Part 3 out of 4
"No, of course not," agreed Peter. "But I was rather fond of it.
It was a quaint sort of animal, considered as a cat--would never
speak to another cat, and hated being out after ten o'clock at
"What happened to it?" demanded Miss Ramsbotham.
"Fell off a roof," sighed Peter Hope. "Wasn't used to them."
The marriage took place abroad, at the English Church at Montreux.
Mr. and Mrs. Loveredge returned at the end of September. The
Autolycus Club subscribed to send a present of a punch-bowl, left
cards, and waited with curiosity to see the bride. But no
invitation arrived. Nor for a month was Joey himself seen within
the Club. Then, one foggy afternoon, waking after a doze, with a
cold cigar in his mouth, Jack Herring noticed he was not the only
occupant of the smoking-room. In a far corner, near a window, sat
Joseph Loveredge reading a magazine. Jack Herring rubbed his eyes,
then rose and crossed the room.
"I thought at first," explained Jack Herring, recounting the
incident later in the evening, "that I must be dreaming. There he
sat, drinking his five o'clock whisky-and-soda, the same Joey
Loveredge I had known for fifteen years; yet not the same. Not a
feature altered, not a hair on his head changed, yet the whole face
was different; the same body, the same clothes, but another man.
We talked for half an hour; he remembered everything that Joey
Loveredge had known. I couldn't understand it. Then, as the clock
struck, and he rose, saying he must be home at half-past five, the
explanation suddenly occurred to me: JOEY LOVEREDGE WAS DEAD; THIS
WAS A MARRIED MAN."
"We don't want your feeble efforts at psychological romance," told
him Somerville the Briefless. "We want to know what you talked
about. Dead or married, the man who can drink whisky-and-soda must
be held responsible for his actions. What's the little beggar mean
by cutting us all in this way? Did he ask after any of us? Did he
leave any message for any of us? Did he invite any of us to come
an see him?"
"Yes, he did ask after nearly everybody; I was coming to that. But
he didn't leave any message. I didn't gather that he was pining
for old relationships with any of us."
"Well, I shall go round to the office to-morrow morning," said
Somerville the Briefless, "and force my way in if necessary. This
is getting mysterious."
But Somerville returned only to puzzle the Autolycus Club still
further. Joey had talked about the weather, the state of political
parties, had received with unfeigned interest all gossip concerning
his old friends; but about himself, his wife, nothing had been
gleaned. Mrs. Loveredge was well; Mrs. Loveredge's relations were
also well. But at present Mrs. Loveredge was not receiving.
Members of the Autolycus Club with time upon their hands took up
the business of private detectives. Mrs. Loveredge turned out to
be a handsome, well-dressed lady of about thirty, as Peter Hope had
desired. At eleven in the morning, Mrs. Loveredge shopped in the
neighbourhood of the Hampstead Road. In the afternoon, Mrs.
Loveredge, in a hired carriage, would slowly promenade the Park,
looking, it was noticed, with intense interest at the occupants of
other carriages as they passed, but evidently having no
acquaintances among them. The carriage, as a general rule, would
call at Joey's office at five, and Mr. and Mrs. Loveredge would
drive home. Jack Herring, as the oldest friend, urged by the other
members, took the bull by the horns and called boldly. On neither
occasion was Mrs. Loveredge at home.
"I'm damned if I go again!" said Jack. "She was in the second
time, I know. I watched her into the house. Confound the stuck-up
pair of them!"
Bewilderment gave place to indignation. Now and again Joey would
creep, a mental shadow of his former self, into the Club where once
every member would have risen with a smile to greet him. They gave
him curt answers and turned away from him. Peter Hope one
afternoon found him there alone, standing with his hands in his
pockets looking out of window. Peter was fifty, so he said, maybe
a little older; men of forty were to him mere boys. So Peter, who
hated mysteries, stepped forward with a determined air and clapped
Joey on the shoulder.
"I want to know, Joey," said Peter, "I want to know whether I am to
go on liking you, or whether I've got to think poorly of you. Out
Joey turned to him a face so full of misery that Peter's heart was
touched. "You can't tell how wretched it makes me," said Joey. "I
didn't know it was possible to feel so uncomfortable as I have felt
during these last three months."
"It's the wife, I suppose?" suggested Peter.
"She's a dear girl. She only has one fault."
"It's a pretty big one," returned Peter. "I should try and break
her of it if I were you."
"Break her of it!" cried the little man. "You might as well advise
me to break a brick wall with my head. I had no idea what they
were like. I never dreamt it."
"But what is her objection to us? We are clean, we are fairly
"My dear Peter, do you think I haven't said all that, and a hundred
things more? A woman! she gets an idea into her head, and every
argument against it hammers it in further. She has gained her
notion of what she calls Bohemia from the comic journals. It's our
own fault, we have done it ourselves. There's no persuading her
that it's a libel."
"Won't she see a few of us--judge for herself? There's Porson--why
Porson might have been a bishop. Or Somerville--Somerville's
Oxford accent is wasted here. It has no chance."
"It isn't only that," explained Joey; "she has ambitions, social
ambitions. She thinks that if we begin with the wrong set, we'll
never get into the right. We have three friends at present, and,
so far as I can see, are never likely to have any more. My dear
boy, you'd never believe there could exist such bores. There's a
man and his wife named Holyoake. They dine with us on Thursdays,
and we dine with them on Tuesdays. Their only title to existence
consists in their having a cousin in the House of Lords; they claim
no other right themselves. He is a widower, getting on for eighty.
Apparently he's the only relative they have, and when he dies, they
talk of retiring into the country. There's a fellow named Cutler,
who visited once at Marlborough House in connection with a charity.
You'd think to listen to him that he had designs upon the throne.
The most tiresome of them all is a noisy woman who, as far as I can
make out, hasn't any name at all. 'Miss Montgomery' is on her
cards, but that is only what she calls herself. Who she really is!
It would shake the foundations of European society if known. We
sit and talk about the aristocracy; we don't seem to know anybody
else. I tried on one occasion a little sarcasm as a corrective--
recounted conversations between myself and the Prince of Wales, in
which I invariably addressed him as 'Teddy.' It sounds tall, I
know, but those people took it in. I was too astonished to
undeceive them at the time, the consequence is I am a sort of
little god to them. They come round me and ask for more. What am
I to do? I am helpless among them. I've never had anything to do
before with the really first-prize idiot; the usual type, of
course, one knows, but these, if you haven't met them, are
inconceivable. I try insulting them; they don't even know I am
insulting them. Short of dragging them out of their chairs and
kicking them round the room, I don't see how to make them
"And Mrs. Loveredge?" asked the sympathetic Peter, "is she--"
"Between ourselves," said Joey, sinking his voice to a needless
whisper, seeing he and Peter were the sole occupants of the
smoking-room--"I couldn't, of course, say it to a younger man--but
between ourselves, my wife is a charming woman. You don't know
"Doesn't seem much chance of my ever doing so," laughed Peter.
"So graceful, so dignified, so--so queenly," continued the little
man, with rising enthusiasm. "She has only one fault--she has no
sense of humour."
To Peter, as it has been said, men of forty were mere boys.
"My dear fellow, whatever could have induced you--"
"I know--I know all that," interrupted the mere boy. "Nature
arranges it on purpose. Tall and solemn prigs marry little women
with turned-up noses. Cheerful little fellows like myself--we
marry serious, stately women. If it were otherwise, the human race
would be split up into species."
"Of course, if you were actuated by a sense of public duty--"
"Don't be a fool, Peter Hope," returned the little man. "I'm in
love with my wife just as she is, and always shall be. I know the
woman with a sense of humour, and of the two I prefer the one
without. The Juno type is my ideal. I must take the rough with
the smooth. One can't have a jolly, chirpy Juno, and wouldn't care
for her if one could."
"Then are you going to give up all your old friends?"
"Don't suggest it," pleaded the little man. "You don't know how
miserable it makes me--the mere idea. Tell them to be patient.
The secret of dealing with women, I have found, is to do nothing
rashly." The clock struck five. "I must go now," said Joey.
"Don't misjudge her, Peter, and don't let the others. She's a dear
girl. You'll like her, all of you, when you know her. A dear
girl! She only has that one fault."
Joey went out.
Peter did his best that evening to explain the true position of
affairs without imputing snobbery to Mrs. Loveredge. It was a
difficult task, and Peter cannot be said to have accomplished it
successfully. Anger and indignation against Joey gave place to
pity. The members of the Autolycus Club also experienced a little
irritation on their own account.
"What does the woman take us for?" demanded Somerville the
Briefless. "Doesn't she know that we lunch with real actors and
actresses, that once a year we are invited to dine at the Mansion
"Has she never heard of the aristocracy of genius?" demanded
Alexander the Poet.
"The explanation may be that possibly she has seen it," feared the
"One of us ought to waylay the woman," argued the Babe--"insist
upon her talking to him for ten minutes. I've half a mind to do it
Jack Herring said nothing--seemed thoughtful.
The next morning Jack Herring, still thoughtful, called at the
editorial offices of Good Humour, in Crane Court, and borrowed Miss
Ramsbotham's Debrett. Three days later Jack Herring informed the
Club casually that he had dined the night before with Mr. and Mrs.
Loveredge. The Club gave Jack Herring politely to understand that
they regarded him as a liar, and proceeded to demand particulars.
"If I wasn't there," explained Jack Herring, with unanswerable
logic, "how can I tell you anything about it?"
This annoyed the Club, whose curiosity had been whetted. Three
members, acting in the interests of the whole, solemnly undertook
to believe whatever he might tell them. But Jack Herring's
feelings had been wounded.
"When gentlemen cast a doubt upon another gentleman's veracity--"
"We didn't cast a doubt," explained Somerville the Briefless. "We
merely said that we personally did not believe you. We didn't say
we couldn't believe you; it is a case for individual effort. If
you give us particulars bearing the impress of reality, supported
by details that do not unduly contradict each other, we are
prepared to put aside our natural suspicions and face the
possibility of your statement being correct."
"It was foolish of me," said Jack Herring. "I thought perhaps it
would amuse you to hear what sort of a woman Mrs. Loveredge was
like--some description of Mrs. Loveredge's uncle. Miss Montgomery,
friend of Mrs. Loveredge, is certainly one of the most remarkable
women I have ever met. Of course, that isn't her real name. But,
as I have said, it was foolish of me. These people--you will never
meet them, you will never see them; of what interest can they be to
"They had forgotten to draw down the blinds, and he climbed up a
lamp-post and looked through the window," was the solution of the
problem put forward by the Wee Laddie.
"I'm dining there again on Saturday," volunteered Jack Herring.
"If any of you will promise not to make a disturbance, you can hang
about on the Park side, underneath the shadow of the fence, and
watch me go in. My hansom will draw up at the door within a few
minutes of eight."
The Babe and the Poet agreed to undertake the test.
"You won't mind our hanging round a little while, in case you're
thrown out again?" asked the Babe.
"Not in the least, so far as I am concerned," replied Jack Herring.
"Don't leave it too late and make your mother anxious."
"It's true enough," the Babe recounted afterwards. "The door was
opened by a manservant and he went straight in. We walked up and
down for half an hour, and unless they put him out the back way,
he's telling the truth."
"Did you hear him give his name?" asked Somerville, who was
stroking his moustache.
"No, we were too far off," explained the Babe. "But--I'll swear it
was Jack--there couldn't be any mistake about that."
"Perhaps not," agreed Somerville the Briefless.
Somerville the Briefless called at the offices of Good Humour, in
Crane Court, the following morning, and he also borrowed Miss
"What's the meaning of it?" demanded the sub-editor.
"Meaning of what?"
"This sudden interest of all you fellows in the British Peerage."
"All of us?"
"Well, Herring was here last week, poring over that book for half
an hour, with the Morning Post spread out before him. Now you're
doing the same thing."
"Ah! Jack Herring, was he? I thought as much. Don't talk about
it, Tommy. I'll tell you later on."
On the following Monday, the Briefless one announced to the Club
that he had received an invitation to dine at the Loveredges' on
the following Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Briefless one entered the
Club with a slow and stately step. Halting opposite old Goslin the
porter, who had emerged from his box with the idea of discussing
the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, Somerville, removing his hat
with a sweep of the arm, held it out in silence. Old Goslin, much
astonished, took it mechanically, whereupon the Briefless one,
shaking himself free from his Inverness cape, flung it lightly
after the hat, and strolled on, not noticing that old Goslin,
unaccustomed to coats lightly and elegantly thrown at him, dropping
the hat, had caught it on his head, and had been, in the language
of the prompt-book, "left struggling." The Briefless one, entering
the smoking-room, lifted a chair and let it fall again with a
crash, and sitting down upon it, crossed his legs and rang the
"Ye're doing it verra weel," remarked approvingly the Wee Laddie.
"Ye're just fitted for it by nature."
"Fitted for what?" demanded the Briefless one, waking up apparently
from a dream.
"For an Adelphi guest at eighteenpence the night," assured him the
Wee Laddie. "Ye're just splendid at it."
The Briefless one, muttering that the worst of mixing with
journalists was that if you did not watch yourself, you fell into
their ways, drank his whisky in silence. Later, the Babe swore on
a copy of Sell's Advertising Guide that, crossing the Park, he had
seen the Briefless one leaning over the railings of Rotten Row,
clad in a pair of new kid gloves, swinging a silver-headed cane.
One morning towards the end of the week, Joseph Loveredge, looking
twenty years younger than when Peter had last seen him, dropped in
at the editorial office of Good Humour and demanded of Peter Hope
how he felt and what he thought of the present price of Emma Mines.
Peter Hope's fear was that the gambling fever was spreading to all
classes of society.
"I want you to dine with us on Sunday," said Joseph Loveredge.
"Jack Herring will be there. You might bring Tommy with you."
Peter Hope gulped down his astonishment and said he should be
delighted; he thought that Tommy also was disengaged. "Mrs.
Loveredge out of town, I presume?" questioned Peter Hope.
"On the contrary," replied Joseph Loveredge, "I want you to meet
Joseph Loveredge removed a pile of books from one chair and placed
them carefully upon another, after which he went and stood before
"Don't if you don't like," said Joseph Loveredge; "but if you don't
mind, you might call yourself, just for the evening--say, the Duke
"Say the what?" demanded Peter Hope.
"The Duke of Warrington," repeated Joey. "We are rather short of
dukes. Tommy can be the Lady Adelaide, your daughter."
"Don't be an ass!" said Peter Hope.
"I'm not an ass," assured him Joseph Loveredge. "He is wintering
in Egypt. You have run back for a week to attend to business.
There is no Lady Adelaide, so that's quite simple."
"But what in the name of--" began Peter Hope.
"Don't you see what I'm driving at?" persisted Joey. "It was
Jack's idea at the beginning. I was frightened myself at first,
but it is working to perfection. She sees you, and sees that you
are a gentleman. When the truth comes out--as, of course, it must
later on--the laugh will be against her."
"You think--you think that'll comfort her?" suggested Peter Hope.
"It's the only way, and it is really wonderfully simple. We never
mention the aristocracy now--it would be like talking shop. We
just enjoy ourselves. You, by the way, I met in connection with
the movement for rational dress. You are a bit of a crank, fond of
frequenting Bohemian circles."
"I am risking something, I know," continued Joey; "but it's worth
it. I couldn't have existed much longer. We go slowly, and are
very careful. Jack is Lord Mount-Primrose, who has taken up with
anti-vaccination and who never goes out into Society. Somerville
is Sir Francis Baldwin, the great authority on centipedes. The Wee
Laddie is coming next week as Lord Garrick, who married that
dancing-girl, Prissy Something, and started a furniture shop in
Bond Street. I had some difficulty at first. She wanted to send
out paragraphs, but I explained that was only done by vulgar
persons--that when the nobility came to you as friends, it was
considered bad taste. She is a dear girl, as I have always told
you, with only one fault. A woman easier to deceive one could not
wish for. I don't myself see why the truth ever need come out--
provided we keep our heads."
"Seems to me you've lost them already," commented Peter; "you're
"The more of us the better," explained Joey; "we help each other.
Besides, I particularly want you in it. There's a sort of superior
Pickwickian atmosphere surrounding you that disarms suspicion."
"You leave me out of it," growled Peter.
"See here," laughed Joey; "you come as the Duke of Warrington, and
bring Tommy with you, and I'll write your City article."
"For how long?" snapped Peter. Incorruptible City editors are not
easily picked up.
"Oh, well, for as long as you like."
"On that understanding," agreed Peter, "I'm willing to make a fool
of myself in your company."
"You'll soon get used to it," Joey told him; "eight o'clock, then,
on Sunday; plain evening dress. If you like to wear a bit of red
ribbon in your buttonhole, why, do so. You can get it at Evans',
in Covent Garden."
"And Tommy is the Lady--"
"Adelaide. Let her have a taste for literature, then she needn't
wear gloves. I know she hates them." Joey turned to go.
"Am I married?" asked Peter.
Joey paused. "I should avoid all reference to your matrimonial
affairs if I were you," was Joey's advice. "You didn't come out of
that business too well."
"Oh! as bad as that, was I? You don't think Mrs. Loveredge will
object to me?"
"I have asked her that. She's a dear, broad-minded girl. I've
promised not to leave you alone with Miss Montgomery, and Willis
has had instructions not to let you mix your drinks."
"I'd have liked to have been someone a trifle more respectable,"
"We rather wanted a duke," explained Joey, "and he was the only one
that fitted in all round."
The dinner a was a complete success. Tommy, entering into the
spirit of the thing, bought a new pair of open-work stockings and
assumed a languid drawl. Peter, who was growing forgetful,
introduced her as the Lady Alexandra; it did not seem to matter,
both beginning with an A. She greeted Lord Mount-Primrose as
"Billy," and asked affectionately after his mother. Joey told his
raciest stories. The Duke of Warrington called everybody by their
Christian names, and seemed well acquainted with Bohemian society--
a more amiable nobleman it would have been impossible to discover.
The lady whose real name was not Miss Montgomery sat in speechless
admiration. The hostess was the personification of gracious
Other little dinners, equally successful, followed. Joey's
acquaintanceship appeared to be confined exclusively to the higher
circles of the British aristocracy--with one exception: that of a
German baron, a short, stout gentleman, who talked English well,
but with an accent, and who, when he desired to be impressive, laid
his right forefinger on the right side of his nose and thrust his
whole face forward. Mrs. Loveredge wondered why her husband had
not introduced them sooner, but was too blissful to be suspicious.
The Autolycus Club was gradually changing its tone. Friends could
no longer recognise one another by the voice. Every corner had its
solitary student practising high-class intonation. Members dropped
into the habit of addressing one another as "dear chappie," and,
discarding pipes, took to cheap cigars. Many of the older habitues
All might have gone well to the end of time if only Mrs. Loveredge
had left all social arrangements in the hands of her husband--had
not sought to aid his efforts. To a certain political garden-
party, one day in the height of the season, were invited Joseph
Loveredge and Mrs. Joseph Loveredge, his wife. Mr. Joseph
Loveredge at the last moment found himself unable to attend. Mrs.
Joseph Loveredge went alone, met there various members of the
British aristocracy. Mrs. Joseph Loveredge, accustomed to
friendship with the aristocracy, felt at her ease and was natural
and agreeable. The wife of an eminent peer talked to her and liked
her. It occurred to Mrs. Joseph Loveredge that this lady might be
induced to visit her house in Regent's Park, there to mingle with
those of her own class.
"Lord Mount-Primrose, the Duke of Warrington, and a few others will
be dining with us on Sunday next," suggested Mrs. Loveredge. "Will
not you do us the honour of coming? We are, of course, only simple
folk ourselves, but somehow people seem to like us."
The wife of the eminent peer looked at Mrs. Loveredge, looked round
the grounds, looked at Mrs. Loveredge again, and said she would
like to come. Mrs. Joseph Loveredge intended at first to tell her
husband of her success, but a little devil entering into her head
and whispering to her that it would be amusing, she resolved to
keep it as a surprise, to be sprung upon him at eight o'clock on
Sunday. The surprise proved all she could have hoped for.
The Duke of Warrington, having journalistic matters to discuss with
Joseph Loveredge, arrived at half-past seven, wearing on his shirt-
front a silver star, purchased in Eagle Street the day before for
eight-and-six. There accompanied him the Lady Alexandra, wearing
the identical ruby necklace that every night for the past six
months, and twice on Saturdays, "John Strongheart" had been falsely
accused of stealing. Lord Garrick, having picked up his wife (Miss
Ramsbotham) outside the Mother Redcap, arrived with her on foot at
a quarter to eight. Lord Mount-Primrose, together with Sir Francis
Baldwin, dashed up in a hansom at seven-fifty. His Lordship,
having lost the toss, paid the fare. The Hon. Harry Sykes
(commonly called "the Babe") was ushered in five minutes later.
The noble company assembled in the drawing-room chatted blithely
while waiting for dinner to be announced. The Duke of Warrington
was telling an anecdote about a cat, which nobody appeared to
believe. Lord Mount-Primrose desired to know whether by any chance
it might be the same animal that every night at half-past nine had
been in the habit of climbing up his Grace's railings and knocking
at his Grace's door. The Honourable Harry was saying that,
speaking of cats, he once had a sort of terrier--when the door was
thrown open and Willis announced the Lady Mary Sutton.
Mr. Joseph Loveredge, who was sitting near the fire, rose up. Lord
Mount-Primrose, who was standing near the piano, sat down. The
Lady Mary Sutton paused in the doorway. Mrs. Loveredge crossed the
room to greet her.
"Let me introduce you to my husband," said Mrs. Loveredge. "Joey,
my dear, the Lady Mary Sutton. I met the Lady Mary at the
O'Meyers' the other day, and she was good enough to accept my
invitation. I forgot to tell you."
Mr. Loveredge said he was delighted; after which, although as a
rule a chatty man, he seemed to have nothing else to say. And a
Somerville the Briefless--till then. That evening has always been
reckoned the starting-point of his career. Up till then nobody
thought he had much in him--walked up and held out his hand.
"You don't remember me, Lady Mary," said the Briefless one. "I met
you some years ago; we had a most interesting conversation--Sir
The Lady Mary stood for a moment trying apparently to recollect.
She was a handsome, fresh-complexioned woman of about forty, with
frank, agreeable eyes. The Lady Mary glanced at Lord Garrick, who
was talking rapidly to Lord Mount-Primrose, who was not listening,
and who could not have understood even if he had been, Lord
Garrick, without being aware of it, having dropped into broad
Scotch. From him the Lady Mary glanced at her hostess, and from
her hostess to her host.
The Lady Mary took the hand held out to her. "Of course," said the
Lady Mary; "how stupid of me! It was the day of my own wedding,
too. You really must forgive me. We talked of quite a lot of
things. I remember now."
Mrs. Loveredge, who prided herself upon maintaining old-fashioned
courtesies, proceeded to introduce the Lady Mary to her fellow-
guests, a little surprised that her ladyship appeared to know so
few of them. Her ladyship's greeting of the Duke of Warrington was
accompanied, it was remarked, by a somewhat curious smile. To the
Duke of Warrington's daughter alone did the Lady Mary address
"My dear," said the Lady Mary, "how you have grown since last we
The announcement of dinner, as everybody felt, came none too soon.
It was not a merry feast. Joey told but one story; he told it
three times, and twice left out the point. Lord Mount-Primrose
took sifted sugar with pate de foie gras and ate it with a spoon.
Lord Garrick, talking a mixture of Scotch and English, urged his
wife to give up housekeeping and take a flat in Gower Street,
which, as he pointed out, was central. She could have her meals
sent in to her and so avoid all trouble. The Lady Alexandra's
behaviour appeared to Mrs. Loveredge not altogether well-bred. An
eccentric young noblewoman Mrs. Loveredge had always found her, but
wished on this occasion that she had been a little less eccentric.
Every few minutes the Lady Alexandra buried her face in her
serviette, and shook and rocked, emitting stifled sounds,
apparently those of acute physical pain. Mrs. Loveredge hoped she
was not feeling ill, but the Lady Alexandra appeared incapable of
coherent reply. Twice during the meal the Duke of Warrington rose
from the table and began wandering round the room; on each
occasion, asked what he wanted, had replied meekly that he was
merely looking for his snuff-box, and had sat down again. The only
person who seemed to enjoy the dinner was the Lady Mary Sutton.
The ladies retired upstairs into the drawing-room. Mrs. Loveredge,
breaking a long silence, remarked it as unusual that no sound of
merriment reached them from the dining-room. The explanation was
that the entire male portion of the party, on being left to
themselves, had immediately and in a body crept on tiptoe into
Joey's study, which, fortunately, happened to be on the ground
floor. Joey, unlocking the bookcase, had taken out his Debrett,
but appeared incapable of understanding it. Sir Francis Baldwin
had taken it from his unresisting hands; the remaining aristocracy
huddled themselves into a corner and waited in silence.
"I think I've got it all clearly," announced Sir Francis Baldwin,
after five minutes, which to the others had been an hour. "Yes, I
don't think I'm making any mistake. She's the daughter of the Duke
of Truro, married in '53 the Duke of Warrington, at St. Peter's,
Eaton Square; gave birth in '55 to a daughter, the Lady Grace
Alexandra Warberton Sutton, which makes the child just thirteen.
In '63 divorced the Duke of Warrington. Lord Mount-Primrose, so
far as I can make out, must be her second cousin. I appear to have
married her in '66 at Hastings. It doesn't seem to me that we
could have got together a homelier little party to meet her even if
we had wanted to."
Nobody spoke; nobody had anything particularly worth saying. The
door opened, and the Lady Alexandra (otherwise Tommy) entered the
"Isn't it time," suggested the Lady Alexandra, "that some of you
"I was thinking myself," explained Joey, the host, with a grim
smile, "it was about time that I went out and drowned myself. The
canal is handy."
"Put it off till to-morrow," Tommy advised him. "I have asked her
ladyship to give me a lift home, and she has promised to do so.
She is evidently a woman with a sense of humour. Wait till after I
have had a talk with her."
Six men, whispering at the same time, were prepared with advice;
but Tommy was not taking advice.
"Come upstairs, all of you," insisted Tommy, "and make yourselves
agreeable. She's going in a quarter of an hour."
Six silent men, the host leading, the two husbands bringing up the
rear, ascended the stairs, each with the sensation of being twice
his usual weight. Six silent men entered the drawing-room and sat
down on chairs. Six silent men tried to think of something
interesting to say.
Miss Ramsbotham--it was that or hysterics, as she afterwards
explained--stifling a sob, opened the piano. But the only thing
she could remember was "Champagne Charlie is my Name," a song then
popular in the halls. Five men, when she had finished, begged her
to go on. Miss Ramsbotham, speaking in a shrill falsetto,
explained it was the only tune she knew. Four of them begged her
to play it again. Miss Ramsbotham played it a second time with
The Lady Mary's carriage was announced by the imperturbable Willis.
The party, with the exception of the Lady Mary and the hostess,
suppressed with difficulty an inclination to burst into a cheer.
The Lady Mary thanked Mrs. Loveredge for a most interesting
evening, and beckoned Tommy to accompany her. With her
disappearance, a wild hilarity, uncanny in its suddenness, took
possession of the remaining guests.
A few days later, the Lady Mary's carriage again drew up before the
little house in Regent's Park. Mrs. Loveredge, fortunately, was at
home. The carriage remained waiting for quite a long time. Mrs.
Loveredge, after it was gone, locked herself in her own room. The
under-housemaid reported to the kitchen that, passing the door, she
had detected sounds indicative of strong emotion.
Through what ordeal Joseph Loveredge passed was never known. For a
few weeks the Autolycus Club missed him. Then gradually, as aided
by Time they have a habit of doing, things righted themselves.
Joseph Loveredge received his old friends; his friends received
Joseph Loveredge. Mrs. Loveredge, as a hostess, came to have only
one failing--a marked coldness of demeanour towards all people with
titles, whenever introduced to her.
STORY THE SIXTH: "The Babe" applies for Shares
People said of the new journal, Good Humour--people of taste and
judgment, that it was the brightest, the cleverest, the most
literary penny weekly that ever had been offered to the public.
This made Peter Hope, editor and part-proprietor, very happy.
William Clodd, business manager, and also part-proprietor, it left
"Must be careful," said William Clodd, "that we don't make it too
clever. Happy medium, that's the ideal."
People said--people of taste and judgment, that Good Humour was
more worthy of support than all the other penny weeklies put
together. People of taste and judgment even went so far, some of
them, as to buy it. Peter Hope, looking forward, saw fame and
fortune coming to him.
William Clodd, looking round about him, said -
"Doesn't it occur to you, Guv'nor, that we're getting this thing
just a trifle too high class?"
"What makes you think that?" demanded Peter Hope.
"Our circulation, for one thing," explained Clodd. "The returns
for last month--"
"I'd rather you didn't mention them, if you don't mind,"
interrupted Peter Hope; "somehow, hearing the actual figures always
"Can't say I feel inspired by them myself," admitted Clodd.
"It will come," said Peter Hope, "it will come in time. We must
educate the public up to our level."
"If there is one thing, so far as I have noticed," said William
Clodd, "that the public are inclined to pay less for than another,
it is for being educated."
"What are we to do?" asked Peter Hope.
"What you want," answered William Clodd, "is an office-boy."
"How will our having an office-boy increase our circulation?"
demanded Peter Hope. "Besides, it was agreed that we could do
without one for the first year. Why suggest more expense?"
"I don't mean an ordinary office-boy," explained Clodd. "I mean
the sort of boy that I rode with in the train going down to
"What was there remarkable about him?"
"Nothing. He was reading the current number of the Penny Novelist.
Over two hundred thousand people buy it. He is one of them. He
told me so. When he had done with it, he drew from his pocket a
copy of the Halfpenny Joker--they guarantee a circulation of
seventy thousand. He sat and chuckled over it until we got to
"You wait a minute. I'm coming to the explanation. That boy
represents the reading public. I talked to him. The papers he
likes best are the papers that have the largest sales. He never
made a single mistake. The others--those of them he had seen--he
dismissed as 'rot.' What he likes is what the great mass of the
journal-buying public likes. Please him--I took his name and
address, and he is willing to come to us for eight shillings a
week--and you please the people that buy. Not the people that
glance through a paper when it is lying on the smoking-room table,
and tell you it is damned good, but the people that plank down
their penny. That's the sort we want."
Peter Hope, able editor, with ideals, was shocked--indignant.
William Clodd, business man, without ideals, talked figures.
"There's the advertiser to be thought of," persisted Clodd. "I
don't pretend to be a George Washington, but what's the use of
telling lies that sound like lies, even to one's self while one's
telling them? Give me a genuine sale of twenty thousand, and I'll
undertake, without committing myself, to convey an impression of
forty. But when the actual figures are under eight thousand--well,
it hampers you, if you happen to have a conscience.
"Give them every week a dozen columns of good, sound literature,"
continued Clodd insinuatingly, "but wrap it up in twenty-four
columns of jam. It's the only way they'll take it, and you will be
doing them good--educating them without their knowing it. All
powder and no jam! Well, they don't open their mouths, that's
Clodd was a man who knew how to get his way. Flipp--spelled
Philip--Tweetel arrived in due course of time at 23, Crane Court,
ostensibly to take up the position of Good Humour's office-boy; in
reality, and without his being aware of it, to act as its literary
taster. Stories in which Flipp became absorbed were accepted.
Peter groaned, but contented himself with correcting only their
grosser grammatical blunders; the experiment should be tried in all
good faith. Humour at which Flipp laughed was printed. Peter
tried to ease his conscience by increasing his subscription to the
fund for destitute compositors, but only partially succeeded.
Poetry that brought a tear to the eye of Flipp was given leaded
type. People of taste and judgment said Good Humour had
disappointed them. Its circulation, slowly but steadily,
"See!" cried the delighted Clodd; "told you so!"
"It's sad to think--" began Peter.
"Always is," interrupted Clodd cheerfully. "Moral--don't think too
"Tell you what we'll do," added Clodd. "We'll make a fortune out
of this paper. Then when we can afford to lose a little money,
we'll launch a paper that shall appeal only to the intellectual
portion of the public. Meanwhile--"
A squat black bottle with a label attached, standing on the desk,
arrested Clodd's attention.
"When did this come?" asked Clodd.
"About an hour ago," Peter told him.
"Any order with it?"
"I think so." Peter searched for and found a letter addressed to
"William Clodd, Esq., Advertising Manager, Good Humour." Clodd
tore it open, hastily devoured it.
"Not closed up yet, are you?"
"No, not till eight o'clock."
"Good! I want you to write me a par. Do it now, then you won't
forget it. For the 'Walnuts and Wine' column."
Peter sat down, headed a sheet of paper: 'For W. and W. Col.'
"What is it?" questioned Peter--"something to drink?"
"It's a sort of port," explained Clodd, "that doesn't get into your
"You consider that an advantage?" queried Peter.
"Of course. You can drink more of it."
Peter continued to write: 'Possesses all the qualities of an old
vintage port, without those deleterious properties--' "I haven't
tasted it, Clodd," hinted Peter.
"That's all right--I have."
"And was it good?"
"Splendid stuff. Say it's 'delicious and invigorating.' They'll
be sure to quote that."
Peter wrote on: 'Personally I have found it delicious and--' Peter
left off writing. "I really think, Clodd, I ought to taste it.
You see, I am personally recommending it."
"Finish that par. Let me have it to take round to the printers.
Then put the bottle in your pocket. Take it home and make a night
Clodd appeared to be in a mighty hurry. Now, this made Peter only
the more suspicious. The bottle was close to his hand. Clodd
tried to intercept him, but was not quick enough.
"You're not used to temperance drinks," urged Clodd. "Your palate
is not accustomed to them."
"I can tell whether it's 'delicious' or not, surely?" pleaded
Peter, who had pulled out the cork.
"It's a quarter-page advertisement for thirteen weeks. Put it down
and don't be a fool!" urged Clodd.
"I'm going to put it down," laughed Peter, who was fond of his
joke. Peter poured out half a tumblerful, and drank--some of it.
"Like it?" demanded Clodd, with a savage grin.
"You are sure--you are sure it was the right bottle?" gasped Peter.
"Bottle's all right," Clodd assured him. "Try some more. Judge it
Peter ventured on another sip. "You don't think they would be
satisfied if I recommended it as a medicine?" insinuated Peter--
"something to have about the house in case of accidental
"Better go round and suggest the idea to them yourself. I've done
with it." Clodd took up his hat.
"I'm sorry--I'm very sorry," sighed Peter. "But I couldn't
Clodd put down his hat again with a bang. "Oh! confound that
conscience of yours! Don't it ever think of your creditors?
What's the use of my working out my lungs for you, when all you do
is to hamper me at every step?"
"Wouldn't it be better policy," urged Peter, "to go for the better
class of advertiser, who doesn't ask you for this sort of thing?"
"Go for him!" snorted Clodd. "Do you think I don't go for him?
They are just sheep. Get one, you get the lot. Until you've got
the one, the others won't listen to you."
"That's true," mused Peter. "I spoke to Wilkinson, of Kingsley's,
myself. He advised me to try and get Landor's. He thought that if
I could get an advertisement out of Landor, he might persuade his
people to give us theirs."
"And if you had gone to Landor, he would have promised you theirs
provided you got Kingsley's."
"They will come," thought hopeful Peter. "We are going up
steadily. They will come with a rush."
"They had better come soon," thought Clodd. "The only things
coming with a rush just now are bills."
"Those articles of young McTear's attracted a good deal of
attention," expounded Peter. "He has promised to write me another
"Jowett is the one to get hold of," mused Clodd. "Jowett, all the
others follow like a flock of geese waddling after the old gander.
If only we could get hold of Jowett, the rest would be easy."
Jowett was the proprietor of the famous Marble Soap. Jowett spent
on advertising every year a quarter of a million, it was said.
Jowett was the stay and prop of periodical literature. New papers
that secured the Marble Soap advertisement lived and prospered; the
new paper to which it was denied languished and died. Jowett, and
how to get hold of him; Jowett, and how to get round him, formed
the chief topic of discussion at the council-board of most new
papers, Good Humour amongst the number.
"I have heard," said Miss Ramsbotham, who wrote the Letter to
Clorinda that filled each week the last two pages of Good Humour,
and that told Clorinda, who lived secluded in the country, the
daily history of the highest class society, among whom Miss
Ramsbotham appeared to live and have her being; who they were, and
what they wore, the wise and otherwise things they did--"I have
heard," said Miss Ramsbotham one morning, Jowett being as usual the
subject under debate, "that the old man is susceptible to female
"What I have always thought," said Clodd. "A lady advertising-
agent might do well. At all events, they couldn't kick her out."
"They might in the end," thought Peter. "Female door-porters would
become a profession for muscular ladies if ever the idea took
"The first one would get a good start, anyhow," thought Clodd.
The sub-editor had pricked up her ears. Once upon a time, long
ago, the sub-editor had succeeded, when all other London
journalists had failed, in securing an interview with a certain
great statesman. The sub-editor had never forgotten this--nor
allowed anyone else to forget it,
"I believe I could get it for you," said the sub-editor.
The editor and the business-manager both spoke together. They
spoke with decision and with emphasis.
"Why not?" said the sub-editor. "When nobody else could get at
him, it was I who interviewed Prince--"
"We've heard all about that," interrupted the business-manager.
"If I had been your father at the time, you would never have done
"How could I have stopped her?" retorted Peter Hope. "She never
said a word to me."
"You could have kept an eye on her."
"Kept an eye on her! When you've got a girl of your own, you'll
know more about them."
"When I have," asserted Clodd, "I'll manage her."
"We know all about bachelor's children," sneered Peter Hope, the
"You leave it to me. I'll have it for you before the end of the
week," crowed the sub-editor.
"If you do get it," returned Clodd, "I shall throw it out, that's
"You said yourself a lady advertising-agent would be a good idea,"
the sub-editor reminded him.
"So she might be," returned Clodd; "but she isn't going to be you."
"Because she isn't, that's why."
"See you at the printer's at twelve," said Clodd to Peter, and went
"Well, I think he's an idiot," said the sub-editor.
"I do not often," said the editor, "but on this point I agree with
him. Cadging for advertisements isn't a woman's work."
"But what is the difference between--"
"All the difference in the world," thought the editor.
"You don't know what I was going to say," returned his sub.
"I know the drift of it," asserted the editor.
"But you let me--"
"I know I do--a good deal too much. I'm going to turn over a new
"All I propose to do --"
"Whatever it is, you're not going to do it," declared the chief.
"Shall be back at half-past twelve, if anybody comes."
"It seems to me--" But Peter was gone.
"Just like them all," wailed the sub-editor. "They can't argue;
when you explain things to them, they go out. It does make me so
Miss Ramsbotham laughed. "You are a downtrodden little girl,
"As if I couldn't take care of myself!" Tommy's chin was high up
in the air.
"Cheer up," suggested Miss Ramsbotham. "Nobody ever tells me not
to do anything. I would change with you if I could."
"I'd have walked into that office and have had that advertisement
out of old Jowett in five minutes, I know I would," bragged Tommy.
"I can always get on with old men."
"Only with the old ones?" queried Miss Ramsbotham.
The door opened. "Anybody in?" asked the face of Johnny Bulstrode,
appearing in the jar.
"Can't you see they are?" snapped Tommy.
"Figure of speech," explained Johnny Bulstrode, commonly called
"the Babe," entering and closing the door behind him.
"What do you want?" demanded the sub-editor.
"Nothing in particular," replied the Babe.
"Wrong time of the day to come for it, half-past eleven in the
morning," explained the sub-editor.
"What's the matter with you?" asked the Babe.
"Feeling very cross," confessed the sub-editor.
The childlike face of the Babe expressed sympathetic inquiry.
"We are very indignant," explained Miss Ramsbotham, "because we are
not allowed to rush off to Cannon Street and coax an advertisement
out of old Jowett, the soap man. We feel sure that if we only put
on our best hat, he couldn't possibly refuse us."
"No coaxing required," thought the sub-editor. "Once get in to see
the old fellow and put the actual figures before him, he would
clamour to come in."
"Won't he see Clodd?" asked the Babe.
"Won't see anybody on behalf of anything new just at present,
apparently," answered Miss Ramsbotham. "It was my fault. I was
foolish enough to repeat that I had heard he was susceptible to
female charm. They say it was Mrs. Sarkitt that got the
advertisement for The Lamp out of him. But, of course, it may not
"Wish I was a soap man and had got advertisements to give away,"
sighed the Babe.
"Wish you were," agreed the sub-editor.
"You should have them all, Tommy."
"My name," corrected him the sub-editor, "is Miss Hope."
"I beg your pardon," said the Babe. "I don't know how it is, but
one gets into the way of calling you Tommy."
"I will thank you," said the sub-editor, "to get out of it."
"I am sorry," said the Babe.
"Don't let it occur again," said the sub-editor.
The Babe stood first on one leg and then on the other, but nothing
seemed to come of it. "Well," said the Babe, "I just looked in,
that's all. Nothing I can do for you?"
"Nothing," thanked him the sub-editor.
"Good morning," said the Babe.
"Good morning," said the sub-editor.
The childlike face of the Babe wore a chastened expression as it
slowly descended the stairs. Most of the members of the Autolycus
Club looked in about once a day to see if they could do anything
for Tommy. Some of them had luck. Only the day before, Porson--a
heavy, most uninteresting man--had been sent down all the way to
Plaistow to inquire after the wounded hand of a machine-boy. Young
Alexander, whose poetry some people could not even understand, had
been commissioned to search London for a second-hand edition of
Maitland's Architecture. Since a fortnight nearly now, when he had
been sent out to drive away an organ that would not go, Johnny had
been given nothing.
Johnny turned the corner into Fleet Street feeling bitter with his
lot. A boy carrying a parcel stumbled against him.
"Beg yer pardon--" the small boy looked up into Johnny's face,
"miss," added the small boy, dodging the blow and disappearing into
The Babe, by reason of his childlike face, was accustomed to
insults of this character, but to-day it especially irritated him.
Why at twenty-two could he not grow even a moustache? Why was he
only five feet five and a half? Why had Fate cursed him with a
pink-and-white complexion, so that the members of his own club had
nicknamed him "the Babe," while street-boys as they passed pleaded
with him for a kiss? Why was his very voice, a flute-like alto,
more suitable-- Suddenly an idea sprang to life within his brain.
The idea grew. Passing a barber's shop, Johnny went in.
"'Air cut, sir?" remarked the barber, fitting a sheet round
"No, shave," corrected Johnny.
"Beg pardon," said the barber, substituting a towel for the sheet.
"Do you shave up, sir?" later demanded the barber.
"Yes," answered Johnny.
"Pleasant weather we are having," said the barber.
"Very," assented Johnny.
From the barber's, Johnny went to Stinchcombe's, the costumier's,
in Drury Lane.
"I am playing in a burlesque," explained the Babe. "I want you to
rig me out completely as a modern girl."
"Peeth o' luck!" said the shopman. "Goth the very bundle for you.
Juth come in."
"I shall want everything," explained the Babe, "from the boots to
the hat; stays, petticoats--the whole bag of tricks."
"Regular troutheau there," said the shopman, emptying out the
canvas bag upon the counter. "Thry 'em on."
The Babe contented himself with trying on the costume and the
"Juth made for you!" said the shopman.
A little loose about the chest, suggested the Babe.
"Thath's all right," said the shopman. "Couple o' thmall towelths,
all thath's wanted."
"You don't think it too showy?" queried the Babe.
"Thowy? Sthylish, thath's all."
"You are sure everything's here?"
"Everythinkth there. 'Thept the bit o' meat inthide," assured him
The Babe left a deposit, and gave his name and address. The
shopman promised the things should be sent round within an hour.
The Babe, who had entered into the spirit of the thing, bought a
pair of gloves and a small reticule, and made his way to Bow
"I want a woman's light brown wig," said the Babe to Mr. Cox, the
Mr. Cox tried on two. The deceptive appearance of the second Mr.
Cox pronounced as perfect.
"Looks more natural on you than your own hair, blessed if it
doesn't!" said Mr. Cox.
The wig also was promised within the hour. The spirit of
completeness descended upon the Babe. On his way back to his
lodgings in Great Queen Street, he purchased a ladylike umbrella
and a veil.
Now, a quarter of an hour after Johnny Bulstrode had made his exit
by the door of Mr. Stinchcombe's shop, one, Harry Bennett, actor
and member of the Autolycus Club, pushed it open and entered. The
shop was empty. Harry Bennett hammered with his stick and waited.
A piled-up bundle of clothes lay upon the counter; a sheet of
paper, with a name and address scrawled across it, rested on the
bundle. Harry Bennett, given to idle curiosity, approached and
read the same. Harry Bennett, with his stick, poked the bundle,
scattering its items over the counter.
"Donth do thath!" said the shopman, coming up. "Juth been putting
"What the devil," said Harry Bennett, "is Johnny Bulstrode going to
do with that rig-out?"
"How thoud I know?" answered the shopman. "Private theathricals, I
suppoth. Friend o' yourth?"
"Yes," replied Harry Bennett. "By Jove! he ought to make a good
girl. Should like to see it!"
"Well arthk him for a ticket. Donth make 'em dirty," suggested the
"I must," said Harry Bennett, and talked about his own affairs.
The rig-out and the wig did not arrive at Johnny's lodgings within
the hour as promised, but arrived there within three hours, which
was as much as Johnny had expected. It took Johnny nearly an hour
to dress, but at last he stood before the plate-glass panel of the
wardrobe transformed. Johnny had reason to be pleased with the
result. A tall, handsome girl looked back at him out of the glass-
-a little showily dressed, perhaps, but decidedly chic.
"Wonder if I ought to have a cloak," mused Johnny, as a ray of
sunshine, streaming through the window, fell upon the image in the
glass. "Well, anyhow, I haven't," thought Johnny, as the sunlight
died away again, "so it's no good thinking about it."
Johnny seized his reticule and his umbrella and opened cautiously
the door. Outside all was silent. Johnny stealthily descended; in
the passage paused again. Voices sounded from the basement.
Feeling like an escaped burglar, Johnny slipped the latch of the
big door and peeped out. A policeman, pasting, turned and looked
at him. Johnny hastily drew back and closed the door again.
Somebody was ascending from the kitchen. Johnny, caught between
two terrors, nearer to the front door than to the stairs, having no
time, chose the street. It seemed to Johnny that the street was
making for him. A woman came hurriedly towards him. What was she
going to say to him? What should he answer her? To his surprise
she passed him, hardly noticing him. Wondering what miracle had
saved him, he took a few steps forward. A couple of young clerks
coming up from behind turned to look at him, but on encountering
his answering stare of angry alarm, appeared confused and went
their way. It began to dawn upon him that mankind was less
discerning than he had feared. Gaining courage as he proceeded, he
reached Holborn. Here the larger crowd swept around him
"I beg your pardon," said Johnny, coming into collision with a
"My fault," replied the stout gentleman, as, smiling, he picked up
his damaged hat.
"I beg your pardon," repeated Johnny again two minutes later,
colliding with a tall young lady.
"Should advise you to take something for that squint of yours,"
remarked the tall young lady with severity.
"What's the matter with me?" thought Johnny. "Seems to be a sort
of mist--" The explanation flashed across him. "Of course," said
Johnny to himself, "it's this confounded veil!"
Johnny decided to walk to the Marble Soap offices. "I'll be more
used to the hang of things by the time I get there if I walk,"
thought Johnny. "Hope the old beggar's in."
In Newgate Street, Johnny paused and pressed his hands against his
chest. "Funny sort of pain I've got," thought Johnny. "Wonder if
I should shock them if I went in somewhere for a drop of brandy?"
"It don't get any better," reflected Johnny, with some alarm, on
reaching the corner of Cheapside. "Hope I'm not going to be ill.
Whatever--" The explanation came to him. "Of course, it's these
damned stays! No wonder girls are short-tempered, at times."
At the offices of the Marble Soap, Johnny was treated with marked
courtesy. Mr. Jowett was out, was not expected back till five
o'clock. Would the lady wait, or would she call again? The lady
decided, now she was there, to wait. Would the lady take the easy-
chair? Would the lady have the window open or would she have it
shut? Had the lady seen The Times?
"Or the Ha'penny Joker?" suggested a junior clerk, who thereupon
was promptly sent back to his work.
Many of the senior clerks had occasion to pass through the waiting-
room. Two of the senior clerks held views about the weather which
they appeared wishful to express at length. Johnny began to enjoy
himself. This thing was going to be good fun. By the time the
slamming of doors and the hurrying of feet announced the advent of
the chief, Johnny was looking forward to his interview.
It was briefer and less satisfactory than he had anticipated. Mr.
Jowett was very busy--did not as a rule see anybody in the
afternoon; but of course, a lady-- Would Miss--"
"Would Miss Montgomery inform Mr. Jowett what it was he might have
the pleasure of doing for her?"
Miss Montgomery explained.
Mr. Jowett seemed half angry, half amused.
"Really," said Mr. Jowett, "this is hardly playing the game.
Against our fellow-men we can protect ourselves, but if the ladies
are going to attack us--really it isn't fair."
Miss Montgomery pleaded.
"I'll think it over," was all that Mr. Jowett could be made to
promise. "Look me up again."
"When?" asked Miss Montgomery.
"What's to-day?--Thursday. Say Monday." Mr. Jowett rang the bell.
"Take my advice," said the old gentleman, laying a fatherly hand on
Johnny's shoulder, "leave business to us men. You are a handsome
girl. You can do better for yourself than this."
A clerk entered, Johnny rose.
"On Monday next, then," Johnny reminded him.
"At four o'clock," agreed Mr. Jowett. "Good afternoon."
Johnny went out feeling disappointed, and yet, as he told himself,
he hadn't done so badly. Anyhow, there was nothing for it but to
wait till Monday. Now he would go home, change his clothes, and
get some dinner. He hailed a hansom.
"Number twenty-eight--no. Stop at the Queen's Street corner of
Lincoln's Inn Fields," Johnny directed the man.
"Quite right, miss," commented the cabman pleasantly. "Corner's
best--saves all talk."
"What do you mean?" demanded Johnny.
"No offence, miss," answered the man. "We was all young once."
Johnny climbed in. At the corner of Queen Street and Lincoln's Inn
Fields, Johnny got out. Johnny, who had been pondering other
matters, put his hand instinctively to where, speaking generally,
his pocket should have been; then recollected himself.
"Let me see, did I think to bring any money out with me, or did I
not?" mused Johnny, as he stood upon the kerb.
"Look in the ridicule, miss," suggested the cabman.
Johnny looked. It was empty.
"Perhaps I put it in my pocket," thought Johnny.
The cabman hitched his reins to the whip-socket and leant back.
"It's somewhere about here, I know, I saw it," Johnny told himself.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Johnny added aloud to the cabman.
"Don't you worry about that, miss," replied the cabman civilly; "we
are used to it. A shilling a quarter of an hour is what we
"Of all the damned silly tricks!" muttered Johnny to himself.
Two small boys and a girl carrying a baby paused, interested.
"Go away," told them the cabman. "You'll have troubles of your own
The urchins moved a few steps further, then halted again and were
joined by a slatternly woman and another boy.
"Got it!" cried Johnny, unable to suppress his delight as his hand
slipped through a fold. The lady with the baby, without precisely
knowing why, set up a shrill cheer. Johnny's delight died away; it
wasn't the pocket-hole. Short of taking the skirt off and turning
it inside out, it didn't seem to Johnny that he ever would find
Then in that moment of despair he came across it accidentally. It
was as empty as the reticule!
"I am sorry," said Johnny to the cabman, "but I appear to have come
out without my purse."
The cabman said he had heard that tale before, and was making
preparations to descend. The crowd, now numbering eleven, looked
hopeful. It occurred to Johnny later that he might have offered
his umbrella to the cabman; at least it would have fetched the
eighteenpence. One thinks of these things afterwards. The only
idea that occurred to him at the moment was that of getting home.
"'Ere, 'old my 'orse a minute, one of yer," shouted the cabman.
Half a dozen willing hands seized the dozing steed and roused it
"Hi! stop 'er!" roared the cabman.
"She's down!" shouted the excited crowd.
"Tripped over 'er skirt," explained the slatternly woman. "They do
" No, she's not. She's up again!" vociferated a delighted plumber,
with a sounding slap on his own leg. "Gor blimy, if she ain't a
Fortunately the Square was tolerably clear and Johnny a good
runner. Holding now his skirt and petticoat high in his left hand,
Johnny moved across the Square at the rate of fifteen miles an
hour. A butcher's boy sprang in front of him with arms held out to
stop him. The thing that for the next three months annoyed that
butcher boy most was hearing shouted out after him "Yah! who was
knocked down and run over by a lidy?" By the time Johnny reached
the Strand, via Clement's Inn, the hue and cry was far behind.
Johnny dropped his skirts and assumed a more girlish pace. Through
Bow Street and Long Acre he reached Great Queen Street in safety.
Upon his own doorstep he began to laugh. His afternoon's
experience had been amusing; still, on the whole, he wasn't sorry
it was over. One can have too much even of the best of jokes.
Johnny rang the bell.
The door opened. Johnny would have walked in had not a big, raw-
boned woman barred his progress.
"What do you want?" demanded the raw-boned woman.
"Want to come in," explained Johnny.
"What do you want to come in for?"
This appeared to Johnny a foolish question. On reflection he saw
the sense of it. This raw-boned woman was not Mrs. Pegg, his
landlady. Some friend of hers, he supposed.
"It's all right," said Johnny, "I live here. Left my latchkey at
home, that's all."
"There's no females lodging here," declared the raw-boned lady.
"And what's more, there's going to be none."
All this was very vexing. Johnny, in his joy at reaching his own
doorstep, had not foreseen these complications. Now it would be
necessary to explain things. He only hoped the story would not get
round to the fellows at the club.
"Ask Mrs. Pegg to step up for a minute," requested Johnny.
"Not at 'ome," explained the raw-boned lady.
"Not--not at home?"
"Gone to Romford, if you wish to know, to see her mother."
"Gone to Romford?"
"I said Romford, didn't I?" retorted the raw-boned lady, tartly.
"What--what time do you expect her in?"
"Sunday evening, six o'clock," replied the raw-boned lady.
Johnny looked at the raw-boned lady, imagined himself telling the
raw-boned lady the simple, unvarnished truth, and the raw-boned
lady's utter disbelief of every word of it. An inspiration came to
"I am Mr. Bulstrode's sister," said Johnny meekly; "he's expecting
"Thought you said you lived here?" reminded him the raw-boned lady.
"I meant that he lived here," replied poor Johnny still more
meekly. "He has the second floor, you know."
"I know," replied the raw-boned lady. "Not in just at present."
"Went out at three o'clock."
"I'll go up to his room and wait for him," said Johnny.
"No, you won't," said the raw-boned lady.
For an instant it occurred to Johnny to make a dash for it, but the
raw-boned lady looked both formidable and determined. There would
be a big disturbance--perhaps the police called in. Johnny had
often wanted to see his name in print: in connection with this
affair he somehow felt he didn't.
"Do let me in," Johnny pleaded; "I have nowhere else to go."
"You have a walk and cool yourself," suggested the raw-boned lady.
"Don't expect he will be long."
"But, you see--"
The raw-boned lady slammed the door.
Outside a restaurant in Wellington Street, from which proceeded
savoury odours, Johnny paused and tried to think.
"What the devil did I do with that umbrella? I had it--no, I
didn't. Must have dropped it, I suppose, when that silly ass tried
to stop me. By Jove! I am having luck!"
Outside another restaurant in the Strand Johnny paused again. "How
am I to live till Sunday night? Where am I to sleep? If I
telegraph home--damn it! how can I telegraph? I haven't got a
penny. This is funny," said Johnny, unconsciously speaking aloud;
"upon my word, this is funny! Oh! you go to--."
Johnny hurled this last at the head of an overgrown errand-boy
whose intention had been to offer sympathy.
"Well, I never!" commented a passing flower-girl. "Calls 'erself a
lidy, I suppose."
"Nowadays," observed the stud and button merchant at the corner of
Exeter Street, "they make 'em out of anything."
Drawn by a notion that was forming in his mind, Johnny turned his
steps up Bedford Street. "Why not?" mused Johnny. "Nobody else
seems to have a suspicion. Why should they? I'll never hear the
last of it if they find me out. But why should they find me out?
Well, something's got to be done."
Johnny walked on quickly. At the door of the Autolycus Club he was
undecided for a moment, then took his courage in both hands and
plunged through the swing doors.
"Is Mr. Herring--Mr. Jack Herring--here?"
"Find him in the smoking-room, Mr. Bulstrode," answered old Goslin,
who was reading the evening paper.
"Oh, would you mind asking him to step out a moment?"
Old Goslin looked up, took off his spectacles, rubbed them, put
them on again.
"Please say Miss Bulstrode--Mr. Bulstrode's sister."
Old Goslin found Jack Herring the centre of an earnest argument on
Hamlet--was he really mad?
"A lady to see you, Mr. Herring," announced old Goslin.
"Miss Bulstrode--Mr. Bulstrode's sister. She's waiting in the
"Never knew he had a sister," said Jack Herring, rising.
"Wait a minute," said Harry Bennett. "Shut that door. Don't go."
This to old Goslin, who closed the door and returned. "Lady in a
heliotrope dress with a lace collar, three flounces on the skirt?"
"That's right, Mr. Bennett," agreed old Goslin.
"It's the Babe himself!" asserted Harry Bennett.
The question of Hamlet's madness was forgotten.
"Was in at Stinchcombe's this morning," explained Harry Bennett;
"saw the clothes on the counter addressed to him. That's the
identical frock. This is just a 'try on'--thinks he's going to
have a lark with us."
The Autolycus Club looked round at itself.
"I can see verra promising possibilities in this, provided the
thing is properly managed," said the Wee Laddie, after a pause.
"So can I," agreed Jack Herring. "Keep where you are, all of you.
'Twould be a pity to fool it,"
The Autolycus Club waited. Jack Herring re-entered the room.
"One of the saddest stories I have ever heard in all my life,"
explained Jack Herring in a whisper. "Poor girl left Derbyshire
this morning to come and see her brother; found him out--hasn't
been seen at his lodgings since three o'clock; fears something may
have happened to him. Landlady gone to Romford to see her mother;
strange woman in charge, won't let her in to wait for him."
"How sad it is when trouble overtakes the innocent and helpless!"
murmured Somerville the Briefless.
"That's not the worst of it," continued Jack. "The dear girl has
been robbed of everything she possesses, even of her umbrella, and
hasn't got a sou; hasn't had any dinner, and doesn't know where to
"Sounds a bit elaborate," thought Porson.
"I think I can understand it," said the Briefless one. "What has
happened is this. He's dressed up thinking to have a bit of fun
with us, and has come out, forgetting to put any money or his
latchkey in his pocket. His landlady may have gone to Romford or
may not. In any case, he would have to knock at the door and enter
into explanations. What does he suggest--the loan of a sovereign?"
"The loan of two," replied Jack Herring.
"To buy himself a suit of clothes. Don't you do it, Jack.
Providence has imposed this upon us. Our duty is to show him the
folly of indulging in senseless escapades."
"I think we might give him a dinner," thought the stout and
"What I propose to do," grinned Jack, "is to take him round to Mrs.
Postwhistle's. She's under a sort of obligation to me. It was I
who got her the post office. We'll leave him there for a night,
with instructions to Mrs. P. to keep a motherly eye on him. To-
morrow he shall have his 'bit of fun,' and I guess he'll be the
first to get tired of the joke."
It looked a promising plot. Seven members of the Autolycus Club
gallantly undertook to accompany "Miss Bulstrode" to her lodgings.
Jack Herring excited jealousy by securing the privilege of carrying
her reticule. "Miss Bulstrode" was given to understand that
anything any of the seven could do for her, each and every would be
delighted to do, if only for the sake of her brother, one of the
dearest boys that ever breathed--a bit of an ass, though that, of
course, he could not help. "Miss Bulstrode" was not as grateful as
perhaps she should have been. Her idea still was that if one of
them would lend her a couple of sovereigns, the rest need not worry
themselves further. This, purely in her own interests, they
declined to do. She had suffered one extensive robbery that day
already, as Jack reminded her. London was a city of danger to the
young and inexperienced. Far better that they should watch over
her and provide for her simple wants. Painful as it was to refuse
a lady, a beloved companion's sister's welfare was yet dearer to
them. "Miss Bulstrode's" only desire was not to waste their time.
Jack Herring's opinion was that there existed no true Englishman
who would grudge time spent upon succouring a beautiful maiden in
Arrived at the little grocer's shop in Rolls Court, Jack Herring
drew Mrs. Postwhistle aside.
"She's the sister of a very dear friend of ours," explained Jack
"A fine-looking girl," commented Mrs. Postwhistle.
"I shall be round again in the morning. Don't let her out of your
sight, and, above all, don't lend her any money," directed Jack
"I understand," replied Mrs. Postwhistle.
"Miss Bulstrode" having despatched an excellent supper of cold
mutton and bottled beer, leant back in her chair and crossed her
"I have often wondered," remarked Miss Bulstrode, her eyes fixed
upon the ceiling, "what a cigarette would taste like."
"Taste nasty, I should say, the first time," thought Mrs.
Postwhistle, who was knitting.
"Some girls, so I have heard," remarked Miss Bulstrode, "smoke
"Not nice girls," thought Mrs. Postwhistle.
"One of the nicest girls I ever knew," remarked Miss Bulstrode,
"always smoked a cigarette after supper. Said it soothed her
"Wouldn't 'ave thought so if I'd 'ad charge of 'er," said Mrs.
"I think," said Miss Bulstrode, who seemed restless, "I think I
shall go for a little walk before turning in."
"Perhaps it would do us good," agreed Mrs. Postwhistle, laying down
"Don't you trouble to come," urged the thoughtful Miss Bulstrode.
"You look tired."
"Not at all," replied Mrs. Postwhistle. "Feel I should like it."
In some respects Mrs. Postwhistle proved an admirable companion.
She asked no questions, and only spoke when spoken to, which,
during that walk, was not often. At the end of half an hour, Miss
Bulstrode pleaded a headache and thought she would return home and
go to bed. Mrs. Postwhistle thought it a reasonable idea.
"Well, it's better than tramping the streets," muttered Johnny, as
the bedroom door was closed behind him, "and that's all one can say
for it. Must get hold of a smoke to-morrow, if I have to rob the
till. What's that?" Johnny stole across on, tiptoe. "Confound
it!" said Johnny, "if she hasn't locked the door!"
Johnny sat down upon the bed and took stock of his position. "It
doesn't seem to me," thought Johnny, "that I'm ever going to get
out of this mess." Johnny, still muttering, unfastened his stays.
"Thank God, that's off!" ejaculated Johnny piously, as he watched
his form slowly expanding. "Suppose I'll be used to them before
I've finished with them."
Johnny had a night of dreams.
For the whole of next day, which was Friday, Johnny remained "Miss
Bulstrode," hoping against hope to find an opportunity to escape
from his predicament without confession. The entire Autolycus Club
appeared to have fallen in love with him.
"Thought I was a bit of a fool myself," mused Johnny, "where a
petticoat was concerned. Don't believe these blithering idiots
have ever seen a girl before."
They came in ones, they came in little parties, and tendered him
devotion. Even Mrs. Postwhistle, accustomed to regard human
phenomena without comment, remarked upon it.
"When you are all tired of it," said Mrs. Postwhistle to Jack
Herring, "let me know."
"The moment we find her brother," explained Jack Herring, "of
course we shall take her to him."
"Nothing like looking in the right place for a thing when you've
finished looking in the others," observed Mrs. Postwhistle.
"What do you mean?" demanded Jack.
"Just what I say," answered Mrs. Postwhistle.
Jack Herring looked at Mrs. Postwhistle. But Mrs. Postwhistle's
face was not of the expressive order.
"Post office still going strong?" asked Jack Herring.
"The post office 'as been a great 'elp to me," admitted Mrs.
Postwhistle; "and I'm not forgetting that I owe it to you."
"Don't mention it," murmured Jack Herring.
They brought her presents--nothing very expensive, more as tokens
of regard: dainty packets of sweets, nosegays of simple flowers,
bottles of scent. To Somerville "Miss Bulstrode" hinted that if he
really did desire to please her, and wasn't merely talking through
his hat--Miss Bulstrode apologised for the slang, which, she
feared, she must have picked up from her brother--he might give her
a box of Messani's cigarettes, size No. 2. The suggestion pained
him. Somerville the Briefless was perhaps old-fashioned. Miss
Bulstrode cut him short by agreeing that he was, and seemed
disinclined for further conversation.
They took her to Madame Tussaud's. They took her up the Monument.
They took her to the Tower of London. In the evening they took her
to the Polytechnic to see Pepper's Ghost. They made a merry party
wherever they went.
"Seem to be enjoying themselves!" remarked other sightseers,
surprised and envious.
"Girl seems to be a bit out of it," remarked others, more
"Sulky-looking bit o' goods, I call her," remarked some of the
The fortitude with which Miss Bulstrode bore the mysterious
disappearance of her brother excited admiration.
"Hadn't we better telegraph to your people in Derbyshire?"
suggested Jack Herring.
"Don't do it," vehemently protested the thoughtful Miss Bulstrode;
"it might alarm them. The best plan is for you to lend me a couple
of sovereigns and let me return home quietly."
"You might be robbed again," feared Jack Herring. "I'll go down
"Perhaps he'll turn up to-morrow," thought Miss Bulstrode. "Expect
he's gone on a visit."
"He ought not to have done it," thought Jack Herring, "knowing you
"Oh! he's like that," explained Miss Bulstrode.
"If I had a young and beautiful sister--" said Jack Herring.
"Oh! let's talk of something else," suggested Miss Bulstrode. "You
make me tired."
With Jack Herring, in particular, Johnny was beginning to lose
patience. That "Miss Bulstrode's" charms had evidently struck Jack
Herring all of a heap, as the saying is, had in the beginning
amused Master Johnny. Indeed--as in the seclusion of his
bedchamber over the little grocer's shop he told himself with
bitter self-reproach--he had undoubtedly encouraged the man. From
admiration Jack had rapidly passed to infatuation, from infatuation
to apparent imbecility. Had Johnny's mind been less intent upon
his own troubles, he might have been suspicious. As it was, and
after all that had happened, nothing now could astonish Johnny.
"Thank Heaven," murmured Johnny, as he blew out the light, "this
Mrs. Postwhistle appears to be a reliable woman."
Now, about the same time that Johnny's head was falling thus upon
his pillow, the Autolycus Club sat discussing plans for their next
"I think," said Jack Herring, "the Crystal Palace in the morning
when it's nice and quiet."
"To be followed by Greenwich Hospital in the afternoon," suggested
"Winding up with the Moore and Burgess Minstrels in the evening,"
"Hardly the place for the young person," feared Jack Herring.
"Some of the jokes--"
"Mr. Brandram gives a reading of Julius Caesar at St. George's
Hall," the Wee Laddie informed them for their guidance.
"Hallo!" said Alexander the Poet, entering at the moment. "What
are you all talking about?"
"We were discussing where to take Miss Bulstrode to-morrow
evening," informed him Jack Herring.
"Miss Bulstrode," repeated the Poet in a tone of some surprise.
"Do you mean Johnny Bulstrode's sister?"
"That's the lady," answered Jack. "But how do you come to know
about her? Thought you were in Yorkshire."
"Came up yesterday," explained the Poet. "Travelled up with her."
"Travelled up with her?"
"From Matlock Bath. What's the matter with you all?" demanded the
Poet. "You all of you look--"
"Sit down," said the Briefless one to the Poet. "Let's talk this
matter over quietly."
Alexander the Poet, mystified, sat down.
"You say you travelled up to London yesterday with Miss Bulstrode.
You are sure it was Miss Bulstrode?"
"Sure!" retorted the Poet. "Why, I've known her ever since she was
"About what time did you reach London?"
"And what became of her? Where did she say she was going?"
"I never asked her. The last I saw of her she was getting into a
cab. I had an appointment myself, and was--I say, what's the
matter with Herring?"
Herring had risen and was walking about with his head between his
"Never mind him. Miss Bulstrode is a lady of about--how old?"
"Eighteen--no, nineteen last birthday."
"A tall, handsome sort of girl?"
"Yes. I say, has anything happened to her?"
"Nothing has happened to her," assured him
Somerville. "SHE'S all right. Been having rather a good time, on
The Poet was relieved to hear it.
"I asked her an hour ago," said Jack Herring, who was still holding
his head between his hands as if to make sure it was there, "if she
thought she could ever learn to love me. Would you say that could
be construed into an offer of marriage?"
The remainder of the Club was unanimously of opinion that,
practically speaking, it was a proposal.
"I don't see it," argued Jack Herring. "It was merely in the
nature of a remark."
The Club was of opinion that such quibbling was unworthy of a
It appeared to be a case for prompt action. Jack Herring sat down
and then and there began a letter to Miss Bulstrode, care of Mrs.
"But what I don't understand--" said Alexander the Poet.
"Oh! take him away somewhere and tell him, someone," moaned Jack
Herring. "How can I think with all this chatter going on?"
"But why did Bennett--" whispered Porson.
"Where is Bennett?" demanded half a dozen fierce voices.
Harry Bennett had not been seen all day.
Jack's letter was delivered to "Miss Bulstrode" the next morning at
breakfast-time. Having perused it, Miss Bulstrode rose and
requested of Mrs. Postwhistle the loan of half a crown.
"Mr. Herring's particular instructions were," explained Mrs.
Postwhistle, "that, above all things, I was not to lend you any
"When you have read that," replied Miss Bulstrode, handing her the
letter, "perhaps you will agree with me that Herring is--an ass."
Mrs. Postwhistle read the letter and produced the half-crown.
"Better get a shave with part of it," suggested Mrs. Postwhistle.
"That is, if you are going to play the fool much longer."
"Miss Bulstrode" opened his eyes. Mrs. Postwhistle went on with
"Don't tell them," said Johnny; "not just for a little while, at
"Nothing to do with me," replied Mrs. Postwhistle.
Twenty minutes later, the real Miss Bulstrode, on a visit to her
aunt in Kensington, was surprised at receiving, enclosed in an
envelope, the following hastily scrawled note:-
"Want to speak to you at once--ALONE. Don't yell when you see me.
It's all right. Can explain in two ticks.--Your loving brother,
It took longer than two ticks; but at last the Babe came to an end
"When you have done laughing," said the Babe.
"But you look so ridiculous," said his sister.
"THEY didn't think so," retorted the Babe. "I took them in all
right. Guess you've never had as much attention, all in one day."
"Are you sure you took them in?" queried his sister.
"If you will come to the Club at eight o'clock this evening," said
the Babe, "I'll prove it to you. Perhaps I'll take you on to a
theatre afterwards--if you're good."
The Babe himself walked into the Autolycus Club a few minutes
before eight and encountered an atmosphere of restraint.
"Thought you were lost," remarked Somerville coldly.
"Called away suddenly--very important business," explained the
Babe. "Awfully much obliged to all you fellows for all you have