Tommy and Co.
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 4 out of 4
been doing for my sister. She's just been telling me."
"Don't mention it," said two or three.
"Awfully good of you, I'm sure," persisted the Babe. "Don't know
what she would have done without you."
A mere nothing, the Club assured him. The blushing modesty of the
Autolycus Club at hearing of their own good deeds was touching.
Left to themselves, they would have talked of quite other things.
As a matter of fact, they tried to.
"Never heard her speak so enthusiastically of anyone as she does of
you, Jack," said the Babe, turning to Jack Herring.
"Of course, you know, dear boy," explained Jack Herring, "anything
I could do for a sister of yours--"
"I know, dear boy," replied the Babe; "I always felt it."
"Say no more about it," urged Jack Herring.
"She couldn't quite make out that letter of yours this morning,"
continued the Babe, ignoring Jack's request. "She's afraid you
think her ungrateful."
"It seemed to me, on reflection," explained Jack Herring, "that on
one or two little matters she may have misunderstood me. As I
wrote her, there are days when I don't seem altogether to quite
know what I'm doing."
"Rather awkward," thought the Babe.
"It is," agreed Jack Herring. "Yesterday was one of them."
"She tells me you were most kind to her," the Babe reassured him.
"She thought at first it was a little uncivil, your refusing to
lend her any money. But as I put it to her --"
"It was silly of me," interrupted Jack. "I see that now. I went
round this morning meaning to make it all right. But she was gone,
and Mrs. Postwhistle seemed to think I had better leave things as
they were. I blame myself exceedingly."
"My dear boy, don't blame yourself for anything. You acted nobly,"
the Babe told him. "She's coming here to call for me this evening
on purpose to thank you."
"I'd rather not," said Jack Herring.
"Nonsense," said the Babe.
"You must excuse me," insisted Jack Herring. "I don't mean it
rudely, but really I'd rather not see her."
"But here she is," said the Babe, taking at that moment the card
from old Goslin's hand. "She will think it so strange."
"I'd really rather not," repeated poor Jack.
"It seems discourteous," suggested Somerville.
"You go," suggested Jack.
"She doesn't want to see me," explained Somerville.
"Yes she does," corrected him the Babe.
"I'd forgotten, she wants to see you both."
"If I go," said Jack, "I shall tell her the plain truth."
"Do you know," said Somerville, "I'm thinking that will be the
Miss Bulstrode was seated in the hall. Jack Herring and Somerville
both thought her present quieter style of dress suited her much
"Here he is," announced the Babe, in triumph. "Here's Jack Herring
and here's Somerville. Do you know, I could hardly persuade them
to come out and see you. Dear old Jack, he always was so shy."
Miss Bulstrode rose. She said she could never thank them
sufficiently for all their goodness to her. Miss Bulstrode seemed
quite overcome. Her voice trembled with emotion.
"Before we go further, Miss Bulstrode," said Jack Herring, "it will
be best to tell you that all along we thought you were your
brother, dressed up as a girl."
"Oh!" said the Babe, "so that's the explanation, is it? If I had
only known--" Then the Babe stopped, and wished he hadn't spoken.
Somerville seized him by the shoulders and, with a sudden jerk,
stood him beside his sister under the gas-jet.
"You little brute!" said Somerville. "It was you all along." And
the Babe, seeing the game was up, and glad that the joke had not
been entirely on one side, confessed.
Jack Herring and Somerville the Briefless went that night with
Johnny and his sister to the theatre--and on other nights. Miss
Bulstrode thought Jack Herring very nice, and told her brother so.
But she thought Somerville the Briefless even nicer, and later,
under cross-examination, when Somerville was no longer briefless,
told Somerville so himself.
But that has nothing to do with this particular story, the end of
which is that Miss Bulstrode kept the appointment made for Monday
afternoon between "Miss Montgomery" and Mr. Jowett, and secured
thereby the Marble Soap advertisement for the back page of Good
Humour for six months, at twenty-five pounds a week.
STORY THE SEVENTH: Dick Danvers presents his Petition
William Clodd, mopping his brow, laid down the screwdriver, and
stepping back, regarded the result of his labours with evident
"It looks like a bookcase," said William Clodd. "You might sit in
the room for half an hour and never know it wasn't a bookcase."
What William Clodd had accomplished was this: he had had prepared,
after his own design, what appeared to be four shelves laden with
works suggestive of thought and erudition. As a matter of fact, it
was not a bookcase, but merely a flat board, the books merely the
backs of volumes that had long since found their way into the
paper-mill. This artful deception William Clodd had screwed upon a
cottage piano standing in the corner of the editorial office of
Good Humour. Half a dozen real volumes piled upon the top of the
piano completed the illusion. As William Clodd had proudly
remarked, a casual visitor might easily have been deceived.
"If you had to sit in the room while she was practising mixed
scales, you'd be quickly undeceived," said the editor of Good
Humour, one Peter Hope. He spoke bitterly.
"You are not always in," explained Clodd. "There must be hours
when she is here alone, with nothing else to do. Besides, you will
get used to it after a while."
"You, I notice, don't try to get used to it," snarled Peter Hope.
"You always go out the moment she commences."
"A friend of mine," continued William Clodd, "worked in an office
over a piano-shop for seven years, and when the shop closed, it
nearly ruined his business; couldn't settle down to work for want
"Why doesn't he come here?" asked Peter Hope. "The floor above is
"Can't," explained William Clodd. "He's dead."
"I can quite believe it," commented Peter Hope.
"It was a shop where people came and practised, paying sixpence an
hour, and he had got to like it--said it made a cheerful background
to his thoughts. Wonderful what you can get accustomed to."
"What's the good of it?" demanded Peter Hope.
"What's the good of it!" retorted William Clodd indignantly.
"Every girl ought to know how to play the piano. A nice thing if
when her lover asks her to play something to him--"
"I wonder you don't start a matrimonial agency," sneered Peter
Hope. "Love and marriage--you think of nothing else."
"When you are bringing up a young girl--" argued Clodd.
"But you're not," interrupted Peter; "that's just what I'm trying
to get out of your head. It is I who am bringing her up. And
between ourselves, I wish you wouldn't interfere so much."
"You are not fit to bring up a girl."
"I've brought her up for seven years without your help. She's my
adopted daughter, not yours. I do wish people would learn to mind
their own business."
"You've done very well --"
"Thank you," said Peter Hope sarcastically. "It's very kind of
you. Perhaps when you've time, you'll write me out a testimonial."
"--up till now," concluded the imperturbable Clodd. "A girl of
eighteen wants to know something else besides mathematics and the
classics. You don't understand them."
"I do understand them," asserted Peter Hope. "What do you know
about them? You're not a father."
"You've done your best," admitted William Clodd in a tone of
patronage that irritated Peter greatly; "but you're a dreamer; you
don't know the world. The time is coming when the girl will have
to think of a husband."
"There's no need for her to think of a husband, not for years,"
retorted Peter Hope. "And even when she does, is strumming on the
piano going to help her?"
"I tink--I tink," said Dr. Smith, who had hitherto remained a
silent listener, "our young frent Clodd is right. You haf never
quite got over your idea dat she was going to be a boy. You haf
taught her de tings a boy should know."
"You cut her hair," added Clodd.
"I don't," snapped Peter.
"You let her have it cut--it's the same thing. At eighteen she
knows more about the ancient Greeks and Romans than she does about
her own frocks."
"De young girl," argued the doctor, "what is she? De flower dat
makes bright for us de garden of life, de gurgling brook dat
murmurs by de dusty highway, de cheerful fire--"
"She can't be all of them," snapped Peter, who was a stickler for
style. "Do keep to one simile at a time."
"Now you listen to plain sense," said William Clodd. "You want--we
all want--the girl to be a success all round."
"I want her--" Peter Hope was rummaging among the litter on the
desk. It certainly was not there. Peter pulled out a drawer-two
drawers. "I wish," said Peter Hope, "I wish sometimes she wasn't
quite so clever."
The old doctor rummaged among dusty files of papers in a corner.
Clodd found it on the mantelpiece concealed beneath the hollow foot
of a big brass candlestick, and handed it to Peter.
Peter had one vice--the taking in increasing quantities of snuff,
which was harmful for him, as he himself admitted. Tommy,
sympathetic to most masculine frailties, was severe, however, upon
"You spill it upon your shirt and on your coat," had argued Tommy.
"I like to see you always neat. Besides, it isn't a nice habit. I
do wish, dad, you'd give it up."
"I must," Peter had agreed. "I'll break myself of it. But not all
at once--it would be a wrench; by degrees, Tommy, by degrees."
So a compromise had been compounded. Tommy was to hide the snuff-
box. It was to be somewhere in the room and to be accessible, but
that was all. Peter, when self-control had reached the breaking-
point, might try and find it. Occasionally, luck helping Peter, he
would find it early in the day, when he would earn his own bitter
self-reproaches by indulging in quite an orgie. But more often
Tommy's artfulness was such that he would be compelled, by want of
time, to abandon the search. Tommy always knew when he had failed
by the air of indignant resignation with which he would greet her
on her return. Then perhaps towards evening, Peter, looking up,
would see the box open before his nose, above it, a pair of
reproving black eyes, their severity counterbalanced by a pair of
full red lips trying not to smile. And Peter, knowing that only
one pinch would be permitted, would dip deeply.
"I want her," said Peter Hope, feeling with his snuff-box in his
hand more confidence in his own judgment, "to be a sensible, clever
woman, capable of earning her own living and of being independent;
not a mere helpless doll, crying for some man to come and take care
"A woman's business," asserted Clodd, "is to be taken care of."
"Some women, perhaps," admitted Peter; "but Tommy, you know very
well, is not going to be the ordinary type of woman. She has
brains; she will make her way in the world."
"It doesn't depend upon brains," said Clodd. "She hasn't got the
"They are not sharp enough. The last 'bus home on a wet night
tells you whether a woman is capable of pushing her own way in the
world. Tommy's the sort to get left on the kerb."
"She's the sort," retorted Peter, "to make a name for herself and
to be able to afford a cab. Don't you bully me!" Peter sniffed
self-assertiveness from between his thumb and finger.
"Yes, I shall," Clodd told him, "on this particular point. The
poor girl's got no mother."
Fortunately for the general harmony the door opened at the moment
to admit the subject of discussion.
"Got that Daisy Blossom advertisement out of old Blatchley,"
announced Tommy, waving triumphantly a piece of paper over her
"No!" exclaimed Peter. "How did you manage it?"
"Asked him for it," was Tommy's explanation.
"Very odd," mused Peter; "asked the old idiot for it myself only
last week. He refused it point-blank."
Clodd snorted reproof. "You know I don't like your doing that sort
of thing. It isn't proper for a young girl--"
"It's all right," assured him Tommy; "he's bald!"
"That makes no difference," was Clodd's opinion.
"Yes it does," was Tommy's. "I like them bald."
Tommy took Peter's head between her hands and kissed it, and in
doing so noticed the tell-tale specks of snuff.
"Just a pinch, my dear," explained Peter, "the merest pinch."
Tommy took up the snuff-box from the desk. "I'll show you where
I'm going to put it this time." She put it in her pocket. Peter's
"What do you think of it?" said Clodd. He led her to the corner.
"Good idea, ain't it?"
"Why, where's the piano?" demanded Tommy.
Clodd turned in delighted triumph to the others.
"Humbug!" growled Peter.
"It isn't humbug," cried Clodd indignantly. "She thought it was a
bookcase--anybody would. You'll be able to sit there and practise
by the hour," explained Clodd to Tommy. "When you hear anybody
coming up the stairs, you can leave off."
"How can she hear anything when she--" A bright idea occurred to
Peter. "Don't you think, Clodd, as a practical man," suggested
Peter insinuatingly, adopting the Socratic method, "that if we got
her one of those dummy pianos--you know what I mean; it's just like
an ordinary piano, only you don't hear it?"
Clodd shook his head. "No good at all. Can't tell the effect she
"Quite so. Then, on the other hand, Clodd, don't you think that
hearing the effect they are producing may sometimes discourage the
Clodd's opinion was that such discouragement was a thing to be
Tommy, who had seated herself, commenced a scale in contrary
"Well, I'm going across to the printer's now," explained Clodd,
taking up his hat. "Got an appointment with young Grindley at
three. You stick to it. A spare half-hour now and then that you
never miss does wonders. You've got it in you." With these
encouraging remarks to Tommy, Clodd disappeared.
"Easy for him," muttered Peter bitterly. "Always does have an
appointment outside the moment she begins."
Tommy appeared to be throwing her very soul into the performance.
Passers-by in Crane Court paused, regarded the first-floor windows
of the publishing and editorial offices of Good Humour with
troubled looks, then hurried on.
"She has--remarkably firm douch!" shouted the doctor into Peter's
ear. "Will see you--evening. Someting--say to you."
The fat little doctor took his hat and departed. Tommy, ceasing
suddenly, came over and seated herself on the arm of Peter's chair.
"Feeling grumpy?" asked Tommy.
"It isn't," explained Peter, "that I mind the noise. I'd put up
with that if I could see the good of it."
"It's going to help me to get a husband, dad. Seems to me an odd
way of doing it; but Billy says so, and Billy knows all about
"I can't understand you, a sensible girl, listening to such
nonsense," said Peter. "It's that that troubles me."
"Dad, where are your wits?" demanded Tommy. "Isn't Billy acting
like a brick? Why, he could go into Fleet Street to half a dozen
other papers and make five hundred a year as advertising-agent--you
know he could. But he doesn't. He sticks to us. If my making
myself ridiculous with that tin pot they persuaded him was a piano
is going to please him, isn't it common sense and sound business,
to say nothing of good nature and gratitude, for me to do it? Dad,
I've got a surprise for him. Listen." And Tommy, springing from
the arm of Peter's chair, returned to the piano.
"What was it?" questioned Tommy, having finished. "Could you
"I think," said Peter, "it sounded like-- It wasn't 'Home, Sweet
Home,' was it?"
Tommy clapped her hands. "Yes, it was. You'll end by liking it
yourself, dad. We'll have musical 'At Homes.'"
"Tommy, have I brought you up properly, do you think?"
"No dad, you haven't. You have let me have my own way too much.
You know the proverb: 'Good mothers make bad daughters.' Clodd's
right; you've spoilt me, dad. Do you remember, dad, when I first
came to you, seven years ago, a ragged little brat out of the
streets, that didn't know itself whether 'twas a boy or a girl? Do
you know what I thought to myself the moment I set eyes on you?
'Here's a soft old juggins; I'll be all right if I can get in
here!' It makes you smart, knocking about in the gutters and being
knocked about; you read faces quickly."
"Do you remember your cooking, Tommy? You 'had an aptitude for
it,' according to your own idea."
Tommy laughed. "I wonder how you stood it."
"You were so obstinate. You came to me as 'cook and housekeeper,'
and as cook and housekeeper, and as nothing else, would you remain.
If I suggested any change, up would go your chin into the air. I
dared not even dine out too often, you were such a little tyrant.
The only thing you were always ready to do, if I wasn't satisfied,
was to march out of the house and leave me. Wherever did you get
that savage independence of yours?"
"I don't know. I think it must have been from a woman--perhaps she
was my mother; I don't know--who used to sit up in the bed and
cough, all night it seemed to me. People would come to see us--
ladies in fine clothes, and gentlemen with oily hair. I think they
wanted to help us. Many of them had kind voices. But always a
hard look would come into her face, and she would tell them what
even then I knew to be untrue--it was one of the first things I can
recollect--that we had everything we wanted, that we needed no help
from anyone. They would go away, shrugging their shoulders. I
grew up with the feeling that seemed to have been burnt into my
brain, that to take from anybody anything you had not earned was
shameful. I don't think I could do it even now, not even from you.
I am useful to you, dad--I do help you?"
There had crept a terror into Tommy's voice. Peter felt the little
hands upon his arm trembling.
"Help me? Why, you work like a nigger--like a nigger is supposed
to work, but doesn't. No one--whatever we paid him--would do half
as much. I don't want to make your head more swollen than it is,
young woman, but you have talent; I am not sure it is not genius."
Peter felt the little hands tighten upon his arm.
"I do want this paper to be a success; that is why I strum upon the
piano to please Clodd. Is it humbug?"
"I am afraid it is; but humbug is the sweet oil that helps this
whirling world of ours to spin round smoothly. Too much of it
cloys: we drop it very gently."
"But you are sure it is only humbug, Tommy?" It was Peter's voice
into which fear had entered now. "It is not that you think he
understands you better than I do--would do more for you?"
"You want me to tell you all I think of you, and that isn't good
for you, dad--not too often. It would be you who would have
swelled head then."
"I am jealous, Tommy, jealous of everyone that comes near you.
Life is a tragedy for us old folks. We know there must come a day
when you will leave the nest, leave us voiceless, ridiculous,
flitting among bare branches. You will understand later, when you
have children of your own. This foolish talk about a husband! It
is worse for a man than it is for the woman. The mother lives
again in her child: the man is robbed of all."
"Dad, do you know how old I am?--that you are talking terrible
"He will come, little girl."
"Yes," answered Tommy, "I suppose he will; but not for a long
while--oh, not for a very long while. Don't. It frightens me."
"You? Why should it frighten you?"
"The pain. It makes me feel a coward. I want it to come; I want
to taste life, to drain the whole cup, to understand, to feel. But
that is the boy in me. I am more than half a boy, I always have
been. But the woman in me: it shrinks from the ordeal."
"You talk, Tommy, as if love were something terrible."
"There are all things in it; I feel it, dad. It is life in a
single draught. It frightens me."
The child was standing with her face hidden behind her hands. Old
Peter, always very bad at lying, stood silent, not knowing what
consolation to concoct. The shadow passed, and Tommy's laughing
eyes looked out again.
"Haven't you anything to do, dad--outside, I mean?"
"You want to get rid of me?"
"Well, I've nothing else to occupy me till the proofs come in. I'm
going to practise, hard."
"I think I'll turn over my article on the Embankment," said Peter.
"There's one thing you all of you ought to be grateful to me for,"
laughed Tommy, as she seated herself at the piano. "I do induce
you all to take more fresh air than otherwise you would."
Tommy, left alone, set herself to her task with the energy and
thoroughness that were characteristic of her. Struggling with
complicated scales, Tommy bent her eyes closer and closer over the
pages of Czerny's Exercises. Glancing up to turn a page, Tommy, to
her surprise, met the eyes of a stranger. They were brown eyes,
their expression sympathetic. Below them, looking golden with the
sunlight falling on it, was a moustache and beard cut short in
Vandyke fashion, not altogether hiding a pleasant mouth, about the
corners of which lurked a smile.
"I beg your pardon," said the stranger. "I knocked three times.
Perhaps you did not hear me?"
"No, I didn't," confessed Tommy, closing the book of Czerny's
Exercises, and rising with chin at an angle that, to anyone
acquainted with the chart of Tommy's temperament, might have
suggested the advisability of seeking shelter.
"This is the editorial office of Good Humour, is it not?" inquired
"Is the editor in?"
"The editor is out."
"The sub-editor?" suggested the stranger.
"I am the sub-editor."
The stranger raised his eyebrows. Tommy, on the contrary, lowered
"Would you mind glancing through that?" The stranger drew from his
pocket a folded manuscript. "It will not take you a moment. I
ought, of course, to have sent it through the post; but I am so
tired of sending things through the post."
The stranger's manner was compounded of dignified impudence
combined with pathetic humility. His eyes both challenged and
pleaded. Tommy held out her hand for the paper and retired with it
behind the protection of the big editorial desk that, flanked on
one side by a screen and on the other by a formidable revolving
bookcase, stretched fortress-like across the narrow room. The
stranger remained standing.
"Yes. It's pretty," criticised the sub-editor. "Worth printing,
perhaps, not worth paying for."
"Not merely a--a nominal sum, sufficient to distinguish it from the
work of the amateur?"
Tommy pursed her lips. "Poetry is quite a drug in the market. We
can get as much as we want of it for nothing."
"Say half a crown," suggested the stranger.
Tommy shot a swift glance across the desk, and for the first time
saw the whole of him. He was clad in a threadbare, long, brown
ulster--long, that is, it would have been upon an ordinary man, but
the stranger happening to be remarkably tall, it appeared on him
ridiculously short, reaching only to his knees. Round his neck and
tucked into his waistcoat, thus completely hiding the shirt and
collar he may have been wearing or may not, was carefully arranged
a blue silk muffler. His hands, which were bare, looked blue and
cold. Yet the black frock-coat and waistcoat and French grey
trousers bore the unmistakable cut of a first-class tailor and
fitted him to perfection. His hat, which he had rested on the
desk, shone resplendent, and the handle of his silk umbrella was an
eagle's head in gold, with two small rubies for the eyes.
"You can leave it if you like," consented Tommy. "I'll speak to
the editor about it when he returns."
"You won't forget it?" urged the stranger.
"No," answered Tommy. "I shall not forget it."
Her black eyes were fixed upon the stranger without her being aware
of it. She had dropped unconsciously into her "stocktaking"
"Thank you very much," said the stranger. "I will call again to-
The stranger, moving backward to the door, went out.
Tommy sat with her face between her hands. Czerny's Exercises lay
"Anybody called?" asked Peter Hope.
"No," answered Tommy. "Oh, just a man. Left this--not bad."
"The old story," mused Peter, as he unfolded the manuscript. "We
all of us begin with poetry. Then we take to prose romances;
poetry doesn't pay. Finally, we write articles: 'How to be Happy
though Married,' 'What shall we do with our Daughters?' It is life
summarised. What is it all about?"
"Oh, the usual sort of thing," explained Tommy. "He wants half a
crown for it."
"Poor devil! Let him have it."
"That's not business," growled Tommy.
"Nobody will ever know," said Peter. "We'll enter it as
The stranger called early the next day, pocketed his half-crown,
and left another manuscript--an essay. Also he left behind him his
gold-handled umbrella, taking away with him instead an old alpaca
thing Clodd kept in reserve for exceptionally dirty weather. Peter
pronounced the essay usable.
"He has a style," said Peter; "he writes with distinction. Make an
appointment for me with him."
Clodd, on missing his umbrella, was indignant.
"What's the good of this thing to me?" commented Clodd. "Sort of
thing for a dude in a pantomime! The fellow must be a blithering
Tommy gave to the stranger messages from both when next he called.
He appeared more grieved than surprised concerning the umbrellas.
"You don't think Mr. Clodd would like to keep this umbrella in
exchange for his own?" he suggested.
"Hardly his style," explained Tommy.
"It's very peculiar," said the stranger, with a smile. "I have
been trying to get rid of this umbrella for the last three weeks.
Once upon a time, when I preferred to keep my own umbrella, people
used to take it by mistake, leaving all kinds of shabby things
behind them in exchange. Now, when I'd really like to get quit of
it, nobody will have it."
"Why do you want to get rid of it?" asked Tommy. "It looks a very
"You don't know how it hampers me," said the stranger. "I have to
live up to it. It requires a certain amount of resolution to enter
a cheap restaurant accompanied by that umbrella. When I do, the
waiters draw my attention to the most expensive dishes and
recommend me special brands of their so-called champagne. They
seem quite surprised if I only want a chop and a glass of beer. I
haven't always got the courage to disappoint them. It is really
becoming quite a curse to me. If I use it to stop a 'bus, three or
four hansoms dash up and quarrel over me. I can't do anything I
want to do. I want to live simply and inexpensively: it will not
Tommy laughed. "Can't you lose it?"
The stranger laughed also. "Lose it! You have no idea how honest
people are. I hadn't myself. The whole world has gone up in my
estimation within the last few weeks. People run after me for
quite long distances and force it into my hand--people on rainy
days who haven't got umbrellas of their own. It is the same with
this hat." The stranger sighed as he took it up. "I am always
trying to get OFF with something reasonably shabby in exchange for
it. I am always found out and stopped."
"Why don't you pawn them?" suggested the practicable Tommy.
The stranger regarded her with admiration.
"Do you know, I never thought of that," said the stranger. "Of
course. What a good idea! Thank you so much."
The stranger departed, evidently much relieved.
"Silly fellow," mused Tommy. "They won't give him a quarter of the
value, and he will say: 'Thank you so much,' and be quite
contented." It worried Tommy a good deal that day, the thought of
that stranger's helplessness.
The stranger's name was Richard Danvers. He lived the other side
of Holborn, in Featherstone Buildings, but much of his time came to
be spent in the offices of Good Humour.
Peter liked him. "Full of promise," was Peter's opinion. "His
criticism of that article of mine on 'The Education of Woman'
showed both sense and feeling. A scholar and a thinker."
Flipp, the office-boy (spelt Philip), liked him; and Flipp's
attitude, in general, was censorial. "He's all right," pronounced
Flipp; "nothing stuck-up about him. He's got plenty of sense,
lying hidden away."
Miss Ramsbotham liked him. "The men--the men we think about at
all," explained Miss Ramsbotham--"may be divided into two classes:
the men we ought to like, but don't; and the men there is no
particular reason for our liking, but that we do. Personally I
could get very fond of your friend Dick. There is nothing whatever
attractive about him except himself."
Even Tommy liked him in her way, though at times she was severe
"If you mean a big street," grumbled Tommy, who was going over
proofs, "why not say a big street? Why must you always call it a
"I am sorry," apologised Danvers. "It is not my own idea. You
told me to study the higher-class journals."
"I didn't tell you to select and follow all their faults. Here it
is again. Your crowd is always a 'hydra-headed monster'; your tea
'the cup that cheers but not inebriates.'"
"I am afraid I am a deal of trouble to you," suggested the staff.
"I am afraid you are," agreed the sub-editor.
"Don't give me up," pleaded the staff. "I misunderstood you, that
is all. I will write English for the future."
"Shall be glad if you will," growled the sub-editor.
Dick Danvers rose. "I am so anxious not to get what you call 'the
sack' from here."
The sub-editor, mollified, thought the staff need be under no
apprehension, provided it showed itself teachable.
"I have been rather a worthless fellow, Miss Hope," confessed Dick
Danvers. "I was beginning to despair of myself till I came across
you and your father. The atmosphere here--I don't mean the
material atmosphere of Crane Court--is so invigorating: its
simplicity, its sincerity. I used to have ideals. I tried to
stifle them. There is a set that sneers at all that sort of thing.
Now I see that they are good. You will help me?"
Every woman is a mother. Tommy felt for the moment that she wanted
to take this big boy on her knee and talk to him for his good. He
was only an overgrown lad. But so exceedingly overgrown! Tommy
had to content herself with holding out her hand. Dick Danvers
grasped it tightly.
Clodd was the only one who did not approve of him.
"How did you get hold of him?" asked Clodd one afternoon, he and
Peter alone in the office.
"He came. He came in the usual way," explained Peter.
"What do you know about him?"
"Nothing. What is there to know? One doesn't ask for a character
with a journalist."
"No, I suppose that wouldn't work. Found out anything about him
"Nothing against him. Why so suspicious of everybody?"
"Because you are just a woolly lamb and want a dog to look after
you. Who is he? On a first night he gives away his stall and
sneaks into the pit. When you send him to a picture-gallery, he
dodges the private view and goes on the first shilling day. If an
invitation comes to a public dinner, he asks me to go and eat it
for him and tell him what it's all about. That doesn't suggest the
frank and honest journalist, does it?"
"It is unusual, it certainly is unusual," Peter was bound to admit.
"I distrust the man," said Clodd. "He's not our class. What is he
"I will ask him, Clodd; I will ask him straight out."
"And believe whatever he tells you."
"No, I shan't."
"Then what's the good of asking him?"
"Well, what am I to do?" demanded the bewildered Peter.
"Get rid of him," suggested Clodd.
"Get rid of him?"
"Get him away! Don't have him in and out of the office all day
long-looking at her with those collie-dog eyes of his, arguing art
and poetry with her in that cushat-dove voice of his. Get him
clean away--if it isn't too late already."
"Nonsense," said Peter, who had turned white, however. "She's not
that sort of girl."
"Not that sort of girl!" Clodd had no patience with Peter Hope,
and told him so. "Why are there never inkstains on her fingers
now? There used to be. Why does she always keep a lemon in her
drawer? When did she last have her hair cut? I'll tell you if you
care to know--the week before he came, five months ago. She used
to have it cut once a fortnight: said it tickled her neck. Why
does she jump on people when they call her Tommy and tell them that
her name is Jane? It never used to be Jane. Maybe when you're a
bit older you'll begin to notice things for yourself."
Clodd jammed his hat on his head and flung himself down the stairs.
Peter, slipping out a minute later, bought himself an ounce of
"Fiddle-de-dee!" said Peter as he helped himself to his thirteenth
pinch. "Don't believe it. I'll sound her. I shan't say a word--
I'll just sound her."
Peter stood with his back to the fire. Tommy sat at her desk,
correcting proofs of a fanciful story: The Man Without a Past.
"I shall miss him," said Peter; "I know I shall."
"Miss whom?" demanded Tommy.
"Danvers," sighed Peter. "It always happens so. You get friendly
with a man; then he goes away--abroad, back to America, Lord knows
where. You never see him again."
Tommy looked up. There was trouble in her face.
"How do you spell 'harassed'?" questioned Tommy! "two r's or one."
"One r," Peter informed her, "two s's."
"I thought so." The trouble passed from Tommy's face.
"You don't ask when he's going, you don't ask where he's going,"
complained Peter. "You don't seem to be interested in the least."
"I was going to ask, so soon as I had finished correcting this
sheet," explained Tommy. "What reason does he give?"
Peter had crossed over and was standing where he could see her face
illumined by the lamplight.
"It doesn't upset you--the thought of his going away, of your never
seeing him again?"
"Why should it?" Tommy answered his searching gaze with a slightly
puzzled look. "Of course, I'm sorry. He was becoming useful. But
we couldn't expect him to stop with us always, could we?"
Peter, rubbing his hands, broke into a chuckle. "I told him 'twas
all fiddlesticks. Clodd, he would have it you were growing to care
for the fellow."
"For Dick Danvers?" Tommy laughed. "Whatever put that into his
"Oh, well, there were one or two little things that we had
"I mean that Clodd had noticed."
I'm glad it was Clodd that noticed them, not you, dad, thought
Tommy to herself. They'd have been pretty obvious if you had
"It naturally made me anxious," confessed Peter. "You see, we know
absolutely nothing of the fellow."
"Absolutely nothing," agreed Tommy.
"He may be a man of the highest integrity. Personally, I think he
is. I like him. On the other hand, he may be a thorough-paced
scoundrel. I don't believe for a moment that he is, but he may be.
Impossible to say."
"Quite impossible," agreed Tommy.
"Considered merely as a journalist, it doesn't matter. He writes
well. He has brains. There's an end of it."
"He is very painstaking," agreed Tommy.
"Personally," added Peter, "I like the fellow." Tommy had returned
to her work.
Of what use was Peter in a crisis of this kind? Peter couldn't
scold. Peter couldn't bully. The only person to talk to Tommy as
Tommy knew she needed to be talked to was one Jane, a young woman
of dignity with sense of the proprieties.
"I do hope that at least you are feeling ashamed of yourself,"
remarked Jane to Tommy that same night, as the twain sat together
in their little bedroom.
"Done nothing to be ashamed of," growled Tommy.
"Making a fool of yourself openly, for everybody to notice."
"Clodd ain't everybody. He's got eyes at the back of his head.
Sees things before they happen."
"Where's your woman's pride: falling in love with a man who has
never spoken to you, except in terms of the most ordinary
"I'm not in love with him."
"A man about whom you know absolutely nothing."
"Not in love with him."
"Where does he come from? Who is he?"
"I don't know, don't care; nothing to do with me."
"Just because of his soft eyes, and his wheedling voice, and that
half-caressing, half-devotional manner of his. Do you imagine he
keeps it specially for you? I gave you credit for more sense."
"I'm not in love with him, I tell you. He's down on his luck, and
I'm sorry for him, that's all."
"And if he is, whose fault was it, do you think?"
"It doesn't matter. We are none of us saints. He's trying to pull
himself together, and I respect him for it. It's our duty to be
charitable and kind to one another in this world!"
"Oh, well, I'll tell you how you can be kind to him: by pointing
out to him that he is wasting his time. With his talents, now that
he knows his business, he could be on the staff of some big paper,
earning a good income. Put it nicely to him, but be firm. Insist
on his going. That will be showing true kindness to him--and to
yourself, too, I'm thinking, my dear."
And Tommy understood and appreciated the sound good sense
underlying Jane's advice, and the very next day but one, seizing
the first opportunity, acted upon it; and all would have gone as
contemplated if only Dick Danvers had sat still and listened, as it
had been arranged in Tommy's programme that he should.
"But I don't want to go," said Dick.
"But you ought to want to go. Staying here with us you are doing
yourself no good."
He rose and came to where she stood with one foot upon the fender,
looking down into the fire. His doing this disconcerted her. So
long as he remained seated at the other end of the room, she was
the sub-editor, counselling the staff for its own good. Now that
she could not raise her eyes without encountering his, she felt
painfully conscious of being nothing more important than a little
woman who was trembling.
"It is doing me all the good in the world," he told her, "being
near to you."
"Oh, please do sit down again," she urged him. "I can talk to you
so much better when you're sitting down."
But he would not do anything he should have done that day. Instead
he took her hands in his, and would not let them go; and the reason
and the will went out of her, leaving her helpless.
"Let me be with you always," he pleaded. "It means the difference
between light and darkness to me. You have done so much for me.
Will you not finish your work? Will you not trust me? It is no
hot passion that can pass away, my love for you. It springs from
all that is best in me--from the part of me that is wholesome and
joyous and strong, the part of me that belongs to you."
Releasing her, he turned away.
"The other part of me--the blackguard--it is dead, dear,--dead and
buried. I did not know I was a blackguard, I thought myself a fine
fellow, till one day it came home to me. Suddenly I saw myself as
I really was. And the sight of the thing frightened me and I ran
away from it. I said to myself I would begin life afresh, in a new
country, free of every tie that could bind me to the past. It
would mean poverty--privation, maybe, in the beginning. What of
that? The struggle would brace me. It would be good sport. Ah,
well, you can guess the result: the awakening to the cold facts,
the reaction of feeling. In what way was I worse than other men?
Who was I, to play the prig in a world where others were laughing
and dining? I had tramped your city till my boots were worn into
holes. I had but to abandon my quixotic ideals--return to where
shame lay waiting for me, to be welcomed with the fatted calf. It
would have ended so had I not chanced to pass by your door that
afternoon and hear you strumming on the piano."
So Billy was right, after all, thought Tommy to herself, the piano
"It was so incongruous--a piano in Crane Court--I looked to see
where the noise came from. I read the name of the paper on the
doorpost. 'It will be my last chance,' I said to myself. 'This
shall decide it.'"
He came back to her. She had not moved. "I am not afraid to tell
you all this. You are so big-hearted, so human; you will
understand, you can forgive. It is all past. Loving you tells a
man that he has done with evil. Will you not trust me?"
She put her hands in his. "I am trusting you," she said, "with all
my life. Don't make a muddle of it, dear, if you can help it."
It was an odd wooing, as Tommy laughingly told herself when she
came to think it over in her room that night. But that is how it
What troubled her most was that he had not been quite frank with
Peter, so that Peter had to defend her against herself.
"I attacked you so suddenly," explained Peter, "you had not time to
think. You acted from instinct. A woman seeks to hide her love
even from herself."
"I expect, after all, I am more of a girl than a boy," feared
Tommy: "I seem to have so many womanish failings."
Peter took himself into quite places and trained himself to face
the fact that another would be more to her than he had ever been,
and Clodd went about his work like a bear with a sore head; but
they neither of them need have troubled themselves so much. The
marriage did not take place till nearly fifteen years had passed
away, and much water had to flow beneath old London Bridge before
The past is not easily got rid of. A tale was once written of a
woman who killed her babe and buried it in a lonely wood, and later
stole back in the night and saw there, white in the moonlight, a
child's hand calling through the earth, and buried it again and yet
again; but always that white baby hand called upwards through the
earth, trample it down as she would. Tommy read the story one
evening in an old miscellany, and sat long before the dead fire,
the book open on her lap, and shivered; for now she knew the fear
that had been haunting her.
Tommy lived expecting her. She came one night when Tommy was
alone, working late in the office. Tommy knew her the moment she
entered the door, a handsome woman, with snake-like, rustling
skirts. She closed the door behind her, and drawing forward a
chair, seated herself the other side of the desk, and the two
looked long and anxiously at one another.
"They told me I should find you here alone," said the woman. "It
is better, is it not?"
"Yes," said Tommy, "it is better."
"Tell me," said the woman, "are you very much in love with him?"
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because, if not--if you have merely accepted him thinking him a
good catch--which he isn't, my dear; hasn't a penny to bless
himself with, and never will if he marries you--why, then the
matter is soon settled. They tell me you are a business-like young
lady, and I am prepared to make a business-like proposition."
There was no answer. The woman shrugged her shoulders.
"If, on the other hand, you are that absurd creature, a young girl
in love--why, then, I suppose we shall have to fight for him."
"It would be more sporting, would it not?" suggested Tommy.
"Let me explain before you decide," continued the woman. "Dick
Danvers left me six months ago, and has kept from me ever since,
because he loved me."
"It sounds a curious reason."
"I was a married woman when Dick Danvers and I first met. Since he
left me--for my sake and his own--I have received information of my
"And does Dick--does he know?" asked the girl.
"Not yet. I have only lately learnt the news myself."
"Then if it is as you say, when he knows he will go back to you."
"There are difficulties in the way."
"My dear, this. To try and forget me, he has been making love to
you. Men do these things. I merely ask you to convince yourself
of the truth. Go away for six months--disappear entirely. Leave
him free--uninfluenced. If he loves you--if it be not merely a
sense of honour that binds him--you will find him here on your
return. If not--if in the interval I have succeeded in running off
with him, well, is not the two or three thousand pounds I am
prepared to put into this paper of yours a fair price for such a
Tommy rose with a laugh of genuine amusement. She could never
altogether put aside her sense of humour, let Fate come with what
terrifying face it would.
"You may have him for nothing--if he is that man," the girl told
her; "he shall be free to choose between us."
"You mean you will release him from his engagement?"
"That is what I mean."
"Why not take my offer? You know the money is needed. It will
save your father years of anxiety and struggle. Go away--travel,
for a couple of months, if you're afraid of the six. Write him
that you must be alone, to think things over."
The girl turned upon her.
"And leave you a free field to lie and trick?"
The woman, too, had risen. "Do you think he really cares for you?
At the moment you interest him. At nineteen every woman is a
mystery. When the mood is past--and do you know how long a man's
mood lasts, you poor chit? Till he has caught what he is running
after, and has tasted it--then he will think not of what he has
won, but of what he has lost: of the society from which he has cut
himself adrift; of all the old pleasures and pursuits he can no
longer enjoy; of the luxuries--necessities to a man of his stamp--
that marriage with you has deprived him of. Then your face will be
a perpetual reminder to him of what he has paid for it, and he will
curse it every time he sees it."
"You don't know him," the girl cried. "You know just a part of
him--the part you would know. All the rest of him is a good man,
that would rather his self-respect than all the luxuries you
"It seems to resolve itself into what manner of man he is," laughed
The girl looked at her watch. "He will be here shortly; he shall
tell us himself."
"How do you mean?"
"That here, between the two of us, he shall decide--this very
night." She showed her white face to the woman. "Do you think I
could live through a second day like to this?"
"The scene would be ridiculous."
"There will be none here to enjoy the humour of it."
"He will not understand."
"Oh, yes, he will," the girl laughed. "Come, you have all the
advantages; you are rich, you are clever; you belong to his class.
If he elects to stop with me, it will be because he is my man--
mine. Are you afraid?"
The woman shivered. She wrapped her fur cloak about her closer and
sat down again, and Tommy returned to her proofs. It was press-
night, and there was much to be done.
He came a little later, though how long the time may have seemed to
the two women one cannot say. They heard his footstep on the
stair. The woman rose and went forward, so that when he opened the
door she was the first he saw. But he made no sign. Possibly he
had been schooling himself for this moment, knowing that sooner or
later it must come. The woman held out her hand to him with a
"I have not the honour," he said.
The smile died from her face. "I do not understand," she said.
"I have not the honour," he repeated. "I do not know you."
The girl was leaning with her back against the desk in a somewhat
mannish attitude. He stood between them. It will always remain
Life's chief comic success: the man between two women. The
situation has amused the world for so many years. Yet, somehow, he
contrived to maintain a certain dignity.
"Maybe," he continued, "you are confounding me with a Dick Danvers
who lived in New York up to a few months ago. I knew him well--a
worthless scamp you had done better never to have met."
"You bear a wonderful resemblance to him," laughed the woman.
"The poor fool is dead," he answered. "And he left for you, my
dear lady, this dying message: that, from the bottom of his soul,
he was sorry for the wrong he had done you. He asked you to
forgive him--and forget him."
"The year appears to be opening unfortunately for me," said the
woman. "First my lover, then my husband."
He had nerved himself to fight the living. This was a blow from
the dead. The man had been his friend.
"He was killed, it appears, in that last expedition in July,"
answered the woman. "I received the news from the Foreign Office
only a fortnight ago."
An ugly look came into his eyes--the look of a cornered creature
fighting for its life. "Why have you followed me here? Why do I
find you here alone with her? What have you told her?"
The woman shrugged her shoulders. "Only the truth."
"All the truth?" he demanded--"all? Ah! be just. Tell her it was
not all my fault. Tell her all the truth."
"What would you have me tell her? That I played Potiphar's wife to
"Ah, no! The truth--only the truth. That you and I were a pair of
idle fools with the devil dancing round us. That we played a
fool's game, and that it is over."
"Is it over? Dick, is it over?" She flung her arms towards him;
but he threw her from him almost brutally. "The man is dead, I
tell you. His folly and his sin lie dead with him. I have nothing
to do with you, nor you with me."
"Dick!" she whispered. "Dick, cannot you understand? I must speak
with you alone."
But they did not understand, neither the man nor the child.
"Dick, are you really dead?" she cried. "Have you no pity for me?
Do you think that I have followed you here to grovel at your feet
for mere whim? Am I acting like a woman sane and sound? Don't you
see that I am mad, and why I am mad? Must I tell you before her?
Dick--" She staggered towards him, and the fine cloak slipped from
her shoulders; and then it was that Tommy changed from a child into
a woman, and raised the other woman from the ground with crooning
words of encouragement such as mothers use, and led her to the
inner room. "Do not go," she said, turning to Dick; "I shall be
back in a few minutes."
He crossed to one of the windows against which beat the City's
roar, and it seemed to him as the throb of passing footsteps
beating down through the darkness to where he lay in his grave.
She re-entered, closing the door softly behind her. "It is true?"
"It can be. I had not thought of it."
They spoke in low, matter-of-fact tones, as people do who have
grown weary of their own emotions.
"When did he go away--her husband?"
"About--it is February now, is it not? About eighteen months ago."
"And died just eight months ago. Rather conveniently, poor
"Yes, I'm glad he is dead--poor Lawrence."
"What is the shortest time in which a marriage can be arranged?"
"I do not know," he answered listlessly. "I do not intend to marry
"You would leave her to bear it alone?"
"It is not as if she were a poor woman. You can do anything with
"It will not mend reputation. Her position in society is
everything to that class of woman."
"My marrying her now," he pointed out, "would not save her."
"Practically speaking it would," the girl pleaded. "The world does
not go out of its way to find out things it does not want to know.
Marry her as quietly as possible and travel for a year or two."
"Why should I? Ah! it is easy enough to call a man a coward for
defending himself against a woman. What is he to do when he is
fighting for his life? Men do not sin with good women."
"There is the child to be considered," she urged--"your child. You
see, dear, we all do wrong sometimes. We must not let others
suffer for our fault more--more than we can help."
He turned to her for the first time. "And you?"
"I? Oh, I shall cry for a little while, but later on I shall
laugh, as often. Life is not all love. I have my work."
He knew her well by this time. And also it came to him that it
would be a finer thing to be worthy of her than even to possess
So he did her bidding and went out with the other woman. Tommy was
glad it was press-night. She would not be able to think for hours
to come, and then, perhaps, she would be feeling too tired. Work
can be very kind.
Were this an artistic story, here, of course, one would write
"Finis." But in the workaday world one never knows the ending till
it comes. Had it been otherwise, I doubt I could have found
courage to tell you this story of Tommy. It is not all true--at
least, I do not suppose so. One drifts unconsciously a little way
into dream-land when one sits oneself down to recall the happenings
of long ago; while Fancy, with a sly wink, whispers ever and again
to Memory: "Let me tell this incident--picture that scene: I can
make it so much more interesting than you would." But Tommy--how
can I put it without saying too much: there is someone I think of
when I speak of her? To remember only her dear wounds, and not the
healing of them, would have been a task too painful. I love to
dwell on their next meeting. Flipp, passing him on the steps, did
not know him, the tall, sunburnt gentleman with the sweet, grave-
faced little girl.
"Seen that face somewhere before," mused Flipp, as at the corner of
Bedford Street he climbed into a hansom, "seen it somewhere on a
For Dick Danvers, that he did not recognise Flipp, there was more
excuse. A very old young man had Flipp become at thirty. Flipp no
longer enjoyed popular journalism. He produced it.
The gold-bound doorkeeper feared the mighty Clodd would be unable
to see so insignificant an atom as an unappointed stranger, but
would let the card of Mr. Richard Danvers plead for itself. To the
gold-bound keeper's surprise came down the message that Mr. Danvers
was to be at once shown up.
"I thought, somehow, you would come to me first," said the portly
Clodd, advancing with out-stretched hand. "And this is--?"
"My little girl, Honor. We have been travelling for the last few
Clodd took the grave, small face between his big, rough hands:
"Yes. She is like you. But looks as if she were going to have
more sense. Forgive me, I knew your father my dear," laughed
Clodd; "when he was younger."
They lit their cigars and talked.
"Well, not exactly dead; we amalgamated it," winked Clodd in answer
to Danvers' inquiry. "It was just a trifle TOO high-class.
Besides, the old gentleman was not getting younger. It hurt him a
little at first. But then came Tommy's great success, and that has
reconciled him to all things. Do they know you are in England?"
"No," explained Danvers; "we arrived only last night."
Clodd called directions down the speaking-tube.
"You will find hardly any change in her. One still has to keep
one's eye upon her chin. She has not even lost her old habit of
taking stock of people. You remember." Clodd laughed.
They talked a little longer, till there came a whistle, and Clodd
put his ear to the tube.
"I have to see her on business," said Clodd, rising; "you may as
well come with me. They are still in the old place, Gough Square."
Tommy was out, but Peter was expecting her every minute.
Peter did not know Dick, but would not admit it. Forgetfulness was
a sign of age, and Peter still felt young.
"I know your face quite well," said Peter; "can't put a name to it,
Clodd whispered it to him, together with information bringing
history up to date. And then light fell upon the old lined face.
He came towards Dick, meaning to take him by both hands, but,
perhaps because he had become somewhat feeble, he seemed glad when
the younger man put his arms around him and held him for a moment.
It was un-English, and both of them felt a little ashamed of
"What we want," said Clodd, addressing Peter, "we three--you, I,
and Miss Danvers--is tea and cakes, with cream in them; and I know
a shop where they sell them. We will call back for your father in
half an hour." Clodd explained to Miss Danvers; "he has to talk
over a matter of business with Miss Hope."
"I know," answered the grave-faced little person. She drew Dick's
face down to hers and kissed it. And then the three went out
together, leaving Dick standing by the window.
"Couldn't we hide somewhere till she comes?" suggested Miss
Danvers. "I want to see her."
So they waited in the open doorway of a near printing-house till
Tommy drove up. Both Peter and Clodd watched the child's face with
some anxiety. She nodded gravely to herself three times, then
slipped her hand into Peter's.
Tommy opened the door with her latchkey and passed in.
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