J. H. Riddell.

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of just now — but he is Irish — "

" I do not understand, dear — "

" I sat up last night reading one of the manuscripts
you gave me, and had another couple of hours this
morning. I could not quite finish, but oh — it is
splendid ! "

Mr. Moucell smiled, the sad, incredulous smile of
one who, though he fain would hope, has been taught
by bitter experience that hope is delusive.

" Splendid," repeated his daughter, with a tri-
umphant little nod.

" I must look at this great work," he said indul-

" Yes, do ; to-day — now ! " exclaimed the girl ; and
disappearing for a minute, she returned with a brown-
paper parcel, which she placed on her father's writing-


When children have been nourished on " copy " and
weaned on '' proof," when their baby ears drink in
the strange language which abounds with such mystic
sounds as "trans," " caps," " pars," "delete," " itals,"
and so forth, instead of the inspiriting music of " Hey-
diddle-diddle " and other kindred melodies ; when
they find early that a " printer's devil " has not hoofs
or horns, but is an imp like unto themselves ; when
they understand young the meaning of" manuscript"
and " revise," they learn more readily than their
differently-reared fellows, who^, stumble across the
alphabet as if it were a very rough bit of country, find
traps set in words even of one syllable, and water
their pot-hooks with tears.

From their earliest youth the children of authors
take " headers " into the depths of literature with as
little fear as a boy born by river or sea will plunge
into the current and fight the waves. In the same
way other children of a tender age, accustomed from
infancy to horses and crawling amongst stamping feet
and stamping legs given to lash out, will mount bare-
backed a steed men great on 'Change might look on

Habit is second nature. It accustoms people to
most things, except want of money ; and thus it was

Did He Deserve It ? 19

that the young Moucells, who had been brought up
among books and book-producers, insensibly acquired
the same sort of knowledge of their surroundings as
a rat-catcher's son does of the habits of ferrets.

Not that any one of them showed a leaning towards
authorship. So far as Mr. Moucell could judge, their
talents — if they indeed possessed talents — tended in
quite an opposite direction. Nevertheless, almost
ever since they could speak plainly, they had
criticized authors and their works with an artless
frankness which some of the persons so distinguished
might scarcely have thought pleasant, for where one
story was occasionally pronounced " stunning,"
twenty w^ere characterized as "bosh," "foolery,"
"jolly rot," and " stuff; " indeed, most of the novels
and boys' books written about that period of the
world's history were pooh-poohed by Mr., Moucell's
censorious young folks, who would have thought
but little of a new Shakspere, had one arisen, and
less of the old one, if he could have come to life

As they " grew into years," however — and it is
amazing how quickly children age after they enter
their teens — a change began to take place in their
opinions, and this change was publicly inaugurated
by the eldest son, who said one day, —

" I am beginning to comprehend how it was that
his contemporaries could see anything in ' Paradise
Lost.' "

The observation fell among the family like a bomb,
and produced a profound sensation.

None, however, ventured on dissent, or asked for
information, because it was well known Philip

c 2

20 Did He Deserve It?

Moucell would have argued till he turned black
in the face over any position he pleased to take up.

As for Joscelyne, who for some time had been
secretly drifting away from old landmarks, she heard
her brother's admission without surprise. She was
ever considered the most omnivorous reader in the
house. To say she devoured books could only be
deemed a most inadequate way of describing her
mode of proceeding, for she gulped down whole
volumes at a time, and then opened her mouth for

The " boa-constrictor," Philip called her ; but this
was a libel on the boa, which gives its food time to
digest, whereas the girl had no sooner swallowed one
literary meal than she was ready for another.

'' She would read sermons rather than not read
anything," said her brothers with disgust, religious
or instructive books being the point where they drew
the line. " It is all the same to her, providing it's

Well, not exactly ; for naturally she preferred
lighter literature ; but there was some truth in the
statement, nevertheless.

Still, even this voracious appetite at last grew
dainty, about the time when, though stiU young, she
began to put aside childish things.

It all came about at a little evening party, when
she chanced to hear one lady say to another, '* Poor
Mr. Moucell, what a hard life his is ! "

" A hard life ! " Joscelyne took the remark home
with her, brooded over it, and then bethought her of
what she might do.

From that time Mr. Moucell's study was as though

Did He Desreve It? 21

kept by a fairy — his papers were in perfect order, his
books always just where he had left them ; periodical
clearings-up, which authors regard — and rightly —
with horror, came to be evils unknown. Everything
was always neat and in place, yet he never saw
anyone at work, or found even a scrap of paper had
been meddled with — a state of affairs as new as

And so with other matters : she thought of and for
her father, waited on him, anticipated his wishes,
looked up passages, copied paragraphs, was permitted
eventually to read first proofs over and correct any
mistake which caught her eye, and at last — oh,
crowning happiness ! — when manuscripts began to
pour in, Mr. Moucell, one joyful morning, selecting
two which looked particularly unpromising, handed
them to the girl, saying laughingly, —

" You might glance over these and tell me what
you think of them."

From small causes great results often spring, and
those words, so thoughtlessly spoken, produced far-
reaching effects.

At the end of a couple of years Mr. Moucell's
daughter was as much reader as that gentleman
himself. True, he did not delegate his authority, or
play again at pitch- and-toss with his fortunes, or
betray the trust Messrs. Gerant reposed in him, but
at the same time Joscelyne was a good working
partner, who made the labour of wading through side
after side of often very bad writing much easier than
it would have been but for the simple analysis of plot
which she provided with each book. She had grown
expert, reHable ; her previous reading, desultory

22 Did He Deserve It ?

though it had been, furnished a soHd foundation
on which to build a taste for better things, and
Joscelyne's taste by the time she was seventeen could
but be considered as critical and reliable as her

Further, she was never tired, never cross ; she
could sit up late and rise early ; she could return from
a long walk, and start out again, brisk and willing,
within five minutes.

*' She is my very right hand," said Mr. Moucell one
day in a burst of enthusiasm.

Mr. Gerant, to whom the remark was made,
answered aloud, *' he felt sure of it," and secretly
wished she were his right hand also.

He was in love with the girl ; but his suit did not
progress rapidly, for Joscelyne slurred over or
turned aside every hesitating compliment — a line of
conduct which won his entire approval, because, as
he was wont to tell anyone who cared to know, " I
don't approve of flirty girls."

Certainly Joscelyne did not come under this
category ; girls brought up with girls grow ofttimes
foolish, but boys soon take all that nonsense out of
their sisters.

Any young lady who had tried to indulge in a
flirtation in Mr. Moucell's house would, indeed, have
been more courageous than wise.

Joscelyne was not thinking of such matters when,
after closing the library door, she crossed the hall
and walked into one of the smaller rooms, which was
her boudoir, study, bedchamber, and hermit's cave.
She and her father slept on the ground floor — he in
an apartment overlooking The Lawn, she in one that

Did He Deserve It ? 23

had a grand view of the water-cistern, with a perspec-
tive of railway arch.

That, however, did not matter to the girl ; one may
have as great thoughts and high aspirations with a
blackened brick wall bounding the material sight as
from St. Helena or Mont Blanc ; and doubtless
Joscelyne had dreamt dreams and seen visions in
her tiny oratory.

But at that especial moment her mind was full of
the book she had read in the solitude of night, at the
dawn of morning, she was impregnated with it, just
as many a reader in the former days was carried away
for the time being, and became part of " The Bride
of Lammermoor," " The Scottish Chiefs," and " Otter-

Fashions change, but human hearts remain the
same ; and though the musician whose hand alone
is capable of evoking melody from them may not
twice be the same person, the melody runs on
through the ages, now sad, now joyful, now plain-
tively pathetic, and anon wildly jubilant, ofttimes
sounding a mournful minor chord, and then pealing
out such a burst of triumphant gladness as might lead
any superficial listener to imagine life was all success
and happiness.

Joscelyne held a volume of Longfellow in her
hand — Longfellow is par excellence the poet beloved
by youth — but she was not reading a line it con-

Everything seemed changing, everything passing
away, save that book full of lofty thought and high
endeavour she had not been able "quite to finish."
It had come as a revelation to her, and she sat

24 Did He Deserve It?

wondering whether both could be real, her own life
and the lives depicted. Or was it — the thought
entered her heart tremblingly, and the girl almost
thrust it away with a shudder — that she but stood
on the threshold of existence, and might as she
walked forward have to meet the experiences de-
scribed, or experiences as terrible, in her own proper
person ?

This is a sort of dread by no means uncommon
amongst those who from the haven of a happy home
for the first time catch a glimpse of what life has been
for others, and, as if reflected in a mirror, of what
life may be for them. It is a horrible experience, and
one concerning which they seldom take their elders
into confidence. That they who in their bright spring-
time feel themselves as gods should ever grow old,
ever be left lonely and desolate, compelled to suffer,
struggle, get worsted in the fight and thankful to
crawl out of it away to any solitude where they
may hide their wounds, comes as a bad nightmare
to joyous creatures who have never known a real

Charles Lamb says, " Not childhood alone, but
the young man till thirty never feels practically that
he is mortal " — and thus it happens that boys and
girls walk in a vain shadow till some inexplicable
presentiment opens their eyes to the plainest truths in

The girl with whom this story has to do sat for
some time dreaming, not happy dreams. Had she
been mending her gloves, or wrestling with a stiff
seam, as was the commendable practice of heroines
in those goody books her brothers and, indeed, she

Did He Deserve It ? 25

despised, such unrest would probably never have
arisen. As matters were, she passed through a very-
bad time till suddenly " Joscelyne, are you there ? "
cut her reverie in twain.

" Yes, father,'' she answered, springing to her feet
like one aroused from sleep.

But the black cloud Care, which had been brooding
over her, was gone ; and before she reached the study
door the girl was her own bright self again.

" Get me a cup of coffee, dear, and some bis-

Without a word of remonstrance, though she knew
his luncheon was in progress, she went down stairs,
made the coffee, cut a few sandwiches, got some
biscuits, and carried all on a tray into what one
servant irreverently styled the " work-room," where
Mr. Moucell sat with elbows resting on the table and
his forehead supported on both hands, which formed
a sort of arch, through which he read a manuscript
bulky and illegible enough to have daunted one
less accustomed to fight single-handed with cali-

''Thank you," he said, without looking up ; " don't
let me be disturbed."

" Oh, no ; what time should you like to have
dinner ? "

''You forget I am going out to dinner."

" Then the bird will do cold for supper," thought
Joscelyne, who had, indeed, forgotten the fact

" You were right," Mr. Moucell added, as she was
moving towards to the door. " This is a very strong

26 Did He Deserve It ?

"I am so glad you like it. How far have you
got ? "

" Not very far ; but I have been dipping. Now run
away, child.''

And the " child " obediently went.


It was late — or rather early — when Mr. Moucell, after
his evening out, returned to South Lambeth. He
had made the tenth at a pleasant little informal
dinner party, looked in on a genial bachelor friend,
called at a newspaper office, where he corrected some
proof, and finally walked from Charing Cross home,
which he reached in good order and condition, not in
the least tired.

The stillness of a great city, which is so much more
impressive than that of the loneliest country, seemed
soothing to him. As he crossed Vauxhall Bridge he
paused and looked at the lights reflected in the water,
at the river flowing darkly away to the sea, bearing
strange secrets with it. He had chosen the Middlesex
side because he thought it would be quieter, but it
was quiet enough everywhere just then.

In London there comes a lull between the night
rush of swift traffic and the slow, heavy roll of the
market carts at early morn, and Mr. Moucell found
himself wrapped in it.

All was silent at Vauxhall Cross, the station closed,
even the goods trains for a brief space quiet ; scarcely
a cab could have been found on the rank ; not a
public-house open ; and when the solitary pedestrian
passed under the railway arch which obliquely spans

28 Did He Deserve It?

South Lambeth Road he was met with the mingled
perfume of so many fragrant scents that he might
have been wandering through some fair Eden fifty
miles in the country, rather than pursuing his way to
that home which was within fifteen minutes' walk of
Westminster Clock Tower.

Each garden gave forth to the crisp night air its
own special odour — late heliotrope, balm, thyme,
mignonette, lemon verbena, pungent marigold —
while from The Lawn came the first faint subtle
reminder falling leaves were sweet in death, and that
autumn was nigh at hand.

Often in the pleasant summer time, Mr. Moucell
remembered, the whole neighbourhood seemed bathed
in an atmosphere of newly-made hay, for the river
winding through far-off green fields where the scythe
was swinging with a rhythmical swish through the
long grass, brought with it half-forgotten recollections
of boyhood's days to many a jaded Londoner.

Yes, Mr. Moucell remembered how frequently
Lincolnshire and his early youth came back unbidden,
and how he had put such wistful thoughts aside by
quoting, " Distance lends enchantment to the view."
" I was not so particularly happy there," he was in
the habit of adding. " After all, London is the best
place in the world to live in, and South Lambeth the
most convenient part of London where a struggling
man can pitch his tent."

This feeling was strong upon him while he passed
through the gate and walked towards his house.
Compared with other residences he had inhabited,
his present tenement was really one to be desired, and
an agreeable sense of well-being — a serene con-

Did He Deserve It? 29

sciousness of possessing a comfortable home — so long
as he could pay the rent — came over him.

He put his key in the door and opened it softly.

Years during the course of which he feared to
" wake the baby " had taught him this habit, one he was
never likely to forget — though, happily, there were
no babies in his present residence.

The youngest child, nearly seven years of age, came
into this world only about three months before his
mother left it, therefore Mr. Moucell had been long
a widower, and, that old love dream notwithstanding,
by no means an unhappy one. It was an open secret
there were several houses in which he might have
hung up his hat for life had he chosen to do so ; but
he did not choose.

Entering the dining-room, he found a fire burning
low and supper laid, but it was not till he turned
up the gas that he saw Joscelyne sitting in an arm-
chair beside the hearth, fast holden in the land of
Nod ; she was not in the habit of thus deferring her
beauty sleep, and Mr. Moucell was so much astonished
he stood staring at the unwonted spectacle for a few
seconds in surprise. When his daughter kept vigil,
as he was aware she sometimes did, it was in the
solitude of her own chamber, and he could not
imagine why she had selected on this occasion to do
him so much honour as to await his return even in

Then something in her attitude struck him dis-
agreeably. She lay back in the chair like one worn
out, and her right hand, which was thrown over the
arm, hung limp and listless.

He moved nearer and kissed her ; then gently

30 Did He Deserve It?

pushed back what the boys called her "mane : " but
his caresses failed to awaken the sleeper.

She only gave a little gasping sigh, and sank into
a deeper slumber than before.

Evidently the girl had cried herself into forget-
fulness. Traces of tears could be seen on her cheeks,
and her long lashes were still moist with the drops
which had fallen from her eyes.

This was indeed something new, and Mr. Moucell
did not at all like it. What had happened ? What
could the girl have heard ? All at once an idea struck
him. " We can soon put that to rights," he thought,
relieved. " I will just let the poor child sleep on for
the present ; " and, having so determined, he began
to carve that bird which had been meant for his
luncheon. It was a good partridge, and Mr. Moucell,
spite of having dined, hungry ; therefore some little
time elapsed before he attacked the second and lighter
course. He had barely, however, helped himself to a
tartlet, when he heard a voice exclaiming, " Where am
I ? Where can I be ? " and turning, he beheld Josce-
lyne, still half asleep, sitting bolt upright, and looking
about her like one dazed.

" Certainly not where you ought to be — in bed,"
answered Mr . Moucell promptly.

At sound of the familiar tones, slumber dropped off
the girl like a heavy mantle, and she remembered.

" O father, I am so sorry ! " and there was a little
pitiful ring in her words — a sort of echo of past trouble.
" I meant to have such a bright fire for you and
everything comfortable, but I must have dropped off,

" Everything is most comfortable, child — only j-ou

Did He Deserve It? 31

should not have sat up. Have you any idea of the
hour ? "

" Not the slightest ; and I only waited for you
because — because — "

" Well, because — "

" I felt I must speak to you."

" It is as I thought," considered Mr. Moucell,
even while he said aloud, banteringly, *' Matter so
important couldn't be put off even till after break-
fast, eh ? "

" No."

" You are right, little woman ; time present is the
best of all times for asking what we desire to ask and
doing what we want to do, so let me hear all about
this great trouble."

" I could not talk it over with anyone but you — "

" Yes, I understand ; now, what is on your mind ? "

He had left the table and was standing quite close
to Joscelyne, his hand laid on her shoulder as he put
this question.

Yet the girl still hesitated.

" Shall I help you ? " he asked.

" I do not think you can," she replied, though with
the manner of one who felt there could be little her
father was unable to do.

" Let me try. You were vexed because I went out
to dinner ? "

" Vexed, father ! no."

" Not to Mrs. Alston's ? "

" Indeed — indeed! was not ! I am glad when you
go to any place where you are certain to spend a
pleasant evening ; besides Mrs. Alston has always been
so kind to us — so very kind — "

32 Did He Deserve It?

" She is kind ; but that is scarcely the question.
You must have heard some idle talk relating to her
and myself — and — "

" That you were going to be married," interrupted
Joscelyne with a frank little laugh. " That is quite an
old story, and it did not trouble me at all, for I knew
you would never leave us, never — that wherever you
were we should be. "

"God bless you, dear," he said, touched to the soul ;
" but now just listen to me. I have never thought of
marrying again — never once — "

" I had enough and too much of it," trembled on
the tip of his tongue, but a vision of that blue-eyed,
fond, incompetent, young, foolish little creature he
wooed and wedded when life was all before him to —
spoil, rose before his mind's eye, and he remembered in
time she had been Joscelyne's mother.

"Wherever there are men free to marry and
women who can be married, people will couple their
names together," he went on, " but I have no
intention of marrying anybody. Remember that ;
and for the future never attach the smallest importance
to such idle talk."

" I never did — really," she said ; " only, if it would
be happier for you to have a nice lady at the head of
your household — "

^'It would not," he interrupted. "Your aunt is
quite nice enough for me — nice enough for anybody
I should say ; she is a splendid manager, and no
woman could have devoted herself more zealously to a
set of unruly youngsters than she has done ; she has
been good to you all."

" Indeed — yes," agreed Joscelyne, with a sigh wrung

Did He Deserve It? 33

from her by the consciousness she did not love the
lady thus eulogized as much as she ought, or rebuke
the boys for ridiculing Mrs. Rowley's pecuHarities so
often as she should.

'' And you will not allow yourself to be vexed again
when you hear any absurd chatter about my bringing
home a step-mother to reign over you ? Should I ever
feel tempted to do such a mad thing, I promise at once
to ask you to help me to conquer the inclination. Is
that sufficient ? Are you content now ? "

"Father dear, I always was content about you,"
stroking his cheek lovingly.

" Then with what are you not content, child ? "

" T do not know — everything, I think," and her voice
broke and she burst into tears.

Mr. Moucell felt inexpressibly shocked. He drew a
chair beside hers, and took the slight, lithe figure in
his arms.

" My dear daughter ! " he exclaimed, filled with
apprehensions he dared not put into shape. " How is
this ? Cry on if it will ease your heart — but remember
I want to know why you are crying."

'' Because I feel so miserable," she sobbed. '' Oh,

"Yes, dear — tell your father."

" But you will think me dreadfully silly—"

" I only hope I shall."

" After you went this evening — " Another pause.

" Last evening — but that is a detail. Did you com-
mit some dreadful sin ? " He spoke lightly, but his
heart was heavy, for he could not imagine whither all
Joscelyne's talk might be tending. " My darling,
whatever your trouble is, tell me. Let us get it over."


34 Did He Deserve It?

She lifted her face and looked at him pleadingly,
with eyes that did not, like her mother's, mirror
heaven's own sky, but were deeply, darkly, divinely
blue, and under the influence of any strong feeling
looked almost black.

Scarcely more than thirteen hours had passed since
Mr. Gerant praised the roses in her cheeks, which
were now white as death. Was it any marvel Mr.
Moucell felt alarm, any wonder a man who under-
stood the world's wickedness, and knew the many
pitfalls in a great city, should suffer tortures of
apprehension while waiting for his daughter's tardy
speech ?

"Come, dear, make haste," he urged, finding she
still kept silence. *' After I went out — that is where
you left off."

"After you went out," she repeated slowly, " I read
to the end of that manuscript, and have been wretched
ever since."

" And is that all ? " The words escaped him in-
voluntarily, as something within his breast seemed to
give a great bound of relief, like the recoil of a bow
loosed from its string. " I mean — have you no other
trouble on your mind ? "

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Online LibraryJ. H. RiddellDid he deserve it? → online text (page 2 of 20)