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Once a Week By A. A. Milne Characters: 101964

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Six months went by, and the murderer of Sir Joshua Tubbs, M.P. and Sir Eustace Butt, M.P. still remained at large. Roger had sold his cottage in the country and was now in London, performing his exercises with regularity, concentrating daily upon the words "wardrobe," "dough-nut," and "wasp," and living entirely upon proteids.

One day he had the idea that he would start a restaurant in the East-End for the sale of meatless foods. This would bring him in touch with the lower classes, among whom he expected to find the assassin of his two oldest friends.

In less than three or four years the shop was a tremendous success. In spite of this, however, Roger did not neglect his exercises; taking particular care to keep the toes well turned in when lunging ten times backwards. (Exercise 17.) Once, to his joy, the girl whom he had first met outside his country cottage came in and had her simple lunch of Smilopat (ninepence the dab) at his shop. That evening he lunged twelve times to the right instead of ten.

One day business had taken Roger to the West-End. As he was returning home at midnight through Gordon Square, he suddenly stopped and staggered back.

A body lay on the ground before him!

Hastily turning it over upon its face, Roger gave a cry of horror.

It was Detective-Inspector Frenchard! Stabbed in eleven places!

Roger hurried madly home, and devised an entirely new set of exercises for his morning drill. A full description of these, however, must be reserved for another chapter.

(And so on for ever.)

* * *


* * *


With the idea of brightening cricket, my friend Twyford has given me a new bat. I have always felt that, in my own case, it was the inadequacy of the weapon rather than of the man behind it which accounted for a certain monotony of low-scoring; with this new bat I hope to prove the correctness of my theory.

My old bat has always been a trier, but of late it has been manifestly past its work. Again and again its drive over long-off's head has failed to carry the bunker at mid-off. More than once it has proved itself an inch too narrow to ensure that cut-past-third-man-to-the-boundary which is considered one of the most graceful strokes in my repertoire. Worst of all, I have found it at moments of crisis (such as the beginning of the first over) utterly inadequate to deal with the ball which keeps low. When bowled by such a ball-and I may say that I am never bowled by any other-I look reproachfully at the bottom of my bat as I walk back to the pavilion. "Surely," I say to it, "you were much longer than this when we started out?"

Perhaps it was not magnanimous always to put the blame on my partner for our accidents together. It would have been more chivalrous to have shielded him. "No, no," I should have said to my companions as they received me with sympathetic murmurs of "Bad luck,"-"no, no, you mustn't think that. It was my own fault. Don't reproach the bat." It would have been well to have spoken thus; and indeed, when I had had time to collect myself, I did so speak. But out on the field, in the first shame of defeat, I had to let the truth come out. That one reproachful glance at my bat I could not hide.

But there was one habit of my bat's-a weakness of old age, I admit, but not the less annoying-about which it was my duty to let all the world know. One's grandfather may have a passion for the gum on the back of postage-stamps, and one hushes it up; but if he be deaf the visitor must be warned. My bat had a certain looseness in the shoulder, so that, at any quick movement of it, it clicked. If I struck the ball well and truly in the direction of point this defect did not matter; but if the ball went past me into the hands of the wicket-keeper, an unobservant bowler would frequently say, "How's that?" And an ill-informed umpire would reply, "Out." It was my duty before the game began to take the visiting umpire on one side and give him a practical demonstration of the click ...

But these are troubles of the past. I have my new bat now, and I can see that cricket will become a different game for me. My practice of this morning has convinced me of this. It was not one of your stupid practices at the net, with two burly professionals bumping down balls at your body and telling you to "Come out to them, Sir." It was a quiet practice in my rooms after breakfast, with no moving object to distract my attention and spoil my stroke. The bat comes up well. It is light, and yet there is plenty of wood in it. Its drives along the carpet were excellent; its cuts and leg glides all that could be wished. I was a little disappointed with its half-arm hook, which dislodged a teacup and gave what would have been an easy catch to mid-on standing close in by the sofa; but I am convinced that a little oil will soon put that right.

And yet there seemed to be something lacking in it. After trying every stroke with it; after tucking it under my arm and walking back to the bathroom, touching my cap at the pianola on the way; after experiments with it in all positions, I still felt that there was something wanting to make it the perfect bat. So I put it in a cab and went round with it to Henry. Henry has brightened first-class cricket for some years now.

"Tell me, Henry," I said, "what's wrong with this bat?"

"It seems all right," he said, after waving it about. "Rather a good one."

I laid it down on the floor and looked at it. Then I turned it on its face and looked at it. And then I knew.

"It wants a little silver shield on the back," I said. "That's it."

"Why, is it a presentation bat?" asked Henry.

"In a sense, yes. It was presented to me by Twyford."

"What for?"

"Really," I said modestly, "I hardly like-- Why do people give one things? Affection, Henry; pity, generosity-er--"

"Are you going to put that on the shield? 'Presented out of sheer pity to--'"

"Don't be silly; of course not. I shall put 'Presented in commemoration of his masterly double century against the Authentics,' or something like that. You've no idea how it impresses the wicket-keeper. He really sees quite a lot of the back of one's bat."

"Your inscription," said Henry, as he filled his pipe slowly, "will be either a lie or extremely unimpressive."

"It will be neither, Henry. If I put my own name on it, and talked about my double century, of course it would be a lie; but the inscription will be to Stanley Bolland."

"Who's he?"

"I don't know. I've just made him up. But now, supposing my little shield says, 'Stanley Bolland. H.P.C.C.-Season 1912. Batting average 116.34.'-how is that a lie?"

"What does H.P.C.C. stand for?"

"I don't know. It doesn't mean anything really. I'll leave out 'Batting average' if it makes it more truthful. 'Stanley Bolland. H.P.C.C., 1912. 116.34.' It's really just a little note I make on the back of my bat to remind me of something or other I've forgotten. 116.34 is probably Bolland's telephone number or the size of something I want at his shop. But by a pure accident the wicket-keeper thinks it means something else; and he tells the bowler at the end of the over that it's that chap Bolland who had an average of over a century for the Hampstead Polytechnic last year. Of course that makes the bowler nervous and he starts sending down long-hops."

"I see," said Henry; and he began to read his paper again.

So to-morrow I take my bat to the silversmith's and have a little engraved shield fastened on. Of course, with a really trustworthy weapon I am certain to collect pots of runs this season. But there is no harm in making things as easy as possible for oneself.

And yet there is this to be thought of. Even the very best bat in the world may fail to score, and it might so happen that I was dismissed (owing to some defect in the pitch) before my silver shield had time to impress the opposition. Or again, I might (through ill-health) perform so badly that quite a wrong impression of the standard of the Hampstead Polytechnic would be created, an impression which I should hate to be the innocent means of circulating.

So on second thoughts I lean to a different inscription. On the back of my bat a plain silver shield will say quite simply this:-


Stanley Bolland,

for saving life at sea.

From a few Admirers.

Thus I shall have two strings to my bow. And if, by any unhappy chance, I fail as a cricketer, the wicket-keeper will say to his comrades as I walk sadly to the pavilion, "A poor bat perhaps, but a brave-a very brave fellow."

It becomes us all to make at least one effort to brighten cricket.

* * *


Celia has more relations than would seem possible. I am gradually getting to know some them by sight and a few more by name, but I still make mistakes. The other day, for instance, she happened to say she was going to a concert with Uncle Godfrey.

"Godfrey," I said, "Godfrey. No, don't tell me-I shall get it in a moment. Godfrey ... Yes, that's it; he's the architect. He lives at Liverpool, has five children, and sent us the asparagus-cooler as a wedding present."

"No marks," said Celia.

"Then he's the unmarried one in Scotland who breeds terriers. I knew I should get it."

"As a matter of fact he lives in London and breeds oratorios."

"It's the same idea. That was the one I meant. The great point is that I placed him. Now give me another one." I leant forward eagerly.

"Well, I was just going to ask you-have you arranged anything about Monday?"

"Monday," I said, "Monday. No, don't tell me-I shall get it in a moment. Monday ... He's the one who-- Oh, you mean the day of the week?"

"Who's a funny?" asked Celia of the teapot.

"Sorry; I really thought you meant another relation. What am I doing? I'm playing golf if I can find somebody to play with."

"Well, ask Edward."

I could place Edward at once. Edward, I need hardly say, is Celia's uncle; one of the ones I have not yet met. He married a very young aunt of hers, not much older than Celia.

"But I don't know him," I said.

"It doesn't matter. Write and ask him to meet you at the golf club. I'm sure he'd love to."

"Wouldn't he think it rather cool, this sudden attack from a perfectly unknown nephew? I fancy the first step ought to come from uncle."

"But you're older than he is."

"True. It's rather a tricky point in etiquette. Well, I'll risk it."

This was the letter I sent to him:-

"My dear Uncle Edward,-Why haven't you written to me this term? I have spent the five shillings you gave me when I came back; it was awfully ripping of you to give it to me, but I have spent it now. Are you coming down to see me this term? If you aren't you might write to me; there is a post-office here where you can change postal orders.

"What I really meant to say was, can you play golf with me on Monday at Mudbury Hill? I am your new and favourite nephew, and it is quite time we met. Be at the club-house at 2.30, if you can. I don't quite know how we shall recognize each other, but the well-dressed man in the nut-brown suit will probably be me. My features are plain but good, except where I fell against the bath-taps yesterday. If you have fallen against anything which would give me a clue to your face you might let me know. Also you might let me know if you are a professor at golf; if you are, I will read some more books on the subject between now and Monday. Just at the moment my game is putrid.

"Your niece and my wife sends her love. Good-bye. I was top of my class in Latin last week. I must now stop, as it is my bath-night.

"I am,

"Your loving


The next day I had a letter from my uncle:-

"My dear Nephew,-I was so glad to get your nice little letter and to hear that you were working hard. Let me know when it is your bath-night again; these things always interest me. I shall be delighted to play golf with you on Monday. You will have no difficulty in recognizing me. I should describe myself roughly as something like Apollo and something like Little Tich, if you know what I mean. It depends how you come up to me. I am an excellent golfer and never take more than two putts in a bunker.

"Till 2.30 then. I enclose a postal-order for sixpence, to see you through the rest of the term.

"Your favourite uncle,


I showed it to Celia.

"Perhaps you could describe him more minutely," I said. "I hate wandering about vaguely and asking everybody I see if he's my uncle. It seems so odd."

"You're sure to meet all right," said Celia confidently. "He's-well, he's nice-looking and-and clean-shaven-and, oh, you'll recognize him."

At 2.30 on Monday I arrived at the club-house and waited for my uncle. Various people appeared, but none seemed in want of a nephew. When 2.45 came there was still no available uncle. True, there was one unattached man reading in a corner of the smoke-room, but he had a moustache-the sort of heavy moustache one associates with a major.

At three o'clock I became desperate. After all, Celia had not seen Edward for some time. Perhaps he had grown a moustache lately; perhaps he had grown one specially for to-day. At any rate there would be no harm in asking this major man if he was my uncle. Even if he wasn't he might give me a game of golf.

"Excuse me," I said politely, "but are you by any chance my Uncle Edward?"

"Your what?"

"I was almost certain you weren't, but I thought I'd just ask. I'm sorry."

"Not at all. Naturally one wants to find one's uncle. Have you-er-lost him long?"

"Years," I said sadly. "Er-I wonder if you would care to adopt me-I mean, give me a game this afternoon. My man hasn't turned up."

"By all means. I'm not very great."

"Neither am I. Shall we start now? Good."

I was sorry to miss Edward, but I wasn't going to miss a game of golf on such a lovely day. My spirits rose. Not even the fact that there were no caddies left and I had to carry my own clubs could depress me.

The Major drove. I am not going to describe the whole game; though my cleek shot at the fifth hole, from a hanging lie to within two feet of the-- However, I mustn't go into that now. But it surprised the Major a good deal. And when at the next hole I laid my brassie absolutely dead, he-- But I can tell you about that some other time. It is sufficient to say now that, when we reached the seventeenth tee, I was one up.

We both played the seventeenth well. He was a foot from the hole in four. I played my third from the edge of the green, and was ridiculously short, giving myself a twenty-foot putt for the hole. Leaving my clubs I went forward with the putter, and by the absurdest luck pushed the ball in.

"Good," said the Major. "Your game."

I went back for my clubs. When I turned round the Major was walking carelessly off to the next tee, leaving the flag lying on the green and my ball still in the tin.

"Slacker," I said to myself, and walked up to the hole.

And then I had a terrible shock. I saw in the tin, not my ball, but a moustache!

"Am I going mad?" I said. "I could have sworn that I drove off with a 'Colonel,' and yet I seem to have holed out with a Major's moustache!" I picked it up and hurried after him.

"Major," I said, "excuse me, you've dropped your moustache. It fell off at the critical stage of the match; the shock of losing was too much for you; the strain of--"

He turned his clean-shaven face round and grinned at me.

"On second thoughts," he said, "I am your long-lost uncle."

* * *


Peter Riley was one of those lucky people who take naturally to games. Actually he got his blue for cricket, rugger, and boxing, but his perfect eye and wrist made him a beautiful player of any game with a ball. Also he rode and shot well, and knew all about the inside of a car. But, although he was always enthusiastic about anything he was doing, he was not really keen on games. He preferred wandering about the country looking for birds' nests or discovering the haunts of rare butterflies; he liked managing a small boat single-handed in a stiff breeze; he would have enjoyed being upset and having to swim a long way to shore. Most of all, perhaps, he loved to lie on the top of the cliffs and think of the wonderful things that he would do for England when he was a Cabinet Minister. For politics was to be his profession, and he had just taken a first in History by way of preparation for it.

There were a lot of silly people who envied Peter's mother. They thought, poor dears, that she must be very, very proud of him, for they regarded Peter as the ideal of the modern young Englishman. "If only my boy grows up to be like Peter Riley!" they used to say to themselves; and then add quickly, "But of course he'll be much nicer." In their ignorance they didn't see that it was the Peters of England who were making our country the laughing-stock of the world.

If you had been in Berlin in 1916, you would have seen Peter; for he had been persuaded, much against his will, to uphold the honour of Great Britain in the middle-weights at the Olympic Games. He got a position in the papers as "P. Riley, disqualified"-the result, he could only suppose, of his folly in allowing his opponent to butt him in the stomach. He was both annoyed and amused about it; offered to fight his vanquisher any time in England; and privately thanked Heaven that he could now get back to London in time for his favourite sister's wedding.

But he didn't. The English trainer, who had been sent, at the public expense, to America for a year, to study the proper methods, got hold of him.

"I've been watching you, young man," he said. "You'll have to give yourself up to me now. You're the coming champion."

"I'm sorry," said Peter politely, "but I shan't be fighting again."

"Fighting!" said the trainer scornfully. "Don't you worry; I'll take good care that you don't fight any more. The event you're going to win is 'Pushing the Chisel.' I've been watching you, and you've got the most perfect neck and calf-muscles for it I've ever seen. No more fighting for you, my boy; nor cricket, nor anything else. I'm not going to let you spoil those muscles."

"I don't think I've ever pushed the Chisel," said Peter. "Besides, it's over, isn't it?"

"Over? Of course it's over, and that confounded American won. 'Poor old England,' as all the papers said."

"Then it's too late to begin to practise," said Peter thankfully.

"Well, it's too late for the 1920 games. But we can do a lot in eight years, and I think I can get you fit for the 1924 games at Pekin."

Peter stared at him in amazement.

"My good man," he said at last, "in 1924 I shall be in London; and I hope in the House of Commons."

"And what about the honour of your country? Do you want to read the jeers in the American papers when we lose 'Pushing the Chisel' in 1924?"

"I don't care a curse what the American papers say," said Peter angrily.

"Then you're very different from other Englishmen," said the trainer sternly.

* * *

Of course, Peter was persuaded; he couldn't let England be the laughing-stock of the world. So for eight years he lived under the eye of the trainer, rising at five and retiring to bed at seven-thirty. This prevented him from taking much part in the ordinary social activities of the evening; and even his luncheon and garden-party invitations had to be declined in some such words as "Mr. Peter Riley regrets that he is unable to accept Lady Vavasour's kind invitation for Monday the 13th, as he will be hopping round the garden on one leg then." His career, too, had to be abandoned; for it was plain that, even if he had the leisure to get into Parliament, the early hours he kept would not allow him to take part in any important divisions.

But there were compensations. As he watched his calves swell; as he looked in the glass and noticed each morning that his head was a little more on one side-sure sign of the expert Chisel-pusher; as, still surer sign, his hands became more knuckly and his mouth remained more permanently open, he knew that his devotion to duty would not be without its reward. He saw already his country triumphing, and heard the chorus of congratulation in the newspapers that England was still a nation of sportsmen....

In 1924 Pekin was crowded. There were, of course, the ordinary million inhabitants; and, in addition, people had thronged from all parts to see the great Chisel-pusher of whom so much had been heard. That they did not come in vain, we in London knew one July morning as we opened our papers.

"Pushing the Chisel (Free Style).

"1. P. Riley (Great Britain), 5-3/4 in. (World's Record). 2. H. Biffpoffer (America), 5-1/2 in. A. Wafer (America) was disqualified for going outside the wood."

* * *

And so England was herself again. There was only one discordant note in her triumph. Mr. P. A. Vaile pointed out in all the papers that Peter Riley, in the usual pig-headed English way, had been employing entirely the wrong grip. Mr. Vaile's book, How to Push the Chisel, illustrated with 50 full plates of Mr. Vaile in knickerbockers pushing the Chisel, explained the correct method.

* * *


"It's my birthday to-morrow," said Mrs. Jeremy as she turned the pages of her engagement book.

"Bless us, so it is," said Jeremy. "You're thirty-nine or twenty-seven or something. I must go and examine the wine-cellar. I believe there's one bottle left in the Apollinaris bin. It's the only stuff in the house that fizzes."

"Jeremy! I'm only twenty-six."

"You don't look it, darling; I mean you do look it, dear. What I mean-well, never mind that. Let's talk about birthday presents. Think of something absolutely tremendous for me to give you."

"A rope of pearls."

"I didn't mean that sort of tremendousness," said Jeremy quickly. "Anyone could give you a rope of pearls; it's simply a question of overdrawing enough from the bank. I meant something difficult that would really prove my love for you-like Lloyd George's ear or the Kaiser's cigar-holder. Something where I could kill somebody for you first. I am in a very devoted mood this morning."

"Are you really?" smiled Mrs. Jeremy. "Because--"

"I am. So is Baby, unfortunately. She will probably want to give you something horribly expensive. Between ourselves, dear, I shall be glad when Baby is old enough to buy her own presents for her mamma. Last Christmas her idea of a complete edition of Meredith and a pair of silver-backed brushes nearly ruined me."

"You won't be ruined this time, Jeremy. I don't want you to give me anything; I want you to show that devotion of yours by doing something for me."

"Anything," said Jeremy grandly. "Shall I swim the Channel? I was practising my new trudgeon stroke in the bath this morning." He got up from his chair and prepared to give an exhibition of it.

"No, nothing like that." Mrs. Jeremy hesitated, looked anxiously at him, and then went boldly at it. "I want you to go in for that physical culture that everyone's talking about."

"Who's everyone? Cook hasn't said a word to me on the subject; neither has Baby; neither has--"

"Mrs. Hodgkin was talking to me about it yesterday. She was saying how thin you were looking."

"The scandal that goes on in these villages," sighed Jeremy. "And the Vicar's wife too. Dear, all this is weeks and weeks old; I suppose it has only just reached the Vicarage. Do let us be up-to-date. Physical culture has been quite démodé since last Thursday."

"Well, I never saw anything in the paper"--

"Knowing what wives are, I hid it from you. Let us now, my dear wife, talk of something else."

"Jeremy! Not for my birthday present?" said his wife in a reproachful voice. "The Vicar does them every morning," she added casually.

"Poor beggar! But it's what Vicars are for." Jeremy chuckled to himself. "I should love to see him," he said. "I suppose it's private, though. Perhaps if I said 'Press'--"

"You are thin, you know."

"My dear, the proper way to get fat is not to take violent exercise, but to lie in a hammock all day and drink milk. Besides, do you want a fat husband? Does Baby want a fat father? You wouldn't like, at your next garden party, to have everybody asking you in a whisper, 'Who is the enormously stout gentleman?' If Nature made me thin-or, to be more accurate, slender and of a pleasing litheness-let us believe that she knew best."

"It isn't only thinness; these exercises keep you young and well and active in mind."

"Like the Vicar?"

"He's only just begun," said his wife hastily.

"Let's wait a bit and watch him," suggested Jeremy. "If his sermons really get better, then I'll think about it seriously. I make you a present of his baldness; I shan't ask for any improvement there."

Mrs. Jeremy went over to her husband and patted the top of his head.

"'In a very devoted mood this morning,'" she quoted.

Jeremy looked unhappy.

"What pains me most about this," he said, "is the revelation of your shortcomings as a wife. You ought to think me the picture of manly beauty. Baby does. She thinks that, next to the postman, I am one of the--"

"So you are, dear."

"Well, why not leave it? Really, I can't waste my time fattening refined gold and stoutening the lily. I am a busy man. I walk up and down the pergola, I keep a dog, I paint little water-colours, I am treasurer of the cricket club; my life is full of activities."

"This only takes a quarter of an hour before your bath, Jeremy."

"I am shaving then; I should cut myself and get all the soap in my eyes. It would be most dangerous. When you were a widow, and Baby and the pony were orphans, you and Mrs. Hodgkin would be sorry. But it would be too late. The Vicar, tearing himself away from Position 5 to conduct the funeral service--"

"Jeremy, don't!"

"Ah, woman, now I move you. You are beginning to see what you were in danger of doing. Death I laugh at; but a fat death-the death of a stout man who has swallowed the shaving-brush through taking too deep a breath before beginning Exercise 3, that is more than I can bear."


"When I said I wanted to kill someone for you, I didn't think you would suggest myself, least of all that you wanted me fattened up like a Christmas turkey first. To go down to posterity as the large-bodied gentleman who inhaled the badger's hair; to be billed in the London press in the words, 'Curious Fatal Accident to Adipose Treasurer'-to do this simply by way of celebrating your twenty-sixth birthday, when we actually have a bottle of Apollinaris left in the Apollinaris bin-darling, you cannot have been thinking--"

His wife patted his head again gently. "Oh, Jeremy, you hopeless person," she sighed. "Give me a new sunshade. I want one badly."

"No," said Jeremy, "Baby shall give you that. For myself I am still feeling that I should like to kill somebody for you. Lloyd George? No. F. E. Smith? N-no...." He rubbed his head thoughtfully. "Who invented those exercises?" he asked suddenly.

"A German, I think."

"Then," said Jeremy, buttoning up his coat, "I shall go and kill him."

* * *


There is no question before the country of more importance than that of National Health. In my own small way I have made something of a study of it, and when a Royal Commission begins its enquiries, I shall put before it the evidence which I have accumulated. I shall lay particular stress upon the health of Thomson.

"You'll beat me to-day," he said, as he swung his club stiffly on the first tee; "I shan't be able to hit a ball."

"You should have some lessons," I suggested.

Thomson gave a snort of indignation.

"It's not that," he said. "But I've been very seedy lately, and--"

"That's all right; I shan't mind. I haven't played a thoroughly well man for a month, now."

"You know, I think my liver--"

I held up my hand.

"Not before my caddie, please," I said severely; "he is quite a child."

Thomson said no more for the moment, but hit his ball hard and straight along the ground.

"It's perfectly absurd," he said with a shrug; "I shan't be able to give you a game at all. Well, if you don't mind playing a sick man--"

"Not if you don't mind being one," I replied, and drove a ball which also went along the ground, but not so far as my opponent's. "There! I'm about the only man in England who can do that when he's quite well."

The ball was sitting up nicely for my second shot, and I managed to put it on the green. Thomson's, fifty yards farther on, was reclining in the worst part of a bunker which he had forgotten about.

"Well, really," he said, "there's an example of luck for you. Your ball--"

"I didn't do it on purpose," I pleaded. "Don't be angry with me."

He made two attempts to get out, and then picked his ball up. We walked in silence to the second tee.

"This time," I said, "I shall hit the sphere properly," and with a terrific swing I stroked it gently into a gorse bush. I looked at the thing in disgust and then felt my pulse. Apparently I was still quite well. Thomson, forgetting about his liver, drove a beauty. We met on the green.

"Five," I said.

"Only five?" asked Thomson suspiciously.

"Six," I said, holing a very long putt.

Thomson's health had a relapse. He took four short putts and was down in seven.

"It's really rather absurd," he said, in a conversational way, as we went to the next tee, "that putting should be so ridiculously important. Take that hole, for instance. I get on the green in a perfect three; you fluff your drive completely and get on in-what was it?"

"Five," I said again.

"Er-five. And yet you win the hole. It is rather absurd, isn't it?"

"I've often thought so," I admitted readily. "That is to say, when I've taken four putts. I'm two up."

On the third tee Thomson's health became positively alarming. He missed the ball altogether.

"It's ridiculous to try to play," he said, with a forced laugh. "I can't see the ball at all."

"It's still there," I assured him.

He struck at it again and it hurried off into a ditch.

"Look here," he said, "wouldn't you rather play the pro.? This is not much of a match for you."

I considered. Of course, a game with the pro. would be much pleasanter than a game with Thomson, but ought I to leave him in his present serious condition of health? His illness was approaching its critical stage, and it was my duty to pull him through if I could.

"No, no," I said. "Let's go on. The fresh air will do you good."

"Perhaps it will," he said hopefully. "I'm sorry I'm like this, but I've had a cold hanging about for some days, and that on the top of my liver--"

"Quite so," I said.

The climax was reached, at the next hole, when, with several strokes in hand, he topped his approach shot into a bunker. For my sake he tried to look as though he had meant to run it up along the ground, having forgotten about the intervening hazard. It was a brave effort to hide from me the real state of his health, but he soon saw that it was hopeless. He sighed and pressed his hand to his eyes. Then he held his fingers a foot away from him, and looked at them as if he were trying to count them correctly. His state was pitiable, and I felt that at any cost I must save him.

I did. The corner was turned at the fifth, where I took four putts.

"You aren't going to win all the holes," he said grudgingly, as he ran down his putt.

Convalescence set in at the sixth, when I got into an impossible place and picked up.

"Oh, well, I shall give you a game yet," he said. "Two down."

The need for further bulletins ceased at the seventh hole, which he played really well and won easily.

"A-ha, you won't beat me by much," he said, "in spite of my liver."

"By the way, how is the liver?" I asked.

"Your fresh-air cure is doing it good. Of course, it may come on again, but--" He drove a screamer. "I think I shall be all right," he announced.

"All square," he said cheerily at the ninth. "I fancy I'm going to beat you now. Not bad, you know, considering you were four up. Practically speaking, I gave you a start of four holes."

I decided that it was time to make an effort again, seeing that Thomson's health was now thoroughly re-established. Of the next seven holes I managed to win three and halve two. It is only fair to say, though (as Thomson did several times), that I had an extraordinary amount of good luck, and that he was dogged by ill-fortune throughout. But this, after all, is as nothing so long as one's health is above suspicion. The great thing was that Thomson's liver suffered no relapse; even though, at the seventeenth tee, he was one down and two to play.

And it was on the seventeenth tee that I had to think seriously how I wanted the match to end. Thomson at lunch when he has won is a very different man from Thomson at lunch when he has lost. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was in rather a happy position. If I won, I won-which was jolly; if I lost, Thomson won-and we should have a pleasant lunch.

However, as it happened, the match was halved.

"Yes, I was afraid so," said Thomson; "I let you get too long a start. It's absurd to suppose that I can give you four holes up and beat you. It practically amounts to giving you four bisques. Four bisques is about six strokes-I'm not really six strokes better than you."

"What about lunch?" I suggested.

"Good; and you can have your revenge afterwards." He led the way into the pavilion. "Now I wonder," he said, "what I can safely eat. I want to be able to give you some sort of a game this afternoon."

Well, if there is ever a Royal Commission upon the national physique I shall insist on giving evidence. For it seems to me that golf, far from improving the health of the country, is actually undermining it. Thomson, at any rate, since he has taken to the game, has never been quite fit.

* * *


"Do you tango?" asked Miss Hopkins, as soon as we were comfortably seated. I know her name was Hopkins, because I had her down on my programme as Popkins, which seemed too good to be true; and, in order to give her a chance of reconsidering it, I had asked her if she was one of the Popkinses of Hampshire. It had then turned out that she was really one of the Hopkinses of Maida Vale.

"No," I said, "I don't." She was only the fifth person who had asked me, but then she was only my fifth partner.

"Oh, you ought to. You must be up-to-date, you know."

"I'm always a bit late with these things," I explained. "The waltz came to England in 1812, but I didn't really master it till 1904."

"I'm afraid if you wait as long as that before you master the tango it will be out."

"That's what I thought. By the time I learnt the tango, the bingo would be in. My idea was to learn the bingo in advance, so as to be ready for it. Think how you'll all envy me in 1917. Think how Society will flock to my Bingo Quick Lunches. I shall be the only man in London who bingoes properly. Of course, by 1918 you'll all be at it."

"Then we must have one together in 1918," smiled Miss Hopkins.

"In 1918," I pointed out coldly, "I shall be learning the pongo."

My next partner had no name that I could discover, but a fund of conversation.

"Do you tango?" she asked me as soon as we were comfortably seated.

"No," I said, "I don't. But," I added, "I once learned the minuet."

"Oh, they're not very much alike, are they?"

"Not a bit. However, luckily that doesn't matter, because I've forgotten all the steps now."

She seemed a little puzzled and decided to change the subject.

"Are you going to learn the tango?" she asked.

"I don't think so. It took me four months to learn the minuet."

"But they're quite different, aren't they?"

"Quite," I agreed.

As she seemed to have exhausted herself for the moment, it was obviously my business to say something. There was only one thing to say.

"Do you tango?" I asked.

"No," she said, "I don't."

"Are you going to learn?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Ah!" I said; and five minutes later we parted for ever.

The next dance really was a tango, and I saw to my horror that I had a name down for it. With some difficulty I found the owner of it, and prepared to explain to her that unfortunately I couldn't dance the tango, but that for profound conversation about it I was undoubtedly the man. Luckily she explained first.

"I'm afraid I can't do this," she apologised. "I'm so sorry."

"Not at all," I said magnanimously. "We'll sit it out."

We found a comfortable seat.

"Do you tango?" she asked.

I was tired of saying "No."

"Yes," I said.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to find somebody else to do it with?"

"Quite, thanks. The fact is I do it rather differently from the way they're doing it here to-night. You see, I actually learnt it in the Argentine."

She was very much interested to hear this.

"Really? Are you out there much? I've got an uncle living there now. I wonder if--"

"When I say I learnt it in the Argentine," I explained, "I mean that I was actually taught it in St. John's Wood, but that my dancing mistress came from--"

"In St. John's Wood?" she said eagerly. "But how funny! My sister is learning there. I wonder if--"

She was a very difficult person to talk to. Her relations seemed to spread themselves all over the place.

"Perhaps that is hardly doing justice to the situation," I explained again. "It would be more accurate to put it like this. When I decided-by the way, does your family frequent Paris? No? Good. Well, when I decided to learn the tango, the fact that my friends the Hopkinses of St. John's Wood, or rather Maida Vale, had already learnt it in Paris naturally led me to-- I say, what about an ice? It's getting awfully hot in here."

"Oh, I don't think--"

"I'll go and get them," I said hastily; and I went and took a long time getting them, and, as it turned out that she didn't want hers after all, a longer time eating them. When I was ready for conversation again the next dance was beginning. With a bow I relinquished her to another.

"Come along," said a bright voice behind me; "this is ours."

"Hallo, Norah, is that you? Come on."

We hurried in, danced in silence, and then found ourselves a comfortable seat. For a moment neither of us spoke....

"Have you learnt the tango yet?" asked Norah.

"Fourteen," I said aloud.

"Help! Does that mean that I'm the fourteenth person who has asked you?"

"The night is yet young, Norah. You are only the eighth. But I was betting that you'd ask me before I counted twenty. You lost, and you owe me a pair of ivory-backed hair-brushes and a cigar-cutter."

"Bother! Anyhow, I'm not going to be stopped talking about the tango if I want to. Did you know I was learning? I can do the scissors."

"Good. We'll do the new Fleet Street movement together, the scissors-and-paste. You go into the ball-room and do the scissors, and I'll-er-stick here and do the paste."

"Can't you really do any of it at all, and aren't you going to learn?"

"I can't do any of it at all, Norah. I am not going to learn, Norah."

"It isn't so very difficult, you know. I'd teach you myself for tuppence."

"Will you stop talking about it for threepence?" I asked, and I took out three coppers.


I sighed and put them back again.

* * *

It was the last dance of the evening. My hostess, finding me lonely, had dragged me up to somebody, and I and whatever her name was were in the supper-room drinking our farewell soup. So far we had said nothing to each other. I waited anxiously for her to begin. Suddenly she began.

"Have you thought about Christmas presents yet?" she asked.

I nearly swooned. With difficulty I remained in an upright position. She was the first person who had not begun by asking me if I danced the tango!

"Excuse me," I said. "I'm afraid I didn't-would you tell me your name again?"

I felt that it ought to be celebrated in some way. I had some notion of writing a sonnet to her.

"Hopkins," she said; "I knew you'd forgotten me."

"Of course I haven't," I said, suddenly remembering her. The sonnet would never be written now. "We had a dance together before."

"Yes," she said. "Let me see," she added, "I did ask you if you danced the tango, didn't I?"

* * *


* * *


Mr. Trevor Pilkington, of the well-known firm of Trevor Pilkington, fixed his horn spectacles carefully upon his nose, took a pinch of snuff, sneezed twice, gave his papers a preliminary rustle, looked slowly round the crowded room, and began to read the will. Through forty years of will-reading his method of procedure had always been the same. But Jack Summers, who was sharing an ottoman with two of the outdoor servants, thought that Mr. Pilkington's mannerisms were designed specially to annoy him, and he could scarcely control his impatience.

Yet no one ever had less to hope from the reading of a will than Jack. For the first twenty years of his life his parents had brought him up to believe that his cousin Cecil was heir to his Uncle Alfred's enormous fortune, and for the subsequent ten years his cousin Cecil had brought his Uncle Alfred up in the same belief. Indeed, Cecil had even roughed out one or two wills for signature, and had offered to help his uncle-who, however, preferred to do these things by himself-to hold the pen. Jack could not help feeling glad that his cousin was not there to parade his approaching triumph; a nasty cold, caught a week previously in attending his uncle to the Lord Mayor's Show, having kept Cecil in bed.

"To the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, ten shillings and sixpence"-the words came to him in a meaningless drone-"to the Fresh Air Fund, ten shillings and sixpence; to the King Edward Hospital Fund, ten shillings and sixpence"-was all the money going in charities?-"to my nephew Cecil Linley, who has taken such care of me"-Mr. Pilkington hesitated-"four shillings and ninepence; to my nephew, John Summers, whom, thank Heaven, I have never seen, five million pounds--"

A long whistle of astonishment came from the ottoman. The solicitor looked up with a frown.

"It's the surprise," apologised Jack. "I hardly expected so much. I thought that that brute-I mean I thought my cousin Cecil had nobbled-that is to say, was getting it all."

"The late Mr. Alfred made three wills," said the lawyer in a moment of expansion. "In the first he left his nephew Cecil a legacy of one shilling and tenpence, in the second he bequeathed him a sum of three shillings and twopence, and in the last he set aside the amount of four shillings and ninepence. The evidence seems to show that your cousin was rapidly rising in his uncle's estimation. You, on the other hand, have always been a legatee to the amount of five million pounds; but in the last will there is a trifling condition attached." He resumed his papers. "To my nephew, John Summers, five million pounds, on condition that, within one year from the date of my death, he marries Mary Huggins, the daughter of my old friend, now deceased, William Huggins."

Jack Summers rose proudly from his end of the ottoman.

"Thanks," he said curtly. "That tears it. It's very kind of the old gentleman, but I prefer to choose a wife for myself." He bowed to the company and strode from the room.

* * *

It was a cloudless August day. In the shadow of the great elms that fringed the Sussex lane a girl sat musing; on its side in the grass at her feet a bicycle, its back wheel deflated. She sat on the grassy bank with her hat in her lap, quite content to wait until the first passer-by with a repairing outfit in his pocket should offer to help her.

"Can I be of any assistance?" said a manly voice, suddenly waking her from her reverie.

She turned with a start. The owner of the voice was dressed in a stylish knickerbocker suit; his eyes were blue, his face was tanned, his hair was curly, and he was at least six foot tall. So much she noticed at a glance.

"My bicycle," she said; "punctured."

In a minute he was on his knees beside the machine. A rapid examination convinced him that she had not over-stated the truth, and he whipped from his pocket the repairing outfit without which he never travelled.

"I can do it in a moment," he said. "At least, if you can just help me a little."

As she knelt beside him he could not fail to be aware of her wonderful beauty. The repairs, somehow, took longer than he thought. Their heads were very close together all the time, and indeed on one occasion came violently into contact.

"There," he said at last, getting up and barking his shin against the pedal. "Conf-- That will be all right."

"Thank you," she said tenderly.

He looked at her without disguising his admiration; a tall, straight figure in the sunlight, its right shin rubbing itself vigorously against its left calf.

"It's absurd," he said at last; "I feel as if I've known you for years. And, anyway, I'm certain I've seen you before somewhere."

"Did you ever go to The Seaside Girl?" she asked eagerly.


"Do you remember the Spanish princess who came on at the beginning of the Second Act and said, 'Wow-wow!' to the Mayor?"

"Why, of course! And you had your photograph in The Sketch, The Tatler, The Bystander, and The Sporting and Dramatic all in the same week?"

The girl nodded happily. "Yes, I'm Marie Huguenot!" she said.

"And I'm Jack Summers; so now we know each other." He took her hand. "Marie," he said, "ever since I have mended your bicycle-I mean, ever since I have known you, I have loved you. Will you marry me?"

"Jack!" she cooed. "You did say 'Jack,' didn't you?"

"Bless you, Marie. We shall be very poor, dear. Will you mind?"

"Not with you, Jack. At least, not if you mean what I mean by 'very poor.'"

"Two thousand a year."

"Yes, that's about what I meant."

Jack took her in his arms.

"And Mary Huggins can go and marry the Pope," he said, with a smile.

With a look of alarm in her eyes she pushed him suddenly away from her. There was a crash as his foot went through the front wheel of the bicycle.

"Mary Huggins?" she cried.

"Yes, I was left a fortune on condition that I married a person called Mary Huggins. Absurd! As though--"

"How much?"

"Oh, quite a lot if it wasn't for these confounded death duties. Five million pounds. You see--"

"Jack, Jack!" cried the girl. "Don't you understand? I am Mary Huggins."

He looked at her in amazement.

"You said your name was Marie Huguenot," he said slowly.

"My stage name, dear. Naturally I couldn't-I mean, one must-you know how particular managers are. When father died and I had to go on the stage for a living--"

"Marie, my darling!"

Mary rose and picked up her bicycle. The air had gone out of the back wheel again, and there were four spokes broken, but she did not heed it.

"You must write to your lawyer to-night," she said. "Won't he be surprised?"

But, being a great reader of the magazines, he wasn't.

* * *


On a certain night in the middle of the season all London was gathered in Lady Marchpane's drawing-room; all London, that is, which was worth knowing-a qualification which accounted for the absence of several million people who had never heard of Lady Marchpane. In one corner of the room an Ambassador, with a few ribbons across his chest, could have been seen chatting to the latest American Duchess; in another corner one of our largest Advertisers was exchanging epigrams with a titled Newspaper Proprietor. Famous Generals rubbed shoulders with Post-Impressionist Artists; Financiers whispered sweet nothings to Breeders of prize Poms; even an Actor-Manager might have been seen accepting an apology from a Royalty who had jostled him.

"Hallo," said Algy Lascelles, catching sight of the dignified figure of Rupert Meryton in the crowd; "how's William?"

A rare smile lit up Rupert's distinguished features. He was Under Secretary for Invasion Affairs, and "William" was Algy's pleasant way of referring to the Bill which he was now piloting through the House of Commons. It was a measure for doing something or other by means of a what-d'you-call-it-I cannot be more precise without precipitating a European Conflict.

"I think we shall get it through," said Rupert calmly.

"Lady Marchpane was talking about it just now. She's rather interested, you know."

Rupert's lips closed about his mouth in a firm line. He looked over Algy's head into the crowd. "Oh!" he said coldly.

It was barely ten years ago that young Meryton, just down from Oxford, had startled the political world by capturing the important seat of Cricklewood (E.) for the Tariffadicals-as, to avoid plunging the country into Civil War, I must call them. This was at a by-election, and the Liberatives had immediately dissolved, only to come into power after the General Election with an increased majority. Through the years that followed, Rupert Meryton, by his pertinacity in asking the Invasion Secretary questions which had been answered by him on the previous day, and by his regard for the dignity of the House, as shown in his invariable comment, "Come, come-not quite the gentleman," upon any display of bad manners opposite, established a clear right to a post in the subsequent Tariffadical Government. He had now been Under Secretary for two years, and in this Bill his first real chance had come.

"Oh, there you are, Mr. Meryton," said a voice. "Come and talk to me a moment." With a nod to a couple of Archbishops Lady Marchpane led the way to a little gallery whither the crowd had not penetrated. Priceless Correggios, Tintorettos, and G. K. Chestertons hung upon the walls, but it was not to show him these that she had come. Dropping into a wonderful old Chippendale chair, she motioned him to a Blundell-Maple opposite her, and looked at him with a curious smile.

"Well," she said, "about the Bill?"

Rupert's lips closed about his mouth in a firm line. (He was rather good at this.) Folding his arms, he gazed steadily into Lady Marchpane's still beautiful eyes.

"It will go through," he said. "Through all its stages," he added professionally.

"It must not go through," said Lady Marchpane gently.

Rupert could not repress a start, but he was master of himself again in a moment.

"I cannot add anything to my previous statement," he said.

"If it goes through," began Lady Marchpane--

"I must refer you," said Rupert, "to my answer of yesterday."

"Come, co

me, Mr. Meryton, what is the good of fencing with me? You know the position. Or shall I state it for you again?"

"I cannot believe you are serious."

"I am perfectly serious. There are reasons, financial reasons-and others-why I do not want this Bill to pass. In return for my silence upon a certain matter, you are going to prevent it passing. You know to what I refer. On the 4th of May last--"

"Stop!" cried Rupert hoarsely.

"On the 4th of May last," Lady Marchpane went on relentlessly, "you and I-in the absence of my husband abroad-had tea together at an A.B.C." (Rupert covered his face with his hands.) "I am no fonder of scandal than you are, but if you do not meet my wishes I shall certainly confess the truth to Marchpane."

"You will be ruined too!" said Rupert.

"My husband will forgive me and take me back." She paused significantly. "Will Marjorie Hale--" (Rupert covered his hands with his face)-"will the good Miss Hale forgive you? She is very strict, is she not? And rich? And rising young politicians want money more than scandal." She raised her head suddenly at the sound of footsteps. "Ah, Archbishop, I was just calling Mr. Meryton's attention to this wonderful Botticell--" (she looked at it more closely)--"this wonderful Dana Gibson. A beautiful piece of work, is it not?" The intruders passed on to the supper-room, and they were alone again.

"What am I to do?" said Rupert sullenly.

"The fate of the Bill is settled to-day week, when you make your big speech. You must speak against it. Confess frankly you were mistaken. It will be a close thing, anyhow. Your influence will turn the scale."

"It will ruin me politically."

"You will marry Marjorie Hale and be rich. No rich man is ever ruined politically. Or socially." She patted his hand gently. "You'll do it?"

He got up slowly. "You'll see next week," he said.

It is not meet that we should watch the unhappy Rupert through the long-drawn hours of the night, as he wrestled with the terrible problem. A moment's sudden madness on that May afternoon had brought him to the cross-roads. On the one hand, reputation, wealth, the girl that he loved; on the other, his own honour and-so, at least, he had said several times on the platform-the safety of England. He rose in the morning weary, but with his mind made up.

The Bill should go through!

Rupert Meryton was a speaker of a not unusual type. Although he provided the opinions himself, he always depended upon his secretary for the arguments with which to support them and the actual words in which to give them being. But on this occasion he felt that a special effort was required of him. He would show Lady Marchpane that the blackmail of yesterday had only roused him to a still greater effort on behalf of his country. He would write his own speech.

On the fateful night the House was crowded. It seemed that all the guests at Lady Marchpane's a week before were in the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery or behind the Ladies' Grille. From the Press Gallery "Our Special Word-painter" looked down upon the statesmen beneath him, his eagle eye ready to detect on the moment the Angry Flush, the Wince, or the Sudden Paling of enemy, the Grim Smile or the Lofty Calm of friend.

The Rt. Hon. Rupert Meryton, Tariffadical Member for Cricklewood (E.) rose to his feet amidst cheers.

"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I rise-er-to-night, sir-h'r'm, to-er--" So much of his speech I may give, but urgent State reasons compel me to withhold the rest. Were it ever known with which Bill the secret history that I have disclosed concerns itself, the Great Powers in an instant would be at each other's throats. But though I may not disclose the speech I can tell of its effect on the House. And its effect was curious. It was, in fact, the exact opposite of what Rupert Meryton, that promising Under Secretary, had intended.

It was the first speech that he had ever prepared himself. Than Rupert there was no more dignified figure in the House of Commons; his honour was proof, as we have seen, against the most insidious temptations; yet, since one man cannot have all the virtues, he was distinctly stupid. It would have been a hopeless speech anyhow; but, to make matters worse, he had, in the most important part of it, attempted irony. And at the beginning of the ironical passage even the Tariffadical word-painters had to confess that it was their own stalwarts who "suddenly paled."

As Lady Marchpane had said, it was bound to be a close thing. The Liberatives and the Unialists, of course, were solid against the Bill, but there was also something of a cave in the Tariffadical Party. It was bound to be a close thing, and Rupert's speech just made the difference. When he sat down the waverers and doubters had made up their minds.

The Bill was defeated.

* * *

That the Tariffadicals should resign was natural; perhaps it was equally natural that Rupert's secretary should resign too. He said that his reputation would be gone if Rupert made any more speeches on his own, and that he wasn't going to risk it. Without his secretary Rupert was lost at the General Election which followed. Fortunately he had a grateful friend in Lady Marchpane. She exerted her influence with the Liberatives, and got him an appointment as Governor of the Stickjaw Islands. Here, with his beautiful and rich wife, Sir Rupert Meryton maintains a regal state, and upon his name no breath of scandal rests. Indeed, his only trouble so far has been with the Stickjaw language-a difficult language, but one which, perhaps fortunately, does not lend itself to irony.

* * *


It was in October, 19- that the word "Zinc" first began to be heard in financial circles. City men, pushing their dominoes regretfully away, and murmuring "Zinc" in apologetic tones, were back in their offices by three o'clock, forgetting in their haste to leave the usual twopence under the cup for the waitress. Clubmen, glancing at the tape on their way to the smoking-room, said to their neighbours, "Zinc's moved a point, I see," before covering themselves up with The Times. In the trains, returning husbands asked each other loudly, "What's all this about zinc?"-all save the very innocent ones, who whispered, "I say, what is zinc exactly?" The music-halls took it up. No sooner had the word "Zinc" left the lips of an acknowledged comedian than the house was in roars of laughter. The furore at the Collodium when Octavius Octo, in his world-famous part of the landlady of a boarding-house, remarked, "I know why my ole man's so late. 'E's buying zinc," is still remembered in the bars round Piccadilly.

* * *

To explain it properly it will be necessary (my readers will be alarmed to hear) to go back some thirty years. This, as a simple calculation shows, takes us to June, 18-. It was in June, 18- that Felix Moses, a stout young man of attractive appearance (if you care for that style), took his courage in both hands, and told Phyllida Sloan that he was worth ten thousand a year and was changing his name to Mountenay. Miss Sloan, seeing that it was the beginning of a proposal, said hastily that she was changing hers to Abraham.

"You're marrying Leo Abraham?" asked Felix in amazement. "Ah!" A gust of jealousy swept over him. He licked his lips. There was a dangerous look in his eyes-a look that was destined in after days to make Emperors and rival financiers quail. "Ah!" he said softly. "Leo Abraham! I shall not forget!"

* * *

And now it will be necessary (my readers will be relieved to learn) to jump forward some thirty years. This obviously takes us to September 19-. Let us on this fine September morning take a peep into "No. - Throgneedle Street, E.C.," and see how the business of the mother city is carried on.

On the fourth floor we come to the sanctum of the great man himself. "Mr. Felix Mountenay-No admittance," is painted upon the outer door. It is a name which is known and feared all over Europe. Mr. Mountenay's private detective stands on one side of the door; on the other side is Mr. Mountenay's private wolf-hound. Murmuring the word "Press," however, we pass hastily through, and find ourselves before Mr. Mountenay himself. Mr. Mountenay is at work; let us watch him through a typical five minutes.

For a moment he stands meditating in the middle of the room. Kings are tottering on their thrones. Empires hang upon his nod. What will he decide? Suddenly he blows a cloud of smoke from his cigar, and rushes to the telephone.

"Hallo! Is that you, Jones?... What are Margarine Prefs. at?... What?... No, Margarine Prefs., idiot.... Ah! Then sell. Keep on selling till I tell you to stop.... Yes."

He hangs up the receiver. For two minutes he paces the room, smoking rapidly. He stops a moment ... but it is only to remove his cigar-band, which is in danger of burning. Then he resumes his pacings. Another minute goes rapidly by. He rushes to the telephone again.

"Hallo! Is that you, Jones?... What are Margarine Prefs. down to now?... Ah! Then buy. Keep on buying.... Yes."

He hangs up the receiver. By this master-stroke he has made a quarter of a million. It may seem to you or me an easy way of doing it. Ah, but what, we must ask ourselves, of the great brain that conceived the idea, the foresight which told the exact moment when to put it into action, the cool courage which seized the moment-what of the grasp of affairs, the knowledge of men? Ah! Can we grudge it him that he earns a quarter of a million more quickly than we do?

Yet Mr. Felix Mountenay is not happy. When we have brought off a coup for a hundred thousand even, we smile gaily. Mr. Mountenay did not smile. Fiercely he bit another inch off his cigar, and muttered to himself.

The words were "Leo Abraham! Wait!"

* * *

This is positively the last row of dots. Let us take advantage of them to jump forward another month. It was October 1st, 19-. (If that was a Sunday, then it was October 2nd. Anyhow, it was October.)

Mr. Felix Mountenay was sleeping in his office. For once that iron brain relaxed. He had made a little over three million in the last month, and the strain was too much for him. But a knock at the door restored him instantly to his own cool self.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said his secretary, "but somebody is selling zinc."

The word "zinc" touched a chord in Mr. Mountenay's brain which had lain dormant for years. Zinc! Why did zinc remind him of Leo Abraham?

"Fetch the Encyclopedia Britannica, quick!" he cried.

The secretary, a man of herculean build, returned with some of it. With the luck which proverbially attends rich men, Mr. Mountenay picked up the "Z" volume at once. As he read the Zinc article it all came back to him. Leo Abraham had owned an empty zinc-mine! Was his enemy in his clutches at last?

"Buy!" he said briefly.

In a fortnight the secretary had returned.

"Well," said Mr. Mountenay, "have you bought all the zinc there is?"

"Yes, sir," said the secretary. "And a lot that there isn't," he added.

"Good!" He paused a moment. "When Mr. Leo Abraham calls," he added grimly, "show him up at once."

It was a month later that a haggard man climbed the stairs of No. - Throgneedle Street, and was shown into Mr. Mountenay's room.

"Well," said the financier softly, "what can I do for you?"

"I want some zinc," said Leo Abergavenny.

"Zinc," said Mr. Mountenay, with a smile, "is a million pounds a ton. Or an acre, or a gallon, or however you prefer to buy it," he added humorously.

Leo went white.

"You wish to ruin me?"

"I do. A promise I made to your wife some years ago."

"My wife?" cried Leo. "What do you mean? I'm not married."

It was Mr. Mountenay's turn to go white. He went it.

"Not married? But Miss Sloan--"

Mr. Leo Abergavenny sat down and mopped his face.

"I don't know what you mean," he said. "I asked Miss Sloan to marry me, and told her I was changing my name to Abergavenny. And she said that she was changing hers to Moses. Naturally, I thought--"

"Stop!" cried Mr. Mountenay. He sat down heavily. Something seemed to have gone out of his life; in a moment the world was empty. He looked up at his old rival, and forced a laugh.

"Well, well," he said; "she deceived us both. Let us drink to our lucky escape." He rang the bell.

"And then," he said in a purring voice, "we can have a little talk about zinc. After all, business is still business."

* * *


His slippered feet stretched out luxuriously to the fire, Dr. Venables, of Mudford, lay back in his arm-chair and gave himself up to the delights of his Flor di Cabajo, No. 2, a box of which had been presented to him by an apparently grateful patient. It had been a busy day. He had prescribed more than half a dozen hot milk-puddings and a dozen changes of air; he had promised a score of times to look in again to-morrow; and the Widow Nixey had told him yet again, but at greater length than before, her private opinion of doctors.

Sometimes Gordon Venables wondered whether it was only for this that he had been the most notable student of his year at St. Bartholomew's. His brilliance, indeed, had caused something of a sensation in medical circles, and a remarkable career had been prophesied for him. It was Venables who had broken up one Suffrage meeting after another by throwing white mice at the women on the platform; who day after day had paraded London dressed in the costume of a brown dog, until arrested for biting an anti-vivisector in the leg. No wonder that all the prizes of the profession were announced to be within his grasp, and that when he buried himself in the little country town of Mudford he was thought to have thrown away recklessly opportunities such as were granted to few.

He had been in Mudford for five years now. An occasional paper in The Lancet on "The Recurrence of Anthro-philomelitis in Earth-worms" kept him in touch with modern medical thought, but he could not help feeling that to some extent his powers were rusting in Mudford. As the years went on his chance of Harley Street dwindled.

"Come in," he said in answer to a knock at the door.

The housekeeper's head appeared.

"There's been an accident, sir," she gasped. "Gentleman run over!"

He snatched up his stethoscope and, without even waiting to inquire where the accident was, hurried into the night. Something whispered to him that his chance had come.

After a quarter of an hour he stopped a small boy.

"Hallo, Johnny," he said breathlessly, "where's the accident?"

The boy looked at him with open mouth for some moments. Then he had an idea.

"Why, it's Doctor!" he said.

Dr. Venables pushed him over and ran on....

It was in the High Street that the accident had happened. Lord Lair, an eccentric old gentleman who sometimes walked when he might have driven, had, while dodging a motor-car, been run into by a child's hoop. He lay now on the pavement surrounded by a large and interested crowd.

"Look out," shouted somebody from the outskirts; "here comes Doctor."

Dr. Venables pushed his way through to his patient. His long search for the scene of the accident had exhausted him bodily, but his mind was as clear as ever.

"Stand back there," he said in an authoritative voice. Then, taking out his stethoscope, he made a rapid examination of his patient.

"Incised wound in the tibia," he murmured to himself. "Slight abrasion of the patella and contusion of the left ankle. The injuries are serious but not necessarily mortal. Who is he?"

The butcher, who had been sitting on the head of the fallen man, got up and disclosed the features of Lord Lair. Dr. Venables staggered back.

"His lordship!" he cried. "He is a patient of Dr. Scott's! I have attended the client of another practitioner! Professionally I am ruined!"

Lord Lair, who was now breathing more easily, opened his eyes.

"Take me home," he groaned.

Dr. Venables' situation was a terrible one. Medical etiquette demanded his immediate retirement from the case, but the promptings of humanity and the thought of his client's important position in the world were too strong for him. Throwing his scruples to the winds, he assisted the aged peer on to a hastily improvised stretcher and accompanied him to the Hall.

His lordship once in bed, the doctor examined him again. It was obvious immediately that there was only one hope of saving the patient's life. An injection of anthro-philomelitis must be given without loss of time.

Dr. Venables took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. He never travelled without a small bottle of this serum in his waistcoat pocket-a serum which, as my readers know, is prepared from the earth-worm, in whose body (fortunately) large deposits of anthro-philomelitis are continually found. With help from a footman in holding down the patient, the injection was made. In less than a year Lord Lair was restored to health.

* * *

Dr. Gordon Venables' case came before the British Medical Council early in October. The counts in the indictment were two.

The first was that, "on the 17th of June last, Dr. Gordon Venables did feloniously and with malice aforethought commit the disgusting and infamous crime of attending professionally the client of another practitioner."

The second was that "in the course of rendering professional services to the said client, Dr. Venables did knowingly and wittingly employ the assistance of one who was not a properly registered medical man, to wit, Thomas Boiling, footman, thereby showing himself to be a scurvy fellow of infamous morals."

Dr. Venables decided to apologise. He also decided to send in an account to Lord Lair for two hundred and fifty guineas. He justified this to himself mainly on the ground that, according to a letter in that week's Lancet, the supply of anthro-philomelitis in earth-worms was suddenly giving out, and that it was necessary to recoup himself for the generous quantity he had injected into Lord Lair. Naturally, also, he felt that his lordship, as the author of the whole trouble, owed him something.

The Council, in consideration of his apology, dismissed the first count. On the second count, however, they struck him off the register.

It was a terrible position for a young doctor to be in, but Gordon Venables faced it like a man. With Lord Lair's fee in his pocket he came to town and took a house in Harley Street. When he had paid the first quarter's rent and the first instalment on the hired furniture, he had fifty pounds left.

Ten pounds he spent on embossed stationery.

Forty pounds he spent on postage-stamps.

For the next three months no journal was complete without a letter from 999 Harley Street, signed "Gordon Venables," in which the iniquity of his treatment by the British Medical Council was dwelt upon with the fervour of a man who knew his subject thoroughly; no such letter was complete without a side-reference to anthro-philomelitis (as found, happily, in earth-worms) and the anthro-philomelitis treatment (as recommended by peers). Six months previously the name of Venables had been utterly unknown to the man in the street. In three months' time it was better known even than --'s, the well-known --.

One-half of London said he was an infamous quack.

The other half of London said he was a martyred genius.

Both halves agreed that, after all, one might as well try this new what-you-may-call-it treatment, just to see if there was anything in it, don't you know.

It was only last week that Mr. Venables made an excellent speech against the super-tax.

* * *


The great Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires, paced the floor of his luxurious apartment with bowed head, his corrugated countenance furrowed with lines of anxiety. He had just returned from a lunch with all his favourite advertisers ... but it was not this which troubled him. He was thinking out a new policy for The Daily Vane.

Suddenly he remembered something. Coming up to town in his third motor, he had glanced through the nineteen periodicals which his house had published that morning, and in one case had noted matter for serious criticism. This was obviously the first business he must deal with.

He seated himself at his desk and pushed the bell marked "38." Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of sandwiches.

"What do you want?" said Strong coldly.

"You rang for me, sir," replied the trembling menial.

"Go away," said Strong. Recognizing magnanimously, however, that the mistake was his own, he pressed bell "28." In another moment the editor of Sloppy Chunks was before him.

"In to-day's number," said Strong, as he toyed with a blue pencil, "you apologize for a mistake in last week's number." He waited sternly.

"It was a very bad mistake, sir, I'm afraid. We did a great injustice to--"

"You know my rule," said Strong. "The mistake of last week I could have overlooked. The apology of this week is a more serious matter. You will ask for a month's salary on your way out." He pressed a button and the editor disappeared through the trap-door.

Alone again, Hector Strong thought keenly for a moment. Then he pressed bell "38." Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of sandwiches.

"What do you mean by this?" roared Strong, his iron self-control for a moment giving way.

"I b-beg your pardon, sir," stammered the man. "I th-thought--"

"Get out!" As the footman retired, Strong passed his hand across his forehead. "My memory is bad to-day," he murmured, and pushed bell "48."

A tall thin man entered.

"Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Brownlow," said the Proprietor. He toyed with his blue pencil. "Let me see, which of our papers are under your charge at the moment?"

Mr. Brownlow reflected.

"Just now," he said, "I am editing Snippety Snips, The Whoop, The Girls' Own Aunt, Parings, Slosh, The Sunday Sermon, and Back Chat."

"Ah! Well, I want you to take on Sloppy Chunks too for a little while. Mr. Symes has had to leave us."

"Yes, sir." Mr. Brownlow bowed and moved to the door.

"By the way," Strong said, "your last number of Slosh was very good. Very good indeed. I congratulate you. Good day."

Left alone, Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires, resumed his pacings. His two mistakes with the bell told him that he was distinctly not himself this afternoon. Was it only the need of a new policy for The Vane which troubled him? Or was it--

Could it be Lady Dorothy?

Lady Dorothy Neal was something of an enigma to Hector Strong. He was making more than a million pounds a year, and yet she did not want to marry him. Sometimes he wondered if the woman were quite sane. Yet, mad or sane, he loved her.

A secretary knocked and entered. He waited submissively for half an hour until the Proprietor looked up.


"Lady Dorothy Neal would like to see you for a moment, sir."

"Show her in."

Lady Dorothy came in brightly.

"What nice-looking men you have here," she said. "Who is the one in the blue waistcoat? He has curly hair."

"You didn't come to talk about him?" said Hector reproachfully.

"I didn't come to talk to him really, but if you keep me waiting half an hour-- Why, what are you doing?"

Strong looked up from the note he was writing. The tender lines had gone from his face, and he had become the stern man of action again.

"I am giving instructions that the services of my commissionaire, hall-boy, and fifth secretary will no longer be required."

"Don't do that," pleaded Dorothy.

Strong tore up the note and turned to her. "What do you want of me?" he asked.

She blushed and looked down. "I-I have written a-a play," she faltered.

He smiled indulgently. He did not write plays himself, but he knew that other people did.

"When does it come off?" he asked.

"The manager says it will have to at the end of the week. It came on a week ago."

"Well," he smiled, "if people don't want to go, I can't make them."

"Yes, you can," she said boldly.

He gave a start. His brain working at lightning speed saw the possibilities in an instant. At one stroke he could win Lady Dorothy's gratitude, provide The Daily Vane with a temporary policy, and give a convincing exhibition of the power of his press.

"Oh, Mr. Strong--"

"Hector," he whispered. As he rose from his desk to go to her, he accidentally pressed the button of the trap-door. The next moment he was alone.

* * *

"That the British public is always ready to welcome the advent of a clean and wholesome home-grown play is shown by the startling success of Christina's Mistake, which is attracting such crowds to The King's every night." So wrote The Daily Vane, and continued in the same strain for a column.

"Clubland is keenly exercised," wrote The Evening Vane, "over a problem of etiquette which arises in the Second Act of Christina's Mistake, the great autumn success at The King's Theatre. The point is shortly this. Should a woman ..." And so on.

"A pretty little story is going the rounds," said Slosh, "anent that charming little lady, Estelle Rito, who plays the part of a governess in Christina's Mistake, for which ('Manager' Barodo informs me) advance booking up to Christmas has already been taken. It seems that Miss Rito, when shopping in the purlieus of Bond Street ..."

Sloppy Chunks had a joke which set all the world laughing. It was called--

"Between the Acts

Flossie. 'Who's the lady in the box with Mr. Johnson?'

Gussie. 'Hush! It's his wife!'

And Flossie giggled so much that she could hardly listen to the last Act of Christina's Mistake, which she had been looking forward to for weeks!"

The Sunday Sermon offered free tickets to a hundred unmarried suburban girls, to which class Christina's Mistake might be supposed to make a special religious appeal. But they had to collect coupons first for The Sunday Sermon.

And, finally, The Times, of two months later, said:

"A marriage has been arranged between Lady Dorothy Neal, daughter of the Earl of Skye, and the Hon. Geoffrey Bollinger."

* * *

Than a successful revenge nothing is sweeter in life. Hector Strong was not the man to spare anyone who had done him an injury. Yet I think his method of revenging himself upon Lady Dorothy savoured of the diabolical. He printed a photograph of her in The Daily Picture Gallery. It was headed "The Beautiful Lady Dorothy Neal."

* * *


When Peter Plimsoll, the Glue King, died, his parting advice to his sons to stick to the business was followed only by John, the elder. Adrian, the younger, had a soul above adhesion. He disposed of his share in the concern and settled down to follow the life of a gentleman of taste and culture and (more particularly) patron of the arts. He began in a modest way to collect ink-pots. His range at first was catholic, and it was not until he had acquired a hundred and forty-seven ink-pots of various designs that he decided to make a speciality of historic ones. This decision was hastened by the discovery that one of Queen Elizabeth's inkstands-supposed (by the owner) to be the identical one with whose aid she wrote her last letter to Raleigh-was about to be put on the market. At some expense Adrian obtained an introduction, through a third party, to the owner; at more expense the owner obtained, through the same gentleman, an introduction to Adrian; and in less than a month the great Elizabeth Ink-pot was safely established in Adrian's house. It was the beginning of the "Plimsoll Collection."

This was twenty years ago. Let us to-day take a walk through the galleries of Mr. Adrian Plimsoll's charming residence, which, as the world knows, overlooks the park. Any friend of mine is always welcome at Number Fifteen. We will start with the North Gallery; I fear that I shall only have time to point out a few of the choicest gems.

This is a Pontesiori sword of the thirteenth century-the only example of the master's art without any notches.

On the left is a Capricci comfit-box. If you have never heard of Capricci, you oughtn't to come to a house like this.

Here we have before us the historic de Montigny topaz. Ask your little boy to tell you about it.

In the East Gallery, of course, the chief treasure is the Santo di Santo amulet, described so minutely in his Vindici? Veritatis by John of Flanders. The original MS. of this book is in the South Gallery. You must glance at it when we get there. It will save you the trouble of ordering a copy from your library; they would be sure to keep you waiting....

With some such words as these I lead my friends round Number Fifteen. The many treasures in the private parts of the house I may not show, of course; the bathroom, for instance, in which hangs the finest collection of portraits of philatelists that Europe can boast. You must spend a night with Adrian to be admitted to their company; and, as one of the elect, I can assure you that nothing can be more stimulating on a winter's morning than to catch the eye of Frisby Dranger, F.Ph.S., behind the taps as your head first emerges from the icy waters.

* * *

Adrian Plimsoll sat at breakfast, sipping his hot water and crumbling a dry biscuit. A light was in his eye, a flush upon his pallid countenance. He had just heard from a trusty agent that the Scutori breast-plate had been seen in Devonshire. His car was ready to take him to the station.

But alas! a disappointment awaited him. On close examination the breast-plate turned out to be a common Risoldo of inferior working. Adrian left the house in disgust and started on his seven-mile walk back to the station. To complete his misery a sudden storm came on. Cursing alternately his agent and Risoldo, he made his way to a cottage and asked for shelter.

An old woman greeted him civilly and bade him come in.

"If I may just wait till the storm is over," said Adrian, and he sat down in her parlour and looked appraisingly (as was his habit) round the room. The grandfather clock in the corner was genuine, but he was beyond grandfather clocks. There was nothing else of any value: three china dogs and some odd trinkets on the chimney-piece; a print or two--

Stay! What was that behind the youngest dog?

"May I look at that old bracelet?" he asked, his voice trembling a little; and without waiting for permission he walked over and took up the circle of tarnished metal in his hands. As he examined it his colour came and went, his heart seemed to stop beating. With a tremendous effort he composed himself and returned to his chair.

It was the Emperor's Bracelet!

Of course you know the history of this most famous of all bracelets. Made by Spurius Quintus of Rome in 47 B.C., it was given by C?sar to Cleopatra, who tried without success to dissolve it in vinegar. Returning to Rome by way of Antony, it was worn at a minor conflagration by Nero, after which it was lost sight of for many centuries. It was eventually heard of during the reign of Canute (or Knut, as his admirers called him); and John is known to have lost it in the Wash, whence it was recovered a century afterwards. It must have travelled thence to France, for it was seen once in the possession of Louis XI; and from there to Spain, for Philip the Handsome presented it to Joanna on her wedding day. Columbus took it to America, but fortunately brought it back again; Peter the Great threw it at an indifferent musician; on one of its later visits to England Pope wrote a couplet to it. And the most astonishing thing in its whole history was that now for more than a hundred years it had vanished completely. To turn up again in a little Devonshire cottage! Verily, truth is stranger than fiction.

"That's rather a curious bracelet of yours," said Adrian casually. "My-er-wife has one just like it, which she asked me to match. Is it an old friend, or would you care to sell it?"

"My mother gave it me," said the old woman, "and she had it from hers. I don't know no further than that. I didn't mean to sell it, but--"

"Quite right," said Adrian, "and, after all, I can easily get another."

"But I won't say a bit of money wouldn't be useful. What would you think a fair price, sir? Five shillings?"

Adrian's heart jumped. To get the Emperor's bracelet for five shillings!

But the spirit of the collector rose up strong within him. He laughed kindly.

"My good woman," he said, "they turn out bracelets like that in Birmingham at two shillings apiece. And quite new. I'll give you tenpence."

"Make it one-and-sixpence," she pleaded. "Times are hard."

Adrian reflected. He was not, strictly speaking, impoverished. He could afford one-and-sixpence.

"One-and-tuppence," he said.

"No, no, one-and-sixpence," she repeated obstinately.

Adrian reflected again. After all, he could always sell it for ten thousand pounds, if the worst came to the worst.

"Well, well," he sighed. "One-and-sixpence let it be."

He counted out the money carefully. Then, putting the precious bracelet in his pocket, he rose to go.

* * *

Adrian has no relations living now. When he dies he proposes to leave the Plimsoll Collection to the nation, having-as far as he can foresee-no particular use for it in the next world. This is really very generous of him, and no doubt, when the time comes, the papers will say so. But it is a pity that he cannot be appreciated properly in his lifetime. Personally I should like to see him knighted.

* * *


Lionel Norwood, from his earliest days, had been marked out for a life of crime. When quite a child he was discovered by his nurse killing flies on the window-pane. This was before the character of the house-fly had become a matter of common talk among scientists, and Lionel (like all great men, a little before his time) had pleaded hygiene in vain. He was smacked hastily and bundled off to a preparatory school, where his aptitude for smuggling sweets would have lost him many a half-holiday had not his services been required at outside-left in the hockey eleven. With some difficulty he managed to pass into Eton, and three years later-with, one would imagine, still more difficulty-managed to get superannuated. At Cambridge he went down-hill rapidly. He would think nothing of smoking a cigar in academical costume, and on at least one occasion he drove a dogcart on Sunday. No wonder that he was requested, early in his second year, to give up his struggle with the Little-go and betake himself back to London.

London is always glad to welcome such people as Lionel Norwood. In no other city is it so simple for a man of easy conscience to earn a living by his wits. If Lionel ever had any scruples (which, after a perusal of the above account of his early days, it may be permitted one to doubt) they were removed by an accident to his solicitor, who was run over in the Argentine on the very day that he arrived there with what was left of Lionel's money. Reduced suddenly to poverty, Norwood had no choice but to enter upon a life of crime.

Except, perhaps, that he used slightly less hair-oil than most, he seemed just the ordinary man about town as he sat in his dressing-gown one fine summer morning and smoked a cigarette. His rooms were furnished quietly and in the best of taste. No signs of his nefarious profession showed themselves to the casual visitor. The appealing letters from the Princess whom he was blackmailing, the wire apparatus which shot the two of spades down his sleeve during the coon-can nights at the club, the thimble and pea with which he had performed the three-card trick so successfully at Epsom last week-all these were hidden away from the common gaze. It was a young gentleman of fashion who lounged in his chair and toyed with a priceless straight-cut.

There was a tap at the door, and Masters, his confidential valet, came in.

"Well," said Lionel, "have you looked through the post?"

"Yes, sir," said the man. "There's the usual cheque from Her Highness, a request for more time from the lady in Tite Street with twopence to pay on the envelope, and banknotes from the Professor as expected. The young gentleman of Hill Street has gone abroad suddenly, sir."

"Ah!" said Lionel, with a sudden frown. "I suppose you'd better cross him off our list, Masters."

"Yes, sir. I had ventured to do so, sir. I think that's all, except that Mr. Snooks is glad to accept your kind invitation to dinner and bridge to-night. Will you wear the hair-spring coat, sir, or the metal clip?"

Lionel made no answer. He sat plunged in thought. When he spoke it was about another matter.

"Masters," he said, "I have found out Lord Fairlie's secret at last. I shall go to see him this afternoon."

"Yes, sir. Will you wear your revolver, sir, as it's a first call?"

"I think so. If this comes off, Masters, it will make our fortune."

"I hope so, I'm sure, sir." Masters placed the whisky within reach and left the room silently.

Alone, Lionel picked up his paper and turned to the Agony Column.

As everybody knows, the Agony Column of a daily paper is not actually so domestic as it seems. When "Mother" apparently says to "Floss," "Come home at once. Father gone away for week. Bert and Sid longing to see you," what is really happening is that Barney Hoker is telling Jud Batson to meet him outside the Duke of Westminster's little place at 3 a.m. precisely on Tuesday morning, not forgetting to bring his jemmy and a dark lantern with him. And Floss's announcement next day, "Coming home with George," is Jud's way of saying that he will turn up all right, and half thinks of bringing his automatic pistol with him too, in case of accidents.

In this language-which, of course, takes some little learning-Lionel Norwood had long been an expert. The advertisement which he was now reading was unusually elaborate:

"Lost, in a taxi between Baker Street and Shepherd's Bush, a gold-mounted umbrella with initials 'J. P.' on it. If Ellen will return to her father immediately all will be forgiven. White spot on foreleg. Mother very anxious and desires to return thanks for kind enquiries. Answers to the name of Ponto. Bis dat qui cito dat."

What did it mean? For Lionel it had no secrets. He was reading the revelation by one of his agents of the skeleton in Lord Fairlie's cupboard!

Lord Fairlie was one of the most distinguished members of the Cabinet. His vein of high seriousness, his lofty demeanour, the sincerity of his manner endeared him not only to his own party, but even (astounding as it may seem) to a few high-minded men upon the other side, who admitted, in moments of expansion which they probably regretted afterwards, that he might, after all, be as devoted to his country as they were. For years now his life had been without blemish. It was impossible to believe that even in his youth he could have sown any wild oats; terrible to think that these wild oats might now be coming home to roost.

"What do you require of me?" he said courteously to Lionel, as the latter was shown into his study.

Lionel went to the point at once.

"I am here, my lord," he said, "on business. In the course of my ordinary avocations"-the parliamentary atmosphere seemed to be affecting his language-"I ascertained a certain secret in your past life which, if it were revealed, might conceivably have a not undamaging effect upon your career. For my silence in this matter I must demand a sum of fifty thousand pounds."

Lord Fairlie had grown paler and paler as this speech proceeded.

"What have you discovered?" he whispered. Alas! he knew only too well what the damning answer would be.

"Twenty years ago," said Lionel, "you wrote a humorous book."

Lord Fairlie gave a strangled cry. His keen mind recognized in a flash what a hold this knowledge would give his enemies. Shafts of Folly, his book had been called. Already he saw the leading articles of the future:-

"We confess ourselves somewhat at a loss to know whether Lord Fairlie's speech at Plymouth yesterday was intended as a supplement to his earlier work, Shafts of Folly, or as a serious offering to a nation impatient of levity in such a crisis...."

"The Cabinet's jester, in whom twenty years ago the country lost an excellent clown without gaining a statesman, was in great form last night...."

"Lord Fairlie has amused us in the past with his clever little parodies; he may amuse us in the future; but as a statesman we can only view him with disgust...."

"Well?" said Lionel at last. "I think your lordship is wise enough to understand. The discovery of a sense of humour in a man of your eminence--"

But Lord Fairlie was already writing out the cheque.

* * *


As the evening wore on-and one young man after another asked Jocelyn Montrevor if she were going to Ascot, what? or to Henley, what? or what?-she wondered more and more if this were all that life would ever hold for her. Would she never meet a man, a real man who had done something? These boys around her were very pleasant, she admitted to herself; very useful indeed, she added, as one approached her with some refreshment; but they were only boys.

"Here you are," said Freddy, handing her an ice in three colours. "I've had it made specially cold for you. They only had the green, pink, and yellow jerseys left; I hope you don't mind. The green part is arsenic, I believe. If you don't want the wafer I'll take it home and put it between the sashes of my bedroom window. The rattling kept me awake all last night. That's why I'm looking so ill, by the way."

Jocelyn smiled kindly and went on with her ice.

"That reminds me," Freddy went on, "we've got a nut here to-night. The genuine thing. None of your society Barcelonas or suburban Filberts. One of the real Cob family; the driving-from-the-sixth-tee, inset-on-the-right, and New-Year's-message-to-the-country touch. In short, a celebrity."

"Who?" asked Jocelyn eagerly. Perhaps here was a man.

"Worrall Brice, the explorer. Don't say you haven't heard of him or Aunt Alice will cry."

Heard of him? Of course she had heard of him. Who hadn't?

Worrall Brice's adventures in distant parts of the empire would have filled a book-had, in fact, already filled three. A glance at his flat in St. James's Street gave you some idea of the adventures he had been through. Here were the polished spurs of his companion in the famous ride through Australia from south to north-all that had been left by the cannibals of the Wogga-Wogga River after their banquet. Here was the poisoned arrow which, by the merciful intervention of Providence, just missed Worrall and pierced the heart of one of his black attendants, the post-mortem happily revealing the presence of a new and interesting poison. Here, again, was the rope with which he was hanged by mistake as a spy in South America-a mistake which would certainly have had fatal results if he had not had the presence of mind to hold his breath during the performance. In yet another corner you might see his favourite mascot-a tooth of the shark which bit him off the coast of China. Spears, knives, and guns lined the walls; every inch of the floor was covered by skins. His flat was typical of the man-a man who had done things.

"Introduce him to me," commanded Jocelyn. "Where is he?"

She looked up suddenly and saw him entering the ball-room. He was of commanding height and his face was the face of a man who has been exposed to the forces of Nature. The wind, the waves, the sun, the mosquito had set their mark upon him. Down one side of his cheek was a newly healed scar, a scratch from a hippopotamus in its last death-struggle. A legacy from a bison seared his brow.

He walked with the soft easy tread of the python, or the Pathan, or some animal with a "pth" in it. Probably I mean the panther. He bore himself confidently, and his mouth was a trap from which no superfluous word escaped. He was the strong silent man of Jocelyn's dreams.

"Mr. Worrall Brice, Miss Montrevor," said Freddy, and left them.

Worrall Brice bowed and stood beside her with folded arms, his gaze fixed above her head.

"I shall not expect you to dance," said Jocelyn, with a confidential smile which implied that he and she were above such frivolities. As a matter of fact, he could have taught her the Wogga-Wogga one-step, the Bimbo, the Kiyi, the Ju-bu, the Head-hunter's Hug, and many other cannibalistic steps which, later on, were to become the rage of London and the basis of a revue.

"I have often imagined you, as you kept watch over your camp," she went on, "and I have seemed myself to hear the savages and lions roaring outside the circle of fire, what time in the swamps the crocodiles were barking."

"Yes," he said.

"It must be a wonderful life."


"If I were a man I should want to lead such a life; to get away from all this," and she waved her hand round the room, "back to Nature. To know that I could not eat until I had first killed my dinner; that I could not live unless I slew the enemy! That must be fine!"

"Yes," said Worrall.

"I cannot get Freddy to see it. He is quite content to have shot a few grouse ... and once to have wounded a beater. There must be more in life than that."


"I suppose I am elemental. Beneath the veneer of civilization I am a savage. To wake up with the war-cry of the enemy in my ears, to sleep with the-er-barking of the crocodile in my dreams, that is life!"

Worrall Brice tugged at his moustache and gazed into space over her head. Then he spoke.

"Crocodiles don't bark," he said.

Jocelyn looked at him in astonishment. "But in your book, Through Trackless Paths!" she cried. "I know it almost by heart. It was you who taught me. What are the beautiful words? 'On the banks of the sleepy river two great crocodiles were barking.'"

"Not 'barking,'" said Worrall. "'Basking.' It was a misprint."

"Oh!" said Jocelyn. She had a moment's awful memory of all the occasions when she had insisted that crocodiles barked. There had been a particularly fierce argument with Meta Richards, who had refused to weigh even the printed word of Worrall Brice against the silence of the Reptile House on her last visit to the Zoo.

"Well," smiled Jocelyn, "you must teach me about these things. Will you come and see me?"

"Yes," said Worrall. He rather liked to stand and gaze into the distance while pretty women talked to him. And Jocelyn was very pretty.

"We live in South Kensington. Come on Sunday, won't you? 99 Peele Crescent."

"Yes," said Worrall.

* * *

On Sunday Jocelyn waited eagerly for him in the drawing-room of Peele Crescent. Her father was asleep in the library, her mother was dead; so she would have the great man to herself for an afternoon. Later she would have him for always, for she meant to marry him. And when they were married she was not so sure that they would live with the noise of the crocodile barking or coughing, or whatever it did, in their ears. She saw herself in that little house in Green Street with the noise of motor-horns and taxi-whistles to soothe her to sleep.

Yet what a man he was! What had he said to her? She went over all his words.... They were not many.

At six o'clock she was still waiting in the drawing-room at Peele Crescent....

At six-thirty Worrall Brice had got as far as Peele Place....

At six-forty-five he found himself in Radcliffe Square again....

At seven o'clock, just as he was giving himself up for lost, he met a taxi and returned to St. James's Street. He was a great traveller, but South Kensington had been too much for him.

Next week he went back unmarried to the jungle. It was the narrowest escape he had had.

* * *

Printed in Great Britain at

The Mayflower Press, Plymouth.

William Brendon & Son, Ltd.

* * *



Crown 8vo. 6s. net.

A final collection of "Punch" articles, uniform with "The Day's Play," "The Holiday Round," and "Once a Week."


F'cap. 8vo. 6s. net.

A delightful collection of Essays in which War, Gardens, High Finance, Lord Mayors, Desert Islands, Christmas Presents, and many other topics of conversation, are discussed.


Second Edition. F'cap. 8vo. 6s. net.

"Wherever you may dip into this book you will be amused."-Times.

"The little essays which compose this delicious volume are simply models of their art."-Daily Telegraph.


Seventh Edition. Crown 8vo. 7s. net.

"Full of unforced fun and sly keenness of observation."-Morning Post.


Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

A volume of articles from "Punch," full of fun and fancy.

"With each succeeding year Mr. Milne's humour is growing more perfect."-Dundee Advertiser.

METHUEN & Co., Ltd., 36 Essex St., LONDON, W.C. 2

* * *



Rose and Rose

Verena in the Midst

The Vermilion Box


Listener's Lure

Over Bemerton's

London Lavender



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The Phantom Journal

A Boswell of Baghdad

Cloud and Silver

Loiterer's Harvest

One Day and Another

Fireside and Sunshine

Character and Comedy

Old Lamps for New

Cheap Editions.

A Little of Everything

Harvest Home

Variety Lane

The Best of Lamb


Roving East and Roving West

A Wanderer in Venice

A Wanderer in Paris

A Wanderer in London

London Revisited

A Wanderer in Holland

A Wanderer in Florence


The Open Road

The Friendly Town

Her Infinite Variety

Good Company

The Gentlest Art

The Second Post

Biographical, etc.

The Life of Charles Lamb

The Works of Charles Lamb. Six Volumes

A Swan & Her Friends

Edwin Austin Abbey, R.A.

The British School

METHUEN & Co., Ltd., 36 Essex St., LONDON, W.C. 2

* * *











* * *





* * *



METHUEN & Co., Ltd., 36 Essex St., LONDON, W.C. 2

* * *










METHUEN & Co., Ltd.,

36 Essex St., LONDON, W.C. 2

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