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The happy hypocrite : a fairy tale for tired men online

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With 24 Illustrations in Color
By George Sheringham

Crown Quarto. Cloth, $7.50 net

Mr. Beerbohm's "Happy Hypocrite" orig-
inally appeared in The Yellow Book. It was
afterwards published in book form and has
since been successfully produced as a play.

The colored illustrations are beautiful re-
productions in facsimile on a specially made
antique paper on which the text is also printed,
and the book is one of the most luxurious edi-
tions of the season.

The Happy Hypocrite











, it is said, of all who revelled with
the Regent, was half so wicked as Lord
George Hell. I will not trouble my little
readers with a long recital of his great naugh-
tiness. But it were Well they should know
that he was greedy, destructive, and disobedi-
ent. I am afraid there is no doubt that he
often sat up at Carlton House until long after
bed-time, playing at games, and that he gen-
erally ate and drank more than was good for
him. His fondness for fine clothes was such
that he used to dress on week-days quite as
gorgeously as good people dress on Sundays.
He was thirty-five years old and a great grief
to his parents.

And the worst of it was that he set such a
bad example to others. Never, never did he
try to conceal his wrong-doing; so that, in time,



every one knew how horrid he was. In fact,
I think he was proud of being horrid. Cap-
tain Tarleton, in his account of Contemporary
Bucks, suggested that his Lordship's great Can-
dour was a virtue and should incline us to for-
give some of his abominable faults. But, pain-
ful as it is to me to dissent from any opinion
expressed by one who is now dead, I hold that
Candour is good only when it reveals good ac-
tions or good sentiments, and that, when it re-
veals evil, itself is evil, even also.

Lord George Hell did, at last, atone for all
his faults, in a way that was never revealed to
the world during his life-time. The reason
of his strange and sudden disappearance from
that social sphere, in which he had so long
moved and never moved again, I will unfold.
My little readers will then, I think, acknowl-
edge that any angry judgment they may have
passed upon him must be reconsidered and, it
may be, withdrawn. I will leave his lordship
in their hands. But my plea for him will not
be based upon that Candour of his, which some
of his friends so much admired. There were,



yes ! some so weak and so wayward as to think
it a fine thing to have an historic title and no
scruples. "Here comes George Hell," they
would say, "How wicked my lord is looking!"
Noblesse oblige, you see, and so an aristocrat
should be very careful of his good name. Anon-
ymous naughtiness does little harm.

It is pleasant to record that many persons
were inobnoxious to the magic of his title and
disapproved of him so strongly that, whenever
he entered a room where they happened to be,
they would make straight for the door and
watch him very severely through the key-hole.
Every morning when he strolled up Piccadilly
they crossed over to the other side in a com-
pact body, leaving him to the companionship
of his bad companions on that which is
still called the "shady" side. Lord George
ffxerXws was quite indifferent to this demon-
stration. Indeed, he seemed wholly hardened,
and when ladies gathered up their skirts as
they passed him he would lightly appraise their

I am glad I never saw his lordship. They


say he was rather like Caligula, with a dash of
Sir John Falstaff, and that sometimes on win-
try mornings in St. James's Street young chil-
dren would hush their prattle and cling in dis-
consolate terror to their nurses' skirts as they
saw him come (that vast and fearful gentle-
man!) with the east wind ruffling the rotund
surface of his beaver, ruffling the fur about
his neck and wrists, and striking the purple com-
plexion of his cheeks to a still deeper purple.
"King Bogey" they called him in the nurseries.
In the hours when they too were naughty, their
nurses would predict his advent down the chim-
ney or from the linen-press, and then they al-
ways "behaved." So that, you see, even the
unrighteous are a power for good, in the hands
of nurses. '

It is true that his lordship was a non-smoker
a negative virtue, certainly, and due, even
that, I fear, to the fashion of the day but
there the list of his good qualities comes to an
abrupt conclusion. He loved with an insa-
tiable love the town and the pleasures of the
town, whilst the ennobling influences of our



English lakes were quite unknown to him. He
used to boast that he had not seen a buttercup
for twenty years, and once he called the coun-
try "a Fool's Paradise." London was the
only place marked on the map of his mind.
London gave him all he wished for. Is it not
extraordinary to think that he had never spent
a happy day nor a day of any kind in Follard
Chase, that desirable mansion in Herts, which
he had won from Sir Follard Follard, by a
chuck of the dice, at Boodle's, on his seven-
teenth birthday? Always cynical and unkind,
he had refused to give the broken baronet his
"revenge." Always unkind and insolent, he
had offered to instal him in the lodge an of-
fer which was, after a little hesitation, accepted.
"On my soul, the man's place is a sinecure,"
Lord George would say; "he never has to open
the gate for me." * So rust had covered the
great iron gates of Follard Chase, and moss
had covered its paths. The deer browsed upon
its terraces. There were only wild flowers
anywhere. Deep down among the weeds and

1 Lord Coleraine's Correspondence, page 101.


water-lilies of the little stone-rimmed pond he
had looked down upon, lay the marble faun,
as he had fallen.

Of all the sins of his lordship's life surely
not one was more wanton than his neglect of
Follard Chase. Some whispered (nor did he
ever trouble to deny) that he had won it by
foul means, by loaded dice. Indeed no card-
player in St. James's cheated more persistently
than he. As he was rich and had no wife and
family to support, and as his luck was always
capital, I can offer no excuse for his conduct.
At Carlton House, in the presence of many
bishops and cabinet ministers, he once dunned
the Regent most arrogantly for 5000 guineas
out of which he had cheated him some months
before, and went so far as to declare that he
would not leave the house till he got it; where-
upon His Royal Highness, with that unfailing
tact for which he was ever famous, invited him
to stay there as a guest, which, in fact, Lord
George did, for several months. After this,
we can hardly be surprised when we read that
he "seldom sat down to the fashionable game



of Limbo with less than four, and sometimes
with as many as seven aces up his sleeve." 1
We can only wonder that he was tolerated at

At Garble's, that nightly resort of titled rips
and roysterers, he usually spent the early part
of his evenings. Round the illuminated gar-
den, with La Gambogi, the dancer, on his arm
and a Bacchic retinue at his heels, he would
amble leisurely, clad in Georgian costume,
which was not then, of course, fancy dress, as
it is now. 2 Now and again, in the midst of
his noisy talk, he would crack a joke of the
period, or break into a sentimental ballad,
dance a little or pick a quarrel. When he tired
of such fooling, he would proceed to his box
in the tiny al fresco theatre and patronise the
jugglers, pugilists, play-actors and whatever

1 Contemporary Bucks, vol. 1, page 73.

2 It would seem, however, that, on special occasions, his
lordship indulged in odd costumes. "I have seen him,"
says Captain Tarleton (vol. 1, p. 69), "attired as a French
clown, as a sailor, or in the crimson hose of a Sicilian
grandee Peu beau spectacle. He never disguised his face,
whatever his costume, however."



eccentric persons happened to be performing

The stars were splendid and the moon as
beautiful as a great camelia one night in May,
as his lordship laid his arms upon the cushioned
ledge of his box and watched the antics of the
Merry Dwarf, a little, curly-headed creature,
whose debut it was. Certainly Garble had
found a novelty. Lord George led the ap-
plause, and the Dwarf finished his frisking with
a pretty song about lovers. Nor was this all.
Feats of archery were to follow. In a mo-
ment the Dwarf reappeared with a small, gilded
bow in his hand and a quiverful of arrows
slung at his shoulder. Hither and thither he
shot these vibrant arrows, very precisely, sev-
eral into the bark of the acacias that grew
about the overt stage, several into the fluted
columns of the boxes, two or three to the stars.
The audience was delighted. "Bravo! Bravo
Saggltaro!" murmured Lord George, in the
language of La Gambogi, who was at his side.
Finally, the waxen figure of a man was car-
ried on by an assistant and propped against the



trunk of a tree. A scarf was tied across the
eyes of the Merry Dwarf, who stood in a re-
mote corner of the stage. Bravo indeed!
For the shaft had pierced the waxen figure
through the heart or just where the heart
would have been, if the figure had been hu-
man and not waxen.

Lord George called for port and champagne
and beckoned the bowing homuncle to his box,
that he might compliment him on his skill and
pledge him in a bumper of the grape.

"On my soul, you have a genius for the bow,"
his lordship cried with florid condescension.
"Come and sit by me, but first let me present
you to my divine companion the Signora Gam-
bogi Virgo and Sagittarius, egadl You may
have met on the Zodiac."

"Indeed, I met the Signora many years ago,"
the Dwarf replied, with a low bow. "But not
on the Zodiac, and the Signora perhaps for-
gets me."

At this speedi the Signora flushed angrily,
for she was indeed no longer young, and the
Dwarf had a childish face. She thought he



mocked her; her eyes flashed. Lord George's
twinkled rather maliciously.

"Great is the experience of youth," he
laughed. "Pray, are you stricken with more
than twenty summers?" "With more than I
can count," said the Dwarf. "To the health
of your lordship!" and he drained his long
glass of wine. Lord George replenished it,
and asked by what means or miracle he had
acquired his mastery of the bow.

"By long practice," the little thing rejoined;
"long practice on human creatures." And he
nodded his curls mysteriously.

"On my heart, you are a dangerous box-

"Your lordship were certainly a good tar-

Little liking this joke at his bulk, which
really rivalled the Regent's, Lord George
turned brusquely in his chair and fixed his eyes
upon the stage. This time it was the Gam-
bogi who laughed.

A new operette, The Fair Captive of Samar-
cand, was being enacted, and the frequenters of



Garble' s were all curious to behold the new
debutante, Jenny Mere, who was said to be
both pretty and talented. These predictions
were surely fulfilled, when the captive peeped
from the window of her wooden turret. She
looked so pale under her blue turban. Her
eyes were dark with fear; her parted lips did
not seem capable of speech. "Is it that she
is frightened of us?" the audience wondered.
"Or of the flashing scimitar of Aphoschaz, the
cruel father who holds her captive?" So they
gave her loud applause, and when at length she
jumped down, to be caught in the arms of her
gallant lover, Nissarah, and, throwing aside
her Eastern draperies, did a simple dance, in
the convention of Columbine, their delight was
quite unbounded. She was very young and did
not dance very well, it is true, but they for-
gave her that. And when she turned in the
dance and saw her father with his scimitar,
their hearts beat swiftly for her. Nor were
all eyes tearless when she pleaded with him for
her life.

Strangely absorbed, quite callous of his two


companions, Lord George gazed over the foot-
lights. He seemed as one who was in a trance.
Of a sudden, something shot sharp into his
heart. In pain he sprang to his feet and, as
he turned, he seemed to see a winged and
laughing child, in whose hand was a bow, fly
swiftly away into the darkness. At his side
was the Dwarf's chair. It was empty. Only
La Gambogi was with him, and her dark face
was like the face of a fury.

Presently he sank back into his chair, holding
one hand to his heart, that still throbbed from
the strange transfixion. He breathed very pain-
fully and seemed scarce conscious of his sur-
roundings. But La Gambogi knew he would
pay no more homage to her now, for that the
love of Jenny Mere had come into his heart.

When the operette was over, his love-sick
lordship snatched up his cloak and went away
without one word to the lady at his side.
Rudely he brushed aside Count Karoloff and
Mr. FitzClarence, with whom he had arranged
to play hazard. Of his comrades, his syn-



icism, his reckless scorn of all the material of
his existence he was oblivious now. He had
no time for penitence or diffident delay. He
only knew that he must kneel at the feet of
Jenny Mere and ask her to be his wife.

"Miss Mere," said Garble, u is in her room,
resuming her ordinary attire. If your lordship
deign to await the conclusion of her humble
toilet, it shall be my privilege to present her to
your lordship. Even now, indeed, I hear her
footfall on the stair."

Lord George uncovered his head and with
one hand nervously smoothed his rebellious wig.

"Miss Mere, come hither," said Garble.
"This is my Lord George Hell, that you have
pleased whom by your poor efforts this night
will ever be the prime gratification of your
passage through the roseate realms of art."

Little Miss Mere who had never seen a lord,
except in fancy or in dreams, curtseyed shyly
and hung her head. With a loud crash Lord
George fell on his knees. The manager was
greatly surprised, the girl greatly embarrassed.



Yet neither of them laughed, for sincerity dig-
nified his posture and sent eloquence from its

"Miss Mere," he cried, "give ear, I pray
you, to my poor words, nor spurn me in mis-
prision from the pedestal of your beauty,
genius, and virtue. All too conscious, alas ! of
my presumption in the same, I yet abase my-
self before you as a suitor for your adorable
hand. I grope under the shadow of your raven
locks. I am dazzled in the light of those
translucent orbs, your eyes. In the intolerable
whirlwind of your fame I faint and am afraid."

"Sir " the girl began, simply.

"Say 'My Lord,' " said Garble, solemnly.

"My lord, I thank you for your words.
They are beautiful. But indeed, indeed, I can
never be your bride."

Lord George hid his face in his hands.

"Child," said Mr. Garble, "let not the sun
rise e'er you have retracted those wicked

"My wealth, my rank, my irremeable love
for you, I throw them at your feet," Lord



George cried, piteously. "I would wait an
hour, a week, a lustre, even a decade, did you
but bid me hope!"

"I can never be your wife," she said, slowly.
"I can never be the wife of any man whose
face is not saintly. Your face, my lord, mir-
rors, it may be, true love for me, but it is even
as a mirror long tarnished by the reflection of
this world's vanity. It is even as a tarnished
mirror. Do not kneel to me, for I am poor
and humble. I was not made for such im-
petuous wooing. Kneel, if you please, to some
greater, gayer lady. As for my love, it is my
own, nor can it ever be torn from me, but
given, as true love needs be given, freely. Ah,
rise from your knees. That man, whose face
is wonderful as the faces of the saints, to him
I will give my true love."

Miss Mere, though visibly affected, had
spoken this speech with a gesture and elocu-
tion so superb, that Mr. Garble could not help
applauding, deeply though he regretted her at-
titude towards his honoured patron. As for
Lord George, he was immobile, a stricken oak.



With a sweet look of pity, Miss Mere went her
way, and Mr. Garble, with some solicitude,
helped his lordship to rise from his knees. Out
into the night, without a word, his lordship
went. Above him the stars were still splendid.
They seemed to mock the festoons of little
lamps, dim now and guttering in the garden of
Garble's. What should he do? No thoughts
came; only his heart burnt hotly. He stood
on the brim of Garble's lake, shallow and arti-
ficial as his past life had been. Two swans
slept on its surface. The moon shone strangely
upon their white, twisted necks. Should he
drown himself? There was no one in the gar-
den to prevent him, and in the morning they
would find him floating there, one of the noblest
of love's victims. The garden would be closed
in the evening. There would be no perfor-
mance in the little theatre. It might be that
Jenny Mere would mourn him. "Life is a
prison, without bars," he murmured, as he
walked away.

All night long he strode, knowing not
whither, through the mysterious streets and



squares of London. The watchmen, to whom
his figure was most familiar, gripped their
staves at his approach, for they had old rea-
son to fear his wild and riotous habits. He
did not heed them. Through that dim conflict
between darkness and day, which is ever waged
silently over our sleep, Lord George strode on
in the deep absorption of his love and of his
despair. At dawn he found himself on the
outskirts of a little wood in Kensington. A
rabbit rushed past him through the dew. Birds
were fluttering in the branches. The leaves
were tremulous with the presage of day, and
the air was full of the sweet scent of hyacinths.
How cool the country was! It seemed to
cure the feverish maladies of his soul and con-
secrate his love. In the fair light of the dawn
he began to shape the means of winning Jenny
Mere, that he had conceived in the desperate
hours of the night. Soon an old woodman
passed by, and, with rough courtesy, showed
him the path that would lead him quickest to
the town. He was loth to leave the wood.
With Jenny, he thought, he would live always



in the country. And he picked a posy of wild
flowers for her.

His r entree into the still silent town strength-
ened his Arcadian resolves. He, who had seen
the town so often in its hours of sleep, had
never noticed how sinister its whole aspect was.
In its narrow streets the white houses rose on
either side of him like cliffs of chalk. He hur-
ried swiftly along the unswept pavement.
How had he loved this city of evil secrets?

At last he came to St. James's Square, to the
hateful door of his own house. Shadows lay
like memories in every corner of the dim hall.
Through the window of his room a sunbeam
slanted across his smooth, white bed, and fell
ghastly on the ashen grate.

It was a bright morning in Old Bond Street,
and fat little Mr. Aeneas, the fashionable
mask-maker, was sunning himself at the door of
his shop. His window was lined as usual with
all kinds of masks beautiful masks with pink
cheeks, and absurd masks with protuberant



chins; curious vpbeuira copied from old tragic
models; masks of paper for children, of fine
silk for ladies, and of leather for working men;
bearded or beardless, gilded or waxen (most
of them, indeed were waxen), big or little
masks. And in the middle of this vain galaxy
hung the presentment of a Cyclop's face, carved
cunningly of gold, with a great sapphire in its

The sun gleamed brightly on the window and
on the bald head and varnished shoes of fat
little Mr. Aeneas. It was too early for any
customers to come and Mr. Aeneas seemed to
be greatly enjoying his leisure in the fresh air.
He smiled complacently as he stood there, and
well he might, for he was a great artist, and
was patronized by several crowned heads and
not a few of the nobility. Only the evening
before, Mr. Brummell had come into his shop
and ordered a light summer mask, wishing to
evade for a time the jealous vigilance of Lady
Otterton. It pleased Mr. Aeneas to think that
his art made him the recipient of so many high
secrets. He smiled as he thought of the titled



spendthrifts, who, at this moment, perdus be-
hind his masterpieces, passed unscathed among
their creditors. He was the secular confessor
of his day, always able to give absolution. An
unique position I

The street was as quiet as a village street.
At an open window over the way, a handsome
lady, wrapped in a muslin peignoir, sat sipping
her cup of chocolate. It was La Signora Gam-
bogi, and Mr. Aeneas made her many elaborate
bows. This morning, however, her thoughts
seemed far away, and she did not notice the
little man's polite efforts. Nettled at her neg-
ligence, Mr. Aeneas was on the point of retir-
ing into his shop, when he saw Lord George
Hell hastening up the street, with a posy of
wild flowers in his hand.

"His lordship is up betimes !" he said to him-
self. "An early visit to La Signora, I sup-

Not so, however. His lordship came
straight towards the mask-shop. Once he
glanced up at the Signora's window and looked



deeply annoyed when he saw her sitting there.
He came quickly into the shop.

"I want the mask of a saint," he said.

"Mask of a saint, my lord? Certainly 1"
said Mr. Aeneas, briskly. "With or without
halo? His Grace the Bishop of St. Aldreds
always wears his with a halo. Your lordship
does not wish for a halo? Certainly! If
your lordship will allow me to take the measure-
ment "

"I must have the mask to-day," Lord George
said. "Have you none ready-made?"

"Ah, I see. Required for immediate wear,"
murmured Mr. Aeneas, dubiously. "You see,
your lordship takes a rather large size." And
he looked at the floor.

"Julius!" he cried suddenly to his assistant,
who was putting finishing touches to a mask of
Barbarossa which the young king of Zurrem-
burg was to wear at his coronation the fol-
lowing week. "Julius! Do you remember
the saint's mask we made for Mr. Ripsby, a
couple of years ago?"



"Yes, sir," said the boy. "It's stored up-

"I thought so," replied Mr. Aeneas. "Mr.
Ripsby only had it on hire. Step upstairs,
Julius, and bring it down. I fancy it is just
what your lordship would wish. Spiritual, yet

"Is it a mask that is even as a mirror of true
love?" Lord George asked gravely.

"It was made precisely as such," the mask-
maker answered. "In fact it was made for
Mr. Ripsby to wear at his silver wedding, and
was very highly praised by the relatives of
Mrs. Ripsby. Will your lordship step into my
little room?"

So Mr. Aeneas led the way to his parlour be-
hind the shop. He was elated by the distin-
guished acquisition to his clientele, for hitherto
Lord George had never patronised his business.
He bustled round his parlour and insisted that
his lordship should take a chair and a pinch
from his snuff-box, while the saint's mask was
being found.

Lord George's eye travelled along the rows


of framed letters from great personages, which
lined the walls. He did not see them though,
for he was calculating the chances that La Gam-
bogi had not observed him, as he entered the
mask-shop. He had come down so early that
he thought she would be still abed. That sinis-
ter old proverb, La jalouse se leve de bonne
heure, rose in his memory. His eye fell uncon-
sciously on a large, round mask made of dull
silver, with the features of a human face traced
over its surface in faint filigree.

"Your lordship wonders what mask that isl"
chirped Mr. Aeneas, tapping the thing with one
of his little finger nails.

"What is that mask?" Lord George mur-
mured, absently.

"I ought not to divulge, my lord," said the
mask-maker. "But I know your lordship would
respect a professional secret, a secret of which
I am pardonably proud. This," he said, "is

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Online LibraryMax BeerbohmThe happy hypocrite : a fairy tale for tired men → online text (page 1 of 3)