Mr. Anthony Hope offers from time to time a welcome relief from the special brand of seriousness that has come to be the hall-mark of the school of British novelists. Not that he fails to take himself seriously; on the contrary, few writers in England show a greater contrast between their earlier and their later work than the author of The Prisoner of Zenda and of the A Young Man's Year. From the rainbow air-castles of sheer romance to the practical problem of a young man's first start in the working world is surely a broad enough step to satisfy any demand that present-day fiction shall be serious. But the big difference between the newer school and that which Mr. Hope's later manner typifies is that his interest remains centred in the individual, in spite of all the new problems, social, ethical, moral or religious, that may have their formative influence; while writers like Galsworthy, Wells, and their followers although able to picture memorable characters when they choose to, are obviously more interested in movements and tendencies and problems than they are in the individual man or woman, and not infrequently give us characters that are really little more than types, standing symbolically for groups rather than for persons. That is why Mr. Hope's new volume, without being a big achievement, is a welcome diversion. Yet it is simply a careful, minute and at the same time vivid chronicle of just one year in the early life of Arthur Lisle, who when.we first meet him is a specimen of that essentially British creation, a briefless barrister. As yet he has by no means made up his mind whether he will welcome his first brief, if it ever comes. He is diffident and self-distrustful, and the mere thought of rising to address the Court fills him with an anticipatory ague. Meanwhile, time hanging heavily upon him, he seeks to fill it in by various social relaxations, and forms friendships, some more desirable than others.
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A Young Man'sYear
Anthony Hope – His Life And Work
A Young Man's Year
Chapter I. Of The Middle Temple, Esquire
Chapter II. Miss Sarradet's Circle
Chapter III. In Touch With The Law
Chapter IV. A Grateful Friend
Chapter V. The Tender Diplomatist
Chapter VI. A Timely Discovery
Chapter VII. All Of A Flutter
Chapter VIII. Nothing Venture, Nothing Have!
Chapter IX. A Complication
Chapter X. The Hero Of The Evening
Chapter XI. Household Politics
Chapter XII. Lunch At The Lancaster
Chapter XIII. Settled
Chapter XIV. The Battle With Mr. Tiddes
Chapter XV. The Man For A Crisis
Chapter XVI. A Shadow On The House
Chapter XVII. For No Particular Reason!
Chapter XVIII. Going To Rain!
Chapter XIX. The Last Entrenchment
Chapter XX. A Prudent Counsellor
Chapter XXI. Idol And Devotee
Chapter XXII. Pressing Business
Chapter XXIII. Facing The Situation
Chapter XXIV. Did You Say Mrs.?
Chapter XXV. The Old Days End
Chapter XXVI. Rather Romantic!
Chapter XXVII. In The Hands Of The Gods
Chapter XXVIII. Taking Medicine
Chapter XXIX. Tears And A Smile
Chapter XXX. A Variety Show
Chapter XXXI. Start And Finish
Chapter XXXII. Wisdom Confounded
Chapter XXXIII. A New Vision
Chapter XXXIV. The Lines Of Life
Chapter XXXV. Hilsey And Its Fugitive
Chapter XXXVI. In The Spring
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
By Frederick Taber Cooper
It is a sufficiently pleasant task to undertake to write a brief appreciation of Mr. Anthony Hope. The prevailing urbanity of his manner, the sustained sparkle of his wit, the agreeable expectation that he arouses of something stimulating about to happen, largely disarm criticism. Besides, he does not seem to demand to be taken too seriously; he is not a preacher or reformer, he is not trying to revolutionize the world; he is too well pleased with men and women as they actually are, to desire to make them something different. In short, he is a suave and charming public entertainer, and like all wise entertainers he alters the character of his program in accordance with the fluctuations of public taste. And being both versatile and farsighted he is usually in the van of each new movement. The God in the Car, his story of gigantic land speculations in South Africa, with the Herculean figure whom he chooses to disguise under the name of " Juggernaut," appeared in 1894, thus antedating by five years The Colossus, by Morley Roberts. Phroso, with its romantic setting among the islands of modern Greece, anticipated by a year Mr. E. F. Benson's analogous attempts, The Vintage and The Capsina. When the revival of the English historical novel was at its height, he succeeded once more in coming in ahead of his competitors, and Simon Dale, which appeared in 1898 and is a study of Restoration manners, with Nell Gwynn for its central interest, led the way for The Orange Girl by Sir Walter Besant, issued in 1899, and F. Frankfort Moore's Nell Gwynn, Comedian, which was not published until 1900.
But although he so cleverly adapts himself to the trend of public taste, Mr. Anthony Hope is not an innovator; he adapts but does not originate. Yet it is no uncommon thing to hear him erroneously praised for having created two new and widely popular types of fiction, the Zenda type and that of The Dolly Dialogues. Now, The Prisoner of Zenda, as we remember at once when we stop to think, is not the first up-to-date sword and buckler story of an imaginary principality; it was preceded, by nearly a decade, by Stevenson's Prince Otto; and the only reason that it so often gets the credit of being the forerunner of its class is simply because it was done with a defter, lighter touch, a more spontaneous inspiration. Similarly, The Dolly Dialogues are not the first attempt to imitate in English the sparkle and the piquancy of the Gallic dialogue in the form that " Gyp " and Henri Lavedan have made familiar. Although it is quite likely that at that time Anthony Hope had never even heard of it, The Story of the Gadsbys had at least three years the start of The Dolly Dialogues, and even though it was done with a heavier hand, it succeeded in getting a greater effectiveness out of the type.
But, after all, statistics of this sort, while interesting to a person of precise and inquiring mind, have little or no bearing upon the sources of enjoyment which a surprisingly large number of people undoubtedly find in Mr. Hope's writings. And there is variety enough among them to suit all tastes. He began in a spirit of blithe and irresponsible romanticism; he has gradually come, in his later years, to look upon life in a rather matter-of-fact way and to picture, by choice, the more serious problems of life in the social world to which he belongs. Yet his novels, even the most ambitious of them, never suggest the ponderousness of a novel-with-a-purpose; he never forgets what is expected from a conscientious entertainer. And one reason why he so uniformly succeeds is that he is an exceedingly good craftsman; he has mastered the sheer mechanics of his art. It is never wise for a novelist, whatever his literary creed may be, to be wantonly scornful of technique. There are just a few erratic geniuses who, because they have in them certain big thoughts that are struggling for utterance and apparently cannot be uttered in the simple usual way, boldly break the established rules and make new ones to suit their needs. To draw an offhand parallel, they are somewhat in the position of a man who, although untrained in public speaking, is listened to indulgently because of the importance of what he has to say. But your public entertainer enjoys no such license; and the lighter and more irresponsible his theme the more perfect must be his execution. And it is because Mr. Hope possesses that magic touch of the born story teller, that such delightful triflings as The Dolly Dialogues and The Indiscretion of the Duchess seem to linger in the memory with perennial youth, while many another weightier volume has faded out with the passage of years.
Accordingly, Mr. Hope belongs to that order of novelists about whom it is not only more enjoyable but more profitable to gossip genially than to weigh strictly in the balance. It is so easy to become garrulous over volumes that have worn well and afford many a pleasant hour of relaxation. It would be purposeless to take up serially each one of his many volumes, analyze and pigeonhole it according to its relative value. The better and the franker thing to do is to admit that there are certain volumes by Mr. Hope which gave the present writer genuine pleasure, and certain others that gave him no pleasure at all, and that those falling under the first division are the only ones which it seems worth while to discuss. In his earlier period the mere mention of Anthony Hope conjured up scenes of spirited adventure, reckless daring, gallant heroes combining the good breeding, the patrician ease, the assured manner of the better class of young Englishmen possessing the double advantage of birth and education, who, nevertheless, despite their studied reserve and immaculateness of dress, are plunged by a whim of fate into adventures of extraordinary daring and sublime audacity, adventures that would have taxed the prowess of Dumas's Immortal Three. It is a clever formula, this trick of taking certain types of familiar everyday people straight out of prosaic actuality and compelling them, whether they will or no, to perform romantic deeds against a romantic background. This peculiar combination was certainly a happy thought. It appealed to that latent thirst for adventure which we almost all possess; it unconsciously flattered the reader with a new sense of daring, a feeling that he too, if thus suddenly and surprisingly transported into Zendaland, might similarly rise to the occasion and achieve great deeds. There is no purpose served by analyzing once again the story of The Prisoner of Zenda. It is one of those stories the artificiality of which stands out glaringly the moment one starts to lay its bones bare.
Any story which depends upon the chance resemblance of two human beings, a resemblance so close, so misleading, that even the wife of one of the two is at a loss to distinguish them, takes on, when stated briefly, apart from the glamour of the tale itself, an air of palpable falsity to life. And yet the fact remains that tens of thousands of readers have lost themselves, forgotten time and space, in their utter absorption in the dilemma of the Princess Flavia, who finds in Rudolph Rassendyl all the qualities which might have made it possible for her to love her husband, if only he had been as close a replica of Rassendyl morally as he was physically.
I do not mind admitting that personally I revert more frequently to The Dolly Dialogues than to any other volume by Mr. Hope. This is not merely because of the delicate touch and epigrammatic neatness for which they have been so universally praised. Superficially considered they are a series of encounters between a sparkling and fascinating little lady and a sedate and nimble-witted gentleman, whom it is insinuated that the Lady Dolly has jilted. Now, the real fascination about these brilliant exchanges of repartee lies chiefly in the subtle and yet elusive implications that we are always on the point of reading between the lines, and yet never quite get in their entirety. That Mr. Carter has long been a worshiper at the shrine of Lady Dolly, that he has many a time felt a pang of regret that his fortune in life has made him ineligible, that he considers her husband not half grateful enough to Providence and that his own assumed air of sentimental resignation has in it a little touch of genuine regret, all this we get pretty clearly. And yet, we are well aware, all the time, that Mr. Carter, in spite of an occasional twinge of envy, would not change his condition if he could; that, although he may not be precisely aware of it, he is already confirmed in his bachelor habits; that he likes his freedom from responsibility, his harmless, unprofitable daily routine, his favorite corner in his favorite club, his innocent philandering with various young women, married and unmarried. He may, at times, deceive the Lady Dolly into commiserating him and blaming herself as a thoughtless coquette, but never for very long at a time. The whole thing is a sort of grown-up game of make-believe in which the players get a curious transitory, almost illogical enjoyment in feigning broken hearts and blighted lives. And yet there is just enough truth underlying it all to suggest that Mr. Hope was capable of more serious work than he had yet done. There was, for instance, everywhere a pervading suggestion of the infinite number of contradictory motives and impulses that determine every human action, and the impossibility which every man and woman must admit to themselves of deciding just how much gladness and how much regret is entailed in every least little thing that they do.
Almost without warning Mr. Hope proved that the vague promise of more serious work was well founded, by producing what, I think, the sober judgment of posterity will recognize as his most ambitious and most enduring work, Quisante. Alexander Quisante, from whom the volume takes its name, is not an Englishman either by birth or ancestry. He comes of antecedents almost unknown beyond the fact that they are a mixture of French and Spanish. With scanty means he comes, an absolute outsider, preparing to lay siege to the political and social world of London. In every way he finds himself handicapped. The foreordained course of education through which the English ruling classes pass as a matter of course and by which their prejudices and points of view are determined, has not been his privilege. In addition to this he lacks that inborn refinement which sometimes makes up for good breeding and social experience. His taste is often exceedingly bad; his manner is alternately too subservient and too arrogant. Of the higher standards of morality he has no perception; he is the typical adventurer, unscrupulous, insincere, monumentally selfish. But, to offset all this, his intellect is quite extraordinary; his brain is an instrument marvelously under control, and he uses it at his pleasure, to bring the lesser intellects about him under his dominion. Above all, he has the gift of eloquence; and when he chooses to give full rein to his rhetorical powers, he can sway his audience at will, and thrill and sweep them with him through the whole gamut of human emotions. Of the men and women whom he meets, fully one-half are antagonized and repelled; the others give him an unquestioning, almost slavish devotion. But he has a personality which cannot leave negative results; it must breed love or hate.
The other character in the book who shares the central interest is Lady May Gaston, a woman who, by birth and training, participates in all those special privileges of rank and caste, all the traditions of her order from which Quisante is shut out. There is another man, one in her own class, who would be glad to make her his wife. He is in all respects the sort of man whom she is expected to marry; and she is not wholly indifferent to him. But she meets Quisante, and, from the first, comes under the spell of his dominant personality. There is much in him from which she shrinks. His social ineptitude, his faculty for doing the wrong thing, or the right thing at the wrong time, makes her shudder. Although fascinated, she is not blinded. She sees his vulgarities, she questions his sincerity, she even doubts whether he is deserving of her respect. Nevertheless, the spectacular, flamboyant brilliancy of the man dominates her better judgment, and in spite of her relatives' remonstrances, in spite of warnings from a member of Quisante's own family, she marries him, unable to resist the almost hypnotic spell cast over her by this man, who is something of a charlatan and something of a cad. The greater part of the book concerns itself with the story of the married life of this curiously ill-assorted couple; of his success in the public eye; of her gradual disillusionment, which, bitter though it is in its completeness, finds her somewhat apathetic, unable to feel the resentment that she knows she ought, unable to acknowledge that she regrets her choice. This, indeed, is the most interesting aspect of the book, the domination, mentally and morally, of a woman of rare sensitiveness and infinite possibilities by a man with whom companionship inevitably means deterioration.
The next of Mr. Anthony Hope's volumes, which personally appealed to the present writer, is entitled A Servant of the Public, and is enjoyable chiefly because of the tantalizing witchery of its heroine. Ora Pinsent is a young actress, who has taken London by storm. She has a husband somewhere, it is said, " whose name does not matter "; indeed, it matters so little that it does not prevent her from letting Ashley Mead make ardent love to her, one Sunday afternoon, though all the while she " preserves wonderfully the air of not being responsible for the thing, of neither accepting nor rejecting, of being quite passive, of having it just happen to her." Thus with a single pen stroke Mr. Hope has set the woman unmistakably before us. Throughout the book she practices the art of having things just happen to her, the art of dodging responsibility. With Ashley she drifts, dangerously one thinks, at first, until one sees how easily she checks his ardor when she chooses, with a nervous laugh, and a low whispered " Don't, don't make love to me any more now." She talks much solemn nonsense about her duty to the husband whose name does not matter, and about her intention to renounce Ashley, although one realizes that there is really nothing to renounce, nor ever will be. And when the time comes for her company to leave London and start on their American tour, here also she plays the passive role, neither accepting nor rejecting. It is only when the weary months of her absence are over and she comes back as the wife of her leading man, that Ashley begins to see her as she really is; only then that he feels her power over him has ceased; only then that he can say, " I no longer love her, but I wish to God I did! " It is not easy to convey an impression of a woman's charm, when it lies not in what she says, but in the way she says it; not in what she does, but in the way she does it. But this is precisely what Anthony Hope has done triumphantly in his portraiture of Ora Pinsent, Ora, with her upturned face, with its habitual expression of expecting to be kissed, is one of the heroines in contemporary fiction that will not easily be forgotten.
Helena's Path deserves something more than a passing word of commendation, for it is an excellent example of Mr. Hope's deftness in doing a very slight thing extremely well. It has an outward framework of actuality, the atmosphere of present day English country life; yet into this he has infused a certain spirit of old-time chivalry and homage that gives to his whole picture something of the grace and charm of a Watteau landscape. The whole theme of the volume, which is scarcely more than a novelette, concerns itself with a right of way. The hero's estates lie somewhere on the east coast of England; but between his land and the strip of beach where he and his fathers before him have for generations been in the habit of bathing lies the property which the heroine has recently purchased; and, unaware of any right of way, she closes up the gate through which it is his habit to pass for his daily swim. He writes courteously but firmly, insisting on his right. She answers in the same spirit, emphatically denying it. He refuses to be robbed of his legal rights, even by a pretty woman; she refuses to yield, at a command, what she would have graciously granted to a prayer. As neither side chooses to adopt legal measures, a state of mimic war ensues, in which he continues to invade the enemy's territory, while she continues to barricade and entrench. And all the while, although they have not once met face to face, each is quietly falling in love with the other, so that when finally honorable terms of peace are concluded, it is already a foregone conclusion that the whole dainty little comedy will end with oaths of fealty and bestowal of favors worthy of a knight and a lady of the olden times.
With the passage of years, however, the author of The Dotty Dialogues has tended to give us fewer and fewer of these dainty trifles and more and more of his serious and careful social studies. In this class belongs The Great Miss Driver, and there is no exaggeration in saying that since the publication of Quisante it is easily the biggest, best-rounded, and altogether worthiest book he has written. And yet, the first thing you are apt to think of is that the germ idea of the story goes straight back to The Dolly Dialogues; that in a superficial way, yes, and perhaps in a deeper way, too, there is a certain rather absurd similarity between them; just as though the author, having once made a pleasant little comedy out of a certain situation, had ever since been turning over in his mind the possibility of using it in a bigger and more serious way, until eventually he evolved the present volume. Not that Jennie Driver, heiress to Breysgate Priory, bears any close resemblance to Lady Mickleham beyond the very feminine desire for conquest, any more than the Mr. Austin of the one story is a close relative of Mr. Carter in the other. The resemblance lies in this, that both stories are told in the first person by the man who in his secret heart loves the woman of whom he writes, but knows that because he is poor, because he has the natural instinct of an old bachelor, because, also, she has given her heart elsewhere, he must remain content to look upon her joys and sorrows in the capacity of a friend, and not that of a lover. To this extent The Great Miss Driver may be defined as The Dolly Dialogues rendered in a different tempo.
Yet, such a definition gives no hint of the strength, the variety, the vital interest of this story. In the character of Jennie Driver Mr. Hope has given us a woman whose ruling passion is to hold sway, to fascinate and bend to her will every one who comes within her sphere. And because of this desire she can never bear to lose the allegiance of any man, no matter how mean and unworthy he has proved himself; and herein lies the source of her life's tragedy. She is not content to be merely the richest woman in the county, to play the part of Lady Bountiful, and build memorials and endow institutions with fabulous sums; she wants also to be a social leader with undisputed right to take precedence over all the other ladies of the community, and this she could do if she married Lord Fillingford, whom she respects, and who badly needs her fortune; but not if she should marry Leonard Octon, big, brusque, rather brutal, who is cut by the whole county, and whom she happens to love. It is a rather unique situation in fiction for a woman to be forced into publicly slighting the one man on earth that she cares for; still more unique for a woman who is pledged to marry one man to be secretly meeting the other man, and thus atoning for deliberately cutting him whenever they meet in public. And, surely, it was a rather audacious thing for Mr. Hope to attempt to make us feel that in spite of her double-dealing Jennie Driver is a rather big and fine and splendid sort of woman; that she would have kept faith with Fillingford had he been big enough to trust her when appearances were heavily against her; and that in defying convention and scandalizing the little world she lives in by fleeing with Octon to Paris, she is doing the one big, brave, inevitable act. Yet, that is precisely what the author does succeed in making us feel; and when because Fate intervenes and wrecks the last chance of Jennie's happiness through the death of Octon, we not only sympathize with her bitterness toward the narrow-minded social circle that had forced her lover into exile, but we also glory with her in the big, carefully planned and altogether adequate revenge by which she forces the county to pay tardy homage to the name of Octon.
Notwithstanding the statement made at the beginning of this chapter, to the effect that Mr. Anthony Hope does not write problem novels, the volume entitled Mrs. Maxon Protests comes critically near the border-line. Mrs. Maxon is simply one more young woman who has discovered marriage to be something vastly different from what she had imagined; and her difficulty is of the variety which she regards as almost humiliatingly commonplace namely, incompatibility. Her husband happens to be one of those narrow, self-satisfied, dictatorial men, with old-fashioned ideas about women in general and a rooted conviction that a man has a high moral responsibility for his wife's conduct and must mould her in all fashions to his own way of thinking. Mrs. Maxon bears the strain for five years; then she consults a lawyer. She learns that while she cannot get a divorce in England, she can leave her husband and he cannot force her to come back. At the time of their separation, or to be more accurate, her desertion of him for Maxon refuses to take the matter seriously there is no other man in her life; but in the weeks that follow during which she stays at the country home of some friends with lax ideas of life and a houseful of curious and often irregular people, she suddenly surprises herself by falling in love with a certain Godfrey Ledstone and promptly scandalizes society by eloping with him openly and unashamed. The rest of the book traces, with a clear-sightedness that Mr. Hope has not always shown in his books, the subsequent career of a woman who thinks that by the force of her own example she can bring the whole world over to her way of thinking. He does not spare us any of her disillusions, her humiliations, her heartache and loneliness. But through it all she is learning, strangely and cruelly learning, much that is exceedingly good for her. She is learning, for instance, that charity and sympathy and understanding are often found where least expected. She is learning, too, that there are many other standards in this world as well as her own and that they are just as reasonable and perhaps nobler. She learns that one of the best men she has ever had the good fortune to meet, loving her, pitying her, utterly disapproving of her, would nevertheless have made her his wife in spite of the scandal that had preceded and followed her divorce but for one reason: he is an army officer, and a woman with a taint upon her name would lower the social tone of his regiment and be in some degree a menace to the moral tone of the younger set. It is a temptation to analyze at some length the separate episodes of this rather unusual book throughout the years while Mrs. Maxon is slowly finding her way out of the quagmire of her own making into a belated peace and happiness. Yet, after all, what the book stands for is so admirably summed up in the concluding paragraph that one cannot do it a greater service than to close with one brief quotation. It is a satisfaction to find a book written upon this theme which, while recognizing that there is much to be said on both sides, shows neither vindictiveness toward the woman nor a misplaced championship that would exalt her into a martyr.
In the small circle of those with whom she had shared the issues of destiny she had unsettled much; of a certainty she had settled nothing. Things were just as much in solution as ever; the welter was not abated. Man being imperfect, laws must be made. Man being imperfect, laws must be broken or ever new laws will be made. Winnie Maxon had broken a law and asked a question. When thousands do the like, the Giant, after giving the first comers a box on the ear, may at last put his hand to his own and ponderously consider.
Such are the volumes chosen as a matter of personal preference, out of the generous series that Mr. Hope has so industriously turned out, during a score of years. Another reader's choice might be different, and who shall say whether it would not be as well justified? Because, the first duty of a public entertainer is to entertain; and, taking this for a criterion, the most that any one can say of his own knowledge is, such-and-such volumes have entertained me. It is obvious that Mr. Hope's own preference is for his more serious work, that with the passage of years he has grown more willing to allow the books of his romantic period to fade from sight. Yet, by doing this, he challenges a harder competition, a stricter measurement against a host of rivals. There has been no one to give us a second Prisoner of Zenda, excepting Mr. Hope himself, notwithstanding that many another writer has tried his best. But it would be easy to name a dozen contemporary novelists who could give us the annals of another Servant of the People, or chronicle some further Intrusions of Peggy, and one or two who, perhaps, could do it better. Mr. Hope is not one of the great novelists of his generation; but he is never mediocre, and even in his uninspired moments never dull. His Prisoner of Zenda and his Dolly Dialogues were both gems of the first water; his Quisante certainly suffers nothing by comparison with George Gissing's Charlatan, separated from it by barely a year. As a chronicler of English manners he is certainly of rather more importance than Mr. E. F. Benson or Mr. Maarten Maartens, although not in the same class with Galsworthy, Bennett, or W. H. Maxwell. He will be remembered, I think, somewhat as William Black and Marion Crawford are remembered, as having preserved a wholesome optimism, an unshaken belief in human nature, and as having done his part to keep the tone of the modern novel clean and wholesome.
It was a dark, dank, drizzly morning in March. A dull mist filled all the air, and the rain drifted in a thin sheet across the garden of the Middle Temple. Everything looked a dull drab. Certainly it was a beastly morning. Moreover—to add to its offences—it was Monday morning. Arthur Lisle had always hated Monday mornings; through childhood, school, and university they had been his inveterate enemies—with their narrow rigorous insistence on a return to work, with the end they put to freedom, to leisure, to excursions in the body or in the spirit. And they were worse now, since the work was worse, in that it was not real work at all; it was only waiting for work, or at best a tedious and weary preparation for work which did not come and (for all that he could see) never would come. There was no reason why it ever should. Even genius might starve unnoticed at the Bar, and he was no genius. Even interest might fail to help a man, and interest he had none. Standing with his hands in the pockets, listlessly staring out of the window of his cell of a room, unable to make up his mind how to employ himself, he actually cursed his means of subsistence—the hundred and fifty pounds a year which had led him into the fatal ambition of being called to the Bar. "But for that it would have been impossible for me to be such an ass," he reflected gloomily, as he pushed back his thick reddish-brown hair from his forehead and puckered the thin sensitive lines of his mouth into a childish pout.
Henry the clerk (of whom Mr. Arthur Lisle owned an undivided fourth share) came into the room, carrying a bundle of papers tied with red tape. Turning round on the opening of the door, Arthur suddenly fell prey to an emotion of extraordinary strength and complexity; amazement, joy, excitement, fear, all in their highest expression, struggled for mastery over him. Had he got a Brief?
"Mr. Norton Ward says, will you be kind enough to protect him in Court III, in case he's on in the Court of Appeal? It's a very simple matter, he says; it's the Divisional Court, sir, third in the list." Henry put the papers on the table and went out, quite disregardful of the storm of emotion which he had aroused. Though keenly interested in the fortunes of his employers, he did not study their temperaments.
It had happened, the thing that Arthur knew he ought always to hope for, the thing that in fact he had always dreaded. He had not got a brief; he had to "hold" one—to hold one for somebody else, and that at short notice—"unhouseled, disappointed, unanealed!" That is to say, with no time to make ready for the fearful ordeal. It was nearly ten o'clock, at half-past he must be in court; at any moment after that the case might come on, its two predecessors having crumpled up, as cases constantly did in the Divisional Court. The fell terrors of nervousness beset him, so that he was almost sick. He dashed at the brief fiercely, but his fingers trembled so that he could hardly untie the tape. Still, he managed a hurried run through the papers and got the point into his head.
Lance and Pretyman, jj., took their seats punctually at ten-thirty. Arthur Lisle, who felt much interest in judges as human beings and would often spend his time in court studying them rather than the law they administered, was glad to see Lance there, but feared Pretyman to the bottom of his heart. Lance was a gentle man, of courtly manners and a tired urbanity, but Pretyman was gruff, abrupt, terribly anxious about saving public time, and therefore always cutting into a man's argument with the Stand-and-deliver of a question to which, in Pretyman's opinion, there was no answer. It would be an awful thing if Pretyman set on him like that! Because then he might be incapable of speech, although he knew that he was in the right. And he believed that his case was good. "All the worse then, if you lose it!" said a mocking voice within him.
Henry had taken him over to the court and had done everything possible for him—had told the solicitor who had briefed Norton Ward how the matter stood and how very safe he would be in Mr. Lisle's hands if it came to that, had given his name to the usher so that the usher could, if necessary, give it to the Bench, and had even introduced him to Mr. O'Sullivan, who was on the other side, a tall and burly Irishman, famous for defending criminals, but not credited with knowing much law.
As the first two cases proceeded, Arthur read his brief again and again, and, when he was not doing that, he read the reported case which (in the opinion of the pupil who had got up Norton Ward's brief and had made a note of it for him) was decisive in his favour. All the while he was praying that the first two cases might last a long time. They did not. Pretyman, j., smashed the pair of them in three-quarters of an hour. "Brown and Green" called the usher, and O'Sullivan was on his legs—and there was no sign of Norton Ward. Henry nodded to Arthur and left the court; he was going to see how matters stood in the Court of Appeal.
"This is an appeal from the West Hampstead County Court, my lords," began Mr. O'Sullivan, "which raises a question of some importance," and he went on in such a fashion that Arthur hoped he was going to take a long time; for Henry had come back, and, by a shake of his head, had indicated that there was no present hope of Norton Ward's arrival. Mr. O'Sullivan meant to take a decently long time; he wanted his client to feel that he was getting his money's worth of argument; therefore he avoided the main point and skirmished about a good deal. Above all he avoided that case which Norton Ward's pupil had considered decisive. Mr. O'Sullivan knew all about the case too, and had it with him, but he was in no hurry to get to it yet.
Lance, j., was leaning back, the picture of polite acquiescence in a lot assigned to him by Providence, a position wherein dignity was tempered by ennui. But Pretyman, j., was getting restive; he was fingering his beard—he committed the solecism of wearing a beard on the Bench; then he picked out a book from the shelf by him, and turned over the leaves quickly. Mr. O'Sullivan came, by a series of flourishes, a little nearer the point. And Norton Ward did not come; and Arthur Lisle felt no better.
"What about Watkins and Chichester?" demanded Pretyman, j., with a sudden violence that made Arthur jump.
"I have that case here, my lord, and——"
"You don't seem in a hurry to cite it, Mr. O'Sullivan. It seems to me dead in your teeth."
"Let us hear the headnote, Mr. O'Sullivan," said Lance, j., suavely.
Then they got to it, and Pretyman, j., and Mr. O'Sullivan had a fine wrangle over it, worrying it up and down, one saying that this was that case, the other that this case was not that case, because in that case that happened and in this case this happened, and so forth. Mr. O'Sullivan "distinguished" valiantly, and Pretyman knocked his distinctions into a cocked hat. Lance, j., sat on smiling in silence, till at last he asked blandly:
"If we think the cases indistinguishable, Watkins and Chichester binds us, I take it, Mr. O'Sullivan?"
That Mr. O'Sullivan had to admit, and on that admission down he sat.
The moment had come—and Norton Ward had not. With an actual physical effort Arthur rose to his feet; a strange voice, which did not seem to belong to him, and sounded quite unfamiliar, said, "My lords——" He saw Lance and Pretyman, jj., in the shape of a grotesque, monstrous, two-headed giant; for the latter was leaning over to the former, who sat listening and twice nodded his head.
A slip of paper was handed up to Lance, j. He glanced at it and from it to Arthur. Again that strange voice said, "My lords——" But Lance, j., interposed suavely, "I don't think we need trouble you, Mr. Lisle," and he proceeded to say that not even Mr. O'Sullivan's ingenious arguments could enable his brother or himself to distinguish Brown and Green from Watkins and Chichester, and therefore the appeal must be dismissed with costs.
"I concur," said Pretyman, j., with contemptuous curtness; in fact he did not say "I" at all; he merely grunted out "Concur."
Of course such a thing happened often, and was quite likely to happen; very probably Norton Ward, after glancing over his pupil's note and at Watkins v. Chichester, had seen that it might happen here and had the less scruple about entrusting his case to hands so inexperienced. None the less, Arthur Lisle felt that the gods had played a cruel game with him. All that agony of apprehension, all that tension of desperate coward's courage, endured for nothing and gone for nothing! All to be endured and achieved again—how soon? He got out of court he hardly knew how, and made his way hurriedly across the Strand. He would have that wig and gown off, or somebody else would be tapping him on the shoulder, arresting him with the stern command to hold another brief!
Now, back in chambers, with the strain over, he was furious with himself, savage and furious; that mood follows hard on the paroxysms of the malady. He began to attribute to it all the failures of his past life—quite unjustly, for in most cases, though it had tortured him, he had overcome the outward manifestation of it. He could not see his life as liveable if it were to meet him at every turn. What made him a prey to it? Self-consciousness, silly self-consciousness, his wise elders had always told him. But what made people self-conscious? Self-conceit, the same wise mentors had added. His soul rose in a plain and sincere protest, certain of its truth: "But I'm not conceited." "Yes, but" (he imagined the mentors' argument now) "you really are; you think everybody's looking at you and thinking of you." "Well, but so they are when I'm on my legs speaking; and beforehand I know they're going to be." The mentors did not seem to have anything to say to that.
In the afternoon Norton Ward came into his room to thank him for holding the brief; he was a man of punctilious courtesy, as indeed he was master of most of the arts and gifts that make for success in life. At little more than thirty he had already a fine practice; he was on the edge of "taking silk"; he had married well—the daughter of a peer, with a substantial portion; he was a "prospective" candidate for Parliament. A favourite of nature and of fortune indeed! Moreover he was a kindly man, although a ruthlessly ambitious one. He and Arthur had become acquainted merely through the accident of Arthur's renting the spare room in his chambers, when he had been called to the Bar a twelve-month before; but the landlord had taken to his tenant and would gladly have done him a turn.
"I thought the case quite plain," he said; "but I'm sorry you were done out of your argument."
"I wasn't sorry," Arthur confessed, with a frankness habitual to him.
"You weren't? Oh, I see! Nervous!" He laughed gently.
"Beyond belief. Did you used to be?"
"Just at first. I soon got over it. But they say one oughtn't to get over it. Oh, you've heard the stories about big men, haven't you? Anyhow some men never do. Why, I've sat behind Huntley and seen his hand tremble like our old friend the aspen leaf—and that when he was Attorney-General!"
"Lord!" was Arthur's despairing comment; because a malady which did not spare an Attorney-General must surely be unconquerable by lesser folk.
"But I expect it's not quite the same sort," Norton Ward went on, smiling. "It's rather like falling in love, I expect. A man's excited every time he falls in love, but I don't think it's the same sort of excitement as he suffers when he falls in love for the first time—I mean badly."
Now the last word of this observation so struck Arthur that he forgot all the earlier part of it—nay, he forgot his malady itself, together with the truth or falsity of the parallel Norton Ward suggested.
"Badly? What do you mean by falling in love badly?"
"I'm not speaking with regard to morals, Lisle. I mean severely, or utterly, or passionately, or, if you prefer, idiotically."
Arthur's lips puckered about his pipe-stem; it was a trick he had.
"I think I should call that falling in love well, not badly," he observed gravely.
It was the gravity of the speaker, not the import of the thing spoken, which made Norton Ward laugh again and heartily. His was one of those temperaments—sane, practical, concrete, equable—which regard the affairs of love as a very subsidiary matter in real life, in the real life of any individual, that is, for of course they possess a national and racial importance when reduced to statistics. He did not quarrel with the literary convention which exalted love to the highest place—the convention made good reading and produced exciting plays—but it did not answer to real life as he knew it, to the stern yet delightful fight which filled his days, and really filled his wife's too, since she was a partner wherever she could be, and an eager encourager in all things. But what of the great amorists who were also great men and women? Well, how much of that too was play-acting—to the public and to themselves? That was the question his mind instinctively put about such cases.
As he looked at Arthur Lisle's slight figure and sensitive face, he felt a compassion for him, a pitying doubt whether so frail a vessel could live in the rough sea on which it had embarked. Characteristically this friendly impulse expressed itself in an invitation to dinner, which was received by Arthur with surprise, delight, and gratitude.
"Of course I will, and it really is most awfully kind of you," he said.
Norton Ward went off to a consultation with a smile of mingled pity and amusement still on his lips.
His invitation to dinner really pleased Arthur very much, not only as a sign of friendship, but for its own sake. He had found his early days in London lonely—in depressing contrast with the full social life of school and Oxford. The glowing anticipations with which imagination had invested his coming to the metropolis had not stood the test of experience. For some young men family connections, or notable achievements and high reputation, provide a ready-made place in London. Others possessed of ample means can make a pretty good one for themselves speedily. But Arthur's university career, though creditable and to him delightful in the highest degree from its teeming fulness of interests, had not been conspicuous; he had no powerful friends, and he was very poor. After his chambers were paid for, and his share in Henry, and his lodgings in Bloomsbury Street, there was left not much margin beyond the necessities of life—food, raiment, and tobacco. The theatre, even the pit, could not be indulged in often. He had many solitary evenings. When it was fine, he often walked the streets; when it was wet he read—and often stopped reading to wish that something would happen. His vague and restless longings took no form more definite than that—wanting something to happen. He was in London, he was young, he was ready—and nothing happened! Consequently an invitation to dinner was a prize in the daily lottery of life.
When he got back to his 'diggings' in the evening, he found a letter from home. His mother and sister had continued to live on in the old house at Malvern Wells after the death of his father, who had enjoyed a fairly good practice as a doctor there, but dying comparatively early had left a slender provision for his family. Mrs. Lisle preferred to be poor, since poor she had to be, in a place where she was already known and respected. The school too was a great attraction; there Arthur had been educated as a day boy, and thence had proceeded to Oxford with an exhibition, to which he added a second from his college, thus much easing the family finances, and indeed rendering Oxford possible. There had been talk of his people's migrating to London and making a home for him there, but in fact none of the three had been zealous for the change. Mrs. Lisle was frail and clung to her accustomed hills and breezes; Anna had her friends, her circle, her church work, her local importance; and Arthur was at that time too full of those glowing anticipations of London life to press the project of a family villa somewhere in the suburbs and a season-ticket to take him out of town at the precise hour of the evening when town began to be amusing.
For all that, he was an affectionate son and brother, and he smiled sympathetically over Anna's home gossip. Only the postscript made him frown rather peevishly. It ran: "Mother wants to know whether you have called on the Godfrey Lisles yet!"
Mother wanted to know that in pretty nearly every one of her own and Anna's letters; hence the italics which distinguished Anna's "yet." And the answer still had to be in the negative. Why should he call on the Godfrey Lisles? He knew his mother's answer; a thoroughly maternal answer it was. Godfrey Lisle, though only a distant cousin, was the head of the house, squire of Hilsey Manor, the old family place, and a man of considerable wealth—altogether, in fact, the Personage of the family. Most families have a Personage, to them very important, though varying infinitely in significance or insignificance to the world outside. On the whole the Lisle Personage was above the average from the outside point of view, and Mrs. Lisle's anxiety that her son should pay him proper attention, and reap therefrom such advantage as might accrue, was no more than natural.
But to Arthur all the reasons why he ought to call on his cousin were reasons why he could not do it. Just as, while Mr. O'Sullivan was arguing, his imagination was picturing what a young fool Pretyman, j., would soon be thinking him, so here, whenever the question of this call arose, the same remorselessly active faculty rehearsed for him all the aspects in which he would appear to the Godfrey Lisles—a poor relation, a tiresome duty, a country cousin, a raw youth—Oh, in fine and in the end, a Bore of purest quality and great magnitude! That, and nothing else, the Godfrey Lisles would think him.
Still, if his mother persisted, the thing might have to happen. He had a vision of himself watching the Godfrey Lisles out of their house, and then diving across the road to deposit furtive cards with the butler. A funny vision, but with him quite capable of turning into reality!
His brow cleared as he took up a second letter which awaited him. He knew the hand:
"Dear Mr. Lisle,
"Do drop in to-morrow evening after dinner. We shall be having cards and perhaps a little music. About 9.30. Do as you like about dressing.
"Yours sincerely, "Marie Sarradet."
The Sarradets lived in Regent's Park—rather far from any Underground station. "I'll dress if it's fine, and not if it's wet," thought Arthur. The balance of profit and loss as between paying a cab-fare on the one hand and taking the shine out of his patent leathers on the other presented a problem of constant difficulty in connection with his evening gaieties.
A hundred and fifty years ago or thereabouts a certain Jacques Sarradet had migrated from his native Lyons and opened a perfumer's shop in Cheapside. The shop was there still, and still a Sarradet kept it, and still it was much esteemed and frequented by City men, who bought presents or executed commissions for their wives and daughters there. To folk of fashion the Bond Street branch was better known, but which was the more profitable only the master knew. Together, at all events, they were very profitable, and the present Mr. Clement Sarradet was a warm man—warmer than he let the world know, or even his own family, so far as he could keep the knowledge from them. He had preserved his French frugality, and, although his house in Regent's Park was comfortably and hospitably conducted, the style in which he lived was a good deal less sumptuous than English notions would have considered his income to warrant. He had preserved too, in spite of mixed marriages in the family history, something of his French air, of the appearance of a prosperous bon bourgeois, with his short thick-set figure, his round paunch, his stiff upstanding white hair (he had married late in life and was now over sixty), his black brows and moustache, and his cheeks where blue and red seemed, after a tussle, to have blended harmoniously into a subdued purple.
Something French, though differently French, survived also in his cherished daughter Marie, writer of the note already set forth, and mistress of the house in Regent's Park since her mother's death five years ago. Here it was manner rather than looks (she was a brunette, but not markedly); she had a vivacity, a provocativeness, a coquetry, which in less favoured races often marks a frivolous or unstable character, but in the French finds no difficulty in blending with and adorning solid good sense, sturdy business-like qualities, and even sometimes a certain toughness of tissue more certainly valuable than attractive.
The evening party to which Arthur Lisle had been bidden was drawing to its close. They had played cards; they had had some music; they had ended up with a couple of "topping" comic songs from Joe Halliday, and they were still laughing over these as they munched sandwiches and sipped, according to sex, lemonade or whisky-and-soda. Mr. Sarradet watched them benevolently, thinking them a very pleasant set of young people, and admiring the way in which his daughter exercised a pretty dominion over this little band of chosen friends. The two girls, Mildred Quain and Amabel Osling, openly acknowledged her leadership; the men deferred to her, not only as the hostess (a position which she generally occupied), but as the centre of attraction and the deviser of pleasures, the organiser of visits to theatres and concerts, and of their lawn-tennis at the Acton ground in the spring and summer. But there was a touch of shrewd anxiety in his watching. Young men were wont to aspire to more than friendship where they found metal attractive to their eyes. Mr. Sarradet was ambitious for his daughter.
"Next Monday, then, we'll all meet at His Majesty's," Marie announced—or commanded. She turned to Joe Halliday. "You get the tickets. And anybody who likes can come back here to supper afterwards."
"Splendid, dear!" said Amabel Osling, a dark girl with large eyes and a rather intense manner; she wore what might be described as an art-frock.
"An evening out, an evening out!" chanted Joe Halliday, a big young fellow with a shock of light brown hair and a manner of exuberant good-nature and heartiness.
"I'm afraid I can't come," said Arthur Lisle apologetically.
"Why not, Mr. Lisle?" Marie's voice sounded certainly disappointed, perhaps rather resentful.
"I'm dining out."
Sidney Barslow looked at him with a smile, in which Arthur detected an ironical flavour. Between these two members of the circle there was, in truth, no love lost. Barslow resented in Arthur a superiority of breeding which all his own vanity could not enable him to ignore. Arthur found this handsome fellow, with his carefully sleek hair, his bold challenging eyes, his lady-killerish airs, in the end a 'bounder' with only a veneer of elegance; all the same he wished he had half Barslow's easy assurance and self-confidence.
"Oh, Learned Counsel is dining out?" In the Sarradet circle, being of the Bar was felt to be enough of a distinction to warrant a little chaff. "May one ask who with? The Lord Chancellor perhaps?"
They all laughed. "Presently, presently!" said Joe, patting Arthur's head. "The lad will make his way in society."
"Don't be an ass, Joe." But Arthur liked Joe as much as he disliked Barslow, and his protest was quite free from annoyance.
"Don't you want to tell us who it is, Mr. Lisle?" asked Amabel.
"Well, I don't suppose you'll be any the wiser; it's the man whose chambers I share—Norton Ward."
Now, as it chanced, Mildred Quain's uncle lived in the suburban constituency which Norton Ward was 'nursing' and was of the same political colour as the prospective candidate. Mildred had heard the candidate speak at the opening of a bazaar—and had seen the Honourable Mrs. Norton Ward perform the ceremony.
"You are among the swells, Mr. Lisle!" said Mildred, and proceeded to describe the extreme political and social eminence of the Norton Wards. Arthur, who had gratefully accepted his invitation as a human kindness, was amused at finding it regarded as a promotion, as a cause for congratulation and envy; he grew afraid that his mention of it might be taken for a boast.
"I think it was pure charity on Norton Ward's part," he laughed. "I expect he thought I was lonely."
"I dare say. He couldn't be expected to know about the likes of us," said Barslow.
"Oh, shut up, Sidney!" cried Joe Halliday. "Can't Arthur go out to dinner without your permission?"
A sudden flush spread over Barslow's face; he glared angrily at Joe. Mr. Sarradet had taken up the evening paper, and noticed nothing; but all the rest were conscious that a storm threatened the serenity of the gathering. On a trivial occasion latent jealousies had leapt to light.
Marie looked round her company with a smile which included all and betrayed no partisanship. "We'll choose another night for His Majesty's," she said. "That's quite simple. Then we can all go. And now shall we have one more song before we break up? One more from you, Joe!" As they moved towards the piano, she contrived to touch the irate Mr. Barslow lightly on the arm, to give him an arch glance, and to murmur—very low—the word "Silly!" Mr. Barslow's brow cleared wonderfully.
She wanted no quarrel and was confident of her ability to prevent one. If one came, she would have to be arbiter; she would have to take sides, and that must almost certainly mean the loss of one of her friends—either Sidney Barslow or Arthur Lisle. She did not want to lose either, for each had an attraction for her—an attraction not of mere solid friendship such as bound her to Joe Halliday, but an appeal of man to woman. Barslow's boldness, his challenge, his powerful virility drew one side of her nature with a strong magnet; to what was 'second-class' and tawdry in him she was not, by birth or breeding, very sensitive herself. On the other hand she knew that Arthur Lisle was, and admired him because he was. Nay, in a sense she was afraid of him because he was; if she did or said anything in his eyes amiss—if she shewed too much favour to Sidney Barslow, for instance—he might feel about her much as he did about the man himself. She knew all about Barslow, and all about what Barslow felt for and about herself; it was very familiar, one might say inherited, ground. With regard to Arthur Lisle all this was different; he was still, in spite of their apparent intimacy, terra incognita. Though he constantly frequented the house, though from a chance acquaintance of her brother's he had grown into a familiar friend, though they were fast comrades, even though she knew that he admired her, there was so much about him which she vaguely divined to be there, but could not value or analyse—notions, instincts, spots of sensitiveness, to which she remained really a stranger. How strong were they, what was their verdict on her, what their influence on him? Would a tide of admiration or passion sweep them all away? Or would they make such a tide impossible, or, even if it came, dam its course with impalpable insurmountable obstacles? In fine, would he, in spite of any feeling for her that he might have, hold her "out of the question"?
He was the last to leave that night—as he often was, for the solitude of his lodgings had no attraction for him—and she went with him to the door. The stars shone now over Regent's Park, and they lingered a moment in astronomical conversation. Then she gave him her hand, saying:
"I'm so sorry about Monday. But you must tell me all about your party afterwards!"
"I don't suppose there'll be anything to tell. Well, Mildred Quain may be interested, because of her uncle!"
"I shall be interested too—though not because of my uncle," she said with a laugh and a fleet upward glance at him. "I consider I've introduced you to London society, and I take a maternal interest in you, Mr. Lisle."
"Why do you say 'Mr. Lisle' to me? You always say 'Joe' and 'Sidney' to the others."
"So I do. I don't know!"
"Well, then, don't do it," laughed Arthur. "It makes me jealous, you know."
She looked at him for a moment, not now in provocation, rather in thought, perhaps in puzzle. "It needn't do that, anyhow," at last she said.
"Is it then a mark of respect?" he asked banteringly, finding pleasure in the perplexed little frown which persisted on her pretty face.
"Well, I speak of you as I feel about you, and I can't say any more," she answered, half laughing, but protesting too that this sort of inquisition was unfair.
"You shall do as you like then! What you do is always right." He spoke affectionately and held out his hand to her again.
She did not give him hers. She drew back a little, blushing. "Ah, if you really thought that!" After a pause, she said rather sharply, "Why don't you like Sidney Barslow?"
"I don't exactly dislike him, but sometimes he——" He waved his arm, wanting a word.
"Grates?" she suggested briefly.
"Thank you," said Arthur with a laugh. "Just every now and then, perhaps!"
She stood there a moment longer with an expression on her face which was new to him there; she looked as if she wanted to say something or ask him something, but did not dare. Though her lips smiled, there was appeal, almost timidity, in her eyes. But she turned away with no more than "Well, good-night."
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