Part 4 out of 5
kitchen. Come along now, and don't be silly."
Nellie's hysteric mirth surged up again.
Denry objected to accompanying his mother into the kitchen. But he was
forced to submit. She shut the door on both of them. It is probable that
during the seven minutes which they spent mysteriously together in the
kitchen, the practicability of the kitchen apparatus for carrying off
waste products was duly tested. Denry came forth, very pale and very
cross, on his mother's arm.
"There's no danger now," said his mother, easily.
Naturally the party was at an end. The Cotterills sympathised, and
prepared to depart, and inquired whether Denry could walk home.
Denry replied, from a sofa, in a weak, expiring voice, that he was
perfectly incapable of walking home, that his sensations were in the
highest degree disconcerting, that he should sleep in that house, as the
bedrooms were ready for occupation, and that he should expect his mother
to remain also.
And Mrs Machin had to concur. Mrs Machin sped the Cotterills from the
door as though it had been her own door. She was exceedingly angry and
agitated. But she could not impart her feelings to the suffering Denry.
He moaned on a bed for about half-an-hour, and then fell asleep. And in
the middle of the night, in the dark, strange house, she also fell
The next morning she arose and went forth, and in about half-an-hour
returned. Denry was still in bed, but his health seemed to have resumed
its normal excellence. Mrs Machin burst upon him in such a state of
complicated excitement as he had never before seen her in.
"Denry," she cried, "what do you think?"
"What?" said he.
"I've just been down home, and they're--they're pulling the house down.
All the furniture's out, and they've got all the tiles off the roof, and
the windows out. And there's a regular crowd watching."
Denry sat up.
"And I can tell you another piece of news," said he. "Mr Cecil Wilbraham
"Dead!" she breathed.
"Yes," said Denry. "_I think he's served his purpose._ As we're
here, we'll stop here. Don't forget it's the most sensible kind of a
house you've ever seen. Don't forget that Mrs Cotterill could run it
without a servant and have herself tidy by ten o'clock in a morning."
Mrs Machin perceived then, in a flash of terrible illumination, that
there never had been any Cecil Wilbraham; that Denry had merely invented
him and his long moustaches and his wall eye for the purpose of getting
the better of his mother. The whole affair was an immense swindle upon
her. Not a Mr Cecil Wilbraham, but her own son had bought her cottage
over her head and jockeyed her out of it beyond any chance of getting
into it again. And to defeat his mother the rascal had not simply
perverted the innocent Nellie Cotterill to some co-operation in his
scheme, but he had actually bought four other cottages, because the
landlord would not sell one alone, and he was actually demolishing
property to the sole end of stopping her from re-entering it!
Of course, the entire town soon knew of the upshot of the battle, of the
year-long battle, between Denry and his mother, and the means adopted by
Denry to win. The town also had been hoodwinked, but it did not mind
that. It loved its Denry the more, and seeing that he was now properly
established in the most remarkable house in the district, it soon
afterwards made him a Town Councillor as some reward for his talent in
And Denry would say to himself:
"Everything went like clockwork, except the mustard and water. I didn't
bargain for the mustard and water. And yet, if I was clever enough to
think of putting a label on the bottle and to have the beds prepared, I
ought to have been clever enough to keep mustard out of the house." It
would be wrong to mince the unpleasant fact that the sham poisoning
which he had arranged to the end that he and his mother should pass the
night in the house had finished in a manner much too realistic for
Denry's pleasure. Mustard and water, particularly when mixed by Mrs
Machin, is mustard and water. She had that consolation.
THE GREAT NEWSPAPER WAR
When Denry and his mother had been established a year and a month in the
new house at Bleakridge, Denry received a visit one evening which
perhaps flattered him more than anything had ever flattered him. The
visitor was Mr Myson. Now Mr Myson was the founder, proprietor and
editor of the _Five Towns Weekly_, a new organ of public opinion
which had been in existence about a year; and Denry thought that Mr
Myson had popped in to see him in pursuit of an advertisement of the
Thrift Club, and at first he was not at all flattered.
But Mr Myson was not hunting for advertisements, and Denry soon saw him
to be the kind of man who would be likely to depute that work to others.
Of middle height, well and quietly dressed, with a sober, assured
deportment, he spoke in a voice and accent that were not of the Five
Towns; they were superior to the Five Towns. And in fact Mr Myson
originated in Manchester and had seen London. He was not provincial, and
he beheld the Five Towns as part of the provinces; which no native of
the Five Towns ever succeeds in doing. Nevertheless, his manner to Denry
was the summit of easy and yet deferential politeness.
He asked permission "to put something before" Denry. And when, rather
taken aback by such smooth phrases, Denry had graciously accorded the
permission, he gave a brief history of the _Five Towns Weekly_,
showing how its circulation had grown, and definitely stating that at
that moment it was yielding a profit. Then he said:
"Now my scheme is to turn it into a daily."
"Very good notion," said Denry, instinctively.
"I'm glad you think so," said Mr Myson. "Because I've come here in the
hope of getting your assistance. I'm a stranger to the district, and I
want the co-operation of some one who isn't. So I've come to you. I need
money, of course, though I have myself what most people would consider
sufficient capital. But what I need more than money is--well--moral
"And who put you on to me?" asked Denry.
Mr Myson smiled. "I put myself on to you," said he. "I think I may say
I've got my bearings in the Five Towns, after over a year's journalism
in it, and it appeared to me that you were the best man I could
approach. I always believe in flying high."
Therein was Denry flattered. The visit seemed to him to seal his
position in the district in a way in which his election to the Bursley
Town Council had failed to do. He had been somehow disappointed with
that election. He had desired to display his interest in the serious
welfare of the town, and to answer his opponent's arguments with better
ones. But the burgesses of his ward appeared to have no passionate love
of logic. They just cried "Good old Denry!" and elected him--with a
majority of only forty-one votes. He had expected to feel a different
Denry when he could put "Councillor" before his name. It was not so. He
had been solemnly in the mayoral procession to church, he had attended
meetings of the council, he had been nominated to the Watch Committee.
But he was still precisely the same Denry, though the youngest member of
the council. But now he was being recognised from the outside. Mr
Myson's keen Manchester eye, ranging over the quarter of a million
inhabitants of the Five Towns in search of a representative individual
force, had settled on Denry Machin. Yes, he was flattered. Mr Myson's
choice threw a rose-light on all Denry's career: his wealth and its
origin; his house and stable, which were the astonishment and the
admiration of the town; his Universal Thrift Club; yea, and his
councillorship! After all, these _were_ marvels. (And possibly the
greatest marvel was the resigned presence of his mother in that wondrous
house, and the fact that she consented to employ Rose Chudd, the
incomparable Sappho of charwomen, for three hours every day.)
In fine, he perceived from Mr Myson's eyes that his position was unique.
And after they had chatted a little, and the conversation had deviated
momentarily from journalism to house property, he offered to display
Machin House (as he had christened it) to Mr Myson, and Mr Myson was
really impressed beyond the ordinary. Mr Myson's homage to Mrs Machin,
whom they chanced on in the paradise of the bath-room, was the polished
mirror of courtesy. How Denry wished that he could behave like that when
he happened to meet countesses.
Then, once more in the drawing-room, they resumed the subject of
"You know," said Mr Myson, "it's really a very bad thing indeed for a
district to have only one daily newspaper. I've nothing myself to say
against _The Staffordshire Signal_, but you'd perhaps be
astonished"--this in a confidential tone--"at the feeling there is
against the _Signal_ in many quarters."
"Really!" said Denry.
"Of course its fault is that it isn't sufficiently interested in the
great public questions of the district. And it can't be. Because it
can't take a definite side. It must try to please all parties. At any
rate it must offend none. That is the great evil of a journalistic
monopoly.... Two hundred and fifty thousand people--why! there is an
ample public for two first-class papers. Look at Nottingham! Look at
Bristol! Look at Leeds! Look at Sheffield!...and _their_
And Denry endeavoured to look at these great cities! Truly the Five
Towns was just about as big.
The dizzy journalistic intoxication seized him. He did not give Mr Myson
an answer at once, but he gave himself an answer at once. He would go
into the immense adventure. He was very friendly with the _Signal_
people--certainly; but business was business, and the highest welfare of
the Five Towns was the highest welfare of the Five Towns.
Soon afterwards all the hoardings of the district spoke with one blue
voice, and said that the _Five Towns Weekly_ was to be transformed
into the _Five Towns Daily_, with four editions, beginning each day
at noon, and that the new organ would be conducted on the lines of a
first-class evening paper.
The inner ring of knowing ones knew that a company entitled "The Five
Towns Newspapers, Limited," had been formed, with a capital of ten
thousand pounds, and that Mr Myson held three thousand pounds' worth of
shares, and the great Denry Machin one thousand five hundred, and that
the remainder were to be sold and allotted as occasion demanded. The
inner ring said that nothing would ever be able to stand up against the
_Signal_. On the other hand, it admitted that Denry, the most
prodigious card ever born into the Five Towns, had never been floored by
anything. The inner ring anticipated the future with glee. Denry and Mr
Myson anticipated the future with righteous confidence. As for the
_Signal_, it went on its august way, blind to sensational
On the day of the appearance of the first issue of the _Five Towns
Daily_, the offices of the new paper at Hanbridge gave proof of their
excellent organisation, working in all details with an admirable
smoothness. In the basement a Marinoni machine thundered like a sucking
dove to produce fifteen thousand copies an hour. On the ground floor
ingenious arrangements had been made for publishing the paper; in
particular, the iron railings to keep the boys in order in front of the
publishing counter had been imitated from the _Signal_. On the
first floor was the editor and founder with his staff, and above that
the composing department. The number of stairs that separated the
composing department from the machine-room was not a positive advantage,
but bricks and mortar are inelastic, and one does what one can. The
offices looked very well from the outside, and they compared passably
with the offices of the _Signal_ close by. The posters were duly in
the ground-floor windows, and gold signs, one above another to the roof,
produced an air of lucrative success.
Denry happened to be in the _Daily_ offices that afternoon. He had
had nothing to do with the details of organisation, for details of
organisation were not his speciality. His speciality was large, leading
ideas. He knew almost nothing of the agreements with correspondents and
Press Association and Central News, and the racing services and the
fiction syndicates, nor of the difficulties with the Compositors' Union,
nor of the struggle to lower the price of paper by the twentieth of a
penny per pound, nor of the awful discounts allowed to certain
advertisers, nor of the friction with the railway company, nor of the
sickening adulation that had been lavished on quite unimportant
newsagents, nor--worst of all--of the dearth of newsboys. These matters
did not attract him. He could not stoop to them. But when Mr Myson, calm
and proud, escorted him down to the machine-room, and the Marinoni threw
a folded pink _Daily_ almost into his hands, and it looked exactly
like a real newspaper, and he saw one of his own descriptive articles in
it, and he reflected that he was an owner of it--then Denry was
attracted and delighted, and his heart beat. For this pink thing was the
symbol and result of the whole affair, and had the effect of a miracle
And he said to himself, never guessing how many thousands of men had
said it before him, that a newspaper was the finest toy in the world.
About four o'clock the publisher, in shirt sleeves and an apron, came up
to Mr Myson and respectfully asked him to step into the publishing
office. Mr Myson stepped into the publishing office and Denry with him,
and they there beheld a small ragged boy with a bleeding nose and a
bundle of _Dailys_ in his wounded hand.
"Yes," the boy sobbed; "and they said they'd cut my eyes out and plee
[play] marbles wi' 'em, if they cotched me in Crown Square agen," And he
threw down the papers with a final yell.
The two directors learnt that the delicate threat had been uttered by
four _Signal_ boys, who had objected to any fellow-boys offering
any paper other than the _Signal_ for sale in Crown Square or
Of course, it was absurd.
Still, absurd as it was, it continued. The central publishing offices of
the _Daily_ at Hanbridge, and its branch offices in the
neighbouring towns, were like military hospitals, and the truth appeared
to the directors that while the public was panting to buy copies of the
_Daily_, the sale of the _Daily_ was being prevented by means
of a scandalous conspiracy on the part of _Signal_ boys. For it
must be understood that in the Five Towns people prefer to catch their
newspaper in the street as it flies and cries. The _Signal_ had a
vast army of boys, to whom every year it gave a great _fete_.
Indeed, the _Signal_ possessed nearly all the available boys, and
assuredly all the most pugilistic and strongest boys. Mr Myson had
obtained boys only after persistent inquiry and demand, and such as he
had found were not the fittest, and therefore were unlikely to survive.
You would have supposed that in a district that never ceases to grumble
about bad trade and unemployment, thousands of boys would have been
delighted to buy the _Daily_ at fourpence a dozen and sell it at
sixpence. But it was not so.
On the second day the dearth of boys at the offices of the _Daily_
was painful. There was that magnificent, enterprising newspaper waiting
to be sold, and there was the great enlightened public waiting to buy;
and scarcely any business could be done because the _Signal_ boys
had established a reign of terror over their puny and upstart rivals!
The situation was unthinkable.
Still, unthinkable as it was, it continued. Mr Myson had thought of
everything except this. Naturally it had not occurred to him that an
immense and serious effort for the general weal was going to be blocked
by a gang of tatterdemalions.
He complained with dignity to the _Signal_, and was informed
with dignity by the _Signal_ that the _Signal_ could not be
responsible for the playful antics of its boys in the streets; that, in
short, the Five Towns was a free country. In the latter proposition Mr
Myson did not concur.
After trouble in the persuasion of parents--astonishing how indifferent
the Five Towns' parent was to the loss of blood by his offspring!--a
case reached the police-court. At the hearing the _Signal_ gave a
solicitor a watching brief, and that solicitor expressed the
_Signal's_ horror of carnage. The evidence was excessively
contradictory, and the Stipendiary dismissed the summons with a good
joke. The sole definite result was that the boy whose father had
ostensibly brought the summons, got his ear torn within a quarter of an
hour of leaving the court. Boys will be boys.
Still, the _Daily_ had so little faith in human nature that it
could not believe that the _Signal_ was not secretly encouraging
its boys to be boys. It could not believe that the _Signal_, out of
a sincere desire for fair play and for the highest welfare of the
district, would willingly sacrifice nearly half its circulation and a
portion of its advertisement revenue. And the hurt tone of Mr Myson's
leading articles seemed to indicate that in Mr Myson's opinion his older
rival _ought_ to do everything in its power to ruin itself. The
_Signal_ never spoke of the fight. The _Daily_ gave shocking
details of it every day.
The struggle trailed on through the weeks.
Then Denry had one of his ideas. An advertisement was printed in the
_Daily_ for two hundred able-bodied men to earn two shillings for
working six hours a day. An address different from the address of the
_Daily_ was given. By a ruse Denry procured the insertion of the
advertisement in the _Signal_ also.
"We must expend our capital on getting the paper on to the streets,"
said Denry. "That's evident. We'll have it sold by men. We'll soon see
if the _Signal_ ragamuffins will attack _them_. And we won't
pay 'em by results; we'll pay 'em a fixed wage; that'll fetch 'em. And a
commission on sales into the bargain. Why! I wouldn't mind engaging
_five_ hundred men. Swamp the streets! That's it! Hang expense. And
when we've done the trick, then we can go back to the boys; they'll have
learnt their lesson."
And Mr Myson agreed and was pleased that Denry was living up to his
The state of the earthenware trade was supposed that summer to be worse
than it had been since 1869, and the grumblings of the unemployed were
prodigious, even seditious. Mr Myson therefore, as a measure of
precaution, engaged a couple of policemen to ensure order at the
address, and during the hours, named in the advertisement as a
rendezvous for respectable men in search of a well-paid job. Having
regard to the thousands of perishing families in the Five Towns, he
foresaw a rush and a crush of eager breadwinners. Indeed, the
arrangements were elaborate.
Forty minutes after the advertised time for the opening of the reception
of respectable men in search of money, four men had arrived. Mr Myson,
mystified, thought that there had been a mistake in the advertisement,
but there was no mistake in the advertisement. A little later two more
men came. Of the six, three were tipsy, and the other three absolutely
declined to be seen selling papers in the streets. Two were abusive, one
facetious. Mr Myson did not know his Five Towns; nor did Denry. A Five
Towns' man, when he can get neither bread nor beer, will keep himself
and his family on pride and water. The policemen went off to more
Then came the announcement of the thirty-fifth anniversary of
the _Signal_, and of the processional _fete_ by which the
_Signal_ was at once to give itself a splendid spectacular
advertisement and to reward and enhearten its boys. The _Signal_
meant to liven up the streets of the Five Towns on that great day by
means of a display of all the gilt chariots of Snape's Circus in the
main thoroughfare. Many of the boys would be in the gilt chariots.
Copies of the anniversary number of the _Signal_ would be sold from
the gilt chariots. The idea was excellent, and it showed that after all
the _Signal_ was getting just a little more afraid of its young
rival than it had pretended to be.
For, strange to say, after a trying period of hesitation, the _Five
Towns Daily_ was slightly on the upward curve--thanks to Denry. Denry
did not mean to be beaten by the puzzle which the _Daily_ offered
to his intelligence. There the _Daily_ was, full of news, and with
quite an encouraging show of advertisements, printed on real paper with
real ink--and yet it would not "go." Notoriously the _Signal_
earned a net profit of at the very least five thousand a year, whereas
the _Daily_ earned a net loss of at the very least sixty pounds a
week--and of that sixty quite a third was Denry's money. He could not
explain it. Mr Myson tried to rouse the public by passionately stirring
up extremely urgent matters--such as the smoke nuisance, the increase of
the rates, the park question, German competition, technical education
for apprentices; but the public obstinately would not be roused
concerning its highest welfare to the point of insisting on a regular
supply of the _Daily_. If a mere five thousand souls had positively
demanded daily a copy of the _Daily_ and not slept till boys or
agents had responded to their wish, the troubles of the _Daily_
would soon have vanished. But this ridiculous public did not seem to
care which paper was put into its hand in exchange for its halfpenny, so
long as the sporting news was put there. It simply was indifferent. It
failed to see the importance to such an immense district of having two
flourishing and mutually-opposing daily organs. The fundamental boy
difficulty remained ever present.
And it was the boy difficulty that Denry perseveringly and ingeniously
attacked, until at length the _Daily_ did indeed possess some sort
of a brigade of its own, and the bullying and slaughter in the streets
(so amusing to the inhabitants) grew a little less one-sided.
A week or more before the _Signal's_ anniversary day, Denry heard
that the _Signal_ was secretly afraid lest the _Daily's_
brigade might accomplish the marring of its gorgeous procession, and
that the _Signal_ was ready to do anything to smash the
_Daily's_ brigade. He laughed; he said he did not mind. About that
time hostilities were rather acute; blood was warming, and both papers,
in the excitation of rivalry, had partially lost the sense of what was
due to the dignity of great organs. By chance a tremendous local
football match--Knype _v_: Bursley--fell on the very Saturday of
the procession. The rival arrangements for the reporting of the match
were as tremendous as the match itself, and somehow the match seemed to
add keenness to the journalistic struggle, especially as the
_Daily_ favoured Bursley and the _Signal_ was therefore forced
to favour Knype.
By all the laws of hazard there ought to have been a hitch on that
historic Saturday. Telephone or telegraph ought to have broken down, or
rain ought to have made play impossible, but no hitch occurred. And at
five-thirty o'clock of a glorious afternoon in earliest November the
_Daily_ went to press with a truly brilliant account of the manner
in which Bursley (for the first and last time in its history) had
defeated Knype by one goal to none. Mr Myson was proud. Mr Myson defied
the _Signal_ to beat his descriptive report. As for the
_Signal's_ procession--well, Mr Myson and the chief sub-editor of
the _Daily_ glanced at each other and smiled.
And a few minutes later the _Daily_ boys were rushing out of the
publishing room with bundles of papers--assuredly in advance of the
It was at this juncture that the unexpected began to occur to the
_Daily_ boys. The publishing door of the _Daily_ opened into
Stanway Rents, a narrow alley in a maze of mean streets behind Crown
Square. In Stanway Rents was a small warehouse in which, according to
rumours of the afternoon, a free soup kitchen was to be opened. And just
before the football edition of the _Daily_ came off the Marinoni,
it emphatically was opened, and there issued from its inviting gate an
odour--not, to be sure, of soup, but of toasted cheese and hot jam--such
an odour as had never before tempted the nostrils of a _Daily_ boy;
a unique and omnipotent odour. Several boys (who, I may state frankly,
were traitors to the _Daily_ cause, spies and mischief-makers from
elsewhere) raced unhesitatingly in, crying that toasted cheese
sandwiches and jam tarts were to be distributed like lightning to all
authentic newspaper lads.
The entire gang followed--scores, over a hundred--inwardly expecting to
emerge instantly with teeth fully employed, followed like sheep into a
And the gate was shut.
Toasted cheese and hot jammy pastry were faithfully served to the ragged
host--but with no breathless haste. And when, loaded, the boys struggled
to depart, they were instructed by the kind philanthropist who had fed
them to depart by another exit, and they discovered themselves In an
enclosed yard, of which the double doors were apparently unyielding. And
the warehouse door was shut also. And as the cheese and jam disappeared,
shouts of fury arose on the air. The yard was so close to the offices of
the _Daily_ that the chimneypots of those offices could actually be
seen. And yet the shouting brought no answer from the lords of the
_Daily_, congratulating themselves up there on their fine account
of the football match, and on their celerity in going to press and on
the loyalty of their brigade.
The _Signal_, it need not be said, disavowed complicity in this
extraordinary entrapping of the _Daily_ brigade by means of an
odour. Could it be held responsible for the excesses of its
disinterested sympathisers?... Still, the appalling trick showed the
high temperature to which blood had risen in the genial battle between
great rival organs. Persons in the inmost ring whispered that Denry
Machin had at length been bested on this critically important day.
Snape's Circus used to be one of the great shining institutions of North
Staffordshire, trailing its magnificence on sculptured wheels from town
to town, and occupying the dreams of boys from one generation to
another. Its headquarters were at Axe, in the Moorlands, ten miles away
from Hanbridge, but the riches of old Snape had chiefly come from the
Five Towns. At the time of the struggle between the _Signal_ and
the _Daily_ its decline had already begun. The aged proprietor had
recently died, and the name, and the horses, and the chariots, and the
carefully-repaired tents had been sold to strangers. On the Saturday of
the anniversary and the football match (which was also Martinmas
Saturday) the circus was set up at Oldcastle, on the edge of the Five
Towns, and was giving its final performances of the season. Even boys
will not go to circuses in the middle of a Five Towns' winter. The
_Signal_ people had hired the processional portion of Snape's for
the late afternoon and early evening. And the instructions were that the
entire _cortege_ should be round about the _Signal_ offices,
in marching order, not later than five o'clock.
But at four o'clock several gentlemen with rosettes in their
button-holes and _Signal_ posters in their hands arrived important
and panting at the fair-ground at Oldcastle, and announced that the
programme had been altered at the last moment, in order to defeat
certain feared machinations of the unscrupulous _Daily_. The
cavalcade was to be split into three groups, one of which, the chief,
was to enter Hanbridge by a "back road," and the other two were to go to
Bursley and Longshaw respectively. In this manner the forces of
advertisement would be distributed, and the chief parts of the district
The special linen banners, pennons, and ribbons--bearing the words--
"_SIGNAL:_ THIRTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY," &c.
had already been hung and planted and draped about the gilded summits of
the chariots. And after some delay the processions were started,
separating at the bottom of the Cattle Market. The head of the Hanbridge
part of the procession consisted of an enormous car of Jupiter, with six
wheels and thirty-six paregorical figures (as the clown used to say),
and drawn by six piebald steeds guided by white reins. This coach had a
windowed interior (at the greater fairs it sometimes served as a
box-office) and in the interior one of the delegates of the
_Signal_ had fixed himself; from it he directed the paths of the
It would be futile longer to conceal that the delegate of the
_Signal_ in the bowels of the car of Jupiter was not honestly a
delegate of the _Signal_ at all. He was, indeed, Denry Machin, and
none other. From this single fact it will be seen to what extent the
representatives of great organs had forgotten what was due to their
dignity and to public decency. Ensconced in his lair Denry directed the
main portion of the _Signal's_ advertising procession by all manner
of discreet lanes round the skirts of Hanbridge and so into the town
from the hilly side. And ultimately the ten vehicles halted in Crapper
Street, to the joy of the simple inhabitants.
Denry emerged and wandered innocently towards the offices of his paper,
which were close by. It was getting late. The first yelling of the
imprisoned _Daily_ boys was just beginning to rise on the autumn
Suddenly Denry was accosted by a young man.
"Hello, Machin!" cried the young man. "What have you shaved your beard
off, for? I scarcely knew you."
"I just thought I would, Swetnam," said Denry, who was obviously
It was the youngest of the Swetnam boys; he and Denry had taken a sort
of curt fancy to one another.
"I say," said Swetnam, confidentially, as if obeying a swift impulse, "I
did hear that the _Signal_ people meant to collar all your chaps
this afternoon, and I believe they have done. Hear that now?" (Swetnam's
father was intimate with the _Signal_ people.)
"I know," Denry replied.
"But I mean--papers and all."
"I know," said Denry.
"Oh!" murmured Swetnam.
"But I'll tell you a secret," Denry added. "They aren't to-day's papers.
They're yesterday's, and last week's and last month's. We've been
collecting them specially and keeping them nice and new-looking."
"Well, you're a caution!" murmured Swetnam.
"I am," Denry agreed.
A number of men rushed at that instant with bundles of the genuine
football edition from the offices of the _Daily_.
"Come on!" Denry cried to them. "Come on! This way! By-by, Swetnam."
And the whole file vanished round a corner. The yelling of imprisoned
cheese-fed boys grew louder.
In the meantime at the _Signal_ office (which was not three hundred
yards away, but on the other side of Crown Square) apprehension had
deepened into anxiety as the minutes passed and the Snape Circus
procession persisted in not appearing on the horizon of the Oldcastle
Road. The _Signal_ would have telephoned to Snape's, but for the
fact that a circus is never on the telephone. It then telephoned to its
Oldcastle agent, who, after a long delay, was able to reply that the
cavalcade had left Oldcastle at the appointed hour, with every sign of
health and energy. Then the _Signal_ sent forth scouts all down the
Oldcastle Road to put spurs into the procession, and the scouts
returned, having seen nothing. Pessimists glanced at the possibility of
the whole procession having fallen into the canal at Cauldon Bridge. The
paper was printed, the train-parcels for Knype, Longshaw, Bursley, and
Turnhill were despatched; the boys were waiting; the fingers of the
clock in the publishing department were simply flying. It had been
arranged that the bulk of the Hanbridge edition, and in particular the
first copies of it, should be sold by boys from the gilt chariots
themselves. The publisher hesitated for an awful moment, and then
decided that he could wait no more, and that the boys must sell the
papers in the usual way from the pavements and gutters. There was no
knowing what the _Daily_ might not be doing.
And then _Signal_ boys in dozens rushed forth paper-laden, but they
were disappointed boys; they had thought to ride in gilt chariots, not
to paddle in mud. And almost the first thing they saw in Crown Square
was the car of Jupiter in its glory, flying all the _Signal_
colours; and other cars behind. They did not rush now; they sprang, as
from a catapult; and alighted like flies on the vehicles. Men insisted
on taking their papers from them and paying for them on the spot. The
boys were startled; they were entirely puzzled; but they had not the
habit of refusing money. And off went the procession to the music of its
own band down the road to Knype, and perhaps a hundred boys on board,
cheering. The men in charge then performed a curious act: they tore down
all the _Signal_ flagging, and replaced it with the emblem of the
So that all the great and enlightened public wandering home in crowds
from the football match at Knype, had the spectacle of a _Daily_
procession instead of a _Signal_ procession, and could scarce
believe their eyes. And _Dailys_ were sold in quantities from the
cars. At Knype Station the procession curved and returned to Hanbridge,
and finally, after a multitudinous triumph, came to a stand with all its
_Daily_ bunting in front of the _Signal_ offices; and Denry
appeared from his lair. Denry's men fled with bundles.
"They're an hour and a half late," said Denry calmly to one of the
proprietors of the _Signal_, who was on the pavement. "But I've
managed to get them here. I thought I'd just look in to thank you for
giving such a good feed to our lads."
The telephones hummed with news of similar _Daily_ processions in
Longshaw and Bursley. And there was not a high-class private bar in the
district that did not tinkle with delighted astonishment at the brazen,
the inconceivable effrontery of that card, Denry Machin. Many people
foresaw law-suits, but it was agreed that the _Signal_ had begun
the game of impudence in trapping the _Daily_ lads so as to secure
a holy calm for its much-trumpeted procession.
And Denry had not finished with the _Signal_.
In the special football edition of the _Daily_ was an announcement,
the first, of special Martinmas _fetes_ organised by the _Five
Towns Daily_. And on the same morning every member of the Universal
Thrift Club had received an invitation to the said _fetes_. They
were three--held on public ground at Hanbridge, Bursley, and Longshaw.
They were in the style of the usual Five Towns "wakes"; that is to say,
roundabouts, shows, gingerbread stalls, swings, cocoanut shies. But at
each _fete_ a new and very simple form of "shy" had been erected.
It consisted of a row of small railway signals.
"March up! March up!" cried the shy-men. "Knock down the signal! Knock
down the signal! And a packet of Turkish delight is yours. Knock down
And when you had knocked down the signal the men cried:
"We wrap it up for you in the special Anniversary Number of the
And they disdainfully tore into suitable fragments copies of the
_Signal_ which had cost Denry & Co. a halfpenny each, and enfolded
the Turkish delight therein, and handed it to you with a smack.
And all the fair-grounds were carpeted with draggled and muddy
_Signals_. People were up to the ankles in _Signals_.
The affair was the talk of Sunday. Few matters in the Five Towns have
raised more gossip than did that enormous escapade which Denry invented
and conducted. The moral damage to the _Signal_ was held to
approach the disastrous. And now not the possibility but the probability
of law-suits was incessantly discussed.
On the Monday both papers were bought with anxiety. Everybody was
frothing to know what the respective editors would say.
But in neither sheet was there a single word as to the affair. Both had
determined to be discreet; both were afraid. The _Signal_ feared
lest it might not, if the pinch came, be able to prove its innocence of
the crime of luring boys into confinement by means of toasted cheese and
hot jam. The _Signal_ had also to consider its seriously damaged
dignity; for such wounds silence is the best dressing. The _Daily_
was comprehensively afraid. It had practically driven its gilded
chariots through the entire Decalogue. Moreover, it had won easily in
the grand altercation. It was exquisitely conscious of glory.
Denry went away to Blackpool, doubtless to grow his beard.
The proof of the _Daily's_ moral and material victory was that soon
afterwards there were four applicants, men of substance, for shares in
the _Daily_ company. And this, by the way, was the end of the tale.
For these applicants, who secured options on a majority of the shares,
were emissaries of the _Signal_. Armed with the options, the
_Signal_ made terms with its rival, and then by mutual agreement
killed it. The price of its death was no trifle, but it was less than a
year's profits of the _Signal_. Denry considered that he had been
"done." But in the depths of his heart he was glad that he had been
done. He had had too disconcerting a glimpse of the rigours and perils
of journalism to wish to continue it. He had scored supremely and, for
him, to score was life itself. His reputation as a card was far, far
higher than ever. Had he so desired, he could have been elected to the
House of Commons on the strength of his procession and _fete_.
Mr Myson, somewhat scandalised by the exuberance of his partner,
returned to Manchester.
And the _Signal_, subsequently often referred to as "The Old Lady,"
resumed its monopolistic sway over the opinions of a quarter of a
million of people, and has never since been attacked.
When Denry at a single stroke "wherreted" his mother and proved his
adventurous spirit by becoming the possessor of one of the first
motor-cars ever owned in Bursley, his instinct naturally was to run up
to Councillor Cotterill's in it. Not that he loved Councillor Cotterill,
and therefore wished to make him a partaker in his joy; for he did not
love Councillor Cotterill. He had never been able to forgive Nellie's
father for those patronising airs years and years before at Llandudno,
airs indeed which had not even yet disappeared from Cotterill's attitude
towards Denry. Though they were Councillors on the same Town Council,
though Denry was getting richer and Cotterill was assuredly not getting
richer, the latter's face and tone always seemed to be saying to Denry:
"Well, you are not doing so badly for a beginner." So Denry did not care
to lose an opportunity of impressing Councillor Cotterill. Moreover,
Denry had other reasons for going up to the Cotterills. There existed a
sympathetic bond between him and Mrs Cotterill, despite her prim
taciturnity and her exasperating habit of sitting with her hands pressed
tight against her body and one over the other. Occasionally he teased
her--and she liked being teased. He had glimpses now and then of her
secret soul; he was perhaps the only person in Bursley thus privileged.
Then there was Nellie. Denry and Nellie were great friends. For the rest
of the world she had grown up, but not for Denry, who treated her as the
chocolate child; while she, if she called him anything, called him
The Cotterills had a fairly large old house with a good garden "up
Bycars Lane," above the new park and above all those red streets which
Mr Cotterill had helped to bring into being. Mr Cotterill built new
houses with terra-cotta facings for others, but preferred an old one in
stucco for himself. His abode had been saved from the parcelling out of
several Georgian estates. It was dignified. It had a double entrance
gate, and from this portal the drive started off for the house door, but
deliberately avoided reaching the house door until it had wandered in
curves over the entire garden. That was the Georgian touch! The modern
touch was shown in Councillor Cotterill's bay windows, bath-room and
garden squirter. There was stabling, in which were kept a Victorian
dogcart and a Georgian horse, used by the Councillor in his business. As
sure as ever his wife or daughter wanted the dogcart, it was either out
or just going out, or the Georgian horse was fatigued and needed repose.
The man who groomed the Georgian also ploughed the flowerbeds, broke the
windows in cleaning them, and put blacking on brown boots. Two indoor
servants had differing views as to the frontier between the kingdom of
his duties and the kingdom of theirs, in fact, it was the usual spacious
household of successful trade in a provincial town.
Denry got to Bycars Lane without a breakdown. This was in the days,
quite thirteen years ago, when automobilists made their wills and took
food supplies when setting forth. Hence Denry was pleased. The small but
useful fund of prudence in him, however, forbade him to run the car
along the unending sinuous drive. The May night was fine, and he left
the loved vehicle with his new furs in the shadow of a monkey-tree near
As he was crunching towards the door, he had a beautiful idea: "I'll
take 'em all out for a spin. There'll just be room!" he said.
Now even to-day, when the very cabman drives his automobile, a man who
buys a motor cannot say to a friend: "I've bought a motor. Come for a
spin," in the same self-unconscious accents as he would say: "I've
bought a boat. Come for a sail," or "I've bought a house. Come and look
at it." Even to-day and in the centre of London there is still something
about a motor--well something.... Everybody who has bought a motor, and
everybody who has dreamed of buying a motor, will comprehend me. Useless
to feign that a motor is the most banal thing imaginable. It is not. It
remains the supreme symbol of swagger. If such is the effect of a motor
in these days and in Berkeley Square, what must it have been in that dim
past, and in that dim town three hours by the fastest express from
Euston? The imagination must be forced to the task of answering this
question. Then will it be understood that Denry was simply tingling with
"Master in?" he demanded of the servant, who was correctly starched, but
unkempt in detail.
"No, sir. He ain't been in for tea."
("I shall take the women out then," said Denry to himself.)
"Come in! Come in!" cried a voice from the other side of the open door
of the drawing-room, Nellie's voice! The manners and state of a family
that has industrially risen combine the spectacular grandeur of the
caste to which it has climbed with the ease and freedom of the caste
which it has quitted.
"Such a surprise!" said the voice. Nellie appeared, rosy.
Denry threw his new motoring cap hastily on to the hall-stand. No! He
did not hope that Nellie would see it. He hoped that she would not see
it. Now that the moment was really come to declare himself the owner of
a motor-car, he grew timid and nervous. He would have liked to hide his
hat. But then Denry was quite different from our common humanity. He was
capable even of feeling awkward in a new suit of clothes. A singular
"Hello!" she greeted him.
"Hello!" he greeted her.
Their hands touched.
"Father hasn't come yet," she added. He fancied she was not quite at
"Well," he said, "what's this surprise."
She motioned him into the drawing-room.
The surprise was a wonderful woman, brilliant in black--not black silk,
but a softer, delicate stuff. She reclined in an easy-chair with
surpassing grace and self-possession. A black Egyptian shawl, spangled
with silver, was slipping off her shoulders. Her hair was dressed--that
is to say, it was _dressed_; it was obviously and thrillingly a
work of elaborate art. He could see her two feet and one of her ankles.
The boots, the open-work stocking--such boots, such an open-work
stocking, had never been seen in Bursley, not even at a ball! She was in
mourning, and wore scarcely any jewellery, but there was a gleaming tint
of gold here and there among the black, which resulted in a marvellous
effect of richness.
The least experienced would have said, and said rightly: "This must be a
woman of wealth and fashion." It was the detail that finished the
demonstration. The detail was incredible. There might have been ten
million stitches in the dress. Ten sempstresses might have worked on the
dress for ten years. An examination of it under a microscope could but
have deepened one's amazement at it.
She was something new in the Five Towns, something quite new.
Denry was not equal to the situation. He seldom was equal to a small
situation. And although he had latterly acquired a considerable amount
of social _savoir_, he was constantly mislaying it, so that he
could not put his hand on it at the moment when he most required it, as
"Well, Denry!" said the wondrous creature in black, softly.
And he collected himself as though for a plunge, and said:
This was the woman whom he had once loved, kissed, and engaged himself
to marry. He was relieved that she had begun with Christian names,
because he could not recall her surname. He could not even remember
whether he had ever heard it. All he knew was that, after leaving
Bursley to join her father in Birmingham, she had married somebody with
a double name, somebody well off, somebody older than herself; somebody
apparently of high social standing; and that this somebody had died.
She made no fuss. There was no implication in her demeanour that she
expected to be wept over as a lone widow, or that because she and he had
on a time been betrothed, therefore they could never speak naturally to
each other again. She just talked as if nothing had ever happened to
her, and as if about twenty-four hours had elapsed since she had last
seen him. He felt that she must have picked up this most useful
diplomatic calmness in her contacts with her late husband's class. It
was a valuable lesson to him: "Always behave as if nothing had happened
--no matter what has happened."
To himself he was saying:
"I'm glad I came up in my motor."
He seemed to need something in self-defence against the sudden attack of
all this wealth and all this superior social tact, and the motor-car
"I've been hearing a great deal about you lately," said she with a soft
smile, unobtrusively rearranging a fold of her skirt.
"Well," he replied, "I'm sorry I can't say the same of you."
Slightly perilous perhaps, but still he thought it rather neat.
"Oh!" she said. "You see I've been so much out of England. We were just
talking about holidays. I was saying to Mrs Cotterill they certainly
ought to go to Switzerland this year for a change."
"Yes, Mrs Capron-Smith was just saying--" Mrs Cotterill put in.
(So that was her name.)
"It would be something too lovely!" said Nellie in ecstasy.
Switzerland! Astonishing how with a single word she had marked the gulf
between Bursley people and herself. The Cotterills had never been out of
England. Not merely that, but the Cotterills had never dreamt of going
out of England. Denry had once been to Dieppe, and had come back as
though from Timbuctoo with a traveller's renown. And she talked of
"I suppose it is very jolly," he said.
"Yes," she said, "it's splendid in summer. But, of course, _the_
time is winter, for the sports. Naturally, when you aren't free to take
a bit of a holiday in winter, you must be content with summer, and very
splendid it is. I'm sure you'd enjoy it frightfully, Nell."
"I'm sure I should--frightfully!" Nellie agreed. "I shall speak to
father. I shall make him--"
"Now, Nellie--" her mother warned her.
"Yes, I shall, mother," Nellie insisted.
"There _is_ your father!" observed Mrs Cotterill, after listening.
Footsteps crossed the hall, and died away into the dining-room.
"I wonder why on earth father doesn't come in here. He must have heard
us talking," said Nellie, like a tyrant crossed in some trifle.
A bell rang, and then the servant came into the drawing-room and
remarked: "If you please, mum," at Mrs Cotterill, and Mrs Cotterill
disappeared, closing the door after her.
"What are they up to, between them?" Nellie demanded, and she, too,
departed, with wrinkled brow, leaving Denry and Ruth together. It could
be perceived on Nellie's brow that her father was going "to catch it."
"I haven't seen Mr Cotterill yet," said Mrs Capron-Smith.
"When did you come?" Denry asked.
"Only this afternoon."
She continued to talk.
As he looked at her, listening and responding intelligently now and
then, he saw that Mrs Capron-Smith was in truth the woman that Ruth had
so cleverly imitated ten years before. The imitation had deceived him
then; he had accepted it for genuine. It would not have deceived him
now--he knew that. Oh yes! This was the real article that could hold its
own anywhere.... Switzerland! And not simply Switzerland, but a
refinement on Switzerland! Switzerland in winter! He divined that in her
opinion Switzerland in summer was not worth doing--in the way of
correctness. But in winter...
Nellie had announced a surprise for Denry as he entered the house, but
Nellie's surprise for Denry, startling and successful though it proved,
was as naught to the surprise which Mr Cotterill had in hand for Nellie,
her mother, Denry, the town of Bursley, and various persons up and down
Mrs Cotterill came hysterically in upon the duologue between Denry and
Ruth in the drawing-room. From the activity of her hands, which, instead
of being decently folded one over the other, were waving round her head
in the strangest way, it was clear that Mrs Cotterill was indeed under
the stress of a very unusual emotion.
"It's those creditors--at last! I knew it would be! It's all those
creditors! They won't let him alone, and now they've _done_ it."
So Mrs Cotterill! She dropped into a chair. She had no longer any sense
of shame, of what was due to her dignity. She seemed to have forgotten
that certain matters are not proper to be discussed in drawing-rooms.
She had left the room Mrs Councillor Cotterill; she returned to it
nobody in particular, the personification of defeat. The change had
operated in five minutes.
Mrs Capron-Smith and Denry glanced at each other, and even Mrs
Capron-Smith was at a loss for a moment. Then Ruth approached Mrs
Cotterill and took her hand. Perhaps Mrs Capron-Smith was not so
astonished after all. She and Nellie's mother had always been "very
friendly." And in the Five Towns "very friendly" means a lot.
"Perhaps if you were to leave us," Ruth suggested, twisting her head to
glance at Denry.
It was exactly what he desired to do. There could be no doubt that Ruth
was supremely a woman of the world. Her tact was faultless.
He left them, saying to himself: "Well, here's a go!"
In the hall, through an open door, he saw Councillor Cotterill standing
against the dining-room mantelpiece.
When Cotterill caught sight of Denry he straightened himself into a
certain uneasy perkiness.
"Young man," he said in a counterfeit of his old patronising tone, "come
in here. You may as well hear about it. You're a friend of ours. Come in
and shut the door."
Nellie was not in view.
Denry went in and shut the door.
"Sit down," said Cotterill.
And it was just as if he had said: "Now, you're a fairly bright sort of
youth, and you haven't done so badly in life; and as a reward I mean to
admit you to the privilege of hearing about our ill-luck, which for some
mysterious reason reflects more credit on me than your good luck
reflects on you, young man."
And he stroked his straggling grey beard.
"I'm going to file my petition to-morrow," said he, and gave a short
"Really!" said Denry, who could think of nothing else to say. His name
was not Capron-Smith.
"Yes; they won't leave me any alternative," said Mr Cotterill.
Then he gave a brief history of his late commercial career to the young
man. And he seemed to figure it as a sort of tug-of-war between his
creditors and his debtors, he himself being the rope. He seemed to imply
that he had always done his sincere best to attain the greatest good of
the greatest number, but that those wrong-headed creditors had
consistently thwarted him.
However, he bore them no grudge. It was the fortune of the tug-of-war.
He pretended, with shabby magnificence of spirit, that a bankruptcy at
the age of near sixty, in a community where one has cut a figure, is a
mere passing episode.
"Are you surprised?" he asked foolishly, with a sheepish smile.
Denry took vengeance for all the patronage that he had received during a
"No!" he said. "Are you?"
Instead of kicking Denry out of the house for an impudent young
jackanapes, Mr Cotterill simply resumed his sheepish smile.
Denry had been surprised for a moment, but he had quickly recovered.
Cotterill's downfall was one of those events which any person of acute
intelligence can foretell after they have happened. Cotterill had run
the risks of the speculative builder, built and mortgaged, built and
mortgaged, sold at a profit, sold without profit, sold at a loss, and
failed to sell; given bills, second mortgages, and third mortgages; and
because he was a builder and could do nothing but build, he had
continued to build in defiance of Bursley's lack of enthusiasm for his
erections. If rich gold deposits had been discovered in Bursley
Municipal Park, Cotterill would have owned a mining camp and amassed
immense wealth; but unfortunately gold deposits were not discovered in
the Park. Nobody knew his position; nobody ever does know the position
of a speculative builder. He did not know it himself. There had been
rumours, but they had been contradicted in an adequate way. His recent
refusal of the mayoral chain, due to lack of spare coin, had been
attributed to prudence. His domestic existence had always been conducted
on the same moderately lavish scale. He had always paid the baker, the
butcher, the tailor, the dressmaker.
And now he was to file his petition in bankruptcy, and to-morrow the
entire town would have "been seeing it coming" for years.
"What shall you do?" Denry inquired in amicable curiosity.
"Well," said Cotterill, "that's the point. I've got a brother a builder
in Toronto, you know. He's doing very well; building _is_ building
over there. I wrote to him a bit since, and he replied by the next mail
--by the next mail--that what he wanted was just a man like me to
overlook things. He's getting an old man now, is John. So, you see,
there's an opening waiting for me."
As if to say, "The righteous are never forsaken."
"I tell you all this as you're a friend of the family like," he added.
Then, after an expanse of vagueness, he began hopefully, cheerfully,
"Even _now_ if I could get hold of a couple of thousand I could
pull through handsome--and there's plenty of security for it."
"Bit late now, isn't it?"
"Not it. If only some one who really knows the town, and has faith in
the property market, would come down with a couple of thousand--well, he
might double it in five years."
"Yes," said Cotterill. "Look at Clare Street."
Clare Street was one of his terra-cotta masterpieces.
"You, now," said Cotterill, insinuating. "I don't expect anyone can
teach _you_ much about the value o' property in this town. You know
as well as I do. If you happened to have a couple of thousand loose--by
gosh! it's a chance in a million."
"Yes," said Denry. "I should say that was just about what it was."
"I put it before you," Cotterill proceeded, gathering way, and missing
the flavour of Denry's remark. "Because you're a friend of the family.
You're so often here. Why, it's pretty near ten years...."
Denry sighed: "I expect I come and see you all about once a fortnight
fairly regular. That makes two hundred and fifty times in ten years.
"A couple of thou'," said Cotterill, reflectively.
"Two hundred and fifty into two thousand--eight. Eight pounds a visit. A
shade thick, Cotterill, a shade thick. You might be half a dozen
fashionable physicians rolled into one."
Never before had he called the Councillor "Cotterill" unadorned. Me
Cotterill flushed and rose.
Denry does not appear to advantage in this interview. He failed in
magnanimity. The only excuse that can be offered for him is that Mr
Cotterill had called him "young man" once or twice too often in the
course of ten years. It is subtle.
"No," whispered Ruth, in all her wraps. "Don't bring it up to the door.
I'll walk down with you to the gate, and get in there."
They were off, together. Ruth, it had appeared, was actually staying at
the Five Towns Hotel at Knype, which at that epoch was the only hotel in
the Five Towns seriously pretending to be "first-class" in the full-page
advertisement sense. The fact that Ruth was staying at the Five Towns
Hotel impressed Denry anew. Assuredly she did things in the grand
manner. She had meant to walk down by the Park to Bursley Station and
catch the last loop-line train to Knype, and when Denry suddenly
disclosed the existence of his motor-car, and proposed to see her to her
hotel in it, she in her turn had been impressed. The astonishment in her
tone as she exclaimed: "Have you got a _motor_?" was the least in
the world naive.
Thus they departed together from the stricken house, Ruth saying
brightly to Nellie, who had reappeared in a painful state of
demoralisation, that she should return on the morrow.
And Denry went down the obscure drive with a final vision of the poor
child, Nellie, as she stood at the door to speed them. It was
extraordinary how that child had remained a child. He knew that she must
be more than half-way through her twenties, and yet she persisted in
being the merest girl. A delightful little thing; but no _savoir
vivre_, no equality to a situation, no spectacular pride. Just a
nice, bright girl, strangely girlish.... The Cotterills had managed that
bad evening badly. They had shown no dignity, no reserve, no discretion;
and old Cotterill had been simply fatuous in his suggestion. As for Mrs
Cotterill, she was completely overcome, and it was due solely to Ruth's
calm, managing influence that Nellie, nervous and whimpering, had wound
herself up to come and shut the front door after the guests.
It was all very sad.
When he had successfully started the car, and they were sliding down the
Moorthorne hill together, side by side, their shoulders touching, Denry
threw off the nightmarish effect of the bankrupt household. After all,
there was no reason why he should be depressed. He was not a bankrupt.
He was steadily adding riches to riches. He acquired wealth mechanically
now. Owing to the habits of his mother, he never came within miles of
living up to his income. And Ruth--she, too, was wealthy. He felt that
she must be wealthy in the strict significance of the term. And she
completed wealth by experience of the world. She was his equal. She
understood things in general. She had lived, travelled, suffered,
reflected--in short, she was a completed article of manufacture. She was
no little, clinging, raw girl. Further, she was less hard than of yore.
Her voice and gestures had a different quality. The world had softened
her. And it occurred to him suddenly that her sole fault--extravagance--
had no importance now that she was wealthy.
He told her all that Mr Cotterill had said about Canada. And she told
him all that Mrs Cotterill had said about Canada. And they agreed that
Mr Cotterill had got his deserts, and that, in its own interest, Canada
was the only thing for the Cotterill family; and the sooner the better.
People must accept the consequences of bankruptcy. Nothing could be
"I think it's a pity Nellie should have to go," said Denry.
"Oh! _Do_ you?" replied Ruth.
"Yes; going out to a strange country like that. She's not what you may
call the Canadian kind of girl. If she could only get something to do
here. ...If something could be found for her."
"Oh, I don't agree with you at _all_," said Ruth. "Do you really
think she ought to leave her parents just _now_? Her place is with
her parents. And besides, between you and me, she'll have a much better
chance of marrying there than in _this_ town--after all this. Of
course I shall be very sorry to lose her--and Mrs Cotterill, too.
"I expect you're right," Denry concurred.
And they sped on luxuriously through the lamp-lit night of the Five
Towns. And Denry pointed out his house as they passed it. And they both
thought much of the security of their positions in the world, and of
their incomes, and of the honeyed deference of their bankers; and also
of the mistake of being a failure.... You could do nothing with a
On a frosty morning in early winter you might have seen them together in
a different vehicle--a first-class compartment of the express from Knype
to Liverpool. They had the compartment to themselves, and they were
installed therein with every circumstance of luxury. Both were enwrapped
in furs, and a fur rug united their knees in its shelter. Magazines and
newspapers were scattered about to the value of a labourer's hire for a
whole day; and when Denry's eye met the guard's it said "shilling." In
short, nobody could possibly be more superb than they were on that
morning in that compartment.
The journey was the result of peculiar events.
Mr Cotterill had made himself a bankrupt, and cast away the robe of a
Town Councillor. He had submitted to the inquisitiveness of the Official
Receiver, and to the harsh prying of those rampant baying beasts, his
creditors. He had laid bare his books, his correspondence, his lack of
method, his domestic extravagance, and the distressing fact that he had
continued to trade long after he knew himself to be insolvent. He had
for several months, in the interests of the said beasts, carried on his
own business as manager at a nominal salary. And gradually everything
that was his had been sold. And during the final weeks the Cotterill
family had been obliged to quit their dismantled house and exist in
lodgings. It had been arranged that they should go to Canada by way of
Liverpool, and on the day before the journey of Denry and Ruth to
Liverpool they had departed from the borough of Bursley (which Mr
Cotterill had so extensively faced with terra-cotta) unhonoured and
unsung. Even Denry, though he had visited them in their lodgings to say
good-bye, had not seen them off at the station; but Ruth Capron-Smith
had seen them off at the station. She had interrupted a sojourn to
Southport in order to come to Bursley, and despatch them therefrom with
due friendliness. Certain matters had to be attended to after their
departure, and Ruth had promised to attend to them.
Now immediately after seeing them off Ruth had met Denry in the street.
"Do you know," she said brusquely, "those people are actually going
steerage? I'd no idea of it. Mr and Mrs Cotterill kept it from me, and I
should not have heard of it only from something Nellie said. That's why
they've gone to-day. The boat doesn't sail till to-morrow afternoon."
"Steerage?" and Denry whistled.
"Yes," said Ruth. "Nothing but pride, of course. Old Cotterill wanted to
have every penny he could scrape, so as to be able to make the least
tiny bit of a show when he gets to Toronto, and so--steerage! Just think
of Mrs Cotterill and Nellie in the steerage. If I'd known of it I should
have altered that, I can tell you, and pretty quickly too; and now it's
"No, it isn't," Denry contradicted her flatly.
"But they've gone."
"I could telegraph to Liverpool for saloon berths--there's bound to be
plenty at this time of year--and I could run over to Liverpool to-morrow
and catch 'em on the boat, and make 'em change."
She asked him whether he really thought he could, and he assured her.
"Second-cabin berths would be better," said she.
"Well, because of dressing for dinner, and so on. They haven't got the
clothes, you know."
"Of course," said Denry.
"Listen," she said, with an enchanting smile. "Let's halve the cost, you
and I. And let's go to Liverpool together, and--er--make the little
gift, and arrange things. I'm leaving for Southport to-morrow, and
Liverpool's on my way."
Denry was delighted by the suggestion, and telegraphed to Liverpool with
Thus they found themselves on that morning in the Liverpool express
together. The work of benevolence in which they were engaged had a
powerful influence on their mood, which grew both intimate and tender.
Ruth made no concealment of her regard for Denry; and as he gazed across
the compartment at her, exquisitely mature (she was slightly older than
himself), dressed to a marvel, perfect in every detail of manner,
knowing all that was to be known about life, and secure in a handsome
fortune--as he gazed, Denry reflected, joyously, victoriously:
"I've got the dibs, of course. But she's got 'em too--perhaps more.
Therefore she must like me for myself alone. This brilliant creature has
been everywhere and seen everything, and she comes back to the Five
Towns and comes back to _me_."
It was his proudest moment. And in it he saw his future far more
glorious than he had dreamt.
"When shall you be out of mourning?" he inquired.
"In two months," said she.
This was not a proposal and acceptance, but it was very nearly one. They
were silent, and happy.
Then she said:
"Do you ever have business at Southport?"
And he said, in a unique manner:
"I shall have."
Another silence. This time he felt he _would_ marry her.
The White Star liner, _Titubic_, stuck out of the water like a row
of houses against the landing-stage. There was a large crowd on her
promenade-deck, and a still larger crowd on the landing-stage. Above the
promenade-deck officers paced on the navigating deck, and above that was
the airy bridge, and above that the funnels, smoking, and somewhere
still higher a flag or two fluttering in the icy breeze. And behind the
crowd on the landing-stage stretched a row of four-wheeled cabs and
rickety horses. The landing-stage swayed ever so slightly on the tide.
Only the ship was apparently solid, apparently cemented in foundations
On the starboard side of the promenade-deck, among a hundred other small
groups, was a group consisting of Mr and Mrs Cotterill and Ruth and
Denry. Nellie stood a few feet apart, Mrs Cotterill was crying. People
naturally thought she was crying because of the adieux; but she was not.
She wept because Denry and Ruth, by sheer force of will, had compelled
them to come out of the steerage and occupy beautiful and commodious
berths in the second cabin, where the manner of the stewards was quite
different. She wept because they had been caught in the steerage. She
wept because she was ashamed, and because people were too kind. She was
at once delighted and desolated. She wanted to outpour psalms of
gratitude, and also she wanted to curse.
Mr Cotterill said stiffly that he should repay--and that soon.
An immense bell sounded impatiently.
"We'd better be shunting," said Denry. "That's the second."
In exciting crises he sometimes employed such peculiar language as this.
And he was very excited. He had done a great deal of rushing about. The
upraising of the Cotterill family from the social Hades of the steerage
to the respectability of the second cabin had demanded all his energy,
and a lot of Ruth's.
Ruth kissed Mrs Cotterill and then Nellie. And Mrs Cotterill and Nellie
acquired rank and importance for the whole voyage by reason of being
kissed in public by a woman so elegant and aristocratic as Ruth
And Denry shook hands. He looked brightly at the parents, but he could
not look at Nellie; nor could she look at him; their handshaking was
perfunctory. For months their playful intimacy had been in abeyance.
The horrible bell continued to insist.
"All non-passengers ashore! All ashore!"
The numerous gangways were thronged with people obeying the call, and
handkerchiefs began to wave. And there was a regular vibrating tremor
through the ship.
Mr and Mrs Cotterill turned away.
Ruth and Denry approached the nearest gangway, and Denry stood aside,
and made a place for her to pass. And, as always, a number of women
pushed into the gangways immediately after her, and Denry had to wait,
being a perfect gentleman.
His eye caught Nellie's. She had not moved.
He felt then as he had never felt in his life. No, absolutely never. Her
sad, her tragic glance rendered him so uncomfortable, and yet so
deliciously uncomfortable, that the symptoms startled him. He wondered
what would happen to his legs. He was not sure that he had legs.
However, he demonstrated the existence of his legs by running up to
Nellie. Ruth was by this time swallowed in the crowd on the
landing-stage. He looked at Nellie. Nellie looked at him. Her lips
"What am I doing here?" he asked of his soul.
She was not at all well dressed. She was indeed shabby--in a steerage
style. Her hat was awry; her gloves miserable. No girlish pride in her
distraught face. No determination to overcome Fate. No consciousness of
ability to meet a bad situation. Just those sad eyes and those twitching
"Look here," Denry whispered, "you must come ashore for a second. I've
something I want to give you, and I've left it in the cab."
"But there's no time. The bell's..."
"Bosh!" he exclaimed gruffly, extinguishing her timid, childish voice.
"You won't go for at least a quarter of an hour. All that's only a dodge
to get people off in plenty of time. Come on, I tell you."
And in a sort of hysteria he seized her thin, long hand and dragged her
along the deck to another gangway, down whose steep slope they stumbled
together. The crowd of sightseers and handkerchief-wavers jostled them.
They could see nothing but heads and shoulders, and the great side of
the ship rising above. Denry turned her back on the ship.
"This way." He still held her hand.
He struggled to the cab-rank.
"Which one is it?" she asked.
"Any one. Never mind which. Jump in." And to the first driver whose eye
met his, he said: "Lime Street Station."
The gangways were being drawn away. A hoarse boom filled the air, and
then a cheer.
"But I shall miss the boat," the dazed girl protested.
He pushed her in.
"But I shall miss the..."
"I know you will," he replied, as if angrily. "Do you suppose I was
going to let you go by that steamer? Not much."
"But mother and father..."
"I'll telegraph. They'll get it on landing."
"And where's Ruth?"
"_Be hanged to Ruth!_" he shouted furiously.
As the cab rattled over the cobbles the _Titubic_ slipped away from
the landing-stage. The irretrievable had happened.
Nellie burst into tears.
"Look here," Denry said savagely. "If you don't dry up, I shall have to
"What are you going to do with me?" she whimpered.
"Well, what do _you_ think? I'm going to marry you, of course."
His aggrieved tone might have been supposed to imply that people had
tried to thwart him, but that he had no intention of being thwarted, nor
of asking permissions, nor of conducting himself as anything but a
As for Nellie, she seemed to surrender.
Then he kissed her--also angrily. He kissed her several times--yes, even
in Lord Street itself--less and less angrily.
"Where are you taking me to?" she inquired humbly, as a captive.
"I shall take you to my mother's," he said.
"Will she like it?"
"She'll either like it or lump it," said Denry. "It'll take a
"The notice, and things."
In the train, in the midst of a great submissive silence, she murmured:
"It'll be simply awful for father and mother."
"That can't be helped," said he. "And they'll be far too sea-sick to
bother their heads about you."
"You can't think how you've staggered me," said she.
"You can't think how I've staggered myself," said he.
"When did you decide to..."
"When I was standing at the gangway, and you looked at me," he answered.
"It's no use butting," he said. "I'm like that.... That's me, that is."
It was the bare truth that he had staggered himself. But he had
staggered himself into a miraculous, ecstatic happiness. She had no
money, no clothes, no style, no experience, no particular gifts. But she
was she. And when he looked at her, calmed, he knew that he had done
well for himself. He knew that if he had not yielded to that terrific
impulse he would have done badly for himself. Mrs Machin had what she
called a ticklish night of it.
The next day he received a note from Ruth, dated Southport, inquiring
how he came to lose her on the landing-stage, and expressing concern. It
took him three days to reply, and even then the reply was a bad one. He
had behaved infamously to Ruth; so much could not be denied. Within
three hours of practically proposing to her, he had run off with a
simple girl, who was not fit to hold a candle to her. And he did not
care. That was the worst of it; he did not care.
Of course the facts reached her. The facts reached everybody; for the
singular reappearance of Nellie in the streets of Bursley immediately
after her departure for Canada had to be explained. Moreover, the
infamous Denry was rather proud of the facts. And the town inevitably
said: "Machin all over, that! Snatching the girl off the blooming
lugger. Machin all over." And Denry agreed privately that it was Machin
"What other chap," he demanded of the air, "would have thought of it? Or
had the pluck?..."
It was mere malice on the part of destiny that caused Denry to run
across Mrs Capron-Smith at Euston some weeks later. Happily they both
had immense nerve.
"Dear me," said she. "What are _you_ doing here?"
"Only honeymooning," he said.
IN THE ALPS
Although Denry was extremely happy as a bridegroom, and capable of the
most foolish symptoms of affection in private, he said to himself, and
he said to Nellie (and she sturdily agreed with him): "We aren't going
to be the ordinary silly honeymooners." By which, of course, he meant
that they would behave so as to be taken for staid married persons. They
failed thoroughly in this enterprise as far as London, where they spent
a couple of nights, but on leaving Charing Cross they made a new and a
better start, in the light of experience.
Their destination, it need hardly be said, was Switzerland. After Mrs
Capron-Smith's remarks on the necessity of going to Switzerland in
winter if one wished to respect one's self, there was really no
alternative to Switzerland. Thus it was announced in the _Signal_
(which had reported the wedding in ten lines, owing to the excessive
quietude of the wedding) that Mr and Mrs Councillor Machin were spending
a month at Mont Pridoux, sur Montreux, on the Lake of Geneva. And the
announcement looked very well.
At Dieppe they got a through carriage. There were several through
carriages for Switzerland on the train. In walking through the corridors
from one to another Denry and Nellie had their first glimpse of the
world which travels and which runs off for a holiday whenever it feels
in the mood. The idea of going for a holiday in any month but August
seemed odd to both of them. Denry was very bold and would insist on
talking in a naturally loud voice. Nellie was timid and clinging. "What
do you say?" Denry would roar at her when she half-whispered something,
and she had to repeat it so that all could hear. It was part of their
plan to address each other curtly, brusquely, and to frown, and to
pretend to be slightly bored by each other.
They were outclassed by the world which travels. Try as they might, even
Denry was morally intimidated. He had managed his clothes fairly
correctly; he was not ashamed of them; and Nellie's were by no means the
worst in the compartments; indeed, according to the standard of some of
the most intimidating women, Nellie's costume erred in not being quite
sufficiently negligent, sufficiently "anyhow." And they had plenty, and
ten times plenty of money, and the consciousness of it. Expense was not
being spared on that honeymoon. And yet.... Well, all that can be said
is that the company was imposing. The company, which was entirely
English, seemed to be unaware that any one ever did anything else but
travel luxuriously to places mentioned in second-year geographies. It
astounded Nellie that there should be so many people in the world with
nothing to do but spend. And they were constantly saying the strangest
things with an air of perfect calm.
"How much did you pay for the excess luggage?" an untidy young woman
asked of an old man.
"Oh! Thirteen pounds," answered the old man, carelessly.
And not long before Nellie had scarcely escaped ten days in the steerage
of an Atlantic liner.
After dinner in the restaurant car--no champagne, because it was vulgar,
but a good sound, expensive wine--they felt more equal to the situation,
more like part-owners of the train. Nellie prudently went to bed ere the
triumphant feeling wore off. But Denry stayed up smoking in the
corridor. He stayed up very late, being too proud and happy and too avid
of new sensations to be able to think of sleep. It was a match which led
to a conversation between himself and a thin, drawling, overbearing
fellow with an eyeglass. Denry had hated this lordly creature all the
way from Dieppe. In presenting him with a match he felt that he was
somehow getting the better of him, for the match was precious in the
nocturnal solitude of the vibrating corridor. The mere fact that two
people are alone together and awake, divided from a sleeping or sleepy
population only by a row of closed, mysterious doors, will do much to
break down social barriers. The excellence of Denry's cigar also helped.
It atoned for the breadth of his accent.
He said to himself:
"I'll have a bit of a chat with this johnny."
And then he said aloud:
"Not a bad train this!"
"No!" the eyeglass agreed languidly. "Pity they give you such a beastly
And Denry agreed hastily that it was.
Soon they were chatting of places, and somehow it came out of Denry that
he was going to Montreux. The eyeglass professed its indifference to
Montreux in winter, but said the resorts above Montreux were all right,
such as Caux or Pridoux.
And Denry said:
"Well, of course, shouldn't think of stopping _in_ Montreux. Going
to try Pridoux."
The eyeglass said it wasn't going so far as Switzerland yet; it meant to
stop in the Jura.
"Geneva's a pretty deadly place, ain't it?" said the eyeglass after a
"Ye-es," said Denry.
"Been there since that new esplanade was finished?"
"No," said Denry. "I saw nothing of it."
"When were you there?"
"Oh! A couple of years ago."
"Ah! It wasn't started then. Comic thing! Of course they're awfully
proud in Geneva of the view of Mont Blanc."
"Yes," said Denry.
"Ever noticed how queer women are about that view? They're no end keen
on it at first, but after a day or two it gets on their nerves."
"Yes," said Denry. "I've noticed that myself. My wife...."
He stopped, because he didn't know what he was going to say. The
eyeglass nodded understandingly.
"All alike," it said. "Odd thing!"
When Denry introduced himself into the two-berth compartment which he
had managed to secure at the end of the carriage for himself and Nellie,
the poor tired child was as wakeful as an owl.
"Who have you been talking to?" she yawned.
"The eyeglass johnny."
"Oh! Really," Nellie murmured, interested and impressed. "With him, have
you? I could hear voices. What sort of a man is he?"
"He seems to be an ass," said Denry. "Fearfully haw-haw. Couldn't stand
him for long. I've made him believe we've been married for two years."
They stood on the balcony of the Hotel Beau-Site of Mont Pridoux. A
little below, to the right, was the other hotel, the Metropole, with the
red-and-white Swiss flag waving over its central tower. A little below
that was the terminal station of the funicular railway from Montreux.
The railway ran down the sheer of the mountain into the roofs of
Montreux, like a wire. On it, two toy trains crawled towards each other,
like flies climbing and descending a wall. Beyond the fringe of hotels
that constituted Montreux was a strip of water, and beyond the water a
range of hills white at the top.
"So these are the Alps!" Nellie exclaimed.
She was disappointed; he also. But when Denry learnt from the guide-book
and by inquiry that the strip of lake was seven miles across, and the
highest notched peaks ten thousand feet above the sea and twenty-five
miles off, Nellie gasped and was content.
They liked the Hotel Beau-Site. It had been recommended to Denry, by a
man who knew what was what, as the best hotel in Switzerland. "Don't you
be misled by prices," the man had said. And Denry was not. He paid
sixteen francs a day for the two of them at the Beau-Site, and was
rather relieved than otherwise by the absence of finger-bowls.
Everything was very good, except sometimes the hot water. The hot-water
cans bore the legend "hot water," but these two words were occasionally
the only evidence of heat in the water. On the other hand, the bedrooms
could be made sultry by merely turning a handle; and the windows were
double. Nellie was wondrously inventive. They breakfasted in bed, and
she would save butter and honey from the breakfast to furnish forth
afternoon tea, which was not included in the terms. She served the
butter freshly with ice by the simple expedient of leaving it outside
the window of a night. And Denry was struck by this house-wifery.
The other guests appeared to be of a comfortable, companionable class,
with, as Denry said, "no frills." They were amazed to learn that a
chattering little woman of thirty-five, who gossiped with everybody, and
soon invited Denry and Nellie to have tea in her room, was an authentic
Russian Countess, inscribed in the visitors' lists as "Comtesse Ruhl
(with maid), Moscow." Her room was the untidiest that Nellie had ever
seen, and the tea a picnic. Still, it was thrilling to have had tea with
a Russian Countess.... (Plots! Nihilism! Secret police! Marble
palaces!).... Those visitors' lists were breath-taking. Pages and pages
of them; scores of hotels, thousands of names, nearly all English--and
all people who came to Switzerland in winter, having naught else to do.
Denry and Nellie bathed in correctness as in a bath.
The only persons in the hotel with whom they did not "get on" nor "hit
it off" were a military party, chiefly named Clutterbuck, and presided
over by a Major Clutterbuck and his wife. They sat at a large table in a
corner--father, mother, several children, a sister-in-law, a sister, a
governess--eight heads in all; and while utterly polite they seemed to
draw a ring round themselves. They grumbled at the hotel; they played
bridge (then a newish game); and once, when Denry and the Countess
played with them (Denry being an adept card-player) for shilling points,
Denry overheard the sister-in-law say that she was sure Captain Deverax
wouldn't play for shilling points. This was the first rumour of the
existence of Captain Deverax; but afterwards Captain Deverax began to be
mentioned several times a day. Captain Deverax was coming to join them,
and it seemed that he was a very particular man. Soon all the rest of
the hotel had got its back up against this arriving Captain Deverax.
Then a Clutterbuck cousin came, a smiling, hard, fluffy woman, and
pronounced definitely that the Hotel Beau-Site would never do for
Captain Deverax. This cousin aroused Denry's hostility in a strange way.
She imparted to the Countess (who united all sects) her opinion that
Denry and Nellie were on their honeymoon. At night in a corner of the
drawing-room the Countess delicately but bluntly asked Nellie if she had
been married long. "No," said Nellie. "A month?" asked the Countess,
smiling. "N-no," said Nellie.
The next day all the hotel knew. The vast edifice of make-believe that
Denry and Nellie had laboriously erected crumbled at a word, and they
stood forth, those two, blushing for the criminals they were.
The hotel was delighted. There is more rejoicing in a hotel over one
honeymoon couple than over fifty families with children.
But the hotel had a shock the same day. The Clutterbuck cousin had
proclaimed that owing to the inadequacy of the bedroom furniture she had
been obliged to employ a sofa as a wardrobe. Then there were more
references to Captain Deverax. And then at dinner it became known--
Heaven knows how!--that the entire Clutterbuck party had given notice
and was seceding to the Hotel Metropole. Also they had tried to carry
the Countess with them, but had failed.
Now, among the guests of the Hotel Beau-Site there had always been a
professed scorn of the rival Hotel Metropole, which was a franc a day
dearer, and famous for its new and rich furniture. The Metropole had an
orchestra twice a week, and the English Church services were held in its
drawing-room; and it was larger than the Beau-Site. In spite of these
facts the clients of the Beau-Site affected to despise it, saying that
the food was inferior and that the guests were snobbish. It was an
article of faith in the Beau-Site that the Beau-Site was the best hotel
on the mountain-side, if not in Switzerland.
The insolence of this defection on the part of the Clutterbucks! How on
earth _could_ people have the face to go to a landlord and say to
him that they meant to desert him in favour of his rival?
Another detail: the secession of nine or ten people from one hotel to
the other meant that the Metropole would decidedly be more populous than
the Beau-Site, and on the point of numbers the emulation was very keen.
"Well," said the Beau-Site, "let 'em go! With their Captain Deverax! We
shall be better without 'em!" And that deadliest of all feuds sprang up
--a rivalry between the guests of rival hotels. The Metropole had issued
a general invitation to a dance, and after the monstrous conduct of the
Clutterbucks the question arose whether the Beau-Site should not boycott
the dance. However, it was settled that the truly effective course would
be to go with critical noses in the air, and emit unfavourable
comparisons with the Beau-Site. The Beau-Site suddenly became perfect in
the esteem of its patrons. Not another word was heard on the subject of
hot water being coated with ice. And the Clutterbucks, with incredible
assurance, slid their luggage off in a sleigh to the Metropole, in the
full light of day, amid the contempt of the faithful.
Under the stars the dancing section of the Beau-Site went off in
jingling sleighs over the snow to the ball at the Metropole. The
distance was not great, but it was great enough to show the inadequacy
of furs against twenty degrees of mountain frost, and it was also great
enough to allow the party to come to a general final understanding that
its demeanour must be cold and critical in the gilded halls of the
Metropole. The rumour ran that Captain Deverax had arrived, and every
one agreed that he must be an insufferable booby, except the Countess
Ruhl, who never used her fluent exotic English to say ill of anybody.
The gilded halls of the Metropole certainly were imposing. The hotel was
incontestably larger than the Beau-Site, newer, more richly furnished.
Its occupants, too, had a lordly way with them, trying to others, but
inimitable. Hence the visitors from the Beau-Site, as they moved to and
fro beneath those crystal chandeliers from Tottenham Court Road, had
their work cut out to maintain the mien of haughty indifference. Nellie,
for instance, frankly could not do it. And Denry did not do it very
well. Denry, nevertheless, did score one point over Mrs Clutterbuck's
"Captain Deverax has come," said this latter. "He was very late. He'll
be downstairs in a few minutes. We shall get him to lead the cotillon."
"Captain Deverax?" Denry questioned.
"Yes. You've heard us mention him," said the cousin, affronted.
"Possibly," said Denry. "I don't remember."
On hearing this brief colloquy the cohorts of the Beau-Site felt that in
Denry they possessed the making of a champion.
There was a disturbing surprise, however, waiting for Denry.
The lift descended; and with a peculiar double action of his arms on the
doors, like a pantomime fairy emerging from an enchanted castle, a tall
thin man stepped elegantly out of the lift and approached the company
with a certain mincingness. But before he could reach the company
several young women had rushed towards him, as though with the intention
of committing suicide by hanging themselves from his neck. He was in an
evening suit so perfect in detail that it might have sustained
comparison with the costume of the head waiter. And he wore an eyeglass
in his left eye. It was the eyeglass that made Denry jump. For two
seconds he dismissed the notion.... But another two seconds of
examination showed beyond doubt that this eyeglass was the eyeglass of
the train. And Denry had apprehensions....
"Captain Deverax!" exclaimed several voices.
The manner in which the youthful and the mature fair clustered around
this Captain, aged forty (and not handsome) was really extraordinary, to
the males of the Hotel Beau-Site. Even the little Russian Countess
attached herself to him at once. And by reason of her title, her social
energy, and her personal distinction, she took natural precedence of the
"Recognise him?" Denry whispered to his wife.
Nellie nodded. "He seems rather nice," she said diffidently.
"Nice!" Denry repeated the adjective. "The man's an ass!"
And the majority of the Beau-Site party agreed with Denry's verdict
either by word or gesture.
Captain Deverax stared fixedly at Denry; then smiled vaguely and
drawled, "Hullo! How d' do?"
And they shook hands.
"So you know him?" some one murmured to Denry.
"Know him?... Since infancy."
The inquirer scented facetiousness, but he was somehow impressed. The
remarkable thing was that though he regarded Captain Deverax as a
popinjay, he could not help feeling a certain slight satisfaction in the
fact that they were in some sort acquaintances.... Mystery of the human
heart!... He wished sincerely that he had not, in his conversation with
the Captain in the train, talked about previous visits to Switzerland.
It was dangerous.
The dance achieved that brightness and joviality which entitle a dance
to call itself a success. The cotillon reached brilliance, owing to the
captaincy of Captain Deverax. Several score opprobrious epithets were
applied to the Captain in the course of the night, but it was agreed
_nemine contradicente_ that, whatever he would have done in front
of a Light Brigade at Balaclava, as a leader of cotillons he was
terrific. Many men, however, seemed to argue that if a man who
_was_ a man led a cotillon, he ought not to lead it too well, on
pain of being considered a cox-comb.
At the close, during the hot soup, the worst happened. Denry had known
that it would.
Captain Deverax was talking to Nellie, who was respectfully listening,
about the scenery, when the Countess came up, plate in hand.
"No, no," the Countess protested. "As for me, I hate your mountains. I
was born in the steppe where it is all level--level! Your mountains
close me in. I am only here by order of my doctor. Your mountains get on
my nerves." She shrugged her shoulders.
Captain Deverax smiled.
"It is the same with you, isn't it?" he said turning to Nellie.
"Oh, no," said Nellie, simply.
"But your husband told me the other day that when you and he were in
Geneva a couple of years ago, the view of Mont Blanc used to--er--upset
"View of Mont Blanc?" Nellie stammered.
Everybody was aware that she and Denry had never been in Switzerland
before, and that their marriage was indeed less than a month old.
"You misunderstood me," said Denry, gruffly. "My wife hasn't been to
"Oh!" drawled Captain Deverax.
His "Oh!" contained so much of insinuation, disdain, and lofty amusement
that Denry blushed, and when Nellie saw her husband's cheek she blushed
in competition and defeated him easily. It was felt that either Denry
had been romancing to the Captain, or that he had been married before,
unknown to his Nellie, and had been "carrying on" at Geneva. The
situation, though it dissolved of itself in a brief space, was awkward.
It discredited the Hotel Beau-Site. It was in the nature of a repulse
for the Hotel Beau-Site (franc a day cheaper than the Metropole) and of
a triumph for the popinjay. The fault was utterly Denry's. Yet he said
"I'll be even with that chap."
On the drive home he was silent. The theme of conversation in the
sleighs which did not contain the Countess was that the Captain had
flirted tremendously with the Countess, and that it amounted to an
Captain Deverax was equally salient in the department of sports. There
was a fair sheet of ice, obtained by cutting into the side of the
mountain, and a very good tobogganing track, about half a mile in length
and full of fine curves, common to the two hotels. Denry's predilection
was for the track. He would lie on his stomach on the little contrivance
which the Swiss call a luge, and which consists of naught but three bits
of wood and two steel-clad runners, and would course down the perilous
curves at twenty miles an hour. Until the Captain came, this was
regarded as dashing, because most people were content to sit on the luge
and travel legs-foremost instead of head-foremost. But the Captain,
after a few eights on the ice, intimated that for the rest no sport was