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THE HAPPY HYPOCRITE

A FAIRY TALE FOR TIRED MEN

BY MAX BEERBOHM

JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD.


_Published Sq. 16mo April 1897_
_Reprinted December 1897_
_Reprinted February 1904_
_Reprinted May 1908_
_Reprinted May 1913_
_Cr. 4to Illus. Edition October 1918_
_Cr. 8vo Edition December 1919_
_Reprinted February 1922_
_Reprinted August 1924_
_Reprinted July 1928_

_Made and Printed in Great Britain_
_by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh_




[Illustration]




The Happy Hypocrite




I


None, 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 naughtiness. But it were well they should know
that he was greedy, destructive, and disobedient. I am afraid there is
no doubt that he often sat up at Carlton House until long after bedtime,
playing at games, and that he generally ate and drank far 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. Captain Tarleton, in his account of _Contemporary Bucks_,
suggested that his Lordship's great Candour was a virtue and should
incline us to forgive some of his abominable faults. But, painful 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 actions or good
sentiments, and that when it reveals 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, acknowledge that any angry judgment they may have
passed upon him must be reconsidered and, maybe, withdrawn.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. Anonymous
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 compact body, leaving him to the companionship of his bad
companions on that which is still called the "shady" side. Lord
George - [Greek: schetlios] - was quite indifferent to this demonstration.
Indeed, he seemed wholly hardened, and when ladies gathered up their
skirts as they passed him, he would lightly appraise their ankles.

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 wintry
mornings in St. James's Street young children would hush their prattle
and cling in disconsolate terror to their nurses' skirts, as they saw
him come (that vast and fearful gentleman!) with the east wind ruffling
the rotund surface of his beaver, ruffling the fur about his neck and
wrists, and striking the purple complexion 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 chimney or from the linen-press, and then they always
"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 insatiable 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 country "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 seventeenth 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 offer
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 to me."[1] So rust has 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 water-lilies of the little stone-rimmed pond he had looked
down upon, lay the marble faun, as he had fallen.

[Footnote 1: _Lord Coleraine's Correspondence_, page 101.]

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; whereupon 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."[2] We can
only wonder that he was tolerated at all.

[Footnote 2: _Contemporary Bucks_, vol. i, page 73.]

At Garble's, that nightly resort of titled rips and roysterers, he
usually spent the early hours of his evenings. Round the illuminated
garden, 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.[3] 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 patronize the jugglers, pugilists, play-actors and
whatever eccentric persons happened to be performing there.

[Footnote 3: It would seem, however, that, on special occasions, his
Lordship indulged in odd costumes. "I have seen him," says Captain
Tarleton (vol. i, 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."]

* * * * *

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 _début_ it was. Certainly Garble had found
a novelty. Lord George led the applause, and the Dwarf finished his
frisking with a pretty song about lovers. Nor was this all. Feats of
archery were to follow. In a moment 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, several
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 Sagittaro!_" murmured Lord
George, in the language of La Gambogi, who was at his side. Finally, the
waxen figure of a man was carried 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 remote 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 human and not waxen.

Lord George called for port and champagne and beckoned the bowing
homuncule 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 Gambogi - Virgo and Sagittarius, egad!
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 forgets me."

At this speech 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-mate."

"Your Lordship were certainly a good target."

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 Gambogi who laughed.

A new operette, _The Fair Captive of Samarcand_, was being enacted, and
the frequenters of Garble's were all curious to behold the _débutante_,
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 forgave 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 footlights. He seemed as one who is 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
painfully and seemed scarce conscious of his surroundings. 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 lovesick 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 cynicism, 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, "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
dignified his posture and sent eloquence from its lips.

"Miss Mere," he cried, "give ear, I pray you, to my poor words, nor
spurn me in misprision from the pedestal of your Beauty, Genius, and
Virtue. All too conscious, alas! of my presumption in the same, I yet
abase myself 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 ere you have retracted
those wicked words."

"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, mirrors, it
may be, true love for me, but it is even as a mirror long tarnished by
the reflexion 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
impetuous wooing. Kneel, if you please, to some greater, gayer lady. As
for my love, it is my own, nor can it be ever torn from me, but given,
as true love must needs be given, freely. Ah, rise from your knees. That
man, whose face is wonderful as are 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 elocution so superb, that Mr. Garble could not help
applauding, deeply though he regretted her attitude towards his honoured
patron. As for Lord George, he was immobile as 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 artificial 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 garden 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 performance 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
familiar, gripped their staves at his approach, for they had old reason
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 cool the feverish maladies of his
soul and consecrate 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 _rentrée_ into the still silent town strengthened 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
hurried 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.




II


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
Trpocrctiira [Greek: prosopa] 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 Cyclops' face, carved cunningly of gold, with a
great sapphire in its brow.

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_ behind his masterpieces, passed unscathed
among their creditors. He was the secular confessor of his day, always
able to give absolution. A unique position!

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 Gambogi, 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 negligence, Mr. Aeneas was on the point of retiring 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 himself. "An early visit to La
Signora, I suppose."

Not so, however. His Lordship came straight towards the mask-shop. Once
he glanced up at 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!" said Mr. Aeneas, briskly. "With
or without halo? His Grace the Bishop of St. Aldred's always wears his
with a halo? Your Lordship does not wish for a halo? Certainly! If your
Lordship will allow me to take his measurement - - "

"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 the
finishing touches to a mask of Barbarossa which the young king of
Zürremburg was to wear at his coronation the following 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 upstairs."

"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 handsome."

"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 behind the shop. He was elated
by the distinguished acquisition to his _clientèle_, for hitherto Lord
George had never patronized 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 Gambogi had not observed him as he
entered the mask-shop. He had come down so early that he had thought she
would still be abed. That sinister old proverb, _La jalouse se lève de
bonne heure_, rose in his memory. His eye fell unconsciously 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 is?" chirped Mr. Aeneas, tapping
the thing with one of his little finger nails.

"What is that mask?" Lord George murmured, 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
pardonable proud. This," he said, "is a mask for the sun-god, Apollo,
whom heaven bless!"

"You astound me," said Lord George.

"Of no less a person, I do assure you. When Jupiter, his father, made
him lord of the day, Apollo craved that he might sometimes see the
doings of mankind in the hours of night time. Jupiter granted so
reasonable a request, and when next Apollo had passed over the sky and
hidden in the sea, and darkness had fallen on all the world, he raised
his head above the waters that he might watch the doings of mankind in


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