Part 4 out of 4
out as sausages at the other end. Joey quite enjoyed doing this,
and you could see that the sausages were excellent by the way he
licked his fingers after touching them, but soon there were no
more pieces of pork, and just then a dear little Irish
terrier-dog came trotting down the street, so what did Joey do
but pop it into the machine and it came out at the other end as
It was this callous act that turned all David's mirth to woe, and
drove us weeping to our growler.
Heaven knows I have no wish to defend this cruel deed, but as
Joey told me afterward, it is very difficult to say what they
will think funny and what barbarous. I was forced to admit to
him that David had perceived only the joyous in the pokering of
the policeman's legs, and had called out heartily "Do it again!"
every time Joey knocked the pantaloon down with one kick and
helped him up with another.
"It hurts the poor chap," I was told by Joey, whom I was
agreeably surprised to find by no means wanting in the more
humane feelings, "and he wouldn't stand it if there wasn't the
laugh to encourage him."
He maintained that the dog got that laugh to encourage him also.
However, he had not got it from David, whose mother and father
and nurse combined could not comfort him, though they swore that
the dog was still alive and kicking, which might all have been
very well had not David seen the sausages. It was to inquire
whether anything could be done to atone that in considerable
trepidation I sent in my card to the clown, and the result of our
talk was that he invited me and David to have tea with him on
Thursday next at his lodgings.
"I sha'n't laugh," David said, nobly true to the memory of the
little dog, "I sha'n't laugh once," and he closed his jaws very
tightly as we drew near the house in Soho where Joey lodged. But
he also gripped my hand, like one who knew that it would be an
ordeal not to laugh.
The house was rather like the ordinary kind, but there was a
convenient sausage-shop exactly opposite (trust Joey for that)
and we saw a policeman in the street looking the other way, as
they always do look just before you rub them. A woman wearing
the same kind of clothes as people in other houses wear, told us
to go up to the second floor, and she grinned at David, as if she
had heard about him; so up we went, David muttering through his
clenched teeth, "I sha'n't laugh," and as soon as we knocked a
voice called out, "Here we are again!" at which a shudder passed
through David as if he feared that he had set himself an
impossible task. In we went, however, and though the voice had
certainly come from this room we found nobody there. I looked in
bewilderment at David, and he quickly put his hand over his
It was a funny room, of course, but not so funny as you might
expect; there were droll things in it, but they did nothing
funny, you could see that they were just waiting for Joey. There
were padded chairs with friendly looking rents down the middle of
them, and a table and a horse-hair sofa, and we sat down very
cautiously on the sofa but nothing happened to us.
The biggest piece of furniture was an enormous wicker trunk, with
a very lively coloured stocking dangling out at a hole in it, and
a notice on the top that Joey was the funniest man on earth.
David tried to pull the stocking out of the hole, but it was so
long that it never came to an end, and when it measured six times
the length of the room he had to cover his mouth again.
"I'm not laughing," he said to me, quite fiercely. He even
managed not to laugh (though he did gulp) when we discovered on
the mantelpiece a photograph of Joey in ordinary clothes, the
garments he wore before he became a clown. You can't think how
absurd he looked in them. But David didn't laugh.
Suddenly Joey was standing beside us, it could not have been more
sudden though he had come from beneath the table, and he was
wearing his pantomime clothes (which he told us afterward were
the only clothes he had) and his red and white face was so funny
that David made gurgling sounds, which were his laugh trying to
force a passage.
I introduced David, who offered his hand stiffly, but Joey,
instead of taking it, put out his tongue and waggled it, and this
was so droll that David had again to save himself by clapping his
hand over his mouth. Joey thought he had toothache, so I
explained what it really meant, and then Joey said, "Oh, I shall
soon make him laugh," whereupon the following conversation took
place between them:
"No, you sha'n't," said David doggedly.
"Yes, I shall."
"No, you sha'n't not."
"Yes, I shall so."
"Sha'n't, sha'n't, sha'n't."
"Shall, shall, shall."
"You shut up."
By this time Joey was in a frightful way (because he saw he was
getting the worst of it), and he boasted that he had David's
laugh in his pocket, and David challenged him to produce it, and
Joey searched his pockets and brought out the most unexpected
articles, including a duck and a bunch of carrots; and you could
see by his manner that the simple soul thought these were things
which all boys carried loose in their pockets.
I daresay David would have had to laugh in the end, had there not
been a half-gnawed sausage in one of the pockets, and the sight
of it reminded him so cruelly of the poor dog's fate that he
howled, and Joey's heart was touched at last, and he also wept,
but he wiped his eyes with the duck.
It was at this touching moment that the pantaloon hobbled in,
also dressed as we had seen him last, and carrying,
unfortunately, a trayful of sausages, which at once increased the
general gloom, for he announced, in his squeaky voice, that they
were the very sausages that had lately been the dog.
Then Joey seemed to have a great idea, and his excitement was so
impressive that we stood gazing at him. First, he counted the
sausages, and said that they were two short, and he found the
missing two up the pantaloon's sleeve. Then he ran out of the
room and came back with the sausage-machine; and what do you
think he did? He put all the sausages into the end of the
machine that they had issued from, and turned the handle
backward, and then out came the dog at the other end!
Can you picture the joy of David?
He clasped the dear little terrier in his arms; and then we
noticed that there was a sausage adhering to its tail. The
pantaloon said we must have put in a sausage too many, but Joey
said the machine had not worked quite smoothly and that he feared
this sausage was the dog's bark, which distressed David, for he
saw how awkward it must be to a dog to have its bark outside, and
we were considering what should be done when the dog closed the
discussion by swallowing the sausage.
After that, David had the most hilarious hour of his life,
entering into the childish pleasures of this family as heartily
as if he had been brought up on sausages, and knocking the
pantaloon down repeatedly. You must not think that he did this
viciously; he did it to please the old gentleman, who begged him
to do it, and always shook hands warmly and said "Thank you,"
when he had done it. They are quite a simple people.
Joey called David and me "Sonny," and asked David, who addressed
him as "Mr. Clown," to call him Joey. He also told us that the
pantaloon's name was old Joey, and the columbine's Josy, and the
We were sorry to hear that old Joey gave him a good deal of
trouble. This was because his memory is so bad that he often
forgets whether it is your head or your feet you should stand on,
and he usually begins the day by standing on the end that happens
to get out of bed first. Thus he requires constant watching, and
the worst of it is, you dare not draw attention to his mistake,
he is so shrinkingly sensitive about it. No sooner had Joey told
us this than the poor old fellow began to turn upside down and
stood on his head; but we pretended not to notice, and talked
about the weather until he came to.
Josy and Joeykin, all skirts and spangles, were with us by this
time, for they had been invited to tea. They came in dancing,
and danced off and on most of the time. Even in the middle of
what they were saying they would begin to flutter; it was not so
much that they meant to dance as that the slightest thing set
them going, such as sitting in a draught; and David found he
could blow them about the room like pieces of paper. You could
see by the shortness of Josy's dress that she was very young
indeed, and at first this made him shy, as he always is when
introduced formally to little girls, and he stood sucking his
thumb, and so did she, but soon the stiffness wore off and they
sat together on the sofa, holding each other's hands.
All this time the harlequin was rotating like a beautiful fish,
and David requested him to jump through the wall, at which he is
such an adept, and first he said he would, and then he said
better not, for the last time he did it the people in the next
house had made such a fuss. David had to admit that it must be
rather startling to the people on the other side of the wall, but
he was sorry.
By this time tea was ready, and Josy, who poured out, remembered
to ask if you took milk with just one drop of tea in it, exactly
as her mother would have asked. There was nothing to eat, of
course, except sausages, but what a number of them there were!
hundreds at least, strings of sausages, and every now and then
Joey jumped up and played skipping rope with them. David had
been taught not to look greedy, even though he felt greedy, and
he was shocked to see the way in which Joey and old Joey and even
Josy eyed the sausages they had given him. Soon Josy developed
nobler feelings, for she and Joeykin suddenly fell madly in love
with each other across the table, but unaffected by this pretty
picture, Joey continued to put whole sausages in his mouth at a
time, and then rubbed himself a little lower down, while old Joey
secreted them about his person; and when David wasn't looking
they both pounced on his sausages, and yet as they gobbled they
were constantly running to the top of the stair and screaming to
the servant to bring up more sausages.
You could see that Joey (if you caught him with his hand in your
plate) was a bit ashamed of himself, and he admitted to us that
sausages were a passion with him.
He said he had never once in his life had a sufficient number of
sausages. They had maddened him since he was the smallest boy.
He told us how, even in those days, his mother had feared for
him, though fond of a sausage herself; how he had bought a
sausage with his first penny, and hoped to buy one with his last
(if they could not be got in any other way), and that he always
slept with a string of them beneath his pillow.
While he was giving us these confidences, unfortunately, his eyes
came to rest, at first accidentally, then wistfully, then with a
horrid gleam in them, on the little dog, which was fooling about
on the top of the sausage-machine, and his hands went out toward
it convulsively, whereat David, in sudden fear, seized the dog in
one arm and gallantly clenched his other fist, and then Joey
begged his pardon and burst into tears, each one of which he
flung against the wall, where it exploded with a bang.
David refused to pardon him unless he promised on wood never to
look in that way at the dog again, but Joey said promises were
nothing to him when he was short of sausages, and so his wisest
course would be to present the dog to David. Oh, the joy of
David when he understood that the little dog he had saved was his
very own! I can tell you he was now in a hurry to be off before
Joey had time to change his mind.
"All I ask of you," Joey said with a break in his voice, "is to
call him after me, and always to give him a sausage, sonny, of a
There was a quiet dignity about Joey at the end, which showed
that he might have risen to high distinction but for his fatal
The last we saw of him was from the street. He was waving his
tongue at us in his attractive, foolish way, and Josy was poised
on Joeykin's hand like a butterfly that had alighted on a flower.
We could not exactly see old Joey, but we saw his feet, and so
feared the worst. Of course they are not everything they should
be, but one can't help liking them.
On attaining the age of eight, or thereabout, children fly away
from the Gardens, and never come back. When next you meet them
they are ladies and gentlemen holding up their umbrellas to hail
Where the girls go to I know not, to some private place, I
suppose, to put up their hair, but the boys have gone to
Pilkington's. He is a man with a cane. You may not go to
Pilkington's in knickerbockers made by your mother, make she ever
so artfully. They must be real knickerbockers. It is his stern
rule. Hence the fearful fascination of Pilkington's.
He may be conceived as one who, baiting his hook with real
knickerbockers, fishes all day in the Gardens, which are to him
but a pool swarming with small fry.
Abhorred shade! I know not what manner of man thou art in the
flesh, sir, but figure thee bearded and blackavised, and of a
lean tortuous habit of body, that moves ever with a swish. Every
morning, I swear, thou readest avidly the list of male births in
thy paper, and then are thy hands rubbed gloatingly the one upon
the other. 'Tis fear of thee and thy gown and thy cane, which
are part of thee, that makes the fairies to hide by day; wert
thou to linger but once among their haunts between the hours of
Lock-out and Open Gates there would be left not one single gentle
place in all the Gardens. The little people would flit. How
much wiser they than the small boys who swim glamoured to thy
crafty hook. Thou devastator of the Gardens, I know thee,
I first heard of Pilkington from David, who had it from Oliver
This Oliver Bailey was one of the most dashing figures in the
Gardens, and without apparent effort was daily drawing nearer the
completion of his seventh year at a time when David seemed unable
to get beyond half-past five. I have to speak of him in the past
tense, for gone is Oliver from the Gardens (gone to Pilkington's)
but he is still a name among us, and some lordly deeds are
remembered of him, as that his father shaved twice a day. Oliver
himself was all on that scale.
His not ignoble ambition seems always to have been to be wrecked
upon an island, indeed I am told that he mentioned it
insinuatingly in his prayers, and it was perhaps inevitable that
a boy with such an outlook should fascinate David. I am proud,
therefore, to be able to state on wood that it was Oliver himself
who made the overture.
On first hearing, from some satellite of Oliver's, of Wrecked
Islands, as they are called in the Gardens, David said wistfully
that he supposed you needed to be very very good before you had
any chance of being wrecked, and the remark was conveyed to
Oliver, on whom it made an uncomfortable impression. For a time
he tried to evade it, but ultimately David was presented to him
and invited gloomily to say it again. The upshot was that Oliver
advertised the Gardens of his intention to be good until he was
eight, and if he had not been wrecked by that time, to be as
jolly bad as a boy could be. He was naturally so bad that at the
Kindergarten Academy, when the mistress ordered whoever had done
the last naughty deed to step forward, Oliver's custom had been
to step forward, not necessarily because he had done it, but
because he presumed he very likely had.
The friendship of the two dated from this time, and at first I
thought Oliver discovered generosity in hasting to David as to an
equal; he also walked hand in hand with him, and even reproved
him for delinquencies like a loving elder brother. But 'tis a
gray world even in the Gardens, for I found that a new
arrangement had been made which reduced Oliver to life-size. He
had wearied of well-doing, and passed it on, so to speak, to his
friend. In other words, on David now devolved the task of being
good until he was eight, while Oliver clung to him so closely
that the one could not be wrecked without the other.
When this was made known to me it was already too late to break
the spell of Oliver, David was top-heavy with pride in him, and,
faith, I began to find myself very much in the cold, for Oliver
was frankly bored by me and even David seemed to think it would
be convenient if I went and sat with Irene. Am I affecting to
laugh? I was really distressed and lonely, and rather bitter; and
how humble I became. Sometimes when the dog Joey is unable, by
frisking, to induce Porthos to play with him, he stands on his
hind legs and begs it of him, and I do believe I was sometimes as
humble as Joey. Then David would insist on my being suffered to
join them, but it was plain that he had no real occasion for me.
It was an unheroic trouble, and I despised myself. For years I
had been fighting Mary for David, and had not wholly failed
though she was advantaged by the accident of relationship; was I
now to be knocked out so easily by a seven year old? I
reconsidered my weapons, and I fought Oliver and beat him.
Figure to yourself those two boys become as faithful to me as my
With wrecked islands I did it. I began in the most unpretentious
way by telling them a story which might last an hour, and
favoured by many an unexpected wind it lasted eighteen months.
It started as the wreck of the simple Swiss family who looked up
and saw the butter tree, but soon a glorious inspiration of the
night turned it into the wreck of David A---- and Oliver Bailey.
At first it was what they were to do when they were wrecked, but
imperceptibly it became what they had done. I spent much of my
time staring reflectively at the titles of the boys' stories in
the booksellers' windows, whistling for a breeze, so to say, for
I found that the titles were even more helpful than the stories.
We wrecked everybody of note, including all Homer's most taking
characters and the hero of Paradise Lost. But we suffered them
not to land. We stripped them of what we wanted and left them to
wander the high seas naked of adventure. And all this was merely
By this time I had been cast upon the island. It was not my own
proposal, but David knew my wishes, and he made it all right for
me with Oliver. They found me among the breakers with a large
dog, which had kept me afloat throughout that terrible night. I
was the sole survivor of the ill-fated Anna Pink. So exhausted
was I that they had to carry me to their hut, and great was my
gratitude when on opening my eyes, I found myself in that
romantic edifice instead of in Davy Jones's locker. As we walked
in the Gardens I told them of the hut they had built; and they
were inflated but not surprised. On the other hand they looked
for surprise from me.
"Did we tell you about the turtle we turned on its back?" asked
Oliver, reverting to deeds of theirs of which I had previously
"Who turned it?" demanded David, not as one who needed
information but after the manner of a schoolmaster.
"It was turned," I said, "by David A----, the younger of the two
"Who made the monkeys fling cocoa-nuts at him?" asked the older
of the two youths.
"Oliver Bailey," I replied.
"Was it Oliver," asked David sharply, "that found the cocoa-nut-
"On the contrary," I answered, "it was first observed by David,
who immediately climbed it, remarking, 'This is certainly the
cocos-nucifera, for, see, dear Oliver, the slender columns
supporting the crown of leaves which fall with a grace that no
art can imitate.'"
"That's what I said," remarked David with a wave of his hand.
"I said things like that, too," Oliver insisted.
"No, you didn't then," said David.
"Yes, I did so."
"No, you didn't so."
"Well, then, let's hear one you said."
Oliver looked appealingly at me. "The following," I announced,
"is one that Oliver said: 'Truly dear comrade, though the perils
of these happenings are great, and our privations calculated to
break the stoutest heart, yet to be rewarded by such fair sights
I would endure still greater trials and still rejoice even as the
bird on yonder bough.'"
"That's one I said!" crowed Oliver.
"I shot the bird," said David instantly.
"The yonder bird."
"No, you didn't."
"Did I not shoot the bird?"
"It was David who shot the bird," I said, "but it was Oliver who
saw by its multi-coloured plumage that it was one of the
Psittacidae, an excellent substitute for partridge."
"You didn't see that," said Oliver, rather swollen.
"Yes, I did."
"What did you see?"
"I saw that."
"You shut up."
"David shot it," I summed up, "and Oliver knew its name, but I
ate it. Do you remember how hungry I was?"
"Rather!" said David.
"I cooked it," said Oliver.
"It was served up on toast," I reminded them.
"I toasted it," said David.
"Toast from the bread-fruit-tree," I said, "which (as you both
remarked simultaneously) bears two and sometimes three crops in a
year, and also affords a serviceable gum for the pitching of
"I pitched mine best," said Oliver.
"I pitched mine farthest," said David.
"And when I had finished my repast," said I, "you amazed me by
handing me a cigar from the tobacco-plant."
"I handed it," said Oliver.
"I snicked off the end," said David.
"And then," said I, "you gave me a light."
"Which of us?" they cried together.
"Both of you," I said. "Never shall I forget my amazement when I
saw you get that light by rubbing two sticks together."
At this they waggled their heads. "You couldn't have done it!"
"No, David," I admitted, "I can't do it, but of course I know
that all wrecked boys do it quite easily. Show me how you did
But after consulting apart they agreed not to show me. I was not
David was now firmly convinced that he had once been wrecked on
an island, while Oliver passed his days in dubiety. They used to
argue it out together and among their friends. As I unfolded the
story Oliver listened with an open knife in his hand, and David
who was not allowed to have a knife wore a pirate-string round
his waist. Irene in her usual interfering way objected to this
bauble and dropped disparaging remarks about wrecked islands
which were little to her credit. I was for defying her, but
David, who had the knack of women, knew a better way; he craftily
proposed that we "should let Irene in," in short, should wreck
her, and though I objected, she proved a great success and
recognised the yucca filamentosa by its long narrow leaves the
very day she joined us. Thereafter we had no more scoffing from
Irene, who listened to the story as hotly as anybody.
This encouraged us in time to let in David's father and mother,
though they never knew it unless he told them, as I have no doubt
he did. They were admitted primarily to gratify David, who was
very soft-hearted and knew that while he was on the island they
must be missing him very much at home. So we let them in, and
there was no part of the story he liked better than that which
told of the joyous meeting. We were in need of another woman at
any rate, someone more romantic looking than Irene, and Mary, I
can assure her now, had a busy time of it. She was constantly
being carried off by cannibals, and David became quite an adept
at plucking her from the very pot itself and springing from cliff
to cliff with his lovely burden in his arms. There was seldom a
Saturday in which David did not kill his man.
I shall now provide the proof that David believed it all to be as
true as true. It was told me by Oliver, who had it from our hero
himself. I had described to them how the savages had tattooed
David's father, and Oliver informed me that one night shortly
afterward David was discovered softly lifting the blankets off
his father's legs to have a look at the birds and reptiles etched
Thus many months passed with no word of Pilkington, and you may
be asking where he was all this time. Ah, my friends, he was
very busy fishing, though I was as yet unaware of his existence.
Most suddenly I heard the whirr of his hated reel, as he struck a
fish. I remember that grim day with painful vividness, it was a
wet day, indeed I think it has rained for me more or less ever
since. As soon as they joined me I saw from the manner of the
two boys that they had something to communicate. Oliver nudged
David and retired a few paces, whereupon David said to me
"Oliver is going to Pilkington's."
I immediately perceived that it was some school, but so little
did I understand the import of David's remark that I called out
jocularly, "I hope he won't swish you, Oliver."
Evidently I had pained both of them, for they exchanged glances
and retired for consultation behind a tree, whence David returned
to say with emphasis,
"He has two jackets and two shirts and two knickerbockers, all
"Well done, Oliver!" said I, but it was the wrong thing again,
and once more they disappeared behind the tree. Evidently they
decided that the time for plain speaking was come, for now David
"He wants you not to call him Oliver any longer."
"What shall I call him?"
"He's going to Pilkington's. And he can't play with us any more
after next Saturday."
"He's going to Pilkington's."
So now I knew the law about the thing, and we moved on together,
Oliver stretching himself consciously, and methought that even
David walked with a sedater air.
"David," said I, with a sinking, "are you going to Pilkington's?"
"When I am eight," he replied.
"And sha'n't I call you David then, and won't you play with me in
the Gardens any more?"
He looked at Bailey, and Bailey signalled him to be firm.
"Oh, no," said David cheerily.
Thus sharply did I learn how much longer I was to have of him.
Strange that a little boy can give so much pain. I dropped his
hand and walked on in silence, and presently I did my most
churlish to hurt him by ending the story abruptly in a very cruel
way. "Ten years have elapsed," said I, "since I last spoke, and
our two heroes, now gay young men, are revisiting the wrecked
island of their childhood. 'Did we wreck ourselves,' said one,
'or was there someone to help us?' And the other who was the
younger, replied, 'I think there was someone to help us, a man
with a dog. I think he used to tell me stories in the Kensington
Gardens, but I forget all about him; I don't remember even his
This tame ending bored Bailey, and he drifted away from us, but
David still walked by my side, and he was grown so quiet that I
knew a storm was brewing. Suddenly he flashed lightning on me.
"It's not true," he cried, "it's a lie!" He gripped my hand. "I
sha'n't never forget you, father."
Strange that a little boy can give so much pleasure.
Yet I could go on. "You will forget, David, but there was once a
boy who would have remembered."
"Timothy?" said he at once. He thinks Timothy was a real boy,
and is very jealous of him. He turned his back to me, and stood
alone and wept passionately, while I waited for him. You may be
sure I begged his pardon, and made it all right with him, and had
him laughing and happy again before I let him go. But
nevertheless what I said was true. David is not my boy, and he
will forget. But Timothy would have remembered.
Another shock was waiting for me farther down the story.
For we had resumed our adventures, though we seldom saw Bailey
now. At long intervals we met him on our way to or from the
Gardens, and, if there was none from Pilkington's to mark him,
methought he looked at us somewhat longingly, as if beneath his
real knickerbockers a morsel of the egg-shell still adhered.
Otherwise he gave David a not unfriendly kick in passing, and
called him "youngster." That was about all.
When Oliver disappeared from the life of the Gardens we had
lofted him out of the story, and did very well without him,
extending our operations to the mainland, where they were on so
vast a scale that we were rapidly depopulating the earth. And
then said David one day,
"Shall we let Barbara in?"
We had occasionally considered the giving of Bailey's place to
some other child of the Gardens, divers of David's year having
sought election, even with bribes; but Barbara was new to me.
"Who is she?" I asked.
"She's my sister."
You may imagine how I gaped.
"She hasn't come yet," David said lightly, "but she's coming."
I was shocked, not perhaps so much shocked as disillusioned, for
though I had always suspicioned Mary A---- as one who harboured the
craziest ambitions when she looked most humble, of such
presumption as this I had never thought her capable.
I wandered across the Broad Walk to have a look at Irene, and she
was wearing an unmistakable air. It set me reflecting about
Mary's husband and his manner the last time we met, for though I
have had no opportunity to say so, we still meet now and again,
and he has even dined with me at the club. On these occasions
the subject of Timothy is barred, and if by any unfortunate
accident Mary's name is mentioned, we immediately look opposite
ways and a silence follows, in which I feel sure he is smiling,
and wonder what the deuce he is smiling at. I remembered now
that I had last seen him when I was dining with him at his club
(for he is become member of a club of painter fellows, and Mary
is so proud of this that she has had it printed on his card),
when undoubtedly he had looked preoccupied. It had been the
look, I saw now, of one who shared a guilty secret.
As all was thus suddenly revealed to me I laughed unpleasantly at
myself, for, on my soul, I had been thinking well of Mary of
late. Always foolishly inflated about David, she had been
grudging him even to me during these last weeks, and I had
forgiven her, putting it down to a mother's love. I knew from
the poor boy of unwonted treats she had been giving him; I had
seen her embrace him furtively in a public place, her every act,
in so far as they were known to me, had been a challenge to
whoever dare assert that she wanted anyone but David. How could
I, not being a woman, have guessed that she was really saying
good-bye to him?
Reader, picture to yourself that simple little boy playing about
the house at this time, on the understanding that everything was
going on as usual. Have not his toys acquired a new pathos,
especially the engine she bought him yesterday?
Did you look him in the face, Mary, as you gave him that engine?
I envy you not your feelings, ma'am, when with loving arms he
wrapped you round for it. That childish confidence of his to me,
in which unwittingly he betrayed you, indicates that at last you
have been preparing him for the great change, and I suppose you
are capable of replying to me that David is still happy, and even
interested. But does he know from you what it really means to
him? Rather, I do believe, you are one who would not scruple to
give him to understand that B (which you may yet find stands for
Benjamin) is primarily a gift for him. In your heart, ma'am,
what do you think of this tricking of a little boy?
Suppose David had known what was to happen before he came to you,
are you sure he would have come? Undoubtedly there is an
unwritten compact in such matters between a mother and her first-
born, and I desire to point out to you that he never breaks it.
Again, what will the other boys say when they know? You are
outside the criticism of the Gardens, but David is not. Faith,
madam, I believe you would have been kinder to wait and let him
run the gauntlet at Pilkington's.
You think your husband is a great man now because they are
beginning to talk of his foregrounds and middle distances in the
newspaper columns that nobody reads. I know you have bought him
a velvet coat, and that he has taken a large, airy and commodious
studio in Mews Lane, where you are to be found in a soft material
on first and third Wednesdays. Times are changing, but shall I
tell you a story here, just to let you see that I am acquainted
Three years ago a certain gallery accepted from a certain artist
a picture which he and his wife knew to be monstrous fine. But
no one spoke of the picture, no one wrote of it, and no one made
an offer for it. Crushed was the artist, sorry for the denseness
of connoisseurs was his wife, till the work was bought by a
dealer for an anonymous client, and then elated were they both,
and relieved also to discover that I was not the buyer. He came
to me at once to make sure of this, and remained to walk the
floor gloriously as he told me what recognition means to
gentlemen of the artistic callings. O, the happy boy!
But months afterward, rummaging at his home in a closet that is
usually kept locked, he discovered the picture, there hidden
away. His wife backed into a corner and made trembling
confession. How could she submit to see her dear's masterpiece
ignored by the idiot public, and her dear himself plunged into
gloom thereby? She knew as well as he (for had they not been
married for years?) how the artistic instinct hungers for
recognition, and so with her savings she bought the great work
anonymously and stored it away in a closet. At first, I believe,
the man raved furiously, but by-and-by he was on his knees at the
feet of this little darling. You know who she was, Mary, but,
bless me, I seem to be praising you, and that was not the
enterprise on which I set out. What I intended to convey was
that though you can now venture on small extravagances, you seem
to be going too fast. Look at it how one may, this Barbara idea
is undoubtedly a bad business.
How to be even with her? I cast about for a means, and on my
lucky day I did conceive my final triumph over Mary, at which I
have scarcely as yet dared to hint, lest by discovering it I
should spoil my plot. For there has been a plot all the time.
For long I had known that Mary contemplated the writing of a
book, my informant being David, who, because I have published a
little volume on Military tactics, and am preparing a larger one
on the same subject (which I shall never finish), likes to watch
my methods of composition, how I dip, and so on, his desire being
to help her. He may have done this on his own initiative, but it
is also quite possible that in her desperation she urged him to
it; he certainly implied that she had taken to book-writing
because it must be easy if I could do it. She also informed him
(very inconsiderately), that I did not print my books myself, and
this lowered me in the eyes of David, for it was for the printing
he had admired me and boasted of me in the Gardens.
"I suppose you didn't make the boxes neither, nor yet the
labels," he said to me in the voice of one shorn of belief in
I should say here that my literary labours are abstruse, the
token whereof is many rows of boxes nailed against my walls, each
labelled with a letter of the alphabet. When I take a note in A,
I drop its into the A box, and so on, much to the satisfaction of
David, who likes to drop them in for me. I had now to admit that
Wheeler & Gibb made the boxes.
"But I made the labels myself, David."
"They are not so well made as the boxes," he replied.
Thus I have reason to wish ill to Mary's work of imagination, as
I presumed it to be, and I said to him with easy brutality, "Tell
her about the boxes, David, and that no one can begin a book
until they are all full. That will frighten her."
Soon thereafter he announced to me that she had got a box.
"One box!" I said with a sneer.
"She made it herself," retorted David hotly.
I got little real information from him about the work, partly
because David loses his footing when he descends to the
practical, and perhaps still more because he found me
unsympathetic. But when he blurted out the title, "The Little
White Bird," I was like one who had read the book to its last
page. I knew at once that the white bird was the little daughter
Mary would fain have had. Somehow I had always known that she
would like to have a little daughter, she was that kind of woman,
and so long as she had the modesty to see that she could not have
one, I sympathised with her deeply, whatever I may have said
about her book to David.
In those days Mary had the loveliest ideas for her sad little
book, and they came to her mostly in the morning when she was
only three-parts awake, but as she stepped out of bed they all
flew away like startled birds. I gathered from David that this
depressed her exceedingly.
Oh, Mary, your thoughts are much too pretty and holy to show
themselves to anyone but yourself. The shy things are hiding
within you. If they could come into the open they would not be a
book, they would be little Barbara.
But that was not the message I sent her. "She will never be able
to write it," I explained to David. "She has not the ability.
Tell her I said that."
I remembered now that for many months I had heard nothing of her
ambitious project, so I questioned David and discovered that it
was abandoned. He could not say why, nor was it necessary that
he should, the trivial little reason was at once so plain to me.
From that moment all my sympathy with Mary was spilled, and I
searched for some means of exulting over her until I found it.
It was this. I decided, unknown even to David, to write the book
"The Little White Bird," of which she had proved herself
incapable, and then when, in the fulness of time, she held her
baby on high, implying that she had done a big thing, I was to
hold up the book. I venture to think that such a devilish
revenge was never before planned and carried out.
Yes, carried out, for this is the book, rapidly approaching
completion. She and I are running a neck-and-neck race.
I have also once more brought the story of David's adventures to
an abrupt end. "And it really is the end this time, David," I
said severely. (I always say that.)
It ended on the coast of Patagonia, whither we had gone to shoot
the great Sloth, known to be the largest of animals, though we
found his size to have been under-estimated. David, his father
and I had flung our limbs upon the beach and were having a last
pipe before turning in, while Mary, attired in barbaric
splendour, sang and danced before us. It was a lovely evening,
and we lolled manlike, gazing, well-content, at the pretty
The night was absolutely still save for the roaring of the Sloths
in the distance.
By-and-by Irene came to the entrance of our cave, where by the
light of her torch we could see her exploring a shark that had
been harpooned by David earlier in the day.
Everything conduced to repose, and a feeling of gentle peace
crept over us, from which we were roused by a shrill cry. It was
uttered by Irene, who came speeding to us, bearing certain
articles, a watch, a pair of boots, a newspaper, which she had
discovered in the interior of the shark. What was our surprise
to find in the newspaper intelligence of the utmost importance to
all of us. It was nothing less than this, the birth of a new
baby in London to Mary.
How strange a method had Solomon chosen of sending us the news.
The bald announcement at once plunged us into a fever of
excitement, and next morning we set sail for England. Soon we
came within sight of the white cliffs of Albion. Mary could not
sit down for a moment, so hot was she to see her child. She
paced the deck in uncontrollable agitation.
"So did I!" cried David, when I had reached this point in the
On arriving at the docks we immediately hailed a cab.
"Never, David," I said, "shall I forget your mother's excitement.
She kept putting her head out of the window and calling to the
cabby to go quicker, quicker. How he lashed his horse! At last
he drew up at your house, and then your mother, springing out,
flew up the steps and beat with her hands upon the door."
David was quite carried away by the reality of it. "Father has
the key!" he screamed.
"He opened the door," I said grandly, "and your mother rushed in,
and next moment her Benjamin was in her arms."
There was a pause.
"Barbara," corrected David.
"Benjamin," said I doggedly.
"Is that a girl's name?"
"No, it's a boy's name."
"But mother wants a girl," he said, very much shaken.
"Just like her presumption," I replied testily. "It is to be a
boy, David, and you can tell her I said so."
He was in a deplorable but most unselfish state of mind. A boy
would have suited him quite well, but he put self aside
altogether and was pertinaciously solicitous that Mary should be
given her fancy.
"Barbara," he repeatedly implored me.
"Benjamin," I replied firmly.
For long I was obdurate, but the time was summer, and at last I
agreed to play him for it, a two-innings match. If he won it was
to be a girl, and if I won it was to be a boy.
The Cricket Match
I think there has not been so much on a cricket match since the
day when Sir Horace Mann walked about Broad Ha'penny agitatedly
cutting down the daisies with his stick. And, be it remembered,
the heroes of Hambledon played for money and renown only, while
David was champion of a lady. A lady! May we not prettily say
of two ladies? There were no spectators of our contest except
now and again some loiterer in the Gardens who little thought
what was the stake for which we played, but cannot we conceive
Barbara standing at the ropes and agitatedly cutting down the
daisies every time David missed the ball? I tell you, this was
the historic match of the Gardens.
David wanted to play on a pitch near the Round Pond with which he
is familiar, but this would have placed me at a disadvantage, so
I insisted on unaccustomed ground, and we finally pitched stumps
in the Figs. We could not exactly pitch stumps, for they are
forbidden in the Gardens, but there are trees here and there
which have chalk-marks on them throughout the summer, and when
you take up your position with a bat near one of these you have
really pitched stumps. The tree we selected is a ragged yew
which consists of a broken trunk and one branch, and I viewed the
ground with secret satisfaction, for it falls slightly at about
four yards' distance from the tree, and this exactly suits my
style of bowling.
I won the toss and after examining the wicket decided to take
first knock. As a rule when we play the wit at first flows free,
but on this occasion I strode to the crease in an almost eerie
silence. David had taken off his blouse and rolled up his shirt-
sleeves, and his teeth were set, so I knew he would begin by
sending me down some fast ones.
His delivery is underarm and not inelegant, but he sometimes
tries a round-arm ball, which I have seen double up the fielder
at square leg. He has not a good length, but he varies his
action bewilderingly, and has one especially teasing ball which
falls from the branches just as you have stepped out of your
ground to look for it. It was not, however, with his teaser that
he bowled me that day. I had notched a three and two singles,
when he sent me down a medium to fast which got me in two minds
and I played back to it too late. Now, I am seldom out on a
really grassy wicket for such a meagre score, and as David and I
changed places without a word, there was a cheery look on his
face that I found very galling. He ran in to my second ball and
cut it neatly to the on for a single, and off my fifth and sixth
he had two pretty drives for three, both behind the wicket.
This, however, as I hoped, proved the undoing of him, for he now
hit out confidently at everything, and with his score at nine I
beat him with my shooter.
The look was now on my face.
I opened my second innings by treating him with uncommon respect,
for I knew that his little arm soon tired if he was unsuccessful,
and then when he sent me loose ones I banged him to the railings.
What cared I though David's lips were twitching.
When he ultimately got past my defence, with a jumpy one which
broke awkwardly from the off, I had fetched twenty-three so that
he needed twenty to win, a longer hand than he had ever yet made.
As I gave him the bat he looked brave, but something wet fell on
my hand, and then a sudden fear seized me lest David should not
At the very outset, however, he seemed to master the bowling, and
soon fetched about ten runs in a classic manner. Then I tossed
him a Yorker which he missed and it went off at a tangent as soon
as it had reached the tree. "Not out," I cried hastily, for the
face he turned to me was terrible.
Soon thereafter another incident happened, which I shall always
recall with pleasure. He had caught the ball too high on the
bat, and I just missed the catch. "Dash it all!" said I
irritably, and was about to resume bowling, when I noticed that
he was unhappy. He hesitated, took up his position at the wicket,
and then came to me manfully. "I am a cad," he said in distress,
"for when the ball was in the air I prayed." He had prayed that
I should miss the catch, and as I think I have already told you,
it is considered unfair in the Gardens to pray for victory.
My splendid David! He has the faults of other little boys, but
he has a noble sense of fairness. "We shall call it a no-ball,
David," I said gravely.
I suppose the suspense of the reader is now painful, and
therefore I shall say at once that David won the match with two
lovely fours, the one over my head and the other to leg all along
the ground. When I came back from fielding this last ball I
found him embracing his bat, and to my sour congratulations he
could at first reply only with hysterical sounds. But soon he
was pelting home to his mother with the glorious news.
And that is how we let Barbara in.
It was only yesterday afternoon, dear reader, exactly three weeks
after the birth of Barbara, that I finished the book, and even
then it was not quite finished, for there remained the
dedication, at which I set to elatedly. I think I have never
enjoyed myself more; indeed, it is my opinion that I wrote the
book as an excuse for writing the dedication.
"Madam" (I wrote wittily), "I have no desire to exult over you,
yet I should show a lamentable obtuseness to the irony of things
were I not to dedicate this little work to you. For its
inception was yours, and in your more ambitious days you thought
to write the tale of the little white bird yourself. Why you so
early deserted the nest is not for me to inquire. It now appears
that you were otherwise occupied. In fine, madam, you chose the
lower road, and contented yourself with obtaining the Bird. May
I point out, by presenting you with this dedication, that in the
meantime I am become the parent of the Book? To you the shadow,
to me the substance. Trusting that you will accept my little
offering in a Christian spirit, I am, dear madam," etc.
It was heady work, for the saucy words showed their design
plainly through the varnish, and I was re-reading in an ecstasy,
when, without warning, the door burst open and a little boy
entered, dragging in a faltering lady.
"Father," said David, "this is mother."
Having thus briefly introduced us, he turned his attention to the
electric light, and switched it on and off so rapidly that, as
was very fitting, Mary and I may be said to have met for the
first time to the accompaniment of flashes of lightning. I think
she was arrayed in little blue feathers, but if such a costume is
not seemly, I swear there were, at least, little blue feathers in
her too coquettish cap, and that she was carrying a muff to
match. No part of a woman is more dangerous than her muff, and
as muffs are not worn in early autumn, even by invalids, I saw in
a twink, that she had put on all her pretty things to wheedle me.
I am also of opinion that she remembered she had worn blue in
the days when I watched her from the club-window. Undoubtedly
Mary is an engaging little creature, though not my style. She
was paler than is her wont, and had the touching look of one whom
it would be easy to break. I daresay this was a trick. Her
skirts made music in my room, but perhaps this was only because
no lady had ever rustled in it before. It was disquieting to me
to reflect that despite her obvious uneasiness, she was a very
With the quickness of David at the switch, I slipped a blotting-
pad over the dedication, and then, "Pray be seated," I said
coldly, but she remained standing, all in a twitter and very much
afraid of me, and I know that her hands were pressed together
within the muff. Had there been any dignified means of escape, I
think we would both have taken it.
"I should not have come," she said nervously, and then seemed to
wait for some response, so I bowed.
"I was terrified to come, indeed I was," she assured me with
"But I have come," she finished rather baldly.
"It is an epitome, ma'am," said I, seeing my chance, "of your
whole life," and with that I put her into my elbow-chair.
She began to talk of my adventures with David in the Gardens, and
of some little things I have not mentioned here, that I may have
done for her when I was in a wayward mood, and her voice was as
soft as her muff. She had also an affecting way of pronouncing
all her r's as w's, just as the fairies do. "And so," she said,
"as you would not come to me to be thanked, I have come to you to
thank you." Whereupon she thanked me most abominably. She also
slid one of her hands out of the muff, and though she was smiling
her eyes were wet.
"Pooh, ma'am," said I in desperation, but I did not take her
"I am not very strong yet," she said with low cunning. She said
this to make me take her hand, so I took it, and perhaps I patted
it a little. Then I walked brusquely to the window. The truth
is, I begun to think uncomfortably of the dedication.
I went to the window because, undoubtedly, it would be easier to
address her severely from behind, and I wanted to say something
that would sting her.
"When you have quite done, ma'am," I said, after a long pause,
"perhaps you will allow me to say a word."
I could see the back of her head only, but I knew, from David's
face, that she had given him a quick look which did not imply
that she was stung. Indeed I felt now, as I had felt before,
that though she was agitated and in some fear of me, she was also
enjoying herself considerably.
In such circumstances I might as well have tried to sting a sand-
bank, so I said, rather off my watch, "If I have done all this
for you, why did I do it?"
She made no answer in words, but seemed to grow taller in the
chair, so that I could see her shoulders, and I knew from this
that she was now holding herself conceitedly and trying to look
modest. "Not a bit of it, ma'am," said I sharply, "that was not
the reason at all."
I was pleased to see her whisk round, rather indignant at last.
"I never said it was," she retorted with spirit, "I never thought
for a moment that it was." She added, a trifle too late in the
story, "Besides, I don't know what you are talking of."
I think I must have smiled here, for she turned from me quickly,
and became quite little in the chair again.
"David," said I mercilessly, "did you ever see your mother
"What is blush?"
"She goes a beautiful pink colour."
David, who had by this time broken my connection with the head
office, crossed to his mother expectantly.
"I don't, David," she cried.
"I think," said I, "she will do it now," and with the instinct of
a gentleman I looked away. Thus I cannot tell what happened, but
presently David exclaimed admiringly, "Oh, mother, do it again!"
As she would not, he stood on the fender to see in the mantel-
glass whether he could do it himself, and then Mary turned a most
candid face on me, in which was maternity rather than reproach.
Perhaps no look given by woman to man affects him quite so much.
"You see," she said radiantly and with a gesture that disclosed
herself to me, "I can forgive even that. You long ago earned the
right to hurt me if you want to."
It weaned me of all further desire to rail at Mary, and I felt an
uncommon drawing to her.
"And if I did think that for a little while--," she went on, with
an unsteady smile.
"Think what?" I asked, but without the necessary snap.
"What we were talking of," she replied wincing, but forgiving me
again. "If I once thought that, it was pretty to me while it
lasted and it lasted but a little time. I have long been sure
that your kindness to me was due to some other reason."
"Ma'am," said I very honestly, "I know not what was the reason.
My concern for you was in the beginning a very fragile and even a
selfish thing, yet not altogether selfish, for I think that what
first stirred it was the joyous sway of the little nursery
governess as she walked down Pall Mall to meet her lover. It
seemed such a mighty fine thing to you to be loved that I thought
you had better continue to be loved for a little longer. And
perhaps having helped you once by dropping a letter I was charmed
by the ease with which you could be helped, for you must know
that I am one who has chosen the easy way for more than twenty
She shook her head and smiled. "On my soul," I assured her, "I
can think of no other reason."
"A kind heart," said she.
"More likely a whim," said I.
"Or another woman," said she.
I was very much taken aback.
"More than twenty years ago," she said with a soft huskiness in
her voice, and a tremor and a sweetness, as if she did not know
that in twenty years all love stories are grown mouldy.
On my honour as a soldier this explanation of my early solicitude
for Mary was one that had never struck me, but the more I
pondered it now--. I raised her hand and touched it with my lips,
as we whimsical old fellows do when some gracious girl makes us
to hear the key in the lock of long ago. "Why, ma'am," I said,
"it is a pretty notion, and there may be something in it. Let us
leave it at that."
But there was still that accursed dedication, lying, you
remember, beneath the blotting-pad. I had no longer any desire
to crush her with it. I wished that she had succeeded in writing
the book on which her longings had been so set.
"If only you had been less ambitious," I said, much troubled that
she should be disappointed in her heart's desire.
"I wanted all the dear delicious things," she admitted
"It was unreasonable," I said eagerly, appealing to her
intellect. "Especially this last thing."
"Yes," she agreed frankly, "I know." And then to my amazement
she added triumphantly, "But I got it."
I suppose my look admonished her, for she continued
apologetically but still as if she really thought hers had been a
romantic career, "I know I have not deserved it, but I got it."
"Oh, ma'am," I cried reproachfully, "reflect. You have not got
the great thing." I saw her counting the great things in her
mind, her wondrous husband and his obscure success, David,
Barbara, and the other trifling contents of her jewel-box.
"I think I have," said she.
"Come, madam," I cried a little nettled, "you know that there is
lacking the one thing you craved for most of all."
Will you believe me that I had to tell her what it was? And when
I had told her she exclaimed with extraordinary callousness, "The
book? I had forgotten all about the book!" And then after
reflection she added, "Pooh!" Had she not added Pooh I might
have spared her, but as it was I raised the blotting-pad rather
haughtily and presented her with the sheet beneath it.
"What is this?" she asked.
"Ma'am," said I, swelling, "it is a Dedication," and I walked
majestically to the window.
There is no doubt that presently I heard an unexpected sound.
Yet if indeed it had been a laugh she clipped it short, for in
almost the same moment she was looking large-eyed at me and
tapping my sleeve impulsively with her fingers, just as David
does when he suddenly likes you.
"How characteristic of you," she said at the window.
"Characteristic," I echoed uneasily. "Ha!"
"And how kind."
"Did you say kind, ma'am?"
"But it is I who have the substance and you who have the shadow,
as you know very well," said she.
Yes, I had always known that this was the one flaw in my
dedication, but how could I have expected her to have the wit to
see it? I was very depressed.
"And there is another mistake," said she.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but that is the only one."
"It was never of my little white bird I wanted to write," she
I looked politely incredulous, and then indeed she overwhelmed
me. "It was of your little white bird," she said, "it was of a
little boy whose name was Timothy."
She had a very pretty way of saying Timothy, so David and I went
into another room to leave her alone with the manuscript of this
poor little book, and when we returned she had the greatest
surprise of the day for me. She was both laughing and crying,
which was no surprise, for all of us would laugh and cry over a
book about such an interesting subject as ourselves, but said
she, "How wrong you are in thinking this book is about me and
mine, it is really all about Timothy."
At first I deemed this to be uncommon nonsense, but as I
considered I saw that she was probably right again, and I gazed
crestfallen at this very clever woman.
"And so," said she, clapping her hands after the manner of David
when he makes a great discovery, "it proves to be my book after
"With all your pretty thoughts left out," I answered, properly
She spoke in a lower voice as if David must not hear. "I had
only one pretty thought for the book," she said, "I was to give
it a happy ending." She said this so timidly that I was about to
melt to her when she added with extraordinary boldness, "The
little white bird was to bear an olive-leaf in its mouth."
For a long time she talked to me earnestly of a grand scheme on
which she had set her heart, and ever and anon she tapped on me
as if to get admittance for her ideas. I listened respectfully,
smiling at this young thing for carrying it so motherly to me,
and in the end I had to remind her that I was forty-seven years
"It is quite young for a man," she said brazenly.
"My father," said I, "was not forty-seven when he died, and I
remember thinking him an old man."
"But you don't think so now, do you?" she persisted, "you feel
young occasionally, don't you? Sometimes when you are playing
with David in the Gardens your youth comes swinging back, does it
"Mary A----," I cried, grown afraid of the woman, "I forbid you to
make any more discoveries to-day."
But still she hugged her scheme, which I doubt not was what had
brought her to my rooms. "They are very dear women," said she
"I am sure," I said, "they must be dear women if they are friends
"They are not exactly young," she faltered, "and perhaps they are
not very pretty--"
But she had been reading so recently about the darling of my
youth that she halted abashed at last, feeling, I apprehend, a
stop in her mind against proposing this thing to me, who, in
those presumptuous days, had thought to be content with nothing
less than the loveliest lady in all the land.
My thoughts had reverted also, and for the last time my eyes saw
the little hut through the pine wood haze. I met Mary there, and
we came back to the present together.
I have already told you, reader, that this conversation took
place no longer ago than yesterday.
"Very well, ma'am," I said, trying to put a brave face on it, "I
will come to your tea-parties, and we shall see what we shall
It was really all she had asked for, but now that she had got
what she wanted of me the foolish soul's eyes became wet, she
knew so well that the youthful romances are the best.
It was now my turn to comfort her. "In twenty years," I said,
smiling at her tears, "a man grows humble, Mary. I have stored
within me a great fund of affection, with nobody to give it to,
and I swear to you, on the word of a soldier, that if there is
one of those ladies who can be got to care for me I shall be very
proud." Despite her semblance of delight I knew that she was
wondering at me, and I wondered at myself, but it was true.