J. H. Riddell.

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Mr. Moucell laughed. "As I am never likely to
be rich enough to carry out my ideas, I may as well
be generous and tell you. When I had got a good
author, I should take him to my heart, I should praise
him, I should pet him ; when he came to me my
talk should be all of his greatness, not of the great
doings of Mr. Somebody Else ; I should try to make
him feel he was the person of most importance in
creation, instead of a useless devil who might just
as well, and better, never have been created at

'' Really, Mr. Moucell ! "■

" Wait a while. I have not half finished. Consider
how authors, as a rule, are treated by publishers ! I
do not say by you, because I know nothing of your
mode of doing business. I am talking of the represen-
tative publisher and the author who has done work
good enough to last his time. The latter does not
hear much that is pleasant from the former ; there
is either a dead silence concerning his books, or he is
entertained with general statements that there has
been no demand for another edition ; that the
publishers trusted his last story would have been in
more demand ; that if he could but write another
book like his first (his last being much better) — ' ah,

then indeed ! ' ; that ' Mr. or Mrs. or Miss 's novel

had been all the rage ' ; that, in fact, the representative
publisher can only offer him so much for the work
he has in hand ; of course, if he thinks he can do
better elsewhere, the R.P. would be very sorry to
stand in his way ; and — pardon me for a moment — all

Did He Deserve It? 53

the time, remember, that unhappy author hears his
children crying aloud for bread ! "

"My dear sir ! I hope you do not think we are
so unsympathetic ? "

"As I said, I know nothing about your way of
doing business. I can only state how it is carried on
by Tom, Dick and Harry. They get hold of a good
author, and then they at once begin to depress him.
They are so much afraid prosperity may make the
man vainglorious that they think it right to keep him
low like a weaned child. I was greatly struck a little
while ago by an anecdote told me by a great lady,
who no doubt thought it only showed the ' funny
notions ' entertained by artists and such like.

" She had asked a pianist and his son to luncheon,
and the trio made so pleasant a party that the pianist
felt at last moved to observe : ' I daresay you wonder
why I do not offer to play something, which I would
with the greatest pleasure, only / can?iot without the
gas and the clapping I '

" Now, the gas and the clapping are precisely what
authors want, and just what publishers won't give.
They are more to the authors than money — a tonic of
greater efficacy than money."

" I am listening — I am thinking," said Mr. Isaac
Gerant. " I am trying to follow you."

" Has any publisher ever thought, I wonder — I can
say this dispassionately even to you, Mr. Gerant —
what writing a book means to an author ? The
silence and the mystery of at least a year (I am talk-
ing now of a fairly prosperous man ; of the awful tug
when a man is not prosperous who could speak ? ).
From experience my supposititious author has learnt

54 Did He Deserve It?

to feel the praise of friends is valueless, so he writes
on, solitary, though surrounded by his fellows, day
after day, week after week, hearing no cheering word.
Such a silence seems to me enough to drive an author
mad. Authors are but human beings, Mr. Gerant,
though occasionally some among us have divine

The pause which ensued was not created for effect.
Mr. Moucell simply held his peace because he had
done his talking. Mr. Gerant kept silence because
he did not well know what to answer.

It was Mr. Thomas Gerant who broke the spell,
with this remark, —

" Granting that all you say is true — which I deny,
because there is only a certain amount of truth in it
— at the end of that ' silent and mysterious ' twelve-
month the author gets in addition to hard cash more
praise in a day than is meted out to the publisher
during the course of his whole life. Let us have
justice, Mr. Moucell. Is it fair that we who find the
halfpence should get only kicks for thanks ? And as
for petting and praising an author and taking him to
our bosom, shall I tell you what would happen, when
we had made such idiots of ourselves ? "
"If you please.''

"He would go to the first man who bid twenty
pounds more than we knew him to be worth."

" I cannot believe it. Do you think there is no
such thing as gratitude in the world ? "

" Not in business, where gratitude is as much out
of place as sentiment."



Yet there have been some pleasing instances of
sentiment in the commercial world. I could give you
a few examples oflf-hand," said Mr. Moucell, who was
the least sentimental and probably the most ungrate-
ful man living.

*' I am sure you could," interposed Mr. Isaac
Gerant, *' for it seems to me you have every subject
at 3'our finger-ends; but never mind my son, he is
a little troubled just now about Mr. Mallow's book,
which he feels he ought not to take, yet still is
determined to try. Cheer up, Tom ; should the
' Offences of His Forefathers ' prove a dead failure, it
won't break us."

'' It shan't be a dead failure ! '' said Mr. Moucell.
'' Only let me know when the whole affair is con-
cluded, and I will work the puff preliminary to such
good purpose that you may consider the success of a
modest first edition secure. Beyond that point I can
promise nothing."

"Really you are most kind." Again it was Mr.
Isaac Gerant who spoke."

" Not half so kind as you were concerning the poor
little article that procured me the happiness of your
acquaintance," answered Mr. Moucell, with his

$6 Did He Deserve It ?

pleasant grace of manner which often made matters
easy for him with tradesfolk and others. " May I
add to my previous statement, however ? Do you
suppose," he went on, turning to Mr. Thomas
Gerant, " that when talking just now about the
relations of authors and publishers I was speaking
on a subject of which I knew nothing ? Believe me,
there is not one of the whole company of authors,
from the veriest hack like myself to the favourite of
fortune earning his thousands a year, who would not
tell you my idea is right. Who has not undergone
his bad quarter of an hour in the publisher's ' sweat-
ing room ' ? who has not suffered agonies when
waiting for the ' deferred payment ' ? whose heart
has not sunk while hearing the value of his wares
depreciated, and felt life a very poor thing, and
himself a still poorer, during the time his work was
being appraised and his capabilities dissected ? No ;
believe me, publishers' tactics are wrong. Authors
are, after all, but children well-grown, and want to
be praised and patted on the back and told how
splendidly they are doing by the man who holds the
purse. The old track has been travelled long enough ;
I believe any publisher bold enough to try mine
could make a brilliant success. I am, as I said, only
a poor hack who sends out his articles anonymously,
like illegitimate children lacking a father's name, yet
do you suppose it would be possible for me to write
on, if editors did not sometimes praise my work and
tell me in plain words it is very good ? Editors in
their generation are wiser than the wisest publisher.
It is not always a foggy day with them. Sometimes,
even, they have said to me : 'How does it happen,

Did He Deserve It? 57

Moucell, you never show the world what you really
could give it ? Why do you persistently hide your
light under a bushel ? ' "

'' The same thought has often occurred to my
mind," exclaimed Mr. Gerant eagerly. " Why do
you not write something important — of permanent
value ? Surely — "

" I could show you nine excellent reasons, not to
speak of the less important fact that I must live
myself,'* interrupted the overweighted author.
" No ; fate killed my literary ambitions long ago.
When a man finds he must write for his bread he is
wise to thank God he can earn it, and keep from
longing for the luxuries others are able to com-

'' Still, I wish—"

" There was a time when I wished too ; that was
in the days of my folly. Now I am content, which
is sufficient for me. All the same, however, I do
wish, in the best interests of literature, I could see the
system changed of pushing an author down, and then
keeping him down for ever. And now about ' The
Offences of His Forefathers ' ? " he added quite briskly.
" We must make them a success. If there is nothing
more you want to say to me, I think I will go home,
and, while my ideas about the book are hot, get them
on the anvil."

The Messrs. Gerant had nothing they wished to
say, so Mr. Moucell, after a cordial handshake,
departed in very good spirits, and bent his steps
Lambeth-ward, to take another turn on the tread-
mill, satisfied to have had his say, which he felt
assured sooner or later would bear fruit. He had not

58 Did He Deserve It?

intended to speak then, but the chance offered,
and he took advantage of it — as, indeed, he tried
to do whenever the shadow of a chance came in his

No man can tell what circumstances may make
him, but if Mr. Moucell had ever really considered
the promise of his youth, and the fulfilment of his
maturity, he might well have wept to think the net
outcome of all his cleverness had been to leave him
one of the most calculating of living beings.

" What a good fellow that is ! " was Mr. Gerant's
comment. " How anxious to be of use ! "

*' Yes," answered the son ; " but I think he talked
a great deal of nonsense. Publishing is a business,
like everything else."

" Of course ; still — " which only proved Mr.
Moucell's words had touched the gentleman's kind
heart rather than convinced his head.

A letter such as was to be despatched to Mr.
Mallow is not an easy one to write, but at last the
younger Gerant finished an epistle which he decided
" would do."

'' And if this literary man is not satisfied with
the terms, all I can say is he ought to be " — from
which comment it may be concluded the offer was

The publisher, therefore, experienced some surprise
when he only received a card in answer, acknow-
ledging receipt of his communication, to which Mr.
Mallow added he would reply fully in the course of a
few days. As a matter of fact, a whole week elapsed
before the promised letter made its appearance —
when the contents amazed Mr. Gerant.

Did He Deserve It ? 59

The writer expressed his gratification, but said,
since there seemed considerable doubt as to whether
the book would prove commercially successful, he
should prefer to wait results before taking the cheque
Messrs. Gerant proposed sending. If the firm for-
warded an agreement, he would sign and return
immediately. Owing to the illness of his rector he
had not been able to take any holiday during the
summer or autumn, but he now proposed to go for
a fortnight to London early in November, when
probably some of the proof would be ready for him
to correct.

He ventured to encroach on Messrs. Gerant's good-
nature by asking if they would have the kindness to
give him the name of any centrally-situated hotel
where the charges would be moderate. " I have
never been to London," he explained, " and do not
know anyone who could give the information I
require " — a statement which made father and son
look at each other.

The whole letter was so simple, innocent and
straightforward that both men forthwith conceived
a liking for its writer, who, while refusing money,
thought of economy and stood in need of friendly

" I do not know v/hat hotel to recommend," said
Mr. Thomas Gerant. " As he is not a rector,
probably his means are limited, and I should be very
sorry to let him in for what he might consider undue
expense. Can you think of any quiet place, father,
likely to serve his turn ? "

'' I cannot, indeed. Better refer the matter to
Moucell ; he is up to everything, and no doubt can

6o Did He Deserve It ?

put all right at once. If your mother were only
stronger, I would ask Mr. Mallow to stay with us. It
is an attention I should Hke to show him."

Since it was an attention, however, that the
speaker could not show, Mr. Moucell had to be con-
sulted, as it chanced, during Mr. Thomas Gerant's
temporary absence.

'' There are plenty of hotels," said the oracle. " I
will consider which would be the best for a man to
put up at who, of course, wants to see all there is to
be seen."

" I only wish I could have asked him to our house.
But Mrs. Gerant is so delicate I dare not venture to
invite even a quiet country clergyman."

"I will ask him with pleasure," exclaimed Mr.
Moucell with hearty eagerness. " South Lambeth
would be just the place for him — close to the Arch-
bishop's Palace, Westminster, Houses of Parliament
— convenient for everything. My young folks know
their London thoroughly, and can pilot him wherever
he wants to go ; no plan could be better. I am so
glad I thought of it."

" But would not it be a terrible inconvenience ?
You have such a large family, and — "

*' Inconvenience ? Not a bit of it ! We have
plenty of room and to spare, and Mrs. Howley
knows how to make people comfortable. Supposing
even that it were inconvenient — do you not think I
should be ontytoo much delighted to serve you and
your son who have been such kind friends to me ?
I will write without delay. You may be certain I shall
word the invitation properly, and make him under-
stand what your own wishes were on the subject."

Did He Deserve It? 6i

" Really, I am at a loss how to thank you
sufficiently ; of course, any expense which you may
have to incur — ''

Mr. Moucell laughed as he answered, " When a
man has to cater for twelve every day, the cost of a
thirteenth is not worth mentioning. I am not afraid
but that we shall manage all right. A person who
has never been to London and who does not know
anybody else who has, is not likely to be wildly
extravagant in his ideas, so we will not order turtle
soup or ortolans, or champagne either. Very likely
he is a total abstainer, but I will chance a bottle
of the best Irish, and so be prepared for any emer-

All of which, with more to the same effect, Mr.
Gerant repeated to his son, who did not seem as much
delighted as might have been expected.

'' I do not think a man accustomed to a quiet life
will care for a houseful of boys.''

*' We do not know what he has been accustomed to,
and one thing is certain — if Mr. Mallow wants to get
through a lot of sight-seeing in a fortnight, Moucell
can put him in the way of gratifying his desire."

" How does he intend to explain his appearance on
the scene ? "

"I did not ask. He has so much tact, he will
manage admirably, I feel confident."

That was just where the shoe pinched, but Mr.
Thomas Gerant, for reasons of his own, refrained from
saying it pinched at all ; instead he remarked, —

" I wonder whether Mr. Mallow is young or old ? "

" Moucell thinks middle-aged at the least ; believes
he has been gathering experience for years, and that

62 Did He Deserve It?

his book is the outcome. Says he will probably never
write another worth a rush."

" Put all his plums into one pudding, eh ? It is not
improbable. Well, we shall be better able to judge
after we have seen him."



Mr. Moucell did not, as a rule, affect early rising ;
but on the morning when Mr. Mallow expected to
arrive in London he stood at Euston Station waiting
for the Irish Mail.

His invitation had been frankly accepted by the man
who would have sent just such an invitation himself.
The idea that it was unusual never crossed his mind.
All his life he had mixed among people who regarded
hospitality as the commonest of common virtues, and
rejoiced to receive guests as much, as in a more artificial
state of society hosts and hostesses rejoice to get rid of

Kilbrannon Rectory had ever been a house of call
for pilgrims through the moist valleys of Central
Ireland, and Disestablishment made no difference in •,
the warmth of its welcome. At sight of a stranger
the doors flew wide almost of their own accord. A
hen strolling leisurely about unconscious of impending
evil, could always be caught and killed to grace the
clerical board. No great changes can be wrought
instantly, and though doubtless a change has since
come, in the days when Mr. Mallow was curate of
Kilbrannon, Erin's wild harp was still giving forth that
gay, careless music which Erin's children will probably
never, save in imagination, hear more.

64 Did He Deserve It ?

Mr. Mallow had been asked to make his home at
the Rectory till he could find lodgings, and as there
were no lodgings to find, he remained there, sometimes
in company with the Rector and his wife, more
frequently alone. It was as desolate and dreary a
parish as the heart of man could conceive ; but he
had been happy in it, and he felt happy as the train,
with much grinding of brakes, and, judging from
the amount of noise, an apparently tremendous
sense of its own importance, rushed into the London

Mr. Moucell was looking out for a man of middle
age, his frame bowed under its weight of knowledge,
his hair sprinkled with grey, preoccupied, grave,
probably shy ; but no one answering this ideal,
whether clerical or lay, descended from the train, and
he was thinking he might as well have had his sleep
out, when he heard a cheery-faced young fellow, clad
in a heavy overcoat, who was carrying a hat-box and
rug, say to a porter, " Only one portmanteau in van,
thank you — ' Mallow.' "

"Are you Mr. Mallow, then ? " asked Mr. Moucell,
walking up to the speaker with extended hand.

" I am," answered the young man with a smile.
*' And you ? "

'' My name is Moucell."

" Ah, I thought so. Well, this is good of you.
What a morning for anyone to turn out ! "

The accent, though unmistakably Irish, was refined
and cultivated, the manner easy and unembarrassed.
All Mr. Moucell's preconceived notions of a depressed
and down-trodden curate vanished into thin air. He
was simply astounded. Could this boy — he really

Did He Deserve It? 65

seemed nothing more — be the author of a book which
sounded the very depths of sorrow and took firm grip
of the heart as if with hooks of iron ? It seemed in-
credible ! All very well to talk as he had to Joscelyne
of authors being the antitheses of their books, but
there was something almost uncanny about such an
antithesis as he saw in the flesh before him.

When had the man begun to write ? Where had he
got his experience ? Where the original thoughts
that leaped out of the darkness of his book as lightning
from the midst of gloomy clouds ?

What would Messrs. Gerant say ? They could not
believe him to be the real Simon Pure. They would
think, as Mr. Moucell almost thought, that there was
some deception — someone masquerading for a frolic,
only intent on playing off a very bad joke.

" Is this a London fog ? " asked Mr. Mallow, as they
drove through streets still dark, where gaslights made
a bad fight against wet and damp.

" No. A genuine London fog rises before a man
like a wall ; he cannot see the lamp-post he is clutch-
ing, or the house he leans against."

" How I hope there will be one while I am here ! "
It was amazing. This man had produced a story
which might have been written about the lost in their
place of punishment, and yet he appeared as eager to
be in the thick of a yellow fog as a schoolboy.

Mr. Moucell, spite of his cleverness, knew little con-
cerning the full compass of the human heart, and
marvelled that an instrument that could peal out notes
of mortal agony should be capable also of echoing the
light impressions of a mind at peace.

Mr. Mallow had by this time unfastened his muffler,


66 Did He Deserve It?

and the orthodox white tie consequently appeared in
evidence, to Mr. Moucell's relief, for he felt glad to
perceive even so slight a sign that his new friend was
bona fide.

As they talked, however, the first impression made
by the young man's appearance began to wear off, and
Mr. Moucell became gradually conscious it was chiefly
his companion's contented manner and general look
of well-being that had led him astray. One who had
lived for the best part of his existence amid country
scenes, in country air, keeping regular hours, and
leading an existence free from all harassing and un-
healthy excitement, naturally failed to exhibit the traces
of age that as a rule mark the town-bred countenance.

When at rest, also, Mr. Mallow's mouth wore an
expression almost of sternness, while into the eyes
there came at times a look of deep thought strangely
at variance with the laughing light which had danced
across them at Euston Station.

Yes ; it was conceivable that this other man — the
man within the man, so to speak — had written even
" The Offences of His Forefathers." The experience
he might have got from anyone. The genius most
probably was his own ; and, better satisfied, Mr.
Moucell devoted himself to amusing his companion.

He was not diflScult to amuse. Everything inter-
ested him ; everything seemed strange.

'* I always wished to see London," he observed,
" but I never thought I should see it under such
pleasant circumstances. You were indeed kind to
ask me to your house," whereupon Mr. Moucell, of
course, said what was proper in the most genial
manner possible, and chat ran on very easily and com-

Did He Deserve It? 6^

fortably till they reached South Lambeth, where Mr.
Moucell bade the traveller heartily welcome to his

*' What a pretty neighbourhood ! " remarked Mr.
Mallow ; though, indeed, the neighbourhood was
looking its very worst, which can be very bad.

^' Yes, I think so too," was the answer — '' and most
convenient. Good people lived about here at one
time, but it is unfashionable now."

The pair had breakfast tete-a-tite. The society of
his children at meals was never a blessing Mr. Moucell
appreciated, so by some unwritten law it had come to
pass that save on Sundays, when he was seldom at
home, he generally ate in solitary state.

" It is a most convenient arrangement," Mrs. How-
ley often remarked ; and it was. There were two
spare rooms in the basement where the young
Moucells fed, and played, and argued, and quarrelled,
while Mrs. Howley serenely darned socks and per-
formed other good works in the midst of a din which
might have driven another woman mad ; consequently
the head of the house did not see much of his family,
and on the morning when Mr. Mallow arrived he was
able to skilfully interview him without interruption.

It was not long before the host knew almost
all there was to know about his guest's antecedents.

He had been curate at Kilbrannon for nearly
five years ; before that in Dublin for two. He was
just nine and twenty. Every acre belonging to
his people had been sold in the " Encumbered
Estates Court." Fortunately his father held a post
under Government, "which makes matters pretty
comfortable," explained Mr. Mallow, who evidently

F 2

68 Did He Deserve It?

had nothing to conceal. " My two sisters are
married ; one brother is in Canada, another in
Brazil, and a third in China ; I am the only stay-at-

"And your hat covers your family, I presume?"
hazarded Mr. Moucell, with a smile.

For a moment Mr. Mallow looked puzzled.
Evidently he had never met that phrase running
loose about Kilbrannon parish ; then he understood,
and answered :

'^ You mean that I am unmarried : yes, of course."

" Happy man ! " Mr. Moucell would have ex-
claimed, had not his thoughts taken quite an opposite
direction. From the time when he offered the
hospitality of South Lambeth to a total stranger till
he was driving home with him through those
narrow and devious streets cabmen, for some occult
reason, love, he had thought of no one in the matter
save Messrs. Gerant and such pecuniary small
advantages as might arise to himself.

As the cabman crossed Waterloo Bridge, however,
the busy brain, which never knew any rest, began to
consider that beside him sat a young man with his
future to make, while at home there was his
daughter, who might help to render that future a
great success. There were fat livings in the Fenland
gift ; there was patronage the Fenlands could
influence. The Marquis, now growing old, was well
disposed towards a person who had written many
things pleasing to the right party — his lordship

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Online LibraryJ. H. RiddellDid he deserve it? → online text (page 4 of 20)