Part 2 out of 2
We tramped on over heather and ling and springy turf till we reached
the old ruin known as the Hunting Tower; then Derrick seemed to
awake to the recollection of present things. He looked at his
"I must go back to my father," he said, for the first time breaking
"You shall do no such thing!" I cried. "Stay out here and I will
see to the Major, and give him the letter too if you like."
He caught at the suggestion, and as he thanked me I think there were
tears in his eyes. So I took the letter and set off for Ben
Rhydding, leaving him to get what relief he could from solitude,
space, and absolute quiet. Once I just glanced back, and somehow
the scene has always lingered in my memory--the great stretch of
desolate moor, the dull crimson of the heather, the lowering grey
clouds, the Hunting Tower a patch of deeper gloom against the gloomy
sky, and Derrick's figure prostrate, on the turf, the face hidden,
the hands grasping at the sprigs of heather growing near.
The Major was just ready to be helped into the garden when I reached
the hotel. We sat down in the very same place where Derrick had
read the news, and, when I judged it politic, I suddenly remembered
with apologies the letter that had been entrusted to me. The old
man received it with satisfaction, for he was fond of Lawrence and
proud of him, and the news of the engagement pleased him greatly.
He was still discussing it when, two hours later, Derrick returned.
"Here's good news!" said the Major, glancing up as his son
approached. "Trust Lawrence to fall on his feet! He tells me the
girl will have a thousand a year. You know her, don't you? What's
"I have met her," replied Derrick, with forced composure. "She is
"Lawrence has all his wits about him," growled the Major. "Whereas
you--" (several oaths interjected). "It will be a long while before
any girl with a dowry will look at you! What women like is a bold
man of action; what they despise, mere dabblers in pen and ink,
writers of poisonous sensational tales such as yours! I'm quoting
your own reviewers, so you needn't contradict me!"
Of course no one had dreamt of contradicting; it would have been the
worst possible policy.
"Shall I help you in?" said Derrick. "It is just dinner time."
And as I walked beside them to the hotel, listening to the Major's
flood of irritating words, and glancing now and then at Derrick's
grave, resolute face, which successfully masked such bitter
suffering, I couldn't help reflecting that here was courage
infinitely more deserving of the Victoria Cross than Lawrence's
impulsive rescue. Very patiently he sat through the long dinner. I
doubt if any but an acute observer could have told that he was in
trouble; and, luckily, the world in general observes hardly at all.
He endured the Major till it was time for him to take a Turkish
bath, and then having two hours' freedom, climbed with me up the
rock-covered hill at the back of the hotel. He was very silent.
But I remember that, as we watched the sun go down--a glowing
crimson ball, half veiled in grey mist--he said abruptly, "If
Lawrence makes her happy I can bear it. And of course I always knew
that I was not worthy of her."
Derrick's room was a large, gaunt, ghostly place in one of the
towers of the hotel, and in one corner of it was a winding stair
leading to the roof. When I went in next morning I found him
writing away at his novel just as usual, but when I looked at him it
seemed to me that the night had aged him fearfully. As a rule, he
took interruptions as a matter of course, and with perfect sweetness
of temper; but to-day he seemed unable to drag himself back to the
outer world. He was writing at a desperate pace too, and frowned
when I spoke to him. I took up the sheet of foolscap which he had
just finished and glanced at the number of the page--evidently he
had written an immense quantity since the previous day.
"You will knock yourself up if you go on at this rate!" I exclaimed.
"Nonsense!" he said sharply. "You know it never tires me."
Yet, all the same, he passed his hand very wearily over his
forehead, and stretched himself with the air of one who had been in
a cramping position for many hours.
"You have broken your vow!" I cried. "You have been writing at
"No," he said; "it was morning when I began--three o'clock. And it
pays better to get up and write than to lie awake thinking."
Judging by the speed with which the novel grew in the next few
weeks, I could tell that Derrick's nights were of the worst.
He began, too, to look very thin and haggard, and I more than once
noticed that curious 'sleep-walking' expression in his eyes; he
seemed to me just like a man who has received his death-blow, yet
still lingers--half alive, half dead. I had an odd feeling that it
was his novel which kept him going, and I began to wonder what would
happen when it was finished.
A month later, when I met him again at Bath, he had written the last
chapter of 'At Strife,' and we read it over the sitting-room fire on
Saturday evening. I was very much struck with the book; it seemed
to me a great advance on 'Lynwood's Heritage,' and the part which he
had written since that day at Ben Rhydding was full of an
indescribable power, as if the life of which he had been robbed had
flowed into his work. When he had done, he tied up the MS. in his
usual prosaic fashion, just as if it had been a bundle of clothes,
and put it on a side table.
It was arranged that I should take it to Davison--the publisher of
'Lynwood's Heritage'--on Monday, and see what offer he would make
for it. Just at that time I felt so sorry for Derrick that if he
had asked me to hawk round fifty novels I would have done it.
Sunday morning proved wet and dismal; as a rule the Major, who was
fond of music, attended service at the Abbey, but the weather forced
him now to stay at home. I myself was at that time no church-goer,
but Derrick would, I verily believe, as soon have fasted a week as
have given up a Sunday morning service; and having no mind to be
left to the Major's company, and a sort of wish to be near my
friend, I went with him. I believe it is not correct to admire Bath
Abbey, but for all that 'the lantern of the west' has always seemed
to me a grand place; as for Derrick, he had a horror of a 'dim
religious light,' and always stuck up for his huge windows, and I
believe he loved the Abbey with all his heart. Indeed, taking it
only from a sensuous point of view, I could quite imagine what a
relief he found his weekly attendance here; by contrast with his
home the place was Heaven itself.
As we walked back, I asked a question that had long been in my mind:
"Have you seen anything of Lawrence?"
"He saw us across London on our way from Ben Rhydding," said
Derrick, steadily. "Freda came with him, and my father was
delighted with her."
I wondered how they had got through the meeting, but of course my
curiosity had to go unsatisfied. Of one thing I might be certain,
namely, that Derrick had gone through with it like a Trojan, that he
had smiled and congratulated in his quiet way, and had done the best
to efface himself and think only of Freda. But as everyone knows:
"Face joy's a costly mask to wear,
'Tis bought with pangs long nourished
And rounded to despair;"
and he looked now even more worn and old than he had done at Ben
Rhydding in the first days of his trouble.
However, he turned resolutely away from the subject I had introduced
and began to discuss titles for his novel.
"It's impossible to find anything new," he said, "absolutely
impossible. I declare I shall take to numbers."
I laughed at this prosaic notion, and we were still discussing the
title when we reached home.
"Don't say anything about it at lunch," he said as we entered. "My
father detests my writing."
I nodded assent and opened the sitting-room door--a strong smell of
brandy instantly became apparent; the Major sat in the green velvet
chair, which had been wheeled close to the hearth. He was drunk.
Derrick gave an ejaculation of utter hopelessness.
"This will undo all the good of Ben Rhydding!" he said. "How on
earth has he managed to get it?"
The Major, however, was not so far gone as he looked; he caught up
the remark and turned towards us with a hideous laugh.
"Ah, yes," he said, "that's the question. But the old man has still
some brains, you see. I'll be even with you yet, Derrick. You
needn't think you're to have it all your own way. It's my turn now.
You've deprived me all this time of the only thing I care for in
life, and now I turn the tables on you. Tit for tat. Oh! yes, I've
turned your d--d scribblings to a useful purpose, so you needn't
All this had been shouted out at the top of his voice and freely
interlarded with expressions which I will not repeat; at the end he
broke again into a laugh, and with a look, half idiotic, half
devilish, pointed towards the grate.
"Good Heavens!" I said, "what have you done?"
By the side of the chair I saw a piece of brown paper, and, catching
it up, read the address--"Messrs. Davison, Paternoster Row"; in the
fireplace was a huge charred mass. Derrick caught his breath; he
stooped down and snatched from the fender a fragment of paper
slightly burned, but still not charred beyond recognition like the
rest. The writing was quite legible--it was his own writing--the
description of the Royalists' attack and Paul Wharncliffe's defence
of the bridge. I looked from the half-burnt scrap of paper to the
side table where, only the previous night, we had placed the novel,
and then, realising as far as any but an author could realise the
frightful thing that had happened, I looked in Derrick's face. Its
white fury appalled me. What he had borne hitherto from the Major,
God only knows, but this was the last drop in the cup. Daily
insults, ceaseless provocation, even the humiliations of personal
violence he had borne with superhuman patience; but this last
injury, this wantonly cruel outrage, this deliberate destruction of
an amount of thought, and labour, and suffering which only the
writer himself could fully estimate--this was intolerable.
What might have happened had the Major been sober and in the
possession of ordinary physical strength I hardly care to think. As
it was, his weakness protected him. Derrick's wrath was speechless;
with one look of loathing and contempt at the drunken man, he strode
out of the room, caught up his hat, and hurried from the house.
The Major sat chuckling to himself for a minute or two, but soon he
grew drowsy, and before long was snoring like a grampus. The old
landlady brought in lunch, saw the state of things pretty quickly,
shook her head and commiserated Derrick. Then, when she had left
the room, seeing no prospect that either of my companions would be
in a fit state for lunch, I made a solitary meal, and had just
finished when a cab stopped at the door and out sprang Derrick. I
went into the passage to meet him.
"The Major is asleep," I remarked.
He took no more notice than if I had spoken of the cat.
"I'm going to London," he said, making for the stairs. "Can you get
your bag ready? There's a train at 2.5."
Somehow the suddenness and the self-control with which he made this
announcement carried me back to the hotel at Southampton, where,
after listening to the account of the ship's doctor, he had
announced his intention of living with his father. For more than
two years he had borne this awful life; he had lost pretty nearly
all that there was to be lost and he had gained the Major's
vindictive hatred. Now, half maddened by pain, and having, as he
thought, so hopelessly failed, he saw nothing for it but to go--and
that at once.
I packed my bag, and then went to help him. He was cramming all his
possessions into portmanteaux and boxes; the Hoffman was already
packed, and the wall looked curiously bare without it. Clearly this
was no visit to London--he was leaving Bath for good, and who could
wonder at it?
"I have arranged for the attendant from the hospital to come in at
night as well as in the morning," he said, as he locked a
portmanteau that was stuffed almost to bursting. "What's the time?
We must make haste or we shall lose the train. Do, like a good
fellow, cram that heap of things into the carpet-bag while I speak
to the landlady."
At last we were off, rattling through the quiet streets of Bath, and
reaching the station barely in time to rush up the long flight of
stairs and spring into an empty carriage. Never shall I forget that
journey. The train stopped at every single station, and sometimes
in between; we were five mortal hours on the road, and more than
once I thought Derrick would have fainted. However, he was not of
the fainting order, he only grew more and more ghastly in colour and
rigid in expression.
I felt very anxious about him, for the shock and the sudden anger
following on the trouble about Freda seemed to me enough to unhinge
even a less sensitive nature. 'At Strife' was the novel which had,
I firmly believe, kept him alive through that awful time at Ben
Rhydding, and I began to fear that the Major's fit of drunken malice
might prove the destruction of the author as well as of the book.
Everything had, as it were, come at once on poor Derrick; yet I
don't know that he fared worse than other people in this respect.
Life, unfortunately, is for most of us no well-arranged story with a
happy termination; it is a chequered affair of shade and sun, and
for one beam of light there come very often wide patches of shadow.
Men seem to have known this so far back as Shakespeare's time, and
to have observed that one woe trod on another's heels, to have
battled not with a single wave, but with a 'sea of troubles,' and to
have remarked that 'sorrows come not singly, but in battalions.'
However, owing I believe chiefly to his own self-command, and to his
untiring faculty for taking infinite pains over his work, Derrick
did not break down, but pleasantly cheated my expectations. I was
not called on to nurse him through a fever, and consumption did not
mark him for her own. In fact, in the matter of illness, he was
always a most prosaic, unromantic fellow, and never indulged in any
of the euphonious and interesting ailments. In all his life, I
believe, he never went in for anything but the mumps--of all
complaints the least interesting--and, may be, an occasional
However, all this is a digression. We at length reached London, and
Derrick took a room above mine, now and then disturbing me with
nocturnal pacings over the creaking boards, but, on the whole,
proving himself the best of companions.
If I wrote till Doomsday, I could never make you understand how the
burning of his novel affected him--to this day it is a subject I
instinctively avoid with him--though the re-written 'At Strife' has
been such a grand success. For he did re-write the story, and that
at once. He said little; but the very next morning, in one of the
windows of our quiet sitting-room, often enough looking despairingly
at the grey monotony of Montague Street, he began at 'Page I,
Chapter I,' and so worked patiently on for many months to re-make as
far as he could what his drunken father had maliciously destroyed.
Beyond the unburnt paragraph about the attack on Mondisfield, he had
nothing except a few hastily scribbled ideas in his note-book, and
of course the very elaborate and careful historical notes which he
had made on the Civil War during many years of reading and research-
-for this period had always been a favourite study with him.
But, as any author will understand, the effort of re-writing was
immense, and this, combined with all the other troubles, tried
Derrick to the utmost. However, he toiled on, and I have always
thought that his resolute, unyielding conduct with regard to that
book proved what a man he was.
"How oft Fate's sharpest blow shall leave thee strong,
With some re-risen ecstacy of song."
F. W. H. Myers.
As the autumn wore on, we heard now and then from old Mackrill the
doctor. His reports of the Major were pretty uniform. Derrick used
to hand them over to me when he had read them; but, by tacit
consent, the Major's name was never mentioned.
Meantime, besides re-writing 'At Strife,' he was accumulating
material for his next book and working to very good purpose. Not a
minute of his day was idle; he read much, saw various phases of life
hitherto unknown to him, studied, observed, gained experience, and
contrived, I believe, to think very little and very guardedly of
But, on Christmas Eve, I noticed a change in him--and that very
night he spoke to me. For such an impressionable fellow, he had
really extraordinary tenacity, and, spite of the course of Herbert
Spencer that I had put him through, he retained his unshaken faith
in many things which to me were at that time the merest legends. I
remember very well the arguments we used to have on the vexed
question of 'Free-will,' and being myself more or less of a
fatalist, it annoyed me that I never could in the very slightest
degree shake his convictions on that point. Moreover, when I
plagued him too much with Herbert Spencer, he had a way of
retaliating, and would foist upon me his favourite authors. He was
never a worshipper of any one writer, but always had at least a
dozen prophets in whose praise he was enthusiastic.
Well, on this Christmas Eve, we had been to see dear old Ravenscroft
and his grand-daughter, and we were walking back through the quiet
precincts of the Temple, when he said abruptly:
"I have decided to go back to Bath to-morrow."
"Have you had a worse account?" I asked, much startled at this
"No," he replied, "but the one I had a week ago was far from good if
you remember, and I have a feeling that I ought to be there."
At that moment we emerged into the confusion of Fleet Street; but
when we had crossed the road I began to remonstrate with him, and
argued the folly of the idea all the way down Chancery Lane.
However, there was no shaking his purpose; Christmas and its
associations had made his life in town no longer possible for him.
"I must at any rate try it again and see how it works," he said.
And all I could do was to persuade him to leave the bulk of his
possessions in London, "in case," as he remarked, "the Major would
not have him."
So the next day I was left to myself again with nothing to remind me
of Derrick's stay but his pictures which still hung on the wall of
our sitting-room. I made him promise to write a full, true, and
particular account of his return, a bona-fide old-fashioned letter,
not the half-dozen lines of these degenerate days; and about a week
later I received the following budget:
"Dear Sydney,--I got down to Bath all right, and, thanks to your
'Study of Sociology,' endured a slow, and cold, and dull, and
depressing journey with the thermometer down to zero, and spirits to
correspond, with the country a monotonous white, and the sky a
monotonous grey, and a companion who smoked the vilest tobacco you
can conceive. The old place looks as beautiful as ever, and to my
great satisfaction the hills round about are green. Snow, save in
pictures, is an abomination. Milsom Street looked asleep, and Gay
Street decidedly dreary, but the inhabitants were roused by my
knock, and the old landlady nearly shook my hand off. My father has
an attack of jaundice and is in a miserable state. He was asleep
when I got here, and the good old landlady, thinking the front
sitting-room would be free, had invited 'company,' i.e., two or
three married daughters and their belongings; one of the children
beats Magnay's 'Carina' as to beauty--he ought to paint her. Happy
thought, send him and pretty Mrs. Esperance down here on spec. He
can paint the child for the next Academy, and meantime I could enjoy
his company. Well, all these good folks being just set-to at roast
beef, I naturally wouldn't hear of disturbing them, and in the end
was obliged to sit down too and eat at that hour of the day the
hugest dinner you ever saw--anything but voracious appetites
offended the hostess. Magnay's future model, for all its angelic
face, 'ate to repletion,' like the fair American in the story. Then
I went into my father's room, and shortly after he woke up and asked
me to give him some Friedrichshall water, making no comment at all
on my return, but just behaving as though I had been here all the
autumn, so that I felt as if the whole affair were a dream. Except
for this attack of jaundice, he has been much as usual, and when you
next come down you will find us settled into our old groove. The
quiet of it after London is extraordinary. But I believe it suits
the book, which gets on pretty fast. This afternoon I went up
Lansdowne and right on past the Grand Stand to Prospect Stile, which
is at the edge of a high bit of tableland, and looks over a splendid
stretch of country, with the Bristol Channel and the Welsh hills in
the distance. While I was there the sun most considerately set in
gorgeous array. You never saw anything like it. It was worth the
journey from London to Bath, I can assure you. Tell Magnay, and may
it lure him down; also name the model aforementioned.
"How is the old Q.C. and his pretty grandchild? That quaint old
room of theirs in the Temple somehow took my fancy, and the child
was divine. Do you remember my showing you, in a gloomy narrow
street here, a jolly old watchmaker who sits in his shop-window and
is for ever bending over sick clocks and watches? Well, he's still
sitting there, as if he had never moved since we saw him that
Saturday months ago. I mean to study him for a portrait; his
sallow, clean-shaved, wrinkled face has a whole story in it. I
believe he is married to a Xantippe who throws cold water over him,
both literally and metaphorically; but he is a philosopher--I'll
stake my reputation as an observer on that--he just shrugs his
sturdy old shoulders, and goes on mending clocks and watches. On
dark days he works by a gas jet--and then Rembrandt would enjoy
painting him. I look at him whenever my world is particularly awry,
and find him highly beneficial. Davison has forwarded me to-day two
letters from readers of 'Lynwood.' The first is from an irate
female who takes me to task for the dangerous tendency of the story,
and insists that I have drawn impossible circumstances and
impossible characters. The second is from an old clergyman, who
writes a pathetic letter of thanks, and tells me that it is almost
word for word the story of a son of his who died five years ago.
Query: shall I send the irate female the old man's letter, and save
myself the trouble of writing? But on the whole I think not; it
would be pearls before swine. I will write to her myself. Glad to
see you whenever you can run down.
("Never struck me before what pious initials mine are.")
The very evening I received this letter I happened to be dining at
the Probyn's. As luck would have it, pretty Miss Freda was staying
in the house, and she fell to my share. I always liked her, though
of late I had felt rather angry with her for being carried away by
the general storm of admiration and swept by it into an engagement
with Lawrence Vaughan. She was a very pleasant, natural sort of
talker, and she always treated me as an old friend. But she seemed
to me, that night, a little less satisfied than usual with life.
Perhaps it was merely the effect of the black lace dress which she
wore, but I fancied her paler and thinner, and somehow she seemed
"Where is Lawrence now?" I asked, as we went down to the dining-
"He is stationed at Dover," she replied. "He was up here for a few
hours yesterday; he came to say good-bye to me, for I am going to
Bath next Monday with my father, who has been very rheumatic lately-
-and you know Bath is coming into fashion again, all the doctors
"Major Vaughan is there," I said, "and has found the waters very
good, I believe; any day, at twelve o'clock, you may see him getting
out of his chair and going into the Pump Room on Derrick's arm. I
often wonder what outsiders think of them. It isn't often, is it,
that one sees a son absolutely giving up his life to his invalid
She looked a little startled.
"I wish Lawrence could be more with Major Vaughan," she said; "for
he is his father's favourite. You see he is such a good talker, and
Derrick--well, he is absorbed in his books; and then he has such
extravagant notions about war, he must be a very uncongenial
companion to the poor Major."
I devoured turbot in wrathful silence. Freda glanced at me.
"It is true, isn't it, that he has quite given up his life to
writing, and cares for nothing else?"
"Well, he has deliberately sacrificed his best chance of success by
leaving London and burying himself in the provinces," I replied
drily; "and as to caring for nothing but writing, why he never gets
more than two or three hours a day for it." And then I gave her a
minute account of his daily routine.
She began to look troubled.
"I have been misled," she said; "I had gained quite a wrong
impression of him."
"Very few people know anything at all about him," I said warmly;
"you are not alone in that."
"I suppose his next novel is finished now?" said Freda; "he told me
he had only one or two more chapters to write when I saw him a few
months ago on his way from Ben Rhydding. What is he writing now?"
"He is writing that novel over again," I replied.
"Over again? What fearful waste of time!"
"Yes, it has cost him hundreds of hours' work; it just shows what a
man he is, that he has gone through with it so bravely."
"But how do you mean? Didn't it do?"
Rashly, perhaps, yet I think unavoidably, I told her the truth.
"It was the best thing he had ever written, but unfortunately it was
destroyed, burnt to a cinder. That was not very pleasant, was it,
for a man who never makes two copies of his work?"
"It was frightful!" said Freda, her eyes dilating. "I never heard a
word about it. Does Lawrence know?"
"No, he does not; and perhaps I ought not to have told you, but I
was annoyed at your so misunderstanding Derrick. Pray never mention
the affair; he would wish it kept perfectly quiet."
"Why?" asked Freda, turning her clear eyes full upon mine.
"Because," I said, lowering my voice, "because his father burnt it."
She almost gasped.
"Yes, deliberately," I replied. "His illness has affected his
temper, and he is sometimes hardly responsible for his actions."
"Oh, I knew that he was irritable and hasty, and that Derrick
annoyed him. Lawrence told me that, long ago," said Freda. "But
that he should have done such a thing as that! It is horrible!
Poor Derrick, how sorry I am for him. I hope we shall see something
of them at Bath. Do you know how the Major is?"
"I had a letter about him from Derrick only this evening," I
replied; "if you care to see it, I will show it you later on."
And by-and-by, in the drawing-room, I put Derrick's letter into her
hands, and explained to her how for a few months he had given up his
life at Bath, in despair, but now had returned.
"I don't think Lawrence can understand the state of things," she
said wistfully. "And yet he has been down there."
I made no reply, and Freda, with a sigh, turned away.
A month later I went down to Bath and found, as my friend foretold,
everything going on in the old groove, except that Derrick himself
had an odd, strained look about him, as if he were fighting a foe
beyond his strength. Freda's arrival at Bath had been very hard on
him, it was almost more than he could endure. Sir Richard, blind as
a bat, of course, to anything below the surface, made a point of
seeing something of Lawrence's brother. And on the day of my
arrival Derrick and I had hardly set out for a walk, when we ran
across the old man.
Sir Richard, though rheumatic in the wrists, was nimble of foot and
an inveterate walker. He was going with his daughter to see over
Beckford's Tower, and invited us to accompany him. Derrick, much
against the grain, I fancy, had to talk to Freda, who, in her winter
furs and close-fitting velvet hat, looked more fascinating than
ever, while the old man descanted to me on Bath waters, antiquities,
etc., in a long-winded way that lasted all up the hill. We made our
way into the cemetery and mounted the tower stairs, thinking of the
past when this dreary place had been so gorgeously furnished. Here
Derrick contrived to get ahead with Sir Richard, and Freda lingered
in a sort of alcove with me.
"I have been so wanting to see you," she said, in an agitated voice.
"Oh, Mr. Wharncliffe, is it true what I have heard about the Major?
Does he drink?"
"Who told you?" I said, a little embarrassed.
"It was our landlady," said Freda; "she is the daughter of the
Major's landlady. And you should hear what she says of Derrick!
Why, he must be a downright hero! All the time I have been half
despising him"--she choked back a sob--"he has been trying to save
his father from what was certain death to him--so they told me. Do
you think it is true?"
"I know it is," I replied gravely.
"And about his arm--was that true?"
I signed an assent.
Her grey eyes grew moist.
"Oh," she cried, "how I have been deceived and how little Lawrence
appreciates him! I think he must know that I've misjudged him, for
he seems so odd and shy, and I don't think he likes to talk to me."
I looked searchingly into her truthful grey eyes, thinking of poor
Derrick's unlucky love-story.
"You do not understand him," I said; "and perhaps it is best so."
But the words and the look were rash, for all at once the colour
flooded her face. She turned quickly away, conscious at last that
the midsummer dream of those yachting days had to Derrick been no
dream at all, but a life-long reality.
I felt very sorry for Freda, for she was not at all the sort of girl
who would glory in having a fellow hopelessly in love with her. I
knew that the discovery she had made would be nothing but a sorrow
to her, and could guess how she would reproach herself for that
innocent past fancy, which, till now, had seemed to her so faint and
far-away--almost as something belonging to another life. All at
once we heard the others descending, and she turned to me with such
a frightened, appealing look, that I could not possibly have helped
going to the rescue. I plunged abruptly into a discourse on
Beckford, and told her how he used to keep diamonds in a tea-cup,
and amused himself by arranging them on a piece of velvet. Sir
Richard fled from the sound of my prosy voice, and, needless to say,
Derrick followed him. We let them get well in advance and then
followed, Freda silent and distraite, but every now and then asking
a question about the Major.
As for Derrick, evidently he was on guard. He saw a good deal of
the Merrifields and was sedulously attentive to them in many small
ways; but with Freda he was curiously reserved, and if by chance
they did talk together, he took good care to bring Lawrence's name
into the conversation. On the whole, I believe loyalty was his
strongest characteristic, and want of loyalty in others tried him
more severely than anything in the world.
As the spring wore on, it became evident to everyone that the Major
could not last long. His son's watchfulness and the enforced
temperance which the doctors insisted on had prolonged his life to a
certain extent, but gradually his sufferings increased and his
strength diminished. At last he kept his bed altogether.
What Derrick bore at this time no one can ever know. When, one
bright sunshiny Saturday, I went down to see how he was getting on,
I found him worn and haggard, too evidently paying the penalty of
sleepless nights and thankless care. I was a little shocked to hear
that Lawrence had been summoned, but when I was taken into the sick
room I realised that they had done wisely to send for the favourite
The Major was evidently dying.
Never can I forget the cruelty and malevolence with which his
bloodshot eyes rested on Derrick, or the patience with which the
dear old fellow bore his father's scathing sarcasms. It was while I
was sitting by the bed that the landlady entered with a telegram,
which she put into Derrick's hand.
"From Lawrence!" said the dying man triumphantly, "to say by what
train we may expect him. Well?" as Derrick still read the message
to himself, "can't you speak, you d--d idiot? Have you lost your d-
-d tongue? What does he say?"
"I am afraid he cannot be here just yet," said Derrick, trying to
tone down the curt message; "it seems he cannot get leave."
"Not get leave to see his dying father? What confounded nonsense.
Give me the thing here"; and he snatched the telegram from Derrick
and read it in a quavering, hoarse voice:
"Impossible to get away. Am hopelessly tied here. Love to my
father. Greatly regret to hear such bad news of him."
I think that message made the old man realise the worth of
Lawrence's often expressed affection for him. Clearly it was a
great blow to him. He threw down the paper without a word and
closed his eyes. For half an hour he lay like that, and we did not
disturb him. At last he looked up; his voice was fainter and his
manner more gentle.
"Derrick," he said, "I believe I've done you an injustice; it is you
who cared for me, not Lawrence, and I've struck your name out of my
will--have left all to him. After all, though you are one of those
confounded novelists, you've done what you could for me. Let some
one fetch a solicitor--I'll alter it--I'll alter it!"
I instantly hurried out to fetch a lawyer, but it was Saturday
afternoon, the offices were closed, and some time passed before I
had caught my man. I told him as we hastened back some of the facts
of the case, and he brought his writing materials into the sick room
and took down from the Major's own lips the words which would have
the effect of dividing the old man's possessions between his two
sons. Dr. Mackrill was now present; he stood on one side of the
bed, his fingers on the dying man's pulse. On the other side stood
Derrick, a degree paler and graver than usual, but revealing little
of his real feelings.
"Word it as briefly as you can," said the doctor.
And the lawyer scribbled away as though for his life, while the rest
of us waited in a wretched hushed state of tension. In the room
itself there was no sound save the scratching of the pen and the
laboured breathing of the old man; but in the next house we could
hear someone playing a waltz. Somehow it did not seem to me
incongruous, for it was 'Sweethearts,' and that had been the
favourite waltz of Ben Rhydding, so that I always connected it with
Derrick and his trouble, and now the words rang in my ears:
"Oh, love for a year, a week, a day,
But alas! for the love that loves alway."
If it had not been for the Major's return from India, I firmly
believed that Derrick and Freda would by this time have been
betrothed. Derrick had taken a line which necessarily divided them,
had done what he saw to be his duty; yet what were the results? He
had lost Freda, he had lost his book, he had damaged his chance of
success as a writer, he had been struck out of his father's will,
and he had suffered unspeakably. Had anything whatever been gained?
The Major was dying unrepentant to all appearance, as hard and
cynical an old worldling as I ever saw. The only spark of grace he
showed was that tardy endeavour to make a fresh will. What good had
it all been? What good?
I could not answer the question then, could only cry out in a sort
of indignation, "What profit is there in his blood?" But looking at
it now, I have a sort of perception that the very lack of apparent
profitableness was part of Derrick's training, while if, as I now
incline to think, there is a hereafter where the training begun here
is continued, the old Major in the hell he most richly deserved
would have the remembrance of his son's patience and constancy and
devotion to serve as a guiding light in the outer darkness.
The lawyer no longer wrote at railroad speed; he pushed back his
chair, brought the will to the bed, and placed the pen in the
trembling yellow hand of the invalid.
"You must sign your name here," he said, pointing with his finger;
and the Major raised himself a little, and brought the pen
quaveringly down towards the paper. With a sort of fascination I
watched the finely-pointed steel nib; it trembled for an instant or
two, then the pen dropped from the convulsed fingers, and with a cry
of intolerable anguish the Major fell back.
For some minutes there was a painful struggle; presently we caught a
word or two between the groans of the dying man.
"Too late!" he gasped, "too late!" And then a dreadful vision of
horrors seemed to rise before him, and with a terror that I can
never forget he turned to his son and clutched fast hold of his
hands: "Derrick!" he shrieked.
Derrick could not speak, but he bent low over the bed as though to
screen the dying eyes from those horrible visions, and with an odd
sort of thrill I saw him embrace his father.
When he raised his head the terror had died out of the Major's face;
all was over.
"To duty firm, to conscience true,
However tried and pressed,
In God's clear sight high work we do,
If we but do out best."
Lawrence came down to the funeral, and I took good care that he
should hear all about his father's last hours, and I made the
solicitor show him the unsigned will. He made hardly any comment on
it till we three were alone together. Then with a sort of kindly
patronage he turned to his brother--Derrick, it must be remembered,
was the elder twin--and said pityingly, "Poor old fellow! it was
rather rough on you that the governor couldn't sign this; but never
mind, you'll soon, no doubt, be earning a fortune by your books; and
besides, what does a bachelor want with more than you've already
inherited from our mother? Whereas, an officer just going to be
married, and with this confounded reputation of hero to keep up,
why, I can tell you it needs every penny of it!"
Derrick looked at his brother searchingly. I honestly believe that
he didn't very much care about the money, but it cut him to the
heart that Lawrence should treat him so shabbily. The soul of
generosity himself, he could not understand how anyone could frame a
speech so infernally mean.
"Of course," I broke in, "if Derrick liked to go to law he could no
doubt get his rights, there are three witnesses who can prove what
was the Major's real wish."
"I shall not go to law," said Derrick, with a dignity of which I had
hardly imagined him capable. "You spoke of your marriage, Lawrence;
is it to be soon?"
"This autumn, I hope," said Lawrence; "at least, if I can overcome
Sir Richard's ridiculous notion that a girl ought not to marry till
she's twenty-one. He's a most crotchety old fellow, that future
father-in-law of mine."
When Lawrence had first come back from the war I had thought him
wonderfully improved, but a long course of spoiling and flattery had
done him a world of harm. He liked very much to be lionised, and to
see him now posing in drawing-rooms, surrounded by a worshipping
throng of women, was enough to sicken any sensible being.
As for Derrick, though he could not be expected to feel his
bereavement in the ordinary way, yet his father's death had been a
great shock to him. It was arranged that after settling various
matters in Bath he should go down to stay with his sister for a
time, joining me in Montague Street later on. While he was away in
Birmingham, however, an extraordinary change came into my humdrum
life, and when he rejoined me a few weeks later, I--selfish brute--
was so overwhelmed with the trouble that had befallen me that I
thought very little indeed of his affairs. He took this quite as a
matter of course, and what I should have done without him I can't
conceive. However, this story concerns him and has nothing to do
with my extraordinary dilemma; I merely mention it as a fact which
brought additional cares into his life. All the time he was doing
what could be done to help me he was also going through a most
baffling and miserable time among the publishers; for 'At Strife,'
unlike its predecessor, was rejected by Davison and by five other
houses. Think of this, you comfortable readers, as you lie back in
your easy chairs and leisurely turn the pages of that popular story.
The book which represented years of study and long hours of hard
work was first burnt to a cinder. It was re-written with what
infinite pains and toil few can understand. It was then six times
tied up and carried with anxiety and hope to a publisher's office,
only to re-appear six times in Montague Street, an unwelcome
visitor, bringing with it depression and disappointment.
Derrick said little, but suffered much. However, nothing daunted
him. When it came back from the sixth publisher he took it to a
seventh, then returned and wrote away like a Trojan at his third
book. The one thing that never failed him was that curious
consciousness that he HAD to write; like the prophets of old, the
'burden' came to him, and speak it he must.
The seventh publisher wrote a somewhat dubious letter: the book, he
thought, had great merit, but unluckily people were prejudiced, and
historical novels rarely met with success. However, he was willing
to take the story, and offered half profits, candidly admitting that
he had no great hopes of a large sale. Derrick instantly closed
with this offer, proofs came in, the book appeared, was well
received like its predecessor, fell into the hands of one of the
leaders of Society, and, to the intense surprise of the publisher,
proved to be the novel of the year. Speedily a second edition was
called for; then, after a brief interval, a third edition--this time
a rational one-volume affair; and the whole lot--6,000 I believe--
went off on the day of publication. Derrick was amazed; but he
enjoyed his success very heartily, and I think no one could say that
he had leapt into fame at a bound.
Having devoured 'At Strife,' people began to discover the merits of
'Lynwood's Heritage;' the libraries were besieged for it, and a
cheap edition was hastily published, and another and another, till
the book, which at first had been such a dead failure, rivalled 'At
Strife.' Truly an author's career is a curious thing; and precisely
why the first book failed, and the second succeeded, no one could
It amused me very much to see Derrick turned into a lion--he was so
essentially un-lion-like. People were for ever asking him how he
worked, and I remember a very pretty girl setting upon him once at a
dinner-party with the embarrassing request:
"Now, do tell me, Mr. Vaughan, how do you write stories? I wish you
would give me a good receipt for a novel."
Derrick hesitated uneasily for a minute; finally, with a humorous
smile, he said:
"Well, I can't exactly tell you, because, more or less, novels grow;
but if you want a receipt, you might perhaps try after this
fashion:--Conceive your hero, add a sprinkling of friends and
relatives, flavour with whatever scenery or local colour you please,
carefully consider what circumstances are most likely to develop
your man into the best he is capable of, allow the whole to simmer
in your brain as long as you can, and then serve, while hot, with
ink upon white or blue foolscap, according to taste."
The young lady applauded the receipt, but she sighed a little, and
probably relinquished all hope of concocting a novel herself; on the
whole, it seemed to involve incessant taking of trouble.
About this time I remember, too, another little scene, which I
enjoyed amazingly. I laugh now when I think of it. I happened to
be at a huge evening crush, and rather to my surprise, came across
Lawrence Vaughan. We were talking together, when up came Connington
of the Foreign Office. "I say, Vaughan," he said, "Lord Remington
wishes to be introduced to you." I watched the old statesman a
little curiously as he greeted Lawrence, and listened to his first
words: "Very glad to make your acquaintance, Captain Vaughan; I
understand that the author of that grand novel, 'At Strife,' is a
brother of yours." And poor Lawrence spent a mauvais quart d'heure,
inwardly fuming, I know, at the idea that he, the hero of Saspataras
Hill, should be considered merely as 'the brother of Vaughan, the
Fate, or perhaps I should say the effect of his own pernicious
actions, did not deal kindly just now with Lawrence. Somehow Freda
learnt about that will, and, being no bread-and-butter miss, content
meekly to adore her fiance and deem him faultless, she 'up and
spake' on the subject, and I fancy poor Lawrence must have had
another mauvais quart d'heure. It was not this, however, which led
to a final breach between them; it was something which Sir Richard
discovered with regard to Lawrence's life at Dover. The engagement
was instantly broken off, and Freda, I am sure, felt nothing but
relief. She went abroad for some time, however, and we did not see
her till long after Lawrence had been comfortably married to 1,500
pounds a year and a middle-aged widow, who had long been a hero-
worshipper, and who, I am told, never allowed any visitor to leave
the house without making some allusion to the memorable battle of
Saspataras Hill and her Lawrence's gallant action.
For the two years following after the Major's death, Derrick and I,
as I mentioned before, shared the rooms in Montague Street. For me,
owing to the trouble I spoke of, they were years of maddening
suspense and pain; but what pleasure I did manage to enjoy came
entirely through the success of my friend's books and from his
companionship. It was odd that from the care of his father he
should immediately pass on to the care of one who had made such a
disastrous mistake as I had made. But I feel the less compunction
at the thought of the amount of sympathy I called for at that time,
because I notice that the giving of sympathy is a necessity for
Derrick, and that when the troubles of other folk do not immediately
thrust themselves into his life he carefully hunts them up. During
these two years he was reading for the Bar--not that he ever
expected to do very much as a barrister, but he thought it well to
have something to fall back on, and declared that the drudgery of
the reading would do him good. He was also writing as usual, and he
used to spend two evenings a week at Whitechapel, where he taught
one of the classes in connection with Toynbee Hall, and where he
gained that knowledge of East-end life which is conspicuous in his
third book--'Dick Carew.' This, with an ever increasing and often
very burdensome correspondence, brought to him by his books, and
with a fair share of dinners, 'At Homes,' and so forth, made his
life a full one. In a quiet sort of way I believe he was happy
during this time. But later on, when, my trouble at an end, I had
migrated to a house of my own, and he was left alone in the Montague
Street rooms, his spirits somehow flagged.
Fame is, after all, a hollow, unsatisfying thing to a man of his
nature. He heartily enjoyed his success, he delighted in hearing
that his books had given pleasure or had been of use to anyone, but
no public victory could in the least make up to him for the loss he
had suffered in his private life; indeed, I almost think there were
times when his triumphs as an author seemed to him utterly
worthless--days of depression when the congratulations of his
friends were nothing but a mockery. He had gained a striking
success, it is true, but he had lost Freda; he was in the position
of the starving man who has received a gift of bon-bons, but so
craves for bread that they half sicken him. I used now and then to
watch his face when, as often happened, someone said: "What an
enviable fellow you are, Vaughan, to get on like this!" or, "What
wouldn't I give to change places with you!" He would invariably
smile and turn the conversation; but there was a look in his eyes at
such times that I hated to see--it always made me think of Mrs.
Browning's poem, 'The Mask':
"Behind no prison-grate, she said,
Which slurs the sunshine half a mile,
Live captives so uncomforted
As souls behind a smile."
As to the Merrifields, there was no chance of seeing them, for Sir
Richard had gone to India in some official capacity, and no doubt,
as everyone said, they would take good care to marry Freda out
there. Derrick had not seen her since that trying February at Bath,
long ago. Yet I fancy she was never out of his thoughts.
And so the years rolled on, and Derrick worked away steadily, giving
his books to the world, accepting the comforts and discomforts of an
author's life, laughing at the outrageous reports that were in
circulation about him, yet occasionally, I think, inwardly wincing
at them, and learning from the number of begging letters which he
received, and into which he usually caused searching inquiry to be
made, that there are in the world a vast number of undeserving poor.
One day I happened to meet Lady Probyn at a garden-party; it was at
the same house on Campden Hill where I had once met Freda, and
perhaps it was the recollection of this which prompted me to enquire
"She has not been well," said Lady Probyn, "and they are sending her
back to England; the climate doesn't suit her. She is to make her
home with us for the present, so I am the gainer. Freda has always
been my favourite niece. I don't know what it is about her that is
so taking; she is not half so pretty as the others."
"But so much more charming," I said. "I wonder she has not married
out in India, as everyone prophesied."
"And so do I," said her aunt. "However, poor child, no doubt, after
having been two years engaged to that very disappointing hero of
Saspataras Hill, she will be shy of venturing to trust anyone
"Do you think that affair ever went very deep?" I ventured to ask.
"It seemed to me that she looked miserable during her engagement,
and happy when it was broken off."
"Quite so," said Lady Probyn; "I noticed the same thing. It was
nothing but a mistake. They were not in the least suited to each
other. By-the-by, I hear that Derrick Vaughan is married."
"Derrick?" I exclaimed; "oh, no, that is a mistake. It is merely
one of the hundred and one reports that are for ever being set
afloat about him."
"But I saw it in a paper, I assure you," said Lady Probyn, by no
"Ah, that may very well be; they were hard up for a paragraph, no
doubt, and inserted it. But, as for Derrick, why, how should he
marry? He has been madly in love with Miss Merrifield ever since
our cruise in the Aurora."
Lady Probyn made an inarticulate exclamation.
"Poor fellow!" she said, after a minute's thought; "that explains
much to me."
She did not explain her rather ambiguous remark, and before long our
tete-a-tete was interrupted.
Now that my friend was a full-fledged barrister, he and I shared
chambers, and one morning about a month after this garden party,
Derrick came in with a face of such radiant happiness that I
couldn't imagine what good luck had befallen him.
"What do you think?" he exclaimed; "here's an invitation for a
cruise in the Aurora at the end of August--to be nearly the same
party that we had years ago," and he threw down the letter for me to
Of course there was special mention of "my niece, Miss Merrifield,
who has just returned from India, and is ordered plenty of sea-air."
I could have told that without reading the letter, for it was
written quite clearly in Derrick's face. He looked ten years
younger, and if any of his adoring readers could have seen the
pranks he was up to that morning in our staid and respectable
chambers, I am afraid they would no longer have spoken of him "with
'bated breath and whispering humbleness."
As it happened, I, too, was able to leave home for a fortnight at
the end of August; and so our party in the Aurora really was the
same, except that we were all several years older, and let us hope
wiser, than on the previous occasion. Considering all that had
intervened, I was surprised that Derrick was not more altered; as
for Freda, she was decidedly paler than when we first met her, but
before long sea-air and happiness wrought a wonderful transformation
In spite of the pessimists who are for ever writing books, even
writing novels (more shame to them), to prove that there is no such
thing as happiness in the world, we managed every one of us heartily
to enjoy our cruise. It seemed indeed true that:
"Green leaves and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing and loving all come back together."
Something, at any rate, of the glamour of those past days came back
to us all, I fancy, as we laughed and dozed and idled and talked
beneath the snowy wings of the Aurora, and I cannot say I was in the
least surprised when, on roaming through the pleasant garden walks
in that unique little island of Tresco, I came once more upon
Derrick and Freda, with, if you will believe it, another handful of
white heather given to them by that discerning gardener! Freda once
more reminded me of the girl in the 'Biglow Papers,' and Derrick's
face was full of such bliss as one seldom sees.
He had always had to wait for his good things, but in the end they
came to him. However, you may depend upon it, he didn't say much.
That was never his way. He only gripped my hand, and, with his eyes
all aglow with happiness, exclaimed "Congratulate me, old fellow!"