J. H. Riddell.

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defeats.

" I'd rather have paid a hundred per cent, for the
money than got it this way," he thought ; but then
he could not have got it by paying a hundred per
cent., so that little speech was only a bit of poor
salve to his pride.

When they reached Princes Street Mr. Moucell
indicated with his umbrella that he wished to stop at
the Joint Stock Bank.

**Wait," he said to the driver, and passed through
the swing door, and straight on to the counter, where
he handed Messrs. Latterton's cheque to a cashier,
who looked at it, turned it over, examined the
endorsement, and then looked at the initialed
"pay cash" again as if he did not approve of such
doings.

" How will you have it ? " he asked at last.

" Short," answered Mr. Moucell ; and in another
minute he had placed two notes in his pocket-book,



2o8 Did He Deserve It ?

buttoned up his top coat securely, and was bowling
away to Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Messrs. Michael
and Co. held court.

He may have been wrong, but he thought Mr.
Shusan looked disappointed when he told the latter
he had come to discharge his liability, though he
remarked, graciously, —

'' I am very glad you have been able to manage this.*'
'' Thank you," said Mr. Moucell, whose thoughts
just then were too big for words.

" We never know what we can do till we try, do
we ? " went on the lawyer.

" We never know what we have to do till we are
tried," amended Mr. Moucell.

" Ha ! ha ! Very good ! " exclaimed Mr. Shusan,
after which burst of applause, conversation languished
till the entrance of a clerk with particulars, brought
relief.

" What a delightful profession yours must be ! "
observed Mr. Shusan, undeterred by previous
experience. " Nothing to do but sit down and write
and receive large cheques."

" Yours must be more delightful still," retorted
Mr. Moucell ; " nothing to do but order other people
to write and rake in costs ad libj^ after which " straight
one " Mr. Shusan said, with suspicious humility, —

" Ah ! I see it is of no use for a dull dog like
myself to try conclusions with a clever author," and
then the two, with hatred rankling at their hearts,
bade each other " good afternoon," and that matter
was settled.

" I must have something to eat," decided Mr.
Moucell, as he passed into Carey Street ; and he



Did He Deserve It? 209

went to a place he wot of near at hand, and had a

chop and glass of bitter before interviewing any of

his business connections. Save a meagre breakfast, he

had fasted all day, and the chop did not set him up as

he hoped it might.

The fact is, after forty a man cannot take great

sensations out of himself without suffering for it, and

that day Mr. Moucell realized for the first time youth

was past. The knowledge proved horrible to him,

but he could not shut his eyes to facts. He must be

more careful for the future. Perhaps, after all, Mr.

Mallow was right, and he had been burning the

candle too freely at both ends.

Half-past seven had struck when he reached home;

out into the night floated the melody of an old air

sung by Joscelyne. Looking up, her father saw

shadows on the blind, which showed Mr. Mallow was

standing close by the piano.

'* It all works to a marvel," passed through his

mind. "The path is quite clear now."

Joscelyne's voice was clear and young. She had a

tender taste in music, and the same sympathy which

made her lie awake weeping over Mr. Mallow's

heroes and heroines enabled her to sing with feeling

some Irish melodies the curate had bought for her to

try; over-rated melodies they may be, but yet there is

a subtle charm in them which affected Mr. Moucell as

he stood in the hall Hstening.

" There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the wide waters meet."

Yes, that was the burden of her song.

Where had he heard it last }

Twenty long years before, when ''Time one day

p



2IO Did He Deserve Tt?

was gathering roses." He had life all before him
then ; he had a good part of life behind him now,
and he was feeling worn out, and a party still loomed
before him that night.

" To which I feel sure you are much too tired to
go," said Mr. Mallow, over their pleasant supper.
'' Let us give it up — do."

" No," answered Mr. Moucell ; " I am tired, but
that is nothing. I would not have you miss this
gathering for any consideration."

Which gathering was to be in Sloane Street, where
up the wide staircase and through the spacious old-
fashioned rooms, " love, wit, and valour wandered " ;
lovely women, brilliant speakers, the coming wonders
of this old world ; those who had made history, and
others who were making it ; all, all were there.

''A truly remarkable party ! " said Mr. Mallow, as
they drove home about two o'clock in the morning,
wondering as he spoke not merely how Londoners
ever found time to think, but when they ever had
time to sleep.

And yet there is probably no place in the world
where so much sound sleeping is got through as in
England's great metropolis.



CHAPTER XXVII.

It was the Friday week after Mr. Mallow's arrival in
London when, about eight o'clock in the evening, he
and his host and Philip walked down the South
Lambeth Road on their way home.

The three had been over the General Post Office,
beheld many of its inner mysteries the outside public
does not as a rule wot of, and were returning, each
laden with his own little cargo of ideas.

Of course, Mr. Moucell meant his ideas to take the
form of an article, but the two others were happily
innocent of any such evil intention.

Phil was unusually silent. Before he and Mr.
Mallow started to meet his father, that self-suffi-
cient young gentleman had got the worst of a
'' heckling," which he proposed inflicting on the
clergyman.

Fortunately during the previous day Mr. Mallow
had seen the three elder lads sniggering over D'Israeli's
'' Curiosities of Literature," and therefore, though he
could not tell what was coming, felt prepared for the
worst.

'* Do you think it a sin to kill anything, Mr.
Mallow ? " was Mr. Phil's first shot.

*' Perhaps you will kindly condescend to particu-
lars."

" I cannot in a general proposition."

P 2



212 t)iD He Deserve It?

" May I help you ? " asked Mr. Mallow, who guessed
what the boys had been reading. " Shall we say
rats ? "

^' I had not r*ats in my mind."

"Waterton," pursued the clergyman, "who loved
almost all God's creatures, drew the line at the Hano-
verian rat."

" I was not thinking of rats," repeated Phil, with
some acerbity.

" D'Israeli," continued the other, relentlessly, '' tells
of a fanatic who went out into the wilderness for
seven years because he killed a small animal not
usually mentioned in polite society. In the same
paper, if my memory serves me rightly, he mentions
a saint whose nether garments, being adorned with
some extraordinary number of patches, were after his
death preserved as an example to the faithful. Are
these the sort of crazes you wish to imitate ? "

'^ I believe I only asked whether you thought it a
sin to kill anything," said young Moucell, loftily.

** To which I must reply by another question : Do
you eat meat ? "

"Yes, but I do not feel sure that I am right."

" Then why do you eat it ? "

" Because I am not certain that I am wrong."

" Suppose, then, you abandon the practice till you
have settled your mind concerning it. For myself,
Scripture and common sense are sufficient; but if you
need a newer Scripture and a higher common sense
than God has seen fit to give me, you must apply, not
to a mere curate, but to some great dignitary of the
Church — the Archbishop of Canterbury, for instance ;
he lives quite near."



Did He Deserve It? 213

*' I see you cannot, or will not, understand," returned
Philip, nettled by the answer, at which Edgar and
Guy laughed .

"I think I understand perfectly," said Mr. Mallow,
with an amused significance there was no mistaking.

Phil took this little check so much to heart that
he felt no inclination to criticize postal arrangements
severely, as he otherwise might have done ; in fact,
owing to his whole mind being occupied with the idea
of reprisal, St. Martin's-le-Grand seemed to him a thing
of nought.

Ignorant of the great projects absorbing his son's
attention, Mr. Moucell imagined the sight of such a
vast amount of human machinery working with
automatic regularity was enthralling the youth. Little
did he suspect that Philip was screwing up his imper-
tinence to ask Mr. Mallow, at the first convenient
opportunity, the proper mode of pronouncing
'' strength " and " eighth," in which words that
gentleman had as great a tendency to omit the " g " as
Mrs. Howley to drop the first " r" in February.

The young Moucells were nothing if not observant,
and very soon they had, as they said, " spotted "
every peculiarity of intonation and pronunciation
which Mr. Mallow brought with him from the Emerald
Isle.

Philip, in especial, had long been yearning to broach
this delicate subject, but a not unnatural doubt as to
whether his unasked-for hint might be gratefully
received had hitherto acted as a deterrent.

Now, however, it was necessary to do something,
and while toiling with his elders through the Post
OflBce he quite decided to open fire with the two words



214 Did He Deserve It?

mentioned, which he most assuredly would have done
but that something intervened.

The presence of a stranger, as may readily be
imagined, had somewhat interfered at South Lambeth
Road with the weekly routine of house-cleaning; and
it was for this reason Mrs. Howley and the faithful char-
woman who acted as domestic sprite seized on that
Friday afternoon, when the absence of what the sprite
called " three male men " might be depended on, to
give the basement sitting-room a " good turn out."

Unhappily, the business occupied a longer time than
was anticipated ; dirt accumulates and boards take
long to dry in the winter; therefore, it came about
that seven children partook not merely of an early
tea in the dining-room, but also a banquet in
honour of dear little Beaty's birthday was there set

out.

A gorgeous banquet ! Rosy-cheeked apples, mel-
low pears, cake of two kinds, nuts, a trifle cunningly
prepared without wine, negus so weak it never could
have got out of any glass without help — all, all were
there.

Bonbons likewise, and lovely crackers, which pro-
vided headgear and other articles of dress for everybody,
besides mottoes provocative of merriment among the
Httle ones.

Mrs. Howley presided, and Joscelyne waited, and
everything went so well that the passage of time was
forgotten, and it proved quite a shock when Messrs.
Moucell, Mallow, and Philip came back quite half an
hour before they were expected.

''HilloJ what is all this fuss about?" asked Mr.
Moucell, entering in a capital humour, and seeing the



Did He Deserve It? 215

company adorned with caps of more or less hideous
design.

" Somebody's birthday, I think," said Mr. Mallow,
who had in the forenoon contributed his modest gift
to the pile raised on a side table.

" Not yours, surely ! " exclaimed Mr. Moucell, as
Beaty slipped off her chair and ran across the room
to be taken up in her father's arms. " Oh, yes, I
remember. And did my little girl like the work-
basket I bought for her ? "

Moist, clinging kisses were his little girl's only reply,
though in her accustomed home circle she could
talk as freely as any of the other children — a fact
Mr. Mallow knew well.

^' There is a good fire in the drawing-room,"
remarked Mrs. Howley.

" I think we might stay here for a little while,"
suggested Mr. Moucell, turning towards Mr. Mallow,
who answered, —

" I should like to stay very much."

'' Those pears look good," said Philip, ever practical
when not argumentative ; and more plates and
etceteras being brought, the wild carouse commenced
anew, helped forward by the efficient assistance of
three fresh guests.

As for the Apostle, what with the delicious excite-
ment of pulling crackers, the unwonted indulgence
in a second small tumbler full of some harmless fluid
well sweetened and just tinted with sherry, and above
all, the maddening effects of general society, he quite
lost his head, and not merely mide frantic sign s to
Joscelyne with a view of explaining what he wanted,
but at last stretched his small body half-way across



2i6 Did He Deserve It?

the festive board in a vain attempt to secure the fruit
his soul longed for.

*' Do not be rude, Paul ! " remonstrated his sister.
" What is it — an apple ? I will give you one," which,
indeed, she was in the act of doing, when Paul, who
had set his greedy little heart on a particularly large
and ruddy WeUington — not the smaller specimen his
sister thought fit to select— called out in his sharp,
eager voice, —

*' Not that — not that ! This, you cursed young fool
— ^you — "

The effect of this awful sentence can only be de-
scribed as akin to that produced on a nervous audience
when the bullets are being cast in " Der Freyschutz."
The apple — ever a source of discord — rolled, as if
frightened, off the spoon Joscelyne was holding
towards her brother ; Mrs. Howley gave vent to a
smothered shriek ; Mr. Mallow looked resolutely at the
tablecloth, and Philip said, not altogether sorrowfully,
'' You've done it now," while Mr. MoucelPs dessert
knife dropped on his plate with a great clatter.

Then for a moment there ensued silence — a silence
which might be felt.

All at once it was broken.

" Did I hear aright ? " Mr. Moucell asked the
question. " Is it possible any child of mine used such
expressions ? "

" Oh, that's nothing ! " exclaimed Philip; '' it is as
water unto wine compared with what he can do when
he gives his whole mind to the business. Every day
he hurls the most awful curses at us. Oaths may be
said, in fact, to form the staple of his conversation.
Mr. Mallow, the first morning after he came, was



Did He Deserve It? 217

treated to a fine specimen of profanity. Honestly, I
am very glad he has for once forgotten himself before
you, for we have long been sick of the business, and
yet were forbidden to complain.'*

" Yes, he's always telling us we are a set of

idiots," put in Guy, eagerly ; " and when he is in one

of his tantrums, hopes we'll go to and be

well "

" Hold your tongue, boy ! " said Mr. Moucell,
appalled by the string of expletives Guy reeled out
in all their original force and beauty. " Do you think
this is the New Cut on a Saturday night, that you
indulge in such language ? "

'* It is only what Paul uses constantly. I was but
repeating a very small part of his daily litany," declared
Guy, with dogged insistance.

Like one dazed, Mr. Moucell looked round the table,
at the culprit, Mr. Mallow, the frightened youngsters,
Philip, Edgar, Mrs. Howley, and Joscelyne, who sat
listening, her hands clasped, her eyes downcast, her
lips compressed, her cheeks pale as death. The hour
had come. " Is this true ? '' he asked her.

'' Yes, father— "

*' And I never knew ! Leave the room, sir ! " he
added, in a terrible voice, addressing the scared sinner,
*' and do not come downstairs again till I give you
leave. Do you hear me ? Take care I have not to
speak twice."

Mr. Mallow, had heard of people shrinking into
themselves, but never before seen the process. At
sound of his father's words, however, it seemed to him
as if Paul literally got inside his lean body, while he
slid from his chair and slunk to the door.



2i8 Did He Deserve It?

" Poor little chap ! " he exclaimed, involuntarily.
" Poor little chap ! " repeated Mr. Moucell, almost
wild with rage. " Yes, a poor little chap who will
have to be taught better, and who shall ! Only to
think of the deception which has been practised upon
me ! Stay where you are, Joscelyne ! I forbid anyone
to go after that wretched child ! "

The pause which ensued was awful ; not a finger
stirred, not an eye wandered. Mrs. Howley sat with
her face buried in her handkerchief ; no one had ven-
tured on the smallest remark.

" Where he ever heard such expressions baffles me."
It was Mr. Moucell who spoke when the strain had
become intense. The remark was addressed to no
person in particular, therefore anyone who pleased
could appropriate it.

" I can tell you," said Philip, always anxious to im-
part disagreeable information. ^' It was through Jane.
You may shake your head, aunt, but it was. She
used to take him into low public-houses frequented
by dreadful characters. You never would believe a
word against the woman, but I have seen her myself
standing on the kerb near Vauxhall cabstand, scream-
ing with laughter at the unparliamentary language
which is the ordinary discourse of such places, and — "
''That will do," interrupted his father. "I have
heard more than enough. We must try what a strict
school can effect in the way of cure. Now you had
better attend to whatever you have to do. Joscelyne,
take these young people away. Remember, no
sympathizing with Paul."

Very quietly the eight trooped off. Concerning
what conversation ensued among themselves when



Did He Deserve It? 219

they got out of earshot, history holds no record ; but
the moment they left the room Mr. Moucell rose from
his chair and began pacing from window to folding-
door in a state of restless excitement.

" No doubt it seems strange to you, Mr. Mallow,"
he said at last, suddenly pausing in the middle of his
promenade, " that such things could be going on in a
man's house, and he be left in utter ignorance of them,
but it seems more strange to me than it can to you."

" My only feeling is one of sorrow for all concerned,"
was the answer. " I am certain any concealment
which may have been practised originated in a desire
to spare you pain — "

" Ah, yes, indeed," Mrs. Howley groaned.

*' Still, you will admit it is very hard to have such a
trouble sprung upon one without the smallest prepara-
tion," observed Mr. Moucell.

^' Very hard ; but it was sprung upon you acci-
dentally, and I cannot regret that you have at last
been enlightened."

"It is better to know the worst, of course. Never-
theless, the certainty that a cancer is eating him up
proves but poor consolation to a man who flattered
himself he had no disease. This cancer shall be cut
away, no matter what the pain — it shall."

Poor Mrs. Howley uttered a little plaintive cry,
as if she already felt the knife, while Mr. Mallow
said, —

" As I remarked just now, Mr. Moucell, it seems to
me well you are at last aware of the unfortunate
habit your boy has contracted, but at the same time
there is an observation I should like to make, if I may
do so without being considered impertinent — namely.



220 Did He Deserve It ?

that it is a doctor rather than a schoolmaster the lad
needs just now."

" What do you mean ? "

" Precisely what I say. I have watched the little
fellow very closely — when pleased, when angry, when
playing, when quiet — and the conclusion has been
forced upon me that — "

*' Do not hesitate to speak — that ? — "

*' His ungovernable and inexplicable fits of rage and
terror, his laugh, the fatal facility with which he picks
up bad language, all seem to point to — "

" Good heavens, Mr. Mallow ! Do you wish me to
understand that you think my son — deficient ? "

" I wish to imply that whatever may be the matter,
you would do wisely to consult some first-rate
physician, to whom you should tell the whole
truth."

Mr. Moucell tried to look incredulous, and failed.

" Paul is far away the cleverest and sharpest of all
my children," he expostulated.

" He is very sharp."

'* Therefore you must be mistaken. There is
nothing wrong with him mentally. Think of what a
bright little fellow he is."

" And has always been," put in Mrs. Howley, tear-
fully ; " a good, sweet child, and the image of his poor
mother."

A few seconds elapsed before Mr. Moucell spoke
again ; then he said, addressing his guest, " I am sure
you will excuse my leaving you ; this unfortuate affair
has rather upset me, and I should like to be alone for
a little while before beginning work. Perhaps I had
better say good -night at once,"



Bid He Deserve It? 221

'' Good-night," echoed the Irishman, in a tone of
profound sympathy.

'' You see how badly he takes it," observed Mrs.
Howley, directly the door closed behind Mr. Moucell.
" I knew I was right in keeping the matter from
him."

" He does take it badly," agreed Mr. Mallow ; " but
I do not think you were right."

''But I am certain I was; and whatever made
you say you thought the poor child was not all
there ? "

" Because I feel quite sure he is not, and that he
ought to be treated medically."

" I never could have believed you would speak so
unkind."

" I did not mean to be unkind, but I quite admit that
perhaps I had better have held my peace."

''You have seen how well the dear little fellow
mimics people ? "

" Yes, and thought it one of the saddest sights I
ever beheld."

" Oh ! law ! How can you say so ? And why ? "

There was some more of this purposeless sort of
conversation, which Joscelyne at last ended by coming
to tell her aunt Mr. Moucell wanted her.

" And I will go upstairs, if I may," said Mr. Mallow.
" No further supper, thank you. I have had abundance
to eat. Good-night, good-night."

Poor Joscelyne's eyes were red with crying at that
moment, but they were redder still when, after nearly
an hour spent in the library, she wearily sought her
own room.

As she stepped over the threshold she saw a slip of



222 Did He Deserve It?

paper which had been pushed under the door. It was
a Hne from Mr. Mallow, and ran as follows: —

" Do not be uneasy concerning Paul. I found him
hidden in my room, and will take good care of the
child. May God bless and comfort you. — D. G .M."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

<^ I SAY ! "

Mr. Mallow had almost finished dressing, and for
the moment quite forgotten Master Paul, when these
words fell on his ear.

*' Yes, little man, what do you say ? "

" Come round to this side and I'll tell you. Closer
— stoop lower — whisper — "

Wondering rather concerning the important com-
munication which needed shrouding in such clouds of
mystery, the curate sat down beside the boy, and bent
his head, through which, an instant after, this rang
like a pistol shot : —

'' Are you going to marry our Jo ? "

It was an awful shock — one which took Mr. Mallow
utterly aback ; nevertheless, so soon as he could
speak, he answered, —

" What a silly fellow you are ! Why, I am nearly
old enough to be your Jo's father ! "

" Are you ! " in a tone of sore disappointment.
" But can't you marry her ? " hope reviving.

" I trust she will meet with a husband more
worthy of her than I am," was the diplomatic
reply.

'' I do not think so," piped the shrill, frail voice,
" though aunt says there is a gentleman who likes



224 Did He Deserve It?

her very, very, very much. I don't know, Fm sure,
but I heard Edgar and Guy talking one night, when
they thought I was asleep. I wasn't, only lay
quite still and pretended, so that I might Hsten to
their secrets."

" You young scamp ! What a confession ! "
thought Mr. Mallow.

" They keep me out of everything they can,"
went on the child. ** Still, I knew it was all about
you and Jo. 'Gar said it would be prime, and Guy
that it would be stunning, and they were just
wondering whether father could do without Jo,
when Randal turned over and they went ' H-u-s-s-h ! '
and I heard no more. But I have been thinking
a great deal about it ever since, for I should like you
to marry Jo, because then I could go and live with
you. Won't you try, Mr. Mallow ? Perhaps you
could do it if you tried very hard."

Here was an entrancing proposition ; one so full
of possibilities of bliss, that a man might have been
excused for rushing away at headlong speed for a
special license in order to secure the Apostle's
permanent presence ; yet, highly as his sense of
humour was tickled, Mr. Mallow felt too sad to even

smile.

Instead, he talked very gently to the child, told
him how wrong it was to deceive people, how
indignant his brothers would feel if they knew he
had been eavesdropping, how greatly it would hurt
Joscelyne if she heard the many foolish things Paul
said concerning her — things that, though mere
nonsense, he ought never to have uttered — on which
various statements and others the young gentleman



Did He Deserve It? 225

kept up a running commentary of " wasn't,"


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Online LibraryJ. H. RiddellDid he deserve it? → online text (page 13 of 20)