty kettle of fish! That Grindley junior should defy
his own parent, risk possibly the loss of his inheritance, had
seemed to both a not improper proceeding. When Nathaniel George
had said with fine enthusiasm: "Let him keep his money if he will;
I'll make my own way; there isn't enough money in the world to pay
for losing you!" Janet Helvetia, though she had expressed
disapproval of such unfilial attitude, had in secret sympathised.
But for her to disregard the wishes of her own doting father was
not to be thought of. What was to be done?
Perhaps one Peter Hope, residing in Gough Square hard by, might
help young folks in sore dilemma with wise counsel. Peter Hope,
editor and part proprietor of Good Humour, one penny weekly, was
much esteemed by Solomon Appleyard, printer and publisher of
"A good fellow, old Hope," Solomon would often impress upon his
managing clerk. "Don't worry him more than you can help; things
will improve. We can trust him."
Peter Hope sat at his desk, facing Miss Appleyard. Grindley junior
sat on the cushioned seat beneath the middle window. Good Humour's
sub-editor stood before the fire, her hands behind her back.
The case appeared to Peter Hope to be one of exceeding difficulty.
"Of course," explained Miss Appleyard, "I shall never marry without
my father's consent."
Peter Hope thought the resolution most proper.
"On the other hand," continued Miss Appleyard, "nothing shall
induce me to marry a man I do not love." Miss Appleyard thought
the probabilities were that she would end by becoming a female
Peter Hope's experience had led him to the conclusion that young
people sometimes changed their mind.
The opinion of the House, clearly though silently expressed, was
that Peter Hope's experience, as regarded this particular case,
counted for nothing.
"I shall go straight to the Governor," explained Grindley junior,
"and tell him that I consider myself engaged for life to Miss
Appleyard. I know what will happen--I know the sort of idea he has
got into his head. He will disown me, and I shall go off to
Peter Hope was unable to see how Grindley junior's disappearance
into the wilds of Africa was going to assist the matter under
Grindley junior's view was that the wilds of Africa would afford a
fitting background to the passing away of a blighted existence.
Peter Hope had a suspicion that Grindley junior had for the moment
parted company with that sweet reasonableness that otherwise, so
Peter Hope felt sure, was Grindley junior's guiding star.
"I mean it, sir," reasserted Grindley junior. "I am--" Grindley
junior was about to add "well educated"; but divining that
education was a topic not pleasing at the moment to the ears of
Helvetia Appleyard, had tact enough to substitute "not a fool. I
can earn my own living; and I should like to get away."
"It seems to me--" said the sub-editor.
"Now, Tommy--I mean Jane," warned her Peter Hope. He always called
her Jane in company, unless he was excited. "I know what you are
going to say. I won't have it."
"I was only going to say--" urged the sub-editor in tone of one
"I quite know what you were going to say," retorted Peter hotly.
"I can see it by your chin. You are going to take their part--and
suggest their acting undutifully towards their parents."
"I wasn't," returned the sub-editor. "I was only--"
"You were," persisted Peter. "I ought not to have allowed you to
be present. I might have known you would interfere."
"--going to say we are in want of some help in the office. You
know we are. And that if Mr. Grindley would be content with a
"Small salary be hanged!" snarled Peter.
"--there would be no need for his going to Africa."
"And how would that help us?" demanded Peter. "Even if the boy
were so--so headstrong, so unfilial as to defy his father, who has
worked for him all these years, how would that remove the obstacle
of Mr. Appleyard's refusal?"
"Why, don't you see--" explained the sub-editor.
"No, I don't," snapped Peter.
"If, on his declaring to his father that nothing will ever induce
him to marry any other woman but Miss Appleyard, his father disowns
him, as he thinks it likely--"
"A dead cert!" was Grindley junior's conviction.
"Very well; he is no longer old Grindley's son, and what possible
objection can Mr. Appleyard have to him then?"
Peter Hope arose and expounded at length and in suitable language
the folly and uselessness of the scheme.
But what chance had ever the wisdom of Age against the enthusiasm
of Youth, reaching for its object. Poor Peter, expostulating, was
swept into the conspiracy. Grindley junior the next morning stood
before his father in the private office in High Holborn.
"I am sorry, sir," said Grindley junior, "if I have proved a
disappointment to you."
"Damn your sympathy!" said Grindley senior. "Keep it till you are
asked for it."
"I hope we part friends, sir," said Grindley junior, holding out
"Why do you irate me?" asked Grindley senior. "I have thought of
nothing but you these five-and-twenty years."
"I don't, sir," answered Grindley junior. "I can't say I love you.
It did not seem to me you--you wanted it. But I like you, sir, and
I respect you. And--and I'm sorry to have to hurt you, sir."
"And you are determined to give up all your prospects, all the
money, for the sake of this--this girl?"
"It doesn't seem like giving up anything, sir," replied Grindley
"It isn't so much as I thought it was going to be," said the old
man, after a pause. "Perhaps it is for the best. I might have
been more obstinate if things had been going all right. The Lord
has chastened me."
"Isn't the business doing well, Dad?" asked the young man, with
sorrow in his voice.
"What's it got to do with you?" snapped his father. "You've cut
yourself adrift from it. You leave me now I am going down."
Grindley junior, not knowing what to say, put his arms round the
little old man.
And in this way Tommy's brilliant scheme fell through and came to
naught. Instead, old Grindley visited once again the big house in
Nevill's Court, and remained long closeted with old Solomon in the
office on the second floor. It was late in the evening when
Solomon opened the door and called upstairs to Janet Helvetia to
"I used to know you long ago," said Hezekiah Grindley, rising.
"You were quite a little girl then."
Later, the troublesome Sauce disappeared entirely, cut out by newer
flavours. Grindley junior studied the printing business. It
almost seemed as if old Appleyard had been waiting but for this.
Some six months later they found him dead in his counting-house.
Grindley junior became the printer and publisher of Good Humour.
STORY THE FOURTH: Miss Ramsbotham gives her Services
To regard Miss Ramsbotham as a marriageable quantity would have
occurred to few men. Endowed by Nature with every feminine quality
calculated to inspire liking, she had, on the other hand, been
disinherited of every attribute calculated to excite passion. An
ugly woman has for some men an attraction; the proof is ever
present to our eyes. Miss Ramsbotham was plain but pleasant
looking. Large, healthy in mind and body, capable, self-reliant,
and cheerful, blessed with a happy disposition together with a keen
sense of humour, there was about her absolutely nothing for
tenderness to lay hold of. An ideal wife, she was an impossible
sweetheart. Every man was her friend. The suggestion that any man
could be her lover she herself would have greeted with a clear,
Not that she held love in despite; for such folly she was possessed
of far too much sound sense. "To have somebody in love with you--
somebody strong and good," so she would confess to her few close
intimates, a dreamy expression clouding for an instant her broad,
sunny face, "why, it must be just lovely!" For Miss Ramsbotham was
prone to American phraseology, and had even been at some pains,
during a six months' journey through the States (whither she had
been commissioned by a conscientious trade journal seeking reliable
information concerning the condition of female textile workers) to
acquire a slight but decided American accent. It was her one
affectation, but assumed, as one might feel certain, for a
practical and legitimate object.
"You can have no conception," she would explain, laughing, "what a
help I find it. 'I'm 'Muriken' is the 'Civis Romanus sum' of the
modern woman's world. It opens every door to us. If I ring the
bell and say, 'Oh, if you please, I have come to interview Mr. So-
and-So for such-and-such a paper,' the footman looks through me at
the opposite side of the street, and tells me to wait in the hall
while he inquires if Mr. So-and-So will see me or not. But if I
say, 'That's my keerd, young man. You tell your master Miss
Ramsbotham is waiting for him in the showroom, and will take it
real kind if he'll just bustle himself,' the poor fellow walks
backwards till he stumbles against the bottom stair, and my
gentleman comes down with profuse apologies for having kept me
waiting three minutes and a half.
"'And to be in love with someone," she would continue, "someone
great that one could look up to and honour and worship--someone
that would fill one's whole life, make it beautiful, make every day
worth living, I think that would be better still. To work merely
for one's self, to think merely for one's self, it is so much less
Then, at some such point of the argument, Miss Ramsbotham would
jump up from her chair and shake herself indignantly.
"Why, what nonsense I'm talking," she would tell herself, and her
listeners. "I make a very fair income, have a host of friends, and
enjoy every hour of my life. I should like to have been pretty or
handsome, of course; but no one can have all the good things of
this world, and I have my brains. At one time, perhaps, yes; but
now--no, honestly I would not change myself."
Miss Ramsbotham was sorry that no man had ever fallen in love with
her, but that she could understand.
"It is quite clear to me." So she had once unburdened herself to
her bosom friend. "Man for the purposes of the race has been given
two kinds of love, between which, according to his opportunities
and temperament, he is free to choose: he can fall down upon his
knees and adore physical beauty (for Nature ignores entirely our
mental side), or he can take delight in circling with his
protecting arm the weak and helpless. Now, I make no appeal to
either instinct. I possess neither the charm nor beauty to
"Beauty," reminded her the bosom friend, consolingly, "dwells in
the beholder's eye."
"My dear," cheerfully replied Miss Ramsbotham, "it would have to be
an eye of the range and capacity Sam Weller frankly owned up to not
possessing--a patent double-million magnifying, capable of seeing
through a deal board and round the corner sort of eye--to detect
any beauty in me. And I am much too big and sensible for any man
not a fool ever to think of wanting to take care of me.
"I believe," remembered Miss Ramsbotham, "if it does not sound like
idle boasting, I might have had a husband, of a kind, if Fate had
not compelled me to save his life. I met him one year at Huyst, a
small, quiet watering-place on the Dutch coast. He would walk
always half a step behind me, regarding me out of the corner of his
eye quite approvingly at times. He was a widower--a good little
man, devoted to his three charming children. They took an immense
fancy to me, and I really think I could have got on with him. I am
very adaptable, as you know. But it was not to be. He got out of
his depth one morning, and unfortunately there was no one within
distance but myself who could swim. I knew what the result would
be. You remember Labiche's comedy, Les Voyage de Monsieur
Perrichon? Of course, every man hates having had his life saved,
after it is over; and you can imagine how he must hate having it
saved by a woman. But what was I to do? In either case he would
be lost to me, whether I let him drown or whether I rescued him.
So, as it really made no difference, I rescued him. He was very
grateful, and left the next morning.
"It is my destiny. No man has ever fallen in love with me, and no
man ever will. I used to worry myself about it when I was younger.
As a child I hugged to my bosom for years an observation I had
overheard an aunt of mine whisper to my mother one afternoon as
they sat knitting and talking, not thinking I was listening. 'You
never can tell,' murmured my aunt, keeping her eyes carefully fixed
upon her needles; 'children change so. I have known the plainest
girls grow up into quite beautiful women. I should not worry about
it if I were you--not yet awhile.' My mother was not at all a bad-
looking woman, and my father was decidedly handsome; so there
seemed no reason why I should not hope. I pictured myself the ugly
duckling of Andersen's fairy-tale, and every morning on waking I
would run straight to my glass and try to persuade myself that the
feathers of the swan were beginning at last to show themselves."
Miss Ramsbotham laughed, a genuine laugh of amusement, for of self-
pity not a trace was now remaining to her.
"Later I plucked hope again," continued Miss Ramsbotham her
confession, "from the reading of a certain school of fiction more
popular twenty years ago than now. In these romances the heroine
was never what you would call beautiful, unless in common with the
hero you happened to possess exceptional powers of observation.
But she was better than that, she was good. I do not regard as
time wasted the hours I spent studying this quaint literature. It
helped me, I am sure, to form habits that have since been of
service to me. I made a point, when any young man visitor happened
to be staying with us, of rising exceptionally early in the
morning, so that I always appeared at the breakfast-table fresh,
cheerful, and carefully dressed, with, when possible, a dew-
besprinkled flower in my hair to prove that I had already been out
in the garden. The effort, as far as the young man visitor was
concerned, was always thrown away; as a general rule, he came down
late himself, and generally too drowsy to notice anything much.
But it was excellent practice for me. I wake now at seven o'clock
as a matter of course, whatever time I go to bed. I made my own
dresses and most of our cakes, and took care to let everybody know
it. Though I say it who should not, I play and sing rather well.
I certainly was never a fool. I had no little brothers and sisters
to whom to be exceptionally devoted, but I had my cousins about the
house as much as possible, and damaged their characters, if
anything, by over-indulgence. My dear, it never caught even a
curate! I am not one of those women to run down men; I think them
delightful creatures, and in a general way I find them very
intelligent. But where their hearts are concerned it is the girl
with the frizzy hair, who wants two people to help her over the
stile, that is their idea of an angel. No man could fall in love
with me; he couldn't if he tried. That I can understand; but"--
Miss Ramsbotham sunk her voice to a more confidential tone--"what I
cannot understand is that I have never fallen in love with any man,
because I like them all."
"You have given the explanation yourself," suggested the bosom
friend--one Susan Fossett, the "Aunt Emma" of The Ladies' Journal,
a nice woman, but talkative. "You are too sensible."
Miss Ramsbotham shook her head, "I should just love to fall in
love. When I think about it, I feel quite ashamed of myself for
not having done so."
Whether it was this idea, namely, that it was her duty, or whether
it was that passion came to her, unsought, somewhat late in life,
and therefore all the stronger, she herself would perhaps have been
unable to declare. Certain only it is that at over thirty years of
age this clever, sensible, clear-seeing woman fell to sighing and
blushing, starting and stammering at the sounding of a name, as
though for all the world she had been a love-sick girl in her
Susan Fossett, her bosom friend, brought the strange tidings to
Bohemia one foggy November afternoon, her opportunity being a tea-
party given by Peter Hope to commemorate the birthday of his
adopted daughter and sub-editor, Jane Helen, commonly called Tommy.
The actual date of Tommy's birthday was known only to the gods; but
out of the London mist to wifeless, childless Peter she had come
the evening of a certain November the eighteenth, and therefore by
Peter and his friends November the eighteenth had been marked upon
the calendar as a day on which they should rejoice together.
"It is bound to leak out sooner or later," Susan Fossett was
convinced, "so I may as well tell you: that gaby Mary Ramsbotham
has got herself engaged."
"Nonsense!" was Peter Hope's involuntary ejaculation.
"Precisely what I mean to tell her the very next time I see her,"
"Who to?" demanded Tommy.
"You mean 'to whom.' The preeposition governs the objective case,"
corrected her James Douglas McTear, commonly called "The Wee
Laddie," who himself wrote English better than he spoke it.
"I meant 'to whom,'" explained Tommy.
"Ye didna say it," persisted the Wee Laddie.
"I don't know to whom," replied Miss Ramsbotham's bosom friend,
sipping tea and breathing indignation. "To something idiotic and
incongruous that will make her life a misery to her."
Somerville, the briefless, held that in the absence of all data
such conclusion was unjustifiable.
"If it had been to anything sensible," was Miss Fossett's opinion,
"she would not have kept me in the dark about it, to spring it upon
me like a bombshell. I've never had so much as a hint from her
until I received this absurd scrawl an hour ago."
Miss Fossett produced from her bag a letter written in pencil.
"There can be no harm in your hearing it," was Miss Fossett's
excuse; "it will give you an idea of the state of the poor thing's
The tea-drinkers left their cups and gathered round her. "Dear
Susan," read Miss Fossett, "I shall not be able to be with you to-
morrow. Please get me out of it nicely. I can't remember at the
moment what it is. You'll be surprised to hear that I'm ENGAGED--
to be married, I mean, I can hardly REALISE it. I hardly seem to
know where I am. Have just made up my mind to run down to
Yorkshire and see grandmamma. I must do SOMETHING. I must TALK to
SOMEBODY and--forgive me, dear--but you ARE so sensible, and just
now--well I don't FEEL sensible. Will tell you all about it when I
see you--next week, perhaps. You must TRY to like him. He is SO
handsome and REALLY clever--in his own way. Don't scold me. I
never thought it possible that ANYONE could be so happy. It's
quite a different sort of happiness to ANY other sort of happiness.
I don't know how to describe it. Please ask Burcot to let me off
the antequarian congress. I feel I should do it badly. I am so
thankful he has NO relatives--in England. I should have been so
TERRIBLY nervous. Twelve hours ago I could not have DREAMT of it,
and now I walk on tiptoe for fear of waking up. Did I leave my
chinchilla at your rooms? Don't be angry with me. I should have
told you if I had known. In haste. Yours, Mary."
"It's dated from Marylebone Road, and yesterday afternoon she did
leave her chinchilla in my rooms, which makes me think it really
must be from Mary Ramsbotham. Otherwise I should have my doubts,"
added Miss Fossett, as she folded up the letter and replaced it in
"Id is love!" was the explanation of Dr. William Smith, his round,
red face illuminated with poetic ecstasy. "Love has gone to her--
has dransformed her once again into the leedle maid."
"Love," retorted Susan Fossett, "doesn't transform an intelligent,
educated woman into a person who writes a letter all in jerks,
underlines every other word, spells antiquarian with an 'e,' and
Burcott's name, whom she has known for the last eight years, with
only one 't.' The woman has gone stark, staring mad!"
"We must wait until we have seen him," was Peter's judicious view.
"I should be so glad to think that the dear lady was happy."
"So should I," added Miss Fossett drily.
"One of the most sensible women I have ever met," commented William
Clodd. "Lucky man, whoever he is. Half wish I'd thought of it
"I am not saying that he isn't," retorted Miss Fossett. "It isn't
him I'm worrying about."
"I preesume you mean 'he,'" suggested the Wee Laddie. "The verb
"For goodness' sake," suggested Miss Fossett to Tommy, "give that
man something to eat or drink. That's the worst of people who take
up grammar late in life. Like all converts, they become
"She's a ripping good sort, is Mary Ramsbotham," exclaimed Grindley
junior, printer and publisher of Good Humour. "The marvel to me is
that no man hitherto has ever had the sense to want her."
"Oh, you men!" cried Miss Fossett. "A pretty face and an empty
head is all you want."
"Must they always go together?" laughed Mrs. Grindley junior, nee
"Exceptions prove the rule," grunted Miss Fossett.
"What a happy saying that is," smiled Mrs. Grindley junior. "I
wonder sometimes how conversation was ever carried on before it was
"De man who would fall in love wid our dear frent Mary," thought
Dr. Smith, "he must be quite egsceptional."
"You needn't talk about her as if she was a monster--I mean were,"
corrected herself Miss Fossett, with a hasty glance towards the Wee
Laddie. "There isn't a man I know that's worthy of her."
"I mean," explained the doctor, "dat he must be a man of character-
-of brain. Id is de noble man dat is attracted by de noble woman."
"By the chorus-girl more often," suggested Miss Fossett.
"We must hope for the best," counselled Peter. "I cannot believe
that a clever, capable woman like Mary Ramsbotham would make a fool
"From what I have seen," replied Miss Fossett, "it's just the
clever people--as regards this particular matter--who do make fools
Unfortunately Miss Fossett's judgment proved to be correct. On
being introduced a fortnight later to Miss Ramsbotham's fiance, the
impulse of Bohemia was to exclaim, "Great Scott! Whatever in the
name of--" Then on catching sight of Miss Ramsbotham's
transfigured face and trembling hands Bohemia recollected itself in
time to murmur instead: "Delighted, I'm sure!" and to offer
mechanical congratulations. Reginald Peters was a pretty but
remarkably foolish-looking lad of about two-and-twenty, with curly
hair and receding chin; but to Miss Ramsbotham evidently a
promising Apollo. Her first meeting with him had taken place at
one of the many political debating societies then in fashion,
attendance at which Miss Ramsbotham found useful for purposes of
journalistic "copy." Miss Ramsbotham, hitherto a Radical of
pronounced views, he had succeeded under three months in converting
into a strong supporter of the Gentlemanly Party. His feeble
political platitudes, which a little while before she would have
seized upon merrily to ridicule, she now sat drinking in, her plain
face suffused with admiration. Away from him and in connection
with those subjects--somewhat numerous--about which he knew little
and cared less, she retained her sense and humour; but in his
presence she remained comparatively speechless, gazing up into his
somewhat watery eyes with the grateful expression of one learning
wisdom from a master.
Her absurd adoration--irritating beyond measure to her friends, and
which even to her lover, had he possessed a grain of sense, would
have appeared ridiculous--to Master Peters was evidently a
gratification. Of selfish, exacting nature, he must have found the
services of this brilliant woman of the world of much practical
advantage. Knowing all the most interesting people in London, it
was her pride and pleasure to introduce him everywhere. Her
friends put up with him for her sake; to please her made him
welcome, did their best to like him, and disguised their failure.
The free entry to a places of amusement saved his limited purse.
Her influence, he had instinct enough to perceive, could not fail
to be of use to him in his profession: that of a barrister. She
praised him to prominent solicitors, took him to tea with judges'
wives, interested examiners on his behalf. In return he overlooked
her many disadvantages, and did not fail to let her know it. Miss
Ramsbotham's gratitude was boundless.
"I do so wish I were younger and better looking," she sighed to the
bosom friend. "For myself, I don't mind; I have got used to it.
But it is so hard on Reggie. He feels it, I know he does, though
he never openly complains."
"He would be a cad if he did," answered Susan Fossett, who having
tried conscientiously for a month to tolerate the fellow, had in
the end declared her inability even to do more than avoid open
expression of cordial dislike. "Added to which I don't quite see
of what use it would be. You never told him you were young and
pretty, did you?"
"I told him, my dear," replied Miss Ramsbotham, "the actual truth.
I don't want to take any credit for doing so; it seemed the best
course. You see, unfortunately, I look my age. With most men it
would have made a difference. You have no idea how good he is. He
assured me he had engaged himself to me with his eyes open, and
that there was no need to dwell upon unpleasant topics. It is so
wonderful to me that he should care for me--he who could have half
the women in London at his feet."
"Yes, he's the type that would attract them, I daresay," agreed
Susan Fossett. "But are you quite sure that he does?--care for
you, I mean."
"My dear," returned Miss Ramsbotham, "you remember Rochefoucauld's
definition. 'One loves, the other consents to be loved.' If he
will only let me do that I shall be content. It is more than I had
any right to expect."
"Oh, you are a fool," told her bluntly her bosom friend.
"I know I am," admitted Miss Ramsbotham; "but I had no idea that
being a fool was so delightful."
Bohemia grew day by day more indignant and amazed. Young Peters
was not even a gentleman. All the little offices of courtship he
left to her. It was she who helped him on with his coat, and
afterwards adjusted her own cloak; she who carried the parcel, she
who followed into and out of the restaurant. Only when he thought
anyone was watching would he make any attempt to behave to her with
even ordinary courtesy. He bullied her, contradicted her in
public, ignored her openly. Bohemia fumed with impotent rage, yet
was bound to confess that so far as Miss Ramsbotham herself was
concerned he had done more to make her happy than had ever all
Bohemia put together. A tender light took up its dwelling in her
eyes, which for the first time it was noticed were singularly deep
and expressive. The blood, of which she possessed if anything too
much, now came and went, so that her cheeks, in place of their
insistent red, took on a varied pink and white. Life had entered
her thick dark hair, giving to it shade and shadow.
The woman began to grow younger. She put on flesh. Sex, hitherto
dormant, began to show itself; femininities peeped out. New tones,
suggesting possibilities, crept into her voice. Bohemia
congratulated itself that the affair, after all, might turn out
Then Master Peters spoiled everything by showing a better side to
his nature, and, careless of all worldly considerations, falling in
love himself, honestly, with a girl at the bun shop. He did the
best thing under the circumstances that he could have done: told
Miss Ramsbotham the plain truth, and left the decision in her
Miss Ramsbotham acted as anyone who knew her would have foretold.
Possibly, in the silence of her delightful little four-roomed flat
over the tailor's shop in Marylebone Road, her sober, worthy maid
dismissed for a holiday, she may have shed some tears; but, if so,
no trace of them was allowed to mar the peace of mind of Mr.
Peters. She merely thanked him for being frank with her, and by a
little present pain saving them both a future of disaster. It was
quite understandable; she knew he had never really been in love
with her. She had thought him the type of man that never does fall
in love, as the word is generally understood--Miss Ramsbotham did
not add, with anyone except himself--and had that been the case,
and he content merely to be loved, they might have been happy
together. As it was--well, it was fortunate he had found out the
truth before it was too late. Now, would he take her advice?
Mr. Peters was genuinely grateful, as well he might be, and would
consent to any suggestion that Miss Ramsbotham might make; felt he
had behaved shabbily, was very much ashamed of himself, would be
guided in all things by Miss Ramsbotham, whom he should always
regard as the truest of friends, and so on.
Miss Ramsbotham's suggestion was this: Mr. Peters, no more robust
of body than of mind, had been speaking for some time past of
travel. Having nothing to do now but to wait for briefs, why not
take this opportunity of visiting his only well-to-do relative, a
Canadian farmer. Meanwhile, let Miss Peggy leave the bun shop and
take up her residence in Miss Ramsbotham's flat. Let there be no
engagement--merely an understanding. The girl was pretty,
charming, good, Miss Ramsbotham felt sure; but--well, a little
education, a little training in manners and behaviour would not be
amiss, would it? If, on returning at the end of six months or a
year, Mr. Peters was still of the same mind, and Peggy also
wishful, the affair would be easier, would it not?
There followed further expressions of eternal gratitude. Miss
Ramsbotham swept all such aside. It would be pleasant to have a
bright young girl to live with her; teaching, moulding such an one
would be a pleasant occupation.
And thus it came to pass that Mr. Reginald Peters disappeared for a
while from Bohemia, to the regret of but few, and there entered
into it one Peggy Nutcombe, as pretty a child as ever gladdened the
eye of man. She had wavy, flaxen hair, a complexion that might
have been manufactured from the essence of wild roses, the nose
that Tennyson bestows upon his miller's daughter, and a mouth
worthy of the Lowther Arcade in its days of glory. Add to this the
quick grace of a kitten, with the appealing helplessness of a baby
in its first short frock, and you will be able to forgive Mr.
Reginald Peters his faithlessness. Bohemia looked from one to the
other--from the fairy to the woman--and ceased to blame. That the
fairy was as stupid as a camel, as selfish as a pig, and as lazy as
a nigger Bohemia did not know; nor--so long as her figure and
complexion remained what it was--would its judgment have been
influenced, even if it had. I speak of the Bohemian male.
But that is just what her figure and complexion did not do. Mr.
Reginald Peters, finding his uncle old, feeble, and inclined to be
fond, deemed it to his advantage to stay longer than he had
intended. Twelve months went by. Miss Peggy was losing her
kittenish grace, was becoming lumpy. A couple of pimples--one near
the right-hand corner of her rosebud mouth, and another on the
left-hand side of her tip-tilted nose--marred her baby face. At
the end of another six months the men called her plump, and the
women fat. Her walk was degenerating into a waddle; stairs caused
her to grunt. She took to breathing with her mouth, and Bohemia
noticed that her teeth were small, badly coloured, and uneven. The
pimples grew in size and number. The cream and white of her
complexion was merging into a general yellow. A certain greasiness
of skin was manifesting itself. Babyish ways in connection with a
woman who must have weighed about eleven stone struck Bohemia as
incongruous. Her manners, judged alone, had improved. But they
had not improved her. They did not belong to her; they did not fit
her. They sat on her as Sunday broadcloth on a yokel. She had
learned to employ her "h's" correctly, and to speak good grammar.
This gave to her conversation a painfully artificial air. The
little learning she had absorbed was sufficient to bestow upon her
an angry consciousness of her own invincible ignorance.
Meanwhile, Miss Ramsbotham had continued upon her course of
rejuvenation. At twenty-nine she had looked thirty-five; at
thirty-two she looked not a day older than five-and-twenty.
Bohemia felt that should she retrograde further at the same rate
she would soon have to shorten her frocks and let down her hair. A
nervous excitability had taken possession of her that was playing
strange freaks not only with her body, but with her mind. What it
gave to the one it seemed to take from the other. Old friends,
accustomed to enjoy with her the luxury of plain speech, wondered
in vain what they had done to offend her. Her desire was now
towards new friends, new faces. Her sense of humour appeared to be
departing from her; it became unsafe to jest with her. On the
other hand, she showed herself greedy for admiration and flattery.
Her former chums stepped back astonished to watch brainless young
fops making their way with her by complimenting her upon her
blouse, or whispering to her some trite nonsense about her
eyelashes. From her work she took a good percentage of her brain
power to bestow it on her clothes. Of course, she was successful.
Her dresses suited her, showed her to the best advantage.
Beautiful she could never be, and had sense enough to know it; but
a charming, distinguished-looking woman she had already become.
Also, she was on the high road to becoming a vain, egotistical,
It was during the process of this, her metamorphosis, that Peter
Hope one evening received a note from her announcing her intention
of visiting him the next morning at the editorial office of Good
Humour. She added in a postscript that she would prefer the
interview to be private.
Punctually to the time appointed Miss Ramsbotham arrived. Miss
Ramsbotham, contrary to her custom, opened conversation with the
weather. Miss Ramsbotham was of opinion that there was every
possibility of rain. Peter Hope's experience was that there was
always possibility of rain.
"How is the Paper doing?" demanded Miss Ramsbotham.
The Paper--for a paper not yet two years old--was doing well. "We
expect very shortly--very shortly indeed," explained Peter Hope,
"to turn the corner."
"Ah! that 'corner,'" sympathised Miss Ramsbotham.
"I confess," smiled Peter Hope, "it doesn't seem to be exactly a
right-angled corner. One reaches it as one thinks. But it takes
some getting round--what I should describe as a cornery corner."
"What you want," thought Miss Ramsbotham, "are one or two popular
"Popular features," agreed Peter guardedly, scenting temptation,
"are not to be despised, provided one steers clear of the vulgar
and the commonplace."
"A Ladies' Page!" suggested Miss Ramsbotham--"a page that should
make the woman buy it. The women, believe me, are going to be of
more and more importance to the weekly press."
"But why should she want a special page to herself?" demanded Peter
Hope. "Why should not the paper as a whole appeal to her?"
"It doesn't," was all Miss Ramsbotham could offer in explanation.
"We give her literature and the drama, poetry, fiction, the higher
"I know, I know," interrupted Miss Ramsbotham, who of late, among
other failings new to her, had developed a tendency towards
impatience; "but she gets all that in half a dozen other papers. I
have thought it out." Miss Ramsbotham leaned further across the
editorial desk and sunk her voice unconsciously to a confidential
whisper. "Tell her the coming fashions. Discuss the question
whether hat or bonnet makes you look the younger. Tell her whether
red hair or black is to be the new colour, what size waist is being
worn by the best people. Oh, come!" laughed Miss Ramsbotham in
answer to Peter's shocked expression; "one cannot reform the world
and human nature all at once. You must appeal to people's folly in
order to get them to listen to your wisdom. Make your paper a
success first. You can make it a power afterwards."
"But," argued Peter, "there are already such papers--papers devoted
to--to that sort of thing, and to nothing else."
"At sixpence!" replied the practical Miss Ramsbotham. "I am
thinking of the lower middle-class woman who has twenty pounds a
year to spend on dress, and who takes twelve hours a day to think
about it, poor creature. My dear friend, there is a fortune in it.
Think of the advertisements."
Poor Peter groaned--old Peter, the dreamer of dreams. But for
thought of Tommy! one day to be left alone to battle with a stony-
eyed, deaf world, Peter most assuredly would have risen in his
wrath, would have said to his distinguished-looking temptress, "Get
thee behind me, Miss Ramsbotham. My journalistic instinct whispers
to me that your scheme, judged by the mammon of unrighteousness, is
good. It is a new departure. Ten years hence half the London
journals will have adopted it. There is money in it. But what of
that? Shall I for mere dross sell my editorial soul, turn the
temple of the Mighty Pen into a den of--of milliners! Good
morning, Miss Ramsbotham. I grieve for you. I grieve for you as
for a fellow-worker once inspired by devotion to a noble calling,
who has fallen from her high estate. Good morning, madam."
So Peter thought as he sat tattooing with his finger-tips upon the
desk; but only said -
"It would have to be well done."
"Everything would depend upon how it was done," agreed Miss
Ramsbotham. "Badly done, the idea would be wasted. You would be
merely giving it away to some other paper."
"Do you know of anyone?" queried Peter.
"I was thinking of myself," answered Miss Ramsbotham.
"I am sorry," said Peter Hope.
"Why?" demanded Miss Ramsbotham. "Don't you think I could do it?"
"I think," said Peter, "no one could do it better. I am sorry you
should wish to do it--that is all."
"I want to do it," replied Miss Ramsbotham, a note of doggedness in
"How much do you propose to charge me?" Peter smiled.
"My dear lady--"
"I could not in conscience," explained Miss Ramsbotham, "take
payment from both sides. I am going to make a good deal out of it.
I am going to make out of it at least three hundred a year, and
they will be glad to pay it."
"The dressmakers. I shall be one of the most stylish women in
London," laughed Miss Ramsbotham.
"You used to be a sensible woman," Peter reminded her.
"I want to live."
"Can't you manage to do it without--without being a fool, my dear."
"No," answered Miss Ramsbotham, "a woman can't. I've tried it."
"Very well," agreed Peter, "be it so."
Peter had risen. He laid his shapely, white old hand upon the
woman's shoulder. "Tell me when you want to give it up. I shall
Thus it was arranged. Good Humour gained circulation and--of more
importance yet--advertisements; and Miss Ramsbotham, as she had
predicted, the reputation of being one of the best-dressed women in
London. Her reason for desiring such reputation Peter Hope had
shrewdly guessed. Two months later his suspicions were confirmed.
Mr. Reginald Peters, his uncle being dead, was on his way back to
His return was awaited with impatience only by the occupants of the
little flat in the Marylebone Road; and between these two the
difference of symptom was marked. Mistress Peggy, too stupid to
comprehend the change that had been taking place in her, looked
forward to her lover's arrival with delight. Mr. Reginald Peters,
independently of his profession, was in consequence of his uncle's
death a man of means. Miss Ramsbotham's tutelage, which had always
been distasteful to her, would now be at an end. She would be a
"lady" in the true sense of the word--according to Miss Peggy's
definition, a woman with nothing to do but eat and drink, and
nothing to think of but dress. Miss Ramsbotham, on the other hand,
who might have anticipated the home-coming of her quondam admirer
with hope, exhibited a strange condition of alarmed misery, which
increased from day to day as the date drew nearer.
The meeting--whether by design or accident was never known--took
place at an evening party given by the proprietors of a new
journal. The circumstance was certainly unfortunate for poor
Peggy, whom Bohemia began to pity. Mr. Peters, knowing both women
would be there and so on the look-out, saw in the distance among
the crowd of notabilities a superbly millinered, tall, graceful
woman, whose face recalled sensations he could not for the moment
place. Chiefly noticeable about her were her exquisite neck and
arms, and the air of perfect breeding with which she moved, talking
and laughing, through the distinguished, fashionable throng.
Beside her strutted, nervously aggressive, a vulgar, fat, pimply,
shapeless young woman, attracting universal attention by the
incongruity of her presence in the room. On being greeted by the
graceful lady of the neck and arms, the conviction forced itself
upon him that this could be no other than the once Miss Ramsbotham,
plain of face and indifferent of dress, whose very appearance he
had almost forgotten. On being greeted gushingly as "Reggie" by
the sallow-complexioned, over-dressed young woman he bowed with
evident astonishment, and apologised for a memory that, so he
assured the lady, had always been to him a source of despair.
Of course, he thanked his stars--and Miss Ramsbotham--that the
engagement had never been formal. So far as Mr. Peters was
concerned, there was an end to Mistress Peggy's dream of an
existence of everlasting breakfasts in bed. Leaving the Ramsbotham
flat, she returned to the maternal roof, and there a course of hard
work and plain living tended greatly to improve her figure and
complexion; so that in course of time, the gods smiling again upon
her, she married a foreman printer, and passes out of this story.
Meanwhile, Mr. Reginald Peters--older, and the possessor, perhaps,
of more sense--looked at Miss Ramsbotham with new eyes, and now not
tolerated but desired her. Bohemia waited to assist at the happy
termination of a pretty and somewhat novel romance. Miss
Ramsbotham had shown no sign of being attracted elsewhere.
Flattery, compliment, she continued to welcome; but merely, so it
seemed, as favourable criticism. Suitors more fit and proper were
now not lacking, for Miss Ramsbotham, though a woman less desirable
when won, came readily to the thought of wooing. But to all such
she turned a laughing face.
"I like her for it," declared Susan Fossett; "and he has improved--
there was room for it--though I wish it could have been some other.
There was Jack Herring--it would have been so much more suitable.
Or even Joe, in spite of his size. But it's her wedding, not ours;
and she will never care for anyone else."
And Bohemia bought its presents, and had them ready, but never gave
them. A few months later Mr. Reginald Peters returned to Canada, a
bachelor. Miss Ramsbotham expressed her desire for another private
interview with Peter Hope.
"I may as well keep on the Letter to Clorinda," thought Miss
Ramsbotham. "I have got into the knack of it. But I will get you
to pay me for it in the ordinary way."
"I would rather have done so from the beginning," explained Peter.
"I know. I could not in conscience, as I told you, take from both
sides. For the future--well, they have said nothing; but I expect
they are beginning to get tired of it."
"And you!" questioned Peter.
"Yes. I am tired of it myself," laughed Miss Ramsbotham. "Life
isn't long enough to be a well-dressed woman."
"You have done with all that?"
"I hope so," answered Miss Ramsbotham.
"And don't want to talk any more about it?" suggested Peter.
"Not just at present. I should find it so difficult to explain."
By others, less sympathetic than old Peter, vigorous attempts were
made to solve the mystery. Miss Ramsbotham took enjoyment in
cleverly evading these tormentors. Thwarted at every point, the
gossips turned to other themes. Miss Ramsbotham found interest
once again in the higher branches of her calling; became again, by
slow degrees, the sensible, frank, 'good sort' that Bohemia had
known, liked, respected--everything but loved.
Years later, to Susan Fossett, the case was made clear; and through
Susan Fossett, a nice enough woman but talkative, those few still
interested learned the explanation.
"Love," said Miss Ramsbotham to the bosom friend, "is not regulated
by reason. As you say, there were many men I might have married
with much more hope of happiness. But I never cared for any other
man. He was not intellectual, was egotistical, possibly enough
selfish. The man should always be older than the woman; he was
younger, and he was a weak character. Yet I loved him."
"I am glad you didn't marry him," said the bosom friend.
"So am I," agreed Miss Ramsbotham.
"If you can't trust me," had said the bosom friend at this point,
"I meant to do right," said Miss Ramsbotham, "upon my word of
honour I did, in the beginning."
"I don't understand," said the bosom friend.
"If she had been my own child," continued Miss Ramsbotham, "I could
not have done more--in the beginning. I tried to teach her, to put
some sense into her. Lord! the hours I wasted on that little
idiot! I marvel at my own patience. She was nothing but an
animal. An animal! she had only an animal's vices. To eat and
drink and sleep was her idea of happiness; her one ambition male
admiration, and she hadn't character enough to put sufficient curb
upon her stomach to retain it. I reasoned with her, I pleaded with
her, I bullied her. Had I persisted I might have succeeded by
sheer physical and mental strength in restraining her from ruining
herself. I was winning. I had made her frightened of me. Had I
gone on, I might have won. By dragging her out of bed in the
morning, by insisting upon her taking exercise, by regulating every
particle of food and drink she put into her mouth, I kept the
little beast in good condition for nearly three months. Then, I
had to go away into the country for a few days; she swore she would
obey my instructions. When I came back I found she had been in bed
most of the time, and had been living chiefly on chocolate and
cakes. She was curled up asleep in an easy-chair, snoring with her
mouth wide open, when I opened the door. And at sight of that
picture the devil came to me and tempted me. Why should I waste my
time, wear myself out in mind and body, that the man I loved should
marry a pig because it looked like an angel? 'Six months'
wallowing according to its own desires would reveal it in its true
shape. So from that day I left it to itself. No, worse than that-
-I don't want to spare myself--I encouraged her. I let her have a
fire in her bedroom, and half her meals in bed. I let her have
chocolate with tablespoonfuls of cream floating on the top: she
loved it. She was never really happy except when eating. I let
her order her own meals. I took a fiendish delight watching the
dainty limbs turning to shapeless fat, the pink-and-white
complexion growing blotchy. It is flesh that man loves; brain and
mind and heart and soul! he never thinks of them. This little
pink-and-white sow could have cut me out with Solomon himself. Why
should such creatures have the world arranged for them, and we not
be allowed to use our brains in our own defence? But for my
looking-glass I might have resisted the temptation, but I always
had something of the man in me: the sport of the thing appealed to
me. I suppose it was the nervous excitement under which I was
living that was changing me. All my sap was going into my body.
Given sufficient time, I might meet her with her own weapons,
animal against animal. Well, you know the result: I won. There
was no doubt about his being in love with me. His eyes would
follow me round the room, feasting on me. I had become a fine
animal. Men desired me, Do you know why I refused him? He was in
every way a better man than the silly boy I had fallen in love
with; but he came back with a couple of false teeth: I saw the
gold setting one day when he opened his mouth to laugh. I don't
say for a moment, my dear, there is no such thing as love--love
pure, ennobling, worthy of men and women, its roots in the heart
and nowhere else. But that love I had missed; and the other! I
saw it in its true light. I had fallen in love with him because he
was a pretty, curly-headed boy. He had fallen in love with Peggy
when she was pink-and-white and slim. I shall always see the look
that came into his eyes when she spoke to him at the hotel, the
look of disgust and loathing. The girl was the same; it was only
her body that had grown older. I could see his eyes fixed upon my
arms and neck. I had got to grow old in time, brown skinned, and
wrinkled. I thought of him, growing bald, fat--"
"If you had fallen in love with the right man," had said Susan
Fossett, "those ideas would not have come to you."
"I know," said Miss Ramsbotham. "He will have to like me thin and
in these clothes, just because I am nice, and good company, and
helpful. That is the man I am waiting for."
He never came along. A charming, bright-eyed, white-haired lady
occupies alone a little flat in the Marylebone Road, looks in
occasionally at the Writers' Club. She is still Miss Ramsbotham.
Bald-headed gentlemen feel young again talking to her: she is so
sympathetic, so big-minded, so understanding. Then, hearing the
clock strike, tear themselves from her with a sigh, and return
home--some of them--to stupid shrewish wives.
STORY THE FIFTH: Joey Loveredge agrees--on certain terms--to join
The most popular member of the Autolycus Club was undoubtedly
Joseph Loveredge. Small, chubby, clean-shaven, his somewhat
longish, soft, brown hair parted in the middle, strangers fell into
the error of assuming him to be younger than he really was. It is
on record that a leading lady novelist--accepting her at her own
estimate--irritated by his polite but firm refusal to allow her
entrance into his own editorial office without appointment, had
once boxed his ears, under the impression that he was his own
office-boy. Guests to the Autolycus Club, on being introduced to
him, would give to him kind messages to take home to his father,
with whom they remembered having been at school together. This
sort of thing might have annoyed anyone with less sense of humour.
Joseph Loveredge would tell such stories himself, keenly enjoying
the jest--was even suspected of inventing some of the more
improbable. Another fact tending to the popularity of Joseph
Loveredge among all classes, over and above his amiability, his
wit, his genuine kindliness, and his never-failing fund of good
stories, was that by care and inclination he had succeeded in
remaining a bachelor. Many had been the attempts to capture him;
nor with the passing of the years had interest in the sport shown
any sign of diminution. Well over the frailties and distempers so
dangerous to youth, of staid and sober habits, with an ever-
increasing capital invested in sound securities, together with an
ever-increasing income from his pen, with a tastefully furnished
house overlooking Regent's Park, an excellent and devoted cook and
house-keeper, and relatives mostly settled in the Colonies, Joseph
Loveredge, though inexperienced girls might pass him by with a
contemptuous sniff, was recognised by ladies of maturer judgment as
a prize not too often dangled before the eyes of spinsterhood. Old
foxes--so we are assured by kind-hearted country gentlemen-- rather
enjoy than otherwise a day with the hounds. However that may be,
certain it is that Joseph Loveredge, confident of himself, one
presumes, showed no particular disinclination to the chase.
Perhaps on the whole he preferred the society of his own sex, with
whom he could laugh and jest with more freedom, to whom he could
tell his stories as they came to him without the trouble of having
to turn them over first in his own mind; but, on the other hand,
Joey made no attempt to avoid female company whenever it came his
way; and then no cavalier could render himself more agreeable, more
unobtrusively attentive. Younger men stood by, in envious
admiration of the ease with which in five minutes he would
establish himself on terms of cosy friendship with the brilliant
beauty before whose gracious coldness they had stood shivering for
months; the daring with which he would tuck under his arm, so to
speak, the prettiest girl in the room, smooth down as if by magic
her hundred prickles, and tease her out of her overwhelming sense
of her own self-importance. The secret of his success was,
probably, that he was not afraid of them. Desiring nothing from
them beyond companionableness, a reasonable amount of appreciation
for his jokes--which without being exceptionally stupid they would
have found it difficult to withhold--with just sufficient
information and intelligence to make conversation interesting,
there was nothing about him by which they could lay hold of him.
Of course, that rendered them particularly anxious to lay hold of
him. Joseph's lady friends might, roughly speaking, be divided
into two groups: the unmarried, who wanted to marry him to
themselves; and the married, who wanted to marry him to somebody
else. It would be a social disaster, the latter had agreed among
themselves, if Joseph Loveredge should never wed.
"He would make such an excellent husband for poor Bridget."
"Or Gladys. I wonder how old Gladys really is?"
"Such a nice, kind little man."
"And when one thinks of the sort of men that ARE married, it does
seem such a pity!"
"I wonder why he never has married, because he's just the sort of
man you'd think WOULD have married."
"I wonder if he ever was in love."
"Oh, my dear, you don't mean to tell me that a man has reached the
age of forty without ever being in love!"
The ladies would sigh.
"I do hope if ever he does marry, it will be somebody nice. Men
are so easily deceived."
"I shouldn't be surprised myself a bit if something came of it with
Bridget. She's a dear girl, Bridget--so genuine."
"Well, I think myself, dear, if it's anyone, it's Gladys. I should
be so glad to see poor dear Gladys settled."
The unmarried kept their thoughts more to themselves. Each one,
upon reflection, saw ground for thinking that Joseph Loveredge had
given proof of feeling preference for herself. The irritating
thing was that, on further reflection, it was equally clear that
Joseph Loveredge had shown signs of preferring most of the others.
Meanwhile Joseph Loveredge went undisturbed upon his way. At eight
o'clock in the morning Joseph's housekeeper entered the room with a
cup of tea and a dry biscuit. At eight-fifteen Joseph Loveredge
arose and performed complicated exercises on an indiarubber pulley,
warranted, if persevered in, to bestow grace upon the figure and
elasticity upon the limbs. Joseph Loveredge persevered steadily,
and had done so for years, and was himself contented with the
result, which, seeing it concerned nobody else, was all that could
be desired. At half-past eight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays, Joseph Loveredge breakfasted on one cup of tea, brewed by
himself; one egg, boiled by himself; and two pieces of toast, the
first one spread with marmalade, the second with butter. On
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays Joseph Loveredge discarded eggs
and ate a rasher of bacon. On Sundays Joseph Loveredge had both
eggs and bacon, but then allowed himself half an hour longer for
reading the paper. At nine-thirty Joseph Loveredge left the house
for the office of the old-established journal of which he was the
incorruptible and honoured City editor. At one-forty-five, having
left his office at one-thirty, Joseph Loveredge entered the
Autolycus Club and sat down to lunch. Everything else in Joseph's
life was arranged with similar preciseness, so far as was possible
with the duties of a City editor. Monday evening Joseph spent with
musical friends at Brixton. Friday was Joseph's theatre night. On
Tuesdays and Thursdays he was open to receive invitations out to
dinner; on Wednesdays and Saturdays he invited four friends to dine
with him at Regent's Park. On Sundays, whatever the season, Joseph
Loveredge took an excursion into the country. He had his regular
hours for reading, his regular hours for thinking. Whether in
Fleet Street, or the Tyrol, on the Thames, or in the Vatican, you
might recognise him from afar by his grey frock-coat, his patent-
leather boots, his brown felt hat, his lavender tie. The man was a
born bachelor. When the news of his engagement crept through the
smoky portals of the Autolycus Club nobody believed it.
"Impossible!" asserted Jack Herring. "I've known Joey's life for
fifteen years. Every five minutes is arranged for. He could never
have found the time to do it."
"He doesn't like women, not in that way; I've heard him say so,"
explained Alexander the Poet. "His opinion is that women are the
artists of Society--delightful as entertainers, but troublesome to
"I call to mind," said the Wee Laddie, "a story he told me in this
verra room, barely three months agone: Some half a dozen of them
were gong home together from the Devonshire. They had had a joyous
evening, and one of them--Joey did not notice which--suggested
their dropping in at his place just for a final whisky. They were
laughing and talking in the dining-room, when their hostess
suddenly appeared upon the scene in a costume--so Joey described
it--the charm of which was its variety. She was a nice-looking
woman, Joey said, but talked too much; and when the first lull
occurred, Joey turned to the man sitting nighest to him, and who
looked bored, and suggested in a whisper that it was about time
"'Perhaps you had better go,' assented the bored-looking man.
'Wish I could come with you; but, you see, I live here.'"
"I don't believe it," said Somerville the Briefless. "He's been
cracking his jokes, and some silly woman has taken him seriously."
But the rumour grew into report, developed detail, lost all charm,
expanded into plain recital of fact. Joey had not been seen within
the Club for more than a week--in itself a deadly confirmation.
The question became: Who was she--what was she like?
"It's none of our set, or we should have heard something from her
side before now," argued acutely Somerville the Briefless.
"Some beastly kid who will invite us to dances and forget the
supper," feared Johnny Bulstrode, commonly called the Babe. "Old
men always fall in love with young girls."
"Forty," explained severely Peter Hope, editor and part proprietor
of Good Humour, "is not old."
"Well, it isn't young," persisted Johnny.
"Good thing for you, Johnny, if it is a girl," thought Jack
Herring. "Somebody for you to play with. I often feel sorry for
you, having nobody but grown-up people to talk to."
"They do get a bit stodgy after a certain age," agreed the Babe.
"I am hoping," said Peter, "it will be some sensible, pleasant
woman, a little over thirty. He is a dear fellow, Loveredge; and
forty is a very good age for a man to marry."
"Well, if I'm not married before I'm forty--" said the Babe.
"Oh, don't you fret," Jack Herring interrupted him--"a pretty boy
like you! We will give a ball next season, and bring you out, if
you're good--get you off our hands in no time."
It was August. Joey went away for his holiday without again
entering the Club. The lady's name was Henrietta Elizabeth Doone.
It was said by the Morning Post that she was connected with the
Doones of Gloucestershire.
Doones of Gloucestershire--Doones of Gloucestershire mused Miss
Ramsbotham, Society journalist, who wrote the weekly Letter to
Clorinda, discussing the matter with Peter Hope in the editorial
office of Good Humour. "Knew a Doon who kept a big second-hand
store in Euston Road and called himself an auctioneer. He bought a
small place in Gloucestershire and added an 'e' to his name.
Wonder if it's the same?"
"I had a cat called Elizabeth once," said Peter Hope.
"I don't see what that's got to do with it."
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