anyone in the world, no age, weight, or colour barred. You, I should
say, are of a different temperament. More energetic. The Get On or Get
Out sort of thing. The Young Hustler."
"Rather," I replied briskly, "I am in love."
"So am I," said Julian Eversleigh. "Hopelessly, however. Give us a
After that we confirmed our friendship by smoking a number of pipes
_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)_
After the first week "On Your Way," on the _Orb_, offered hardly
any difficulty. The source of material was the morning papers, which
were placed in a pile on our table at nine o'clock. The halfpenny
papers were our principal support. Gresham and I each took one, and
picked it clean. We attended first to the Subject of the Day. This was
generally good for two or three paragraphs of verbal fooling. There was
a sort of tradition that the first half-dozen paragraphs should be
topical. The rest might be topical or not, as occasion served.
The column usually opened with a one-line pun - Gresham's invention.
Gresham was a man of unparalleled energy and ingenuity. He had created
several of the typical characters who appeared from time to time in "On
Your Way," as, for instance, Mrs. Jenkinson, our Mrs. Malaprop, and
Jones junior, our "howler" manufacturing schoolboy. He was also a stout
apostle of a mode of expression which he called "funny language." Thus,
instead of writing boldly: "There is a rumour that - - ," I was taught to
say, "It has got about that - - ." This sounds funnier in print, so
Gresham said. I could never see it myself.
Gresham had a way of seizing on any bizarre incident reported in the
morning papers, enfolding it in "funny language," adding a pun, and
thus making it his own. He had a cunning mastery of periphrasis, and a
telling command of adverbs.
Here is an illustration. An account was given one morning by the
Central news of the breaking into of a house at Johnsonville (Mich.) by
a negro, who had stolen a quantity of greenbacks. The thief, escaping
across some fields, was attacked by a cow, which, after severely
injuring the negro, ate the greenbacks.
Gresham's unacknowledged version of the episode ran as follows:
"The sleepy god had got the stranglehold on John Denville when Caesar
Bones, a coloured gentleman, entered John's house at Johnsonville
(Mich.) about midnight. Did the nocturnal caller disturb his slumbering
host? No. Caesar Bones has the finer feelings. But as he was
noiselessly retiring, what did he see? Why, a pile of greenbacks which
John had thoughtlessly put away in a fire-proof safe."
To prevent the story being cut out by the editor, who revised all the
proofs of the column, with the words "too long" scribbled against it,
Gresham continued his tale in another paragraph.
"'Dis am berry insecure,' murmured the visitor to himself,
transplanting the notes in a neighbourly way into his pocket. Mark the
sequel. The noble Caesar met, on his homeward path, an irritable
cudster. The encounter was brief. Caesar went weak in the second round,
and took the count in the third. Elated by her triumph, and hungry from
her exertions, the horned quadruped nosed the wad of paper money and
daringly devoured it. Caesar has told the court that if he is convicted
of felony, he will arraign the owner of the ostrich-like bovine on a
charge of receiving stolen goods. The owner merely ejaculates 'Black
On his day Gresham could write the column and have a hundred lines over
by ten o'clock. I, too, found plenty of copy as a rule, though I
continued my practice of doing a few paragraphs overnight. But every
now and then fearful days would come, when the papers were empty of
material for our purposes, and when two out of every half-dozen
paragraphs which we did succeed in hammering out were returned deleted
on the editor's proof.
The tension at these times used to be acute. The head printer would
send up a relay of small and grubby boys to remind us that "On Your
Way" was fifty lines short. At ten o'clock he would come in person, and
Gresham, the old hand, applied to such occasions desperate remedies. He
would manufacture out of even the most pointless item of news two
paragraphs by adding to his first the words, "This reminds us of
Mr. Punch's famous story." He would then go through the bound volumes
of _Punch_ - we had about a dozen in the room - with lightning speed
until he chanced upon a more or less appropriate tag.
Those were mornings when verses would be padded out from three stanzas
to five, Gresham turning them out under fifteen minutes. He had a
wonderful facility for verse.
As a last expedient one fell back upon a standing column, a moth-eaten
collection of alleged jests which had been set up years ago to meet the
worst emergencies. It was, however, considered a confession of weakness
and a degradation to use this column.
We had also in our drawer a book of American witticisms, published in
New York. To cut one out, preface it with "A good American story comes
to hand," and pin it on a slip was a pleasing variation of the usual
mode of constructing a paragraph. Gresham and I each had our favourite
method. Personally, I had always a partiality for dealing with
"buffers." "The brakes refused to act, and the train struck the buffers
at the end of the platform" invariably suggested that if elderly
gentlemen would abstain from loitering on railway platforms, they would
not get hurt in this way.
Gresham had a similar liking for "turns." "The performance at the
Frivoli Music Hall was in full swing when the scenery was noticed to be
on fire. The audience got a turn. An extra turn."
Julian Eversleigh, to whom I told my experiences on the _Orb_,
said he admired the spirit with which I entered into my duties. He
said, moreover, that I had a future before me, not only as a
journalist, but as a writer.
Nor, indeed, could I help seeing for myself that I was getting on. I
was making a fair income now, and had every prospect of making a much
better one. My market was not restricted. Verses, articles, and fiction
from my pen were being accepted with moderate regularity by many of the
minor periodicals. My scope was growing distinctly wider. I found, too,
that my work seemed to meet with a good deal more success when I sent
it in from the _Orb_, with a letter to the editor on _Orb_ notepaper.
Altogether, my five weeks on the _Orb_ were invaluable to me. I
ought to have paid rather than have taken payment for working on the
column. By the time Fermin came back from Scotland to turn me out, I
was a professional. I had learned the art of writing against time. I
had learned to ignore noise, which, for a writer in London, is the most
valuable quality of all. Every day at the _Orb_ I had had to turn
out my stuff with the hum of the Strand traffic in my ears, varied by
an occasional barrel-organ, the whistling of popular songs by the
printers, whose window faced ours, and the clatter of a typewriter in
the next room. Often I had to turn out a paragraph or a verse while
listening and making appropriate replies to some other member of the
staff, who had wandered into our room to pass the time of day or read
out a bit of his own stuff which had happened to please him
particularly. All this gave me a power of concentration, without which
writing is difficult in this city of noises.
The friendship I formed with Gresham too, besides being pleasant, was
of infinite service to me. He knew all about the game. I followed his
advice, and prospered. His encouragement was as valuable as his advice.
He was my pilot, and saw me, at great trouble to himself, through the
I foresaw that the future held out positive hope that my marriage with
Margaret would become possible. And yet - -
Pausing in the midst of my castle-building, I suffered a sense of
revulsion. I had been brought up to believe that the only adjective
that could be coupled with the noun "journalism" was "precarious." Was
I not, as Gresham would have said, solving an addition sum in infantile
poultry before their mother, the feathered denizen of the farmyard, had
lured them from their shell? Was I not mistaking a flash in the pan for
a genuine success?
These thoughts numbed my fingers in the act of writing to Margaret.
Instead, therefore, of the jubilant letter I had intended to send her,
I wrote one of quite a different tone. I mentioned the arduous nature
of my work. I referred to the struggle in which I was engaged. I
indicated cleverly that I was a man of extraordinary courage battling
with fate. I implied that I made just enough to live on.
It would have been cruel to arouse expectations which might never be
fulfilled. In this letter, accordingly, and in subsequent letters, I
rather went to the opposite extreme. Out of pure regard for Margaret, I
painted my case unnecessarily black. Considerations of a similar nature
prompted me to keep on my lodging in Walpole Street. I had two rooms
instead of one, but they were furnished severely and with nothing but
the barest necessaries.
I told myself through it all that I loved Margaret as dearly as ever.
Yet there were moments, and they seemed to come more frequently as the
days went on, when I found myself wondering. Did I really want to give
up all this? The untidiness, the scratch meals, the nights with Julian?
And, when I was honest, I answered, No.
Somehow Margaret seemed out of place in this new world of mine.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)_
The morning of New Year's Eve was a memorable one for me. My first
novel was accepted. Not an ambitious volume. It was rather short, and
the plot was not obtrusive. The sporting gentlemen who accepted it,
however - Messrs. Prodder and Way - seemed pleased with it; though, when
I suggested a sum in cash in advance of royalties, they displayed a
most embarrassing coyness - and also, as events turned out, good sense.
I carried the good news to Julian, whom I found, as usual, asleep in
his hammock. I had fallen into the habit of calling on him after my
_Orb_ work. He was generally sleepy when I arrived, at half-past
eleven, and while we talked I used to make his breakfast act as a
sort of early lunch for myself. He said that the people of the house
had begun by trying to make the arrival of his breakfast coincide with
the completion of his toilet; that this had proved so irksome that they
had struck; and that finally it had been agreed on both sides that the
meal should be put in his room at eleven o'clock, whether he was
dressed or not. He said that he often saw his breakfast come in, and
would drowsily determine to consume it hot. But he had never had the
energy to do so. Once, indeed, he had mistaken the time, and had
confidently expected that the morning of a hot breakfast had come at
last. He was dressed by nine, and had sat for two hours gloating over
the prospect of steaming coffee and frizzling bacon. On that particular
morning, however, there had been some domestic tragedy - the firing of a
chimney or the illness of a cook - and at eleven o'clock, not breakfast,
but an apology for its absence had been brought to him. This embittered
Julian. He gave up the unequal contest, and he has frequently confessed
to me that cold breakfast is an acquired, yet not unpleasant, taste.
He woke up when I came in, and, after hearing my news and
congratulating me, began to open the letters that lay on the table at
One of the envelopes had Skeffington's trade mark stamped upon it, and
contained a bank-note and a sheet closely type-written on both sides.
"Half a second, Jimmy," said he, and began to read.
I poured myself out a cup of cold coffee, and, avoiding the bacon and
eggs, which lay embalmed in frozen grease, began to lunch off bread and
"I'll do it," he burst out when he had finished. "It's a sweat - a
fearful sweat, but - -
"Skeffington's have written urging me to undertake a rather original
advertising scheme. They're very pressing, and they've enclosed a
tenner in advance. They want me to do them a tragedy in four acts. I
sent them the scenario last week. I sketched out a skeleton plot in
which the hero is addicted to a strictly moderate use of Skeffington's
Sloe Gin. His wife adopts every conceivable measure to wean him from
this harmless, even praiseworthy indulgence. At the end of the second
act she thinks she has cured him. He has promised to gratify what he
regards as merely a capricious whim on her part. 'I will give - yes, I
will give it up, darling!' 'George! George!' She falls on his neck.
Over her shoulder he winks at the audience, who realise that there is
more to come. Curtain. In Act 3 the husband is seen sitting alone in
his study. His wife has gone to a party. The man searches in a cupboard
for something to read. Instead of a novel, however, he lights on a
bottle of Skeffington's Sloe Gin. Instantly the old overwhelming
craving returns. He hesitates. What does it matter? She will never
know. He gulps down glass after glass. He sinks into an intoxicated
stupor. His wife enters. Curtain again. Act 4. The draught of nectar
tasted in the former act after a period of enforced abstinence has
produced a deadly reaction. The husband, who previously improved his
health, his temper, and his intellect by a strictly moderate use of
Skeffington's Sloe Gin, has now become a ghastly dipsomaniac. His wife,
realising too late the awful effect of her idiotic antagonism to
Skeffington's, experiences the keenest pangs of despair. She drinks
laudanum, and the tragedy is complete."
"Fine," I said, finishing the coffee.
"In a deferential postscript," said Julian, "Skeffington's suggest an
alternative ending, that the wife should drink, not laudanum, but Sloe
Gin, and grow, under its benign influence, resigned to the fate she has
brought on her husband and herself. Resignation gives way to hope. She
devotes her life to the care of the inebriate man, and, by way of
pathetic retribution, she lives precisely long enough to nurse him back
to sanity. Which finale do you prefer?"
"Yours!" I said.
"Thank you," said Julian, considerably gratified. "So do I. It's
terser, more dramatic, and altogether a better advertisement.
Skeffington's make jolly good sloe gin, but they can't arouse pity and
terror. Yes, I'll do it; but first let me spend the tenner."
"I'm taking a holiday, too, today," I said. "How can we amuse
Julian had opened the last of his letters. He held up two cards.
"Tickets for Covent Garden Ball tonight," he said. "Why not come? It's
sure to be a good one."
"I should like to," I said. "Thanks."
Julian dropped from his hammock, and began to get his bath ready.
We arranged to dine early at the Maison Suisse in Rupert Street -
_table d'hote_ one franc, plus twopence for mad'moiselle - and
go on to the gallery of a first night. I was to dress for Covent Garden
at Julian's after the theatre, because white waistcoats and the franc
_table d'hote_ didn't go well together.
When I dined out, I usually went to the Maison Suisse. I shall never
have the chance of going again, even if, as a married man, I were
allowed to do so, for it has been pulled down to make room for the
Hicks Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. When I did not dine there, I
attended a quaint survival of last century's coffee-houses in
Glasshouse Street: Tall, pew-like boxes, wooden tables without
table-cloths, panelled walls; an excellent menu of chops, steaks, fried
eggs, sausages, and other British products. Once the resort of bucks
and Macaronis, Ford's coffee-house I found frequented by a strange
assortment of individuals, some of whom resembled bookmakers' touts,
others clerks of an inexplicably rustic type. Who these people really
were I never discovered.
"I generally have supper at Pepolo's," said Julian, as we left the
theatre, "before a Covent Garden Ball. Shall we go on there?"
There are two entrances to Pepolo's restaurant, one leading to the
ground floor, the other to the brasserie in the basement. I liked to
spend an hour or so there occasionally, smoking and watching the
crowd. Every sixth visit on an average I would happen upon somebody
interesting among the ordinary throng of medical students and
third-rate clerks - watery-eyed old fellows who remembered Cremorne, a
mahogany derelict who had spent his youth on the sea when liners were
sailing-ships, and the apprentices, terrorised by bullying mates and
the rollers of the Bay, lay howling in the scuppers and prayed to be
thrown overboard. He told me of one voyage on which the Malay cook went
mad, and, escaping into the ratlines, shot down a dozen of the crew
before he himself was sniped.
The supper tables are separated from the brasserie by a line of stucco
arches, and as it was now a quarter to twelve the place was full. At a
first glance it seemed that there were no empty supper tables.
Presently, however, we saw one, laid for four, at which only one man
"Hullo!" said Julian, "there's Malim. Let's go and see if we can push
into his table. Well, Malim, how are you? Do you know Cloyster?"
Mr. Malim had a lofty expression. I should have put him down as a
scholarly recluse. His first words upset this view somewhat.
"Coming to Covent Garden?" he said, genially. "I am. So is Kit. She'll
be down soon."
"Good," said Julian; "may Jimmy and I have supper at your table?"
"Do," said Malim. "Plenty of room. We'd better order our food and not
wait for her."
We took our places, and looked round us. The hum of conversation was
persistent. It rose above the clatter of the supper tables and the
sudden bursts of laughter.
It was now five minutes to twelve. All at once those nearest the door
sprang to their feet. A girl in scarlet and black had come in.
"Ah, there's Kit at last," said Malim.
"They're cheering her," said Julian.
As he spoke, the tentative murmur of a cheer was caught up by everyone.
Men leaped upon chairs and tables.
"Hullo, hullo, hullo!" said Kit, reaching us. "Kiddie, when they do
that it makes me feel shy."
She was laughing like a child. She leaned across the table, put her
arms round Malim's neck, and kissed him. She glanced at us.
Malim smiled quietly, but said nothing.
She kissed Julian, and she kissed me.
"Now we're all friends," she said, sitting down.
"Better know each other's names," said Malim. "Kit, this is Mr.
Cloyster. Mr. Cloyster, may I introduce you to my wife?"
I MEET MR. THOMAS BLAKE
_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)_
Someone had told me that, the glory of Covent Garden Ball had departed.
It may be so. Yet the floor, with its strange conglomeration of
music-hall artists, callow university men, shady horse-dealers, and
raucous military infants, had an atmosphere of more than meretricious
gaiety. The close of an old year and the birth of a new one touch the
The band was working away with a strident brassiness which filled the
room with noise. The women's dresses were a shriek of colour. The
vulgarity of the scene was so immense as to be almost admirable. It was
Watching his opportunity, Julian presently drew me aside into the
"Malim," he said, "has paid you a great compliment."
"Really," I said, rather surprised, for Julian's acquaintance had done
nothing more, to my knowledge, than give me a cigar and a
"He's introduced you to his wife."
"Very good of him, I'm sure."
"You don't understand. You see Kit for what she is: a pretty,
good-natured creature bred in the gutter. But Malim - well, he's in the
Foreign Office and is secretary to Sir George Grant."
"Then what in Heaven's name," I cried, "induced him to marry - - "
"My dear Jimmy," said Julian, adroitly avoiding the arm of an exuberant
lady impersonating Winter, and making fair practice with her detachable
icicles, "it was Kit or no one. Just consider Malim's position, which
was that of thousands of other men of his type. They are the cleverest
men of their schools; they are the intellectual stars of their
Varsities. I was at Oxford with Malim. He was a sort of tin god.
Double-first and all that. Just like all the rest of them. They get
what is looked upon as a splendid appointment under Government. They
come to London, hire comfortable chambers or a flat, go off to their
office in the morning, leave it in the evening, and are given a salary
which increases by regular gradations from an initial two hundred a
year. Say that a man begins this kind of work at twenty-four. What are
his matrimonial prospects? His office work occupies his entire
attention (the idea that Government clerks don't work is a fiction
preserved merely for the writers of burlesque) from the moment he wakes
in the morning until dinner. His leisure extends, roughly speaking,
from eight-thirty until twelve. The man whom I am discussing, and of
whom Malim is a type, is, as I have already proved, intellectual. He
has, therefore, ambitions. The more intellectual he is the more he
loathes the stupid routine of his daily task. Thus his leisure is his
most valuable possession. There are books he wants to read - those
which he liked in the days previous to his slavery - and new ones which
he sees published every day. There are plays he wants to see performed.
And there are subjects on which he would like to write - would give his
left hand to write, if the loss of that limb wouldn't disqualify him
for his post. Where is his social chance? It surely exists only in the
utter abandonment of his personal projects. And to go out when one is
tied to the clock is a poor sort of game. But suppose he _does_
seek the society of what friends he can muster in London. Is he made
much of, fussed over? Not a bit of it. Brainless subalterns, ridiculous
midshipmen, have, in the eyes of the girl whom he has come to see, a
reputation that he can never win. They're in the Service; they're so
dashing; they're so charmingly extravagant; they're so tremendous in
face of an emergency that their conversational limitations of "Yes" and
"No" are hailed as brilliant flights of genius. Their inane anecdotes,
their pointless observations are positively courted. It is they who
retire to the conservatory with the divine Violet, whose face is like
the Venus of Milo's, whose hair (one hears) reaches to her knees, whose
eyes are like blue saucers, and whose complexion is a pink poem. It is
Jane, the stumpy, the flat-footed - Jane, who wears glasses and has all
the virtues which are supposed to go with indigestion: big hands and an
enormous waist - Jane, I repeat, who is told off to talk to a man like
Malim. If, on the other hand, he and his fellows refuse to put on
evening clothes and be bored to death of an evening, who can blame
them? If they deliberately find enough satisfaction for their needs in
the company of a circle of men friends and the casual pleasures of the
town, selfishness is the last epithet with which their behaviour can be
charged. Unselfishness has been their curse. No sane person would, of
his own accord, become the automaton that a Government office requires.
Pressure on the part of relations, of parents, has been brought to bear
on them. The steady employment, the graduated income, the pension - that
fatal pension - has been danced by their fathers and their mothers and
their Uncle Johns before their eyes. Appeals have been made to them on
filial, not to say religious, grounds. Threats would have availed
nothing; but appeals - downright tearful appeals from mamma, husky,
hand-gripping appeals from papa - that is what has made escape
impossible. A huge act of unselfishness has been compelled; a lifetime
of reactionary egotism is inevitable and legitimate. I was wrong when I
said Malim was typical. He has to the good an ingenuity which assists
naturally in the solution of the problem of self and circumstance. A
year or two ago chance brought him in contact with Kit. They struck up
a friendship. He became an habitue at the Fried Fish Shop in Tottenham
Court Road. Whenever we questioned his taste he said that a physician
recommended fish as a tonic for the brain. But it was not his brain
that took Malim to the fried fish shop. It was his heart. He loved Kit,
and presently he married her. One would have said this was an
impossible step. Misery for Malim's people, his friends, himself, and
afterwards for Kit. But Nature has endowed both Malim and Kit with
extraordinary commonsense. He kept to his flat; she kept to her job in