Leonard Merrick.

Cynthia, a daughter of the Philistines online

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but at the buffet Beaufort had not been seen since
five o'clock. Somebody there believed he had an
appointment at nine at the Caf^ de la Paix. Kent
plunged into the throng again, and fought his way
steadily until the caf^ was gained. The figure he
sought was in none of the rooms. He proceeded in
tarn to all the principal caf^s on the Boulevards, and
in one he descried Jordan, whom he buttonholed

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eagerly. Yes, Jordan had met Beaufort this even-
ing. Beaufort had said that later on he might go to
the Moulin Rouge. This was a clue, at least, and
Kent tramped on wearily until the glittering sails of
the windmill revolved in view. The price of admis-
sion had been raised to-night, but he could not hesi-
tate. The dancing had already commenced when he
entered, and here two-thirds of the assembly ran
about in carnival attire. A quadrille was going on,
and in different parts of the ballroom three sets of
dancers were enclosed by vociferous spectators, while
the band brayed a tuneless measure. His gaze roved
among the company vainly, and he fancied he could
make his examination better when the sets broke up.
The ill-dressed women, with their skirts and petti-
coats lifted to their shoulders, looked like factory
hands as they lumped perfuuctorily to and fro over
the floor. Momentarily a mechanical smile would
lighten the gloom of their excessive plainness; at
long intervals, spurred to energy by the cries of the
audience, one of them would give a kick higher than
ordinary, or jerk a bit of argot to her vis-^-vis ; but
for the most part the performers appeared as spirit-
less as marionettes, and the air of gaiety and of in-
terest was entirely confined to those who looked on.
It was midnight when Beaufort was encountered,
and he was partially drunk. Humphrey caught him
by the arm, and heard that his business had not been
completed to-day, but was — once more — certain for
* next week.' Completed or not, however, Kent had
to have money, and he made the circumstances of the

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case clear, a task which, in his companion's condi*
tion, was somewhat difficult. He said they were in
new quarters, penniless, and the woman demanded a
deposit ; their luggage was detained at the pension,
and could not be recovered unless he paid the Garins'
bill, or, at all events, a substantial portion of it. In
the meanwhile, they possessed literally nothing, and
a good round sum on account of his claim was abso-
lutely essential. ' Billy ' was very grieved by the re-
cital. He answered that he could lend him twenty
francs, and repeated with emotion that ' he never de-
serted a pal.' In the end Kent extracted fifty, and,
secretly relieved even by this, but dog-tired, dragged
himself down the Rue Blanche toward the hotel.

Cynthia was waiting up for him, and reading a
sheet of an old newspaper, that had lined one of the
drawers, to keep herself awake. She learnt the re-
sult of his expedition with gratitude. They could
now give the proprietress what she wanted, and out
of the remaining louis would be able to buy a hair-
brush and one or two other immediate necessities in
the morning. She kissed him, and retired to the
next bedroom, where she prayed that the child
would allow her a good night, and Kent, whose
fatigue was so great that it was a labor to undress,
bade her call him if there should be any need for his
assistancf^ It seemed but a few minutes afterwards
when 4Le was startled back to consciousness by the
baby's crying, and, listening in the darkness, heard
Cynthia moving about. Blundering to the door
with half-opened eyes, he found her attempting to

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quiet the boy and to heat some food at the same
time, and the weariness of her aspect made his heart
bleed. The fire, which had been built up to last
until the chambermaid's entrance, had gone out, and
rocking the child on her lap with one hand, with
the other the girl, semi-nude, held a saucepan over
the flames of a candle. She rebuked him for coming
in, for, ' poor fellow ! he must be so tired.' He took
the saucepan from her, and, fetching the candle from
his own apartment, held the food to warm over the
two, while maternity paced the floor. A clock in
the distance told them the hour was three. At last
a bubble rose upon the placid surface of the milk.
The baby was fed, and coaxed to repose again, and,
oblivious now of everything but the desire to sleep,
they dropped upon their beds and slept

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« Gk)0i>-M0BNING, monsieur. Here is your choco-

* Ah, thank you ! Put it down. And madame»
has hers been taken in ? '

*0h, madame had hers three hours ago. • • •
Look, it is a beautiful day, monsieur I '

Then, when the waiter had let sunshine between
the window-curtains and withdrawn, Kent would rise,
and find Cynthia busy and hot, and either stirring
more food over the fire or preparing the boy's bath.
Afterwards she would carry him into the little en-
closure opposite, and, what with her unfamiliarity
with a nurse's duties and the makeshifts she was put
to, it often seemed to her that this was the only time
that she was able to sit down until evening came.

Their meals, as on the day of their arrival, were
all served in Kent's bedroom ; but just as he was
taking his seat at the luncheon-table, the baby, who
was feverish and fretful, would surely cry, and she
would be obliged to call out that Humphrey was not
to wait for her. For dinner, she made desperate
efforts. Before this the child was bathed once more,
and supposed to be already asleep ; and then further
oatmeal had to be stirred and carefully watched for
five-and-twenty minutes, an operation that entailed
burning cheeks and occasionally despair, for the

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Baacepan had a habit of boiling over without the
slightest warniDg, and requiring to be filled and
stirred for twenty-five minutes again. When the
task was accomplished, there followed a hurried at-
tempt to make herself look cool and nice before the
soup appeared, for Kent was apt to be irritable if
she was not ready, and if she had succeeded, and
the baby did not wake at the very last moment and
prevent her going in after all, the dinner-hour was
very agreeable.

Thanks to the chambermaid, they had been able
to dispense with the tallow candles at sixpence each,
and had obtained a lamp, which was much more
cheerful. The vin compris had turned out to be
rather good, too, and after the appalling meals at
the pension the cuisine struck them as quite first-
rate. Not infrequently, when the coffee was
brought in, they sent down for liquors, and their
evenings, despite the worry of the day, and their
ignorance where the money was coming from to pay
the bill, were very jolly.

Beaufort's expectations were still unrealized. On
Thursday he was certain ' things would be right on
Saturday,' and on Saturday, with undiminished con-
fidence, he repeated, ' Early in the week.' The pro-
prietress of the hotel was a huge red woman, who
had been a low-class domestic servant. The * gra-
cious service unexpressed' by which she had at-
tained her present prosperity, the squinting cham-
bermaid did not know, and she added, with a grin
and a grimace, that it was really very difficult to

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conjecture it. The flaming countenance and belligw
erent eye of the * missis' would assuredly have
scared Kent from the door, under the circumstances,
if she had been visible when he came there to
arrange, and on Sunday night he slept uneasily.
She delivered the bill next morning at nine o'clock,
and at twelve sent him a message that she desired it
settled at once. His interview with her was emi-
nently unpleasant, and on Wednesday, when the fire
for the child was not laid, and Cynthia inquired the
reason, she learned that the woman had forbidden the
servant to take up any fuel.

But for Nanette, their position would now have
been untenable. She smuggled wood to the room,
pacified her mistress by the recital of purely
imginary telegrams she had picked up on Monsieur
Kent's floor, and wound up by squeezing Cynthia's
hand one afternoon, and offering to bring down
some money she had saved out of her wages. This
was the last straw. Cynthia put her arms round
her neck and kissed her, and when Humphrey came
home, and she told him what had happened, they
both felt that to ' have to decline such a loan, and
wish it could be accepted, was about the deepest
humiliation to which it was possible people could
sink. They were mistaken, but it was the lowest
point which they themselves were called upon to
touch. The day following, Beaufort wired, asking
Humphrey to meet him at the Cabaret Lyonnais,
and gave him a little dinner at a moderate price
than which no one in the world need wish to eat a

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better. * Billy ' had not had his loan made yet —
that, he said cheerfully, was certain for next week —
but he had had a lucky night at baccarat, and after
the b^n^dictine he pulled a bundle of notes out on
to the table of the shabby restaurant, and, disclaim-
ing any thanks, paid what he owed in full.

With a cigar in his mouth and delight bubbling in
his veins, Kent jumped into a cab, and, rattling to
the Rue des Soeurs Filandiferes, threw their receipt
and the rest of his arrears into Cynthia's lap. She
nearly dropped the baby with astonishment, and
though they were unable to go out anywhere, it was
perhaps the liveliest night they had spent in Paris.
After adding together the Garins' account, and the
cost of their return, and a present to Nanette, it was
momentarily disconcerting to perceive how few of
the notes would be left ; but the relief was so enor-
mous that their spirits speedily rose again, and, ex-
travagant as it was, they ordered champagne, and in-
vited the chambermaid in to drink some of it.

Kent recovered their luggage the next morning,
and the morning after that they departed for Lon-
don, having heard in the meanwhile that the Wal-
fords could easily put them up until No. 64 was in
readiness for them. The journey without a nurse
was awkward, and though it had been essential to go to
the Walfords' on arrival, Kent was secretly chagrined
to reflect that explanations would have to be forth-
coming of her absence. Compared with the crossing
from Newhaven, this passage, to Cynthia, who had
to remain below all the time, was a long voyage, and

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when at last they reached Victoria, she felt that she
would have given a good deal to be going into the
Grosvenor Hotel. Strawberry Hill was gained about
nine o'clock, and Kent found the house a pathetic
descent from The Hawthorns. Mr. and Mrs. Wal-
ford, however, were not unamiable, and as they did
not refer to the nurse's absence otherwise than by in-
quiring presently how soon he expected to obtain
another, he concluded that his wife had anticipated
their surprise, and discounted it more or less dexter-
ously in her letters.

* So the paper was a failure ? * said Waif ord, when
the excitement of the entrance had subsided. ^ Oh,
well, you will be able to get something to do here,
I dare say, before long. What do you think of the
place ? Not so bad, eh ? '

* Not bad at all,' said Kent—* very pretty ! That
was awful news, sir. I was infernally sorry to hear
about it. Might have been worse, though — a good

* Ups and downs,* said the jobber ; * we'll get square
at the finish. Grin and bear it, Louisa, old girl.
You'll always have enough to eat.'

Mrs. Walford laughed constrainedly. She did not
relish allusion to their reverses ; it appeared to her
insult added to injury.

* I don't think we've either of us much cause to
grieve,' she answered. * We're very comfortable
here, don't you think so, Humphrey ? There are such
nice people in the neighborhood, Cynthia — ^people
who move in the best society, and — ^hee I hee I hee I

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—we are making quite a fashionable circle ; we are
out almost every night. Well, I don't hear much
about Paris. Did you have a jolly time ? '

* We went everywhere and saw everything,' said
Cynthia. ' Humphrey got no end of tickets, and —
well, yes, Paris is lovely.'

* Why « well, yes " ? '

*Well, of course, the paper's stopping was an
anxiety to us, mamma. Naturally. How's Aunt
Emily ? '

* Emily writes us once a week, acknowledging the
receipt of her allowance. How she is I really can't
tell you ; she says very little more than that she has
received the money. She is living in apartments in
Brunswick Square, and I believe she is very glad she
is alone. I am, I can tell you. She has become
very sour, Emily has.'

* Apartments in Brunswick Square aren't so re-
markably cheap,' observed Kent. *Aunt Emily
must be expensive, mater ? *

* Well, she has — er — one room. It's a nice large
room, I understand, and quite enough for one per-
son, I'm sure. There was no occasion for her to take
a suite ; she isn't going to give any parties.'

*No occasion whatever,' he rejoined. *A bed-
room can be very cosy when the lamp is lighted and
there's a bottle of wine on the table, can't it|

* She won't have any bottles of wine. What are
you thinking of ? ' said Mrs. Walford. * Not but what
she could afford wine,' she added hastily; ^ but it

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doesn't agree with her ; it never did. I suppose you
know that Csesar is still in Germany ? He has set-
tled there. If there are moments when I feel *^ out
of it " in spite of the company we see in Strawberry
Hill, it's when I read of the life that boy leads in
Berlin. He is in a brilliant circle — most brilliant I '

* Cynthia told me he had a first-rate thing.'

* Capital thing I ' affirmed Sam briskly. * I tell
you, he's going to the top of the tree. When he's
my age Caasar will be a big figure in Europe.'

Kent thought he was a fair size already, but re-
plied briefly that he had been very fortunate.

* Ability, my lad I He's got the brains I Do you
know, Louisa, it was damn foolishness of us ever to
persuade that boy to go on the stage? He was
meant for what he is ; we'd no right to divert his
natural bent I He's in the proper groove, because
his tendency was too strong for us. But we were
wrong — ^I say we did very wrong I By George I he
might never have made more than a couple of hun-
dred a week among greasy opera singers all his life.
What a thing I'

By dint of many midnight conferences with Louisa,
be had almost succeeded in believing that he meant
part of what he said.

*Are his prospects now so very wonderful, then,
papa?' asked Cynthia, with wonder in her eyes.
* What is it he w doing ? He has only a sort of
clerkship, has he?'

•A clerkship I ' shrieked her mother. * How can
you talk such ridic'lous nonsense? A clerkship I

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Absurd ! He is McCullough's right hand — quite his
right hand. McCullough says he would be worth
double the amount he is to-day if he had met Caasar
five years ago. He told your papa so last week —
didn't he, Sam?'

* Certainly/ said the jobber, but there was less con-
viction in his tone. This was new, and he had not
taught himself to try to credit it yet.

* He told your papa that Caesar's power of — er — of
gripping a subject was immense; he had never met
anything like it. He consults him in everything ; he
doesn't take a step without asking Caesar's opinion
first ; I don't suppose a young man ever had such an
extraordinary position before. Ho, you don't know
what you're talking about I '

Kent gave the conversation a twist by inquiring
Miss Wix's number, as he and Cynthia would have
to pay her a visit, and, on searching for her address,
Mrs. Walford discovered, with much surprise, that
she was not in Brunswick Square, after all, but that
her one room was in a street leading out of it.

The mistake was unimportant, and Kent, more-
over, had too much to occupy his mind to really think
of making social calls on anyone but Turquand.
To the oflBce of The Outpost he betook himself next
morning, and learnt that his friend was at Brighton
until Monday. This did not look as if he had been
pressed for his six pounds, but was otherwise disap-
pointing. Humphrey proceeded from ITie Outpost to
the Daily News and Athenceum offices, where he left
his advertisements, and after that he had only to

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fltroU through the streets, which looked very ugly
and depressing to him after Paris, back to Ludgate
Hill. Lunch was over when he reentered the villa,
but it had not been cleared away, and he found Cyn-
thia in the dining-room alone, reading a novel. He
noted, with as agreeable surprise as she could have
afforded him, that it was the copy of his own. which
he had given to Mrs. Walford on their return from
Dieppe. He looked at his wife kindly.

* Turk's not in town,' he said, helping himself to
cold sirloin and salad; 'gone to Brighton for a day or
two. I've paid for my advertisements ; did you send
off yours yet, to try to induce a general servant to
accept a situation? '

Cynthia shook her head meaningly, and came
across and took a chair beside him.

' Kemp is awfully nice with baby,' she said ; * she
is upstairs with him now, and on the whole I've been
thinking that we had better not hurry to get home
again ; we had better be a long time arranging mat-
ters, Humphrey. While we are here we haven't any

Kent stared, and then smiled.

* This is abominable morality,' he said. ' Paris has
certainly corrupted you, young woman. And, be-
sides, your people would worry my life out with
questions. Nothing puts me in a worse temper than
being asked what my news is when I haven't any.'

* That's all very well, my dear boy, but we haven*t
any money. There's a quarter's rent overdue now,
isn't there? and we should only have a month's

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peace before the tradespeople began to bother. I
really think we ought to take two or three weeks, at
all events, finding a girl ; I do indeed. Mamma and
papa would beg us to stop if they knew what a state
we were in ; it seems to me we ought to do it with-
out giving them the — ^ahem — ^needless pain of listen-
ing to our confession.'

* You're very specious,' laughed Kent. The semi-
serious conclusion might have been uttered by him-
self, and he approved the tone without recognizing
the model. ^Has your mother noticed that you
haven't got your ring on ? '

*No. I couldn't tell her a story about it, and I'm
praying that she won't. I've been envying you your
trouser-pockets ever since we arrived. Don't take
ale, Humphrey ; have some claret, it will do you
more good. If we sold our furniture *

♦ What would it fetch at a sale ? ' he replied ; * and
apartments would cost us more than the house. No;
at any rate, we'll make ourselves welcome here for a
week or so. And — well, let's hope the advertise-
ments will turn up trumps. Then we shall be inde-

The Dailtf News advertisement would appear on

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It was slightly disheartening to perceive bow many
other subeditors were open to offers, and he had the
uncomfortable consciousness that his competitors'
experience was probably a great deal wider than his
own. He knew that for him to consider subediting
a * daily ' was out of the question, and his chance of
securing a post on a periodical seemed scarcely bet-
ter on Monday morning, as he perused the * Wanted'
columns. Cynthia declared that his own advertise-
ment ^ read nicer than any in the list,' and that if she
were an editor it would certainly be the one which
attracted her attention ; but Cynthia was his wife,
and not an editor, and this encouraged him no more
than Sam Walford's supposition at the breakfast-
table, that he might obtain the management of * a
sound magazine.'

He went in the evening to Soho, and Cornelia's
successor, in opening the door, informed him that
Turquand had returned. The journalist was at the
table, writing furiously, and Kent declined to inter-
rupt him more than he had already done by entering.
Turquand indicated the cupboard where the whisky
was kept ; and, picking up a special edition, Hum-
phrey took a seat by the window, and read silently
until the other'laid down his pen.

* That' 8 off my chest I ' said Turquand, looking up

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after twenty minutes. *Well, my Parisian, how
do you carry yourself? Do you still speak En-

* I can still say ** thanks " in English,* answered
Kent. * I was devilish obliged to you, old chap.
Here's j&ar oof.*

* Rot !]^ said Turquand. *Have you been "pop-
ing '* anything to get it ? *

* The " popping '* took place before I wrote you.
Don*t be an ass ; I couldn't take the things out if I
didn't pay you back. Well, I've had some bad
quarters of an hour in the pleasant land of France, I
can tell you.'

* That's what I want you to do,* said Turquand.
♦Let's hear all about it. What do you think of that
whisky? Half a crown, my boy; my latest dis^
covery. I think it's damned good myself.*

He listened to the recital with an occasional smile,
and somehow, now the trouble was past, many of the
circumstances displayed a comic side to the narrator.
What was quite destitute of humor was the present,
and when they fell to discussing this, both men were

* I suppose you haven't been able to do anything
with the novel?* Kent asked. ♦Has it made the
round yet, or does a publisher remain who hasn't
seen it? *

♦It came back last week from Shedlock and
Archer. Oh yes ; publishers remain. It's at Thur-
gate and Tatham*8 now ; I packed it off to them on
Friday. Farqueharsen was no use. I tried him,

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as you asked ; he rejected it in a few days. I wrote
you that, didn't I ? '

* You did communicate the gratifying intelligence.
Where has it been ? '

Turquand produced a pocket-book.

* Farqueharsen, Rowland Ellis, Shedlock and Ar-
cher,' he announced. * I must enter Thurgate and
Tatham. I dare say you'll place it somewhere in the
long-run ; we haven't exhausted the good firms yet.
By-the-bye, the front page has got a bit dilapidated ;
you'd better copy that out, and restore the air of
virgin freshness, when Thurgate sends it home.'

* You expect he will, then ? '

* I don't know what to expect, you seem so in-
fernidly unlucky with it. For the life of me, I don't
know why it wasn't taken by Cousins, in the first
instance. I looked it through again the other night,
and I consider it's — I don't want to butter you, but
I consider it's a great work ; by Jove, I do ! '

Kent glowed ; he felt, as he had done all along,
that it was the best of which he was capable, and
praise of it was very dear to him, even though the
praise was a friend's.

* I say, you know about your wife's aunt, I sup-
pose ? ' said Turquand. ' What do you think of her ? *

* She has left the Walfords, you mean ? Who told

* Miss Wix told me. But I didn't mean that de-
parture ; I meant her new one.'

* Not heard of any other departure of the lady's.
What ? Where's she gone to ? '

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^ She has gone to journalism,' said Turquand, with
a grin ; * the fair Miss Wix is a full-blown journal-
ist I Don't your wife's people know ? She's keep-
ing it dark. She came to see me, and said her income
was slightly inadequate, and she thought she could
do some writing. Wanted to know if I could put
her in the way of anything.'

* Get out ! ' scoffed Kent. * Did she really come
to see you, though ? Very improper of her I '

* Oh, Miss Wix and I always took to each other. I
think she dislikes me less than anybody she knows.
I'm not kidding you ; it's true, honor bright.'

* What, that's she's writing ? '

Turquand nodded. His face was preternaturally
solemn, but his eyes twinkled.

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Online LibraryLeonard MerrickCynthia, a daughter of the Philistines → online text (page 13 of 18)