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Title: The Record of Nicholas Freydon

Author: A. J. Dawson

Release date: December 18, 2009 [eBook #30704]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Clare Graham from page images generously made available by Internet Archive (



E-text prepared by Clare Graham
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See







[A novel by Alec John Dawson]

This etext prepared from the first edition published in 1914 by Constable and Company Ltd, London.



It would ill become any writer to adopt an apologetic tone in introducing the work of another pen than his own, and indeed I have no thought of apologia where Nicholas Freydon's writing is concerned. On the contrary, it is out of respect for my friend's quality as a writer that I am moved to a word of explanation here. It is this: there are circumstances, sufficiently indicated I think in the text of the book and my own footnote thereto, which tended to prevent my performance of those offices for my friend's work which are usually expected of one who is said to edit. It would be more fitting, I suppose, if a phrase were borrowed from the theatrical world, and this record of a man's life were said to be 'presented' rather than 'edited,' by me. I am advised to accept the editorial title in this connection, but it is the truth that the book has not been edited at all, in the ordinary acceptance of the term. A few purely verbal emendations have been made in it, but Nicholas Freydon's last piece of writing has never been revised, nor even arranged in deference to accepted canons of book-making. It is given here as it left the author's pen, designed, not for your eye or mine, but for that of its writer, to be weighed and considered by him. But that weighing and consideration it has not received.

So much I feel it incumbent upon me to say, as the avowed sponsor for the book, in order that praise and blame may be rightly apportioned. Touching the inherent value of this document, nothing whatever is due to me. Any criticism of its arrangement, or lack of arrangement, to be just, should be levelled at myself alone.












Back there in London--how many leagues and aeons distant!--I threw down my pen and fled here to the ends of the earth, in pursuit of rest and self-comprehending peace of mind. Here I now take up the pen again and return in thought to London: that vast cockpit; still in pursuit of rest and self-comprehending peace of mind.

That seems wasteful and not very hopeful. But, to be honest--and if this final piece of pen-work be not honest to its core, it certainly will prove the very acme of futility--I must add the expression of opinion that most of the important actions of my life till now have had the self-same goal in view: peace of mind. The surprising thing is that, right up to this present, every one of my efforts has been backed by a substantial if varying amount of solid conviction; of belief that that particular action would bring the long-sought reward. I suppose I thought this in coming here, in fleeing from London. Nay, I know I did.

The latest, and I suppose the last, illusion bids me believe that if, using the literary habit of a lifetime, I can set down in ordered sequence the salient facts and events of that restless, struggling pilgrimage I call my life, there is a likelihood that, seeing the entire fabric in one piece, I may be able truly to understand it, and, understanding it, to rest content before it ends. The ironical habit makes me call it an illusion. In strict truth I listen to the call with some confidence; not, to be sure, with the flaming ardour which in bygone years has set me leaping into action in answer to such a call; yet with real hope.

It is none so easy a task, this exact charting out of so complex a matter as a man's life. And it may be that long practice of the writer's art but serves to heighten its difficulties. For example, since writing the sentence ending on that word 'hope,' I have covered two whole pages with writing which has now been converted into ashes among the logs upon my hearth. For the covering of those pages two volumes had been fingered and referred to, if you please, and my faulty memory drawn upon for yet a third quotation. So much for the habit of literary allusiveness, engrained into one by years of book-making, and yet more surely, I suspect, by labour for hire on the newspaper press.

But, though I have detected and removed these two pages of irrelevance, I foresee that unessential and therefore obscurantic matter will creep in. Well, when I come to weigh the completed record, I must allow for that; and, meanwhile, so far as time and my own limitations as selector permit, I will prune and clear away from the line of vision these weeds of errant fancy. For the record must of all things be honest and comprehensive; rather than shapely, effective, or literary. To be sure the pundits would say that this is to misuse and play with words; to perpetrate a contradiction in terms. Well, we shall see. Whatever the critics might say, your author by profession would understand me well enough when I say: 'Honest, rather than literary.'

How, to begin with, may I label and describe my present self? There, immediately, I am faced with one of the difficulties of this task. One can say of most men that they are this or that; of this class, order, sect, party, or type; and, behold them neatly docketed! But in all honesty I cannot say that I am of any special class, or that I 'belong' anywhere in particular. There is no circle in any community which is indefeasibly my own by right of birth and training. I am still a member of two London clubs, I believe. They were never more than hotels for me. I am probably what most folk call a gentleman; but how much does that signify in the twentieth century? Many simple people would likely call me a person of education, even of learning, belike, seeing a list of books under my name. A schoolman who examined me would be pardoned (by me, at all events) for calling me an ignoramus of no education whatever. For--and this I never reflected upon until the present moment--I could not for the life of me 'analyse' the simplest sentence, in the rather odd scholastic sense of that word. Inherited instinct and long practice make me aware, I believe, of an error in syntax, when I chance upon one. But I could only tell you that it was wrong, and never how or why. I know something of literature, but less of mathematics than I assume to be known by the modern ten-year-old schoolboy; something of three or four languages, but nothing of their grammar. I have met and talked with some of the most notable people of my time, but truly prefer cottage life before that of the greatest houses. And so, in a score of other ways, I feel it difficult informingly and justly to label myself.

But--let me have done with difficulties and definitions. My task shall be the setting forth of facts, out of which definitions must shape themselves. And, for a beginning, I must turn aside from my present self, pass by a number of dead selves, each differing in a thousand ways from every other, and bring my mind to bear for the moment upon that infinitely remote self: the child, Nicholas Freydon. It may be that curious and distant infant will help to explain the man.



The things I remember about my earliest infancy are not in the least romantic.

First, I think, come two pictures, both perfectly distinct, and both connected with domestic servants. The one is of a firelit interior, below street level: an immense kitchen, with shining copper vessels in it, an extremely hot and red fire, and a tall screen covered over with pictures. An enormously large woman in a blue and white print gown sits toasting herself before the fire; and a less immense female, in white print with sprays of pink flowers on it, is devoting herself to me. This last was Amelia; a cheerful, comely, buxom, and in the main kindly creature, as I remember her. In the kitchen was a well-scrubbed table of about three-quarters of a mile in length, and possessed of as many legs as a centipede, some of which could be moved to support flaps. (To put a measuring-tape over that table nowadays, or over other things in the kitchen, for that matter, might bring disappointment, I suppose.) These legs formed fascinating walls and boundaries for a series of romantic dwelling-places, shops, caves, and suchlike resorts, among which a small boy could wander at will, when lucky enough to be allowed to visit this warm apartment at all. The whole place was pervaded by an odour indescribably pleasing to my infantile nostrils, and compact of suggestions of heat acting upon clean print gowns, tea-cakes done to a turn, scrubbed wood, and hot soap-suds.

But the full ecstasy of a visit to this place was only attained when I was lifted upon the vast table by the warm and rosy Amelia, and allowed to leap therefrom into her extended arms; she rushing toward me, and both of us emitting either shrill or growling noises as the psychological moment of my leap was reached. At the time I used to think that springing from a trapeze, set in the dome of a great building, into a net beneath, must be the most ravishing of all joys; but I incline now to think that my more homely feat of leaping into Amelia's warm arms was, upon the whole, probably a pleasanter thing.

This memory is of something which I believe happened fairly frequently. My other most distinct recollection of what I imagine to have been the same period in history is of a visit, a Sunday afternoon visit, I think, paid with Amelia. I must have been of tender years, because, though during parts of the journey I travelled on my own two feet, I recollect occasional lapses into a perambulator, as it might be in the case of an elderly or invalid person who walks awhile along a stretch of level sward, and then takes his ease for a time in victoria or bath-chair.

I remember Amelia lifting me out from my carriage in the doorway of what I regarded as a very delightful small house, redolent of strange and exciting odours, some of which I connect with the subsequent gift of a slab of stuff that I ate with gusto as cake. My mature view is that it was cold bread-pudding of a peculiarly villainous clamminess. It is interesting to note that my delight in this fearsome dainty was based upon its most malevolent quality: the chill consistency of the stuff, which made it resemble the kind of leathery jelly that I have seen used to moisten the face of a rubber stamp withal.

In this house--it was probably in a slum, certainly in a mean street--one stepped direct from the pavement into a small kitchen, where an elderly man sat smoking a long clay pipe. A covered stairway rose mysteriously from one side of this apartment into the two bedrooms above. A door beside the stairway opened into a tiny scullery, from which light was pretty thoroughly excluded by the high, black wall which dripped and frowned no more than three feet away from its window. I have little doubt that this scullery was a pestilent place. At the time it appealed to my romantic sense as something rather attractive.

The elderly man in the kitchen was Amelia's father. That in itself naturally gave him distinction in my eyes. But, in addition, he was an old sailor, and, with a knife which was attached to a white lanyard, he could carve delightful boats (thoroughly seaworthy in a wash-hand basin) out of ordinary sticks of firewood. It is to be noted, by the way, a thing I never thought of till this moment, that these same sticks and bundles of firewood have a peculiarly distinctive smell of their own. It is the smell of a certain kind of grocer's shop whose proprietor, for some esoteric reason, calls himself an 'Italian warehouse-man.' In later life I occasionally visited such a shop, between Fleet Street and the river, when I had rooms in that locality.

Boat-building figured largely in that visit to Amelia's parents. (The girl had a mother; large, flaccid, and, on this occasion, partly dissolved in tears.) But the episode immediately preceding our departure is what overshadowed everything else for me that day, and for several subsequent nights. Amelia and the tearful mother took me up the dark little stairway, and introduced me to Death. They showed me Amelia's sister, Jinny, who died (of consumption, I believe) on the day before our visit. I still can see the alabaster white face, with its pronounced vein-markings; the straight, thin form, outlined beneath a sheet, in that tiny, low-ceiled, airless garret. What a picture to place before an infant on a sunny Sunday afternoon! It might be supposed that I had asked to see it, for I remember Amelia saying, as one about to give a child a treat:

'Now, mind, Master Nicholas, you're to be a very good boy, and you're not to say a word about it to any one.'

But, no, I do not think I can have desired the experience, for to this day I cherish a lively recollection of the agony of sick horror which swam over me when, in obedience to instructions given, I suffered my lips to touch the marble-like face of the dead girl.

How strange is that unquestioning obedience of childhood! Recognition of it might well give pause to careless instructors of youth. The kiss meant torture to me, in anticipation and in fact. But I was bidden, and never dreamed of refusing to obey. No doubt, there was also at work in me some dim sort of infantile delicacy. This was an occasion upon which a gentleman could have no choice....

Ah, well, I believe Amelia was a dear good soul, and I am sure I hope she married well, and lived happily ever after. I have no recollection whatever of how or when she drifted out of my life. But the visit to Jinny's deathbed, and the exciting leaps from the immeasurably long kitchen table into Amelia's print-clad arms, are things which stand out rather more clearly in my recollection than many of the events of, say, twenty years later.


How is it that my earliest recollections should centre about folk no nearer or dearer to me than domestic servants? I know that my mother died within three months of my birth. There had to be, and was, another woman in my life before Amelia; but I have no memories of her. She was an aunt, an unmarried sister of my mother's; but I believe my father quarrelled with her before I began to 'take notice' very much; and then came Amelia.

The large underground kitchen really was fairly big. I had a look at it no more than a dozen years ago. The house, too, was and is a not unpleasing one, situated within a stone's throw of Russell Square, Bloomsbury. Its spaces are ample, its fittings solidly good, and its area less subterranean than many. Near by is a select livery stable and mews of sub-rural aspect, with Virginia creeper climbing over a horse's head in stucco. Amelia shared with me a night nursery and a nursery-living room in this house, the latter overlooking the mews, through the curving iron rails of a tiny balcony. Below us my father occupied a small bedroom and a large sitting-room, the latter being the 'first floor front.'

At this time, and indeed during all the period of my first English memories--say, eight years--my father was engaged in journalistic work. I know now that he had been called to the bar, a member of Lincoln's Inn; but I do not know that he ever had a brief. He gave some years, I believe, to coaching and tutoring. I remember seeing, later in my boyhood, a tattered yellow prospectus which showed that he once delivered certain lectures on such subjects as 'Mediaeval English Poetry.' In my time I gather that my father called no man master or employer, but was rather the slave of a number of autocrats in Fleet Street. 'The office,' as between Amelia and myself, may have meant all Fleet Street. But my impression now is that it meant the building then occupied by the ----. (Here figures the name of one of London's oldest morning newspapers.--Ed.) And, it may be, the ---- Club; for I have reason to believe that my father did much of his work at his club. I have even talked there with one member at least who recollected this fact.

But the memory of my father as he was in this early period is curiously vague. It would seem that he produced no very clear impression on my mind then. Our meetings were not very frequent, I think. As I chiefly recall them, they occurred in the wide but rather dark entrance hall, and were accompanied by conversation confined to Amelia and my father. At such times he would be engaged in polishing his hat, sometimes with a velvet pad, and sometimes on his coat-sleeve. I used to hear from him remarks like these:

'Well, keep him out of doors as much as possible, so long as it doesn't rain. Eh? Oh, well, you'd better buy another. How much will it be? I will send up word if I am back before the boy's bed-time.'

And then he might turn to me, after putting on his hat, and absently pull one of my ears, or stroke my nose or forehead. His hands were very slender, warm, and pleasantly odorous of soap and tobacco. 'Be a good man,' he would say. And there the interview ended. He never said: 'Be a good child'; always 'a good man'; and sometimes he would repeat it, in a gravely preoccupied way.

Once, and, so far as I remember, only once, we met him out-of-doors; in the park, it was, and he took us both to the Zoological Gardens, and gave us tea there. (Yellowish cake with white sugar icing over it has ever since suggested to me the pungent smell of monkey-houses and lions' cages.) The meeting was purely accidental, I believe.

It must have been in about my ninth year, I fancy, that I began really to know something of my father, as a man, rather than as a sort of supernatural, hat-polishing, He-who-must-be-obeyed. We had a small house of our own then, in Putney; and the occasion of our first coming together as fellow-humans was a shared walk across Wimbledon Common, and into Richmond Park by the Robin Hood Gate. The period was the 'sixties of last century, and I had just begun my attendance each day at a local 'Academy for the Sons of Gentlemen.' To us, in the Academy, my father descended as from Olympus, while the afternoon was yet young, and carried me off before the envious eyes of my fellow sufferers and what I felt to be the grudging gaze of the usher, who had already twice since dinner-time severely pulled my ears, because of some confusion that existed in my mind between Alfred and his burnt cakes and Canute and his wet feet. (As I understood it, Canute sat on the beach upon one of those minute camp-stools which mothers and nurses used at the seaside before the luxurious era of canopied hammock chairs.)

In my devious childish fashion, I presently gathered that there had been momentous doings in London town that day, and that in the upshot my father had terminated his connection with the famous newspaper from which the bulk of his earnings had been drawn for some years. For a little while I fancied this must be almost as delightful for him as my own unexpected escape from the Academy that afternoon had been for me. But, gradually, my embryo intelligence rejected this theory, and I became possessed of a sense of grave happenings, almost, it might be, of catastrophe. Quite certainly, my father had never before talked to me as he did that summer afternoon in Richmond Park. His vein was, for him, somewhat declamatory, and his unusual gestures impressed me hugely. It is likely that at times he forgot my presence, or ceased, at all events, to remember that his companion was his child. His massive, silver-headed malacca cane did great execution among the bracken, I remember.

(I had been rather pleased for my school-mates to have had an opportunity of observing this stick, and had regretted the absence of my father's usual hat, equal in refulgence to the cane. Evidently, he had called at the house and changed his head-gear before walking up to the Academy, for he now wore the soft black hat which he called his 'wideawake.')

That he was occasionally conscious of me his monologue proved, for it included such swift, jerky sentences as:

'Remember that, my son. Have nothing to do with this accursed trade of ink-spilling. Literary work! God save the mark!' (I wondered what particular ink 'mark' this referred to.) 'The purse-proud wretches think they buy your soul with their starveling cheques. Ten years' use of my brain; ten years wasted in slavish pot-boiling for them; and then--then, this!'

'This,' I imagine, was dismissal; accepted resignation, say. I gathered that my father had been free to do his work where he chose; that he had used the newspaper office only as a place in which to consult with his editor before writing; and that now some new broom in the office was changing all that; that my father had been bidden to attend a certain desk during stated hours to perform routine work each day; that he had protested, refused, and closed his connection with the journal, after a heated interview with some managerial bashaw.

In the light of all I now know, I apprehend that my father had just been brought into contact with the first stirrings of those radical changes which revolutionised the London world of literature and journalism during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. The Board School had not quite arrived, but the social revolution was at hand; and, there among the bracken in Richmond Park, my father with his malacca cane was defying the tide--like my friend of the camp-stool: Canute. Remembered phrases like: 'Underbred little clerk!'; 'His place is the counting-house, and ---- [the editor] should have known better than to leave us at the mercy of this impudent cad,' convince me that my father's wrath was in great part directed less against an individual than a social movement or tendency.

Much that my father said that afternoon would probably have a ridiculous seeming in this twentieth century. Compulsory education and the æsthetic movement, not to mention the Labour Party, Tory Democrats, and the Halfpenny Press, were as yet undiscovered delights when my father talked to me in Richmond Park. A young man of to-day, reading or listening to such words, would almost certainly be misled by them regarding the character and position of the speaker. My father was no scion of a noble house, but the only son of a decayed merchant. His attitude of mind and disposition, however, were naturally somewhat aristocratic, I think. Also, as I have said, our talk was in the 'sixties. He was sensitive, very proud, inclined, perhaps, to scornfulness, certainly to fastidiousness, and one who seldom suffered fools either gladly or with much show of tolerance. It was a somewhat unfortunate temperament, probably, for a man situated as he was, possessed of no private means and dependent entirely upon his earnings. In my mother, I believe he had married a lady of somewhat higher social standing than his own, who never was reconciled to the comparatively narrow and straitened circumstances of her brief wifehood.

'The people who have to do with newspapers are the serfs and the prostitutes of literature. It was not always so, but I've felt it coming for some time now. It is the growing dominion of the City, of commerce, of their boasted democracy. The People's Will! Disgusting rubbish! How the deuce should these office-bred hucksters know what is best? But, I tell you, my boy, that it is they who are becoming the masters. There is no more room in journalism for a gentleman; certainly not for literary men and people of culture. They think it will pay them better to run their wretched sheets for the proletariat. We shall see. Oh, I am better out of it, of course. I see that clearly; and I am thankful to be clear of their drudgery.' (My listening mind brightened.) 'But yet--there's your education to be thought of. Expenses are--And, of course--H'm!' (Clouds shadowed my outlook once more.) 'This pitiful anxiety to cling to the safety of a salary is humiliating--unworthy of one's manhood. Good heavens! why was I born, not one of them, and yet dependent on the caprices of such people?'

It may be filial partiality, but something makes me feel genuinely sorry for my father, as I look back upon that outpouring of his in Richmond Park. And that was in the 'sixties. I wonder how the twentieth-century journalism would have struck him. The later subtleties of unadmitted advertising, the headline, the skittishly impressionistic descriptive masterpieces of 'our special representative,' and the halfpenny newspapers, were all unthought-of boons, then. And as for the advancing democracy of his prophecies, why, there were quite real sumptuary laws of a sort still holding sway in the 'sixties, and well on into the 'eighties, for that matter!

We walked home from the Roehampton Gate, and in some respects I was no longer quite a child when I climbed into bed that night.


In my eyes, at all events, there was a kind of a partnership between my father and myself from this time onward. Before, there had been three groups in my scheme of things: upon the one hand, Amelia (or her successor) and myself, with, latterly, some of the people of the Putney Academy for the Sons of Gentlemen; in another and quite separate compartment, my father; and, finally, the rest of the world. Gradually, now, I came to see things rather in this wise: upon the one hand, my father and myself, with, perhaps, a few other folk as satellites; and, on the other hand, the rest of the world.

And at this early stage I began to regard the world--every one outside our own small camp--in an antagonistic light, as a hostile force, as the enemy. Life was a battle in which the odds were fearfully uneven; for it was my father and myself against the world. Needless to say, I did not put the matter to myself in those words; but at this precise period I am well assured that I acquired this attitude of mind. It dated from the admittance into partnership with my father, which was signalised by the walk and talk among the bracken in Richmond Park.

I ought to say that I had always had a great admiration for my father. He seemed to me clearly superior in a thousand ways to other men. But never before the Richmond episode had there been personal sympathy, nor yet any loyal feeling of fellowship, mingled with this admiration.

I remember very distinctly the pride I felt in my father's personal appearance. He was not a dandy, I think; but there was a certain quiet nicety and delicacy about his dress and manner which impressed me greatly. The hair about his ears and temples was silvery grey; one of the marks of his superiority, in my eyes. He always raised his hat in leaving a shop in which a woman served; his manner of accepting or tendering an apology among strangers was very grand indeed. In saluting men in the street, he had a spacious way of raising his malacca stick which, to this day, would charm me, were it possible to see such a gesture in these rushing times. The photograph before me as I write proves that my father was a handsome man, but it does not show the air of distinction which I am assured was his. And, let me record here the fact that, whatever might be thought of the wisdom or otherwise of his views or actions, I never once knew him to be guilty of an act of vulgar discourtesy, nor of anything remotely resembling meanness.

In these days it is safe to say that the very poorest toiler's child has more of schooling than I had, and, doubtless, a superior sort of schooling. I spent rather less than a year and a half at the Putney Academy, and that was the beginning and the end of my schooling. Before being introduced to the Academy, I was a fairly keen reader; and that remained. At the Academy I was obliged to write in a copy-book, and to commit to memory sundry valueless dates. There may have been other acquisitions (irrespective of ear-tweakings and various cuts from a vicious little cane), but I have no recollection of them; and, to this day, the simplest exercises of everyday figuring baffle me the moment I take a pencil in my hand. If I cannot arrive at solution 'in my head' I am done, and many a minor monetary loss have I suffered in consequence.

I trust I am justified in believing that to-day there are no such schools left in England as that Academy for the Sons of Gentlemen, in Putney. As a training establishment it was more suitable, I think, for the sons of parrots or rabbits. I never even learned to handle a cricket bat or ball there. Neither, I think, did any of my contemporaries in that futile place. The headmaster and proprietor was a harassed and disappointed man, who exhausted whatever energies he possessed in interviewing parents and keeping up appearances. His one underpaid usher was a young man of whom I remember little, beyond his habit of pulling my ears in class, and the astoundingly rich crop of pimples on his face, which he seemed to be always cultivating with applications of cotton-wool, plaster, and nasty stuff from a flat white jar. His mind, I verily believe, was as innocent of thought as a cabbage. When sent to play outdoor games with us, and instruct us in them, he always reclined on the grass, or sat on a gate, reading the Family Herald, or a journal in whose title the word 'Society' figured; except on those rare occasions when his employer came our way for a few moments. Then, cramming his book into his pocket, the poor pimply chap would plunge half hysterically into our moody ranks (forgetful probably of what we were supposed to be playing) with muttered cries of: 'Now then, boys! Put your heart into it!' and the like. 'Put your heart into it!' indeed! Poor fellow; he probably was paid something less than a farm labourer's wage, and earned considerably less than that.

No, any education which I received in boyhood must have come to me from my father; and that entirely without any set form of instruction, but merely from listening to his talk, and asking him questions. Also, the books I read were his property; and I do not recall any trash among them. It was the easiest thing in the world to evade the 'home-work' set me by the usher, and I consistently did so. As a rule, he was none the wiser, and when he did detect me, the results rarely went beyond perfunctory ear-pulling; a cheap price for free evenings, I thought. The usher was frankly sick of us all, and of his employment, too; and I do not wonder at it, seeing that he was no more equipped for his work than for administering a state. He never had been trained to discharge any function in life whatever. How then could he be expected to know how to train us?

Withal, I somehow did acquire a little knowledge, and the rudiments of some definite tastes and inclinations, during this period. Recently, in London, I have once or twice endeavoured to probe the minds of County Council schoolboys of a similar age, with a view to comparing the sum of their knowledge with my own in those Putney days. And, curious though it seems, it does certainly appear to me that the comparison was never to the advantage of the modern boy; though I am assured he must enjoy the benefits of some kind of thought-out educational system. I certainly did not. These things partake of the nature of mysteries.

I suppose the successive servant maids who chiefly controlled my early childhood must have been more ignorant than any member of their class in post-Board School days. Yet it seems beyond question clear to me that such beginnings of a mind as I possessed at the age of ten, such mental tendencies as I was beginning to show, were at all events more hopeful, more rational, better worth having, than those I have been able to discern in the twentieth-century London office boy, fresh from his palatial County Council School. I may be quite wrong, of course, but that is how it appears to me--despite all the uplifting influences of halfpenny newspapers, and picture theatres, and the forward march of democracy.

Then there is that notable point, the question of speech; the vehicle of mental expression and thought transference. Between the ages of one year and nine years, society for me was confined almost exclusively to servant girls. From their lips it was that I acquired the faculty of speech. Yet I am certain that the boy who walked in Richmond Park with my father in the 'sixties spoke in his dialect, and not in that of Cockney nursemaids. Why was that? If my father ever corrected my speech it was upon very rare occasions. I remember them perfectly. They were not such corrections as would very materially affect a lad's accent or choice of words.

Having read a good deal more than I had conversed, I was mentally familiar with certain words which I never had happened to have heard pronounced. One instance I recall. (It was toward the end of my Academy period.) I had occasion to read aloud some passage to my father, and it included the word 'inevitable,' which in my innocence I pronounced with the accent on the third syllable. Up went my father's eyebrows. 'Inevitable,' he mimicked, with playful scorn. And that was all. He offered no correction. I recall that I was covered in rosy confusion, and, guessing rightly, by some happy chance (or unconscious recollection) hit upon the conventional pronunciation, never to forget it. But, judged by any scholastic standard I ever heard expounded, there is no doubt about it, I was, and for that matter am, a veritable ignoramus.

During all the year which followed the beginning of intimacy between us, my impression is that my father was increasingly worried and depressed. Children have a shrewder consciousness of these things than many of their elders suppose; and I was well aware that things were not going well with my father. I saw more of him, and missed no opportunities of obtaining his companionship. He, for his part, saw a good deal less of other people, I fancy, and lost no opportunity of avoiding intercourse with his contemporaries. He brooded a great deal; and was very fitful in his reading, writing, and correspondence. I began to hear upon his lips significant if vague expressions of his desire to 'Get away from all this'; to 'Get out of this wretched scramble'; to 'Find a way out of it all.'

And then with bewildering suddenness came the first big event of my career; the event which, I suppose, was chiefly responsible also for its latest episode.


No doubt one reason why our migration to Australia seemed so surprisingly sudden a step to me was that the preliminaries were arranged without my knowledge. Apart from this, I believe the step was swiftly taken.

My father had no wife or family to consider. I do not think there was a single relative left, beside myself, with whom he had maintained intercourse of any kind. Our household effects were all sold as they stood in the house, to a singularly urbane and gentlemanly old dealer in such things, a Mr. Fennel, whose stock phrase: 'Pray don't put yourself about on my account, sir, I beg,' seemed to me to form his reply to every remark of my father's. And thus, momentous though the hegira might be, and was, to us, I suppose it did not call for any very serious amount of detailed preparation, once my father had made his decision.

Looking back upon it now, in the light of some knowledge of the subject, and of old lands and new, it seems to me open to question whether, in all the moving story of British oversea adventuring, there is an instance of any migration more curious than ours, or of any person emigrating who was less suited for the venture than my father. In the matter of our baggage and personal effects, now, the one thing to which my father devoted serious care was something which probably would not figure at all in any official list of articles required for an emigrant's kit: his books.

His library consisted of some three thousand volumes, the gleanings of a quarter of a century when books were neither so numerous nor so cheap as they are to-day. From these he set himself the maddening task of selecting one hundred volumes to be taken with us. The rest were to be sold. The whole of our preparations are dominated in the retrospect for me, by my father's absorption in the task of sifting and re-sifting his books. Acting under his instructions, I myself handled each one of the three thousand and odd volumes a good many times. Eventually, we took six hundred and seventy-three volumes with us, of which more than fifty were repurchased, at a notable advance, of course, upon the price he paid for them, from the dealer who bought the remainder.

This was my first insight into the subtleties of trade, and I noted with loyal anger, in my father's interest, how contemptuously the dealer belittled our books in buying them, and how eloquently he dilated upon their special values in selling back to us those my father found he could not spare. In every case these volumes were rare and hard to come by, greatly in demand, 'the pick of the basket,' and so forth. Well, I suppose that is commerce. At the time it seemed to me amply to justify all my father's lofty scorn and hatred for everything in any way connected with business.

If only the book-dealer could have adopted Mr. Fennel's praiseworthy attitude, I thought: 'Pray don't put yourself about, sir, on my account, I beg.' But then, Mr. Fennel, I make no doubt, was heading straight for bankruptcy. I have sought his name in vain among Putney's modern tradesfolk. Whereas, Mr. Siemens, the gentleman who bought our library, apart from his various thriving establishments in London, now cherishes his declining years, I believe, in a villa in the Italian Riviera, and a manor house in Hampshire. Though young, when I met him in Putney, he evidently had the root of the matter in him, from a commercial point of view, and was possibly even a little in advance of his time in the matter of business ability. He drove a very smart horse, I remember, was dressed smartly, and had a smart way of saying that business was business. Yes, I dare say Mr. Siemens was more a man of his time than my poor father.

It was on the afternoon of May 2, 1870, the day after my tenth birthday, that we sailed from Gravesend for Sydney, in the full-rigged clipper ship Ariadne, of London, with one hundred and forty-seven other emigrants and eighteen first-class passengers. It was, I suppose, a part of my father's enthusiastically desperate state of mind at this time that we were booked as steerage passengers. We were to lay aside finally all the effete uses of sophisticated life. We were emigrants, bent upon carving a home for ourselves out of the virgin wilderness. Naturally, we were to travel in the steerage. And, indeed, I have good reason to suppose that my father's supply of money must have been pretty low at the time. But we occupied a first-class railway carriage on the journey down to Gravesend; and I know our porter received a bright half-crown for his services to us, for my father's hands were occupied, and the coin was passed to me for bestowal.

Long before the tug left us, we sat down to our first meal on board; perhaps a hundred of us together. A weary poor woman with two babies was on my left, and a partly intoxicated man of the coal-heaving sort (very likely a Cabinet Minister in Australia to-day) on my father's right. This simple soul made the mistake of endeavouring to establish an affectionate friendship with my father, who was sufficiently resentful of the man's mere proximity, and received his would-be genial advances with the most freezing politeness. But the event which precipitated a crisis was the coal-heaver's removal of his knife from his mouth--the dexterity with which his kind can manipulate these lethal weapons, even when partly intoxicated, is little less than miraculous--after the safe discharge there of some succulent morsel from his plate, to plunge it direct into the contents of the butter-dish before my father.

Black wrath descended upon my father's face as he rose from the table, and drew me up beside him. 'Insufferable!' he muttered, as we left that curious place for the first and last time. I see it now with its long, narrow, uncovered tables, stretching between clammy iron stanchions, and supported by iron legs fitting into sockets in the deck. It was lighted by hanging lanterns which threw queer, moving shadows in all directions, and stank consumedly.

'Are we hogs that we should be given our swill in such a sty?' asked my father, explosively, of some subordinate member of the crew whom we met as we reached the open deck.

'I dunno, matey,' replied this innocent. 'Feelin' sickish, are ye? You've started too soon.'

'Yes, I'm feeling pretty sick,' said my father, as the glimmer of the humorous side of it all touched his mind. 'Look here, my man,' he continued, 'here's half a crown for you. I want to see the purser of this ship. Just show me where I can find him, like a good fellow, will you?'

We found the purser in that condition of harassment which appears to belong, like its uniform, to his post, when a ship is clearing the land. He was inclined at first to adopt a pretty short way with us. He really didn't know what emigrants wanted these days. Did they think a ship's steerage was a ho-tel? And so forth.

But my father was on his mettle now, and handled his man with considerable skill and suavity. There was no second-class accommodation on the ship. But in the end we were taken into the first-class ranks, at a substantial reduction from the full first-class fares, on the understanding that we contented ourselves with a somewhat gloomy little single-berth cabin which no one else wanted. Here a makeshift bed was presently arranged for me, and within the hour we emigrants from the steerage had become first-class passengers. The translation brought such obvious and real relief to my father that my own spirits rose instantly; I began to take great interest in our surroundings, and, from that moment, entirely forgot those prophetic internal twinges, those stomachic forebodings which, in the 'other place,' as politicians say, had begun to turn my thoughts toward the harrowing tales I had heard of sea-sickness.

My father, poor man, was not so fortunate. He began before long to pay a heavy price in bodily affliction for all the stress and excitement of the past few days. For a full fortnight the most virulent type of sea-sickness had him in its horrid grip. I have since seen many other folk in evil case from similar causes, but none so vitally affected by the complaint as my father was, and never one who bore it with more patient courtesy than he did. Not in the cruellest paroxysm did he lose either his self-respect, or his consideration for me, and for others. The mere mention of this fell complaint excites mirth in the minds of the majority; but rarely can a man or woman be found whose self-control is proof against its attacks; and I take pleasure in remembering my father's admirable demeanour throughout his ordeal. In the steerage he had hardly survived it, I think. Here, with decent privacy, no single complaint passed his lips; and there was not a day, hardly an hour, I believe, in which he ceased to take thought for his small son's comfort and wellbeing. His courtesy was no skin-deep pose with my father. No doubt we are all much cleverer and more enlightened nowadays, but--however, that is one of the lines of thought which it is quite unnecessary for me to pursue here.

I was quite absurdly proud of my father, I remember, when, at length, he made his first appearance on the poop, leaning on my shoulder, his own shoulders covered by the soft rug we called the 'Hobson rug,' because, years before, a friend of that name had bequeathed it to us, after a visit to the house near Russell Square. In all the time that came afterwards, I am not sure that my father's constitution ever fully regained the tone it lost during our first fortnight aboard the Ariadne. But, if his health had suffered a set-back, his manner had not; that distinction of bearing in him which always impressed me, in which I took such pride, seemed to me now more than ever marked.

Child though I was, I am assured that this characteristic of my father's had a very real existence, and was not at all the creation of my boyish fancy. From my very earliest days I had heard it commented upon by landladies and servants, and, too, in remarks casually overheard from neighbours and strangers. Now, among our fellow-passengers on board the Ariadne, I heard many similar comments.

Looking back from this distance I find it somewhat puzzling that in my father's personality there should have been combined so much of real charm, dignity, and distinction, with so marked a distaste for the society of his fellows. Here was a man who seemed able always to inspire interest and admiration when he did go among his equals (or those not his equals, for that matter), who yet preferred wherever possible to avoid every form of social intercourse. By nature he seemed peculiarly fitted to make his mark in society; by inclination and habit, more especially in later life, it would seem he shunned society as the plague itself. Withal, there was not the faintest suggestion of moroseness about him, and when circumstances did lead him into converse with others he always conveyed an impression of pleased interest. This product of his exceptional courtesy and considerateness must have puzzled many people, taken in conjunction with his invariable avoidance of intercourse wherever that could be managed with politeness. Far more than any monetary or more practical consideration, it was, I am certain, this desire of my father's to get away from people which had led to our migration.

'People interrupt one so horribly,' was a remark he frequently made to me.


Folk whose experience of sea travel is confined to the passengers' quarters on board modern steamships of high tonnage can have but a shadowy conception of what a three months' passage round the Cape means, when it is made in a 1200 ton sailing vessel. I can pretend to no technical knowledge of ships and seafaring; but it is always with something of condescension in my mental attitude that I set foot on board a steamship, or hear praise of one of the palatial modern 'smoke-stacks.' It was thus I remember that the Ariadne's seamen spoke of steamships.

I suppose room could almost be found for the Ariadne in the saloons of some of the twentieth-century Atlantic greyhounds. But I will wager that the whole fleet of them could not show a tithe of her grace and spirited beauty in a sea-way. And, be it noted, they would not be so extravagantly far ahead of the Ariadne even in point of speed, say, between the Cape and Australia, when, in running her easting down with a living gale on her quarter, she spurned the foam from her streaming sides to the tune of a steady fourteen to fifteen knots in an hour; 'snoring along,' as seamen say, with all her cordage taut as harp-strings, and her clouds of canvas soaring heavenward tier on tier, strained to the extreme limit of the fabric's endurance.

From talk with my father, I knew the Ariadne of mythology, and so the sight of the patent log-line trailing in the creamy turmoil of our wake used always to suggest imaginings to me, as I leaned gazing over our poop rail, of a modern Theseus being rescued by this line of ours from the labyrinthine caverns of some submarine Minotaur.

Aye, she was a brave ship, and these were brave days of continuously stirring interest to the lad fresh from Putney and its Academy for the Sons of Gentlemen; or, as I should probably say, from one of its academies. I do not recall that life itself, the great spectacle, had at this period any interest for me, as such. My musings had not carried me so far. But the things and people about me, the play of the elements, and the unceasing and ever-varying activities of the ship's working, appealed to me as his love to a lover, filling my every hour with waiting claims, each to my ardour more instant and peremptory than its fellow.

Rhapsodies have been penned about the simple candour of children, the unmeasured frankness of boys. These qualities were not, I think, conspicuous in me. At least, I recall a considerable amount of play-acting in my life on board the Ariadne, and, I think, in even earlier phases. As a boy, it seems to me, I had a very keen appetite for affection. I was somewhat emotional and sentimental, and always interested in producing an impression upon the minds of those about me. Without reaching the point of seeing life as a spectacle, I believe my own small personality presented a spectacle of which I was pretty generally and interestedly conscious. There was a good deal of drama for me, in my own insignificant progress. I often watched myself, and strove to gauge the impression I produced on others, and to mould and shape this to my fancy. There may possibly be something unpleasant, even unnatural about this, in so young a boy. I do not know, but I am sure it is true; and so it is rightly set down here.

There was a Mrs. Armstrong among our passengers, who was accompanied by two daughters; a bonny, romping girl of sixteen, in whom I felt little or no interest, and a serious young woman of two or three-and-twenty, with whom I fell in love in an absurdly solemn fashion. Miss Armstrong had a great deal of shining fair hair, a good figure, and pleasing dark blue eyes. That is as far as memory carries me regarding her appearance. She rather took me up, as she might have taken up crewel work, whatever that may be, or district visiting, or what not. No doubt she was among the majority in whom my father inspired interest. She talked to me in an exemplary way, and held up before me, as I remember it, a sort of blend of little Lord Fauntleroy and the dreadful child in East Lynne, as an ideal to strive after.

She assuredly meant most kindly by me, but the influence was not, perhaps, very wholesome; or, it may be, I twisted and perverted it to ill uses. At least, I remember devious ways in which I sought to earn her admiration, and other yet more devious ways in which I schemed to win petting from her. I actually used to invent small offences and weave circumstantial romances about pretended wrong-doings, in order to have the pleasure of confessing, with mock shame, and getting absolution, along with caresses and sentimental promises of help to do better in future. In retrospect it seems I was a somewhat horrid little chap in this. I certainly adored Miss Armstrong; though in an entirely different way from the manner of my subsequent passion for little black-haired Nelly Fane. The Fane family consisted of the father, mother, one boy, and two girls: Nelly, and her sister Marion, both charming children, the first very dark, the other fair. Nelly was a year older than I, Marion two years younger. The boy, Tom, was within a month or two of my own age.

It might be that I was wearying a little of the solemn sentimentality of my attachment to Miss Armstrong; possibly the pose I thought needful for holding this young lady's regard withal proved exhausting after a time. At all events, I remember neglecting her shamefully in equatorial latitudes, when the Ariadne was creeping along her zig-zag course through the Doldrums. For me this period, fascinating in scores of other ways, belongs to Nelly Fane, with her long black curls, biscuit-coloured legs and arms, and large, melting dark eyes. At the time the thought of being separated from this imperious little beauty meant for me an abomination of desolation too dreadful to be contemplated. But, looking back upon the circumstances of my suit, I think it likely my heart had never been captivated but for jealousy, and my trick of seeing myself as the first figure in an illustrated romance.

There was another boy on board--I remember only his Christian name: Fred--who, in addition to being a year older than myself, had the huge advantage of being an experienced traveller. He was an Australian, and had been on a visit with his parents to the Mother-country. At a quite early stage in our passage, he won my cordial dislike by means of his old traveller's airs, and--far more unforgiveable--the fact that he had the temerity to refer to my father, in my hearing, as 'The old chap who can't get his sea-legs.' I fear I never should have forgiven him for that.

In addition, as we youngsters played together about the decks, this Fred used to arrogate to himself always the position of leader and director. He knew the proper names of many things of which the rest of us were ignorant, and, where his knowledge did not carry him, I was assured his conceit and hardihood did. To such ears as Nelly Fane's, for instance, 'Jib-boom,' 'Fore topmast-staysail,' must have an admirably knowledgeable note about them, I thought, even if ever so wrongly used. My first attack upon Fred consisted in convicting him of some such swaggering misuse of a nautical term to the which, as luck had it, I had given careful study on the fo'c'sle-head during the previous evening's second dog-watch, when my friends among the crew were taking their leisure. He bore no malice, I think; in any case, his self-esteem was a very hardy growth, and little liable to suffer from any minor check.

We never came to blows, the Australian and myself, which was probably as well for me, since I make no doubt the lad could have trounced me soundly, for he was disgustingly wiry and long of limb. That was how I saw his physical advantages. But, apart from this matter of physical superiority, he was no match for me. In the subtler qualities of intrigue I was his master; and he, never probably having observed himself as a hero of romance, had to yield to my proficiency in the art of producing a desired impression. It was in his capacity as an old campaigner, a knowing dog, and a seasoned salt, that he had carried Nelly Fane's heart by storm, and established himself an easy first in her regard. And seeing this it was, I believe, which first weakened my devotion to the fair Miss Armstrong, by turning my attention to Nelly Fane.

I did not really deserve to win Nelly, my suit at first being based upon foundations so unworthy. But the pursuit of her stirred me deeply; and in the end--say, in a couple of days--I was her very humble and devoted slave. She really was an attractive child, I fancy, in her wilful, imperious way. And, Cupid, how I did adore her by the time I had driven Master Fred from the field! Even my father suffered a temporary eclipse in my regard during the first white-hot fervour of my devotion to Nelly. I lied for her, in word and deed; I stole for her--from the cabin pantry--and I am sure I risked life and limb for her a dozen times, in my furious emulation of any achievement of Fred's, in my instant adoption of any suggestion of Nelly's, however mischievous. And how many of us could truthfully say as much of their enthusiasm in any mature love affair? How many grown men would deliberately risk life to win the passing approval of a mistress?

For example, I recall two typical episodes. Neither had been remarkable, perhaps, for a boy devoid of fear or imagination; but I was one shrewdly influenced by both qualities. There was a roomy cabin under the Ariadne's starboard counter, which served the Fane family as a sort of sitting-room or day nursery. It had two circular port-holes, brass-rimmed, of fairly generous proportions. Under the spur of verbal taunts from Fred, and passive challenges from Nelly's dark eyes, I positively succeeded in wriggling my entire body out through one of those port-holes, feet first, until I hung by my hands outside, my feet almost touching the water-line. And then it seemed I could not win my way back.

Nelly, moved to tears of real grief now, was for seeking the aid of grown-ups. I wasted precious breath in adjuring her as she loved me to keep silence. For my part death seemed imminent and certain. But I pictured Fred's grinning commiseration should our elders rescue me, and--I held on. By slow degrees I got one arm and shoulder back into the cabin, pausing there to rest. From that moment I was safe; but I was too cunning to let the fact appear. My reward began then, and most voluptuously I savoured it. I had Mistress Nelly on her biscuit-coloured knees to me before I finally reached the cabin floor on my hands, my toes still clinging to the port-hole. Poor Fred could not possibly equal this feat. His girth would not have permitted it.

Again, there was the blazing tropical afternoon, in dead calm, when I established a new record by touching the ship's prow under water. It was siesta time for passengers. The watch on deck was assembled right aft, scraping bright-work. Pitch was bubbling in the deck seams, and every one was drowsy, excepting Nelly, Marion, Tom, Fred, and myself. We were plotting mischief in the shadow of the Ariadne's anchors, right in the eyes of the ship. I forget the immediate cause of this piece of foolhardiness, but I remember Fred's hated fluency about 'dolphin-strikers,' 'martingales,' and what not; and, finally, my own assertion that I would touch the ship's forefoot, where we saw it gleaming below the glassy surface of the water, and Fred's mocking reply that I jolly well dared do no such a thing. Nelly's provocative eyes were in the background, of course.

Three several times I tried and failed, swinging perilously at a rope's end below the dolphin-striker. And then the Ariadne, with one of those unaccountable movements which a ship will make at times in the flattest of calms, brought me victory, and the narrowest escape from extinction in one and the same moment. I swung lower than before, and the ship ducked suddenly. I not only touched her bows below the water-line, but had all the breath knocked out of me by them, and was soused under water myself, as thoroughly as a Brighton bathing woman could have done the trick for me. To this day I remember the breathless, straining agony of the ascent, when my clothes and myself seemed heavier than lead, and the ship's deck miles above me. My clothes--a jersey and flannel knickerbockers--dried quickly in the scorching sun, and no grown-up ever knew of the escapade, I think. But, the peril of it, in a shark-infested sea!

No doubt these feats helped me to the subjugation of Nelly. Yet, after all, in sheer physical prowess, I could not really rival Fred, who stood a full head taller than I did. But I had a deal more of finesse than he had, made very much better use of my opportunities, and was a far more practised poseur. Fred was well supplied with self-esteem--a most valuable qualification in love-making--but he lacked the introspectively seeing eye. He might compel admiration, in his rude fashion. He could never force a tear or steal a sigh.

Fred--Fred without a surname, I wonder what has been your lot in life, and where you air your prosperity to-day! For, prosperous I feel certain you are. And, who knows? Nelly may be Mrs. Fred to-day, for aught I can tell. When all is said and done, you all of you had more in common, one with another, and each with all, than I had with any of you!

And that reminds me of a trifle overlooked. During all my association with these my contemporaries on board the Ariadne, but with special keenness in the beginning, I was conscious of something outside my own experience, which they all shared. At that time it was to me just a something which they had and I had not; a quality I could not define. Looking back upon it I see clearly that the thing was in part fundamental, a flaw in my temperament; and, in part, the family sense. They all knew what 'home' meant, in a way in which I knew it not at all. They were more carelessly genial and less serious and preoccupied than I was. They all had mothers, too.

I do not wish to say that they were necessarily much better off than I. They had certain qualities which I lacked, the product of experiences I had never enjoyed. And I had various qualities which they had not. On the whole, perhaps, I was more mature than they were; and they, perhaps, were more happy and care-free--certainly less self-conscious--than I was. There was a kind of Freemasonry of shared experience among them, and I had never been initiated. They were established members of a recognised order, to which I did not belong. They were members of families of a certain defined status. I was an isolated small boy, with a father, and no particular status.



It has often occurred to me to wonder why my recollections of our arrival and first days in Sydney should be so blurred and unsatisfactorily vague. One would have thought such episodes should stand out very clearly in retrospect. As a fact, they are far less clear to me than many an incident of my earlier childhood.

What I do clearly recall is lying awake in my makeshift bunk for some time before daylight on the morning we reached Sydney, and, finally, just before the sun rose, going on deck and sitting on the teak-wood grating beside the wheel. There, on our port side, was the coast of Australia, the land toward which we had been working through gale and calm, storm and sunshine, for more than ninety days. Botany Bay, said the chart. I thought of the grim record I had read of early settlement here. And then came the pilot's cutter, sweeping like a sea-bird under our lee. The early sunshine was bright and gladsome enough; but my recollection is that I felt somehow chilled, and half frightened. That sandy shore conveyed no kindly sense of welcome to me.

The harbour--oh, yes, the harbour was, and is, beautiful, and I can remember thrilling with natural excitement as we opened up cove after cove, while the Ariadne--stately as ever, but curiously quiescent now, with her trimly furled and lifeless sails--was towed slowly to her anchorage. The different bays--Watson's, Mossman's, Neutral, and the rest--had not so many villas then as now. Manly was there, in little; but surf-bathing, like some other less healthful 'notions' from America, was still to come. From the North Shore landing-stage one strolled up the hill, and, very speedily, into the bush.

Yes, the place was naturally beautiful enough; but the Ariadne was home; her every deck plank was familiar to me; I knew each cleat about her fife-rails, every belaying-pin along her sides, every friendly projection from her deck that had a sheltering lee. The shining brass-bound, teak-wood buckets ranged along the break of her poop--the crew's lime-juice was served in one of these, and they all were painted white inside--I see them now. Ay di mi! as the Spanish ladies say; I am not so sure that any place was ever more distinctly home to me. Over the rail, across the dancing waters of the harbour, where the buildings clustered about Circular Quay; as yet, of course, there could be nothing homely for me about all that. And, as to me, it never did become very homely; perhaps that is why my recollections of our first doings there are so vague.

How often, in later years, my heart swelled with vague aspiring yearnings toward what lay beyond, while my eyes ranged over that same smiling scene, from the Domain, Lady Macquarie's Chair, and the purlieus of Circular Quay! (There were no trams there then.) Here one saw the ships that carried folk to and from--what? To and from Home, was always my thought; though what home I fancied that distant island in her grey northern sea had for me, heaven knows! Here one rubbed shoulders, perchance, with some ruddy-faced, careless fellow in dark blue clothes, who, but a short couple of months ago, walked London's streets, and would be there again in the incredibly brief space of six weeks or so. Dyspepsia itself knows no more fell and spirit-racking anguish than nostalgia brings; and at times I have fancied the very air--bland, warm, and kindly seeming--that circulates about the famous quay must be pervaded and possessed by germs of this curious and deadly malady. At least, that soft air is breathed each day by many a victim to the disease; old and young, and of both sexes.

No doubt we must have spent some days in Sydney, my father and myself; but from the Ariadne, and the parting with Nelly Fane and my other companions, memory carries me direct to the deck of a little intercolonial steamer, bound north from Sydney, for Brisbane and other Queensland ports. I see myself in jersey and flannel knickers sitting beside my father on the edge of a deck skylight, and gazing out across dazzlingly sunlit waters to the near-by northern coast of New South Wales. Suddenly, my father laid aside the book which had been resting on his knee, and raised to his eyes the binoculars he used at sea.

'How extraordinary,' he murmured. And, my gaze naturally following his, I made out clearly enough, without glasses, a vessel lying high and dry on the white sand of a fair-sized bay.

My father's keen interest in that derelict ship always seemed to me to spring into being, as it were, full-grown. There was in it no period of gradual development. From the moment his eyes first lighted upon the tapered spars of the Livorno, where she lay basking in her sandy bed, his interest in her was absorbing. Everything else was forgotten. In a few minutes he was in eager conversation about the derelict with the chief officer of our steamer. I remember the exact words and intonation of the man's answer to my father's first question:

'Well, I couldn't say for that, Mr. Freydon' (In Australia no one ever forgets your name, or omits to use it in addressing you), 'but I can tell you the day I first saw her. She was lying there exactly as she is to-day. I was third mate of the Toowoomba then; my first trip in her, and that was seven years ago come Queen's Birthday. Seen her every trip since--just the same. No, she never seems to alter any. She's high and dry, you see; bedded there on an even keel, same's if she was afloat. Yes, it is a wonder, as you say, Mr. Freydon; but it's a lonely place, you see; nothing nearer than--what is it? Werrina, I think they call it; fifteen mile away; and that's a day's march from anywhere, too. Oh yes, there might be an odd sundowner camp aboard of her once in a month o' Sundays; but I doubt it. She isn't in the track to anywhere, as ye might say. No, I guess it would only be bandicoots, an' the like o' that you'd find about her; an' birds, maybe. Only thing I wonder about her is, how she landed there without ever losing her top-hamper, and why nobody's thought it worth while to pick her bones a bit cleaner. Must be good stuff in her stays an' that, to have stood so long, with never a touch o' the tar-brush.'

There was more in the same vein, but this much comes back to me as though it were yesterday that I heard the words. I see the mate's hard blue eye, and crisply curling beard; I see the upward tilt of the same beard as he spat over the rail, and my father's little retreating movement at his gesture. (My father never lost his sensitiveness about such things, though I doubt if he ever allowed it to appear to eyes less familiar with his every movement than my own.) It seems to me that my father talked of the derelict--we did not know her name then, and spoke of her simply as 'the ship'--for the rest of the day, and for days afterwards; and the key to his thoughts was given in one of his earliest remarks:

'What a home a man might make of that ship--all ready to his hand for the asking! The sea, trees--there were plenty of trees--sunshine, solitude, and space. Think of the peacefulness of that sun-washed bay. Nothing nearer than fifteen miles away, and that a mere hamlet, probably. Werrina--not a bad name, Nick--Werrina. Aboriginal origin, I imagine. And all that for the mere taking; open to the poorest--even to us. You liked the Ariadne, Nick. What would you think of a ship of our own?'

Assuredly, we were the strangest pair of emigrants....


Naturally, my father's suggestion, thrown out as it were in jest, whimsically, fired my fancy instantly. 'How glorious!' I said. 'But can we, really, father?'

It was less than a week later that we walked out of Werrina's one street into the bush to the westward of that township, accompanied by Ted Reilly and a heavily-laden pack-horse--Jerry. Ted was one of Werrina's oddities, and, in many respects, our salvation. The Werrina storekeeper shook his grizzled head over Ted, and vowed there wasn't an honest day's work in the man.

'What's the matter with Ted is he's got no Systum; never had since he was a babby.' (My thoughts reverted at once to a highly coloured anatomical diagram which hung in the cabin of the Ariadne's captain: the flayed figure of a man whose face wore the incredibly complacent look one sees on the waxen features of tailors' dummies, though the poor fellow's heart, liver, kidneys, and other internal paraphernalia were shamelessly exposed to the public gaze. The storekeeper's tone convinced me for the time that poor Ted had been born lacking some one or other of the important-looking purple organs which the diagram had shown me as belonging to the human system.) 'He's a here-to-day-and-gone-to-morrow, come-day-go-day-God-send-Sunday sort of a customer, is Ted--my oath! Wanter Systum. That's what I'm always telling 'em in this place. It's wanter Systum that's the curse uv Australia; an' Ted's got it worsen most. Don't I know it? I gave him a chanst here in my store. Might ha' made a Persition frimself. But, no; no Systum at all. He was off in a fortnight, trappin' dingoes in the bush, or some such nonsense. He's for no more use than--than a bumble bee, isn't Ted Reilly; nor never will be.'

Well, he was of a good deal of practical use to us, the storekeeper notwithstanding; but I admit that there was a notable absence of 'Systum' about the man. He was singularly unmethodical and haphazard, even as his kind go in the remoter parts of Australia. He made our acquaintance very casually by asking my father for a match, almost before we had descended from the coach outside the Royal Hotel, Werrina. (There was nothing royal, or even comfortable, about this weatherboard and iron inn, except its name.) And, oddly enough, my father fell into conversation with him, and seemed rather to take to the man forthwith.

I know it was by his advice, as kindly meant, I am sure, as it was shrewd, that my father said nothing to any one else in the township of his fantastic ideas regarding what we now knew to be the derelict Italian barque, Livorno, of Genoa. It was given out that we were going camping, between Werrina and the coast; and, no doubt my father was credited by the local wiseacres with the possession of some crafty prospecting scheme or another. Most of the folk thereabouts had been always wont to look to the bush (chiefly for timber) as a source of livelihood, but their attention was usually turned inland rather than seaward; for the bulk of the country between Werrina and the sea is poor and swampy, or sandy. The belt of timber we had seen behind our derelict's bay was not extensive.

It was Ted who bought Jerry for us for the modest price of £3, 15s.; and I make no doubt that serviceable beast would have cost my father £7 if he had had 'the haggling of it.' Pack-saddle and tent, with a number of other oddments, had come with us from across the Queensland border; first, by rail, and thence by numerous devious coach routes to Werrina. The only thing about our expedition which I think Ted really mistrusted and disliked was the fact that we set forth on foot. He told my father of horses he could buy, if not for three a penny, certainly at the rate of two for a five-pound note. (Animals no better, or very little better, are selling for £20 apiece in the same country to-day.) But my father spoke of the cost of saddlery and the like. He had been brought up in a land where horse-keeping means considerable expense, and the need for husbanding his slender resources was strongly foremost in his mind just now. But Ted had all his life long thought of horses as a natural and necessary adjunct to man's locomotion. I have seen him devote considerable time and energy to the task of catching Jerry in order to ride across a couple of hundred yards of sand to his favourite wood-cutting spot. To be poor, that is, short of money, was a natural and customary thing enough in Ted's eyes; but to go ajourneying as a footman suggested a truly pitiable kind of destitution, and did, I am convinced, throw a shadow over what otherwise had been the outset of a jaunt entirely after his own heart.

As the morning wore on, however, and we left behind us all likelihood of chance encounters with more fortunately placed and therefore critical people, bestriding pigskin, Ted's spirits rose again to their normal easy altitude, and mounted beyond that to the level of boyish jollity. Myself, I incline to think that walking along a bush track, with a long stick in his hand and a pack-horse to drive before him, was really an ideal situation for Ted, despite his preference for riding. Afoot, he could so readily step aside to start a 'goanner' up a tree, or pluck an out-of-the-way growth to show me.

There never was such a fellow for 'noticing' things, as they say of children. Print he never read, so far as I know, and perhaps this helped to make him so amazingly keen a reader of Nature. Not the littlest comma on that page ever eluded him.

'Hullo!' he would say when Werrina was miles away behind us. 'Who'd've thought o' that baldy-faced steer o' Murdoch's bein' out here?' One gazed about to locate the beast. But, no. No living thing was in sight. In passing, quite casually, Ted's roving eye had spied a hoof mark, perhaps a day old or more, in the soft bottom of a tiny billabong; a print I could hardly make out, leave alone identify as having been made by this beast or the other, even under the guidance of Ted's pointing finger. Yet for Ted that casual glance--no stooping, no close scrutiny--supplied an accurate and complete picture: the particular beast, its gait, occupation, and way of heading, and the period at which it had passed that way. Withal, it was true enough, as the storekeeper said, poor Ted had no 'Systum'; or none, at all events, of the kind cultivated in shops and offices.


However much at fault I may be in recollection of our arrival at Sydney, my memories of our first night at Livorno Bay (so my father christened the derelict's resting-place) could hardly be more vivid and distinct. That night marks for me the beginning of a definite epoch in my life.

I passed the spot in a large inter-state steamer last year. There was no sign of any ship there then, so far, at all events, as I could make out with a borrowed pair of glasses; and the place looked very much the same as any other part of the Australian coast. There are thousands of such indentations around the shores of the island continent, with low headlands of jagged rock by way of horns, and terraces of shell-strewn sand dotted over with ti-tree scrub, which merges into a low-lying bush of swamp oak and suchlike growths, among which, as like as not, you shall find, as we found, a more or less extensive salt-water lagoon, over the sandy bar of which big, tossing breakers will roll in from the Pacific in stormy weather. Yes, I would say now that there is nothing very peculiar or distinctive about Livorno Bay for the observer who is familiar with other parts of Australia's coast.

But in my youthful eyes, seen on the evening of our arrival, after a fifteen miles' walk, and, seen, too, in the glow of a singularly angry-looking evening sky, Livorno Bay, with its derelict barque to focus one's gaze, presented a spectacle almost terrifying in its desolation. Years must have passed since anything edible could have been found on board the Livorno. Yet I hardly think I should exaggerate if I said that two thousand birds rose circling from various points of vantage about the derelict as we approached her sides. That this winged and highly vocal congregation resented our intrusion was not to be doubted for a moment. Short of actually attacking us with beak and claw, the creatures could hardly have given more practical expression to their sentiments. The circumstance was trivial, of course, but I think it somewhat dashed my father's ardour, and I know it struck into my very vitals.

'Begone, you interlopers, or we will rend you! This is no place for humans. Here is only death and desolation for the likes of you. This place belongs of immemorial right to us, and to our masters, the devouring elements. Begone!'

So it seemed we were screamed at from thousands of hoarse throats.

For my part I was well pleased when my father agreed to Ted's suggestion that we should postpone till morning our inspection of the ship, and, in the meantime, concentrate upon the more immediate necessity of pitching camp for the night in the shelter of the timber belt and outside the domain of the screaming sea-birds. Our tent was fortunately not one of the cumbersome sort I had seen on Wimbledon Common at home, but a light Australian contrivance of cotton, enclosing a space ten feet by eight, and protected by a good large fly. Thanks mainly to Ted and his axe we had the necessary stakes cut, and the tent pitched before dark. Meanwhile, the little fire Ted had lighted against a blackened tree-stump had grown into the sort of fiery furnace that was associated in my mind with certain passages in the Old Testament; and, suspended by a piece of fencing wire from a cross stake on two forked sticks, our billy was boiling vigorously.

In all such bush-craft as this Ted was facile princeps, and he asked no better employment. Jerry was turned out to graze, belled and hobbled (for safety in a strange place), and just as actual darkness closed in upon us--no moon was visible that night--we sat down at the mouth of the tent to sup upon corned beef, bread and cheese and jam; the latter in small tins with highly coloured paper wrappers.

By this time my sense of chill and depression had pretty well evaporated. The details of our domesticity were most attractive to me. But I am not sure that my father quite regained his spirits that evening. We each had a canvas camp-stretcher of the collapsible sort. In ten minutes Ted had made himself a hammock bed of two sacks, two saplings, and four forked stakes, which for comfort was quite equal to any camp cot I have yet seen. Sleep came quickly to me, at all events, and whenever I woke during the night, as I did some three or four times, there was booming in my ears that rude music which remained the constant accompaniment of all our lives and doings in Livorno Bay: the dull roar of Pacific breakers on the sand below us, varied by a long sibilant intaking of breath, as it seemed, caused by the back-wash of every wave's subsidence.

Very gently, to avoid disturbing my father--I can see his face on the flimsy cot pillow now, looking sadly fragile and worn--I crept out from our tent in time to see the upper edge of the sun's disc (like a golden dagger of the Moorish shape) flash out its assurance across the sea, and gild with sudden bravery the trucks and spars and frayed rigging of the barque Livorno. Life has no other reassurance to offer which is quite so emphatic as that of the new risen sun; and it is youth, rather than culture, which yields the finest appreciation of this. In its glad light I ran and laughed, half naked, where a few hours earlier, in the murk of coming night, the sense of my own helpless insignificance in all that solitude had descended upon me in the shape of physical fear. Sea and sand laughed with me now, where before they had smitten me with lonely foreboding, almost with terror. I had my first bathe from a Pacific beach that morning; and, given just a shade more of venturesomeness in the outsetting, it had been like to be my last. In Livorno Bay the breakers were big, and the back-wash of their surf very insistent.

The fire of his enthusiasm was once more alight in my father when I got back to our camp that morning; and one might have supposed it nourished him, if one had judged from the cursory manner in which his share of our simple breakfast was dispatched. Then, carrying with him a tomahawk, I remember, he led us down across the sand to where the ship lay, so deeply bedded that one stepped over her rail as it might have been the coaming of a hatch. Her deck, and indeed every uncovered part of the Livorno, was encrusted in the droppings of multitudinous sea-fowl. For almost as many years as I had lived, probably, these creatures had made a home of the derelict. To be sure, they had as good a right to it as we had; yet I remember how keenly we resented their claims, in the broad light of day; even as they, on the previous evening, had resented us. Ted promised them a warm time of it, and congratulated himself on having brought his old gun.

'I'll show 'em whose ship it is,' he said, 'to-night.' And the boy in me rose in sympathetic response. I suppose I looked forward to the prospect of those birds being given a taste of the fear they had helped to inspire in me.

The Livorno had a long, low poop, no more than three feet high, and extending forward to the mainmast. She had none of the Ariadne's bright-work, as the polished teak was always called on that ship. Her rails and deck-houses had been painted in green and white, and I made out the remains of stencilled ornamentation in the corners of panels. No doubt my father had his preconceptions regarding the derelict of which he had thought so much in the past week. In any case he did not linger by the way, but walked direct to the cuddy or saloon, which we entered by a deeply encrusted, sun-cracked scuttle, just forward of the mizzen-mast. So here we were, at length, at the heart of our quest.

Personally, I was for the moment disappointed. My father, being wiser and knowing better what to expect, was pleased, I think. My anticipations had doubtless taken their colour from recent experience of the trim, well-ordered smartness of the Ariadne's saloon. Here, on board the derelict, nothing was left standing which could easily be carried away. The cabins opening into the little saloon had no doors, save in the case of one--the captain's room--that had been split down the centre, apparently with an axe, and its remains hung drunkenly now upon one hinge, which, at a touch from Ted's hand, parted company with its bulkhead, leaving the door to fall clattering to the deck. But, curiously enough, the good hardwood bunks were all intact, except in the case of one, which had, apparently, been wantonly smashed, perhaps by the same insensate hand that smashed the door.

The saloon table had gone, of course, and the chairs; but the brass cleats which had held them to their places in the deck were there still to show us where our predecessors here had sat and taken their meals. Here they had done their gossiping, no doubt, over the remains of savoury macaroni, with, perchance, an occasional flagon of Chianti or Barolo. There was a sort of buffet built into the forward bulkhead; and by a most surprising chance this was unhurt, save for a great star in the mirror behind it. Even its brass rail was intact. Some idle boor must have observed this solid little piece of man's handiwork, and then, I suppose, struck at the mirror with his axe--a savage and blackguardly act. But here, at all events, was our little store cupboard.

'Sideboard's all right then,' was Ted's grinning comment. 'And a man could still see to shave in the glass.'

The saloon skylight had been removed bodily, perhaps to serve some cockatoo bush farmer for a cucumber frame! And the result of this, more than any other circumstance, had been to give the saloon its desolate look; for, beneath the yawning aperture where once the skylight had stood, there was now an unsavoury mound of bird's droppings, near three feet high at its apex. This was now dust-dry; but the autumnal rains of bygone seasons had streamed upon it no doubt, with the result that all the rest of the saloon was several inches deep in the same sort of covering. There were naturally no stores in the pitch-black lazareet which one reached through a trap-door in the saloon deck; but among the lumber there we found an old bucket, a number of empty tins, packing-cases, and the like, a coal shovel with a broken handle, and two tanks in which ship's biscuits had been kept. How these latter commodities came to have been spared by marauding visitors it would be hard to say; for, in the bush, every one, without exception, requires tanks for the storage of rain-water.

From the saloon we made our way right forward to the forecastle, in which practically no damage had been done; for the reason, I suppose, that little was there which easily could be damaged or removed. No anchors or cables were to be seen, but the seamen's bunks remained much as I imagine they had left them; and, on the side of one, some sundowner had contrived to scrawl, apparently with a heated wire, this somewhat fatuous legend:

'Occewpide by me Captin Ned Kelli Bushranger. Chrismas day 1868. Not too bad.'

In many other parts of the ship we found, when we came to do our cleaning, initials, dates, and occasional names, rudely carved. But the only attempt at a written tribute to the derelict's quality as a camping-place was the pretended bushranger's 'Not too bad'; a thoroughly Australian commentary, and probably endorsed in speech at the time of writing by the exclamation: 'My word!'

Internally, the Livorno had been very thoroughly gutted, even to the removal of many of her deck joists and 'tween-decks' stanchions. But in her galley, which, having remained closed, was in quite good order, we found the cooking range, though rusty, intact. It had been built into the deck-house, and, being partly of tiles, would hardly have lent itself to easy transport or use in another place. Ted had a fire burning in it that very day, and water boiling on it in tins. Hidden under much mouldering rubbish in the boatswain's locker were found two deck scrapers, which proved most useful.

Ted strongly advised the adoption, as living-room, of the forecastle; and he may have been in the right of it. The place was weather-proof, its tiny skylight being intact. But sentiment, I think, attracted my father to the quarter-deck. 'The weather side of the poop's my only promenade,' he said gaily. 'And those square stern ports, with the carving under them--it would be a sin to leave them to the birds. Oh, the saloon is clearly our place, and we must rig a shelter over the skylight by and by.'

In the end we accomplished little or nothing beyond inspection that day. Towards evening Ted laid in a stock of firewood beside our camp, while my father wrote a letter to the Werrina storekeeper, which Ted was to take in next day with a cheque. I say we accomplished nothing, because I can remember no useful work done. Yet I do vividly remember falling asleep over my supper, and feeling more physically weary than I had ever been before. We were on our feet all day, of course. We were gleaning new impressions at a great rate. The day was, I suppose, a pretty full one; and assuredly one of us slept well after it.


When my eyes opened next morning, dawn, though near at hand, had not yet come. His pale-robed heralds were busy, however, diffusing that sort of nacreous haze which in coastal Australia lights the way for each day's coming. Looking out over the pillow of my cot I saw Ted among the trees, girthing the pack-saddle on Jerry. In a very few moments I was beside him, and in five minutes he had started on his journey.

'I'll be in Warrina for breakfast,' he said.

I walked a few hundred yards beside him, and the last glimpse I caught of him, at a bend over which the track rose a little, showed Ted seated sideways on the horse's hindquarters, one hand resting on the pack-saddle, the other waving overhead to me. A precarious perch I thought it, but as it saved him from the final degradation of walking, I have no doubt it suited Ted well enough.

The sun was still some little way below the horizon when Ted disappeared, and I was perhaps a quarter of a mile from camp. Inland, I had very likely been bushed. Here, vague though the track was, the sea's incessant call was an unfailing guide. But it was in those few minutes, spent in walking back towards our tent, that I was given my first taste of solitude in the Australian bush; and, boy that I was, it impressed me greatly. It was a permanent addition to my narrow store of impressions, and it is with me yet.

At such times the Australian bush has qualities which distinguish it from any other parts of the world known to me. I have known other places and times far more eerie. To go no farther there are parts of the bush in which thousands of trees, being ring-barked, have died and become ghosts of trees. Seen in the light of a half moon, when the sky is broken by wind-riven cloud, these spectral inhabitants of the bush, with their tattered winding sheets of corpse-white bark, are distinctly more eerie than anything the dawn had to show me beside Livorno Bay.

Withal, the half-hour before sunrise has a peculiar quality of its own, in the bush, which I found very moving and somewhat awe-inspiring upon first acquaintance. There was a hush which one could feel and hear; a silence which exercised one's hearing more than any sound. And yet it was not a silence at all; for the sea never was still there. It was as though the bush and all that dwelt therein held its breath, waiting, waiting for a portent; and, meantime, watching me. In a few moments I found myself also waiting, conscious of each breath I drew. It was not so much eerie as solemn. Yes, I think it was the solemnity of that bush which so impressed me, and for the time so humbled me.

A few moments later and the kindly brightness of the new-risen sun was glinting between tree-trunks, the bush began to breathe naturally, and I was off at a trot for my morning dabble in the surf.

My father and I made but a poor show as housekeepers that day. I suppose we neither of us had ever washed a plate, or even boiled a kettle. In all such matters of what may be called outdoor domesticity (as in the use of such primitive and all-round serviceable tools as the axe), the Colonial-born man has a great advantage over his Home-born kinsman, in that he acquires proficiency in these matters almost as soon and quite as naturally as he learns to walk and talk. And not otherwise can the sane easy mastery of things be acquired.

My father had some admirably sound theories about cooking. He had knowledge enough most heartily to despise the Frenchified menus which, I believe, were coming into vogue in London when we left it, and warmly to appreciate the sterling virtue of good English cookery and food. The basic aim in genuine English cookery is the conservation of the natural flavours and essences of the food cooked. And, since sound English meats and vegetables are by long odds the finest in the world, there could be no better purpose in cooking than this. Subtle methods and provocative sauces, which give their own distinctive flavour to the dishes in which they are used, are well enough for less favoured lands than England, and a much-needed boon, no doubt. They are a wasteful mistake in England, or were, at all events, so long as unadulterated English food was available.

My father taught me these truths long ago, and I am an implicit believer in them to-day. All his theories about such matters were sound; and it may be that, in a properly appointed kitchen, he could have turned out an excellent good meal--given the right mood for the task. But I will admit that in Livorno Bay, both on this our first day alone there, and ever afterwards, my father's only attempts at domestic work were of the most sketchy and least satisfactory description; his grip of our housekeeping was of the feeblest, and in a very short time the matter fell entirely into my hands when Ted was not with us. Ted was my exemplar; from him such knowledge and ability as I acquired were derived. But to his shrewd practicality I was able to add something, in the shape of theory evolved from my father's conversation; and thus presently I obtained a quite respectable grasp of bush domesticity.

This day of Ted's absence in Werrina we devoted to a more or less systematic exploration of our territory. My father was in a cheery vein, and entertained me by bestowing names upon the more salient features of our domain. The two horns of Livorno Bay, I remember, were Gog and Magog; the lagoon remained always just The Lagoon; the timber belt was Arden; our camp, Zoar; and so forth. We found an eminently satisfactory little spring, not quite so near at hand as the water-hole from which Ted had drawn our supplies till now, but yielding brighter, fresher water. And we botanised with the aid of a really charming little manuscript book, bound in kangaroo-skin, and given to my father by the widow of a Queensland squatter whom we had met on the coasting steamer. That little volume is among my few treasured possessions to-day. Some of its watercolour sketches look a little worn and pallid, after all these years, but it is a most instructive book; and from it came all my first knowledge of the various wattles, the different mahoganies, the innumerable gums, the ferns, creepers, and wild flowers of the bush.

It was almost dark when Ted returned--in a cart. We were greatly surprised to see Jerry between the shafts of this ancient vehicle, and my father found it hard to credit that any cart could be driven over the bush track by which we had travelled, with its stumps and holes and sudden dips to watercourses. However, there the cart was, its harness plentifully patched with pieces of cord and wire; and it seemed well laden, too.

'Who lent it you?' asked my father. And Ted explained how the cart had been offered to him for £3, and how, at length, he had bought it for £2, 5s. and a drink. It seemed a sin to miss such a chance, but if my father really did not want it, well, he, Ted, would pay for it out of his earnings. Of course my father accepted responsibility for the purchase, and very useful the crazy old thing proved as time went on; for, though its collapse, like that of other more important institutions, seemed always imminent, it never did actually dissolve in our time, and only occasionally did it shed any vital portion of its fabric. Even after such minor catastrophes, it always bore up nobly under the rude first (and last) aid we could give with cord, or green-hide and axed wood.

To my inexperience it seemed that Ted had brought with him a wide assortment of most of the commodities known to civilisation. The unloading of the cart was to me as the enjoyment of a monstrous bran-pie; an entertainment I had heard of, but never seen. And when I heard there was certainly one more load, and probably two, to come, I felt that we really were rich beyond the dreams of most folk. I recalled the precise manner in which Fred (the Ariadne rival and fellow-passenger, whose surname I never knew) had wilted when he heard that my father and I had intended travelling steerage, and from my heart I wished he could see this cart-load of assorted goods. 'Goods' was the correct word, I thought, for such wholesale profusion; and 'cart-load' had the right spaciousness to indicate a measure of our abundance.

There were several large sheets of galvanised iron, appearing exactly as one in the cart, but covering a notable expanse of ground when spread out singly. These were for a roof in the place of the saloon skylight. My father had pished and tushed and pressed for a bark roof; but Ted, in his bush wisdom, had insisted on the prosaic 'tin,' as a catchment area for rain-water to be stored in the two ship's tanks. There were brooms, scrubbing-brushes, kettles, pots, pans, crockery, fishing-lines, ammunition for Ted's highly lethal old gun, and there were stores. I marvelled that stores so numerous and varied could have come out of Werrina. My imagination was particularly fired by the contemplation of a package said to contain a gross of boxes of matches. Reckoning on fifty to the box, I struggled for some time with a computation of the total number of our matches, giving it up finally when I had reached figures which might have thrilled a Rothschild. Our sugar was not in blue paper packages of a pound weight, but in a sack, as it might be for the sweetening of an army corps' porridge. And our tea! Like the true Australian he was, Ted had actually brought us a twenty-six pound case of tea. It was a wondrous collection, and I drew a long breath when I remembered that there was more, much more, to come. Here were nails, not in spiral twists of paper, but in solid seven-pound packages, and quite a number of them.

Had I been a shopkeeper's son, I suppose these trifles from Werrina would have been esteemed by me at something like their real value. So I rejoice that I was not a shopkeeper's son, for I still cherish a lively recollection of the glad feeling of security and comfortable well-being which filled my breast as I paced round and about our cart and all it had brought us. Long before sun-up next morning, Ted was off again to Werrina; but, seeing our incapacity on the domestic side, the good fellow gave an hour or two before starting to washing up and cooking work; and I pretended to work with him, out there in the star-light, conversing the while in whispers to avoid disturbing my father.

Two more journeys Ted made, and returned fully laden both times, the old cart fairly groaning under the weight of goods it held. And then the services of a bullock-driver and his team and dray had subsequently to be requisitioned to bring out our English boxes and baggage, including the cases of my father's books. Those books, how they tempt one to musing digressions.... But of that in its place.

By the time the carrier's work was done we had established something of a routine of life, though this was subject to a good deal of variation and disorder, as I remember, so long as the tent was in use. Ted had arranged with butcher and storekeeper both to meet one of us once a week at a point distant some six miles from Livorno Bay, where our track crossed a road. Our bread, of course, we baked for ourselves; and excellent bread it was, while Ted made it. I believe that even when the task of making it fell into my hands, it was more palatable than baker's bread; certainly my father thought so, and that was enough for me.

Our hardest work, by far, was the cleaning of the Livorno. There was a spring cleaning with a vengeance! We used a mixture of soft soap and soda and sand, which made our hands all mottled: huge brown freckles over an unwholesome-looking, indurated, fish-belly grey. The stuff made one's finger-ends smart horridly, I remember. For days on end it seemed we lived in this mess; our feet and legs and arms all bare, and perspiration trickling down our noses, while soapy water and sand crept up our arms and all over our bodies. My father insisted on doing his share, though frequently driven by mere exhaustion to pause and lie down at full length upon the nearest dry spot. I have always regretted his persistence at this task, for which at that time he was totally unfit.

However, the scraping and sanding and scrubbing were ended at last, and I will say that I believe we made a very creditable job of it. We could not give back to our barque the soundness of her youth, her sea-going prime, but I think we made her scrupulously clean and sweet; and I shall not forget the jubilant sense of achievement which spurred us on all through the scorching hot day upon which we really installed ourselves.

Ted had rigged an excellent table between the saloon stanchions, and three packing-cases with blankets over them looked quite sumptuous and ottoman-like, as seats. Our bedding was arranged in the solid hardwood bunks which had accommodated the captain and mates of the Livorno what time she made her first exit from the harbour of Genoa. Our stores were neatly stowed in various lockers, and in Ted's famous 'sideboard'; our kitchen things found their appointed places in the galley; our incongruous skylight roof, with its guttering and adjacent tanks, awaited their baptism of rain; my father's books were arranged on shelves of Ted's construction; our various English belongings, looking inexpressibly choice, intimate, and valuable in their new environment, were disposed with a view to convenience, and, be it said, to appearances; and--here was our home.

We were all very tired that night, but we were gay over our supper, and it was most unusually late before I slept. Late as that was, however, I could see by its reflected light on the deck beams that my father's candle was burning still. And when I chanced to wake, long afterwards, I could hear, until I fell asleep again, the slight sound he made in walking softly up and down the poop deck--a lonely man who had not found rest as yet; who, despite bright flashes of gaiety, was far from happy, a fact better understood and more deeply regretted by his small son than he knew.


My first serious preoccupation regarding ways and means--the money question--began, I think, in the neighbourhood of my eleventh birthday, and has remained a more or less constant companion and bedfellow ever since.

Now, as I write, I am perhaps freer than ever before from this sordid preoccupation; not by reason of fortunate investments and a plethoric bank balance, but because my needs now are singularly few and inexpensive, and the future--that Damoclean sword of civilised life--no longer stretches out before me, a long and arid expanse demanding provision. This preoccupation began for me in the week of my eleventh birthday, when my father asked me one evening if I thought we could manage now without Ted's services.

'It's not that I pay him much,' said my father, stroking his chin between thumb and forefinger, as his manner was when pondering such a point; 'but the fact is we can by no manner of juggling pretend to be able to afford even that little. Then, again, you see, the poor chap must eat. The fish he brings us are a real help, and no wage-earner I ever met could take pot-luck more cheerfully than Ted. What's more, I like him, you like him, and he is, I know, a most useful fellow to have about. But, take it any way one can, he must represent fifty pounds a year in our rate of expenditure, and-- Well, you see, Nick, we simply haven't got it to spend.'

It was on the tip of my tongue, I remember, to ask my father why he did not send to the bank and ask for more money; and by that may be gauged the crudely unsophisticated stage of my development. But I must remember, too, that I bit back the question, and, ignorant of all detail though I was, felt intuitively sure, first, that the whole subject was a sore and difficult one for my father, and, secondly, that I must never ask for or expect anything calling for monetary expenditure. My vague feeling was that the World had somehow wronged my father by not providing him with more money. I felt instinctively that It never would give him any more; and that It had given him whatever he had, only as the result of personal sacrifices which should never have been demanded of him. I resented keenly what seemed to me the World's callous and unreasonable discourtesy to such a man as my father, whom, I thought, It should have delighted to honour.

As illustrating the World's coarse and brutal injustice, I thought, there was the case of a man like Nelly Fane's father, or, again, the storekeeper in Werrina. (Mr. Fane would hardly have thanked me for the conjunction.) Neither, it was clear, possessed a tithe of the brains, the distinction, the culture, or the charm of my father; yet it was equally obvious (in different ways) that both were a good deal more liberally endowed with this world's gear than we were. I felt that the whole matter ought to be properly explained and made clear to those powers, whoever they were, who controlled and ordered It. I distinctly remember the thought taking shape in my mind that Mr. Disraeli ought to know about it! Meantime, my concern was, as far as might be, to relieve my father of anxiety, and so minimise as much as possible the effects of a palpable miscarriage of justice.

The thing has a rather absurd and pompous effect as I set it down on paper; but I have stated it truly, none the less, however awkwardly.

The fact that I had known no mother, combined with the progressive weakening of my father's health and peace of mind during the previous year or so, may probably have influenced my attitude in all such matters, may have given a partly feminine quality to my affection for my father. I know it seemed to me unfitting that he should ever take any part in our domestic work on the Livorno, and very natural that I should attend to all such matters. Also I had felt, ever since the day in Richmond Park when, to some extent, he gave me his confidence regarding the severance of his connection with the London newspaper office, that my father needed 'looking after,' that it was desirable for him to be taken care of and spared as much as possible; and that, obviously, I was the person to see to it. Our departure from England had been rather a pleasure than otherwise for me, because it had seemed to place my father more completely in my hands. Such an attitude may or may not have been natural and desirable in so young a boy; I only know that it was mine at that time.

It follows therefore that I told my father we could perfectly well manage without Ted, though, as a fact, I viewed the prospect, not with misgiving so much as with very real regret. I had grown to like Ted very well in the few months he had spent with us, and to this day I am gratefully conscious of the practical use and value of many lessons learned from this simple teacher, who was so notably wanting, by the Werrina storekeeper's way of it, in 'Systum.' A more uniformly kindly fellow I do not think I have ever met. The world would probably pronounce him an idler, and it is certain he would never have accumulated money; but he was not really idle. On the contrary, he was full of activity, and of simple, kindly enthusiasms. Rut his chosen forms of activity rarely led him to the production of what is marketable, and he very quickly wearied of any set routine.

'Spare me days!' Ted cried, when my father, with some circumlocutionary hesitancy and great delicacy, conveyed his decision to our factotum. 'Don't let the bit o' money worry ye, Mr. Freydon. It's little I do, anyway. Give me an odd shilling or two for me 'baccy an' that, when I go into Werrina, an' I'll want no wages. What's the use o' wages to the likes o' me, anyhow?'

I could see that this put my father in something of a quandary. A certain delicacy made it difficult for him to mention the matter of Ted's food--the good fellow had a royal appetite--and he did not want to appear unfriendly to a man who simply was not cognisant of any such things as social distinctions or obligations. Finally, and with less than his customary ease, my father did manage to make it plain that his decision, however much he might regret being forced to it, was final; and that he could not possibly permit Ted's proposed gratuitous sacrifice of his time and abilities.

'There's the future to be thought of, you know, Ted,' he added. (For how many years has that word 'future' stood for anxiety, gloom, depression, and worry?) 'Such a capable fellow as you are should be earning good pay, and, if you don't need it now, banking it against the day when you will want it.' (My father was on firmer ground now, and a characteristic smile began to lighten his eyes and voice, besides showing upon his expressive mouth. I am not sure that I ever heard him laugh outright; but his chuckle was a choice incentive to merriment, and he had a smile of exceptional sweetness.) 'There'll be a Mrs. Ted presently, you know, and how should I ever win her friendship, as I hope to, if she knew I had helped to prevent her lord and master from getting together the price of a home? No, no, Ted; we can't let you do that. But if anything I can say or write will help you to a place worth having, I'm very much at your service; and if you will come and pay us a visit whenever you feel like sparing a Sunday or holiday, we shall both take it kindly in you, and Nick here will bless you for it, won't you, Nick?'

I agreed in all sincerity, and so the matter was decided. But Ted positively insisted on being allowed to stay one further week with us, without pay, in order, he said, 'to finish my mate's eddication as a bushman.' 'My mate,' of course, was myself. In the Old World such freedom of speech would perhaps indicate disrespect, and would almost certainly be resented as such. But we had learned something of Australian ways by this time; and if my father's eyebrows may have risen ever so slightly at that word 'mate,' I was frankly pleased and flattered by it. Then, as now, I could appreciate as a compliment the inclination of such a good fellow to give me so friendly a title; and yet I fear me no genuine democrat would admit that I had any claim to be regarded as a disciple of his cult!

His mind deliberately bent on conveying instruction, Ted proved rather a poor teacher. In that rôle he was the least thing tiresome, and given to enlargement upon unessentials, while overlooking the things that matter. Unconsciously he had taught me much; in his teaching week he rather fretted me. But, all the same, I was sorry when the end of it arrived. We had arranged for him to drive with me to the point at which our track crossed a main road, where we should meet the storekeeper's cart. There would be stores for me to bring back, and Ted would finish his journey with the storekeeper's man. Ted insisted on making me a present of his own special axe, which he treated and regarded as some men will treat a pet razor. He had taught me to use and keep it fairly well. I gave him my big horn-handled knife, which was quite a tool-kit in itself; and my father gave him a hunting-crop to which he had taken a desperate fancy.

The storekeeper's man witnessed our parting, and that kept me on my dignity; but when the pair of them were out of sight, I felt I had lost a friend, and had many cares upon my shoulders. Driving back alone through the bush with our stores, I made some fine resolutions. I was now in my twelfth year, and very nearly a man, I told myself. It would be my business to keep our home in order, to take particularly good care of my father, and to see that he was as comfortable as I could make him. Certainly, I was a very serious-minded youngster; and it did not make me less serious to find when I got back to the Livorno that my father was lying in his bunk in some pain, and, as I knew at first glance, very much depressed. He had strained or hurt himself in some way in cutting firewood.

'You oughtn't to have done it, you know, father,' I remember saying, very much as a nurse or parent might have said it. 'We've plenty stacked in the main hatch, and you know the wood's my job.'

He smiled sadly. 'I'm not quite sure that there's any work here that doesn't seem to be your "job," old fellow,' he said. 'At least, if any of it's mine, it must be a kind that's sadly neglected.'

'Well, but, father, you have more important things; you have your writing. The little outside jobs are mine, of course. I've learned it all from Ted. You really must trust me for that, father.'

'Ah, well, you're a good lad, Nick; and we must see if I cannot set to seriously in the matter of doing some of this writing you talk of. It's high time; and it may be easier now we are alone. No, I don't think I'll get up to supper this evening, Nick. I'm not very well, to tell the truth, and a quiet night's rest here will be best for me.'

We had a few fowls then in a little bush run, and I presently had a new-laid egg beaten up for my patient. This he took to oblige me; but his 'quiet night's rest' did not amount to much, for each time I waked through the night I knew, either by the light burning beside him, or by some slight movement he made, that my father was awake.


In this completely solitary way we lived for some eight months after Ted left us. There were times when my father seemed cheery and in much better health. In such periods he would concern himself a good deal in the matter of my education.

'It may never be so valuable to you as Ted's "eddication,"' he said; 'but a gentleman should have some acquaintance with the classics, Nick, both in our tongue (the nobility of which is not near so well understood as it might be) and in the tongues of the ancients.'

Once he said: 'We have lived our own Odyssey, old fellow, without writing it; but I'd like you to be able to read Homer's.'

As a fact, I never have got so far as to read it with any comfort in the original; and I suppose a practical educationalist would say that such fitful, desultory instruction as I did receive from my father in our cuddy living-room on board the Livorno was quite valueless. But I fancy the expert would be wrong in this, as experts sometimes are. In the schoolman's sense I learned little or nothing. But natheless I believe these hours spent with my father among his books, and yet more, it may be, other hours spent with him when he had no thought of teaching me, had their very real value in the process of my mental development. If they did not give me much of actual knowledge, they helped to give me a mind of sorts, an inclination or bent toward those directions in which intellectual culture is obtainable. Else, surely, I had remained all my days a hewer of wood and a drawer of water--with more of health in mind and body and means, perhaps, than are mine to-day! Well, yes; and that, too, is likely enough. At all events I choose to thank my father for the fact that at no period of my life have I cared to waste time over mere vapid trash, whether spoken or printed.

Outside his own personal feelings and mental processes, the which he never discussed with me, there was no set of subjects, I think, that my father excluded from the range of our conversations. Indeed, I think that in those last months of our life on the Livorno, he talked pretty much as freely with me, and as variously, as he would have talked with any friend of his own age. In the periods when we were not together, he would be sitting at the saloon table, with paper and pens before him, or pacing the seaward side of the poop, or lying resting in his bunk, or on the deck. Frequent rest became increasingly necessary for him. His strength seemed to fade out from him with the mere effluxion of time. He often spoke to me of the curious effects upon men's minds of the illusions we call nostalgia. But he allowed no personal bearing to his remarks, and never hinted that he regretted leaving England, or wished to return there.

Physically speaking, I doubt if any life could be much healthier than ours was on the Livorno. Dress, for each of us alike, consisted of two garments only, shirt and trousers. Unless when going inland for some reason, we went always barefoot. Of what use could shoes be on the Livorno's decks--washed down with salt water every day--or the white sands of the bay. Our dietary, though somewhat monotonous, was quite wholesome. We lacked other vegetables, but grew potatoes, pumpkins, and melons in plenty. Fresh fish we ate most days, and butcher's meat perhaps twice or thrice a week. Purer air than that we breathed and lived in no sanatorium could furnish, and the hours we kept were those of the nursery; though, unfortunately, bed-time by no means always meant sleeping-time for my father.

Withal, even my inexperience did not prevent my realisation of the sinking, fading process at work in my father. Its end I did not foresee. It would have gone hard with me indeed to have been consciously facing that. But I was sadly enough conscious of the process; and a competent housewife would have found humorous pathos, no doubt, in my efforts, by culinary means, to counteract this. My father's appetite was capricious, and never vigorous. There was a considerable period in which I am sure quite half my waking hours (not to mention dream fancies and half waking meditations in bed) were devoted to thinking out and preparing special little dishes from the limited range of food-stuffs at my command.

'A s'prise for you this morning, father,' I would say, as I led the way, proudly, to our dining-table, or, in one of his bad times, arrived at his bunk-side, carrying the carefully pared sheet of stringy bark which served us for a tray. There would be elaborate uncoverings on my side, and sniffs of pretended eagerness from my father; and, thanks to the unvarying kindliness and courtesy of his nature, I dare say my poor efforts really were of some value, because full many a time I am sure they led to his eating when, but for consideration of my feelings, he had gone unnourished, and so aggravated his growing weakness.

'God bless my soul, Nick,' he would say, after a taste of my latest concoction; 'what would they not give to have you at the Langham, or Simpson's? I believe you are going to be a second Soyer, and control the destinies of empires from a palace kitchen. Bush cooking, forsooth! Why this--this latest triumph is nectar--ambrosial stuff, Nick--more good, hearty body in it than any wines the gods ever quaffed. You'll see, I shall begin forthwith to lay on fat, like a Christmas turkey.'

My father could not always rise to such flights, of course; but many and many a time he took a meal he would otherwise have lacked, solely to gratify his small cook.

There came a time when my father passed the whole of every morning in bed, and, later, a time when he left his bunk for no more than an hour or two each afternoon. The thought of seeking a doctor's help never occurred to me, and my father never mentioned it. I suppose we had grown used to relying upon ourselves, to ignoring the resources of civilisation, which, indeed, for my part, I had almost forgotten. Not often, I fancy, in modern days has a boy of eleven or twelve years passed through so strange an experience, or known isolation more complete.

The climax of it all dates in my memory from an evening upon which I returned with Jerry from a journey to the road (for stores) to find my father lying unconscious beside the saloon table, where his paper and pens were spread upon a blotting-pad. Fear had my very heart in his cold grip that night. There was, no doubt, a certain grotesqueness, due to ignorance, about many of my actions. In some book (of Fielding's belike) I had read of burnt feathers in connection with emotional young ladies' fainting fits. So now, like a frightened stag, I flew across the sand to our fowl run, and snatched a bunch of feathers from the first astonished rooster my hand fell upon. A few seconds later, these were smoking in a candle flame, and thence to my father's nostrils. To my ignorant eyes he showed no sign of life whatever, but none the less--again inspired by books--I fell now to chafing his thin hands. And then to the feathers again. Then back to the hands. Lack of thought preserved me from the customary error of attempting to raise the patient's head; but no doubt my ignorance prevented my being of much real service, though every nerve in me strained to the desire.

My father's recovery of robust health, or my own sudden acquisition of a princely fortune, could hardly have brought a deeper thrill of gladness and relief than that which came to me with the first flutter of the veined, dark eye-lids upon which my gaze was fastened. A few moments later, and he recognised me; another few minutes, and, leaning shakily on my shoulder, he reached the side of his bunk. When his head touched the pillow, he gave me a wan smile, and-- 'So you see you can't trust me to keep house even for one afternoon, Nick,' he said.

This almost unbalanced me, and only an exaggerated sense of responsibility as nurse and housekeeper kept back the tears that were pricking like ten thousand needles at my eyes. Savagely I reproached myself for having been away, and for having no foreknowledge of the coming blow. In one of his bags my father had a flask of brandy, and, guided by his directions, I unearthed this and administered a little to the patient. Promising that I would look in every few minutes, I hurried off then to relight the galley fire and prepare something for supper.

Later in the evening my father became brighter than he had been for weeks, and, child-like, I soon exchanged my fears for hopes. And then it was, just as I was turning in, that, speaking in quite a cheery tone, my father said:

'I haven't taken half thought enough for you, Nick boy; and yet you've set me the best possible kind of example. It's easy to laugh at the simple folks' way of talking about "if anything happens" to one. But the idea's all right, and ought not to be lost sight of. Well then, Nick, if "anything" should "happen" to me, at any time, I want you to harness up Jerry and drive straight away into Werrina, with the two letters that I left on the cuddy table. One is for the doctor there--deliver that first--and the other is for a Roman Catholic priest, Father O'Malley; deliver that next. It is important, and must not be lost, for there's money in it. I wish it were more--I wish it were. Bring them here now, Nick.'

I brought the letters, and they were placed under a weight on the little shelf over my father's head.

'Don't forget what I said, Nick; and do it--exactly, old fellow. And now, let us forget all about it. That gruel, or whatever it was you gave me just now, has made me feel so comfortable that I'm going to have a beautiful sleep, and wake up as fit as a fiddle to-morrow. Give me your hand, boy. There--good-night! God bless you!'

He turned on his shoulder, perhaps to avoid seeing my tears, and again, perhaps, I have thought, to avoid my seeing the coming of tears in his own eyes. He had kissed my forehead, and I could not remember ever being kissed by him before. For, as long as my memory carried me, our habit had been to shake hands, like two men....

I find an unexpected difficulty in setting down the details of an experience which, upon the whole, produced a deeper impression on me, I think, than any other event in my life. When all is said, can any useful purpose be served by observing at this stage of my task a particularity which would be exceedingly depressing to me? I think not. There is assuredly no need for me, of all people, to court melancholy. I think that, without great fullness at this point in my record, I can gauge pretty accurately the value as a factor in my growth of this particular experience, and so I will be very brief.

On the fifth evening after that of the attack which left him unconscious on the saloon deck, my father died, very peacefully, and, I believe, quite painlessly. He spoke to me, and with a smile, only a few minutes before he drew his last breath.

'I'm going, Nick--going--to rest, boy. Don't cry, Nick. Best son.... God bless....'

Those were the last words he spoke. For two hours or more before that time, he had lain with eyes closed, breathing lightly, perhaps asleep, certainly unconscious. Now he was dead. I was under no sort of illusion about that. Something which had been hanging cold as ice over my heart all day had fallen now, like an axe-blade, and split my heart in twain. So I felt. There was the gentle suggestion of a smile still about the dead lips, but something terrible had happened to my father's eyes. I know now that mere muscular contraction was accountable for this, and not, as it seemed, sudden terror or pain. But the effect of that contraction upon my lonely mind! ...

Well, I had two things to do, and with teeth set hard in my lower lip I set to work to do them. With shaking hands I closed my father's eyelids and drew the sheet over his face. Then I took the two letters from the shelf and thrust them in the breast of my shirt.

Walking stiffly--it seemed to me very necessary that I should keep all my muscles quite rigid--I left the ship, harnessed Jerry, and drove off into the darkling bush towards Werrina. The sun had disappeared before I left my father's side, and the track to Werrina was fifteen miles long. A strange drive, and a queer little numbed driver, creaking along through the ghostly bush, exactly as a somnambulist might, the most of his faculties in abeyance. Three words kept shaping themselves in my mind, I know, and then fading out again, like shadows. They never were spoken. My lips did not move, I think, all through the long, slow night drive. The three words were:

'Father is dead.'



We wore no uniform at St. Peter's Orphanage, but there were plenty of other reminders to keep us conscious that we were inmates of an institution, and what is called a charitable institution at that. At all events I, personally, was reminded of it often enough; but I would not say that the majority of the boys thought much of the point. My upbringing, so far, had not been a good training for institutional life. And then, again, my ignorance of the Roman Catholic religion was complete. I had not been particularly well posted perhaps regarding the church of my fathers--the Church of England; but I had never set foot in a Roman Catholic place of worship, nor set eyes upon an image of the Virgin. Occasionally, my father had gone with me to church in London; but, as a rule, the companion of my devotions had been a servant. And in Australia neither my father nor I had visited any church.

I gathered gradually that my father had once met and chatted with Father O'Malley for a few minutes in Werrina, learning in that time of the reverend father's supervisory connection with St. Peter's Orphanage at Myall Creek, eleven miles down the coast. It is easy now to understand how, pondering sadly over the question of what should become of me when 'anything happened' to him, my father had seized upon the idea of this Orphanage, the only institute of its kind within a hundred miles. He had never seen the place, and knew nothing of it. But what choice had he?

And so I became a duly registered orphan, and an inmate of St. Peter's. The letter I took to Father O'Malley contained, in bank-notes, all the money of which my father died possessed. To this day I do not know what the amount was, save that it was more than one hundred pounds, and, almost certainly, under three hundred pounds. The letter made a gift of this money to the Orphanage, I believe, on the understanding that the Orphanage took me in and cared for me. It also, I understood, authorised Father O'Malley to sell for the benefit of the Orphanage all my father's belongings on board the Livorno, with the exception of the books and papers, which were to be held in trust for me, and handed over to me when I left the institution. Knowing nobody in the district, I do not see that my father could with advantage have taken any other course than the one he chose; and I am very sure that he believed he was doing the best that could be done for me in the circumstances.

Like every other habitation in that countryside, the Orphanage was a wooden structure: hardwood weatherboard walls and galvanised iron roof. But, unlike a good many others, it was well and truly built, with a view to long life. It stood three feet above the ground upon piers of stone, each of which had a mushroom-shaped cap of iron, to check, as far as might be, the onslaught of the white ant, that destructive pest of coastal Australia and enemy of all who live in wooden houses. Also, it was kept well painted, and cared for in every way, as few buildings in that district were. In Australia generally, even in those days, labour was a somewhat costly commodity. At the Orphanage it was the one thing used without stint, for it cost nothing at all.

As I was being driven to the Orphanage in Father O'Malley's sulky, behind his famous trotting mare Jinny, I hazarded upon a note of interrogation the remark that my father would be buried.

'Surely, surely, my boy; I expect he will be buried at Werrina to-morrow.'

This was on the morning after my delivery of the letters in Werrina. I had spent the night in Father O'Malley's house. Somehow, I conveyed the suggestion that I wanted to attend that burying. The priest nodded amiably.

'Aye,' he said; 'we'll see about it, we'll see about it, presently. But just now you're going to a beautiful house at Myall Creek--St. Peter's. And, if ye're a real good lad, ye'll be let stay there, an' get a fine education, an' all--if ye're a good lad. Y'r poor father asked this for ye, like a wise man; and if we can get ut for ye, the sisters will make a man of ye in no time--if ye're a good lad.'

'Yes, sir,' I replied meekly; and, so far as I remember, spake no other word while seated in that swiftly drawn sulky. I learned afterwards that the reverend father was not only a good judge of horse-flesh, but a famous hand at a horse deal, just as he was a notably shrewd man of business, and good at a bargain of any kind. So I fancy was every one connected with the Orphanage.

I did not, as a fact, attend my father's funeral, nor was I ever again as far from Myall Creek as Werrina during the whole of my term at the Orphanage.

There were fifty-nine 'inmates,' as distinguished from other residents there, when my name was entered on the books of St. Peter's Orphanage. So I brought the ranks of the orphans up to sixty. The whole institution was managed by a Sister-in-charge and three other sisters: Sister Agatha, Sister Mary, and Sister Catharine. No doubt the Sister-in-charge had a name, but one never heard it. She was always spoken of as 'Sister-in-charge.' There was no male member of the staff except Tim the boatman; and he was hardly like a man, in the ordinary worldly sense, since he was an old orphan, and had been brought up at St. Peter's. He played an important part in the life of the place, because, in a way, he and his punt formed the bridge connecting us with the rest of the world.

St. Peter's stood on a small island, under three hundred acres in area, at the mouth of the Myall Creek, where that stream opens into the arm of the sea called Burke Water. Our landing-stage was, I suppose, a couple of hundred yards from the Myall Creek wharf--the 'Crick Wharf,' as it was always called; and it was Tim's job to bridge that gulf by means of the punt, which he navigated with an oar passed through a hole in its flat stern. The punt was roomy, but a cumbersome craft.

The orphans ranged in age all the way from about three years on to the twenties. Alf Loddon was twenty-six, I believe; but he, though strong, and a useful hand at the plough, or with an axe, or in the shafts of one of our small carts, was undoubtedly half-witted. We had several big fellows whose chins cried aloud for the application of razors. And none of us was idle. Even little five-year-olds, like Teddy Reeves, gathered and carried kindling wood, and weeded the garden; while boys of my own age were old and experienced farm hands, and had adopted the heavy, lurching stride of the farm labourer.

I suppose there never was a 'charitable' institution conducted more emphatically upon business lines than was St. Peter's Orphanage. The establishment included a dairy farm, a poultry farm, and a market garden. Indeed, at that period, so far as the production of vegetables went, we had no white competitors within fifty or a hundred miles, I think. As in many other parts of Australia, the inhabitants of this countryside regarded any form of market gardening as Chinaman's work, pure and simple. There were any number of settlers then who never tasted vegetables from one year's end to another, though the ground about their houses would have grown every green thing known to culinary art. In the townships, too, nobody would 'be bothered' growing vegetables; but, unlike many of the 'cockatoo' farmers, the town people were ready enough to buy green things; and therein lay our opportunity. We rarely ate vegetables at St. Peter's, but we cultivated them assiduously; and sixpence and eightpence were quite ordinary prices for our cabbages to fetch.

So, too, with dairy products. We 'inmates' saw very little of butter at table, treacle being our great standby. (The sisters had butter, of course.) But St. Peter's butter stamped 'S.P.O.' was famous in the district, and esteemed, as it was priced, highly. Exactly the same might be said (both as regards our share of these commodities and the public appreciation of them) of the eggs and milk produced at St. Peter's. Save in the way of occasional pilferings I never tasted milk at St. Peter's; but between us, the members of the milking gang, of which I was at one time chief, milked twenty-nine cows, morning and evening. I have heard Jim Meagher, the chief poultry boy, boast of a single day's gathering of four hundred and sixty-eight eggs; but eggs, save when stolen, pricked, and sucked raw, never figured in our bill of fare. At first glance this might appear unbusinesslike, but the prices obtainable for these things were good, as they still are and always have been in Australia; and the various items of our dietary--treacle, bread, oatmeal, tea, and corned beef--could of course be bought much more cheaply.

Father O'Malley did most of the purchasing for the Orphanage, and audited its accounts, I believe. Sister Catharine and the Sister-in-charge, between them, did all the collecting throughout the countryside for the Orphanage funds. And I have heard it said they were singularly adept in this work. I have heard a Myall Creek farmer tell how the sisters 'fairly got over' him, though, as he told the story, it seemed to me that in this particular case he had been the victor. They were selling tickets at the time for a 'social' in aid of the Orphanage funds. The farmer flatly refused to purchase, saying he could not attend the function.

'Ah, well, but ye'll buy a ticket, Misther Jones; sure ye will now, f'r the Orphanage.' But Mr. Jones was obdurate. Well, then, he would give a few pounds of tea and sugar? But he was right out of both commodities. Some of his fine eggs, or, maybe, a young pig? Mr. Jones continued in his obduracy. He was a poor man, he said, and could not afford to give.

'May we pick a basket av y'r beautiful oranges thin, Misther Jones?' They might not, for he had sold them on the trees.

'Ah, well, can ye let us have a whip, just a common whip, Misther Jones, for we've come out without one, an' the horse is gettin' old, an' needs persuasion.' Mr. Jones would not give a whip, as he had but the one.

'Ah, thin, just a loan of it, Misther Jones, till this evening?' No, the farmer wanted to use the whip himself.

'Well, well, thin, Misther Jones, I see we'll have to be gettin' along; so I'll wish ye good-morning--if ye'll just let us have a cup o' milk each, for 'tis powerful warm this morning, an' I'm thirsty.' At this the farmer forgot his manners, in his wrath, and said explosively:

'The milk's all settin', an' the water tank's near empty, so I'll wish ye good-morning, anyhow, mum!' And this valiant man moved to the door.

But I am well assured that such a defeat was a rare thing in the sisters' experience. Indeed, Mr. Jones made it his boast that he was the only man in that district--'Prodesdun or Papish'--who ever received a visit from the Orphanage sisters without paying for it. On the other hand, it was very generally admitted that no farm in that countryside was more profitable than ours; and that no one turned out products of higher quality, or obtained better prices. These smaller rural industries--dairying, market gardening, and the like--demand much labour of a more or less unskilled and mechanical sort, but do not provide returns justifying the payment of high wages. In this regard St. Peter's was, of course, ideally situated. It paid no wages, and employed twenty pairs of hands for every one pair employed by the average producer in the district.


Looking back now upon the period I spent as an 'inmate' of St. Peter's Orphanage, it seems a queer unreal interlude enough; possessing some of the qualities of a dream, including brevity and detachment from the rest of my life. But well I know that in the living there was nothing in the least dream-like about it; and, so far from being brief, I know there were times when it seemed that all the rest of my life had been but a day or so, by comparison with the grey, interminable vista of the St. Peter's period.

It appears to me now as something rather wonderful that I ever should have been able to win clear of St. Peter's to anything else; at all events, to anything so unlike St. Peter's as the most of my life has been. How was it I did not eventually succeed Tim, the punt-man, or become the hind of one or other of the small farmers about the district, as did most of the Orphanage lads? The scope life offered to the orphans of St. Peter's was something easily to be taken in by the naked eye from Myall Creek. It embraced only the simplest kind of labouring occupations, and included no faintest hint of London, or of the great kaleidoscopic world lying between Australia and England; no sort of suggestion of the infinitely changeful and various thing that life has been for me.

It is certain that I cherish no sort of resentment or malice where the Orphanage and its sisters are concerned. But neither will I pretend to have the slightest feeling of gratitude or benevolence towards them. I should not wish to contribute to their funds, though I possessed all the wealth of the Americas. And I will say that I think those responsible for the conduct of the place were singularly indifferent, or blind, to the immense opportunities for productive well-doing which lay at their feet.

Here were sixty orphans; lads for the most part plastic as clay. The sisters were the potters. No ruling sovereign possesses a tithe of the absolute authority that was theirs. They literally held the powers of life and death. Unquestioned and god-like they moved serenely to and fro about the island farm, in their floating black draperies, directing the daily lives of their subjects by means of a nod, a gesture of the hand, a curt word here or there. They were the only gods we had. (There was nothing to make us think of them as goddesses.) And, so blind were they to their opportunities, they offered us nothing better. By which, I do not mean that our chapel was neglected. (It was not, though I do not think it meant much more for any of us than the milking, the wood-chopping, or the window-cleaning.) But, rather, that these capable, energetic women entirely ignored their unique opportunities of uplifting us. It was an appalling waste of god-like powers.

I could not honestly say that I think the sisters ever gave anything fine, or approximately fine, to one of their young slaves. They taught us, most efficiently, to work, to do what Americans call 'Chores.' No word they ever let fall gave a hint of any real conception of what life might or should mean. I recall nothing in the nature of an inspiration. Some of us, myself included, possessed considerable capacity for loving, for devotion. This latent faculty was never drawn upon, I think, by any of the sisters. We feared them, of course. We even respected their ability, strength, and authority. We certainly never loved them.

In fact, I do not think it was ever hinted to one of us that there was anything beautiful in life. There were wonderful and miraculous things connected with the Virgin and the Infant Christ. But these were not of the world we knew, and, in any case, they were matters of which Father O'Malley possessed the key. They had nothing to do with the farm, with our work, or with us, outside the chapel. Heaven might be beautiful. There was another place that very certainly was horrible. Meantime, there was our own daily life, and that was--chores. That this should have been so means, in my present opinion, a lamentable waste of young life and of unique powers. I consider that our young lives were sterilised rather than developed, and that such sterilisation must have meant permanent and irrevocable loss for every one of the orphans, myself included.

But I would be the last to deny the very real capacity and ability of the sisters in their discharge of the duties laid upon them. I have no doubt at all about it that they succeeded to admiration in doing what Father O'Malley and the powers behind him (whoever they may have been) desired done. I can well believe that the Orphanage justified itself from a utilitarian standpoint. I believe it paid well as a farm. And I do not see how any one could have extracted more in charity from the inhabitants of the district (and, too, from the orphans) than the sisters did. Oh, I give them all credit for their competence and efficiency.

Indeed, I find it little less than wonderful to recall the manner in which the Sister-in-charge and her three assistants maintained the perfect discipline of that Orphanage, with never an appeal for the assistance of masculine brute force. The Australian-born boy is not by any means the most docile or meek of his species; and, occasionally, a newly arrived orphan would assert himself after the universal urchin fashion. Such minor outbreaks were never allowed to produce scenes, however. We had no intimidating executions; no birch-rods in pickle, or anything of that sort. Sister Agatha and Sister Catharine were given rather to slappings, pinchings, and the vicious tweaking of ears. I have seen Sister Agatha kick an orphan's bare toes, or his bare shin, with the toe of her boot; and at such times she could throw a formidable amount of venom into two or three words, spoken rather below than above the ordinary conversational pitch of her voice. But ceremonial floggings were unknown at St. Peter's. And indeed I can recall no breaches of discipline which seemed to demand any such punishment.

The most usual form of punishment was the docking of a meal. We fed at three long tables, and sat upon forms. Meals were a fairly serious business, because we were always hungry. A boy who was reported to the Sister-in-charge, say, for some neglect of his work, would have his dinner stopped. In that case it would be his unhappy lot to stand with his hands penitentially crossed upon his chest, behind his place at table, while the rest of us wolfed our meal. By a refinement which, at the time, seemed to me very uncalled for, the culprit had to say grace, before and after the meal, aloud and separately from the rest of us.

There were occasions upon which we were one and all found wanting. Eggs had been stolen, work had been badly done; something had happened for which no one culprit could be singled out, and all were held to blame. Upon such an occasion we were made to lay the dinner-tables as usual, and to wait upon the sisters at their own table, and for the rest of an hour to stand to attention, with hands crossed around the long tables. Then we cleared the tables and marched out to work, each nursing the vacuum within him, where dinner should have been, and, presumably, resolving to amend his wicked ways.

Boys are, of course, curious creatures. I have said that we were always hungry. I think we were. And yet the staple of our breakfast (which never varied during the whole of my time there) was never once eaten by me, though I was repeatedly punished for leaving it. The dish was 'skilly,' or porridge of a kind, with which (except on the church's somewhat numerous fast-days) we were given treacle. The treacle I would lap up greedily, but at the porridge my gorge rose. I simply could not swallow it. Ordinary porridge I had always rather liked, but this ropy mess was beyond me; and, hungry though I was, I counted myself fortunate on those mornings when I was able to go empty away from the breakfast-table without punishment for leaving this detestable skilly. If Sister Agatha or Sister Catharine were on duty, it meant that I would have at least one spoonful forced into my mouth and held there till cold sweat bedewed my face. In addition there would be pinchings, slappings, and ear-tweakings--very painful, these last. And sometimes I would be reported, and docked of that day's dinner to boot. But Sister Mary would more often than not pass me by without a glance at my bowl, and for that I was profoundly grateful. In fact, I could almost have loved that good woman, but that she had a physical affliction which nauseated me. Her breath caused me to shudder whenever she approached me. She had a mild, cow-like eye, however, and I do not think I ever saw her kick a boy.

Yes, when I look back upon that queer chapter of my life, I am bound to admit that, however much they may have neglected opportunities that were open to them, as moulders of human clay, those four sisters did accomplish rather wonderful results in ruling St. Peter's Orphanage, without any appeal to sheer force of arms. There were young men among us, yet the sisters' rule was never openly defied. I think the secret must have had to do chiefly with work and food. We were never idle, we were always hungry, and we never had any opportunities for relaxation. I never saw any kind of game played at the Orphanage; and on Sundays devotions of one kind or another were made to fill all intervals between the different necessary pieces of work, such as milking, feeding stock, cleaning, and so forth.

We began the day at five o'clock in the summer, and six in the winter, and by eight at night all lights were out. We had lessons every day; and there, oddly enough, in school, the cane was adjudged necessary, as an engine of discipline, and used rather freely on our hands--hands, by the way, which were apt at any time to be a good deal chipped and scratched, and otherwise knocked about by our outdoor work. So far as I remember our schooling was of the most primitive sort, and confined to reading aloud, writing from dictation, and experimenting with the first four rules of arithmetic. History we did not touch, but we had to memorise the names of certain continents, capitals, and rivers, I remember.

All this ought to have been the merest child's play for me; it certainly was a childish form of study. But I did not appear to pick up the trick of it, and I remember being told pretty frequently to 'Hold out your hand, Nicholas!' I had a clumsy knack of injuring my finger-tips, and getting splinters into my hands, in the course of outdoor work. The splinters produced little gatherings, and I dare say this made penmanship awkward. I know it gave added terrors to the canings, and, too, I thought it gave added zest to Sister Agatha's use of that instrument in my case. Unfortunately for me Sister Agatha, and not the mild-eyed Sister Mary, was the schoolmistress.

It may be, of course, that I lay undue stress upon the painful or unpleasant features of our life at the Orphanage, because I was unhappy there, and detested the place. But certainly if I could recall any brighter aspects of the life there I would set them down. I do not think there were any brighter aspects for me, at all events. I not only had no pride in myself here; I took shame in my lot.

On the first Sunday in each month visitors were admitted. Any one at all could come, and many local folk did come. They made it a kind of excursion. I was glad that our devotions kept us a good deal out of the visitors' way, because, especially at first, I had a fear of recognising among them some one of the handful of people in Australia whom I might be said to have known--fellow-passengers by the Ariadne. The thought of being recognised as an 'inmate' by Nelly Fane was dreadful to me; and even more, I fancy, I dreaded the mere idea of being seen by Fred-without-a-surname. I pictured him grinning as he said: 'Hallo! you in this place? You an orphan, then?' I think I should have slain him with my wood-chopping axe.

On these visitors' days we all wore boots and clothes which were never seen at other times. I hated mine most virulently, because they were not mine, but had been worn by some other boy before they came to me. It was never given to me to learn what became of the ample store of clothing I had on board the Livorno. The sisters were exceedingly thorough in detail. On the mornings of these visitors' Sundays, before going out to work, we 'dressed' our beds. That is to say we were given sheets, and made to arrange them neatly upon our beds. Before retiring at night we had to remove these sheets and refold them with exact care, under the sister's watchful eyes, so that they might be fresh and uncreased for next visitors' Sunday. We never saw them at any other times. Our boots really were rather a trial. Running about barefoot all day makes the feet swell and spread. It hardens them, certainly, but it makes the use of boots, and especially of hard, ill-fitting boots, abominably painful.

And with it all, having said that I detested the place and was unhappy during all my time there, how is it I cannot leave the matter at that? For I cannot. I do not feel that I have truly and fully stated the case. It is not merely that I have made no attempt to follow my life there in detail. No such exhaustive and exhausting record is needed. But I do desire to set down here the essential facts of each phase in my life.

I have referred already to the precociously developed trick I had of savouring life as a spectator, of observing myself as a figure in an illustrated romance--probably the hero. Now, as I am certain this habit was not entirely dropped during my life at St. Peter's, I think one must argue that I cannot have been entirely and uniformly unhappy there. Indeed, I am sure I was not, because I can distinctly remember luxuriating in my sadness. I can remember translating it into unspoken words, the while my head was cushioned in the flank of a cow at milking time, describing myself and my forlorn estate as an orphan and an 'inmate' to myself. And, without doubt, I derived satisfaction from that. I can recall picturesquely vivid contrasts drawn in my mind between Master Nicholas Freydon, as the playmate of Nelly Fane on the Ariadne, and the son of the distinguished-looking Mr. Freydon whom every one admired, and as the 'inmate' of St. Peter's, trudging to and fro among the other orphans, with corns on the palms of his hands and bruises and scratches on his bare legs and feet.

And then when visitors were about: 'If they only knew,' 'If they could have seen,' 'If I were to tell them'--such phrases formed the beginning of many thoughts in my mind. I can remember endeavouring to mould my expression upon such occasions to fit the part I consciously played; to adopt the look I thought proper to the disinherited aristocrat, the gently-nurtured child now outcast in the world, the orphan. Yes, I distinctly remember, when a visitor of any parts at all was in sight, composing my features and attitude to suit the orphan's part, as distinguished from that of the mere typical 'inmate,' who, incidentally, was an orphan too. I found secret consolation in the conception that however much I might be in St. Peter's Orphanage, I would never be wholly of it--a real 'inmate' I remember, as I thought not unskilfully, scheming to arouse Sister Mary's interest in me, as I had aroused the interest of other people in myself on the Ariadne and elsewhere, and only relinquishing my pursuit when baffled, upon contact, by the poor sister's physical infirmity before-mentioned. I am bound to say that she made less response to my overtures than that made by the cows I milked, who really did show some mild, bovine preference for me.

But there it is. In view of these things I cannot have been wholly unhappy, for I remained a keenly interested observer of life, and of my own meanderings on its stage. But I will say that I liked St. Peter's less than any other place I had known, and that mentally, morally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as physically, I was rather starved there. The life of the place did arrest my development in all ways, I think, and it may be that I have suffered always, to some extent, from that period of insufficient nutrition of mind and body.


The custom of St. Peter's Orphanage was to allow farmers and local residents generally to choose an orphan, as they might pick out a heifer or a colt from a stockyard, and take him away for good--or ill. I believe the only stipulation was that the orphan could not in any case be returned to St. Peter's. If the selector found him to be a damaged or incomplete orphan, that was the selector's own affair, and he had to put up with his bargain as best he might. The person who chose an orphan in this way became responsible for the boy's maintenance while boyhood lasted, and I believe it was not customary to send out lads under the age of ten or twelve years. After a time the people who took these lads into their service were, theoretically, supposed to allow them some small wage, in addition to providing them with a home.

It was rather a blow to my self-esteem, I remember, to see my companions being removed from the institution one by one as time ran on, and to note that nobody appeared to want me. I may have been somewhat less sturdy than the average run of 'inmates,' but I think we were all on the spare and lean side. It is possible, however, that in view of my father's legacy to St. Peter's, the authorities felt it incumbent upon them to keep me. The departure of a boy always had an unsettling effect upon me; and when, as happened now and again, an ex-inmate paid us a visit on a Sunday, possibly with members of the family with whom he worked, I was filled with yearning interest in the life of the world outside our island farm and workshop.

But these yearnings of mine were quite vague; mere amorphous emanations of the mind, partaking of the nature of nostalgia, and giving birth to nothing in the shape of plans, nor even of definite desires. Then, suddenly, this vague uneasiness became the dominant factor in my daily life, as the result of one of those apparently haphazard chances upon which human progress and development so often seem to pivot.

In the late afternoon of a visitors' Sunday, as I was making my way down to the milking-yard with a pail on either arm, my eyes fell upon the broad shoulders of a man who was leaning contemplatively over the slip-rails of the yard. The sight of those shoulders sent a thrill right through me; it touched the marrow of my spine. I, who had thought myself the most forlorn and friendless of orphans; I had a friend, and he was here before me. There was no need to see his face. I knew those shoulders.

'Ted!' I cried. And positively I had to exercise deliberate self-restraint to prevent myself from rushing at our Livorno friend and factotum, and flinging my arms about him, as in infantile days I had been wont to make embracing leaps at Amelia from the kitchen table of the house off Russell Square.

'God spare me days! Is it you, then, chum?' exclaimed Ted, as he swung round on his high heels. (In those days the Sunday rig of men like Ted Reilly comprised much-polished, pointed-toe, elastic-side boots with very high heels, and voluminously 'bell-bottomed' trousers.) I rattled questions at him, as peas from a pea-shooter; and when I had laid aside my buckets he pumped away at my right arm, as though providing water to put a fire out.

It seemed he had only that week returned to the district, after a long spell of wandering and desultory working in southern Queensland. No, he had not had time yet to go out to the Livorno, and he had not heard of my father's death--'Rest his soul for as good an' kindly a gentleman as ever walked!' And so--'Spare me days!'--I was an orphan at St. Peter's! The queer thing it was he had taken it into his head to be wandering that way, an' all, having nothing else to do to pass the time, like! How I blessed the casual ways of the man, the marked absence of 'Systum' in his character, that led him to make such excursions! He squatted beside me on his heels, whilst I, fearing admonition from above, got to work with my cows, and saw the rest of the milking gang started.

Passionate disappointment swept across my mind when I learned that he had been several hours on the island before I saw him, and that it wanted now but ten minutes to five o'clock, the hour at which the punt made its last trip with visitors. And in almost the same moment joy shook and thrilled me as I realised the romantic hazard of our meeting at all, which was accentuated really by the narrowness of our margin of time. A matter of minutes and he would be gone. A matter of minutes and I should never have seen him at all. But that could not have been. I refused to contemplate a life at St. Peter's in which this inestimable amelioration (now nearly five minutes old) played no part. The hopeless emptiness of life at the Orphanage without a meeting with Ted was something altogether too harrowing to be dwelt upon. It could not have been borne.

'You'll be here first thing next visitors' Sunday, Ted--first thing?' I charged him, as he rose in response to the puntman's bell. 'I couldn't stand it if you didn't come, Ted.'

'Oh, I'll come, right enough, chum. But that's a month. Why, spare me days, surely I---'

'You'll have to go, Ted. That's his last ring. Sister Agatha's looking. Don't seem to take much notice o' me, Ted, or she might-- Oh, good-bye, Ted! Don't seem to be noticing. Good-bye, good-bye!'

My head was back in the cow's flank now, and very hot tears were running down my cheeks and into the milk-pail. My lip was cut under my front teeth, and--'Oh, Ted, first thing in the morning--don't forget the Sunday,' I implored, as he passed away, drawing one hand caressingly across my shoulder as he went.

In a hazy, golden dream I finished my milking, staggering and swaying up to the dairy under my two brimming pails, and turned to the remaining tasks of the evening, longing for bed-time and liberty to review my amazing good fortune in privacy; thirsting for it, as a tippler for his liquor. I dared not think about it at all before bed-time. In some recondite way it seemed that would have been indecent, an exposure of my new treasure to the vulgar gaze. Now, it was securely locked away inside me, absolutely hidden. And there it must remain until, lights being doused, I could draw it out under the friendly cover of my coarse bed-clothes (after visiting-day sheets had been removed) and voluptuously abandon myself to it. Meantime, I moved among my fellows as one having possession of a talisman which raised him far above the cares and preoccupations of the common herd. I even looked forward with pleasure to the next day, to Monday! I should have no breakfast. Sister Agatha would be on duty. I should be pestered, and probably robbed of dinner, too. But what of that? The coming of that cheerless and hungry Monday would carry me forward one whole day toward the next visitors' Sunday, and--Ted.

I had not begun yet to consider in any way the question of how seeing Ted could help me. Enough for me that I had seen him; that I had a friend; and that I should see him again. Indeed, even if I had had no hope of seeing him again, I still should have been thrilled through and through by the delicious kindliness, the romantic interest of the thought that, out there in the world beyond Myall Creek, I had a friend; a free and powerful man, moving about independently among the citizens of the great world, in which Sister Agatha was a mere nobody; in which all sorts of delightful things continually happened, in which task work was no more than one incident in a daily round compact of other interests, hazards, meetings, and--and of freedom.

It was extraordinary the manner in which ten minutes in the society of a man, who would have been adjudged by many most uninspiring, had transformed me. It seemed the mere sight of this simple bushman, in his 'bell-bottomed' Sunday trousers, had lifted me up from a slough of hopeless inertia to a plane upon which life was a master musician, and all my veins the strings from which he drew his magic melodies.


A week passed, and brought us to another Sunday. On this morning I stepped out of bed into the dimness of the dawn light, full of elation.

'It's only seven weeks now to next visitors' day. In seven weeks I shall see Ted again. Seven times seven days--why, it's nothing, really,' I told myself.

By this time I had devised a plan for helping Time on his way. It hardly commends itself to my mature judgment, but great satisfaction was derived from it at the time. It consisted merely of telling myself in so many words that a month comprised eight weeks. Thus, ostensibly, I had seven weeks to wait. But my secret self knew that the reality was incredibly better than that. Next Sunday, outwardly, I should have only six weeks to wait, the following Sunday only five. And then, a week later, with only a paltry four weeks to wait, my secret self would be thrilling with the knowledge that actually the day itself had come, and only an hour or so divided me from Ted. Childish, perhaps, but it comforted me greatly; and, to some extent, I have indulged the practice through life. With a mile to walk when tired, I have caught myself, even quite late in life, comforting myself with the absurd assurance that another 'couple of miles' would bring me to my destination! To the naturally sanguine temperament this particular folly would be impossible, though its antithesis is pretty frequently indulged in, I fancy.

And so it was while going about my various duties, nursing the pretence that in seven more weeks I should see my friend again, that I came face to face with the man himself; then, after no more than one little week of waiting, and when no visitors at all were due. I gasped. Ted grinned cordially. Sister Mary was on duty. Ted showed her a note from Father O'Malley, and she nodded amiably. Thrice blessed goddess! Her fat, white face took on angelic qualities in my eyes. One little movement of her hooded head, and I was wafted from purgatory, not into heaven, but into a place which seemed to me more attractive, into the freedom of the outside world--Ted's world. Not that I was permitted to leave the island, but, until the time for evening milking, I was allowed to walk about the farm and talk at ease with Ted. By a further miracle of the goddess's complaisance I was permitted to ignore the Orphanage dinner that day, and intoxicate myself with Ted upon sandwiches and cakes and ginger-beer. That was a banquet, if you like!

It seemed that Father O'Malley was quite well disposed toward Ted, and had even allowed him to make a little contribution (which he could ill spare) to the Orphanage funds. With what seemed to me transcendent audacity Ted had actually tried to adopt me, to take me into his service, as neighbouring farmers took other orphans from St. Peter's. This had been firmly but quite pleasantly declined; but Ted had been given permission to come and see me whenever he liked, on Sundays--upon any Sunday. I could have hugged the man. His achievement seemed to me little short of miraculous. I figured Ted manipulating threads by which nations are governed. To be able to bend to one's will august administrators, people like Father O'Malley! Truly, the world outside St. Peter's was a wondrous place, and the life of its free citizens a thing most delectable.

We talked, but how we did talk, all through that sunny, windy Sunday! (A bright, dry westerly had been blowing for several days.) I gathered that Ted was in his customary condition of impecuniosity, and that, much against his inclination, it would be necessary for him to take a job somewhere before many days had passed; or else--and I saw, with a pang of desolate regret, that his own feeling favoured the alternative--to pack his swag and be off 'on the wallaby'; on the tramp, that is, putting in an occasional day's work, where this might offer, and sleeping in the bush. He was a born nomad. Even I had realised this. And he liked no other life so well as that of the 'traveller,' which, in Australia, does not mean either a bagman or a tourist, but rather one who strolls through life carrying all his belongings on his back, working but very occasionally, and camping in a fresh spot every night.

It required no great penetration upon Ted's part to see that I was weary of St. Peter's. (My first day at the Orphanage had brought me to that stage.)

'Look here, mate,' he said, late in the afternoon. 'I've got pretty near thirty bob left, and a real good swag. Why not come with me, an' we'll swag it outer this into Queensland?'

I drew a quick breath. It was an attractive offer for a boy in my position. But even then there was more of prudence and foresight in me, or possibly less of reckless courage and less of the born nomad, than Ted had.

'But how could I get away?'

'You can swim,' said Ted. 'I'd be waiting for ye at the wharf. We'd be outer reach by daybreak.'

'And then, Ted, how should we live?' My superior prudence questioned him. I take it the difference in our upbringing and tradition spoke here.

'Live! why, how does any one live on the wallaby? It's never hard to get a day's work, if ye want a few bob. Up in the station country they never refuse a man rations, anyway; it's in the town the trouble is. I've never gone short, travelling.'

'I don't think I'd like begging for meals, Ted,' I said musingly. And in a moment I was wishing with all my heart I could withdraw the words. It seemed that, for the first time in all our acquaintance, I had hurt and offended this simple, good-hearted fellow.

'Beggin', is it?' he cried, very visibly ruffled. 'I'd be sorry to ask ye to, for it's what I've never done in me life, an' never would. Would ye call a man a beggar for takin' a ration or a bitter 'baccy from a station store? Why, doesn't every traveller do the same? An', for that matter, can't a man always put in a day's work, gettin' firewood or what not, if he's a mind to? Ye needn't fear Ted Reilly'll ever come to beggin'!'

In my eager anxiety to placate my only friend I almost accepted his offer. But not quite. Some little inherited difference held me back, perhaps. I wonder! At all events, the thing was dropped between us for the time; and, before he left, Ted promised he would tackle a bit of work a Myall Creek farmer had offered him--to clear a bush paddock of burrajong fern, which had poisoned some cattle. Thus, he would be able to come and see me again on the following Sunday. On that we parted; and, before I was half way through my milking, fear and regret oppressed me as with a physical nausea; fear that I might have lost my only friend, regret that I had not accepted his offer, and so won to freedom and the big world outside St. Peter's.

The night that followed was one of the most unhappy spent by me at St. Peter's. My prudence appeared to me the merest poltroonery, my remark about 'begging' the most finicking absurdity, my failure to accept Ted's offer the most reckless and offensive stupidity. Evidently I was unworthy of any better lot than I had. I should live and die an 'inmate' and a drudge. I deserved nothing else. In short, I was a very despicable lad, had probably lost the only friend I should ever have, and, certainly, I was very miserable.

Monday brought some softening (helped by the fact that Sister Mary was on duty at breakfast-time, so that I escaped the addition of punishment to hunger), and, as the week wore slowly by, hope rose in my breast once more, and with it a return of what I now regard as the common-sense prescience which made me hesitate to adopt a swagman's life. I could not honestly say that I had any definite ideas as to another and more reputable sort of occupation or career. As yet, I had not. But I did vaguely feel that there would be derogation in becoming what my father would have called a 'tramp.'

My father's memory, the question of what he would have thought of it, affected my attitude materially. He had accepted it as axiomatic, I thought, that his son must be a gentleman. My present lot as an 'inmate' of St. Peter's hardly seemed to fit the axiom, somehow; and Ted, whatever I might think or say about 'beggin'' or the like, was all the friend I had or seemed likely to have, and a really good fellow at that. But withal a certain stubbornly resistant quality in me asserted that there would be a downward step for me, though not for Ted, or for any of my fellow orphans, in taking to the road; that the step might prove irrevocable, and that I ought not to take it. I dare say there was something of the snob in me. Anyhow, that was how I felt about it. Also, I remember deriving a certain comically stern sort of satisfaction from contemplation of the spectacle of myself, alone, unaided, declining to stoop, even though stooping should bring me freedom from the Orphanage! Yes, there was a certain egotistical satisfaction in that thought.

Ted came to see me again on the next Sunday, but our day was far less cheery than its predecessor had been. We were good friends still, but there was a subtle constraint between us, as was proved by the fact that Ted did not again mention the suggestion of my taking to the road with him. Also, Ted was for the moment a wage-earner, working during fixed and regular hours for an employer; and I knew he hated that. In such case he felt as one of the mountain-bred brumbies (wild horses) of that countryside might be supposed to feel, when caught, branded, and forced between shafts.

On the following Sunday Ted's downcast constraint was much more pronounced, and I saw plainly that my Sabbath visitor was on the eve of a breakaway. The name of the farmer for whom he had been working was Mannasseh Ford, and, having such a name, the man was always spoken of in just that way.

'I pretty near bruk my back finishing Mannasseh Ford's paddick last night,' explained Ted moodily. 'There was three days' fair work left in it when I got there in the morning. But I meant gettin' shut of it, an' I did. Mannasseh Ford opened his eyes pretty wide when I called up for me money las' night, an' he looked over the paddick. Wanted to take me on regler, he did; pounder week an' all found, he said. I thanked him kindly, him an' his pounder week! Well, he said he'd make it twenty-five shillin', an' I thanked him for that.'

Thanks clearly meant refusal with Ted, and I confess he rose higher in my esteem somehow, for the fact that he could actually refuse what to me seemed like wealth. I recalled the fact that my father had paid Ted exactly half this amount, and had found him quite willing to stay with us for half that again, or even for occasional tobacco money. Perhaps there was a mercenary vein in me at the time. I think it likely. The talk of my fellow orphans was largely of wages, and materialism dominated the atmosphere in which I lived. I know this refusal of twenty-five shillings a week and 'all found' struck me as tolerably reckless; splendid, in a way, but somewhat foolhardy, and I hinted as much to Ted.

'Och, bother him an' his twenty-five shillin'!' said Ted. 'Just because I cleared his old paddick, he thinks I'm a workin' bullick. He offered me thirty shillin' after, if ye come to that; an' I told him he hadn't money enough in the bank to keep me. Neither has he.'

'But, Ted,' I urged, 'why not? It's good money, and you've got to work somewhere.'

'Aye,' said Ted, his constraint lifting for a moment to admit the right vagabondish twinkle into his blue eyes. 'Somewhere! An' sometimes. But not there, mate, an' not all the time, thank ye; not me. It's all right for Mannasseh Ford; but, spare me days, I'd sooner be in me grave.'

I pondered this for a time, while a voice within me kept on repeating with sickening certainty: 'He's going away; he's going away. You've lost your friend; you've lost your friend.' And then, as one thrusts a foot into cold water before taking a plunge: 'Well, then, what shall you do, Ted?' I asked him. But, for the moment, I was not to have the plunge.

'Oh, if ye come to that,' he said, weakly smiling, 'I've money in hand, an' to spare. Look at the wealth o' me.' And he drew out for my edification a little bundle of greasy one-pound notes, which, for me, certainly had a very substantial look. I knew instinctively that my friend wanted me to help him out by pursuing the inquiry; but for the time I shirked it, and we talked of other things. Later in the day I returned to it, as a moth to a candle, undeterred, partly impelled thereto, in fact, by the assured foreknowledge that the process would hurt.

'But what will you do, Ted, now you've given up Mannasseh Ford? Will you take another job round the Creek here, or----'

I paused, scanning my only friend's face, and seeing my loss of him writ plainly in his downcast eyes and half-shamed expression. (I am not sure but what there may have been more of the human boy, the child, in Ted, than in myself.)

'Oh, well, mate,' he said haltingly, and then stopped altogether. He was drawing an intricate pattern in the dust with the blade of his pen-knife, a favourite pastime with bushmen. The pause was pregnant. At last he looked up with a toss of his head. 'Oh, come on, mate,' he said impatiently. 'Swim across to-night, an' we'll beat up Queensland way. I tell ye, travellin' 's fine. Ye've got no boss to say do this an' that. You goes y'r own way at y'r own gait. Ye'd better come.'

'So you'll go, Ted. I knew you would,' I said, musing in my rather old-fashioned way. It seems a smallish matter enough now; but I know that at the time I was conscious of making a momentous sacrifice, of taking a step of epoch-making significance. Somehow, the very greatness of the sacrifice made me the more determined about it. I should lose my only friend, a devastating loss; and the more clearly I realised how naked this loss would leave me, the more convinced I felt that my decision was right. There is, of course, a kind of gluttony in self-denial; one's appetite for sacrifice, and particularly in youth, may be undeniably avid.

'Well, I did try to stop,' he muttered, almost sullenly for him. And then, with that toss of his head, and the glimmering of a frank smile: 'But I can't stick it. Humpin' a swag's about all I'm fit for, I reckon. You're right, too, it's no game for your father's son.' And here his kindly face lost all trace of anything but friendliness. 'Only, what beats me is what in the world else can ye do, mewed up in this--this blessed work'us. That's what has me beat.'

The crisis was passed, and with it the last of Ted's shamefaced constraint. It was admitted between us that he must be off again to his wandering, and that I must stay behind. And now Ted had no thought for anything but my welfare. There was no more awkwardness between us, but only the warmth of this good fellow's real affection, and the almost agreeable melancholy and self-righteous consciousness of wise denial which possessed me. Ted fumbled under his coat with a packet of some food he had brought me: 'Spare me days, the cats might give a lad a bit o' bread to his breakfast--drat 'em!'--and, finally pressed it into my hands, with injunctions to be careful in opening it, as he had put a scrap of writing in with it, for me to remember him by.

And so we parted, with no shadow on our friendship, on the track down to the punt.

But though my friend was gone, after these three Sunday visits, and I was alone again, the influence of his coming remained. I should not revert to the unhoping inertia of my previous state. Some instinct told me that. And the instinct was right. My curiosity had been too fully roused. My relationship to the world of people outside St. Peter's had been definitely re-established by the kindly, rather childlike, bushman, and would not again be allowed to lapse. The mere talk of swimming to the wharf, of cutting the painter, of walking forth into the real world which was not ruled by a Sister-in-charge--all this had wrought a permanent change in me.

The 'scrap of writin'' fumblingly inserted into the packet of cakes was no writing of Ted's, but a crumpled, greasy one-pound Bank of New South Wales note; one of his little store, useless to me at St. Peter's--yes; but, even as my eyes pricked to the emotion of gratitude, some inner consciousness told me my friend's gift would yet prove of very real use to me outside the Orphanage, one day. And, before Ted came, I had been unable to descry any future outside the Orphanage.


I do not remember the exact period that elapsed between Ted's departure and the visit of the artist, Mr. Rawlence. But it must have been early winter when Ted was at Myall Creek, because my fifteenth birthday fell at about that time; and it was spring when Mr. Rawlence came, for I know the wattle was in bloom then. Very likely it was in August or September, three or four months after Ted's departure. At all events my mind was still much occupied by thoughts of the outside world and of my future.

Some one had told me that a Sydney artist, a Mr. Rawlence, had permission to land on the island, as he wished to sketch there. But he had not been much about the house or the yards, and I had not seen him. And then, one late afternoon, when I had arrived at the milking-yards a few minutes before the others of the milking gang, I stood with two pails in my right hand, leaning over the slip-rails at the very spot upon which I had caught my first glimpse of Ted at St. Peter's. I was thinking of that Sunday when I had recognised his broad shoulders, and recalling the thrill that recognition had brought me.

The romantic hazardousness of life had for some considerable time now made its appeal felt by me. It seemed infinitely curious and interesting to me that I and my father ever should have known Ted intimately, as one who shared our curious life on the Livorno; Ted who was born and bred there in Werrina; we who came there across thousands of miles of ocean from the world's far side, from Putney, from places whose names Ted had never heard. And then that I should have walked down to that milking-yard with my pails, and, so to say, stumbled upon Ted, after his long wanderings in Queensland, where at this moment he was probably wandering again, hundreds of miles away and, possibly, thinking of me, of that same milking-yard, of these identical slip-rails and splintery grey fence. A wonderful and mysterious business, this life in the great world, I thought; and with that I threw up my left hand to lift the rails down.

'Oh, hold on! Don't move! Stay as you were a minute!'

I jumped half out of my skin as these words, apparently spoken in my very ear, reached me; and, wheeling abruptly round, I saw a man wearing a very large grey felt hat, and holding pencils and a paper block in his hands, peering at me from a little wooded hummock at the end of the cowshed. The skin about his eyes was all puckered up, he held a pencil cross-wise between his white teeth, and was shaking his head from side to side as though very much put about over something.

'What a pity! It's gone now,' he said, as he strode down the slope towards me.

He clearly was disappointed about something; but yet I thought that never since the days when my father was with me had I heard any one speak more pleasantly, or seen any one smile in kindlier fashion. Later, I realised that no one I had met since my father's death possessed anything resembling the sort of manner, address, intonation, or mental attitude of this Mr. Rawlence. I had no theories then about social divisions, and the like; but here, I thought, was a man who would find nobody in the district having anything in common with himself. By the same token, I thought, had my father been alive this newcomer would have recognised a possible companion in him. And, finally, as Mr. Rawlence came to a standstill before me, this absurd reflection flitted through my mind:

'If he only knew it, there's me! But he will never know--how could he?'

The absurd vanity and audacity of the thought made me blush like a bashful schoolgirl. The ridiculous pretentiousness of the thought that in me, the 'inmate' of St. Peter's, this splendid person could find a companion, impressed me now so painfully that I felt it must be plainly visible; that the visitor must see and be scornfully amused by it. Yet, with really extraordinary cordiality, he was holding out his right hand in salutation. Here again my awkwardness made me bungle. What he meant by his gesture I could not think. Some amusing trick, perhaps. It did not occur to me in that moment of self-abasement that he wished to shake an 'inmate's' hand.

'Won't you shake?' he asked, with that smile of his--so unlike any expression one saw on folks' faces at St. Peter's.

'I beg your pardon,' I faltered, and gave him a limp hand, reviling myself inwardly for conduct which I felt would utterly and for ever condemn me in this gentleman's eyes. 'Of course,' I told myself, 'he'll be thinking: "What can one expect from these unfortunate inmates--friendless orphans, living on charity?"' As a fact, I suppose no man's demeanour could have been less suggestive of any such uncharitable thought.

'I suspect you thought it like my cheek, yelling at you like that. The fact is, I had just begun to sketch you. See!'

He showed me his sketch-block, upon which I saw in outline the figure of a boy carrying pails and leaning over a fence. What chiefly caught my eye in this was the reproduction of my absurd trousers, one torn leg reaching midway down the calf, the other in jagged scallops about my knee. He might have idealised my rags a little, I thought, in my ignorance. No doubt I had been better pleased if Mr. Rawlence had endowed me in the sketch with the dress of, say, a smart clerk. And, apart from the artistic aspect, the man who would sniff at this as evidence of contemptible snobbishness in me, would take a more lenient view, perhaps, if he had ever spent a year or two in an orphanage like St. Peter's.

'It has the makings of quite a good little character study, I fancy. Later on, when you're free--perhaps, to-morrow--I'll get you to give me half an hour, if you will, to make a real sketch of it.'

It was in my mind that if only I could make a remark of the right kind I might immediately differentiate myself in this artist's eyes from the general run of 'inmates.' This again may have been an unworthy and snobbish thought, but I know it was mine at the time, based in my mind upon the unvoiced but profound conviction that I was different in essence from the other orphans. This was not mere conceit, I think, because it emanated rather from pride in my father than from any exalted opinion of myself. But, whatever the rights of it, no suitable remark came to me. Indeed, beyond an incoherent mumble over the hand-shaking, I might have been a mute for all the part I had so far taken in this interview. And just then I caught a glimpse of Sister Agatha emerging from behind the wood-stack at the end of the vegetable garden, and that gave me something else to think about.

'Excuse me!' I said, angrily conscious that I was flushing again and that all my limbs were in my way, and that I was presenting a most uncouth appearance. 'I must get on with the milking.' And then I made my plunge. 'Perhaps you would speak to Sister-in-charge. Not this one here, but Sister-in-charge,' I hurriedly added as Sister Agatha drew nearer, her thin lips tightly compressed, her gimlet eyes full of promise of ear-tweakings. 'She would perhaps give me leave to--to do anything you wanted. I--I am sure she would. Good-bye!'

Having hurriedly fired this last shot, I bolted into the milking-shed. Just for an instant I had succeeded in meeting Mr. Rawlence's eye. I had very much wanted to show him something, as, for example, that I would gladly do anything he liked, even to the extent of allowing him to trample all over me--if only I had been a free agent. In some way I had longed to claim kinship with him, in a humble fashion; to say that I understood him and his kind, despite my ragged trousers and scarred, dusty bare feet. Now, with a pail between my knees, and my head in a cow's flank, I was very sure I had utterly failed to convey anything, except that I was an uncouth creature. My eyes smarted from mortification; and the grotesque thought crossed my mind that if only I had had a photograph of my father, and could have shown it to Mr. Rawlence, the position would have been quite different! I suppose I must have been a rather fatuous youth. Also, I was obsessed to the point of mania by the determination not to become a veritable 'inmate' of St. Peter's, like my fellows there, however long I might be condemned to live in the place.

During the next three days I was greatly depressed by the fact that I never caught a glimpse of the artist anywhere. In fact, it was said that he had gone away from Myall Creek altogether. And then, greatly to my secret joy, the Sister-in-charge sent for me one morning and said:

'There is an artist gentleman coming here, Mr. Rawlence. You are to do whatever he tells you, and carry his things for him while he is here. Be careful now. I have word from Father O'Malley about this. Be sure you don't neglect your milking. You can tell the gentleman when you have to go to that. You can do some wood-chopping after tea, if he should want you in your chopping time. Run along now, and go over in the punt with Tim when he goes to meet the gentleman.'

It would seem the good-will of the Great Powers had once more been invoked in connection with me; and I learned afterwards that Mr. Rawlence had not left the district, but had been staying in Werrina for a few days. While there, no doubt, he had met Father O'Malley, and very casually, I dare say, had mentioned his fancy for sketching me. At the time these trivial events stirred me deeply. That Father O'Malley should have been approached seemed to me a fact of high portent. If only I had had a portrait of my father!

As Destiny ruled it, Mr. Rawlence spent but the one day at St. Peter's, in place of the enthralling vista of days, each of more romantic interest than its predecessor, of which I had dreamed. He had news demanding his return to Sydney; and, as he said, he ought not to have come out to St. Peter's even for this one day. But he wanted to complete his sketch. So that, in a sense, he really came to see me again. This radiant being's swift and important movements in the great world outside the Orphanage were directly influenced by me. It was a stirring thought, and went some way toward compensating me for the shattered vista of many days spent in leisurely attendance upon the man belonging to my father's order. It was thus I thought of him.

I cannot of course recall every word spoken and every little event of that momentous day, and it would serve no useful purpose if I could. It was important for me, less by reason of anything remarkable in itself, than by virtue of what was going on in my own mind while I posed for Mr. Rawlence (possibly in more senses than one) and subsequently carried his paraphernalia for him, showed him his way about the island, and generally attended upon him. I had hoped that he would question me about my life before coming to St. Peter's, and he did. By this time I was at my ease with him, and I think I told my brief story intelligently. In any case, I interested him; so much I saw clearly and with satisfaction. I noted, too, that he was impressed by the name of the London newspaper with which my father had been connected before his determination to seek peace in the wilds.

'H'm!' 'Ah!' 'Strange!' 'A recluse indeed!' 'And you think he had never seen this--St. Peter's, that is, when he wrote the letter arranging for you to come here? Well, to be sure, there was little choice, of course, little choice enough, and in such a lonely, isolated place.'

I remember these among his exclamations and comments upon my story. And then he asked me what ideas I had about my future, and I told him, none. I also told him of Ted's visit and of his offer to me, and my refusal of it.

'Yes,' he said, 'that was wise of you, I think; that certainly was best. In some countries now, in the Old World, one might advise you to stick to the country. But here-- Well, you know, there must be some real reason for the rapid growth of the Australian capital cities, and the comparative stagnation of the countryside. The more cultured people won't leave the capitals, and that affects country life. Yes, but why won't they leave the cities? They do in the Old World, for I've met 'em in the villages and country towns there. But why is it?'

Mr. Rawlence could hardly have expected an answer from me; but part of his charm was that he made it seem, while he talked and I listened, that we were jointly discussing the subject of his monologue, and that he was much interested by my views. He had that air; his smile and his manner made one feel that.

'Well, you know,' he continued, 'it must be partly the crude material difficulties which the actual and physical conditions of country life here present to educated people, and partly the fact that our country in Australia has got no traditions, no associations, no atmosphere. It is just a negation, a wilderness; not a rural civilisation, but a mere gap in civilisation. Pioneering is picturesque enough--in fiction. In fact, it permits of no leisure and no idealisation; and without those things----'

Mr. Rawlence paused with outstretched hands, shrugging shoulders, and the smile of one who should say--'You understand, of course.' My modest contribution was in three words, delivered with emphatic gestures of acquiescence--'That's just it.'

'Exactly,' resumed the artist. 'Without leisure, without time for anything outside the material things of life, where is your culture? Where is art? Where is romance? Where, in short, is civilisation? And so, as I say, I cannot advise you to stick to the country here. No, one really can't conscientiously advise that, you know.'

A listener might fairly have supposed that I was a young gentleman of means who had sought advice as to the desirability of investing capital in rural New South Wales, and taking up, say, the pastoral life, in preference to a professional career in Sydney. I pinched my knees exultingly; perhaps to demonstrate to myself the fact that all this was no dream. It was I, the orphan, who was carrying on this thrilling conversation with an accomplished man of the world, a distinguished artist. I felt that Mr. Rawlence must clearly be a distinguished artist.

'And so what--what would you advise me to do?' I asked when a pause came. And, immediately, I reproached myself, feeling that I had broken a delightful spell, and risked abruptly ending the most interesting conversation in which I ever took part. The words of my question had so crude a sound. They dragged our talk down to a lower plane, to a plane merely utilitarian, almost squalid by comparison with the roseate heights we had been easily skimming. That was how the sound of my own poor words struck me; but my companion was not so easily dashed. My crudity could not fret his accomplished savoir-faire. (Mr. Rawlence impressed me as the most finished man of the world I had ever met, with the single exception of my father; and, indeed, the Sydney artist did shine brightly beside the sort of people I had lived among of late.)

'Well,' he said, with smiling thoughtfulness, 'I would advise you, when--when the time comes, to make your way to Sydney, and to--to work up a place for yourself there. Of course, there is your native country--England. Who knows? Some day, perhaps-- But, meantime, I think Sydney offers better chances than any other place in this country. Yes, I think so. Have you any special leanings? Is there any particular work that you are specially keen on?'

Like a flash the thought passed through my mind: 'What a miserable creature I must be! There's nothing I particularly want to do. If he finds that out, there's an end to any interest in me, of course. Why haven't I thought of this before? What can I say?' And in the same moment, without appreciable pause, I was startled, but agreeably startled, to hear my own voice saying in quite an intelligent way: 'Well, my father wrote, of course; his work was literary work, and--newspapers, you know.'

I can answer for it that I had never till that moment given a single thought to any such notion as a literary career for myself. As well think of a prime minister's career, I should have thought. But, as I well remember, my very accent, intonation, and choice of words had all insensibly changed to fit, as I thought, the taste and habit of my new friend. And I felt it would be an extravagant folly to talk to him as I had talked with Ted, or as I talked with fellow orphans at St. Peter's, of 'pound-er-week-an'-all-found' jobs, or the 'good money' there was 'in carting,' or the fine careers that offered in connection with the construction of new railways. I had often been told you could not beat the job of cooking for a shearers' or a navvies' camp; and that a wideawake boy could earn 'good money' while learning it, as a rouseabout assistant. It seemed to me that there would have been something too absurdly incongruous in attempting to talk of such things to Mr. Rawlence. Hence, perhaps, my audacious suggestion of the literary career. There I might secure his interest. And, sure enough, I did.

'Ah! to be sure, to be sure,' he said, nodding encouragingly. 'Well, with that in view, Sydney is practically the only place, you know. Mind you, I don't say it's easy, or that one could hope to make headway quickly; but gradually, gradually, a fellow could feel his way there, if anywhere in the colony. It is undoubtedly our centre of art and literature, and culture generally. At first you might have to do quite different sort of work; but, while doing it, you know, you could be always on the lookout, always feeling your way to better things. Sydney is, at all events, a capital city, you see. There is society in Sydney, in a metropolitan sense. There is culture. One is continually meeting interesting people who are doing interesting things. It's not Paris or London, you know, but----'

He had a trick of using a radiant smile in place of articulation, by way of finishing a sentence; and I found it more eloquent than any words, and, to me, more subtly flattering. It said so clearly, and more tactfully than words: 'But you follow me, I see; I know you understand me.' And I felt with rare delight that I could and did follow this fascinating man, and understand all his airy allusions to things as far beyond the purview of my present life and prospect as the heavens are beyond the earth, or as Mr. Rawlence was above an 'inmate' of St. Peter's. To a twentieth-century English artist, Mr. Rawlence might have seemed a shade crude, possibly rather pompous and affected, somewhat jejune and trite, perhaps. But our talk took place in the 'seventies of last century, in New South Wales. The Board School was a new invention in England, and in Australia there was quite a lot of bushranging still to come, and the arrival of transported convicts had but recently ceased.

I have not attempted to set down anything like the whole of the talk between the artist and myself; rather, to indicate its quality. Much of it, I dare say, was trivial, and all of it would appear so in written form. Its effect upon me was altogether out of proportion to its real significance, no doubt. It was all new talk to me, but I admit it is not easy now to understand its profoundly stirring and inspiring influence. A casual phrase or two, for example, affected my thoughts for long months afterwards. Mr. Rawlence said:

'There's an accomplishment coming into general use now that might help you enormously: phonography, shorthand-writing, you know. I am told it will mean a revolution in ordinary clerical work, and newspaper work already rests largely on it. The man who can write a hundred words a minute--I think that's about what they manage with it--will command a good post in any office, or on any newspaper, I should think. I should certainly learn shorthand, if I were you. Perhaps you could get them to introduce it here.'

I thought of Sister Agatha, and pictured myself suggesting to her the introduction of shorthand into our curriculum in the Orphanage school. And at the same moment I recalled the occasions, only yesterday, upon which I had had to 'hold out' my hand to this bitterly enthusiastic wielder of the cane. My palms had purple weals on them at that moment, tough though they were from outdoor work. I clenched my hands involuntarily, and was thankful the artist could not see their palms. That would have been a horrid humiliation; the very thought of it made me flush. No, this shorthand would hardly be introduced at St. Peter's; but I would learn it, I thought, all the same; and in due course I did, to find (again in due course) that even the acquisition of this mystery hardly represented quite the infallible key to fame and fortune that Mr. Rawlence thought it in the 'seventies.

But my attitude toward this sufficiently casual suggestion was typical of the immensely stirring and impressive influence which all the artist's talk of that day had upon me. It was undoubtedly most kindly of him to show all the interest he did in one from whom he could not by any stretch of the imagination be said to have anything to gain. We were quite old friends, he said, in his amiable way, by the time evening approached, and we began to pack up his paraphernalia. My crowning triumph came when, in leaving, he gave me his card, and wrote my full name down in his dainty little pocket-book.

'When you do get to Sydney you must come and look me up without fail. My studio is at the address on the card, and I'm generally to be found there. Mind, I shall expect a call as soon as you arrive, and we will talk things over. I'm certain you'll reach Sydney, by and by. Like London, at home, you know, it's the magnet for all the ambitious here. Good-bye, and best of good luck!'

'Mr. Charles Frederick Rawlence, Filson's House, Macquarie Street, Sydney,' was what I read on the card. And then, in very small type in one corner, 'Studio, 3rd Floor.'

I think it had been the most vividly exciting day in my life up till then; and, though still an orphan, and officially an 'inmate,' I walked among the clouds that night; a giant among dwarfs and slaves by my way of it. Youth--aye, the immemorial magic of it was alive in my blood on this spring night, if you like; and not all the Sister Agathas in all the hierarchy of Rome had power to dull the wonder of it!


'If it's to be done at all, why not now? There's nothing to be gained by waiting. I'm only wasting time.'

Phrases of this sort formed the burden of all my thoughts for a number of weeks after my memorable 'day out' (as the servants say) with the Sydney artist. I no longer debated with myself at all the question as to whether or not I should leave the Orphanage. It would have seemed treachery to my new self, and in a way to Mr. Rawlence (my source of inspiration) to debate the point. It was quite certain then that I should take my fate into my own hands, leave St. Peter's, and make an attempt to win my way in the world alone.

Having no belongings, no friends to consult, no possessions of any sort or kind (save Ted's one-pound note, and a neatly bound manuscript volume of bush botany, which latter treasure had been in my pocket on the day of my father's death, and so had remained mine), there really were no preparations for me to make. And so, as I said to myself a score of times a day: 'There's nothing to be gained by waiting.' Still, I waited, some underlying vein of prudence in me, or of cowardice, offering no reason--no reason against the move, no objection, but just negation, the inertia of that which is still. But, yes, I was most certainly going, and soon. That was my last waking thought every night when I dug my head into my straw pillow, and my first waking thought when I swung my feet down to the floor. I was going out into the world to make my own way.

I was too closely engaged by the material aspect of my position to spare thoughts for its abstract quality. But, looking back from the cool greyness of later life, one sees a wistful pathos, and, too, a certain stirring fineness in the situation. And if that is so, how infinitely the pathos and the fineness are enhanced by this thought: Every day in the year, in every country in the world, some lad, somewhere, is gazing out toward life's horizon, just as I was, and telling himself, even as I did, that he must start out upon his individual journey; for him the most important of all the voyages ever undertaken since Adam and Eve set forth from their garden. I suppose it is rarely that a long distance train enters a London terminal but what one such lad steps forth from it, bent upon conquest, and, in how many cases, bound for defeat! Even of Sydney the same thing was and is true, on a numerically smaller scale.

In all lands and in all times the outsetting is essentially the same: the same high hopes and brave determinations; the same profound conviction of uniqueness; the same perfectly true and justifiable inner knowledge that, for the individual, this journey is the most important in all history. In many cases, of course, there are a mother's tears, a father's blessing, and suchlike substitutes for the stirrup-cup. And, withal, in every single case, how absolutely alone the young voyager really is, and must be! For our scientists have not as yet discovered any means of precipitating the experience gleaned in one generation (or a thousand) into the hearts and minds of another generation. Circumstances differ vastly, of course; but the central facts are the same in every case; the traveller must always be alone. The adventure upon which he sets out, be he prince or pauper, university graduate or 'inmate' of St. Peter's, is one which cannot be delegated by him, or taken from him, for it is his own life; his and his alone, to make or to mar, to perfect or to botch, to cherish or to waste, to convert into a fruitful garden, or to relinquish, when his time comes, a sour and derelict plot of barrenness.

And this tremendous undertaking, with all its infinite potentialities of good and evil, joy and agony, pride and despair, is in every country approached by somebody, by some one of our own kind, every single morning, and has been down through the ages since time began, and will be while time lasts. And there are folk who call modern life prosaic, dull, devoid of romance. Romance! Why, in the older lands there is hardly a foot of road space that has not been trodden at one time or another by youth or maid, in the crucial moment of setting out upon this amazing adventure. There are men and women who drum their fingers on a window-pane after breakfast of a morning, and yawn out their disgust at the empty dullness of life, the vacant boredom of another day. And within a mile of them, as like as not, some one is setting forth--lips compressed, brow knit--upon the great adventure. And, too, some one else is face to face with the other great adventure--the laying down of life. Somewhere close to us every single morning brings one or other, or both of these two incomparably romantic happenings.

Truly, to confess ennui, or make complaint of the dullness of life, is to confess to a sort of creeping paralysis of the mind. To be weary is comprehensible enough. Yes, God knows I can understand the existence of weariness or exhaustion. To be bored even is natural enough, if one is bored by, say, forced inaction, or obligatory action of a futile, meaningless kind. But negative boredom; to be uninterested, not because adverse circumstances confine you to this or that barren and uncongenial milieu, but because you see nothing of interest in life as a whole; because life seems to you a dull, empty, or prosaic business--that argues a kind of blindness, a poverty of imagination, which amounts to disease, and, surely, to disease of a most humiliating sort.

But this is digression of a sort I have not hitherto permitted myself in this record. To be precise, I should say, it is digression of a sort which up till now has, when detected, been religiously expunged--sent to feed my fire. Well, one has always pencils; the fire is generally at hand; we shall see. After all, a great deal of one's life is made up of digressions.


In the summer-time there were sharks in Myall Creek, but I had never seen them there in the spring. It was, I think, still somewhere short of midnight when I stepped quietly out of the low window of the room I shared with seven other orphans. (The house was all of one storey.) I would have taken boots, but, excepting on visitors' Sundays, these were kept in a locked cupboard in the sisters' building. My outfit consisted of a comparatively whole pair of trousers--not those immortalised in Mr. Rawlence's sketch--a strong, short-sleeved shirt of hard, grey woollen stuff, a dilapidated waistcoat, a belt, my little book of bush flowers and trees, and my one-pound note. Oh, and an ancient grey felt hat with a large hole in the crown of it. That was all; but I dare say notable careers have been started upon less; in cash, if not in clothing.

Beside the punt I hesitated for a few moments, half inclined to cross by that obvious means, and leave Tim to do the swimming by daylight. Finally, however, I slipped off my clothes, tied them in a bundle on my head, and stepped silently into the water, closely and interestedly observed by one of the Orphanage watch-dogs, chained beside the landing-stage. If he had barked, it would have been only from desire to come with me, in which case, to save trouble, I should probably have become guilty of dog-stealing. The dogs were all good friends of mine.

The water was cold that spring night, but I was soon out of it, and using my shirt for a hard rub down in the scrub beside the creek wharf. As a precaution I had waited for a moonless night, and had made my exit with no more noise than was caused by one of the night birds or little beasts that visited our island. I had seen maps, and knew the compass bearings of the locality. My ultimate destination being Sydney, I turned to the southward, and stepped out briskly along the track leading towards Milton, and away from Werrina.

That was the simple fashion of my outsetting into the world, and for a time I gave literally no thought at all to its real significance. My recognition of it as the beginning of the great adventure of independent life was temporarily obscured by my preoccupation with its detail.

At the end of a silent hour or two, when I suppose half a dozen miles lay between myself and the Orphanage, the reflective faculties came into play again. I began to see my affair more clearly, and to see it whole, or pretty nearly so. From that point onward, I put in quite a good deal of steady thinking with regard to the future. I had two or three definite objects in view, and the first of these was to reach as quickly as possible some point not less than about fifty miles distant from Myall Creek, at which I could feel safe from any likely encounter with a chance traveller from that district.

So much accomplished my plans represented in effect a pedestrian journey to Sydney. But I recognised that the journey might occupy some time, since, in the course of it, I was to earn money and then learn shorthand; the money, by way of working capital and insurance against accidents; the shorthand, to furnish my stock-in-trade and passport in the metropolitan world. So mine was not to be exactly a holiday walking tour. Yet I do not think any one could have set out upon a holiday tour with more of zest than I brought to my tramping. My mood was not of gaiety, rather it was one attuned to high and almost solemn emprise; but, yes, I was full of zest in my walking.

An hour or so before daybreak I lay down on some dead fern at the foot of a huge and sombre red mahogany tree, where the track forked. It was partly that I wanted a rest, and partly that I was uncertain which track led to the township of Milton, where I purposed buying some food before any chance word of my flight from the Orphanage could have travelled so far. The authorities at the Orphanage were little likely to trouble themselves greatly over a runaway orphan; but I cherished a hazy idea that in my case the matter might be somehow a little different, in the same way that I had not been farmed out to any one in the district, possibly because in receiving me St. Peter's had also received some money, certainly more than could be represented by the cost of my maintenance. In any case, I did not want to take any unnecessary risks.

Two minutes after lying down I was asleep. When I waked the sun was clear of the horizon, and I was partly covered over by dead bracken. The dawn hours had been chilly, and evidently I had grappled the fern leaves to me in my sleep, as one tugs a blanket over one's shoulder, without waking, when cold. While I was chuckling to myself over this, and picking the twigs from my clothes, I heard the pistol-like crack of a bullock whip, and then, quite near at hand, the cries of a 'bullocky,' as they called the bullock-drivers thereabout, full of morning-time vehemence.

'Woa, Darkey! Gee, Roan! Baldy, gee! Nigger! Strawberry! Gee, now, Punch! I'll ----y well trim you in a minute, me gentleman. Gee, Baldy; ye ----y cow, you!'

It was thus the unseen bushman discoursed to his cattle, and in a minute or two the horns of his leaders, swaying slightly in their yoke, appeared at the bend of the track, the bolt-heads in the yoke shining like bosses of silver in the slanting rays of the new-risen sun. Clearly the wagon had been loaded overnight, for the huge tallow-wood log slung on it could hardly have been placed in its bed since sun-up.

'I'm your ----y man, if it's Milton you want,' said the driver good-humouredly, in response to my inquiries. 'I'm taking this stick into the Milton saw-mill. ----y solid stick, eh? My oath, yes; there's not enough pipe in that feller to stick a ----y needle in. No, he ought to measure up pretty well, I reckon.' A pause for expectoration, and then: 'Livin' in Milton?'

'No,' I told him, 'just travelling that way.' I flattered myself I had put just the right note of nonchalance into what I knew was a typically familiar sort of phrase. But the bullocky eyed me curiously, all the same, and I instantly made up my mind to part company with him at the earliest convenient moment.

'You travel ----y light, sonny,' he said; 'but I suppose that's the easiest ----y way, when all's said.'

'Yes,' I agreed, with fluent mendacity; 'I got tired of the swag, and I've not very far to go anyway.'

'Ah! Where might ye be makin' for, then?'

At this point I realised for the first time the grave disadvantages of redundance in speech, of unnecessary verbiage. There had been no earthly need for my last words, and now that my fatal fluency had found me out, for the life of me I could not think of the name of a likely place. At length, with clumsily affected carelessness, I had to say, 'Oh, just down south a bit from Milton.'

'H'm! Port Lawson way, like?' suggested the curious bullocky.

'Yes, that's it,' I said hurriedly. 'Port Lawson way.'

'Ah, well, I've got a brother works in the ----y saw-mills there. Ye'll maybe know him--Jim Gray; big, slab-sided chap he is, with his nose sorter twisted like, where a ----y brumby colt kicked him when he was a kid. ----y good thing for him it was a brumby, or unshod, anyway; he'd a' bin in Queer Street else, I'm thinkin'. Jever meet him down that way?'

I admitted that I never had, but promised to look out for him.

'Aye, ye might,' said the bullocky. 'An', if ye see him, tell him ye met me--Bill's my name--Bill Gray, ye see--an' tell him-- Oh, tell him I said to mind his ----y p's an' q's, ye know, an' be good to his ----y self.'

I readily promised that I would, and our conversation lapsed for a time, while Bill Gray filled his pipe, cutting the tobacco on the ball of his left thumb from a good-sized black plug. For the rest of our walk together, I used extreme circumspection, and was able to confine our desultory exchanges to such safe topics as the bullocks, the weather, the roads, and so forth, all favourite subjects with bushmen. And then, as we drew near the one street of the little township, there was the saw-mill, and my opportunity for bidding good-day to a too inquisitive companion.

'So long, sonny,' said he, in response to my salutation. 'Take care of your ----y self.' (His favourite adjective had long ceased to have any meaning whatever for this good fellow. He now used it even as some ladies use inverted commas, or other commas, in writing. And sometimes, when he had occasion to use a word as long as, say, 'impossible,' he would actually drag in the meaningless expletive as an interpolation between the first and second syllables of the longer word, as though he felt it a sinful waste of opportunities to allow so many good syllables to pass unburdened by a single enunciation of his master word.)


The freedom of the open road was infinitely delightful to me after the incessant task work of St. Peter's. And perhaps this, quite as much as the policy of getting well away from the Myall Creek district, was responsible for the fact that I held on my way, with never a pause for work of any sort, through a whole week. My lodging at night cost me nothing, of course; and the expenditure of something well under a shilling a day provided a far more generous dietary than that to which St. Peter's had accustomed me. I began to lay on flesh, and to feel strength growing in me.

Mere living, the maintenance of existence, has always been cheap and easy in Australia, where an entirely outdoor life involves no hardship at any season. This fact has no doubt played an important part in the development of the Australian national character. The Australian national character is the English national character of, say, seventy or eighty years ago, subjected to isolation from all foreign influences, and to general conditions much easier and milder than those of England; given unlimited breathing-space, and freed from all pressure of confined population; cut off also, to a very great extent, from the influence of tradition and ancient institutions. For the lover of our British stock and the student of racial problems, I always think that Australia and its people offer a field of unique interest.

I did not come upon Jim Gray, the slab-sided one, in Port Lawson, so was unable to bid him mind his ensanguined p's and q's. Indeed, up to this point, I sternly repressed my social instincts, and refrained, so far as might be, from entering into talk with any one. But after the third day I began to feel that my freedom was assured, and that the chances of meeting any one from the Orphanage neighbourhood were too remote to be worth considering. My tramping became then so much the more enjoyable, for the reason that I chatted with all and sundry who showed sociable inclinations, and at that time this included practically every wayfarer one met in rural Australia. (There has been no great change in this respect.)

'The curse o' this country, my sonny boy,' said one red-bearded traveller whom I met and walked with for some miles, 'is the near-enough system. It's a great country, all right; whips o' room, good land, good climate, an' all the like o' that; but, you mark my words, the curse of it is the "near-enough" system--that an' the booze, o' course; but mainly it's the "near-enough" system, from the nail in your trousers in place of a brace button to the saplin's tied wi' green-hide in place of a gate, an' the bloomin' agitator in parliament in place of a gentleman. It's "near-enough" that crabs us, every time. Look at me! I owned a big store in Kempsey one time. You wouldn't think it to look at me, would ye? Well, an' I didn't booze, either. But it was "near-enough" in the accounts, an' "near-enough" in the buyin', an' "near-enough" in the prices, an'--here I am, barely makin' wages--worse wages than I paid counter hands--cuttin' sleepers. But I get me tucker out of it, an' me bitter 'baccy, an' that; an'---well, it's "near-enough," an' so I stick at it.'

It was on a Sunday morning of delicious brightness and virginal freshness that I reached the irregularly spreading outskirts of Dursley, a pretty little town in Gloucester county, the appearance of which, as I approached it from the highest point of the long ridge upon whose lower slopes it lay, appealed to me most strongly. Though still small Dursley is an old town, for Australia. The figures against it in the gazetteers are not imposing: 'School of Arts, 1800 vols., etc.--' But, even in the late 'seventies, it possessed that sort of smoothness, that comparative trimness and humanised air of comfort, which only the lapse of years can give. Your new settlement cannot have this attraction, no matter how prosperous or well laid out; and it is a quality which must always appeal especially to the native of an old, much-handled land, such as England. A newcomer from old Gloucester might have thought Dursley raw and new-looking enough, with its galvanised iron roofs and water-tanks, and its painted wooden houses, fences, and verandah posts. But in such a matter my standards had become largely Australian, no doubt. At all events, as I skirted the orchard fence of the most outlying residence of Dursley, I remember saying to myself aloud, as my habit was since I had taken to the road:

'Now this Dursley is the sort of place I'd like to get a job in. I'd like to live here, till----'

'H'm! Outer the mouths o' babes and suckerlings! Tssp! Well, I admire your perspicashon, youngfellermelad, anyhow, an' you can say I said so.'

At the first sound of these words, apparently launched at me from out the Ewigkeit, I spun round on my bare heels in the loamy sand of the track, with a moving picture thought in my mind of little gnomes in pointed caps and leathern jerkins, with diminutive miner's picks in their hands, and a fancy for the occasional bestowal of magical gifts upon wandering mortals. The picture was gone in a second, of course; and I glared at the orchard fence as though that should make it transparent.

'Higher up, sonny! Think of your arboracious ancestors, an' that sorter thing.'

This time my ears gave me truer guidance as to the direction from which the voice came, and, looking up, I saw a man reclining at his ease upon a 'possum-skin rug, which was spread on a sort of platform set between the forked branches of a giant Australian cedar, fully thirty feet from the ground, and higher than the chimneys of the house near by. The man's head and face seemed to me as round and red as any apple, and what I could see of his figure suggested at least a comfortable tendency to stoutness. Whilst not at all the sort of person who would be described as an old man, or even elderly, the owner of the mysterious voice and round, red face had clearly passed that stage at which he would be spoken of by a stranger as a young man.

'He doesn't look a bit like a tree-climber,' I thought. The girth of the great cedar prevented my seeing the species of ladder-stairway which had been built against its far side. I had breakfasted as the sun rose this fine Sunday morning, and walked no more than a couple of miles since, so that the majority of Dursley's inhabitants had probably not begun to think of breakfast yet. My 'arboracious' gentleman, anyhow, was still in his pyjamas, the pattern and colouring of which were, for that period, quite remarkably daring and bright.

'Well, young peripatater, I suppose you're wondering now if I've got a tail, hey? No, sir, I am fundamentally innocent--virginacious, in fact. But, all the same, if you like to just go on peripatating till you get to my side gate, and then come straight along to this arboracious retreat, I will a tale unfold that may appeal greatly to your matutinatal fancy. So peri along, youngfellermelad, an' I'll come down to meet ye.'

'All right, sir, I'll come,' I told him. And those were the first words I spoke to him, though he seemed already to have said a good deal to me.

By this time I had become seized with the idea that here was what is called 'a character.' I had, as it were, caught on to the whimsical oddity of the man, and liked it. Indeed, he would have been a singularly dull dog who failed to recognise this man's quaint good-humour as something jolly and kindly and well-meaning. The gentleman spoke by the aid, not alone of his mouth, but of his small, bright, twinkling eyes, his twitching, almost hairless brows, his hands and shoulders, and his whole, rosy, clean-shaved, multitudinously lined, puckered, and dimpled face. And then his words; the extraordinary manner in which he twisted and juggled with the longer and less familiar of them--arboreal, peripatetic, matutinal, and the like! He had an entirely independent and original way of pronouncing very many words, and of converting certain phrases, such as 'young fellow my lad,' into a single word of many syllables. I never met any one who could so clearly convey hyphens (or dispense with them) by intonation.

Having passed through a small gateway, I skirted the side of a comfortable-looking house of the spreading, bungalow type, with wide verandahs; and so, by way of a shaded path, arrived at the foot of the big cedar, just as the rosy-faced gentleman reached the ground from his stairway.

'Well-timed, young peripatater,' he said, with a chuckling smile. I noticed as he reached the earth that he walked with a peculiar, rolling motion of the body. He certainly was stout. There were no angles about him anywhere, nothing but rotundity. Withal, and despite the curious, rotary gait, there was a suggestion of quickness and of well-balanced lightness about all his movements. His hands and feet I thought quite remarkably small. There was a short section of the bole of a large tree, with a flattened base, lying on the ground near the stairway. The gentleman subsided upon this airily, as though it had been made of eider-down, and, crossing his pyjamed legs, beamed upon me, where I stood before him.

'Peripatacious by habit, what might your name be, youngfellermelad?'

I told him, and he repeated it after me, twice, with a distinct licking of his lips, suggestive of the act of deliberate wine-tasting.

'Good. Yes. Ah! Nicholas Freydon, Nick to his friends, no doubt. Quite a mellifluant name. Nicholas Freydon. Tssp! Very good. You'd hardly think now that my name was George Perkins, would you? Don't seem exactly right, does it?--not Perkins. But that's what it is; and it's a significacious name, too, in Dursley, let me tell you. But that's because of the meaning I've given to it. But for that, it's certainly an unnatural sort of a name for me. Perkins is a name for a thin man, with a pointed nose, no chin, a wisp of hair over his forehead, and an apron. Starch, rice, tapioca: a farinatuous name, of course. But there it is; it happens to be the name of Dursley's Omnigerentual and Omniferacious Agent, you see; and that's me. Tssp! Wharejercomefrom, Nickperry, or Peripatacious Nick?'

The idea of using precautions with or attempting to deceive this rosily rotund 'character' seemed far-fetched and absurd. I not only told him I came from Myall Creek, but also named the Orphanage.

'Ah! I'm an orphantulatory one myself. You absquatulated, I presume; a levantular movement at midnight--ran away, hey?'

I admitted it, and Mr. Perkins nodded in a pleased way, as though discovering an accomplishment in me.

'That's what I did, too; not from an orphanage, but from the paternal roof and shop. My father was a pedestrialatory specialist, a shoemaker, in fact, and brought me up for that profession. But I gave up pedestriality, finding omniferaciousness more in my line. Matter of temperment, of course--inward, like that, with an awl, you know, or outward, like that'--he swung his fat arms wide--'as an omnigerentual man of affairs: an Agent. I'm naturally omnigerentual; my father was awlicular or gimletular--like a centre-bit, y'know. Tssp! So you like Dursley, hey? Little town takes your fancy as you see it from the ridge? Kinduv cuddlesome and umbradewus, isn't it? Yes, I felt that way myself when I came here looking for pedestrial work--repairs a speciality, y' know. Whatsorterjobjerwant?'

I found that Mr. Perkins usually wound up his remarks with a question which, irrespective of its length, was generally made to sound like one word. The habit affected me as the application of a spur affects a well-fed and not unwilling steed. I did not resent it, but it made me jump. On this occasion I explained to the best of my ability that I wanted whatever sort of job I could get, but preferably one that would permit of my doing a little work on my own account of an evening.

'Ha! Applicacious and industrial--bettermentatious ambitions, hey? Quite right. No good sticking to the awlicular if you've anything of the embraceshunist in you.' He embraced his own ample bosom with wide-flung arms, as a London cabman might on a frosty morning. 'Man is naturally multivorous--when he's not a vegetable. Howjerliketerworkferme?'

'Very much indeed,' said I, rising sharply to the spur.

'H'm! Tssp!' It is not easy to convey in writing any adequate idea of this 'Tssp' sound. It seemed to be produced by pressing the tongue against the front teeth, the jaws being closed and the lips parted, and then sharply closing the lips while withdrawing the tongue inward. I am enabled to furnish this minutiae by reason of the fact that I deliberately practised Mr. Perkins's favourite habit before a looking-glass, to see how it was done. This was on the day after our first meeting. The habit was subtly characteristic of the man, because it was so suggestive of gustatory enthusiasm. He was for ever savouring the taste of life and of words, especially of words.

'Well, as it happeneth, Nickperry, your desire for a job is curiously synchronacious with my need of a handy lad. My handy lad stopped being a lad yesterday morning, was married before dinner, and is now away connubialising--honeymoon. After which he goes into partnership with his father-in-law--greens an' fish. It's generally a mistake to make partnerial arrangements with relations, Nickperry--apt to bring about a combustuous staterthings. So I wanterandyladyersee.'

'Yes, sir.'

'My name is Mister Perkins, Nickperry, not "Sir."'

'Yes, Mr. Perkins.'

'That's better. I know you don't mean to be servileacious, but that English "sir" is--we don't like it in Australia, Nickperry. You are from the Old Country, aren't you?'

I admitted it, and marvelled how Mr. Perkins could have known it.

'H'm! Tssp! Fine ol' institootion the Old Country, but cert'nly a bit servileacious. D'jerknowhowtermilkercow?'

'I've been milking four, night and morning, for over two years, s'--Mister Perkins,' I answered, with some pride.

'Good for yez, Nickperry. Whataboutgardening?'

'I worked in the garden every day at the Orphanage, s'--Mister Perkins.'

Mr. Perkins smiled even more broadly than usual. 'It's "Mister" not "Smister" Perkins, Nickperry.'

I smiled, and felt the colour rise in my face. (How I used to curse that girlish blushing habit!)

'Tssp! Well, I see you can take a joke, anyway; an' that's even more important, really, than horticulturous knowledge. Tssp! There's my breakfast bell, an' I'm not dressed. Jus' come along this way, Nickperry.'

In the neatly paved yard at the back of the house stood a well-conditioned cow, of the colour of a new-husked horse chestnut. She was peacefully chewing her cud, oblivious quite to the flight of time. Mr. Perkins ambled swiftly into the house, rolling out again, as it seemed within the second, as though he had bounced against an inner wall, and handing me a milk-pail.

'Stool over there. Jus' milk the cow for me, Nickperry. Seeyagaindreckly!'

And he was gone, having floated within doors, like a huge ball of thistledown on well-oiled castors. Next moment I heard his mellow, rotund voice again, several rooms away.

'Sossidge! Sossidge! Whajerdoin'?' Then a pause. Then--'Keep brekfus' three minutes, Sossidge; I'm not dressed.'

With a mind somewhat confused, I turned to the red cow, and my first task for Mr. Perkins. Bella--I learned subsequently that the cow, when a young heifer, had been given this name by Mr. Perkins, because she distinguished herself by bellowing incessantly for a whole night--proved a singularly amiable beast. I was light-handed, and a fair milker, I believe. Still, my hands were strange to Bella; yet she gave down her milk most generously, and, though standing in the open, without bail or leg-rope, never stirred till the foaming pail was three parts full, and her udder dry. It was something of a revelation to me, for our cows at St. Peter's had been rough scrub cattle, and had been left to pick up their own living for the most part; whereas Bella was aldermanic, a monument of placid satiety.

I very carefully deposited the pail inside the scullery entrance, and withdrew then to a respectful distance, with Bella. Would this amazing Mr. Perkins engage me? There was no doubt in my mind that I hoped he would. I had seen practically nothing of the place, and my impressions of it must all have been produced by the personality of its owner, I suppose. But it did seem to me that this establishment possessed an atmosphere of cheery kindliness and jollity such as I had never before found about any residence. The contrast between this place and St. Peter's was extraordinarily striking. I wondered what Sister Agatha would have made of Mr. Perkins, or he of Sister Agatha. 'Acidulacious' was the word he would have applied to Sister Agatha, I thought, with a boy's readiness in mimicry; and I chuckled happily to myself in the thinking.


While I stood in the yard cogitating, a woman whose white-spotted blue dress was for the most part covered by a very white apron emerged from the scullery door, holding one hand over her eyes to shade them from the morning sun.

'Ha!' she said, in a managing tone; 'so you're the new lad, are you?' I smiled somewhat bashfully, this being a question I was not yet in a position to answer definitely. 'Well, you're to come into breakfast anyhow, and be sure and rub your boots on the-- Oh, you haven't any. Well, rub your feet, then. Come on! I must see to my fire.'

So I followed her through the scullery (a spacious and airy place) into the kitchen, having first carefully rubbed the dust off my horny soles on the door-mat. And then, with a boy's ready adaptability in the matter of meals, I gave a good account of myself behind a plate of bacon and eggs, with plentiful bread and butter and tea, though I had broken my fast in the bush an hour or two earlier by polishing off the sketchy remains of the previous night's supper, washed down by water from a bright creek.

Domestic capability was the quality most apparent in my breakfast companion. Her age, I should say, was nearer fifty than forty, but she was exceedingly well-preserved; and she was called, as she explained when we sat down, Mrs. Gabbitas. That in itself, I reflected, probably recommended her warmly to Mr. Perkins. (I guessed in advance that he might refer to the lady as the Gabbitacious one; and he did, more than once, in my hearing.)

'Nick Freydon's your name, I'm told. Oh, well, that's all right then.'

Mrs. Gabbitas always spoke, not alone as one having authority, but, and above all, as one who managed all affairs, things, and people within her reach, as indeed she did to a great extent. A most capable and managing woman was Mrs. Gabbitas. I adopted an air of marked deference towards her, I remember; in part from motives of policy, and partly too because her capability really impressed me. Before the bacon was finished we had become quite friendly. I had learned that my hostess had a full upper set of artificial teeth--quite a distinction in those days--and that on a certain occasion, I forget now at what exact period of her life, she had earned undying fame by being called upon by name, from the pulpit of her chapel, to rise in her place among the congregation and sing as a solo the anthem beginning: 'How beautiful upon the mountains!' I gathered now and later that this remarkable event formed in a sense the pivot upon which Mrs. Gabbitas's career turned. Having spent all her life in Australia, she had not been presented at Court; but, alone, unaccompanied, and from her place among the chapel congregation, she had, in answer to the minister's call, made one service historic by singing 'How beautiful upon the mountains!' It was a pious and pleasant memory, and I admit the story of it did add to her dignity in my eyes. Her false teeth, though admittedly a distinction at that period, did not precisely add to her dignity. They were somehow too mobile, too responsive in front to the forces of gravitation, for a talkative woman.

'Has he given you a name yet?' she asked, as we rose from the table, giving her head a jerk as she spoke in the direction of the little pantry, in which I gathered there was a revolving hatch communicating with the dining-room.

'Well, he called me "Nickperry,"' I said, 'or "Peripatacious Nick."'

'Ah! Yes, that sounds like one of his,' she said, apparently weighing the name and myself, not without approval. 'There's nothing nor nobody he hasn't got some name for. He don't miscall me to me face, for I'd allow no person to do such. But in speakin' to Missis, I've heard him refer to me with some such nonsensical words as "Gabbitular" and "Gabbitaceous," or some such rubbish, although no one wouldn't ever think such a thing of me--nobody but him, that is. But he means no harm, y'know. There's no more vice in the man than--than in Bella there.'

She pointed with a wooden spoon toward the open window, through which we could see the red cow, still contentedly chewing over the memories of her last meal.

'No, there's no harm in him, or you may be sure I wouldn't be here; but he's a great character, is Mr. Perkins; a regler case, he is, an' no mistake. Well, this won't get my kitchen cleaned up--and Sunday morning, too! You might take out that bucket of ashes for me. You'll find the heap where they go down in the little yard behind the stable. There now! That's what comes o' talkin'! If I didden forget to ask a blessin', an' you an orphan, too, I believe! F'what we've received. Lor', make us truly thangful cry-say-carmen--Off you go!'

Her eyes were screwed tightly shut while the words of the gabbled invocation passed her lips, and opened widely as, with its last mysterious syllables, she dropped the wooden spoon she had been holding and turned to her fire. The fire was always 'my' fire to worthy Mrs. Gabbitas. So was the kitchen, for that matter, the scullery, the pantry, and all the things that therein were. Indeed, she frequently spoke of 'my' dining-room table, bedrooms, silver, front hall, windows, and the like. Even the meals served to Mr. and Mrs. Perkins were, until eaten, 'my dining-room breakfast,' 'my dining-room tea,' and so forth.

On my way back from the ash-heap with Mrs. Gabbitas's bucket, I almost collided with Mr. Perkins, as he rolled swiftly and silently into view from round the end of the rustic pergola, between the house yard and the big cedar.

'Aha! The Peripatacious one! Tssp! Yes. Mrs. Perkins wants a word with you, youngfellermelad. Come on this way. She's on the front verandah.'

I found myself involuntarily seeking to emulate Mr. Perkins's remarkable method of locomotion. But I might as well have sought to mimic an albatross or a balloon. It was not only his splendid rotundity which I lacked. The difference went far beyond that. He had oiled castors running on patent ball bearings, and I was but the ordinary pedestrian youth.

We found Mrs. Perkins reclining on a couch on the front verandah, a very gaily coloured dust-rug covering the lower part of her figure. Like many people in Australia she could hardly be classified socially; or, perhaps, I should say she did not possess in any marked form the characteristics which in England are associated with this or that social grade. If there was nothing of the aristocrat about her, it might be said that she was not in the least typically 'middle-class'; and I am sure the severest critic would have hesitated to say that hers were the manners, disposition, or outlook of any 'lower' class. Yet she had married an itinerant cobbler, or at best a 'pedestrialatory specialist,' and, I am sure, without the smallest sense of taking a derogatory step.

Mrs. Perkins was the more a revelation to me perhaps, because, as it happened, Mrs. Gabbitas had said nothing whatever about her. I learned presently that she had not stood upon her feet for more than ten years. I was never told the exact nature of the disease from which she suffered, but I know she had lost permanently the use of her legs, and that she was not allowed to sit up in a chair for more than an hour at a time. She never moved anywhere without her husband. He carried her from one room to another, and at times to different parts of the garden; always very skilfully, and without the slightest appearance of exertion. I think it likely she did not weigh more than six or seven stone. Whenever I saw her carried, there was always draped about her a gaily coloured rug or large shawl; and she was for ever smiling, or actually laughing, or making some quaintly humorous little remark. I wondered sometimes if she had borrowed her playfulness in speech from her husband, or if he had borrowed from her. I do not think I ever met a happier pair.

'So here you are!' she said, as we drew near. Her tone suggested that my coming were the arrival of a very welcome and long-looked-for guest. 'You see, Nick, I am so lazy that I never go to any one; and people are so kind that every one comes to me, sooner or later.'

I experienced a desire to do something graceful and chivalrous, and did nothing, I suspect, but grin awkwardly and shuffle my toes in the dust. It seemed to me clumsy and rude to stand erect before this crippled little lady, yet impossible to adopt any other attitude. Mr. Perkins had subsided, softly as a down cushion, on the edge of the verandah. But he had no angles, and I had no curves. Mr. Perkins removed his hat and caressingly polished that glistening orb, his head, with a large rainbow-hued handkerchief.

'You see, Insect,' he said, beaming upon his wife, 'this young feller, Nickperry, an orphantual lad, as I explained, has taken a fancy to Dursley.'

'And you've taken a fancy to Nickperry, I suppose--as you call him.'

The master waved his fat arms to demonstrate his aloofness from fancies. 'Well, we want a new handy lad,' he said; 'and this peripatacious young chap comes strolling along just as Bella wants milking. The Gabbitual one says he's all right.' This is an elaborate stage aside.

'And how did Bella behave, Nick?' asked the mistress.

'She gave down her milk very nicely--madam,' I said, conscious of a blush over the matter of addressing this little lady.

'Merely a passing weakness for the servileacious, inherited from feudalising ancestors,' said Mr. Perkins in an explanatory tone to his wife. And then to me: 'This is Missis Perkins, Nickperry, not "Madam." When you want to speak to the Missis, you must always come and find her, because she don't get about much, do you, Pig-an'-Whistle?'

One of the points of difference between husband and wife, in their spoken whimsicalities, was that the man had no sense of shame and the wife had. Mr. Perkins was no respecter of persons. He would have addressed his wife as 'Blow-fly,' or 'Sossidge,' or 'Piggins,' or by any of the ridiculous names of the sort that he affected, in the presence of the queen or his own handy lad. I have overheard similar expressions of playful ribaldry upon his wife's lips many a time, but never when I was obviously and officially in their presence.

'And what about pay, Nickperry? How do you stand now on the wages question? What did the Drooper start on, Whizz?' This last question was addressed to Mrs. Perkins, whose real name, as I learned later--never once heard upon her husband's lips--was Isabel.

'Eight shillings,' replied Mrs. Perkins. 'But, of course, wages have risen a good bit since then.'

'Yes, yes; the gas of the agitators does sometimes serve to inflate wages; I'll say that for the beggars. What do you say, Nickperry?'

'Well, si--Mister Perkins----'

'He always calls me "Smister." It's a friendly way they have in England, like the eye-glass and the turned-up trousers.'

In her smile Mrs. Perkins managed to convey merriment, sympathy for me as the person chaffed, and humorous disapproval of her husband. I would gladly have worked for her for nothing, for admiration of her bright eyes.

'I was going to say that I'd be willing to work for whatever you liked, till you saw whether I suited you or not,' I managed to explain.

Mrs. Perkins nodded approvingly, and her husband said: 'That's a very fair offer. You have an engagious way with you, Nickperry; and so we'll engage you at ten bob and all found for a start. How's that, Whizkers?'

The mistress assented pleasantly, and added: 'You'll tell Mrs. Gabbitas to see to the room, George, won't you, and--and to give Nickperry what he needs? She will understand. I dare say he'd like a bath.'

I blushed red-hot at this, but Mrs. Perkins kindly refrained from looking my way, and the interview ended. Then, like a dinghy in the wake of a galleon, I followed my new employer to the rearward parts of the establishment.


I used to tell Heron, and others who came into my later life, that the happiest days I ever knew were the 'ten bob a week and all found' days of my handy-lad time. It was very likely true, I think; though really it is next door to impossible for any man to tell which period in his life has been the more happy; and especially is this so in the case of the type of man who finds more interest in the past than in the future. The other side of the road always will be the cleaner, the trees on the far side of the hill will always be the greener, for a great many of us. Any other time seems preferable before the present moment, to some folk; and to many, times past are in every sense superior to anything the future can have to offer.

At all events I was fortunate in the matter of my first situation, and I was contented in it, being satisfied that it was an excellent means to an end which I had decided should be very fine indeed.

I have never yet been able to make up my mind whether I am like or unlike to the majority of mankind in this: with me every phase of life, every occupation, every effort, almost every act and thought have been regarded, not upon their own merits or in relation to themselves, but as means to ends. The ends, it always appeared, would prove eminently desirable; they would give me my reward. The ends, once they were attained, would certainly bring me peace, happiness, fame, health, enjoyment, leisure, monetary gain, or whatever it was they were designed to bring. I am still uncertain whether or not the bulk of my fellow-men are similarly constituted; but I am tolerably certain that one misses a great deal in life as the result of having this kind of a mind.

To a great extent, for example, one misses whatever may be desirable in the one moment of time of which we are all sure--the present. One is not spared the worries and anxieties of the present, because they seem to have their definite bearing upon the end in view. But the good, the sound sweetness of the present, when it chances to be there, so far from cherishing and savouring every fraction of it, we spare it no more than a hurried smile in passing, as a trifling incident of our progress toward the grand end which (just then) we have in view. And how often time proves the end a thing which never actually draws one breath of life; a mere embryo, a phantom, vaporous product of our own imagination! So that for one, two, or fifty years, as the case may be, we have derived no benefit from a number of tangible good things, by reason of our strenuous pursuit of a shadow.

Is this a peculiar disease, or am I merely noting a characteristic of my own which is also a characteristic of the age in which I have lived? I wonder! It is, at all events, a way of living which involves a rather tragical waste of the good red stuff of life; and, yes, upon the whole it is a form of restless waste and extravagance which I fancy is far from rare among the thinking men and women of my time. They do not travel; they hurry from one place to another. They do not enjoy; they pursue enjoyment. They do not rest; they arrange very elaborately, cleverly, strenuously to catch rest--and miss it. Is it not possible that some of us do not live, but use up all the time at our disposal in sweating, toiling, scheming preparation for the particular sort of life we think would suit us; the kind of life we are aiming at; the end, in fact, in pursuit of which we expend and exhaust our whole share of life as a means?

Though these things strike me now, it is needless to say they formed no part of my mental outlook in Dursley.

As is often the case in Australian homes, the colony of out-buildings upon Mr. Perkins's premises at Dursley was more extensive than the parent building. Between the main house and the stable, with all its attendant minor sheds and lean-to, was a long, low-roofed wooden structure, divided into dairy, wash-house, tool-room, workshop, and, at the end farthest from the dairy, what is called a 'man's room.' This latter apartment was now my private sanctuary, entered by nobody else, unless at my invitation. I grew quite fond of this little room, which measured eight feet by twelve feet, and had a window looking down the ridge and across the creek to Dursley in its valley and the wooded hills beyond.

I had no lamp in my sanctuary, and no fireplace. But the climate of New South Wales is kindly, and, when one is used to it and one's eyes are young, the light of a single candle is surprisingly satisfying. That, at all events, was the light by which I mastered the intricacies of Pitman's system of shorthand, besides reading most of the volumes in Dursley's School of Arts library. The reading I accomplished in bed; the shorthand studies on the top of a packing-case which hailed originally from a match factory in east London, and doubtless had contained the curious little cylindrical cardboard boxes of wax vestas, stamped with a sort of tartan plaid pattern, that are seen so far as I know only in Australia, though made in England.

At first, like others who have trodden the same thorny path, I went ahead swimmingly with my shorthand, confining myself to the writing of it on the packing-case. Being at the end of the current bed-book (it was Charles Reade's Griffith Gaunt) I took my latest masterpiece of shorthand to bed with me one night, only to find that I could barely read one word in ten. That was a rather perturbed and unhappy night, and my progress thereafter was a somewhat slower and more laborious process.

The habit of rising with the sun was now fairly engrained in me. At about daybreak then my first duties would take me to the wood-heap, with axe and saw, and subsequently to the scullery with a heaped barrow-load of fuel for the day. Arrived there I polished the household's boots and knives, washed my hands at Mrs. Gabbitas's immaculate sink--a more scrupulously clean housewife I have yet to meet--and proceeded to the feeding and milking of Bella. Then I fed the horse, cleared out the stable, spruced myself up, and so to breakfast with 'The Gabbitular One.' Three meat meals and two snacks--'the eleven o'clock' and 'the four o'clock'--were the order of the day in this establishment. The snacks consisted of tea, which was also served at every meal, including dinner, and scones and butter; the meals included always some sort of flesh food and varying adjuncts. After the lean dietary of St. Peter's this regime seemed almost startling to me at first, a thing which could hardly be expected to last. But I adapted myself to it without difficulty or complaint, and thrived upon it greatly.

During the day my main work was the cultivation of the garden, and the care of the front lawn, in which Mr. Perkins took a very special pride and interest; chiefly, I think, because it was the foreground of his wife's daily outlook. But the routine work of the garden, which always was demanding a little more time than one had to spare for it, was subject, of course, to interruptions. I did the churning twice a week, and Mrs. Gabbitas the 'working' and 'making up' of the butter. And there were other matters, including occasional errands to the town--a message for a storekeeper, or a note for the master at his office.

Over the entrance to this office of Mr. Perkins's hung a huge board on which were boldly painted in red letters on a white ground the name of George Perkins, and the impressive words--'Dursley's Omnigerentual and Omniferacious Agent.' It really was a remarkable notice-board, and residents invariably pointed it out to visitors as one of the sights of the town. Indeed, Dursley was very proud of its Omniferacious Agent, who for three successive years now had been also its mayor.

But I gathered from veteran gossips in the town's one street that this had not always been so. Mr. Perkins had originally arrived in the town but very slightly more burdened with worldly gear than I was. The tools of his craft as a cobbler had left room enough in one bundle for the rest of his property. Dursley did not want a cobbler at that time, I gathered; so in this respect Mr. Perkins had been less fortunate than I was; for when I arrived some one had wanted a handy lad. However, what proved more to the point was the fact that the cobbler did want Dursley. He stayed long enough to teach the townsfolk to appreciate him as a cobbler of boots--and of affairs, of threatened legal proceedings, frayed friendships, and the like. And then, for some months prior to a general election, the cobbler edited the local weekly newspaper, and was largely instrumental in returning the Dursley-born candidate to parliament, in place of an interfering upstart from Kempsey way. It was not at all a question of politics, but of Dursley and its interests.

By this time Mr. Perkins had gone some way towards Omniferacious Agenthood. He had very successfully negotiated sundry sales and purchases for townsmen, who shared that disinclination to call in conventionally recognised professional assistance which I have often noticed in rural Australia. Then he married the daughter of the newspaper proprietor, whose brother was one of Dursley's leading storekeepers. Everybody now liked him, except a few crotchety or petty souls, who, not understanding him, suspected him of ridiculing or exposing them in some way, and in any case mistrusted his jollity, his success, and his popularity. Even in the beginning, before the famous notice-board was thought of, and while Mr. Perkins's work was yet 'awlicular,' I gathered that several old residents had set their faces firmly against this invincibly merry fellow, and done all they could to 'keep him in his place.'

And now he bought and sold for them: their houses, land, timber, fruit, produce, live-stock, and property of every sort and kind, making a larger income than most of them in the doing of it, and accomplishing all this purely by force of his personality. He succeeded where others failed, because so few could help liking him; and if he failed but seldom in anything he undertook, that was probably due in part to the fact that he never thought and never spoke of failure, preferring always as topics more cheerful matters. His wife had become a permanent invalid very shortly after their marriage, yet no person could possibly have made the mistake of thinking George Perkins's marriage a failure. I doubt if a happier married pair could have been found in Australia.

The meal we called tea (though we drank tea at every other meal) was partaken of by Mrs. Gabbitas and myself at half-past five, and by Mr. and Mrs. Perkins at six o'clock. I was given to understand at the outset that no work was expected of me after tea. Once or twice of a summer evening I went out into the garden to perform some trifling task I had overlooked, and upon being seen there by Mr. Perkins was saluted with some such remark as:

'Stealing time, Nickperry, stealing time! You an' me'll fall out, my friend, if you can't manage to keep proper working hours. Applicatiousness is all very well, but stealing time after tea is gluttish and greedular, and must be put down with an iron hand, with an iron hand, Nickperry. Tssp! Howzashorthandgetnon?'

Before expelling the last interrogative omnibus word, he would clench one fat fist and knead the air downward with it, to illustrate the process of putting down greediness with an iron hand.

I saw comparatively little of him, of course, owing to his preoccupation with business, his own and that of Dursley and most of its inhabitants; but we were excellent good friends, and it was rarely that he missed his Sunday morning walk round the whole place with me, when my week's work would be passed in more or less humorous review, and the programme for the next week discussed. After this tour of inspection I generally went to church, and the afternoon I almost invariably spent in my room over the packing-case. That is a period which many people give to letter-writing, and it is queer to recall the fact that, so far as I can remember, I had written only two letters in my life up to this period--one to a Sydney bookseller, whose address I got from Mr. Perkins, and one to Mr. Rawlence, the Sydney artist, to tell him of my present position, and to say that I had made a start upon shorthand. His kindly and encouraging reply was, I think, the first letter I ever received through the post. But I now began to write letters by the score, addressed to imaginary correspondents, and based in style upon my studies of correspondence in various books. These epistles, however, all ended their brief careers under the kindling wood in Mrs. Gabbitas's kitchen grate.

'Applicatious and industrial, with bettermentatious ambitions,' Mr. Perkins had said of me within a few moments of our first meeting, and at this period I think I justified the sense of his comment. My daily work was pleasant enough, of course, healthy and not fatiguing. Still, it was perhaps odd in a youth of my age that I should have had no desire for recreation or amusement. My study of shorthand did not interest me in the faintest degree; but I was greatly interested by my growing mastery of it, because I thought of the mastery of shorthand, as Mr. Rawlence had described it, as a very valuable means to an end, to various ends. I thought of it, in short, as the key which should open Sydney's doors to me; for, happy as my life was in Dursley, I never regarded it in any other light than as a useful preliminary to the next stage of my career. And that again, from all I have since been told, was hardly an attitude proper to my years.

It certainly was not due to any conscious discontent with my life and work in Dursley. I must suppose it was the beginning of that restless temperamental itch which all through life has made me regard everything I did as no more than the necessary prelude to some more or less vague thing I meant presently to do, which should be much better worth doing. A praiseworthy doctrine I have heard it called. It may be. But I would like to be able to warn all and sundry who cultivate or inculcate it in this present century, that the margin between it and the wastefully extravagant body and soul-devouring restlessness which I sometimes think the key-note of our time--the margin is a perilously slender one.


Every day the Sydney Morning Herald was delivered at the Perkins's establishment, and every evening it reached the kitchen at tea-time. Mrs. Gabbitas regarded it as a very useful journal for fire-lighting purposes, but having no other interest in it was quite agreeable to its being out-of-date by one day when it reached her hands. Thus the daily newspaper became my perquisite each evening, to be returned faithfully in the morning with the day's supply of fuel, in order that it might duly fulfil its higher and more serviceable destiny in Mrs. Gabbitas's stove.

For quite a long time I never scanned the news columns of that really admirable newspaper. I might have thought that their perusal would have been helpful to me, especially as I cherished vague ideas of one day earning my living in a newspaper office. But, for the time, my mind was too much occupied with thoughts of another means to an end--shorthand. The longest chunks of unbroken letterpress were the leading articles. For months I never looked beyond them, and never stopped short of copying out at least one column of them, and often more, especially in those misguided early days before I awoke to the stern necessity of reading over every written line of shorthand.

I am afraid the leader-writers' eloquence and style--real and ever-present features in this journal's pages--were entirely wasted upon me. I copied them with slavish lack of thought, intent only on my shorthand, and most generally upon the physical difficulty of keeping my eyes open. I invariably fell asleep three or four times before finishing my allotted task, and only managed to keep awake for the reading of it by standing erect beside the packing-case and reading aloud. How it would have astonished those gifted leader-writers if they could have walked past, overheard me, and recognised in my halting, drowsy declamation their own well-rounded periods!

As I read the last word my spirits always rose instantly, and my craving for sleep left me. With keen anticipatory pleasure I would fold up the newspaper ready for the morning, take one look out from the doorway to note the weather, shed my clothes, snuff the candle, and climb luxuriously into bed with the current book, whatever it might be. No newspaper for me. This was real reading, and while I read in bed (travel, biography, and fiction) I lived exclusively in the life my author depicted. Vanished utterly for me were Dursley and its worthy folk, and Australia too for that matter. Practically all the books I read carried me to the Old World, and most often to England, which for me was rapidly becoming a synonym for romance, charm, interest, culture, and all the good things of which one dreams. Everything desirable, and not noticeable or recognised as being in my daily life, I grew gradually to think of as being part and parcel of English life. I did not as yet long to go to England. One does not long to visit the moon. But when some well-wrought piece of atmosphere, some happy turn of speech, some inspiring glimpse of high and noble motives or tender devotion, caught and held me, in a book, I would sigh quietly and say to myself:

'Ah, yes; in England!'

Looking back upon it, I am rather pleased with myself for the stubborn persistence with which I slogged away at the shorthand; because it never once touched my interest. For me, it was a veritable treadmill. And, for that reason, I suppose, I was never really good at it. I have no doubt whatever that it had real value for me as a disciplinary exercise.

And then my candle would gutter and expire. I have sometimes, by means of sitting up in bed, holding the book high, and using great concentration, devoured a whole chapter between the first sputtering sound of the candle's death-rattle and the moment of its actual demise. Indeed, I have more than once finished a chapter, when within half a page of it, by matchlight. But that, of course, was gross extravagance. Our candles seemed to me abominably short, and I once tried to seduce Mrs. Gabbitas into allowing me two at a time; but she, good soul, wisely said that one was more than I had any right to burn in an evening, and I was too miserly to buy them for myself.

Yes, it seems horribly unnatural in a youth, but I am afraid I was rather miserly at that time. I wanted passionately to do various things. Precisely what, I had never so far thought out. But I did not desire the less ardently for that. I suppose the thing I wanted was to 'better myself,' as the servants say. Was I not a servant? Without ever reasoning the matter out, I felt strongly that the possession of some money, a certain store, was very necessary to my well-being; that in some mysterious way it would add immensely to my chances, to my strength in the world; that it would put me on a footing superior to that I had at present. I even thought of it, in my innocence, as Capital. Many of my musings used to begin with: 'If a fellow has Capital'--and I believed that if he had not this magic talisman his position was very different and inferior. I thought of the world's hewers of wood and drawers of water as being the folk who had no Capital; the others as the people who had somehow acquired possession of the talisman. And I suppose I wanted to be of the company of the others.

Ten shillings a week means twenty-six pounds a year; and I very well remember that on the first anniversary of my entering Mr. Perkins's employ, my Government Savings Bank book showed a balance to my credit of twenty-two pounds three and fourpence. This sum, I decided, might fairly rank as Capital; it really merited the august name, I felt, being actually above the sum of twenty pounds. Eighteen pounds was a respectable nest-egg. Yes, but twenty-three [sic] pounds three and fourpence--that was Capital; and I now definitely took rank, however humbly, among the people who possessed the talisman. I realised very well that I was poor; that this sum of money was not a large one. Still, it was Capital, and, as such, it gave me a deal of satisfaction, and more of confidence than I could have had without it. I am certain of that. What a pity it is that one cannot always, later in life, obtain the same secure and confident feeling by virtue of possessing twenty pounds!

This meant that I had spent less than four pounds in the year. But no; Mr. Perkins gave me ten shillings, and Mrs. Perkins five shillings, at Christmas time. Also, I won ten shillings as a prize in a competition arranged by the Dursley Chronicle. It was for the best five hundred word description of an Australian scene, and I described Livorno Bay and its derelict; and, as I thought at the time--quite mistakenly, I am sure--described them rather well. Apart from a book or two I had bought practically nothing, save boots and socks and a Sunday suit of clothes. Mrs. Perkins had kindly supplied quite a stock of shirts for me, by means of operations performed upon old shirts of her husband's. My Sunday suit of clothes had occupied me greatly for some weeks. I had never before bought clothing of any kind. After two or three visits to the store, and many talks at mealtimes with Mrs. Gabbitas, I finally decided upon blue serge.

'It do show the dust, but it don't show the wear so much as the rest of 'em,' was the Gabbitular verdict which finally settled this momentous business. A tie to match was given in with the suit, a concession which I owed entirely to Mrs. Gabbitas's determined enterprise. The tie was of satin, and, taken in conjunction with a neatly arranged wad of silk handkerchief, extraordinarily variegated in colour (Mrs. Gabbitas's present), protruding from the breast-pocket of the new coat, it produced on the first Sunday after its purchase an effect which I found at once arresting and sedately rich. My looking-glass was not more than six inches square, but, by propping it up on a chair, and receding from it gradually, I was able to obtain a very fair view of my trousers; while, by replacing it on the wall, and observing my reflection carefully from different angles, I was able to judge of most parts of the coat and waistcoat.

After a good deal of thought, I decided that the best effect was obtained by fastening the top button of the coat, turning back one lower corner with careful negligence, and keeping it there by holding one hand in my trouser pocket. In that order, then, I interviewed Mrs. Gabbitas in the scullery, to receive her congratulations before proceeding to church. Altogether, it was a day of pleasing excitement; but, greatly though it intrigued me, the purchase left me as much a miser as ever, my only other extravagance for a long time being a cream-coloured parasol--my present to Mrs. Gabbitas; and---I may as well confess it--I could not have brought myself to buy that, but for the fact that it was called 'slightly shop-soiled,' and had been 'marked down' from 8s. 11d. to 4s. 10 1/2d.

Yes, for a youth of sixteen years, I fear it must be admitted that I was unnaturally parsimonious, and a good deal of what schoolboys used to call a smug and a swatter. It really was curious, because I do not recall that I had any ambition to be actually rich. Mr. Smiles and his Self Help would have left me cold if I had read that classic. I indulged no Whittingtonian dreams of knighthood, mayoral chains, vast commercial or financial operations, or anything of that sort. The things that interested me were largely unreal. I was immensely appealed to, I remember, by a phase in the career of Charles Reade's Griffith Gaunt, in which that gentleman lived incognito for awhile in a remote rural inn, and wooed (if he did not actually marry) the buxom daughter of the house, while his real wife was being accused of having murdered him. I think that was the way of it. I know the sojourn in that isolated inn--I pictured its lichen-grown walls; a place that would be approached quite nearly in the stilly night by wild woodland creatures--appealed to me as a wholly delightful episode.

I never had a dream of commercial triumphs. I did not think of fame. For what was I striving? And why did I so assiduously save? It is not easy to answer these questions. I find the thing puzzles me a good deal. There was my means-to-an-end attitude; but what was the precise end in view? If one comes to that I have been striving all my life long, and to what end? I know this, that in the midst of my physical content as a handy lad in a comfortable home, I had at least thought definitely of my future up to a certain point. I had told myself that there were two kinds of people in the world: the hewers of wood and drawers of water, earning a mere living, as I was earning mine, by the labour of their hands; and the others. I knew very little of what the others did, and had no very definite plan or desire to follow, myself, any of their occupations. But I did know that I wished to live in their division of the community. I wished to be one of those others. I should be unworthy of my father if I did not presently take my place among those others. And, I suppose, the only practical steps in that direction which I knew of and could take were the saving of my wages and the study of shorthand. I think that was about the way of it. And if my diligence with regard to these two matters may be taken as the measure of my desire to join the ranks of the others, it is safe to say I must have desired it very much indeed.


Every one has noticed the odd vividness with which certain apparently unmemorable episodes stand out among one's recollections, though the details of far more important occasions have become merged in the huge and nebulous mist of the things one has forgotten. (Memory is a longish gallery, but the mass of that which is unremembered, how enormous this is!)

I recall a Sunday evening in Dursley. I had been to church, a rare thing for me, of an evening, to hear a strange, visiting parson; a man who had done missionary work in east London and in Northern Queensland. I remember nothing that he said, and nothing occurred that night to make it memorable for me. And yet ...

The aftermath of the sunset beyond Dursley valley was very beautiful. It often was. Venus shone out with mellow brilliance a little to the right of the church. The air was full of bush scents, and somewhere, not far from where I stood, dead brushwood was burning and diffusing abroad the aromatic pungency that fire draws from eucalyptus leaves.

Gradually, I was overcome by that sense of the infinitely romantic potentialities of life which I suppose overpowers all young people at times; and, more especially, rather lonely young people. The main events of my short life filed past before me in review against the background of an exquisitely melancholy evening sky, illumined by one perfect star. Even this dim light was further softened for me presently by the moisture that gathered in my eyes; tears that pricked with a pain that was almost intolerably sweet. I recalled how, as a child, I had longed to see strange and far-off lands; how I had bragged to servants and childish companions that I would travel. And then, how I had travelled--the Ariadne, my companions, my father, the derelict, Livorno Bay. And then, the blow that cut off all I had held by, and made of me an unconsidered scrap, owning nothing, and owned by nobody.

I had been very miserable at the Orphanage. Yes, there was distinct pleasure in recalling and weighing the sum of my unhappiness at St. Peter's. I had longed to be quit of it; I had willed to be out in the open world, free to make what I could of my own life. And, behold, I was free. My will had accomplished this, had brushed aside the restraining bonds of the whole organisation supervised by Father O'Malley. I, a friendless, bare-legged orphan had done this, because I desired to do it. And now I was a recognised and respectable unit in a free community, earning and paying my way with the best. (I was pleasantly conscious of my blue serge suit, the satin tie, and the multi-coloured silk handkerchief.) I was possessed of Capital--more than twenty pounds; quite a substantial little sum in excess of twenty pounds, even without the interest shortly to be added thereto. Finally, that very evening, had I not been addressed as 'Mister Freydon,' I, the erstwhile bare-footed 'inmate' of St. Peter's? There was nothing of bathos, nothing in the least ludicrous, to me in this last reflection.

'It's nothing, of course,' I told myself, with proud deprecation; 'and he's only a shop assistant. But there it is. It does show something after all. And, besides, he is a member of the School of Arts Committee!'

The 'he' in this case was, of course, the person who had shown discernment enough to address me as 'Mister Freydon.' And, deprecate as I might, the thing had given me a thrill of deep and real satisfaction. Merely recalling the sound of it added to the exaltation of my mood, and to my obsession by the wonder, the romance of the various transitions of my life.

The hazards of life, the wonder of it all--this it was that filled my mind. How would Ted be struck by it? I thought. And there and then I composed in my mind the letter which should accompany my return of the pound he had given me when I could find an address to which it could be sent. There should be no flinching here, no blinking the exact truth. I may have been an insufferable young prig and snob. Very likely I was. As I recall it that letter, composed while I gazed across the valley at the evening star, was informed by a sort of easy condescension and friendly patronage. Grateful, yes, but with a faint hint, too, that Ted had been rather fortunate, a little honoured perhaps in having enjoyed the privilege of assisting, however slightly, in the launch of my career. At one time I had gladly regarded it as a present. That, it seemed, was a blunder of my remote infancy. Honest Ted's pound was a loan, of course, and like any other honourable man I should naturally repay the loan!

Musing in this wise I turned away from the evening star, and walked very slowly past the dairy and the wash-house to my own little room. Now the odd thing was that, though I seemed to have given not one single thought to the future, though I seemed to have made no plan, but, on the contrary, to have confined myself exclusively to the idlest sort of musing upon the past, yet, as I walked into my dark room, I knew that I had definitely decided to leave Dursley at once, and take the next step in my career. I actually whispered to myself:

'It's a good little room. I shall miss this room. I shall often think of the nights I've spent here.'

All this, as though my few belongings had been packed, and I had arranged to depart next morning; though, in fact, I had not given a single conscious thought to the matter of leaving Dursley until I turned my back on the evening star.

Next morning at breakfast I told Mrs. Gabbitas I meant to leave and make for Sydney; and Mrs. Gabbitas gave me to understand that, with all their infinite varieties of foolishness, most young fellows shared one idiosyncrasy in common: they none of them had sense enough to know when they were well off. I spoke of my shorthand, and said I had not been working at it for nothing. Mrs. Gabbitas sniffed, and expressed very plainly the doubts she felt about shorthand ever providing me with meals of the kind I enjoyed at her kitchen table.

'I suppose the fact is gardening isn't good enough for you, and you want to be a gentleman,' the good soul said, with sounding irony. And, whilst I made some modestly deprecatory sound in reply, my thoughts said: 'You are precisely right.'

With news in hand I have no doubt Mrs. Gabbitas took an early opportunity of a chat with Mrs. Perkins. At all events I had no sooner got my lawn-mower to work that morning than the mistress called me to her where she lay on the verandah.

'Is it true we're going to lose you, Nick?' she said very kindly. And, as my irritating way still was, I blushed confusedly as I endorsed the report.

'Well, of course, we knew we should, sooner or later; and, though we'll be sorry to lose you, you are right to go; quite right. I am sure of that, and so is Geo--so is Mr. Perkins. But have you got a situation to go to, Nick?'

I told her I had not, and that I did not think I could secure a berth in Sydney while I was still in Dursley.

'No, no, perhaps not,' she said musingly. 'You must talk to Mr. Perkins about it, and I will, too. What made you decide on going now, Nick?'

'I--I don't know,' I replied awkwardly. And then the sweet kindliness of her face emboldened me to add: 'I was just thinking last night--thinking about my life as I looked at the sky where the sunset had been, and--somehow, I found I was decided.' Then, as if to justify if possible the exceeding lameness of my explanation: 'You see, Mrs. Perkins, I've got the hang of the shorthand pretty well now,' I added.

She nodded sympathetically. 'Well, I'm sure you'll succeed, Nick, I'm sure you will; for you're a good lad, and very persevering. The main thing is being a good lad, Nick; that's the main thing. It's sad for you, having lost your parents, and--and everything. But when you go away, Nick, just try to think of me as if I were your mother, will you? I'll be thinking quite a lot of you, you know. Don't you go and fancy there's nobody cares about you. We shall all be thinking a lot about you. And, Nick, if ever you find yourself in any trouble, if you begin to feel you're going wrong in any way, if you feel like doing anything you know is wrong, or if you feel downhearted and lonesome--you just get into a train and come to Dursley, Nick. Come straight here to me, and tell me everything about it, and--and I think I'll be able to help you. I'll try, anyhow; and you'll know I should want to. And if it isn't easy to come tell me just the same; write and tell me all about it. Promise me that, Nick.'

I promised her. She held out her white, thin hand and clasped my hard hand in it; and I went off to my mowing very conscious of my eyes because they smarted and pricked, but little indebted to them because they failed to show me anything more definite than a blur of greenery at my feet, and a blur of sunlight above.

A fortnight elapsed before I did really leave that place; but for me most of the emotion of leaving, of parting with my kindly employers and friends, and with pretty, peaceful Dursley, was epitomised in that little conversation on the verandah with Mrs. Perkins. I know now that there are many other sweet and kindly women in the world. At that time no one among them had ever been so sweet and kind to me.


When I stepped out of the train at Redfern Station in Sydney, I carried all my worldly belongings in a much worn carpet-bag which had been given me by Mr. Perkins. Its weight did not at all suggest to me the need of obtaining a porter's services, and hardly would have done so even if I had been accustomed to engaging assistance of the sort. Stepping out with my bag into the bustle of the capital city I walked, as one who knew his way, to where the noisy and malodorous old steam tram-cars started, and made my way by tram to Circular Quay. (I had had my directions in Dursley.) Here I boarded a ferry-boat, and at the cost of one penny was carried across the shining waters of the harbour to North Shore. Half an hour later I had mounted the hill, found Mill Street and Bay View Villa, and actually become a boarder and a lodger there, with a latch-key of my own.

The landlady having left the bedroom to which she had escorted me, my carefully sustained nonchalance fell from me; I turned the key in the door, and sat down on the edge of my bed with a long-drawn sigh. The celerity, the extraordinary swiftness of the whole business left me almost breathless.

'Yesterday,' I told myself, as one recounting a miracle, 'I was planting out young tomatoes in Mr. Perkins's garden in Dursley. Only a few minutes ago I was still in the train. And now--now I'm a lodger, and this is my room, and--I'm a lodger!'

I did not seem able to get beyond that just then, though later on, with a recollection of a certain passage in a favourite novel, I tried the sound, in a whisper, of:

'Mr. Nicholas Freydon was now comfortably installed in rooms on the shady side of--North Shore.' At the same time I ran over a few variants upon such easy phrases as: 'My rooms at North Shore,' 'Snug quarters,' 'My boarding-house,' 'My landlady,' and the like.

One must remember that I was less than two years distant from St. Peter's and from Sister Agatha and her cane.

There were two beds in my room; one small and the other very small. I was sitting on the very small one. The other belonged to Mr. William Smith, whose real name might quite possibly have been something else. For already, though I had not seen him, I had gathered that my room-mate was an elderly man with a history, of which this much was generally admitted: that he had seen much better days, and was a married man separated from his wife.

'But a pleasanter, kinder-hearted, nicer-spoken gentleman you couldn't wish to meet, that I will say,' Mrs. Hastings, the landlady, had told me. 'Which,' she added, after a pause given to reflection, with eyes downcast, 'if he was otherwise I should not've thought of letting a share of his room to anybody with recommendations from me nephew in Dursley--not likely. No, nor for that matter, of havin' him in my house at all.'

My landlady was an aunt of that Mr. Jokram who had earned distinction (apart from his membership of the School of Arts Committee) by being the first to address me as 'Mister Freydon.' This good man had taken a most friendly interest in my outsetting, and had written off at once to his aunt to know if she could include me among her boarders. Mrs. Hastings had explained that she was 'Full up as per usual, but if your gentleman friend would care to share Mr. Smith's bedroom, him being as quiet and respectable a gentleman as walks, it will be easy to put in another bed.'

This was before any mention had been made of terms. These, we subsequently learned, ranged from a minimum of 17s. 6d. per week, including light and use of bath. Later, the nephew was able to obtain special concessions for me, as the result of which I had the opportunity of securing all the amenities of Mrs. Hastings's refined home, including a share of Mr. Smith's room, and such plain washing as did not call for the use of starch--all for the very moderate charge of 16s. weekly.

Thus it was that, although a stranger and without friends in Sydney, I was able to go direct into my new quarters, without any loss of time or money; an important consideration even for a capitalist whose fortune at this time amounted to something nearer thirty than twenty pounds. (Mr. Perkins had given me an extra month's wages. Mrs. Perkins had supplemented this by half a sovereign, six pairs of socks, three linen shirts, and half a dozen collars; and Mrs. Gabbitas had given me a brand new Bible and Prayer-book, with ornate bindings and perfectly blinding type, and another of the silk handkerchiefs coloured like a tropical sunset.)

'I shall not be in to tea this evening, Mrs. Hastings, I said, with fine carelessness, as I left the house, after unpacking my belongings and paying a visit to the bathroom, an apartment formed by taking in a section of the back verandah. (The bath was of the same material as the verandah roof--galvanised iron.) 'I've got some business in Sydney that will keep me rather late.'

The good woman rather pierced my carefully assumed guise of nonchalance by the smile with which she said: 'Oh, very well, Mr. Freydon; I hope you'll not be kept too late--by business.'

'How in the world did she guess?' I thought as I walked down to the ferry. It may be that the virus of city life had in some queer way already entered my veins. Here was I, the parsimonious 'handy lad,' who had been saving ninety per cent. of my wages and never indulging myself in any way, actually contemplating the purchase of an evening meal in Sydney, while becoming indebted for an evening meal I should never eat in North Shore; to say nothing of making deceitful remarks about being detained by business, when I had deliberately made up my mind to postpone all business until the next day. Truly, I was making an ominous start in the new life; or so my twitching conscience told me, as I sat enjoying the harbour view from the deck of the ferry-boat which took me to Circular Quay.

My notion of dissipation and extravagance would have proved amusing to the bloods of that day, and merely incredible to those of the present time. There was an unnecessary twopence for the ferry--admitting the whole business to have been unnecessary. There was sixpence for a meal, consisting of tea and a portentous allowance of scones with butter. There was threepence for a packet of cigarettes ('colonial' tobacco), the first I had ever smoked, and a purchase which had actually been decided upon some days previously. Finally, there was fourpence for a glass of colonial wine in a George Street wine-shop; and this also, like the rest of the outing, had been practically decided upon before I left Dursley. But with regard to the wine there had been reservations. The cigarettes were certainly to be tried. The wine was to be had if circumstances proved favourable, and such a plunge seemed at the time desirable. It did; and so I may suppose the outing was successful.

During my wanderings up and down the city streets, I examined carefully the vestibules of various places of amusement--rather dingy most of them were at that date--but had no serious thought of penetrating further. The shops, the road traffic, and the people intrigued me greatly, but especially the people, the unending streams of lounging men, women, and children. Some, no doubt, were on business bent; but the majority appeared to me to take their walking very easily, and every one seemed to be chattering. My life since as a child I left England had all been spent in sparsely populated rural surroundings, and the noisy bustle of Sydney impressed me very much, as I imagine the Strand would impress a Dartmoor lad, born and bred, on his first visit to London.

It did not oppress me at all. On the contrary, I felt pleasantly stimulated by it. Life here seemed very clearly and emphatically articulate; it marched past me in the streets to a stirring strain. There were no pauses, no silences, no waiting. And then, too, one felt that things were happening all the time. The atmosphere was full of stir and bustle. Showy horses and carriages went spanking past one; cabs were pulled up with a jerk, and busily talking men clambered out from them, carelessly handing silver to the driver, as though it were a thing of no consequence, and passing from one's sight within doors, waving cigars and talking, talking all the time. Obviously, big things were toward; not one to-day and one to-morrow, but every hour in every street. Fortunes were being made and lost; great enterprises planned and launched; great crimes, too, I supposed; and crucial meetings and partings.

Yes, this was the very tide of life, one felt; and with what pulsing, irresistible strength it ebbed and flowed along the city highways! Among all these thousands of passers-by no one guessed how closely and with what inquisitive interest I was observing them. I suppose I must have covered eight or ten miles of pavement before walking self-consciously into that wine-shop, and sitting down beside a little metal table. I know now that, with me, nervousness generally takes the form of marked apparent nonchalance. Doubtless, this is due to concentrated effort in my youth to produce this effect. I did not know the name of a single Australian wine; but I remembered some enthusiastic comment of my father's upon the 'admirable red wine of the country,' so I ordered a glass of red wine, and, with an amused stare, the youth in attendance served me.

Like many of the wines of the country it was fairly potent stuff, and rather sweet than otherwise, probably an Australian port. I sipped it with the air of one who generally devoted a good portion of his evenings to such dalliance, and ate several of the thin biscuits which lay in a plate on the table. Meanwhile, I observed closely the other sippers. They were all in couples, and the snatches of their conversation which I heard struck me as extraordinarily dramatic in substance; most romantic, I thought, and very different from the leisurely, languid gossip of those who draw patterns in the dust with their clasp-knives, and converse chiefly about 'baldy-faced steers,' 'good feed,' 'heavy bits o' road,' and the like, with generous intervals of say ten or twelve minutes between observations. These folk in the wine-shop, on the contrary, tripped over one another in their talk; their hands and shoulders and brows all played a part, as well as their lips, and their glances were charged with penetrant meaning.

As I made my way gradually down to Circular Quay and the ferry, some one stepped out athwart my path from a shadowy doorway, and I had a vision of straw-coloured hair, pale skin, scarlet lips, a woman's figure.

'Going home, dear? What about coming with me? Come on, de-ear!'

Somehow I knew all about it. Not from talk, I am sure. Possibly from reading; possibly by instinct. I felt as though the poor creature had hit me across the face with a hot iron. I tried to answer her, but could not. She barred my path, one hand on my arm. It was no use; I could not get words out. Those waiting seconds were horrible. And then I turned and fairly ran from her, a rather hoarse laugh pursuing me among the shadows as I went.

It was horrible, and affected me for hours. But it did not spoil my outing. No, I think on the whole it added to the general excitation. I had a sense of having stepped right out into the deep waters of life, of being in the current. The drama of life was touching me now; its sombre and tragical side as well as the rest of it.

'This really is life,' I told myself as the ferry bore me among twinkling lights across the harbour. 'This is the big world, and Dursley hardly was.'

It stirred me deeply. The harbour itself; the dim, mysterious outlines of ships, the dancing water, the sense of connection with the world outside Australia, the very latch-key in my pocket, and the thought that I would presently be going to bed at my lodgings, in a room shared by an experienced and rather mysterious man, with a past; all combined to produce in me a stirring alertness to the adventurous interest of life.


One of the odd things about that first evening of mine in Sydney was that it introduced me to the tobacco habit, one of the few indulgences which I have never at any time since relinquished. I smoked several cigarettes that evening, with steadily increasing satisfaction. And, on the following day, acting on the advice of my room-mate, Mr. Smith, I bought a shilling briar pipe and a sixpenny plug of black tobacco as a week's allowance. From that point my current outgoings were increased by just sixpence per week, no less, and for a considerable period, no more.

For some days, at least, and it may have been for longer, Mr. William Smith became the mentor to whom I owed the most of such urban sophistication as I acquired. He was a very kindly and practical mentor, worldly, but in many respects not a bad adviser for such a lad so situated. When I recall the stark ugliness of his views and advice to me regarding a young man's needs and attitude generally where the opposite sex was concerned, I suppose I must admit that a moralist would have viewed my tutor with horror. But, particularly at that period, I am not sure that the average man of the world, in any walk of life, would have differed very much from Mr. Smith in this particular matter. One could imagine some quite worthy colonels of regiments giving not wholly dissimilar counsel to a youngster, I think.

Morning and evening Mr. Smith applied some sort of cosmetic to his fine grey moustache, which kept its ends like needles. He always wore white or biscuit-coloured waistcoats, and was scrupulously particular about his linen. He generally had an air of being fresh from his bath. His thin hair was never disarranged, and his mood seemed to be cheerfully serene. Summer heats drew plentiful perspiration from him, but no sign of languor or irritation. On Sunday mornings he stayed in bed till ten-thirty, with the Sydney Bulletin, and on the stroke of eleven o'clock he invariably entered the church at the corner of Mill Street. I used to marvel greatly at this, because he never missed his bath, and his Sunday morning appearance gave the impression that his toilet had received the most elaborate attention. He carried an ivory crutch-handled malacca walking-stick, and in church I used to think of him as closely resembling Colonel Newcome. His voice was a mellow baritone, he never missed any of the responses; and the odour which hung about him of soap and water, cosmetic, light yellow kid gloves, and good tobacco--he smoked a golden plug, very superior to my cheap, dark stuff--seemed to me at that time richly suggestive of luxury, sophistication, distinction, and knowledge of affairs.

Many years have passed since I set eyes on Mr. Smith, and no doubt he has long since been gathered to his fathers; but I believe I am right in saying that his was a rather remarkable character. I know now that he really was a dipsomaniac of a somewhat unusual kind. At ordinary times he touched no stimulant of any sort. But at intervals of about three months he disappeared, quite regularly and methodically, and always with a handbag. To what place he went I do not know. Neither I think did Mrs. Hastings or his employers. At the end of a week he would reappear, clothed as when he went away, but looking ill and shaken. For a few days afterwards he was always exceedingly subdued, ate little, and talked hardly at all. But by the end of a week he was himself again, and remained perfectly serene and normal until the time of his next disappearance. I once happened to see the contents of the handbag. They consisted of an old, rather ragged Norfolk coat and trousers and a suit of pyjamas; nothing else.

Mr. Smith was a sort of time-keeper at the works of Messrs. Poutney, Riggs, Poutney and Co., the wholesale builders' and masons' material people. I was informed that he had once been the chief traveller for this old-established firm, on a salary of seven hundred pounds a year, with a handsome commission, and all travelling expenses paid. His salary now was two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence a week; and I apprehend that his services were retained by the firm rather by virtue of what he had done in the past than for the sake of what he was doing at this time. I was told that commercial travelling in New South Wales, when Mr. Smith had been in his prime, was a dashing profession which produced many drunkards. But from Mr. Smith himself I never heard a word about his previous life.

I recall many small kindnesses received at his hands, and at the outset the domestic routine of my Sydney life was largely arranged for me by Mr. Smith.

'Never wear a collar more than once, or a white shirt more than twice,' was one of the first instructions I received from him. Subsequently he modified this a little for me, upon economic grounds, advising me to take special care of my shirt on Sunday, in order that it might serve for Monday and Tuesday. 'Then you've two days each for the other two shirts in each week, you see. But socks and collars you change every day. In Sydney you must never wear a coloured shirt; always a stiff, white shirt, in Sydney.'

On my second evening there Mr. Smith took me to a hatter's shop and chose a billycock hat for me, in place of the soft felt which I usually wore.

'You must have a hard hat in Sydney,' he said, 'except in real hot weather; and then you could wear a flat straw, if you liked. I prefer a grey hard hat for summer. But straw will do for a youngster. You should have a pair of gloves, for Sunday, you know. They're useful, too, for interviewing principals.'

One might have fancied that gloves were a kind of passport, or perhaps a skeleton key guaranteed to open principals' doors. It was Mr. Smith who first made me feel that there was a connection between morals, respectability, and cold baths. To miss the morning tub, as Mr. Smith saw it, was not merely a calamity but also a disgrace; a thing to make one ashamed; a lapse calculated seriously to affect character. How oddly that does clash, to be sure, with his views of a young man's relations with the other sex! And yet, I am not so sure. Shocked as many people would be by those views, they might admit in them perhaps a sort of hygienic intention. It was that I fancy, more than anything else, which did as a fact shock me. As companions, co-equals, fellow-humans, I believe this curious man absolutely detested women. I wonder what sort of a wife he had had! ...

When I come to compare my launch in Sydney with all that I know and have read of youthful beginnings in Old World centres, I marvel at the luxurious ease and freedom of Australian conditions. To put it into figures now--my start in Sydney did not cost me a sovereign. I did not spend two days without earning more than enough to defray all my modest outgoings. My search for employment, so far from wearing out shoe-leather, was confined to a single application, to one brief interview. This was not at all due to any cleverness on my part, but in the first place to the good offices of Mr. Perkins of Dursley, and in the second place to the easygoing character of prevailing Australian conditions.

On the morning after my first evening's dissipation in Sydney, I made my way to the business premises of Messrs. Joseph Canning and Son, the Sussex Street wholesale produce merchants and commission agents. This firm had had dealings with Dursley's Omnigerentual and Omniferacious Agent ever since his first appearance in that part, and it was no doubt because of this that Mr. Perkins wrote to them on my behalf. After waiting for a time in a dark little chamber containing specimens of cream separators and churns, I was taken to the private room of Mr. Joseph Canning, the senior partner, who, as I was presently to learn, visited the office chiefly to attend to such out-of-the-way trifles as my call, to smoke cigars, and to take selected clients out to lunch. The practical conduct of the business was entirely in the hands of Mr. John, this gentleman's only son.

I found Mr. Joseph Canning with his feet crossed on his blotting-pad, his body tilted far back in his chair, and his first morning cigar tilted far upward between his teeth, its ash perilously close to one bushy grey eyebrow.

'Well, me lad,' he said as I entered, 'how's the Omniferacious one? Blooming as ever, I hope.'

I explained that I had left Mr. Perkins in the best of health, and proceeded to answer, so far as I was able, the string of subsequent questions put to me regarding the town of Dursley, its principal residents, business progress, and chief hotel. I gathered that Mr. Canning had paid one visit to Dursley, under the auspices of its Omnigerentual Agent, and that while there he had contrived, with Mr. Perkins's assistance no doubt, 'to make that little town fairly hum.'

We talked in this strain for some time, and then Mr. Canning rose from his chair, clearly under the impression that his business with me had been satisfactorily completed, and prepared to dismiss me cordially, and proceed to other matters.

'Ah!' he ejaculated cheerfully, extending his right hand to me, and moving toward the door. 'Quite pleasant to have a chat about little Dursley. Well, take care of yourself in the big city, you know--bed by ten o'clock, and that sort of thing, you know; and--er--never touch anything in the morning. Safest plan.'

By this time the door was open, and I, on the threshold, was feeling considerably bewildered. With a great effort I managed to force out some such words as:

'And if you should hear of any sort of situation that I----'

At that he grabbed my hand again, and pulled me back into the room.

'Of course, of course! God bless my soul, I'd clean forgotten!' he exclaimed hurriedly as he strode across to his table and rang a bell.

'Ask Mr. John to kindly step this way a minute, will ye?' he said to the lad who answered the bell. 'Forget me name next, I suppose,' he added to me in a confidential undertone. 'Tut, tut! And I read Perkins's letter again just before you came in, too! Ah, here you are, John. Come in a minute, will you?'

A vigorous-looking fair-haired man of about five-and-thirty came into the room now, with the air of one who had been interrupted. He wore no coat, and his spotless shirt-sleeves were held well up on his arms by things like garters clasped above the elbow.

'Ah, John,' began his father, 'this is Mr. Perkins's "Nickperry"; you remember? Nick Freydon.' He referred to a letter on the table. 'Shorthand, you know, and all that. Well, what about it? D'jew remember?'

'Yes, yes, to be sure. Well, what about it?' This seemed to be a favourite phrase between father and son.

'Well, what was it you said? Thirty-five bob for a start, eh? Oh, well, you'll see to it, anyway, won't you? That's right. So long--er--Nickperry!'

'Good-morning, sir!'

And with that I found myself following Mr. John along a darkish passage to a well-lighted apartment, divided by a ground-glass partition from an office in which I saw perhaps eight or ten clerks at work.

'Now, Mr. Freydon,' said my guide, as he flung himself into a revolving chair, and motioned me to another on the opposite side of the table. 'We'll make it no more than five minutes, please, for I've got a stack of letters to answer, and some men to see at eleven sharp.'

And then I had a rather happy inspiration.

'Do you write your own letters, sir?' I asked.

'Eh? Oh, Lord, yes!' he said brusquely. 'I know some men dictate 'em to clerks, to be done in copper-plate, an' all that. But, goodness, I can write 'em myself quicker'n that! And we have to be mighty careful to say just the right kind of thing in our letters, too. It makes a difference.'

'Well, will you just try dictating one or two to me, sir, and let me take them in shorthand. Then I would bring them to you when you have seen the gentlemen at eleven.'

'Eh? Well, that's rather an idea. Let's have a shot. Here you are then. Pencil? Right? Well: "Dear Mr. Gubbins, yours of 14th, received with thanks." Got that? Yes; well, tell him--that is--"You are quite mistaken, I assure you, about your butter having been held back till the bottom was out of the market." Old fool's always grousing about his rotten butter. You see, the fact is his butter is second or third quality stuff, and he reads the quotations in the paper for the primest, and kicks like a steer because he doesn't get the same, or a penny more. Always threatening to change his agents, and I wish to God he would; only, o' course, it doesn't do to tell 'em so. There's a lot like Gubbins, an' one has to try an' sweeten 'em a bit once a week or so. Yes! Well, where were we? Eh? That all right?'

'Yes, sir. "Yours faithfully," or "Yours truly," sir?'

'Oh, well, I always say: "'shuring you vour bes' 'tention, bleeve me, yours faithfully, J. Canning and Son." It pleases them, an'----'

'Yes, sir.'

And some of the others were a good deal more sketchy, but fortunately there were only five in all. I asked Mr. John to let me take the original letters. It was plain that dictation was not his strong point. Neither, I thought, had he much idea of letter-writing; whereas I, so I flattered myself, could do it rather well. At least I had read something about commercial correspondence, and had also read the published letters of many famous people. So, as soon as I decently could, I pretended Mr. John had really dictated replies to his five letters, and that I had recorded his words in indelible shorthand. Then I said I would run away and write the letters while he kept his engagements.

'Right!' he said. 'Tell you what. Go into my father's room. He's gone out now, and you'll find paper and that there.'

So I made my first practical essay in commercial correspondence from the chair of the head of the firm, and among the fumes of the head's morning cigar.

In an old pocket-book I discovered a year or two ago the draft of the first letter I wrote for J. Canning and Son. Here it is:

'To Mr. R. B. Gubbins,
'Ferndale Farm,
'Unaville, N.S.W.

'Nov. 3rd, 1879.

'Dear Mr. Gubbins,--Thank you for your letter of the 2nd inst. We have looked carefully into the matter of your complaint, and are glad to be able to assure you that your fears are quite unnecessary. We were, of course, prepared to take the matter up seriously with those responsible, but investigation proved that there had been no delay whatever in disposing of your last consignment of butter. It happened, however, that an exceptionally large supply of the very primest qualities were on offer that morning, and though one or two may have reached higher prices, as the result of exceptional circumstances, the bulk changed hands at the price obtained for yours, and many consignments at a lower figure. In several cases the prices given in the newspapers are either incorrect, or apply only to one or two special lots.

'In conclusion, permit us to assure you, dear Mr. Gubbins, that while your interests are entrusted to our hands they will always receive the closest possible attention, and that nothing will be left undone which could be in any way of benefit to you.

'Trusting this will make the position perfectly clear to you, and that you will be under no further anxiety with regard to your consignments to us, now, or at any future time.--We are, dear Mr. Gubbins, yours faithfully,'

In the same unexceptional style I wrote to four other clients, after very careful perusal of their letters, combined with reflections upon Mr. John's running commentaries. As I wrote what my father had called 'an almost painfully legible and blameless hand,' and gave the closest care to these particular letters, their appearance was tolerably business-like when finished. Carrying these letters, and those they answered, I now began to reconnoitre passages and doorways to ascertain the whereabouts and occupation of Mr. John. Presently I saw him come hurrying in from the street, wiping his lips with a handkerchief.

'The letters, sir,' I began.

'Ah! Got 'em done already? Right. Come into my room.'

I stood and watched him reading my effusions, at first with upward twitching brows, and then with smiling satisfaction.

'H'm!' he said, as he gave them the firm's signature. 'It's a pretty good thing then, this shorthand. Wonderful the way you've got every little word down. That "In conclusion, permit us to assure you, dear Mr. Gubbins"--now, that's as a business letter should be, you know. There's not a house in Sussex Street turns out such good sweeteners as we do. I've always been very careful about that. That's how we keep up our connection. These farmers are touchy beggars, you know; but if only you take the right tone with 'em, you can twist 'em round your little finger. That's why I always lay it on pretty thick in the firm's letters. It pays, I can assure you.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Well, that's very good, Mr. Freydon; very good. We've never had this shorthand in the office before; but I think it's time we did, high time. It's no use my wasting valuable time writing all these letters myself, and with this shorthand of yours, I believe you can take 'em down as fast as I can say it--eh?'

'Oh yes, sir; easily,' I said, with shameless mendacity. As a fact, neither that morning, nor at any other time, did I 'take down' what Mr. John said in shorthand. But it was already apparent to me that he could be made quite happy by fancying that the letters were of his composition, and I did not conceive that it was part of my duty to undeceive him.

'Ah! Well, now, when could you begin work, Mr. Freydon?'

I smiled, and told him I could go on at once with any further letters he had.

'Yes, yes; to be sure. Begun already, as you say. Well, I told the old--I told my father I thought thirty-five shillings a week would-- Well, I'll tell you what. You go ahead as you've begun, and at the end of a month we'll make your pay two pounds a week. How'll that suit?'

'Thank you, sir; that will suit me very well.'

'Right. By the way, don't say "sir" to me, please. They all call me "Mr. John," and my father "Mr. Canning." See! Now, I'll just introduce you to Mr. Meadows, our accountant, and he will show you round. Mr. Meadows has charge of our clerical staff, you understand; but you'll have most to do with me, of course. There's a little bit of a room opposite mine, where we keep the stationery an' that. I dare say you'll be able to work there.'

In this wise, then, with most fortunate ease, I secured my first employment in the capital city; and very well it suited me, for the present. Within a week I found that I was left to open all letters, and to deal with them very much as I thought best, with references of course to Mr. John, and at times, in a matter of accounts, to Mr. Meadows, or again to the storekeeper and others. It was not good shorthand practice, but his correspondence pleased Mr. John very much--especially its more rotund phrases--whilst for my part I keenly relished the fact that I, the most junior member of the staff, had really less of supervision in my work than any one else in the office.

Upon the whole I was entitled, on that evening of my first day in the Sussex Street offices, to feel that I had made a tolerably creditable beginning, and that Sydney had treated the latest suppliant for her favour rather well. What I very well remember I did feel was that I should have an interesting story for Mr. William Smith that night when I reached 'my rooms' at North Shore.


My third day at J. Canning and Son's offices was a Saturday, and the establishment closed at one o'clock. My room-mate, Mr. Smith, had invited me to spend the afternoon with him at Manly, the favourite sea-beach resort close to Sydney Heads. I had other plans in view, but did not like to refuse Mr. Smith, and so spent the time with him, not without enjoyment.

Manly was not, of course, the thronged and crowded place it is to-day, but its Saturday afternoon visitors were fairly numerous, and most of them were people who showed in a variety of ways that they did not have to consider very closely the expenditure of a sovereign or so. For our part, Mr. Smith's and mine, I doubt if our outing cost more than five shillings; and, though I succeeded in paying my own boat-fares, my companion insisted upon settling himself for the refreshments we had: a cup of tea in the afternoon, and a sort of high tea or supper before leaving. I had not begun to tire of watching people, and was innocent enough to derive keen satisfaction from the thought that I, too, was one of these city folk, business people, office men, who gave their Saturday leisure to the quest of ocean breezes and recreation in this well-known resort.

Yes, from this distance, it is a little hard to realise perhaps, but it is a fact that at this particular time I was genuinely proud of being a clerk in an office, in place of being a handy lad, and one of the manual workers. It was my lot in later years to dictate considerable correspondence to young men who practised shorthand and typewriting--they called themselves secretaries, not correspondence clerks--and I always felt an interest in their characters and affairs, and endeavoured to show them every consideration. But I cannot say that those who served me in this capacity ever played just the sort of part I played as a correspondence clerk in Sussex Street. But they always interested me, none the less, and I showed them special consideration; no doubt because I remembered a period when I took much secret pride and satisfaction in having obtained entrance to their ranks, from what in all countries which I have visited is accounted a lowlier walk of life. And yet, as I see it now, I must confess that I am inclined to think the handy lad in the open air has rather the best of it. I admit this is open to question, however. Fortunately there are compensations in both cases.

'For a young fellow you do a lot of thinking,' said Mr. Smith to me as we walked slowly down to the ferry stage in leaving Manly. Of course I indulged in one of my idiotic blushes.

'No; oh no,' I told him. 'I was only watching the people.'

'Well, there's nothing to be ashamed of in thinking,' he justly said. 'If most of the youngsters in Sydney did a deal more of it, it would be a lot better for them.'

'Ah, you mean thinking about their work.' I knew instinctively, and because of remarks he had made, that my elderly room-mate thought well of me as being a very practical lad, seriously determined to get on in the world. And so, also instinctively, I played up, as they say, to this view of my character, and I dare say overdid it at times; certainly to the extent of making myself appear more practical, or more concentrated upon material progress, than I really was.

'Oh, I don't know about that,' said Mr. Smith as we boarded the steamer. 'Business isn't the only thing in life, and there are plenty other things worth thinking about.' Yes, odd as it seems, it was I who was being reminded that there were other things worth thinking of besides business; I ... 'No, but it would be better for 'em to do a lot more thinking about all kinds of things. Thinking is better than running after little chits of girls who ought to be smacked and put to bed.'

Two refulgent youths had just passed us, in the wake of damsels whose favour they apparently sought to win as favour is perhaps won in poultry-yards--by cackling.

'I've had to do a powerful lot of talking in my time,' continued Mr. Smith; 'and now I like to see any one, and especially any young fellow, understand that it's not necessary to talk for talking's sake, and that when you've nothing particular to say, it's better to be quiet and think, than--than just to blither, as so many do.'

I endeavoured to look as much as possible like a deep thinker as I acquiesced, and made mental note of the fact that I had evidently been rather neglecting my companion.

'Mind you,' he added, 'it isn't only in office hours and at his work that a man makes for success in business. Not a bit of it. It's when he's thinking things out away from the office. Why, some of the best business I ever brought off I've really done in bed--the planning out of it, you know.'

I nodded the understanding sympathy of a wily and experienced hand at business. I wonder if the average youth is equally adaptive! Probably not, for I suppose it means I was a good deal of a humbug. All I knew of business, so far, was what Sussex Street had shown me; and if I had been perfectly candid, I should have admitted that, so far from striking me as interesting, it seemed to me absurdly, incredibly dull and uninteresting; so much so as to have a guise of unreality to me. But my letters interested me none the less.

The facts of the situation were unreal. I cared nothing about Canning and Son's profits, or the prices of Mr. Gubbins's butter; nothing whatever. But I derived considerable satisfaction from turning out a letter the fluent suavity of which I thought would impress Mr. Gubbins. Primarily, my satisfaction came from the impression the letters made upon me personally. Also, I enjoyed the sense of importance it gave me to open the firm's letters myself, and to tell myself that, given certain bald facts to be acquired from this man or the other, I could reply to them far better than Mr. John could. I liked to make him think my smugly correct phrasing was his own, because I knew it was much more polished, and I thought it much more effective than his own; and I liked to figure myself a sort of anonymous power behind the throne--the Sussex Street throne!

As we breasted the hill together from the North Shore landing-place, Mr. Smith delivered himself of these sapient words, designed, I am sure, to be of real help to me:

'What they call success in life is a simple business, really; only nobody thinks so, and so very few find it out. They're always looking round for special dodges, and wasting time following up special methods recommended by this fool or the other. There's only one thing wanted really for success, and that's just keeping on. Just keeping on; that's all. If you never let go of yourself--never, mind you, but just keep on, steady and regular, you can't help succeeding. It just comes to you. But you must keep on. It's no good having a shot at this, and trying the other. The way is just to keep on.'

My mentor was in a seriously practical vein on this Saturday night; partly perhaps because, as the event proved, he was within four days of one of his periodical disappearances.


In the early afternoon of Sunday I set out upon the visit I had originally intended to pay on the previous day.

Three o'clock found me rather nervously ringing a bell at the door of Filson House in Macquarie Street. Under the brightly polished bell-pull was the name C. F. Rawlence, and the legend: 'Do not ring unless an answer is required.' It was my first experience of such a notice, and I felt uncertain how it was intended to apply. Neither for the moment could I understand why in the world any sane person should ring a bell unless desirous of eliciting a response of some kind. Finally, I decided that it must be a plaintive and exceedingly trustful appeal to the good nature of urchins who might be tempted to ring and run away.

A smiling young Chinaman presently opened the door to me, and said: 'You come top-side alonga me, pease; Mr. Lollance he's in.'

So I walked upstairs behind the silent, felt-shod Asiatic, and wondered what was coming next. I had hitherto associated Chinamen in Australia exclusively with market-gardening and laundry work. The house was not a very high one, but it really was its 'top-side' we walked to, and, arrived there, I was shown into what I thought must certainly be the largest and most magnificent apartment in Sydney.

I dare say the room was thirty feet long by twenty feet wide, without counting the huge fireplace at one end, which formed a room in itself, and did actually accommodate several easy chairs, though I cannot think the weather was ever cold enough in Sydney to admit of people sitting so close to a log fire as these chairs were placed. There were suits of armour, skins of beasts, strange weapons, curious tapestries, and other stock properties of artists' studios, all conventional enough, and yet to me most startling. I had never before visited a studio, and did not know that artists affected these things. The magnificence of it all impressed me enormously. It almost oppressed me with a sense of my own temerity in venturing to visit any one who maintained such state.

'This is what it means to be a famous artist,' I told myself, well assured now, in my innocence, that Mr. Rawlence must be very famous. 'Every one else probably knew it before,' I thought. And just then the great man himself appeared, not at the door behind me, but between heavy curtains which hid some other entrance. He came forward with a welcoming smile. Then, for a moment this gave place to rather blank inquiry. And then the smile returned and broadened.

'Why, it's-- No, it can't be. But it is--my young friend of St. Peter's. I'm delighted. Welcome to Sydney. Sit down, sit down, and let me have your news.'

He reclined in a sidelong way upon a sort of ottoman, and gracefully waved me to an enormous chair facing him.

'There are always a few charitable souls who drop in upon me of a Sunday afternoon, but I'd no idea you would be the first of them to-day.'

Here was a disturbing announcement for me!

'Perhaps it would be more convenient if I came one evening, Mr. Rawlence,' I said awkwardly, half rising from the chair.

'Tut, tut, my dear lad! Sit down, sit down. Why should other visitors disturb you? There will only be good fellows like yourself. Ladies are rarities here on a Sunday. And in any case-- Why, you are quite the man of the world now.' This with kindly admiration. Then he screwed up his eyes, moved his head backward and from side to side, as though to correct his view of a picture. 'Just one point out of the picture. Dare I alter it? May I?' And, stepping forward, he thrust well down in my breast coat pocket Mrs. Gabbitas's gorgeous silk handkerchief. 'Yes,' as he moved backward again, 'that's better. One never can see these things for oneself. But let me make sure of your important news before we are interrupted.'

So I told my story as well as I could, and Mr. Rawlence was in the act of expressing his kindly interest therein, when I heard steps and voices on the stairs below.

'If you're not otherwise engaged you must stay till these fellows go, Nick,' said my host. 'We haven't half finished our talk, you know. And--er--if you should be talking to any one here of--er--your present situation, I should leave it quite vague, if I were you; secretarial work you know--something of that sort. We may have some newspaper men here who might be useful to you one day--you follow me?'

'Ah! Hail! Good of you to have come, Landon. Ah, Foster! Jones! Good men! Do find seats. Oh, let me introduce a new arrival--Mr. Nicholas Freydon; Mr. Landon, the disgracefully well-known painter, Mr. Foster and Mr. Jones, both of the Fourth Estate, though frequently taken for quite respectable members of society. We may not have a Fleet Street here, you know, Freydon, but we have one or two rather decent newspapers, as you may have noticed.'

He turned to the still smiling young Chinaman. 'Let's have cigars and cigarettes, Ah Lun.'

I gathered that I had been presented as a new arrival from England. It was rather startling; but so far I found that an occasional smile was all that seemed expected of me, and I was of course anxious to do my best. 'Good thing I've started smoking,' I thought, as Ah Lun began passing round two massive silver boxes, with cigars and cigarettes. The visitors were mostly young, rather noticeably young, I thought, in view of the greying hair over Mr. Rawlence's temples; and I felt less and less alarmed as I listened to their talk. In fact, shamelessly disrespectful though the idea was, I found myself, after a while, wondering whether Mr. Smith might not have called some of the conversation 'cackle.' And then some technicalities, journalistic and artistic, began to star the talk, and I meekly rebuked my own presumption. But I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Smith would have called most of it 'cackle,' and it is possible he would have been tolerably near the truth.

Within an hour I had been introduced to perhaps a score of visitors, and Ah Lun was just as busy as he could be, serving tea, whisky, wine, soda-water, cigars, cigarettes, sandwiches, and so forth. It was all tremendously exciting to me. The mere sound of so many voices, apart from anything else, I found wonderfully stimulating, if a trifle bewildering.

'This,' I told myself, in a highly impressive, though necessarily inarticulate stage-whisper of thought, 'This is Society; this is what's called the Social Vortex; and I am right in the bubbling centre of it.' And then I thought how wonderful it would have been if Mr. Jokram, of Dursley's School of Arts Committee, and one or two others--say, Sister Agatha, for example--could have been permitted to take a peep between the magnificent curtains, and have a glimpse of me, engaged in brilliant conversation with a celebrity of some kind, whose neck-tie would have made an ample sash for little Nelly Fane--of me, the St. Peter's orphan, in Society!

Truly, I was an innocent and unlicked cub. But I believe I managed to pull through the afternoon without notably disgracing my distinguished host and patron; and, too, without referring even to 'secretarial work.' I might have been heir to a dukedom, a distinguished remittance man, or even a congenital idiot, for all the company was allowed to gather from me as to my means of livelihood.


Towards six o'clock the company began to thin out somewhat, and within the hour I found myself once more alone with Mr. Rawlence.

'Well, and what do you think of these few representatives of Sydney's Bohemia?' asked my host. 'They are not, perhaps, leading pillars of our official society, as one may say--the Government House set, you know--but my Sunday afternoon visitors are apt to be pretty fairly representative of our best literary and artistic circles, I think. Interesting fellows, are they not? I was glad to notice you had a few words with Foster, the editor of the Chronicle. If you still have literary or journalistic ambitions, and have not been entirely captivated by the pundits of commerce and money-making, Foster might be of material assistance to you.'

Just then Ah Lun passed before us (still smiling), carrying a tray full of used glasses.

'We'll have a bit of dinner here, Ah Lun. I won't go out to-night. I dare say you have something we can pick over. Let us know when it's ready.'

Really, as I look back upon it, I see even more clearly than at the time that the artist was extraordinarily kind to me; to an obscure and friendless youth, none too presentable, and little likely just then to do him credit. I would prefer to set down here only that which I understood and felt at the time. Perhaps that is not quite possible, in the light of subsequently acquired knowledge and experience. This much I can say: there was no hint at this time of any wavering or diminution in the almost worshipful regard I felt for Mr. Rawlence.

Seen in his own chosen setting, he was the most magnificent person I had met. Æstheticism of a pronounced sort was becoming the fashion of the day in London; and, as I presently found, Mr. Rawlence followed the fashions of London and Paris closely. Indeed, I gathered that at one time he had settled down, determined to live and to end his days in one or other of those Old World capitals. But after a year divided between them, he had returned to Sydney, and gradually formed his Macquarie Street home and social connections. No doubt he was a more important figure there than he would have been in Europe. His private income made him easily independent of earnings artistic or otherwise. I apprehend he lived at the rate of about a thousand pounds a year, or a little more, which meant a good deal in Sydney in those days. I remember being told at one time that he did not earn fifty pounds in a year as a painter; but, of course, I could not answer for that.

I think he derived his greatest satisfactions from the society of young aspirants in art, literature, and journalism; and I incline to think it was more to please and interest, to serve and to impress these neophytes, than from any inclination of his own, that he also assiduously cultivated the society of a few maturer men who were definitely placed in the Sydney world as artists, writers, editors, and so forth. But such conclusions came to me gradually, of course. I had not thought of them during that delightfully exciting experience--my first visit to the Macquarie Street studio.

The simple little dinner was for me a thrilling episode. The deft-handed Chinaman hovering behind our chairs, the softly shaded table-lights, the wine in tall, fantastically shaped Bohemian glasses, the very food--all unfamiliar, and therefore fascinating: olives, smoked salmon--to which I helped myself largely, believing it to be sliced tomato--a cold bird of sorts, no slices of bread but little rolls in place of them, no tea, and no dishes ever seen in Mrs. Gabbitas's kitchen, or at my North Shore lodging. And then the figure of my host, lounging at table in the rosy light, a cigarette between the shapely fingers of his right hand--I had not before seen any one smoke at the dinner-table--his brown velvet coat, his languidly graceful gestures, the delicate hue of his flowing neck-tie, the costly sort of negligence of his whole dress and deportment--all these trifling matters were alike rare and exquisite in my eyes.

After their fashion the day, and in particular the evening, were an education for me. I spent a couple of hours over the short homeward journey to Mill Street, the better to savour and consider my impressions. The previous day belonged to my remote past. I had travelled through ages of experience since then. For example, I quite definitely was no longer proud of being a clerk in an office. As I realised this I smiled down as from a great height upon a recollection of the chorus of a Scots ditty sung by a sailor on board the Ariadne. I have no notion of how to spell the words, but they ran somewhat in this wise:

'Wi' a Hi heu honal, an' a honal heu hi,
Comelachie, Ecclefechan, Ochtermochty an' Mulgye,
Wi' a Hi heu honal, an' a honal heu hi,
It's a braw thing a clairk in an orfiss.'

Well, it was no such a braw thing to me that night, as it had seemed on the previous day. I had heard the word 'commercial' spoken with an intonation which I fancied Mr. Smith would greatly resent. But I did not resent it. And that was another of the fruits of my immense experience: Mr. Smith would never again hold first place as my mentor. How could he? Why, even some of my own innocent notions of the past--of pre-Macquarie Street days--seemed nearer the real thing than one or two of poor Mr. Smith's obiter dicta. I had noted the hats of that elect assemblage, and there had not been a billycock among them. Not a single example of the headgear which Mr. Smith held necessary for the self-respecting man in Sydney! But, on the contrary, there had been quite a number of a kind which approximated more or less to the soft brown hat purchased by me in Dursley, and discarded upon Mr. Smith's urgent recommendation in favour of the more rigid and precise billycock. I reflected upon this significant fact for quite a long while.

Certainly, the world was a very wonderful place. Was it possible that a week ago I had been a handy lad, dressed merely in shirt and trousers, and engaged in planting out tomatoes? I arrived at the corner of Mill Street, and turning on my heel walked away from it. I wanted to try over, out loud, one or two such phrases as these:

'I've been dining with an artist friend in Macquarie Street!'--'I was saying this afternoon to the editor of the Chronicle'--'I met some delightful people at my friend Mr. Rawlence's studio this afternoon!'

But, upon the whole, there was a more subtle joy in the enunciation of certain other remarks, supposed to come from somebody else:

'I met Mr. Freydon, Mr. Nicholas Freydon, you know, this afternoon. He had looked in at Rawlence's studio in Macquarie Street. In fact, I believe he stayed there to dinner before going on to his rooms at North Shore. Rawlence certainly does get all the most interesting people at his place. Landon, the painter, was deep in conversation with Mr. Freydon. No, I don't know what Mr. Freydon does--some secretarial appointment, I fancy. He's evidently a great friend of Rawlence's.'

It is surprising that I can set these things down with no particular sense of shame. I distinctly remember striding along the deserted roads, speaking these absurdities aloud, in an only slightly subdued conversational voice. My mood was one of remarkable exaltation. I wonder if other young men have been equally mad!

'How d'ye do, Foster?' I would murmur airily as I swung round a corner. 'Have you seen my new book?'; or, 'I noticed you published that article of mine yesterday!' Presently I found myself in open, scrub-covered country, and singing, quite loudly, the old sailor's doggerel about its being a braw thing to be a 'clairk in an orfiss'; my real thought being that it was a braw thing to be Nicholas Freydon, a clerk in an office, who was very soon to be something quite otherwise.

I am not quite sure if this mood was typical of the happy madness of youth. There may have been a lamentable kind of snobbery about it; I dare say. I only know this was my mood; these were my apparently crazy actions on that remote Sunday night. And, too, before getting into bed that night--fortunately for himself, perhaps, poor Mr. Smith was already asleep, and so safe from my loquacity--I carefully folded the two magnificent rainbow-hued silk handkerchiefs which good Mrs. Gabbitas had given me, and stowed them away at the very bottom of my ancient carpet-bag.

The sort of remarks which I had been addressing to the moon were not remarks which I ever should have dreamed of addressing to any human being. I think in justice I might add that. But I had greatly enjoyed hearing myself say them to the silent night.


Actually, I dare say the process of one's sophistication was gradual enough. But looking back now upon my Dursley period, and the four years spent in Sydney--and, indeed, my stay in the Orphanage, and my life with my father in Livorno Bay--it appears to me that my growth, education, development, whatever it may be called, came at intervals, jerkily, in sudden leaps forward. The truth probably is that the development was constant and steady, but that its symptoms declared themselves spasmodically.

It would seem that there ought to have been a phase of smart, clerkly dandyism; but perhaps Mr. Rawlence's kindly hospitality in Macquarie Street nipped that in the bud, substituting for it a kind of twopenny æstheticism, which made me affect floppy neckties and a studied negligence of dress, combined with some neglect of the barber. In these things, as in certain other matters, there were some singular contradictions and inconsistencies in me, and I was distinctly precocious. The precocity was due, I take it, to the fact that I had never known family life, and that my companions had always been older than myself. I fancy that most people I met supposed me to be at least three or four years older than I was, and were sedulously encouraged by me in that supposition. I was precocious, too, in another way. I could have grown a beard and moustache at seventeen. Instead, I assiduously plied the razor night and morning, and derived satisfaction from something which irritated me greatly in later years--the remarkably rapid and sturdy growth of my beard.

As against these extravagances I must record the fact that my parsimony in monetary matters survived. Mr. John, in Sussex Street, presently raised my salary to two pounds ten shillings a week; but I continued to share Mr. Smith's bedroom, and to pay only sixteen shillings weekly for my board and lodging. What was more to the point, I was equally careful in most other matters affecting expenditure, and never added less than a pound each week to my savings bank account; an achievement by no means always equalled in after years, even when earnings were ten times larger. I may have, and did indulge in the most extravagant conceits of the mind. But these never seriously affected my pocket.

There is perhaps something rather distasteful in the idea of so much economic prudence in one so young. A certain generous carelessness is proper to youth. Well, I had none of it, at this time, in money matters. And, distasteful or not, I am glad of it, since, at all events, it had this advantage: at a very critical period I was preserved from the grosser and more perilous indulgences of youth. When the time did arrive at which I ceased to be very careful in money spending, I had presumably acquired a little more balance, and was a little safer than in those adolescent Sydney years.

Here again my qualities were presumably the product of my condition and circumstances. To be left quite alone in the world while yet a child, as I had been, does, I apprehend, stimulate a certain worldly prudence in regard, at all events, to so obvious a matter as the balance of income and expenditure. I felt that if I were ever stranded and penniless there would be no one in the whole world to lend me a helping hand, or to save me from being cut adrift from all that I had come to hold precious, and flung back into the slough of manual labour--for that, curiously enough, is how I then regarded it. Not, of course, that I had found manual work in itself unpleasant in any way; but that I then considered my escape from it had carried me into a social and mental atmosphere superior to that which the manual worker could reach.

Except when he was absent from Sydney, Mr. Rawlence always received his friends at the Macquarie Street studio on Sundays, and none was more regular in attendance than myself. It would be very easy, of course, to be sarcastic at Mr. Rawlence's expense; to poke fun at the well-to-do gentleman approaching middle age, who clung to the pretence of being a working artist, and to avoid criticism, or because more mature workers would not seek his society, liked to surround himself with neophytes--a Triton among minnows. And indeed, as I found, there were those--some old enough to know better, and others young enough to be more generous--who were not above adopting this attitude even whilst enjoying their victim's hospitality; aye, and enjoying it greedily.

But neither then nor at any subsequent period was I tempted to ridicule a man uniformly kind and helpful to me; and this, not at all because I blinded myself to his weaknesses and imperfections, but because I found, and still find, these easily outweighed by his good and genuinely kindly qualities. His may not have been a very dignified way of life; it was too full of affectations for that; particularly after he began to be greatly influenced by the rather sickly æsthetic movement then in vogue in London. But it was, at least, a harmless life; and, upon the whole, a generous and kindly one.

Its influence upon me, for example, tended, I am sure, to give me a pronounced distaste for the coarse and vulgar sort of dissipation which very often engaged the leisure of my office companions, and other youths of similar occupation in Sydney. It may be that the causes behind my aloofness from mere vulgar frivolity, and worse, were pretty mixed: part pride, or even conceit, and part prudence or parsimony. No matter. The influence was helpful, for the abstention was real, and the distaste grew always more rooted as time wore on. Also, the same influence tended to make me more fastidious, more critical, less crude than I might otherwise have been. It led me to give more serious attention to pictures, music, and literature of the less ephemeral sort than I might otherwise have given. It was not that Mr. Rawlence and his friends advised one to study Shakespeare, or to attend the better sort of concerts, or to learn something of art and criticism. But talk that I heard in that studio did make me feel that it was eminently desirable I should inform myself more fully in these matters.

Listening to a discussion there of some quite worthless thing more than once moved me to the investigation of something of real value. I was still tolerably credulous, and when a man's casual reference suggested that he and every one else was naturally intimate with this or that, I would make it my business, so far as might be, really to obtain some knowledge of the matter. I assumed, often quite mistakenly, no doubt, that every one else present had this particular knowledge. Thus the spirit of emulation helped me as it might never have done but for Mr. Rawlence and his sumptuous studio, so rich in everything save examples of his own work.

* * * * *

I fancy it must have been fully a year after my arrival in Sydney that I met Mr. Foster, the editor of the Chronicle, as I was walking down from Sussex Street to Circular Quay one evening.

'Ah, Freydon,' he said; 'what an odd coincidence! I was this moment thinking of you, and of something you said last Sunday at Rawlence's. I can't use the article you sent me. It's-- Well, for one thing, it's rather too much like fiction; like a story, you know. But, tell me, what do you do for a living?'

'I'm a correspondence clerk, at present, in a Sussex Street business house.'

'H'm! Yes, I rather thought something of the sort--and very good practical training, too, I should say. But I gather you are keen on press work, eh?'

I gave an eager affirmative, and the editor nodded.

'Ye--es,' he said musingly as we turned aside into Wynyard Square. 'I should think you'd do rather well at it. But, mind you, I fancy there are bigger rewards to be won in business.'

'If there are, I don't want them,' I rejoined, with a warmth that surprised myself.

'Ah! Well, there's only one way, you know, in journalism as in other things. One must begin at the foundations, and work right through to the roof. I'll tell you what; if you'd care to come on the Chronicle--reporting, you know--I could give you a vacancy now.'

No doubt I showed the thrill this announcement gave me when I thanked him for thinking of me.

'Oh, that's all right. There's no favour in it. I wouldn't offer it if I didn't think you'd do full justice to it. And, mind you, there's nothing tempting about it, financially at all events. I couldn't start you at more than two or three pounds a week.'

Now here, despite my elation, I spoke with a shrewdness often recalled, but rarely repeated by me in later life. A curious thing that, in one so young, and evidence of one of the inconsistencies about my development which I have noted before in this record.

'Oh, well,' I said, 'I should not, of course, like to lose money by the change; but if you could give me three pounds a week I shouldn't be losing, and I'd be delighted to come.'

It falls to be noted that I was earning two pounds ten shillings a week from Messrs. J. Canning and Son at that time. I do not think there was anything dishonest in what I said to Foster; but it certainly indicated a kind of business sharpness which has been rather noticeably lacking in my later life. The editor nodded ready agreement, and it was in this way that I first entered upon journalistic employment.


The work that I did as the most junior member of the Chronicle's literary staff no doubt possessed some of the merits which usually accompany enthusiasm.

Memory still burdens me with the record of one or two articles thought upon which makes my skin twitch hotly. It is remarkable that matter so astoundingly crude should have seen the light of print. But, when one comes to think of it, the large, careless newspaper-reading public, the majority, remains permanently youthful so far as judgment of the written word is concerned; and so it may be that raw youngsters, such as I was then, can approach the majority more nearly than the tried and trained specialist, who, just in so far as he has specialised as a journalist, has removed himself from the familiar purview of the general, and acquired an outlook which, to this extent, is exotic.

At all events, I know I achieved some success with articles in the Chronicle of a sort which no experienced journalist could write, save with his tongue in his cheek; and tongue-in-the-cheek writing never really impressed anybody. What seems even more strange to me, in the light of later life and experience, is the fact that upon several occasions I proved of some value to the business side of the Chronicle. My efforts actually brought the concern money, and increased circulation. I find this most surprising, but I know it happened. There were due solely to my initiative 'interviews' with sundry leading lights in commerce, and in the professional sporting world, which were highly profitable to the paper; and this at a time when the 'interview' was a thing practically unknown in Australian journalism.

Stimulated perhaps by the remarks of the good Mr. Smith, my room-mate, I planned ventures of this kind in bed, descending fully armed with them upon Mr. Foster by day, in most cases to fire him, more or less, by my own enthusiasm. Upon the whole I earned my pay pretty well while working for the Chronicle, even having regard to the several small increases made therein. If I lacked ability and experience, I gave more than most of my colleagues, perhaps, in concentration and initiative.

The two things most salient, I think, which befell in this phase of my life were my determination to go to England, and my only adolescent love affair; this, as distinguished from the sentimental episodes of infancy and childhood, which with me had been a rather prolific crop.

The determination to make my way to England, the land of my fathers, did not take definite shape until comedy, with a broad smile, rang down the curtain upon my love affair. But I fancy it had been a long while in the making. I am not sure but what the germ of it began to stir a little in its husk even at St. Peter's Orphanage; I feel sure it did while I browsed upon English fiction in my little wooden room beside the tool-shed at Dursley. It was near the surface from the time I began to visit Mr. Rawlence's studio in Macquarie Street, and busily developing from that time onward, though it did not become a visible and admitted growth, with features and a shape of its own, until more than two years had elapsed. Then, quite suddenly, I recognised it, and told myself it was for this really that I had been 'saving up.'

In the Old World the adventurous-minded, enterprising youth turns naturally from contemplation of the humdrum security of the multitudinously trodden path in which he finds himself to thoughts of the large new lands; of those comparatively untried and certainly uncrowded uplands of the world, which, apart from the other chances and attractions they offer, possess the advantage of lying oversea, from the beaten track--over the hills and far away. 'Here,' he may be supposed to feel, as he gazes about him in his familiar, Old World environment, 'there is nothing but what has been tried and exploited, sifted through and through time and again, all adown the centuries. What chance is there for me among the crowd, where there is nothing new, nothing untried? Whereas, out there--' Ah, the magic of those words, 'Out there!' and 'Over there!' for home-bred youth! It is good, wholesome magic, too, and it will be a bad day for the Old World, a disastrous day for England, when it ceases to exercise its powers upon the hearts and imaginations of the youth of our stock.

Well, and in the New World, in the case of such sprawling young giants among the nations of the future as Australia, what is the master dream of adventurous and enterprising youth there? Australia, like Canada, has its call of the west and the north, with their appealing tale of untried potentialities. Canada has also, across its merely figurative and political southern border, a vast and teeming world, reaching down to the equator, and comprising almost every possible diversity of human effort and natural resource. Australia, the purely British island continent, is more isolated. But, broadly speaking, the very facts which make the enterprising Old World youth fix his gaze upon the New World cause the same type of youth in Australia, for example, to look home-along across the seas, toward those storied islands of the north which, it may be, he has never seen: the land which, in some cases, even his parents have not seen since their childhood.

'Here,' he may be imagined saying, as he looks about him among the raw uprising products of the new land, where the past is nothing and all hope centres upon the future, 'Here everything is yet to do; everything is in the making. Here, money's the only reward. Who's to judge of one's accomplishment here? Fame has no accredited deputy in this unmade world. Whereas, back there, at home--' Oh, the magic of those words 'At Home!' and 'In England!' alike for those who once have seen the white cliffs fade out astern, and for those who have seen them only in dreams, bow on!

Everything has been tried and accomplished there. The very thought that speeds the emigrant pulls at the heart-strings of the immigrant; drawing home one son from the outposts, while thrusting out another toward the outposts, there to learn what England means, and to earn and deserve the glory of his birthright. That, in a nutshell, is the real history of the British Empire....

But, as I said, before final recognition of the determination to go to England came my youthful love affair. With every apparent deference toward the traditions of romance, I fell in love with the daughter of my chief; and my fall was very thorough and complete. I was in the editorial sanctum one afternoon, discussing some piece of work, and getting instructions from Mr. Foster--'G.F.' as we called him--when the door was flung open, as no member of the staff would ever have opened it, and two very charming young women fluttered in, filling the whole place by their simple presence there. One was dark and the other fair: the first, my chief's daughter Mabel; the second, her bosom friend, Hester Prinsep.

'Oh, father, we're all going down to see Tommy off. I want to get some flowers, and I've come out without a penny, so I want some money.'

My chief had risen, and was drawing forward a chair for Miss Prinsep. I do not think he intended to pay the same attention to his daughter, but I did, and received a very charming smile for my pains. Upon which G.F. presented me in due form to both ladies. Turning then to his daughter, he said with half-playful severity:

'You know, Mabel, we are not accustomed to your rough and ready Potts Point manners here. We knock at doors before we open them, and do at least inquire if a man is engaged before we swoop down upon him demanding his money or his life.'

'Father! as though I should think of you as being engaged! And as for the money part, I thought this was the very place to come to for money.'

'Ah! Well, how did you come?'

'The cab's waiting outside.'

'Dear me! You may have noticed, Freydon, that cabmen are a peculiarly gallant class. They don't show much inclination to drive us about when we have no money, do they?'

Then he turned to Miss Prinsep. 'And so your brother really starts for England to-day, Hester? I almost think I'll have to make time to dash down and wish him luck.'

'Oh, do, Mr. Foster! Tommy would appreciate it.'

'Yes, do, father,' echoed Miss Foster. 'Come with us now. That will be splendid.'

'No, I can't manage that. You go and buy your flowers, and I'll try and get away in time to take you both home. Here's a sovereign; and-- Ah! you'd better have some silver for your cab. H'm! Here you are.'

'Thanks awfully, father. You are a generous dear. That will be lots. The cab's Gurney's, you see, so I can tell him to put it down in the account. But the silver's sure to come in handy, for I'm dreadfully poor just now.'

G.F. shrugged his shoulders, with a comic look in my direction. 'Feminine honesty! Take the silver, and tell the cabman to charge me! Freydon, perhaps you'd be kind enough to see this brigand and her friend to their cab, will you? I think we are all clear about that article, aren't we? Right! On your way ask Stone to come in and see me, will you?'

So he bowed us out, and I, in a state of most agreeable fluster, escorted the ladies to their waiting cab.

'Good-bye, Mr. Freydon,' said Mabel Foster as she gave me her softly gloved little hand over the cab door. And, from that moment, I was her slave; only realising some few minutes later that I had been so unpardonably rude as never even to have glanced in Miss Prinsep's direction, to say nothing of bidding her good-bye.

Miss Foster's was a well recognised and conventional kind of beauty, very telling to my inexperienced eyes, and richly suggestive of romance. Her eyes were large, dark, and, as the novelists say, 'melting.' Her face was a perfectly regular oval, having a clear olive complexion, with warm hints of subdued colour in it. Her lips were most provocative, and all about the edges of that dark cloud, her hair, the light played fitfully through a lattice of stray tendrils. A very pretty picture indeed, Miss Foster was perfectly conscious of her charms, and a mistress of coquettishness in her use of them. A true child of pleasure-loving Sydney, she might have posed with very little preparation as a Juliet or a Desdemona, and to my youthful fancy carried about with her the charming gaiety and romantic tenderness of the most delightful among Boccaccio's ladies. (Sydney was just then beginning to be referred to by writers as the Venice of the Pacific, and I was greatly taken with the comparison.)

A week or so later, I was honoured by an invitation to dine at my chief's house one Saturday night; and from that point onward my visits became frequent, my subjugation unquestioning and complete. This was the one brief period of my youth in which I flung away prudence and became youthfully extravagant, not merely in thought but in the expenditure of money. I suppose fully half my salary, for some time, was given to the purchase of sweets and flowers, pretty booklets and the like, for Mabel Foster; and, of the remainder of my earnings, the tailor took heavier toll than he had ever done before.

For example, when that first invitation to dinner reached me--on a Monday--I had never had my arms through the sleeves of a dress-coat. Mr. Smith kindly offered the loan of his time-honoured evening suit, pointing out, I dare say truly, that such garments were being 'cut very full just now.' But, no; I felt that the occasion demanded an epoch-marking plunge on my part; and to this end Mr. Smith was good enough to introduce me to his own tailor, through whom, as I understood, I could obtain the benefit of some sort of trade reduction in price, by virtue of Mr. Smith's one time position as a commercial traveller.

During the week the eddies caused by my plunge penetrated beyond the world of tailoring, and doubtless produced their effect upon the white tie and patent leather shoe trade. But despite my lavish preparations, Saturday afternoon found me in the blackest kind of despair. Fully dressed in evening kit, I had been sitting on my bed for an hour, well knowing that all shops were closed, and facing the lamentable fact that I had no suitable outer garment with which to cloak my splendour on the way to Potts Point. It was Mr. Smith who discovered the omission, and he, too, who had made me feel the full tragedy of it. The covert coat he pressed upon me would easily have buttoned behind my back, and Mrs. Hastings's kindly offer of a shawl (a vivid plaid which she assured me had been worn and purchased by no less an authority upon gentlemen's wear than her father) had been finally, almost bitterly, rejected by me.

It was then, when my fate seemed blackest to me, that Mr. Smith discovered in the prolific galleries of his well-stored memory the fact that it was perfectly permissible for a gentleman in my case to go uncovered by any outer robe, providing--and this was indispensable--that he carried some preferably light cloak or overcoat upon his arm.

'And the weather being close and hot, too, as it certainly is to-night, I'll wager you'll find you're quite in the mode if you get to Potts Point with my covert coat on your arm. So that settles it.'

It did; and I was duly grateful. It certainly was a hot evening, and in no sense any fault of Mr. Smith's that its warmth brought a heavy thunderstorm of rain just as I began my walk up the long hill at Potts Point, so that, taking shelter here and there, as opportunity offered, but not daring to put on the enormously over-large coat, I finally ran up to the house in pouring rain, with a coat neatly folded over one arm. A few years later, no doubt, I should have been glad to slip the coat on, or fling it over my head. But--it did not happen a few years later....

My worshipful adoration of Miss Foster made me neglectful even of Mr. Rawlence's Sunday afternoon receptions. To secure the chance of being rewarded by five minutes alone with her, in the garden or elsewhere, I suppose I must have given up hundreds of hours from a not very plentiful allowance of leisure. And it is surprising, in retrospect, to note how steadfast I was in my devotion; how long it lasted.

The young woman had ability; there's not a doubt of that. For, ardent though I was, she allowed no embarrassing questions. I am free to suppose that my devotion was not unwelcome or tiresome to her, and that she enjoyed its innumerable small fruits in the shape of offerings. But she kept me most accurately balanced at the precise distance she found most agreeable. My letters--the columns and columns I must have written!--were most fervid; and a good deal more eloquent, I fancy, than my oral courtship. But yet I have her own testimony for it that Mabel approved my declamatory style of love-making; the style used when actually in the presence.

The end was in this wise: I called, ostensibly to see Mrs. Foster, on a Saturday afternoon, when I knew, as a matter of fact, that my chief and his wife were attending a function in Sydney. It was a winter's day, very blusterous and wet. The servant having told me her mistress was out, and Miss Mabel in, was about to lead me through the long, wide hall to the drawing-room, which opened through a conservatory upon a rear verandah, when some one called her, and I assured her I could find my own way. So the smiling maid (who doubtless knew my secret) left me, and I leisurely disposed of coat and umbrella, and walked through the house. The shadowy drawing-room was empty, but, as I entered it, these words, spoken in Mabel's voice, reached me from the conservatory beyond:

'My dear Hester, how perfectly absurd. A little unknown reporter boy, picked up by father, probably out of charity! And, besides, you know I should always be true to Tommy, however long he is away. Why, I often mention my reporter boy to Tommy in writing. And he is delicious, you know; he really is. I believe you're jealous. He is a pretty boy, I know. But you'd hardly credit how sweetly he-- Well, romances, you know. He really is too killingly sweet when he makes love-- Oh, with the most knightly respect, my dear! Very likely he will come in this afternoon, and you shall hear for yourself. You shall sit out here, and I'll keep him in the drawing-room. Then you'll see how well in hand he is.'

It was probably contemptible of me not to have coughed, or blown my nose, or something, in the first ten seconds. But the whole speech did not occupy very many seconds in the making, and was half finished before I realised, with a stunning shock, what it meant. It went on after the last words I have written here, but at that point I retired, backward, into the hall to collect myself, as they say. I had various brilliant ideas in the few seconds given to this process. I saw myself, pitiless but full of dignity, inflicting scathing punishment of various kinds, and piling blazing coals of fire upon Mabel's pretty head. I thought, too, of merely disappearing, and leaving conscience to make martyrdom of my fair lady's life. But perhaps I doubted the inquisitorial capacity of her conscience. At all events, in the end, I rattled the drawing-room door-handle vigorously, and re-entered with a portentous clearing of the throat. There was a flutter and patter in the conservatory, and then the hitherto adored one came in to me, an open book in her hand, and witchery in both her liquid eyes.

And then a most embarrassing and unexpected thing happened. My wrath fell from me, carrying with it all my smarting sense of humiliation, and every vestige of the desire to humiliate or punish Mabel. I was left horribly unprotected, because conscious only of the totally unexpected fact that Mabel was still adorable, and that now, when about to leave her for ever, I wanted her more than at any previous time. Then help came to me. I heard a tiny footfall, light as a leaf's touch, on the paved floor of the conservatory. I pictured the listening Hester Prinsep, and pride, or some useful substitute therefor, came to my aid.

'I'm afraid I've interrupted you,' I said, making a huge effort to avoid seeing the witchery in Mabel's eyes. 'I only came to bring this book for Mrs. Foster. I had promised it.'

'But why so solemn, poor knight? What's wrong? Won't you sit down?' said Mabel gaily.

'No, I mustn't stay,' I replied, with Spartan firmness. And then, on a sudden impulse: 'Don't you think we've both been rather mistaken, Mabel? I've been silly and presumptuous, because, of course, I'm nobody--just a penniless newspaper reporter. And you--you are very dear and sweet, and will soon marry some one who can give you a house like this, in Potts Point. I--I've all my way to make yet, and--and so I'd like to say good-bye. And--thank you ever so much for always having been so sweet and so patient. Good-bye!'

'Why? Aren't you--Won't you--Good-bye then!'

And so I passed out; and, having quite relinquished any thought of reprisals, I believe perhaps I did, after all, bring a momentary twinge of remorse to pretty, giddy Mabel Foster. I never saw her again but once, and that as a mere acquaintance, and when almost a year had passed.


I have no idea what made me fix upon the particular sum of two hundred pounds as the amount of capital required for my migration oversea to England; but that was the figure I had in mind. At the time it seemed that the decision to go home--England is still regularly spoken of as 'home' by tens of thousands of British subjects who never have set eyes upon its shores, and are not acquainted with any living soul in the British Isles--came to me after that eventful afternoon at Potts Point. And as a definite decision, with anything like a date in view, perhaps it did not come till then. But the tendency in that direction had been present for a long while.

It would seem, however, that at every period of my life I have always been feeding upon some one predominant plan, desire, or objective. For many months prior to that afternoon at Potts Point, my adoration of Mabel Foster had overshadowed all else, and made me most unusually careless of other interests. This preoccupation having come to an abrupt end was succeeded almost immediately by the fixed determination to go to England as soon as I could acquire the sum of two hundred pounds. Into the pursuit then of this sum of money I now plunged with considerable vehemence.

As a matter of fact, I suppose the task of putting together a couple of hundred pounds, in London say, would be a pretty considerable one for a youngster without family or influence. It was not a hard one for me, in Sydney. I might probably have possessed the amount at this very time, but for my single period of extravagance--the time of devotion to Miss Foster. Putting aside the vagaries of that period, I saved money automatically. Mere living and journeying to and from the office cost me less than a pound each week. My pleasures cost less than half that amount all told; and as one outcome of my year's extravagance, I was now handsomely provided for in the matter of clothes.

But I will not pretend that hoarding for the great adventure of going to England did not involve some small sacrifices. It did. To take one trifle now. I had formed a habit of dropping into a restaurant, Quong Tart's by name, for a cup of afternoon tea each day; in the first place because I had heard Mabel Foster speak of going there for the same purpose with her friend Hester Prinsep. Abstention from this dissipation now added a few weekly shillings to the great adventure fund. To the same end I gave up cigarettes, confining myself to the one foul old briar pipe. And there were other such minor abstinences, all designed to increase the weight of the envelope I handed across the bank counter each week.

The disadvantages of the habit of making life a consecutive series of absorbing preoccupations are numerous. The practice narrows the sphere of one's interests and activities, tends to introspective egoism, and robs the present of much of its savour. But, now and again, it has its compensations. Save for a single week-end of rather pensive moping, the end of my love affair changed the colour of my outlook but very little indeed. Its place was promptly filled, or very nearly filled, by the other preoccupation. And, keen though I was about this, I did not in any sense become an ascetic youth held down by stern resolves. I think I rather enjoyed the small sacrifices and the steady saving; and I know I very much enjoyed applying for and obtaining another small increase of salary, after completing a trumpery series of sketches of pleasure resorts near Sydney, the publication of which brought substantial profit to the Chronicle.

One thing that did rather hurt me at this time was a comment made upon myself, and accidentally overheard by me in the reporters' room at the office. This was a remark made by an American newspaper man, who, having been a month or two on the staff, was dismissed for drunkenness. He spoke in a penetrating nasal tone as I approached the open door of the room, and what he said to his unknown companion came as such a buffet in the face to me that I turned and walked away. The words I heard were:

'Freydon? Oh yes; clever, in his ten cent way. I allow the chap's honest, mind, but, sakes alive, he's only what a N'York thief would call a "sure thing grafter."'

The phrase was perfectly unfamiliar to me, but intuitively I knew exactly what it meant, and I suppose it hurt because I felt its applicability. A 'sure thing grafter' was a criminal who took no chances, I felt; an adventurer who played for petty stakes only, because he would face no risks. Even the American pressman knew I was no criminal. He probably would have despised me less if he thought I stole. But--there it was. The chance shaft went home. And it hurt.

I dare say there was considerable pettiness about the way in which I saved my earnings instead of squandering them with glad youthfulness, as did most of my colleagues. There was something of the huckster's instinct, no doubt, in many of the trivial journalistic ideas I evolved, took to my chief, and pleased my employers by carrying out successfully. I suppose these were the petty ways by which I managed somehow to clamber out of the position in which my father's death had left me. They are set down here because they certainly were a part of my life. I am not ashamed of them, but I do wonder at them rather as a part of my life; not at all as something beneath me, but as something suggesting the possession of a kind of commercial gift for 'getting on,' of which my after life gave little or no indication. In all my youth there was undoubtedly a marked absence of the care-free jollity, the irresponsible joyousness, which is supposed to belong naturally to youth. This was not due, I think, to the mere fact of my being left alone in the world as a child. We have all met urchins joyous in the most abject destitution. I attribute it to two causes: inherited temperamental tendencies, and the particular circumstances in which I happened to be left alone in the world. Had I been born in a slum, and subsequently left an orphan there; or had my father's death occurred half a dozen years earlier than it did; in either case my circumstances would, I apprehend, have influenced me far less.

As things were with me when I found myself in the ranks of the friendless and penniless, I had formed certain definite tastes and associations, the influence of which was such as to make me earnestly anxious to get away from that strata of the community which my companions at St. Peter's Orphanage, for example, accepted unquestioningly as their own. Now when a youngster in his early teens is possessed by an earnest desire of that sort, I suppose it is not likely to stimulate irresponsible gaiety and carelessness in him.

But, withal, I enjoyed those Sydney years; yes, I savoured the life of that period with unfailing zest. But, incidents of the type which dear old Mrs. Gabbitas called 'Awful warnings,' were for me more real, more impressive, than they are to youths who live in comfortably luxurious homes, and know the care of mother and sisters. The normal youth is naturally not often moved to the vein of--'There, but for the grace of God, goes ---- etc.' But I was, inevitably.

For instance, there was the American journalist who so heartily despised my bourgeois prudence and progress. As I walked through the Domain one evening, not many months after I had heard myself compared with a 'sure thing grafter,' I saw a piece of human wreckage curled up under a tree in the moonlight. It was not a very infrequent sight of course, even in prosperous Sydney, This particular wreck, as he lay sleeping there, exposed the fact that he wore neither shirt nor socks. He was dreadfully filthy, and his stertorous breathing gave a clue to the cause of his degradation. As I drew level with him, the moon shone full on his stubble-grown face. He was the American reporter.

Here was a chance to return good for evil. I might have done several quite picturesque things, and did think of leaving a coin beside the poor wretch. Then I pictured its inevitable destination, and impatiently asked myself why sentimentality should carry money of mine into public-house tills. So I passed on. Finally, after walking a hundred yards, I retraced my steps and slid half a crown under the man's grimy hand, where it lay limply on the grass.


The work that gave me most satisfaction at this time was writing of a kind which I could not induce my chief to favour for his own purposes. He said it was not sufficiently 'legitimate journalism' for the Chronicle. (The 'eighties were still young.) And only at long intervals was I able to persuade him to accept one or two examples, though I insisted it was the best work I had ever attempted for the paper; as, indeed, it very likely was.

'But this is practically a story,' or 'This is really fiction,' or 'This is a sketch of a personal character, not a newspaper feature,' he would say. And then, one day, in handing me back one of my rejected offspring, he said: 'Look here, Freydon, see if you can condense this a shade, and then send it to the editor of the Observer. I've written him saying I should tell you this.'

I followed this kindly advice, and, a month later, enjoyed the profound satisfaction of reading my little contribution in the famous Australian weekly journal. The fact would have no interest for any one else, of course, but I have always remembered this little sketch of a type of Australian bushman, because it was the first signed contribution from my pen to appear in any journal of standing; the first of a series which appeared perhaps once in a month during the rest of my time in Sydney.

People I met in Mr. Rawlence's studio occasionally mentioned these sketches, and I took great pleasure in them. Incidentally, they added to my hoard at the bank. Mr. Smith, my room-mate at North Shore, had hitherto regarded my newspaper work strictly from a business standpoint; judging it solely by the salary it brought. Suddenly now I found I had touched an unsuspected vein of his character. He was surprisingly pleased about these signed Observer sketches. This was authorship, he said; and he spoke to every one, with most kindly pride, of his young friend's work.

My account at the savings bank touched the desired two hundred pounds mark, when I had been just three years and nine months in Sydney. I decided to add to it until I had completed my fourth year; and, meantime, made inquiries about the passage to England. From this point on I made no secret of my intentions, and a very kindly reply came from Mrs. Perkins in Dursley to the letter in which I told her of my plan. At a venture I addressed a letter to Ted, my old friend of Livorno days; but it brought no answer. Neither had the letter of nearly four years earlier, in which his loan of one pound had been returned with warm thanks.

The months slipped by, and the fourth anniversary of my start in Sydney arrived; and still I postponed from day to day the final step of resigning my appointment, and booking my passage. I cannot explain this at all, for I had become more and more eager for the adventure with every passing month. I do not think timidity restrained me. No, I fancy a kind of epicurean pleasure in the hourly consciousness that I was able now to take the step so soon as I chose induced me to prolong the savouring of it; just as I have sometimes found myself deliberately refraining for hours, and even for a day or so, from opening a parcel of books which I have desired and looked forward to enjoying for some time previously.

The awakening from this sort of epicurean dalliance was, as the event proved, somewhat sharp and abrupt.

I did presently resign my post and engage my second-class berth in the mail steamer Orion. Upon this reservation I paid a deposit of twenty pounds; and it seemed that when my passage had been fully paid, and one or two other necessary expenses met, I might still have my two hundred pounds intact to carry with me to England.

Thus I felt that I was handsomely provided for; and, upon the whole, I think the average person who has reached middle life, at all events, would find it easy to regard with understanding tolerance the fact that I was rather proud of what I had accomplished. It really was something, all the attendant circumstances being taken into account. But, perhaps, it is not always safe to trust too implicitly in the genial old faith that Providence helps those who help themselves; though the complementary theory, that Providence does not help those who do not help themselves, may be pretty generally correct. Maybe I was too complaisant. (If I have a superstition to-day, it is that a jealous Nemesis keeps vengeful watch upon human complaisance.)

On a certain Thursday morning, and in a mood of some elation, I walked into the bank to close my account. The amount was two hundred and forty-seven pounds ten shillings. Of this some twenty-five pounds was destined to complete the payment that morning of my passage money. The cashier was able to furnish me with Bank of England notes for two hundred pounds, and the balance, for convenience and ready-money, I drew in Australian notes and gold. Never before having handled at one time a greater sum than, say, five-and-twenty pounds, it was with a sense of being a good deal of a capitalist that I buttoned my coat as I emerged from the bank, and set out for the shipping-office. The sun shone warmly. My arrangements were all completed. I was going home. Yes, it was with something of an air, no doubt, that I took the pavement, humming as I passed along the bright side of Pitt Street.

All my life I have had a fondness for byways. Main thoroughfares between the two great arteries, Pitt and George Street, were at my service; but I preferred a narrow alley which brings one to the back premises of Messrs. Hunt and Carton's, the wholesale stationers. Bearing to the left through that firm's stableyard, one passes through a little arched opening which debouches upon Tinckton Street, whence in twenty paces one reaches George Street at a point close to the office for which I was bound.

I can see now the sleek-sided lorry horses in Hunt and Carton's yard, and I recall precisely the odour of the place as I passed through it that morning; the heavy, flat wads of blue-wrapped paper, and the fluttering bits of straw; the stamp of a draught horse's foot on cobble-stones. I saw the black, clean-cut shadow of the arched place. I turned half round to note the cause of a soft sound behind me. And just then came the dull roar of a detonation, in the same instant that a huge weight crashed upon me, and I fell down, down, down into the very bowels of the earth....

* * * * *

'No actual danger, I think. Excuse me, nurse!'

Those were the first words I heard. The first I spoke, I believe, were:

'I suppose the arch collapsed?'

'Ah! To be sure, yes. There was quite a collapse, wasn't there?' said some one blandly. 'However, you're all right now. Just open your mouth a little, please. That's right. Better? Ah! H'm! Yes, there's bound to be pain in the head; but we'll soon have that a bit easier.'

After that, it seemed to me that I began to take some kind of warm drink, and to talk almost at once. As a fact, I believe there was another somnolent interval of an hour or so before I did actually reach this stage of taking refreshment and asking questions. It was then late evening, and I was in bed in the Sydney Hospital. There had been no earthquake, nor yet even the collapse of an archway. Nothing at all, in fact, except that I had been smitten over the head with an iron bar. There had been two blows, I believe; and, if so, the second must really have been a work of supererogation, for I was conscious only of the one crash.

In one illuminating instant I recalled my visit to the bank, my two hundred and forty-seven pounds ten shillings, my intended visit to the shipping-office, the approaching end and climax of my work in Sydney and Dursley--six years of it.

'Nurse,' I said, with sudden, low urgency, 'will you please see if my pocket-book is in my coat?'

'Everything is taken out of patients' pockets and locked up for safety,' she said.

'Well, will you please inquire what amount of money was taken from my pockets, nurse. It's--it's rather important,' I told her.

The nurse urged the importance of my not thinking of business just now; but after a few more words she went out, gave some one a message, and, returning, said my matter would be seen to at once.

It seemed to me that a very long time passed. My head was full of a tremendous ache. But my thoughts were active, and full of gloomy foreboding. Just as I was about to make another appeal to the nurse, the doctor came bustling down the ward with another man, a plain clothes policeman, I thought, with recollection of sundry newspaper reporting experiences. The surmise was correct. The doctor had a look at my head--his fingers were furnished apparently with red-hot steel prongs--and held my right wrist between his fingers. The police officer sat down heavily beside the bed, drew out a shiny-covered note-book, and began, in an astoundingly deep voice, to ask me laboriously futile questions.

'Look here!' I said, after a few minutes, 'this is all very well, but would you be kind enough to tell me what money was found in my pockets?'

'Two sovereigns, one half sovereign, seven shillings in silver, and tuppence in bronze,' said the sepulchral policeman, as though he thought 'tuppence' was usually 'in' marble, or lignum vitæ, or something of the sort. 'Also one silver watch with leather guard, one plated cigarette-case, and----'

'No pocket-book?' I interrupted despondently. The policeman brightened at that.

'So there was a pocket-book? I thought so,' the brilliant creature said. And after that I lost all interest in these bedside proceedings. I referred the man to the Chronicle office, the bank, and the shipping-office, and requested as a special favour that Mr. Smith should be sent for; also, on a journalistic afterthought, a reporter from the Chronicle. The numbers of the bank-notes had been written down. Oh yes, on the advice of the bank clerk, I had done this carefully at the bank counter, and preserved the record scrupulously--in the missing pocket-book.

The police--marvellous men--ascertained next morning that the notes had been cashed at the Bank of New South Wales, in George Street, within half an hour of the time at which I obtained them from the savings bank. And that was the last I ever heard of them.

Twenty-four hours later I was called upon to identify an arrested suspect who had been seen in the vestibule of the bank at the time of my call. I did identify the poor wretch. He was the American reporter who had been discharged from the Chronicle staff. But nobody at the Bank of New South Wales remembered ever having seen the man, and I said at once that I could not possibly identify my assailant, not even having known that any one had attacked me until I was told of it in hospital.

The police appeared to regard me as a most unsatisfactory kind of person, as I doubtless was from their point of view. But they had to release the American, although, when arrested, he had two shining new sovereigns in his ragged pockets, and was full of assorted alcoholic liquors. Their theory was that in some way or another the American had known of my movements and plans, and communicated these to a professional 'strong arm' thief; that I had been shadowed to and from the bank, and that I might possibly have escaped attack altogether but for my addiction to byways.

Their theory did not greatly interest me. For the time the central fact was all my mind seemed able to accommodate. My savings were gone, my passage to England forfeited, my bank account closed, and--so my hot eyes saw it--my career at an end.


From the medical standpoint there were no complications whatever in my case; it was just as simple as a cut finger. Regarded from this point of view, a broken head is a small matter indeed, in a youth of abstemious habits and healthy life. Well, he was a very thoroughly chastened youth who accepted the cheery physician's congratulations upon his early discharge from hospital.

'Nuisance about the money,' admitted the doctor genially, as he twiddled his massive gold watch-chain. 'But it might have been a deal worse, you know; a very great deal worse. After all, health's the thing, the only thing that really matters.'

The remark strikes me now as reasonable enough. At the time I thought it pretty vapid twaddle. Four quiet days I spent at my North Shore lodging, and then (by Mr. Foster's freely and most kindly given permission) back to the Chronicle office again, just as before, save for one detail--I no longer had a banking account. But was it really, 'just as before,' in any single sense? No, I think not; I think not.

Often in the years that have passed since that morning chat with the cheerful physician in Sydney Hospital, I have heard folk speak lightly of money losses--other people's losses, as a rule--and talk of the comparative unimportance of these as against various other kinds of loss. Never, I think, at all events, since those Sydney days of mine, could any one justly charge me with overestimating the importance of money. And yet, even now, and despite the theories of the philosophers, I incline to the opinion that few more desolating and heart-breaking disasters can befall men and women than the loss of their savings. I would not instance such a case as mine. But I have known cases of both men and women who, in the later years, have lost the thrifty savings of a working life, savings accumulated very deliberately--and at what a cost of patient, long-sustained self-denial!--for a specific purpose: the purchase of their freedom in the closing years; their manumission from wage-earning toil. And I say that, in a world constituted as our world is, life knows few tragedies more starkly fell.

As for my little loss I now think it likely that in certain ways I derived benefits from it; and, too, in other ways, permanent hurt. I was still standing in the doorway of my manhood; all my life and energy as a man before me. But it did not seem so at the time. At the time I thought of this handful of money as being the sole outcome and reward for six years of pretty strenuous working effort. (What a lot I overlooked!) I was far from telling myself that a lad of one-and-twenty had his career still to begin. On the contrary, it seemed my career had had for its culminating point the great adventure of going to England, to attain which long years of toilsome work had been necessary. These years had passed, the work was done, the culmination at hand; and now it was undone, the career was broken, all was lost. Oh, it was a dourly tragical young man who shared Mr. Smith's bedroom during the next few months.

One odd apparent outcome of my catastrophe in a teacup has often struck me since. No doubt, if the truth were known quite other causes had been at work; but it is a curious fact that never, at any period of my life since the morning on which I so gaily closed that savings bank account, have I ever taken the smallest zest, interest, or pleasure in the saving of money. This seems to me rather odd and noteworthy. It is, I believe, strictly true.

For a few weeks after resuming my working routine I plodded along in a rather dazed fashion, and without any definite purpose. And then, during a wakeful hour in bed (while Mr. Smith snored quite gently and inoffensively on the far side of our little room), I came to a definite decision. The brutal episode of the crowbar--the weapon which had felled me was found beside me, by the way; a heavy bar used for opening packing-cases, which the thief had evidently picked up as he came after me through Hunt and Carton's yard--should not be allowed to divert me from my course. Diversion at this stage was what I could not and would not tolerate. I would go to England just the same, and soon. I would put by a few pounds, and then work my passage home. I was perfectly clear about it, and fell asleep now, quite content.

On the next day I began making inquiries. At first I thought I could manage it as a journalist, by writing eloquent descriptions of the passage. A little talk at the shipping-office served to disabuse my mind of this notion. Then I would go as a deck-hand. I was gently apprised of the fact that my services as a deck-hand might not greatly commend themselves to the average ship-master. My decision was not in the least affected by the little things I learned.

Finally, I secured a personal introduction to the manager of the shipping-office in which my twenty pounds deposit was still held, and induced this gentleman to promise that he would, sooner or later, secure for me a chance to work my passage home. He would advise me, he said, when the chance arrived.

With this I was satisfied, and returned in a comparatively cheerful mood to my plodding. I have a shrewd suspicion that my chief, Mr. Foster, used his good offices on my behalf with the shipping company's manager.

Three months went slowly by. And then one morning a laconic note reached me from the shipping-office.

'Could you do a bit of clerking in a purser's office? If so, please see me to-day.'

It appeared that the assistant purser of one of the mail-boats had died while on the passage between Melbourne and Sydney. The company preferred to fill such vacancies in England, and so a temporary clerical assistant for the purser would be shipped. Would I care to undertake it for a five-pound note and my passage?

Forty-eight hours later I had said good-bye to Sydney friends, and was installed at a desk in the purser's office on board the Orimba. I had twenty-two pounds and ten shillings in my trunk, and the promise of a five-pound note when the steamer should reach London. It was a kind of outsetting upon my great adventure quite different from that which I had planned. But it was an outsetting, and a better one than I had expected, for I had been prepared to work my passage as a deck-hand or steward.

And so it fell out that when I did actually leave Australia I was too busy at my clerking, and at inventing soporific answers to the mostly irrelevant inquiries of more or less distracted passengers, to catch a glimpse of the land disappearing below the horizon--the land in which I had spent the most formative years of my life--or to spare a thought for any such matter as sea-sickness.



Of late years the printers have given us reams and reams of first impressions of such world centres as London and New York. Not to mention the army of unknown globe-trotters and writers, celebrities of every sort and kind have recorded their impressions. I always smile when my eyes fall upon such writings; and, generally, I recall, momentarily at all events, some aspect of my own arrival in England as purser's clerk on board the Orimba.

When I read, for example, the celebrity's first impressions of New York--a confused blend of bouquets, automobiles, newspaper interviewers, incredibly high buildings, sumptuous luncheons, barbaric lavishness, bad road surfaces, frenetic hospitality, wild expenditure of paper money--I think it would be more interesting perhaps, certainly more instructive, to have the first impressions of the immigrant, who lands with five pounds, and it may be a wife and a child or two. Then there is the immigrant from the same end of the ship who is not allowed to land, who is rejected by the guardians of this Paradise on earth, because he has an insufficient number of shillings, or a weakness in his lungs. The bouquets, automobiles, sumptuous luncheons, and things do not, one may apprehend, figure largely in the first impressions of these last uncelebrated people, though their impressions may embrace quite as much of the reality concerned as do those of the famous; and, it may be, a good deal more.

Broadly speaking, and as far as outlines go, I was in the position of one who sees England for the first time. There were, I know, subtle differences; yet, broadly speaking, that was my position. The native-born Australian, approaching the land of his fathers for the first time, comes to it with a mass of cherished lore and associations at least equal in weight and effect to my childhood's knowledge and experience of England. He very often comes also to relatives. I came, not only having no claim upon any single creature in these islands, but having no faintest knowledge of any one among them. I carried two letters of introduction: one from Mr. Foster to a London newspaper editor whom he knew only by correspondence, and the other from Mr. Rawlence to a painter, who just then (though I knew it not) was in Algiers.

The purser paid me my five pounds before I left the ship, wished me luck, and vowed, as his habit was in saying good-bye to people, that he was very glad he had met me. And then I got into the train with my luggage, and set out for Fenchurch Street and the conquest of London.

The passengers had all disappeared long since. England swallows up shiploads of them almost every hour without winking. My arrival differed in various ways from theirs. For instance, I had had no leisure in which to think about it, to anticipate it, until I was actually seated in the train, bound for Fenchurch Street. They had been arriving, in a sense, ever since we left the Mediterranean; after a passage, by the way, resembling in every particular all other passages from Australia to England in mail steamers.

To be precise, I think the first impression received by me was that the England I had come to was a quite astonishingly dingy land. The people seemed to me to have a dingy pallor, like the table-linen of the cheaper sort of lodging-house. They looked, not so much ill as unwashed, not so much poor as cross, hipped, tired, worried, and annoyed about something. They wore their hats at an angle then unfamiliar to me, with a forward rake. They must laugh or, at any rate, smile sometimes, I thought. This is where Punch comes from. It is the land of Dickens. It is, in short, Merry England. But, as I regarded the dingy, set faces from the railway's carriage window, it seemed inconceivable that their owners ever could have laughed, or screwed up the skin around their eyes to look out happily under sunny blue skies upon bright and cheery scenes.

Since then I have again and again encountered the most indomitable cheerfulness in Londoners, in circumstances which would drive any Australian to tears, or blasphemy, or suicide, or to all three. And I know now that many Londoners wash as frequently as Australians, or nearly so. But my first impression of the appearance of those I saw was an impression of sour, cross, unwashed sadness. And, being an impressionable person, I immediately found an explanatory theory. The essential difference between these folk and people following similarly humble avocations in Sydney, I thought, is that these people, even those of them who, personally, were never acquainted with hunger, live in the shadow of actual want; even of actual starvation. In Sydney they do not. That accounts for the don't-care-a-damn light-heartedness seen in Australian faces, and for the dominance of care in these faces.

I still had everything to learn, and have since learned some of it. And I do not think now that my theory was particularly incorrect. The mere physical fact that the working men in Sydney take a bath every day as a matter of course, and that in London they do not all take one every week, trifling as it may seem, is itself accountable for something. But the ever-present knowledge that starvation is a real factor in life, not in Asia, but in the house next door but one, if not in one's own house--that is a great moulder of facial expression. It plays no part whatever in the life of the country from which I had come.

As my train drew to within half a dozen miles of its destination, I became vaguely conscious of the real inner London as distinguished from its extraordinary dockland and water approaches. We passed a huge and grimy dwelling-house, overlooking the railway, a 'model' dwelling-house; and in passing I caught sight of an incredible legend, graven in stone on the side of this building, intimating that here were the homes of more than one thousand families. That rather took my breath away.

Then we dived into a tunnel, and emerged a few seconds later, screeching hoarsely, right in London. It hit me below the belt. I experienced what they call a 'sinking' feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought what a fool I was, how puny and insignificant; and, again, what a fool I must be, to come blundering along here into the maw of this vast beast, this London--I and my miserable five-and-twenty pounds! For one wild moment the panic-born thought of hurrying back to my purser and begging re-engagement for the outward trip to Australia scuttled across my mind. And then the train jolted to a standstill, and, with a faint kind of nausea in my throat, I stepped out into London.

I have to admit that it was not at all a glorious or inspiriting home-coming. It was as different from the home-coming of my dreams (when a minor capitalist) as anything well could be. But yet this was indubitably London, my destination; the objective of all my efforts for a long time past. A uniformed boot-black gave me a sudden thought of St. Peter's Orphanage--the connection, if any existed, must have been rather subtle--and that somehow stiffened my spine a little. Here I was, after all, the utterly friendless Orphanage lad who, a dozen thousand miles away, had willed that he should go out into the world, do certain kinds of things, meet certain kinds of people, and journey all across the world to his native England. Well, without much assistance, I had accomplished these things, and was actually there, in London. There was tingling romance in the thought of it, after all. No drizzling rain could alter that. Having successfully adventured so far, surely I was not to be daunted by dingy faces, bricks, and mortar, and houses said to accommodate a thousand families!

And so, with tolerably authoritative words to a porter about luggage, I squared my shoulders in response to life's undeniable appeal to the adventurous.


When I had been a dozen years or more in London, a man I knew bewailed to me one night the fact that he had to leave Fenchurch Street Station in the small hours of the next morning, and did not know how on earth he would manage it.

'Why not sleep there to-night?' I suggested carelessly.

'Sleep there!' he repeated with a stare. 'But there are no hotels in that part of the world.'

'Oh, bless you, yes!' said I. 'You try the Blue Boar. You will find it almost as handy as sleeping in the booking-office, without nearly so strong a smell of kippers and dirt.'

I do not think my friend ventured upon the Blue Boar; but I did, a dozen years earlier, and stayed there for two nights. I wonder if any other new arrival from Australia has done that! Hardly, I think. And yet there is something to be said for it. It was quite inexpensive, as London hotels go. (They are all much more expensive than Australian hotels, though the cost of living in England is appreciably lower than it is in the Antipodes.) And putting up there obviates the embarrassing necessity of taking a cab from the station, when you cannot think of a place to which you can tell the man to drive.

I cherish the thought that I have become something of a tradition at the Blue Boar, where I have reason to think I am probably remembered to-day by a now aged Boots and others--many, many others--as 'The genelmun as orduder bawth.'

On rising after my first insomnious night there, I went prowling all about the house in search of the bathroom. Finally, I was routed back to my room by a newly-wakened maid (in curl-pins), who told me rather crossly that I could not have a 'bawth' unless I ordered it 'before'and.' She did not say how long beforehand. But I was in a hurry to get out of doors, so I did without my bath, and promised myself I would see to it later in the day.

That afternoon, footsore, tired, and feeling inexpressibly grimy, I interviewed the lady again, and begged permission to have a bath. She was then in a much brighter humour, and in curls in place of pins. She promised to arrange the matter shortly, and send some accredited representative to warn me when the psychological moment arrived. Where could I be found?

'Oh, I'll go and undress at once,' I said.

'No, don't do that, sir; I cawn't get a bawth all in a minute,' she told me. 'Perhaps you'd like to wite in the smokin'-room.'

Grateful for the absence of the morning's crossness I agreed at once, and retired to the fly-blown smoking-room, where there was ample choice of distraction for a writing man between a moth-eaten volume called King's Concordance and a South-Eastern Railway time-table cover, very solidly fashioned, with lots of crimson and gold, but no inside. Here I smoked half a pipe, and would have rested, but that I felt too dirty. Presently Boots came in, elderly and sad but furtively bird-like, both in the way he held his head on one side and in the jerky quickness of his movements:

'You the genelmun as orduder bawth?' he asked anxiously. I admitted it, and he gave a long sigh of relief.

'Oo! All right,' he said, almost gladly. 'I'll letcher know when it's ready.'

And he hopped out. I finished my pipe, yawned, opened the Concordance, and shut it again hastily, by reason of the extraordinarily pungent mustiness its pages emitted. Then I went prospecting into the passage between the stairs and the private bar. Here I passed a sort of ticket-office window, at which a middle-aged Hebrew lady sat, eating winkles from a plate with the aid of a hairpin. Her face lit up with sudden interest as she saw me:

'Oo!' she cried with spirit, 'er you the genelmun has orduder bawth?'

Again I pleaded guilty, and with a broad, reassuring smile, as of one who should say: 'Bless you, we've had visitors just as mad as you before this, and never attempted to lasso or otherwise constrain them. There's no limit to our indulgence toward gentlemen afflicted as you are,' she nodded her ringleted head, and said: 'Right you are, sir. I'll send Boots to letcher know when it's ready.'

Apart from consideration of her occupation, which seemed to me to demand privacy, I could not stand gazing at this lady, though I was momentarily inclined to ask if the Lord Mayor and his Aldermen had been invited to attend my bathing; so I passed on to the only refuge from the Concordance room--the private bar. There was a really splendid young lady in attendance here, who smiled upon me so sweetly that I felt constrained to order something to drink. Also, I was greatly athirst. But the trouble was it happened I had never tasted beer, and could think of nothing else suitable that was likely to be available. While I pondered, one hand on the counter, the still smiling barmaid opened conversation brightly:

'Er you the genelmun what's orduder bawth?' she asked engagingly.

I began to feel that there must be some kind of a special London joke about this formula. Perhaps it is a phrase in the current comic opera, I thought. A pity that ignorance should prevent my capping it! At all events I was saved for the moment from choosing a drink, for three hilarious city gentlemen entered from the street just then, and demanded instant attention. As I hung indeterminately, waiting, I heard a voice in the passage outside, and recognised it as belonging to that elderly bird, the Boots.

'No, I ain't awastin' uv me time,' it said. 'I'm alookin' fer somebody. I serpose you ain't seed the genelmun as orduder bawth anywhere abart, 'ave yer?'

Fearful lest further delay should lead to the bricking up of the bathroom, or to a crier being sent round the town for 'the genelmun,' etc., I hastened out almost into the arms of the retainer, and forcibly checked him, as he began on an interrogative note to cheep out: 'You the genelmun as orduder----'

Coming from a country where, even in the poorest workman's house, the bathroom at all events is always in commission, I was greatly struck by this incident; more especially when, an hour later, I heard the chambermaid cry out over the banisters:

'Mibel! The genelmun as orduder bawth sez 'e'll 'ave a chop wiv 'is tea!'


It was at the beginning of the second day at the Blue Boar that I counted over my money, and was rather startled to discover that expenditure in pennies can mount up quite rapidly.

In those days pennies were comparatively infrequent, almost negligible, in Australia; the threepenny-bit representing for most purposes the lowest price asked for anything. (It still is a coin more generally used in Australia than anywhere else, I think.) Now, during my first day or so in London I was so struck by the number of things one could do and get for a penny, that it seemed I was really spending hardly anything. I covered enormous distances on the tops of omnibuses, and talked a great deal with their purple-faced drivers, most of whom wore tall hats, and carried nosegays in their coats. When beggars and crossing-sweepers asked, I gave, unhesitatingly, in the Australian fashion, as one gives matches when asked for them. I gave only pennies; and now was startled to find what a comparatively large sum can be disbursed in a day or so, in single pennies, upon 'bus fares, newspapers, charity, and the like.

The two men to whom my only letters of introduction were addressed were both out of town: one in Algiers, the other, I gathered, on the Riviera. I suppose most people in London have never reflected on the oddity of the position of that person in their midst who does not know one solitary soul in the entire vast city. And yet, there must always be hundreds in that position. There was a time when I had serious thoughts of asking a policeman to recommend to me the cheapest quarter in which one might obtain a lodging, for I had already conceived a great admiration for the uniformed wardens of London's streets.

I studied the newspaper advertisements under the heading 'Apartments.' But some instinct told me these did not refer to London's cheapest lodgings, and I felt a most urgent need for economy in the handling of my small hoard. These few pounds must support me, I thought, until I could cut out a niche for myself, here where there seemed hardly room for the feet of the existing inhabitants. Already in quite a vague way I had become conscious of the shadow of that dread presence whose existence colours the outlook of millions in England. I wonder if the consciousness had begun to affect my expression!

My choice of a locality was made eventually upon ridiculously inadequate grounds. In a newspaper article dealing with charitable work, I came upon some such words as these: 'Life is supported upon an astoundingly small outlay of money among the poor householders, and even poorer lodgers, in these streets opening out of the Seven Sisters Road in the district lying between Stoke Newington and South Tottenham. Here are families whose weekly rental is far less than many a man spends on his solitary dinner in club or restaurant,' etc.

'This appears to be the sort of place for me,' I told myself. Remembering certain green omnibuses that bore the name of Stoke Newington, I descended from one of them an hour later outside a hostelry called the Weavers' Arms. (Transatlantic slang has dubbed these places 'gin-mills'; a telling name, I think.)

One of my difficulties was that I had no clear idea what amount would be considered cheap in London, by way of rent for a single room. The one thing clear in my mind was that I must, if possible, find the cheapest. I had already gathered from chance talk, on board the Orimba and elsewhere, that the Australian 'board and lodging' system was not much used in London, save in strata which would be above my means. The cheaper way, I gathered, was to pay so much for a room and 'attendance,' which should include the preparation of one's own food. The cheapest method of all, I had heard, and the method I meant to adopt, was to rent a furnished room, but without 'attendance,' and to provide meals for myself in the room or outside.

By this time the thing most desirable in my eyes was the possession of a room of my own. I wanted badly to be able to shut myself in with my luggage; to secure privacy, and be able to think, without the distracting consciousness of my small capital melting away from me at an unnecessary and alarmingly rapid pace. Anything equivalent to the comparative refinement, quietness, cleanliness, and spacious outlook of my North Shore quarters was evidently quite out of the question; and would have been, as a matter of fact, even at double their cost in Sydney.

Late that afternoon a cab conveyed me with my baggage to No. 27 Mellor Street, a small thoroughfare leading out of the Seven Sisters Road. Here I had secured a barely furnished top-floor room, with a tiny oil-stove in it, for 4s. 6d. per week. I paid a week's rent in advance, and, having deposited my bags there, I sallied forth into the Seven Sisters Road, with the room key in my pocket, to make domestic purchases. Billy cans were not available, but I bought a tin kettle for my oil-stove, some tea, a very little simple crockery and cutlery, some wholemeal brown bread (which I had heard was the most nutritious variety), butter, and cheese. Also some lamp oil, for the simple furniture of my room included, in addition to its oil-stove, a blue china lamp with pink and silver flowers upon its sides. Most of these things I ordered in one shop, and then, carrying one or two other purchases, hurried back to my room to be ready for the shop-boy who was to deliver the remainder.

Over the little meal that I presently prepared, with the aid of the oil-stove, my spirits, which had fallen steadily during the hunt for a room, brightened considerably. Pipe in mouth I made some alterations in the disposition of my furniture, placing the little table nearer to the window, and shifting the bed to give me a glimpse of sky when I should be occupying it. The oil-stove made a regrettable stench I found, and the lamp appeared to suffer from some nervous affection which made its flame jump spasmodically at intervals. The mattress on my bed was extraordinarily diversified in contour by little mountain ranges, kopjes which could not be induced to amalgamate with its general plan. Also, I was not so much alone in my sanctum as I had hoped to be. There were other forms of life, whose company I do not think I ever entirely evaded during my whole period as a lodger of the poorest grade in London.

But for the time these trifles did not greatly trouble me. Drunken brawls which occurred later in the evening, immediately under my window, were a nuisance. But it was all new; my health of mind and body was sound and unstrained; and I presently went to bed rather well pleased with myself, after an hour spent in considering and adding to sundry notes I had accumulated, for articles and sketches presently to be written.

My hope was to be able to win a place in London journalism without having any sort of an appointment. The very phrase 'free-lance' appealed to my sense of the romantic. 'All the clever fellows are free-lances, you know, in the Old Country.' I recalled many such statements made to me in Sydney. Prudence might have led me to offer myself for a post of some kind, if the editor to whom my letter of introduction was addressed had been visible. But he was not in London; and, in my heart, I was rather glad. It should be as a free agent, an unknown adventurer in Grub Street, that I would win my journalistic and literary spurs in the Old World. Other men had succeeded....

Musing in this hopeful vein I fell asleep, with never a hint of a presentiment of what did actually lie before me. I suppose the chiefest boon that mortals enjoy is just that negative blessing: their total inability to see even so far into the future as to-morrow morning.


The compilation of anything like a detailed record of my first two years in London would be a task to alarm a Zola. I could not possibly face it; and, if I did, no good end could be served by such a harrowing of my own feelings.

Such a compilation would be a veritable monument of squalid details; of details infinitely mean and small, and, for the most part, infinitely, unredeemedly ugly. Heaven knows I have no need to remind myself by the act of writing of all those dismal details. Mere poverty, starvation itself, even, may be lightsome things, by comparison with the fetid misery which surrounded me during the major part of those two years.

People say, with a smile or a sigh, as their mood dictates, that one half the world does not know how the other half lives. So far is that truism from comprehending the tragic reality of what poverty in London means, that I have no hesitation in saying this: there is no wider divergence between the lives of tigers and the lives of men than lies between the lives of English people, whose homes in some quarters I could name are separated by no more than the width of a street, a mews, and, it may be, a walled strip of blackened grass and tree-trunks.

It is not simply that some well-to-do people are ignorant regarding details of the lives of the poor. It is that not a single one among the cultivated and comfortably off people, with whom I came to mix later on, had any conception at all regarding the nature and character of the sort of life I saw all round me during my first two years in London. I consider that London's cab horses were substantially better off than the section of London's poor among whom I lived in places like South Tottenham, the purlieus of that long unlovely highway--the Seven Sisters Road.

Had I been of a more gregarious and social bent, the experience must have broken my heart, or unhinged my mind, I think. But, from the very first day, I began systematically to avoid intercourse with those about me; and in time this became more and more important to me. So much so indeed that, as I remember it, quite a large proportion of my many changes of lodgings were due to some threatened intimacy, some difficulty over avoiding a fellow lodger. Other moves were due to plagues of insects, appalling odours, persistent fighting and screaming in the next room, wife-beating; in one case a murder; in another the fact that a sodden wretch smashed my door in, under the impression that I had hidden his wife, by whose exertions he had lived, and soaked, for years. I must have removed more than a score of times in those two years, and more than once it was to seek a cheaper lodging--cheaper than the previous hell!

No, it would never do for me to attempt a detailed record of this period. Even consideration of it in outline causes the language of melodrama to spring to the pen. Melodrama! What drama ever conceived in the mind of man could plumb the reeking depths of the life of the vicious among London's poor? Things may be a little better nowadays. Beyond all question, the way of the aspirant in Grub Street appears vastly smoother than in my time. It is all cut and dried now, they say--schools of journalism, literary agents, organisations of one sort and another. But with regard to the life of the very poor, of the submerged, I have seen signs in the twentieth century which to my experienced eye suggested that no fundamental change had taken place since I lived among these cruelly debased people.

One would never dare to say it in print, of course, but I know very well that, while I lived among them, I was perfectly convinced that, for very many--not for all, of course, but for very many--there could be no fundamental improvement this side of the grave. For them the only really suitable and humane institution, I told myself a hundred times, would be a place of compulsory euthanasia--comfortably equipped lethal cubicles. For some there would be little need of the compulsory element. Police court officials (especially the court missionaries, the only philanthropic workers who earned my admiration; and they, of course, belonged to a properly organised corps, working on salary) know something of these people; but the big, bright, busy world of cleanly, educated folk know less of them than they know of prehistoric fauna.

I have lived under the same roof with men who beat their wives every week of their lives, and figured in police courts every month of their lives, when not in prison; with women who, in their lives, had swallowed up a dozen small homes, through the pawn-shops and in the form of gin; with men and women who, so degraded were they, were like as not to kick an infant as they passed if they saw one on the ground; with human beings who had fallen so very low that on my honour I had far liefer share a room with a hog than with one of them. Yes, the close companionship of swine would have been much less distasteful; and, be it noted, less unwholesome. I have written articles about Australian wattle blossom, about the bush and the sea--oh, about a thousand things!--with nothing more than a few inches of filthy lath and plaster between my aching head and such human wrecks as these.

'Quite brutal!' one has heard some ignorant innocent exclaim, when accident gave him a fleeting glimpse of a denizen of the under world. Brutal! I know something of brutes, and something of London's under world, and I am well assured no brute known to zoology ever reaches the loathsome depths touched by humanity's lowest dregs. It would sicken me to recall instances in proof of this; but I have known scores of them. The beast brutes have no alcohol. That makes a world of difference. They are actuated mainly by such cleanly motives as healthy hunger. They have no nameless vices; and they live in surroundings which make dirt, as dirt exists among humanity's under world, impossible. In changing my lodging I have fled from neighbours who, at times, sheltered acquaintances of whom it might literally be said that you could not walk upon pavement they had trodden without risk of physical contamination.

Drink! A man occupied a room next to mine, at one time, of which his mother was the tenant. Somewhere, I was told, he had at least one wife, upon whom he sponged, and children. (His kind invariably beget children, many children.) This man was in middle life, and his mother, a frail creature, was old. She had some small store of money; enough, I was told, for the few more months she was likely to live, and to save her from a pauper funeral. She had some lingering internal complaint. When the man had finished drinking his mother's little hoard away, he drove her out of doors--not merely with shameful words, but with blows--to get work, and earn liquor for him. Incredible as it seems she did get work, and he did take her earnings, and drink them, for a number of weeks. Then came the morning when she could not leave her bed. That week the rest of her furniture was sold, and the son drank it. On Saturday night he threw his mother from her bed to the floor, removed the bed and bedding, and drank them. She was dead when he returned, and on Sunday morning he took from his murdered mother's body the wedding ring which she, miraculously, had preserved to the end, and drank that. No one slew him. There was no lethal chamber for him. He did not even figure in a police court for this particular murder.

People think L'Assommoir dreadful, horrible. I cannot imagine what stayed Zola's hand; I am at a loss to account for his astonishing reticence, if he really knew anything of the worst degradation for which drink is accountable. In two short years I must have come upon a score of instances in every respect as horrible as that I have mentioned. And some that were worse; yes, more vile; too vile to recall even in thought. Brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons-- Oh! shame and degradation unspeakable! I do not know if any section of the community is to blame. I do know that the glory and brightness of life, the romance and the splendour of life--beauty, chivalry, loyalty, pomp, grandeur, nobility--all have been for ever robbed of some of their refulgence for me, as the result of two years in the under world of London. Life could never be quite the same again.

I stood at the base of a statue and watched the stately passage among her cheering subjects of the most venerable lady in Christendom. My very soul thrilled loyalty to Queen Victoria, loyalty that was proud and glad. And on the instant it was stabbed by the thought of another widowed mother, flung from the death-bed her worn fingers had toiled to save, and flung to die on the floor, by her son. The shame of it, in Christian London!

Were the poor always with us? Probably. But the awful human vermin that I knew, were they always with us? I doubt it; nay, I do not believe it. I believe they are part of England's sin, of England's modern wickedness. I believe they are the maggots bred out of the sore upon which our modern industrialism is based. When I looked upon the vilest of this city spawn, if my rising gorge permitted thought at all, I always had visions of little shrinking children whipped to work in English factories and mines and potteries; of souls ground out of anæmic bodies that Manchester might fatten. Free trade--licensed slaughter! The rights of the individual--the sacred liberty of the subject! Oh, I know it made England the emporium of the world, and built up some splendid fortunes, and--well, I believe it gave us the human vermin of our cities.

There is no cure for them in this world. Nor yet for their damned and doomed offspring--while the individual liberty shibboleths endure, while mere numbers rule, or while our degenerate fear of every form of compulsion lasts. And the present tendency is, not merely to stipulate for complete freedom of action for the poor wretches, but to invite them to govern, by count of heads. So marvellously enlightened are we becoming!

Those nightmarish two years seem a long way off. I must be careful not to mislead myself regarding them. I have used such phrases as 'The poor of London.' I think I would delete those phrases if I were writing for other than my own eyes. I would not pretend that I like the poor of London, as companions. But they have, as a class, notable and admirable qualities. And many of the very poorest of them have more of courage, and more I think of honesty, than the average member of the class I came to know better later on: the big division which includes all the professional people. The human wrecks are of the poor, of course. But the really typical poor people are workers; the wrecks, their parasites.

Nothing in life is much more remarkable to me than an old man or an old woman of the poorer working-class, say, in South Tottenham, who, at the end of a long, struggling life remains decent, honest, cleanly, upright, and self-respecting. That I think truly marvellous. I am moved to uncover my head before such an one. The innate decency of such people thrills me to pride of race, where a naval review or a procession of royalties would leave me cold. I know something of the environment in which those English men and women have lived out their arduous lives. Among them I have seen evidences of a bravery which I deliberately believe to be greater than any that has won the Victoria Cross.

I once had a room--which I had to leave because of its closeness to a noisy street--immediately over a basement in which one old bed-ridden man and two women lived. The man had been bed-ridden for more than thirty years, and still was alive; for more than thirty years! His wife and daughter supported him and themselves. The daughter made match-boxes, and was paid 2 1/4d. for each gross; but out of that generous remuneration she had to buy her own paste and thread. The mother lived over a wash-tub. They all worked, slept, and ate, in the one room, of course, and the man was never outside it for a moment.

At the time of my arrival in that house, the daughter had recently taken to her bed. She was a middle-aged woman, far gone in consumption. It happened that a notorious inebriate, a woman, during one of her periodical visits to the local police court, told a missionary about my neighbours. He visited them, and was impressed, though accustomed to such sights. But he could do nothing to help, it seemed. They were very proud, and the mother washed very well; so well that she had work enough to keep her going day and night; and, working day and night, was able to earn an average of close upon eleven shillings weekly, of which only four shillings had to be paid in rent, and a trifle in medicine, soap, fuel, etc., leaving from five to six shillings a week for the two invalids and herself to live upon. So there was nothing to worry about, she said. She had stood at the tub for thirty years, and ...

Well, the missionary spoke to other folk, and other folk were touched, and finally a lady and a gentleman came, with an ambulance and a carriage, and twenty golden sovereigns. The old woman's liberty was not to be interfered with. She herself was to have the spending of the money. She was to take her patients to the seaside, and rest for a few weeks, after her thirty years at the tub. I find a difficulty in setting the thing down, for I can smell the steamy odours of that basement now.

This remarkable old woman quite civilly declined the gift, and explained how well she could manage without assistance; proudly adding that she had no fear of failing in her weekly subscription to the funeral club, so that her husband was happy in the knowledge that no pauper funeral awaited him. She was barely sixty-two herself, and had managed very well these thirty years and more, and trusted, with thanks, that she would manage to the end without charity.

Argument was futile. So the lady and gentleman drove away with their bright sovereigns; and when my next removal came the old woman was still at her tub, the other two helpless ones still on their beds, and living yet. One need not consider the wild unwisdom of it; but in the astounding courage and endurance of it, I hold there is lesson and ensample for the bravest man in British history. And among the working poor such incidents cannot be very rare, because I knew of quite a number in my very brief experience.

That the England from whose loins such master men and women have sprung should have bred also the festering spawn of human vermin that litters many of the mean streets of London, aye, and the seats in its parks and gardens, is a tragic humiliation; an indictment, too, as I see it. Charity may cover a multitude of sins. It can never cover this running sore; or, if it should ever cover it completely, so much the worse; for I swear it can never heal, cleanse, or remove it. Nothing sentimental, personal, and voluntary, nothing sporadic and spasmodic can ever accomplish that. And to approach it with bleatings about the will of the people, universal suffrage, old age, or any other kind of pension, dole, or the like, is to be guilty of a cruel and contemptible kind of mockery.


Looking back across the long succession of crowded years upon the period of my struggle to obtain a foothold in the London world of journalism and literature, I see a certain amount of pathos, some bathos, and something too in the way of steadfast, unmercenary endurance, which is not altogether unworthy of respect.

In my humble opinion a foothold in that world was at least rather better worth having in those days than it is to-day for a thinking man of literary instincts. It was certainly vastly harder to obtain, in the absence of any influence or assistance from established friends.

Of late years I have met representatives of a type of young journalist which had not yet come into existence when I arrived in London. In those days (when the published price of novels was still 31s. 6d., and halfpenny dailies were unknown) there were three kinds of newspaper men. There were the hacks, very able fellows, some of them, but mostly given to bar and taproom life; there were thoroughly well qualified, widely informed, sober pressmen of the middle sort, who often spent their whole lives in one employ; and there were literary men, frequently of high scholarly attainments, who wrote for newspapers. To-day, there are not very many representatives of these three divisions. The modern host of journeymen, with their captains, keen men of business, may represent a great advance upon their predecessors. Since I am told we live in an age of wonderfully rapid progress, I suppose they must. They certainly are different. To realise this fully one has only to come in contact, once, with one of the few surviving practitioners of the earlier type. They stand out like trees in--shall I say?--a flower-bed.

Ignorance of journalistic conditions and requirements, combined with a foolish sort of personal sensitiveness or vanity, had more to do with my early hardships and difficulties than anything in the quality of my work. In the light of practical knowledge acquired later I see that I might with ease have earned at least five times the amount of money I did earn in those first years by doing about half the amount of work I did, and--knowing how to dispose of it. I concentrated my entire stock of youthful energy upon writing and reading, and really worked very hard indeed. That, I thought, was my business. Some vague, benevolent power, 'the World,' I suppose, was to see to it that I got my reward. My part was to do the work. Good work might be trusted to bring its own reward. And, in any case, I asked no more than that I should be able to live with decency and go on with my work. I no longer had the faintest sort of interest in the idea of saving money. That ambition died with the end of my saving days in Sydney. I never thought about it at all. It simply had ceased to exist.

Well, my work, as a matter of fact, was not at all bad, and it was amazingly abundant. I would wager I wrote not less than three hundred articles, sketches, and stories during my first year, probably more, and always in the most hostile and unsuitable sort of environments. And my reward in that first year was slightly less than twenty pounds sterling, something well below an average of two guineas each month. I suppose I might have starved in that first year if I had not had some twenty pounds in hand at the beginning of it. I had not twenty shillings in hand at the end of it, and yet I had already learned what hunger meant; not the bracing sensation of being sharp set and enjoying one's meal, but the dull, deadening, sickly sensation which comes of sustained work during weeks of bread and butter (or dripping) diet, and none too much of that.

The devilish thing about an insufficient dietary is that it saps one's manhood. Few people whose circumstances have been uniformly comfortable realise that the stomach is the real seat of self-respect, courage, dignity, good manners, and the higher sort of honour, not to mention the spirits and emotions. Most would scoff at the suggestion, of course, feeling that it showed the low nature of the suggester. And the thing of it is they cannot possibly test the truth of it. For, given an average share of self-control and will-power, any educated person can starve him or herself for a week or more, deliberately and of set purpose, without much inconvenience, with no difficulty, and no loss of self-respect.

It is starvation, or semi-starvation from necessity, combined with a hard-working routine of life, and without the soul-supporting knowledge that one can stop and order a good meal whenever one chooses; it is continuous and enforced lack of proper nutriment, endured throughout sustained and unsuccessful efforts to overcome the poverty that enforces it, that tells upon one's humanity and coarsens the fibre of one's personality. There is a certain sustaining exhilaration about voluntary abstinence from food, due to the contemplation of one's mind's mastery. The reverse is true of the hunger due to the unsuccess of one's efforts to obtain the wherewithal to get better food and more of it.

Poverty is a teacher, a most powerful schoolmaster, I freely grant. But the most of the lessons it teaches are lessons I had liefer not learn. As a teacher its one vehicle of instruction is the cane. First, it weakens and humiliates the pupil; and then, at every turn, it beats him, teaching him to walk with cowering shoulders, furtive eyes, a sour and suspicious mind. I have no good word to say for poverty; and I believe an insufficient dietary to be infernally bad for any one--worse, upon the whole, than an over-abundant one--and especially so for young men or women who are striving to produce original work.

I have heard veterans criticise their sleek juniors, with a round assertion that if these youngsters had had to fight their way on a crust, as the veteran said he did, they would be vastly better men for it. I do not believe it. Hard work, and even disappointment and loss, are doubtless rich in educational and disciplinary values; but not that wolfish, soul-crushing fight for insufficient food, not mere poverty. I have tried them, and I know.

Every day a procession of more or less battered veterans in life's fight straggles across the floors of the police courts, from waiting-room to dock and dock to cells. 'How extraordinarily vicious the poor are!' says some shallow observer. In reality, a very large proportion of these battered ones are there as drinkers. And, in any case, the whole of them put together (including the many who require not penal but medical treatment), supposing they were all viciously criminal--all violent thieves, say--what a tiny handful they represent of the poor of London!

The enormous majority of the poor never set foot in a police court. And yet, for one who knows anything of the conditions in which they live, how marvellous that is! Most educated people, after all, go through life, from cradle to grave, without once experiencing any really strong temptation to break the law of the land. The very poor are hardly ever free from such temptation; hardly ever free from it. I know. I, with all the advantages behind me of traditions, associations, memories, hopes, knowledge, and tastes, to which most very poor people are strangers, I have felt my fingers itch, my stomach crave woundily, as I passed along a mean street in which food-stuffs were exposed outside shop windows; a practice which, upon a variety of counts, ought long since to have been abolished by law.

Oh, the decency, the restraint, and the enduring law-abidingness of London's poor, in the face of continuously flaunting plenty, of gross ostentation! It is the greatest miracle of our time. The comparative absence of either religion or philosophy among them to-day makes the spectacle of their docility, to me, far more remarkable than anything in the history of mediaeval martyrdom. When I come to consider also the prodigiously irritant influences of modern life in its legislation, journalism, amusements, swift locomotion, and, not least, its education for the masses, then I see wireless telegraphy and such things as trifles, and the abiding self-restraint of the very poor as our greatest marvel.


After my second year in London I became approximately wealthy. Early in the third year, at all events, I earned as much as five guineas in a single month, and ate meat almost every day; in other words I began to earn pretty nearly one-third as much as I had earned some years previously in Sydney. I now bought books, and no longer always, as before, at the cost of a meal or so. Holywell Street was a great delight to me, and I never quite comprehended how Londoners could bring themselves to let it go. I doubt if Fleet Street raised a single protest, and yet-- Well, it was surprising.

I wrote rather less in this period, and used more method in my attacks upon the editors. I even succeeded in actually interviewing one or two of them, including the gentleman to whom I carried a note of introduction from a colleague he had never met. But I do not think I gained anything by these interviews. I might possibly have done so had they come earlier, while yet the freedom of easier days and of sunshine was in my veins. But my mean street period had affected me materially. It had made me morbidly self-conscious, and suspiciously alive to the least hint of patronage or brusqueness.

It is true I gave hours to the penetration of editorial sanctums; but in nearly every case my one desire, when I reached them, was to escape from them quickly without humiliation. In a busy man's very natural dislike of interruption, or anxious glance toward his clock, I saw contempt for my obscurity and suspicion of my poverty. And, after all, I had nothing to say to these gentlemen, save to beg them to read the effusions I pressed upon them; an appeal they would far rather receive on half a sheet of notepaper. As to impressing my personality upon them in any way, as I say, my uneasy thoughts in their presence were usually confined to the problem of how best I might escape without actual discredit.

Once, I remember, in a very lean month, I chanced to see one of the Olympians passing with god-like nonchalance into the restaurant of a well-known hotel. On the instant, and without giving myself time for reflection, I followed him down the glittering vestibule, and into a palatial dining-hall. The hour was something between one and two o'clock, and a minute before I had been thoughtfully weighing the relative merits of an immediate allowance of sausages and mashed potatoes for fivepence, or a couple of stale buns for one penny, to be followed at nightfall by a real banquet--seven-pennyworth of honest beef and vegetables. Now, with a trifle over four shillings in my pocket, I was, to outward seeming, carelessly scanning a menu, in which no single dish, not even the soup, seemed to cost less than about three times the price of one of my best dinners.

But at the next table sat a London editor. I was free to contemplate him. Was not that feast enough for such as I? Evidently I thought it was, for I told the waiter with an elaborate assumption of boredom that I did not feel like eating much, but would see what I could make of a little of the soup St. Germain. I wondered often if the man noticed the remarkable manner in which the crisp French rolls on that table disappeared, while I toyed languidly with my soup. I did not dare to ask for more rolls when I had made an end of the four or five that were on the table; but I could have eaten a dozen of them without much difficulty.

'No, thank you, I think I shall be better without anything to-day,' I said to the waiter who drew my attention to a sumptuous volume which I had already discovered to be the wine-list. There was a delicate suggestion in my tone (I hoped) that occasional abstinence from wine, say, at luncheon had been found beneficial for my gout. Certainly, if he counted his rolls, the man could hardly have suspected me of a diabetic tendency.

All this time I studied the profile of the editor, while he leisurely discussed, perhaps, half a sovereign's worth of luncheon. I hoped--and again feared--he might presently recognise me; but he only looked blandly through me once or twice to more important objects beyond. And just as I had concluded that it was not humanly possible to spend any longer over one spoonful of practically cold soup, he rose, gracefully disguised a yawn, and strolled away to an Elysian hall in which, no doubt, liqueurs, coffee, and cigars of great price were dispensed. This was not for me, of course.

They managed somehow to make my bill half a crown, and, as a trifling mark of my esteem, I gave the waiter the price of two of my ordinary dinners, for himself. I badly wanted to give him sixpence, but lacked the requisite moral courage, though I do not suppose he would have wasted a thought upon it either way, and if he had--but, as I say, I gave him a shilling. After all I do not suppose the poor fellow earned much more in a day than I earned in a week. And then (still with prudent thought for my gouty tendency, no doubt) I loftily waved aside all suggestions of coffee in the lounge, and made my way to the street, with the air of one who found luncheon a rather annoying interruption in his management of great affairs.

'Now if you had as much enterprise and resourcefulness as--as a bandicoot,' I told myself, passing down the Thames Embankment, 'you would have entered into conversation with A----, and by this time he would be pressing you to write articles for him. Instead of that, you'll have to content yourself with dry bread to-night and to-morrow, my friend.'

But I did not altogether regret that bread and soup luncheon, after all. It was an adventure of sorts, and quite a streak of colour in its way, across the drab background of South Tottenham days.

There were times when the spirit of revolt filled my very soul, and all life seemed black or red in my eyes. But I do not recall any day of panic or suggested surrender. On one day of revolt, when I told myself that this slum life in London was too horrible for a self-respecting dingo, let alone a man, I buttoned up my coat and walked with angry haste all the way to Epping Forest. In that noble breathing-place I raged to and fro under trees and through scrub, delighting in the prickly caress of brambles, and pausing in breathless ecstasy to watch rabbits at play in a dim, leafy glade. Fully twelve miles I must have walked, and then, healed and tamed, but somewhat faint from unwonted exercise and wonted lack of good food, I sat down in a little arbour and wolfishly devoured just as much as I could get in the form of a ninepenny tea. I fear there can have been no margin of profit for the good woman who served me.

At that period my digestive faculties still were holding up miraculously, or my sufferings on the homeward tramp would have been acute. As a fact I reached home in rare spirits, and almost--so cheery was I--cancelled the notice I had given that morning of my intention to vacate the current garret. But the smell of the house smiting my forest freshness as I stepped over the boards, jammed in its threshold to keep crawling children in, saved me from that indiscretion. There were fewer drunkards, less fighting, and not many more insects in that house than in most of my places of residence; but the smell of it I shall never, never forget. In that respect it was the vilest in a vile series of slum dwellings, and many and many a time had caused me to revile my naturally keen olfactory organs. I had endured it for almost a month, and would suffer its unmanning horrors no more. Indeed, I would suffer nothing like it again. Why should I? My earnings were increasing. I would escape from the whole district, its miseries, its smells, its infamies, and its thousand dehumanising degradations. I would emigrate.

Yes, that tramp in Epping Forest was quite epoch-making. It came after more than two years of struggle in London. I had made fully five pounds in the past month. I had actually laid aside a couple of sovereigns, and doubtless that salient fact emboldened me. Also, I had had a number of quite meaty meals of late. But the wild stamping to and fro under trees, the sight of the bonny, white-sterned rabbits at play, the copious tea in a pleached arbour, the clean forest air--these I am sure had been as a fiery stimulant to my drooping manhood. I went to bed full of the most reckless resolves, and astonishingly light-hearted.

In the morning, having feasted (as well as the prevailing smell permitted) upon an apple, brown bread, and tea--butter was 'off' that day, I remember--I set forth upon a prospecting tour, working westward from my north-easterly abode, through Holloway, Finsbury, the Camden Road, and such places, into the neighbourhood of Regent's Park. The park, which was strange to me, pleased me greatly; as did also certain minor streets in its neighbourhood, a mews which I found quaint and quite rural in its suggestions, and sundry white houses with green shutters which, for some reason, I remember I called 'discreet.' There was nothing here that looked poor enough for me, but none the less I inquired at one or two of the smaller houses whose windows held cards indicating that rooms were to let in them.

At length, in a quiet and decent thoroughfare called Howard Street, I happened upon Mrs. Pelly's house--No. 37. The girl who answered my knock had a pleasant little face, and a soft, kindly tone in speaking. I supposed she was not more than one-and-twenty, perhaps less. Her mother was out, she said, but she would show me the only vacant room they had. Indeed--with a little smile--she really did more for the lodgers than her mother did.

The room was at the back of the house on the first floor, and there was but one other floor above it. It had a French window, with a tiny iron balcony, three feet by eighteen inches. The furnishings were greatly superior to any I had had in London. There was actually a little writing-table with drawers, and from the window one could see distinctly the waving green tops of trees in the park. The rent was eleven shillings. Whereat I sighed heavily. But the writing-table, and, above all, the actual view of tree-tops in the distance! I sighed again, and explained regretfully that I feared my limit was eight shillings. Then the young woman sighed too, and mentioned, with apparent irrelevance, that her mother might be in any moment now.

I had earned five pounds in the previous month. With reasonable care my food need not cost more than seven to ten shillings a week. Of course I had managed on considerably less. I knew very well that that sort of semi-starvation was in every way bad; but, when I thought of that quiet back room, the distant tree-tops, the absence of smells, the fact that I had seen no filthy or drunken people in the neighbourhood, the soft-spoken girl at my side-- 'By heavens! It's worth it,' I said to myself.

And just then--we were in the narrow ground floor passage--the mother arrived, bringing with her an unmistakable whiff of a public-house bar. This stiffened my relaxing prudence considerably. I had no kindly feeling left for taverns, especially where women were concerned. But, by an odd chance, it happened that Mrs. Pelly was not only in a talkative mood, but also in higher spirits than I ever saw her afterwards. She insisted on reinspection of the room, a sufficiently dangerous thing in itself for me. And then, standing beside its open window, with arms folded over the place in which her waist once had been, she avowed that she thought the room would suit me, and that I should suit the room.

'There's a writing-table in it, an' all, ye see,' she said, having received a hint as to my working habits.

There was indeed. I was little likely to forget it. It now seemed the charge for the room was eleven shillings weekly, without 'attendance.' But Mrs. Pelly had never been a woman to stick out over trifles, that she hadn't; and, right or wrong, though she hoped she might never live to rue the day, she would let the gentleman this room for nine shillings a week, and include 'attendance' in that merely nominal rate-- 'So there, Miss!' This, to her daughter Fanny, and in apparent forgetfulness of my presence.

It was a thrilling moment for me, standing there with one hand on the writing-table, my gaze fixed over the scantily covered top of Mrs. Pelly's head--she wore no hat--upon the trees in the distance. Prudence gabbled at me: 'You can't afford it. You must eat. You'll be sold up, and serve you right.' But, of course, the table and the window won. After all, had I not earned five pounds in the past month? And, excepting boots, my outfit was still pretty good!

I could not wait for Monday. The window and the table pulled too hard. So I installed myself at No. 37 on the Saturday afternoon, and thanked God sincerely that I was no longer in a slum.


On fine mornings I used to leave door and window blocked open in my room, and take half an hour's walk in the park before breakfast. The weather was sometimes unkind, of course, but Fanny never, and she would neglect the rooms of other lodgers in order to hasten the straightening of mine. The other lodgers were all folk whose business took them away from Howard Street as soon as breakfast was dispatched, and kept them away till evening.

It often happened that I would work at my little writing-table until the small hours of the morning; and in such cases, more often than not, I would leave the house directly after breakfast, walk down Tottenham Court Road, and tack through Bloomsbury to Gray's Inn and Fleet Street, or wherever else the office might lie for which the manuscript I carried was destined. Where possible, I preferred this method of disposing of manuscripts. Not only did it save stamps--a considerable item with me--but it seemed quicker and safer than the post. I had a dishonest little formula for porters and bell boys in these offices, from the enunciation of which I derived a comforting sense of security and dispatch.

'You might let the editor have this directly he comes in,' I would say as I handed over my envelope; 'promised for to-day, without fail.'

Well, I had promised--myself. And this little formula, in addition to making for prompt delivery, I thought, gave one a sense of actual relationship with the editor. Save for the trifling fact that the manuscript would, probably, in due course be returned, or even consigned to the waste-paper basket, my method seemed to put me on the footing of one who had written a commissioned article. The dramatic value of the formula was greatly enhanced where one happened to know the editor's name, and could say in a tone of urgent intimacy: 'You might let Mr. ---- have this directly he comes in,' etc. In those cases one walked down the office stairway humming an air. It was next door to being one of the Olympians, and that without sacrificing one's romantic liberty as a free-lance.

As my earnings rose--and they did rise with agreeable rapidity after my establishment in Howard Street--I wrote less and thought more. I also walked more, and saw more of London, But I was still writing a great deal; more probably than any salaried journalist in the town, though a large proportion of my writings never saw the light of print. When I had been living for five or six months in Howard Street, my earnings were averaging from ten pounds to fifteen pounds each month. For a long time I seemed able to maintain something like this average, but not to improve upon it. It may be that my efforts slackened at that point, and that I gave more time to reading and walking. This is the more likely, because I know I felt no interest whatever in the progress of the account I opened in the Post Office savings bank.

It was about this time, I fancy, though only in my twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth year, that I began seeking advice from chemists and their assistants, under whose guidance I tapped the fascinating but deadly field of patent medicines. The fact was I had completely disorganised my digestive system during two years and more of catering for myself upon an average outlay of six or seven shillings weekly (sometimes much less, of course), whilst living an insanely sedentary life in which the allowance of sleep, exercise, and fresh air had been as inadequate as my dietary. A wise physician might possibly have been able to steer me into smooth waters now, especially if he had driven me out of London. But the obstinate energy and conceit of youth was still strong in my veins. I had no money to waste on doctors, I told myself. And so I held desultory consultations across the counters of chemist's shops, and, supremely ignorant as to causes, attacked symptoms with trustful energy, consuming great quantities of mostly valueless and frequently harmful nostrums.

Another step I took at this time, after quaintly earnest discussion with Fanny, was to arrange an additional payment of eight shillings a week to Mrs. Pelly, in return for the provision of my very simple breakfast and a bread and cheese luncheon each day. This relieved me of a task for which I had never had much patience, and very likely it was also an economy. My evening meal I preferred, as a general thing, to obtain elsewhere. It was one of my few entertainments this foraging after inexpensive dinners, and watching and listening to other diners. At that time my prejudices were the exact antithesis of those that came later on, and I preferred foreign restaurants and foreign service and cooking, quite apart from the fact that I found them nearly always cheaper and more entertaining than the native varieties.

It was in a dingy little French eating-house near Wardour Street (where I must say the cooking at that time really was skilful, though I dare say the material used was villainously bad, since the prices charged were low, even judged by my scale in such matters) that I first made the acquaintance of Sidney Heron. I felt sure that Heron must be a remarkable man, even before I spoke to him, or heard him speak, for he lived with a monocle fixed in his right eye, and never moved it, even when he blew his nose and gesticulated violently, as he so often did. The monocle was attached to a broad black ribbon which, in some way, seemed grotesque as contrasted with the dingy greyish-white flannel cricketing shirts which Heron always wore, with a red tie under the collar. Linen in any guise he clearly scorned. I do not think his boots were ever cleaned, and he appeared to spend even less upon clothing than I did. I do not know just how he disposed of his money, but he earned two hundred or three hundred a year as a writer, and he was invariably short of funds. I think it quite conceivable that he may have maintained some poor relation or relations, but in all the years of our acquaintance I never heard him mention a relative. He certainly lived poorly himself.

Our acquaintance resulted from his tipping a rum omelette into my lap. The tables at this little restaurant were exceptionally narrow, and I suppose Heron was exceptionally cross, even for him. The omelette was burnt, he said, and after pishing and tushing over it for a moment or two he shouted to the overworked waiter, giving his plate so angry a thrust at the same time that it collided violently with mine, and the offending omelette ricochetted into my lap.

Heron's apologies indicated far more of anger than contrition, I thought; but they led to conversation, at all events, and as he lived in the Hampstead Road we walked a mile or more together after leaving the restaurant. It was the beginning of companionship of a sort for me, and if we did not ever become very close friends, at all events our intimacy endured without rupture for many years.

At the outset I was given an inkling of the irascibility of his temper, and my subsequent method, in all our intercourse, was simply to leave him whenever he became quarrelsome, and to take up our relations when next we met at the point immediately preceding that at which temper had overcome him. At heart an honourable and I am sure kindly man, Heron had a temper of remarkable susceptibility to irritation. The stomachic causes which, as time went on, produced melancholy and dense, black depression in me, probably accounted for his eruptions of violent irascibility. And I fancy we were equally ignorant and brutal in our treatment of our own physical weaknesses.

Heron certainly became one of my distractions, one of my human interests outside work, at this time. But there was another, and the other came closer home to me.

I suppose I spent seven or eight months in discovering that Mrs. Pelly was a singularly unpleasant woman. But the thing did eventually become plain to me, so plain indeed that it would have caused me to give up my French window and writing-table and migrate once more, but for certain considerations outside my own personal comfort. That Mrs. Pelly consumed far more gin than was good for her became apparent to me during my first week, if not my first day, in Howard Street. But as she rarely entered my room, and our encounters were merely accidental and momentary, this weakness would never have affected me much.

What did affect me was my very gradual discovery of the fact that this woman treated her own daughter with systematic cruelty--a thing happily unusual in her class, as it is also, I think, among the very poor of London. At the end of eight or nine months my increasing knowledge of Mrs. Pelly's harsh unkindness to Fanny had begun to weigh on my mind a good deal. It was a singular case, in many ways. Here was a girl, a young woman rather, in her twenty-first year, who to all intents and purposes might be said to be carrying on with her own hands the entire work of a house which sheltered five lodgers; and, as a fact, it was rarely that a day passed without her suffering actual physical violence at the hands of that gin-soaked termagant, her mother.

The woman positively used to pinch Fanny in such a way as to leave blue bruises on her arm. She used to pull her hair violently, slap her face, and strike at her with any sort of weapon that happened to be within reach. Further, when the vicious fit took her, she would lock up pantry and kitchen, and make this hard-working girl go hungry to bed at night, by way of punishment for some pretended misdeed. And the astounding thing was that, with all this and more, Fanny retained a very real affection for her unnatural parent; and used to plead that, but for the effect of liquor upon her, Mrs. Pelly would be and was a good mother.

It appeared that Fanny had lost her father when she was about twelve years old, and ever since that time her mother's extraordinary attitude towards her had become increasingly harsh and cruel. She never had a penny of her own, though she did the work of two servants, and her clothes were mostly home-made make-shifts from discarded garments of her mother's. When necessity caused her to ask for new boots, for example, the penalty would be perhaps a week of vile abuse and bullying, of slaps, pinches, docked meals and other humiliations, all of which must be endured before the wretched woman would buy a pair of the cheapest and ugliest shoes obtainable, and fling them to her daughter from out her market-basket. If they were a misfit, Fanny would have to suffer them as best she could. Or, in other cases, new shoes would be refused altogether, and she would be ordered to make shift with a pair her mother had worn out.

It was only very gradually that I came to know these things. Once, when I knew no more than that Fanny worked very hard and seldom stirred out of the house, I chanced to encounter mother and daughter together on the stairs early on a Sunday evening. The girl looked pinched and unhappy, and something moved me to make a suggestion I should hardly have ventured upon then, if the mother had not happened to be present.

'You look tired, Fanny,' I said. 'Why not come out for a walk in the park with me? The air would do you good, and perhaps you will have a bit of dinner somewhere with me before getting back. Do! It would be quite a charity to a lonely man.'

I saw her tired brown eyes brighten at the thought, and then she turned timidly in Mrs. Pelly's direction.

'Oh!' said I, on a rather happy inspiration, 'I believe you're one of the vain people who fancy they are indispensable. I am sure Mrs. Pelly would be delighted for you to come; wouldn't you, Mrs. Pelly? There will be no lodgers home till late this fine evening.'

Mrs. Pelly simpered at me, with a rather forbidding light in her eye, I thought. But I had struck the right note in that word 'indispensable.'

'Oh, she's very welcome to go, for me, Mr. Freydon; and I'm sure it's very kind of you to ask her. Girls nowadays don't do so much when they are at work but what it's easy enough to spare 'em. But, haven't you got a tongue, miss? Why don't you thank Mr. Freydon?'

'No, indeed,' I laughed. 'The thanks are coming from me. I'll just go back to my room and write a letter, and you will let me know as soon as you're ready, won't you, Fanny?'

Well, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed that little outing. I thought there never had been any one who was so easily pleased and entertained. Doubtless her worshipful attitude flattered my youthful vanity. But, apart from this, it was a real delight to see the flush of enjoyment come and go in her pale, pretty face, when we rode on the top of an omnibus, examined flowers in the park, and sat down to a meal with the preparation and removal of which she was to have no concern whatever. It was a pretty and touching sight, I say, to see how these very simple pleasures delighted her. But I very soon learned that this experience must not be repeated. Indeed, it was in this wise that I obtained my first inklings of the real wretchedness of Fanny's life. She had to suffer constant humiliations for a week or more, as the price of the little jaunt she had with me. Her mother found it hard to forget or forgive the fact that her daughter had had an hour or two of freedom and enjoyment. Realisation of this made me detest the woman.

And then, it may have been three months after this little outing, there came another Sunday incident that moved me. I returned to my room unexpectedly about six o'clock, having forgotten to take out with me a certain paper. The house was very silent, and perhaps that made me walk more softly than usual up the stairs. As I opened my door the warm, yellow light of the setting sun was slanting across my writing-table, and in the chair before it sat Fanny, reading a magazine.

My first thought was of irritation. I did not like to see any one sitting at my writing-table. I was touchy regarding that one spot--the table, my papers, and so forth. In the same instant irritation gave place to some quite other feeling, as the sunlight showed me that tears were rolling down Fanny's pale face.

She sprang to her feet in great confusion, murmuring almost passionate apologies in her habitually soft, small voice.

'Oh, please forgive me, Mr. Freydon! I know it was a liberty. Please do forgive me. I will never do it again. Please say you will overlook it, and--and not tell my mother.'

She unmistakably shrank, trembling, almost cowering before me, so that I was made to feel a dreadful brute.

'My dear Fanny,' I said, touching her arm with my fingers, 'there's nothing to forgive. How absurd! I hope you will always sit there whenever you like. As though I should mind! But what were you reading?'

The question had no point for me, and was designed merely to relieve the tension.

'Oh, your story, Mr. Freydon. It's--it's too beautiful. That was what made me forget where I was, and sit on here. I just glanced at it--like; and then--and I couldn't leave it. Oh!'

And she drew up her apron and dabbed her eyes. I don't believe the poor soul possessed a handkerchief. Here was a pretty pass then! I had forgotten for the moment that one of the three magazines on the table contained a short story of which, upon its appearance, I had been inordinately proud. I was young, and no one else flattered me. Literally nobody had shared my gratification in the publication of this story. Here was somebody from whom it drew indubitable tears; some one who was deeply moved by its beauty....

I patted her shoulder. I drew confidences from her regarding the wretchedness of her home life. I laid down emphatic instructions that she was to regard my room as her sanctuary; to use it whenever and howsoever she might choose, irrespective of my presence or absence. I bade her make free with my few books--as though the poor soul had abundance of leisure--comforted her to the best of my ability; and-- Yes, let me evade nothing. I stroked her hair, and in leaving her, with reiterated instructions to remain there and rest, I touched her cool white cheek with my lips, and was strangely thrilled by the touch.

A warm wave of what I thought pity and sympathy passed over me as I walked from her.


It is rather a matter of regret with me now that I never kept a diary. Mine has been upon the whole a somewhat lonely life, and lonely men often do keep diaries. But, in my case, I suppose writing was too much the daily business of life to permit of leisure being given to the same task.

However, the dates of certain volumes of short stories, which appeared long ago with my name upon their covers, are for me evidence that, after the first six months of my stay in Howard Street, my work began to tend more and more towards fiction, and away from newspaper articles. My dealings at this time brought me more closely into touch with magazines than with newspapers. I became more concerned with human emotions and character, but especially with emotions, than with those more abstract or again more matter-of-fact themes which had served me in the writing of newspaper articles.

This may have helped me in some ways, since it meant that my name was fairly frequently seen in print now. But the point I have in mind is, that I take this tendency in my work to have been an indication of the particular phase of character development through which I was passing at the time. It was at this period that I indulged myself in occasional dreams of fame. I do not know that my conceit made me offensive in any way. I hardly think it went so far. But, in my inmost heart, I believe I judged myself to be a creative artist of note. I certainly had a lively imagination, a good deal of fluency--too much, indeed--as a writer, and a considerable amount of emotional capacity and sympathy.

Later in life I often wondered, not without depression, why I no longer seemed able to move people, to influence them in a given direction, or to arouse their enthusiasm, with the same facility which I had known in my twenties. I see now the reasons of this. My emotional capacity spent itself rapidly in writing and living; and with its exhaustion (and the development of my critical faculties) came an attenuation, a drying up, so to say, of the quality of facile emotional sympathy, which in earlier years had made it easy for me to attract, prepossess, or influence people at will.

Given some practical organising qualities which I certainly did not possess, I apprehend that at this period I might have engineered myself into a considerable vogue of popularity as a writer of fiction. A little later I might almost have slid into the same position, even in the absence of the practical qualities aforesaid, but for the trend of circumstances which then became highly antagonistic to that sort of development.

But I note with some interest that the stories I took to writing at this period were highly emotional in tone, and somewhat exotic in their setting. The exotic settings may have been due in part to the fact that I had travelled, and yet more I fancy to revulsion from the material background of my early life in London. And the emotionalism must be attributed, I apprehend, in part to my age and temperament, and in part to my comparative solitude.

I find it extremely difficult justly to appraise or analyse my relations with Fanny. In one mood I see merely youth, folly, vanity, and romantic emotionalism, directing my conduct; and again I fancy I discern some loftier motive, such as sincerely chivalrous generosity, humanity, unselfish desire to help and uplift, etc. Doubtless, in this as in most matters, a variety of motives and influences played their part in shaping one's conduct. Single and entirely unmixed motives are much more rare than most people believe, I fancy. Pride and vanity have a way of dogging generosity's footsteps very closely; steadfast endurance and selfish obstinacy are nearly related; and I dare say real kindness of heart often has a place where we most of us see only reckless self-indulgence.

I remember very well a cold, clear moonlight night in the Hampstead Road, when reaction from solitary reflection made me unbosom myself a good deal to Sidney Heron, in the form of seeking his advice. On previous occasions I had told him something of Fanny and her dismal position, and he had seen her once or twice at my lodging.

'H'm! Yes. Precisely. So I inferred.'

It was with such ejaculations, rather sardonic in tone, I thought, that he listened to me as we walked.

'Well, what shall I do?' I said at length as we reached his gate.

'What will you do?' he echoed. 'Well, my friend, since you are an inspired ass, and a confirmed sentimentalist, I imagine you----'

'What would you advise in the circumstances, I mean?' I interpolated hurriedly.

'My advice. Oh, that's another matter altogether, and of absolutely no value.'

'But, on the contrary, you are older than I.'

'I am indeed--centuries.'

'And your advice should be very helpful to me.'

'So it should. But it won't be, because you won't follow it.'

'How can you know that?'

'From my knowledge of human nature, sir; and, in particular, my observation of your sub-species.'

'Try me, anyhow.'

'Very well. Change your lodging to-morrow, and never set foot in Howard Street again. There's my advice, and it's the best you'll ever get--and the last you'd ever think of following. Give me a cigarette if you want to continue this perfectly useless conversation.'

'But, my dear Heron, I'm anxious to do the wisest thing----'

'Not you!'

'But consider the plight of that poor girl.'

'Oh, come! This opens new ground. I thought I was engaged to advise you.'

'Certainly. But in relation to--to what we've been talking about.'

'H'm! In relation, you mean, to Fanny Pelly? Phoebus, what a name! I wonder if you know what you mean, Freydon! Let's assume you mean having equal regard to your own interests and those of your gin-drinking landlady's daughter. Hey?'

'Well, yes. Always remembering, of course, that I am only a man, and she----'

'Oh, Lord! Excuse me. Yes; you are only a man, as you so truly say; and she is--your landlady's daughter. Well, well, upon the whole, and giving her interests a fair show, I think my advice would be precisely the same--clear out to-morrow.'

'And what about her future?'

'My dear man, am I a reasoning human being, or a novelette-reading jelly-fish? Did I not say that having regard to the interests of both, that is my advice? Kindly credit me with the modicum of intelligence required for adequate consideration of both sides. It isn't an international complication, you know; neither is it a situation entirely without precedent in history. But, mind you, I'm perfectly well aware that no advice, however good, is ever of any practical use; least of all in circumstances of this order. It does, I believe, occasionally impel its victim in the direction opposite to the one indicated. Yes, and especially in such cases. Well, my friend, upon reconsideration then, my advice is that first thing to-morrow morning you proceed to Doctors' Commons, wherever and whatever that may be, procure a special licence, and many the girl. Only--don't you dare to ask me to have anything to do with it.'

The suggestion has a fantastic look, but I am more than half inclined to think Heron's final piece of advice did have its bearing upon my subsequent actions. For it started a train of thought in my mind regarding marriage. It gave a practical shape to mere vague imaginings. It set me looking into details. For example, I distinctly remember murmuring to myself as I turned the corner of Heron's street:

'Yes, after all, I suppose getting married is quite a simple job, really. There are registrar's offices, aren't there? I suppose it's pretty well as simple, really, as getting a new coat.'

How Heron would have grinned if he had been able to follow this soliloquy!

Fanny was on her knees before my hearth when I reached my room. The lamp burned clear and soft beside my blotting-pad. The fire glowed cheerily, and Fanny had just swept the hearth, so that no speck showed upon it. And my slippers were in the fender. Less than a year earlier my homecomings had been singularly different; a dark, cold room in a malodorous house, with very possibly a drunken couple brawling on the landing outside.

But there were tears in Fanny's eyes. The mother was in one of her vicious tempers, it seemed, and had gone to bed in her basement room with the keys of larder and kitchen, and a bottle of gin. The daughter's last meal had been whatever she could get for midday dinner. And it was now nine o'clock in the evening.

'Just you wait there. Don't stir from where you arc. I'll be back in three minutes,' I told her.

There was a ham and beef shop at the junction of Howard and Albany Street. Thither I hastened. Leaving this convenient repository of ready-cooked comestibles, I bethought me of the question of something to drink. I was bent on doing this thing well, according to my lights. Presently I reached my room again, armed with pressed beef, cold chicken, bread, butter, mustard, salt, plates, cutlery, a segment of vividly yellow cake, and, crowning triumph, a half bottle of Macon.

The Dickensian tradition rather suggests that the ripe experience of a middle-aged bon vivant is desirable in the host at such occasions. Well, in that master's time youth may have lasted longer in life than it does with us. My own notion is that mine was the ideal age for such a part. I think of that little supper--Fanny's tremulous sips of Burgundy from my wash-stand tumbler, the warm flush in her pale cheeks, and the sparkle in her brown eyes--as crystallising a good deal of the phase in which I was living just then. I am quite sure I did it well, very well.

In buying those viands I knew I should keenly enjoy our little supper. I pictured very clearly how delightful it would all seem to poor Fanny; her flushed enjoyment; just what a rare treat the whole episode would be for her. I knew how pleasantly that spectacle would thrill me. I thought too, in a way, what a devilish romantic chap I was, rushing out at night to purchase supper--and Burgundy; that was important; claret would not have served--for a forlorn and unhappy girl, who, but for my resourcefulness, would have gone starving to bed. How oddly mixed the motives! The Burgundy, now; I believed it a more generous and feeding wine than any other. Also, for some reason, it was for me a more romantic wine; more closely associated with, say, the Three Musketeers and with Burgundian Denys, comrade of Reade's Gerard.

I quite genuinely wanted to help Fanny, to do her good, to brighten her dull life. The contemplation of her pleasure gave me what some would call the most unselfish delight. Withal, as I say, how oddly various are one's motive springs, especially in youth! And, in some respects, what a blind young fool I was! That wine, now.... Who knows? ... I took but a sip or two, for ceremony's sake, and insisted on fragile Fanny finishing the half bottle. And I kissed her lips, not her cheek, as I held the lamp high to light her on her way to the garret where she slept.

* * * * *

I have not the smallest desire to make excuses for such foolishness as I displayed, at this or any other period. But I think it just to remind myself that there are worse things than foolishness, and that my relations with Fanny might conceivably have formed a darker page for me to look back upon than they actually did form. We both were young, both lonely; neither of us had found much tenderness in life, and I--I was passing through an extremely emotional phase of life, as my work of that period clearly shows.

Within a month of that evening of the supper in my room, Fanny and I were married in a registrar's office in St. Pancras, and set up housekeeping in one tiny bedroom and a sitting-room in Camden Town. I had convinced Fanny that this was the only way out of her troubles, and goodness knows I believed it. Heron refused point blank to witness the ceremony, such as it was; but he shared our table at his favourite little French restaurant that evening, and even consented to prolong the festive occasion by spending a further hour with us in our new quarters.

I think Fanny was pretty much preoccupied in wondering what her mother would make of the joint note we had left for her. (I had removed all my belongings from No. 37 several days before.) But I thought she made a pretty little figure as a bride--gentle, clinging, tender, and no more than agreeably shy. And Heron, what a revelation to me his manner was! Throughout the evening there appeared not one faintest hint of his habitual acidulated brusqueness. Not one sharp word did he speak that night, and his manner toward my wife was the perfection of gentle and considerate courtesy. I was dumbfounded and deeply moved by his really startling behaviour. He was so incredibly gentle. His parting words, such words as I had never thought to hear upon his lips, were:

'Heaven bless you both!' And then, as I could have sworn, with moisture in his eyes, he added: 'You are both good souls, and--after all, some are happy!'

For so convinced and angry a cynic and pessimist, his behaviour had been remarkable. When I returned to Fanny she was admiring her pretty, new, dove-coloured frock in the fly-blown mirror of our sitting-room. Poor child, her experience of new frocks had not been extensive.

'He's a real gentleman, is Mr. Heron,' she said with a little welcoming smile to me. I liked the smile; but, almost for the first time I think, on that day at all events, her words jarred on me a little. But what jarred more perhaps was the fact that these words, so apparently innocent and harmless, sent a vagrant thought through my mind that filled me with harsh self-contempt. The thought will doubtless appear even more paltry than it was if put into words, but it was something to the effect that-- Of course, Heron was a gentleman! Why else would he be a friend of mine?

Perhaps the thought was hardly so absurd as my solemn self-contempt over it! ...


I have sometimes thought that, in its early days at all events, and before the more serious trouble arose, our married life might have been a little brighter if we had quarrelled occasionally. It would perhaps have shown a more agreeable disposition in me. But we did not quarrel. I felt, and probably showed, displeasure and dissatisfaction; and Fanny-- But how shall I presume to tell what Fanny felt? She showed occasional tears, and what I grew to think rather frequent sulks and peevishness.

Our first difficulties began within a day or two of our marriage. Chief among them I would place what I regarded as my wife's altogether unaccountable and quite unreasonable determination to keep up relations with her mother. I thought I was unfairly treated here, and I made no allowance for filial feelings, or the influence of Fanny's life-long tutelage. I only saw that she had very gladly allowed me to rescue her from the tyranny of a spiteful, gin-drinking, old woman; and that, within forty-eight hours, she was for visiting her mother as a regular thing, and even proposed that I should join her in this.

That was one of the early difficulties; and another, more distressing in its way, was my discovery of the fact that it was apparently impossible for me to think consecutively, or to write when I had thought, in a room which was my wife's living place. It was strange that I should never have given a thought before marriage to a practical point so intimately touching my peace of mind and means of livelihood.

At present it did not seem to me that I could possibly afford to rent another room. I certainly was not prepared to banish Fanny to our tiny bedroom, separated from the other room by folding doors. She had no notion as yet that her presence or doings constituted any sort of interruption in my work. The change from carrying on the whole work of a lodging-house to living in lodgings with practically no domestic work to do was one which, in my foolish ignorance, I had thought would prove immensely beneficial to overworked Fanny. As a fact I think it bored her terribly after the first week. She sometimes liked to read, but never, I think, for more than half an hour at a stretch. She never wrote a letter, and did not care for thinking.

I have found very few people in any class of life who like to sit and think; very few, even among educated people, who showed any sympathy or comprehension in the matter of my own lifelong desire for leisure in which to think. To do this or that, yes; but just to think! That seems to be a lamentable and most boring kind of futility, as most folk see it. It has for many years figured as the most desirable thing in life to me.

Looking back upon my married life, I believe I may say with truth that for two years I did not relax in my sincere efforts to make it a success. It would be more exact perhaps to say that for one year I tried hard to make it a success, and for another year I tried hard to make it tolerable. Yes, I did my best through that period, though my efforts were quite unsuccessful. I realise that this does not justify or excuse the fact that, to all intents and purposes, I then gave up trying. In that, of course, I was to blame; very much to blame. Well, I did not go unpunished.

It would not be easy for a literary man who had never tried it to understand what it means to live practically in one room (with a sleeping cubicle opening out of it) with a woman. I suppose a woman would never forgive or see much excuse for the man who makes a failure of married life. I wonder how it would strike a literary woman if she tried life in these circumstances with an unliterary man who, whilst clinging to leisure and having no inclination to forfeit an hour of it in a day, yet was bored extremely from lack of occupation and resource.

The horrid intimacy of urban life for all poor and needy people must be very wearing. Its lack of privacy is most distressing. But this becomes enormously aggravated, of course, where the bread-winner must do his work within the walls of the cramped home. And that aggravation of difficulties is multiplied tenfold if the bread-winner's work must not only be done inside the home, but must also be the product of sustained and concentrated thought; if it be work of that sort which lends itself readily to interruption, in which a moment's break may mean an hour's delay, and an hour's delay may mean for the worker a fit of hot disgust in which his unfinished task finds its way into fireplace or waste-paper basket.

The year which I gave to trying to make a success of our married life appears to me in the retrospect as a monotonous series of abortive honeymoons, separated by interludes of terribly hard and unfruitful labour for me (more exhausting than any long sustained working effort I ever made), throughout which, out of respect for my praiseworthy resolutions as a would-be good husband, my exacerbated temper was cloaked in a sort of waxy fixative, even as some men discipline their moustaches. I see myself in these periods as a man acutely tired, miserably conscious of the barren nature of his exhausting daily toil, and wearing a horrible set smile of connubial amiability; the sort of smile which, in time, produces a kind of facial cramp.

My wife, poor little soul, was not, I think, burdened by any self-imposed task touching the set of her lips. And it may be this was so much the worse for her. In the absence of any recognised duty she knew of no distraction save her visits to her mother, regarding which she felt a certain furtiveness to be necessary, by reason of my ill-judged show of impatience in this matter, and my refusal to open my own arms to the woman who, for years, had made Fanny's life a burden to her.

'Confound it!' I thought. 'My part was to release her from this harridan's clutches, not to go round and mix tears and gin with the woman.'

But I was wrong. I should have gone much farther, or not near so far. (How often that has been my fault!) Either I should have prevented those visits, or sterilised them by taking part in them.

By the time that a spell of the set smile and the barren labours had brought me near to breaking point, Fanny would be frequently tearful and desperately peevish from her boredom, and from poor health; for I fancy she was in little better case than I as regards the penalties of a faulty and inadequate dietary, combined with long confinement within doors. These conditions would produce in me a day or two (and a sleepless night or two) of black, dyspeptic melancholy, and quite hopeless depression. Then, as like as not, I would try a long tramp, probably in Epping Forest, and after that--another abortive honeymoon. In other words, full of wise resolutions and determined hopefulness, I would apply the fixative to my domestic circle smile and amiability, and make an entirely fresh start, with a little jaunt of some kind as a send off.

I fancy Fanny's faith in these foredoomed attempts remained permanently unsullied. I know she used to resolve to discontinue the long gossipy afternoons with her mother in Howard Street--in some mysterious way the mother had lain aside all her old pretensions as a tyrannical autocrat, and they met now, I gathered, as friendly gossips--and to become an ideal wife for a literary man. She would even tell our landlady not to clean or tidy our rooms any more, since she, Fanny, intended to do this in future. And she would do it--for a week or so; just as I would keep up my sickening grin, and the attempt to make myself believe that I really liked doing my work in public libraries, reading-rooms, waiting-rooms, and other such inspiring places. Not even on the first day of a new honeymoon could I force myself to fancy I liked the attempt to work in our joint sitting-room. That affected me like a neuralgia.

The point, and perhaps the only point I can make in extenuation of my admitted failure to conduct my married life to a successful issue, I have made already; for one year I did, according to my poor lights, strive consistently and hard for success. Throughout another year I did strive as hardly, and almost equally consistently to make our joint life tolerable for us both. More than that I cannot claim, and, in the light of all that happened, I feel that this much is rather pitifully little.


It may very well be that during the first years after my marriage some of the chickens I had hatched out in the preceding years of slum life and incessant scribbling came home to roost. In the case of my reckless sins against hygiene and my digestion, I know they did. But also, I fancy, as touching work, and its monetary reward; for my earnings increased somewhat, while my work suffered deterioration, both in quality and quantity.

If it had not chanced to reach me in the black fit which preceded one of my make-believe new honeymoons, I should doubtless have been a good deal more elated than I was by the letter I received from Mr. Sylvanus Creed, the well-known connoisseur and arbiter of literary taste, who presided over the fortunes of the publishing house that bore his name. This letter--written with distinction and a quill pen upon beautifully embossed deckle-edged paper, which seemed to me to have a subtle perfume about it--requested the pleasure of my company at luncheon with the great Sylvanus; the place his favourite club--the Court, in Piccadilly.

He received me with beautiful urbanity, if a thought languidly. It was clearly a point of honour with him to refer to nothing so prosaic as any kind of work until he had plied me with the best which his luxurious club had to offer; and I gladly record that our luncheon was by far the most ambitious meal I had ever made, or even dreamed of, up to that day. And then, over the delicate Havannahs and fragrant coffee and liqueurs--the enterprise of youth was still mine in these matters, and in those days I accepted any such delicacies as the gods sent my way with never a thought of question, or of consequence--I was informed, with truly regal complaisance, that a certain bundle of manuscript short stories of mine (which by this time had been the round of quite a number of publishers' readers without making any perceptible progress towards germination and print) had been chosen for the honour of inclusion in the new Fin de siècle Library of Fiction, which, as all the world knows--or knew, at all events, during that season--represented the last word, both in literary excellence and artistic publishing.

I was perhaps less overpowered than I might, and no doubt ought to have been, by reason of the fact that I had at least been shrewd enough to know in advance that it was hardly for my bright eyes the famous publisher was entertaining me. However, I assumed a decent amount of ecstasy, and was genuinely glad of the prospect of seeing my first book handsomely published. After a proper interval I ventured upon a delicate inquiry as to terms; whereupon the deprecatory wave of Sylvanus Creed's white and jewelled hand made me feel (or pretend to feel) a low fellow for my pains. I gathered that on our return to the sumptuously appointed studio from which my host directed the destinies of his publishing house, one of his secretaries of state would submit to me a specimen of the regulation agreement for the publication of first books.

That airy mention of 'first books' caused a chill presentiment to pierce the ambrosial fumes by which I was surrounded. The transaction was to bring me no particular profit, I thought. Well, the luncheon had been superfine. The format of Sylvanus Creed's books was indubitably pleasing to hand and eye. And, true enough, it was a 'first book.' Money, after all--and particularly after such a luncheon ...

But I will say that in subsequently signing the daintily embossed agreement (subtly perfumed, I thought, like the letter paper) I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that it also gave Mr. Sylvanus Creed my second book, whatever that might prove to be, upon the same exiguous terms. The fault was wholly mine, of course. There was the agreement (in the most elegant sort of copper-plate script) quite open for my perusal. I fancy, perhaps, the Court Club's liqueurs were even more agreeably potent than its wines. I know it seemed absurdly curmudgeonly that I should think of wading through the document, and while Sylvanus's own fair hand held a pen waiting for me, too. And, indeed, I do not in the least grudge that signature now.

And thus, with every circumstance of artistic fitness and ease, I was committed to authorship. The second floor back in Camden Town looked a shade dingy after my publisher's sanctum; but I carried a couple of gift copies of the Fin de siècle books in my hand, and my own effusions were to form the fifth volume of the series. With such news I clearly was justified in bidding Sidney Heron take his dinner with us that night. Fanny rather cooled about the great event, when its monetary insignificance was made partially clear to her. But she enjoyed the little dinner with Heron; and, as a matter of fact, we were doing rather well in the monetary way just then, though hardly well enough to enable me to rent a third room for use as study.

I found that sovereigns had somehow shrunken and lost much of their magic in Fanny's hands with the passage of time. At the time of our marriage, I had been agreeably surprised to learn that Fanny was a cleverer economist than I, with all my grim learning in South Tottenham. The few pounds I was able to give her on the eve of our marriage had been made to work miracles I thought. But lately it had seemed a little different. Fanny had, of course, changed in many small ways; and one result, as I gathered, was that our sovereigns had become less powerful. Their purchasing power was notably reduced, it seemed. Fortunately, I was earning more. But it was clear the increase in my earnings would not as yet permit of any increase in our expenditure upon rent. Sometimes in the Cimmerian intervals immediately preceding one of our fresh starts, my reflections upon such a point were very bitter. There was no sort of doubt that the quality of my work was suffering seriously from lack of a private workshop....

On the day my second book was published--the first, while favourably reviewed, had not precisely taken the world by storm; its successor was my first novel--I had said that I should not get back to our rooms before about seven o'clock, in time for the evening meal. A dizzy headache, combined with a series of interruptions in the public reading-room where I had been at work, brought me to Camden Town between four and five, determined to take a couple of hours' rest, to sleep if possible on our bed. It happened that I met our landlady on the steps of the house, and asked her casually if my wife had returned yet. Fanny had said in the morning that she had promised to go and see her mother that day. The landlady looked at me a little oddly, I thought. Her reply was normal, and, characteristically enough, more wordy than informing:

'Oh, I couldn't sye, Mr. Fr'ydon; I reely couldn't sye. I know Mrs. Fr'ydon went art early this mornin', because she 'appened to speak to me in passin', an' she said she was goin' to see 'er mother, "Oh, are yer?" I says. "An' I 'ope you'll find 'er well," I says.'

I passed on indoors and upstairs, thinking dizzily about Cockney dialect--I had the worst kind of dyspeptic headache--and feeling rather glad my wife was away. 'An hour's sleep will set me right,' I muttered to myself as I entered our tiny bedroom.

But Fanny was lying on the bed, fully dressed, even to her hat, and with muddy boots. She was maundering over to herself the silly words of some inane song of the day. She was horribly flushed, and-- But let me make an end of it. My wife was grossly and quite unmistakably drunk, and the stuffy little room reeked of gin.

As it happened I never had been drunk. It was not one of my weaknesses. But if it had been, I dare say I should have been no whit the less horrified and alarmed and disgusted by this lamentable spectacle of my wife--stupid, maundering, helpless, and looking like ... But I need not labour the point.

In a flash I recalled a host of tiny incidents. It was extraordinary how recollection of the series rattled through my aching brain like bullets from a machine gun.

'This has been going on for some time,' I thought. And then, 'I suppose this is hereditary.' And then, 'This comes of the visits to Howard Street.' And then, curiously, recollection of those wedding night words of Heron's which had so touched me: 'Heaven bless you! You are both good souls, and--after all, some are happy!'

'Perhaps some are,' I thought bitterly. 'I wonder how much chance there is for us!'

In just the same way that I think the beginning of our married life might have been more agreeable, less strained, if we had had occasional quarrels, so I dare say at this critical juncture, when I discovered that my wife had taken to drinking gin, my right cue would have been that of open anger, or, at all events, of very serious remonstrance. It is easy to be wise after the event. I did not seem to be capable just then of talk or remonstrance. All I did actually say was commonplace and unhelpful enough. I said as I remember very well:

'Good God, Fanny! I never thought to see you in this state.' And then--the futility of it--I added, 'You'd better take your hat and boots off.'

With that I walked into the sitting-room, closing the dividing door after me, and subsided, utterly despondent, into the chair beside the empty grate. A man could hardly have been more wretched; but after a minute or two I could not help noticing, as something singular, the fact that my sick, dizzy headache had disappeared. The pain had been horridly severe, or I should hardly have noticed its cessation. But now, with my spirits at their lowest and blackest, my head was clear again; not by a gradual recovery, but in one minute.


Fanny had spoken no word to me, and I wondered greatly at that. She had only smiled and laughed in a foolish way. And a few minutes later I knew by her breathing--even through the closed doors, so much was unmistakable--that she slept.

I may have sat there for an hour, nursing the bitterest kind of reflections. Then I decided to go out, and found I had left my hat in the bedroom. Very cautiously I opened one leaf of the folding doors, tip-toed into the small room, and took my hat from the chair on which it lay. My gaze fell for one instant across the recumbent figure of my wife, and was withdrawn sharply. I went out with anger and revulsion in my heart, and walked rather quickly for an hour, conscious of no relief from bitterness, no softening of my feelings.

Then I happened to pass a familiar restaurant, and told myself I would have some dinner. 'She must go her own way,' I muttered savagely.

I entered the place, found a seat, and consulted the bill of fare. A greasily smiling Italian came to take my order.

'Madame is not wiz you, sare?' the fellow said.

We had not been there for a month, but he remembered; and, on the instant, I recalled our last visit--the beginning of one of our fresh starts. And this was the end of it. Well!

Suddenly I found myself reaching for my hat.

'No,' I said, 'madam is late. I will go and look for her.' And out I went. In that moment I had seen pictures: Fanny, before our marriage, on her knees at my hearth in the room in Howard Street; in her dove-coloured frock on our marriage night, clinging to my arm when she was fresh from the excitement of leaving Howard Street. There were other scenes. What an immature and helpless child she was! And how much help had I given her? After all, food and clothing and so forth, freedom from tyranny--well, these were not everything. She needed more intimate care and guidance. The responsibility was mine.

In the end I went to a shop and bought the materials for a meal, even as on an evening which seemed very long ago, when I had given her supper in my bedroom. Only, on this occasion, with a sigh which contained considerable self-reproach, I omitted Burgundy, or any equivalent thereto. We had the wherewithal for brewing tea in our rooms. And so, carrying a supper for us both, I returned to the lodging. And there was Fanny on her knees before the hearth in the sitting-room, just as she had been on that previous occasion. And now she was crying. Her nerveless fingers held no brush. The hearth was far from speckless, and the grate held only dead grey ashes, and some scraps of torn paper--my own wasted manuscript.

Fanny was weeping, weakly and quietly. She knew, then. She had not forgotten that I had seen her. But her hair had been brushed. She wore a different gown. She looked shrinkingly and fearfully up at me as I came in.

'You better, little woman?' I said as I began to put down my parcels. I had tried hard to make the words sound careless and normal, kindly and cheerful. But I thought as I heard them that a man with a quinsy might have managed a better tone.

In another moment she was clinging to me somehow, without having risen to her feet, and sobbing out an incoherent expression of her penitence and shame. I was tremendously moved. And, while seeking to console her, my real sympathy for this sobbing child was shot through and illumined by the most fatuous sort of optimism.

'I've been making a tragedy out of a disagreeable mishap,' I told myself. 'She is only a child who has made herself ill. The thing won't happen again, one may be sure. This is a lesson she will never forget. No one could possibly mistake the genuineness of all this.' By which I meant her heaving shoulders, streaming eyes, and penitent self-abasement.

In the process of soothing her, of course, I made light of her self-confessed baseness. I suppose I spent at least half an hour in comforting her. Then we supped, with a hint of April gaiety towards the end. I endeavoured to be humorous in a lover-like way. Fanny dabbed her eyes, smiled, and choked, and even laughed a little. But the vows, protestations, resolves for the future--these were all most solemn and impressive.

And they all held good, too,--for a week and a half. And then our landlady gave me notice, because in the broad light of mid-afternoon Fanny had stumbled over the front door-mat on entering the house, and lain there, laughing and singing; she had refused to move, and had had to be dragged upstairs for appearance's sake.

The landlady must have occupied ten minutes, I think, in giving me notice. Almost, I could have struck the poor soul before she was through with it. When at length she drew breath, and allowed me to escape, I thought her Cockney dialect the basest and vilest ever evolved among the tongues of mankind. Yet the good woman was really very civil, and rather kindly disposed towards me than otherwise, I think. There was no good reason why I should have felt bitter towards her. Rather, perhaps, I should have been apologetic. And it was clean contrary to my nature and disposition, this savage bitterness. But one of the curses of squalor is that it exacerbates the mildest temper, corrodes and embitters every one it touches.

On the third morning after our instalment in new lodgings--two almost exactly similar rooms, a little farther away from Mrs. Pelly and Howard Street, in a turning off the lower Hampstead Road--I received a letter, forwarded on from our first lodging, from Arncliffe, the editor to whom, some four years before this time, I had taken a letter of introduction. At intervals Arncliffe had accepted and published quite a number of articles from my pen, but we had not again met, unless one counts the occasion upon which I followed him into an expensive restaurant at luncheon time, on the off-chance of being noticed by him. The letter ran thus:

'Dear Mr. Freydon,--As you are probably aware, I am now in the chair of the Advocate, and a pretty uneasy seat I find it, so far. It occurs to me that we might be able to do something for each other. Will you give me a call here between three and four one afternoon this week, if you are not too busy.--Yours sincerely, Henry Arncliffe.'

The letter gave me rather a thrill. Sylvanus Creed had published two books of mine, and my work had recently appeared in several of the leading journals. But the Advocate was certainly one of the oldest and most famous of London's daily newspapers--I vaguely recalled having read somewhere that it had changed its proprietors during the past week or so--and I had never before received a summons from the editor of such a journal. Fanny had a headache and was cross that morning; but I told her of the letter, and explained that it might easily mean some increase in my earnings.

'If he would commission me for a series of articles, we might afford to take a room on the next floor for me to work in,' I said rather selfishly perhaps.

'Groceries seem to be dearer every week,' said Fanny, 'and Mrs. Heaps charges sevenpence for every scuttle of coal. I never heard of such a price. Mother never charges more than sixpence, no matter if coal goes up ever so.'

This touched a sore spot between us. It seemed Mrs. Pelly had two rooms empty, and Fanny did not find it easy to forgive me for my refusal to go and live in Howard Street.

If Arncliffe found his editorial chair an uneasy seat, it was not the chair's fault. A more dignified and withal more ingeniously contrived and padded resting-place for mortal limbs I never saw. And the editorial apartment, how spacious, silent, and admirably adapted, in the dignity of its lines and furnishings, for the reception of Cabinet Ministers, and the excogitation of thunderbolts for the chancelleries of Europe! It was currently reported in Fleet Street that Lord Beaconsfield had been particularly familiar with the interior of that apartment.

I found the great man in cheerful spirits, and looking fresher than ordinary mortals, I suppose because his day had only just begun. From him I learned how, some eight days previously, the Advocate had been purchased, lock, stock, and barrel (from the family whose members had inherited possession of it), by Sir William Bartram, M.P., head of the great engineering and contracting firm which bore his name. It seemed Sir William had been advised by a very great statesman indeed to secure the editorial services of Mr. Arncliffe; and he had managed to do it in forty-eight hours by dint of the exercise of a certain amount of political and social influence in various quarters, and by entering into a contract which, for some years, at all events, would make Arncliffe a tolerably rich man.

A good deal was left to my imagination, of course. It was assumed, very kindly, that I understood the relations existing between this nobleman and the other, as touching Sir William's precise influence and sphere in the world of politics. Naturally, when the Party Whip heard so and so, he went to Mr. ----, and the result, of course, was pressure from Lord ----, which settled the matter in five minutes. I nodded very intelligently at intervals, to show my recognition of the inevitableness of it all; and so an end was reached of that stage in our conversation.

In the slight pause which followed Arncliffe touched a spring releasing the door of a cabinet apparently designed to hold State Papers of the highest importance, and disclosed some beautiful boxes of cigars and other creature comforts. It became clear to me, as I thanked Arncliffe for the match he handed me, that he must have forgotten the first impressions he had formed of me some years earlier. Perhaps he had confused me in his mind with some other more important and affluent person. And yet he did remember some of my articles. His remarks proved that. I wondered if he could also remember that they had reached him, some of them, from South Tottenham. Probably not. And, if he did, his editorial omniscience could hardly have given him knowledge of any of my slum garrets. On the other hand, he clearly assumed that I was familiar with the life of the House of Commons and the clubs of London, if not with that of the other august and crimson-benched Chamber.

'You know L----,' he said, casually mentioning a leader in literary journalism so prominent that I could not but be familiar with his reputation.

'By name, of course,' I agreed.

'Ah! To be sure. And T----, and R----, and, I think, J----; yes, I've got 'em all. So we ought to make the Advocate move things along, if the most brilliant staff in London can accomplish it.'

I nodded sympathetically, and presently gathered that over and above all this the kindly and intimate relations subsisting between Arncliffe and the principal occupants of the Treasury Bench (not to mention a certain moiety of influence which might conceivably be exercised by the new proprietor, Sir William) were such as to ensure brilliant success and greatly increased prestige to the Advocate, under the new regime.

All this was very pleasant hearing, of course, and at suitable intervals I offered congratulatory movements of the head and eyebrows, with murmured ejaculations to similar effect. But, as touching myself and my obscure problems (of which such an Olympian as Arncliffe could, naturally, have no conception), it was all somewhat insubstantial and remote; rather of the stuff of which dreams are compounded. And so, watching my opportunity, I presently ventured a tentative inquiry as to the direction in which I might hope to justify the terms of Mr. Arncliffe's letter, and be of any service.

'Oh! Well, of course, that's for you to say,' said the editor, with a suggestion of having been suddenly curbed in full career. 'I may be quite wrong in supposing such things would have any interest for you. But I--I have followed--er--your work, you know; followed your work and, in fact, it struck me you might like to join us here, you know. It is a staff worth joining, I think, and-- But, of course, you are the best judge of your own affairs.'

'It's extremely kind of you, extremely kind.'

'Not at all. I think you could do good work for the Advocate.'

'There's nothing I'd like better. But-- Do I understand that you mean me to join your permanent staff, and come and work here in the building every day?'

'Why, yes; yes, to be sure.'

'I see.'

It meant an end to my free-lancing then. But, after all, what had this free-lancing meant, since my marriage? It would provide a place to work in. The hours might not be excessive. The pay ... Fanny was for ever talking of the increase in prices. My earnings, though on the up grade, had seemed very insufficient of late. There certainly was nothing to make me cling to our home as a place in which to carry on my work.

'And in the matter of salary?' I said, as who should say that in such a business it is well to glance at even the most trivial of details.

'Ah!' replied Arncliffe. 'Yes; that's a point now, isn't it? You see the fact is I had a bit of a scene with the business side here yesterday. We are new to each other as yet, you know--the manager and myself. But he's a very decent fellow, and I shall soon have him properly in hand, I'm sure of that. Meantime, of course, I have been rather going it, you know, from his point of view. You can't get L----, and T----, and R----, for tuppence-ha'penny, you know.'

'No, indeed, that's true,' said I, with the air of one who had tried this game and proved its impossibility.

'No. And so, in the matter of pay I must go gently, you know, at first. I must ca' canny for a while. I shall be able to make things all right a little later on, you know, but just to begin with I'm afraid I couldn't manage more than three or four hundred a year.'

I did not think it necessary to mention that my London record so far was little more than half the lower sum mentioned. On the contrary, I pinched my chin and said: 'Oh!' rather blankly, and without really knowing what I said, or why I said it. I wanted to think, as a matter of fact. But what I said was well enough.

'H'm! Yes, I see what you mean. It is poor, I know,' said Arncliffe, in his quick, burbling way. 'But, as I say, I should hope to improve it a little later on, you know. And, meantime, you may probably continue to earn something outside, you know; so that two or three hundred--say three hundred--but of course you're the best judge.'

Perhaps I was. I wonder! At all events, my mind was made up. The life of the last few months had made it clear that I needed more money.

'Oh, I'll be very glad,' I said. 'By the way, you did mention at first three or four, not two or three hundred.'

'Did I? Ah! Well, say three to begin with.'

I gathered it was rather difficult for the real Olympian to think at all in figures so absurdly low. So we let it go at that, and, this being a Friday, I agreed to start work at the office on the following Monday.

'I shall be able to get a room here, shall I not?' I asked with some anxiety.

'A room? Oh, surely, surely. Yes, yes, that's all right. Ask for me. Come and see me before doing anything, and I'll see to it. So glad we've fixed it. Good-bye!'

And so, very affably, I was bowed out of my free-lance life, the which I had entered by way of the north-eastern slums.


My first Monday in the Advocate office was not a pleasant day. Arriving there about ten o'clock in the morning, I learned that the editor was never expected before three in the afternoon. I knew no other person in the building, and so no place was open to me except the waiting-room. However, I whiled away the morning in that apartment by making a pretty thorough study of a file of the Advocate, in the course of which I took notes and made memoranda of suggestions which would have kept an editor busy for a week or two had he acted upon one half of them.

The time thus spent was far from wasted, since it gave me more of an insight into current politics (as reflected in the pages of this particular organ) than I had obtained during my whole life in England up till then, and it gave me a thorough grasp of the policy of the Advocate. After a somewhat Barmecidal feast in a Fleet Street eating-house (domestic expenditure left me very short of funds at this time), I returned to my post and wrote a political leading article which I ventured to think at least the equal in persuasive force and profundity of anything I had read that morning. At three o'clock precisely, my name, written on a slip of paper, was placed on the editorial table. There were then nine other people in the waiting-room. At four I began a second leading article, which was finished at half-past five. At a quarter to six the manuscript of both effusions was sent in to the editor. At a quarter to seven inquiry elicited the information that the editor had left the building almost an hour since, with Sir William Bartram, after a crowded afternoon which had brought disappointment to many beside myself who had wished to see him.

Unused as I was now to salary earning I felt uneasy. It seemed to me rather dreadful that any institution should be mulcted to the extent of a guinea in the day, by way of payment to a man who spent that day in a waiting-room. I looked anxiously for my leading articles next morning. But, no; the editorial space was occupied by other (much less edifying) contributions upon topics which had not occurred to me. During that morning I began to fancy that the very bell-boys were suspicious, and might be contemplating the desirability of laying a complaint against me for not earning my princely salary.

However, at a few minutes after three o'clock, I was escorted by the head messenger--who had rather the air of a seneschal or chamberlain--to the editorial apartment, where I found Arncliffe giving audience to his news editor, Mr. Pink, and one of his leader-writers, a very old Advocate identity, Mr. Samuel Harbottle---a white-whiskered and rubicund gentleman, who was entitled to use most of the letters of the alphabet after his name should he so choose. I was presented to both these gentlemen, and in a few minutes they took their departure.

'Poor old Harbottle!' said Arncliffe, when the door had closed behind the leader-writer. 'An able man, mind you, in his prehistoric way; but-- Well, he can hardly expect to live our pace, you know. He has had a very fair innings. Still, we must move gradually. The change has to be made, but we don't want to upset these patriarchs more than is absolutely necessary. Have a cigar? Sure? Well, I dare say you're right. I'll have a cigarette. Sorry I couldn't see you yesterday. Now I'll tell you what I want you to tackle for me, first of all: Correspondence.'

For a moment I had a vision of almost forgotten days in Sussex Street, Sydney: 'Dear Mr. Gubbins,--With regard to your last consignment of butter,' etc.

'The correspondence of this paper has been disgracefully neglected. And, mind you, that's a serious mistake. Nothing people like better than seeing their names in the paper. They make their relatives read it, and for each time you print their rubbish, they'll be content to scan your every column for a fortnight. I mean to do it properly. We'll give two or three columns a day to our Letters to the Editor. But, the point is, they must be handled intelligently, both with regard to which letters should be used and which should not; and also in the matter of condensation. We can't let 'em ramble indefinitely, or they'd fill the paper. Now that's what I want you to tackle for me for a start. I can't possibly get time to wade through them myself; but if you once get the thing licked into proper shape, it will make a good permanent feature, and--er--you will gradually drop into other things, you know.'

'Yes. I've made notes of a few suggestions,' I began.

'Quite so. That's what I want. That's where I hope we shall be really successful. There's no good in having a brilliant editorial staff if one doesn't get suggestions from them, and act on 'em.'

I drew some memoranda from my pocket. But the editor swept on.

'I'm a thorough believer in suggestions. The moment I have got things running a little more smoothly, I shall have a round table conference every afternoon to deal with suggestions for the day. Meantime, I'll tell my secretary to have all letters for publication passed straight on to you, so that you can sift and prepare a correspondence feature every day. They may want helping out a bit occasionally, of course. A friendly lead, you know, from "An Old Reader," or "Paterfamilias," to keep 'em to their muttons. You'll see.'

'And where can I work?' I asked.

'Ah, to be sure. Yes. You want a room. Come with me now. I'll introduce you to Hutchens, the manager, and he'll fix you up.'

Mr. Hutchens proved to be a miracle of correctness. I never knew much of Lombard Street, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street, and their purlieus; but I felt instinctively that Mr. Hutchens, in his dress, tone, and general deportment, had attained as closely as mortal might to the highest city standards of what a leading city man should be. I never saw a speck of dust on his immaculately shining boots or hat. His manner would have been almost priceless, I should suppose, in the board room of a bank. His close-clipped whiskers--resembling some costly fur--his large, perfectly white hands and frozen facial expression were alike eloquent of massive dividends, of balance sheets of sacred propriety, of gravely cordial votes of thanks to noble chairmen, of gilt-edged security and success.

There was something, too, of the headmaster in the way in which he shook hands with me, and in the automatic geniality of the smile with which he favoured Arncliffe. (In this connection, of course, Arncliffe was a parent, and I a future incumbent of the swishing block.)

'Another star in our costly galaxy,' he said; and, having reduced me by one glance to the proportions of a performing flea, rather poorly trained, he gave his attention indulgently to the editor.

'With regard to that question of the extra twenty minutes for the last forme,' he began.

'Yes, I know,' said Arncliffe. 'Drop in and see me about it later, will you?' (I marvelled at his temerity. As soon would I have thought of inviting the Lord Mayor to forsake his Mansion House and turtles to 'drop in and see me later!') 'Meantime, I want you to find a home for Freydon, will you? He's going to tackle the--a new feature, you know, and must have a room.'

'There's not a vacant room in the building, Mr. Arncliffe--hardly a chair, I should suppose. We now have a staff, you know, which----'

'Yes, I know, I know; there's got to be a good deal of sifting, but we must go gently. We don't want to set Fleet Street humming. Look here! What about old Harbottle? He has a room, hasn't he?'

'Mr. Harbottle has had his room here, Mr. Arncliffe, for just upon twenty-seven years.'

'Yes; I thought so. Where is it?'

'Mr. Harbottle's room is immediately overhead.'

'Let's have a look at it. Do you mind? Can you spare a minute?'

'Oh, I am quite at your service, of course, Mr. Arncliffe.'

A minion from the messenger's office walked processionally before us bearing a key, and presently we were in Mr. Harbottle's sanctuary. Two well-worn saddle-bag chairs stood before the hearth, and between them a chastely designed little table. On the rug was a pair of roomy slippers. In a glass-fronted cabinet one saw decanters and tumblers. Against one wall stood a large and comfortable couch. The writing-table was supplied with virgin blotting-paper, new pens, works of reference, ash-tray, matches, and the like; and over the mantel hung a full-length portrait of Lord Beaconsfield. There was also an ivory-handled copper kettle, and a patent coffee-making apparatus.

'H'm! The old boy makes himself comfortable,' said Arncliffe. 'He has written one short leader note since--since the change. And where does the other old gentleman work, Hutchens? The one with gout, you know. What's his name? The very old chap, I mean.'

'Dr. Powell? Dr. Powell's room is the next one to this.'

A key was brought to us, and we inspected another very similar apartment, which had a green baize-covered leg-rest on its hearth-rug.

'H'm! Dr. Powell is not quite so busy, of course. We haven't had a line from him yet. Well, Hutchens, you might have Dr. Powell's things put in Mr. Harbottle's room at once, will you? or the other way about, you know. It doesn't matter which. Then Freydon here can have one of these rooms. He will want to start in at once.'

'As you like, of course, Mr. Arncliffe,' said the manager, with portentous suavity. 'These gentlemen are of your staff, not mine. But, really! Well, it is for you to say, but I greatly fear that one or both of these gentlemen will be quite likely to resign if we treat them in so very summary a fashion.'

'No! Do you really think that?' asked Arncliffe, so earnestly that I felt my chance of having a room to myself was irretrievably lost.

'I do indeed, Mr. Arncliffe. You see, these gentlemen have been accustomed for very many years to--well, to a considerable amount of deference, and----'

'Well, then, in that case, I'll tell you what, Hutchens; put 'em both in the other old gentleman's room upstairs, will you? Mr. Thingummy's, you know, who specialises on Egyptology. I know he's got a nice room, because he insisted on my drinking a glass of port there the other night. Port always upsets me. Put 'em both in there, will you? Then we'll give one of these rooms to L----, and you might let Freydon here start work in the other right away, will you? By Jove! If you're only right, you know, that will simplify matters immensely. An excellent idea of yours, Hutchens. I'm no end obliged to you.'

'But, Mr. Arncliffe, I really----'

'Right you are! I'll see you later about that last forme question. Look in in about an hour, will you? I must bolt now--half a dozen people waiting. You'll get the letters from my secretary, Freydon, won't you? Come and see me whenever you've got any suggestions. Always ready for suggestions, any time!'

His last words reached us faintly from the staircase.

'Tut, tut!' said Mr. Hutchens. 'I am afraid these violent upheavals will make for a good deal of trouble; a good deal of trouble. However!' And then he glared formidably upon me, as who should say: 'At least, you cannot give me any orders. Let me see you open your mouth, you confounded newcomer, and I will smite you to the earth with a managerial thunderbolt!'

'Well,' said I cheerfully, 'I'd better go and fetch those letters. And which of these rooms would you prefer me to take?'

'I would prefer, sir, that you took neither of them. But as Dr. Powell's gout is very bad, and he is therefore not likely to be here this week, you had better occupy this room--for the present.'

The emphasis he laid on these last words seemed meant to convey to me a sense of the extreme precariousness of my tenure of any room in that building, if not of existence in the same city.

'I trust you understand that this choice of rooms is no affair of mine,' I said.

I thought his frozen expression showed a hint of softening at this, but he only said as he swept processionally away:

'I will give the requisite instructions.'


For some weeks I was rather interested by the manipulation of that correspondence. Treated in a romantic spirit, the work was not unlike novel or play-writing; and, on paper, I established interesting relations with quite a number of rural clergymen, country squires, London clubmen, a don or two, and some lady correspondents.

I availed myself generously of the hint about giving an occasional lead, and in starting new topics of discussion entered with zest into the task of creating and upholding imaginary partisans with one hand, whilst with the other hand bringing forth caustic opponents to vilify and belittle them. As a fact, I believe I made its correspondence the most amusing and interesting feature in the paper. But, as his way was, Arncliffe lost his enthusiasm for it after a time, and, delegating the care of its remains to some underling, spurred me on to fresh fields of journalistic enterprise.

It was not easy for me to develop quite the same interest in these later undertakings, whatever their intrinsic qualities, for the reason that my domestic circumstances were becoming steadily more and more of a preoccupation and an anxiety. It had not taken very long for me to learn that, in my case at all events, the fact of one's income being doubled does not necessarily mean that one's life is made smooth and easy upon its domestic side. By virtue of my increased earnings we had moved, after my first month as a salaried man, to rather better rooms; but there seemed no point in having more than two of them, since I now had a room of my own at the Advocate office, vice poor Dr. Powell and his leg-rest, now no longer to be met with in that building.

As time went on many unpleasant things became evident, among them the conclusion that ours, Fanny's and mine, was to be a nomadic sort of existence, though it was apparently never to fall to me to give notice of an intended change of residence. The notice invariably came from our landladies. And the better the lodging, the briefer our stay in it, because our notice came the sooner. In view of this it was, more than for any monetary reason--though, as a fact, it did seem to me that I was rather more short of money now than in my poorer days--that we took to living in shabby quarters, and in the frowzier types of apartment houses, where few questions are asked, and no particular etiquette is observed....

So I set these things down as though looking back across the years upon the affairs of some unfortunate stranger on the world's far side. But, Heaven knows, this is not because I have forgotten, or shall ever forget, any of the squalid misery, the crushing, all-befouling humiliation and wretchedness of those years. Just as one part of the period burnt its mark into me for ever by means of its effects upon my bodily health, just as surely as it burned its way through my poor wife's constitution; so indelibly did every phase of it imprint itself upon my brain, and permanently colour my outlook upon life.

Men, and even women, who have never come into personal contact with the pestilence that infected my married life, are able to speak lightly enough of it.

'Bit too fond of his glass, I'm told!'

'His wife is a bit peculiar, you know. Yes, he has to keep the decanters under lock and key, I believe.'

Remarks of that sort, often semi-jocular, are common enough. The pastry-cooks and the grocers know a lot about the feminine side of this tragedy, at which so many folk smile. But those who, from personal experience, know the thing, would more likely smile in the face of Death himself, or joke about leprosy and famine.

I had seen something of the working of the curse among London's very poor people. Now, I learned much more than I had ever known. At first I thought it terrible when, once in a month or so, Fanny became helpless and incapable from drinking gin. I came eventually to know what it meant to see ground for thankfulness, if not for hope, in a period of forty-eight consecutive hours of sobriety for my wife.

The practical difficulties in these cases are very great for people as comparatively poor as we were. They are intolerably acute in the households of workmen earning from one to two pounds a week. In such families the presence of children--and there generally are children--is an added horror, which sometimes leads to the most gruesome kind of murder; murder for which some poor, unhinged, broken-hearted devil of a man is hanged, and so at last flung out of his misery.

I never gave Fanny any money now if I could possibly avoid it. Accordingly, I discovered one day, when I had occasion to look for my dress clothes, that, having sold practically every garment of her own, my wife had cleared out the major portion of my small wardrobe.

But a far worse thing happened shortly afterwards, when my wife pawned some plated oddments belonging to our landlady. This episode kept me on the rack for a full week. Replacing the stolen articles was, fortunately, not difficult; but the landlady was. She was bent upon prosecution, and our escape was an excruciatingly narrow one. I had a four days' 'holiday' over this episode, during which my editor was allowed to picture me in cheerful recuperation up-river--one of a merry boating party.

After this I made inquiries about trained nurses, and gathered that they were quite beyond my means; not alone in the matter of the scale of remuneration they required, but, even more markedly, in the scale of household comfort which their employment necessitated. I talked the matter over very seriously with Fanny, and begged her to try the effect of three months in a curative institution of which I had obtained particulars. At first she was very bitter and angry in her refusal to discuss this. Then she wept, sobbed, and became hysterical in imploring me never to think of such a thing for her. But the extremely difficult and harrowing escape from police court proceedings had impressed me very deeply.

As soon as we could get together the bare necessities by way of furnishings, I insisted on our moving into unfurnished rooms in which we could cater for ourselves. But the result was not merely that there was never a meal prepared for me, but also that Fanny never had a proper meal. I engaged servants. They either gave notice after a week, or worse, much worse, my wife made boon companions of them. We moved again, this time into unfurnished rooms in a house whose landlady undertook to serve meals to us at stated hours. But the house was too respectable for us, and in a month we were given notice.

No, it was not easy to develop any very warm interest in Mr. Arncliffe's projects for the stimulation of the Advocate's circulation. But I occupied Dr. Powell's old room during most days, and did my best; and, rather to my surprise, when I quite casually said I was not able to afford some luxury or another--lawn tennis, I believe it was, recommended by my chief as a remedy for my fagged and unhealthy appearance--I was given an increase of salary to the extent of an additional fifty pounds a year. I expressed my thanks, and Arncliffe said:

'Not at all, not at all. I'm only too glad. Your work's first rate, and I much appreciate your suggestions. I don't want you to work less; but, in all seriousness, my dear fellow, you should take it easier. Do just as much work, but don't worry so much about it. Carry your whatsaname more lightly, you know. Believe me, that's the thing.'

I agreed of course, and went home to give Fanny the news of the increased salary. I found her helpless and comatose on the hearth-rug.

I had talked to doctors, and gleaned little or nothing therefrom. Now I tried a lawyer, with a view to finding out the legal aspect of my position. Was it possible to oblige my wife to enter a curative institution against her will? Certainly not, save by a magistrate's order, and as the result of repeated appearances in the dock at police courts.

The lawyer told me that our 'man-made' laws were pretty hard upon husbands in such cases as mine. They offered no relief or assistance whatever, he said; though in the case of a persistently drunken husband, the law was fortunately able to do a good deal for the wife. 'But nothing at all when it's the other way round,' he added; 'a fact which leads to much misery, and not a little crime, among the poorer classes. I'm very sorry for you,' he added; 'but to be frank, I must say that the law will not help you one atom; neither will it offer you any kind of redress if your wife sells up your home once a week. Neither may you legally put her out from your home because of that. Under our law a wife may claim and hold her husband's company until she drives him into the bankruptcy court, or the lunatic asylum--or his grave. It is worse than senseless, but it is the law; and if your business prevents you keeping watch and ward over your wife yourself, the only course is to employ some relative, or a professed caretaker, to do it for you. The law shows a little more common sense where the case is the other way round. A wife can always get a separation order to relieve her of the presence of a persistently drunken husband; and, with it, an order for her maintenance, which he must obey or go to prison.'

So I did not get very much for my six-and-eightpence, beyond an explicit confirmation of the impression already pretty firmly rooted in my mind, that the most burdensome portion of my particular load in life was something which nobody could help me to carry.

By this time Fanny had lost the sense of shame and humiliation which had characterised all her early recoveries, and informed all her good resolutions and frantic promises of amendment. She made no resolutions now, and in place of shame, poor soul, was conscious only of the physical penalties which her excesses brought in their train. These made her very sullen, and, at the same time, very irritable. There were times, as I well knew, when she had no other means of obtaining drink, but yet did obtain it, from that misguided woman--her mother, whose craving she inherited, without a tithe of the brute strength which apparently enabled the older woman to defy all consequences.

I do not think it necessary to set down here precisely the miserable ways in which I saw her habits gradually sap all self-restraint and womanly decency from my wife. The process was gradual, pitilessly inexorable as the growth of a malignant tumour, and a ghastly and humiliating thing to witness. In the case of a woman, my impression is that alcoholism reacts even more directly upon character, and the mental and nervous system, than it does in men. Their fall is more complete. At least, for a man it is more horrible to witness than any degradation of another man.


In these days it was my habit each evening to make my way as directly as might be from the Advocate office to our home of the moment. There was, of course, always a certain measure of uncertainty in my mind as to what might await me in our rooms; and there were many occasions when my presence there as early as possible was highly desirable. It was my dismal task upon more than two or three occasions to visit police stations, and enter into bail to save my wife from spending a night in the cells.

Naturally, in view of all these circumstances, I remained as much a hermit as though living in Livorno Bay, so far as the social life of my colleagues and of London generally was concerned. During all this time social intercourse was for me confined to Fanny (who became steadily less social in her habits and inclinations) and to occasional meetings with Sidney Heron. Once and again a man at the office would ask me to dine with him (regarding me as a bachelor, of course), and always I felt bound to plead a prior engagement. One night, when Fanny had gone early to bed, feeling wretchedly ill, and sullenly angry because I would have no liquor of any sort on the premises, not even the lager beer which it had been my own habit for some time past to drink with meals, Heron sat with me in our living-room, smoking and staring into the fire. It was late, and something had moved Heron to stir me into giving him the outline of my early life and Australian experiences.

'Yes, you're a queer bird,' he opined, after a long silence. 'And your life confirms my old conviction that, broadly speaking, there are only two kinds of human beings: those who prey--with an "e," and rarely with an "a"--and those who are preyed upon: parasites and their hosts. There are doubtless subdivisions in infinite variety; but I have yet to meet the man or woman who, in essence, is not parasite or host, the preyer or the preyed upon.'

'And I----'

'Oh, clearly, and all along the line, you're the host. Mind, I waste no great sympathy upon you. It is quite an open point which class is the less deserving or the better off. But in your case it is, perhaps, rather a pity, because upon the whole I doubt if your fibre is tough enough to sustain the part. On the other hand, you haven't half enough--well--suction for a successful parasite; and those between are apt to get ground up rather small. My advice to you-- But, Lord, is there any greater folly in all this foolish world than the giving of advice?'

'Never mind. Let's have it.'

'No, I'll not give advice. But I will state what I believe to be a fact; and that is that you would be the better for it if you were sedulously to cultivate a self-regarding policy of laissez-faire. It may be as rotten as you please as a national policy. Our own beloved countrymen are even now, I think, preparing for the world a most convincing demonstration of that. But for certain individuals--you among 'em--it has many points, and, pursued with discretion, is likely to prove highly beneficial.'

'Ah! The let-be policy?'

Heron nodded. 'Of all creeds,' he said, 'perhaps the one that calls for the most rigid self-control--for a certain type of man, the type that most needs its use.'

I had lowered my voice involuntarily, though I knew that Fanny had long since been sleeping heavily. 'Do you realise what it would mean in my particular case, on the domestic side?' I asked.

'Well, yes; I think so.'

'Hardly, my friend. It would mean relinquishing the care of my wife to the police.' There were no secrets between us in this matter.

'Yes, something rather like that, I suppose,' said Heron. 'And don't you think upon the whole they may be rather better equipped for the task?'

'My dear Heron!'

'Oh, of course, that tone's unanswerable. But lay aside the sentimental aspect, and consider the practical logic of it. You might as well see where you really stand, you know. It won't affect your actions, really. You belong to the wrong division of the race. But what are you doing to remedy your wife's case?'

I admitted I was doing nothing. I had tried in many directions, including the clandestine administration of costly specifics, which had merely seemed to rob poor Fanny of all appetite for food, without in any way affecting the lamentable craving which wrecked her life.

'Precisely,' resumed Heron. 'You are doing nothing to remedy it, because there is nothing you are in a position to do. You are merely "standing by," as sailors say, from sentimental motives. It is laissez-faire, of a sort; only, it's an infernally painful and wearing sort for you. It reduces your life to something like her own, without, so far as I can see, benefiting her in the least. I think the police could do as well. In fact, in your place, I should clear out altogether, and give Mrs. Pelly a show. But, failing that, I would at least wash my hands, so to say. I would refuse the situation any predominant place in my mind, join a club and use it, and-- O Lord! what is the use of talking of absolutely hopeless things? I don't know that I'd do anything of the sort, and I do know very well that you won't.'

There fell another silence between us, which lasted several minutes. And then Heron rose to his feet, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and said he must be going. I walked down the road with him, and paused at its corner, where he would pick up an omnibus. The moon emerged from behind a cloud, touching with a delicate sepia some fleecy edge of cumuli.

'Has it ever occurred to you, my innocent, that there is anything in England beyond the metropolitan radius?' asked Heron suddenly. 'Honest, now; have you ever been ten miles from Charing Cross since you landed from that blessed ship?'

'Well, it does seem queer, now you mention it; but I don't believe I have-- Except to Epping Forest, you know. I'm not sure how far that is; but I used often to go there at one time, not lately, but----'

'Before you mortgaged your soul to the Advocate, eh? Though I suppose the more serious mortgage was the one before that. Look here! Bring your wife on Saturday, and meet me at Victoria at ten o'clock. We'll go and have a look at Leith Hill. A tramp will do you both good. Will you come?'

By doing a certain amount of work there on Sunday, I could always absent myself from office on a Saturday. So I agreed to go. On the Friday Fanny seemed unusually calm and well. I was quite excited over the prospect of our little jaunt, and Fanny herself appeared to think cheerfully and kindly of it. In the lodging we occupied at that time I had a tiny bedroom of my own. I woke very early on the Saturday morning, but when I found it was barely five o'clock turned over for another doze. When next I woke it was to find, greatly to my annoyance, that the hour was half-past eight; and there were several little things I wanted to have done before starting for Victoria. I hurried into our sitting-room before dressing, meaning to rouse Fanny, whose room opened from it. But she was not in her bedroom, and returning to the other room I found a note on the table.

'I am not feeling well,' the note said, 'and cannot come with you to-day. So I shall spend the day with mother, and be back here about tea-time.'

For a moment I thought of hurrying round to Mrs. Pelly's, and seeing if I could prevail on Fanny to change her mind. But I hated going to that house, and, of late, I had had some experience of the futility of trying to influence Fanny in any way during these sullen morning hours, when she was very often possessed by a sort of lethargy, any interference with which provoked only excessive irritation.

It was most disappointing. But-- 'Very well, then,' I muttered to myself, 'she must stay with her mother. I can't leave Heron waiting at Victoria.'

So I dressed and proceeded direct to the station, relying upon having a few minutes to spare there during which to break my fast in the refreshment-room.

Heron nodded rather grimly over my explanation of Fanny's absence, and we were both pretty silent during the journey to Dorking. But once out in the open, and tramping along a country road, we breathed deeper of an air clean enough to dispel town-bred languors. I felt my spirits rise, and we began to talk. The day was admirable, beginning with light mists, and ripening, by the time we began our tramp, into that mellow splendour which October does at times vouchsafe, especially in the gloriously wooded country which lies about Leith Hill.

The foliage, the occasional scent of burning wood--always a talisman for one who has slept in the open--glimpses of new-fallowed fields of an exquisite rose-madder hue, bracken and heather underfoot, and overhead blue sky sweetly diversified by snowy piles of cloud--these and a thousand other natural delights combined to enlarge one's heart, ease one's mind, and arouse one's dormant instinct to live, to laugh, and to enjoy. Worries rolled back from me. I responded jovially to Heron's grim quips, and felt more heartily alive than I had felt for years.

Having walked swingingly for four or five hours we sat down in a pleasant inn to a nondescript meal, at something like the eighteenth-century dining hour; consuming large quantities of cold boiled beef, salad, cheese, home-baked bread, and brown ale. (I had learned now to drink beer, on such occasions as this, at all events; and did it with a childish sense of holiday 'swagger.' Its associations with rural life pleased me. But in the town I was annoyed to find that even half a glass of it was apt to make my head ache villainously.) We sat and smoked, talking lazily in the twilight; missed one train, and walked leisurely to the next station to catch a later one.

The approach to London rather chilled and saddened me by the sharp demand it seemed to make for the laying aside of calm reflection or cheerful conversation, and the taking up of stern realities, practical considerations--the hard, concrete facts of daily life. The outlines of the huddled houses, the moving lights of thronged streets, the Town-- It seemed to grip me by the shoulder.

'Come! Wake up from your fancies. Been laughing, joking, chatting, drawing deep breaths, have you? Ah, well, here am I. You know me. Hear the ring of the hurrying horses' feet on my hard ways? See the anxious ferret faces of my workers? I am Reality. I am your master, and the world's master. You may escape me for a day, and dream you are a free man in the open. Grrrr!--' The train jars to a standstill. 'That may be well enough for a dream; but I am Reality. Come! There's no time here for reflection. Pick up your load. Get on; get on; or I'll smash you down in my gutters, where my human wastage lies!'

That is how cities have always spoken to me as I have entered them from the country. And yet--and yet, most of my life has been spent within their confines. Long imprisonment makes men fear liberty, they say. But how could a man fear the kindly country and its liberty for reflection? And, attaining to it, how could he possibly desire return to the noisy, crowded cells of the city? Impossible, surely, unless of course the city offered him a living, his life; and the country--calm and beautiful--refused it. And that perhaps is rather often the position, for your sedentary man, at all events; your modern, who cannot dig and is ashamed to beg--a numerous and ever increasing body.

Big Ben struck the hour of eight as we trundled past into Whitehall on the top of an omnibus. I thought of Fanny with some self-reproach. She would have reached the lodgings by about five, and our evening meal hour was seven. I hoped she had not waited without her meal. I left Heron on the 'bus, for he had farther than I to go, and hurried along to No. 46 Kent Street--the dingy house in which we had been living now for a month or more.

Fanny was not there, and, to my surprise, the landlady told me she had not been in all day, save for five minutes in the early afternoon, after which she went out carrying a parcel. I went to my bedroom for an overcoat, as the night was chilly. I possessed two of these garments at the time--one rather heavy and warm, the other a light coat. Both were missing from their accustomed pegs.

'Tcha! Now what does this mean?' I growled to myself; knowing quite well what it meant. 'And I take holidays in the country! I might have known better.'

And with that--all the brightness of the day forgotten now--I hurried out, bound for Howard Street and Mrs. Pelly's house.

But Mrs. Pelly had no idea as to her daughter's whereabouts. It seemed Fanny had left her before three o'clock, intending to go home.

Then began a search of the kind which had become only too familiar with me of late. I suppose I must have entered upon scores of such dismal quests since my marriage. First, I visited some twenty or thirty different 'gin-mills.' (In one of them I stayed a few minutes to eat a piece of bread and cheese.) Then I went to two police stations, at the two opposite ends of that locality. Finally, I tramped back to Kent Street, thinking to find Fanny there, and picturing in advance the condition in which I should find her. The most I ventured to hope was that she had been able to reach her room without assistance. But she had not been there at all.

I went out again into the street, somewhat at a loss. It was now past ten o'clock. After some hesitation I caught a passing omnibus and journeyed back towards Howard Street, near which stood a third police station, which I had not before visited.

'Wait there a minute, will you?' said the officer to whom my inquiry here was addressed. A moment later I heard his voice from an adjacent corridor; 'Has the doctor gone?' it asked. I did not hear the answer. But a minute or two later a tall man in a frock coat entered the room and walked up to me. I could see the top of a stethoscope protruding from one of his inner breast-coat pockets.

'Name of Freydon?' he said tersely.


'Ah! Will you step this way, please, to my room?'

And, as we passed into an inner room, he wheeled upon me with a look of grave sympathy in his eyes. 'I have serious news for you, Mr. Freydon; if--if it is your wife who is here.'

Then I knew. Something in the doctor's grave eyes and meaning voice told me. It was not really necessary for me to ask. I knew quite certainly, and had no wish, no intention to say anything. My subconscious self apparently was bent upon explicitness. For, next moment, I heard my own voice, some little distance from me, saying, in quite a low tone:

'My God! My God! My God!' And then: 'You don't mean that she is dead?'

But I knew all the time.

Then I heard the doctor speaking. His body was close to me, but his voice, like my own, came from some distance away.

'A woman was brought here by a constable this afternoon ... helpless ... intoxication.... Did your wife ... is she addicted to drink?' I may have nodded. 'There was a pawnticket in the name of Freydon.... She passed away less than an hour ago.... The condition ... heart undoubtedly accelerated ... alcoholism ... a very short time, in any case.... Medically, an inquest would be quite unnecessary, but.... Will you come with me, and ...'

From a long way off now these phrases trickled into my consciousness, the sense of them somewhat blurred and interrupted by a continuous buzzing noise in my head. We walked along dead white passages, and down steps. We stopped at length where a man in uniform stood at a door, which he opened for us at a sign from the doctor. Inside, a woman was bending over a low pallet, and on the little bed was my wife Fanny. A greyish sheet was drawn over her body to the chin. I think it was so drawn up as we entered the room. I stared down upon Fanny's calm, white face, in which there was now a refinement, a pathetic dignity, a something delicate and womanly which I had not seen there before; not even in the early days, when gentle prettiness had been its quality.

The thought that flashed through my mind as I stood there was not the sort of thought that would be associated with such a scene. The buzzing noise was still going on in my head, but yet I was conscious of a vast silence all about me; and looking down upon my wife's face, I thought:

'Death has certainly been courteous, considerate, to poor Fanny.'



My wife was buried in Kensal Green cemetery, a populous London city of the dead. And that afternoon I resigned my position on the staff of the Advocate.

I do not think that even at the time I had any definite reason for this step, and I do not know of any now. I remember Arncliffe remonstrated very kindly with me, spoke of plans he had in view for me, about which he was unable to enter into detail just then, and strongly urged me to reconsider the matter. I told him, without much relevance really, that I had buried my wife that morning; and he, very naturally, said he had not even known I was a married man.

'Look here, Freydon,' he said; 'be guided by me. Take a month's holiday, and then come and talk to me again.'

This was no doubt both wise and kindly advice, but I merely repeated that I must leave; and, within a week or two, I did leave, Arncliffe, in the most friendly way, making things easy for me, and agreeing to take a certain contribution from me once a week. This gave me three guineas a week, and I was grateful for the arrangement.

'You must let me see something of you occasionally. I'm really sorry to lose you. You know I've always appreciated your suggestions,' said Arncliffe, when I looked in to bid him good-bye. He spoke with a friendly sincerity which I valued; because it was a fact that he had, as editor, adopted and developed a good many suggestions of mine, without apparent acknowledgment, and after keeping them in his pigeon-holes until, as I thought, he had forgotten their existence, and come to think the ideas subsequently acted upon were his own.

With funds in hand amounting to something well under twenty pounds, I took lodgings on the outskirts of Dorking--a bedroom and a sitting-room in the rather pretty cottage of a jobbing carpenter and joiner named Gilchrist. Mrs. Gilchrist, a wholesome, capable woman, performed some humble duties in the church close by, in which she made use of a very long-handled feather duster, and sundry cloths of a blue and white checked pattern. Her husband had a small workshop in the cottage garden, but his work more often than not took him away from home during the day. Jasmine and a crimson rambler strayed about the window of my little study, from which the view of the surrounding hills was delightful. For some days I explored the neighbourhood assiduously. And then I began to write my fourth book. The third--a volume of short stories of mean streets, written in the days preceding my marriage--was then passing through the press.

When I first went to Dorking my health was in a very poor way. I imagine I must at the time have been on the verge of a pretty bad breakdown. The preceding six or eight months had greatly aggravated my digestive troubles, and I had also suffered a good deal from neuralgia. The constantly increasing stress of my domestic affairs, superimposed upon steady sedentary work in which the quest for new ideas was a continuous preoccupation, and combined with the effects of an irregular and indifferent dietary and lack of air and exercise, had reduced me physically to a low ebb.

During those last weeks in London, after Fanny's death, I was not conscious of this collapse; and my first week in Dorking had a curiously stimulating effect upon me. Indeed, I fancy that week was the saving of me. But at the end of it, after one long day's writing, I took to my bed with influenza, and remained there for some time, dallying also with bronchitis, incipient pneumonia, gastritis, and a diphtheritic throat.

Six weeks passed before I left my bedroom, but during only one of those weeks did I fail to produce my weekly contribution to the Advocate. If the quality of those contributions in any way reflected my low and febrile condition, Arncliffe mercifully refrained from drawing my attention to it. At the end of the six weeks I sat at an open window, amused by the ghostly refinement of my hands, and grateful to Providence for sunshine and clean air.

The doctor was a cheery soul, toward whom I felt most strongly drawn, because he was the only man I ever met in England who smoked my particular brand of Virginia plug tobacco. I had suffered from the lack of it since leaving Australia, but this good doctor told me how to get it in England, from an agent in Yorkshire; and I was deeply grateful to him for the information. He also told me, as I sat at the open window, that he did not think much of my stewardship of my own body.

'Let me tell you, Mr. Freydon, you have been sailing several points closer to the wind than a man has any right to sail. If you treated a child so, or a servant, aye, or a dumb beast, some preventive society would be at you for cruelty and neglect. They'd call me for the prosecution, and by gad, sir, my evidence would send you to Portland or Dartmoor--fine healthy places, both of 'em, by the way! But people seem to think they're licensed to treat their own bodies with any amount of cruelty and neglect. A grave mistake; a grave mistake! In the ideal state, sir, Citizen Jones will no more be allowed to maltreat and injure the health of Citizen Jones than he will be allowed to break the head or poison the food of Citizen Smith. Why should he? Each is of the same value in the eyes of the state; and, we may suppose, in the eyes of his Maker.'

The good man blew his nose, and endeavoured to introduce extreme severity into his kindly and indomitably cheerful expression.

'Yes, sir,' he resumed. 'You've got to turn over a new leaf from now on. Three good, plain meals a day, taken to the stroke of the clock. Eight hours in bed every night of your life, and nine if you can get 'em. Two hours of walkin', or other equally good exercise--if you can discover its equal; I can't--in the open air every day. And anything less will be a flat dereliction of duty, and bad citizenship, remember that. This is for by and by, of course. Just now you want twelve hours in bed, and half a dozen light meals a day. Mrs. Gilchrist knows all about that. Good, sensible woman, Mrs. Gilchrist. Wish there were more like her, these days. Oh, I'll be seeing you again, from time to time. Don't you bother your head about "accounts," my dear sir. And when you begin to get about now do oblige me by remembering your duty to yourself, as I've told you. As your doctor, I warn you, it's necessary in your case--absolutely necessary. Good-morning!'

And so he trotted off to his high dog-cart and his morning rounds. An excellent and kindly man, designed by Nature, his own temperament, and long use, for the precise part in life he played. Such adequacy and fitness are rare, and very admirable. I sometimes think that if I could have exactly obeyed this excellent physician, my whole life had been quite different. But then, to be able exactly to obey him, perhaps it would have been necessary for me to have been a different person in the beginning. And then, I might never have met him, and--there's the end of a profitless speculation.

As a fact I surreptitiously resumed work on that book long before the doctor gave permission, and within a week of settling his account I was once more living a life of which he would have strongly disapproved; though it certainly was a very much less wearing and unwholesome one than the life I had always lived in London. But, as against that, I now had a good deal less in the way of staying power and force of resistance. So far from having paid up in full, and wiped off all old scores, in the matter of those first years in London, I had barely discharged the first instalment of a penalty which was to prove part and parcel of every subsequent year in my life. And yet, as I have said, I sometimes think that doctor gave me my chance, if only it had been in me to live by his instructions. But, apparently, it was not.


Sidney Heron, the man who had introduced me to the country round about Leith Hill, was the first visitor received in my Dorking lodging. He came one Saturday morning when I had resumed work (though the doctor knew it not), and returned to town on the Sunday night.

I think Heron enjoyed his visit, though, out of consideration for my lack of condition, he walked less than he would have chosen. It was a real pleasure to me to have him there; and, in the retrospect, I can clearly see that I was powerfully stimulated by talk with him on literary subjects. So much was this so, that on the Saturday night when I lay down in bed I found my brain in a ferment of activity. I read for half an hour; but even then, after blowing out my candle, the plots of new books, ideas for future work, literary schemes of every sort and kind, all promising quite remarkable success, were spinning through my mind in most exhilarating fashion. The morning found me somewhat weary, though not unpleasantly so; and consideration of all this made me realise, as I had not realised before, the isolation and retirement of my life there in Dorking; the very marked change it represented from the busy routine of days spent in the Advocate office. I prized my retirement more than ever after this.

'For,' I thought, 'of what use or purport was all that ceaseless mental stress and fret in London? It was all quite barren and fruitless, really. Whereas, here--one can develop thoughts here. This life makes creative work possible.'

I am afraid I gave no credit to Heron, or to the stimulating effects upon my own mind of contact with his bracing, if somewhat harsh, intelligence. All was attributed by me at the time to the advantages of my sequestered life. The effect of mental stimulus was not by any means so evanescent as such things often are, and the Monday following upon Heron's return to town saw me hard at work upon the book which I had outlined and begun before my illness.

There followed, in that modest little cottage room of mine, some three or four months of incessant work at high pressure; long days, and nights, too, at the table, during which my only exercise and relaxation in a week would be an occasional five minutes' walk to the post-office, or a stroll after midnight, when I found the cool night silence soothed me greatly before going to my bedroom. The doctor's counsels were all forgotten, of course, or remembered only in odd moments, as when going to bed, or shaving in the morning. Then I would promise myself reformation when the book was finished. That done I would live by rote and acquire bucolic health, I told myself.

In most respects that period was thoroughly typical of my life during the next half dozen years. When the end of a book was reached, there came the long and wearing process of its revision. Then interviews with publishers, the correction of proof sheets, the excogitation of writings for magazines--fuel for the fire that kept my pot a-boiling. There were intervals of acute mental weariness, and there were intervals of acute bodily distress. But the intervals of reformed living, when they came at all, were too brief and spasmodic to make a stronger or a healthier man of me. My business visits to London were sometimes made to embrace friendly visits to Sidney Heron's lodgings. Two or three times I dined with Arncliffe, and very occasionally I was visited at Dorking by two of the literary journalists who had joined Arncliffe's staff at the time of his appointment.

With but very few exceptions the critics were very kindly to my published work, and I apprehend that other writers who read their reviews of my books must have thought of me as one of the coming men. (The early nineties was a prolific period in the matter of 'coming men.') I even indulged that thought myself for a time. But not, I think, for very long. Like every other writer who ever lived, I would have liked to reach a large and appreciative audience. But I had the most lofty scorn for the methods by which I supposed such an achievement might be accomplished.

For a long time I sincerely believed that it was not from any lack of substance, style, merit, or quality that my books failed to reach a really large public; but, rather, that they were without a certain vulgarity which would commend them to the multitude. If not precisely that they were too good, I doubtless thought that, whilst good in every literary sense, they happened to be couched in a vein only to be appreciated by the subtler minds of the minority. The critics certainly helped me to sustain this congenial theory; and it was not until long afterwards that I accepted (with more, perhaps, of sadness or sourness than philosophy) the conclusion that if my work never had appealed to a big audience, the simple reason was that it was not big enough to reach so far. It was perhaps, within the limits of literary judgment, to some extent praiseworthy. And it won praise. I should have been content.

I certainly was not content, and I dare say the life I led was too far removed from the normal, both socially and from a health standpoint, to permit of content for me, quite apart from any question of personal temperament or idiosyncrasy. I worked and I slept, and that was all. That is probably not enough for the purchase of healthy content; at all events, where the work is sedentary and productive of strain upon the mind, nerves, and emotions.

As society is constituted in England to-day, a man of my sort may be almost as completely isolated, socially, in a place like Dorking as he would expect to be in the middle of the Sahara. The labouring sort of folk, the trades-people, and the landowners and county families, each form compact social microcosms. The latter class, in normal circumstances, remains not so much indifferent to as unaware of the existence of such people as myself, as bachelors in country-town lodgings. The other two compact little worlds had nothing to offer me socially. And so, socially, I had no existence at all.

The same holds good, to a great extent, of my sort of person practically anywhere to-day. (The latter part of the nineteenth century produced a quite large number of people who belonged to no recognised class or order in our social cosmos.) But it is most noticeable in the case of such a man living in a country town. In London, or Paris, or New York, there is no longer any question of a man being in or out of society, since there is no longer any compact division of the community which forms society. Rather, the community divides itself into hundreds of circles, most of which meet others at some point of their circumference.

My doctor in Dorking was a bachelor. I did not attend any church. There literally was no person in that district with whom I held any social intercourse whatever. And then, by chance, and in a single day, I became acquainted with many of the socially superior sort of people in my neighbourhood.

Arncliffe's chief leader writer on the Advocate staff was a man called Ernest Lane, who, after winning considerable distinction at Oxford, falsified cynical anticipations by winning a good deal more distinction in the world outside the university. It was known that he had been invited to submit himself to the electors of a constituency in one of the Home counties, and his work while secretary to a prominent statesman had earned him a high reputation in political circles. His book on greater British legislation and administration added greatly to this reputation, and his friends were rather surprised when Lane showed that he intended to stick to the writer's life rather than enter parliament, or accept any political appointment. Without having become very intimate, Lane and myself had been distinctly upon good and friendly terms during my time in the Advocate office, and he had visited me three or four times in my retreat in Dorking. Lane thought well of my work, and he was the only man I knew whose political conversation and views had interested me. It was not without some pleasure, therefore, that I read a letter received from him in which he said he was coming to see me.

'It appears to be a case of Mohammed coming to the mountain,' this letter said; 'and, if you will put me up, I should like to spend Saturday and Sunday nights at your place. I think you will receive an invitation to Sir George and Lady Barthrop's garden-party on Saturday next, and if so I hope you will accept, and go there with me. The fact is, one of my sisters is about to marry Arnold Barthrop, the younger of the three sons, and the whole tribe of us are supposed to be there this week-end. I am not keen on these big house-parties, and would far sooner have the opportunity of seeing something of you if you would care to have me; but I have promised to attend the garden-party, and to bring you if I can. Some of the Barthrop's Dorking friends are rather interesting people, so it will be just as well for you, my dear hermit, to make their acquaintance.'

Of course, I wrote to Lane to the effect that he would be very welcome, which was perfectly true; but I was somewhat exercised in my mind regarding Lady Barthrop's garden-party, although, when her card of invitation reached me, I replied at once with a formal acceptance. Sir George Barthrop's house, Deene Place, was quite one of the show places of the district, and the baronet and his lady were very prominent people indeed in that part of the county.

Every time my eye fell upon the invitation card, I was conscious of a sense of irritation and disturbance. What had I to do with garden-parties? The idea of my attending such a function was absurd. I should have nothing whatever in common with the people there, nor they with me. Either I should never again meet one of them, or their acquaintance would be an irritation and a nuisance to me, robbing me of my treasured sense of complete independence in that countryside. Finally, I decided that I would have a headache when the time came, and get Lane to make my excuses-- 'Not that the hostess, or any one else there, would know or care anything about my absence or presence,' I thought.

But my unsocial intention was airily swept aside by Ernest Lane. I did accompany him to Deene Place, and in due course was presented by him to Sir George and Lady Barthrop. No sooner had we left the host and hostess to make way for other guests than Lane touched my elbow.

'Here's the first of the five Graces,' he whispered, nodding towards a lady who was walking down the terrace in our direction. I remembered that my friend had five sisters, and a moment later I was being introduced to this particular member of the sisterhood, whose name, as I gathered, was Cynthia. As Lane moved away from us just then, to speak to some one else, I asked my companion if she had been going to any particular place when we met her. She smiled as we walked slowly down the terrace steps to the lawn.

'I am afraid my only object just then was the ungracious one of evading Sir George and Lady Barthrop,' she said. 'Theirs is such a dreadfully busy neighbourhood. I think being solemnly introduced to a stream of people is rather a terrible ordeal, don't you?'

'The experience would at least have the advantage of novelty for me,' I told her. 'But, upon the whole, I fancy I should perhaps prefer a visit to the dentist.'

'Really!' she laughed. 'Now I didn't know men ever felt like that. It's exactly how I feel about it. It really is worse than dentistry, you know, because you are not allowed gas.'

'At least, not laughing gas, but only gaseous laughter and small talk,' I suggested.

'Which makes you all hazy and muddled without the compensating boon of unconsciousness. But you are an author and a journalist, Mr. Freydon--my brother often speaks of you, you know--and so you must have had lots of experience of this sort of thing; enough to have made you as hardened as royalty, I should think. I always think of authors and journalists as living very much in the limelight.'

I explained that some might, but that I had spent several years in Dorking without, until that day, attending a single social function of any kind. This seemed to interest her greatly, once I had overcome her initial incredulity on the point. Then I had to answer questions about my way of living, and one or two, of a discreet and gently curious kind, about my methods of working, and the like. There was flattery of the most delightful kind in the one or two casual references she made to characters in books of mine. Miss Lane never said: 'I have read your books,' or, 'I have been interested by your books,' statements which always produce an awkward pause, and are not interesting in themselves. But she showed in a much more pleasing way that one's work had entered into her life, and been welcomed by her.

Quite apart from this, I do not think I could possibly have spent a quarter of an hour with Cynthia Lane without concluding that she was the most charming woman I had ever met. 'Charming woman,' I say. Heavens! How extraordinarily inadequate these threadbare words do look, as I write them, recalling the image of Cynthia Lane as she paced with me across that smooth-shaven lawn--green velvet it seemed, deeply shaded here and there by noble copper beeches.

I suppose Cynthia was beautiful, even judged by technical standards; for her figure was lissom and very shapely, and the contour of her sweet face perfect--so far, at least, as I am any judge of such matters. Her eyes and her hair had a rare loveliness which I have not seen equalled. But it was the soul of her, the indefinable essence that was Cynthia Lane, which made her truly lovely. This personality of hers, at once tender and adroit, bright and grave, humorous and most sweetly gentle, most admirably kind, shone out upon one from her face, from her very movements and gestures even, giving to her outward person a soft radiance which I cannot attempt to describe. This nimbus of delicate sweetness, this irradiation of her person by her personality it was, which made Cynthia Lane lovely, as no other woman I have met has been.

I must have stolen fully half an hour of her time that day, to the annoyance it may be of many other people. And it was not until she was being in a sense almost forcibly drawn away from me by the claims of others that I learned, from the manner in which she was addressed by Lady Barthrop, that she, Cynthia Lane, of whom I had thought only as one of Lane's five sisters, as one among my own fellow guests, was indeed the guest of the occasion, and the betrothed of Lady Barthrop's younger son.

Other things happened, no doubt. I was presently introduced to young Barthrop, the bridegroom to be; and, mechanically, I endeavoured to comport myself fittingly as a guest. But, for me, the entertainment ended with my separation from Cynthia.

'Do please stop being a recluse, and call while I am here,' she had said as she was being drawn away from me into a sort of maelstrom of gaily coloured dresses, and laughing, compliment-paying men. And I blessed her for that.


Charles Augustus Everard Barthrop, third son of the baronet and his wife, was the assistant manager of some financial company in London, of which his father was a director. I fancy the young man himself was also a director, but am not sure as to that. In any case he had the reputation of being one who was likely to achieve big things in the world of finance and company promotion, a world of which I was as profoundly ignorant as though a dweller in the planet Mars. In another field, too, this young man had won early distinction. He was a mighty footballer, and a rather notable boxer. He was very blonde, very handsome, very large, and, I gathered, of a very merry and kindly disposition. He looked it. His sunny face and bright blue eyes contained no more evidence of care or anxiety than one sees in the face of a healthy boy of twelve.

'Here is a man,' I thought, 'peculiarly rich in everything that I lack; and all his life long he has been equally rich in his possession of everything I have lacked. And now he is going to marry Cynthia Lane. The rest seems natural enough, but not this.'

As yet I had little enough of evidence on which to base conclusions. But, as I saw it, Charles Barthrop was a handsome and materially well-endowed young animal, whose work was company-promoting, and whose diversions hardly took him beyond football and the Gaiety Theatre. I dare say it was partly because he was so refulgently well-dressed that I assumed him devoid of intellect. As a fact, my assumption was not very wide of the mark.

'And Cynthia,' I thought, 'has a mind and a soul. She is mind and soul encased, as it happens, in a beautiful body. She is no more a mate for him than a great poet would be mate for a handsome fishwife; an Elizabeth Barrett Browning for a champion pugilist.'

It was natural that, during that Saturday evening and the following day, conversation between Lane and myself should turn more than once towards his sister Cynthia and her forthcoming marriage, which, I understood, was to take place within a few weeks at St. Margaret's, Westminster. We had become fairly intimate of late, Lane and myself, and the introduction to various members of his family seemed to have made us much more intimate.

'You have made no end of an impression on Miss Cynthia,' he said pleasantly on the Saturday evening. 'She was always the literary and artistic member of the sisterhood. She gave me special instructions to bring you along in time for some tea to-morrow, and she means to force you out of your hermitage while she is at Deene Place, so I warn you. Seriously, I think, it may be good for you. You will be sure to meet some decent people there, who will be worth knowing, not only just now, but when Cynthia is married and set up in Sloane Street. Barthrop has taken a house there, you know.'

With a duplicity not very creditable to me, I pretended thoughtful agreement. A brother can tell one a good deal without putting his information into plain words. I gathered from our talk then, and on the following day, that the Lane family occupied the difficult position of people who have, as it were, been born to greater riches than they possess. Of them more had always been expected, socially, than their straitened means permitted. The pinch had been a very real one of late years, towards the end of the grand struggle which their parents had passed through in educating and launching a family of two sons and five daughters. It was easy to gather that good marriages were very necessary for those five daughters, of whom Cynthia was the first-born. I even gathered that, a year or two earlier, there had been scenes and grave anxiety over a preference which Cynthia had shown for a painter, poor as a church mouse, who, very considerately, had proceeded to die of a fever in Southern Italy. Mrs. Lane had, to a large extent, arranged the forthcoming marriage with Charles Barthrop, I think. In the interests of the whole family Cynthia had been 'sensible'; she had been brought to see reason.

'And, mind you,' said Lane, 'I do think Barthrop is an excellent chap, you know. Oh, yes; he's quite a cut above your average city man. And a kinder-hearted chap you never met. The pater swears by him.'

I gathered that 'the pater' had been given the most useful information and guidance in financial matters by this Apollo of Throgmorton Street.

'He's modest, too,' continued Lane, 'which is unusual in his type, I think. He told me his favourite reading was detective stories, outside the sporting and financial news, of course; but he has the greatest respect for Cynthia's literary tastes-- You know she has published some verse? Yes. Not in book form, but in some of the better magazines. Oh, yes, Barthrop's a good chap: simple-minded, a shade gross, too, perhaps, in some ways. These chaps in the city do themselves too well, I think. But quite a good chap, and sure to make an excellent husband. I fancy his kind do, you know--no tension, no fret, no introspection.'

Again I made signs of agreement which were not strictly honest.

On Sunday afternoon we both drank our tea under the copper beeches at Deene Place. I deliberately monopolised Cynthia's attention as long as I possibly could, and then devoted myself to the cold-blooded study of the man she was to marry. I found him very good-natured, gifted with abundant high spirits, agreeably modest, and, as it seemed to me, intellectually about on a par with a race-horse or a handsome St. Bernard dog.

'Cynthia tells me we are to bully you into coming out of your hermitage,' he said to me with a sunny smile. 'A good idea, too, you know. After all, being a recluse can't be good for one's health; and I suppose if a man isn't fit, it tells--er--even in literary work, doesn't it?'

I felt towards him as one feels towards some bright, handsome schoolboy. And yet, in many ways, I doubt not he had more of wisdom than I had. I had spoken to Cynthia of Leith Hill, and she had said that, when staying at Deene Place, she walked almost every day either on the hill or the common. Upon that I had relinquished her attention with a fair grace.

Of course, I was entirely unused to the amenities of society. I used no subterfuges, and made no attempt to disguise my interest in Cynthia, or to pretend to other interests. I dare say my directness was smiled upon, as part of the eccentricity of these literary people; one of Ernest's friends, quite a recluse, and so forth. I gathered as much a little later on.

Looking back upon it I must suppose that my conduct during the next week or so would be condemned by most right-thinking people as ungentlemanly and even dishonourable. I have no inclination to defend it; and I could not affirm that, at the time, I loved honour more than Cynthia Lane. To speak the naked truth, I believe I would have committed forgery, if by doing so I could have won Cynthia for my wife. The one and only way in which I showed any discretion (and that, not from any moral scruple, but purely as a matter of tactics) was in withholding any open declaration to Cynthia herself.

My feeling was that my chance of a life's happiness was confined to the cruelly short period of a week or two. There was no time for taking risks. There must be no refusals. I must use my time, every day of it, I thought, in the effort to win her heart; and trust to the very end to win her consent. I availed myself fully of my advantage in living in Dorking while my rival spent his days in London. The obstacles in my path were such as to justify me in grasping every possible advantage within reach, I told myself. Every day we met. Every day I walked and talked with Cynthia. Every day love possessed me more utterly. And, I believe I may say it, every day Cynthia drew nearer to me. No word did I breathe of marriage; that which was arranged, or that which I desired. It seemed to me that every available moment must be given to the moulding of her heart, to preparation for the last crucial test, when I should ask her to sacrifice everything, and cross the Channel and the Rubicon with me.

There is no need for me to burke the words. Cynthia did love me when she left Dorking for her parents' house in London; not, perhaps, with the absorbing passion she had inspired in me; yet well enough, as I was assured, to face social disaster and a break with her family, in order that she might entrust her life to me.

'Cynthia,' I said, at the end of that last walk, 'London is not to rob me of you? Promise me!'

'If you call me, I will come,' she said, looking at me through tears, and well I knew that perfect truth shone in those dear eyes.

Regarding this as the most serious undertaking of my life, I had endeavoured to overlook nothing. I had obtained a marriage licence. A London registrar's office was to serve our purpose. I had previously secured a temporary lodging in London, and now went there with my luggage. Love did not blind me to practical considerations. While Cynthia was still in Dorking I had no time to spare. Now that she was entangled in her own home among last preparations for the wedding that was not to be, I turned my attention to matters affecting her future life with me.

Three afternoon appointments I kept with Arncliffe in the Advocate office. When I left him after our third talk, I was definitely re-engaged as a member of his staff, at a salary of six hundred pounds per annum, having promised to take up my duties with him in one month from that date. Every nerve in my body had been keyed to the attainment of this result, and I was grateful, and not a little flattered by its achievement. I was still a poor man; but this salary, with the few hundred pounds I might hope to add to it in a year, by means of independent literary work, would at all events mean that Cynthia need not face actual discomfort in her life with me. Further, I sincerely believed (and may very well have been correct in this) that her influence upon me would enlarge the scope and appeal of my literary work. I realised clearly that my beautiful lady-love had very much to give me. My life till then had not entirely lacked culture or intellectuality. But it emphatically had lacked that grace, that element of gentle fineness and delicacy which Cynthia would give it.

Cynthia, who in giving me herself would give all that I desired which my life had lacked, should come to me empty-handed, I thought. I did not want her to borrow from out the life which for my sake she was relinquishing. On the day before that fixed upon for the wedding at St. Margaret's, she should come to me in the park, near her home. There would be quite another sort of wedding, and by the evening train we would leave for the Continent. Every detail was arranged for. We met on the afternoon of the preceding day. I put my whole fate to the test, and Cynthia never wavered. We arranged to meet at two o'clock next day.

On the morning itself, just before noon, I hurried out from my lodging upon a final errand, intending to change my clothes and lock my bags, upon my return, within half an hour. My papers were in the pockets of the clothes I intended to wear, and a supply of money was left locked in my handbag. The most important moment of my life was at hand, and, as I walked down the crowded Strand into Fleet Street, I was conscious of such a measure of exaltation as I had never known before that day.

And then, for the second time in my life, brute force intervened, and made utter havoc of all my plans and prospects. Crossing Fleet Street, close to Chancery Lane, the pole of an omnibus struck my shoulder and flung me several yards along the road. The driver of a hansom cab shouted aloud as he jerked his horse to its haunches to avoid running over me. And in that moment, pawing wildly, the horse struck the back of my head with one of his fore feet.

For the second time in my life I lay in a hospital, suffering from concussion of the brain. Almost twelve hours passed before I first regained consciousness, and the morning of the following day was well advanced before I was able to inform the hospital authorities of my identity. No papers, nothing but a handful of silver, had been found in my pockets.

At eleven o'clock that morning there was solemnised at St. Margaret's Church the marriage of Cynthia and Charles Barthrop.

'If you call, I will come.'

But I had not called. I had even left Cynthia to pace to and fro through an afternoon in the park; at that most critical juncture in both our lives I had failed her. In a brief letter, posted to an address given me by her brother, I acquainted Cynthia with the facts of my accident, and nothing more than the facts.

In ten days I was out of the hospital; and Cynthia, another man's wife, was in Norway.


I dare say no place would have looked very attractive to me when I came out from that hospital; but London and my lodging in it did seem past all bearing unattractive. The Dorking lodging had been definitely relinquished, and in any case I had no wish now to see Dorking, Leith Hill, or the common.

Knowing practically nothing of my native land outside its capital, I packed a small bag at my lodging, and walked to the nearest large railway station, which happened to be Paddington. Arrived there, I spent some dull moments in staring at way-bills, and finally took a ticket at a venture for Salisbury. There I found a quiet lodging, and spent the evening in idly wandering about the cathedral close.

The next day found me tramping over short turf--turf more ancient than the cathedral--in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge. And so I spent the better part of a fortnight, greatly to the benefit I dare say of my bodily health. I shall always love the tiny hamlets of that sun and wind-washed countryside, between Warminster, Andover, Stockbridge, and Salisbury. Yet always they will be associated in my mind with a bowing down sense of loneliness, of empty, unredeemed sadness, and of irretrievable loss. I cannot pretend that I experienced any sense of remorse or penitence, where my abortive attempt to win another man's bride was concerned. I had no such feeling. But, discreditable as that fact may be, it did not make the aching sorrow that possessed me any the less real.

I was conscious of no remorse, and yet, God knows my state of mind was humble enough, though too sombre and despairing to be called resigned. I believe that in the retrospect my loss seemed more, a great deal more to me, than just a lover's loss; though upon that score alone I was smitten to the very dust. It was rather as though, at the one blow, I had lost my heart's desire and a fortune and a position in the world; or, at least, that these had been snatched from my grasp in the moment of becoming mine.

I do not think I could ever explain this to any one else; since I suppose that in the monetary sense the rupture of my plans left me the better off. But I, who had always been something of an outlier in the social sense, an unplaced wanderer bearing the badge of no particular caste, I had grown in some way to feel that marriage with Cynthia would in this sense bring me to an anchorage, and admit me to a definite place of my own in the complex world of London. The idea was not wholly unreasonable. I had lived very rapidly in those few critical weeks. Years of hope, endeavour, determination, and emotional experience, I had crowded into my last days in Dorking. And through it all I had been upheld and exalted by a pervasive conviction (which I apprehend is not part of the ordinary lover's capital) that now, at length, I was to know peace, rest, content; the calm, glad realisation of all the vague yearnings and strivings which had spurred me to strenuousness, to unceasing effort, all my life long.

Cynthia had been the object of my love, of my passionate adoration, indeed. But she had also been a great deal more. When she had bowed her beautiful head to my wooing, when she had promised that upon my call she would come, she had (all unconsciously, of course) become more than my beloved. She became for me the actual embodiment, the incarnate end, aim, and reward of all the strivings of my lonely life, from the night of my flight from St. Peter's Orphanage down to that very day. In my rapt contemplation of her, of the personality which enthralled me far, far more than her beautiful person could, I smiled over recollection of my bitter struggles in London slums, of the heart-racking anxiety and grinding humiliation of life with poor Fanny. I smiled happily at that squalid vista as at some trifling inconvenience by the way, too small to be remembered as an obstacle in my path toward the all-sufficing and radiant peace of union with Cynthia.

'Now I see why all my life has been worth while,' I told myself on the eve of the clumsy, brutal blow of Fate's hand that had for ever robbed me of Cynthia.

In the living, the end had sometimes seemed too hopelessly far off to justify the wearing strain of the means. There had been so little refreshment by the way. But with Cynthia's promise there had come to me an all-embracing certainty that my whole life had been justified; that the end and reward of all my struggles was actually in my hands; that I now had arrived, and was about to step definitely out from the ranks of the striving, unsatisfied, hungry outliers, into the serene company of those whose faces shine with the light of assured happiness; of those who fight and struggle no longer; for the reason that they have found their allotted place in life, and are at anchor within the haven of their ambitions.

I may have been very greatly to blame in my passionate wooing of another man's affianced wife; but, at least, I believe that my loss of Cynthia was a far greater and more crushing loss for me than the loss of any woman could possibly have been for Charles Barthrop. For me, she had stood for all life held that was desirable--the sum and plexus of my aims. For Barthrop there were his keenly relished sports and pastimes, his host of friends, his family, his luxurious and well-defined place in the world--not to mention the city of London.


When I left the spacious purlieus of Salisbury, it was to engage chambers--bedroom, sitting-room, and bathroom--in a remodelled adjunct to one of the Inns of Court. Here my arrangement was that a simple breakfast should be served to me each day in my sitting-room, and that I was free to obtain my other meals wherever I might choose. Thus provided for in the matter of a place of residence, I resumed the discarded journalistic life, as a member of the Advocate's editorial staff, in accordance with the engagement entered into with Arncliffe, when I believed I had been arranging to secure an income for Cynthia and myself.

Before renting these rooms I had called upon Sidney Heron, and invited him to share a set of chambers with me.

'No,' he said, in his blunt way, 'I'd rather keep you as a friend.'

I dare say he was right; and, in any case, he had a fancy for living at a good distance from the centre of the town; whereas my own inclination was to avoid the town altogether, if that might be, and failing this to have one's sanctuary right in the centre of it. My chambers were within five minutes' walk of the Advocate office, and not much more than half that distance from the Thames Embankment--a spot which interested me as much as its lively neighbour, the Strand, irritated and worried me. An uneasy, shoddy street I thought the Strand, full of insistent tawdriness and of broken-spirited folk whose wretchedness had something in it more despicable than pitiable. Save for its occasional gaping rustics (whom I thought sadly misguided to be there at all) I cordially hated the Strand. But the Embankment I regarded as one of the most romantic thoroughfares in London; and many a score of articles (which brought me money) do I owe to the inspiration of that broad, darkling, river-skirted road, and the queer human flotsam and jetsam one may meet with there.

Among the direct results of Cynthia Lane's influence, I must place my interest in politics. I had hardly realised that women had any concern with politics until I met Cynthia. She was in no sense a politician, but she followed the political news of the day with the same bright and illuminating intelligence which she brought to bear upon all the affairs of her life; and her attitude toward them was informed by a fine patriotism, at once reasoning and ardent. Chance phrases from her lips had opened my eyes to the existence of a love for England, for our flag, and race, such as I had not dreamed of till that time.

We spoke once or twice of my Australian experiences. And here again Cynthia's patriotism suggested whole avenues of unsuspected thought and feeling to me. It was Cynthia who introduced to my mind the conception of the British Empire, and our race, as a single family, having many branching offshoots. I do not mean that Cynthia supplied facts or theories hitherto unknown to me. But I do mean that her woman's mind first made me feel these things, intimately and personally, as people feel the joys and sorrows of members of their own households.

As a result I looked now with changed eyes upon many things. Before, I had loathed and detested the slums of London, and the vicious, ugly squalor of the lives of many of their inhabitants; hated them with the bitterness of one who has been made to feel their poison in his own veins. There had been far more of loathing than of pity or sorrow in my attitude toward the canker at London's heart. Gradually, now, because of the insight I had had into Cynthia's love of England, my view became more kindly. I looked upon the canker less with hatred, and more with the feeling one might have regarding some horrible and malignant disease in a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister. And, too, with more of a sense of responsibility and of shame.

So, from a lofty and quite ignorant scorn of things so essentially mundane, I grew to take an understanding interest in current politics, and more particularly in their wider aspects, as touching not England alone but all British lands and people. I obtained a press pass from Arncliffe, and attended an important debate in the House of Commons, subsequently recording my impressions, in the form of an article by an Outsider, from Australia. Journalistically, that article was a rather striking success; and I began to attend the House frequently, and to write more or less regular political impressions for the Advocate.

For several years my interest in these matters continued to be progressive. (Three volumes of a political or quasi-political and sociological character have appeared under my name.) I am grateful for that interest, because it gave me some additional hold upon life, at a time when such anchorage as I had had seemed to have been wrested from me.

There was a quite considerable period--five or six years, at least, I think--during which political work tended to broaden my mind, widen my sympathies, and enhance my esteem for a number of my contemporaries. Beyond that point I am afraid no good came to me from the study of politics; from which fact it is probably safe to assume that any influence I exercised ceased to be beneficial. For a time it had, I think, been helpful in its small way. That was while faith remained in me.

I remember conceiving a warm respect for a number of men engaged in political work as writers, organisers, and speakers. I admired these men for the fervour with which they appeared to devote their lives to the service of political ends. I even derived from my conception of their enthusiasm, strong, almost emotional interest in certain political issues, tendencies, and developments. Later, as I learned to know the men and their work better, came rather painful disillusionment. We differed fundamentally, it seemed, these eloquent fellows and myself. One actually told me in so many words, and with a cynical smile at his other companion of the moment, as who should say: 'Really, this innocent needs awakening'; that I was playing the gull's part on the surface of things. 'We are not concerned with principles,' he said, in effect. 'That may be all right for the groundlings--our audience. Our concern is parties, office--the historic game of ins and outs, in which we have our careers to make.'

Until I put the whole business for ever behind me, I never lost my interest in issues and principles; neither did I ever acquire one jot or tittle of the professional's interest in the political game, as such; or endeavour to utilise its complex machinery for the furtherance of my own career. But in the course of time the study, not so much of politics as of political life, came to fill me with a kind of sick weariness and disgust; a sort of dull nausea and shame, such as I imagine forms one of the penalties for the unfortunate sisterhood, of what is sardonically called the life of pleasure. Upon the whole, I am afraid there is a good deal in common between the political life and the life of the streets. Certainly, the camp followers in political warfare are a motley crew of mercenaries, and they take their tone from quite a number of their leaders.

It would be quite beside the mark to add that there are some fine men in British politics. There are, of course, in all professions, including (I dare say) that of burglary. There still are in the political arena gentlemen whose single aim, pursued with undeviating loftiness of purpose, is the service of their country. I will not pretend to think their number large, for I know it is not. (But I dare say it is larger than it will be a few years hence, when we have pursued a little farther the enlightened ideal of governance by the least fit for the least fit, by the most poorly equipped for the most poorly equipped, by the most ignorant and irresponsible for the most ignorant and irresponsible.) But the class of well-meaning, decent, clean-lived politicians is a fairly large one. As these worthy if unremarkable men have not a tithe of the brains of the most prominent among the quite unscrupulous sort--the undoubted birds of prey--their good intentions are of small value to their generation or their country, and represent little or nothing in the shape of hindrance to the skilled pirates of political waters.

But my personal concern was not so much with the rank and file of actual politicians as with the great army of camp followers; the band of fine, whole-souled, well-dressed, fluent fellows, for whom 'something must be done, you know,' because of this or that interest, because of the alleged wishes of this great person or the other; and because, above all, of their own quite wonderful pertinacity, untiring pushfulness, and, of course, their valuable services and great abilities as talkers, writers, 'organisers,' and what not.

I have known men who, for years, had found it worth not less than £800 or £1000 a year to them to have been spoken of by Mr. ----, Lord ----, or Sir ----, as 'an exceedingly capable organiser, and--er--devoted to the Cause.' No one ever knew precisely what they had organised (apart from their own comfortable subsistence in West End clubs and houses) or were to organise; but there they were, fine fellows all, tastefully dressed, in the best of health and spirits, and indefatigably fluent in--in--er--the service of the Cause, you know!

There was a period in which I fancied these parasites were the monopoly of one political party. But I soon learned that this was far from being the case. All the four parties which the twentieth century saw established in parliament are equally surrounded by their camp followers, who each differ from each other only superficially, and, not unseldom, transfer their allegiance in pursuit of fatter game. The differences do impress one at first, but, as I say, they are mainly superficial. All are equally self-centred and true to type as parasites; though one brood is better dressed than another, and has a more formidable appetite. What makes rich pickings for the follower of one camp would leave the follower of another camp lean and hungry indeed. But the necessary scale of expenditure being higher in one division than another, things equalise themselves pretty much. I believe it is much the same in the case of the other ancient profession I have mentioned.

I have seen quite a large number of promising young men, fresh from the Universities, and beginning life in London with high aspirations and genuine patriotism in their hearts, only to become gradually absorbed into the gigantic parasitical incubus of the body politic. The process of absorption was none the less saddening and embittering to watch, because its subjects usually waxed fatter and more apparently jovial with each stage in their gradual exchange of ideals for cash, patriotism for nepotism, enthusiasm for cynicism, and disinterestedness for toadyism. Some had in them the makings of very good and useful citizens. Their wives, so far as I was able to see, almost invariably (whether deliberately or unknowingly) egged them on in the downward path to complete surrender. As a rule, complete surrender meant less striving and contriving, a better establishment, and a freer use of hansom cabs in place of omnibuses. (I am thinking for the moment of the days which knew not taxi-cabs.)

When they were writers, a frequent sign of the beginning of their end (from my standpoint; of their success, from other standpoints, including, no doubt, those of their wives) was that they began to write of persons rather than principles; to eulogise rather than to exhort, criticise, and suggest. So surely as they began their written panegyrics of individuals, I found them laying aside the last remnants of their private hero-worship. Very soon after this stage they generally changed their clubs, becoming members of the most expensive of these establishments; and from that point on, their progress towards finished cynicism, fatty degeneration of the intellect, and smiling abandonment of all scruples, all ideals, and all modesty, was rapid and certain.

The inquiring student of such processes would perhaps have found banquets, luncheons, and public dinners of a more or less political colour his most prolific fields. Upon such occasions I always found the genus very strongly represented. In one camp the dress clothes of the followers would be of a better cut and more gracefully worn than in the other camp; and those of the better-dressed camp had more of assurance, more of brazen impudence, and more of hopelessly shallow cynicism, I think, than those of other divisions. In many cases, too, they had more of education; but, I fear, less of brains.

It was, I think, the contemplation of these gentlemen, even more perhaps than my saddening knowledge of their shifty, time-serving, shilly-shallying, or glaringly unscrupulous leaders and masters, that finally disgusted me with those branches of political work which were open to me. I have no wish to sit in judgment. Other and stronger men may find that they may keep the most evil sort of company without ever soiling their own hands. I know and very sincerely respect a few political journalists and workers of different parties, whose uprightness is beyond suspicion; whose fine enthusiasm remains untarnished, even to-day. I yield to none in my admiration for such men. But however much I admired, or even envied, it was not for me to emulate these gentlemen. I probably lacked the necessary strength of fibre.

Arncliffe was, as ever, very kindly when I showed him my feeling in the matter; and, so far as might be, he released me from all journalistic obligations of a political sort. But more, I was given a complimentary dinner. Speeches were made, and I was genuinely astonished by the length of the list of my avowed services to politics. It was affirmed that, under Providence, and Arncliffe, and one or two people with titles, I had been instrumental in starting movements, launching an organ of opinion, and bringing about all kinds of signs and portents. The occasion embarrassed me greatly.

It was true enough that, for a season, I had thrown myself heart and soul into the furtherance of certain political aims; and, in all honesty, I had worked very hard. And--heavens! how I was sick of the fluent humbugs, and the complacent parasites! If only they could have been dumb, and, in their writings, forbidden by law the use of all such words as 'patriotism,' I could have borne much longer with them.

London is our British centre, and your true parasite makes ever for the kernel. I have seen them treated with the gravest and most modest deference by working bees from outlying hives--the Oversea Dominions and the Services--as men who were supposed to be fighting the good fight, there in the hub, the heart, and centre of our House. And, listening to their complacent oozings, under the titillations of innocent flattery, I have turned aside for very shame, in my impatience, feeling that in truth the heart and centre were devoid of virtue, and that true patriotism was a thing only to be found (where it was never named) in unknown officers of either service, and obscure civilians engaged in working out their own and the Empire's destinies in its remote outposts, and upon the high seas.

And, impatient as that thought may have been, how infinitely better founded and less extravagant it was than the presumptuous arrogance of these gentlemen, who, by their way of it, were 'Bearing the heat and burden of the day, here in the busy heart of things--the historic metropolis of our race!'


Upon three occasions only, in five times that number of years, did I meet Cynthia--Cynthia Barthrop; and those meetings, I need hardly say, were accidental.

The promise of Cynthia's youth was to all outward seeming amply fulfilled. As a matron she would have been notable in any company, by reason of her sedate beauty, and the dignity of her presence. But her manner suggested to me that her life had certainly not brought content to Cynthia; and I gathered from her brother Ernest that the radiant brightness of nature which had characterised her youth had not survived her assumption of wifely and maternal cares. Others might regard this change as part of a natural and inevitable process. In my eyes also it was inevitable and natural, but not as the result of the passage of time. For me it was the inevitable outcome of a marriage of convenience, which was not, for Cynthia, a natural mating. The key to the changed expression of her beautiful face, and, in particular, of her eloquent eyes, as I saw it, lay in the fact that she was unsatisfied; her life, so rich in bloom, had never reached fruition.

One letter I had written to Cynthia, within a few days of her marriage. And there had been no other communication between us. I trust that forgetfulness came more easily to her than to me.

My withdrawal from political work I connect with the death of Queen Victoria, the Coronation of King Edward, and the end of the South African War. From the same period--a time of the inception of radical, far-reaching change in England--I date also my final emergence from that phase of one's existence in which one is still thought of, by some people at all events, as a young man. The phase has a longer duration in our time, I think, than in previous generations, because we have done so much in the direction of abolishing middle age. Grey hairs were fairly plentiful with me well before the admitted end of this phase.

Those last years of the young man, the author and journalist of 'promise,' who was a 'coming man,' and, too, the maturer years which followed, ought, upon all material counts, to have been the happiest and most contented in my life; since, during this time, my position was an assured one, and I went scatheless as regards anxiety about ways and means--the burden which lines the foreheads of eight Londoners in ten, I think. Yes, by all the signs, these should have been my best and most contented years. As a fact, I do not think I touched content in a single hour of all that period.

What then was lacking in my life? It certainly lacked leisure. But the average modern man would say that this commonplace fact could hardly rob one of content. My income did not fall below from seven hundred to a thousand pounds in any year. In all this period, therefore, there was never a hint of the bitter, wolfish struggle for mere food and shelter which ruled my first years in London; neither was I ever obliged to live in squalid quarters. On the contrary, I lived comfortably, and had a good deal more of the sort of social intercourse which dining out furnishes than I desired. And, withal, though I knew much of keen effort, the stress of unremitting work, and, at times, considerable responsibility, I do not think I tasted content in one hour of all those long, crowded, respectable, and apparently prosperous years.

If one comes to that, could I honestly assert that in the years preceding these I had ever known content? I fear not. Elation, the sense of more or less successful striving, occasional triumphs--all these good things I had known. But content, peace, secure and restful satisfaction-- No, I could not truly say I had ever experienced these. Perhaps they have been rare among all the educated peoples of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; particularly, it may be, among those who, like myself, have been more or less freely admitted prospectors in the home territories of various classes of the community, without ever becoming a fully accredited and recognised member of any one among them.

I would like very much to comprehend fairly the reason of the barrenness, the failure to attain content or satisfaction, in all those years of my London life. And, for that reason, I linger over my review of them, I state the case as fully as I can. But do I explain it to myself? I fear not. Doubtless, some good people would tell me the secret lay in the apparent absence of definitely dogmatic religious influence in my life. Ah, well, there is that, of course. But it does not give me the explanation. Others would tell me the explanation could be given in one word--egoism; that there has been always too much ego in my cosmos. Yes, there is doubtless a great deal in that. And yet, goodness knows, mine has not been a self-indulgent life.

As I see it, there was a period in which I urgently desired to secure a safe foothold in London's literary and journalistic life. Material needs being moderately satisfied I happened, pretty blindly, into my marriage. That effectually shut out any possibility of content while it lasted, and added very materially to the inroads made by the previous struggling period upon my health. Later, came my strongest literary ambitions: a striving for achievement and success, and I suppose for fame, as author. And then the brief, tremendous struggle to win Cynthia for my wife. So far, naturally enough, there had been no content.

After the collapse of my attempt to win a mate, it seems to me that I became definitely middle-aged; though any outside observer of my life would probably have dated the serious beginnings of my career--the 'young man of undoubted promise,' etc.--from that time, since it was from then on that my position became more important. I directed the energies of others, was a leading editor's right hand man, initiated and controlled new departures, and commanded far more attention for my writings than ever before.

But--and here, it seems to me, lies the crux of the matter--in all this period the present moment of living never appealed to me in the least. I derived no suggestion of satisfaction or enjoyment from it. I was for ever striving, restlessly, uneasily, and to weariness, for something to be attained later on. And for what did I strive? Well, I know that the old ambitions in the direction of world-wide recognition as a literary master did not survive my return to Fleet Street, the landmark for me of Cynthia's marriage. Equally certain am I that I cherished no plan or desire to accumulate money and become rich. I had no desire to become a politician, or to obtain such a post as Arncliffe's. The desires of my youth were dead; the energies of my youth were dulled; the health and physical standard of my early manhood was greatly and for ever lowered. The enthusiasms of my youth had given place not to cynicism but to weary sadness. It was perhaps unfortunate for myself that I had no cynicism.

Very well. In other words, a disinterested observer might say: You became middle-aged--the common lot--and dyspeptic: the usual penalty of sedentary life. But there is a difference. If middle age brings to most, as no doubt it does, some failure of health and a notable attenuation of aims, desires, ambitions, and zest, does it not also bring some satisfaction in the present? I think so; at all events, where, as in my case, it brings the outward and material essentials of a moderate success in life. Now in my case, though the definite aims, the plans for the future, the desired goals, had merely ceased to exist, the present was Dead Sea fruit--null and void, a thing of nought. Just where does my poor personal equation enter in, and how far, I wonder, is all this typical of twentieth-century human experience, for us, the heirs of all the ages, with our wonderful enlightenment and progress? I wonder!

This, at all events, I think, is as near as I can come to explanation. Yet how very far short it falls of explaining, of furnishing me with the key which the making of this record was to provide!

However, the task shall not be shirked. At least, some matters have been made clearer. I will complete my record--if I can.



'What do you aim at in your life?' I said to Sidney Heron one night, when the first decade of the new century was drawing near its close. Heron had dined with me, and we had continued our talk in my rooms. It was a Saturday night, and therefore for me free of engagements.

'The end of it,' replied Heron, without a moment's hesitation.

'Ah! Nothing else? Nothing to come before the end?'

'Oh, well, to be precise, I suppose one does, in certain moods, cherish vague hopes of coming upon a--a way out, you know, some time before the end; time to compose one's mind decently before the prime adventure. Yes, one cherishes the notion vaguely; but I apprehend that realisation of it is only for such swells as you. I have sometimes known thrifty bursts, in which I have saved a little; but--a man doesn't buy estates out of my sort of work, you know. He's lucky if he can keep out-- Well, out of Fleet Street, say, saving your worship's presence.'

'Yes, yes; you've always done that, haven't you? A negative kind of ambition, perhaps, but----'

'Oh, naturally, you must pretend scorn for it, I see that,' said Heron.

'Not at all, my dear chap, not a bit of it. Indeed, I should be one of the last to scorn that particular aim. But I was wondering if you cherished any other. A "way out." Yes, there's something rather heart-stirring about the thought. I wonder if there is such a thing as a "way out." I forget the name of the Roman gentleman who hankered after a "way out." Once in a year or so he used to wake up, full of the conviction that he'd found it. Out came the family chariots, and off he would gallop across the Campagna to the hills beyond, where, no doubt, he had a villa of sorts, vineyards, and the rest of it. Here, in chaste seclusion, was his "way out": a glorious relief, the beginning of the great peace. And, a few weeks later, Rome would see his chariots dashing back again into the city, even harder driven than on the passage out. However, I suppose there is a "way out" somewhere for every one.'

'Well, I wouldn't say for every one,' said Heron thoughtfully. 'It doesn't matter how fast you drive, you can't get away from yourself, of course. The question of whether there is or is not a "way out" depends on what you want to get away from, and where you want to reach.'

It may be well enough to say with the poet: 'What so wild as words are?' But the fact remains that mere words, and the grouping of words, apart from their normal, everyday significance, have a notable influence upon the thoughts of some folk, and especially, I suppose, of writers. I know that Heron's careless 'way out' phrase occupied my mind greatly for many weeks after it was spoken.

'After all,' I sometimes asked myself, 'what has my whole life amounted to but an uneasy, restless, striving search for a "way out"? It has never been "to-day" with me, but always "to-morrow"; and the morrow has never come. Never for a moment have I thought: "This thing in my hand is what I want; this present Here and Now is what I desire. I will retain this, and so shall be content." No, my strivings--and I have been always striving--have been for something the future was to bring. And, behold, what was the future is more barren than the past; it is that thing which I seem incapable of valuing--the present. Is there a "way out" for me? Surely there must be. I certainly am no more fastidious than my neighbours, and indeed am much simpler in my tastes than most of them.'

And that was true. If I could lay claim to no other kind of progress, I could fairly say that I had cultivated simplicity in taste and appetite, and did in all honesty prefer simple ways. That otherwise abominable thing, my disabled digestive system, had perhaps influenced me in this direction. In days gone by, I should have said my most desired 'way out' would be the path to independent leisure for literary work. Now, if I desired anything, it was independent leisure, not for the production of immortal books, but for thinking; for the calm thought that should yield self-comprehension. Yes, I told myself, I hated the daily round of Fleet Street, with its never-slackening demand for the production of restrained moralising, polished twaddle, and non-committal, two-sided conclusions, or careful omissions, and one-eyed deductions. It was thus I thought of it, then.

'What you want is a holiday, my friend,' said Arncliffe, upon whose kindly heart and front of brass the beating of the waves of Time seemed powerless to develop the smallest fissure.

'You are right,' I thought. 'A holiday without an end is what I want. And, why not take it, instead of waiting till the other end comes, and shuts out all possibility of holidays, work, or thought? Why not?'

I began a reckoning up of my resources. But it was a perfunctory reckoning. The facts really did not greatly interest me. After all, had I not once calmly set up my establishment in the country, with a total capital of perhaps twenty pounds? Or, if one came to that, had I not cheerfully sallied forth into the world, armed only with a one-pound note? True, I told myself, with some bitterness, the youth had possessed many capabilities which the man lacked. Still, the reckoning did not greatly interest me. And, while I made it, my thoughts persistently reverted to Australian bush scenes; never, by the way, to my days of comparative prosperity in Sydney, but always to bush scenes: camp fires under vast and sombre red mahogany trees; lonely tracks in heavily timbered country; glimpses of towns like Dursley, seen from the rugged tops of high wooded ridges; little creeks, lisping over stones never touched by the feet of men or beasts; tiny clearings among the hills, where a spiral of blue smoke bespoke an open hearth and human care, though no sound disturbed the peaceful solitude save the hum of insects and the occasional cry of birds.

Now and again I would allow myself to compose a mental picture of some peaceful retreat upon the outskirts of a remote English village, where every stock and stone would have a history, and every inhabitant prove a repository of folklore and local tradition. From actual experience I still knew very little of rural England, though of late years I had done some exploring. But, vicariously, I had lived much in Wessex, East Anglia, the delectable Duchy, and other parts of the country, through the works of favourite writers. And so I did dream at times of an English retreat, but always such musings would end upon a note of scepticism. These parts were not far enough away to furnish anything so wonderful, so epoch-making, as my desired 'way out.' For persons of my temperament one of the commonest and most disastrous blunders of life is the tacit assumption that the thing easy of attainment and near at hand cannot possibly prove the thing one wants.

Gradually, then, the idea developed in my mind that the true solution of my problems lay in a working back upon my life's tracks. My thoughts wandered insistently to the northern half of the coast of New South Wales. Even now I could hardly say just how much of my retrospective vision was genuine recollection, and how much the glamour of youth. I tried to recall without sentiment the effects produced upon me, for example, by the climate of that undoubtedly favoured region. But I am not sure that my efforts gave results of any practical value. For practical purposes it is extremely difficult, in middle life, to form reliable estimates of the congeniality to one's self of any place to which one has been a stranger since youth. Recollections pitched in such a key as, 'How good one used to feel when--,' or,'How beautiful the country looked at ---- when one--,' are apt to be very misleading for a man of broken health and middle age; the one thing he cannot properly allow for being the radical change which has taken place in himself. I bore the name of the lad who tramped the roads from Myall Creek down to Dursley. In most other respects I was not now that person, but somebody else--a totally different somebody.

I could not very well talk of the plans which now took shape in my mind to Sidney Heron; because, in effect, he declined to discuss them.

'I think it would be a rather less reasonable step than suicide, and I have always declined to discuss suicide. One must see some glimmer of rationality in a project to be able to discuss it, and in this notion of yours I can see none, none whatever.'

A vague suspicion that others might be likely to share Heron's view prevented my seeking the counsel of my few friends; and also, I fear, tended rather to strengthen my inclinations to go my own way. The more I thought upon it, the more determined I became to cut completely adrift from my present life; to find a way of escaping all its insistent calls; to get far enough away from my life (so to say) to be able calmly and thoughtfully to observe it, and seek to understand it. I did not admit this, but I suppose my real aim was to escape from myself.

'Your lease is not a long one, in any case,' I told myself. 'While yet you have the chance cease to be a machine, and begin to live as a rational, reasoning creature. Be done with your petty striving after ends you have forgotten, or cannot see, or care nothing for. Get out into the open, and live, and think!'

I do not quite know the basis of my conviction that I should never make old bones, as the saying goes. The life assurance offices certainly shared this view, for they would have none of me. (I had long since thought of taking out what is called a double endowment policy.) My father died at an early age, and I had known good health hardly at all since my first two years in London. The doctor who had last examined me showed that he thought poorly of my heart; and, indeed, experience had taught me that prolonged gastric disorder is calculated to affect injuriously most organs of the human anatomy. But the thinking and planning with regard to a radical change in my life had given me a certain interest in living, and that had acted beneficially upon my health; so that, for the time being, I felt better than for a long while past.

While this fact gave a certain air of unreality to the resignation, on the grounds of ill-health, from my appointment as a member of Arncliffe's staff, it did not in the least affect my weariness of Fleet Street and all its works, or my determination to be done with them. The circle of my intimates was so very small that the task of explaining my intentions was not a formidable one, nor even one which I felt called upon to perform with any particular thoroughness. I proposed to take a voyage for the good of my health, and did not know precisely when I should return. That I deemed sufficient for most of those to whom anything at all needed to be said.


There was something strange, a dream-like want of reality, about my final departure from England, after five-and-twenty years of working life in London. I am not likely to forget any incident of it; but yet the whole experience, both at the time and now, seemed (and seems) to be shrouded in a kind of mist, a by no means disagreeable haze of unreality, which in a measure numbed all my senses. More than ever before I seemed to be, not so much living through an experience, as observing it from a detached standpoint.

Investigation of my resources showed that I had accumulated some means during the past dozen years of simple living and incessant work, not ill-paid. I had just upon two thousand pounds invested, and between one and two hundred pounds lying to my credit at call, I told myself that living alone and simply in the bush, a hundred pounds in the year would easily cover all my expenses. That I had anything like twenty years of life before me was a supposition which I could not entertain for one moment. And, therefore, I told myself again and again, with curious insistence, there really was no reason why I need ever again work for money, or waste one moment over petty anxiety regarding ways and means. That was a very great boon, I told myself; the greatest of all boons, and better fortune than in recent years I had dared to hope would be mine. And, puzzled by the coldness with which my inner mind responded to these assurances, I would reiterate them, watching my mind the while, and almost angered by the absence of elation and enthusiasm which I observed there.

'You have not properly realised as yet what it means, my friend,' I murmured to myself as I walked slowly through city alley-ways, after booking my passage to Sydney in a steam ship of perhaps seven times the tonnage of the old Ariadne of my boyhood's journey to Australia. 'But it is the biggest thing you have ever known. You will begin to realise it presently. You are free. Do you hear? An absolutely free man. You need never write another line unless you wish it, and then you may write precisely what you think, no more, no less. You are going right away from this howling cockpit, and never need set foot in it again. You are going to a beautiful climate, a free life in the open, with no vestige of sham or pretence about it, and long, secure leisure to reflect, to think, to muse, to read, to do precisely what you desire to do, and nothing else. You are free--free! Do you hear, you tired hack? Too tired to prick your ears, eh? Ah, well, wait till you've been a week or two at sea!'

Very quietly I addressed my sluggish and jaded self in this wise. Yet more than one hurried walker in the city ways looked curiously at me, as I passed along, with a wondering scrutiny which amused me a good deal. 'Too tired to prick your ears.' The suggestion came from the contemptuously self-commiserating thought that I was rather like a worn-out 'bus horse, to whom some benevolent minor Providence was offering the freedom of a fine grazing paddock. 'You're too much galled and spavined, you poor devil, to be moved by verbal assurances. Wait till you scent the breezy upland, and your feet feel the turf. You'll know better what it all means then.'

I had entertained vague notions of a little farewell feast which I would give to Heron, and, possibly, to one or two other friends. But from the reality of such convivial enterprise I shrank, when the time came, preferring to adopt, even to Heron, the attitude of a traveller who would presently return. And when, as the event proved, I found myself the guest of honour at a dinner presided over by Arncliffe, my embarrassment pierced through all sense of unreality and caused me acute discomfort.

It is odd that I, who always have been foolishly sensitive to blame (from professed critics and others), should shrink so painfully from spoken praise or formal tribute of any kind. It makes my skin hot even to recall the one or two such episodes I have faced. The wretched inability to think where to dispose of one's hands and gaze during the genial delivery of after-dinner encomiums; the distressing difficulty of replying! Upon the whole, I think I was better at receiving punishment. But it is true, the latter one received in privacy, and was under no obligation to answer; since replying to printed criticisms was never a folly I indulged.

On the eve of my departure from London I did a curious and perhaps foolish thing, on the spur of a moment's impulse. I hailed a cab, and drove to Cynthia's house in Sloane Street. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Barthrop were at home, and alone, the servant told me; and in another few moments I was shaking hands with them. Naturally, they called my visit an unexpected pleasure. It was, in fact, not a very pleasurable quarter of an hour for either one of us. For years I had known nothing of their interests, or they of mine. Our talk was necessarily shallow, and I dare say Cynthia, no less than her husband, was glad when I rose to take my leave. The sweet, clear candour of her face had given place, I thought, to something not wholly unlike querulousness. But, I had one glance from her eyes, as she took my hand, which seemed to me to say:

'God speed! I understand.'

It may have meant nothing, but I like to think it meant understanding.

From Cynthia's house I went on to Heron's lodging, for I had a horror of being 'seen off,' and wished to bid my friend good-bye in his own rooms. Our talk was constrained, I remember. The stress of my uprooting affected me far more than I knew at the time. Heron regarded my going with grave disapproval as a crazy step. He regretted it, too; and such feelings always tended to exaggerate his tendency to taciturnity, or to a harsh, sardonic vein in speech.

As his way was in such a matter, Heron calmly ignored my stipulation about being 'seen off,' and he was standing beside the curb when I stepped out of my cab at Fenchurch Street Station next morning. There was nearly half an hour to spare, we found, before the boat train started.

'The correct thing would be a stirrup-cup,' growled Heron.

'The very thing,' I said; conversation in such a place, and in such circumstances, proving quite impossible for me. By an odd chance I recalled my first experiences upon arrival at this same mean and dolorous station, more than twenty years previously. 'We will go to the house in which the "genelmun orduder bawth,"' I said, and led Heron across into the Blue Boar.

The forced jocularity of these occasions is apt to be a pitifully wooden business, and I suppose it was a relief to us both when my train began slowly to move.

'By the way--I had forgotten,' said Heron, very gruffly. 'Take this trifle with you-- May be of some use. Good-bye! Look me up as soon as you get back. I give you a year--or nearly.'

He waved his hand jerkily, and was gone. He had given me the silver cigarette-case which he had used for all the years of our acquaintance. It bore his initials in one corner, and under these I now saw engraved: 'To N. F., 1890-1910.' I do not recall any small incident that impressed me more than this.

I still moved through a mist. The voices of my travelling companions seemed oddly small and remote. I felt as though encased and insulated, in some curious way, from the everyday life about me. And this mood possessed me all through that day. Through all the customary bustle of an ocean liner's departure, I moved slowly, silently, aloofly, as a somnambulist. It was a singular outsetting, this start upon my 'way out.'


In ordinary times my thrifty instinct might have led me to travel in the second class division of the great steamer. But it had happened that the sum I set aside to cover my travelling expenses proved more than ample. Several small unreckoned additions had been made to it during my last month in England; and the upshot was that I decided to travel by first saloon, and even to indulge myself in the added luxury of a single-berth, upper-deck cabin. For me privacy had for long been one of the few luxuries I really did value. Heron had mildly satirised my sybaritic plans as representing an ingenious preparation for hut life in the Australian bush, but I had claimed that comfort and privacy on the passage would give me a deserved holiday, and help put me into good form for my fresh start oversea. I am not sure which view was the more correct.

At all events I certainly was very comfortably placed on board the Oronta. My books I had deliberately packed in boxes marked 'Not wanted on voyage.' There was not so much as a sheet of manuscript paper among my cabin luggage. Beyond an odd letter or two for postage at ports of call, and any casual browsing in the ship's library to which I might feel impelled in my idleness, I was prepared to give no thought to reading or writing for the present; since for five-and-twenty years I had been giving practically all my days and half my nights to these pursuits as a working man of letters.

I had amused myself of late with elaborate anticipations of the delights of idleness during this passage to Australia. My ideas of sea travel were really culled from recollections of life on a full rigged clipper ship--not a steamboat. (The homeward passage from Australia had hardly been sea-travel in the ordinary sense for me, but rather six weeks of clerking in an office.) In my anticipations of the present journey, the dominant impressions had been based upon memories of the spotless cleanliness, endless leisure, and primitive simplicity of the old time sailing ship life. I do not mean that I had thought I should trot about the decks of the Oronta bare-footed, as I and my childish companions had done aboard the Ariadne; but I do mean that the atmosphere of the Ariadne life had coloured all my thoughts of what the present trip would be for me.

And that, of course, was a mistake. The smoothly ordered life of the Oronta's saloon passengers was very much that of a first-class seaside hotel, say in Bournemouth. So far from sprawling upon the snowy deck of a forecastle-head, to watch the phosphorescent lights in the water under our ship's bow, saloon passengers on board the Oronta were not expected ever to intrude upon the forward deck--the ship had no forecastle-head--which was reserved for the uses of the crew. Also, in the conventional black and white of society's evening uniform for men, I suppose one does not exactly sprawl on decks, even where these are spotless, as they never are on board a steamship.

The pleasant race of sailor men, of shell-backs, such as those who swung the yards and tallied on to the halliards of the Ariadne, may or may not have become extinct, and given place to a breed of sea-going mechanics, who protect their feet by means of rubber boots when washing decks down in the morning. In any case, I met none of the old salted variety among the Oronta's multitudinous crew. For me there was here no sitting on painted spars, or tarry hatch-covers, or rusty anchor-stocks, and listening to long, rambling 'yarns,' or 'cuffers,' in idle dog-watches or restful night-watches, when the southern Trades blew steadily, and the braces hung untouched upon their pins for a week on end. No, in the second dog-watch here, one took a solemn constitutional preparatory to dressing for dinner; and in the first night-watch one smoked and listened willy-nilly to polite small talk, and (from the ship's orchestra) the latest and most criminal products of New York's musical genius. I never heard or saw the process of relieving wheel or look-out aboard the Oronta, and long before the beginning of the middle watch I had usually switched off for the night the electric reading-lamp over my pillow.

The fact is, of course, that I had never had any kind of training for such a life as that in which I now found myself. I will not pretend to regret that, for, to be frank, it is a vapid, foolish, empty life enough. But there it was; one could not well evade it, and I had had no previous experience of anything at all like it. The most popular breakfast-hour was something after nine. Beef-tea, ices, and suchlike aids to indigestion were partaken of a couple of hours later. Luncheon was a substantial dinner. The four o'clock tea was quite a meal for most passengers. Caviare and anchovy sandwiches were the rule in the half hour preceding dinner, which was, of course, a serious function. But ours was a valiant company, and supper was a seventh meal achieved by many. The orchestra seemed never far away; games were numerous (here again I had hopelessly neglected my education), and at night there were concerts, impromptu dances, and balls that were far from being impromptu.

It is, I fear, a confession of natural perversity, but by the time we reached the Mediterranean I was exceedingly restless, and inclined to nervous depression.

I welcomed the various ports of call, and was properly ashamed of the unsocial irritability which made me resent the feeling of being made one of a chattering, laughing, high-spirited horde of tourists, whose descent upon a foreign port seriously damaged whatever charm or interest it might possess. At least the trading residents of these ports were far more sensible than I, their preference undoubtedly causing them to welcome the wielders of camera and guide-book in the vein of 'the more the merrier.'

It was in Naples, outside the Villa Nazionale, that it fell to me to rescue the elegant young widow, Mrs. Oldcastle, from the embarrassing attentions of a cabman, whose acquaintances were already rallying about him in great force. So far as speech went, my command of Italian was not very much better than Mrs. Oldcastle's perhaps; but at least I had a pocketful of Italian silver, while she, poor lady, had only English money. The cabman was grossly overpaid, of course, but the main point was I silenced him. And then, her flushed cheeks testifying to her embarrassment, Mrs. Oldcastle turned towards the gardens, and, in common courtesy, I walked with her to ascertain if I could be of any further service. The upshot was that we strolled for some time, took tea in the Café Umberto, walked through the Museo, visited one of the city's innumerable glove-shops, and finally, still together, drove back to the port and rejoined the Oronta.

As fellow-passengers we had up till this time merely exchanged casual salutations, Mrs. Oldcastle being one of the three who shared the particular table in the saloon at which I sat. No one else of her name appeared in the passenger list, in which I had already read the line: 'Mrs. Oldcastle and maid.' I imagined her age to be still something in the earliest thirties, and I had been informed by some obliging gossip that she was English by birth; that she had married an Australian squatter, who had died during the past year or so; that her permanent home was in England, but that she was just now paying a visit to the Commonwealth upon some business connected with her late husband's estates there.

'You have been most kind, Mr. Freydon,' she said, as we stepped from the gangway to the steamer's deck. 'I was in a dreadful muddle by myself, and now, thanks to you, I have really enjoyed my afternoon in Naples. Believe me, I am grateful. And,' she added, with a faint blush, 'I shall now find even greater interest than before in your books. Au revoir!'

So she disappeared, by way of the saloon companion, while I took a turn along the deck to smoke a cigarette. Naturally I had not mentioned my books or profession, and I thought it an odd chance that she should know them. She certainly had been a most agreeable companion, and----

'There's no doubt that life in any other country, no matter where, does seem to enlarge the sympathies of English people,' I told myself. 'It tends to mitigate the severity of their attitude towards the narrower conventions. If this had been her first journey out of England she might have accepted my help in the matter of the cabman, but would almost certainly have felt called upon to reject my company from that on. Instead of which-- H'm! Well, upon my word, I have enjoyed the day far more than I should have done alone. She certainly is very bright and intelligent.'

And I nodded and smiled to myself, recalling some of her comments upon certain figures in the marble gallery of the Museo that afternoon. There was nothing in the least inane or parrot-like about her conversation. I experienced a more genial and friendly feeling than had been mine till then toward the whole of my fellow-passengers.

'After all,' I told myself, 'this forming of hasty impressions of people, from snatches of their talk and mannerisms and so forth, is both misleading and uncharitable. Here have I been sitting at table for a week, and, upon my word, I had no idea that any one among her sex on board had half so much intelligence as she had shown in these few hours away from the crowd. The crowd--that's it. It's misleading to observe folk in the mass, and in the confinement of a ship.'

The passengers' quarters on an ocean liner are fully equal to the residences in a cathedral close as forcing beds of gossip and scandal. Thus, before we reached the Indian Ocean, I was aware that the gossips had so far condescended as to link my name with that of one whom I certainly rated as the most attractive of her sex on board. Indeed, it was Mrs. Oldcastle herself who drew my attention to this, with a little moue of contempt and disgust.

'Really, people on board ship are too despicable in this matter of gossip,' she said. 'It would seem that they are literally incapable of evolving any other topic than the doings, or supposed doings, of those about them. And the men seem to me just as bad as the women.'


Naturally, the fact that various idle people chose to use my name in their gossip in no sense disturbed my peace of mind. Neither had I any particular occasion to regret it, for Mrs. Oldcastle's sake, since I fancy that independent and high-spirited little lady took a mischievous pleasure in spurring the rather sluggish imaginations of those about her. I found a hint of this in her demeanour occasionally, and could imagine her saying, as she mentally addressed her fellow-passengers:

'There! Here's a choice crumb for you, you silly chatterers!'

With some such thought, I am assured, she occasionally took my arm when we chanced to pace the deck late in the evening. At least, I noted that such actions on her part came frequently when we happened to pass a group of lady passengers in the full glare of an electric lamp, and rarely when we were unobserved.

There is doubtless a certain forceful magic about the combined influences of propinquity and sea air, as these are enjoyed by the idle passengers upon a great ocean liner. They do, I think, tend to advance intimacy and accelerate the various stages of intercourse leading thereto, and therefrom, as nothing else does; more particularly as affecting the relations between men and women. Whilst unlike myself (as in most other respects) in that her social instincts were I am sure well developed, it happened that Mrs. Oldcastle did not feel much more drawn toward the majority of her fellow-passengers than I did. By a more remarkable coincidence, it chanced that she had read and been interested by several of my books. From such a starting-point, then, it followed almost inevitably that we walked the decks together, and sat and talked together a great deal; these being the normal daily occupations of people so situated, if not indeed the only available occupations for those not given over to such delights as deck quoits.

I am very sure that Mrs. Oldcastle was never what is called a flirt, and I believe the general tone of our conversations was sufficiently rational. Yet I will not deny that there were times--on the balcony of the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, and on the Oronta's promenade deck by moonlight--when my attitude towards this charming lady was definitely tinged by sentiment. Withal, I doubt if any raw boy could have been more shy, in some respects, than I; for I was most sensitively conscious during this time of the fact that I was a very unsocial, middle-aged man, of indifferent health, and, for that reason, unattractive appearance. Whereas, Mrs. Oldcastle had all the charms of the best type of 'the woman of thirty,' including the evident enjoyment of that sort of health which is the only real preservative of youth. Being by habit a lonely and self-conscious creature, I had even more than the average Englishman's horror of making myself ridiculous.

We were off the coast of south-western Australia when I sat down in my cabin one morning for the purpose of seriously reviewing my position, with special reference to recent conversations with Mrs. Oldcastle. Certain things I laid down as premises which could not be questioned; as, for example, that I found this gracious little lady (Mrs. Oldcastle was petite and softly rounded in figure; I am tall and inclined in these days to a stooping, scraggy kind of gauntness) a most delightful companion, admirably well-informed, vivacious, and unusually gifted in the matter of deductive powers and the sense of humour. Also, that (whatever the ship's chatterboxes might say) there had been nothing in the faintest degree compromising in our relations so far.

From such premises I began to argue with myself upon the question of marriage. It is not very easy to get these things down in black and white. I was perfectly sure that Mrs. Oldcastle was heartwhole. And yet, absurdly presumptuous as it must look when I write it, I was equally sure that it would be possible for me to woo and win her. It may seem odd, but this charming woman did really enjoy my society. She liked talking with me. She found my understanding of her ready and sympathetic, and--what doubtless appealed to both of us--she found that talk with me had a rather stimulating effect upon her; that it drew out, in combating my point of view, the best of her excellent qualities. Using large words for lesser things, she laughingly asserted that I inspired her; and she added that I was the only person she knew who never bored or wearied her. Yes, no matter how awkward the written words may look, I know I was convinced that, if I should set myself to do it, I could woo and win this charming woman, whose first name, by the way, I did not then know.

I did not know Mrs. Oldcastle's precise circumstances, of course, but there were many ways in which I gathered that she was rather rich than poor. A young Australian among the passengers volunteered to me the information that this lady had been the sole legatee of her late husband, who had owned stations in South Australia and in Queensland certainly worth some hundreds of thousands of pounds. Few men could be less attracted than myself by a prospect of controlling a large fortune or extensive properties. But, as against that, whilst marriage with any one possessed of no means would have been mere folly for me, the possession of ample means would remove the most obvious barriers between myself and matrimony.

It was passing strange, I thought, that a woman at once so charming and so rich should be travelling alone, and, so far from being surrounded by a court of admirers, content to make such a man as myself almost her sole companion. Mrs. Oldcastle had a mind at once nimble and delicate, sensitive, and quite remarkably quick to seize impressions, and to arrive at (mostly accurate) conclusions. She had a vein of gentle satire, of kindly and withal truly humorous irony, most rare I think in women, and quite delightful in a companion. I learned that her father (now dead) had been the secretary of one of the learned societies in London, and a writer of no mean reputation on archæology and kindred subjects. Her surviving relatives were few in number, of small means, and resident, I gathered, in the west of England. I had told her a good deal about my London life, and of the circumstances and plans leading up to my present journey. Her comment was:

'I think I understand perfectly, I am sure I sympathise heartily, and--I give you one more year than your friend, Mr. Heron, allowed. I prophesy that you will return to London within two years.'

'But, just why?' I asked. 'For what reasons will my attempted "way out" prove no more than a way back?'

'Well, I am not sure that I can explain that. No, I don't think I can. It may prove a good deal more than that, and yet take you back to London within a couple of years. Though I cannot explain, I am sure. It is not only that you have been a sedentary man all these years. You have also been a thinker. You think intellectual society is of no moment to you. Well, you are very tired, you see. Also, bear this in mind: in the Old World, even for a man who lives alone on a mountain-top, there is more of intellectuality--in the very atmosphere, in the buildings and roads, the hedges and the ditches--than the best cities of the New World have to offer. I suppose it is a matter of tradition and association. The endeavours of the New World are material; a proportion at least of the Old World's efforts are abstract and ideal. You will see. I give you two years, or nearly. And I don't think for a moment it will be wasted time.'

Sometimes our talk was far more suggestive of the intercourse between two men, fellow-workers even, than that of a man and a woman. Never, I think, was it very suggestive of what it really was: conversation between a middle-aged, and, upon the whole, broken man, and a woman young, beautiful, wealthy, and unattached. Love, in the passionate, youthful sense, was not for me, of course, and never again could be. I think I was free from illusions on that point. But I believed I might be a tolerable companion for such a woman as Mrs. Oldcastle, and I felt that her companionship would be a thing very delightful to me. After all, she had presumably had her love affair, and was now a fully matured woman. Why then should I not definitely lay aside my plans--which even unconventional Sidney Heron thought fantastic--and ask this altogether charming woman to be my wife? Though I could never play the passionate lover, my æsthetic sense was far from unconscious or unappreciative of all her purely womanly charm, her grace and beauty of person, as apart from her delightful mental qualities.

I mused over the question through an entire morning, and when the luncheon bugle sounded had arrived at no definite conclusion regarding it.

That afternoon it happened that, as I sat chatting with Mrs. Oldcastle---we were now in full view of the Australian coast, a rather monotonous though moving picture which was occupying the attention of most passengers--our conversation turned upon the age question; how youth was ended in the twentieth year for some people, whilst with others it was prolonged into the thirtieth and even the fortieth year; and, in the case of others again, seemed to last all their lives long. Mrs. Oldcastle had a friend in London who had placidly adopted middle age in her twenty-fifth year; and we agreed that a white-haired, rubicund gentleman of fully sixty years, then engaged in winning a quoits tournament before our eyes, seemed possessed of the gift of unending youth.

'You know, I really feel quite strongly on the point,' said Mrs. Oldcastle. 'My friend, Betty Millen, has positively made herself a frump at five-and-twenty. We practically quarrelled over it. I don't think people have any right to do that sort of thing. It is not fair to their friends. Seriously, I do regard it as an actual duty for every one to cherish and preserve her youth.'

'And his youth, too?' I asked.

'Certainly, I think there is even less excuse for men who go out half-way to meet middle-age. That sort of middle-age really is a kind of slow dying. Age is a sort of gradual, piecemeal death, after all. It can be fended off, and ought to be. Men have more active and interesting lives than women, as a rule; and so have the less excuse for allowing age to creep upon them.'

'But surely, in a general way, the poor fellows cannot help it?'

'Oh, I don't agree. I have known men old enough to be my father, so far as years go, who were splendidly youthful. The older a man is, within limits of course, the more interesting he should be, and is, unless he has weakly allowed age to benumb him before his time. Then he becomes merely depressing, a kind of drag and lowering influence upon his friends; and, too, a horridly ageing influence upon them.'

I nodded, musing, none too cheerily.

'After all,' she continued vivaciously, 'science has done such a lot for us of late. Practically every one can keep bodily young and fit. It only means taking a little trouble. And the rest, I think, is just a question of will-power and mental hygiene. No, I have no patience with people who grow old; unless, of course, they really are very old in years. I think it argues either stupidity or a kind of profligacy--mental, nervous, and emotional, I mean--and in either case it is very unfair to those about them, for there is nothing so horribly contagious.'

I have sometimes wondered if Mrs. Oldcastle had any deliberate purpose in this conversation. Upon the whole, I think not. I remember distinctly that the responsibility for introducing the subject was mine. She might have been covertly instructing me for my own benefit, but I doubt it, I doubt it. My faults of melancholy and unrestfulness had not appeared, I think, in my intercourse with Mrs. Oldcastle, so cheery and enlivening was her influence. No, I think these really were her views, and that she aired them purely conversationally, and without design or afterthought, however kindly. Her own youth she had most admirably conserved, and in a manner which showed real force of character and self-control; for, as I now know, she had had some trying and wearing experiences, though her air and manner were those of a woman young and high-spirited, who had never known a care. As a fact she had known what it was, for three years, to fight against the horrid advance of what was practically a disease, and a terrible one, in her late husband, the chief cause of whose death was alcoholic poisoning.

But, though I am almost sure that this particular conversation was in no sense part of a design or meant to influence me in my relations with her, yet it did, as a matter of fact, serve to put a period to my musings, and bring me to a definite decision, which it may be had considerable importance for both of us. Within forty-eight hours Mrs. Oldcastle was to leave the Oronta, her destination being the South Australian capital. That I had become none too sure of myself in her company is proved by the fact that when I left her that evening, it was with mention of a pretended headache and chill. I kept my cabin next day, and before noon on the day following that we were due at Port Adelaide. Mrs. Oldcastle expressed kindly sympathy in the matter of my supposed indisposition, and that rather upset me. I could see that my non-appearance during her last full day on board puzzled her, and I was not prepared to part from her upon a pretence.

'Why, the fact is,' I said, 'I don't think I can accept your sympathy, because I had no headache or chill. I was a little moody--somewhat middle-aged, you know; and wanted to be alone, and think.'

'I see,' she said thoughtfully, and rather wonderingly.

'I don't very much think you do,' I told her, not very politely. 'And I'm not sure that I can explain--even if it were wise to try. I think, if you don't mind, I'll just say this much: that I greatly value your friendship, and want to retain it, if I can. It seemed to me better to have a headache yesterday, in case--in case I might have done anything to risk losing your friendship.'

'Oh! Well, I do not think you are likely to lose it, for I--I am as much interested as you can be in preserving it. I want you to write to me. Will you? And I will write to you when you have found your hermitage and can give me an address. I will give you my agent's address in Adelaide, and my own address in London, where I shall expect a call from you within two years. No, you wall not find it so easy to lose touch with me, my friend; nor would you if--if you had not had your headache yesterday.'

Upon that she left me to prepare for going ashore. I think we understood each other very well then. After that we had no more than a minute together for private talk. During that minute I do not think I said anything except 'Good-bye!' But I very well remember some words Mrs. Oldcastle said.

'You are not to forget me, if you please. Remember, I am not so dull but what I can understand--some headaches. But they must not be accompanied by "moody middle-age." Do please remember when the hermitage palls that it may be left just as easily as it was found. And then, apart from Mr. Heron and others, there will be a friend waiting to see you in London, and--and wanting to see you.... That's my agent, the man with the green-lined umbrella. Good-bye--friend!'


The Oronta was a dull ship for me once she had passed Adelaide; duller even than in the grey days between Tilbury and Naples. Adelaide passed, an Australian-bound liner seems to have reached the end of her outward passage, and yet it is not over. The remainder, for Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane-bound folk, is apt to be a weariness, even as a train journey is, with passengers coming and going and trunks and boxes much in evidence.

I had lost my friend, though I had called this my method of retaining her friendship; and rightly, I dare say. To be worthy of her a man should have left in him ten times my vitality, I thought; he should be one who looked forward rather than back; he should bring to their joint wayfaring a far keener zest for life than my years in our modern Grub Street had left me. How vapid was the talk of my remaining fellow-passengers; how slow of understanding, and how preoccupied with petty things they seemed! They discussed their luggage, and questions regarding the proper amounts for stewards' tips. Had not some traveller called Adelaide Australia's city of culture? It seemed a pleasant town. The Mount Lofty country near by was beautiful, I gathered. It might well have been better for me to have left the ship there. My musings were in this sort; somewhat lacking, perhaps, in the zest and cheerfulness which should pertain to a new departure in life.

I spent a few days in Sydney, chiefly given to walks through the city and suburbs. There was a certain interest, I found, to be derived from the noting of all the changes which a quarter of a century had wrought in this antipodean Venice. Some of the alterations I noticed were possibly no more than reflections of the changes time had wrought in myself; for these--the modifications which lie between ambitious youth and that sort of damaged middle-age which carries your dyspeptic farther from his youth than ever his three score years and ten take the hale man--had been radical and thorough with me. But, none the less, Sydney's actual changes were sufficiently remarkable.

At the spot whereon I made my entry into society (as I thought), in the studio of Mr. Rawlence, the artist, stood now an imposing red building of many storeys, given over, I gathered, to doctors and dentists. The artist, I thought, was probably gathered to his fathers ere this, as my old fellow-lodger, Mr. Smith, most certainly must have been. Mr. Foster, the editor of the Chronicle, had died some years previously. The offices and premises of Messrs. J. Canning and Son, my first employers in Sydney, were as though I had left them but yesterday, unchanged in any single respect. But the head of the firm, as I had known him, was no more; and his son, of whom I caught one glimpse on the stairway, had grown elderly, grey, and quite surprisingly stout.

There was some interest for me in prowling about the haunts of my youth; but to be honest, I must admit there was no pleasure, even of the mildly melancholy kind. However beautiful their surroundings, no New World cities are in themselves beautiful or picturesque. That which is new in them is--new, and well enough; and that which is not new or newish is apt to be rather shabby than venerable. I apprehend that Old World cities would be quite intolerably shabby and tumble-down but for the fact that, when they were built, joint stock companies were unknown, and men still took real pride in the durability of their work. We have made wondrous progress, of course, and are vastly cleverer than our forbears; but for the bulk of the work of our hands, there is not very much to be said when its newness has worn off.

I thought seriously for an hour or more of going to Dursley to visit its Omniferacious Agent, and, more particularly, perhaps to see his wife; possibly even to settle in the neighbourhood of that pretty little town. Then I reckoned up the years, and decided against this step. The Omnigerentual One would be an old man, if alive; and his wife--I recalled her fragile figure and hopeless invalidism, and thought I would sooner cherish my recollections of five-and-twenty years than put them to the test of inquiry.

On the fourth or fifth day I drove with my bags to the handsome new railway station which had taken the place of the rambling old Redfern terminal I remembered, and took train for the north. I found I had no wish, at present, to visit Werrina, Myall Creek, or Livorno Bay, and my journey came to an end a full fifty miles south of St. Peter's Orphanage. Here, within five miles of the substantial township of Peterborough, I came, with great ease, upon the very sort of place I had in mind: a tiny cottage of two rooms, with a good deep verandah before, and a little lean-to kitchen, or, in the local phrase, skillion, behind; two rough slab sheds, a few fruit trees past their prime, an acre of paddock, and beyond that illimitable bush.

I bought the tiny place for a hundred and five pounds, influenced thereto in part by the fact that the daughter of its owner, a small 'cockatoo' farmer's wife, lived no more than a quarter of a mile away; and was willing, for a modest consideration, to come in each day and 'do' for me, to the extent of cooking one hot meal, washing dishes, and tidying my little gunyah. Thus, simply and swiftly, I became a landed proprietor, and was able to send to Sydney for my heavy chattels, knowing that, for the first time in my life, I actually possessed in my own right a roof to shelter them withal, though it were only of galvanised iron. (The use of stringy bark for the roofing of small dwellings seemed to have ceased since my last sojourn in these parts, the practical value of iron for rain-water catchment having thrust aside the cooler and more picturesque material.)

In the township of Peterborough I secured, for the time being, the services of a decent, elderly man named Fetch--Isaiah Fetch--and together we set to work to make a garden before my little house; to fence it in against the attacks of bandicoots and wandering cattle, and to effect one or two small repairs, additions and improvements to the place. This manual work interested me, and, I dare say, bettered my health, though I was ashamed to note the poor staying power I had as compared with Isaiah Fetch, who, whilst fully ten years my senior, was greatly my superior in toughness and endurance.


Wages for labour had soared and soared again since my day in Australia, even for elderly and 'down-along more than up-along 'men like Isaiah Fetch. (The phrase is his own.) And, in any case, I told myself, it was not for the likes of me to keep hired men. And so, when the garden was made, and the other needed work done, I parted with Isaiah--a good, honest, homespun creature, rich in a sort of bovine contentment which often moved me to sincere envy--and was left quite alone in my hermitage, save for the morning visit of perhaps a couple of hours, which the worthy Mrs. Blades undertook to pay for the purpose of tidying my rooms and cooking a midday meal for me. Her coming between nine and ten each morning, and going between twelve and one, formed the chief, if not the only, landmarks in the routine of my quiet days. So it was when I parted with Isaiah. So it is to-day, and so it is like to remain--while I remain.

Parting with Isaiah Fetch made a good deal of difference to me; more difference than I should have supposed it possible that anything connected with so simple a soul could have made. The plain fact is, I suppose, that while Isaiah worked about the place here, I worked with him, in my pottering way. I developed quite an interest in my bit of garden, because of the very genuine interest felt in the making of it by Isaiah. I had worked at it with him; but, once he had left it, I regret to say the ordered ranks of young vegetables tempted me but little, and soon became disordered, for the reason that the war I waged against the weeds was but a poor, half-hearted affair. And so it was with other good works we had begun together. I gave up my cow, because it seemed far simpler to let Mrs. Blades have her for nothing, on the understanding that she brought me the daily trifle of milk I needed. I left the feeding and care of my few fowls to Mrs. Blades, and finally made her a present of them, after paying several bills for their pollard and grain. It seemed easier and cheaper to let Mrs. Blades supply the few eggs I needed.

My horse Punch I kept, because we grew fond of each other, and the surrounding bush afforded ample grazing for him. When Punch began his habit of gently biting my arm or shoulder every time I led him here or there, he sealed his own fate; and now will have to continue living with his tamely uninteresting master willy nilly. Lovable, kindly, spirited beast that he is, I never could have afforded the purchase of his like but for a slight flaw in his near foreleg, which in some way spoils his action, from your horsey man's standpoint, and pleases me greatly, because it brought the affectionate rascal within my modest reach. I give him very little work, and rather too much food; but he has to put up with a good deal of my society, and holds long converse with me daily, I suppose because he knows no means of terminating an interview until that is my pleasure.

One piece of outdoor work I have continued religiously, for the reason, no doubt, that I love wood fires, even in warm weather. I never neglect my wood-stack, the foundations of which were laid for me by Isaiah Fetch. Every day I take axe and saw and cut a certain amount of logwood. My hearth will take logs of just four feet in length, and I feed it royally. The wood costs nothing; when burning it is highly aromatic, and I like to be profuse with it; I who can recall an interminable London winter, in a garret full of leaks and draught holes, in which the only warming apparatus, besides the poor lamp that lighted my writing-table, was a miserable oil-stove, which I could not afford to keep alight except for the brief intervals during which it boiled my kettle for me.

Yes, I know every speck and every cranny of my cavernous hearth, and it is rarely that it calls for any kindling wood of a morning. As a rule a puff from the bellows and a fresh log--one of the little fellows, no thicker than your leg, which I split for this purpose--is enough to set it on its way flaming and glowing for another day of comforting life. I often tell myself it would never do for me to think of giving up my hermitage and returning to England, because of Punch and my ever-glowing hearth; even if there were no other reasons, as of course there are.

For, whilst the comparative zestfulness of the first months, when I worked with Isaiah Fetch to improve my rough-hewn little hermitage, may not have endured, yet are there many obvious and substantial advantages for me in the life I lead here, in this little bush back-water, where the few human creatures who know of my existence regard me as a poor, harmless kind of crank, and no one ever disturbs the current of my circling thoughts. Never was a life more free from interruptions from without. And if disturbance ever emanates from within, why, clearly the fault must be my own, and should serve as a reminder of how vastly uneasy my life would surely be in more civilised surroundings, where interruptions descend upon one from without, thick as smuts through the window of a London garret--save where the garreteer cares to do without air. Here I sit with a noble fire leaping at one end of my unlined, wooden room, and wide open doors and windows all about me. As regards climate, in New South Wales a man may come as near as may be to eating his cake and having it too.

And, for that long-sought mental restfulness, content, peace, whatever one may call it, is not my present task a long step towards its attainment? A completed record of the fitful struggle one calls one's life, calmly studied in the light of reason untrammelled by sentiment, never interrupted by the call of affairs; surely that should bring the full measure of self-comprehension upon which peace is based! To doubt that contentment lies that way would be wretchedness indeed. But why should I doubt what the world's greatest sages have shown? True, my own experience of life has suggested that contentment is rather the monopoly of the simplest souls, whose understanding is very limited indeed. A stinging thought this, and apt to keep a man wakeful at night, if indulged. But I think it should not be indulged. To doubt the existence of a higher order of content than that of the blissfully ignorant is to brush aside as worthless and meaningless the best that classic literature has to offer us, and--such doubts are pernicious things.

Living here in this clean, sweet air, so far removed from the external influences which make for fret and stress, my bodily health, at all events, has small excuse for failure one would suppose. And, indeed, at first it did seem to me that I was acquiring a more normal kind of hardihood and working efficiency in this respect. But I regret to say the supposition was not long-lived. Four or five months after my arrival here I took to my bed for a fortnight, as the result of one of the severest attacks I have ever had; and in the fifteen months which have elapsed since then, my general health has been very much what it was during the years before I left London, while the acute bouts of neuritis and gastric trouble, when they have come, have been worse, I think, than those of earlier years.

But, none the less, without feeling it as yet, I may be building up a better general condition in this quiet life; and the bitterly sharp attacks that seize me may represent no more than a working off of arrears of penalties. I hope it may be so, for persistent ill-health is a dismal thing. But, as against that, I think I am sufficiently philosophic--how often that blessed word is abused by disgruntled mankind--to avoid hopes and desires of too extravagant a sort, and, by that token, to be safeguarded from the sharper forms of disappointment.

Contentment depends, I apprehend, not upon obtaining possession of this or that, but upon the wise schooling of one's desires and requirements. My aims and desires in life--behind the achievement of which I have always fancied I discerned Contentment sitting as a goddess, from whose beneficent hands come all rewards--have naturally varied with the passing years. In youth, I suppose, first place was given to Position. Later, Art stood highest; later, again, Intellect; then Morality; and, finally. Peace, Tranquillity--surely the most modest, and therefore practical and hopeful of all these goals.


The portion of my days here in the bush which I like best (when no bodily ill plagues me) is the very early morning. Directly daylight comes, while yet the sun's Australian throne is vacant--all hung about in cool, pearly draperies--I slip a waterproof over my pyjamas, having first rolled up the legs of these garments and thrust my feet into rubber half-boots, and wander out across the verandah, down through the garden patch, over the road, with its three-inch coating of sandy dust, and into the bush beyond, where every tiny leaf and twig and blade of grass holds treasure trove and nutriment, in the form of glistening dewdrops.

The early morning in the coastal belt of New South Wales is rapture made visible and responsive to one's faculties of touch, and smell, and hearing. And yet---no. I believe I have used the wrong word. It would be rapture, belike, in a Devon coomb, or on a Hampshire hill-top. Here it is hardly articulate or sprightly enough for rapture. Rather, I should say, it is the perfection of pellucid serenity. It lacks the full-throated eternal youthfulness of dawn in the English countryside; but, for calmly exquisite serenity, it is matchless. To my mind it is grateful as cold water is to a heated, tired body. It smooths out the creases of the mind, and is wonderfully calming. Yet it has none of the intimate, heart-stirring kindliness of England's rural scenery. No untamed land has that. Nature may be grand, inspiring, bracing, terrifying, what you will. She is never simply kind and loving--whatever the armchair poets may say. A countryside must be humanised, and that through many successive generations, before it can lay hold upon your heart by its loving-kindness, and draw moisture from your eyes. It is not the emotionless power of Nature, but man's long-suffering patient toil in Nature's realm that gives our English country-side this quality.

But my rugged, unkempt bush here is nobly serene and splendidly calm in the dawn hours. It makes me feel rather like an ant, but a well-doing and unworried ant. And I enjoy it greatly. As I stride among the drenching scrub, and over ancient logs which, before I was born, stood erect and challenged all the winds that blow, I listen for the sound of his bell, and then call to my friend Punch:

'Choop! Choop! Choop, Punch! Come away, boy! Come away! Choop! Choop!'

But not too loudly, and not at all peremptorily. For I do not really want him to come, or, at least, not too hurriedly. That would cut my morning pleasure short. No; I prefer to find Punch half a mile from home, and I think the rascal knows it. For sometimes I catch glimpses of him between the tree-trunks--we have myriads of cabbage-tree palms, tree-ferns, and bangalow palms, among the eucalypti hereabouts--and always, if we are less than a quarter of a mile or so from home, it is his rounded haunches that I see, and he is walking slowly away from me, listening to my call, and doubtless grinning as he chews his cud--a great ruminator is my Punch.

At other times, when it chances that dawn has found him a full half mile from home, he does not walk away from me, but stands behind the bole of a great tree, looking round its side, listening, waiting, and studiously refraining from the slightest move in my direction, until I am within twenty paces of him. Then, with a loud whinny, rather like a child's 'Peep-bo!' in intent, I think, he will walk quickly up to me, wishing me the top of the morning, and holding out his head for the halter which I always carry on these occasions.

In the first months of our acquaintance I used to clamber on to his back forthwith, and ride home. He knows I cannot quite manage that now, and so walks with me, rubbing at my shoulders the while with his grass-stained, dewy lips, till we see a suitable stump or log, from which I can conveniently mount him. Then, with occasional thrusts round of his head to nuzzle one of my ankles, or to snatch a tempting bit of greenery, he carries me home, and together--for he superintends this operation with the most close and anxious care, his foreparts well inside the feed-house--we mix his breakfast, first in an old four-gallon oil-can, and then in the manger, and I sit beside him and smoke a cigarette till the meal is well under weigh.

I have made Punch something of a gourmand, and each meal has to contain, besides its foundation of wheaten chaff and its pièce de résistance of cracked maize, a flavouring of oats--say, three double handfuls--and a thorough sprinkling, well rubbed in, of bran. If the proportions are wrong, or any of the constituents of the meal lacking, Punch snorts, whinnies, turns his rump to the manger, and demands my instant attention. I was intensely amused one day when, sitting in the slab and bark stable, through whose crevices seeing and hearing are easy, to overhear the mail-man telling Mrs. Blades that, upon his Sam, I was for all the world like an old maid with her canary in the way I dry-nursed that blessed horse; by ghost, I was! He was particularly struck, was this good man, by my insane practice of sometimes taking Punch for a walk in the bush, as though he were a dog, and without ever mounting him.

Punch provided for, my own ablutions are performed in the wood-shed, where I have learned to bathe with the aid of a sponge and a bucket of water, and have a shower worked by a cord connected with a perforated nail-can. By this time my billy-can is probably spluttering over the hearth, and I make tea and toast, after possibly eating an orange. And so the day is fairly started, and I am free to think, to read, to write, or to enjoy idleness, after a further chat with Punch when turning him out to graze. My wood-chopping I do either before breakfast or towards the close of the day; the latter, I think, more often than the former. It makes a not unpleasant salve for the conscience of a mainly idle man, after the super-fatted luxury of afternoon tea and a biscuit or scone.

An Australian bushman would call my tea no more than water bewitched, and my small pinch of China leaves in an infuser spoon but a mean mockery of his own generous handful of black Indian leaves, well stewed in a billy to a strength suited for hide-tanning. Of this inky mixture he will cheerfully consume (several times a day) a quart, as an aid to the digestion of a pound or two of corned beef, with pickles and other deadly things, none of which seem to do him much harm. And if they should, the result rather amuses and interests him than otherwise; for, of all amateur doctors (and lawyers), he is the most enthusiastic and ingenuous. He will tell you (with the emphatic winks, nods, and gestures of a man of research who has made a wonderful discovery, and, out of the goodness of his heart, means to let you into the secret) of some patent medicine which is already advertised, generally offensively, in every newspaper in the land; and, having explained how it made a new man of him, will very likely insist with kindly tyranny upon buying you a flagon of the costly rubbish.

'I assure you, Mr. Freydon, you won't know yourself after takin' a bottle or two of Simpkins's Red Marvel.' I agree cordially, well assured that in such a case I should not care to know myself. 'Why, there was a chap down Sydney way, Newtown I think it was he lived in, or it mighter bin Balmain. Crooil bad he was till they put him on to the Red Marvel. Fairly puzzled the doctors, he did, an' all et up with sores, somethin' horrible. Well, I tell you, I wouldn't be without a bottle in my camp. Sooner go without 'baccy. An', not only that, but it's such comfortin' stuff is the Red Marvel. Every night o' my life I takes a double dose of it now; sick or sorry, well or ill--an' look at me! I useter to swear by Blick's Backache Pills; but now, I wouldn't have them on me mind. They're no class at all, be this stuff. Give me Simpkins's Red Marvel, every time, an' I don't care if it snows! You try it, Mr. Freydon. I was worsen you afore I struck it; an' now, why, I wouldn't care to call the Queen me aunt!' (His father before him, in Queen Victoria's reign, had no doubt used this quaint phrase, and it was not for him to alter it because of any such trifling episodes as the accession of other sovereigns.)


I gladly abide by my word of yesterday. The portion of my days here in the bush which I like best is the dawn time. But the nights have their good, and--well--and their less good times, too. My evening meal is apt to be sketchy. There is a special vein of laziness in me which makes me shirk the setting out of plates and cutlery, and, even more, their removal when used; despite the fact that I have had, perhaps, rather more experience than most men of catering for myself. Hence, the evening meal is apt to be sketchy; a furtive and far from creditable performance, with the vessels of the midday meal for its background.

Then, with a sense of relief, I shut the door upon that episode, and the evidences thereof, and betake me to the room which is really mine; where the big hearth is, and the camp-bed, and the writing-table, the books, and the big Ceylon-made lounge-chair. The first evening pipe is nearly always good; the second may be flavoured with melancholy, but yet is seldom unpleasing. The third--there are decent intervals between--bears me company in bed, with whatever book may be occupying me at the time. The first hour in the big chair and the first hour in bed are both exceedingly good when I am anything like well. I would not say which is the better of the two, lest I provoke a Nemesis. Both are excellent in their different ways.

Nine times out of ten I can be asleep within half an hour of dousing the candle, and it is seldom I wake before three hours have passed. After that come hours of which it is not worth while to say much. They are far from being one's best hours. And then, more often than not, will come another blessed two hours, or even more, of unconsciousness, before the first purple grey forecasts of a new day call me out into the bush for my morning lesson in serenity: Nature's astringent message to egoists and all the sedentary, introspective tribe, that bids us note our own infinite insignificance, our utter and microscopical unimportance in her great scheme of things, and her sublime indifference to our individual lives; to say nothing of our insectile hopes, fears, imaginings, despairs, joys, and other forms of mental and emotional travail.

It may or may not be evidence of mental exhaustion or indolence, but I notice that I have experienced here no inclination to read anything that is new to me. I have read a good deal under this roof, including a quite surprising amount of fiction; but nothing, I think, that I had not read before. During bouts of illness here, I have indulged in such debauches as the rereading of the whole of Hardy, Meredith, Stevenson, W. E. Henley's poems, and the novels of George Gissing, Joseph Conrad, and H. G. Wells. Some of the better examples of modern fiction have always had a special topographical appeal to me. I greatly enjoy the work of a writer who has set himself to treat a given countryside exhaustively. This, more even than his masterly irony, his philosophy, his remarkable fullness of mind and opulent allusiveness, has been at the root of the immense appeal Hardy's work makes to me. ('Q,' in a different measure, of course, makes a similar appeal.) Let the Wessex master forsake his countryside, or leave his peasants for gentlefolk, and immediately my interest wanes, his wonderful appeal fails.

Since I have been here in the bush I have understood, as never before, the great and far-reaching popularity of Thomas Hardy's work among Americans. He gives so much which not all the wealth, nor all the genius of that inventive race, can possibly evolve out of their New World. But, upon the whole, I ought not to have brought my fine, tall rank of Hardy's here, still less to have pored over them as I have. There is that second edition of Far From the Madding Crowd now, with its delicious woodcuts by H. Paterson. It is dated 1874--I was a boy then, newly arrived in this antipodean land--and the frontispiece shows Gabriel Oak soliciting Bathsheba: 'Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma'am?' No, I cannot say my readings of Hardy have been good for me here. There is Jude the Obscure now, a masterpiece of heart-bowing tragedy that. And, especially insidious in my case, there are passages like this from that other tragedy in the idyllic vein, The Woodlanders:

Winter in a solitary house in the country, without society, is tolerable, nay, even enjoyable and delightful, given certain conditions; but these are not the conditions which attach to the life of a professional man who drops down into such a place by mere accident.... They are old association--an almost exhaustive biographical or historical acquaintance with every object, animate and inanimate, within the observer's horizon. He must know all about those invisible ones of the days gone by, whose feet have traversed the fields which look so grey from his windows; recall whose creaking plough has turned those sods from time to time; whose hands planted the trees that form a crest to the opposite hill; whose horses and hounds have torn through that underwood; what birds affect that particular brake; what bygone domestic dramas of love, jealousy, revenge, or disappointment have been enacted in the cottages, the mansions, the street, or on the green. The spot may have beauty, grandeur, salubrity, convenience; but if it lack memories it will ultimately pall upon him who settles there without opportunity of intercourse with his kind.

No, that was not discreet reading for a dyspeptic man of letters, alone in a two-roomed gunyah in the midst of virgin bush, in a land where the respectably old dates back a score of years, the historic, say, fifty years, and 'the mists of antiquity' a bare century. One recollection inevitably aroused by such a passage brought to mind words comparatively recent, spoken by Mrs. Oldcastle:

'In the Old World, even for a man who lives alone on a mountain-top, there is more of intellectuality--in the very atmosphere, in the buildings and roads, the hedges and the ditches--than the best cities of the New World have to offer.'

Quite apart from its grimly ironic philosophy, the topography, the earthy quality--'take of English earth as much as either hand may rightly clutch'--of the Wessex master's work makes it indigestible reading for an exile of more than thirty or forty; unless, of course, he is of the fine and robust type, whose minds and constitutions function with the steadiness of a good chronometer, warranted for all climes and circumstances.

But this mention of Hardy reminds me of a curious literary coincidence which I stumbled upon a few months ago. For me, at all events, it was a discovery. I was reading, quite idly, the story which should long since have been dramatised for the stage, The Trumpet Major, written, if I mistake not, in the early 'nineties. I came to chapter xxiii., which opens in this wise:

Christmas had passed. Dreary winter with dark evenings had given place to more dreary winter with light evenings. Rapid thaws had ended in rain, rain in wind, wind in dust. Showery days had come--the season of pink dawns and white sunsets....

This reading was part of my Hardy debauch. A week or two earlier I had been reading what I think was his first book, written a quarter of a century before The Trumpet Major. I refer to Desperate Remedies; with all its faults, an extraordinarily full and finished production for a first book. Now, with curiosity in my very finger-tips, I turned over the pages of this volume, reread no more than a week previously. I came presently upon chapter xii., and, following upon its first sentence, read these words:

Christmas had passed; dreary winter with dark evenings had given place to more dreary winter with light evenings. Thaws had ended in rain, rain in wind, wind in dust. Showery days had come--the period of pink dawns and white sunsets....

That (with a quarter of a century, the writing of many books, and the building up of a justly great and world-wide reputation between the two writings) strikes me as a singular, and, in a way, pleasing literary coincidence; singular, as a freak of subconscious memory for words, pleasing, as a verification in mature life of the writer's comparatively youthful observations of natural phenomena. I wonder if the author, or any others among his almost innumerable readers, have chanced to light upon this particular coincidence!

Another writer of fiction, whose bent of mind, if sombre, was far from devoid of ironical humour, has occupied a deal of my leisure here--George Gissing. I rank him very high among the Victorian novelists. His work deserves a higher place than it is usually accorded by the critics. He was a fine story-teller, and for me (though their topographical appeal is not, perhaps, very obvious) his books are very closely packed with living human interest. But again, for such an one as myself, so situated, I would not say that a course of Gissing formed particularly wholesome or digestible reading. Here, for example, is a passage associated in my recollection with a night which was among the worst I have spent in this place:

He thought of the wretched millions of mankind to whom life is so barren that they must needs believe in a recompense beyond the grave. For that he neither looked nor longed. The bitterness of his lot was that this world might be a sufficing Paradise to him, if only he could clutch a poor little share of current coin....

No, for such folk as I, that was not good reading. But--and let this be my tribute to an author who won my very sincere esteem and respect--when morning had come, after a bad night, and I had had my dawn lesson from Nature, and my converse with Punch, I turned me to another volume of Gissing, and with a quieter mind read this:

Below me, but far off, is the summer sea, still, silent, its ever changing blue and green dimmed at the long limit with luminous noon-tide mist. Inland spreads the undulant vastness of the sheep-spotted downs; beyond them the tillage and the woods of Sussex weald, coloured like to the pure sky above them, but in deeper tint. Near by, all but hidden among trees in yon lovely hollow, lies an old, old hamlet, its brown roofs decked with golden lichen; I see the low church tower, and the little graveyard about it. Meanwhile, high in the heaven, a lark is singing. It descends, it drops to its nest, and I could dream that half the happiness of its exultant song was love of England....

That is his little picture of a recollection of summer. And then, returning to his realities of the moment, this miscalled 'savage' pessimist and 'pitiless realist' continues thus:

It is all but dark. For a quarter of an hour I must have been writing by a glow of firelight reflected on my desk; it seemed to me the sun of summer. Snow is still falling. I can see its ghostly glimmer against the vanishing sky. To-morrow it will be thick upon my garden, and perchance for several days. But when it melts, when it melts, it will leave the snow-drop. The crocus, too, is waiting, down there under the white mantle which warms the earth.

But I would not say that even this was well-chosen reading for me--here in my bush hermitage--any more than is that masterpiece of Kipling's later concentration, An Habitation Enforced, followed by its inimitable Recall:

I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays;
I will bring back my children
After certain days.

* * * * *
Till I make plain the meaning

Of all my thousand years--

Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,

While I fill their eyes with tears.

No, nor yet, despite its healing potency in its own place, the same master craftsman's counsel to the whole restless, uneasy, sedentary brood among his countrymen:

Take of English earth as much
As either hand may rightly clutch,
In the taking of it breathe
Prayer for all who lie beneath--
Lay that earth upon your heart,
And your sickness shall depart!

It shall mightily restrain

Over busy hand and brain,

Till thyself restored shall prove

By what grace the heavens do move.

None of these good things are wholly good for me, here and now, because--because, for example, they recall a prophecy of Mrs. Oldcastle's, and the grounds upon which she based it.

Who should know better than I, that if my life-long mental restlessness chances, when I am less well than usual, or darkness is upon me, to take the form of nostalgia, with clinging, pulling thoughts of England--never of the London I knew so well, but always of the rural England I knew so little, from actual personal experience, yet loved so well--who should know better than I (sinning against the light in the writing of this unpardonably involved sentence) that such restlessness, such nostalgia, are no more based upon reason than is a bilious headache. The philosopher should, and does, scorn such an itch of the mind, well knowing that were he foolish enough to let it affect his actions or guide his conduct he would straightway cease to be a philosopher, and become instead a sort of human shuttlecock, for ever tossing here and there, from pillar to post, under the unreasoning blows of that battledore which had been his mind. Nay, rather the strappado for me, at any time, than abandonment to foolishness so crass as this would be.

Over and above all this I deliberately chose my 'way out,' and it is good. I am assured the life of this my hermitage is one better suited to the man I am to-day than any other life I could hope to lead elsewhere. The mere thought of such a fate as a return to the maelstrom of London journalism--is it not a terror to me, and a thing to chill the heart like ice? Here is peace all about me, at all events, and never a semblance of pretence or sham. And if I, my inner self, cannot find peace here, where peace so clearly is, what should it profit me to go seeking it where peace is not visible at all, and where all that is visible is turmoil, hurry, and fret?

Australia is a good land. Its bush is beautiful; its men and women are sterling and kindly, and its children more blessed (even though, perhaps, rather more indulged) than the children of most other lands. For the wage-earner who earns his living by his hands, and purposes always to do so, I deliberately think this is probably the best country in all the world. It is his own country. He rules it in every sense of the word; and there is no class, institution, or individual exercising any mastery over him. Millionaires are scarce here, and so perhaps are men brilliant in any direction. But really poor folk, hungry folk, folk who must fight for bare sustenance, are not merely scarce--they are unknown in this land.

That is a great thing to be able to say for any country, and surely one which should materially affect the peace of mind of every thinking creature in it. Whilst very human, and hence by no means perfect, the people of this country have about them a pervasive kindliness, which is something finer than simple good nature and hospitality. The people as a whole are sincerely possessed by guiding ideals of kindness and justice. The means by which they endeavour to bring about realisation of their ideals are, I believe, fundamentally wrong and mistaken in a number of cases. Their 'ruling' class is naturally new to the task of ruling, recruited as it is from trade union ranks. But they truly desire, as a people, that every person in their midst should be given a fair, sporting chance in life. 'A fair thing!' In three words one has the national ideal, and who shall say that it is not an admirable one, remembering that its foundation and mainspring are kindness, and if not justice, then desire for justice?

'All this is very worthy, no doubt, but deadly dull. Does it not make for desperate attenuation on the artistic and intellectual side? Beautifully level and even, I dare say; like a paving stone, and about as interesting.'

Thus, my old friend Heron in a recent letter. The dear fellow would smile if I told him he was a member of England's privileged classes. But it is true, of course. Well, Australia has no privileged classes--and no submerged class. I admit that the highest artistic and intellectual levels of the New World are greatly lower than the highest artistic and intellectual levels of the Old World. But what of the average level, speaking of the populace as a whole? How infinitely higher are Australia's lowest levels than the depths, the ultimate pit in Merry England!

I am an uneasy, restless creature, mentally and bodily. I have not quite finished as yet the task, deliberation upon which, when it is completed, is to bring me rest and self-understanding. Vague hungers by the way are incidents of no more permanent importance than one's periodical colds in the head. To complain of intellectual barrenness in any given environment must surely be to confess intellectual barrenness in the complainant. I am well placed here in my bush hermitage. And, in short, Je suis, je reste!


It is just thirteen days since I sat down before these papers, pen in hand; thirteen days since I wrote a word. A few months ago I suppose such delay would have worried me a good deal. To-day, for some reason, the fact seems quite unimportant, and does not distress me in the least. Have I then advanced so far towards self-comprehension as to have attained content of mind? Or is this merely the mental lethargy which follows bodily weakness and exhaustion? I do not know.

I have been ill again. It is a nuisance having to send for a doctor, because his fees are extremely high, and he has to come a good long way. Also, I do not think the good man's visits are of the slightest service to me. I have been living for twelve days exclusively upon milk; a healing diet, I dare say, but I have come to weary of the taste and sight of it, and its effect upon me is the reverse of stimulation. But I am in no wise inclined to cavil, for I am entirely free from pain at the moment; the weather is perfectly glorious, and my neighbours, Blades and his wife, are in their homely fashion extremely kind to me.

My one source of embarrassment is that Ash, the timber-getter in the camp across the creek, is continually bringing me expensive bottles of Simpkins's Red Marvel, his genuine kindness necessitating not only elaborate pretences of regularly consuming his pernicious specific for every human ill, from consumption and 'bad legs' to snake-bites, but also periodical discussions with him of all my confounded symptoms--a topic which wearies me almost to tears. Indeed, I prefer the symptoms of Ash's friend in Newtown--or was it Balmain?--who was 'all et up with sores, something horrible.'

Notwithstanding the brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies of this month, the weather has been exquisitely fresh and cool, and my log fire has never once been allowed to go out, Blades, with the kindness of a man who can respect another's fads, having kept me richly supplied with logs. Mrs. Blades has been feeding Punch for me, and at least twice each day that genial rascal has neighed long and loudly at the slip-rails by the stable, as I believe in friendly greeting to me. I shall, no doubt, presently feel strong enough to walk out and have a talk with Punch.

My last letter from Mrs. Oldcastle, written no more than a month ago--the mail service to Australia is improving--tells me that the park in London is looking lovely, all gay with spring foliage and blooms. She says that unless I intend being rude enough to falsify her prophecy, I must now be preparing to pack my bags and book my passage home. Home! Well, Ash, whose father like himself was born here, calls England 'Home,' I find. This is one of the most lovable habits of the children of our race all over the world.

But obviously it would be a foolish and stultifying thing for me to think of leaving my hermitage. I am not rich enough to indulge in what folk here call 'A trip Home.' And as for finally withdrawing from my 'way out,' and returning to settle in England, how could such a step possibly be justified upon practical grounds? The circumstances which led me to leave England are fundamentally as they were. Mrs. Oldcastle-- But all that was thoroughly thought out before she left the Oronta at Adelaide; and to-day I am less--less able, shall I say, than I was then?

It is singular that these few days in bed should have stolen so much of my strength. The mere exertion, if that it may be called, of writing these few lines leaves me curiously exhausted; yet they have been written extraordinarily slowly for me. My London life made me a quick writer. I wonder if leisure and ease of mind would have made me a good one!

I shall lay these papers aside for another day. Perhaps even for two or three days. Blades has kindly moved my bed for me to the side of the best window, which faces north-east; in the Antipodes, a very pleasant aspect. I shall not actually 'go to bed' again in the day-time, but I think I will lie on the bed beside that open window. Sitting upright at the table here I feel, not pain, but a kind of aching weakness which I escape when lying down.

And yet, though not worried about it, I am rather sorry still farther to neglect this desultory task of mine, even for a day or two. The tree-tops are tossing bravely in the westerly wind this morning, and it is well that my banana clump has all the shelter of the gunyah, or its graceful leaves would suffer. The big cabbage palm outside the verandah makes a curious, dry, parchment-like crackling in the wind. But the three silver tree-ferns have a cool, swishing note, very pleasing to the ear; while for the bush trees beyond, theirs is the steady music of the sea on a sandy beach. I fancy this wind must be a shade too boisterous to be good for Blades's orange orchard. At all events it brings a strong citrus scent this way, after bustling across the side of Blades's hill.

There can be no doubt about it that this mine hermitage is very beautifully situated. Any man of discernment should be well content here to bide. The air about me is full of a nimble sweetness, and as utterly free from impurity as the air one breathes in mid-ocean. More, it is impregnated by the tonic perfumes of all the myriad aromatic growths that surround my cottage. Men say the Australian bush is singularly soulless; starkly devoid of the elements of interest and romance which so strongly endear to the hearts of those dwelling there the countryside in such Old World lands as the England of my birth. Maybe. Yet I have met men, both native-born and alien-born, who have dearly loved Australia; loved the land so well as to return to it, even after many days.

England! Of all the place names, the names of countries that the world has known, was ever one so simply magic as this--England? Surely not. How the tongue caresses it! In the past it has always seemed to me that the question of a man's place of birth was infinitely more significant and important than the mere matter of where he died, of where his bones were laid. And yet, even that matter of the resting-place for a man's bones.... Undoubtedly, there is magic in English earth. England! Thank God I was born in England!


Here the written record of my friend's life ends, though it clearly was not part of his design that this should be its end. Thanks to Mrs. Blades, I have a record of the date of Freydon's last writing. It came two days before his own end. He died alone, and, by the estimate of the doctor from Peterborough, at about daybreak. The doctor thought it likely that he passed away in his sleep; of all ends, the one he would have chosen.

So far as my own observation informs me, the death of Nicholas Freydon was noted by no more than three English journals: two of the oldest morning newspapers in London, and that literary weekly which, despite the commercial fret and fume of our time, has so far preserved itself from the indignity of any attempted blending of books with haberdashery or 'fancy goods.' Had Freydon died in England, I apprehend that a somewhat larger circle of newspaper readers might have been advertised of the fact. But I would not willingly be understood to suggest any kind of reproach in this.

It would probably be correct to say that the writings of Nicholas Freydon never have reached the many-headed public, whose favour gives an author's name weight in circulating libraries and among the gentlemen of 'The Trade.' He had no illusions on this point, and of late years at all events cherished no dreams of fame or immortality. But it is equally correct to say that he was genuinely a man of letters, and there is a circle of more or less fastidious readers who are aware that everything published under Freydon's name was, from the literary standpoint, worth while.

For me the news of Freydon's end had something more than literary significance. There was a period during which we shared an office room, and I recall with peculiar satisfaction the fact that it was no kind of friction or difficulty between us which brought an end to that working companionship. The much longer period over which our friendship extended was marred by no quarrel, nor even by any lapse into mutual indifference. And it may be admitted, in all affectionate respect, that Freydon was not exactly of those who are said to 'get on with any one.'

In the matter of my own recent journey to Australia, the thing which I looked forward to with keenest interest was the opportunity I thought it would afford me of seeing and talking with Freydon, in his chosen retreat in the Antipodes, and judging of his welfare there. And then, on the eve of my departure, came the news that he was no more.

Under the modest roof which had sheltered him, on the coast of northern New South Wales, I presently spent two quiet and thoughtful weeks, given for the most part to the perusal of his papers, which, along with his other personal effects, he had bequeathed to me. (His remaining property was left to the friend whose name is given here as Sidney Heron.)

Before I left that lonely, sunny spot, I had practically decided to pass on to such members of the reading world as might be interested therein what seemed to me the more salient and important of these papers: the bulky document which forms a record of its writer's life. Afterwards, as was inevitable, came much reflection, and at times some hesitancy. But, when all is done, and the proof sheets lie before me, my conviction is that I decided rightly out there in the bush; and that something is inherent in these last writings of Nicholas Freydon's which, properly understood, demands and deserves the test of publication. Therefore, they are made available to the public, in the belief that some may be the richer and the kindlier for reading them.

But, for revising, altering, dove-tailing, or shaping these papers, with a view to the attainment of an orthodox form of literary production, whether in the guise of autobiography, life-story, dramatic fiction, or what not, I desire explicitly to disclaim all thought of such a pretension. As I see it, that would have been an impertinence. I cannot claim to know what Freydon's intentions may have been regarding the ultimate disposition of these papers, having literally no other information on the point than they themselves furnish. Needless to say they would not be published now if I had any kind of reason to believe, or to suspect, that my friend would have resented such a course.

But I will say that, in the writing, I do not think Freydon had considered the question of publication. I do not think that in these last exercises of his pen he wrote consciously for the printer and the public. As those who know his published work are aware, he was much given to literary allusiveness and to quotation. In these papers such characteristic pages did occur, it is true, but in practically every case they had been scrawled over in pencil, and have been studiously omitted by me in my preparation of the manuscript for the press. Here and there it was clear that entire pages had been removed and apparently destroyed by their writer.

Again, in this record, Freydon--always in his writings for the press, literary and journalistic, meticulous in the matter of constructive detail--clearly gave no thought to the arrangement of chapters or other divisions. He wrote of his life, as he has said, to enable himself to see it as a whole. For my part I have felt a natural delicacy about intruding so far as to introduce chapter headings or the like. It was easy for me to note the points at which the writer had laid aside his pen, presumably at the day's end, for there a portion of a sheet was left blank, and sometimes a zig-zag line was drawn. At these points then, where the writer himself paused, I have allowed the pause to appear. And this, in effect, represents the sum of my small contribution to the volume; for I have altered nothing, added nothing, and taken nothing away, beyond those previously mentioned passages (literary rather than documentary) which the author's own pencil had marked for deletion; the removal, where these occurred, of references to myself; and the substitution, where that seemed desirable, of imaginary proper names for the names of actual places and living people as written by my friend.

Two other points, and the task which for me has certainly been a labour of love, is done.

Nicholas Freydon was perfectly correct in his belief that he might have wooed and won the lady who is referred to in these pages as Mrs. Oldcastle. In this, as in other episodes of his life which happen to be known to me, the motives behind his self-abnegation were in the highest degree creditable to him. This I have been asked to say, and I am glad to say it.

Among Freydon's papers was one which, for a time, greatly puzzled me. Once I had learned precisely what this paper meant, it became for me most deeply significant, knowing as I did that it must have been lying where I found it, in a drawer of Freydon's work-table, while he wrote, immediately before his last illness, the final sections of this work, including its penultimate chapter; including, therefore, such passages as these:

Over and above all this I deliberately chose my 'way out,' and it is good. I am assured the life of this my hermitage is one better suited to the man I am to-day than any other life I could hope to lead elsewhere.... And if I, my inner self, cannot find peace here, where peace so clearly is, what should it profit me to go seeking it where peace is not visible at all, and where all that is visible is turmoil, hurry, and fret.... And, in short, Je suis, je reste! ... England! Of all the place names, the names of countries that the world has ever known, was ever one so simply magic as this--England? ...

This document was a certificate entitling Freydon to a passage to England by an Orient line steamer. Upon inquiry at the offices of the line in Sydney, I found that, twenty-eight days before his death, my friend had booked and paid for a passage to London. At his request no berth had been allotted, and no date fixed. But, by virtue of the payment then made, he was assured of a passage home when he should choose to claim it. To my mind this discovery was one of peculiar interest, considered in the light of the concluding pages of that record of Nicholas Freydon's thoughts and experiences which is presented in this volume.