Part 5 out of 5
mounted fittings, but, on the other hand, he might give
me Baedeker's Switzerland, or `Skiing without Tears,' or
something of that sort."
"He would be more likely to say: 'She'll be going to
lots of dances, a fan will be sure to be useful.' "
"Yes, and I've got tons of fans, so you see where
the danger and anxiety lies. Now if there is one thing
more than another that I really urgently want it is furs.
I simply haven't any. I'm told that Davos is full of
Russians, and they are sure to wear the most lovely
sables and things. To be among people who are smothered
in furs when one hasn't any oneself makes one want to
break most of the Commandments."
"If it's furs that you're out for," said Eleanor,
"you will have to superintend the choice of them in
person. You can't be sure that your cousin knows the
difference between silver-fox and ordinary squirrel."
"There are some heavenly silver-fox stoles at
Goliath and Mastodon's," said Suzanne, with a sigh; "if I
could only inveigle Bertram into their building and take
him for a stroll through the fur department!"
"He lives somewhere near there, doesn't he?" said
Eleanor. "Do you know what his habits are? Does he take
a walk at any particular time of day?"
"He usually walks down to his club about three
o'clock, if it's a fine day. That takes him right past
Goliath and Mastodon's."
"Let us two meet him accidentally at the street
corner to-morrow," said Eleanor; "we can walk a little
way with him, and with luck we ought to be able to side-
track him into the shop. You can say you want to get a
hair-net or something. When we're safely there I can
say: 'I wish you'd tell me what you want for your
birthday.' Then you'll have everything ready to hand -
the rich cousin, the fur department, and the topic of
"It's a great idea," said Suzanne; "you really are a
brick. Come round to-morrow at twenty to three; don't be
late, we must carry out our ambush to the minute."
At a few minutes to three the next afternoon the
fur-trappers walked warily towards the selected corner.
In the near distance rose the colossal pile of Messrs.
Goliath and Mastodon's famed establishment. The
afternoon was brilliantly fine, exactly the sort of
weather to tempt a gentleman of advancing years into the
discreet exercise of a leisurely walk.
"I say, dear, I wish you'd do something for me this
evening," said Eleanor to her companion; "just drop in
after dinner on some pretext or other, and stay on to
make a fourth at bridge with Adela and the aunts.
Otherwise I shall have to play, and Harry Scarisbrooke is
going to come in unexpectedly about nine-fifteen, and I
particularly want to be free to talk to him while the
others are playing."
"Sorry, my dear, no can do," said Suzanne; "ordinary
bridge at threepence a hundred, with such dreadfully slow
players as your aunts, bores me to tears. I nearly go to
sleep over it."
"But I most particularly want an opportunity to talk
with Harry," urged Eleanor, an angry glint coming into
"Sorry, anything to oblige, but not that," said
Suzanne cheerfully; the sacrifices of friendship were
beautiful in her eyes as long as she was not asked to
Eleanor said nothing further on the subject, but the
corners of her mouth rearranged themselves.
"There's our man!" exclaimed Suzanne suddenly;
Mr. Bertram Kneyght greeted his cousin and her
friend with genuine heartiness, and readily accepted
their invitation to explore the crowded mart that stood
temptingly at their elbow. The plate-glass doors swung
open and the trio plunged bravely into the jostling
throng of buyers and loiterers.
"Is it always as full as this?" asked Bertram of
"More or less, and autumn sales are on just now,"
Suzanne, in her anxiety to pilot her cousin to the
desired haven of the fur department, was usually a few
paces ahead of the others, coming back to them now and
then if they lingered for a moment at some attractive
counter, with the nervous solicitude of a parent rook
encouraging its young ones on their first flying
"It's Suzanne's birthday on Wednesday next,"
confided Eleanor to Bertram Kneyght at a moment when
Suzanne had left them unusually far behind; "my birthday
comes the day before, so we are both on the look-out for
something to give each other."
"Ah," said Bertram. "Now, perhaps you can advise me
on that very point. I want to give Suzanne something,
and I haven't the least idea what she wants."
"She's rather a problem," said Eleanor. "She seems
to have everything one can think of, lucky girl. A fan
is always useful; she'll be going to a lot of dances at
Davos this winter. Yes, I should think a fan would
please her more than anything. After our birthdays are
over we inspect each other's muster of presents, and I
always feel dreadfully humble. She gets such nice
things, and I never have anything worth showing. You
see, none of my relations or any of the people who give
me presents are at all well off, so I can't expect them
to do anything more than just remember the day with some
little trifle. Two years ago an uncle on my mother's
side of the family, who had come into a small legacy,
promised me a silver-fox stole for my birthday. I can't
tell you how excited I was about it, how I pictured
myself showing it off to all my friends and enemies.
Then just at that moment his wife died, and, of course,
poor man, he could not be expected to think of birthday
presents at such a time. He has lived abroad ever since,
and I never got my fur. Do you know, to this day I can
scarcely look at a silver-fox pelt in a shop window or
round anyone's neck without feeling ready to burst into
tears. I suppose if I hadn't had the prospect of getting
one I shouldn't feel that way. Look, there is the fan
counter, on your left; you can easily slip away in the
crowd. Get her as nice a one as you can see - she is
such a dear, dear girl."
"Hullo, I thought I had lost you," said Suzanne,
making her way through an obstructive knot of shoppers.
"Where is Bertram?"
"I got separated from him long ago. I thought he
was on ahead with you," said Eleanor. "We shall never
find him in this crush."
Which turned out to be a true prediction.
"All our trouble and forethought thrown away," said
Suzanne sulkily, when they had pushed their way
fruitlessly through half a dozen departments.
"I can't think why you didn't grab him by the arm,"
said Eleanor; "I would have if I'd known him longer, but
I'd only just been introduced. It's nearly four now,
we'd better have tea."
Some days later Suzanne rang Eleanor up on the
"Thank you very much for the photograph frame. It
was just what I wanted. Very good of you. I say, do you
know what that Kneyght person has given me? Just what
you said he would - a wretched fan. What? Oh yes, quite
a good enough fan in its way, but still . . ."
"You must come and see what he's given me," came in
Eleanor's voice over the 'phone.
"You! Why should he give you anything?"
"Your cousin appears to be one of those rare people
of wealth who take a pleasure in giving good presents,"
came the reply.
"I wondered why he was so anxious to know where she
lived," snapped Suzanne to herself as she rang off.
A cloud has arisen between the friendships of the
two young women; as far as Eleanor is concerned the cloud
has a silver-fox lining.
THE PHILANTHROPIST AND THE HAPPY CAT
JOCANTHA BESSBURY was in the mood to be serenely and
graciously happy. Her world was a pleasant place, and it
was wearing one of its pleasantest aspects. Gregory had
managed to get home for a hurried lunch and a smoke
afterwards in the little snuggery; the lunch had been a
good one, and there was just time to do justice to the
coffee and cigarettes. Both were excellent in their way,
and Gregory was, in his way, an excellent husband.
Jocantha rather suspected herself of making him a very
charming wife, and more than suspected herself of having
a first-rate dressmaker.
"I don't suppose a more thoroughly contented
personality is to be found in all Chelsea," observed
Jocantha in allusion to herself; "except perhaps Attab,"
she continued, glancing towards the large tabby-marked
cat that lay in considerable ease in a corner of the
divan. "He lies there, purring and dreaming, shifting
his limbs now and then in an ecstasy of cushioned
comfort. He seems the incarnation of everything soft and
silky and velvety, without a sharp edge in his
composition, a dreamer whose philosophy is sleep and let
sleep; and then, as evening draws on, he goes out into
the garden with a red glint in his eyes and slays a
"As every pair of sparrows hatches out ten or more
young ones in the year, while their food supply remains
stationary, it is just as well that the Attabs of the
community should have that idea of how to pass an amusing
afternoon," said Gregory. Having delivered himself of
this sage comment he lit another cigarette, bade Jocantha
a playfully affectionate good-bye, and departed into the
"Remember, dinner's a wee bit earlier to-night, as
we're going to the Haymarket," she called after him.
Left to herself, Jocantha continued the process of
looking at her life with placid, introspective eyes. If
she had not everything she wanted in this world, at least
she was very well pleased with what she had got. She was
very well pleased, for instance, with the snuggery, which
contrived somehow to be cosy and dainty and expensive all
at once. The porcelain was rare and beautiful, the
Chinese enamels took on wonderful tints in the firelight,
the rugs and hangings led the eye through sumptuous
harmonies of colouring. It was a room in which one might
have suitably entertained an ambassador or an archbishop,
but it was also a room in which one could cut out
pictures for a scrap-book without feeling that one was
scandalising the deities of the place with one's litter.
And as with the snuggery, so with the rest of the house,
and as with the house, so with the other departments of
Jocantha's life; she really had good reason for being one
of the most contented women in Chelsea.
From being in a mood of simmering satisfaction with
her lot she passed to the phase of being generously
commiserating for those thousands around her whose lives
and circumstances were dull, cheap, pleasureless, and
empty. Work girls, shop assistants and so forth, the
class that have neither the happy-go-lucky freedom of the
poor nor the leisured freedom of the rich, came specially
within the range of her sympathy. It was sad to think
that there were young people who, after a long day's
work, had to sit alone in chill, dreary bedrooms because
they could not afford the price of a cup of coffee and a
sandwich in a restaurant, still less a shilling for a
Jocantha's mind was still dwelling on this theme
when she started forth on an afternoon campaign of
desultory shopping; it would be rather a comforting
thing, she told herself, if she could do something, on
the spur of the moment, to bring a gleam of pleasure and
interest into the life of even one or two wistful-
hearted, empty-pocketed workers; it would add a good deal
to her sense of enjoyment at the theatre that night. She
would get two upper circle tickets for a popular play,
make her way into some cheap tea-shop, and present the
tickets to the first couple of interesting work girls
with whom she could casually drop into conversation. She
could explain matters by saying that she was unable to
use the tickets herself and did not want them to be
wasted, and, on the other hand, did not want the trouble
of sending them back. On further reflection she decided
that it might be better to get only one ticket and give
it to some lonely-looking girl sitting eating her frugal
meal by herself; the girl might scrape acquaintance with
her next-seat neighbour at the theatre and lay the
foundations of a lasting friendship.
With the Fairy Godmother impulse strong upon her,
Jocantha marched into a ticket agency and selected with
immense care an upper circle seat for the "Yellow
Peacock," a play that was attracting a considerable
amount of discussion and criticism. Then she went forth
in search of a tea-shop and philanthropic adventure, at
about the same time that Attab sauntered into the garden
with a mind attuned to sparrow stalking. In a corner of
an A.B.C. shop she found an unoccupied table, whereat she
promptly installed herself, impelled by the fact that at
the next table was sitting a young girl, rather plain of
feature, with tired, listless eyes, and a general air of
uncomplaining forlornness. Her dress was of poor
material, but aimed at being in the fashion, her hair was
pretty, and her complexion bad; she was finishing a
modest meal of tea and scone, and she was not very
different in her way from thousands of other girls who
were finishing, or beginning, or continuing their teas in
London tea-shops at that exact moment. The odds were
enormously in favour of the supposition that she had
never seen the "Yellow Peacock"; obviously she supplied
excellent material for Jocantha's first experiment in
Jocantha ordered some tea and a muffin, and then
turned a friendly scrutiny on her neighbour with a view
to catching her eye. At that precise moment the girl's
face lit up with sudden pleasure, her eyes sparkled, a
flush came into her cheeks, and she looked almost pretty.
A young man, whom she greeted with an affectionate
"Hullo, Bertie," came up to her table and took his seat
in a chair facing her. Jocantha looked hard at the new-
comer; he was in appearance a few years younger than
herself, very much better looking than Gregory, rather
better looking, in fact, than any of the young men of her
set. She guessed him to be a well-mannered young clerk
in some wholesale warehouse, existing and amusing himself
as best he might on a tiny salary, and commanding a
holiday of about two weeks in the year. He was aware, of
course, of his good looks, but with the shy self-
consciousness of the Anglo-Saxon, not the blatant
complacency of the Latin or Semite. He was obviously on
terms of friendly intimacy with the girl he was talking
to, probably they were drifting towards a formal
engagement. Jocantha pictured the boy's home, in a
rather narrow circle, with a tiresome mother who always
wanted to know how and where he spent his evenings. He
would exchange that humdrum thraldom in due course for a
home of his own, dominated by a chronic scarcity of
pounds, shillings, and pence, and a dearth of most of the
things that made life attractive or comfortable.
Jocantha felt extremely sorry for him. She wondered if
he had seen the "Yellow Peacock"; the odds were
enormously in favour of the supposition that he had not.
The girl had finished her tea and would shortly be going
back to her work; when the boy was alone it would be
quite easy for Jocantha to say: "My husband has made
other arrangements for me this evening; would you care to
make use of this ticket, which would otherwise be
wasted?" Then she could come there again one afternoon
for tea, and, if she saw him, ask him how he liked the
play. If he was a nice boy and improved on acquaintance
he could be given more theatre tickets, and perhaps asked
to come one Sunday to tea at Chelsea. Jocantha made up
her mind that he would improve on acquaintance, and that
Gregory would like him, and that the Fairy Godmother
business would prove far more entertaining than she had
originally anticipated. The boy was distinctly
presentable; he knew how to brush his hair, which was
possibly an imitative faculty; he knew what colour of tie
suited him, which might be intuition; he was exactly the
type that Jocantha admired, which of course was accident.
Altogether she was rather pleased when the girl looked at
the clock and bade a friendly but hurried farewell to her
companion. Bertie nodded "good-bye," gulped down a
mouthful of tea, and then produced from his overcoat
pocket a paper-covered book, bearing the title "Sepoy and
Sahib, a tale of the great Mutiny."
The laws of tea-shop etiquette forbid that you
should offer theatre tickets to a stranger without having
first caught the stranger's eye. It is even better if
you can ask to have a sugar basin passed to you, having
previously concealed the fact that you have a large and
well-filled sugar basin on your own table; this is not
difficult to manage, as the printed menu is generally
nearly as large as the table, and can be made to stand on
end. Jocantha set to work hopefully; she had a long and
rather high-pitched discussion with the waitress
concerning alleged defects in an altogether blameless
muffin, she made loud and plaintive inquiries about the
tube service to some impossibly remote suburb, she talked
with brilliant insincerity to the tea-shop kitten, and as
a last resort she upset a milk-jug and swore at it
daintily. Altogether she attracted a good deal of
attention, but never for a moment did she attract the
attention of the boy with the beautifully-brushed hair,
who was some thousands of miles away in the baking plains
of Hindostan, amid deserted bungalows, seething bazaars,
and riotous barrack squares, listening to the throbbing
of tom-toms and the distant rattle of musketry.
Jocantha went back to her house in Chelsea, which
struck her for the first time as looking dull and over-
furnished. She had a resentful conviction that Gregory
would be uninteresting at dinner, and that the play would
be stupid after dinner. On the whole her frame of mind
showed a marked divergence from the purring complacency
of Attab, who was again curled up in his corner of the
divan with a great peace radiating from every curve of
But then he had killed his sparrow.
OF all the genuine Bohemians who strayed from time
to time into the would-be Bohemian circle of the
Restaurant Nuremberg, Owl Street, Soho, none was more
interesting and more elusive than Gebhard Knopfschrank.
He had no friends, and though he treated all the
restaurant frequenters as acquaintances he never seemed
to wish to carry the acquaintanceship beyond the door
that led into Owl Street and the outer world. He dealt
with them all rather as a market woman might deal with
chance passers-by, exhibiting her wares and chattering
about the weather and the slackness of business,
occasionally about rheumatism, but never showing a desire
to penetrate into their daily lives or to dissect their
He was understood to belong to a family of peasant
farmers, somewhere in Pomerania; some two years ago,
according to all that was known of him, he had abandoned
the labours and responsibilities of swine tending and
goose rearing to try his fortune as an artist in London.
"Why London and not Paris or Munich?" he had been
asked by the curious.
Well, there was a ship that left Stolpmunde for
London twice a month, that carried few passengers, but
carried them cheaply; the railway fares to Munich or
Paris were not cheap. Thus it was that he came to select
London as the scene of his great adventure.
The question that had long and seriously agitated
the frequenters of the Nuremberg was whether this goose-
boy migrant was really a soul-driven genius, spreading
his wings to the light, or merely an enterprising young
man who fancied he could paint and was pardonably anxious
to escape from the monotony of rye bread diet and the
sandy, swine-bestrewn plains of Pomerania. There was
reasonable ground for doubt and caution; the artistic
groups that foregathered at the little restaurant
contained so many young women with short hair and so many
young men with long hair, who supposed themselves to be
abnormally gifted in the domain of music, poetry,
painting, or stagecraft, with little or nothing to
support the supposition, that a self-announced genius of
any sort in their midst was inevitably suspect. On the
other hand, there was the ever-imminent danger of
entertaining, and snubbing, an angel unawares. There had
been the lamentable case of Sledonti, the dramatic poet,
who had been belittled and cold-shouldered in the Owl
Street hall of judgment, and had been afterwards hailed
as a master singer by the Grand Duke Constantine
Constantinovitch - "the most educated of the Romanoffs,"
according to Sylvia Strubble, who spoke rather as one who
knew every individual member of the Russian imperial
family; as a matter of fact, she knew a newspaper
correspondent, a young man who ate BORTSCH with the air
of having invented it. Sledonti's "Poems of Death and
Passion" were now being sold by the thousand in seven
European languages, and were about to be translated into
Syrian, a circumstance which made the discerning critics
of the Nuremberg rather shy of maturing their future
judgments too rapidly and too irrevocably.
As regards Knopfschrank's work, they did not lack
opportunity for inspecting and appraising it. However
resolutely he might hold himself aloof from the social
life of his restaurant acquaintances, he was not minded
to hide his artistic performances from their inquiring
gaze. Every evening, or nearly every evening, at about
seven o'clock, he would make his appearance, sit himself
down at his accustomed table, throw a bulky black
portfolio on to the chair opposite him, nod round
indiscriminately at his fellow-guests, and commence the
serious business of eating and drinking. When the coffee
stage was reached he would light a cigarette, draw the
portfolio over to him, and begin to rummage among its
contents. With slow deliberation he would select a few
of his more recent studies and sketches, and silently
pass them round from table to table, paying especial
attention to any new diners who might be present. On the
back of each sketch was marked in plain figures the
announcement "Price ten shillings."
If his work was not obviously stamped with the hall-
mark of genius, at any rate it was remarkable for its
choice of an unusual and unvarying theme. His pictures
always represented some well-known street or public place
in London, fallen into decay and denuded of its human
population, in the place of which there roamed a wild
fauna, which, from its wealth of exotic species, must
have originally escaped from Zoological Gardens and
travelling beast shows. "Giraffes drinking at the
fountain pools, Trafalgar Square," was one of the most
notable and characteristic of his studies, while even
more sensational was the gruesome picture of "Vultures
attacking dying camel in Upper Berkeley Street." There
were also photographs of the large canvas on which he had
been engaged for some months, and which he was now
endeavouring to sell to some enterprising dealer or
adventurous amateur. The subject was "Hyaenas asleep in
Euston Station," a composition that left nothing to be
desired in the way of suggesting unfathomed depths of
"Of course it may be immensely clever, it may be
something epoch-making in the realm of art," said Sylvia
Strubble to her own particular circle of listeners, "but,
on the other hand, it may be merely mad. One mustn't pay
too much attention to the commercial aspect of the case,
of course, but still, if some dealer would make a bid for
that hyaena picture, or even for some of the sketches, we
should know better how to place the man and his work."
"We may all be cursing ourselves one of these days,"
said Mrs. Nougat-Jones, "for not having bought up his
entire portfolio of sketches. At the same time, when
there is so much real talent going about, one does not
feel like planking down ten shillings for what looks like
a bit of whimsical oddity. Now that picture that he
showed us last week, 'Sand-grouse roosting on the Albert
Memorial,' was very impressive, and of course I could see
there was good workmanship in it and breadth of
treatment; but it didn't in the least convey the Albert
Memorial to me, and Sir James Beanquest tells me that
sand-grouse don't roost, they sleep on the ground."
Whatever talent or genius the Pomeranian artist
might possess, it certainly failed to receive commercial
sanction. The portfolio remained bulky with unsold
sketches, and the "Euston Siesta," as the wits of the
Nuremberg nicknamed the large canvas, was still in the
market. The outward and visible signs of financial
embarrassment began to be noticeable; the half-bottle of
cheap claret at dinner-time gave way to a small glass of
lager, and this in turn was displaced by water. The one-
and-sixpenny set dinner receded from an everyday event to
a Sunday extravagance; on ordinary days the artist
contented himself with a sevenpenny omelette and some
bread and cheese, and there were evenings when he did not
put in an appearance at all. On the rare occasions when
he spoke of his own affairs it was observed that he began
to talk more about Pomerania and less about the great
world of art.
"It is a busy time there now with us," he said
wistfully; "the schwines are driven out into the fields
after harvest, and must be looked after. I could be
helping to look after if I was there. Here it is
difficult to live; art is not appreciate."
"Why don't you go home on a visit?" some one asked
"Ah, it cost money! There is the ship passage to
Stolpmunde, and there is money that I owe at my lodgings.
Even here I owe a few schillings. If I could sell some
of my sketches - "
"Perhaps," suggested Mrs. Nougat-Jones, "if you were
to offer them for a little less, some of us would be glad
to buy a few. Ten shillings is always a consideration,
you know, to people who are not over well off. Perhaps
if you were to ask six or seven shillings - "
Once a peasant, always a peasant. The mere
suggestion of a bargain to be struck brought a twinkle of
awakened alertness into the artist's eyes, and hardened
the lines of his mouth.
"Nine schilling nine pence each," he snapped, and
seemed disappointed that Mrs. Nougat-Jones did not pursue
the subject further. He had evidently expected her to
offer seven and fourpence.
The weeks sped by, and Knopfschrank came more rarely
to the restaurant in Owl Street, while his meals on those
occasions became more and more meagre. And then came a
triumphal day, when he appeared early in the evening in a
high state of elation, and ordered an elaborate meal that
scarcely stopped short of being a banquet. The ordinary
resources of the kitchen were supplemented by an imported
dish of smoked goosebreast, a Pomeranian delicacy that
was luckily procurable at a firm of DELIKATESSEN
merchants in Coventry Street, while a long-necked bottle
of Rhine wine gave a finishing touch of festivity and
good cheer to the crowded table.
"He has evidently sold his masterpiece," whispered
Sylvia Strubble to Mrs. Nougat-Jones, who had come in
"Who has bought it?" she whispered back.
"Don't know; he hasn't said anything yet, but it
must be some American. Do you see, he has got a little
American flag on the dessert dish, and he has put pennies
in the music box three times, once to play the 'Star-
spangled Banner,' then a Sousa march, and then the 'Star-
spangled Banner' again. It must be an American
millionaire, and he's evidently got a very big price for
it; he's just beaming and chuckling with satisfaction."
"We must ask him who has bought it," said Mrs.
"Hush! no, don't. Let's buy some of his sketches,
quick, before we are supposed to know that he's famous;
otherwise he'll be doubling the prices. I am so glad
he's had a success at last. I always believed in him,
For the sum of ten shillings each Miss Strubble
acquired the drawings of the camel dying in Upper
Berkeley Street and of the giraffes quenching their
thirst in Trafalgar Square; at the same price Mrs.
Nougat-Jones secured the study of roosting sand-grouse.
A more ambitious picture, "Wolves and wapiti fighting on
the steps of the Athenaeum Club," found a purchaser at
"And now what are your plans?" asked a young man who
contributed occasional paragraphs to an artistic weekly.
"I go back to Stolpmunde as soon as the ship sails,"
said the artist, "and I do not return. Never."
"But your work? Your career as painter?"
"Ah, there is nossing in it. One starves. Till to-
day I have sold not one of my sketches. To-night you
have bought a few, because I am going away from you, but
at other times, not one."
"But has not some American - ?"
"Ah, the rich American," chuckled the artist. "God
be thanked. He dash his car right into our herd of
schwines as they were being driven out to the fields.
Many of our best schwines he killed, but he paid all
damages. He paid perhaps more than they were worth, many
times more than they would have fetched in the market
after a month of fattening, but he was in a hurry to get
on to Dantzig.
When one is in a hurry one must pay what one is
asked. God be thanked for rich Americans, who are always
in a hurry to get somewhere else. My father and mother,
they have now so plenty of money; they send me some to
pay my debts and come home. I start on Monday for
Stolpmunde and I do not come back. Never."
"But your picture, the hyaenas?"
"No good. It is too big to carry to Stolpmunde. I
In time he will be forgotten, but at present
Knopfschrank is almost as sore a subject as Sledonti with
some of the frequenters of the Nuremberg Restaurant, Owl