Part 4 out of 8
"The Elephant and Castle. In _Twelfth Night_. My Uncle, who knew
Shakespeare by heart, told me about it. It was a public-house in those
days, too. But I never heard of the Horns!"
The 'bus-driver was impressed by this statement, but he would not
lightly yield in the argument. "Of course," he said, "The Elephant my
'ave been well-known in them dys, and I don't sy it ain't well-known in
these dys, but I do sy thet it ain't so well-known now as wot the 'Orns
is. There ain't a music-'all chep in London wot down't know the 'Orns.
"Shakespeare didn't know it," John exclaimed.
"Well, 'e didn't know everythink did 'e?" the driver retorted. "P'raps
the 'Orns wasn't built then. I dessay not. 'E'd 'ave mentioned it if
'e'd 'ave known abaht it. All these actor cheps know it, so of course
'e'd 'a' known abaht it, too. We'll be at the Elephant presently. I
always sy to Bert we 'ave the most interestin' pubs in London on this
route, White 'Orse, the 'Orns, the Elephant an' the Ayngel. Ever 'eard
of the Ayngel at Islington?"
"Yes," said John, "That's where Paine wrote _The Rights of Man_."
"Did 'e?" the driver answered. "Well, I dessay 'e did. It's a
celebrated 'ouse, it is. Celebrated in 'istory. There's a song abaht
it. You know it, down't you!...
Up and dahn the City Rowd,
In at the Ayngel...
Thet's the wy the money gows,
Pop gows the weasel.
Ever 'eard thet?"
"Oh, yes," John replied, smiling. "I used to sing that song at home!"
"Did you nah. An' w'ere is your 'ome?"
"Ow! Thet acahnts for it. I couldn't myke aht 'ow it was you never
'eard of the 'Orns. Fency you hearin' abaht the Elephant in Ireland!"
"Well, you see, Shakespeare mentions it!..."
"I down't tyke much interest in 'im. 'Ere's the Elephant! Thet's
Spurgeon's Tabernacle over there!..."
The driver became absorbed in the business of pulling up at the
stopping-place and alluring fresh passengers on to the 'bus in place of
those who were now leaving it, and John had time to look about him. The
public-house was big and garish and even at this hour of the morning
the hot odour of spirits floated out of it when a door was swung open.
"I don't suppose it was like that in Shakespeare's day," he said to
himself, as he turned away and gazed at the flow of people and traffic
that passed without ceasing through the circus where the six great
roads of South London meet and cross. It seemed to him that an accident
must happen, that these streams of carts and trams and 'buses and
hurrying people must become so involved that disaster must follow. He
became reassured when he observed how imperturbed everyone was. There
were moments when the whole traffic seemed to become chaotic and the
roads were choked, and then as suddenly as the congestion was created,
it was relieved. He felt enthralled by this wonder of traffic, of great
crowds moving with ease through a criss-cross of confusing streets.
"It's wonderful," he said, leaning forward and speaking almost in a
whisper to the driver.
"All that traffic!"
"Ow, thet's nothink. We think nothink of thet owver 'ere," the driver
replied. "We down't tyke no notice of a little lot like thet!"
The conductor rang his bell, and the driver whipped up his horses, and
the 'bus proceeded on its way.
John remembered that he had not heard any witticisms from the driver.
Uncle Matthew had told him that one could always depend upon a 'busman
to provide comic entertainment, but this man, although, after a while,
he had become talkative enough, had not said one funny thing. He had
not chaffed a policeman or a footpassenger or another 'busman, and now
that they had passed away from the Elephant and Castle, his
conversation seemed to have dried up. The 'bus tooled through the
Newington Butts, along the Borough High Street (past the very inn where
Mr. Pickwick first met Sam Weller, although John was then unaware that
he was passing it) and under the railway bridge at St. Saviour's
Cathedral Church of Southwark.
"What's that place?" John said to the driver, pointing to the
"Eih? Ow, thet! Thet's a cathedral!"
"A cathedral! Hidden away like that!..."
A hideous railway bridge cramped St. Saviour's on one side, and hideous
warehouses and offices cramped it on the other. There was a mess of
vegetable debris lying about the Cathedral pavement, the refuse from
the Borough Market.
"What cathedral is it?" John demanded.
"Southwark!" the driver replied, pronouncing it "Suth-ark." "Suthark!"
John said vaguely. "Do you mean Southwark?..." He pronounced the name
as it is spelt.
"We call it Suthark!" said the driver. "Yes, thet's it, Southwark
"But that's where Shakespeare used to go to church!" John exclaimed.
"Ow!" the driver replied.
"And look at it!..."
"Wot's wrong with it?" The 'bus was now rolling over London Bridge, and
the Cathedral could not be seen.
"They've hidden it. That awful bridge!..."
"I down't see nothink wrong with it," the driver interrupted.
"Nothing wrong with it! You'd think they were ashamed of it, they've
hidden it so!"
"I down't see nothink wrong with it. Wot you gettin' so excited abaht?"
"_Shakespeare said his prayers there!_" John ejaculated.
"Well, wot if 'e did?" the driver replied. "We down't think nothink of
Cathedrals owver 'ere! We've got 'undreds of 'em!"
John sat back in his seat and stared at the driver. He was incapable of
speaking, and the driver, busy with his horses, said no more. The 'bus
crossed the river, drove along King William Street into Prince's
Street, and stopped. The conductor climbed to the roof and called to
John. "You chynge 'ere," he said, beckoning him.
"Good-morning," John said to the driver as he rose from his seat.
"Goo'-mornin'!" said the driver. He paused while John got out of the
seat into the gangway. "You know," he went on, "you wown't git so
excited abaht things after you bin 'ere a bit. You'll tyke things more
calm. Like me. I down't go an' lose my 'ead abaht Shykespeare!..."
"Good-morning," said John.
"Ow, goo'-mornin'!" said the driver.
The conductor was standing on the pavement when John descended.
"You'll get a 'bus owver there at the Mansion 'Ouse," he said, "thet'll
tyke you right into Fleet Street. Or you can walk it easy from 'ere.
'Long Cheapside, just rahnd the corner!..."
"Cheapside!" John said with interest. Uncle Matthew had told him that
Herrick, the poet, was born in Cheapside, and that Richard Whittington,
resting in Highgate Woods, had heard Bow Bells pealing from a Cheapside
steeple, bidding him return to be Lord Mayor of London and marry the
"Yus, Cheapside!" the conductor dully repeated. "Go 'long Cheapside,
turn to the left pas' St. Paul's, and you'll be in Ludgate 'ill. After
thet, follow your nowse! See?"
"Thank you!" said John.
The throng of traffic seemed to be greater here than it had been at
Elephant and Castle, and John, confused by it, stood looking about him.
"Thet's the Benk of England, thet!" the conductor hurriedly continued,
pointing across the street to the low, squat, dirty-looking building
which occupied the whole of one side of the street. "An' thet's the
Royal Exchynge owver there, an' this 'ere is the Mansion 'Ouse where
the Lord Mayor lives. I can't stop to tell you no more. Ayngel, Ayngel,
Ayngel! Any more for the Ayngel?..."
Several persons climbed on to the 'bus, and then, after attempting to
persuade people, anxious to go to Charing Cross, to go to the Angel at
Islington instead, the conductor rang his bell. He waved his hand in
farewell to John, who smiled at him. The 'bus lumbered off, John
watched it roll out of sight and, when it had gone, turned to find
Cheapside. There was an immense pressure of people in the streets, and
for a few moments he imagined that he had wandered into the middle of a
"Is there anything up?" he said to a lounger.
"Up?" the man repeated in a puzzled tone.
"Yes. All these people!..."
"Oh, no," the man said, "It's always like this!"
_Always like this!_...
He had never seen so many people or so much traffic before. The crowd
of workmen pouring out of the shipyards in Belfast was more impressive
than this London crowd, but not so perturbing, for that was a definite
crowd, having a beginning and an end and a meaning: it was composed
entirely of men engaged in a common enterprise; but this crowd had no
beginning and no end and no meaning: there was no common enterprise. It
was an amorphous herd, and almost it frightened him. If that herd were
to become excited ... to lose its head!... Hardly had the thought come
into his mind when an accident happened. A four-wheeler cab, trundling
across Mansion House Place towards Liverpool Street, overbalanced and
fell on its side. The driver was thrown into the road, and John,
imagining that he must be killed by a passing vehicle, shut his eyes so
that he might not see the horrible thing happen.... When he opened his
eyes again, the driver was on his feet and, assisted by policemen and
some passers-by, was freeing his horse from its harness, while two
other policemen dragged an old lady through the window of the cab and
placed her on the pavement.
"Really, driver!" she said, "you ought to be mere careful. I shall lose
"You'd think I'd done it a-purpose to 'ear 'er," the driver mumbled.
And the traffic swept by on either side of the overturned cab, and
there was no confusion, no excitement, no disaster. The careless,
traffic of the streets which seemed so likely to end in disorder never
ended otherwise than satisfactorily. There was control over it, but the
control was not obtrusive.
He felt reassured in a measure, but a sense of loneliness filled
him. He stood with his back, against the wall of a large building
and regarded the scene. Wherever he looked there were masses of people
and vehicles and tall buildings. Crowds and crowds of people with
no common, interest save that of speedily reaching a destination.
He might stand there for hours, with his back to this wall, and not
see the end of that crowd. In Belfast, at twelve o'clock on Saturday
morning, the workmen would hurry over the bridge to their homes:
a thick, black, unyielding mass of men; but at thirty minutes after
twelve, that thick, black, seemingly solid mass would be dissolved
into the ordinary groupings of a provincial city and there would
be no sign of it. This London crowd would never dissolve. The man
had told him that "it's always like this"!... There were nearly seven
millions of men and women and children in London, but he did not
know one of them. He had seen George Hinde for a few moments, and
he had spoken to Miss Squibb, and to Lizzie ... but he did not know
anyone. He was alone in this seven-million-fold herd, without a relative
or an intimate friend. He might stand at this corner for days, for weeks,
on end, viewing the passersby until his eyes were sore with the sight
of them, and never see one person whom he knew even slightly. In
Ballyards, he could not walk a dozen yards without encountering an
acquaintance. In Belfast, he was certain to see someone whom he knew
in the course of a day. But in this place!... He became horrified at
the thought that if he were suddenly to drop dead at that moment,
none of the persons who would gather round his body could say who
he was. He would be carried off to a morgue and laid on a marble
slab in the hope that someone would turn up and identify him ... and
he might never be identified; he might be buried as "a person unknown."
He determined to keep a note of his name and address in his breast-pocket,
together with a note of his mother's name and address.
"I'm not going to run the risk of them burying me without knowing who I
am." he murmured to himself.
Someone jostled him roughly, and mumbling "Sorry!" hurried on. In
Ireland, John thought to himself, had a man jostled a stranger so
rudely, he would have stopped and apologised to him and would have
asked for assurance that he had not hurt him. "I beg your pardon, sir,"
he would have said. "I'm very sorry. I hope I haven't hurt you!" But
this stranger who had roughly shoved against him, had not paused in his
rude progress. He had shouted "Sorry!" at him, but he had barely turned
his head to do it.
"Of course, I ought not to be standing here, blocking the way!" John
admitted to himself. "I wonder is London always like this, rough and in
He crossed the street, not without alarm, and stood by the entrance to
the Central London Railway. There were some flower-sellers sitting by
the railings, but they had no resemblance to the flower-girls of whom
Uncle Matthew had often told him. He glanced at them with distaste.
"It's queer," he thought, "how disappointed I am with everything!" and
then, as if he would account for his disappointment, he added, "I'm
bitter. That's what's wrong with me! I'm bitter about Maggie
He turned to a man who was leaning against the iron railings. "What's
down there?" he asked, pointing to the stairs leading to the Central
"The Toob," said the man.
"The Toob. The Tuppeny Toob. Undergrahnd Rylewy!"
"Oh, is that what you call the Tuppeny Tube?" John exclaimed, as
comprehension came to him. He had read of the Underground Railway built
in the shape of two long tubes stretching from the centre of the City
to Shepherd's Bush, but he had imagined a much more dramatic entrance
to it than this dull flight of steps.
"But you _walk_ into it," he exclaimed to his informant.
"There's lifts down below," the man replied unemotionally.
"I thought it would be different," John continued.
"Different? 'Ow ... different?"
"Well ... different!"
The man spat. "I down't see wot more you could expect," he said. "It's
there, ain't it? Wot more du want?"
"Oh, it's there, of course ... only!..."
The man interrupted him. "Wot's a toob for?" he said. He answered his
own question. "To travel by. Well, you can travel by it. Wot more du
"But I thought it would be exciting!..."
"An' 'oo the 'ell wants excitement in a toob!" the man answered.
John considered the matter for a moment or two. "I expect you're
right," he said, and then, more briskly, added, "Yes, of course. Of
course, you're right. Travelling in a train would not be pleasant if it
"It would not," the man answered.
"But it sounded such an extraordinary thing, a Tube, when I read about
it that I expected to see something different," John continued.
"Well, it is an extraordinary thing," the man said. "You walk down them
steps there, an' get into a lift, an' wot'll 'appen to you? You'll be
dropped 'undreds of feet into the earth, an' when you get ta the
bottom, you'll find trains runnin' by electricity. I call that
extraordinary, if you down't ... only I down't want to myke a song
John felt that he had been rebuked for an excess of enthusiasm. The
Englishman was right about the Tube. It was a wonderful thing, more
wonderful, perhaps, because of the quietness of its approach: it would
not be any more wonderful if people were to go about the town uttering
shouts of astonishment over it, nor was it any less wonderful because
the English people treated it as if it were an ordinary affair.
He looked across the road at the Bank of England, devoid equally of
dignity and sensation, and then turned and looked at the Royal
Exchange. A pigeon flew up from the ground and perched among the
figures carved over the portico, and as he watched it, he read the
inscription beneath the figure of Justice: _The Earth is the Lord's
and the Fullness Thereof_.
"Dear me!" he said, turning away again.
He began to feel hungry, and he moved away to search for a place in
which to find a meal.
"Good-morning," he said to the man who had instructed him concerning
He walked along Queen Victoria Street and, without considering what he
was doing, turned into a narrow street that ran off it at an angle of
seventy-five degrees. It was a perilous street to traverse for every
building in it seemed to have a crane near its roof, and every crane
seemed to have a heavy bale dangling from it in mid-air; and from the
narrow pavement cellar flaps were raised so that an unwary person might
suddenly find himself descending into deep, dark holes in the ground.
The roadway was occupied by lorries, and John had to turn and cross,
and cross and turn many times before he could extricate himself from
the labyrinth into which he had so carelessly intruded. While he was
crossing the street at one point, and passing between two lorries, he
found himself in front of a coffee-house, and again aware of his
hunger, he entered it. He passed to the back of the L-shaped shop, and
sat down at a small marble-topped table and waited for a waitress to
come and take his order. There was a girl sitting on the other side of
the table, but he did not observe her particularly, for her head was
bent over a letter which she was reading. He looked about him. The room
was full of men and young women, all eating or waiting to eat, and from
a corner of the room came a babble of conversation carried on by a
group of young clerks, and while John looked at them, a waitress came
to him, and said, "Yes, sir?"
He looked up at her hurriedly. "Oh, I want something to eat!" he said.
She waited for him to proceed. "What have you?" he asked. She handed a
bill of fare to him, and he glanced through it, feeling incapable of
"The sausages are very nice," the waitress suggested.
"I'll have sausages," he replied, thankful for the suggestion.
He nodded his head.
"Tea or coffee?"
"Tea, please. And a roll and butter!"
The waitress left him, and he sat back in his chair, and now he
regarded the bent head of the girl sitting opposite to him, and as he
did so, she looked up and their eyes met. She looked away.
"What lovely eyes she has," John said to himself.
She stood up as he thought this, and prepared to leave the restaurant,
and he saw again that her eyes were very beautiful: blue eyes that had
a dark look in them; and he said to himself that a woman who had
beautiful eyes had everything. He wished that he had come earlier to
the restaurant or that she had come later, so that they might have sat
opposite to each other for a longer time. He listened while she asked
the waitress for her bill. The softness of her voice was like gentle
music. He thought of the tiny noise of a small stream, of the song of a
bird heard at a distance, of leaves slightly stirring in a quiet wind,
and told himself that the sound of her voice had the quality of all
these. He wondered what it was that brought her to the City of London.
Perhaps she was employed in an office. Perhaps she had come up to do
some shopping.... She moved away, and as she did so, he saw that she
had left her letter lying on the table. He leant over and picked it up,
reading the name written on the envelope: _Miss Eleanor Moore_. He
got up and hurried after her.
The restaurant was a narrow cramped one, and it was not easy for him to
make his way through the people who were entering or leaving it, and he
feared that he would not be able to catch up with her before she had
reached the street. Customers in that restaurant, however, had to stop
at the counter to pay their bills, and so he reached her in time.
"Excuse me," he said. "I think you left this letter behind you."
She looked up in a startled manner, and then, seeing the letter which
he held out to her, smiled and said, "Oh, thank you! Thank you very
much. I left it on the table!"
She took it from him, and put it in a pocket of her coat.
"Thank you very much," she said again, and turned to take her change
from the man behind the counter.
John stood for a moment, looking at her, and then, remembering his
manners, went back to his seat and began to eat his meal of tea and
bread and butter and sausages.
"Eleanor Moore!" he murmured to himself as he cut off a large piece of
sausage and put it into his mouth. "That's a very nice name!" He
munched the sausage. "A very nice name," he thought again. "Much nicer
than Maggie Carmichael."
He left the restaurant and, having enquired the way, proceeded along
Cheapside towards Fleet Street. There was nothing of interest to him in
Cheapside, and so, in spite of its memories of Richard Whittington and
Robert Herrick, he hurried out of it. He turned into St. Paul's
Churchyard, eager to see the Cathedral, but as he did so, his heart
fell. The Eastern end of the Cathedral does not impress the beholder.
John ought to have seen St. Paul's first from Ludgate Hill, but, coming
on it from Cheapside, he could not get a proper view of it. He had
expected to turn a corner and see before him, immense and wonderful,
the great church, rich in tradition and dignity, rearing itself high
above the houses like a strong man rising up from the midst of
pigmies ... and he had turned a corner and seen only a grimy, blackened
thing, huddled into a corner ... jostled almost ... by greedy shopkeepers
and warehousemen. A narrow passage, congested by carts, separated the
eastern end of the cathedral from ugly buildings; a narrower passage
separated the railings of the churchyard from shops where men sold baby
linen and women's blouses and kitchen ranges and buns and milk....
His Uncle Matthew had told him that the dome of St. Paul's could be
seen from every part of London. "If ever you lose yourself in London,"
he had said, "search the sky 'til you see the dome of St. Paul's and
then work your way towards it!" And here, in the very churchyard of the
Cathedral, the dome was not visible because the shop-keepers had not
left enough of room for a man to stand back and view it properly. John
wondered whether the whole of London would disappoint him so much as
St. Paul's had done. The English seemed to have very little regard for
their cathedrals, for they put them into cramped areas and allowed
merchants to encircle them with ugly shops and offices. In Southwark,
he had seen the church where Shakespeare prayed, hidden behind a
hideous railway bridge, with its pavement fouled by rotting cabbage
leaves and the stinking debris of a vegetable market. And here, now,
was St. Paul's surrounded by dingy, desolating houses, as if an effort
were being made to conceal the church from view.
He hurried through the churchyard until he reached the western end of
the Cathedral, where some of his disappointment dropped out of his
mind. The great front of the church, with its wide, deep steps and its
great, strong pillars, black and grey from the smoke and fog of London,
filled him with a sense of imperturbable dignity. Men might build their
dingy, little shops and their graceless, scrambling warehouses, and try
to crowd the Cathedral into a corner, but the great church would still
retain its dignity and strength however much they might succeed in
obscuring it. He walked across the pavement, scattering the pigeons as
he did so, undecided whether to enter the Cathedral or not, until he
reached the flagstone on which is chiselled the statement that "Here
Queen Victoria Returned Thanks to Almighty God for the Sixtieth
Anniversary of Her Accession. June 22, 1897." As he contemplated the
flagstone, he forgot about the Cathedral, and remembered only his Uncle
Matthew. On this spot, a little, old woman had said her thankful
prayers, the little, old woman for whom his Uncle, who had never seen
her, had cracked a haberdasher's window and suffered disgrace; and she
and he were dead, and the little, old lady was of no more account than
the simple-minded man who had nearly been sent to gaol because of his
devotion to her memory. Many times in his life, had John heard people
speak of "the Queen" almost in an awe-stricken fashion, until, now and
then, she seemed to him to be a legendary woman, a great creature in a
heroic story, someone of whom he might dream, but of whom he might
never hope to catch a glimpse. It startled him to think that she had
human qualities, that she ate and drank and slept and suffered pain and
laughed and cried like other people. She was "the Queen": she owned the
British Empire and all that it contained. She owned white men and black
men and yellow men and red men; she owned islands and continents and
deserts and seas; a great tract of the world belonged to her ... and
here he was standing on the very spot where she had sat in her
carriage, offering thanks in old quavering accents to the Almighty God
for allowing her to reign for sixty years. The fact that he was able to
stand on that very spot seemed comical to him. There ought to have been
a burning bush on the place where "the Queen" had said her prayers.
Uncle Matthew would have expected something of that sort ... but there
was nothing more dramatic than this plainly-chiselled inscription. And
the little, old woman was as dusty in her grave as Uncle Matthew was in
He passed down Ludgate Hill, across Ludgate Circus, into Fleet Street,
turning for a few moments to look back at the Cathedral. Again, he had
a sense of anger against the English people who could allow a railway
company to fling an ugly bridge across the foot of Ludgate Hill and
destroy the view of St. Paul's from the Circus; but he had had too many
shocks that morning to feel a deep anger then, and so, turning his back
on the Cathedral, he walked up Fleet Street. He stared about him with
interest, gazing up at the names of the newspapers that were exhibited
in large letters on the fronts of the houses. The street seemed to be
shouting at him, yelling out names as if it were afraid to be silent.
It was a disorderly street. It seemed to straggle up the hill to the
Strand, as if it had not had time to put its clothes on properly. All
along its length, he could see, at intervals, scaffold-poles and
builders' hoardings. Houses and offices were being altered or repaired
or rebuilt. He felt that the street had been constructed for a great
game of hide-and-seek, for the flow of the buildings was irregular:
here, a house stood forward; there, a house stood back. In one of these
bays, a player might hide from a seeker!... Somewhere in this street,
John remembered, Dr. Johnson had lived, and he tried to imagine the
scene that took place on the night of misery when Oliver Goldsmith went
to the Doctor and wept over the failure of _The Good Natured Man_,
and was called a ninny for his pains. But he could not make the scene
come alive because of the noise and confusion in the street. The air of
immediacy which enveloped him made quiet imagination impossible. His
head began to ache with the sounds that filled his ears, and he wished
that he could escape from the shouting herd into some little soundless
place where his mind could become easy again and free from pain. He
stared around him, glancing at the big-lettered signs over the
newspaper offices, at the omnibuses, at the crowds of men and women,
and once his heart leaped into his throat as he saw a boy on a bicycle,
carrying a bag stuffed with newspapers on his back, ride rapidly out of
a side street into the middle of the congested traffic as if there were
nothing substantial to hinder his progress ... and as he stared about
him, it seemed to him that Fleet Street was on the verge of a nervous
"I must get out of this," he said to himself, turning aimlessly out of
He found himself presently in a narrow lane, and, looking up at the
sign, saw that it was called "Hanging Sword Alley." He looked at the
bye-way, a mere gutter of a street, and wondered what sort of a man had
given it that romantic name; and while he wondered, it seemed to him
that his mind had suddenly become illuminated. His Uncle Matthew had
had romantic imaginings all his life about everything except the things
that were under his nose. He had never seen Queen Victoria, but he had
suffered for her sake. He had never seen London, but he had declared it
to be a city of romance and colour and vivid happenings. Perhaps Uncle
Matthew was like the man who had named this dull, grimy, narrow
passage, "Hanging Sword Alley"! Perhaps Queen Victoria was not
quite ... not quite all that Uncle Matthew had imagined her to be. The
thought staggered him, and he felt as if he had filled his mind with
treason and sedition!... He could not say what Queen Victoria was, but
with his own eyes he had seen London, and London had as little of
romance in it as Hanging Sword Alley had. There were noise and scuffle
and dingy distraction and mobs of little white-faced, nervous men and
women, and a drab content with blotched beauty ... but none of these
things had romance in them. He had been told that London flower-girls
were pretty ... and he had seen only coarse and unclean women, with
towsled hair. He had been told that London 'busdrivers were cheerful,
witty men ... but the driver to whom he had spoken had been surly at
the beginning and witless to the end. If Uncle Matthew had come into
this dirty bye-way, he would have seen only the name of Hanging Sword
Alley, but John had seen more than the name: he had seen the inadequacy
of the bye-way to the name it bore.
"Perhaps," he said to himself, "I can't see the romance in things.
Mebbe, Uncle Matthew could see more than I can!..."
His head ached more severely now, and he wandered into Tudor Street. A
great rurr-rurr came from the cellars of the houses, and glancing into
them, he could see big machines working, and he guessed that these were
the engines that printed the newspapers. The thump of the presses, as
they turned great rolls of white paper into printed sheets, seemed to
beat inside his head, causing him pain with every stroke. He pressed
his fingers, against his temples in an effort to relieve the ache, but
it would not be relieved. "Oh!" he exclaimed aloud after one very sharp
twinge, and then, as he spoke, he found himself before a gate and,
heedless of what he was doing, he passed through it ... and found
himself in an oasis in a desert of noise. The harsh sounds died down,
the _rurr-rurr-rurr_ of the machines ceased to trouble him, the
scuffle and haste no longer offended his sense of decency. He was in a
place of cool cloisters and wide green lawns. He could see young men in
white flannels playing tennis ... in Ballyards it was called "bat and
ball" ... and beyond the tennis-courts, he saw the shining river.
"What place is this?" he said to a man who went by.
"Temple Gardens!" the man replied.
He walked about the Gardens, delighting in the quiet and the coolness.
Pigeons flew down from the roof of a house and began to pick bread-crumbs
almost at his feet. There was a sweet noise of birds....
He looked at the names of the barristers painted on the doorways of the
houses, and wondered which of them were judges. He wished he could see
a judge in his crimson robes and his long, curly wig, coming out of the
chambers, and while he wished for this splendid spectacle, he saw a
barrister in his black gown and horse-hair wig, come down a narrow
passage from the Strand and enter the doorway of one of the houses. He
walked on into Pump Court and watched the sparrows washing themselves
in the fountain where Tom Pinch met Ruth ... and while he watched them,
his sense of loneliness returned to him. His head still ached and now
his heart ached, too. Disappointment had come to him all day. He was
alone in a city full of people who knew nothing of him and cared
nothing for him. And his heart was aching. The peace of Pump Court only
served to make him more aware of the ache in his head. As he dipped his
hand in the water of the fountain, he wished that he could go round a
corner and meet Uncle William or Mr. Cairnduff or the minister or even
Aggie Logan ... meet someone whom he knew!...
"I'd give the world for a cup of tea," he said to himself suddenly, and
then, "I wonder could I find that place where I saw the girl. Mebbe
she'd be there again!..."
He looked about him in an indeterminate way. Then he moved from the
fountain in the direction of the Strand. "I can try anyway!" he said.
The girl was sitting at a large table in a corner of the restaurant,
and he saw with joy that there was a vacant seat immediately opposite
to her. He looked at her as he sat down, but she gave no sign of
recognition. He had hoped that their encounter earlier in the day would
have entitled him to a smile from her, but her features remained
unrelaxed, although he knew that she was aware of him and remembered
him. Her eyes and his had met, and he had been ready to answer her
smile with another smile, but she averted her eyes from his stare and
looked down at her plate. What eyes she had ... grey at one moment and
blue at another as her face turned in the light! When she looked
downwards, he could see long lashes fringing her eyelids, and when she
looked up, the changing colour of her irises and the blue tinge that
suffused the cornea, caused him to think of her eyes as pools of light.
Her face was pale, and in repose it had an appearance of puzzled pathos
that made him feel that he must instantly offer comfort to her, and he
would have done so had not her nervous reticence prevented him. What
would she do if he were to speak to her? There was an illustrated paper
lying close to her plate. He leant across the table and, pointing to
the paper, said, "Are you using that?"
She started, and then, without a smile, said, "No," and passed the
paper to him.
"Thank you!" he murmured, taking it from her.
It was an old paper, and he did not wish to read it, but he had to
pretend to be interested in it, for the girl showed no desire to offer
any more than the casual civilities of one stranger to another. He
hoped that he might suddenly look up and find that she was regarding
him intently ... she would hurriedly glance away from him with an air
of pretty confusion ... but although he looked up at her many times, he
never caught her gazing at him. He wished that she would take her hat,
a wide-brimmed one, off so that he might see her hair. How ridiculous
it was of women to sit at meals with hats on!... He could just see a
wave of dark brown hair under the brim of her hat, flowing across her
broad brow. Her eyebrows were dark and level and very firm, and he
thought how wonderfully the darkness of her eyebrows and her eyelids
and the pallor of her skin served to enrich the beauty of her eyes.
Maggie Carmichael's eyes had had laughter in them ... they seemed
always to be sparkling with merriment ... but this girl's eyes had
tears in them. She might often smile, John told himself, but she would
seldom laugh. Her air of listening for an alarm and the nervous
movement of her fingers made him imagine that a magician had changed
some swift and beautiful and timid animal into a woman. The magicians
in the _Arabian Nights_ frequently turned men and women into
hounds and antelopes, but the process had been reversed with this girl:
an antelope had been turned into a woman.... If only she would give him
an opportunity of speaking to her, of making friends with her! He
suddenly held out the paper to her. "Thank you!" he said.
"It isn't mine," she answered indifferently.
He became confused and clumsy, and he put the paper down on the table
so that it upset a spoon on to the floor with a noise that seemed loud
enough to wake the dead; and as he stooped to pick it up, he pushed the
paper against her plate, causing it almost to fall into her lap.
"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed.
"It's all right," she replied coldly.
He could feel the blood running hotly through his body, and the warm
flush of it spreading over his cheeks. "That was a cut," he said to
himself, and wondered what he should do or say next. What a fool he
must appear to her! ... It would be ridiculous to ask her to tell him
the time, for there was a large and palpable clock over her head so
fixed that he could not fail to see it. It was very odd, he thought,
that she should not wish to speak to him when he so ardently wished to
speak to her. She had finished her meal and he knew that in a moment or
two she would rise and go out of the restaurant. He leant across the
"Miss Moore," he said, "I wish you would be friends with me!"
She looked at him as if she were not certain that he had spoken to her,
and as she saw how earnestly he gazed at her, the expression of her
face changed from one of astonishment to one of alarm.
"Won't you?" he said.
She gave a little gasp and rose hurriedly from her seat.
"Miss Moore!" he said appealingly.
"I don't know you," she replied, hurrying away.
He sat still. It seemed to him that every person in the restaurant must
be looking at him and condemning him for his behaviour. He had spoken
to a girl who did not know him, and he had frightened her. The look of
alarm in her face was unmistakable. What must she think of him? Would
she ever believe that he had no wish to frighten her, that he wished
only to be her friend, to talk to her? If he had told her that he did
not know anyone in London and was feeling miserably lonely, perhaps she
would have been kind to him ... but what opportunity had he had to tell
her anything. Well, that was the end of that! He was not likely to see
Eleanor Moore again, and even if he were, he could hardly hope, after
such a rebuff, to win her friendship unless a miracle were to
happen ... and he had begun to feel dubious about miracles since he had
arrived in London. Perhaps, if he were to follow her and explain
matters to her!...
He hurried out of the restaurant, and stood for a moment or two on the
pavement glancing up and down the street. She was turning out of the
lane into Queen Victoria Street, and as he stood looking at her, she
turned round the corner and he lost sight of her.
"I'll go after her," he said.
He ran into Queen Victoria Street and glanced eagerly about him. It was
difficult in the press of people to distinguish a single person, but
fortunately the street was fairly clear of traffic, and he saw her
crossing the road near the Mansion House. He hastened after her and saw
her enter a block of offices in Cornhill. He reached the door of this
building in time to see her being carried out of sight in the lift. He
entered the hall and stood by the gate until the lift had descended.
"Can you tell me which of these offices that lady works in?" he said to
the liftman. "The lady you've just taken up, Miss Moore?"
The liftman looked at him suspiciously.
"Wot you want to know for?" he demanded.
"Oh, I ... I'm a friend of hers," John answered lamely.
"Well, if you're a friend of 'ers, I daresay she'll tell you 'erself
next time she sees you," said the liftman. "Any-'ow, I sha'n't. See?"
"But I particularly want to know," John persisted. "Look here, I'll
give you half-a-crown if you'll tell me!..."
"An' I'll give you a thick ear if you don't 'op it out of this quick,"
the liftman retorted angrily. "I know you. Nosey Parker, that's wot you
are! Comin' 'round 'ere, annoyin' girls! I know you! I seen fellers
like you before, I 'ave!..."
"What do you mean?" said John.
"Mean! 'Ere's wot I mean. You're either a broker's man!..."
"No, I'm not," John interrupted.
"Or you're up to no good, see! An' wotever you are, you can just 'op
it, see! You'll get no information out of me, Mr. Nosey Parker, see!
An' if I ketch you 'angin' about 'ere, annoyin' 'er or anybody else
I'll 'it you on the jawr, see, an' then I'll 'and you over to the
police. An' that'll learn you!"
John stared at the man. "Do you mean to say?..."
"I mean to say wot I 'ave said," the liftman interjected. "An' I don't
mean to say no more. 'Op it. That's all. Or it'll be the worse for
The lift bell rang, and the man entered the lift and closed the gate.
Then he ascended out of sight. John gaped through the gate into the
well of the lift.
"I've a good mind to break that chap's skull," he said to himself as he
He left the block of offices and went towards Prince's Street.
"It's no good hanging about here any longer," he said. "I'll go home!"
A 'bus drove up as he reached the corner, and he climbed into it. "I'll
come again to-morrow," he said, "and try and find her. She'll have to
listen to me. I'm really in love this time!"
He had been provided with a latch-key before leaving Miss Squibb's
house in the morning, and, with an air of responsibility, he let
himself in. Lizzie, carrying a tray of dishes, came into the hall as he
opened the door.
"Just in time," she said affably. "If you'd 'a' been a bit sooner,
you'd 'a' seen the Creams. They come back just after you went out
'smornin'. I told 'em all about you ... you bein' Irish an' littery an'
never 'avin' been to the Zoo or anythink. They _was_ interested!"
"'E's such a nice man, Mr. Cream is. She ain't bad, but 'e's nice. They
gone to the Oxford now. I wish you'd seen 'em start off in their
"Yes, their carriage. They 'ave to 'ire one when they're in London so's
to get about from one 'all to another. They act in two or three 'alls a
night in London. I do like to see 'em go off in their broom of a
evenin'. Mykes the 'ouse look a bit classy, I think, but Aunt says
they're living in sin an' she down't feel 'appy about it. But wot I sy
is, wot's it matter so long as they pys their rent reg'lar an' down't
go an' myke no fuss. They couldn't be less trouble. They keep on their
rooms 'ere, just the same whether they're 'ere or not, an' sometimes
they're away for months at a stretch. It ain't every dy you get lodgers
like them, and wot I sy is, if they are livin' in sin, it's them
that'll ave to go to 'ell for it, not us. Aunt's very religious, but
she can see sense syme's anybody else, so she 'olds 'er tongue about
it. I down't 'old with sin myself, mind you, but I down't believe in
cuttin' off your nose to spite someone else's fyce. You go an' wash
your 'ands, an' I'll 'ave your dinner up in 'alf a jiff!..."
John stared at her. "I don't know what you mean by living in sin," he
"Well, you are innercent," she replied. "'Aven't you never 'eard of no
one livin' together without bein' married?"
"I've read about it!..."
"Well, that's livin' in sin, that is. Pers'nally, I down't see wot
diff'rence it mykes. They be'ave about the syme, married or not. 'E's a
bit more lovin', per'aps, than a 'usband, but otherwise it's about the
The bluntness of Lizzie's speech disconcerted him, and yet the
simplicity of it reassured him. He did not now feel, as he has felt in
the morning, that she was a Bad Woman; but he could not completely
comprehend her. Girls in Ballyards did not speak as she spoke. One knew
that there were Bad Women in the world and that there was much sin in
love-making, but one did not speak of it, except in shuddering
whispers. Lizzie, however, spoke of it almost as if she were talking of
the weather. Evidently, life and habit in England were very different
from life and habit in Ballyards.... He went up the stairs to his room,
in a mood partly of horror and partly of curiosity. He was shocked to
think that he was living in the same house with guilty sinners, but he
had an odd desire to see them.
When he had reached the first landing, Lizzie called after him.
"There's a poce-card for you," she said. "From Mr. 'Inde. 'E says 'e'll
be 'ome to-morrow, an' 'e asts you to give me 'is love. Saucy 'ound!
'E's a one, 'e is!"
John turned towards her. "It won't be necessary for me to give his love
to you, will it?" he said sarcastically. "You seem to have taken it
She was unaware of his sarcasm. "So I 'ave," she said. "I'll tell 'im
that when 'e comes back!"
"Do you always read post-cards, Lizzie?" he asked.
"Of course I do," she answered. "So does everybody. You 'urry on now,
an' I'll 'ave your dinner up before you finish dryin' your fyce!" She
contemplated him for a moment. "You got nice 'air," she said, "only it
wants brushin'. An' cuttin', too!"
Then she disappeared down the stairs leading to the basement.
"That's a _very_ rum sort of a woman," John murmured to himself as
he proceeded to his room.
THE SECOND CHAPTER
He had gone to bed before the Creams returned from their round of the
music-halls, but in the morning, when Lizzie had removed the remnants
of his breakfast, John heard a tap on the door of the sitting-room, and
on opening it, found a small, wistful-looking man, with a smiling face,
"Good-morning," said the stranger, holding his hand out. "I'm Cream
from the ground-floor!"
"Oh, yes," John answered, shaking hands with him. "Come in, won't you!"
"Well, I was going to suggest you should come down and be introduced to
the wife. She'd like to meet you!" Mr. Cream said, entering the
sitting-room as he spoke.
John had a sensation of self-consciousness when he heard the word
"Settling down comfortably?" Mr. Cream continued.
"Oh, yes, thank you," said John. "I went out all day yesterday and had
my first look at London!"
"And what do you think of it? Great place, eh?"
John confessed that he had been disappointed in London, and in a few
moments he began to recite a list of the things that had disappointed
"Wait 'til you've been here a few months," Mr. Cream interrupted.
"You'll love this town. You'll hate loving it, but you won't be able to
help yourself. I've been all over the world, the wife and me, and I've
seen some of the loveliest places on earth, but London's got me. You'll
be the same. You see!" He glanced about the room, casting his eyes
critically at the books. "I hear you're a writer, too?" he said, less
as an assertion than as a question.
"I've written one book," John replied, "but it hasn't been printed. I
want to discuss it with Mr. Hinde, but I haven't had a chance to do
that yet. He's been away ever since I arrived. He'll be home the day
"So Lizzie told me. Queer bird, Lizzie, isn't she?"
"Very," said John.
"But she's a good soul. I'd trust Lizzie with every ha'penny I have,
but I wouldn't trust that old cat of an aunt of hers with a brass
farthing. She's too religious to be honest. That's my opinion of her.
Come on down and see the wife!" He rose from his seat as he spoke. "I
suppose you've never tried your hand at a play, have you?" he asked,
leading the way to the door.
"No, not yet, but I had a notion of trying," John said, following him.
"I could give you a few tips if you needed advice," Mr. Cream
continued, as they descended the stairs. "As a matter of fact, the wife
and me are in need of a new piece for the halls, and it struck me this
morning when I heard you were a writer, that mebbe you could do a piece
for us. It would be practice for you!"
"What about Mr. Hinde?" John asked.
"I've tried him time after time, but it's no good asking. He's a
journalist, and a journalist can only work when he's excited. Put him
down to something that needs thought and care, and he's lost. And he
always says he's writing a tragedy about St. Patrick and can't think of
John smiled, without quite understanding why he was smiling, and
followed Mr. Cream into the ground floor sitting-room where Mrs. Cream
was lying on a sofa.
"This is the wife," Mr. Cream said. "Dolly, this is Mr.... Mr!..."
"MacDermott," John prompted.
"Oh, yes, of course. Mr. MacDermott. Lizzie did tell me, but I can
never remember Irish names somehow!"
Mrs. Cream extended a limp hand to John. "You must excuse me for not
getting up," she said, "but I'm always very tired in the morning!"
"You see, Mac," Mr. Cream explained, "Dolly is a very intense
actress ... I think she's the most intense actress on the stage ... and
she gets very worked up in emotional pieces. Don't you, Dolly?"
Dolly nodded her head, and then, as if the effort of doing so had been
too great an exertion for her, she lay back on the sofa and closed her
"Perhaps I'd better go!..." John suggested.
"Oh, no, no! She's always like that. All right in the afternoon. Won't
Dolly waved her hand feebly.
"Her acting takes a lot out of her," Mr. Cream said. "Very exhausting
all that emotional work. Bound to be ... _bound_ to be! Now, comic
work's different. I can be as comic as you like, and all that happens
is I'm nicely tired about bedtime, and I sleep like a top. In fact, I
might say I sleep like two tops, for the wife's so unnerved, as you
might say, by her own acting that it takes her half the night to settle
down. Nerves, my boy. That's what it is! Nerves! I tell you, Mac, old
chap, if you want to have a good night's rest, go in for comic work,
but if you want to lie awake and think, tragedy's your trade. Nerves
all on edge. Overwrought. Terrible thing, tragedy! Isn't it, Dolly?"
Mrs. Cream moaned slightly and twisted about on the sofa. "Too much
talk!" she murmured.
"All right, my dear, all right. Suppose we just go up to your room
again, Mac, and talk until she's quieted down? Eh?"
"Very well," said John who was feeling exceedingly uncomfortable.
They left the room together, John walking on tiptoe, for he felt that
the situation made such a solemnity necessary.
"Temperament is a peculiar thing," Mr. Cream said as they ascended the
"Evidently," John answered.
"I may as well warn you that Dolly'll make love to you when she's
recovered herself, but you needn't let it worry you. She can't help it,
poor dear, and I often think it's the only real relaxation she has ...
with her temperament. Just humour her, old chap, if she does. I'll know
you don't mean anything by it. It's temperament, that's all it is.
Dolly wouldn't do anything ... not for the world ... but it gives her a
lot of satisfaction to pretend she's doing something. Lot of women like
that, Mac. Not nice women, really ... except Dolly, of course ... and
you can excuse her because of her temperament!"
They entered the sitting-room and sat down at the table.
"And I may as well tell you," Cream continued, "that Dolly and me
aren't married. I'd like to be regular myself, but Dolly says she'd
feel respectable if she was married ... and she thinks you can't be
tragic if you're respectable. She always says that she's at her best
when she feels that I've ruined her life. I daresay she's right, old
chap, only I'd like to be regular myself. As I tell her, if it's hard
to be tragic when you're respectable, it's damn hard to be comic when
you're not. I expect Lizzie told you about me and Dolly?"
John nodded his head.
"I thought as much. Lizzie always tells people. I don't know what the
hell she'd do for gossip if we were to get married. I can't think how
she found out ... unless Dolly told her ... but you can be certain of
this, Mac, if there's a skeleton in your cupboard, Lizzie'll discover
it. Dolly's the skeleton in my cupboard. Of course, old chap, I don't
want it talked about. I wouldn't have told you anything about it, only
I guessed that Lizzie'd told you. Not that I mind _you_ or Hinde
knowing ... you're writers ... but music-hall people are so particular
about things of that sort. You wouldn't believe how narrow-minded and
old-fashioned they are about marriage ... not like actors. That's
really why I mentioned the matter. I don't want you to think I'm
bragging about it or anything!"
"Oh, no, no," said John. "No, of course not. I wouldn't dream of saying
a word to anybody!"
"Thanks, Mac, old chap!" Cream extended his hand to John, and John,
wondering why it was offered to him, shook it. "Now about this idea of
mine for a play!"
"Yes, for me and Dolly. Why shouldn't you do one for us? The minute I
heard you were a writer, I turned to Dolly and I said, 'Dolly, darling,
let's get him to do a play for us!' And she agreed at once. She said,
'Do what you like, darling, but don't worry me about it!' You see, Mac,
we're getting a bit tired of this piece we're doing now ... we've been
doing it twice-nightly for four years ... _The Girl Gets Left_, we
call it ... and we want new stuff. See? We'd like a good dramatic
piece ... a little bit of high-class in it ... for Dolly ... if you like,
only not too much. Classy stuff wants living up to it, and I haven't
got it in me, and people aren't always in the mood for it either. In
the music-halls, anyway. See?"
"Dramatic stuff ... that's what we want. Go! Snap! Plenty of ginger!
Raise hell's delight and then haul down the curtain quick before the
audience has had time to pull itself together. See? We'd treat the
author very handsome if we could get hold of a good piece with a big
emotional part for the wife ... and although I'm her husband ... in the
sight of God, anyway ... I will say this for her, Mac, there's not
another woman on the stage ... Ellen Terry, Mrs. Pat or Sarah Bernhardt
herself ... can hold a candle to Dolly for emotional parts. Of course,
there'd have to be a comic part for me, too, but you needn't worry much
about that. I always make up my own part to a certain extent. Just give
me the bare outline: I'll do the rest. You see, I understand the
public ... it's a knack, of course ... and I can always improve the
author's stuff easy. What do you say?"
"I don't know," said John.
"You needn't put your name to it, if you don't want to. Use a nom de
plume or leave the name out altogether. _Our_ audience doesn't pay
any attention to authors, so that won't matter. And it'll be a start
for you, Mac!"
"Any little bit of success, even if you're half ashamed of it, bucks
you wonderful, Mac ... I say, you don't mind me calling you Mac, do
"No," John replied.
"Somehow it's homely when you can call a chap Mac, somehow! Now, if you
was to do a play for us, and it went well, it'd put heart into you for
something better. If you can find your way to the heart of a music-hall
audience, Mac, my boy, you can find your way anywhere. Now, what about
it, eh! Will you try to do a piece for us?"
"I'll try, but!..."
"That's all right," said Cream, again extending his hand to John.
"Dolly'll be very pleased to hear we've settled it!"
"But I've never seen a music-hall play!" John exclaimed, "and you
haven't said how much you'll pay me for it!"
"Never been in a music-hall!... Where was you brought up, Mac!"
"In Ballyards," John replied seriously.
"Have you never heard of Ballyards, Mr. Cream?"
"No," the comedian replied.
"Well, where were you brought up then?"
Cream regarded him closely for a few moments. Then he burst into
laughter and again shook John fervently by the hand.
"That's one up for you, Mac!" he said genially. "Quite a repartee.
Well, come with us to-night and see _The Girl Gets Left_. That'll
give you a notion of the sort of stuff we want. See?"
"How much will you pay me for it?"
"Well, we gave the chap that wrote _The Girl Gets Left_ ... poor
chap, he died of drink about six weeks ago ... couldn't keep away from
it ... signed the pledge ... ate sweets ... did everything ... no
good ... always thought out his best jokes when he was drunk ... well, we
gave him thirty bob a week for _The Girl Gets Left_ ... and mind
you he was an experienced chap, too ... but Dolly and me, we've decided
you have to pay a bit extra for classy stuff, and we'll give you two
quid a week for the piece if it suits us. Two quid a week as long as
the play runs, Mac. _The Girl Gets Left_ has been played for four
years ... four years, Mac ... all over the civilised globe. If your
piece was to run that long, you'd get Four Hundred and Sixteen Quid.
Four Hundred and Sixteen shiny Jimmy o' Goblins, Mac! Think of it! And
all for a couple of afternoons' work!..."
"And how much will you get out of it?" John asked.
"Oh, I dunno. Enough to pay the rent anyhow. You know, Mac, these
high-class chaps like Barrie and Bernard Shaw, they've never had a play
run for four years anywhere, and yet old Hookings, that nobody never knew
nothing about and died of drink, his play was performed all over the
civilised world for four years. That's something to be proud of, that
is. Four solid years! But there was nothing in the papers about him,
when he died ... nothing ... not a word. And if Barrie was to die, or
Bernard Shaw ... columns, pages! Barrie ... well, he's all right, of
course ... not bad ... but compare him with Hookings. Why, he doesn't
know the outside of the human heart, not the outside of it he doesn't,
and Hookings knew what the inside of it's like. You take that play of
Barrie's, _The Twelve Pound Look_. Not bad...not a bad play, at
all ... but where's the feeling heart in it? Play that piece in front
of an audience of coalminers and what 'ud you get? The bird, my boy!
That sort of stuff is all right for the West End ... but the people,
Mac, want something that hits 'em straight between the eyes and gives
'em a kick in the stomach as well. The best way to make a man sit up
and take a bit of notice is to hit him a punch on the jaw, and the best
way to make the public feel sympathetic is to hit it a punch in the
The little man broke off suddenly and glanced towards the door. "I must
toddle down to Dolly now. She gets fretful if I'm out of her sight for
long. I'll see you later on ... seven o 'clock, old chap!"
"Very good," John answered.
"Aw reservoir, then!" said Cream, as he left the room and hurried
He told himself that he ought to do some work, but the desire to see
more of London overcame his good resolution, and so he left the house
and set out again for the town. He hoped that he might see Eleanor
Moore. If he were to go to the tea-shop at the same hour as she had
entered it yesterday, he might contrive to seat himself at her table
again, and this time perhaps she would listen to him. When he reached
the City, he found that he was too early for the mid-day meal, and so
he resolved to go and stand about the entrance to the office where
Eleanor Moore was employed. He would see her coming out of it and could
follow discreetly after her.... But although he waited for an hour, she
did not appear, nor was she to be seen in the tea-shop, when, tired and
disappointed, he took his place in it. He dallied over his meal, hoping
every moment that she would turn up, but at length he had to go away
without seeing her. At teatime, he told himself, he would come again
and wait for her. He climbed on to a 'bus and let himself be taken to
Charing Cross, where he enquired the way to the National Gallery. He
wandered through the rooms until his eyes ached with looking at the
pictures and his feet were sore with walking on the polished floors. He
felt self-conscious when he looked at the nudes, and he blushed when he
found a woman standing by his side as he looked at the portrait of Jean
Arnolfini and Jeanne his wife by van Eyck. He turned hotly away, and
wondered that there was no blush on the face of the woman. In
Ballyards, a man always pretended not to see a woman about to have a
child ... unless, of course, he was with other men and the woman could
not see him, when he would crack jokes about her condition!... Here,
however, people actually exhibited pictures of pregnant women in a
public place where all sorts, old and young, male and female, could
look at them ... and no one appeared to mind. It might be all right, of
course, and after all a woman in that way was natural enough ... but he
had been brought up to be ashamed of seeing such things, and he could
not very well become easy about them in a moment.... And he became very
tired of Holy Families and Crucifixions!...
"I'll walk back to the place," he said to himself as he left the
Gallery and crossed Trafalgar Square. He dappled his fingers in the
water of one of the fountains, and listened to two little Cocknies
"They've a queer way of talking," he said to himself.
...and then he started off down the Strand towards Fleet Street and the
City. Eleanor Moore was not in the tea-shop when he entered it, nor did
she come into it while he remained there. He finished his meal and
walked in the direction of the Royal Exchange and just as he was
running out of the way of a 'bus, he saw her going towards the stairs
leading into the Tube.
"There she is," he murmured and hurried after her.
She was at the foot of the stairs when he reached the top of them, and
when he had got to the foot of them, she was almost at the entrance to
the booking-office of the Tube. He tried to get near her so that he
might speak to her, but the press of people going home prevented him
from doing so. He saw her go down the steps and take her place in the
queue of people purchasing tickets, and he walked across to the
bookstall and stood there until she had obtained her ticket. Then as
she walked to the lift, he moved towards her. She was examining her
change as she walked along, and did not see him until he was close to
her. He meant to say, "Oh, Miss Moore, may I speak to you for a
moment!" but suddenly he became totally inarticulate, and while he was
struggling to say something, she looked up and saw him. She started
slightly, then her face became flushed, and she hurried forward and
joined the group of wedged people in the lift. He determined to follow
her, but while he was resolving to do so, the lift attendant shouted,
"Next lift, please!" and pulled the gates together. He watched the
light disappear from the little windows at the top of the gates!...
"I've missed her again," he said.
He was just in time to swallow a hurried meal and set off to the
theatre with the Creams. Mrs. Cream, recovered from the devastating
effects of a tragical temperament, was very vivacious as they sat in
the brougham; and she rallied him on his authorship. She told him that
when he was a celebrated writer, she would be able to say that she had
"As a matter of fact, Dolly," said her husband, "it was me that thought
of the idea!"
She ignored her husband. She pretended that John would become too proud
to know the poor little Creams!...
"I'm not too proud to know anyone," he interrupted.
She burbled at him, and pressed closer to him. "You're quite
complimentary," she said.
Cream had given John a note to the manager of the theatre which induced
that gentleman to admit him, free of charge, to the stalls. He would
travel home by himself, for the Creams had to play at other music-halls,
and would not be able to take him back to Brixton in their brougham.
"We finish up at Walham Green," said Cream, as John left the carriage.
He waited impatiently for the performance of _The Girl Gets Left_,
and he had an extraordinary sense of pleasure when he saw Cream's
wistful face peering through a window immediately after the curtain
went up. The little man was remarkably funny. His look, his voice, his
gestures, all compelled laughter from the audience without the audience
understanding quite why it was amused. He had the pathetic appearance
that all great comedians have, the look of appeal that one saw in the
face of Dan Leno, in the face of James Welch, and it seemed that he
might as easily cry as laugh. The words he had to say were poor, vapid
things, but when he said them, he put some of his own life into them
and gave them a greater value than they deserved. The turn of his head
was comic; a queer little helpless movement of his hands was comic; the
way in which he seemed to stop short and gulp as if he were bracing
himself up was comic; the swift downward and then upward glance of his
eyes, followed by an assumption of complete humility and resignation,
these were comic. And when he appeared on the stage, the audience,
knowing something of his quality, collectively lifted itself into an
attitude of attention.
A dismal young woman, singing a dreary lecherous song and showing an
immense quantity of frilled underclothing, had occupied five or six
minutes in boring the audience before _The Girl Gets Left_ began;
and an air of lassitude had enveloped the men who were sitting in
relaxed attitudes in the theatre. Their eyes seemed to become dull, and
they paid more attention to their pipes and their cigarettes than they
paid to the young woman's underclothing.... But when _The Girl Gets
Left_ began, and the whimsical face of Cream was seen peering
through the window of the scene, the lassitude was lifted and the men's
eyes began to brighten again. The first words, the first gesture of
comic helplessness, from Cream sent a ripple of laughter round the
theatre, and immediately the place was full of that queer,
uncontrollable thing, personality.
John laughed heartily at the acting of his new friend, and he decided
that he would certainly try to write a play for him. How good Mrs.
Cream must be if she were better than her husband, as he so proudly
declared she was. It would be a privilege to write a play for people so
clever.... Then Mrs. Cream, magnificently dressed, appeared, and as she
did so, some of the atmosphere that enveloped the stage and the
auditorium and made them one and very intimate, was dispelled. John
watched her as she moved about the stage, and wondered why it was that
the audience had suddenly become a little fidgetty. His eyes were full
of astonishment. He gazed at Mrs. Cream as if he were trying to
understand some ineluctable mystery.... He remembered how enthralled he
had been by the acting of the girl who had played Juliet. He had been
caught up and transported from the theatre to the very streets of
Verona. He had felt that he was one of the crowd that followed the
Montagues or the Capulets, and had been ready to bite his thumb with
the best.... But here was something that left him uneasy and alien. He
felt as if he were prying into private affairs, that at any moment
someone, a policeman, perhaps, might come along and seize him for
trespassing. He did not then know that bad acting always leaves an
audience with a sensation of having intruded upon privacies ... that an
actor who is incompetent leaves the people who see him acting badly
with the feeling that they have vulgarly peeped into his dressing-room
and seen him taking off his wig and wiping the paint from his face.
Mrs. Cream acted with great vigour; her voice roared over the
footlights; and she seemed to hurl herself about the scene as if she
were determined either to smash the furniture or to smash herself. She
made much noise. Her gestures were lavish. Her dresses were very costly
and full of glitter. She worked hard....
"But she can't act," said John to himself, sighing with relief when at
last she left the stage to her husband.
The little man's small, fragile voice, with its comic hesitation and
its puzzled note, sounded very restful after the torrential noises made
by his wife, and in a few moments he had the minds of the audience
fused again into one mind and made completely attentive. When the play
was ended, there was very hearty applause, but none of it so hearty as
the applause from John. The last few moments of the piece had been
given to Mr. Cream, and he had left the audience with the pleased
impression of himself and forgetful of the jar it had received from his
"That wee man can act all right," said John, clapping his hands until
they were sore.
Hinde was waiting for him in the sitting-room when he returned to the
"What did you think of the Creams?" the journalist asked when they had
greeted each other and had ended their congratulations on being
"He's very good," John began....
"And she's rotten?" Hinde interrupted.
"Oh, my dear fellow, you needn't be afraid of telling me what you
think. There's only one person in the world who doesn't realise that
Mrs. Cream can't act and never will be able to act ... and that's
poor old Cream himself. He's as good a comedian as there is in the
world--that little man: the essence of Cockney wit; and he does not know
how good he is. He thinks that she is much better than he can ever hope to
be, and she thinks so, too; but if it were not for him, MacDermott, she
wouldn't get thirty shillings a week in a penny gaff!"
"They've asked me to write a play for them," John said.
"Are you going to do it?"
"I don't know. That play to-night was a very common sort of a piece.
It's not the style of play I want to do!..."
"What style of play _do_ you want to do?" Hinde asked.
"Good plays. Plays like Shakespeare wrote."
Hinde looked at him quickly. "Oh, well," he said, "there's no harm in
John told him of the book he had written at Ballyards, and of the story
he had sent to _Blackwood's Magazine_.
"I've a great ambition to do big things," he said.
"There's no harm in that either," Hinde replied. "In the meantime, what
are you going to do? It'll be a wheen of years yet before you can hope
to get anything big done!"
"Oh, I don't know about that," John answered confidently. "The
MacDermotts are great people for getting their own way!"
"Mebbe they are ... in Ballyards," Hinde retorted, "but this isn't
Ballyards. And you can't spend all your time writing masterpieces.
You'll have to do a wee bit of ordinary common work. What about trying
to get a job on a paper?"
"I don't mind taking a job if there's one to be got. Only what sort of
Hinde teased him. "They'll not let you edit the _Times_ yet
awhile," he said.
"I don't want to edit it," John replied.
"Well, that's a lucky thing for the man that's got the job now!"
John felt aggrieved at once. "You're coddin' me," he complained.
"Say that again," Hinde exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Say what again?"
"Say I'm coddin' you. I haven't heard that word for years. Gwon! Say
"You're coddin' me!..."
"Isn't it lovely? Isn't it a grand word, that? Good Ulster talk!..."
The door opened and Lizzie entered the room.
"Mr. 'Inde!..." she said.
"Don't call me 'Inde," he shouted, jumping up from his chair. "What do
you think the letter _h_ was put in the alphabet for? For you to
leave it out?"
Lizzie smiled amiably at him. "Ow, go on," she said, "you're always
'avin' me on!" She turned to John. "'E's a 'oly terror, 'e is. Talks
about me speakin' funny, but wot about 'im? I think Irish is the
comicest way of talkin' I ever heard. Wot'll you 'ave for your
breakfis, Mr. 'Inde?"
"_H_inde, woman, _H_inde!..."
"Well, wot'll you 'ave for your breakfis?"
"One of these days I'll have you fried and boiled and stewed!..."
"Ow, you are a funny man, Mr. 'Inde," she said between her titters.
Hinde gaped at her as if he were incapable of expressing himself in
"That female," He said turning to John, "always tells me I'm a funny
"Well, so you are, Mr. 'Inde!" Lizzie interrupted.
"Get out," he roared at her.
Lizzie addressed John. "You'll get used to 'is comic ways when you know
'im as well as I do. Wot'll you 'ave for breakfis?" she continued,
speaking again to Hinde.
"Anything," he replied. "Anything on God's earth, so long as you get
"That's all I wanted to know," said Lizzie. "It'll be 'am an' eggs.
Goo'-night, Mr. MacDermott!"
"Good-night, Lizzie," John murmured.
"Goo'-night, Mr. 'Inde!"
"Come here!" said Hinde.
She came across the room and stood beside him. He took hold of her
chin. "If you hadn't such a rotten accent," he said, "I'd marry you!"
She giggled. "You do myke me laugh, Mr. 'Inde!" she said.
"_H_inde, woman, _H_inde!..."
She moved away from him as if he had uttered some perfectly commonplace
remark. "Very well," she said, "it'll be 'am an' eggs for breakfis. I'm
glad you chose them, because we ain't got nothink else in the 'ouse.
She went out of the room, but hardly had she shut the door behind her,
when she opened it again.
"'Ere's the Creams 'ome again!" she said. "Goo'-night all!"
A few minutes later, Cream tapped on their door and, in response to
Hinde's "Come in!" entered. He greeted Hinde lavishly, and then turned
"Well, my boy," he said, "what do you think of her? Great, isn't she?
Absolute eye-opener, that's what she is, I knew you'd be struck dumb by
her. That's the effect she has on people. Paralyses them. Lays 'em out.
By Gum, Mac, that woman's a wonder!..."
"How is she?" John asked.
Cream shook his head. "All in bits, as usual, Mac. I ought not to let
her do the work ... it's wearing her out ... but you can't keep a great
artist away from the stage. She'd die quicker if she weren't doing her
work than she will while she's doing. That's Art, Mac. Extraordinary
"Have a drink, Cream," Hinde exclaimed.
"I don't mind if I do, Hinde, old chap. Did you notice how she held the
audience, Mac? The minute she stepped on to the stage, she got 'em.
Absolute! She played with 'em ... did what she liked with 'em!... I
wish I could get hold of 'em like that. By Heaven, Mac, it must be
wonderful to have that woman's power to make an audience do just what
you want it to do!..."
Hinde handed a glass of whiskey and soda to him. "Thanks, old chap!" he
said, taking it from him. He raised the glass. "Well, here's health!"
he murmured, swallowing some of the drink. He put the glass down on the
table beside him. "When do you think you'll be able to let us have the
manuscript of the play, Mac?"
John started. "Well," he began nervously, "well, I haven't thought much
about it yet!..."
"Look here," said Cream, "I've been talking to Dolly about the matter,
and this is her idea. She wants to play in a piece about a naval
lieutenant. See? In a submarine or something. Something with a bit of
snap in it. She'd like to be an Irish girl called Kitty in love with
the lieutenant. See? Make it so's he can wear his uniform and a cocked
hat and a sword. See? The audience likes to see a bit of style. You
could put a comic stoker in ... that 'ud do for me, but of course as I
told you, you needn't worry much about my part. I'll look after myself.
Now, do you think you could do anything with that idea? Dolly's dead
set on playing an Irish girl, and of course, you being Irish and all
that, you'd know the ropes!"
"I'll think about it," said John.
"Do. That's a good chap. And perhaps you can let me have the manuscript
at the end of the week ... in the rough anyhow!"
He finished his whiskey and soda.
"Have another?" Hinde said.
"No, thanks, no. You know. Mac, the stage is a funny place. The average
author doesn't realise what a funny place it is. I've met a few authors
in my time, high-brow and low-brow and no-brow-at-all, and they're all
the same: think they know more about the theatre than the actor does.
But they don't. They all want to be littery. And that's no good ... in
the music-halls anyhow. If you've got anything to say to a music-hall
audience, don't waste time in being littery or anything like that. Bung
It At 'Em, Mac!" He pronounced the last injunction with enormous
emphasis. "An audience is about the thickest thing on earth. Got no
brains to speak of, and doesn't want to have any. Mind you, each person
in the audience may be as clever as you like, but as an audience ...
see? ... they're simply thick. And if you want 'em to understand
anything, you've got to Bung It At 'Em. No use being delicate or pretty
or anything like that. That's what authors don't understand. Now, you
heard those back-chat-comedians at the Oxford to-night?"
John nodded his head. "They weren't much good," he said.
"Why?" Cream demanded, and then, before John could speak, he went on to
give the answer to his question. "Because they don't know how to get
their stuff over the footlights. That's why! They had good stuff to
work with, but they didn't know what to do with it. _I_ could have
told 'em. Do you remember that joke about the dog that swallowed the
tape-measure and died?"
"Yes. It sounded rather silly!..."
"And it didn't get a laugh. The silliness of a thing doesn't matter if
it makes you laugh. This is how they said it. The tall chap says to the
little one, 'How's your dog, Joe?' and the little one answered, 'Oh, he
died last week. He swallowed a tape-measure and died by inches!...'"
Hinde laughed. "Do people pay good money to listen to that sort of
"You're a journalist," Cream replied, "and you ought to know they pay
money to _read_ worse than that!"
"So they do," Hinde admitted.
"When I heard those two duffers ruining that joke," Cream continued, "I
felt as if I wanted to run on to the stage and tell 'em how to get it
over to the audience. This is how they ought to have done it!"
He stood up and enacted the characters of the two back-chat comedians,
and as John watched him and listened to him, he realised what a great
actor the little man was.
_"Say, Joe, what're you in mourning for?"
"I'm in mourning for my little dog!"
"Your little dog. Why, your little dog ain't dead, is it?"
"Yes, my little dog's dead!"
"Well, Joe, I'm sorry to hear your little dog's dead. What was the
matter with your little dog?"
"My little dog died last week."
"Yes, your little dog died last week?..."
"He swallowed a tape-measure!..."
"Good heavens, your little dog swallowed a tape-measure?"
"Yes, my little dog swallowed a tape measure, and HE DIED BY
Cream sat down when he had finished giving his performance. "That's how
they ought to have done it," he said.
"It makes me angry to see men ruining a good story. You see, Mac,
you've got to lead up to things. Everything in this world has to be led
up to. You can't rush bald-headed at anything. And you've got to get a
climax. These back-chat chaps hadn't got a climax. The joke was over
before the audience had time to realise it was a joke. See?"
"I see," said John.
A few minutes later, Cream went downstairs to his own room.
"That little man knows just how to get an effect," said Hinde. "The
amazing thing about him is that he doesn't know that he can act and
that his wife can't!..."
"Why do you call her his wife?" John replied.
"Out of civility," said Hinde. "I don't see that it matters much
whether she is or not!"
"That's what Lizzie says."
"Lizzie is an intelligent woman. I hope you don't think I was rude to
Lizzie just now?..."
"Oh, no," John answered insincerely.
"I wouldn't hurt Lizzie's feelings for the world," said Hinde. "I'm
going to bed now, but you needn't hurry unless you want to. I'm tired,
and I shall have a busy day to-morrow. I'll see if there's any work
that would suit you on my paper. You ought to have some sort of a job
besides scribbling masterpieces. I suppose you left a girl behind you
John's face flushed. "No," he replied.
"That's good," Hinde said. "You'll be able to get on with your work
instead of wasting time writing letters to a girl. Good-night!"
"Good-night. Mr. Hinde!" said John, suddenly ceremonious.
"Not so much of the Mister. Call me Hinde. I think I'll follow Cream's
example and call you Mac!"
"Very well, Hinde," said John.
"We'll go up to town in the morning together, if you like!"
"I would," said John.
John's dreams that night were queerly complicated. Eleanor Moore
flitted through a scene on a submarine in which a dog was dying by
inches while a naval lieutenant made passionate love to an Irish girl
called Kitty; and while Eleanor passed vaguely from side to side of the
submarine, a gigantic piece of red tape came and enveloped her and
enveloped John, too, when, unaccountably, he appeared and tried to save
her. He felt himself being strangled by red tape, and he knew that
Eleanor was being strangled, too. He felt that if only the dog would
eat the red tape, both Eleanor and he would be delivered from it, but
somehow the Irish girl called Kitty prevented the dog from eating it.
And in the dream, he called pitifully to Eleanor, "She won't let us
work up to a climax! She's preventing us from working up to a
THE THIRD CHAPTER
At the end of a month from the day on which he arrived in London,
John MacDermott began to consider his position and ended by finding
it in a very unsatisfactory state. He had spent much of his time in
sight-seeing, and would have spent more of it, had not Hinde informed him
that the only way in which to know a city is to live in it, not as a
tourist, but as an ordinary citizen. "Change your lodgings every twelve
months," he said, "and go and live in a different part of the town
every time you change them. Then you'll get to know London. It's no use
tearing round the place like an American ... half an hour here and a
couple of minutes there, and a Baedeker never out of your hands.
Americans think they're getting an impression of a country when they're
only getting a sick-headache; and when they go home again, they can
never remember whether Mont Blanc was a picture they saw in Paris or a
London chop-house where they had old English fare at modern English
prices. If you want to _know_ St. Paul's Cathedral, don't go there
with a guide-book in your hand. Go as one of the congregation!..."
He had sent the manuscript of his novel to a publisher who had not yet
expressed any eagerness to accept it, and he had made a half-hearted
effort to write a play for the Creams, but had not been very successful
with it, chiefly because he felt contempt for _The Girl Gets Left_
and had little liking for Mrs. Cream. She came to the sitting-room one
morning when Hinde was away and her husband was interviewing his agent,
and went straight to John, nibbling a pen at the writing desk, and put
her arms about his neck.
"Don't do that," he said, disengaging her arms from about him.
"I love you," she replied very intensely.
"I daresay, but I'm not in love with you, Mrs. Cream, and I never will
be. I don't like you. I like your wee man, but I don't like you. I
think you're an awful humbug of a woman!..."
Mrs. Cream stood still as if she had been suddenly paralysed.
"You don't like me!..." she said at last, utterly incredulous.
"No, I don't."
She raised her hands, and for a few moments he imagined that she was
about to strike him. Then she dropped them to her side again and
"I don't know whether to hug you or slap you," she said. "You impudent
"I wouldn't advise you to do either the one or the other," he answered.
She came nearer to him, and laid her hand on his sleeve.
"You're very cold and hard," she said, and then, in a softer voice, she
added his name, "John!"
"What's cold about me? Or hard?" he asked.
"Everything. You must know that I feel more for you than for my
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for saying such a thing, Mrs.
Cream. I want you to understand that I'm not that sort. I come from
Ballyards, and we don't do things like that there. Forby, I'm not in
love with you. I'm in love with somebody else ... a nice girl, not a
married woman ... and I've no time to think of anybody else but her.
I'm very busy the day, Mrs. Cream!..."
"Is she an Irish girl?"
"I don't know what nationality she is. I've not managed to get speaking
to her yet. It'll be an advantage if she is Irish, but I'll overlook it
if she isn't. I'm terrible busy, Mrs. Cream!"
She stood before him in an indecisive attitude.... "You're really a
fool," she said, turning away. "I thought you were clever, but you're
"Because I won't start making love to you, I suppose?"
"Oh, no, Mr. MacDermott. You're thick apart from that. You're so thick
that you'll never know how thick you are. I can't think why I wasted a
minute's thought on you!..."
John sat down at his desk again. "_Sticks an' stones'll break my
bones, but names'll never hurt me_," he quoted at her. "_When
you're dead and in your grave, you'll suffer for what you called
She came behind him and put her arms tightly round his neck and forced
his head back so that she could conveniently kiss him.
"There!" she exclaimed, hurrying from the room, "I've kissed you
He leaped up and ran to the top of the stairs and leant over the
"If you do that again," he shouted at her, "I'll give you in charge!"
"Bogie-bogie!" she mocked.
Soon after that time, the Creams had gone on tour again, and John, with
a vague promise to Mr. Cream that he would try and do a play for him,
let Mrs. Cream slip out of his mind altogether. She had not attempted
to make love to him again, and her attitude towards him became more
natural, almost, he thought, more friendly. She appeared to bear him no
malice, and her friendliness caused him to shed some of his antagonism
to her. When they bade goodbye to Hinde and John, she turned to her
husband as they were leaving, and said, "I kissed him one morning, and
do you know what he did?"
"No," her husband answered.
"He said he'd give me in charge if I tried to do it again," she
exclaimed, laughing as she spoke.
"Goo' Lor'!" said Cream. "That's the first time that's ever been said
to you, Dolly!" He turned to John. "You're a funny sort of a chap, you
are! Fancy not letting Dolly kiss you. Goo' Lor'!"
He had tried hard to see Eleanor Moore again, but without success.
Every day for a fortnight he went to lunch in the tea-shop where he had
first seen her, and in the evening he would hang about the entrance to
the offices where she was employed; but he did not see her either there
or in the tea-shop, and when a fortnight of disappointment had gone by,
he concluded that he would never see her again. He imagined that she
was ill, that she had left London, that she had obtained work
elsewhere, that he had frightened her ... for he remembered her
startled look when she hurried from him into the Tube lift ... and
finally and crushingly that she had married someone else. In the mood
of bitterness that followed this devastating thought, he planned a
tragedy, and in the evenings, when Hinde was engaged for his paper, he
worked at it. But the bitterness which he put into it failed to relieve
him of any of the bitterness that was in his own mind. He felt doubly
betrayed by Eleanor Moore because he had had so little encouragement
from her. It hurt him to think that he had only succeeded in alarming
her. Maggie Carmichael had responded instantly when he spoke to her and
had accepted his embraces and his kisses as amiably as she had accepted
his chocolates he had bought for her; but this girl with the tender
blue eyes that changed their expression so frequently, had made no
response to his offer of affection, had run away from it. If only she
had listened to him! He was certain that he could have persuaded her to
"go out" with him. He had only to tell her that he loved her, and she
would realise that a man who could fall in love with her so immediately
as he had done must be acceptable!... The affair with Maggie Carmichael
had considerably dashed his belief in romantic love, but he told
himself now that it would be ridiculous to condemn his Uncle Matthew's
ideals because one girl had fallen short of them. If Maggie Carmichael
had behaved badly, that was not a sign that Eleanor Moore would also
behave badly. Besides, Eleanor was different from Maggie. There was no
comparison between the two girls. After all, he had not really cared
for Maggie: he had only fancied that he cared for her. But there was no
fancying or imagination about his love for Eleanor, and if he had the
good fortune to meet her again, he would not let anything prevent him
from telling her plump and plain that he wanted to marry her. Whenever
he left the house, he looked about, no matter where he went, in the
hope that he might see her.
Hinde urged him to do journalism and advised him to make a study of the
London newspapers so that he might discover which of them he could most
happily work for. "You could do a few articles, perhaps, and then it
wouldn't matter whether you agreed with the paper or not, but I'd
advise you to try and get a job on one paper for a while. You'll learn
a lot from journalism if you don't stay at it too long. It'll be a good
while yet before you can make a living at writing books, and you'll
want something to keep you going until you can. Journalism's as good as
anything, and in some ways, it's a lot better than most things, and let
me tell you, Mac, anybody can make a decent living out of newspapers if
he only takes the trouble to earn it. Half the fellows in Fleet Street
treat journalism as if it were a religious vocation, and they lie about
in pubs all day waiting for the Holy Ghost to come down and inspire
them with a scoop!"
John studied the London newspapers, as Hinde advised him, but he did
not feel drawn towards them. He considered that the morning papers were
very inferior to the _Northern Whig_, and he was certain that the
_North Down Herald_ was far more interesting than the
_Times_. The London evening papers, he said to Hinde, gave less
value for a half-penny than the _Belfast Evening Telegraph_, and
he complained that there was nothing to read in them.
"You'll have to start a paper yourself, Mac," said Hinde. "All the best
papers were started by men who couldn't find anything to read in other
papers. It would be a grand notion now to set up a paper for Ulstermen
who can't find anything in London that's fit to read. By the Hokey O,
that would be a grand notion. We could call the paper _To Hell With
the Pope or No Surrender!_..."
"Ah, quit your codding," John interrupted. "You know rightly what's
wrong with these London papers. They're not telling the truth!"
"And do you think the _Whig_ and the _Telegraph_ are?" Hinde
"Well, it's what _we_ call the truth anyway," John stoutly
Hinde slapped him on the back. "That's right," he said. "Ulster against
the whole civilised world!"
"If I was to take a job on one of these papers," John continued, "I'd
insist on telling the truth to the people!"
"You would, would you? And do you know what 'ud happen to you? The
people 'ud cut your head off at the end of a fortnight."
"I wouldn't let them."
Hinde sat in silence for a few minutes. Then he leant forward and
tapped John on the shoulder, "The editor of the _Daily Sensation_
is a Tyrone man," he said. "He comes from Cookstown!..."
"I never was in it," John murmured.
"Mebbe not, but it exists all the same. Go up the morrow evening to his
office and tell him you want a job on his paper so's you can start
telling everybody the truth. And see what happens to you."
John answered angrily. "You think you're having me on," he said, "but
you're queerly mistaken. I will go, and we'll see what happens!"
"That's what I'm bidding you do," Hinde continued. "And listen! There's
a couple I know, called Haverstock, living out at Hampstead. They have
discussions every month at their house on some subject or other, and
there's to be one next Wednesday. Will you come with me if I go to it?"
John nodded his head.
"Good! The Haverstocks'll be glad to welcome you as you're a friend of
mine, but it's not them I'm wanting you to see. It's the crowd they get
round them. All the cranks and oddities and solemn mugs of London seem
to go to that house one time or another, and I'd just like you to have
a look at some of them. The minute they find out you're Irish, they'll
plaster you with praise. They'll expect you to talk like a clown, one
minute, and weep bitter tears over England's tyranny the next. They're
all English, most of them, and they'll tell you that England is the
worst country in the world, and that Ireland would be the greatest if
it weren't for the fact that some piffling Balkan State is greater. And
they'll ram Truth down your throat till you're sick of it. You've only
to bleat about Ireland's woes to them, and call yourself a member of a