Part 3 out of 6
'Anybody hurt here?'
'I think my arm is broken,' answered Humplebee.
Two men helped him to alight. The train had stopped just outside a small
station; on a cross line in front of the engine lay a goods truck smashed
to pieces; people were rushing about with cries and gesticulations.
'Yes, the arm is broken,' remarked one of the men who had assisted
Humplebee. 'It looks as if you were the only passenger injured.' That
proved, indeed, to be the case; no one else had suffered more than a jolt
or a bruise. The crowd clustered about this hero of the broken arm,
expressing sympathy and offering suggestions. Among them was a well-dressed
young man, rather good-looking and of lively demeanour, who seemed to enjoy
the excitement; he, after gazing fixedly at the pain-stricken face,
exclaimed in a voice of wonder--
'By jove! it's Humplebee!'
The sufferer turned towards him who spoke; his eyes brightened, for he
recognised the face of Leonard Chadwick. Neither one nor the other had
greatly altered during the past ten years; they presented exactly the same
contrast of personal characteristic as when they were at school together.
With vehement friendliness Chadwick at once took upon himself the care of
the injured clerk. He shouted for a cab, he found out where the nearest
doctor lived; in a quarter of an hour he had his friend under the doctor's
roof. When the fracture had been set and bandaged, they travelled on
together to their native town, only a few miles distant, Humplebee knowing
for the first time in his life the luxury of a first-class compartment. On
their way Chadwick talked exuberantly. He was delighted at this meeting;
why, one of his purposes in coming north had been to search out Humplebee,
whom he had so long scandalously neglected.
'The fact is, I've been going through queer times myself. The governor and
I can't get along together; we quarrelled years ago, there's not much
chance of our making it up. I've no doubt that was the real reason of his
dismissing you from his office--a mean thing! The governor's a fine old
boy, but he has his nasty side. He's very tight about money, and I--well,
I'm a bit too much the other way, no doubt. He's kept me in low water,
confound him! But I'm independent of him now. I'll tell you all about it
to-morrow, you'll feel better able to talk. Expect me at eleven in the
Through a night of physical suffering Humplebee was supported by a new
hope. Chadwick the son, warm-hearted and generous, made a strong contrast
with Chadwick the father, pompous and insincere. When the young man spoke
of his abiding gratitude there was no possibility of distrusting him, his
voice rang true, and his handsome features wore a delightful frankness.
Punctual to his appointment, Leonard appeared next morning. He entered the
poor lodging as if it had been a luxurious residence, talked suavely and
gaily with the landlady, who was tending her invalid, and, when alone with
his old schoolfellow, launched into a detailed account of a great
enterprise in which he was concerned. Not long ago he had become acquainted
with one Geldershaw, a man somewhat older than himself, personally most
attractive, and very keen in business. Geldershaw had just been appointed
London representative of a great manufacturing firm in Germany. It was a
most profitable undertaking, and, out of pure friendship, he had offered a
share in the business to Leonard Chadwick.
'Of course, I put money into it. The fact is, I have dropped in for a few
thousands from a good old aunt, who has been awfully kind to me since the
governor and I fell out. I couldn't possibly have found a better
investment, it means eight or nine per cent, my boy, at the very least! And
look here, Humplebee, of course you can keep books?'
'Yes, I can,' answered the listener conscientiously.
'Then, old fellow, a first-rate place is open to you. We want some one we
can thoroughly trust; you're the very man Geldershaw had in his eye. Would
you mind telling me what screw you get at present?'
'Two pounds ten a week.'
'Ha, ha!' laughed Chadwick exultantly. 'With us you shall begin at double
the figure, and I'll see to it that you have a rise after the first year.
What's more, Humplebee, as soon as we get fairly going, I promise you a
share in the business. Don't say a word, old boy! My governor treated you
abominably. I've been in your debt for ten years or so, as you know very
well, and often enough I've felt deucedly ashamed of myself. Five pounds a
week to begin with, and a certainty of a comfortable interest in a thriving
affair! Come, now, is it agreed?'
Humplebee forgot his pain; he felt ready to jump out of bed and travel
straightway to London.
'And you know,' pursued Chadwick, when they had shaken hands warmly, 'that
you have a claim for damages on the railway company. Leave that to me; I'll
put the thing in train at once, through my own solicitor. You shall pocket
a substantial sum, my boy! Well, I'm afraid I must be off; I've got my
hands full of business. Quite a new thing for me to have something serious
to do; I enjoy it! If I can't see you again before I go back to town, you
shall hear from me in a day or two. Here's my London address. Chuck up your
place here at once, so as to be ready for us as soon as your arm's all
right. Geldershaw shall write you a formal engagement.'
Happily his broken arm was the left. Humplebee could use his right hand,
and did so, very soon after Chadwick's departure, to send an account of all
that had befallen him to his friend Mary Bowes. It was the first time he
had written to her. His letter was couched in terms of studious respect,
with many apologies for the liberty he took. Of the accident he made
light--a few days would see him re-established--but he dwelt with some
emphasis upon the meeting with Leonard Chadwick, and what had resulted from
'I did him a good turn once, when we were at school together. He is a good,
warm-hearted fellow, and has sought this opportunity of showing that he
remembered the old time.'
Thus did Humplebee refer to the great event of his boyhood. Having
despatched the letter, he waited feverishly for Miss Bowes' reply; but days
passed, and still he waited in vain. Agitation delayed his recovery; he was
suffering as he had never suffered in his life, when there came a letter
from London, signed with the name of Geldershaw, repeating in formal terms
the offer made to him by Leonard Chadwick, and requesting his immediate
acceptance or refusal. This plucked him out of his despondent state, and
spurred him to action. With the help of his landlady he dressed himself,
and, having concealed his bandaged arm as well as possible, drove in a cab
to Miss Bowes' dwelling. The hour being before noon, he was almost sure to
find Mary at home, and alone. Trembling with bodily weakness and the
conflict of emotions, he rang the door bell. To his consternation there
appeared Mary's father.
'Hallo! Humplebee!' cried Mr. Bowes, surprised but friendly. 'Why, I was
just going to write to you. Mary has had scarlet fever. I've been so busy
these last ten days, I couldn't even inquire after you. Of course, I saw
about your smash in the newspaper; how are you getting on?'
The man with the bandaged arm could not utter a word. Horror-stricken he
stared at Mr. Bowes, who had begun to express a doubt whether it would be
prudent for him to enter the house.
Mary is convalescent; the anxiety's all over, but--'
Humplebee suddenly seized the speaker's hand, and in confused words
expressed vehement joy. They talked for a few minutes, parted with
cordiality, and Humplebee went home again to recover from his excitement.
A note from his employers had replied in terms of decent condolence to the
message by which he explained his enforced absence. To-day he wrote to the
principal, announcing his intention of resigning his post in their office.
The response, delivered within a few hours, was admirably brief and to the
point. Mr. Humplebee's place had, of course, been already taken temporarily
by another clerk; it would have been held open for him, but, in view of his
decision, the firm had merely to request that he would acknowledge the
cheque enclosed in payment of his salary up to date. Not without some
shaking of the hand did Humplebee pen this receipt; for a moment something
seemed to come between him and the daylight, and a heaviness oppressed his
inner man. But already he had despatched to London his formal acceptance of
the post at five pounds a week, and in thinking of it his heart grew
joyous. Two hundred and sixty pounds a year! It was beyond the hope of his
most fantastic day-dreams. He was a made man, secure for ever against fears
and worries. He was a man of substance, and need no longer shrink from
making known the hope which ruled his life.
A second letter was written to Mary Bowes; but not till many copies had
been made was it at length despatched. The writer declared that he looked
for no reply until Mary was quite herself again; he begged only that she
would reflect, meanwhile, upon what he had said, reflect with all her
indulgence, all her native goodness and gentleness. And, indeed, there
elapsed nearly a fortnight before the answer came; and to Humplebee it
seemed an endless succession of tormenting days. Then--
Humplebee behaved like one distracted. His landlady in good earnest thought
he had gone crazy, and was only reassured when he revealed to her what had
happened. Mary Bowes was to be his wife! They must wait for a year and a
half; Mary could not leave her father quite alone, but in a year and a half
Mr. Bowes, who was an oldish man, would be able to retire on the modest
fruit of his economies, and all three could live together in London.
'What,' cried Humplebee, 'was eighteen months? It would allow him to save
enough out of his noble salary to start housekeeping with something more
than comfort. Blessed be the name of Chadwick!'
When his arm was once more sound, and Mary's health quite recovered, they
met. In their long, long talk Humplebee was led to tell the story of that
winter day when he saved Leonard Chadwick's life; he related, too, all that
had ensued upon his acquaintance with the great Mr. Chadwick, memories
which would never lose all their bitterness. Mary was moved to tears, and
her tears were dried by indignation. But they agreed that Leonard, after
all, made some atonement for his father's heartless behaviour. Humplebee
showed a letter that had come from young Chadwick a day or two ago; every
line spoke generosity of spirit. 'When,' he asked, 'might they expect their
new bookkeeper. They were in full swing; business promised magnificently.
As yet, they had only a temporary office, but Geldershaw was in treaty for
fine premises in the city. The sooner Humplebee arrived the better; fortune
It was decided that he should leave for London in two days.
The next evening he came to spend an hour or two with Mary and her father.
On entering the room he at once observed something strange in the looks
with which he was greeted. Mary had a pale, miserable air, and could hardly
speak. Mr. Bowes, after looking at him fixedly for a moment, exclaimed--
'Have you seen to-day's paper?'
'I've been too busy,' he replied. 'What has happened?'
'Isn't your London man called Geldershaw?'
'Yes,' murmured Humplebee, with a sinking of the heart.
'Well, the police are after him; he has bolted. It's a long-firm swindle
that he's been up to. You know what that means? Obtaining goods on false
credit, and raising money on them. What's more, young Chadwick is arrested;
he came before the magistrates yesterday, charged with being an accomplice.
Here it is; read it for yourself.'
Humplebee dropped into a chair. When his eyes undazzled, he read the full
report which Mr. Bowes had summarised. It was the death-blow of his hopes.
'Leonard Chadwick has been a victim, not a swindler,' sounded from him in a
feeble voice. 'You see, he says that Geldershaw has robbed him of all his
money--that he is ruined.'
'He _says_ so,' remarked Mr. Bowes with angry irony.
'I believe him,' said Humplebee. His eyes sought Mary's. The girl regarded
him steadily, and she spoke in a low firm voice--'I, too, believe him.'
'Whether or no,' said Mr. Bowes, thrusting his hands into his pockets, 'the
upshot of it is, Humplebee, that you've lost a good place through trusting
him. I had my doubts; but you were in a hurry, and didn't ask advice. If
this had happened a week later, the police would have laid hands on you as
'So there's something to be thankful for, at all events,' said Mary.
Again Humplebee met her eyes. He saw that she would not forsake him.
He had to begin life over again--that was all.
THE SCRUPULOUS FATHER
It was market day in the little town; at one o'clock a rustic company
besieged the table of the Greyhound, lured by savoury odours and the
frothing of amber ale. Apart from three frequenters of the ordinary, in a
small room prepared for overflow, sat two persons of a different stamp--a
middle-aged man, bald, meagre, unimpressive, but wholly respectable in
bearing and apparel, and a girl, evidently his daughter, who had the look
of the latter twenties, her plain dress harmonising with a subdued charm of
feature and a timidity of manner not ungraceful. Whilst waiting for their
meal they conversed in an undertone; their brief remarks and ejaculations
told of a long morning's ramble from the seaside resort some miles away; in
their quiet fashion they seemed to have enjoyed themselves, and dinner at
an inn evidently struck them as something of an escapade. Rather awkwardly
the girl arranged a handful of wild flowers which she had gathered, and put
them for refreshment into a tumbler of water; when a woman entered with
viands, silence fell upon the two; after hesitations and mutual glances,
they began to eat with nervous appetite.
Scarcely was their modest confidence restored, when in the doorway sounded
a virile voice, gaily humming, and they became aware of a tall young man,
red-headed, anything but handsome, flushed and perspiring from the sunny
road; his open jacket showed a blue cotton shirt without waistcoat, in his
hand was a shabby straw hat, and thick dust covered his boots. One would
have judged him a tourist of the noisier class, and his rather loud 'Good
morning!' as he entered the room seemed a serious menace to privacy; on the
other hand, the rapid buttoning of his coat, and the quiet choice of a seat
as far as possible from the two guests whom his arrival disturbed,
indicated a certain tact. His greeting had met with the merest murmur of
reply; their eyes on their plates, father and daughter resolutely
disregarded him; yet he ventured to speak again.
'They're busy here to-day. Not a seat to be had in the other room.'
It was apologetic in intention, and not rudely spoken. After a moment's
delay the bald, respectable man made a curt response.
'This room is public, I believe.'
The intruder held his peace. But more than once he glanced at the girl, and
after each furtive scrutiny his plain visage manifested some disturbance, a
troubled thoughtfulness. His one look at the mute parent was from beneath
Very soon another guest appeared, a massive agricultural man, who descended
upon a creaking chair and growled a remark about the hot weather. With him
the red-haired pedestrian struck into talk. Their topic was beer.
Uncommonly good, they agreed, the local brew, and each called for a second
pint. What, they asked in concert, would England be without her ale? Shame
on the base traffickers who enfeebled or poisoned this noble liquor! And
how cool it was--ah! The right sort of cellar! He of the red hair hinted at
a third pewter.
These two were still but midway in their stout attack on meat and drink,
when father and daughter, having exchanged a few whispers, rose to depart.
After leaving the room, the girl remembered that she had left her flowers
behind; she durst not return for them, and, knowing her father would
dislike to do so, said nothing about the matter.
'A pity!' exclaimed Mr. Whiston (that was his respectable name) as they
strolled away. 'It looked at first as if we should have such a nice quiet
'I enjoyed it all the same,' replied his companion, whose name was Rose.
'That abominable habit of drinking!' added Mr. Whiston austerely. He
himself had quaffed water, as always. 'Their ale, indeed! See the coarse,
gross creatures it produces!'
He shuddered. Rose, however, seemed less consentient than usual. Her eyes
were on the ground; her lips were closed with a certain firmness. When she
spoke, it was on quite another subject.
They were Londoners. Mr. Whiston held the position of draughtsman in the
office of a geographical publisher; though his income was small, he had
always practised a rigid economy, and the possession of a modest private
capital put him beyond fear of reverses. Profoundly conscious of social
limits, he felt it a subject for gratitude that there was nothing to be
ashamed of in his calling, which he might fairly regard as a profession,
and he nursed this sense of respectability as much on his daughter's behalf
as on his own. Rose was an only child; her mother had been dead for years;
her kinsfolk on both sides laid claim to the title of gentlefolk, but
supported it on the narrowest margin of independence. The girl had grown up
in an atmosphere unfavourable to mental development, but she had received a
fairly good education, and nature had dowered her with intelligence. A
sense of her father's conscientiousness and of his true affection forbade
her to criticise openly the principles on which he had directed her life;
hence a habit of solitary meditation, which half fostered, yet half
opposed, the gentle diffidence of Rose's character.
Mr. Whiston shrank from society, ceaselessly afraid of receiving less than
his due; privately, meanwhile, he deplored the narrowness of the social
opportunities granted to his daughter, and was for ever forming schemes for
her advantage--schemes which never passed beyond the stage of nervous
speculation. They inhabited a little house in a western suburb, a house
illumined with every domestic virtue; but scarcely a dozen persons crossed
the threshold within a twelvemonth. Rose's two or three friends were, like
herself, mistrustful of the world. One of them had lately married after a
very long engagement, and Rose still trembled from the excitement of that
occasion, still debated fearfully with herself on the bride's chances of
happiness. Her own marriage was an event so inconceivable that merely to
glance at the thought appeared half immodest and wholly irrational.
Every winter Mr. Whiston talked of new places which he and Rose would visit
when the holidays came round; every summer he shrank from the thought of
adventurous novelty, and ended by proposing a return to the same western
seaside-town, to the familiar lodgings. The climate suited neither him nor
his daughter, who both needed physical as well as moral bracing; but they
only thought of this on finding themselves at home again, with another long
year of monotony before them. And it was so good to feel welcome,
respected; to receive the smiling reverences of tradesfolk; to talk with
just a little well-bred condescension, sure that it would be appreciated.
Mr. Whiston savoured these things, and Rose in this respect was not wholly
To-day was the last of their vacation. The weather had been magnificent
throughout; Rose's cheeks were more than touched by the sun, greatly to the
advantage of her unpretending comeliness. She was a typical English maiden,
rather tall, shapely rather than graceful, her head generally bent, her
movements always betraying the diffidence of solitary habit. The lips were
her finest feature, their perfect outline indicating sweetness without
feebleness of character. Such a girl is at her best towards the stroke of
thirty. Rose had begun to know herself; she needed only opportunity to act
upon her knowledge.
A train would take them back to the seaside. At the railway station Rose
seated herself on a shaded part of the platform, whilst her father, who was
exceedingly short of sight, peered over publications on the bookstall.
Rather tired after her walk, the girl was dreamily tracing a pattern with
the point of her parasol, when some one advanced and stood immediately in
front of her. Startled, she looked up, and recognised the red-haired
stranger of the inn.
'You left these flowers in a glass of water on the table. I hope I'm not
doing a rude thing in asking whether they were left by accident.'
He had the flowers in his hand, their stems carefully protected by a piece
of paper. For a moment Rose was incapable of replying; she looked at the
speaker; she felt her cheeks burn; in utter embarrassment she said she knew
'Oh!--thank you! I forgot them. It's very kind.'
Her hand touched his as she took the bouquet from him. Without another word
the man turned and strode away.
Mr. Whiston had seen nothing of this. When he approached, Rose held up the
flowers with a laugh.
'Wasn't it kind? I forgot them, you know, and some one from the inn came
looking for me.'
'Very good of them, very,' replied her father graciously. 'A very nice inn,
that. We'll go again--some day. One likes to encourage such civility; it's
He of the red hair travelled by the same train, though not in the same
carriage. Rose caught sight of him at the seaside station. She was vexed
with herself for having so scantily acknowledged his kindness; it seemed to
her that she had not really thanked him at all; how absurd, at her age, to
be incapable of common self-command! At the same time she kept thinking of
her father's phrase, 'coarse, gross creatures,' and it vexed her even more
than her own ill behaviour. The stranger was certainly not coarse, far from
gross. Even his talk about beer (she remembered every word of it) had been
amusing rather than offensive. Was he a 'gentleman'? The question agitated
her; it involved so technical a definition, and she felt so doubtful as to
the reply. Beyond doubt he had acted in a gentlemanly way; but his voice
lacked something. Coarse? Gross? No, no, no! Really, her father was very
severe, not to say uncharitable. But perhaps he was thinking of the heavy
agricultural man; oh, he must have been!
Of a sudden she felt very weary. At the lodgings she sat down in her
bedroom, and gazed through the open window at the sea. A sense of
discouragement, hitherto almost unknown, had fallen upon her; it spoilt the
blue sky and the soft horizon. She thought rather drearily of the townward
journey to-morrow, of her home in the suburbs, of the endless monotony that
awaited her. The flowers lay on her lap; she smelt them, dreamed over them.
And then--strange incongruity--she thought of beer!
Between tea and supper she and her father rested on the beach. Mr. Whiston
was reading. Rose pretended to turn the leaves of a book. Of a sudden, as
unexpectedly to herself as to her companion, she broke silence.
'Don't you think, father, that we are too much afraid of talking with
'Too much afraid?'
Mr. Whiston was puzzled. He had forgotten all about the incident at the
'I mean--what harm is there in having a little conversation when one is
away from home? At the inn to-day, you know, I can't help thinking we were
rather--perhaps a little too silent.'
'My dear Rose, did you want to talk about beer?'
She reddened, but answered all the more emphatically.
'Of course not. But, when the first gentleman came in, wouldn't it have
been natural to exchange a few friendly words? I'm sure he wouldn't have
talked of beer to _us_'
'The _gentleman_? I saw no gentleman, my dear. I suppose he was a small
clerk, or something of the sort, and he had no business whatever to address
'Oh, but he only said good morning, and apologised for sitting at our
table. He needn't have apologised at all.'
'Precisely. That is just what I mean,' said Mr. Whiston with
self-satisfaction. 'My dear Rose, if I had been alone, I might perhaps have
talked a little, but with you it was impossible. One cannot be too careful.
A man like that will take all sorts of liberties. One has to keep such
people at a distance.
A moment's pause, then Rose spoke with unusual decision--
'I feel quite sure, father, that he would not have taken liberties. It
seems to me that he knew quite well how to behave himself.'
Mr. Whiston grew still more puzzled. He closed his book to meditate this
'One has to lay down rules,' fell from him at length, sententiously. 'Our
position, Rose, as I have often explained, is a delicate one. A lady in
circumstances such as yours cannot exercise too much caution. Your natural
associates are in the world of wealth; unhappily, I cannot make you
wealthy. We have to guard our self-respect, my dear child. Really, it is
not _safe_ to talk with strangers--least of all at an inn. And you have
only to remember that disgusting conversation about beer!'
Rose said no more. Her father pondered a little, felt that he had delivered
his soul, and resumed the book.
The next morning they were early at the station to secure good places for
the long journey to London. Up to almost the last moment it seemed that
they would have a carriage to themselves. Then the door suddenly opened, a
bag was flung on to the seat, and after it came a hot, panting man, a
red-haired man, recognised immediately by both the travellers.
'I thought I'd missed it!' ejaculated the intruder merrily.
Mr. Whiston turned his head away, disgust transforming his countenance.
Rose sat motionless, her eyes cast down. And the stranger mopped his
forehead in silence.
He glanced at her; he glanced again and again; and Rose was aware of every
look. It did not occur to her to feel offended. On the contrary, she fell
into a mood of tremulous pleasure, enhanced by every turn of the stranger's
eyes in her direction. At him she did not look, yet she saw him. Was it a
coarse face? she asked herself. Plain, perhaps, but decidedly not vulgar.
The red hair, she thought, was not disagreeably red; she didn't dislike
that shade of colour. He was humming a tune; it seemed to be his habit, and
it argued healthy cheerfulness. Meanwhile Mr. Whiston sat stiffly in his
corner, staring at the landscape, a model of respectable muteness.
At the first stop another man entered. This time, unmistakably, a
commercial traveller. At once a dialogue sprang up between him and Rufus.
The traveller complained that all the smoking compartments were full.
'Why,' exclaimed Rufus, with a laugh, 'that reminds me that I wanted a
smoke. I never thought about it till now; jumped in here in a hurry.'
The traveller's 'line' was tobacco; they talked tobacco--Rufus with much
gusto. Presently the conversation took a wider scope.
'I envy you,' cried Rufus, 'always travelling about. I'm in a beastly
office, and get only a fortnight off once a year. I enjoy it, I can tell
you! Time's up today, worse luck! I've a good mind to emigrate. Can you
give me a tip about the colonies?'
He talked of how he had spent his holiday. Rose missed not a word, and her
blood pulsed in sympathy with the joy of freedom which he expressed. She
did not mind his occasional slang; the tone was manly and right-hearted; it
evinced a certain simplicity of feeling by no means common in men, whether
gentle or other. At a certain moment the girl was impelled to steal a
glimpse of his face. After all, was it really so plain? The features seemed
to her to have a certain refinement which she had not noticed before.
'I'm going to try for a smoker,' said the man of commerce, as the train
slackened into a busy station.
Rufus hesitated. His eye wandered.
'I think I shall stay where I am,' he ended by saying.
In that same moment, for the first time, Rose met his glance. She saw that
his eyes did not at once avert themselves; they had a singular expression,
a smile which pleaded pardon for its audacity. And Rose, even whilst
turning away, smiled in response.
The train stopped. The commercial traveller alighted. Rose, leaning towards
her father, whispered that she was thirsty; would he get her a glass of
milk or of lemonade? Though little disposed to rush on such errands, Mr.
Whiston had no choice but to comply; he sped at once for the
And Rose knew what would happen; she knew perfectly. Sitting rigid, her
eyes on vacancy, she felt the approach of the young man, who for the moment
was alone with her. She saw him at her side: she heard his voice.
'I can't help it. I want to speak to you. May I?'
Rose faltered a reply.
'It was so kind to bring the flowers. I didn't thank you properly.'
'It's now or never,' pursued the young man in rapid, excited tones. 'Will
you let me tell you my name? Will you tell me yours?'
Rose's silence consented. The daring Rufus rent a page from a pocket-book,
scribbled his name and address, gave it to Rose. He rent out another page,
offered it to Rose with the pencil, and in a moment had secured the
precious scrap of paper in his pocket. Scarce was the transaction completed
when a stranger jumped in. The young man bounded to his own corner, just in
time to see the return of Mr. Whiston, glass in hand.
During the rest of the journey Rose was in the strangest state of mind. She
did not feel in the least ashamed of herself. It seemed to her that what
had happened was wholly natural and simple. The extraordinary thing was
that she must sit silent and with cold countenance at the distance of a few
feet from a person with whom she ardently desired to converse. Sudden
illumination had wholly changed the aspect of life. She seemed to be
playing a part in a grotesque comedy rather than living in a world of grave
realities. Her father's dignified silence struck her as intolerably absurd.
She could have burst into laughter; at moments she was indignant,
irritated, tremulous with the spirit of revolt. She detected a glance of
frigid superiority with which Mr. Whiston chanced to survey the other
occupants of the compartment. It amazed her. Never had she seen her father
in such an alien light. He bent forward and addressed to her some
commonplace remark; she barely deigned a reply. Her views of conduct, of
character, had undergone an abrupt and extraordinary change. Having
justified without shadow of argument her own incredible proceeding, she
judged everything and everybody by some new standard, mysteriously
attained. She was no longer the Rose Whiston of yesterday. Her old self
seemed an object of compassion. She felt an unspeakable happiness, and at
the same time an encroaching fear.
The fear predominated; when she grew aware of the streets of London looming
on either hand it became a torment, an anguish. Small-folded, crushed
within her palm, the piece of paper with its still unread inscription
seemed to burn her. Once, twice, thrice she met the look of her friend. He
smiled cheerily, bravely, with evident purpose of encouragement. She knew
his face better than that of any oldest acquaintance; she saw in it a manly
beauty. Only by a great effort of self-control could she refrain from
turning aside to unfold and read what he had written. The train slackened
speed, stopped. Yes, it was London. She must arise and go. Once more their
eyes met. Then, without recollection of any interval, she was on the
Metropolitan Railway, moving towards her suburban home.
A severe headache sent her early to bed. Beneath her pillow lay a scrap of
paper with a name and address she was not likely to forget. And through the
night of broken slumbers Rose suffered a martyrdom. No more
self-glorification! All her courage gone, all her new vitality! She saw
herself with the old eyes, and was shame-stricken to the very heart.
Whose the fault? Towards dawn she argued it with the bitterness of misery.
What a life was hers in this little world of choking respectabilities!
Forbidden this, forbidden that; permitted--the pride of ladyhood. And she
was not a lady, after all. What lady would have permitted herself to
exchange names and addresses with a strange man in a railway
carriage--furtively, too, escaping her father's observation? If not a lady,
what _was_ she? It meant the utter failure of her breeding and education.
The sole end for which she had lived was frustrate. A common, vulgar young
woman--well mated, doubtless, with an impudent clerk, whose noisy talk was
of beer and tobacco!
This arrested her. Stung to the defence of her friend, who, clerk though he
might be, was neither impudent nor vulgar, she found herself driven back
upon self-respect. The battle went on for hours; it exhausted her; it undid
all the good effects of sun and sea, and left her flaccid, pale.
'I'm afraid the journey yesterday was too much for you,' remarked Mr.
Whiston, after observing her as she sat mute the next evening.
'I shall soon recover,' Rose answered coldly.
The father meditated with some uneasiness. He had not forgotten Rose's
singular expression of opinion after their dinner at the inn. His affection
made him sensitive to changes in the girl's demeanour. Next summer they
must really find a more bracing resort. Yes, yes; clearly Rose needed
bracing. But she was always better when the cool days came round.
On the morrow it was his daughter's turn to feel anxious. Mr. Whiston all
at once wore a face of indignant severity. He was absent-minded; he sat at
table with scarce a word; he had little nervous movements, and subdued
mutterings as of wrath. This continued on a second day, and Rose began to
suffer an intolerable agitation. She could not help connecting her father's
strange behaviour with the secret which tormented her heart.
Had something happened? Had her friend seen Mr. Whiston, or written to him?
She had awaited with tremors every arrival of the post. It was
probable--more than probable--that _he_ would write to her; but as yet no
letter came. A week passed, and no letter came. Her father was himself
again; plainly she had mistaken the cause of his perturbation. Ten days,
and no letter came.
It was Saturday afternoon. Mr. Whiston reached home at tea-time. The first
glance showed his daughter that trouble and anger once more beset him. She
trembled, and all but wept, for suspense had overwrought her nerves.
'I find myself obliged to speak to you on a very disagreeable
subject'--thus began Mr. Whiston over the tea-cups--'a very unpleasant
subject indeed. My one consolation is that it will probably settle a little
argument we had down at the seaside.'
As his habit was when expressing grave opinions (and Mr. Whiston seldom
expressed any other), he made a long pause and ran his fingers through his
thin beard. The delay irritated Rose to the last point of endurance.
'The fact is,' he proceeded at length, 'a week ago I received a most
extraordinary letter--the most impudent letter I ever read in my life. It
came from that noisy, beer-drinking man who intruded upon us at the
inn--you remember. He began by explaining who he was, and--if you can
believe it--had the impertinence to say that he wished to make my
acquaintance! An amazing letter! Naturally, I left it unanswered--the only
dignified thing to do. But the fellow wrote again, asking if I had received
his proposal. I now replied, briefly and severely, asking him, first, how
he came to know my name; secondly, what reason I had given him for
supposing that I desired to meet him again. His answer to this was even
more outrageous than the first offence. He bluntly informed me that in
order to discover my name and address he had followed us home that day from
Paddington Station! As if this was not bad enough, he went on to--really,
Rose, I feel I must apologise to you, but the fact is I seem to have no
choice but to tell you what he said. The fellow tells me, really, that he
wants to know _me_ only that he may come to know _you_! My first idea was
to go with this letter to the police. I am not sure that I shan't do so
even yet; most certainly I shall if he writes again. The man may be
crazy--he may be dangerous. Who knows but he may come lurking about the
house? I felt obliged to warn you of this unpleasant possibility.'
Rose was stirring her tea; also she was smiling. She continued to stir and
to smile, without consciousness of either performance.
'You make light of it?' exclaimed her father solemnly.
'O father, of course I am sorry you have had this annoyance.'
So little was there of manifest sorrow in the girl's tone and countenance
that Mr. Whiston gazed at her rather indignantly. His pregnant pause gave
birth to one of those admonitory axioms which had hitherto ruled his
'My dear, I advise you never to trifle with questions of propriety. Could
there possibly be a better illustration of what I have so often said--that
in self-defence we are bound to keep strangers at a distance?'
Rose began firmly, but her voice failed.
'You were going to say, Rose?'
She took her courage in both hands.
'Will you allow me to see the letters?'
'Certainly. There can be no objection to that.'
He drew from his pocket the three envelopes, held them to his daughter.
With shaking hand Rose unfolded the first letter; it was written in clear
commercial character, and was signed 'Charles James Burroughs.' When she
had read all, the girl said quietly--
'Are you quite sure, father, that these letters are impertinent?'
Mr. Whiston stopped in the act of finger-combing his beard.
'What doubt can there be of it?'
'They seem to me,' proceeded Rose nervously, 'to be very respectful and
'My dear, you astound me! Is it respectful to force one's acquaintance upon
an unwilling stranger? I really don't understand you. Where is your sense
of propriety, Rose? A vulgar, noisy fellow, who talks of beer and
tobacco--a petty clerk! And he has the audacity to write to me that he
wants to--to make friends with my daughter! Respectful? Honest? Really!'
When Mr. Whiston became sufficiently agitated to lose his decorous gravity,
he began to splutter, and at such moments he was not impressive. Rose kept
her eyes cast down. She felt her strength once more, the strength of a
wholly reasonable and half-passionate revolt against that tyrannous
propriety which Mr. Whiston worshipped.
'Well, my dear?'
'There is only one thing I dislike in these letters--and that is a
'I don't understand.'
Rose was flushing. Her nerves grew tense; she had wrought herself to a
simple audacity which overcame small embarrassments.
'Mr. Burroughs says that he followed us home from Paddington to discover
our address. That is not true. He asked me for my name and address in the
train, and gave me his.'
The father gasped.
'He _asked_--? You _gave_--?'
'It was whilst you were away in the refreshment-room,' proceeded the girl,
with singular self-control, in a voice almost matter-of-fact. 'I ought to
tell you, at the same time, that it was Mr. Burroughs who brought me the
flowers from the inn, when I forgot them. You didn't see him give them to
me in the station.'
The father stared.
'But, Rose, what does all this mean? You--you overwhelm me! Go on, please.
And of a sudden the girl was so beset with confusing emotions that she
hurriedly quitted her chair and vanished from the room.
Before Mr. Whiston returned to his geographical drawing on Monday morning,
he had held long conversations with Rose, and still longer with himself.
Not easily could he perceive the justice of his daughter's quarrel with
propriety; many days were to pass, indeed, before he would consent to do
more than make inquiries about Charles James Burroughs, and to permit that
aggressive young man to give a fuller account of himself in writing. It was
by silence that Rose prevailed. Having defended herself against the charge
of immodesty, she declined to urge her own inclination or the rights of Mr.
Burroughs; her mute patience did not lack its effect with the scrupulous
but tender parent.
'I am willing to admit, my dear,' said Mr. Whiston one evening, _a propos_
of nothing at all, 'that the falsehood in that young man's letter gave
proof of a certain delicacy.'
'Thank you, father,' replied Rose, very quietly and simply.
It was next morning that the father posted a formal, proper,
self-respecting note of invitation, which bore results.
A POOR GENTLEMAN
It was in the drawing-room, after dinner. Mrs. Charman, the large and
kindly hostess, sank into a chair beside her little friend Mrs. Loring, and
sighed a question.
'How do you like Mr. Tymperley?'
'Very nice. Just a little peculiar.'
'Oh, he _is_ peculiar! Quite original. I wanted to tell you about him
before we went down, but there wasn't time. Such a very old friend of ours.
My dear husband and he were at school together--Harrovians. The sweetest,
the most affectionate character! Too good for this world, I'm afraid; he
takes everything so seriously. I shall never forget his grief at my poor
husband's death.--I'm telling Mrs. Loring about Mr. Tymperley, Ada.'
She addressed her married daughter, a quiet young woman who reproduced Mrs.
Charman's good-natured countenance, with something more of intelligence,
the reflective serenity of a higher type.
'I'm sorry to see him looking so far from well,' remarked Mrs. Weare, in
'He never had any colour, you know, and his life... But I must tell you,'
she resumed to Mrs. Loring. 'He's a bachelor, in comfortable circumstances,
and--would you believe it?--he lives quite alone in one of the distressing
parts of London. Where is it, Ada?'
'A poor street in Islington.'
'Yes. There he lives, I'm afraid in shocking lodgings--it must be, _so_
unhealthy--just to become acquainted with the life of poor people, and be
helpful to them. Isn't it heroic? He seems to have given up his whole life
to it. One never meets him anywhere; I think ours is the only house where
he's seen. A noble life! He never talks about it. I'm sure you would never
have suspected such a thing from his conversation at dinner?'
'Not for a moment,' answered Mrs. Loring, astonished. 'He wasn't very
gossipy--I gathered that his chief interests were fretwork and foreign
Mrs. Weare laughed. 'The very man! When I was a little girl he used to make
all sorts of pretty things for me with his fret-saw; and when I grew old
enough, he instructed me in the balance of Power. It's possible, mamma,
that he writes leading articles. We should never hear of it.'
'My dear, anything is possible with Mr. Tymperley. And such a change, this,
after his country life. He had a beautiful little house near ours, in
Berkshire. I really can't help thinking that my husband's death caused him
to leave it. He was so attached to Mr. Charman! When my husband died, and
we left Berkshire, we altogether lost sight of him--oh, for a couple of
years. Then I met him by chance in London. Ada thinks there must have been
some sentimental trouble.'
'Dear mamma,' interposed the daughter, 'it was you, not I, who suggested
'Was it? Well, perhaps it was. One can't help seeing that he has gone
through something. Of course it may be only pity for the poor souls he
gives his life to. A wonderful man!'
When masculine voices sounded at the drawing-room door, Mrs. Loring looked
curiously for the eccentric gentleman. He entered last of all. A man of
more than middle height, but much bowed in the shoulders; thin, ungraceful,
with an irresolute step and a shy demeanour; his pale-grey eyes, very soft
in expression, looked timidly this way and that from beneath brows
nervously bent, and a self-obliterating smile wavered upon his lips. His
hair had begun to thin and to turn grey, but he had a heavy moustache,
which would better have sorted with sterner lineaments. As he walked--or
sidled--into the room, his hands kept shutting and opening, with rather
ludicrous effect. Something which was not exactly shabbiness, but a lack of
lustre, of finish, singled him among the group of men; looking closer, one
saw that his black suit belonged to a fashion some years old. His linen was
irreproachable, but he wore no sort of jewellery, one little black stud
showing on his front, and, at the cuffs, solitaires of the same simple
He drifted into a corner, and there would have sat alone, seemingly at
peace, had not Mrs. Weare presently moved to a seat beside him.
'I hope you won't be staying in town through August, Mr. Tymperley?'
'No!--Oh no!--Oh no, I think not!'
'But you seem uncertain. Do forgive me if I say that I'm sure you need a
change. Really, you know, you are _not_ looking quite the thing. Now, can't
I persuade you to join us at Lucerne? My husband would be so
pleased--delighted to talk with you about the state of Europe. Give us a
'My dear Mrs. Weare, you are kindness itself! I am deeply grateful. I can't
easily express my sense of your most friendly thoughtfulness. But, the
truth is, I am half engaged to other friends. Indeed, I think I may almost
say that I have practically...yes, indeed, it amounts to that.'
He spoke in a thinly fluting voice, with a preciseness of enunciation akin
to the more feebly clerical, and with smiles which became almost lachrymose
in their expressiveness as he dropped from phrase to phrase of embarrassed
circumlocution. And his long bony hands writhed together till the knuckles
'Well, so long as you _are_ going away. I'm so afraid lest your
conscientiousness should go too far. You won't benefit anybody, you know,
by making yourself ill.'
'Obviously not!--Ha, ha!--I assure you that fact is patent to me. Health is
a primary consideration. Nothing more detrimental to one's usefulness than
an impaired... Oh, to be sure, to be sure!'
'There's the strain upon your sympathies. That must affect one's health,
quite apart from an unhealthy atmosphere.'
'But Islington is not unhealthy, my dear Mrs. Weare! Believe me, the air
has often quite a tonic quality. We are so high, you must remember. If only
we could subdue in some degree the noxious exhalations of domestic and
industrial chimneys!--Oh, I assure you, Islington has every natural feature
Before the close of the evening there was a little music, which Mr.
Tymperley seemed much to enjoy. He let his head fall back, and stared
upwards; remaining rapt in that posture for some moments after the music
ceased, and at length recovering himself with a sigh.
When he left the house, he donned an overcoat considerably too thick for
the season, and bestowed in the pockets his patent-leather shoes. His hat
was a hard felt, high in the crown. He grasped an ill-folded umbrella, and
set forth at a brisk walk, as if for the neighbouring station. But the
railway was not his goal, nor yet the omnibus. Through the ambrosial night
he walked and walked, at the steady pace of one accustomed to pedestrian
exercise: from Notting Hill Gate to the Marble Arch; from the Marble Arch
to New Oxford Street; thence by Theobald's Road to Pentonville, and up, and
up, until he attained the heights of his own salubrious quarter. Long after
midnight he entered a narrow byway, which the pale moon showed to be
decent, though not inviting. He admitted himself with a latchkey to a
little house which smelt of glue, lit a candle-end which he found in his
pocket, and ascended two flights of stairs to a back bedroom, its size
eight feet by seven and a half. A few minutes more, and he lay sound
Waking at eight o'clock--he knew the time by a bell that clanged in the
neighbourhood--Mr. Tymperley clad himself with nervous haste. On opening
his door, he found lying outside a tray, with the materials of a breakfast
reduced to its lowest terms: half a pint of milk, bread, butter. At nine
o'clock he went downstairs, tapped civilly at the door of the front
parlour, and by an untuned voice was bidden enter. The room was occupied by
an oldish man and a girl, addressing themselves to the day's work of plain
'Good morning to you, sir,' said Mr. Tymperley, bending his head. 'Good
morning, Miss Suggs. Bright! Sunny! How it cheers one!'
He stood rubbing his hands, as one might on a morning of sharp frost. The
bookbinder, with a dry nod for greeting, forthwith set Mr. Tymperley a
task, to which that gentleman zealously applied himself. He was learning
the elementary processes of the art. He worked with patience, and some show
of natural aptitude, all through the working hours of the day.
To this pass had things come with Mr. Tymperley, a gentleman of Berkshire,
once living in comfort and modest dignity on the fruit of sound
investments. Schooled at Harrow, a graduate of Cambridge, he had meditated
the choice of a profession until it seemed, on the whole, too late to
profess anything at all; and, as there was no need of such exertion, he
settled himself to a life of innocent idleness, hard by the country-house
of his wealthy and influential friend, Mr. Charman. Softly the years flowed
by. His thoughts turned once or twice to marriage, but a profound
diffidence withheld him from the initial step; in the end, he knew himself
born for bachelorhood, and with that estate was content. Well for him had
he seen as clearly the delusiveness of other temptations! In an evil moment
he listened to Mr. Charman, whose familiar talk was of speculation, of
companies, of shining percentages. Not on his own account was Mr. Tymperley
lured: he had enough and to spare; but he thought of his sister, married to
an unsuccessful provincial barrister, and of her six children, whom it
would be pleasant to help, like the opulent uncle of fiction, at their
entering upon the world. In Mr. Charman he put blind faith, with the result
that one morning he found himself shivering on the edge of ruin; the touch
of confirmatory news, and over he went.
No one was aware of it but Mr. Charman himself and he, a few days later,
lay sick unto death. Mr. Charman's own estate suffered inappreciably from
what to his friend meant sheer disaster. And Mr. Tymperley breathed not a
word to the widow; spoke not a word to any one at all, except the lawyer,
who quietly wound up his affairs, and the sister whose children must needs
go without avuncular aid. During the absence of his friendly neighbours
after Mr. Charman's death, he quietly disappeared.
The poor gentleman was then close upon forty years old. There remained to
him a capital which he durst not expend; invested, it bore him an income
upon which a labourer could scarce have subsisted. The only possible place
of residence--because the only sure place of hiding--was London, and to
London Mr. Tymperley betook himself. Not at once did he learn the art of
combating starvation with minim resources. During his initiatory trials he
was once brought so low, by hunger and humiliation, that he swallowed
something of his pride, and wrote to a certain acquaintance, asking counsel
and indirect help. But only a man in Mr. Tymperley's position learns how
vain is well-meaning advice, and how impotent is social influence. Had he
begged for money, he would have received, no doubt, a cheque, with words of
compassion; but Mr. Tymperley could never bring himself to that.
He tried to make profit of his former amusement, fretwork, and to a certain
extent succeeded, earning in six months half a sovereign. But the prospect
of adding one pound a year to his starveling dividends did not greatly
All this time he was of course living in absolute solitude. Poverty is the
great secluder--unless one belongs to the rank which is born to it; a
sensitive man who no longer finds himself on equal terms with his natural
associates, shrinks into loneliness, and learns with some surprise how very
willing people are to forget his existence. London is a wilderness
abounding in anchorites--voluntary or constrained. As he wandered about the
streets and parks, or killed time in museums and galleries (where nothing
had to be paid), Mr. Tymperley often recognised brethren in seclusion; he
understood the furtive glance which met his own, he read the peaked visage,
marked with understanding sympathy the shabby-genteel apparel. No
interchange of confidences between these lurking mortals; they would like
to speak, but pride holds them aloof; each goes on his silent and
unfriended way, until, by good luck, he finds himself in hospital or
workhouse, when at length the tongue is loosed, and the sore heart pours
forth its reproach of the world.
Strange knowledge comes to a man in this position. He learns wondrous
economies, and will feel a sort of pride in his ultimate discovery of how
little money is needed to support life. In his old days Mr. Tymperley would
have laid it down as an axiom that 'one' cannot live on less than
such-and-such an income; he found that 'a man' can live on a few coppers a
day. He became aware of the prices of things to eat, and was taught the
relative virtues of nutriment. Perforce a vegetarian, he found that a
vegetable diet was good for his health, and delivered to himself many a
scornful speech on the habits of the carnivorous multitude. He of necessity
abjured alcohols, and straightway longed to utter his testimony on a
teetotal platform. These were his satisfactions. They compensate
astonishingly for the loss of many kinds of self-esteem.
But it happened one day that, as he was in the act of drawing his poor
little quarterly salvage at the Bank of England, a lady saw him and knew
him. It was Mr. Charman's widow.
'Why, Mr. Tymperley, what _has_ become of you all this time? Why have I
never heard from you? Is it true, as some one told me, that you have been
So utterly was he disconcerted, that in a mechanical way he echoed the
lady's last word: 'Abroad.'
'But why didn't you write to us?' pursued Mrs. Charman, leaving him no time
to say more. 'How very unkind! Why did you go away without a word? My
daughter says that we must have unconsciously offended you in some way. Do
explain! Surely there can't have been anything'
'My dear Mrs. Charman, it is I alone who am to blame. I...the explanation
is difficult; it involves a multiplicity of detail. I beg you to interpret
my unjustifiable behaviour as--as pure idiosyncrasy.'
'Oh, you must come and see me. You know that Ada's married? Yes, nearly a
year ago. How glad she will be to see you again. So often she has spoken of
you. When can you dine? To-morrow?'
'With pleasure--with great pleasure.'
She gave her address, and they parted.
Now, a proof that Mr. Tymperley had never lost all hope of restitution to
his native world lay in the fact of his having carefully preserved an
evening-suit, with the appropriate patent-leather shoes. Many a time had he
been sorely tempted to sell these seeming superfluities; more than once,
towards the end of his pinched quarter, the suit had been pledged for a few
shillings; but to part with the supreme symbol of respectability would have
meant despair--a state of mind alien to Mr. Tymperley's passive fortitude.
His jewellery, even watch and chain, had long since gone: such gauds are
not indispensable to a gentleman's outfit. He now congratulated himself on
his prudence, for the meeting with Mrs. Charman had delighted as much as it
embarrassed him, and the prospect of an evening in society made his heart
glow. He hastened home; he examined his garb of ceremony with anxious care,
and found no glaring defect in it. A shirt, a collar, a necktie must needs
be purchased; happily he had the means. But how explain himself? Could he
confess his place of abode, his startling poverty? To do so would be to
make an appeal to the compassion of his old friends, and from that he
shrank in horror. A gentleman will not, if-it can possibly be avoided,
reveal circumstances likely to cause pain. Must he, then, tell or imply a
falsehood. The whole truth involved a reproach of Mrs. Charman's husband--a
thought he could not bear.
The next evening found him still worrying over this dilemma. He reached
Mrs. Charman's house without having come to any decision. In the
drawing-room three persons awaited him: the hostess, with her daughter and
son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Weare. The cordiality of his reception moved him
all but to tears; overcome by many emotions, he lost his head. He talked at
random; and the result was so strange a piece of fiction, that no sooner
had he evolved it than he stood aghast at himself.
It came in reply to the natural question where he was residing.
'At present'--he smiled fatuously--'I inhabit a bed-sitting-room in a
little street up at Islington.'
Dead silence followed. Eyes of wonder were fixed upon him. But for those
eyes, who knows what confession Mr. Tymperley might have made? As it was...
'I said, Mrs. Charman, that I had to confess to an eccentricity. I hope it
won't shock you. To be brief, I have devoted my poor energies to social
work. I live among the poor, and as one of them, to obtain knowledge that
cannot be otherwise procured.'
'Oh, how noble!' exclaimed the hostess.
The poor gentleman's conscience smote him terribly. He could say no more.
To spare his delicacy, his friends turned the conversation. Then or
afterwards, it never occurred to them to doubt the truth of what he had
said. Mrs. Charman had seen him transacting business at the Bank of
England, a place not suggestive of poverty; and he had always passed for a
man somewhat original in his views and ways. Thus was Mr. Tymperley
committed to a singular piece of deception, a fraud which could not easily
be discovered, and which injured only its perpetrator.
Since then about a year had elapsed. Mr. Tymperley had seen his friends
perhaps half a dozen times, his enjoyment of their society pathetically
intense, but troubled by any slightest allusion to his mode of life. It had
come to be understood that he made it a matter of principle to hide his
light under a bushel, so he seldom had to take a new step in positive
falsehood. Of course he regretted ceaselessly the original deceit, for Mrs.
Charman, a wealthy woman, might very well have assisted him to some not
undignified mode of earning his living. As it was, he had hit upon the idea
of making himself a bookbinder, a craft somewhat to his taste. For some
months he had lodged in the bookbinder's house; one day courage came to
him, and he entered into a compact with his landlord, whereby he was to pay
for instruction by a certain period of unremunerated work after he became
proficient. That stage was now approaching. On the whole, he felt much
happier than in the time of brooding idleness. He looked forward to the day
when he would have a little more money in his pocket, and no longer dread
the last fortnight of each quarter, with its supperless nights.
Mrs. Weare's invitation to Lucerne cost him pangs. Lucerne! Surely it was
in some former state of existence that he had taken delightful holidays as
a matter of course. He thought of the many lovely places he knew, and so
many dream-landscapes; the London streets made them infinitely remote,
utterly unreal. His three years of gloom and hardship were longer than all
the life of placid contentment that came before. Lucerne! A man of more
vigorous temper would have been maddened at the thought; but Mr. Tymperley
nursed it all day long, his emotions only expressing themselves in a little
sigh or a sadly wistful smile.
Having dined so well yesterday, he felt it his duty to expend less than
usual on to-day's meals. About eight o'clock in the evening, after a
meditative stroll in the air which he had so praised, he entered the shop
where he was wont to make his modest purchases. A fat woman behind the
counter nodded familiarly to him, with a grin at another customer. Mr.
Tymperley bowed, as was his courteous habit.
'Oblige me,' he said, 'with one new-laid egg, and a small, crisp lettuce.'
'Only one to-night, eh?' said the woman.
'Thank you, only one,' he replied, as if speaking in a drawing-room.
'Forgive me if I express a hope that it will be, in the strict sense of the
word, new-laid. The last, I fancy, had got into that box by some
oversight--pardonable in the press of business.'
'They're always the same,' said the fat shopkeeper. 'We don't make no
mistakes of that kind.'
'Ah! Forgive me! Perhaps I imagined--'
Egg and lettuce were carefully deposited in a little handbag he carried,
and he returned home. An hour later, when his meal was finished, and he sat
on a straight-backed chair meditating in the twilight, a rap sounded at his
door, and a letter was handed to him. So rarely did a letter arrive for Mr.
Tymperley that his hand shook as he examined the envelope. On opening it,
the first thing he saw was a cheque. This excited him still more; he
unfolded the written sheet with agitation. It came from Mrs. Weare, who
'MY DEAR MR. TYMPERLEY,--After our talk last evening, I could not help
thinking of you and your beautiful life of self-sacrifice. I
contrasted the lot of these poor people with my own, which, one cannot
but feel, is so undeservedly blest and so rich in enjoyments. As a
result of these thoughts, I feel impelled to send you a little
contribution to your good work--a sort of thank-offering at the moment
of setting off for a happy holiday. Divide the money, please, among
two or three of your most deserving pensioners; or, if you see fit,
give it all to one. I cling to the hope that we may see you at
Lucerne.--With very kind regards.
The cheque was for five pounds. Mr. Tymperley held it up by the window, and
gazed at it. By his present standards of value five pounds seemed a very
large sum. Think of what one could do with it! His boots--which had been
twice repaired--would not decently serve him much longer. His trousers were
in the last stage of presentability. The hat he wore (how carefully
tended!) was the same in which he had come to London three years ago. He
stood in need, verily, of a new equipment from head to foot; and in
Islington five pounds would more than cover the whole expense. When, pray,
was he likely to have such a sum at his free disposal?
He sighed deeply, and stared about him in the dusk.
The cheque was crossed. For the first time in his life Mr. Tymperley
perceived that the crossing of a cheque may occasion its recipient a great
deal of trouble. How was he to get it changed? He knew his landlord for a
suspicious curmudgeon, and refusal of the favour, with such a look as Mr.
Suggs knew how to give, would be a sore humiliation; besides, it was very
doubtful whether Mr. Suggs could make any use of the cheque himself. To
whom else could he apply? Literally, to no one in London.
'Well, the first thing to do was to answer Mrs. Weare's letter. He lit his
lamp and sat down at the crazy little deal table; but his pen dipped
several times into the ink before he found himself able to write.
'Dear Mrs. Weare,'--
Then, so long a pause that he seemed to be falling asleep. With a jerk, he
bent again to his task.
'With sincere gratitude I acknowledge the receipt of your most kind
and generous donation. The money...'
(Again his hand lay idle for several minutes.)
'shall be used as you wish, and I will render to you a detailed
account of the benefits conferred by it.'
Never had he found composition so difficult. He felt that he was expressing
himself wretchedly; a clog was on his brain. It cost him an exertion of
physical strength to conclude the letter. When it was done, he went out,
purchased a stamp at a tobacconist's shop, and dropped the envelope into
Little slumber had Mr. Tymperley that night. On lying down, he began to
wonder where he should find the poor people worthy of sharing in this
benefaction. Of course he had no acquaintance with the class of persons of
whom Mrs. Weare was thinking. In a sense, all the families round about were
poor, but--he asked himself--had poverty the same meaning for them as for
him? Was there a man or woman in this grimy street who, compared with
himself, had any right to be called poor at all? An educated man forced to
live among the lower classes arrives at many interesting conclusions with
regard to them; one conclusion long since fixed in Mr. Tymperley's mind was
that the 'suffering' of those classes is very much exaggerated by outsiders
using a criterion quite inapplicable. He saw around him a world of coarse
jollity, of contented labour, and of brutal apathy. It seemed to him more
than probable that the only person in this street conscious of poverty, and
suffering under it, was himself.
From nightmarish dozing, he started with a vivid thought, a recollection
which seemed to pierce his brain. To whom did he owe his fall from comfort
and self-respect, and all his long miseries? To Mrs. Weare's father. And,
from this point of view, might the cheque for five pounds be considered as
mere restitution? Might it not strictly be applicable to his own
Another little gap of semi-consciousness led to another strange reflection.
What if Mrs. Weare (a sensible woman) suspected, or even had discovered,
the truth about him. What if she secretly _meant_ the money for his own
Earliest daylight made this suggestion look very insubstantial; on the
other hand, it strengthened his memory of Mr. Charman's virtual
indebtedness to him. He jumped out of bed to reach the cheque, and for an
hour lay with it in his hand. Then he rose and dressed mechanically.
After the day's work he rambled in a street of large shops. A bootmaker's
arrested him; he stood before the window for a long time, turning over and
over in his pocket a sovereign--no small fraction of the ready coin which
had to support him until dividend day. Then he crossed the threshold.
Never did man use less discretion in the purchase of a pair of boots. His
business was transacted in a dream; he spoke without hearing what he said;
he stared at objects without perceiving them. The result was that not till
he had got home, with his easy old footgear under his arm, did he become
aware that the new boots pinched him most horribly. They creaked too:
heavens! how they creaked! But doubtless all new boots had these faults; he
had forgotten; it was so long since he had bought a pair. The fact was, he
felt dreadfully tired, utterly worn out. After munching a mouthful of
supper he crept into bed.
All night long he warred with his new boots. Footsore, he limped about the
streets of a spectral city, where at every corner some one seemed to lie in
ambush for him, and each time the lurking enemy proved to be no other than
Mrs. Weare, who gazed at him with scornful eyes and let him totter by. The
creaking of the boots was an articulate voice, which ever and anon screamed
at him a terrible name. He shrank and shivered and groaned; but on he went,
for in his hand he held a crossed cheque, which he was bidden to get
changed, and no one would change it. What a night!
When he woke his brain was heavy as lead; but his meditations were very
lucid. Pray, what did he mean by that insane outlay of money, which he
could not possibly afford, on a new (and detestable) pair of boots? The old
would have lasted, at all events, till winter began. What was in his mind
when he entered the shop? Did he intend...? Merciful powers!
Mr. Tymperley was not much of a psychologist. But all at once he saw with
awful perspicacity the moral crisis through which he had been living. And
it taught him one more truth on the subject of poverty.
Immediately after his breakfast he went downstairs and tapped at the door
of Mr. Suggs' sitting-room.
'What is it?' asked the bookbinder, who was eating his fourth large rasher,
and spoke with his mouth full.
'Sir, I beg leave of absence for an hour or two this morning. Business of
some moment demands my attention.'
Mr. Suggs answered, with the grace natural to his order, 'I s'pose you can
do as you like. I don't pay you nothing.'
The other bowed and withdrew.
Two days later he again penned a letter to Mrs. Weare. It ran thus:--
'The money which you so kindly sent, and which I have already
acknowledged, has now been distributed. To ensure a proper use of it,
I handed the cheque, with clear instructions, to a clergyman in this
neighbourhood, who has been so good as to jot down, on the sheet
enclosed, a memorandum of his beneficiaries, which I trust will be
satisfactory and gratifying to you.
'But why, you will ask, did I have recourse to a clergyman. Why did I
not use my own experience, and give myself the pleasure of helping
poor souls in whom I have a personal interest--I who have devoted my
life to this mission of mercy?
'The answer is brief and plain. I have lied to you.
'I am _not_ living in this place of my free will. I am _not_
devoting myself to works of charity. I am--no, no, I was--merely a
poor gentleman, who, on a certain day, found that he had wasted his
substance in a foolish speculation, and who, ashamed to take his
friends into his confidence, fled to a life of miserable obscurity.
You see that I have added disgrace to misfortune. I will not tell you
how very near I came to something still worse.
'I have been serving an apprenticeship to a certain handicraft which
will, I doubt not, enable me so to supplement my own scanty resources
that I shall be in better circum than hitherto. I entreat you to
forgive me, if you can, and henceforth to forget
'S. V. TYMPERLEY.'
MISS RODNEY'S LEISURE
A young woman of about eight-and-twenty, in tailor-made costume, with
unadorned hat of brown felt, and irreproachable umbrella; a young woman who
walked faster than any one in Wattleborough, yet never looked hurried; who
crossed a muddy street seemingly without a thought for her skirts, yet
somehow was never splashed; who held up her head like one thoroughly at
home in the world, and frequently smiled at her own thoughts. Those who did
not know her asked who she was; those who had already made her acquaintance
talked a good deal of the new mistress at the High School, by name Miss
Rodney. In less than a week after her arrival in the town, her opinions
were cited and discussed by Wattleborough ladies. She brought with her the
air of a University; she knew a great number of important people; she had a
quiet decision of speech and manner which was found very impressive in
Wattleborough drawing-rooms. The headmistress spoke of her in high terms,
and the incumbent of St. Luke's, who knew her family, reported that she had
always been remarkably clever.
A stranger in the town, Miss Rodney was recommended to the lodgings of Mrs.
Ducker, a churchwarden's widow; but there she remained only for a week or
two, and it was understood that she left because the rooms 'lacked
character.' Some persons understood this as an imputation on Mrs. Ducker,
and were astonished; others, who caught a glimpse of Miss Rodney's meaning,
thought she must be 'fanciful.' Her final choice of an abode gave general
surprise, for though the street was one of those which Wattleborough
opinion classed as 'respectable,' the house itself, as Miss Rodney might
have learnt from the incumbent of St. Luke's, in whose parish it was
situated, had objectionable features. Nothing grave could be alleged
against Mrs. Turpin, who regularly attended the Sunday evening service; but
her husband, a carpenter, spent far too much time at 'The Swan With Two
Necks'; and then there was a lodger, young Mr. Rawcliffe, concerning whom
Wattleborough had for some time been too well informed. Of such comments
upon her proceeding Miss Rodney made light; in the aspect of the rooms she
found a certain 'quaintness' which decidedly pleased her. 'And as for Mrs.
Grundy,' she added, '_je m'en fiche_? which certain ladies of culture
declared to be a polite expression of contempt.
Miss Rodney never wasted time, and in matters of business had cultivated a
notable brevity. Her interview with Mrs. Turpin, when she engaged the
rooms, occupied perhaps a quarter of an hour; in that space of time she had
sufficiently surveyed the house, had learnt all that seemed necessary as to
its occupants, and had stated in the clearest possible way her present
'As a matter of course,' was her closing remark, 'the rooms will be
thoroughly cleaned before I come in. At present they are filthy.'
The landlady was too much astonished to reply; Miss Rodney's tones and
bearing had so impressed her that she was at a loss for her usual
loquacity, and could only stammer respectfully broken answers to whatever
was asked. Assuredly no one had ever dared to tell her that her lodgings
were 'filthy'--any ordinary person who had ventured upon such an insult
would have been overwhelmed with clamorous retort. But Miss Rodney, with a
pleasant smile and nod, went her way, and Mrs. Turpin stood at the open
door gazing after her, bewildered 'twixt satisfaction and resentment.
She was an easy-going, wool-witted creature, not ill-disposed, but
sometimes mendacious and very indolent. Her life had always been what it
was now--one of slatternly comfort and daylong gossip, for she came of a
small tradesman's family, and had married an artisan who was always in
well-paid work. Her children were two daughters, who, at seventeen and
fifteen, remained in the house with her doing little or nothing, though
they were supposed to 'wait upon the lodgers.' For some months only two of
the four rooms Mrs. Turpin was able to let had been occupied, one by 'young
Mr. Rawcliffe,' always so called, though his age was nearly thirty, but, as
was well known, he belonged to the 'real gentry,' and Mrs. Turpin held him
in reverence on that account. No matter for his little weaknesses--of which
evil tongues, said Mrs. Turpin, of course made the most. He might be
irregular in payment; he might come home 'at all hours,' and make
unnecessary noise in going upstairs; he might at times grumble when his
chop was ill-cooked; and, to tell the truth, he might occasionally be 'a
little too free' with the young ladies--that is to say, with Mabel and Lily
Turpin; but all these things were forgiven him because he was 'a real
gentleman,' and spent just as little time as he liked daily in a
Miss Rodney arrived early on Saturday afternoon. Smiling and silent, she
saw her luggage taken up to the bedroom; she paid the cabman; she beckoned
her landlady into the parlour, which was on the ground-floor front.
'You haven't had time yet, Mrs. Turpin, to clean the rooms?'
The landlady stammered a half-indignant surprise. Why, she and her
daughters had given the room a thorough turn out. It was done only
yesterday, and _hours_ had been devoted to it.
'I see,' interrupted Miss Rodney, with quiet decision, 'that our notions of
cleanliness differ considerably. I'm going out now, and I shall not be back
till six o'clock. You will please to _clean_ the bedroom before then. The
sitting-room shall be done on Monday.'
And therewith Miss Rodney left the house.
On her return she found the bedroom relatively clean, and, knowing that too
much must not be expected at once, she made no comment. That night, as she
sat reading at eleven o'clock, a strange sound arose in the back part of
the house; it was a man's voice, hilariously mirthful and breaking into
rude song. After listening for a few minutes, Miss Rodney rang her bell,
and the landlady appeared.
'Whose Voice is that I hear?'
'Who is shouting and singing?' asked Miss Rodney, in a disinterested tone.
'I'm sorry if it disturbs you, miss. You'll hear no more.'
'Mrs. Turpin, I asked who it was.'
'My 'usband, miss. But--'
'Thank you. Good night, Mrs. Turpin.'
There was quiet for an hour or more. At something after midnight, when Miss
Rodney had just finished writing half a dozen letters, there sounded a
latch-key in the front door, and some one entered. This person, whoever it
was, seemed to stumble about the passage in the dark, and at length banged
against the listener's door. Miss Rodney started up and flung the door
open. By the light of her lamp she saw a moustachioed face, highly flushed,
'Beg pardon,' cried the man, in a voice which harmonised with his look and
bearing. 'Infernally dark here; haven't got a match. You're
Miss--pardon--forgotten the name--new lodger. Oblige me with a light?
Without a word Miss Rodney took a match-box from her chimney-piece, entered
the passage, entered the second parlour--that occupied by Mr.
Rawcliffe--and lit a candle which stood on the table.
'You'll be so kind,' she said, looking her fellow-lodger in the eyes, 'as
not to set the house on fire.'
'Oh, no fear,' he replied, with a high laugh. 'Quite accustomed. Thanks
awfully, Miss--pardon--forgotten the name.'
But Miss Rodney was back in her sitting-room, and had closed the door.
Her breakfast next morning was served by Mabel Turpin, the elder daughter,
a stupidly good-natured girl, who would fain have entered into
conversation. Miss Rodney replied to a question that she had slept well,
and added that, when she rang her bell, she would like to see Mrs. Turpin.
Twenty minutes later the landlady entered.
'You wanted me, miss?' she began, in what was meant for a voice of dignity
and reserve. 'I don't really wait on lodgers myself.'
'We'll talk about that another time, Mrs. Turpin. I wanted to say, first of
all, that you have spoiled a piece of good bacon and two good eggs. I must
trouble you to cook better than this.'
'I'm very sorry, miss, that nothing seems to suit you'
'Oh, we shall get right in time!' interrupted Miss Rodney cheerfully. 'You
will find that I have patience. Then I wanted to ask you whether your
husband and your lodger come home tipsy _every_ night, or only on
The woman opened her eyes as wide as saucers, trying hard to look
'Well, perhaps I should have said "drunk"; I beg your pardon.'
'All I can say, miss, is that young Mr. Rawcliffe has never behaved himself
in _this_ house excepting as the gentleman he is. You don't perhaps know
that he belongs to a very high-connected family, miss, or I'm sure you
'I see,' interposed Miss Rodney. 'That accounts for it. But your husband.
Is _he_ highly connected?'
'I'm sure, miss, nobody could ever say that my 'usband took too much--not
to say _really_ too much. You may have heard him a bit merry, miss, but
where's the harm of a Saturday night?'
'Thank you. Then it is only on Saturday nights that Mr. Turpin becomes
merry. I'm glad to know that. I shall get used to these little things.'
But Mrs. Turpin did not feel sure that she would get used to her lodger.
Sunday was spoilt for her by this beginning. When her husband woke from his
prolonged slumbers, and shouted for breakfast (which on this day of rest he
always took in bed), the good woman went to him with downcast visage, and
spoke querulously of Miss Rodney's behaviour.
'I _won't_ wait upon her, so there! The girls may do it, and if she isn't
satisfied let her give notice. I'm sure I shan't be sorry. She's given me
more trouble in a day than poor Mrs. Brown did all the months she was here.
I _won't_ be at her beck and call, so there!'
Before night came this declaration was repeated times innumerable, and as
it happened that Miss Rodney made no demand for her landlady's attendance,
the good woman enjoyed a sense of triumphant self-assertion. On Monday
morning Mabel took in the breakfast, and reported that Miss Rodney had made
no remark; but, a quarter of an hour later, the bell rang, and Mrs. Turpin
was summoned. Very red in the face, she obeyed. Having civilly greeted her,
Miss Rodney inquired at what hour Mr. Turpin took his breakfast, and was
answered with an air of surprise that he always left the house on week-days
at half-past seven.
'In that case,' said Miss Rodney, 'I will ask permission to come into your
kitchen at a quarter to eight to-morrow morning, to show you how to fry
bacon and boil eggs. You mustn't mind. You know that teaching is my
Mrs. Turpin, nevertheless, seemed to mind very much. Her generally
good-tempered face wore a dogged sullenness, and she began to mutter
something about such a thing never having been heard of; but Miss Rodney
paid no heed, renewed the appointment for the next morning, and waved a
Talking with a friend that day, the High School mistress gave a humorous
description of her lodgings, and when the friend remarked that they must be
very uncomfortable, and that surely she would not stay there, Miss Rodney
replied that she had the firmest intention of staying, and, what was more,
of being comfortable.
'I'm going to take that household in hand,' she added. 'The woman is
foolish, but can be managed, I think, with a little patience. I'm going to
_tackle_ the drunken husband as soon as I see my way. And as for the highly
connected gentleman whose candle I had the honour of lighting, I shall turn
'You have your work set!' exclaimed the friend, laughing.
'Oh, a little employment for my leisure! This kind of thing relieves the
monotony of a teacher's life, and prevents one from growing old.'
Very systematically she pursued her purpose of getting Mrs. Turpin 'in
hand.' The two points at which she first aimed were the keeping clean of
her room and the decent preparation of her meals. Never losing temper,
never seeming to notice the landlady's sullen mood, always using a tone of
legitimate authority, touched sometimes with humorous compassion, she
exacted obedience to her directions, but was well aware that at any moment
the burden of a new civilisation might prove too heavy for the Turpin
family and cause revolt. A week went by; it was again Saturday, and Miss
Rodney devoted a part of the morning (there being no school to-day) to
culinary instruction. Mabel and Lily shared the lesson with their mother,
but both young ladies wore an air of condescension, and grimaced at Miss
Rodney behind her back. Mrs. Turpin was obstinately mute. The pride of
ignorance stiffened her backbone and curled her lip.
Miss Rodney's leisure generally had its task; though as a matter of
principle she took daily exercise, her walking or cycling was always an
opportunity for thinking something out, and this afternoon, as she sped on
wheels some ten miles from Wattleborough, her mind was busy with the
problem of Mrs. Turpin's husband. From her clerical friend of St. Luke's
she had learnt that Turpin was at bottom a decent sort of man, rather
intelligent, and that it was only during the last year or two that he had
taken to passing his evenings at the public-house. Causes for this decline
could be suggested. The carpenter had lost his only son, a lad of whom he
was very fond; the boy's death quite broke him down at the time, and
perhaps he had begun to drink as a way for forgetting his trouble. Perhaps,
too, his foolish, slatternly wife bore part of the blame, for his home had
always been comfortless, and such companionship must, in the long-run, tell
on a man. Reflecting upon this, Miss Rodney had an idea, and she took no
time in putting it into practice. When Mabel brought in her tea, she asked
the girl whether her father was at home.
'I think he is, miss,' was the distant reply--for Mabel had been bidden by
her mother to 'show a proper spirit' when Miss Rodney addressed her.
'You think so? Will you please make sure, and, if you are right, ask Mr.
Turpin to be so kind as to let me have a word with him.'
Startled and puzzled, the girl left the room. Miss Rodney waited, but no
one came. When ten minutes had elapsed she rang the bell. A few minutes
more and there sounded a heavy foot in the passage; then a heavy knock at
the door, and Mr. Turpin presented himself. He was a short, sturdy man,
with hair and beard of the hue known as ginger, and a face which told in
his favour. Vicious he could assuredly not be, with those honest grey eyes;
but one easily imagined him weak in character, and his attitude as he stood
just within the room, half respectful, half assertive, betrayed an
embarrassment altogether encouraging to Miss Rodney. In her pleasantest
tone she begged him to be seated.
'Thank you, miss,' he replied, in a deep voice, which sounded huskily, but
had nothing of surliness; 'I suppose you want to complain about something,
and I'd rather get it over standing.'
'I was not going to make any complaint, Mr. Turpin.'
'I'm glad to hear it, miss; for my wife wished me to say she'd done about
all she could, and if things weren't to your liking, she thought it would
be best for all if you suited yourself in somebody else's lodgings.'
It evidently cost the man no little effort to deliver his message; there
was a nervous twitching about his person, and he could not look Miss Rodney
straight in the face. She, observant of this, kept a very steady eye on
him, and spoke with all possible calmness.
'I have not the least desire to change my lodgings, Mr. Turpin. Things are
going on quite well. There is an improvement in the cooking, in the
cleaning, in everything; and, with a little patience, I am sure we shall
all come to understand one another. What I wanted to speak to you about was
a little practical matter in which you may be able to help me. I teach
mathematics at the High School, and I have an idea that I might make
certain points in geometry easier to my younger girls if I could
demonstrate them in a mechanical way. Pray look here. You see the shapes I
have sketched on this piece of paper; do you think you could make them for
me in wood?'
The carpenter was moved to a show of reluctant interest. He took the paper,
balanced himself now on one leg, now on the other, and said at length that
he thought he saw what was wanted. Miss Rodney, coming to his side,
explained in more detail; his interest grew more active.
'That's Euclid, miss?'
'To be sure. Do you remember your Euclid?'
'My own schooling never went as far as that,' he replied, in a muttering
voice; 'but my Harry used to do Euclid at the Grammar School, and I got
into a sort of way of doing it with him.'
Miss Rodney kept a moment's silence; then quietly and kindly she asked one
or two questions about the boy who had died. The father answered in an
awkward, confused way, as if speaking only by constraint.
'Well, I'll see what I can do, miss,' he added abruptly, folding the paper
to take away. 'You'd like them soon?'
'Yes. I was going to ask you, Mr. Turpin, whether you could do them this
evening. Then I should have them for Monday morning.'
Turpin hesitated, shuffled his feet, and seemed to reflect uneasily; but he
said at length that he 'would see about it,' and, with a rough bow, got out
of the room. That night no hilarious sounds came from the kitchen. On
Sunday morning, when Miss Rodney went into her sitting-room, she found on
the table the wooden geometrical forms, excellently made, just as she
wished. Mabel, who came with breakfast, was bidden to thank her father, and
to say that Miss Rodney would like to speak with him again, if his leisure
allowed, after tea-time on Monday. At that hour the carpenter did not fail
to present himself, distrustful still, but less embarrassed. Miss Rodney
praised his work, and desired to pay for it. Oh! that wasn't worth talking
about, said Turpin; but the lady insisted, and money changed hands. This
piece of business transacted, Miss Rodney produced a Euclid, and asked
Turpin to show her how far he had gone in it with his boy Harry. The
subject proved fruitful of conversation. It became evident that the
carpenter had a mathematical bias, and could be readily interested in such
things as geometrical problems. Why should he not take up the subject
'Nay, miss,' replied Turpin, speaking at length quite naturally; 'I
shouldn't have the heart. If my Harry had lived'
But Miss Rodney stuck to the point, and succeeded in making him promise
that he would get out the old Euclid and have a look at it in his leisure
time. As he withdrew, the man had a pleasant smile on his honest face.
On the next Saturday evening the house was again quiet.
Meanwhile, relations between Mrs. Turpin and her lodger were becoming less
strained. For the first time in her life the flabby, foolish woman had to
do with a person of firm will and bright intelligence; not being vicious of
temper, she necessarily felt herself submitting to domination, and darkly
surmised that the rule might in some way be for her good. All the sluggard
and the slattern in her, all the obstinacy of lifelong habits, hung back
from the new things which Miss Rodney was forcing upon her acceptance, but
she was no longer moved by active resentment. To be told that she cooked
badly had long ceased to be an insult, and was becoming merely a worrying
truism. That she lived in dirt there seemed no way of denying, and though
every muscle groaned, she began to look upon the physical exertion of
dusting and scrubbing as part of her lot in life. Why she submitted, Mrs.
Turpin could not have told you. And, as was presently to be seen, there
were regions of her mind still unconquered, instincts of resistance which
yet had to come into play.
For, during all this time, Miss Rodney had had her eye on her
fellow-lodger, Mr. Rawcliffe, and the more she observed this gentleman, the
more resolute she became to turn him out of the house; but it was plain to
her that the undertaking would be no easy one. In the landlady's eyes Mr.
Rawcliffe, though not perhaps a faultless specimen of humanity, conferred
an honour on her house by residing in it; the idea of giving him notice to
quit was inconceivable to her. This came out very clearly in the first
frank conversation which Miss Rodney held with her on the topic. It
happened that Mr. Rawcliffe had passed an evening at home, in the company
of his friends. After supping together, the gentlemen indulged in merriment
which, towards midnight, became uproarious. In the morning Mrs. Turpin
mumbled a shamefaced apology for this disturbance of Miss Rodney's repose.
'Why don't you take this opportunity and get rid of him?' asked the lodger
in her matter-of-fact tone.
'Yes, it's your plain duty to do so. He gives your house a bad character;
he sets a bad example to your husband; he has a bad influence on your
'Oh! miss, I don't think'
'Just so, Mrs. Turpin; you _don't_ think. If you had, you would long ago
have noticed that his behaviour to those girls is not at all such as it
should be. More than once I have chanced to hear bits of talk, when either
Mabel or Lily was in his sitting-room, and didn't like the tone of it. In
plain English, the man is a blackguard.'
Mrs. Turpin gasped.
'But, miss, you forget what family he belongs to.'
'Don't be a simpleton, Mrs. Turpin. The blackguard is found in every rank
of life. Now, suppose you go to him as soon as he gets up, and quietly give
him notice. You've no idea how much better you would feel after it.'
But Mrs. Turpin trembled at the suggestion. It was evident that no ordinary
argument or persuasion would bring her to such a step. Miss Rodney put the
matter aside for the moment.
She had found no difficulty in getting information about Mr. Rawcliffe. It
was true that he belonged to a family of some esteem in the Wattleborough
neighbourhood, but his father had died in embarrassed circumstances, and
his mother was now the wife of a prosperous merchant in another town. To
his stepfather Rawcliffe owed an expensive education and two or three
starts in life. He was in his second year of articles to a Wattle-borough
solicitor, but there seemed little probability of his ever earning a living
by the law, and reports of his excesses which reached the stepfather's ears
had begun to make the young man's position decidedly precarious. The
incumbent of St. Luke's, whom Rawcliffe had more than once insulted, took
much interest in Miss Rodney's design against this common enemy; he could
not himself take active part in the campaign, but he never met the High
School mistress without inquiring what progress she had made. The conquest
of Turpin, who now for several weeks had kept sober, and spent his evenings
in mathematical study, was a most encouraging circumstance; but Miss Rodney
had no thought of using her influence over her landlady's husband to assail
Rawcliffe's position. She would rely upon herself alone, in this as in all
Only by constant watchfulness and energy did she maintain her control over
Mrs. Turpin, who was ready at any moment to relapse into her old slatternly
ways. It was not enough to hold the ground that had been gained; there must
be progressive conquest; and to this end Miss Rodney one day broached a
subject which had already been discussed between her and her clerical ally.
'Why do you keep both your girls at home, Mrs. Turpin?' she asked.
'What should I do with them, miss? I don't hold with sending girls into
shops, or else they've an aunt in Birmingham, who's manageress of--'
'That isn't my idea,' interposed Miss Rodney quietly. 'I have been asked if
I knew of a girl who would go into a country-house not far from here as
second housemaid, and it occurred to me that Lily--'
A sound of indignant protest escaped the landlady, which Miss Rodney,
steadily regarding her, purposely misinterpreted.
'No, no, of course, she is not really capable of taking such a position.
But the lady of whom I am speaking would not mind an untrained girl, who
came from a decent house. Isn't it worth thinking of?'
Mrs. Turpin was red with suppressed indignation, but as usual she could not
look her lodger defiantly in the face.
'We're not so poor, miss,' she exclaimed, 'that we need send our daughters
'Why, of course not, Mrs. Turpin, and that's one of the reasons why Lily
might suit this lady.'
But here was another rock of resistance which promised to give Miss Rodney
a good deal of trouble. The landlady's pride was outraged, and after the
manner of the inarticulate she could think of no adequate reply save that
which took the form of personal abuse. Restrained from this by more than
one consideration, she stood voiceless, her bosom heaving.
'Well, you shall think it over,' said Miss Rodney, 'and we'll speak of it
again in a day or two.'
Mrs. Turpin, without another word, took herself out of the room.
Save for that singular meeting on Miss Rodney's first night in the house,
Mr. Rawcliffe and the energetic lady had held no intercourse whatever.
Their parlours being opposite each other on the ground floor, they
necessarily came face to face now and then, but the High School mistress
behaved as though she saw no one, and the solicitor's clerk, after one or
two attempts at polite formality, adopted a like demeanour. The man's
proximity caused his neighbour a ceaseless irritation; of all objectionable
types of humanity, this loafing and boozing degenerate was, to Miss Rodney,
perhaps the least endurable; his mere countenance excited her animosity,
for feebleness and conceit, things abhorrent to her, were legible in every
line of the trivial features; and a full moustache, evidently subjected to
training, served only as emphasis of foppish imbecility. 'I could beat
him!' she exclaimed more than once within herself, overcome with
contemptuous wrath, when she passed Mr. Rawcliffe. And, indeed, had it
been possible to settle the matter thus simply, no doubt Mr. Rawcliffe's
rooms would very soon have been vacant.
The crisis upon which Miss Rodney had resolved came about, quite
unexpectedly, one Sunday evening. Mrs. Turpin and her daughters had gone,
as usual, to church, the carpenter had gone to smoke a pipe with a
neighbour, and Mr. Rawcliffe believed himself alone in the house. But Miss
Rodney was not at church this evening; she had a headache, and after tea
lay down in her bedroom for a while. Soon impatient of repose, she got up
and went to her parlour. The door, to her surprise, was partly open;
entering--the tread of her slippered feet was noiseless--she beheld an
astonishing spectacle. Before her writing-table, his back turned to her,
stood Mr. Rawcliffe, engaged in the deliberate perusal of a letter which he
had found there. For a moment she observed him; then she spoke.
'What business have you here?'
Rawcliffe gave such a start that he almost jumped from the ground. His
face, as he put down the letter and turned, was that of a gibbering idiot;
his lips moved, but no sound came from them.
'What are you doing in my room?' demanded Miss Rodney, in her severest
'I really beg your pardon--I really beg--'
'I suppose this is not the first visit with which you have honoured me?'
'The first--indeed--I assure you--the very first! A foolish curiosity; I
really feel quite ashamed of myself; I throw myself upon your indulgence.'
The man had become voluble; he approached Miss Rodney smiling in a sickly
way, his head bobbing forward.
'It's something,' she replied, 'that you have still the grace to feel
ashamed. Well, there's no need for us to discuss this matter; it can have,
of course, only one result. To-morrow morning you will oblige me by giving
notice to Mrs. Turpin--a week's notice.'
'Leave the house?' exclaimed Rawcliffe.
'On Saturday next--or as much sooner as you like.'
'Oh! but really--'
'As you please,' said Miss Rodney, looking him sternly in the face. 'In
that case I complain to the landlady of your behaviour, and insist on her
getting rid of you. You ought to have been turned out long ago. You are a
nuisance, and worse than a nuisance. Be so good as to leave the room.'
Rawcliffe, his shoulders humped, moved towards the door; but before
reaching it he stopped and said doggedly--
'I _can't_ give notice.'
'I owe Mrs. Turpin money.'
'Naturally. But you will go, all the same.'
A vicious light flashed into the man's eyes.
'If it comes to that, I shall _not_ go!'
'Indeed?' said Miss Rodney calmly and coldly. 'We will see about it. In the
meantime, leave the room, sir!'
Rawcliffe nodded, grinned, and withdrew.
Late that evening there was a conversation between Miss Rodney and Mrs.
Turpin. The landlady, though declaring herself horrified at what had
happened, did her best to plead for Mr. Rawcliffe's forgiveness, and would
not be brought to the point of promising to give him notice.
'Very well, Mrs. Turpin,' said Miss Rodney at length, 'either he leaves the
house or I do.'
Resolved, as she was, _not_ to quit her lodgings, this was a bold
declaration. A meeker spirit would have trembled at the possibility that
Mrs. Turpin might be only too glad to free herself from a subjection which,
again and again, had all but driven her to extremities. But Miss Rodney had
the soul of a conqueror; she saw only her will, and the straight way to it.
'To tell you the truth, miss,' said the landlady, sore perplexed, 'he's
rather backward with his rent--'
'Very foolish of you to have allowed him to get into your debt. The
probability is that he would never pay his arrears; they will only
increase, the longer he stays. But I have no more time to spare at present.
Please understand that by Saturday next it must be settled which of your
lodgers is to go.'
Mrs. Turpin had never been so worried. The more she thought of the
possibility of Miss Rodney's leaving the house, the less did she like it.
Notwithstanding Mr. Rawcliffe's 'family,' it was growing clear to her that,
as a stamp of respectability and a source of credit, the High School
mistress was worth more than the solicitor's clerk. Then there was the
astonishing change that had come over Turpin, owing, it seemed, to his talk
with Miss Rodney; the man spent all his leisure time in 'making shapes and
figuring'--just as he used to do when poor Harry was at the Grammar School.
If Miss Rodney disappeared, it seemed only too probable that Turpin would
be off again to 'The Swan With Two Necks.' On the other hand, the thought
of 'giving notice' to Mr. Rawcliffe caused her something like dismay; how
could she have the face to turn a real gentleman out of her house? Yes, but
was it not true that she had lost money by him--and stood to lose more? She
had never dared to tell her husband of Mr. Rawcliffe's frequent
shortcomings in the matter of weekly payments. When the easy-going young
man smiled and nodded, and said, 'It'll be all right, you know, Mrs.
Turpin; you can trust _me_, I hope,' she could do nothing but acquiesce.
And Mr. Rawcliffe was more and more disposed to take advantage of this
weakness. If she could find courage to go through with the thing, perhaps
she would be glad when it was over.
Three days went by. Rawcliffe led an unusually quiet and regular life.
There came the day on which his weekly bill was presented. Mrs. Turpin
brought it in person at breakfast, and stood with it in her hand, an image
of vacillation. Her lodger made one of his familiar jokes; she laughed
feebly. No; the words would not come to her lips; she was physically
incapable of giving him notice.
'By the bye, Mrs. Turpin,' said Rawcliffe in an offhand way, as he glanced
at the bill, 'how much exactly do I owe you?'
Pleasantly agitated, his landlady mentioned the sum.
'Ah! I must settle that. I tell you what, Mrs. Turpin. Let it stand over
for another month, and we'll square things up at Christmas. Will that suit
And, by way of encouragement, he paid his week's account on the spot,
without a penny of deduction. Mrs. Turpin left the room in greater
embarrassment than ever.
Saturday came. At breakfast Miss Rodney sent for the landlady, who made a
timid appearance just within the room.
'Good morning, Mrs. Turpin. What news have you for me? You know what I
The landlady took a step forward, and began babbling excuses, explanations,
entreaties. She was coldly and decisively interrupted.
'Thank you, Mrs. Turpin, that will do. A week to-day I leave.'
With a sound which was half a sob and half grunt Mrs. Turpin bounced from
the room. It was now inevitable that she should report the state of things
to her husband, and that evening half an hour's circumlocution brought her
to the point. Which of the two lodgers should go? The carpenter paused,
pipe in mouth, before him a geometrical figure over which he had puzzled
for a day or two, and about which, if he could find courage, he wished to
consult the High School mistress. He reflected for five minutes, and
uttered an unhesitating decision. Mr. Rawcliffe must go. Naturally, his
wife broke into indignant clamour, and the debate lasted for an hour or
two; but Turpin could be firm when he liked, and he had solid reasons for
preferring to keep Miss Rodney in the house. At four o'clock Mrs. Turpin
crept softly to the sitting-room where her offended lodger was quietly
'I wanted just to say, miss, that I'm willing to give Mr. Rawcliffe notice
'Thank you, Mrs. Turpin,' was the cold reply. 'I have already taken other
The landlady gasped, and for a moment could say nothing. Then she besought
Miss Rodney to change her mind. Mr. Rawcliffe should leave, indeed he
should, on Wednesday week. But Miss Rodney had only one reply; she had
found other rooms that suited her, and she requested to be left in peace.
At eleven Mr. Rawcliffe came home. He was unnaturally sober, for Saturday
night, and found his way into the parlour without difficulty. There in a
minute or two he was confronted by his landlady and her husband: they
closed the door behind them, and stood in a resolute attitude.
'Mr. Rawcliffe,' began Turpin, 'you must leave these lodgings, sir, on
'Hullo! what's all this about?' cried the other. 'What do you mean,
The carpenter made plain his meaning; spoke of Miss Rodney's complaint, of
the irregular payment (for his wife, in her stress, had avowed everything),
and of other subjects of dissatisfaction; the lodger must go, there was an
end of it. Rawcliffe, putting on all his dignity, demanded the legal week's
notice; Turpin demanded the sum in arrear. There was an exchange of high
words, and the interview ended with mutual defiance. A moment after Turpin
and his wife knocked at Miss Rodney's door, for she was still in her
parlour. There followed a brief conversation, with the result that Miss