Part 5 out of 8
subject race, and they'll be all over you before you know where you
are. There's only one other man has a better chance of shining in their
society than an Irishman, and that's an Armenian."
"Well, that's great credit to them," John, replied. "I must say it
makes me think well of the English!..."
"Don't do that. Never acknowledge to an Englishman that you think well
of him. He'll think little of you if you do. Tell him he's a fool, that
he's muddle-headed, that he's a tyrant, that he's a materialist and a
compromiser and a hypocrite, and he'll pay you well for saying it. But
if you tell the truth and say he's the decent fellow he is, he'll land
you in the workhouse!..."
It had not been easy to interview the editor of the _Daily
Sensation_. A deprecating commissionaire, eyeing him suspiciously,
had cross-examined him in the entrance hall of the newspaper office,
and then had compelled him to fill in a form with particulars of
himself ... his name and his address ... and of his business. "I
suppose," John said sarcastically to the commissionaire, "you don't
want me to swear an affidavit about it?"
The commissionaire regarded him contemptuously, but did not reply to
After a lengthy wait and much whistling and talking through rubber
speaking-tubes, John was conducted to a lift, given into the charge of
a small boy in uniform who treated him as a nuisance, and taken to the
office of the editor. Here he had to wait in the society of the
editor's secretary for another lengthy period. He had almost resolved
to come away from the office without seeing the editor, when a bell
rang and the secretary rising from her desk, bade him to follow her. He
was led into an inner room where he saw a man seated at a large desk.
The editor glared at him for a moment or two as if he were accusing him
of an attempt to commit a fraud. Then he said "Sit down" and began to
speak on the telephone. John glanced interestedly about him. There was
a portrait of Napoleon ... _The Last Phase_ ... on one wall, and,
on the wall opposite to it, a portrait of the proprietor of the
_Daily Sensation_ in what might fairly be described as the first
phase. On the editor's desk was a framed card bearing the legend: SAY
The telephonic conversation ended, and Mr. Clotworthy ... the
editor ... put down the receiver and turned to John, frowning heavily at
him. "Well?" he said so shortly that the word was almost unintelligible.
"I can give you two minutes," he added, pulling out his watch and placing
it on the desk.
"That'll be enough," John, replied. "I want a job on this paper!"
"Everybody wants a job on this paper. The people who are most anxious
to get on our staff are the people who are never tired of running us
"I daresay," said John.
"Ever done any newspaper work before?" the editor demanded.
"Then what qualifications have you for the work?..."
"I've written a novel!..."
"That's not a qualification!" Mr. Clotworthy exclaimed.
"But it's not been published yet," John replied.
"Oh, well!... Anything else?"
"I've written several articles which have not been printed, but they're
as good as the stuff that's printed in any paper in London.."
"And I come from Ulster where all the good men come from," John
"I've seen some poor specimens from Ulster," Mr. Clotworthy said.
"Mebbe you have, but I'm not one of them."
The editor remained silent for a few moments. He tapped on his desk
with an ivory paper-knife and glanced quickly now and then at John.
"What part of Ulster do you come from?" he demanded.
"I've heard of it," Mr. Clotworthy continued. "It's not much of a
place, is it?"
John flared up angrily. "It's better than Cookstown any day," he said.
"Who told you I came from Cookstown?"
"Never mind who told me. If you don't want to give me a job on your
paper, you needn't. There's plenty of other papers in this town!..."
"That temper of yours'll get you into serious bother one of these days,
young fellow," said Mr. Clotworthy. "I'm willing to give you work on
the paper if you're fit to do it, but don't run away with the notion
that you've only to walk in here and say you're an Ulsterman, and
you'll immediately get a position. What sort of work do you want to do?
You know our paper, I suppose? Well, how would you improve it?"
John opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say a word, the
editor stopped him.
"Don't," he exclaimed, "say it doesn't need improvement. A lot of
third-rate fellows have tried that tack with me, as if they'd flatter me
into giving them a job. The fools never seemed to realise that when
they said the paper didn't need improvement they were giving the best
reason that could be given why they shouldn't be employed on it. If you
weren't a plain-spoken and direct young fellow I wouldn't give you that
warning. Go on!"
"In my opinion," John replied, "what's wrong with your paper is that it
doesn't tell the truth. It tells lies to its readers. My idea is to
tell them the truth instead!"
Mr. Clotworthy laughed at him. "You won't do it on this paper," he
"Because it can't be done. There's no such thing as truth. There
never was, and there never will be such a thing as truth. There's only
"Well, I've got my point-of-view," John interrupted.
"Yes, but on this paper we express the point-of-view of the man that
owns it. That's him there!" He pointed to the companion picture to
the portrait of Napoleon. "If you imagine that we spend hundreds
of thousands of pounds every year to express your point-of-view,
you're making a big mistake, young fellow my lad. What you want is
a soap-box in Hyde Park. You can express your own point-of-view there
if you can get anybody to listen to you. Or you can start a paper
of your own. But this paper is the soap-box of that chap, and his
is the only point-of-view that'll be expressed in it. Do you understand
"I do," said John "All the same, I believe in telling the people the
The editor touched the bell on his desk. "Are you quite sure," said he,
"that you know what the truth is?"
"Of course I'm sure." John began, but before he could finish his
sentence, the door of the editor's room was opened by the lady-secretary.
"Good-morning, Mr. MacDermott!" said the editor, reaching for the
"But I haven't finished yet," John protested.
"I have." He tapped the handle of the telephone.
"You can come and see me again when you've learned sense," he added,
after he had given an instruction to the telephone operator. "Good
"Ah, but wait a minute!..."
"We've no use for John the Baptists here. Good morning!"
"All the same!..."
The editor impatiently waved him aside.
"This way, please!" the lady secretary commanded.
John glared at her, half in the mood to ask her what she meant by
interrupting him and half in the mood to tell her that it little became
a woman to intrude herself into the conversation of men, but the moods
did not become complete, and, sulkily calling "Good morning!" to Mr.
Clotworthy, he left the office.
"One of these days," he said to the lady secretary when they were in
the outer office, "I'll be your boss. And his, too. And I'll sack the
pair of you!"
"You'll find the lift at the end of the passage," she replied.
Hinde mocked him for his failure to make the editor of the _Daily
Sensation_ accept his view of the universe.
"That man sized you up the minute he clapped his eyes on you," he said.
"He's seen hundreds of young fellows like you. We've all seen them.
They come down from Oxford and Cambridge with their heads stuffed with
ideas pinched from Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, and they try to
stampede old Clotworthy. 'By God, I'm a superman!' is their cry, and
they say that night and morning and before and after every meal until
even they get sick of listening to it. Then they say 'Oh, damn!' and go
into the Civil Service, and in three years' time an earthquake wouldn't
rouse them. All you youngsters want to go about telling the truth,
especially when it's disagreeable, but there isn't one in a million of
you is fit to be let loose with the truth, and there isn't one in ten
million of men or women wants to be bothered by the truth. Lord alive,
Mac, can't you young fellows leave us a few decent lies to comfort
"You'll get no lies from me," John replied.
"I can see very well you're going to be a nice cheerful chum to have in
the house," Hinde said. "However, I'll bear it. The Haverstocks' 'At
Home' is to-night. I don't suppose you have a dress suit?"
"No, I haven't!"
"It doesn't matter. Half the people who go to the Haverstocks don't
wear evening dress on principle. That's their way of showing their
contempt for conventionality. I suppose you'll come with me?" John
nodded his head. "Good! We'll start off immediately after we've had our
dinner. You'll get a good dose of Truth to-night, my son. There was a
couple went there once ... the rummest couple I ever saw in my life.
They thought they must do something for Progress and Advanced Thought,
so they pretended they weren't married, but were living in sin!..."
"Like the two downstairs?" said John.
"Aye, only they were legally married all right. You'll observe in time,
Mac, that the people who make changes are never the advanced people who
talk about them, but the ordinary, conventional people who have no
theories about things, but just alter them when they become
inconvenient. Butter wouldn't melt in the mouth of the man who is a
devil of a fellow in print. This couple went to live at a Garden City
and made an enormous impression on the Nut-eaters; and every Sunday
evening crowds went to see them, living in sin. I went myself one
night: it was terribly dull, and I thought if that's the best sin can
do for a man, I'm going to join the Salvation Army. The woman took off
her wedding-ring and hid it in the clock, and the man made a point of
snorting every time he passed a parson. They had a grand time, as I
tell you, until a terrible thing happened. A jealous nut-eater ... and
I can tell you there's nothing on earth so fearful and vindictive as a
jealous vegetarian ... discovered that these two were really married
all the time, and he exposed them to their admirers. He produced a copy
of their marriage-certificate at a public meeting which the man was
addressing on the subject of Intolerable Bonds, and the meeting broke
up in disorder. They had to leave the Garden City after that, and
they're now hiding somewhere in the north of England and leading a life
of shameful matrimony!..."
John giggled. "Are there really people like that?" he asked.
"Lots of them. You'll see some of them, mebbe, at the Haverstocks the
night. I think there's to be some sort of a discussion, but I'm not
sure. Mrs. Haverstock is a great woman for discussions, but I will say
this for her, she doesn't humbug herself over them. She told me once
that it was better to talk about adultery than to commit it!..."
John blushed frightfully. He felt the hot blood running all over his
body. This casual way of speaking of things that were only acknowledged
in the Ten Commandments had a very disturbing effect upon him. He hoped
that Hinde would not observe his confusion, and he put his hand in
front of his eyes so that he might conceal his red cheeks. If Hinde
noticed that John was embarrassed, he did not make any comment about
"And I daresay it is," he went on. "As long as you're letting off
steam, there's no danger of the engine bursting. I've often noticed
that there's less misbehaviour in places where people are always
chattering as if they had never conducted themselves with decency in
their lives than there is in places where they never say a word about
it. _You'll_ notice that too, when you've learned to use your eyes
The Haverstocks lived in an old creeper-covered and slightly decrepit
house in the Spaniards' Road. It was without a bathroom until the
Haverstocks took possession of it, for it had been built in the days
when the middle-classes had not yet contracted the habit of frequently
washing their bodies. From the front windows of the house one saw
across Hampstead Heath towards London, and from the back windows one
saw across the Heath towards Harrow. The house, in spite of its slight
decrepitude and the clumsiness of its construction--the stairs were
obviously an afterthought of the architect--had that air of comfortable
kindliness which is only to be seen in houses which have been occupied
by several generations of human beings. Mr. Haverstock was vaguely
known as a sociologist. He investigated the affairs of poor people, and
was constantly engaged in inveigling labourers into filling large
_questionnaires_ with particulars of the wages they earned, the
manner in which they spent those wages, the food they ate, the number
of children they procreated, and other intimate and personal matters.
He was anxious to discover exactly how much proteid was necessary to
the maintenance of a labouring man in health and efficiency, and he
conducted the most elaborate experiments with beans and bananas for
that purpose. It was one of the most discouraging features of modern
civilisation, he often said, that the spirit of research and
disinterested enquiry was less prevalent among the labouring classes
than was desirable. He could not induce a labouring man to live
exclusively on beans and bananas for six months in order that he might
compare his physical condition at the end of that period with his
physical condition after a period spent in flesh-eating. He told sad
stories of the reception that had been accorded to some of his
assistants at the time that they were obtaining data from workmen on
the question of the limitation of the family!...
He was a kindly, solemn man, with large, astonished eyes, and he wore a
beard, less as a decoration than as a protest. The beard was really a
serious nuisance to him, for he had dainty manners and he disliked to
think of soup dribbling down it; but someone had convinced him that a
man who wore a beard early in life was definitely bidding defiance to
the conventions of the time, and so he sacrificed his sense of niceness
to his desire to _epater les bourgeois_. He said that a beard was
a sign of Virility!... Mrs. Haverstock and he were childless. Mrs.
Haverstock, a quick-witted and merry-minded American, had married her
husband in the days when she believed that a man who wrote books of
sufficient dullness must be a distinguished and desirable man; and
since she brought a considerable fortune to England with her, she
enabled him to write more dull books than he could otherwise have had
published. Much of her awe of her husband had disappeared in the course
of time, but it had, fortunately, been replaced by deep affection: for
his generosity and kindliness appealed to her increasingly as her
respect for his learning and solemnity declined. She often said of him
that he would do more for his friends than his friends would do for
themselves ... and indeed many of them were willing to allow him to do
anything and everything for them ... but so long as knight-errantry
with an entirely sociological intent made him happy, she did not mind
how he spent her money. He had many moments of dubiety about her
fortune ... he frequently threatened to cross the Atlantic in order to
discover whether the money was justly earned ... but he invariably
comforted himself with the reflection that even if the money were
ill-gained, he could at least put it to better use than anyone else; and
so he refrained from crossing the Atlantic, not without a sensation of
relief, for he was an unhappy sailor.
He loved discussions and arguments about Deep Things, and Mrs.
Haverstock had invented her series of At Homes in order that her
husband might get rid of some of his noble principles at them. She felt
that if he could dissipate part of them in argument with other very
high-minded men, life, between the At Homes, would be a little more
human and livable for her. She secured a regular supply of attendants
at these discussions by the simple method of supplying an excellent
supper to those who came to them.
"I first met Haverstock," Hinde said to John as they walked along the
Spaniards' Road, "during a strike at Canning Town. He was trying to
persuade the police to remember that the strikers were men and
brothers, and he was trying also to persuade the strikers that force
was no argument and that they ought to use constitutional means of
settling their disputes with their employers. And between the two, he
was in danger of getting his eye knocked out, until I hauled him out of
the crowd and shoved him into a cab and took him home. Mrs. Haverstock
was so grateful to me that she's invited me to her house ever since ...
but the people I meet there make me feel murderous. I like her, a
sensible, sonsy woman, and I like him too, although his solemn,
priggish airs make me tired, but I cannot bear the crowd they get round
them: all the cranks and oddities and smug, self-sufficient,
interfering people seem to get into their house, and they're all
reforming something or uplifting something else or generally bleating
against this country. Things done in England are always inferior to
things done elsewhere. English cooking is inferior to French cooking:
English organisation is inferior to German organisation. Whatever is
done in England is wrongly done. The English are hypocrites, the
English are sordid and materialistic, the English are everlastingly
compromising, the English are this, that and the other that is
unpleasant and objectionable!... I tell you, Mac, there's nobody makes
me feel so sick as the Englishman who belittles England!"
"Well, we make little of the English, don't we?" John protested.
"I know we do, and perhaps it is natural that we should, but it's a
poor, cheap thing at the best, and does very little credit to our
intelligence. The English ideal of life is as good an ideal as there is
in the world. I think it is far the finest ideal there is, chiefly
because it does not make impossible demands on human beings. When
everything that can be alleged against the English is alleged and
admitted, it remains true that they love freedom far more constantly
than other people, and that without them, freedom would have a very
thin time in the world. You ask any liberty-loving American which
country has more freedom, his country or this country, and he'll tell
you very quickly, England! Englishmen don't argue about freedom: they
just are free, and on the whole, they carry freedom with them. An
American will argue about liberty even while he is clapping you into
gaol for asserting your right to freedom!... Here's the house!"
They turned into the front garden of the Haverstocks' house as he
"In a way," he said, as they walked along the gravel path leading to
the door, "the English Radical is the strongest testimony to the
English ideal of freedom that you could have. He is so jealous of his
country's good name that he is always ready to shout out if he is not
satisfied with her behaviour. That's a good sign, really! Only they're
so smug about it!..."
Most of the guests were already assembled when they entered the
drawing-room where Mr. and Mrs. Haverstock bade them welcome. Hinde
introduced John to them, mentioning that he had only lately arrived
from Ireland. Mrs. Haverstock smiled and hoped he would often come
to see them, and Mr. Haverstock looked pontifical and said, "Ah,
yes. Poor Ireland! _Poor_ Ireland! Tragic! Tragic!" He waved his
hand in a vague fashion, and then turned to greet the representative
of another distressed nation. John could hear him murmuring, "Ah,
yes. Poor Georgia! _Poor_ Georgia! Tragic! Tragic!" but was unable
to hear any more because Mrs. Haverstock led him up to a lean, staring
youth with goggle eyes who, she said, had promised to read several
of his poems to the guests and to open a discussion on Marriage. The
goggle-eyed poet informed John that Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton,
Shelley and Browning were comic old gentlemen who entirely misunderstood
the nature and function of poetry. He had founded a new school of poetry.
It appeared from his account of this school that the important thing
was not what was said in a poem, but what was left out of it. He
illustrated his meaning by allowing John to read the manuscript of one
of the poems he proposed to read that evening. It was entitled "Life,"
and it contained two lines!...
Big, black crows on bare, black branches,
"Where's the rest of it!" said John innocently.
The poet looted at him with such contempt that he felt certain he had
committed an indiscretion. "Is that the whole of it?" he hurriedly
"That fact that you ask such a question," said the poet, "shows that
you have no knowledge of the completeness of life!..."
"Well, I only came here about a fortnight ago," John humbly replied ...
but the poet had moved away and would not listen to him any longer. "I
seem to have put my foot in it," John murmured to himself.
He made his way to Hinde's side, resolved that he would not budge from
it for the rest of the evening. The people present frightened him,
particularly after his experience with the poet, and he determined that
he would keep himself as inconspicuous as possible. He felt that all
these people were terribly clever and that his ignorance would be
immediately apparent if he opened his mouth in their presence. He tried
hard to realise the magnitude of "Life," but he could not convince
himself that it was either an adequate description of existence or that
it was a description of anything; and, in his innocence, he believed
that he was mentally deficient. Hinde named some of the guests to him.
This one was a novelist and that one had written a play ... and in the
excitement of seeing and listening to men who had actually done things
that he wished to do, John forgot some of his humiliation.
"I saw you talking to Palfrey," Hinde said to him.
"The poet chap?" John replied.
Hinde nodded his head. "What did you think of him?" he continued.
"He showed me one of his poems. I couldn't understand it, and when I
said so, he walked away!"
Hinde laughed. "That's as good a description of him as you could
invent," he said. "He always walks away when you can't understand what
he's getting at. The reason why he does that is he's afraid someone'll
discover he isn't getting at anything. He's just an impertinent person.
He thinks he's being great when he's only being cheeky!"
John repeated the poem entitled "Life" to Hinde. "What do you think of
that?" he asked.
"I don't think anything of it," Hinde replied.
John felt reassured. "I asked him where the rest of it was, and he
nearly ate the face off me," he said. "I was afraid he'd think me a
"If you let a humbug like that impose upon you, Mac, I'll never own you
for my friend. Any intelligent office-boy could write poems like that
all day long!"
There was a movement in the room, and the guests began to settle in
their seats or on the floor, and after a short while, Mr. Haverstock,
who acted as chairman of the meeting, took his place in front of a
small table, and Mr. Palfrey sat down beside him. The poet, said the
chairman, would honour them by reading some new poems to them, after
which he would open a discussion on Marriage. They all knew that
Marriage was an important matter, affecting the lives of men and women
to a far greater extent, probably, than anything else in the world, and
it was desirable therefore that they should discuss it frankly and
frequently. Problems would remain insoluble so long as people remained
silent about them. He could not help expressing his regret to those
present at the extraordinary reluctance which the average person had to
revealing experiences of matrimony. He had initiated an important
enquiry into the question of marital relationships with a view to
discovering exactly what it was that caused so many marriages to fail,
and he had had to abandon the enquiry because very few people were
willing to tell anything about their marriages to him. There was a
great deal of foolish reticence in the world ... at this point Mr.
Palfrey emphatically said, "Hear! Hear!"... and he trusted that those
present that evening would cast away false modesty and would say quite
openly what their experiences had been. He would not detain them any
longer ... he was quite certain that they were all very anxious to hear
Mr. Palfrey ... and so without any more ado he would call upon him to
read his poems and then to discuss the great and important question of
Mr. Palfrey read his poems in a curious sing-song fashion, beating time
with his right hand as he did so. He seemed to be performing physical
exercises rather than modulating his own accents, and on two occasions
his gesture was longer than his poem. He read "Life" very slowly and
very deliberately, saying the word "cawing" in a high-pitched tone, and
prolonging it until his breath was exhausted. He recited a dozen of
these poems, obtaining his greatest effect with, the last of them,
which was entitled, "The Sea":
Immense, incalculable waste,
The dribblings from a giant's beard....
"Isn't it wonderful?" said an ecstatic girl sitting next to John.
"No," he replied.
She looked at him interrogatively, and he added, very aggressively, "I
think it's twaddle!"
"Oh, _do_ you?" she exclaimed as if she could scarcely believe her
"I do," said John.
He would have said more, but that Mr. Haverstock was on his feet
proposing that they should now have supper and take the more important
business of the evening afterwards, namely, the discussion of this
great problem of Marriage. They had all been deeply moved by Mr.
Palfrey's beautiful verses and would no doubt like an opportunity of
discussing them in an informal manner....
Mrs. Haverstock led John to a girl who was sitting at the back of the
room, and introduced him to her. Miss Bushe was the daughter of the
editor of the _Daily Groan_, and Mrs. Haverstock desired that John
would take her into supper.
"Mr. MacDermott is Irish--he has only just arrived from Ireland," Mrs.
Haverstock said to Miss Bushe by way of explanation or possibly as a
means of providing them with conversation.
"I've always wanted to go to Ireland," said Miss Bushe, taking his arm
and allowing him to lead her to the dining-room.
"Well, why don't you go?" he asked.
All evening people had been telling him that they had always wanted to
go to Ireland, but had somehow omitted to do so.
"Well, mother likes Bournemouth," Miss Bushe replied, "and so we always
go there. She says that she knows there'll be a bathroom at
Bournemouth, and plenty of hot water and she can't bear the thought of
going to some place where hot water isn't laid on. I suppose I shall go
to Ireland some day!"
"There's plenty of hot water in Ireland," said John.
Miss Bushe giggled. "You're so satirical," she said.
"Satirical?" he exclaimed.
"Yes. About the hot water in Ireland!"
He gazed blankly at her. "I don't understand you," he replied. "I meant
just what I said. You can get hot water in Ireland as easily as you can
in England. Some people have it laid on in pipes, and other people have
to boil it on the fire; but you can get it all right!"
There was a look of disappointment on Miss Bushe's face. "I thought you
were making a reference to politics," she said.
John stared at her. Then he turned away. "Will I get you something to
eat?" he murmured as he did so. He had observed the other men gallantly
waiting upon the ladies.
"Oh, thank you," she said. She glanced towards the table. "I wonder if
that trifle has got anything intoxicating in it?" she added.
"I daresay," he answered. "Trifles usually have drink of some sort in
"I couldn't take it if it has anything intoxicating in it," she
"Why not?" John demanded. "It'll do you no harm!"
"Oh, I couldn't. I simply couldn't if it has anything intoxicating in
it. We're very strict about intoxicants. They do so much harm!"
John did not know what to do or say next. She still stared longingly at
the trifle, and it was clear that she would greatly like to eat some of
"Well?" he said vaguely.
"I wonder," she replied, "whether you'd mind tasting it first, just to
see whether it has anything intoxicating in it?"
John thought that this was a strange sort of young woman to take into
supper, but he did as she bid him. He took a large portion of the
trifle on to a plate and tasted it. She gazed at him in a very anxious
"It has," he said, "and it's lovely!"
The light went out of her eyes. "Then I think I'll just have some
blanc-mange," she said.
"There's nothing intoxicating in that," he replied, going to get it for
"Do you know," she murmured when he had returned and she was eating the
blanc-mange, "I almost wish you had said there was nothing intoxicating
in the trifle!..."
"That would have been a lie," John interrupted.
"Yes, but!... Oh, well, this blanc-mange is quite nice!"
John tempted, her. "Taste the trifle anyway," he said.
"Oh, no," she replied, shrinking back. "I couldn't. We're very
After supper, Mr. Palfrey opened the discussion on Marriage. He
declared that Marriage was the coward's refuge from Love. He said that
Marriage had been invented by lawyers and parsons for the purpose of
obtaining fees and authority. These unpleasant people, the lawyers and
the parsons, had contrived to make Love an impropriety and had reduced
Holy Passion to the status of a schedule to an act of parliament. Cupid
had been furnished with a truncheon and a helmet and had been robbed of
his wings in order that he might more suitably serve as a policeman. He
demanded Free Love, and pleaded for the chaste promiscuity of the
birds!... After he had said a great deal in the same strain, he sat
down amid applause, and Mr. Haverstock invited discussion. He would
like to say, however, that he strongly believed in regulation. In his
opinion there was something beautiful in the sight of a bride and a
bridegroom signing the parish register in the presence of their
friends. The young couple, he said, asked for the approval and sanction
of the community in their love-making. Love without Law was License,
and he trusted that Mr. Palfrey was not inviting them to approve of
Mr. Palfrey created an enormous sensation and some laughter by saying
that that was precisely what he did invite them to do. All law was
composed of hindrances and obstacles and forbiddings, and therefore he
was entirely opposed to Law. This statement so nonplussed Mr.
Haverstock that he abruptly sat down, and for a few moments the meeting
was in a state of chaotic silence. Then a large man rose from the floor
where he had been lying almost at full length and announced that in his
opinion the world would cease to have any love in it at all if the
present craze for vegetable diet increased to any great extent. How
could a bean-feaster, he demanded, feel passion in his blood? Meat, he
declared, excited the amorous instincts. All the great lovers of the
world were extravagantly carnivorous, and all poetry, in the last
resort, rested on a foundation of beef-steak puddings. What sort of
lover would Romeo have been had he lived on a diet of lentils? Would
Juliet have had the power to move the sympathies of generations of men
and women if she had nourished her love on haricot beans?...
Immediately he sat down, a lean and bearded youth sprang to his feet
and announced in vibrant tones that he had been a practising vegetarian
from birth and could affirm from personal experience that a vegetable
diet, so far from suppressing the passions, actually stimulated them;
and he offered to prove from statistics that vegetarians, in proportion
to their number, had been more frequently engaged in romantic
philandering than carnivorous persons had. Look at Shelley!... He
could assure those present that he was as amorous and passionate as any
meat-eater in the room....
The discussion went to pieces after that, and became a wrangle about
proteid and food values. There was an elderly lady who insisted on
telling John all about the gastric juices!... Hinde rescued him on the
plea that they had a long journey in front of them, and very gratefully
John accepted the suggestion that they should set off at once in order
to reach their lodgings at a reasonable hour. Mr. and Mrs. Haverstock
conducted them to the door ... a chilly and contemptuous nod had been
accorded to John by Mr. Palfrey ... and pressed them to come again
soon. "Every Wednesday evening," said Mr. Haverstock, "we're at home,
and we discuss ... everything!..."
They hurried along the Spaniards' Road towards the Tube Station, and as
they did so, John told Hinde of his encounter with Miss Bushe over the
"That accounts for it," Hinde exclaimed aloud.
"Accounts for what?" John demanded.
"The _Daily Groan_. I've often wondered what was the matter with
that paper, and now I know. They're always wondering whether there's
anything intoxicating in the trifle!... I don't mind a boy talking in
that wild way. A clever, intelligent lad ought to talk revolutionary
stuff, but when a man reaches Palfrey's age and is still gabbling that
silly-cleverness, then the man's an ass. There's no depth in him!..."
They sat in the sitting-room for a long while after they had returned
to Brixton, and Hinde related some of his reminiscences to John.
"I'm one of the world's failures," he said. "I came to London to try
and do great work, and I'm still a journalist. I can recognise a fine
book when I see it, but I can't create one. I'm just a journalist, and
a journalist isn't really a man. He has no life of his own ... he goes
home on sufferance, and may be called up by his editor at any minute to
go galloping off in search of a 'story.' We go everywhere and see
nothing. We meet everybody and know nobody. A journalist is a man
without beliefs and almost without hope. The damned go to Fleet Street
when they die. It's an exciting life ... oh, yes, quite exciting, but
it's horrible to see men merely as 'copy' and to think of the little
secret, intimate things of life only as materials for a good 'story.' I
wish I were a grocer!..."
"Why?" John demanded.
"Well, at least a grocer does not look upon human beings merely as
consumers of sugar!"
"I could have been a grocer if I'd wanted to," John continued. "My
mother wanted me to be a clergyman!"
"What put it into your head to turn scribbler?"
"I just wanted to write a book. I can't make you out, Hinde. One minute
you're advising me to go on a paper, and the next minute you're telling
me a journalist isn't a man!..."
"When you know more of us," Hinde interrupted, "you'll know that all
journalists belittle journalism. It's the one consolation that's left
to them. Unless you're prepared to associate only with journalists,
Mac, you'd much better keep out of Fleet Street. Newspaper men always
feel like fish out of water when they're in the company of other men.
They must be near the newspaper atmosphere ... they can't breathe
without the stink of ink in their nostrils!..."
"All the same I'll have a try at the life," said John.
But at the end of his first month in London, John had no more to his
account than this, that he had begun but had not completed a music-hall
sketch, that he had begun but had not made much progress with a
tragedy, that he had tried to obtain employment on the staff of the
_Daily Sensation_ and had failed to do so, and, worst of all, that
he had fallen in love with Eleanor Moore but could not find her
anywhere. His novel supplied the one element of hope that lightened his
thoughts on his month's work. He wished now that he had asked Hinde to
read it before it had been sent to the publisher. Perhaps it would
redeem the month from its dismal state.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
It was Hinde who brought the good news to John. Mr. Clotworthy, the
editor of the _Daily Sensation_, had met Hinde in Tudor Street
that afternoon and when he had heard that John and Hinde were living
together, he said, "Tell him I'll take him on the staff if he'll
promise to keep the Truth well under control!" and had named the
following morning for an appointment.
"It's a queer thing," said Hinde as he related the news to John, "that
I'm advising you to take the job when I was telling you the other night
that journalism's no work for a man; but that only shows what a
journalist I am. No stability ... carried off my feet by any
excitement. And mebbe the life'll disgust you and you'll go home
"With my tail between my legs?" John demanded. "No, I'll not do that.
I'd be ashamed to go home and admit I hadn't done what I set out to do.
What time does Mr. Clotworthy want me?"
Hinde told him.
"I'll write to my mother at once," said John, "and tell her he's sent
for me. That'll impress her. Shell be greatly taken, with the notion
that he sent for me instead of me running after him!..."
"The great fault in an Ulsterman," said Hinde, "is his silly pride that
won't let him acknowledge his mistake when he's made one. You'll get
into a lot of bother, John MacDermott, if you go about the world
letting on you've done right when you've done wrong, and pretending a
mistake is not a mistake!"
"I'll run the risk of that," John replied.
Mr. Clotworthy spoke very sharply to him. "You understand," he said,
"that you're here to write what we want you to write, and not to write
what you think. If you start any of your capering about Truth and
Reforming the world, I'll fire you into the street the minute I catch
you at it. You're here to interest people. That's all. You're not here
to elevate their minds or teach them anything. You're here to keep up
our sales and increase them if you can. D'you understand me?"
"I do," said John.
"I'll try the job for a while and see how I like it!"
Mr. Clotworthy sat back in his chair and rubbed his glasses with his
handkerchief. "You've a great nerve," he said, smiling. "I don't know
whether you talk like that because you're sure of yourself or just
"I always knew my own mind," John replied.
Mr. Clotworthy turned him over to Mr. Tarleton, the news-editor, who
was instructed to give him hints on his work and introduce him to other
members of the staff.
For two days John did very little in the office, beyond finding his way
about, but on the third day of his employment, Tarleton suddenly called
him into his room and told him that the musical critic had telephoned
to say he was unwell and would not be able to attend a concert at the
Albert Hall that evening.
"You'll have to go instead," said Tarleton.
"But I don't know anything about music," John protested.
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Well, I thought one was supposed to know something about music before
you wrote a criticism of it!"
"Look here, young fellow," said Tarleton. "Let me give you a piece of
advice. Never admit that there's anything in this world that you don't
know. A _Daily Sensation_ man knows everything! ..."
"But I have no ear for music. I hardly know a minim from a semi-quaver!..."
"Well, that doesn't matter. Get a programme. Mark on it the songs and
pieces that get the most applause. Those are the best things. See?
Anybody can criticise music when he knows a tip or two like that. If
the singer is a celebrated person, like Melba or Tetrazzini, you say
she was in her usual brilliant form. If the singer isn't celebrated,
just say that she shows promise of development!..."
"But supposing I don't like her?"
"Then say nothing about her. If we can't praise people on this paper,
we ignore them. Get your stuff in before eleven, will you? Here's the
Tarleton thrust the card into John's hand and, a little dazed and a
little excited, John went out of the room. This was his first important
job. Words that he had written would appear in print in the morning,
and hundreds of thousands of people would read them. The _Daily
Sensation_ had an enormous circulation ... a million people bought
it every morning, so Tarleton said, and that meant, he explained, that
about three or four million people read it. Each copy of a paper was
probably seen by several persons. The thought that some judgment of his
would be read by a million men and women in the morning caused John to
feel tremendously responsible. He must be careful to give his praise
judiciously. All of the persons present at the concert that night, but
more especially the singers and instrumentalists, would turn first of
all to his notice. There might be a great political crisis or a
sensational murder reported in the morning's news, but these people
would turn first to his notice to see what he had said about the music.
And it would not do to let them have a wrong impression about the
concert. Tarleton had told him not to dispraise anything ... "it'll be
cut out if you do" ... but at all events he would take care that his
praise was justly given. He would send copies of the papers, marked
with blue pencil, to his mother and Mr. McCaughan and Mr. Cairnduff. He
could imagine the talk there would be in Ballyards about his criticism
of the concert. The minister and the schoolmaster would be greatly
impressed when they realised that the paper with the largest
circulation in the world had asked him to say what he thought of Madame
Tetrazzini. Mr. McCaughan had never heard anything greater than a
cantata sung by the church choir in the church room, and he had been
deeply impressed by the statements made about it by a reporter from the
_North Down Herald_ who declared that the rendering of the sacred
work reflected great credit on all concerned in it, but particularly on
the Reverend Mr. McCaughan to whose sterling instruction in the
principles of true religion, the young people engaged in singing the
cantata clearly owed the sincerity and fervour with which they sang
their parts. If he were so greatly impressed by a report in the
_North Down Herald_, would he not be overwhelmed by the fact that
one of his congregation had been chosen to pronounce judgment on the
greatest singer in the world in the greatest newspaper in the world ...
for John was now satisfied that the _Daily Sensation_ was
enormously more important than any other paper that was published. He
went to a tea-shop in Fleet Street where he knew he could hope to meet
Hinde, and found him sitting in a corner with a friend who, soon after
John's arrival, went away.
"You needn't go to the concert if you're not desperately keen on it,"
Hinde said when John had told him of his job. "You can write your
"Write it now! ... But I haven't been to the concert!"
"I wouldn't give much for the man who couldn't write a criticism of a
concert without going to it," Hinde contemptuously replied. "Say that
Tetrazzini's wonderful voice enthralled the audience and that there
were scenes of unparalleled enthusiasm as the diva graciously responded
to the clamorous demands for encores. Add a few words about the man who
played her accompaniments and the number of floral tributes she
received, and there you are. That's all that's necessary!"
"I couldn't do it," said John. It wouldn't be honest!"
"Don't be a prig," Hinde exclaimed.
"Prig! Is it being a prig to do your work fairly?"
"No, but it's being a prig to treat a thing as important that isn't
important at all. I wanted you to come to a music-hall with me to-night!"
"I'm sorry," John replied stiffly, "I'd like to go with you, but I
couldn't think of doing such a thing as you suggest to me!"
"I wonder how long you'll feel like that, Mac?" Hinde laughed.
"All my life, I hope!"
"Well, have it your own way, then. But you're wasting your time!"
"And another thing," John continued, "I want to hear the woman singing.
I've never heard anybody great at the music yet!"
He entered the great circular hall, and sat, very solemnly, in his seat
on the ground floor. He felt nervous and uneasy and certain that he
would not be able to write adequately of the concert. He tried to think
of suitable words to great music, but it seemed to him that he could
not think at all. He glanced about the Hall, hoping that perhaps he
would find inspiration in the ceiling, but there was no inspiration
there. He could see wires stretched across the roof from side to side,
and there were great pieces of canvas radiating from the central
cluster of lights in the dome. He wondered why the wires were there.
Blondin, he remembered, had walked across a wire, as thin-looking as
those, which was stretched high up in the roof of the Exhibition at the
Old Linen Hall in Belfast; but he could scarcely believe that these
wires were intended for tight-rope performances. He turned to a man at
his side. "Would you mind telling me what those things are for?" he
asked, pointing to them.
"To break the echoes," the man replied, entering into an involved
account of acoustics. "It's all humbug really," he added. "They don't
break the echoes at all, but we all imagine that they do, and so we're
The warm, comfortable look of the red-curtained boxes in the softened
electric light pleased him, and he liked the effect of the tiers rising
up to the high roof, and the great spread of floor, and the gigantic
magnificence of the organ.
"How many people does this place hold?" he demanded of his neighbour.
"About ten thousand," his neighbour answered, glancing at him
quizzically. "Is this the first time you've been here?"
"Yes. I'm new to London. They must take a great deal of money in a
night at a place like this. An immense amount!"
"They do. It's part of the Albert Memorial, this hall. The other part
is in the Park across the road. Have you seen it?"
"No," said John. "Is it any good?"
"Well," said the stranger, "we've tried to overlook it ... but
unfortunately it's too big. There are some excellent bits in it, but
the whole effect!... Poor dear Queen Victoria ... she was a little
woman, and so, of course, she believed in magnitude. She liked Bigness.
She's out of fashion, nowadays ... people titter behind their hands
when they speak of her ... and there's a tendency to regard her as a
somewhat foolish and sentimental old woman ... but really, she was a
very capable old girl in her narrow way, and there was nothing soft
about her. She was as hard as nails ... almost a cruel woman ... she'd
compel her maids-of-honour to stand in her presence until the poor
girls fainted with fatigue.... I'm sure she'd have made Queen Elizabeth
feel uncomfortable in some ways. This hall is a memorial to her
"Yes," said John. "There's a Memorial in Belfast to him. What did he
"He was Queen Victoria's husband!"
"I suppose," said John, "it wasn't much fun being her man?"
"Fun!" exclaimed the stranger. "Well, of course, it depends on what you
There was a bustling sound from the platform and some applause, and
then a dark-looking man emerged from the sloping gangway underneath the
organ and sat down at the piano. He played Mascagni's _Pavana delle
Maschere_, and while he played it, John took some writing paper from
his pocket and prepared to note down his opinions of the evening's
"Hilloa," said the stranger in a whisper, "are you a critic?"
John, feeling extraordinarily important, nodded his head and continued
to listen to the music. It sounded quite pleasant, but it conveyed
nothing to him. All he could think of was the contortions of the
pianist as he played his piece, and he wished that all pianists could
be concealed behind screens so that their grimaces and gyrations should
not be seen. He ought to say something about the man, but he had no
idea of what was fitting!... The solo ended and was followed by another
one, and then the pianist stood up to acknowledge the applause.
"What do you think of it?" the stranger respectfully asked, and John,
aware of the respect in his voice and conscious that he did not know
what to think of it, murmured, "Um-m-m! Not bad!"
"Coldish, I think," the stranger continued. "Technically skilful, but
hardly any feeling!"
John considered for a moment or two, and then answered very judicially.
"Yes! Yes, I think that's a fair description of him!"
He waited until the stranger was engaged in reading the programme, and
then he jotted down on his writing-paper, "Mr. Pietro Mancinelli played
Mascagni's _Pavana delle Maschere_ with great technical ability,
but with hardly any emotional quality!"
"I'm very glad I sat down beside this chap," he murmured to himself, as
the accompanist played the opening bars of Handel's _Droop not, young
lover_, and then he settled down to listen to the man who sang it.
He was happier here, for singing was more easy to judge than
instrumental music. Either a song was well sung, he told himself, or it
was not well sung, and the gentleman who was singing _Droop not,
young lover_ certainly had a voice that sounded well in that great
hall.... He wrote in his report that "Mr. Albert Luton's magnificent
voice was heard to great advantage in Handel's charming aria..." and
was exceedingly glad that he had lately read some musical notices in
one of the newspapers, and could remember some of the phrases that had
been used in them.
"Now for a treat," said the stranger, as a burst of hearty applause
opened out from the platform and went all round the hall.
John glanced towards the passage leading to the artist's room and saw a
smiling, plump lady, with very bright, dark eyes and dark hair come on
to the platform. She was clad in white that made her Italian looks more
"Tetrazzini!" the stranger whispered in John's ear.
The applause died down, and the singer stood rigidly in front of the
platform while the pianist played the opening of Verdi's _Caro
nome_. Then her voice sounded very clear and bell-like in the deep
silence of the great hall. ... She sang _Solveig's Song_ by Greig
and _A Pastoral_ by Veracini, and then the satiated audience
allowed her to retire from the platform.
John sat back in his seat in a dazed fashion. All round him were
applauding men and women ... and he could not applaud. There was a buzz
of admiring talk, and he could hear the words "wonderful" and
"magnificent" ... and he had not been moved at all. The great voice had
not caused him to feel any thrill or emotion whatever. It was
wonderful, indeed, but that was all that it was. There was no generous
glow in her music; she did not cause him to feel any emotion other than
that of astonishment at the perfection of her vocal organs. He had
imagined that the great singer's voice would compel him to jump out of
his seat and wave his hands wildly and shout and cheer ... but instead
he had sat still and wondered at the marvellous way in which her throat
"Well?" said his neighbour, in the tone of one who would say that only
words of an extremely adulatory character were conceivable after such a
"She's a very remarkable woman," John replied.
"Remarkable!" his neighbour indignantly exclaimed. "She's a
John disregarded his ecstatics. "I kept on thinking of a clever
machine," he said. "The wheels went round without a hitch. She's a
grand invention, that woman! She can sing her pieces without thinking
about them. She hardly knows the notes are coming out of her mouth ...
she doesn't know where they come from or why they come at all, and I
don't suppose it matters to her where they go. There's a grand machine
in our place that prints the papers. You put a big roll of white paper
on to it, and you turn a wee handle, and the machine sends the roll
spinning round and round until it's done, and a lot of folded papers,
nicely printed, come tumbling out in counted batches, all ready to be
taken away and sold in the shops and streets. It's a wonderful
machine ... but it can't read its own printing and it doesn't know what's
in the papers after it's done with them. That's what she's like; a
"My dear sir," the stranger exclaimed, but John prevented him from
saying any more.
"That's my opinion anyway," he went on, "and I can only think the
things I think. I can't think what other people think!"
"A limitation," said the stranger. "A distinct limitation!"
"Mebbe it is, but I don't see what that matters!"
After Tetrazzini had left the platform and the applause of her admirers
had died away, there was a violin solo, and then came an interval of
fifteen minutes. John determined to write part of his notice in the
vestibule of the Hall, and he got up from his seat to do so. He mounted
the stairs that led to the first tier of boxes, and as he approached
them, he saw Eleanor Moore sitting in the box nearest the exit through
which he was about to pass. There were other people in the box ...
girls, he thought ... but he hardly saw them. As he came nearer to her,
she raised her eyes from her programme and looked straight at him, and
for a few moments neither of them averted their eyes. Then she looked
away, and he passed through the curtained exit.
He had found her again! She had not flown away from London ... she was
not ill, as he had so alarmingly imagined, nor, as he had horribly
imagined for one dreadful moment, was she dead. She lived ... she was
well ... she was here in this very hall, separated from him only by a
thin partition of wood ... and she had looked at him without fear in
her eyes. He mounted the short flight of stairs leading to the corridor
on to which the doors of the boxes opened, and read the name written on
the card underneath the number painted on the door of the box in which
Eleanor was sitting. "The Viscountess Walbrook." The name puzzled him,
and he turned to an attendant, a lugubrious man in a dingy frock-coat
looking extraordinarily like a dejected image of Albert the Good, and
asked for an explanation.
"It means that she owns that box," he explained. "Lots of the seats and
boxes 'ere belong to private people. That one belongs to the
Viscountess Walbrook. She in'erited it from 'er father. Very kind-'earted
woman ... always gives 'er box to orphans and widders and people
"Then the ladies in the box now are not friends of hers?" John asked,
meaning by "friends," relatives.
"I shouldn't think so," the attendant answered. "I noticed the party
comin' in. They come in a 'ired carriage. No, they're orphans or
widders or somethin'. There's always a lot of orphans an' widders about
this 'All, partic'lar on a Sunday afternoon when they're doin' 'Andel's
_Messiar_. And the _Elijiar_, too! You know! Mendelssohn's
bit! Reg'lar fascination for orphans an' widders that 'as. I call it
depressin' meself, but some 'ow it seems to fit in with orphans an'
John thanked the attendant and moved down the corridor. He must not
lose sight of Eleanor now that he had found her again. If only he could
discover where she lived ... He stood where he could see the door of
the Viscountess Walbrook's box, and brooded over the chances of
discovering Eleanor's home. He must not lose sight of her ... that was
imperative. The luckiest thing in the world had brought him into her
company again, and he might never have such an opportunity again if he
let this one slip away from him. He could look round every now and then
from his seat to assure himself that she was still in the box, but
supposing she were to go away in the interval between his assuring
glances? Even if he were to see her leaving the box, he would have some
difficulty in getting to her in time to keep her in sight!... No, no,
he must not run the risk of losing her again. He must stay in some
place from which he could immediately see her leaving the box and from
which he could easily follow her without ever missing her. He looked
about him, and felt inclined to sit down in the corridor and wait there
until Eleanor emerged from the Viscountess Walbrook's private property!
But the corridor was a draughty and conspicuous and depressing place in
which to loiter, and he felt that the cheerless attendant might suspect
him of some felonious or other criminal intent if he were to stay there
during the whole of the second part of the programme. He peered through
the curtains which separated the corridor from the auditorium and saw
an empty seat on the opposite side of the gangway to that on which Lady
Walbrook's box was situated; and when the interval was ended and the
violinist began to play the first movement of Beethoven's _Romance in
G_, he slipped into the seat, and sat so that he could see every
movement that Eleanor made. How very beautiful she looked! She seemed
more beautiful to him in her blue evening dress even than she had
seemed on the first day that he saw her. Until he had come to London,
he had never seen a woman in evening dress, except in photographs and
in illustrated papers, and when, for the first time, he had seen real
women in real evening clothes in a theatre, the sight of their bare
white shoulders and bosoms had appeared to him both beautiful and
improper. Eleanor's shoulders were bare, and as he looked at her, he
could see her bosom very gently rising and falling with her breathing,
but he felt no confusion in seeing her in that bare state. She was
beautiful ... he could think of nothing else but her beauty. Her
shapely head was perfectly poised upon her strong neck, and he was
aware instantly of the graceful line of her shoulders. If she had not
been in those pretty evening clothes, he would not have known that her
neck and shoulders were so beautiful. Her soft, dark hair, loosely
dressed over her ears, glowed with loveliness, and the narrow golden
band that bound it was no brighter than her eyes. How lovely she is, he
said to himself, indifferent to the applause that was offered to the
violinist, and then he fell to admiring the way in which she clapped
her gloved hands together, slowly but firmly. Her applause was not
languid applause, neither was it without discrimination. She seemed to
John to be telling the violinist that he had played well, but might
have played better....
"She's the great wee girl," he said to himself.
He saw now that she shared the box with two other girls, but he had no
further interest in them than that they were in her company and that
they were not men. He wished that her hands were not gloved so that he
might see whether she wore rings on her fingers, and if so, on which
fingers they were worn. Supposing she were engaged to some other man
... or worse still, supposing she were married! It was possible for her
to have been married since he last saw her!... An agony of doubt and
despair came upon him as he brooded over the thought of her possible
marriage, and although he was aware that Tetrazzini was singing
Mazzone's _Sogni e Canti_ and Benedict's _Carnevale di
Venezia_, the music was no more than a noise in the air to him. What
should he do if Eleanor were married? Bad enough if she were engaged,
but married!... An engagement was not an irrefragable affair, and he
could woo her so ardently that his rival would swiftly vanish from her
thoughts ... but a marriage!... He knew that marriages were not so
irrefragable as they might be, and that a very desperate couple might
go to the length of running away together even though one of them were
married to someone else ... but he did not like the thought of running
away with a married woman. Eleanor might not wish to run away with
him ... his agony of mind was such that he stooped to that humility of
imagination ... she might very dearly love her husband!...
Lord alive, why couldn't that Italian woman stop singing! Why was not
this silly music ended so that he could settle his doubts about
Eleanor's freedom to marry him! Why could the audience not be content
with two songs from the woman instead of demanding encores from her!...
And then the concert ended after what seemed an interminable time, and
the audience began to emerge from the Hall. John went quickly into the
corridor and waited until the door of the Viscountess Walbrook's box
opened and Eleanor, followed by her friends, came out of it. She had a
long coat with a furry collar over her pretty blue frock, and as she
gathered her skirts about her, he could see that she was wearing blue
satin shoes and blue silk stockings. One hand firmly grasped her skirts
and the other hand held the furry collar in front of her mouth. She
passed so close to him that he could have touched her glowing cheeks
with his hands, but she did not see him. The crush of people made
progress slow and difficult, but he was glad of this for it enabled him
to be near to her much longer than he could otherwise have hoped to be.
As she passed him, he had fallen in behind her, and now he could touch
her very gently without her being aware that his touch was any more
than the unavoidable contact of people in the crowd. There was a faint
smell of violets about her clothes, and he snuffed up the delicate
odour eagerly. Mrs. Cream had smelt strongly of perfume, an
overpowering hothouse-smelling perfume that had made him feel as if he
were stifling, but this delicate odour pleased him. How natural, how
very obvious even, that Eleanor should use the scent of violets!
When they reached the front of the Hall, Eleanor turned to her friends
and made some remark about a carriage. He supposed they had hired a
vehicle to bring them to the Hall and take them home again, and when he
discovered that his supposition was right, a sense of disappointment
filled him. He had hoped that they would walk home or that they would
get on to a 'bus!...
He watched them climb into the shabby hired brougham, and when the door
was closed upon them and the driver had whipped up his horse, he
followed it into the Kensington Road. The traffic was so congested that
the horse had to move at a walking pace, and John was easily able to
keep close to it; but in a few moments, he told himself, the driver
would get clear of the congestion and then the horse would begin to
trot; and while the thought passed through his mind, the driver cracked
his whip and the slow, spiritless horse began to move more rapidly ...
and as it gathered speed, resolution suddenly came to John out of a
sudden vision of a boy's pleasure.
"Fancy not thinking of this before," he said, as he swung himself on to
the back of the carriage and balanced uncomfortably on the bar.
The brougham drove along Kensington Road and then turned sharply into
Church Street along which it was drawn at an ambling pace to Notting
Hill. It turned to the right, and went along the Bayswater Road, and
then John lost his bearings. He was in one of the streets off the
Bayswater Road, but in the darkness he could not tell what its name
was. Presently the driver shouted "Whoa!" to his horse and drew up in
front of a dreary, tall house, with a pillared portico, and John had
only sufficient time in which to drop from the back of the carriage and
skip across the street to the opposite pavement before the three girls
alighted from the brougham and stood for a few moments in front of the
house. The driver drove off, and John, lurking in the shadow of a
doorway, watched the girls as they stood talking together. Then he saw
two of them climb up the steps leading to the house, and Eleanor,
calling out "Good-night!" to them, went round the corner. He hurried
after her, and saw her going up the steps of a similar house
immediately round the corner from the one into which her friends had
entered. She was fumbling at the keyhole with her key as he came
opposite the house, and she did not see him until he spoke to her.
"Miss Moore," he said in a hesitating manner, taking off his hat as he
She started and turned round. "What is it?" she said in an alarmed
"I ... I've been trying to find you for a long time!..."
She shrank away from him. "I don't know you," she said. "You've made a
mistake. Please go away!"
"Don't be afraid of me," he pleaded. "I know you don't know me, but I
know you. You're Eleanor Moore!..."
She came forward from the shadow. "Yes," she said, half in alarm, half
out of curiosity. "Yes, that's my name, but I don't know you!..." Then
she recognised him. "Oh, you're that man!" she said, now wholly
"I saw you at the tea-shop," he replied hastily. "You remember you left
a letter behind and I picked it up and gave it to you. That's how I
know your name!"
"Why are you persecuting me?" she demanded, almost tearfully.
He was daunted by her tone. "Persecuting you!" he said.
"Yes. You follow me about in the street, and stare at me. I saw you
this evening at the Albert Hall, and you stared at me!..."
"Because I love you, Eleanor!" He went nearer to her, and as he did so,
she retreated further into the shadow. "Don't be afraid of me, please,"
he said. "I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, but I'm a
stranger in this town and I had no way of getting to know you. I tried
"Don't call me Eleanor!"
"I can't help it. I think of you as Eleanor. I always call you Eleanor
to myself. You see, dear, I'm in love with you!"
"But you don't know me. I wish you'd go away. I shall ring the bell or
tell the policeman at the corner!..."
"Let me tell you about myself," he pleaded.
"I don't want to hear about you. I don't like you. You stare so hard,
and you're always looking at my stockings!..."
"Yes, you are. You're looking at them now!"
"Only because you mentioned them. I won't look at them if you tell me
"I don't want to tell you anything," she murmured. "I only want you to
"I know that, dearest, but just let me tell you this. My name is John
"I don't care what your name is," she interrupted. "It doesn't interest
me in the least!..."
"But it will, Eleanor, darling. When you're married to me!..."
She burst out laughing, "I think you're mad," she said.
"I was very lonely, Eleanor, when I saw you. I have not got a friend in
London!..." He omitted to remember the existence of Hinde. "I come from
"And I had not been in London more than a day when I saw you. I fell in
love with you at once!..."
"Absurd!" she said.
"It's true. After you'd gone back to your office, I went for a long
walk, but all the time, I was thinking of you, and I hurried back to
the shop at teatime, hoping I'd see you. And you were there, looking
lovelier than you looked in the middle of the day. Do you remember?"
"Yes," she said. "You looked so ridiculous!..."
"Perhaps I did, but I didn't care how I looked so long as I was near
you. I felt miserable and lonely, and you were the only person in
London I knew!..."
"But you didn't know me!" she insisted.
"I knew your name, and I was in love with you. That was enough. I tried
to speak to you, but you would not let me. I asked you to be friends
with me, and you got up and walked away. I felt ashamed of myself
because I thought I had frightened you, and I hurried out of the shop
and followed you so that I might tell you how sorry I was and how much
I loved you, but I lost you at your office, and the man at the lift
nearly had a fight with me!..."
"Then it _was_ you who had been asking for me? He told me that a
suspicious character had been hanging about the hall, enquiring for me.
I thought it might be you!"
"I don't look suspicious, do I?"
"You behave suspiciously. You speak to people whom you do not know, and
you follow them in the street!..."
"Only you, Eleanor. Not anybody else!"
There was a silence for a few moments, and then she turned to the door
and inserted the key in the lock.
"Well, please go away now," she said. "You can't do any good here!..."
"Let me come in and tell your father and mother I want to marry you!"
She opened the door and gazed at him as if she could not believe her
"This is a residential club for women," she said. "I have no parents, I
think you're the silliest man I've ever encountered. Please go away!
You'll get me talked about!..."
She shut the door in his face.
He stared blankly at the glass panels of the door for a few moments and
then went down the steps into the street, and as he did so, he saw a
light suddenly illuminate the room immediately above the pillared
portico. He stared up at it, and saw that the window was open, and
while he looked, he saw Eleanor come to it and begin to draw it down.
He called out to her. "Eleanor!" he said, "Hi, Eleanor!"
She peered out of the window, and then leant her head through the
opening. "There's a policeman at the corner," she said, "I shall call
him if you don't go away!"
"Very well," he replied. "They can't put a man in gaol for loving a
"They can put him in gaol for annoying her!"
"I'm not annoying you. How can I annoy you when I'm in love with you?
No, don't interrupt me. You haven't let me get a word out of my mouth
all night!" He could hear her laughing at him. "Are you codding me?" he
"What?" she replied in a puzzled voice.
"Are you codding me?" he repeated. "Are you making fun of me?"
She leant out of the window as if she were trying to see him more
closely. "You really are funny," she said. "I was afraid of you ... you
stared so ... but I'm not afraid of you now. You're a funny little
fellow, but I do wish you'd go away!"
"Come down and talk to me, and I'll go home content!..."
"You're being silly again!"
"No, I'm not. I tell you, girl, I'm mad in love with you, and I'll sit
on your doorstep all night 'til you agree to go out with me!"
"The policeman would lock you up if you were to do that," she replied.
"I'm not in love with you ... I don't even like you ... I think you're
a horrid man, staring at people the way you do ... and I won't 'go out
with you,' as you call it. I'm not a servant girl!..."
"What does it matter to me what sort of a girl you are, if I'm in love
with you. You must like me ... you can't help it!..."
"Oh, can't I?"
"No. I never heard tell yet of a man loving a woman the way I love you,
and her not to fall in love with him!"
"Don't talk so loudly, please," she said in a lowered tone. "People
will hear you, and there's someone coming down the street."
"I don't care!..."
"But I do. Now listen to me, Mr.... Mr.... I can't remember your name!"
"My name's MacDermott, but you can call me John."
"Thank you, Mr. MacDermott, but I don't wish to call you John. Now
listen to me. I think you're a very romantic young man!... No, please
let me finish one sentence! You're a very romantic young man, and I
daresay you think that all you've got to do is to tell the first girl
you meet that you're in love with her, and she'll say, 'Oh, thank you!'
and fall into your arms. Well you're wrong! You may think you're very
romantic, but I think you're just a tedious fool!..."
"A tedious fool. You've made me feel exceedingly uncomfortable more
than once. I had to stop going to that tea-shop because I couldn't eat
my food without your eyes staring at me all the time. Fortunately, the
work I was doing in the City was only a temporary job, and I got a
permanent post elsewhere and was able to move away from the City
"How dare you call me Eleanor!"
"Because I love you!" he said.
She seemed to be nonplussed by his reply. She did not speak for a few
moments. Then, altering her tone, she said, "Oh, well, I daresay you
think you do!"
"I don't think. I know. I'll not be content till I marry you. Now,
Eleanor, do you hear that?"
"I know nothing whatever about you!..."
"Come down to the doorstep and I'll tell you. Will you?"
"No, of course not!"
"Well, how can you blame me then if you won't listen to me when I offer
to tell you about myself. You know my name. John MacDermott. And I'm
"Yes," she interrupted, "I'm making big allowances for that!"
"My family's the most respected family in Ballyards!..."
"Where's that?" she asked.
"Do you not know either? You're the second person I've met in London
didn't know that. It's in County Down. My mother lives there, and so
does my Uncle William. I've come here to write books!..."
"Are you an author?" she exclaimed with interest.
"I am," he said proudly. "I've written a novel and I'm writing a
play!... Come down and I'll tell you about them!"
"Oh, no, I can't. It's too late. And you must go home. Where do you
"At Brixton," he answered.
"That's miles from here. And you'll miss the last bus if you don't
"I can walk. Come down, will you!"
"No. No, no. It's much too late," she said hurriedly. "And I can't stay
here talking to you any longer. Someone will make a complaint about me.
You'll get me into trouble!..."
"Well, will you meet me to-morrow somewhere? Wherever you like!"
"No, I won't. Why should I?"
"Because I'm in love with you and want you to meet me."
"Then I'll sit here all night then. I'll let the peeler take me up, and
I'll tell the whole world I'm in love with you!"
"You're a beast. You're really a beast!"
"I'm not. I'm in love with you. That's all. Will you meet me the
"I don't know!..."
"Well, make up your mind then."
She remained silent for a few moments.
"Well?" he said.
"I don't see why I should meet you!..."
"Never mind about that. Just meet me!"
"Well ... perhaps ... only perhaps, mind you ... I don't promise
really ... I might meet you ... just for a minute or two!..."
"At the bookstall in Charing Cross station. Do you know it?"
"I'll soon find it. What time?"
"Right. I'll be there to the minute!..."
"Go home now. You've a long way to go, and I'm very tired!"
"All right, Eleanor. I wish you'd come down, though. Just for a wee
"I can't. Good-night!"
"Good-night, my dear. You've the loveliest eyes!..."
She closed the window, but he could see her standing behind the glass
looking at him.
He kissed his hand to her and then, when she had moved away, he walked
"Good night, constable!" he said cheerily to the policeman at the
The policeman looked suspiciously at him.
"How do you get to Brixton from here?" John continued.
"First on the right, first on the left, first on the right again, and
you're in the Bayswater Road. Turn to the left and keep on until you
reach Marble Arch. You'll get a 'bus there, if you're lucky. If you're
too late, you'll have to walk it. Go down Park Lane and ask again. Make
"Thanks," said John.
He walked along the Bayswater Road, singing in his heart, and after a
while, finding that the street was almost empty, he began to sing
aloud. The roadway shone in the cold light thrown from the high
electric lamps, and there was a faint mist hanging about the trees in
Kensington Gardens. He looked up at the sky and saw that it was full of
friendly stars. All around him was beauty and light. The gleaming
roadway and the gleaming sky seemed to be illuminated in honour of his
triumphant love, for he did not doubt that his love was triumphant. The
night air was fresh and cool. It had none of the exhausted taste that
the air seems always to have in London during the day. It was new,
clean air, fresh from the sea or from the hills, and he took off his
hat so that his forehead might be fanned by it. He glanced about him as
if in every shadow he expected to see a friend. London no longer seemed
too large to love.
"I like this place," he said, waving his hat in the air.
A policeman told him of a very late 'bus that went down Whitehall and
would take him as far as Kensington Gate, and he hurried off to Charing
Cross and was lucky enough to catch the 'bus.
"How much?" he said to the conductor.
"Sixpence on this 'bus," the conductor replied.
John handed a shilling to him. "You can keep the change," he said.
Hinde was lying on the sofa in the sitting-room when John, slightly
tired, but too elated to be aware of his fatigue, got home.
"Hilloa," he said sleepily, "how did the concert go?"
John suddenly remembered.
"Holy O!" he exclaimed, clapping his hand to his head.
"What's that?" Hinde said.
"I forgot all about it," John replied.
"Forgot all about it! Do you mean you didn't go to it?"
"I went all right, but I forgot to take my notice to the office!"
Hinde sat up and stared at him. "You _forgot_!..." He could not
say any more.
John told him of the encounter with Eleanor.
"You mean to say you let your paper down for the sake of a girl," Hinde
"I'll go back now," John said, turning to leave the room.
"Go back _now_! What's the good of that? The paper's been put to
bed half an hour and more ago. My God Almighty ... you let the paper
down. For the sake of a girl!"
He seemed to have difficulty in expressing his thoughts, and he sat
back and gaped at John as if he had just been informed that the Last
Day had been officially announced.
"You needn't show your nose in _that_ office again," he said
again. "I never heard of such a reason for letting a paper down! Good
heavens, man, don't you realise what you've done? _You've let the
"I'm in love with this girl!..."
Hinde almost snarled at him. "Ach-h-h, _love_!" he shouted. "And
you propose to be a journalist. Let your paper down. For a girl. You
sloppy fellow!... My heavens above, I never heard of such a thing.
Letting your paper down!..."
He walked about the room, repeating many times that John had "let his
"And I recommended you to Clotworthy, too. I told him you had the stuff
in you. I thought you had. I thought you could do a job decently, but
by the Holy O, you're no good. You let your own feelings come between
you and your work. Oh! Oh, oh! Oh, go to bed quick or I'll knock the
head off you. I'll not be responsible for myself if you stand there any
longer like a moonstruck fool!"
"If you talk to me like that," said John, "I'll hit you a welt on the
jaw. I'm sorry I forgot about the paper, but sure what does it matter
"What does it matter!" Hinde almost shrieked at him. "Your paper will
be the only paper in London which won't have a report of that concert
in it to-morrow. That's what it matters? I'd be ashamed to let my paper
down for any reason on earth. If my mother was dying, I wouldn't let
her prevent me from doing my job!... If you can't understand that, John
MacDermott, you needn't try to be a journalist. You haven't got it in
you. Your paper's your father and your mother and your wife and your
children! Oh, go to bed, out of my sight, or I'll forget myself!..."
John walked towards the door.
"I'd rather love a woman any day than a paper," he said.
"Well, go and love her then, and don't try to interfere with a paper
again! Don't come down Fleet Street pretending you're a journalist!"
"Yah-h-h!" said Hinde.
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
It had been exceedingly difficult for John to explain his defection to
Mr. Clotworthy and to Tarleton. The only mitigating feature of the
business was that the matter to be reported was only a concert. Both
Mr. Clotworthy and Tarleton trembled when they thought of the calamity
that would have befallen the paper if the forgotten report had been of
a murder! They hardly dared contemplate such a devastating prospect.
They invited John to think of another profession and wished him a very
good morning. Tarleton quitted the room, leaving John alone with the
editor, and as he went he showed such contempt towards him as is only
shown towards the meanest of God's creatures.
"Well, where's your Ulster now?" said Mr. Clotworthy very sardonically
when they were alone together.
"I know rightly I'm in the wrong from your point of view, Mr.
Clotworthy," John replied, "but I'd do the same thing again if twenty
jobs depended on it. It's hard to make you understand, and mebbe I'm a
fool to try, but there it is. The minute I clapped my eyes on her, I
forgot everything but her. I'm sorry I've lost my post here, but I'd be
sorrier to have lost her. That's all about it. You were very kind to
give me the work, and I wish I hadn't let your paper down the way Hinde
says I did, but it's no good me pretending about it. I'd do it again if
the same thing happened another time. That's the beginning and end of
it all. I'd rather be her husband than edit a dozen papers like yours.
I'd rather be her husband than be anything else in the world!"
"Well, good afternoon!" said Mr. Clotworthy.
"Good afternoon!" said John, turning away.
He moved towards the door of the room, feeling much less assurance than
he had felt when he came into it.
"If you care to send in some articles for page six," Mr. Clotworthy
added, "I'd be glad to see them!"
"Thank you," said John.
"Not at all," the editor replied without glancing up.
He left the _Daily Sensation_ office, and walked towards Charing
Cross. A queer depression had settled upon his spirits. Hinde had
treated him as if he were mentally deficient, and he knew that Mr.
Clotworthy and Tarleton, particularly Tarleton, regarded him with
coldness, but he was not deeply affected by their disapproval.
Nevertheless, depression possessed him. He felt that Eleanor would fail
to keep her appointment. Quietly considered, there seemed to be no
reason why she should keep it. She knew absolutely nothing of him
except what he had told her while she leaned out of the window. How was
she to know that he was speaking the truth? What right had he to expect
her to pay any heed to him at all? Dreary, drizzling thoughts poured
through his mind. He felt as certain that his novel would not be
published as he felt that Eleanor would not be at the bookstall at
Charing Cross station when he arrived there. The tragedy on which he
was working had seemed to him to be a very marvellous play, but now he
thought it was too poor to be worth finishing. He had been in London
for what was quite a long time, but he had achieved nothing. He had not
even written the music-hall sketch for the Creams. He had not earned a
farthing during the time that he had been in London. All the exaltation
which had filled him as he walked along the Bayswater Road on the
previous night, with his mind full of Eleanor and love and starshine
and moonlight and gleaming streets and trees hanging with mist and
friendliness for all men, had gone clean out of him. Fleet Street was a
dirty, ill-ventilated alley full of scuffling men and harassed women.
London itself was a great angry thing, a place of distrust and
contention, where no one ever offered a friendly greeting to a
stranger. He would go to Charing Cross station and he would stand
patiently in front of the bookstall, but Eleanor would not come to meet
him. He would stand there, dumb and uncomplaining, and no one of the
hurrying crowd of people would turn to him and say, "You're in trouble.
I'm sorry!" They would neither know nor care. They would be too busy
catching trains. He would stand there for an hour, for two hours ...
until his legs began to ache with the pain of standing in one place for
a long time ... and then, when it was apparent that waiting was useless
and he had, perhaps, aroused the suspicions of policemen and railway
porters concerning his purpose in loitering thus so persistently in
front of the bookstall, he would go home in his misery to a
And while these bitter thoughts poured through his mind, he entered
Charing Cross station, and there in front of the bookstall was Eleanor
Moore. The bitter thoughts poured out of his mind in a rapid flood. He
felt so certain that his novel would be published that he could almost
see it stacked on the bookstall behind Eleanor. He would finish the
tragedy that week and in a short while England would be acclaiming him
as a great dramatist!... He hurried towards her and held out his hand,
and she shyly took it.
"Have you been here long?" he anxiously asked.
"No," she answered, "I've only just come!"
"Let's go and have some tea," he went on.
"I've had mine, thanks!..."
"Well, have some more. I've not had any!..."
"I don't think I can, thanks. I've really come to say that I can't!..."
"There's a little place near here," he interrupted hurriedly, "where
they give you lovely home-made bread. I found it one day when I was
wandering about. We'll just go there and talk about whatever you want
to say. Give me that umbrella of yours!" He took it from her hand as he
spoke. "This is the way," he said, leading her from the station. As
they crossed the road, he took hold of her arm. "These streets are
terribly dangerous," he said. "You never know what minute you're going
to be run over!"
He still held her arm when they were safely on the pavement, but
she contrived to free herself without making a point of doing so.
He tried to bring her back to the mood in which they were when she
leaned out of the window to listen to him ... "like Romeo and Juliet,"
he told himself ... but the congestion of the streets made such
intimacies impossible. They were constantly being separated by the
hurrying foot-passengers, and so they could only speak in short,
dull sentences. He brought her at last to the quiet tea-shop where
he ordered tea and home-made bread and honey!...
"Eleanor," he said, when the waitress had taken his order and had
departed to fulfil it, "it's no good, you telling me that you can't go
out with me. You must, my dear. I want to marry you!..."
"But it's absurd," she expostulated. "How can you possibly talk like
that when we're such strangers to each other!"
"You're no stranger to me. I've loved you for two months now. I've
hardly ever had you out of my mind. I was nearly demented mad when I
lost you. I used to go and hang about that office of yours day after
day in the hope that you'd come out!... And if ever I get the chance,
I'll break that liftman's neck for him. He insulted me the day I asked
him what office you were in. He called me a Nosey Parker!"
She laughed at him. "But that was right, wasn't it?" she said. "You
wouldn't have him give information about me to any man who chooses to
ask for it?"
"He should have known that I was all right. A child could have seen
that I wasn't just playing the fool. But you're mebbe right. I'll think
no more about him. Do you know what happened last night?"
He told her of his relationship with the _Daily Sensation_.
"Then you've lost your work?" she said.
He nodded his head, and they did not speak again for a few moments. The
waitress had brought the tea and bread and honey, and they waited until
she had gone.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"It doesn't bother me," he replied. "I only told you to show you how
much I love you. I'm not codding you, Eleanor. You matter so much to me
that I'd sacrifice any job in the world for you. I told Clotworthy that
... he's the editor of the paper ... I told him I'd rather be your
husband than have his job a hundred times over. And so I would. Will
you marry me, Eleanor?"
"I've never met anyone like you before!..."
"I daresay you haven't but I'm not asking you about that. Will you
marry me? We can fix the whole thing up in no time at all. I looked it
up in a book this morning, and it says you can get married after three
weeks' notice. If I give notice the morrow, we can be married in a
month from to-day!"
"Oh, stop, stop," she said. "Your mind is running away with you. I
spoke to you for the first time last night!..."
"Beg your pardon," he said, "you spoke to me the first day we met. I
handed you your letter!..."
"Oh, but that doesn't count. That was nothing. I really only spoke to
you last night, and I don't know you. I'm not in love with you ... no,
please be sensible. How can I possibly love you when I don't know
"I love you, don't I?" he demanded.
"You say so!"
"Well, if I love you, you can love me, can't you. That's simple
She passed a cup of tea to him. "Do all Irishmen behave like this?" she
"I don't know and I don't care. It's the way I behave. I know my mind
queer and quick, Eleanor, and when I want a thing, I don't need to go
humming and hahhing to see whether I'm sure about it. I want you. I
know that for a fact, and there's no need for me to argue about it.
I'll not want you any more this day twelvemonth than I want you now,
and I won't want you any less. Will you marry me?"
"How long will it be before you will marry me, then?"
She threw her hands with a gesture of comical despair. "Really," she
said, "you're unbelievable. You seem to think that I must want to marry
you merely because you want to marry me. I take no interest whatever in
"No, but you will!"
She shrugged her shoulders. "It isn't any use talking," she said. "Your
mind is made up!..."
"It is. I want to marry you, Eleanor, and I'm going to marry you. I
have a lot to do in the world yet, but that's the first thing I've got
to do, and I can't do anything else till I have done it. So you might
as well make up your mind to it, and save a lot of time arguing about
it when it's going to happen in the end!"
She pushed her cup away, and rose from her seat. "I'm going home," she
said. "This conversation makes me feel dizzy!"
"There's no hurry," he exclaimed.
She spoke coldly and deliberately, "It's not a question of hurry," she
replied. "It's a question of desire, I _wish_ to go home. Your
conversation bores and annoys me!"
"Because you treat me as if I were not human, and had no desires of my