MY LADY NICOTINE
A Study in Smoke
BY J. M. BARRIE
AUTHOR OF "SENTIMENTAL TOMMY," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY M. B. PRENDERGAST
BOSTON KNIGHT AND MILLET PUBLISHERS
I. MATRIMONY AND SMOKING COMPARED 1 II. MY FIRST CIGAR 11 III. THE ARCADIA MIXTURE 18 IV. MY PIPES 27 V. MY TOBACCO-POUCH 38 VI. MY SMOKING-TABLE 45 VII. GILRAY 52 VIII. MARRIOT 60 IX. JIMMY 70 X. SCRYMGEOUR 78 XI. HIS WIFE'S CIGARS 87 XII. GILRAY'S FLOWER-POT 94 XIII. THE GRANDEST SCENE IN HISTORY 103 XIV. MY BROTHER HENRY 116 XV. HOUSE-BOAT "ARCADIA" 124 XVI. THE ARCADIA MIXTURE AGAIN 133 XVII. THE ROMANCE OF A PIPE-CLEANER 143 XXVIII. WHAT COULD HE DO? 151 XIX. PRIMUS 159 XX. PRIMUS TO HIS UNCLE 168 XXI. ENGLISH-GROWN TOBACCO 177 XXII. HOW HEROES SMOKE 186 XXIII. THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS EVE 194 XXIV. NOT THE ARCADIA 202 XXV. A FACE THAT HAUNTED MARRIOT 209 XXVI. ARCADIANS AT BAY 216 XXVII. JIMMY'S DREAM 223 XXVIII. GILRAY'S DREAM 231 XXIX. PETTIGREW'S DREAM 239 XXX. THE MURDER IN THE INN 247 XXXI. THE PERILS OF NOT SMOKING 252 XXXII. MY LAST PIPE 260 XXXIII. WHEN MY WIFE IS ASLEEP AND ALL THE HOUSE IS STILL 269
Half-Title i Frontispiece iv Title-Page v Headpiece to Table of Contents vii Tailpiece to Table of Contents viii Headpiece to List of Illustrations ix Tailpiece to List of Illustrations xiii Headpiece to Chap. I. 1 "As well as a spring bonnet and a nice dress" 6 "There are the Japanese fans on the wall" 7 Tailpiece Chap. I. "My wife puts her hand on my shoulder" 10 Headpiece Chap. II. 11 "At last he jumped up" 14 Box of cigars 15 Tailpiece Chap. II. "I firmly lighted my first cigar" 17 Headpiece Chap. III. "Jimmy pins a notice on his door" 18 "We are only to be distinguished by our pipes" 20 The Arcadia Mixture 21 Tailpiece Chap. III. 26 Headpiece Chap. IV. "Oh, see what I have done" 27 "I fell in love with two little meerschaums" 33 Pipes and pouch 36 Tailpiece Chap. IV. 37 Headpiece Chap. V. "They ... made tongs of their knitting-needles to lift it" 38 "I ... cast my old pouch out at the window" 40, 41 "It never quite recovered from its night in the rain" 43 Tailpiece Chap. V. 44 Headpiece Chap VI. "My Smoking-Table" 45 "Sometimes I had knocked it over accidentally" 48 Tailpiece Chap. VI. 51 Headpiece Chap. VII. "We met first in the Merediths' house-boat" 52 "He 'strode away blowing great clouds into the air,'" 57 Tailpiece Chap. VII. "The Arcadia had him for its own" 59 Headpiece Chap. VIII. "I let him talk on" 60 Pipes and jar of spills 62, 63 Tray of pipes and cigars 64 "I would ... light him to his sleeping-chamber with a spill" 68 Tailpiece Chap. VIII. 69 Headpiece Chap. IX. "The stem was a long cherry-wood" 70 "In time ... the Arcadia Mixture made him more and more like the rest of us" 71 "A score of smaller letters were tumbling about my feet" 74 Tailpiece Chap. IX. "Mothers' pets" 77 Headpiece Chap. X. "Scrymgeour was an artist" 78 "With shadowy reptiles crawling across the panels" 81 "Scrymgeour sprang like an acrobat into a Japanese dressing-gown" 84 Tailpiece Chap. X. 86 Headpiece Chap. XI. "His wife's cigars" 87 "A packet of Celebros alighted on my head" 88 "I told her the cigars were excellent" 90 Tailpiece Chap. XI. 93 Headpiece Chap. XII. "Gilray's flower-pot" 94 "Then Arcadians would drop in" 97 "I wrote to him" 99 Tailpiece Chap. XII. "The can nearly fell from my hand" 102 Headpiece Chap. XIII. 103 "Raleigh ... introduced tobacco into this country" 105 The Arcadia Mixture 111 "Ned Alleyn goes from tavern to tavern picking out his men" 113 Tailpiece Chap. XIII. 115 Headpiece Chap. XIV. "I was testing some new Cabanas" 116 "A few weeks later some one tapped me on the shoulder" 118 "Naturally in the circumstances you did not want to talk about Henry" 120 Tailpiece Chap. XIV. 123 Headpiece Chap. XV. "House-boat Arcadia" 124 "I caught my straw hat disappearing on the wings of the wind" 126 "It was the boy come back with the vegetables" 129 Tailpiece Chap. XV. "There was a row all round, which resulted in our division into five parties" 132 Headpiece Chap. XVI. "The Arcadia Mixture again" 133 "On the open window ... stood a round tin of tobacco" 135 "A pipe of the Mixture" 138 "The lady was making pretty faces with a cigarette in her mouth" 139 Tailpiece Chap. XVI. 142 Headpiece Chap. XVII. "He was in love again" 143 "I heard him walking up and down the deck" 145 Tailpiece Chap. XVII. "He took the wire off me and used it to clean his pipe" 150 Headpiece Chap. XVIII. "I had walked from Spondinig to Franzenshohe" 151 "On the middle of the plank she had turned to kiss her hand" 152 "Then she burst into tears" 157 Tailpiece Chap. XVIII. "A wall has risen up between us" 158 Headpiece Chap. XIX. "Primus" 159 "Many tall hats struck, to topple in the dust" 161 "Running after sheep, from which ladies were flying" 163 "I should like to write you a line" 165 Tailpiece Chap. XIX. "I am, respected sir, your diligent pupil" 167 Headpiece Chap. XX. 168 "Reading Primus's letters" 171 Tailpiece Chap. XX. 176 Headpiece Chap. XXI. "English-grown tobacco" 177 "I smoked my third cigar very slowly" 182 Tailpiece Chap. XXI. 185 Headpiece Chap. XXII. "How heroes smoke" 186 "Once, indeed, we do see Strathmore smoking a good cigar" 189 "A half-smoked cigar" 190 "The tall, scornful gentleman who leans lazily against the door" 192 Tailpiece Chap. XXII. 193 Headpiece Chap. XXIII. 194 "The ghost of Christmas eve" 195 "My pipe" 199 "My brier, which I found beneath my pillow" 200 Tailpiece Chap. XXIII. 201 Headpiece Chap. XXIV. "But the pipes were old friends" 202 "It had the paper in its mouth" 205 Tailpiece Chap. XXIV. "I was pleased that I had lost" 208 Headpiece Chap. XXV. "A face that haunted Marriot" 209 "There was the French girl at Algiers" 212 Tailpiece Chap. XXV. 215 Headpiece Chap. XXVI. "Arcadians at bay" 216 Pipes and tobacco-jar 220 Tailpiece Chap. XXVI. "Jimmy began as follows" 222 Headpiece Chap. XXVII. "Jimmy's dream" 223 Pipes 226 "Council for defence calls attention to the prisoner's high and unblemished character" 229 Tailpiece Chap. XXVII. 230 Headpiece Chap. XXVIII. 231 "These indefatigable amateurs began to dance a minuet" 235 A friendly favor 237 Tailpiece Chap. XXVIII. 238 Headpiece Chap. XXIX. "Pettigrew's dream" 239 "He went round the morning-room" 241 "His wife ... filled his pipe for him" 243 "Mrs. Pettigrew sent one of the children to the study" 244 Tailpiece Chap. XXIX. "I awarded the tin of Arcadia to Pettigrew" 246 Headpiece Chap. XXX. "Sometimes I think it is all a dream" 247 Tailpiece Chap. XXX. 251 Headpiece Chap. XXXI. "They thought I had weakly yielded" 252 "They went one night in a body to Pettigrew's" 254 Tailpiece Chap. XXXI. 259 Headpiece Chap. XXXII. 260 "Then we began to smoke" 262 "I conjured up the face of a lady" 265 "Not even Scrymgeour knew what my pouch had been to me" 267 Tailpiece Chap. XXXII. 268 Headpiece Chap. XXXIII. "When my wife is asleep and all the house is still" 269 "The man through the wall" 272 Pipes 275 Tailpiece Chap. XXXIII. 276
MY LADY NICOTINE.
MATRIMONY AND SMOKING COMPARED.
The circumstances in which I gave up smoking were these:
I was a mere bachelor, drifting toward what I now see to be a tragic middle age. I had become so accustomed to smoke issuing from my mouth that I felt incomplete without it; indeed, the time came when I could refrain from smoking if doing nothing else, but hardly during the hours of toil. To lay aside my pipe was to find myself soon afterward wandering restlessly round my table. No blind beggar was ever more abjectly led by his dog, or more loath to cut the string.
I am much better without tobacco, and already have a difficulty in sympathizing with the man I used to be. Even to call him up, as it were, and regard him without prejudice is a difficult task, for we forget the old selves on whom we have turned our backs, as we forget a street that has been reconstructed. Does the freed slave always shiver at the crack of a whip? I fancy not, for I recall but dimly, and without acute suffering, the horrors of my smoking days. There were nights when I awoke with a pain at my heart that made me hold my breath. I did not dare move. After perhaps ten minutes of dread, I would shift my position an inch at a time. Less frequently I felt this sting in the daytime, and believed I was dying while my friends were talking to me. I never mentioned these experiences to a human being; indeed, though a medical man was among my companions, I cunningly deceived him on the rare occasions when he questioned me about the amount of tobacco I was consuming weekly. Often in the dark I not only vowed to give up smoking, but wondered why I cared for it. Next morning I went straight from breakfast to my pipe, without the smallest struggle with myself. Latterly I knew, while resolving to break myself of the habit, that I would be better employed trying to sleep. I had elaborate ways of cheating myself, but it became disagreeable to me to know how many ounces of tobacco I was smoking weekly. Often I smoked cigarettes to reduce the number of my cigars.
On the other hand, if these sharp pains be excepted, I felt quite well. My appetite was as good as it is now, and I worked as cheerfully and certainly harder. To some slight extent, I believe, I experienced the same pains in my boyhood, before I smoked, and I am not an absolute stranger to them yet. They were most frequent in my smoking days, but I have no other reason for charging them to tobacco. Possibly a doctor who was himself a smoker would have pooh-poohed them. Nevertheless, I have lighted my pipe, and then, as I may say, hearkened for them. At the first intimation that they were coming I laid the pipe down and ceased to smoke—until they had passed.
I will not admit that, once sure it was doing me harm, I could not, unaided, have given up tobacco. But I was reluctant to make sure. I should like to say that I left off smoking because I considered it a mean form of slavery, to be condemned for moral as well as physical reasons; but though now I clearly see the folly of smoking, I was blind to it for some months after I had smoked my last pipe. I gave up my most delightful solace, as I regarded it, for no other reason than that the lady who was willing to fling herself away on me said that I must choose between it and her. This deferred our marriage for six months.
I have now come, as those who read will see, to look upon smoking with my wife's eyes. My old bachelor friends complain because I do not allow smoking in the house, but I am always ready to explain my position, and I have not an atom of pity for them. If I cannot smoke here neither shall they. When I visit them in the old inn they take a poor revenge by blowing rings of smoke almost in my face. This ambition to blow rings is the most ignoble known to man. Once I was a member of a club for smokers, where we practised blowing rings. The most successful got a box of cigars as a prize at the end of the year. Those were days! Often I think wistfully of them. We met in a cozy room off the Strand. How well I can picture it still. Time-tables lying everywhere, with which we could light our pipes. Some smoked clays, but for the Arcadia Mixture give me a brier. My brier was the sweetest ever known. It is strange now to recall a time when a pipe seemed to be my best friend.
My present state is so happy that I can only look back with wonder at my hesitation to enter upon it. Our house was taken while I was still arguing that it would be dangerous to break myself of smoking all at once. At that time my ideal of married life was not what it is now, and I remember Jimmy's persuading me to fix on this house, because the large room upstairs with the three windows was a smoker's dream. He pictured himself and me there in the summer-time blowing rings, with our coats off and our feet out at the windows; and he said that the closet at the back looking on to a blank wall would make a charming drawing-room for my wife. For the moment his enthusiasm carried me away, but I see now how selfish it was, and I have before me the face of Jimmy when he paid us his first visit and found that the closet was not the drawing-room. Jimmy is a fair specimen of a man, not without parts, destroyed by devotion to his pipe. To this day he thinks that mantelpiece vases are meant for holding pipe-lights in. We are almost certain that when he stays with us he smokes in his bedroom—a detestable practice that I cannot permit.
Two cigars a day at ninepence apiece come to L27 7s. 6d. yearly, and four ounces of tobacco a week at nine shillings a pound come to L5 17s. yearly. That makes L33 4s. 6d. When we calculate the yearly expense of tobacco in this way, we are naturally taken aback, and our extravagance shocks us more after we have considered how much more satisfactorily the money might have been spent. With L33 4s. 6d. you can buy new Oriental rugs for the drawing-room, as well as a spring bonnet and a nice dress. These are things that give permanent pleasure, whereas you have no interest in a cigar after flinging away the stump. Judging by myself, I should say that it was want of thought rather than selfishness that makes heavy smokers of so many bachelors. Once a man marries, his eyes are opened to many things that he was quite unaware of previously, among them being the delight of adding an article of furniture to the drawing-room every month, and having a bedroom in pink and gold, the door of which is always kept locked. If men would only consider that every cigar they smoke would buy part of a new piano-stool in terra-cotta plush, and that for every pound tin of tobacco purchased away goes a vase for growing dead geraniums in, they would surely hesitate. They do not consider, however, until they marry, and then they are forced to it. For my own part, I fail to see why bachelors should be allowed to smoke as much as they like, when we are debarred from it.
The very smell of tobacco is abominable, for one cannot get it out of the curtains, and there is little pleasure in existence unless the curtains are all right. As for a cigar after dinner, it only makes you dull and sleepy and disinclined for ladies' society. A far more delightful way of spending the evening is to go straight from dinner to the drawing-room and have a little music. It calms the mind to listen to your wife's niece singing, "Oh, that we two were Maying!" Even if you are not musical, as is the case with me, there is a great deal in the drawing-room to refresh you. There are the Japanese fans on the wall, which are things of beauty, though your artistic taste may not be sufficiently educated to let you know it except by hearsay; and it is pleasant to feel that they were bought with money which, in the foolish old days, would have been squandered on a box of cigars. In like manner every pretty trifle in the room reminds you how much wiser you are now than you used to be. It is even gratifying to stand in summer at the drawing-room window and watch the very cabbies passing with cigars in their mouths. At the same time, if I had the making of the laws I would prohibit people's smoking in the street. If they are married men, they are smoking drawing-room fire-screens and mantelpiece borders for the pink-and-gold room. If they are bachelors, it is a scandal that bachelors should get the best of everything.
Nothing is more pitiable than the way some men of my acquaintance enslave themselves to tobacco.
Nay, worse, they make an idol of some one particular tobacco. I know a man who considers a certain mixture so superior to all others that he will walk three miles for it. Surely every one will admit that this is lamentable. It is not even a good mixture, for I used to try it occasionally; and if there is one man in London who knows tobaccoes it is myself. There is only one mixture in London deserving the adjective superb. I will not say where it is to be got, for the result would certainly be that many foolish men would smoke more than ever; but I never knew anything to compare to it. It is deliciously mild yet full of fragrance, and it never burns the tongue. If you try it once you smoke it ever afterward. It clears the brain and soothes the temper. When I went away for a holiday anywhere I took as much of that exquisite health-giving mixture as I thought would last me the whole time, but I always ran out of it. Then I telegraphed to London for more, and was miserable until it arrived. How I tore the lid off the canister! That is a tobacco to live for. But I am better without it.
Occasionally I feel a little depressed after dinner still, without being able to say why, and if my wife has left me, I wander about the room restlessly, like one who misses something. Usually, however, she takes me with her to the drawing-room, and reads aloud her delightfully long home-letters or plays soft music to me. If the music be sweet and sad it takes me away to a stair in an inn, which I climb gayly, and shake open a heavy door on the top floor, and turn up the gas. It is a little room I am in once again, and very dusty. A pile of papers and magazines stands as high as a table in the corner furthest from the door. The cane chair shows the exact shape of Marriot's back. What is left (after lighting the fire) of a frame picture lies on the hearth-rug. Gilray walks in uninvited. He has left word that his visitors are to be sent on to me. The room fills. My hand feels along the mantelpiece for a brown jar. The jar is between my knees; I fill my pipe....
After a time the music ceases, and my wife puts her hand on my shoulder. Perhaps I start a little, and then she says I have been asleep. This is the book of my dreams.
MY FIRST CIGAR.
It was not in my chambers, but three hundred miles further north, that I learned to smoke. I think I may say with confidence that a first cigar was never smoked in such circumstances before.
At that time I was a school-boy, living with my brother, who was a man. People mistook our relations, and thought I was his son. They would ask me how my father was, and when he heard of this he scowled at me. Even to this day I look so young that people who remember me as a boy now think I must be that boy's younger brother. I shall tell presently of a strange mistake of this kind, but at present I am thinking of the evening when my brother's eldest daughter was born—perhaps the most trying evening he and I ever passed together. So far as I knew, the affair was very sudden, and I felt sorry for my brother as well as for myself.
We sat together in the study, he on an arm-chair drawn near the fire and I on the couch. I cannot say now at what time I began to have an inkling that there was something wrong. It came upon me gradually and made me very uncomfortable, though of course I did not show this. I heard people going up and down stairs, but I was not at that time naturally suspicious. Comparatively early in the evening I felt that my brother had something on his mind. As a rule, when we were left together, he yawned or drummed with his fingers on the arm of his chair to show that he did not feel uncomfortable, or I made a pretence of being at ease by playing with the dog or saying that the room was close. Then one of us would rise, remark that he had left his book in the dining-room, and go away to look for it, taking care not to come back till the other had gone. In this crafty way we helped each other. On that occasion, however, he did not adopt any of the usual methods, and though I went up to my bedroom several times and listened through the wall, I heard nothing. At last some one told me not to go upstairs, and I returned to the study, feeling that I now knew the worst. He was still in the arm-chair, and I again took to the couch. I could see by the way he looked at me over his pipe that he was wondering whether I knew anything. I don't think I ever liked my brother better than on that night; and I wanted him to understand that, whatever happened, it would make no difference between us. But the affair upstairs was too delicate to talk of, and all I could do was to try to keep his mind from brooding on it, by making him tell me things about politics. This is the kind of man my brother is. He is an astonishing master of facts, and I suppose he never read a book yet, from a Blue Book to a volume of verse, without catching the author in error about something. He reads books for that purpose. As a rule I avoided argument with him, because he was disappointed if I was right and stormed if I was wrong. It was therefore a dangerous thing to begin on politics, but I thought the circumstances warranted it. To my surprise he answered me in a rambling manner, occasionally breaking off in the middle of a sentence and seeming to listen for something. I tried him on history, and mentioned 1822 as the date of the battle of Waterloo, merely to give him his opportunity. But he let it pass. After that there was silence. By and by he rose from his chair, apparently to leave the room, and then sat down again, as if he had thought better of it. He did this several times, always eying me narrowly. Wondering how I could make it easier for him, I took up a book and pretended to read with deep attention, meaning to show him that he could go away if he liked without my noticing it. At last he jumped up, and, looking at me boldly, as if to show that the house was his and he could do what he liked in it, went heavily from the room. As soon as he was gone I laid down my book. I was now in a state of nervous excitement, though outwardly I was quite calm. I took a look at him as he went up the stairs, and noticed that he had slipped off his shoes on the bottom step. All haughtiness had left him now.
In a little while he came back. He found me reading. He lighted his pipe and pretended to read too. I shall never forget that my book was "Anne Judge, Spinster," while his was a volume of "Blackwood." Every five minutes his pipe went out, and sometimes the book lay neglected on his knee as he stared at the fire. Then he would go out for five minutes and come back again. It was late now, and I felt that I should like to go to my bedroom and lock myself in. That, however, would have been selfish; so we sat on defiantly. At last he started from his chair as some one knocked at the door. I heard several people talking, and then loud above their voices a younger one.
When I came to myself, the first thing I thought was that they would ask me to hold it. Then I remembered, with another sinking at the heart, that they might want to call it after me. These, of course, were selfish reflections; but my position was a trying one. The question was, what was the proper thing for me to do? I told myself that my brother might come back at any moment, and all I thought of after that was what I should say to him. I had an idea that I ought to congratulate him, but it seemed a brutal thing to do. I had not made up my mind when I heard him coming down. He was laughing and joking in what seemed to me a flippant kind of way, considering the circumstances. When his hand touched the door I snatched at my book and read as hard as I could. He was swaggering a little as he entered, but the swagger went out of him as soon as his eye fell on me. I fancy he had come down to tell me, and now he did not know how to begin. He walked up and down the room restlessly, looking at me as he walked the one way, while I looked at him as he walked the other way. At length he sat down again and took up his book. He did not try to smoke. The silence was something terrible; nothing was to be heard but an occasional cinder falling from the grate. This lasted, I should say, for twenty minutes, and then he closed his book and flung it on the table. I saw that the game was up, and closed "Anne Judge, Spinster." Then he said, with affected jocularity: "Well, young man, do you know that you are an uncle?" There was silence again, for I was still trying to think out some appropriate remark. After a time I said, in a weak voice. "Boy or girl?" "Girl," he answered. Then I thought hard again, and all at once remembered something. "Both doing well?" I whispered. "Yes," he said sternly. I felt that something great was expected of me, but I could not jump up and wring his hand. I was an uncle. I stretched out my arm toward the cigar-box, and firmly lighted my first cigar.
THE ARCADIA MIXTURE.
Darkness comes, and with it the porter to light our stair gas. He vanishes into his box. Already the inn is so quiet that the tap of a pipe on a window-sill startles all the sparrows in the quadrangle. The men on my stair emerged from their holes. Scrymgeour, in a dressing-gown, pushes open the door of the boudoir on the first floor, and climbs lazily. The sentimental face and the clay with a crack in it are Marriot's. Gilray, who has been rehearsing his part in the new original comedy from the Icelandic, ceases muttering and feels his way along his dark lobby. Jimmy pins a notice on his door, "Called away on business," and crosses to me. Soon we are all in the old room again, Jimmy on the hearth-rug, Marriot in the cane chair; the curtains are pinned together with a pen-nib, and the five of us are smoking the Arcadia Mixture.
Pettigrew will be welcomed if he comes, but he is a married man, and we seldom see him nowadays. Others will be regarded as intruders. If they are smoking common tobaccoes, they must either be allowed to try ours or requested to withdraw. One need only put his head in at my door to realize that tobaccoes are of two kinds, the Arcadia and others. No one who smokes the Arcadia would ever attempt to describe its delights, for his pipe would be certain to go out. When he was at school, Jimmy Moggridge smoked a cane chair, and he has since said that from cane to ordinary mixtures was not so noticeable as the change from ordinary mixtures to the Arcadia. I ask no one to believe this, for the confirmed smoker in Arcadia detests arguing with anybody about anything. Were I anxious to prove Jimmy's statement, I would merely give you the only address at which the Arcadia is to be had. But that I will not do. It would be as rash as proposing a man with whom I am unacquainted for my club. You may not be worthy to smoke the Arcadia Mixture.
Even though I became attached to you, I might not like to take the responsibility of introducing you to the Arcadia. This mixture has an extraordinary effect upon character, and probably you want to remain as you are. Before I discovered the Arcadia, and communicated it to the other five—including Pettigrew—we had all distinct individualities, but now, except in appearance—and the Arcadia even tells on that—we are as like as holly leaves. We have the same habits, the same ways of looking at things, the same satisfaction in each other. No doubt we are not yet absolutely alike, indeed I intend to prove this, but in given circumstances we would probably do the same thing, and, furthermore, it would be what other people would not do. Thus when we are together we are only to be distinguished by our pipes; but any one of us in the company of persons who smoke other tobaccoes would be considered highly original. He would be a pigtail in Europe.
If you meet in company a man who has ideas and is not shy, yet refuses absolutely to be drawn into talk, you may set him down as one of us. Among the first effects of the Arcadia is to put an end to jabber. Gilray had at one time the reputation of being such a brilliant talker that Arcadians locked their doors on him, but now he is a man that can be invited anywhere. The Arcadia is entirely responsible for the change. Perhaps I myself am the most silent of our company, and hostesses usually think me shy. They ask ladies to draw me out, and when the ladies find me as hopeless as a sulky drawer, they call me stupid. The charge may be true, but I do not resent it, for I smoke the Arcadia Mixture, and am consequently indifferent to abuse.
I willingly gibbet myself to show how reticent the Arcadia makes us. It happens that I have a connection with Nottingham, and whenever a man mentions Nottingham to me, with a certain gleam in his eye, I know that he wants to discuss the lace trade. But it is a curious fact that the aggressive talker constantly mixes up Nottingham and Northampton. "Oh, you know Nottingham," he says, interestedly; "and how do you like Labouchere for a member?" Do you think I put him right? Do you imagine me thirsting to tell that Mr. Labouchere is the Christian member for Northampton? Do you suppose me swift to explain that Mr. Broadhurst is one of the Nottingham members, and that the "Nottingham lambs" are notorious in the history of political elections? Do you fancy me explaining that he is quite right in saying that Nottingham has a large market-place? Do you see me drawn into half an hour's talk about Robin Hood? That is not my way. I merely reply that we like Mr. Labouchere pretty well. It may be said that I gain nothing by this; that the talker will be as curious about Northampton as he would have been about Nottingham, and that Bradlaugh and Labouchere and boots will serve his turn quite as well as Broadhurst and lace and Robin Hood. But that is not so. Beginning on Northampton in the most confident manner, it suddenly flashes across him that he has mistaken Northampton for Nottingham. "How foolish of me!" he says. I maintain a severe silence. He is annoyed. My experience of talkers tells me that nothing annoys them so much as a blunder of this kind. From the coldly polite way in which I have taken the talker's remarks, he discovers the value I put upon them, and after that, if he has a neighbor on the other side, he leaves me alone.
Enough has been said to show that the Arcadian's golden rule is to be careful about what he says. This does not mean that he is to say nothing. As society is at present constituted you are bound to make an occasional remark. But you need not make it rashly. It has been said somewhere that it would be well for talkative persons to count twenty, or to go over the alphabet, before they let fall the observation that trembles on their lips. The non-talker has no taste for such an unintellectual exercise. At the same time he must not hesitate too long, for, of course, it is to his advantage to introduce the subject. He ought to think out a topic of which his neighbor will not be able to make very much. To begin on the fall of snow, or the number of tons of turkeys consumed on Christmas Day, as stated in the Daily Telegraph, is to deserve your fate. If you are at a dinner-party of men only, take your host aside, and in a few well-considered sentences find out from him what kind of men you are to sit between during dinner. Perhaps one of them is an African traveller. A knowledge of this prevents your playing into his hands, by remarking that the papers are full of the relief of Emin Pasha. These private inquiries will also save you from talking about Mr. Chamberlain to a neighbor who turns out to be the son of a Birmingham elector. Allow that man his chance, and he will not only give you the Birmingham gossip, but what individual electors said about Mr. Chamberlain to the banker or the tailor, and what the grocer did the moment the poll was declared, with particulars about the antiquity of Birmingham and the fishing to be had in the neighborhood. What you ought to do is to talk about Emin Pasha to this man, and to the traveller about Mr. Chamberlain, taking care, of course, to speak in a low voice. In that way you may have comparative peace. Everything, however, depends on the calibre of your neighbors. If they agree to look upon you as an honorable antagonist, and so to fight fair, the victory will be to him who deserves it; that is to say, to the craftier man of the two. But talkers, as a rule, do not fight fair. They consider silent men their prey. It will thus be seen that I distinguish between talkers, admitting that some of them are worse than others. The lowest in the social scale is he who stabs you in the back, as it were, instead of crossing swords. If one of the gentlemen introduced to you is of that type, he will not be ashamed to say, "Speaking of Emin Pasha, I wonder if Mr. Chamberlain is interested in the relief expedition. I don't know if I told you that my father——" and there he is, fairly on horseback. It is seldom of any use to tempt him into other channels. Better turn to your traveller and let him describe the different routes to Egyptian Equatorial Provinces, with his own views thereon. Allow him even to draw a map of Africa with a fork on the table-cloth. A talker of this kind is too full of his subject to insist upon answering questions, so that he does not trouble you much. It is his own dinner that is spoiled rather than yours. Treat in the same way as the Chamberlain talker the man who sits down beside you and begins, "Remarkable man, Mr. Gladstone."
There was a ventilator in my room, which sometimes said "Crik-crik!" reminding us that no one had spoken for an hour. Occasionally, however, we had lapses of speech, when Gilray might tell over again—though not quite as I mean to tell it—the story of his first pipeful of the Arcadia, or Scrymgeour, the travelled man, would give us the list of famous places in Europe where he had smoked. But, as a rule, none of us paid much attention to what the others said, and after the last pipe the room emptied—unless Marriot insisted on staying behind to bore me with his scruples—by first one and then another putting his pipe into his pocket and walking silently out of the room.
In a select company of scoffers my brier was known as the Mermaid. The mouth-piece was a cigarette-holder, and months of unwearied practice were required before you found the angle at which the bowl did not drop off.
This brings me to one of the many advantages that my brier had over all other pipes. It has given me a reputation for gallantry, to which without it I fear I could lay no claim. I used to have a passion for repartee, especially in the society of ladies. But it is with me as with many other men of parts whose wit has ever to be fired by a long fuse: my best things strike me as I wend my way home. This embittered my early days; and not till the pride of youth had been tamed could I stop to lay in a stock of repartee on likely subjects the night before. Then my pipe helped me. It was the apparatus that carried me to my prettiest compliment. Having exposed my pipe in some prominent place where it could hardly escape notice, I took measures for insuring a visit from a lady, young, graceful, accomplished. Or I might have it ready for a chance visitor. On her arrival, I conducted her to a seat near my pipe. It is not good to hurry on to the repartee at once; so I talked for a time of the weather, the theatres, the new novel. I kept my eye on her; and by and by she began to look about her. She observed the strange-looking pipe. Now is the critical moment. It is possible that she may pass it by without remark, in which case all is lost; but experience has shown me that four times out of six she touches it in assumed horror, to pass some humorous remark. Off tumbles the bowl. "Oh," she exclaims, "see what I have done! I am so sorry!" I pull myself together. "Madame," I reply calmly, and bowing low, "what else was to be expected? You came near my pipe—and it lost its head." She blushes, but cannot help being pleased; and I set my pipe for the next visitor. By the help of a note-book, of course, I guarded myself against paying this very neat compliment to any person more than once. However, after I smoked the Arcadia the desire to pay ladies compliments went from me.
Journeying back into the past, I come to a time when my pipe had a mouth-piece of fine amber. The bowl and the rest of the stem were of brier, but it was a gentlemanly pipe, without silver mountings. Such tobacco I revelled in as may have filled the pouch of Pan as he lay smoking on the mountain-sides. Once I saw a beautiful woman with brown hair, in and out of which the rays of a morning sun played hide-and-seek, that might not unworthily have been compared to it. Beguiled by the exquisite Arcadia, the days and the years passed from me in delicate rings of smoke, and I contentedly watched them sailing to the skies. How continuous was the line of those lovely circles, and how straight! One could have passed an iron rod through them from end to end. But one day I had a harsh awakening. I bit the amber mouth-piece of my pipe through, and life was never the same again.
It is strange how attached we become to old friends, though they be but inanimate objects. The old pipe put aside, I turned to a meerschaum, which had been presented to me years before, with the caution that I must not smoke it unless I wore kid gloves. There was no savor in that pipe for me. I tried another brier, and it made me unhappy. Clays would not keep in with me. It seemed as if they knew I was hankering after the old pipe, and went out in disgust. Then I got a new amber mouth-piece for my first love. In a week I had bitten that through too, and in an over-anxious attempt to file off the ragged edges I broke the screw. Moralists have said that the smoker who has no thought but for his pipe never breaks it; that it is he only who while smoking concentrates his mind on some less worthy object that sends his teeth through the amber. This may be so; for I am a philosopher, and when working out new theories I may have been careless even of that which inspired them most.
After this second accident nothing went well with me or with my pipe. I took the mouthpieces out of other pipes and fixed them on to the Mermaid. In a little while one of them became too wide; another broke as I was screwing it more firmly in. Then the bowl cracked at the rim and split at the bottom. This was an annoyance until I found out what was wrong and plugged up the fissures with sealing-wax. The wax melted and dropped upon my clothes after a time; but it was easily renewed.
It was now that I had the happy thought of bringing a cigarette-holder to my assistance. But of course one cannot make a pipe-stem out of a cigarette-holder all at once. The thread you wind round the screw has a disappointing way of coming undone, when down falls the bowl, with an escape of sparks. Twisting a piece of paper round the screw is an improvement; but, until you have acquired the knack, the operation has to be renewed every time you relight your pipe. This involves a sad loss of time, and in my case it afforded a butt for the dull wit of visitors. Otherwise I found it satisfactory, and I was soon astonishingly adept at making paper screws. Eventually my brier became as serviceable as formerly, though not, perhaps, so handsome. I fastened on the holder with sealing-wax, and often a week passed without my having to renew the joint.
It was no easy matter lighting a pipe like mine, especially when I had no matches. I always meant to buy a number of boxes, but somehow I put off doing it. Occasionally I found a box of vestas on my mantelpiece, which some caller had left there by mistake, or sympathizing, perhaps, with my case; but they were such a novelty that I never felt quite at home with them. Generally I remembered they were there just after my pipe was lighted.
When I kept them in mind and looked forward to using them, they were at the other side of the room, and it would have been a pity to get up for them. Besides, the most convenient medium for lighting one's pipe is paper, after all; and if you have not an old envelope in your pocket, there is probably a photograph standing on the mantelpiece. It is convenient to have the magazines lying handy; or a page from a book—hand-made paper burns beautifully—will do. To be sure, there is the lighting of your paper. For this your lamp is practically useless, standing in the middle of the table, while you are in an easy-chair by the fireside; and as for the tape-and-spark contrivance, it is the introduction of machinery into the softest joys of life. The fire is best. It is near you, and you drop your burning spill into it with a minimum waste of energy. The proper fire for pipes is one in a cheerful blaze. If your spill is carelessly constructed the flame runs up into your fingers before you know what you are doing, so that it is as well to marry and get your wife to make spills for you. Before you begin to smoke, scatter these about the fireplace. Then you will be able to reach them without rising. The irritating fire is the one that has burned low—when the coals are more than half cinders, and cling to each other in fear of death. With such a fire it is no use attempting to light a pipe all at once. Your better course now is to drop little bits of paper into the likely places in the fire, and have a spill ready to apply to the one that lights first. It is an anxious moment, for they may merely shrivel up sullenly without catching fire, and in that case some men lose their tempers. Bad to lose your temper over your pipe——
No pipe really ever rivalled the brier in my affections, though I can recall a mad month when I fell in love with two little meerschaums, which I christened Romulus and Remus. They lay together in one case in Regent Street, and it was with difficulty that I could pass the shop without going in. Often I took side streets to escape their glances, but at last I asked the price. It startled me, and I hurried home to the brier.
I forget when it was that a sort of compromise struck me. This was that I should present the pipes to my brother as a birthday gift. Did I really mean to do this, or was I only trying to cheat my conscience? Who can tell? I hurried again into Regent Street. There they were, more beautiful than ever. I hovered about the shop for quite half an hour that day. My indecision and vacillation were pitiful. Buttoning up my coat, I would rush from the window, only to find myself back again in five minutes. Sometimes I had my hand on the shop door. Then I tore it away and hurried into Oxford Street. Then I slunk back again. Self whispered, "Buy them—for your brother." Conscience said, "Go home." At last I braced myself up for a magnificent effort, and jumped into a 'bus bound for London Bridge. This saved me for the time.
I now began to calculate how I could become owner of the meerschaums—prior to dispatching them by parcel-post to my brother—without paying for them. That was my way of putting it. I calculated that by giving up my daily paper I should save thirteen shillings in six months. After all, why should I take in a daily paper? To read through columns of public speeches and police cases and murders in Paris is only to squander valuable time. Now, when I left home I promised my father not to waste my time. My father had been very good to me; why, then, should I do that which I had promised him not to do? Then, again, there were the theatres. During the past six months I had spent several pounds on theatres. Was this right? My mother, who has never, I think, been in a theatre, strongly advised me against frequenting such places. I did not take this much to heart at the time. Theatres did not seem to me to be immoral. But, after all, my mother is older than I am; and who am I, to set my views up against hers? By avoiding the theatres for the next six months, I am (already), say, three pounds to the good. I had been frittering away my money, too, on luxuries; and luxuries are effeminate. Thinking the matter over temperately and calmly in that way, I saw that I should be thoughtfully saving money, instead of spending it, by buying Romulus and Remus, as I already called them. At the same time, I should be gratifying my father and my mother, and leading a higher and a nobler life. Even then I do not know that I should have bought the pipes until the six months were up, had I not been driven to it by jealousy. On my life, love for a pipe is ever like love for a woman, though they say it is not so acute. Many a man thinks there is no haste to propose until he sees a hated rival approaching. Even if he is not in a hurry for the lady himself, he loathes the idea of her giving herself, in a moment of madness, to that other fellow. Rather than allow that, he proposes himself, and so insures her happiness. It was so with me. Romulus and Remus were taken from the window to show to a black-bearded, swarthy man, whom I suspected of designs upon them the moment he entered the shop. Ah, the agony of waiting until he came out! He was not worthy of them. I never knew how much I loved them until I had nearly lost them. As soon as he was gone I asked if he had priced them, and was told that he had. He was to call again to-morrow. I left a deposit of a guinea, hurried home for more money, and that night Romulus and Remus were mine. But I never really loved them as I loved my brier.
I once knew a lady who said of her husband that he looked nice when sitting with a rug over him. My female relatives seemed to have the same opinion of my tobacco-pouch; for they never saw it, even in my own room, without putting a book or pamphlet over it. They called it "that thing," and made tongs of their knitting-needles to lift it; and when I indignantly returned it to my pocket, they raised their hands to signify that I would not listen to reason. It seemed to come natural to other persons to present me with new tobacco-pouches, until I had nearly a score lying neglected in drawers. But I am not the man to desert an old friend that has been with me everywhere and thoroughly knows my ways. Once, indeed, I came near to being unfaithful to my tobacco-pouch, and I mean to tell how—partly as a punishment to myself.
The incident took place several years ago. Gilray and I had set out on a walking tour of the Shakespeare country; but we separated at Stratford, which was to be our starting-point, because he would not wait for me. I am more of a Shakespearian student than Gilray, and Stratford affected me so much that I passed day after day smoking reverently at the hotel door; while he, being of the pure tourist type (not that I would say a word against Gilray), wanted to rush from one place of interest to another. He did not understand what thoughts came to me as I strolled down the Stratford streets; and in the hotel, when I lay down on the sofa, he said I was sleeping, though I was really picturing to myself Shakespeare's boyhood. Gilray even went the length of arguing that it would not be a walking tour at all if we never made a start; so, upon the whole, I was glad when he departed alone. The next day was a memorable one to me. In the morning I wrote to my London tobacconist for more Arcadia. I had quarrelled with both of the Stratford tobacconists. The one of them, as soon as he saw my tobacco-pouch, almost compelled me to buy a new one. The second was even more annoying. I paid with a half-sovereign for the tobacco I had got from him; but after gazing at the pouch he became suspicious of the coin, and asked if I could not pay him in silver. An insult to my pouch I considered an insult to myself; so I returned to those shops no more. The evening of the day on which I wrote to London for tobacco brought me a letter from home saying that my sister was seriously ill. I had left her in good health, so that the news was the more distressing. Of course I returned home by the first train. Sitting alone in a dull railway compartment, my heart was filled with tenderness, and I recalled the occasions on which I had carelessly given her pain. Suddenly I remembered that more than once she had besought me with tears in her eyes to fling away my old tobacco-pouch. She had always said that it was not respectable. In the bitterness of self-reproach I pulled the pouch from my pocket, asking myself whether, after all, the love of a good woman was not a far more precious possession. Without giving myself time to hesitate, I stood up and firmly cast my old pouch out at the window. I saw it fall at the foot of a fence. The train shot on.
By the time I reached home my sister had been pronounced out of danger. Of course I was much relieved to hear it, but at the same time this was a lesson to me not to act rashly. The retention of my tobacco-pouch would not have retarded her recovery, and I could not help picturing my pouch, my oldest friend in the world, lying at the foot of that fence. I saw that I had done wrong in casting it from me. I had not even the consolation of feeling that if any one found it he would cherish it, for it was so much damaged that I knew it could never appeal to a new owner as it appealed to me. I had intended telling my sister of the sacrifice made for her sake; but after seeing her so much better, I left the room without doing so. There was Arcadia Mixture in the house, but I had not the heart to smoke. I went early to bed, and fell into a troubled sleep, from which I awoke with a shiver. The rain was driving against my window, tapping noisily on it as if calling on me to awake and go back for my tobacco-pouch. It rained far on into the morning, and I lay miserably, seeing nothing before me but a wet fence, and a tobacco-pouch among the grass at the foot of it.
On the following afternoon I was again at Stratford. So far as I could remember, I had flung away the pouch within a few miles of the station; but I did not look for it until dusk. I felt that the porters had their eyes on me. By crouching along hedges I at last reached the railway a mile or two from the station, and began my search. It may be thought that the chances were against my finding the pouch; but I recovered it without much difficulty. The scene as I flung my old friend out at the window had burned itself into my brain, and I could go to the spot to-day as readily as I went on that occasion. There it was, lying among the grass, but not quite in the place where it had fallen. Apparently some navvy had found it, looked at it, and then dropped it. It was half-full of water, and here and there it was sticking together; but I took it up tenderly, and several times on the way back to the station I felt in my pocket to make sure that it was really there.
I have not described the appearance of my pouch, feeling that to be unnecessary. It never, I fear, quite recovered from its night in the rain, and as my female relatives refused to touch it, I had to sew it together now and then myself. Gilray used to boast of a way of mending a hole in a tobacco-pouch that was better than sewing. You put the two pieces of gutta-percha close together and then cut them sharply with scissors. This makes them run together, he says, and I believed him until he experimented upon my pouch. However, I did not object to a hole here and there. Wherever I laid that pouch it left a small deposit of tobacco, and thus I could generally get together a pipeful at times when other persons would be destitute. I never told my sister that my pouch was once all but lost, but ever after that, when she complained that I had never even tried to do without it, I smiled tenderly.
Had it not been for a bootblack at Charing Cross I should probably never have bought the smoking-table. I had to pass that boy every morning. In vain did I scowl at him, or pass with my head to the side. He always pointed derisively (as I thought) at my boots. Probably my boots were speckless, but that made no difference; he jeered and sneered. I have never hated any one as I loathed that boy, and to escape him I took to going round by the Lowther Arcade. It was here that my eye fell on the smoking-table. In the Lowther Arcade, if the attendants catch you looking at any article for a fraction of a second, it is done up in brown paper, you have paid your money, and they have taken down your address before you realize that you don't want anything. In this way I became the owner of my smoking-table, and when I saw it in a brown-paper parcel on my return to my chambers I could not think what it was until I cut the strings. Such a little gem of a table no smokers should be without; and I am not ashamed to say that I was in love with mine as soon as I had fixed the pieces together. It was of walnut, and consisted mainly of a stalk and two round slabs not much bigger than dinner-plates. There were holes in the centre of these slabs for the stalk to go through, and the one slab stood two feet from the floor, the other a foot higher. The lower slab was fitted with a walnut tobacco-jar and a pipe-rack, while on the upper slab were exquisite little recesses for cigars, cigarettes, matches, and ashes. These held respectively three cigars, two cigarettes, and four wax vestas. The smoking-table was an ornament to any room; and the first night I had it I raised my eyes from my book to look at it every few minutes. I got all my pipes together and put them in the rack; I filled the jar with tobacco, the recesses with three cigars, two cigarettes, and four matches; and then I thought I would have a smoke. I swept my hand confidently along the mantelpiece, but it did not stop at a pipe. I rose and looked for a pipe. I had half a dozen, but not one was to be seen—none on the mantelpiece, none on the window-sill, none on the hearth-rug, none being used as book-markers. I tugged at the bell till William John came in quaking, and then I asked him fiercely what he had done with my pipes. I was so obviously not to be trifled with that William John, as we called him, because some thought his name was William, while others thought it was John, very soon handed me my favorite pipe, which he found in the rack on the smoking-table. This incident illustrates one of the very few drawbacks of smoking-tables. Not being used to them, you forget about them. William John, however, took the greatest pride in the table, and whenever he saw a pipe lying on the rug he pounced upon it and placed it, like a prisoner, in the rack. He was also most particular about the three cigars, the two cigarettes, and the four wax vestas, keeping them carefully in the proper compartments, where, unfortunately, I seldom thought of looking for them.
The fatal defect of the smoking-table, however, was that it was generally rolling about the floor—the stalk in one corner, the slabs here and there, the cigars on the rug to be trampled on, the lid of the tobacco-jar beneath a chair. Every morning William John had to put the table together. Sometimes I had knocked it over accidentally. I would fling a crumpled piece of paper into the waste-paper basket. It missed the basket but hit the smoking-table, which went down like a wooden soldier. When my fire went out, just because I had taken my eyes off it for a moment, I called it names and flung the tongs at it. There was a crash—the smoking-table again. In time I might have remedied this; but there is one weakness which I could not stand in any smoking-table. A smoking-table ought to be so constructed that from where you are sitting you can stretch out your feet, twist them round the stalk, and so lift the table to the spot where it will be handiest. This my smoking-table would never do. The moment I had it in the air it wanted to stand on its head.
Though I still admired smoking-tables as much as ever, I began to want very much to give this one away. The difficulty was not so much to know whom to give it to as how to tie it up. My brother was the very person, for I owed him a letter, and this, I thought, would do instead. For a month I meant to pack the table up and send it to him; but I always put off doing it, and at last I thought the best plan would be to give it to Scrymgeour, who liked elegant furniture. As a smoker, Scrymgeour seemed the very man to appreciate a pretty, useful little table. Besides, all I had to do was to send William John down with it. Scrymgeour was out at the time; but we left it at the side of his fireplace as a pleasant surprise. Next morning, to my indignation, it was back at the side of my fireplace, and in the evening Scrymgeour came and upbraided me for trying, as he most unworthily expressed it, "to palm the thing off on him." He was no sooner gone than I took the table to pieces to send it to my brother. I tied the stalk up in brown paper, meaning to get a box for the other parts. William John sent off the stalk, and for some days the other pieces littered the floor. My brother wrote me saying he had received something from me, for which his best thanks; but would I tell him what it was, as it puzzled everybody? This was his impatient way; but I made an effort, and sent off the other pieces to him in a hat-box.
That was a year ago, and since then I have only heard the history of the smoking-table in fragments. My brother liked it immensely; but he thought it was too luxurious for a married man, so he sent it to Reynolds, in Edinburgh. Not knowing Reynolds, I cannot say what his opinion was; but soon afterward I heard of its being in the possession of Grayson, who was charmed with it, but gave it to Pelle, because it was hardly in its place in a bachelor's establishment. Later a town man sent it to a country gentleman as just the thing for the country; and it was afterward in Liverpool as the very thing for a town. There I thought it was lost, so far as I was concerned. One day, however, Boyd, a friend of mine who lives in Glasgow, came to me for a week, and about six hours afterward he said that he had a present for me. He brought it into my sitting-room—a bulky parcel—and while he was undoing the cords he told me it was something quite novel; he had bought it in Glasgow the day before. When I saw a walnut leg I started; in another two minutes I was trying to thank Boyd for my own smoking-table. I recognized it by the dents. I was too much the gentleman to insist on an explanation from Boyd; but, though it seems a harsh thing to say, my opinion is that these different persons gave the table away because they wanted to get rid of it. William John has it now.
Gilray is an actor, whose life I may be said to have strangely influenced, for it was I who brought him and the Arcadia Mixture together. After that his coming to live on our stair was only a matter of rooms being vacant.
We met first in the Merediths' house-boat, the Tawny Owl, which was then lying at Molesey. Gilray, as I soon saw, was a man trying to be miserable, and finding it the hardest task in life. It is strange that the philosophers have never hit upon this profound truth. No man ever tried harder to be unhappy than Gilray; but the luck was against him, and he was always forgetting himself. Mark Tapley succeeded in being jolly in adverse circumstances; Gilray failed, on the whole, in being miserable in a delightful house-boat. It is, however, so much more difficult to keep up misery than jollity that I like to think of his attempt as what the dramatic critics call a succes d'estime.
The Tawny Owl lay on the far side of the island. There were ladies in it; and Gilray's misery was meant to date from the moment when he asked one of them a question, and she said "No." Gilray was strangely unlucky during the whole of his time on board. His evil genius was there, though there was very little room for him, and played sad pranks. Up to the time of his asking the question referred to, Gilray meant to create a pleasant impression by being jolly, and he only succeeded in being as depressing as Jaques. Afterward he was to be unutterably miserable; and it was all he could do to keep himself at times from whirling about in waltz tune. But then the nearest boat had a piano on board, and some one was constantly playing dance music. Gilray had an idea that it would have been the proper thing to leave Molesey when she said "No;" and he would have done so had not the barbel-fishing been so good. The barbel-fishing was altogether unfortunate—at least Gilray's passion for it was. I have thought—and so sometimes has Gilray—that if it had not been for a barbel she might not have said "No." He was fishing from the house-boat when he asked the question. You know how you fish from a house-boat. The line is flung into the water and the rod laid down on deck. You keep an eye on it. Barbel-fishing, in fact, reminds one of the independent sort of man who is quite willing to play host to you, but wishes you clearly to understand at the same time that he can do without you. "Glad to see you with us if you have nothing better to do; but please yourself," is what he says to his friends. This is also the form of invitation to barbel. Now it happened that she and Gilray were left alone in the house-boat. It was evening; some Chinese lanterns had been lighted, and Gilray, though you would not think it to look at him, is romantic. He cast his line, and, turning to his companion, asked her the question. From what he has told me he asked it very properly, and all seemed to be going well. She turned away her head (which is said not to be a bad sign) and had begun to reply, when a woful thing happened. The line stiffened, and there was a whirl of the reel. Who can withstand that music? You can ask a question at any time, but, even at Molesey, barbel are only to be got now and then. Gilray rushed to his rod and began playing the fish. He called to his companion to get the landing-net. She did so; and after playing his barbel for ten minutes Gilray landed it. Then he turned to her again, and she said, "No."
Gilray sees now that he made a mistake in not departing that night by the last train. He overestimated his strength. However, we had something to do with his staying on, and he persuaded himself that he remained just to show her that she had ruined his life. Once, I believe, he repeated his question; but in reply she only asked him if he had caught any more barbel. Considering the surprisingly fine weather, the barbel-fishing, and the piano on the other boat, Gilray was perhaps as miserable as could reasonably have been expected. Where he ought to have scored best, however, he was most unlucky. She had a hammock swung between two trees, close to the boat, and there she lay, holding a novel in her hand. From the hammock she had a fine view of the deck, and this was Gilray's chance. As soon as he saw her comfortably settled, he pulled a long face and climbed on deck. There he walked up and down, trying to look the image of despair. When she made some remark to him, his plan was to show that, though he answered cordially, his cheerfulness was the result of a terrible inward struggle. He did contrive to accomplish this if he was waiting for her observation; but she sometimes took him unawares, starting a subject in which he was interested. Then, forgetting his character, he would talk eagerly or jest with her across the strip of water, until with a start he remembered what he had become. He would seek to recover himself after that; but of course it was too late to create a really lasting impression. Even when she left him alone, watching him, I fear, over the top of her novel, he disappointed himself. For five minutes or so everything would go well; he looked as dejected as possible; but as he fell he was succeeding he became so self-satisfied that he began to strut. A pleased expression crossed his face, and instead of allowing his head to hang dismally, he put it well back. Sometimes, when we wanted to please him, we said he looked as glum as a mute at a funeral. Even that, however, defeated his object, for it flattered him so much that he smiled with gratification.
Gilray made one great sacrifice by giving up smoking, though not indeed such a sacrifice as mine, for up to this time he did not know the Arcadia Mixture. Perhaps the only time he really did look as miserable as he wished was late at night when we men sat up for a second last pipe before turning in. He looked wistfully at us from a corner. Yet as She had gone to rest, cruel fate made this of little account. His gloomy face saddened us too, and we tried to entice him to shame by promising not to mention it to the ladies. He almost yielded, and showed us that while we smoked he had been holding his empty brier in his right hand. For a moment he hesitated, then said fiercely that he did not care for smoking. Next night he was shown a novel, the hero of which had been "refused." Though the lady's hard-heartedness had a terrible effect on this fine fellow, he "strode away blowing great clouds into the air." "Standing there smoking in the moonlight," the authoress says in her next chapter, "De Courcy was a strangely romantic figure. He looked like a man who had done everything, who had been through the furnace and had not come out of it unscathed." This was precisely what Gilray wanted to look like. Again he hesitated, and then put his pipe in his pocket.
It was now that I approached him with the Arcadia Mixture. I seldom recommend the Arcadia to men whom I do not know intimately, lest in the after-years I should find them unworthy of it. But just as Aladdin doubtless rubbed his lamp at times for show, there were occasions when I was ostentatiously liberal. If, after trying the Arcadia, the lucky smoker to whom I presented it did not start or seize my hand, or otherwise show that something exquisite had come into his life, I at once forgot his name and his existence. I approached Gilray, then, and without a word handed him my pouch, while the others drew nearer. Nothing was to be heard but the water oozing out and in beneath the house-boat. Gilray pushed the tobacco from him, as he might have pushed a bag of diamonds that he mistook for pebbles. I placed it against his arm, and motioned to the others not to look. Then I sat down beside Gilray, and almost smoked into his eyes. Soon the aroma reached him, and rapture struggled into his face. Slowly his fingers fastened on the pouch. He filled his pipe without knowing what he was doing, and I handed him a lighted spill. He took perhaps three puffs, and then gave me a look of reverence that I know well. It only comes to a man once in all its glory—the first time he tries the Arcadia Mixture—but it never altogether leaves him.
"Where do you get it?" Gilray whispered, in hoarse delight.
The Arcadia had him for its own.
I have hinted that Marriot was our sentimental member. He was seldom sentimental until after midnight, and then only when he and I were alone. Why he should have chosen me as the pail into which to pour his troubles I cannot say. I let him talk on, and when he had ended I showed him plainly that I had been thinking most of the time about something else. Whether Marriot was entirely a humbug or the most conscientious person on our stair, readers may decide. He was fond of argument if you did not answer him, and often wanted me to tell him if I thought he was in love; if so, why did I think so; if not, why not. What makes me on reflection fancy that he was sincere is that in his statements he would let his pipe go out.
Of course I cannot give his words, but he would wait till all my other guests had gone, then softly lock the door, and returning to the cane chair empty himself in some such way as this:
"I have something I want to talk to you about. Pass me a spill. Well, it is this. Before I came to your rooms to-night I was cleaning my pipe, when all at once it struck me that I might be in love. This is the kind of shock that pulls a man up and together. My first thought was, if it be love, well and good; I shall go on. As a gentleman I know my duty both to her and to myself. At present, however, I am not certain which she is. In love there are no degrees; of that at least I feel positive. It is a tempestuous, surging passion, or it is nothing. The question for me, therefore, is, Is this the beginning of a tempestuous, surging passion? But stop; does such a passion have a beginning? Should it not be in flood before we know what we are about? I don't want you to answer.
"One of my difficulties is that I cannot reason from experience. I cannot say to myself, During the spring of 1886, and again in October, 1888, your breast has known the insurgence of a tempestuous passion. Do you now note the same symptoms? Have you experienced a sudden sinking at the heart, followed by thrills of exultation? Now I cannot even say that my appetite has fallen off, but I am smoking more than ever, and it is notorious that I experience sudden chills and thrills. Is this passion? No, I am not done; I have only begun.
"In 'As You Like It,' you remember, the love symptoms are described at length. But is Rosalind to be taken seriously? Besides, though she wore boy's clothes, she had only the woman's point of view. I have consulted Stevenson's chapters on love in his delightful 'Virginibus Puerisque,' and one of them says, 'Certainly, if I could help it, I would never marry a wife who wrote.' Then I noticed a book published after that one, and entitled 'The New Arabian Nights, by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson.' I shut 'Virginibus Puerisque' with a sigh, and put it away.
"But this inquiry need not, I feel confident, lead to nothing. Negatively I know love; for I do not require to be told what it is not, and I have my ideal. Putting my knowledge together and surveying it dispassionately in the mass, I am inclined to think that this is really love.
"I may lay down as Proposition I. that surging, tempestuous passion comes involuntarily. You are heart-whole, when, as it were, the gates of your bosom open, in she sweeps, and the gates close. So far this is a faithful description of my case. Whatever it is, it came without any desire or volition on my part, and it looks as if it meant to stay. What I ask myself is—first, What is it? secondly, Where is it? thirdly, Who is it? and fourthly, What shall I do with it? I have thus my work cut out for me.
"What is it? I reply that I am stumped at once, unless I am allowed to fix upon an object definitely and precisely. This, no doubt, is arguing in a circle; but Descartes himself assumed what he was to try to prove. This, then, being permitted, I have chosen my object, and we can now go on again. What is it? Some might evade the difficulty by taking a middle course. You are not, they might say, in love as yet, but you are on the brink of it. The lady is no idol to you at present, but neither is she indifferent. You would not walk four miles in wet weather to get a rose from her; but if she did present you with a rose, you would not wittingly drop it down an area. In short, you have all but lost your heart. To this I reply simply, love is not a process, it is an event. You may unconsciously be on the brink of it, when all at once the ground gives way beneath you, and in you go. The difference between love and not-love, if I may be allowed the word, being so wide, my inquiry should produce decisive results. On the whole, therefore, and in the absence of direct proof to the contrary, I believe that the passion of love does possess me.
"Where is it? This is the simplest question of the four. It is in the heart. It fills the heart to overflowing, so that if there were one drop more the heart would run over. Love is thus plainly a liquid: which accounts to some extent for its well-recognized habit of surging. Among its effects this may be noted: that it makes you miserable if you be not by the loved one's side. To hold her hand is ecstasy, to press it, rapture. The fond lover—as it might be myself—sees his beloved depart on a railway journey with apprehension. He never ceases to remember that engines burst and trains run off the line. In an agony he awaits the telegram that tells him she has reached Shepherd's Bush in safety. When he sees her talking, as if she liked it, to another man, he is torn, he is rent asunder, he is dismembered by jealousy. He walks beneath her window till the policeman sees him home; and when he wakes in the morning, it is to murmur her name to himself until he falls asleep again and is late for the office. Well, do I experience such sensations, or do I not? Is this love, after all? Where are the spills?
"I have been taking for granted that I know who it is. But is this wise? Nothing puzzles me so much as the way some men seem to know, by intuition, as it were, which is the woman for whom they have a passion. They take a girl from among their acquaintance, and never seem to understand that they may be taking the wrong one. However, with certain reservations, I do not think I go too far in saying that I know who she is. There is one other, indeed, that I have sometimes thought—but it fortunately happens that they are related, so that in any case I cannot go far wrong. After I have seen them again, or at least before I propose, I shall decide definitely on this point.
"We have now advanced as far as Query IV. Now, what is to be done? Let us consider this calmly. In the first place, have I any option in the matter, or is love a hurricane that carries one hither and thither as a bottle is tossed in a chopping sea? I reply that it all depends on myself. Rosalind would say no; that we are without control over love. But Rosalind was a woman. It is probably true that a woman cannot conquer love. Man, being her ideal in the abstract, is irresistible to her in the concrete. But man, being an intellectual creature, can make a magnificent effort and cast love out. Should I think it advisable, I do not question my ability to open the gates of my heart and bid her go. That would be a serious thing for her; and, as man is powerful, so, I think, should he be merciful. She has, no doubt, gained admittance, as it were, furtively; but can I, as a gentleman, send away a weak, confiding woman who loves me simply because she cannot help it? Nay, more, in a pathetic case of this kind, have I not a certain responsibility? Does not her attachment to me give her a claim upon me? She saw me, and love came to her. She looks upon me as the noblest and best of my sex. I do not say I am; it may be that I am not. But I have the child's happiness in my hands; can I trample it beneath my feet? It seems to be my plain duty to take her to me.
"But there are others to consider. For me, would it not be the better part to show her that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be my first consideration? Certainly there is nothing in a man I despise more than conceit in affairs of this sort. When I hear one of my sex boasting of his 'conquests,' I turn from him in disgust. 'Conquest' implies effort; and to lay one's self out for victories over the other sex always reminds me of pigeon-shooting. On the other hand, we must make allowances for our position of advantage. These little ones come into contact with us; they see us, athletic, beautiful, in the hunting-field or at the wicket; they sit beside us at dinner and listen to our brilliant conversation. They have met us, and the mischief is done. Every man—except, perhaps, yourself and Jimmy—knows the names of a few dear girls who have lost their hearts to him—some more, some less. I do not pretend to be in a different position from my neighbors, or in a better one. To some slight extent I may be to blame. But, after all, when a man sees cheeks redden and eyes brighten at his approach, he loses prudence. At the time he does not think what may be the consequences. But the day comes when he sees that he must take heed what he is about. He communes with himself about the future, and if he be a man of honor he maps out in his mind the several courses it is allowed him to follow, and chooses that one which he may tread with least pain to others. May that day for introspection come to few as it has come to me. Love is, indeed, a madness in the brain. Good-night."
When he finished I would wake up, open the door for Marriot, and light him to his sleeping-chamber with a spill.
With the exception of myself, Jimmy Moggridge was no doubt the most silent of the company that met so frequently in my rooms. Just as Marriot's eyebrows rose if the cane chair was not empty when he strode in, Jimmy held that he had a right to the hearth-rug, on which he loved to lie prone, his back turned to the company and his eyes on his pipe. The stem was a long cherry-wood, but the bowl was meerschaum, and Jimmy, as he smoked, lay on the alert, as it were, to see the meerschaum coloring. So one may strain his eyes with intent eagerness until he can catch the hour-hand of a watch in action. With tobacco in his pocket Jimmy could refill his pipe without moving, but sometimes he crawled along the hearth-rug to let the fire-light play more exquisitely on his meerschaum bowl. In time, of course, the Arcadia Mixture made him more and more like the rest of us, but he retained his individuality until he let his bowl fall off. Otherwise he only differed from us in one way. When he saw a match-box he always extracted a few matches and put them dreamily into his pocket. There were times when, with a sharp blow on Jimmy's person, we could doubtless have had him blazing like a chandelier.
Jimmy was a barrister—though this is scarcely worth mentioning—and it had been known to us for years that he made a living by contributing to the Saturday Review. How the secret leaked out I cannot say with certainty. Jimmy never forced it upon us, and I cannot remember any paragraphs in the London correspondence of the provincial papers coupling his name with Saturday articles. On the other hand, I distinctly recall having to wait one day in his chambers while Jimmy was shaving, and noticing accidentally a long, bulky envelope on his table, with the Saturday Review's mystic crest on it. It was addressed to Jimmy, and contained, I concluded, a bundle of proofs. That was so long ago as 1885. If further evidence is required, there is the undoubted fact, to which several of us could take oath, that, at Oxford, Jimmy was notorious for his sarcastic pen—nearly being sent down, indeed, for the same. Again, there was the certainty that for years Jimmy had been engaged upon literary work of some kind. We had been with him buying the largest-sized scribbling paper in the market; we had heard him muttering to himself as if in pain: and we had seen him correcting proof-sheets. When we caught him at them he always thrust the proofs into a drawer which he locked by putting his leg on it—for the ordinary lock was broken—and remaining in that position till we had retired. Though he rather shunned the subject as a rule, he admitted to us that the work was journalism and not a sarcastic history of the nineteenth century, on which we felt he would come out strong. Lastly, Jimmy had lost the brightness of his youth, and was become silent and moody, which is well known to be the result of writing satire.
Were it not so notorious that the thousands who write regularly for the Saturday have reasons of their own for keeping it dark and merely admitting the impeachment with a nod or smile, we might have marvelled at Jimmy's reticence. There were, however, moments when he thawed so far as practically to allow, and every one knows what that means, that the Saturday was his chief source of income. "Only," he would add, "should you be acquainted with the editor, don't mention my contributions to him." From this we saw that Jimmy and the editor had an understanding on the subject, though we were never agreed which of them it was who had sworn the other to secrecy. We were proud of Jimmy's connection with the press, and every week we discussed his latest article. Jimmy never told us, except in a roundabout way, which were his articles; but we knew his style, and it was quite exhilarating to pick out his contributions week by week. We were never baffled, for "Jimmy's touches" were unmistakable; and "Have you seen Jimmy this week in the Saturday on Lewis Morris?" or, "I say, do you think Buchanan knows it was Jimmy who wrote that?" was what we said when we had lighted our pipes.
Now I come to the incident that drew from Jimmy his extraordinary statement. I was smoking with him in his rooms one evening, when a clatter at his door was followed by a thud on the floor. I knew as well as Jimmy what had happened. In his pre-Saturday days he had no letter-box, only a slit in the door; and through this we used to denounce him on certain occasions when we called and he would not let us in. Lately, however, he had fitted up a letter-box himself, which kept together if you opened the door gently, but came clattering to the floor under the weight of heavy letters. The letter to which it had succumbed this evening was quite a package, and could even have been used as a missile. Jimmy snatched it up quickly, evidently knowing the contents by their bulk; and I was just saying to myself, "More proofs from the Saturday," when the letter burst at the bottom, and in a moment a score of smaller letters were tumbling about my feet. In vain did Jimmy entreat me to let him gather them up. I helped, and saw, to my bewilderment, that all the letters were addressed in childish hands to "Uncle Jim, care of Editor of Mothers Pets." It was impossible that Jimmy could have so many nephews and nieces.
Seeing that I had him, Jimmy advanced to the hearth-rug as if about to make his statement; then changed his mind and, thrusting a dozen of the letters into my hands, invited me to read. The first letter ran: "Dearest Uncle Jim,—I must tell you about my canary. I love my canary very much. It is a yellow canary, and it sings so sweetly. I keep it in a cage, and it is so tame. Mamma and me wishes you would come and see us and our canary. Dear Uncle Jim, I love you.—Your little friend, Milly (aged four years)." Here is the second: "Dear Uncle Jim,—You will want to know about my blackbird. It sits in a tree and picks up the crumbs on the window, and Thomas wants to shoot it for eating the cherries; but I won't let Thomas shoot it, for it is a nice blackbird, and I have wrote all this myself.—Your loving little Bobby (aged five years)." In another, Jacky (aged four and a half) described his parrot, and I have also vague recollections of Harry (aged six) on his chaffinch, and Archie (five) on his linnet. "What does it mean?" I demanded of Jimmy, who, while I read, had been smoking savagely. "Don't you see that they are in for the prize?" he growled. Then he made his statement.
"I have never," Jimmy said, "contributed to the Saturday, nor, indeed, to any well-known paper. That, however, was only because the editors would not meet me half-way. After many disappointments, fortune—whether good or bad I cannot say—introduced me to the editor of Mothers Pets, a weekly journal whose title sufficiently suggests its character. Though you may never have heard of it, Mothers Pets has a wide circulation and is a great property. I was asked to join the staff under the name of 'Uncle Jim,' and did not see my way to refuse. I inaugurated a new feature. Mothers' pets were cordially invited to correspond with me on topics to be suggested week by week, and prizes were to be given for the best letters. This feature has been an enormous success, and I get the most affectionate letters from mothers, consulting me about teething and the like, every week. They say that I am dearer to their children than most real uncles, and they often urge me to go and stay with them. There are lots of kisses awaiting me. I also get similar invitations from the little beasts themselves. Pass the Arcadia."
Scrymgeour was an artist and a man of means, so proud of his profession that he gave all his pictures fancy prices, and so wealthy that he could have bought them. To him I went when I wanted money—though it must not be thought that I borrowed. In the days of the Arcadia Mixture I had no bank account. As my checks dribbled in I stuffed them into a torn leather case that was kept together by a piece of twine, and when Want tapped at my chamber door, I drew out the check that seemed most willing to come, and exchanged with Scrymgeour. In his detestation of argument Scrymgeour resembled myself, but otherwise we differed as much as men may differ who smoke the Arcadia. He read little, yet surprised us by a smattering of knowledge about all important books that had been out for a few months, until we discovered that he got his information from a friend in India. He had also, I remember, a romantic notion that Africa might be civilized by the Arcadia Mixture. As I shall explain presently, his devotion to the Arcadia very nearly married him against his will; but first I must describe his boudoir.
We always called it Scrymgeour's boudoir after it had ceased to deserve the censure, just as we called Moggridge Jimmy because he was Jimmy to some of us as a boy. Scrymgeour deserted his fine rooms in Bayswater for the inn some months after the Arcadia Mixture had reconstructed him, but his chambers were the best on our stair, and with the help of a workman from the Japanese Village he converted them into an Oriental dream. Our housekeeper thought little of the rest of us while the boudoir was there to be gazed at, and even William John would not spill the coffee in it. When the boudoir was ready for inspection, Scrymgeour led me to it, and as the door opened I suddenly remembered that my boots were muddy. The ceiling was a great Japanese Christmas card representing the heavens; heavy clouds floated round a pale moon, and with the dusk the stars came out. The walls, instead of being papered, were hung with a soft Japanese cloth, and fantastic figures frolicked round a fireplace that held a bamboo fan. There was no mantelpiece. The room was very small; but when you wanted a blue velvet desk to write on, you had only to press a spring against the wall; and if you leaned upon the desk the Japanese workmen were ready to make you a new one. There were springs everywhere, shaped like birds and mice and butterflies; and when you touched one of them something was sure to come out. Blood-colored curtains separated the room from the alcove where Scrymgeour was to rest by night, and his bed became a bath by simply turning it upside down. On one side of the bed was a wine-bin, with a ladder running up to it. The door of the sitting-room was a symphony in gray, with shadowy reptiles crawling across the panels; and the floor—dark, mysterious—presented a fanciful picture of the infernal regions. Scrymgeour said hopefully that the place would look cozier after he had his pictures in it; but he stopped me when I began to fill my pipe. He believed, he said, that smoking was not a Japanese custom; and there was no use taking Japanese chambers unless you lived up to them. Here was a revelation. Scrymgeour proposed to live his life in harmony with these rooms. I felt too sad at heart to say much to him then, but, promising to look in again soon, I shook hands with my unhappy friend and went away.