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Full text of "Meet Mr. Mulliner"

\ 



MEET MR. MULLINER 



WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT 



This book provides laughter, laughter all 
the way. ]\Ieet Mr. Mulliner and the spirits 
soa r upwards. He relates some truly remark- 
able adventures. He is blessed, too, with 
a bevy of priceless relatives who keep the 
ball of fun rolling in no uncertain fashion. 
There is nephew Lancelot, cousin Clarence, 
the bulb-squeezer or photographer, nephew 
George, cursed with a terrible stammer, 
and brother Wilfred who was clean bowled 
over by Miss Angela Purdue. In this bright 
company no one can fail to be amused. 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



CARRY ON, JEEVES .. 

LEAVE IT TO PSMITH 

UKKIDGE 

THE INIMITABLE JEEVES 

THE GIRL ON THE BOAT 

JILL THE RECKLESS .. 

A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS 

LOVE AMONG THE CHICKENS 

A GENTLEMAN OF LEISURE 

INDISCRETIONS OF ARCHIE 

PICCADILLY JIM 

THE ADVENTURES OF SALLY 

THE CLICKING OF CUTHBERT 

THE COMING OF BILL 

THE HEART OF A GOOF 



3S. 
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23. 
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28. 
2S. 
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2S. 



6d. net. 
6d. net. 
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6d. net. 
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6d. net. 
6d. net. 
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6d. net. 
6d. net. 
6d. net. 
6d. net. 



MEET 
MR. MULLINER 

BY 
P. G. WODEHOUSE 



HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED 
3 YORK STREET ST. JAMES'S 
LONDON S.W.I « © ^ 





'g 30,000 copies 



Printed in Great Britain hy 
Willi am Clowes and Sons, Limited, London and Beccles. 



TO THE 

EARL OF OXFORD AND ASQUITH 



CONTENTS 



I. The Truth about George 
II. A Slice of Life 
III. Mulliner's Buck-u-Uppo 
IV. The Bishop's Move 
V. Came the Dawn 
VI . The Story of William 
VII. Portrait of a Disciplinarian 
VIII. The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer 
IX. Honeysuckle Cottage 



7 

39 
68 

102 

170 

201 

266 



MEET MR. MULLINER 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 

TWO men were sitting in the bar-parlour 
of the Angler's Rest as I entered it ; 
and one of them, I gathered from 
his low, excited voice and wide gestures, was 
telling the other a story. I could hear 
nothing but an occasional " Biggest I ever saw 
in my Hfe ! " and " Fully as large as that ! " 
but in such a place it was not difficult to 
imagine the rest ; and when the second man, 
catching my eye, winked at me with a sort 
of humorous misery, I smiled sympathetic- 
ally back at him. 

The action had the effect of estabUshing 
a bond between us ; and when the story- 
teller finished his tale and left, he came over 
to my table as if answering a formal invitation. 

7 A 2 



8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Dreadful liars some men are," he said 
genially. 

** Fishermen," I suggested, " are tradition- 
ally careless of the truth." 

" He wasn't a fisherman," said my com- 
panion. " That was our local doctor. He 
was telhng me about his latest case of dropsy. 
Besides "—he tapped me earnestly on the 
knee — " you must not fall into the popular 
error about fishermen. Tradition has ma- 
hgned them. I am a fisherman myself, and 
I have never told a lie in my life." 

I could well believe it. He was a short, 
stout, comfortable man of middle age, and 
the thing that struck me first about liim was 
the extraordinarily childhke candour of his 
eyes. They were large and round and 
honest. I would have bought oil stock from 
him without a tremor. 

The door leading into the white dusty 
road opened, and a small man with rimless 
pince-nez and an anxious expression shot in 
like a rabbit and had consumed a gin and 
ginger-beer almost before we knew he was 
there. Having thus refreshed himself, he 
stood looking at us, seemingly ill at ease. 

" N-n-n-n-n-n " he said. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 9 

We looked at him inquiringly. 

" N-n-n-n-n-n-ice d-d-d-d " 

His nerve appeared to fail him, and he 
vanished as abruptly as he had come. 

" I think he was leading up to telling us 
that it was a nice day," hazarded my com- 
panion. 

" It must be very embarrassing," I said, 
"for a man with such a painful impediment 
in his speech to open conversation with 
strangers." 

" Probably trying to cure himself. Like 
my nephew George. Have I ever told you 
about my nephew George ? " 

I reininded him that we had only just 
met, and that this was the first time I had 
learned that he had a nephew George. 

" Young George Mulliner. My name is 
Mulhner. I will tell you about George's case 
— in many ways a rather remarkable one." 

My nephew George (said Mr. Mulhner) 
was as nice a young fellow as you would ever 
wish to meet, but from childhood up he had 
been cursed with a terrible stammer. If he 
had had to earn his Uving, he would un- 
doubtedly have found this affliction a great 



10 MEET MR. MULLINER 

handicap, but fortunately his father had left 
him a comfortable income ; and George spent 
a not unhappy hfe, residing in the village 
where he had been bom and passing his days 
in the usual country sports and his evenings 
in doing cross-word puzzles. By the time he 
was thirty he knew more about Eli, the 
prophet, Ra, the Sun God, and the bird Emu 
than anybody else in the county except Susan 
Blake, the vicar's daughter, who had also 
taken up the solving of cross-word puzzles 
and was the first girl in Worcestershire to 
find out the meaning of " stearine " and 
" crepuscular." 

It was his association with Miss Blake 
that first turned George's thoughts to a 
serious endeavour to cure himself of his 
stammer. Naturally, with this hobby in 
common, the young people saw a great deal 
of one another : for George was always 
looking in at the vicarage to ask her if she 
knew a word of seven letters meaning 
" appertaining to the profession of plumbing," 
and Susan was just as constant a caller at 
George's cosy little cottage — being frequently 
stumped, as girls will be, by words of eight 
letters signifying " largely used in the manu- 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE ii 

facture of poppet-valves." The consequence 
was that one evening, just after she had 
helped him out of a tight place with the 
word " disestabhshmentarianism," the boy 
suddenly awoke to the truth and reahsed that 
she was all the world to him — or, as he put 
it to himself from force of habit, precious, 
beloved, darling, much-loved, highly es- 
teemed or valued. 

And yet, every time he tried to tell her 
so, he could get no farther than a sibilant 
gurgle which was no more practical use than 
a hiccup. 

Something obviously had to be done, and 
George went to London to see a speciaUst. 

** Yes ? " said the specialist. 

- I-I-I-I-I-I-I " said George. 

" You were saying ? " 

** Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo " 

" Sing it," said the specialist. 

" S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s ? " said George, 

puzzled. 

The specialist explained. He was a 
kindly man with moth-eaten whiskers and 
an eye like a meditative cod-fish. 

" Many people," he said, " who are 
unable to articulate clearly in ordinary speech 



12 MEET MR. MULLINER 

find themselves lucid and bell-like when they 
burst into song." 

It seemed a good idea to George. He 
thought for a moment ; then threw his head 
back, shut his eyes, and let it go in a musical 
baritone. 

" I love a lassie, a bonny, bonny lassie," 
sang George. " She's as pure as the Hly in 
the dell." 

" No doubt," said the specialist, wincing 
a little. 

** She's as sweet as the heather, the bonny 
purple heather — Susan, my Worcestershire 
bluebell." 

" Ah ! " said the specialist. '' Sounds a 
nice girl. Is this she ? " he asked, adjusting 
his glasses and peering at the photograph 
which George had extracted from the interior 
of the left side of his under- vest. 

George nodded, and drew in breath. 

" Yes, sir," he carolled, '' that's my baby. 
No, sir, don't mean maybe. Yes, sir, that's 
my baby now. And, by the way, by the 
way, when I meet that preacher I shall say — 
* Yes, sir. that's my ' " 

" Quite," said the speciaHst, hurriedly. 
He had a sensitive ear. " Quite, quite." 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 13 

" If you knew Susie like I know Susie," 
George was beginning, but the other stopped 
him. 

" Quite. Exactly. I shouldn't wonder. 
And now," said the speciahst, '' what pre- 
cisely is the trouble ? No," he added, 
hastily, as George inflated his lungs, " don't 
sing it. Write the particulars on this piece 
of paper." 

George did so. 

** H'm ! " said the specialist, examining 
the screed. " You wish to woo, court, and 
become betrothed, engaged, affianced to this 
girl, but you find yourself unable, incapable, 
incompetent, impotent, and powerless. Every 
time you attempt it, your vocal cords fail, 
fall short, are insufficient, wanting, deficient, 
and go blooey." 

George nodded. 

" A not unusual case. I have had to deal 
with this sort of thing before. The effect of 
love on the vocal cords of even a normally 
eloquent subject is frequently deleterious. 
As regards the habitual stammerer, tests have 
shown that in ninety-seven point five six 
nine recurring of cases the divine passion 
reduces him to a condition where he sounds 






14 MEET MR. MULLINER 

like a soda-water siphon trying to recite 
Gunga Din. There is only one cure." 

W-w-w-w-w ? " asked George. 

I will tell you. Stammering," pro- 
ceeded the specialist, putting the tips of his 
fingers together and eyeing George benevo- 
lently, " is mainly mental and is caused by 
shyness, which is caused by the inferiority 
complex, which in its turn is caused by sup- 
pressed desires or introverted inhibitions or 
something. The advice I give to all young 
men who come in here behaving like soda- 
water siphons is to go out and make a point 
of speaking to at least three perfect strangers 
every day. Engage these strangers in con- 
versation, persevering no matter how price- 
less a chump you may feel, and before many 
weeks are out you will find that the little 
daily dose has had its effect. Shyness will 
wear off, and with it the stammer." 

And, having requested the young man — 
in a voice of the clearest timbre, free from 
all trace of impediment — to hand over a fee 
of five guineas, the specialist sent George out 
into the world. 

The more George thought about the advice 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 15 

he had been given, the less he Hked it. He 
shivered in the cab that took him to the 
station to catch the train back to East 
Wobsley. Like all shy young men, he had 
never hitherto looked upon himself as shy — 
preferring to attribute his distaste for the 
society of his fellows to some subtle rareness 
of soul. But now that the thing had been 
put squarely up to him, he was compelled to 
realise that in all essentials he was a perfect 
rabbit. The thought of accosting perfect 
strangers and forcing his conversation upon 
them sickened him. 

But no MuUiner has ever shirked an un- 
pleasant duty. As he reached the platform 
and strode along it to the train, his teeth 
were set, his eyes shone with an almost 
fanatical hght of determination, and he 
intended before his journey was over to 
conduct three heart-to-heart chats if he had 
to sing every bar of them. 

The compartment into which he had made 
his way was empty at the moment, but just 
before the train started a very large, fierce- 
looking man got in. George would have 
preferred somebody a httle less formidable 
for his first subject, but he braced himself 



i6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

and bent forward. And, as he did so, the 
man spoke. 

" The wur-wur-wur-wur-weather," he said, 
" sus-sus-seems to be ter-ter-taking a 
tur-tur-tum for the ber-ber-better, der- 
doesn't it ? " 

George sank back as if he had been hit 
between the eyes. The train had moved out 
of the dimness of the station by now, and 
the sun was shining brightly on the speaker, 
illuminating his knobbly shoulders, his craggy 
jaw, and, above all, the shockingly choleric 
look in his eyes. To reply " Y-y-y-y-y-y-y- 
yes " to such a man would obviously be 
madness. 

But to abstain from speech did not seem 
to be much better as a policy. George's 
silence appeared to arouse this man's worst 
passions. His face had turned purple and 
he glared painfully. 

" I uk-uk-asked you a sus-sus-civil quk- 
quk-quk," he said, irascibly. ''Are you 
d-d-d-d-deaf ? " 

All we Mulliners have been noted for our 
presence of mind. To open his mouth, point 
to his tonsils, and utter a strangled gurgle 
was with George the work of a moment. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE ly 

The tension relaxed. The man's annoy- 
ance abated. 

" D-d-d-dumb ? " he said, commiserat- 
ingly. " I beg your p-p-p-p-pup. I t-t-trust 
I have not caused you p-p-p-p-pup. It 
m-must be tut-tut-tut-tut-tut not to be 
able to sus-sus-speak fuf-fuf-fuf-fuf-fluently." 
He then buried himself in his paper, and 
George sank back in his corner, quivering in 
every hmb. 

To get to East Wobsley, as you doubtless 
know, you have to change at Ippleton and 
take the branch-line. By the time the train 
reached this junction, George's composure 
was somewhat restored. He deposited his 
belongings in a compartment of the East 
Wobsley train, which was waiting in a glued 
manner on the other side of the platform, and, 
finding that it would not start for some ten 
minutes, decided to pass the time by strolUng 
up and down in the pleasant air. 

It was a lovely afternoon. The sun was 
gilding the platform with its rays, and a 
gentle breeze blew from the west. A httle 
brook ran tinkhng at the side of the road ; 
birds were singing in the hedgerows ; and 



i8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

through the trees could be discerned dimly 
the noble fa9ade of the County Lunatic 
Asylum. Soothed by his surroundings, 
George began to feel so refreshed that he 
regretted that in this wayside station there 
was no one present whom he could engage 
in talk. 

It was at this momient that the distin- 
guished-looking stranger entered the platform. 

The new-comer was a man of imposing 
physique, simply dressed in pyjamas, brown 
boots, and a mackintosh. In his hand he 
carried a top-hat, and into this he was dipping 
his fingers, taking them out, and then waving 
them in a curious manner to right and left. 
He nodded so affably to George that the 
latter, though a little surprised at the other's 
costume, decided to speak. After all, he 
reflected, clothes do not make the man, and, 
judging from the other's smile, a warm heart 
appeared to beat beneath that orange-and- 
mauve striped pyjama jacket. 

" N-n-n-n-nice weather," he said. 

" Glad you like it," said the stranger. 
" I ordered it specially." 

George was a little puzzled by this remark, 
but he persevered. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 19 

" M-might I ask wur-wur-what you are 
dud-doing ? " 

" Doing ? " 

" With that her-her-her-her-hat ? " 

" Oh, with this hat ? I see what you 
mean. Just scattering largesse to the multi- 
tude," repUed the stranger, dipping his 
fingers once more and waving them with a 
generous gesture. " Devil of a bore, but it's 
expected of a man in my position. The fact 
is," he said, linking his arm in George's and 
speaking in a confidential undertone, " I'm 
the Emperor of Abyssinia. That's my palace 
over there," he said, pointing through the 
trees. " Don't let it go any farther. It's not 
supposed to be generally known." 

It was with a rather sickly smile that 
George now endeavoured to withdraw his 
arm from that of his companion, but the 
other would have none of this aloofness. He 
seemed to be in complete agreement with 
Shakespeare's dictum that a friend, when 
found, should be grappled to you with hooks 
of steel. He held George in a vice-like grip 
and drew him into a recess of the platform. 
He looked about him, and seemed satisfied. 

" We are alone at last/' he said. 



20 MEET MR. MULLINER 

This fact had aheady impressed itself with 
sickening clearness on the young man. There 
are few spots in the civilised world more 
deserted than the platform of a small country 
station. The sun shone on the smooth 
asphalt, on the gleaming rails, and on the 
macliine which, in exchange for a penny 
placed in the slot marked " Matches," 
would supply a package of wholesome 
butter-scotch — but on nothing else. 

What George could have done with at 
the moment was a posse of poUce armed with 
stout clubs, and there was not even a dog 
in sight. 

" I've been wanting to talk to you for 
a long time," said the stranger, genially. 

" Huh-huh-have you ? " said George. 

" Yes. I want your opinion of human 
sacrifices." 

George said he didn't like them. 

" Why not ? " asked the other, surprised. 

George said it was hard to explain. He 
just didn't. 

" Well, I think you're wrong," said the 
Emperor. " I know there's a school of 
thought growing up that holds your views, 
but I disapprove of it. I hate all this modem 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 21 

advanced thought. Human sacrifices have 
always been good enough for the Emperors 
of Abyssinia, and they're good enough for 
me. Kindly step in here, if you please." 

He indicated the lamp-and-mop room, 
at which they had now arrived. It was a 
dark and sinister apartment, smelling strongly 
of oil and porters, and was probably the last 
place on earth in which George would have 
wished to be closeted with a man of such 
peculiar views. He shrank back. 

" You go in first," he said. 

" No larks," said the other, suspiciously. 

" L-1-l-l-larks ? " 

" Yes. No pushing a fellow in and 
locking the door and squirting water at him 
through the window. I've had that happen 
to me before." 

" Sus-certainly not." 

" Right ! " said the Emperor. ** You're 
a gentleman and I'm a gentleman. Both 
gentlemen. Have you a knife, by the way ? 
We shall need a knife." 

" No. No knife." 

" Ah, well," said the Emperor, '' then 
we'll have to look about for something else. 
No doubt we shall manage somehow." 



22 MEET MR. MULLINER 

And with the debonair manner which so 
became liim, he scattered another handful of 
largesse and walked into the lamp-room. 

It was not the fact that he had given his 
word as a gentleman that kept George from 
locking the door. There is probably no 
family on earth more nicely scrupulous as 
regards keeping its promises than the 
Mulliners, but I am compelled to admit 
that, had George been able to find the key, 
he would have locked that door without 
hesitation. Not being able to find the key, 
he had to be satisfied with banging it. 
This done, he leaped back and raced away 
down the platform. A confused noise with- 
in seemed to indicate that the Emperor had 
become involved with some lamps. 

George made the best of the respite. 
Covering the ground at a high rate of speed, 
he flung himself into the train and took 
refuge under the seat. 

There he remained, quaking. At one 
time he thought that his uncongenial ac- 
quaintance had got upon his track, for the 
door of the compartment opened and a cool 
wind blew in upon him. Then, glancing 
along the floor, he perceived feminine ankles. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 23 

The relief was enormous, but even in his 
reUef George, who was the soul of modesty, 
did not forget his manners. He closed his 
eyes. 

A voice spoke. 

" Porter ! " 

" Yes, ma'am ? " 

" What was all that disturbance as I came 
into the station ? " 

" Patient escaped from the asylum, 
ma'am.'' 

" Good gracious ! " 

The voice would undoubtedly have spoken 
further, but at this moment the train began 
to move. There came the sound of a body 
descending upon a cushioned seat, and some 
little time later the rusthng of a paper. The 
train gathered speed and jolted on. 

George had never before travelled under 
the seat of a railway-carriage ; and, though 
he belonged to the younger generation, which 
is supposed to be so avid of new experiences, 
he had no desire to do so now. He decided 
to emerge, and, if possible, to emerge with 
the minimum of ostentation. Little as he 
knew of women, he was aware that as a sex 



24 MEET MR. MULLINER 

they are apt to be startled by the sight of 
men crawUng out from under the seats of 
compartments. He began his manoeuvres by 
poking out his head and surveying the 
terrain. 

All was well. The woman, in her seat 
across the way, was engrossed in her paper. 
Moving in a series of noiseless wriggles, 
George extricated himself from his hiding- 
place and, with a twist which would have 
been impossible to a man not in the habit 
of doing Swedish exercises daily before break- 
fast, heaved himself into the corner seat. 
The woman continued reading her paper. 

The events of the past quarter of an hour 
had tended rather to drive from George's 
mind the mission which he had undertaken 
on leaving the specialist's office. But now, 
having leisure for reflection, he reahsed that, 
if he meant to complete his first day of the 
cure, he was allowing himself to run sadly 
behind schedule. Speak to three strangers, 
the speciahst had told him, and up to the 
present he had spoken to only one. True, 
this one had been a pretty considerable 
stranger, and a less conscientious young 
man than George Mulliner might have con- 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 25 

sidered himself justified in chalking him up 
on the score-board as one and a half or even 
two. But George had the dogged, honest 
MuUiner streak in him, and he refused to 
quibble. 

He nerved himself for action, and cleared 

his throat. 

*' Ah-h'rm ! " said George. 

And, having opened the ball, he smiled 
a winning smile and waited for his companion 
to make the next move. 

The move which his companion made 
was in an upwards direction, and measured 
from six to eight inches. She dropped her 
paper and regarded George with a pale- 
eyed horror. One pictures her a little in 
the position of Robinson Crusoe when he 
saw the footprint in the sand. She had 
been convinced that she was completely 
alone, and lo ! out of space a voice had 
spoken to her. Her face worked, but she 
made no remark. 

George, on his side, was also feeling a 
little ill at ease. Women always increased 
his natural shyness. He never knew what 
to say to them. 

Then a happy thought struck him. He 



26 MEET MR. MULLINER 

had just glanced at his watch and found the 
hour to be nearly four-thirty. Women, he 
knew, loved a drop of tea at about this 
time, and fortunately there was in his suit- 
case a full thermos-flask. 

" Pardon me, but I wonder if you would 
care for a cup of tea ? " was what he wanted 
to say, but, as so often happened with him 
when in the presence of the opposite sex, 
he could get no farther than a sort of sizzUng 
sound like a cockroach calling to its young. 

The woman continued to stare at him. 
Her eyes were now about the size of regula- 
tion standard golf-balls, and her breathing 
suggested the last stages of asthma. And 
it was at this point that George, struggling 
for speech, had one of those inspirations 
which frequently come to Mulliners. There 
flashed into his mind what the specialist had 
told him about singing. Say it with music — 
that was the thing to do. 

He delayed no longer. 

" Tea for two and two for tea and me 
for you and you for me " 

He was shocked to observe his companion 
turning Nile-green. He decided to make his 
meaning clearer. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 27 

" I have a nice thermos. I have a full 
thermos. Won't you share my thermos, 
too ? When skies are grey and you feel you 
are blue, tea sends the sun smiling through. 
I have a nice thermos. I have a full thermos. 
May I pour out some for you ? " 

You will agree with me, I think, that no 
invitation could have been more happily put, 
but his companion was not responsive. With 
one last agonised look at him, she closed her 
eyes and sank back in her seat. Her hps 
had now turned a curious grey-blue colour, 
and they were moving feebly. She reminded 
George, who, like myself, was a keen fisher- 
man, of a newly-gaffed salmon. 

George sat back in his corner, brooding. 
Rack his brain as he might, he could think 
of no topic which could be guaranteed to 
interest, elevate, and amuse. He looked out 
of the window with a sigh. 

The train was now approaching the dear 
old famihar East Wobsley country. He 
began to recognise landmarks. A wave of 
sentiment poured over George as he thought 
of Susan, and he reached for the bag of buns 
which he had bought at the refreshment room 



28 MEET MR. MULLINER 

at Ippleton. Sentiment always made him 
hungry. 

He took his thermos out of the suit-case, 
and, unscrewing the top, poured himself out 
a cup of tea. Then, placing the thermos 
on the seat, he drank. 

He looked across at his companion. Her 
eyes were still closed, and she uttered little 
sighing noises. George was half inclined to 
renew his offer of tea, but the only tune he 
could remember was " Hard-Hearted Hanna, 
the Vamp from Savannah," and it was 
difficult to fit suitable words to it. He ate 
his bun and gazed out at the familiar scenery. 
Now, as you approach East Wobsley, the 
train, I must mention, has to pass over some 
points ; and so violent is the sudden jerking 
that strong men have been known to spill 
their beer. George, forgetting this in his pre- 
occupation, had placed the thermos only a 
few inches from the edge of the seat. The 
result was that, as the train reached the 
points, the flask leaped like a live thing, 
dived to the floor, and exploded. 

Even George was distinctly upset by the 
sudden sharpness of the report. His bun 
sprang from his hand and was dashed to 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 29 
fragments. He blinked thrice in rapid suc- 
cession. His heart tried to jump out of his 
mouth and loosened a front tooth. 

But on the woman opposite the effect of 
the untoward occurrence was still more 
marked. With a single piercing shriek, she 
rose from her seat straight into the air like 
a rocketing pheasant ; and, having clutched 
the communication-cord, fell back again. 
Impressive as her previous leap had been, 
she exceDed it now by several inches. I do 
not know what the existing record for the 
Sitting High- Jump is, but she undoubtedly 
lowered it ; and if George had been a member 
of the Olympic Games Selection Committee, 
he would have signed this woman up im- 
mediatelv. 

It is a curious thing that, in spite of the 
railway companies' sporting wiUingness to 
let their patrons have a tug at the extremely 
moderate price of five pounds a go, very few 
people have ever either pulled a communica- 
tion-cord or seen one pulled. There is, thus, 
a widespread ignorance as to what precisely 
happens on such occasions. 

The procedure, George tells me. is as 



30 MEET MR. MULLINER 

follows : First there comes a grinding noise, 
as the brakes are applied. Then the train 
stops. And finally, from every point of the 
compass, a seething mob of interested on- 
lookers begins to appear. 

It was about a mile and a half from East 
Wobsley that the affair had taken place, and 
as far as the eye could reach the country- 
side was totally devoid of humanity. A 
moment before nothing had been visible but 
smiling cornfields and broad pasture-lands ; 
but now from east, west, north, and south 
running figures began to appear. We must 
remember that George at the time was in a 
somewhat overwrought frame of mind, and 
his statements should therefore be accepted 
with caution ; but he tells me that out of 
the middle of a single empty meadow, entirely 
devoid of cover, no fewer than twenty-seven 
distinct rustics suddenly appeared, having 
undoubtedly shot up through the ground. 

The rails, which had been completely 
unoccupied, were now thronged with so 
dense a crowd of navvies that it seemed to 
George absurd to pretend that there was any 
unemployment in England. Every member 
of the labouring classes throughout the 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 31 

country was so palpably present. More- 
over, the train, which at Ippleton had seemed 
sparsely occupied, was disgorging passengers 
from every door. It was the sort of mob- 
scene which would have made David W. 
Griffith scream with deHght ; and it looked, 
George says, hke Guest Night at the Royal 
Automobile Club. But, as I say, we must 
remember that he was overwrought. 

It is difficult to say what precisely would 
have been the correct behaviour of your 
polished man of the world in such a situation. 
I think myself that a great deal of sang-froid 
and address would be required even by the 
most self-possessed in order to pass off such 
a contretemps. To George, I may say at 
once, the crisis revealed itself immediately 
as one which he was totally incapable of 
handling. The one clear thought that stood 
out from the welter of his emotions was the 
reflection that it was advisable to remove 
himself, and to do so without delay. Draw- 
ing a deep breath, he shot swiftly off the mark. 

All we Mulliners have been athletes ; and 
George, when at the University, had been 
noted for his speed of foot. He ran now as 

B 



32 MEET MR. MULLINER 

he had never run before. His statement, 
however, that as he sprinted across the first 
field he distinctly saw a rabbit shoot an 
envious glance at him as he passed and shrug 
its shoulders hopelessly, I am inchned to 
discount. George, as I have said before, 
was a little over-excited. 

Nevertheless, it is not to be questioned 
that he made good going. And he had need 
to, for after the first instant of surprise, which 
had enabled him to secure a lead, the whole 
mob was pouring across country after him ; 
and dimly, as he ran, he could hear voices 
in the throng informally discussing the 
advisability of lynching him. Moreover, the 
field through which he was running, a moment 
before a bare expanse of green, was now black 
with figures, headed by a man with a beard 
who carried a pitchfork. George swerved 
sharply to the right, casting a swift glance 
over his shoulder at his pursuers. He dis- 
liked them all, but especially the man with 
the pitchfork. 

It is impossible for one who was not an 
eye-witness to say how long the chase con- 
tinued and how much ground was covered 
by the interested parties. I know the East 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 33 

Wobsley country well, and I have checked 
George's statements ; and, if it is true that 
he travelled east as far as Little- Wigmarsh- 
in-the-Dell and as far west as Higgleford- 
cum-Wortlebury-beneath-the-Hill, he must 
undoubtedly have done a lot of running. 

But a point which must not be forgotten 
is that, to a man not in a condition to observe 
closely, the village of Higgleford-cum-Wortle- 
bury-beneath-the-Hill might easily not have 
been Higglef ord - cum - Wortlebury - beneath- 
the-Hill at all, but another hamlet which in 
many respects closely resembles it. I need 
scarcely say that I allude to Lesser-Snods- 
bury-in-the-Vale. 

Let us assume, therefore, that George, 
having touched Little- Wigmarsh-in-the-Dell, 
shot off at a tangent and reached Lesser- 
Snodsbury-in-the-Vale. This would be a 
considerable run. And, as he remembers 
flitting past Farmer Higgins's pigsty and the 
Dog and Duck at Pondlebury Parva and 
splashing through the brook Wipple at the 
point where it joins the River Wopple, we 
can safely assume that, wherever else he 
went, he got plenty of exercise. 

But the pleasantest of functions must 



34 MEET MR. MULLINER 

end, and, just as the setting sun was gilding 
the spire of the ivy-covered church of St. 
Barnabas the Resihent, where George as a 
child had sat so often, enhvening the tedium 
of the sermon by making faces at the choir- 
boys, a damp and bedraggled figure might 
have been observed crawhng painfully along 
the High Street of East Wobsley in the 
direction of the cosy little cottage known to 
its builder as Chatsworth and to the village 
tradesmen as " MuUiner's.'' 

It was George, home from the hunting- 
field. 

Slowly George MuUiner made his way to 
the famiUar door, and, passing through it, 
flung himself into his favourite chair. But 
a moment later a more imperious need than 
the desire to rest forced itself upon his atten- 
tion. Rising stiffly, he tottered to the 
kitchen and mixed himself a revivifying 
whisky-and-soda. Then, refilhng his glass, 
he returned to the sitting-room, to find that 
it was no longer empty. A slim, fair girl, 
tastefully attired in tailor-made tweeds, was 
leaning over the desk on which he kept his 
Dictionary of English Synonyms. 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 35 

She looked up as he entered, startled. 

" Why, Mr. MulUner ! " she exclaimed. 
" What has been happening ? Your clothes 
are torn, rent, ragged, tattered, and your 
hair is all dishevelled, untrimmed, hanging 
loose or negligently, at loose ends ! " 

George smiled a wan smile. 

" You are right," he said. " And, what 
is more, I am suffering from extreme fatigue, 
weariness, lassitude, exhaustion, prostration, 
and languor." 

The girl gazed at him, a divine pity in her 
soft eyes. 

"I'm so sorry," she murmured. " So 
very sorry, grieved, distressed, afflicted, 
pained, mortified, dejected, and upset." 

George took her hand. Her sweet sym- 
pathy had effected the cure for which he had 
been seeking so long. Coming on top of the 
violent emotions through which he had been 
passing all day, it seemed to work on him 
like some healing spell, charm, or incanta- 
tion. Suddenly, in a flash, he realised that 
he was no longer a stammerer. Had he 
wished at that moment to say, " Peter Piper 
picked a peck of pickled peppers," he could 
have done it without a second thought. 



36 MEET MR. MULLINER 

But he had better things to say than that. 

" Miss Blake — Susan — Susie." He took 
her other hand in his. His voice rang out 
clear and unimpeded. It seemed to hira 
incredible that he had ever yammered at 
this girl like an overheated steam-radiator. 
** It cannot have escaped your notice that 
I have long entertained towards you senti- 
ments warmer and deeper than those of 
ordinary friendship. It is love, Susan, that 
has been animating my bosom. Love, first 
a tiny seed, has burgeoned in my heart till, 
blazing into flame, it has swept away on the 
crest of its wave my diffidence, my doubt, 
my fears, and my foreboding, and now, like 
the topmost topaz of some ancient tower, it 
cries to all the world in a voice of thunder : 
' You are mine ! My mate ! Predestined to 
me since Time first began ! ' As the star 
guides the mariner when, battered by boihng 
billows, he hies him home to the haven of 
hope and happiness, so do you gleam upon 
me along life's rough road and seem to say, 
* Have courage, George ! I am here ! ' 
Susan, I am not an eloquent man — I cannot 
speak fluently as I could wish — but these 
simple words which you have just heard 



THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE 37 
come from the heart, from the unspotted 
heart of an EngHsh gentleman. Susan, I 
love you. Will you be my wife, married 
woman, matron, spouse, help-meet, consort, 
partner or better half ? " 

*' Oh, George ! " said Susan. " Yes, yea, 
ay, aye ! Decidedly, unquestionably, in- 
dubitably, incontrovertibly, and past all 
dispute ! " 

He folded her in his arms. And, as he 
did so, there came from the street outside 
— faintly, as from a distance — the sound of 
feet and voices. George leaped to the 
window. Rounding the comer, just by the 
Cow and Wheelbarrow pubUc-house, licensed 
to sell ales, wines, and spirits, was the man 
with the pitchfork, and behind him followed 
a vast crowd. 

" My darhng," said George. " For purely 
personal and private reasons, into which I 
need not enter, I must now leave you. Will 
you join me later ? " 

" I will follow you to the ends of the 
earth," replied Susan, passionately. 

" It will not be necessary," said George. 
** I am only going down to the coal-cellar. 
I shall spend the next half-hour or so there. 



38 MEET MR. MULLINER 

If anybody calls and asks for me, perhaps 
you would not mind telling them that I am 
out." 

" I will, I will," said Susan. " And, 
George, by the way. What I really came 
here for was to ask you if you knew a hyphe- 
nated word of nine letters, ending in k and 
signifying an implement employed in the 
pursuit of agriculture." 

" Pitch-fork, sweetheart," said George. 
" But you may take it from me, as one who 
knows, that agriculture isn't the only thing 
it is used in pursuit of." 

And since that day (concluded Mr. 
Mulhner) George, believe me or beheve me 
not, has not had the shghtest trace of an 
impediment in his speech. He is now the 
chosen orator at all political raUies for miles 
around ; and so offensively self-confident has 
his manner become that only last Friday he 
had his eye blacked by a hay-corn-and-feed 
merchant of the name of Stubbs. It just 
shows you, doesn't it ? 



II 

A SLICE OF LIFE 

THE conversation in the bar-parlour of 
the Anglers' Rest had drifted round to 
the subject of the Arts : and some- 
body asked if that film-serial, " The Vicis- 
situdes of Vera," which they were showing 
down at the Bijou Dream, was worth seeing. 

" It's very good," said Miss Postle- 
thwaite, our courteous and efficient barmaid, 
who is a prominent first-nighter. " It's 
about this mad professor who gets this girl 
into his toils and tries to turn her into a 
lobster." 

" Tries to turn her into a lobster ? " 
echoed we, surprised. 

" Yes, sir. Into a lobster. It seems he 
collected thousands and thousands of lobsters 
and mashed them up and boiled down the 
juice from their glands and was just going to 
inject it into this Vera Dalrymple's spinal 

39 B 2 



40 MEET MR. MULLINER 

column when Jack Frobisher broke into the 
house and stopped him." 

" Why did he do that ? " 

" Because he didn't want the girl he 
loved to be turned into a lobster." 

*' What we mean," said we, " is why did 
the professor want to turn the girl into a 
lobster?" 

" He had a grudge against her." 

This seemed plausible, and we thought 
it over for a while. Then one of the com- 
pany shook his head disapprovingly. 

" I don't like stories like that," he said. 
" They aren't true to hfe." 

*' Pardon me, sir," said a voice. And 
we were aware of Mr. Mulliner in our midst. 

" Excuse me interrupting what may be 
a private discussion," said Mr. Mulhner, " but 
I chanced to overhear the recent remarks, and 
you, sir, have opened up a subject on which 
I happen to hold strong views — to wit, the 
question of what is and what is not true to 
hfe. How can we, with our hmited ex- 
perience, answer that question ? For all we 
know, at this very moment hundreds of 
young women all over the country may be 
in the process of being turned into lobsters 



A SLICE OF LIFE 41 

Forgive my warmth, but I have suffered a 
good deal from this sceptical attitude of 
mmd which is so prevalent nowadays. I 
have even met people who refused to beUeve 
my story about my brother Wilfred, purely 
because it was a little out of the ordinary 
run of the average man's experience." 

Considerably moved, Mr. MulHner ordered 
a hot Scotch with a slice of lemon. 

** What happened to your brother Wil- 
fred ? Was he turned into a lobster ? " 

" No," said Mr. Mulhner, fixing his honest 
blue eyes on the speaker, " he was not. It 
would be perfectly easy for me to pretend 
that he was turned into a lobster ; but I have 
always made it a practice — and I always shall 
make it a practice — to speak nothing but 
the bare truth. My brother Wilfred simply 
had rather a curious adventure." 

My brother Wilfred (said Mr. Mulhner) 
is the clever one of the family. Even as a 
boy he was always messing about with 
chemicals, and at the University he devoted 
his time entirely to research. The result 
was that while still quite a young man he 
had won an established reputation as the 



42 MEET MR. MULLINER 

inventor of what are known to the trade as 
MuUiner's Magic Marvels — a general term 
embracing the Raven Gipsy Face-Cream, the 
Snow of the Mountains Lotion, and many 
other preparations, some designed exclusively 
for the toilet, others of a curative nature, 
intended to alleviate the many ills to which 
the flesh is heir. 

Naturally, he was a very busy man : and 
it is to this absorption in his work that I 
attribute the fact that, though — hke all the 
MuUiners — a man of striking personal charm, 
he had reached his thirty-first year without 
ever having been involved in an affair of the 
heart. I remember him telUng me once that 
he simply had no time for girls. 

But we all fall sooner or later, and these 
strong concentrated men harder than any. 
While taking a brief holiday one year at 
Cannes, he met a Miss Angela Purdue, who 
was staying at his hotel, and she bowled him 
over completely. 

She was one of these jolly, outdoor girls ; 
and Wilfred had told me that what attracted 
him first about her was her wholesome, 
sunburned complexion. In fact, he told 
Miss Purdue the same thing when, shortly 



A SLICE OF LIFE 43 

after he had proposed and been accepted, she 
asked him in her girUsh way what it was that 
had first made him begin to love her. 

" It's such a pity," said Miss Purdue, 
" that the sunburn fades so soon. I do wish 
I knew some way of keeping it." 

Even in his moments of hohest emotion 
Wilfred never forgot that he was a business 
man. 

" You should try Mulliner's Raven Gipsy 
Face-Cream," he said. " It comes in two 
sizes — the small (or half-crown) jar and the 
large jar at seven shillings and sixpence. 
The large jar contains three and a half times 
as much as the small jar. It is applied 
nightly with a small sponge before retiring 
to rest. Testimonials have been received 
from numerous members of the aristocracy 
and may be examined at the office by any 
bona-fide inquirer." 

" Is it really good ? " 

" I invented it," said Wilfred, simply. 

She looked at him adoringly. 

" How clever you are ! Any girl ought 
to be proud to marry you." 

" Oh, well," said Wilfred, with a modest 
wave of his hand. 



44 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" All the same, my guardian is going to 
be terribly angry when I tell him we're 
engaged." 

" Why ? " 

" I inherited the Purdue millions when 
my uncle died, you see, and my guardian 
has always wanted me to marry his son, 
Percy." 

Wilfred kissed her fondly, and laughed a 
defiant laugh. 

" Jer mong feesh der selar," he said 
lightly. 

But, some days after his return to London, 
whither the girl had preceded him, he had 
occasion to recall her words. As he sat in 
his study, musing on a preparation to cure 
the pip in canaries, a card was brought to 
him. 

" Sir Jasper ffinch-ffarrowmere, Bart.," 
he read. The name was strange to him. 

" Show the gentleman in," he said. And 
presently there entered a very stout man with 
a broad, pink face. It was a face whose 
natural expression should, Wilfred felt, have 
been jovial, but at the moment it was grave. 

" Sir Jasper Finch-Farrowmere ? " said 
Wilfred. 



A SLICE OF LIFE 45 

" ffinch - ffarrowmere," corrected the 

visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capital 

letters. 

''Ah yes. You spell it with two small 

f's." 

" Four small f's." 

" And to what do I owe the honour " 

" I am Angela Purdue's guardian." 
'' How do you do ? A whisky-and- 
soda ? " 

" I thank you, no. I am a total abstainer. 
I found that alcohol had a tendency to 
increase my weight, so I gave it up. I have 
also given up butter, potatoes, soups of all 

kinds and However," he broke off, the 

fanatic gleam which comes into the eyes of 
all fat men who are describing their system of 
diet fading away, " this is not a social call, 
and I must not take up your time v/ith idle 
talk. I have a message for you, Mr. MulUner. 
From Angela." 

" Bless her ! " said Wilfred. *' Sir Jasper, 
I love that girl with a fervour which increases 

daily." 

" Is that so ? " said the baronet. '' Well, 
what I came to say was, it's all off." 

" What ? " 



46 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" All off. She sent me to say that she 
had thought it over and wanted to break the 
engagement." 

Wilfred's eyes narrowed. He had not 
forgotten what Angela had said about this 
man wanting her to marry his son. He 
gazed piercingly at liis visitor, no longer 
deceived by the superficial geniahty of his 
appearance. He had read too many detective 
stories where the fat, jolly, red-faced man 
turns out a fiend in human shape to be a 
ready victim to appearances. 

" Indeed ? " he said, coldly. " I should 
prefer to have this information from Miss 
Purdue's own hps." 

" She won't see you. But, anticipating 
this attitude on your part, I brought a letter 
from her. You recognise the writing ? " 

Wilfred took the letter. Certainly, the 
hand was Angela's, and the meaning of the 
words he read unmistakable. Nevertheless, 
as he handed the missive back, there was a 
hard smile on his face. 

" There is such a thing as writing a 
letter under compulsion," he said. 

The baronet's pink face turned mauve. 

" What do you mean, sir ? " 



A SLICE OF LIFE 47 

•' What I say." 

" Are you insinuating " 

" Yes, I am." 

" Pooh, sir ! " 

" Pooh to you ! " said Wilfred. " And, 
if you want to know what I think, you poor 
f&sh, I believe your name is spelled with a 
capital F, hke anybody else's." 

Stung to the quick, the baronet turned 
on his heel and left the room without another 
word. 

Although he had given up his hfe to 
chemical research, Wilfred MuUiner was no 
mere dreamer. He could be the man of 
action when necessity demanded. Scarcely 
had his visitor left when he was on his way 
to the Senior Test-Tubes, the famous 
chemists' club in St. James's. There, con- 
sulting Kelly's " County FamiUes," he learnt 
that Sir Jasper's address was fQnch Hall in 
Yorkshire. He had found out all he wanted 
to know. It was at ffinch Hall, he decided, 
that Angela must now be immured. 

For that she was being immured some- 
where he had no doubt. That letter, he was 
positive, had been written by her under stress 
of threats. The writing was Angela's, but 



48 MEET MR. MULLINER 

he declined to believe that she was responsible 
for the phraseology and sentiments. He 
remembered reading a story where the heroine 
was forced into courses which she would not 
otherwise have contemplated by the fact 
that somebody was standing over her with 
a flask of vitriol. Possibly this was what 
that bounder of a baronet had done to 
Angela. 

Considering this possibiUty, he did not 
blame her for what she had said about him, 
Wilfred, in the second paragraph of her note. 
Nor did he reproach her for signing herself 
" Yrs truly, A. Purdue." Naturally, when 
baronets are threatening to pour vitriol down 
her neck, a refined and sensitive young girl 
cannot pick her words. This sort of thing 
must of necessity interfere with the selection 
of the mot piste. 

That afternoon, Wilfred was in a train 
on his way to Yorkshire. That evening, he 
was in the ffinch Arms in the village of which 
Sir Jasper was the squire. That night, he 
was in the gardens of ffinch Hall, prowling 
softly round the house, listening. 

And presently, as he prowled, there came 
to his ears from an upper window a sound 



A SLICE OF LIFE 49 

that made him stiffen hke a statue and 
clench his hands till the knuckles stood out 
white under the strain. 

It was the sound of a woman sobbing. 

Wilfred spent a sleepless night, but by 
morning he had formed his plan of action. 
I will not weary you with a description of 
the slow and tedious steps by which he first 
made the acquaintance of Sir Jasper's valet, 
who was an habitue of the village inn, and 
then by careful stages won the man's con- 
fidence with friendly words and beer. Suffice 
it to say that, about a week later, Wilfred 
had induced this man with bribes to leave 
suddenly on the plea of an aunt's illness, 
supplying — so as to cause his employer no 
inconvenience — a cousin to take his place. 

This cousin, as you will have guessed, 
was Wilfred himself. But a very different 
Wilfred from the dark-haired, clean-cut young 
scientist who had revolutionised the world 
of chemistry a few months before by proving 
that H20+b3g4z7-m9z8=g6f5p3x. Before 
leaving London on what he knew would be 
a dark and dangerous enterprise, Wilfred had 
taken the precaution of calhng in at a well- 



50 MEET MR. MULLINER 

known costumier's and buying a red wig. 
He had also purchased a pair of blue 
spectacles : but for the role which he had 
now undertaken these were, of course, use- 
less. A blue-spectacled valet could not but 
have aroused suspicion in the most guileless 
baronet. All that Wilfred did, therefore, in 
the way of preparation, was to don the wdg, 
shave off his moustache, and treat his face 
to a hght coating of the Raven Gipsy Face- 
Cream. This done, he set out for fhnch Hall. 

Externally, fhnch Hall was one of those 
gloomy, sombre country-houses which seem 
to exist only for the purpose of having 
horrid crimes committed in them. Even in 
his brief visit to the grounds, Wilfred had 
noticed fully half a dozen places which 
seemed incomplete without a cross indicating 
spot where body was found by the pohce. 
It was the sort of house where ravens croak 
in the front garden just before the death of 
the heir, and shrieks ring out from behind 
barred windows in the night. 

Nor was its interior more cheerful. And, 
as for the personnel of the domestic staff, 
that was less exhilarating than anything else 
about the place. It consisted of an aged 



A SLICE OF LIFE 51 

cook who, as she bent over her cauldrons, 
looked Uke something out of a travelhng 
company of " Macbeth," touring the smaller 
towns of the North, and Murgatroyd, the 
butler, a huge, sinister man with a cast in 
one e5/e and an evil light in the other. 

Many men, under these conditions, would 
have been daunted. But not Wilfred Mul- 
liner. Apart from the fact that, hke all the 
MuUiners, he was as brave as a Hon, he had 
come expecting something of this nature. He 
settled down to his duties and kept his eyes 
open, and before long his vigilance was 
rewarded. 

One day, as he lurked about the dim-lit 
passage-ways, he saw Sir Jasper coming up 
the stairs with a laden tray in his hands. It 
contained a toast-rack, a half bot. of white 
wine, pepper, salt, veg., and in a covered 
dish something which Wilfred, sniffing 
cautiously, decided was a cutlet. 

Lurking in the shadows, he followed the 
baronet to the top of the house. Sir Jasper 
paused at a door on the second floor. He 
knocked. The door opened, a hand was 
stretched forth, the tray vanished, the door 
closed, and the baronet moved away. 



52 MEET MR. MULLINER 

So did Wilfred. He had seen what he 
had wanted to see, discovered what he had 
wanted to discover. He returned to the 
servants' hall, and under the gloomy eyes of 
Murgatroyd began to shape his plans. 

" Where you been ? " demanded the 
butler, suspiciously. 

" Oh, hither and thither," said Wilfred, 
with a well-assumed airiness. 

Murgatroyd directed a menacing glance 
at him. 

" You'd better stay where you belong," he 
said, in his thick, growhng voice. ** There's 
things in this house that don't want seeing." 
** Ah ! " agreed the cook, dropping an 
onion in the cauldron. 

Wilfred could not repress a shudder. 
But, even as he shuddered, he was con- 
scious of a certain reUef. At least, he 
reflected, they were not starving his darling. 
That cutlet had smelt uncommonly good: 
and, if the bill of fare was always maintained 
at this level, she had nothing to complain 
of in the catering. 

But his relief was short-lived. What, 
after all, he asked himself, are cutlets to a 
girl who is imprisoned in a locked room of 



A SLICE OF LIFE 53 

a sinister country-house and is being forced 
to marry a man she does not love ? Practi- 
cally nothing. When the heart is sick, cutlets 
merely alleviate, they do not cure. Fiercely 
Wilfred told himself that, come what might, 
few days should pass before he found the 
key to that locked door and bore away his 
love to freedom and happiness. 

The only obstacle in the way of this 
scheme was that it was plainly going to be 
a matter of the greatest difficulty to find the 
key. That night, when his employer dined, 
Wilfred searched his room thoroughly. He 
found nothing. The key, he was forced to 
conclude, was kept on the baronet's person. 

Then how to secure it ? 

It is not too much to say that Wilfred 
MuUiner was non-plussed. The brain which 
had electrified the world of Science by dis- 
covering that if you mixed a stifiish oxygen 
and potassium and added a splash of tri- 
nitrotoluol and a spot of old brandy you got 
something that could be sold in America as 
champagne at a hundred and fifty dollars 
the case, had to confess itself baffled. 

To attempt to analyse the young man's 



54 MEET MR. MULLINER 

emotions, as the next week dragged itself by, 
would be merely morbid. Life cannot, of 
course, be all sunshine : and in relating a 
story like this, which is a slice of life, one 
must pay as much attention to shade as to 
light : nevertheless, it would be tedious were 
I to describe to you in detail the soul-torments 
which afflicted Wilfred MuUiner as day fol- 
lowed day and no solution to the problem 
presented itself. You are all intelligent men, 
and you can picture to yourselves how a 
high-spirited young fellow, deeply in love, 
must have felt ; knowing that the girl he 
loved was languishing in what practically 
amounted to a dungeon, though situated on 
an upper floor, and chafing at his inabihty 
to set her free. 

His eyes became sunken. His cheek- 
bones stood out. He lost weight. And so 
noticeable was this change in his physique 
that Sir Jasper fhnch-ffarrowmere commented 
on it one evening in tones of unconcealed envy. 

" How the devil, Straker," he said — for 
this was the pseudonym under which Wilfred 
was passing, " do you manage to keep so thin ? 
Judging by the weekly books, you eat like 
a starving Esquimaux, and yet you don't put 



A SLICE OF LIFE 55 

on weight. Now I, in addition to knocking 
off butter and potatoes, have started drink- 
ing hot unsweetened lemon -juice each night 
before retiring : and yet, damme," he said 
— for, like all baronets, he was careless in 
his language, " I weighed myself this morn- 
ing, and I was up another six ounces. What's 
the explanation ? " 

" Yes, Sir Jasper," said Wilfred, mechani- 
cally. 

" What the devil do you mean, Yes, Sir 
Jasper ? " 

" No, Sir Jasper." 

The baronet wheezed plaintively. 

" I've been studying this matter closely,'* 
he said, *' and it's one of the seven wonders 
of the world. Have you ever seen a fat 
valet ? Of course not. Nor has anybody 
else. There is no such thing as a fat valet. 
And yet there is scarcely a moment during 
the day when a valet is not eating. He 
rises at six-thirty, and at seven is having 
coffee and buttered toast. At eight, he 
breakfasts off porridge, cream, eggs, bacon, 
jam, bread, butter, more eggs, more bacon, 
more jam, more tea, and more butter, 
finishing up with a slice of cold ham and a 



56 MEET MR. MULLINER 

sardine. At eleven o'clock he has his 
' elevenses,' consisting of coffee, cream, more 
bread and more butter. At one, luncheon 
—a hearty meal, replete with every form of 
starchy food and lots of beer. If he can get 
at the port, he has port. At three, a snack. 
At four, another snack. At five, tea and 
buttered toast. At seven — dinner, probably 
with floury potatoes, and certainly with lots 
more beer. At nine, another snack. And 
at ten-thirty he retires to bed, taking with 
him a glass of milk and a plate of biscuits to 
keep himself from getting hungry in the night. 
And yet he remains as slender as a string- 
bean, while I, who have been dieting for 
3^ears, tip the beam at two hundred and 
seventeen pounds, and am growing a third 
and supplementary chin. These are mys- 
teries, Straker." 

" Yes, Sir Jasper." 

" WeU, I U tell you one thing," said the 
baronet, " I'm getting down one of those 
indoor Turkish Bath cabinet-affairs from 
London ; and if that doesn't do the trick, I 
give up the struggle." 

The indoor Turkish Bath duly arrived and 



A SLICE OF LIFE 57 

was unpacked ; and it was some three nights 
later that Wilfred, brooding in the servants' 
hall, was aroused from his reverie by Mur- 
gatroyd. 

" Here," said Murgatroyd, " wake up. 
Sir Jasper's caUing you." 

'* CaUing me what ? " asked Wilfred, 
coming to himself with a start. 

** Calling you very loud," growled the 
butler. 

It was indeed so. From the upper regions 
of the house there was proceeding a series 
of sharp yelps, evidently those of a man in 
mortal stress. Wilfred was reluctant to 
interfere in any way if, as seemed probable, 
his employer was dying in agony ; but he 
was a conscientious man, and it was his duty, 
while in this sinister house, to perform the 
work for which he was paid. He hurried 
up the stairs ; and, entering Sir Jasper's 
bedroom, perceived the baronet's crimson 
face protruding from the top of the indoor 
Turkish Bath. 

" So you've come at last ! " cried Sir 
Jasper. " Look here, when you put me into 
this infernal contrivance just now, what did 
you do to the dashed thing ? " 



58 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Nothing beyond what was indicated in 
the printed pamphlet accompanying the 
machine, Sir Jasper. Following the in- 
structions, I slid Rod A into Groove B, 
fastening with Catch C " 

" Well, you must have made a mess of 
it, somehow. The thing's stuck. I can't 
get out." 

" You can't ? " cried Wilfred. 

" No. And the bally apparatus is getting 
considerably hotter than the hinges of the 
Inferno." I must apologise for Sir Jasper's 
language, but you know what baronets are. 
" I'm being cooked to a crisp." 

A sudden flash of light seemed to blaze 
upon Wilfred Mulhner. 

** I will release you. Sir Jasper " 

" Well, hurry up, then." 

" On one condition." Wilfred fixed him 
with a piercing gaze. " First, I must have 
the key." 

" There isn't a key, you idiot. It doesn't 
lock. It just clicks when you sHde Gadget 
D into Thingummybob E." 

" The key I require is that of the room 
in which you are holding Angela Purdue a 
prisoner." 



A SLICE OF LIFE 59 

" What the devil do you mean ? Ouch ! " 

" I will tell you what I mean, Sir Jasper 
ffinch-ffarrowmere. I am Wilfred Mul- 
liner ! " 

'* Don't be an ass. Wilfred MulUner has 
black hair. Yours is red. You must be 
thinking of some one else." 

"This is a wig," said Wilfred. "By 
Clarkson." He shook a menacing finger at 
the baronet. " You Httle thought, Sir Jasper 
ffinch-ffarrowmere, when you embarked on 
this dastardly scheme, that Wilfred Mulliner 
was watching your every move. I guessed 
your plans from the start. And now is the 
moment when I checkmate them. Give me 
that key, you Fiend." 

" ffiend," corrected Sir Jasper, auto- 
matically. 

" I am going to release my darUng, to 
take her away from this dreadful house, to 
marry her by special Hcence as soon as it can 
legally be done." 

In spite of his sufferings, a ghastly laugh 
escaped Sir Jasper's lips. 

" You are, are you ! " 

" I am." 

" Yes, you are ! " 



6o MEET MR. MULLINER 

** Give me the key," 

" I haven't got it, you chump. It's in 
the door." 

" Ha, ha ! " 

" It's no good saying ' Ha, ha ! ' It is 
in the door. On Angela's side of the door." 

*' A Hkely story ! But I cannot stay here 
wasting time. If you will not give me the 
key, I shall go up and break in the door." 

" Do ! " Once more the baronet laughed 
like a tortured soul. '' And see what she'll 
say." 

Wilfred could make nothing of this last 
remark. He could, he thought, imagine very 
clearly what Angela would say. He could 
picture her sobbing on his chest, murmuring 
that she knew he would come, that she had 
never doubted him for an instant. He leapt 
■for the door. 

" Here ! Hi ! Aren't you going to let 
me out ? " 

" Presently," said Wilfred. " Keep cool." 
He raced up the stairs. 

"Angela," he cried, pressing his Hps 
against the panel. " Angela ! " 

" Who's that ? " answered a weU-re- 
membered voice from within. 



A SLICE OF LIFE 6i 

"It is I — Wilfred. I am going to burst 
open the door. Stand clear of the gates." 

He drew back a few paces, and hurled 
himself at the woodwork. There was a 
grinding crash, as the lock gave. And 
Wilfred, staggering on, found himself in a 
room so dark that he could see nothing. 

'* Angela, where are you ? " 

"I'm here. And I'd like to know why 
you are, after that letter I wrote you. Some 
men/' continued the strangely cold voice, 
" do not seem to know how to take a hint." 

Wilfred staggered, and would have fallen 
had he not clutched at his forehead. 

" That letter ? " he stammered. " You 
surely didn't mean what you wrote in that 
letter ? " 

" I meant every word and I wish I had 
put in more." 

" But — but — but But don't you love 

me, Angela ? " 

A hard, mocking laugh rang through the 
room. 

" Love you ? Love the man who recom- 
mended me to try Mulliner's Raven Gipsy 
Face-Cream ! " 

" What do you mean ? " 



62 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" I will tell you what I mean. Wilfred 
Mulliner, look on your handiwork ! " 

The room became suddenly flooded with 
hght. And there, standing with her hand 
on the switch, stood Angela — a queenly, 
lovely figure, in whose radiant beauty the 
sternest critic would have noted but one 
flaw — the fact that she was piebald. 

Wilfred gazed at her with adoring eyes. 
Her face was partly brow^n and partly white, 
and on her snowy neck were patches of sepia 
that looked like the thumb-prints you find 
on the pages of books in the Free Library : 
but he thought her the most beautiful 
creature he had ever seen. He longed to 
fold her in his arms : and but for the fact 
that her eyes told him that she would 
undoubtedly land an upper-cut on him if 
he tried it he would have done so. 

" Yes," she went on, " this is what you 
have made of me, Wilfred MulUner — you and 
that awful stuff you call the Raven Gipsy 
Face-Cream. This is the skin you loved to 
touch ! I took your advice and bought one 
of the large jars at seven and six, and see 
the result ! Barely twenty-four hours after 
the first appUcation, I could have walked 



A SLICE OF LIFE 63 

into any circus and named my owti terms as 
the Spotted Princess of the Fiji Islands. I 
fled here to my childhood home, to hide 
myself. And the first thing that happened " 
— her voice broke — " was that my favourite 
hunter shied at me and tried to bite pieces 
out of his manger : while Ponto, my httle 
dog, whom I have reared from a puppy, 
caught one sight of my face and is now in 
the hands of the vet. and unhkely to recover. 
And it was you, Wilfred Mulhner, who 
brought this curse upon me ! " 

Many men would have wilted beneath 
these searing words, but Wilfred Mulhner 
merely smiled with infinite compassion and 
understanding. 

"It is quite all right," he said. *' I 
should have warned you, sweetheart, that 
this occasionally happens in cases where the 
skin is exceptionally delicate and finely- 
textured. It can be speedily remedied by 
an apphcation of the Mulliner Snow of the 
Mountains Lotion, four shillings the medium- 
sized bottle." 

'' Wilfred ! Is this true ? " 

" Perfectly true, dearest. And is this all 

that stands between us ? " 

c 



64 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" No ! " shouted a voice of thunder. 

Wilfred wheeled sharply. In the door- 
way stood Sir Jasper ffinch-ff arrowmere . 
He was swathed in a bath-towel, what was 
visible of his person being a bright crimson. 
Behind him, toying with a horse-whip, stood 
Murgatroyd, the butler. 

" You didn't expect to see me, did you ? " 

" I certainly," repUed Wilfred, severely, 
" did not expect to see you in a lady's 
presence in a costume like that." 

" Never mind my costume." Sir Jasper 
turned. 

" Murgatroyd, do your duty ! " 

The butler, scowhng horribly, advanced 
into the room. 

" Stop ! " screamed Angela. 

*' I haven't begun yet, miss," said the 
butler, deferentially. 

" You shan't touch Wilfred. I love 
him." 

" What ! " cried Sir Jasper. " After all 
that has happened ? " 

" Yes. He has explained everything." 

A grim frown appeared on the baronet's 
vermilion face. 

" I'll bet he hasn't explained why he left 



A SLICE OF LIFE 65 

me to be cooked in that infernal Turkish 
Bath. I was beginning to throw out clouds 
of smoke when Murgatroyd, faithful fellow, 
heard my cries and came and released me." 

" Though not my work," added the butler. 

Wilfred eyed him steadily. 

** If," he said, '' you used Mulliner's 
Reduc-o, the recognised specific for obesity, 
whether in the tabloid form at three shillings 
the tin, or as a liquid at five and six the flask, 
you would have no need to stew in Turkish 
Baths. MulUner's Reduc-o, which contains 
no injurious chemicals, but is compounded 
purely of health-giving herbs, is guaranteed 
to remove excess weight, steadily and without 
weakening after-effects, at the rate of two 
pounds a week. As used by the nobihty." 

The glare of hatred faded from the 
baronet's eyes. 

*' Is that a fact ? " he whispered. 

" It is." 
You guarantee it ? " 
All the Mulliner preparations are fully 
guaranteed." 

" My boy ! " cried the baronet. He shook 
Wilfred by the hand. " Take her," he said, 
brokenly. " And with her my b-blessing." 






66 MEET MR. MULLINER 

A discreet cough sounded in the back- 
ground. 

" You haven't anything, by any chance, 
sir," asked Murgatroyd, " that's good for 
lumbago ? " 

" MuUiner's Ease-o will cure the most 
stubborn case in six days." 

" Bless you, sir, bless you," sobbed 
Murgatroyd. " Where can I get it ? " 

" At all chemists." 

" It catches me in the small of the back 
principally, sir." 

" It need catch you no longer," said 
Wilfred. 

There is little to add. Murgatroyd is 
now the most lissom butler in Yorkshire. 
Sir Jasper's weight is down under the fifteen 
stone and he is thinking of taking up hunting 
again. Wilfred and Angela are man and 
wife ; and never, I am informed, have the 
wedding-bells of the old church at ffinch 
village rung out a blither peal than they 
did on that June morning when Angela, 
raising to her love a face on which the 
brown was as evenly distributed as on an 
antique walnut table, replied to the clergy- 
man's question, " Wilt thou, Angela, take this 



A SLICE OF LIFE 67 

Wilfred ? " with a shy, " I will." They 
now have two bonny bairns — the small, or 
Percival, at a preparatory school in Sussex, 
and the large, or Ferdinand, at Eton. 

Here Mr. Mulhner, having finished his 
hot Scotch, bade us farewell and took his 
departure. 

A silence followed his exit. The company 
seemed plunged in deep thought. Then 
somebody rose. 

" Well, good night all," he said. 

It seemed to sum up the situation 



Ill 

MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 

THE village Choral Society had been 
giving a performance of Gilbert and 
SuUivan's "Sorcerer" in aid of the 
Church Organ Fund ; and, as we sat in the 
window of the Anglers' Rest, smoking our 
pipes, the audience came streaming past us 
down the little street. Snatches of song 
floated to our ears, and Mr. MuUiner began 
to croon in unison. 

" ' Ah me ! I was a pa-ale you-oung 
curate then I ' " chanted Mr. Mulliner in the 
rather snuffling voice in which the amateur 
singer seems to find it necessary to render 
the old songs. 

" Remarkable," he said, resuming his 
natural tones, " how fashions change, even 
in clergymen. There are very few pale 
young curates nowadays." 

''True," I agreed. "Most of them are 

68 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 69 

beefy young fellows who rowed for their 
colleges. I don't believe I have ever seen 
a pale young curate." 

*' You never met my nephew Augustine, 
I think ? " 

" Never." 

" The description in the song would have 
fitted him perfectly. You will want to hear 
all about my nephew Augustine." 

At the time of which I am speaking (said 
Mr. MuHiner) my nephew Augustine was a 
curate, and very young and extremely pale. 
As a boy he had completely outgrown his 
strength, and I rather think that at his 
Theological College some of the wilder spirits 
must have bullied him ; for when he went 
to Lower Briskett-in-the-Midden to assist the 
vicar, the Rev. Stanley Brandon, in his cure 
of souls, he was as meek and mild a young 
man as you could meet in a day's journey. 
He had flaxen hair, weak blue eyes, and the 
general demeanour of a saintly but timid 
codfish. Precisely, in short, the sort of 
young curate who seems to have been so 
common in the 'eighties, or whenever it was 
that Gilbert wrote "The Sorcerer." 



70 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The personality of his immediate supenor 
did httle or nothing to help him to overcome 
his native diffidence. The Rev. Stanley 
Brandon was a huge and sinewy man of 
violent temper, whose red face and glittering 
eyes might well have intimidated the toughest 
curate. The Rev. Stanley had been a heavy- 
weight boxer at Cambridge, and I gather 
from Augustine that he seemed to be always 
on the point of introducing into debates on 
parish matters the methods which had made 
him so successful in the roped ring. I 
remember Augustine telHng me that once, 
on the occasion when he had ventured to 
oppose the other's views in the matter of 
decorating the church for the Harvest 
Festival, he thought for a moment that the 
vicar was going to drop him with a right 
hook to the chin. It was some qmte trivial 
point that had come up — a question as to 
whether the pumpkin would look better in 
the apse or the clerestory, if I recollect 
rightly — but for several seconds it seemed as 
if blood was about to be shed. 

Such was the Rev. Stanley Brandon. 
And yet it was to the daughter of this for- 
midable man that Augustine MuUiner had 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 71 

permitted himself to lose his heart. Truly, 
Cupid makes heroes of us all. 

Jane was a very nice girl, and just as 
fond of Augustine as he was of her. But, 
as each lacked the nerve to go to the girl's 
father and put him abreast of the position 
of affairs, they were forced to meet sur- 
reptitiously. This jarred upon Augustine, 
who, hke all the MuUiners, loved the truth 
and hated any form of deception. And one 
evening, as they paced beside the laurels at 
the bottom of the vicarage garden, he 
rebelled. 

" My dearest," said Augustine, "I can 
no longer brook this secrecy. I shall go 
into the house immediately and ask your 
father for your hand." 

Jane paled and clung to his arm. She 
knew so well that it was not her hand but 
her father's foot which he would receive if 
he carried out this mad scheme. 

" No, no, Augustine ! You must not ! " 

" But, darhng, it is the only straight- 
forward course." 

" But not to-night. I beg of you, not 

to-night." 

" Why not ? " 

c 2 



72 MEET MR. MULLINER 

** Because father is in a very bad temper. 
He has just had a letter from the bishop, 
rebuking him for wearing too many orphreys 
on his chasuble, and it has upset him terribly. 
You see, he and the bishop were at school 
together, and father can never forget it. 
He said at dinner that if old Boko Bickerton 
thought he was going to order him about 
he would jolly well show him." 

" And the bishop comes here to-morrow 
for the Confirmation services ! " gasped 
Augustine. 

" Yes. And I'm so afraid they will 
quarrel. It's such a pity father hasn't some 
other bishop over him. He always re- 
members that he once hit this one in the 
eye for pouring ink on his collar, and this 
lowers his respect for his spiritual authority. 
So you won't go in and tell him to-night, 
will you ? 

" I will not," Augustine assured her with 
a slight shiver. 

" And you will be sure to put your feet 
in hot mustard and x^-ater when you get 
home ? The dew has made the grass so 
wet." 

" I will indeed, dearest." 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 73 

" You are not strong, you know." 

" No, I am not strong." 

" You ought to take some really good 
tonic." 

" Perhaps I ought. Good night, Jane." 

" Good night, Augustine." 

The lovers parted. Jane shpped back into 
the vicarage, and Augustine made liis way 
to his cosy rooms in the High Street. And 
the first thing he noticed on entering was a 
parcel on the table, and beside it a letter. 

He opened it listlessly, his thoughts far 
away. 

" My dear Augustine." 

He turned to the last page and glanced 
at the signature. The letter was from his 
Aunt Angela, the wife of my brother, Wilfred 
MulHner. You may remember that I once 
told you the story of how these two came 
together. If so, you will recall that my 
brother Wilfred was the eminent chemical 
researcher who had invented, among other 
specifics, such world-famous preparations as 
Mulliner's Raven Gipsy Face-Cream and the 
Mulliner Snow of the Mountains Lotion. He 
and Augustine had never been particularly 
intimate, but between Augustine and his 



74 MEET MR. MULLINER 

aunt there had always existed a warm 
friendship. 

My dear Augustine (wrote Angela MuUiner), 
/ have been thinking so much about 
you lately, and I cannot forget that, when I 
saw you last, you seemed very fragile and 
deficient in vitamines. I do hope you take 
care of yourself . 

I have been feeling for some time that you 
ought to take a tonic, and by a lucky chance 
Wilfred has just invented one which he tells 
me is the finest thing he has ever done. It is 
called Buck-U-Uppo, and acts directly on the 
red corpuscles. It is not yet on the market, 
but I have managed to smuggle a sample 
bottle from Wilfred's laboratory, and I want 
you to try it at once. I am sure it is just what 
vou need. 

Your affectionate aunt, 

Angela MuUiner. 

P.S. — Yott take a tablespoonful before going 
to bed, and another just before breakfast. 

Augustine was not an unduly superstitious 
young man, but the coincidence of this tonic 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 75 

arriving so soon after Jane had told him that 
a tonic was what he needed affected him 
deeply. It seemed to him that this thing 
must have been meant. He shook the bottle, 
uncorked it, and, pouring out a liberal table- 
spoonful, shut his eyes and swallowed it. 

The medicine, he was glad to find, was 
not unpleasant to the taste. It had a slightly 
pungent flavour, rather like old boot-soles 
beaten up in sherry. Having taken the 
dose, he read for a while in a book of theo- 
logical essays, and then went to bed. 

And as his feet slipped between the 
sheets, he was annoyed to find that Mrs. 
Wardle, his housekeeper, had once more 
forgotten his hot-water bottle. 

" Oh, dash ! " said Augustine. 

He was thoroughly upset. He had told 
the woman over and over again that he 
suffered from cold feet and could not get 
to sleep unless the dogs were properly 
warmed up. He sprang out of bed and 
went to the head of the stairs. 

" Mrs. Wardle ! " he cried. 

There was no reply. 

** Mrs. Wardle ! " bellowed Augustine in 
a voice that rattled the window-panes hke 



76 MEET MR. MULLINER 

a strong nor'-easter. Until to-night he had 
always been very much afraid of his house- 
keeper and had both walked and talked 
softly in her presence. But now he was 
conscious of a strange new fortitude. His 
head was singing a httle, and he felt equal 
to a dozen Mrs. Wardles. 

Shuffling footsteps made themselves heard. 

" Well, what is it now ? " asked a queru- 
lous voice. 

Augustine snorted. 

"I'll tell you what it is now," he roared. 
" How many times have I told you always 
to put a hot-water bottle in my bed ? 
You've forgotten it again, you old cloth- 
head ! " 

Mrs. Wardle peered up, astounded and 
mihtant. 

" Mr. Mulliner, I am not accustomed " 

" Shut up ! " thundered Augustine. 
** What I want from you is less back-chat 
and more hot-water bottles. Bring it up at 
once, or I leave to-morrow. Let me en- 
deavour to get it into your concrete skull 
that you aren't the only person letting rooms 
in this village. Any more Hp and I walk 
straight round the comer, where I'll be 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 77 

appreciated. Hot-water bottle ho ! And 
look slippy about it." 

" Yes, Mr. Mulliner. Certainly, Mr. 
Mulliner. In one moment, Mr. Mulliner." 

" Action ! Action ! " boomed Augustine. 
" Show some speed. Put a little snap into it." 

■' Yes, yes, most decidedly, Mr. Mulliner," 
repHed the chastened voice from below. 

An hour later, as he was dropping off to 
sleep, a thought crept into Augustine's mind. 
Had he not been a little brusque with Mrs. 
Wardle ? Had there not been in his manner 
something a shade abrupt — almost rude ? 
Yes, he decided regretfully, there had. He 
lit a candle and reached for the diary which 
lay on the table at his bedside. 

He made an entry. 

The meek shall inherit the earth. Am I 
sufficiently meek ? I wonder. This evening, 
when reproaching Mrs. Wardle, my worthy 
housekeeper, for omitting to place a hot-water 
bottle in my bed, I spoke quite crossly. The 
provocation was severe, hut still I was surely 
to hlame for allowing my passions to rim riot. 
Mem : Must guard agst this. 

But when he woke next morning, different 
feehngs prevailed. He took his ante-break- 



78 MEET MR. MULLINER 

fast dose of Buck-U-Uppo : and looking at 
the entry in the diary, could scarcely beheve 
that it was he who had written it. " Quite 
cross ? " Of course he had been quite cross. 
Wouldn't anybody be quite cross who was 
for ever being persecuted by beetle-wits who 
forgot hot-water bottles ? 

Erasing the words with one strong dash 
of a thick-leaded pencil, he scribbled in the 
margin a hasty " Mashed potatoes ! Served 
the old idiot right ! " and went down to 
breakfast. 

He felt most amazingly fit. Un- 
doubtedly, in asserting that this tonic of 
his acted forcefully upon the red corpuscles, 
Ms Uncle Wilfred had been right. Until 
that moment Augustine had never supposed 
that he had any red corpuscles ; but now, 
as he sat waiting for Mrs. Wardle to bring 
him his fried egg, he could feel them dancing 
about all over him. They seemed to be 
forming rowdy parties and sliding down his 
spine. His eyes sparkled, and from sheer 
joy of hving he sang a few bars from the hymn 
for those of riper years at sea. 

He was still singing when Mrs. Wardle 
entered with a dish. 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 79 

" What's this ? " demanded Augustine, 
eyeing it dangerously. 

" A nice fried Qg^, sir." 

" And what, pray, do you mean by nice ? 
It may be an amiable Qgg. It may be a 
civil, well-meaning Qgg. But if you think it 
is fit for human consumption, adjust that 
impression. Go back to your kitchen, 
woman ; select another ; and remember 
this time that you are a cook, not an in- 
cinerating machine. Between an egg that 
is fried and an Qgg that is cremated there is 
a wide and substantial difference. This 
difference, if you wish to retain me as a 
lodger in these far too expensive rooms, you 
will endeavour to appreciate." 

The glowing sense of well-being with 
which Augustine had begun the day did not 
diminish with the passage of time. It 
seemed, indeed, to increase. So full of 
effervescing energy did the young man feel 
that, departing from his usual custom of 
spending the morning crouched over the 
fire, he picked up his hat, stuck it at a rakish 
angle on his head, and sallied out for a 
healthy tramp across the fields. 



8o MEET MR. MULLINER 

It was while he was returning, flushed 
and rosy, that he observed a sight which is 
rare in the country districts of England — 
the spectacle of a bishop running. It is 
not often in a place like Lower Briskett-in- 
the-Midden that you see a bishop at all ; 
and when you do he is either riding in a 
stately car or pacing at a dignified walk. 
This one was sprinting hke a Derby winner, 
and Augustine paused to drink in the sight. 

The bishop was a large, burly bishop, 
built for endurance rather than speed ; but 
he was making excellent going. He flashed 
past Augustine in a whirl of flying gaiters : 
and then, proving himself thereby no mere 
specialist but a versatile all-round athlete, 
suddenly dived for a tree and climbed rapidly 
into its branches. His motive, Augustine 
readily divined, was to elude a rough, hairy 
dog which was toiling in his wake. The dog 
reached the tree a moment after his quarry 
had climbed it, and stood there, barking. 

Augustine strolled up. 

" Having a httle trouble with the dumb 
friend, bish ? " he asked, genially. 

The bishop peered down from his eyrie. 

" Young man," he said, " save me \ " 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 8i 

" Right most indubitably ho ! " repHed 
Augustine. '* Leave it to me." 

Until to-day he had always been terrified 
of dogs, but now he did not hesitate. Almost 
quicker than words can tell, he picked up 
a stone, discharged it at the animal, and 
whooped cheerily as it got home with a thud. 
The dog, knowing when he had had enough, 
removed himself at some forty-five m.p.h. ; 
and the bishop, descending cautiously, 
clasped Augustine's hand in his. 

" My preserver ! " said the bishop. 

" Don't give it another thought," said 
Augustine, cheerily. " Always glad to do a 
pal a good turn. We clergymen must stick 
together." 

" I thought he had me for a minute." 

" Quite a nasty customer. Full of rude 
energy." 

The bishop nodded. 

" His eye was not dim, nor his natural 
force abated. Deuteronomy xxxiv. 7," he 
agreed. " I wonder if you can direct me to 
the vicarage ? I fear I have come a little 
out of my way." 

"Til take you there." 

" Thank you. Perhaps it would be as 



82 MEET MR. MULLINER 

well if you did not come in. I have a serious 
matter to discuss with old Pieface — I mean, 
with the Rev. Stanley Brandon." 

" I have a serious matter to discuss with 
his daughter. I'll just hang about the 
garden." 

*' You are a very excellent young man," 
said the bishop, as they walked along. " You 
are a curate, eh ? " 

"At present. But," said Augustine, 
tapping his companion on the chest, " just 
watch my smoke. That's all I ask you to 
do — just watch my smoke." 

" I will. You should rise to great heights 
— to the very top of the tree." 

" Like you did just now, eh ? Ha, ha ! " 

" Ha, ha ! " said the bishop. " You 
young rogue ! " 

He poked Augustine in the ribs. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! " said Augustine. 

He slapped the bishop on the back. 

" But all joking aside," said the bishop 
as they entered the vicarage grounds, " I 
really shall keep my eye on you and see that 
you receive the swift preferment which your 
talents and character deserve. I say to you, 
my dear young friend, speaking seriously and 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 83 

weighing my words, that the way you picked 
that dog off with that stone was the smoothest 
thing I ever saw. And I am a man who 
always tells the strict truth." 

" Great is truth and mighty above all 
things. Esdras iv. 41," said Augustine. 

He turned away and strolled towards the 
laurel bushes, which were his customary 
meeting-place with Jane. The bishop went 
on to the front door and rang the bell. 

Although they had made no definite 
appointment, Augustine was surprised when 
the minutes passed and no Jane appeared. 
He did not know that she had been told off 
by her father to entertain the bishop's wife 
that morning, and show her the sights of 
Lower Briskett-in-the-Midden. He waited 
some quarter of an hour with growing 
impatience, and was about to leave when 
suddenly from the house there came to his 
ears the sound of voices raised angrily. 

He stopped. The voices appeared to 
proceed from a room on the ground floor 
facing the garden. 

Running hghtly over the turf, Augustine 
paused outside the window and listened. 






84 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The window was open at the bottom, and 
he could hear quite distinctly. 

The vicar was speaking in a voice that 
vibrated through the room. 

" Is that so ? " said the vicar. 
Yes, it is ! " said the bishop. 
Ha, ha ! " 

" Ha, ha ! to you, and see how you like 
it ! " rejoined the bishop with spirit. 

Augustine drew a step closer. It was 
plain that Jane's fears had been justified and 
that there was serious trouble afoot between 
these two old schoolfellows. He peeped in. 
The vicar, his hands behind his coat-tails, 
was striding up and down the carpet, while 
the bishop, his back to the fireplace, glared 
defiance at him from the hearth-rug. 

" Who ever told you you were an authority 
on chasubles ? " demanded the vicar. 

" That's all right who told me," rejoined 
the bishop. 

" I don't believe you know what a chasuble 
is." 

" Is that so ? " 

" WeU, what is it, then ? " 

" It's a circular cloak hanging from the 
shoulders, elaborately embroidered with a 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 85 

pattern and with orphreys. And you can 
argue as much as you Hke, young Pieface, but 
you can't get away from the fact that there 
are too many orphreys on yours. And what 
I'm teUing you is that you've jolly well got 
to switch off a few of those orphreys or you'll 
get it in the neck." 

The vicar's eyes glittered furiously. 

" Is that so ? " he said. " Well, I just 
won't, so there ! And it's like your cheek 
coming here and trying to high-hat me. 
You seem to have forgotten that I knew you 
when you were an inky-faced kid at school, 
and that, if I liked, I could tell the world 
one or two things about you which would 
probably amuse it." 

" My past is an open book." 

"Is it ? " The vicar laughed male- 
volently. " Who put the white mouse in 
the French master's desk ? " 

The bishop started. 

" W'ho put jam in the dormitory prefect's 
bed ? " he retorted. 

" Who couldn't keep his collar clean ? " 

" WTio used to wear a dickey ? " The 
bishop's wonderful organ-hke voice, whose 
softest whisper could be heard throughout a 



86 MEET MR. MULLINER 

vast cathedral, rang out in tones of thunder. 

" Who was sick at the house supper ? " 

The vicar quivered from head to foot. 
His rubicund face turned a deeper crimson. 

" You know jolly well/' he said, in 
shaking accents, " that there was something 
wrong with the turkey. Might have upset 

any one." 

" The only thing wrong with the turkey 
was that you ate too much of it. If you 
had paid as much attention to developing 
your soul as you did to developing your 
tummy, you might by now," said the bishop, 
" have risen to my own eminence." 

" Oh, might 1 ? " 

" No, perhaps I am wrong. You never 
had the brain." 

The vicar uttered another discordant laugh. 

" Brain is good ! We know all about your 
eminence, as you call it, and how you rose 
to that eminence." 

" WTiat do you mean ? " 

" You are a bishop. How you became 
one we will not inquire." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" What I say. We will not inquire." 

" Why don't you inquire ? " 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 87 

" Because," said the vicar, '* it is better 
not ! " 

The bishop's self-control left him. His 
face contorted with fury, he took a step 
forward. And simultaneously Augustine 
sprang lightly into the room. 

" Now, now, now ! " said Augustine. 
'' Now, now, now, now, now ! " 

The two men stood transfixed. They 
stared at the intruder dumbly. 

" Come, come ! " said Augustine. 

The vicar was the first to recover. He 
glowered at Augustine. 

" What do you mean by jumping through 
my window ? " he thundered. '' Are you a 
curate or a harlequin ? " 

Augustine met his gaze with an unfaltering 
eye. 

" I am a curate," he replied, with a 
dignity that well became him. '' And, as a 
curate, I cannot stand by and see two 
superiors of the cloth, who are moreover 
old schoolfellows, forgetting themselves. It 
isn't right. Absolutely not right, my dear 
old superiors of the cloth." 

The vicar bit his hp. The bishop bowed 
his head. 



88 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Listen," proceeded Augustine, placing 
a hand on the shoulder of each. " I hate 
to see you two dear good chaps quarreUing 
like this." 

" He started it," said the vicar, sullenly. 

" Never mind who started it." Augustine 
silenced the bishop with a curt gesture as 
he made to speak. " Be sensible, my dear 
fellows. Respect the decencies of debate. 
Exercise a little good-humoured give-and- 
take. You say," he went on, turning to 
the bishop, " that our good friend here has 
too many orphreys on his chasuble ? " 
I do. And I stick to it." 
Yes, yes, yes. But what," said Augus- 
tine, soothingly, " are a few orphreys be- 
tween friends ? Reflect ! You and our 
worthy vicar here were at school together. 
You are bound by the sacred ties of the 
old Alma Mater. With him you sported on 
the green. With him you shared a crib and 
threw inked darts in the hour supposed to be 
devoted to the study of French. Do these 
things mean nothing to you ? Do these 
memories touch no chord ? " He turned 
appeahngly from one to the other. " Vicar ! 
Bish ! " 



(( 



tt 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 89 

The vicar had moved away and was 
wiping his eyes. The bishop fumbled for a 
pocket-handkerchief. There was a silence. 

" Sorry, Pieface," said the bishop, in a 
choking voice. 

** Shouldn't have spoken as I did. Boko," 
mumbled the vicar. 

" If you want to know what I think," said 
the bishop, *' you are right in attributing 
your indisposition at the house supper to 
something wrong with the turkey. I re- 
collect saying at the time that the bird 
should never have been served in such a 
condition." 

** And when you put that white mouse in 
the French master's desk," said the vicar, 
*' you performed one of the noblest services 
to humanity of which there is any record. 
They ought to have made you a bishop on 
the spot." 

" Pieface ! " 

" Boko I " 

The two men clasped hands. 

" Splendid ! " said Augustine. " Every- 
thing hotsy-totsy now ? " 

" Quite, quite," said the vicar. 

" As far as I am concerned, completely 



90 MEET MR. MULLINER 

hotsy-totsy," said the bishop. He turned 
to his old friend soHcitously. " You will 
continue to wear all the orphreys you want — 
will you not, Pief ace ? ' ' 

" No, no. I see now that I was wrong. 
From now on. Boko, I abandon orphreys 
altogether." 

" But, Pieface " 

" It's all right," the vicar assured him. 
" I can take them or leave them alone." 

" Splendid fellow ! " The bishop 

coughed to hide his emotion, and there was 
another silence. " I think, perhaps," he 
went on, after a pause, " I should be leaving 
you now, my dear chap, and going in search 
of my wife. She is with your daughter, I 
believe, somewhere in the village." 

" They are coming up the drive now." 

" Ah, yes, I see them. A charming girl, 
your daughter." 

Augustine clapped him on the shoulder. 

" Bish," he exclaimed, " you said a 
mouthful. She is the dearest, sweetest girl 
in the whole world. And I should be glad, 
vicar, if you would give your consent to 
our immediate union. I love Jane with 
a good man's fervour, and I am happy to 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 91 

inform you that my sentiments are returned. 
Assure us, therefore, of your approval, and 
I will go at once and have the banns 
put up." 

The vicar leaped as though he had been 
stung. Like so many vicars, he had a poor 
opinion of curates, and he had always 
regarded Augustine as rather below than 
above the general norm or level of the 
despised class. 

" What ! " he cried. 

" A most excellent idea," said the 
bishop, beaming. " A very happy notion, 
I call it." 

" My daughter ! " The vicar seemed 
dazed. " My daughter marry a curate ! " 

" You were a curate once yourself. Pie- 
face." 

** Yes, but not a curate Uke that." 

" No ! " said the bishop. " You were 
not. Nor was I. Better for us both had 
we been. This young man, I would have 
you know, is the most outstandingly ex- 
cellent young man I have ever encountered. 
Are you aware that scarcely an hour ago he 
saved me with the most consummate address 
from a large shaggy dog with black spots and 



92 MEET MR. MULLINER 

a kink in his tail ? I was sorely pressed, 
Pieface, when this young man came up and, 
with a readiness of resource and an accuracy 
of aim which it would be impossible to over- 
praise, got that dog in the short ribs with a 
rock and sent him flying." 

The vicar seemed to be struggHng with 
some powerful emotion. His eyes had 
widened. 

*' A dog with black spots ? " 

" Very black spots. But no blacker, I 
fear, than the heart they hid." 

** And he really plugged him in the short 
ribs ? " 

" As far as I could see, squarely in the 
short ribs." 

The vicar held out his hand. 

" Mulliner," he said, " I was not aware 
of this. In the hght of the facts which have 
just been drawn to my attention, I have no 
hesitation in saying that my objections are 
removed. I have had it in for that dog 
since the second Sunday before Septuagesima, 
when he pinned me by the ankle as I paced 
beside the river composing a sermon on 
Certain Alarming Manifestations of the So- 
called Modern Spirit. Take Jane. I give 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 93 

my consent freely. And may she be as 
happy as any girl with such a husband ought 
to be." 

A few more affecting words were ex- 
changed, and then the bishop and Augustine 
left the house. The bishop was silent and 
thoughtful. 

" I owe you a great deal, Mulliner," he 
said at length. 

" Oh, I don't know," said Augustine. 
'* Would you say that ? " 

** A very great deal. You saved me 
from a terrible disaster. Had you not 
leaped through that window at that precise 
juncture and intervened, I really believe 
I should have pasted my dear old friend 
Brandon in the eye. I was sorely exaspe- 
rated." 

" Our good vicar can be trying at times," 
agreed Augustine. 

" My list was already clenched, and I was 
just hauhng off for the swing when you 
checked me. What the result would have 
been, had you not exhibited a tact and dis- 
cretion beyond your years, I do not like to 
think. I might have been unfrocked." He 
shivered at the thought, though the weather 



94 MEET MR. MULLINER 

was mild. " I could never have shown my 
face at the Athenaeum again. But, tut, 
tut ! " went on the bishop, patting Augustine 
on the shoulder, " let us not dwell on what 
might have been. Speak to me of yourself. 
The vicar's charming daughter — you really 
love her ? " 

" I do, indeed." 

The bishop's face had grown grave. 

" Think well, Mulliner," he said. " Mar- 
riage is a serious affair. Do not plunge into 
it without due reflection. I myself am a 
husband, and, though singularly blessed in 
the possession of a devoted helpmeet, cannot 
but feel sometimes that a man is better 
off as a bachelor. Women, Mulliner, are 
odd." 

" True," said Augustine. 

" My own dear wife is the best of 
women. And, as I never weary of saying, 
a good woman is a wondrous creature, 
cleaving to the right and the good under 
all change ; lovely in youthful comeliness, 
lovely all her life in comeliness of h^^^t. 
And yet " 

" And yet ? " said Augustine. 

The bishop mused for a moment. He 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 95 

wriggled a little with an expression of pain, 
and scratched himself between the shoulder- 
blades. 

"Well, I'll tell you," said the bishop. 
" It is a warm and pleasant day to-day, is it 
not ? " 

" Exceptionally clement," said Augustine. 

** A fair, sunny day, made gracious by a 
temperate westerly breeze. And yet, Mul- 
hner, if you will credit my statement, my 
wife insisted on my putting on my thick 
winter woollies this morning. Truly," sighed 
the bishop, " as a jewel of gold in a swine's 
snout, so is a fair woman which is without 
discretion. Proverbs xi. 21." 

" Twenty- two," corrected Augustine. 

" I should have said twenty- two. They 
are made of thick flannel, and I have an 
exceptionally sensitive skin. Oblige me, my 
dear fellow, by rubbing me in the smaU of 
the back with the ferrule of your stick. I 
think it will ease the irritation." 

" But, my poor dear old bish," said 
A^ygustine, sympathetically, " this must not 
be." 

The bishop shook Iiis head ruefully. 

" You would not speak so hardily, 

D 



96 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Mulliner, if you knew my wife. There is 
no appeal from her decrees." 

" Nonsense," cried Augustine, cheerily. 
He looked through the trees to where the 
lady bishopess, escorted by Jane, was ex- 
amining a lobeHa through her lorgnette with 
just the right blend of cordiahty and con- 
descension. " m fix that for you in a 
second." 

The bishop clutched at his arm. 

" My boy ! What are you going to 
do? " 

'' I'm. just going to have a word with 
your wife and put the matter up to her 
as a reasonable woman. Thick winter 
woolhes on a day like this ! Absurd ! " said 
Augustine. " Preposterous ! I never heard 
such rot." 

The bishop gazed after him with a laden 
heart. Already he had come to love this 
young man like a son : and to see him charg- 
ing so light-heartedly into the very jaws of 
destruction afflicted him with a deep and 
poignant sadness. He knew what his wife 
was hke when even the highest in the land 
attempted to thwart her ; and this brave 
lad was but a curate. In another moment 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 97 

she would be looking at him through her 
lorgnette : and England was littered with 
the shrivelled remains of curates at whom 
the lady bishopess had looked through her 
lorgnette. Pie had seen them wilt like salted 
slugs at the episcopal breakfast- table. 

He held his breath. Augustine had 
reached the lady bishopess, and the lady 
bishopess was even now raising her lorgnette. 

The bishop shut his eyes and turned 
away. And then — years afterwards, it 
seemed to him — a cheery voice hailed him : 
and, turning, he perceived Augustine bound- 
ing back through the trees. 

" It's all right, bish," said Augustine. 
All — all right ? " faltered the bishop. 
Yes. She says you can go and change 
into the thin cashmere." 

The bishop reeled. 

** But — but — but what did you say to 
her ? What arguments did you employ ? " 

" Oh, I just pointed out what a warm day 
it was and jolUed her along a bit " 

" JoUied her along a bit ! " 

*' And she agreed in the most friendly and 
cordial manner. She has asked me to call 
at the Palace one of these days." 



it 






98 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The bishop seized Augustine's hand. 
My boy," he said in a broken voice, 
you shall do more than call at the Palace. 
You shall come and hve at the Palace. 
Become my secretary, MuUiner, and name 
your own salary. If you intend to marry, 
you will require an increased stipend. Be- 
come my secretary, boy, and never leave my 
side. I have needed somebody like you for 
years." 

It was late in the afternoon when Augus- 
tine returned to his rooms, for he had been 
invited to lunch at the vicarage and had 
been the life and soul of the cheery little 
party. 

" A letter for you, sir," said Mrs. Wardle, 
obsequiously. 

Augustine took the letter. 

" I am sorry to say I shall be leaving you 
shortly, Mrs. Wardle." 

"Oh, sir ! If there's anything I can 
do " 

" Oh, it's not that. The fact is, the 
bishop has made me his secretary, and I 
shall have to shift my toothbrush and spats 
to the Palace, you see." 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO 99 

" WeU, fancy that, sir ! Why, you'U be 
a bishop yourself one of these days." 

" Possibly," said Augustine. " Possibly. 
And now let me read this." 

He opened the letter. A thoughtful 
frown appeared on his face as he read. 

My dear Augustine, 

I am writing in some haste to tell you 
that the impulsiveness of your aunt has led to 
a rather serious mistake. 

She tells me that she dispatched to you 
yesterday hy parcels post a sample bottle of my 
new Buck-U-Uppo, which she obtained with- 
out my knowledge from my laboratory. Had 
she mentioned what she was intending to do, 
I could have prevented a very unfortunate 
occurrence. 

Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo is of two grades 
or qualities — the A and the B. The A is a 
mild, but strengthening, tonic designed for 
human invalids. The B, on the other hand, 
is purely for circulation in the animal king- 
dom, and was invented to fill a long-felt want 
throiighout our Indian possessions. 

As you are doubtless aware, the favourite 
pastime of the Indian Maharajahs is the 



loo MEET MR. MULLINER 

hunting of the tiger of the jungle from the hacks 
of elephants ; and it has happened frequently 
in the past that hunts have been spoiled by the 
failure of the elephant to see eye to eye with 
its owner in the matter of what constitutes 
sport. 

Too often elephants, on sighting the tiger, 
have turned and galloped home : and it ivas 
to correct this tendency on their part that I 
invented Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo " B." One 
teaspoonful of the Buck-U-Uppo " B " ad- 
ministered in its morning bran-mash will 
cause the most timid elephant to trumpet loudly 
and charge the fiercest tiger without a qualm. 

Abstain, therefore, from taking any of the 
contents of the bottle you now possess, 
And believe me, 

Your affectionate uncle. 

Wilfred Mulliner. 

Augustine remained for some time in deep 
thought after perusing this communication. 
Then, rising, he whistled a few bars of the 
psalm appointed for the twenty-sixth of 
June and left the room. 

Half an hour later a telegraphic message 
was speeding over the wires. 



MULLINER'S BUCK-U-UPPO loi 

It ran as follows : — 

Wilfred Mulliner, 
The Gables, 

Lesser Lossingham, 
Salop. 

Letter received. Send immediately , C.O.D., 
three cases of the " B." " Blessed shall be thy 
basket and thy store." Deuteronomy xxviii. 5. 

Augustine. 



IV 

THE BISHOP'S MOVE 

ANOTHER Sunday was drawing to a close, 
/-\ and Mr. Mulliner had come into the 
bar -parlour of the Anglers' Rest 
wearing on his head, in place of the seedy 
old wideawake which usually adorned it, a 
gUstening top hat. From this, combined 
with the sober black of his costume and the 
rather devout voice in which he ordered hot 
Scotch and lemon, I deduced that he had 
been attending Evensong. 

" Good sermon ? " I asked. 

" Quite good. The new curate preached. 
He seems a nice young fellow." 

" Speaking of curates," I said, " I have 
often wondered what became of your nephew 
— the one you were telling me about the 
other day." 

" Augustine ? " 

" The fellow who took the Buck-U-Uppo." 

I02 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 103 

" That was Augustine. And I am pleased 
and not a little touched/' said Mr. Mulliner, 
beaming, " that you should have remembered 
the trivial anecdote which I related. In 
this self-centred world one does not always 
find such a sympathetic listener to one's 
stories. Let me see, where did we leave 
Augustine ? " 

" He had just become the bishop's 
secretary and gone to live at the Palace." 

"Ah, yes. We will take up his career, 
then, some six months after the date which 
you have indicated." 

It was the custom of the good Bishop of 
Stortford — for, like all the prelates of our 
Church, he loved his labours — to embark 
upon the duties of the day (said Mr. Mulliner) 
in a cheerful and jocund spirit. Usually, as 
he entered his study to dispatch such busi- 
ness as might have arisen from the corre- 
spondence which had reached the Palace by 
the first post, there was a smile upon his 
face and possibly upon his hps a snatch of 
some gay psalm. But on the morning on 
which this story begins an observer would 

have noted that he wore a preoccupied, even 

D 2 



104 MEET MR. MULLINER 

a sombre, look. Reaching the study door, 
he hesitated as if reluctant to enter ; then, 
pulHng himself together with a visible effort, 
he turned the handle. 

" Good morning, MuUiner, my boy," he 
said. His manner was noticeably embar- 
rassed. 

Augustine glanced brightly up from the 
pile of letters which he was opening. 

" Cheerio, Bish. How's the lumbago 
to-day ? " 

" I find the pain sensibly diminished, 
thank you, Mulhner — in fact, almost non- 
existent. This pleasant weather seems to 
do me good. For lo ! the winter is past, 
the rain is over and gone ; the flowers appear 
on the earth ; the time of the singing birds 
is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard 
in the land. Song of Solomon ii. ii, 12." 

" Good work," said Augustine. " Well, 
there's nothing much of interest in these 
letters so far. The Vicar of St. Beowulf's 
in the West wants to know, How about 
incense ? " 1 

" Tell him he mustn't." ' 

" Right ho." 

The bishop stroked his chin uneasily. 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 105 

He seemed to be nerving himself for some 
unpleasant task. 

" MuUiner," he said. 

" Hullo ? " 

" Your mention of the word * vicar ' 
provides a cue, which I must not ignore, for 
alluding to a matter which you and I had 
under advisement yesterday — the matter 
of the vacant living of Steeple Mummery." 

" Yes ? " said Augustine eagerly. " Do 
I cUck ? " 

A spasm of pain passed across the bishop's 
face. He shook his head sadly. 

" Mulliner, my boy," he said. " You 
know that I look upon you as a son and that, 
left to my own initiative, I would bestow 
this vacant living on you without a moment's 
hesitation. But an unforeseen complication 
has arisen. Unhappy lad, my wife has 
instructed me to give the post to a cousin 
of hers. A fellow," said the bishop bitterly, 
" who bleats hke a sheep and doesn't know 
an alb from a reredos." 

Augustine, as was only natural, was 
conscious of a momentary pang of dis- 
appointment. But he was a MulUner and a 
sportsman. 



io6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Don't give it another thought, Bish," 
he said cordially. " I quite understand. I 
don't say I hadn't hopes, but no doubt there 
will be another along in a minute." 

" You know how it is," said the bishop, 
looking cautiously round to see that the 
door was closed. "It is better to dwell 
in a corner of the housetop than with a 
brawling woman in a wide house. Proverbs 
xxi. 9." 

" A continual dropping in a very rainy 
day and a contentious woman are alike. 
Proverbs xxvii. 15," agreed Augustine. 

" Exactly. How well you understand me, 
MuUiner." 

" Meanwhile," said Augustine, holding up 
a letter, " here's something that calls for 
attention. It's from a bird of the name of 
Trevor Entwhistle." 

" Indeed ? An old schoolfellow of mine. 
He is now Headmaster of Harchester, the 
foundation at which we both received our 
early education. Wliat does he say ? " 

" He wants to know if you will run down 
for a few days and unveil a statue which 
they have just put up to Lord Hemel of 
Hempstead." 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 107 

'* Another old schoolfellow. We called 
him Fatty." 

" There's a postscript over the page. 
He says he still has a dozen of the 'Sy 
port." 

The bishop pursed his hps. 

" These earthly considerations do not 
weigh with me so much as old Catsmeat — 
as the Reverend Trevor Entwhistle seems to 
suppose. However, one must not neglect the 
call of the dear old school. We will certainly 

go." 

" We ? " 

" I shall require your company. I think 
you will hke Harchester, MulHner. A noble 
pile, founded by the seventh Henry." 

" I know it well. A young brother of 
mine is there." 

" Indeed ? Dear me," mused the bishop, 
" it must be twenty years and more since I 
last visited Harchester. I shall enjoy seeing 
the old, famiUar scenes once again. After 
all, MuUiner, to whatever eminence we may 
soar, howsoever great may be the prizes which 
life has bestowed upon us, we never wholly 
lose our sentiment for the dear old school. 
It is our Alma Mater, MuUiner, the gentle 



io8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

mother that has set our hesitating footsteps 
on the " 

" Absolutely," said Augustine. 

" And, as we grow older, we see that 
never can we recapture the old, careless 
gaiety of our school days. Life was not com- 
plex then, MuUiner. Life in that halcyon 
period was free from problems. We were 
not faced with the necessity of disappointing 
our friends." 

" Now hsten, Bish," said Augustine 
cheerily, " if you're still worrying about 
that hving, forget it. Look at me. I'm 
quite chirpy, aren't I ? " 

The bishop sighed. 

" I wish I had your sunny resihence, 
MuUiner. How do you manage it ? " 

" Oh, I keep smiUng, and take the Buck- 
U-Uppo daily." 

" The Buck-U-Uppo ? " 

"It's a tonic my uncle Wilfred invented. 
Works like magic." 

" I must ask you to let me try it one of 
these days. For somehow, MuUiner, I am 
finding hfe a httle grey. What on earth," 
said the bishop, half to himself and speaking 
peevishly, " they wanted to put up a statue 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 109 

to old Fatty for, I can't imagine. A fellow 
who used to throw inked darts at people. 
However," he continued, abruptly abandon- 
ing this train of thought, " that is neither 
here nor there. If the Board of Governors 
of Harchester College has decided that Lord 
Kernel of Hempstead has by his services in 
the public weal earned a statue, it is not for 
us to cavil. Write to Mr. Entwhistle, 
Mulliner, and say that I shall be delighted." 

Although, as he had told Augustine, fully 
twenty years had passed since his last visit 
to Harchester, the bishop found, somewhat 
to his surprise, that little or no alteration 
had taken place in the grounds, buildings 
and personnel of the school. It seemed to 
him almost precisely the same as it had been 
on the day, forty-three years before, when 
he had first come there as a new boy. 

There was the tuck-shop where, a lissom 
stripling with bony elbows, he had shoved 
and pushed so often in order to get near the 
counter and snaffle a jam-sandwich in the 
eleven o'clock recess. There were the baths, 
the fives courts, the football fields, the library, 
the gymnasium, the gravel, the chestnut trees. 



no MEET MR. MULLINER 

all just as they had been when the only thing 
he knew about bishops was that they wore 
bootlaces in their hats. 

The sole change that he could see was 
that on the triangle of turf in front of the 
library there had been erected a granite 
pedestal surmounted by a shapeless some- 
thing swathed in a large sheet — the statue 
to Lord Hemel of Hempstead which he had 
come down to unveil. 

And gradually, as his visit proceeded, 
there began to steal over him an emotion 
which defied analysis. 

At first he supposed it to be a natural 
sentimentality. But, had it been that, 
would it not have been a more pleasurable 
emotion ? For his feelings had begun to be 
far from unmixedly agreeable. Once, when 
rounding a comer, he came upon the captain 
of football in all his majesty, there had swept 
over him a hideous blend of fear and shame 
which had made his gaitered legs wobble hke 
jellies. The captain of football doffed his 
cap respectfully, and the feehng passed as 
quickly as it had come : but not so soon that 
the bishop had not recognised it. It was 
exactly the feeling he had been wont to have 



N 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE iii 

forty-odd years ago when, sneaking softly 
away from football practice, he had en- 
countered one in authority. 

The bishop was puzzled. It was as if 
some fairy had touched him with her wand, 
sweeping away the years and making him an 
inky-faced boy again. Day by day this 
illusion grew, the constant society of the Rev. 
Trevor Entwhistle doing much to foster it. 
For young Catsmeat Entwhistle had been the 
bishop's particular crony at Harchester, and 
he seemed to have altered his appearance 
since those days in no way whatsoever. The 
bishop had had a nasty shock when, enter- 
ing the headmaster's study on the third 
morning of his visit, he found him sitting in 
the headmaster's chair with the headmaster's 
cap and gown on. It had seemed to him that 
young Catsmeat, in order to indulge his dis- 
torted sense of humour, was taking the most 
frightful risk. Suppose the Old Man were 
to come in and cop him ! 

Altogether, it was a relief to the bishop 
when the day of the unveihng arrived. 

The actual ceremony, however, he found 
both tedious and irritating. Lord Hemel of 



112 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Hempstead had not been a favourite of his 
in their school days, and there was something 
extremely disagreeable to him in being 
obUged to roll out sonorous periods in his 
praise. 

In addition to this, he had suffered from 
the very start of the proceedings from a bad 
attack of stage fright. He could not help 
thinking that he must look the most awful 
chump standing up there in front of all those 
people and spouting. He half expected one 
of the prefects in the audience to step up and 
clout his head and tell him not to be a funny 
young swine. 

However, no disaster of this nature 
occurred. Indeed, his speech was notably 
successful. 

" My dear bishop," said old General 
Bloodenough, the Chairman of the College 
Board of Governors, shaking his hand at the 
conclusion of the unveihng, " your magni- 
ficent oration put my own feeble efforts to 
shame, put them to shame, to shame. You 
were astounding ! " 

" Thanks awfully," mumbled the bishop, 
blushing and shuffling his feet. 

The weariness which had come upon the 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 113 

bishop as the result of the prolonged cere- 
mony seemed to grow as the day wore on. 
By the time he was seated in the headmaster's 
study after dinner he was in the grip of a 
severe headache. 

The Rev. Trevor Entwhistle also appeared 
jaded. 

" These affairs are somewhat fatiguing, 
bishop," he said, stifling a yawn. 
" They are, indeed. Headmaster." 
*' Even the '%y port seems an inefficient 
restorative." 

" Markedly inefficient. I wonder," said 
the bishop, struck with an idea, "if a little 
Buck-U-Uppo might not alleviate our ex- 
haustion. It is a tonic of some kind which 
my secretary is in the habit of taking. It 
certainly appears to do him good. A hveher, 
more vigorous young fellow I have never 
seen. Suppose we ask your butler to go to 
his room and borrow the bottle ? I am sure 
he will be dehghted to give it to us." 
" By all means." 

The butler, dispatched to Augustine's 
room, returned with a bottle half full of a 
thick, dark coloured liquid. The bishop 
examined it thoughtfully. 



114 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" 1 see there are no directions given as to 
the requisite dose," he said. '' However, 1 
do not Uke to keep disturbing your butler, 
who has now doubtless returned to his pantry 
and is once more setthng down to the enjoy- 
ment of a well-earned rest after a day more 
than ordinarily fraught with toil and anxiety. 
Suppose we use our own judgment ? " 

" Certainly. Is it nasty ? " 

The bishop licked the cork warily. 

" No. I should not call it nasty. The 
taste, while individual and distinctive and 
even striking, is by no means disagreeable." 

" Then let us take a glassful apiece." 

The bishop filled two portly wine-glasses 
with the fluid, and they sat sipping gravely. 

" It's rather good," said the bishop. 

" Distinctly good," said the headmaster. 

" It sort of sends a kind of glow over 
you." 

" A noticeable glow." 

" A httle more. Headmaster ? " 

" No, I thank you." 

" Oh, come." 

" Well, just a spot, bishop, if you insist." 

" It's rather good," said the bishop. 

'' Distinctly good," said the headmaster. 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 115 

Now you, who have Hstened to the story 
of Augustine's previous adventures with the 
Buck-U-Uppo, are aware that my brother 
Wilfred invented it primarily with the object 
of providing Indian Rajahs with a specific 
which would encourage their elephants to 
face the tiger of the jungle with a jaunty 
sang-froid : and he had advocated as a 
medium dose for an adult elephant a tea- 
spoonful stirred up with its morning bran- 
mash. It is not surprising, therefore, that 
after they had drunk two wine-glassfuls 
apiece of the mixture the outlook on life of 
both the bishop and the headmaster began 
to undergo a marked change. 

Their fatigue had left them, and with it 
the depression which a few moments before 
had been weighing on them so heavily. 
Both were conscious of an extraordinary 
feehng of good cheer, and the odd illusion of 
extreme youth which had been upon the 
bishop since his arrival at Harchester was 
now more pronounced than ever. He felt 
a youngish and rather rowdy fifteen. 

" Where does your butler sleep, Cats- 
meat ? " he asked, after a thoughtful pause. 

" I don't know. Why ? " 



ii6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" I was only thinking that it would be 
a lark to go and put a booby-trap on his 
door." 

The headmaster's eyes glistened. 

" Yes, wouldn't it ! " he said. 

They mused for awhile. Then the head- 
master uttered a deep chuckle. 

" What are you giggling about ? " asked 
the bishop. 

" I was only thinking what a priceless ass 
you looked this afternoon, talking all that 
rot about old Fatty." 

In spite of his cheerfulness, a frown passed 
over the bishop's fine forehead. 

" It went very much against the grain to 
speak in terms of eulogy — yes, fulsome eulogy 
— of one whom we both know to have been 
a bhghter of the worst description. Where 
does Fatty get off, having statues put up to 
him? " 

" Oh well, he's an Empire builder, I 
suppose," said the headmaster, who was a 
fair-minded man. 

" Just the sort of thing he would be," 
grumbled the bishop. " Shoving himself 
forward ! If ever there was a chap I barred, 
it was Fatty." 






THE BISHOP'S MOVE 117 

Me, too," agreed the headmaster. 
Beastly laugh he'd got. Like glue pour- 
ing out of a jug." 

" Greedy httle beast, if you remember. 
A fellow in his house told me he once ate 
three shoes of brown boot-poHsh spread on 
bread after he had finished the potted meat." 

" Between you and me, I always suspected 
him of swiping buns at the school shop. I 
don't wish to make rash charges unsupported 
by true evidence, but it always seemed to me 
extremely odd that, whatever time of the 
term it was, and however hard up everybody 
else might be, you never saw Fatty without 
his bun." 

'' Catsmeat," said the bishop, " I'll teU 
you something about Fatty that isn't gene- 
rally known. In a scrum in the final House 
Match in the year 1888 he deliberately hoofed 
me on the shin." 

" You don't mean that ? " 

" I do." 

" Great Scott ! " 

" An ordinary hack on the shin," said the 
bishop coldly, " no fellow minds. It is part 
of the give and take of normal social hfe. 
But when a bounder deliberately hauls off 



ii8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

and lets drive at you with the sole intention of 
laying you out, it — well, it's a bit thick." 

"And those chumps of Governors have 
put up a statue to him ! " 

The bishop leaned forward and lowered 
his voice. 

" Catsmeat." 

" WTiat ? " 

" Do you know what ? " 

" No, what ? " 

" What we ought to do is to wait till 
twelve o'clock or so, till there's no one about, 
and then beetle out and paint that statue 
blue." 

" Why not pink ? " 

" Pink, if you prefer it." 

" Pink's a nice colour." 

" It is. Very nice." 

" Besides, I know where I can lay my 
hands on some pink paint." 

" You do ? " 

" Gobs of it." 

" Peace be on thy walls, Catsmeat, and 
prosperity within thy palaces," said the 
bishop. " Proverbs cxxi. 6." 

It seemed to the bishop, as he closed the 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 119 

front door noiselessly behind him two hours 
later, that providence, always on the side 
of the just, was extending itself in its efforts 
to make this little enterprise of his a success. 
All the conditions were admirable for statue- 
painting. The rain which had been falHng 
during the evening had stopped : and a 
moon, which might have proved an embarrass- 
ment, was conveniently hidden behind a bank 
of clouds. 

As regarded human interference, they had 
nothing to alarm them. No place in the 
world is so deserted as the ground of a school 
after midnight. Fatty's statue might have 
been in the middle of the Sahara. They 
climbed the pedestal, and, taking turns 
fairly with the brush, soon accompUshed the 
task which their sense of duty had indicated 
to them. It was only when, treading warily 
lest their steps should be heard on the gravel 
drive, they again reached the front door that 
anything occurred to mar the harmony of 
the proceedings. 

" What are you waiting for ? " whispered 
the bishop, as his companion Hngered on the 
top step. 

" Half a second," said the headmaster 



I20 MEET MR. MULLINER 

in a muffled voice. '' It may be in another 
pocket." 

" What ? " 

" My key." 

" Have you lost your key ? " 

'' I believe I have." 

" Catsmeat," said the bishop, with grave 
censure, " this is the last time I come out 
painting statues with you." 

" I must have dropped it somewhere." 

" What shall we do ? " 

" There's just a chance the scullery 
window may be open." 

But the scullery window was not open. 
Careful, vigilant, and faithful to his trust, 
the butler, on retiring to rest, had fastened 
it and closed the shutters. They were locked 
out. 

But it has been well said that it is the 
lessons which we learn in our boyhood days 
at school that prepare us for the problems of 
life in the larger world outside. Stealing 
back from the mists of the past, there came 
to the bishop a sudden memory. 

" Catsmeat ! " 

" Hullo ? " 
If you haven't been mucking the place 



(< 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 121 

up with alterations and improvements, there 
should be a water-pipe round at the back, 
leading to one of the upstairs windows." 

Memory had not played him false. There, 
nestling in the ivy, was the pipe up and down 
which he had been wont to climb when, a 
pie-faced lad in the summer of '86, he had 
broken out of this house in order to take 
nocturnal swims in the river. 

" Up you go," he said briefly. 

The headmaster required no further 
urging. And presently the two were making 
good time up the side of the house. 

It was just as they reached the window 
and just after the bishop had informed his 
old friend that, if he kicked him on the head 
again, he'd hear of it, that the wdndow was 
suddenly flung open. 

" Who's that ? " said a clear young voice. 

The headmaster was frankly taken aback. 
Dim though the light was, he could see that 
the man leaning out of the window was 
poising in readiness a very nasty-looking golf- 
club : and his first impulse was to reveal his 
identity and so clear himself of the suspicion 
of being the marauder for whom he gathered 
the other had mistaken him. Then there 



122 MEET MR. MULLINER 

presented themselves to him certain ob- 
jections to reveaHng his identity, and he 
hung there in silence, unable to think of a 
suitable next move. 

The bishop was a man of readier re- 
source. 

" Tell him we're a couple of cats belonging 
to the cook," he whispered. 

It was painful for one of the headmaster's 
scrupulous rectitude and honesty to stoop to 
such a falsehood, but it seemed the only 
course to pursue. 

" It's all right," he said, forcing a note 
of easy geniality into his voice. " We're a 
couple of cats." 

" Cat-burglars ? " 

" No. Just ordinary cats." 

" Belonging to the cook," prompted the 
bishop from below. 

" Belonging to the cook," added the head- 
master. 

" I see," said the man at the window. 
" Well, in that case, right ho ! " 

He stood aside to allow them to enter. 
The bishop, an artist at heart, mewed grate- 
fully as he passed, to add verisimilitude to 
the deception : and then made for his bed- 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 123 

room, accompanied by the headmaster. The 
episode was apparently closed. 

Nevertheless, the headmaster was dis- 
turbed by a certain uneasiness. 

" Do you suppose he thought we really 
were cats ? " he asked anxiously. 

"I am not sure," said the bishop. 
" But I think we deceived him by the non- 
chalance of our demeanour." 

" Yes, I think we did. Who was he ? " 

" My secretary. The young fellow I was 
speaking of, who lent us that capital tonic." 

" Oh, then that's all right. He wouldn't 
give you away." 

" No. And there is nothing else that can 
possibly lead to our being suspected. We left 
no clue whatsoever." 

" All the same," said the headmaster 
thoughtfully, " I'm beginning to wonder 
whether it was in the best sense of the word 
judicious to have painted that statue." 

" Somebody had to," said the bishop 
stoutly. 

" Yes, that's true," said the headmaster, 
brightening. 

The bishop slept late on the following 



124 MEET MR. MULLINER 

morning, and partook of his frugal breakfast 
in bed. The day, which so often brings 
remorse, brought none to him. Something 
attempted, something done had earned a 
night's repose : and he had no regrets — 
except that, now that it was all over, he 
was not sure that blue paint would not have 
been more effective. However, his old friend 
had pleaded so strongly for the pink that it 
would have been difficult for himself, as a 
guest, to override the wishes of his host. 
Still, blue would undoubtedly have been very 
striking. 

There was a knock on the door, and 
Augustine entered. 

" Morning, Bish." 

" Good-morning, Mulhner," said the 
bishop affably. " I have lain somewhat late 
to-day." 

" I say, Bish," asked Augustine, a Httle 
anxiously. " Did you take a very big dose 
of the Buck-U-Uppo last night ? " 

" Big ? No. As I recollect, quite small. 
Barely two ordinary wine-glasses full." 

" Great Scott ! " 

" Why do you ask, my dear fellow ? " 

" Oh, nothing. No particular reason. I 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 125 

just thought your manner seemed a Uttle 
strange on the water-pipe, that's all." 

The bishop was conscious of a touch of 
chagrin. 

" Then you saw through our — er — in- 
nocent deception ? " 

" Yes." 

" I had been taking a little stroll with the 
headmaster," explained the bishop, "and he 
had mislaid his key. How beautiful is Nature 
at night, MulUner ! The dark, fathomless skies, 
the httle winds that seem to whisper secrets 
in one's ear, the scent of growing things." 

" Yes," said Augustine. He paused. 
** Rather a row on this morning. Somebody 
appears to have painted Lord Hemel of 
Hempstead's statue last night." 

" Indeed ? " 

" Yes." 

" Ah, well," said the bishop tolerantly, 
" boys will be boys." 

" It's a most mysterious business." 

" No doubt, no doubt. But, after all, 
MulHner, is not all Life a mystery ? " 

" And what makes it still more mysterious 
is that they found your shovel-hat on the 
statue's head." 



126 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The bishop started up. 

" What ! " 

" Absolutely." 

" MuUiner," said the bishop, " leave me. 
I have one or two matters on which I wish 
to meditate." 

He dressed hastily, his numbed fingers 
fumbling with his gaiters. It all came back 
to him now. Yes, he could remember putting 
the hat on the statue's head. It had seemed 
a good thing to do at the time, and he had 
done it. How little we guess at the moment 
how far-reaching our most trivial actions 
may be ! 

The headmaster was over at the school, 
instructing the Sixth Form in Greek Com- 
position : and he was obHged to wait, chafing, 
until twelve-thirty, when the bell rang for 
the half-way halt in the day's work. He 
stood at the study window, watching with 
ill-controlled impatience, and presently the 
headmaster appeared, walking heavily like 
one on whose mind there is a weight. 

" Well ? " cried the bishop, as he entered 
the study. 

The headmaster doffed his cap and gown, 
and sank limply into a chair. 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 127 

" I cannot conceive," he groaned, *' what 
madness had me in its grip last night." 

The bishop was shaken, but he could not 
countenance such an attitude as this. 

" I do not understand you, Headmaster," 
he said stiffly. "It was our simple duty, as 
a protest against the undue exaltation of 
one whom we both know to have been a 
most unpleasant schoolmate, to paint that 
statue." 

" And I suppose it was your duty to leave 
your hat on its head ? " 

" Now there," said the bishop, " I may 
possibly have gone a little too far." He 
coughed. " Has that perhaps somewhat ill- 
considered action led to the harbouring of 
suspicions by those in authority ? " 

" They don't know what to think." 

" What is the view of the Board of 
Governors ? 

" They insist on my finding the culprit. 
Should I fail to do so, they hint at the 
gravest consequences." 

" You mean they will deprive you of your 
headmastership ? " 

" That is what they imply. I shall be 
asked to hand in my resignation. And, if 



128 MEET MR. MULLINER 

that happens, bim goes my chance of ever 
being a bishop." 

" Well, it's not all jam being a bishop. 
You wouldn't enjoy it, Catsmeat." 

" All very well for you to talk, Boko. 
You got me into this, you silly ass." 

" I hke that ! You were just as keen on 
it as I was." 

" You suggested it." 

*' Well, you jumped at the suggestion." 

The two men had faced each other 
heatedly, and for a moment it seemed as 
if there was to be a serious falhng-out. 
Then the bishop recovered himself. 

" Catsmeat," he said, with that wonder- 
ful smile of his, taking the other's hand, " this 
is unworthy of us. We must not quarrel. 
We must put our heads together and see if 
there is not some avenue of escape from the 
unfortunate position in which, however credit- 
able our motives, we appear to have placed 
ourselves. How would it be ? " 

'* I thought of that," said the headmaster. 
" It wouldn't do a bit of good. Of course, 
we might " 

** No, that's no use, either," said the 
bishop. 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 129 

They sat for awhile in meditative silence. 
And, as they sat, the door opened. 

" General Bloodenough," announced the 
butler. 

'* Oh, that I had wings like a dove. 
Psalm xlv. 6," muttered the bishop. 

His desire to be wafted from that spot 
with all available speed could hardly be con- 
sidered unreasonable. General Sir Hector 
Bloodenough, V.C, K.C.LE., M.V.O., on 
retiring from the army, had been for many 
years, until his final return to England, in 
charge of the Secret Service in Western 
Africa, where his unerring acumen had won 
for him from the natives the soubriquet 
of Wah-nah-B'gosh-B'jingo, — which, freely 
translated, means Big Chief Who Can See 
Through The Hole In A Doughnut. 

A man impossible to deceive. The last 
man the bishop would have wished to be 
conducting the present investigations. 

The general stalked into the room. He 
had keen blue eyes, topped by bushy white 
eyebrows : and the bishop found his gaze far 
too piercing to be agreeable. 

" Bad business, this,'' he said. '' Bad 
business. Bad business." 



130 MEET MR. MULLINER 

** It is, indeed," faltered the bishop. 
" Shocking bad business. Shocking. 
Shocking. Do you know what we found on 
the head of that statue, eh ? that statue, that 
statue ? Your hat, bishop. Your hat. 
Your hat." 

The bishop made an attempt to rally. 
His mind was in a whirl, for the general's 
habit of repeating everything three times had 
the effect on him of making his last night's 
escapade seem three times as bad. He now 
saw himself on the verge of standing con- 
victed of having painted three statues with 
three pots of pink paint, and of having 
placed on the head of each one of a trio of 
shovel-hats. But he was a strong man, and 
he did his best. 

" You say my hat ? " he retorted with 
spirit. " How do you know it was my hat ? 
There may have been hundreds of bishops 
dodging about the school grounds last night." 

" Got your name in it. Your name. 
Your name." 

The bishop clutched at the arm of the 
chair in which he sat. The general's eyes 
were piercing him through and through, and 
every moment he felt more like a sheep that 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 131 

has had the misfortune to encounter a potted 
meat manufacturer. He was on the point of 
protesting that the writing in the hat was 
probably a forgery, when there was a tap at 
the door. 

" Come in," cried the headmaster, who 
had been cowering in his seat. 

There entered a small boy in an Eton 
suit, whose face seemed to the bishop vaguely 
familiar. It was a face that closely resembled 
a ripe tomato with a nose stuck on it, but 
that was not what had struck the bishop. 
It was something other than tomatoes that 
this lad reminded him. 

" Sir, please, sir," said the boy. 

" Yes, yes, yes," said General Bloodenough 
testily. '* Run away, my boy, run away, run 
away. Can't you see we're busy ? " 

" But, sir, please, sir, it's about the 
statue." 

" What about the statue ? What about 
it ? What about it ? " 

" Sir, please, sir, it was me." 

"What! What! What! What! 
What ! " 

The bishop, the general, and the head- 
master had spoken simultaneously : and 



132 MEET MR. MULLINER 

the " Whats " had been distributed as 
follows : 

The Bishop i 

The General 3 

The Headmaster i 

making five in all. Having uttered these 
ejaculations, they sat staring at the boy, who 
turned a brighter vermihon. 

" What are you saying ? " cried the head- 
master. '' You painted that statue ? " 

" Sir, yes, sir." 

" You ? " said the bishop. 
Sir, yes, sir." 

You ? You ? You ? " said the general. 
Sir, yes, sir." 

There was a quivering pause. The bishop 
looked at the headmaster. The headmaster 
looked at the bishop. The general looked 
at the boy. The boy looked at the floor. 

The general was the first to speak. 

*' Monstrous ! " he exclaimed. " Mon- 
strous, Monstrous. Never heard of such a 
thing. This boy must be expelled, Head- 
master. Expelled. Ex " 

" No ! " said the headmaster in a ringing 
voice. 






THE BISHOP'S MOVE 133 

" Then flogged within an inch of his hfe. 
Within an inch. An inch." 

" No \ " A strange, new dignity seemed 
to have descended upon the Rev. Trevor 
Entwhistle. He was breathing a httle quickly 
through his nose, and his eyes had assumed a 
somewhat prawn-hke aspect. " In matters 
of school discipline, general, I must with all 
deference claim to be paramount. I will deal 
with this case as I think best. In my opinion 
this is not an occasion for severity. You 
agree with me, bishop ? " 

The bishop came to himself with a start. 
He had been thinking of an article which he 
had just completed for a leading review on 
the subject of Miracles, and was regretting 
that the tone he had taken, though in keeping 
with the trend of Modern Thought, had been 
tinged with something approaching scepticism. 

" Oh, entirely," he said. 

*' Then all I can say," fumed the general, 
" is that I wash my hands of the whole 
business, the whole business, the whole 
business. And if this is the way our boys 
are being brought up nowadays, no wonder 
the country is going to the dogs, the dogs, 
going to the dogs." 



134 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The door slammed behind him. The 
headmaster turned to the boy, a kindly, 
winning smile upon his face. 

'* No doubt," he said, " you now regret 
this rash act ? " 

" Sir, yes, sir." 

" And you would not do it again ? " 

" Sir, no, sir." 

" Then I think," said the headmaster 
cheerily, " that we may deal leniently with 
what, after all, was but a boyish prank, eh, 
bishop ? " 

" Oh, decidedly. Headmaster." 

" Quite the sort of thing — ha, ha ! — 
that you or I might have done — er — at his 
age? 

" Oh, quite." 

" Then you shall write me twenty Unes 
of Virgil, MuUiner, and we will say no more 
about it." 

The bishop sprang from his chair. 

*' Mulhner ! Did you say MulHner ? " 

" Yes." 

" I have a secretary of that name. Are 
you, by any chance, a relation of his, my 
lad ? " 

" Sir, yes, sir. Brother." 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 135 

*' Oh ! " said the bishop. 

The bishop found Augustine in the garden, 
squirting whale-oil solution on the rose- 
bushes, for he was an enthusiastic horticul- 
turist. He placed an affectionate hand on 
his shoulder. 

" MuUiner," he said, " do not think that 
I have not detected your hidden hand 
behind this astonishing occurrence." 

" Eh ? " said Augustine. " What astonish- 
ing occurrence ? 

" As you are aware, MuUiner, last night, 
from motives which I can assure you were 
honourable and in accord with the truest 
spirit of sound Churchmanship, the Rev. 
Trevor Entwhistle and I were compelled to 
go out and paint old Fatty Hemel's statue 
pink. Just now, in the headmaster's study, 
a boy confessed that he had done it. That 
boy, Mulliner, was your brother." 

" Oh yes ? " 

" It was you who, in order to save me, 
inspired him to that confession. Do not deny 
it, Mulliner." 

Augustine smiled an embarrassed smile. 

*' It was nothing, Bish, nothing at all." 

E 2 



136 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" I trust the matter did not involve you 
in any too great expense. From what I 
know of brothers, the lad was scarcely Hkely 
to have carried through this benevolent ruse 
for nothing." 

" Oh, just a couple of quid. He wanted 
three, but I beat him down. Preposterous, 
I mean to say," said Augustine warmly. 
" Three quid for a perfectly simple, easy job 
like that ? And so I told him." 

" It shall be returned to you, Mulliner." 

"No, no, Bish." 

"Yes, Mulliner, it shall be returned to 
you. I have not the sum on my person, but 
I will forward you a cheque to your new 
address. The Vicarage, Steeple Mummery, 
Hants." 

Augustine's eyes filled with sudden tears. 
He grasped the other's hand. 

" Bish," he said in a choking voice, " I 
don't know how to thank you. But — have 
you considered ? " 

" Considered ? " 

" The wife of thy bosom. Deuteronomy 
xiii. 6. What will she say when you tell her ? " 

The bishop's eyes gleamed with a resolute 
light. 



THE BISHOP'S MOVE 137 

" Mulliner/' he said, " the point you raise 
had not escaped me. But I have the situa- 
tion well in hand. A bird of the air shall 
carry the voice, and that which hath wings 
shall tell the matter. Ecclesiastes x. 20. I 
shall inform her of my decision on the long- 
distance telephone." 



V 

CAME THE DAWN 

THE man in the corner took a sip of 
stout-and-mild, and proceeded to 
point the moral of the story which 
he had just told us. 

"Yes, gentlemen," he said, "Shake- 
speare was right. There's a divinity that 
shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we 
will." 

We nodded. He had been speaking of a 
favourite dog of his which, entered recently 
by some error in a local cat show, had taken 
first prize in the class for short-haired 
tortoiseshells ; and we all thought the 
quotation well-chosen and apposite. 

" There is, indeed," said Mr. MulUner. 
" A rather similar thing happened to my 
nephew Lancelot." 

In the nightly reunions in the bar-parlour 

13S 



CAME THE DAWN 139 

of the Anglers' Rest we have been trained to 
beheve almost anything of Mr. Mulliner's 
relatives, but this, we felt, was a little too 
much. 

" You mean to say your nephew Lancelot 
took a prize at a cat show ? " 

" No, no," said Mr. MuUiner hastily. 
" Certainly not. I have never deviated from 
the truth in my life, and I hope I never shall. 
No Mulliner has ever taken a prize at a cat 
show. No Mulliner, indeed, to the best of 
my knowledge, has even been entered for 
such a competition. WTiat I meant was that 
the fact that we never know what the future 
holds in store for us was well exempUfied in 
the case of my nephew Lancelot, just as it 
was in the case of this gentleman's dog which 
suddenly found itself transformed for all 
practical purposes into a short-haired tor- 
toiseshell cat. It is rather a curious story, 
and provides a good illustration of the adage 
that you never can tell and that it is always 
darkest before the dawn." 

At the time at which my story opens (said 
Mr. Mulliner) Lancelot, then twenty-four 
years of age and recently come down from 



140 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Oxford, was spending a few days with old 
Jeremiah Briggs, the founder and proprietor 
of the famous Briggs's Breakfast Pickles, on 
the latter's yacht at Cowes. 

This Jeremiah Briggs was Lancelot's uncle 
on the mother's side, and he had always in- 
terested himself in the boy. It was he who 
had sent him to the University ; and it was 
the great wish of his heart that his nephew, 
on completing his education, should join him 
in the business. It was consequently a shock 
to the poor old gentleman when, as they sat 
together on deck on the first morning of the 
visit, Lancelot, while expressing the greatest 
respect for pickles as a class, firmly refused 
to start in and learn the business from the 
bottom up. 

" The fact is, uncle," he said, " I have 
mapped out a career for myself on far dif- 
ferent lines. I am a poet." 

'' A poet ? When did you feel this coming 
on? " 

" Shortly after my twenty-second birth- 
day." 

" Well," said the old man, overcoming 
his first natural feeHng of repulsion, " I 
don't see why that should stop us getting 



CAME THE DAWN 141 

together. I use quite a lot of poetry in my 
business." 

" I fear I could not bring myself to com- 
mercialise my Muse." 

" Young man," said Mr. Briggs, " if an 
onion with a head like yours came into my 
factory, I would refuse to pickle it." 

He stumped below, thoroughly incensed. 
But Lancelot merely uttered a light laugh. 
He was young ; it was summer ; the sky 
was blue ; the sun was shining ; and the 
things in the world that really mattered were 
not cucumbers and vinegar but Romance and 
Love. Oh, he felt, for some delightful girl 
to come along on whom he might lavish all 
the pent-up fervour which had been sizzling 
inside him for weeks ! 

And at this moment he saw her. 
She was leaning against the rail of a yacht 
that lay at its moorings some forty yards 
away ; and, as he beheld her, Lancelot's 
heart leaped hke a young gherkin in the 
boihng-vat. In her face, it seemed to him, 
was concentrated all the beauty of all the 
ages. Confronted with this girl, Cleopatra 
would have looked like NeUie Wallace, and 
Helen of Troy might have been her plain 



142 MEET MR. MULLINER 

sister. He was still gazing at her in a sort 
of trance, when the bell sounded for luncheon 
and he had to go below. 

All through the meal, while his uncle spoke 
of pickled walnuts he had known, Lancelot 
remained in a reverie. He was counting the 
minutes until he could get on deck and start 
goggUng again. Judge, therefore, of his dis- 
may when, on bounding up the companion- 
way, he found that the other yacht had dis- 
appeared. He recalled now having heard a 
sort of harsh, grating noise towards the end 
of luncheon ; but at the time he had merely 
thought it was his uncle eating celery. Too 
late he reahsed that it must have been the 
raising of the anchor-chain. 

Although at heart a dreamer, Lancelot 
Mulliner was not without a certain practical 
streak. Thinking the matter over, he soon 
hit upon a rough plan of action for getting 
on the track of the fair unknown who had 
flashed in and out of his Ufe with such tragic 
abruptness. A girl hke that — beautiful, Us- 
som, and—as far as he had been able to tell 
at such long range — gimp, was sure to be 
fond of dancing. The chances were, there- 



CAME THE DAWN 143 

fore, that sooner or later he would find her 
at some night club or other. 

He started, accordingly, to make the 
round of the night clubs. As soon as one 
was raided, he went on to another. Within 
a month he had visited the Mauve Mouse, 
the Scarlet Centipede, the Vicious Cheese, the 
Gay Fritter, the Placid Prune, the Cafe de 
Bologna, Billy's, Milly's, H^e's, Spike's, Mike's, 
and the Ham and Beef. And it was at the 
Ham and Beef that at last he found her. 

He had gone there one evening for the 
fifth time, principally because at that estab- 
lishment there were a couple of speciaHty 
dancers to whom he had taken a dislike 
shared by virtually every thinking man in 
London. It had always seemed to him that 
one of these nights the male member of the 
team, while whirUng his partner round in a 
circle by her outstretched arms, might let her 
go and break her neck ; and though constant 
disappointment had to some extent blunted 
the first fine enthusiasm of his early visits, 
he still hoped. 

On this occasion the speciaHty dancers 
came and went unscathed as usual, but 
Lancelot hardly noticed them. His whole 



144 MEET MR. MULLINER 

attention was concentrated on the girl seated 
across the room immediately opposite him. 
It was beyond a question she. 

Well, you know what poets are. When 
their emotions are stirred, they are not hke 
us dull, diffident fellows. They breathe 
quickly through their noses and get off to 
a flying start. In one bound Lancelot was 
across the room, his heart beating till it 
sounded hke a by-request solo from the trap- 
drummer. 

" Shall we dance ? " he said. 

" Can you dance ? " said the girl. 

Lancelot gave a short, amused laugh. He 
had had a good University education, and 
had not failed to profit by it. He was a 
man who never let his left hip know what his 
right hip was doing. 

" I am old Colonel Charleston's favourite 
son," he said, simply. 

A sound hke the sudden descent of an iron 
girder on a sheet of tin, followed by a jang- 
hng of bells, a wailing of tortured cats, and 
the noise of a few steam-riveters at work, 
announced to their trained ears that the music 
had begun. Sweeping her to him with a 
violence which, attempted in any other place, 



CAME THE DAWN 145 

would have earned him a sentence of thirty 
days coupled with some strong remarks from 
the Bench, Lancelot began to push her yield- 
ing form through the sea of humanity till they 
reached the centre of the whirlpool. There, 
unable to move in any direction, they sur- 
rendered themselves to the ecstasy of the 
dance, wiping their feet on the pohshed floor- 
ing and occasionally pushing an elbow into 
some stranger's encroaching rib. 

" This," murmured the girl with closed 
eyes, " is divine." 

" What ? " bellowed Lancelot, for the 
orchestra, in addition to ringing bells, had 
now begun to howl like wolves at dinner-time. 

" Divine," roared the girl. " You cer- 
tainly are a beautiful dancer." 

" A beautiful what ? " 

" Dancer." 

" Who is ? " 

" You are." 

" Good egg ! " shrieked Lancelot, rather 
wishing, though he was fond of music, that 
the orchestra would stop beating the floor 
with hammers. 

" What did you say ? " 

" I said, * Good egg.' " 



146 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Why ? " 

" Because the idea crossed my mind that, 
if you felt Uke that, you might care to marry 
me." 

There was a sudden lull in the storm. It 
was as if the audacity of his words had 
stricken the orchestra into a sort of paralysis. 
Dark-complexioned men who had been ex- 
ploding bombs and touching off automobile 
hooters became abruptly immobile and sat 
roUing their eyeballs. One or two people left 
the floor, and plaster stopped falling from the 
ceiling. 

" Marry you ? " said the girl. 

" I love vou as no man has ever loved 
woman before." 

" Well, that's always something. WTiat 
would the name be ? " 

" Mulhner. Lancelot Mulliner." 

" It might be worse." She looked at him 
with pensive eyes. " Well, why not ? " she 
said. " It would be a crime to let a dancer 
hke you go out of the family. On the other 
hand, my father will kick like a mule. Father 
is an Earl." 

" What Earl ? " 

" The Earl of Biddlecombe." 



CAME THE DAWN 147 

" Well, earls aren't everything," said 
Lancelot with a touch of pique. " The Mul- 
liners are an old and honourable family. A 
Sieur de Moulinieres came over with the 
Conqueror." 

" Ah, but did a Sieur de Moulinieres ever 
do down the common people for a few 
hundred thousand and salt it away in gilt- 
edged securities ? That's what's going to 
count with the aged parent. What with 
taxes and super-taxes and death duties and 
falling land-values, there has of recent years 
been very, very little of the right stuff in 
the Biddlecombe sock. Shake the family 
money-box and you will hear but the faint- 
est rattle. And I ought to tell you that at 
the Junior Lipstick Club seven to two is 
being freely offered on my marrying Slingsby 
Purvis, of Purvis's Liquid Dinner Glue. No- 
thing is definitely decided yet, but you can 
take it as coming straight from the stable 
that, unless something happens to upset cur- 
rent form, she whom you now see before you 
is the future Ma Purvis." 

Lancelot stamped his foot defiantly, eUcit- 
ing a howl of agony from a passing reveller. 
" This shall not be," he muttered. 



148 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" If you care to bet against it," said the 
girl, producing a small note-book, " I can 
accommodate you at the current odds." 

" Purvis, forsooth ! " 

" I'm not saying it's a pretty name. All 
I'm trying to point out is that at the present 
moment he heads the ' All the above have 
arrived ' hst. He is Our Newmarket Cor- 
respondent's Five-Pound Special and Captain 
Coe's final selection. What makes you think 
you can nose him out ? Are you rich ? " 

" At present, only in love. But to- 
morrow I go to my uncle, who is immensely 
wealthy " 

" And touch him ? " 

" Not quite that. Nobody has touched 
Uncle Jeremiah since the early winter of 1885. 
But I shaU get him to give me a job, and then 
we shall see." 

" Do," said the girl, warmly. " And if 
you can stick the gaff into Purvis and work 
the Young Lochinvar business, I shall be the 
first to touch off red fire. On the other hand, 
it is only fair to inform you that at the 
Junior Lipstick all the girls look on the race 
as a walk-over. None of the big punters will 
touch it." 



CAME THE DAWN 149 

Lancelot returned to his rooms that night 
iindiscouraged. He intended to sink his for- 
mer prejudices and write a poem in praise 
of Briggs's Breakfast Pickles which would mark 
a new era in commercial verse. This he 
would submit to his uncle ; and, having 
stunned him with it, would agree to join the 
firm as chief poetry-writer. He tentatively 
pencilled down five thousand pounds a year 
as the salary which he would demand. With 
a long-term contract for five thousand a year 
in his pocket, he could approach Lord Biddle- 
combe and jerk a father's blessing out of him 
in no time. It would be humiliating, of 
course, to lower his genius by writing poetry 
about pickles ; but a lover must make 
sacrifices. He bought a quire of the best 
foolscap, brewed a quart of the strongest 
coffee, locked his door, disconnected his tele- 
phone, and sat down at his desk. 

Genial ofd Jeremiah Briggs received him, 
when he called next day at liis palatial house, 
the Villa Chutney, at Putney, with a bluff 
good-humour which showed that he still had 
a warm spot in his heart for the young rascal. 

" Sit down, boy, and have a pickled 



I50 MEET MR. MULLINER 

onion," said he, cheerily, slapping Lancelot 
on the shoulder. " You've come to tell me 
you've reconsidered your idiotic decision 
about not joining the business, eh ? No 
doubt we thought it a Uttle beneath our 
dignity to start at the bottom and work our 
way up ? But, consider, my dear lad. We 
must learn to walk before we can run, and 
you could hardly expect me to make you 
chief cucumber-buyer, or head of the vine- 
gar-bottling department, before you have 
acquired hard-won experience." 

"If you will allow me to explain, uncle 



" Eh ? " Mr. Briggs's geniahty faded 
somewhat. " Am I to understand that you 
don't want to come into the business ? " 

" Yes and no," said Lancelot. " I stiU 
consider that shcing up cucumbers and dip- 
ping them in vinegar is a poor hfe-work for 
a man with the Promethean fire within him ; 
but I propose to place at the disposal of the 
Briggs Breakfast Pickle my poetic gifts." 

" Well, that's better than nothing. I've 
just been correcting the proofs of the last 
thing our man turned in. It's really ex- 
cellent. Listen : 



CAME THE DAWN 151 

" Soon, soon all human joys must end : 
Grim Death approaches with his sickle : 
Courage I There is still time, my friend. 
To eat a Briggs's Breakfast Pickle." 

" If you could give us something like 

that " 

Lancelot raised his eyebrows. His hp 

curled. 

" The Httle thing I have dashed off is not 

quite Uke that." 

" Oh, you've written something, eh ? " 

" A mere morceau. You would care to 
hear it ? " 

" Fire away, my boy." 

Lancelot produced his manuscript and 
cleared his throat. He began to read in a 
low, musical voice. 

"DARKLING (A Threnody). 

By L. Bassington Mulliner. 

(Copyright in all languages, including the 
Scandinavian.) 

{The dramatic, musical comedy, and motion 

picture rights of this Threnody are strictly 

reserved. Applications for these should he 

made to the author.) " 



152 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" What is a Threnody ? " asked Mr. Briggs. 

" This is," said Lancelot. 

He cleared his throat again and resumed. 

" Black branches, 

Like a corpse s withered hands, 

Waving against the blacker sky : 

Chill winds, 

Bitter like the tang of half-remembered sins ; 

Bats wheeling mournfully through the air, 

And on the ground 

Worms, 

Toads, 

Frogs, 

And nameless creeping things ; 

And all around 

Desolation, 

Doom, 

Dyspepsia, 

And Despair. 

I am a bat that wheels through the air of 

Fate : 
I am a worm that wriggles in a swamp of 

Disillusionment ; 
I am a despairing toad ; 
I have got dyspepsia." 

He paused. His uncle's eyes were pro- 



CAME THE DAWN 153 

truding rather like those of a nameless 
creeping frog. 

" What's all this ? " said Mr. Briggs. 

It seemed almost incredible to Lancelot 
that his poem should present any aspect of 
obscurity to even the meanest intellect ; but 
he explained. 

" The thing," he said, " is symbolic. It 
essays to depict the state of mind of the man 
who has not yet tried Briggs's Breakfast 
Pickles. I shall require it to be printed in 
hand-set type on deep cream-coloured paper." 

" Yes ? " said Mr. Briggs, touching the bell. 

*' With bevelled edges. It must be pub- 
Hshed, of course, bound in limp leather, pre- 
ferably of a violet shade, in a limited edition, 
confined to one hundred and five copies. 
Each of these copies I will sign " 

" You rang, sir ? " said the butler, appear- 
ing in the doorway. 

Mr. Briggs nodded curtly. 

" Bewstridge," said he, " throw Mr. Lance- 
lot out." 

" Very good, sir." 

" And see," added Mr. Briggs, superin- 
tending the subsequent proceedings from his 
Hbrary window, " that he never darkens my 



154 MEET MR. MULLINER 

doors again. When you have finished, Bew- 
stridge, ring up my lawyers on the telephone. 
I wish to alter my will." 

Youth is a resilient period. With all his 
worldly prospects swept away and a large 
bruise on his person which made it uncom- 
fortable for him to assume a sitting posture, 
you might have supposed that the return 
of Lancelot MuUiner from Putney would have 
resembled that of the late Napoleon from 
Moscow. Such, however, was not the case. 
What, Lancelot asked himself as he rode back 
to civilisation on top of an omnibus, did 
money matter ? Love, true love, was aU. 
He would go to Lord Biddlecombe and tell 
him so in a few neatly-chosen words. And 
his lordship, moved by his eloquence, would 
doubtless drop a well-bred tear and at once 
see that the arrangements for his wedding to 
Angela — for such, he had learned, was her 
name — were hastened along with all possible 
speed. So uphfted was he by this picture 
that he began to sing, and would have con- 
tinued for the remainder of the journey had 
not the conductor in a rather brusque manner 
ordered him to desist. He was obliged to 



CAME THE DAWN i55 

content himself until the bus reached Hyde 
Park Corner by singing in dumb show. 

The Earl of Biddlecombe's town residence 
was in Berkeley Square. Lancelot rang the 
bell and a massive butler appeared. 

" No hawkers, street criers, or circulars," 

said the butler. 

" I wish to see Lord Biddlecombe." 

** Is his lordship expecting you ? " 

" Yes," said Lancelot, feeUng sure that 
the girl would have spoken to her father over 
the morning toast and marmalade of a pos- 
sible visit from him. 

A voice made itself heard through an open 
door on the left of the long hall. 

" Fotheringay." 

" Your lordship ? " 

" Is that the feUer ? " 

" Yes, your lordship." 

" Then bung him in, Fotheringay." 

" Very good, your lordship." 

Lancelot found himself in a small, com- 
fortably-furnished room, confronting a digni- 
fied-looking old man with a patrician nose 
and small side-whiskers, who looked like some- 
thing that long ago had come out of an egg. 

'* Afternoon," said this individual. 



156 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Good afternoon, Lord Biddlecombe," 
said Lancelot. 

" Now, about these trousers." 

" I beg your pardon ? " 

"These trousers," said the other, extend- 
ing a shapely leg. " Do they fit ? Aren't 
they a bit baggy round the ankles ? Won't 
they jeopardise my social prestige if I am 
seen in them in the Park ? " 

Lancelot was charmed with his affabiUty. 
It gave him the feeling of having been made 
one of the family straight av/ay. 

" You really want my opinion ? " 

*' I do. I want your candid opinion as a 
God-fearing man and a member of a West- 
end tailoring firm." 

" But Lm not." 

" Not a God-fearing man ? " 

"Not a member of a West-end tailoring 
firm." 

" Come, come," said his lordship, testily. 
" You represent Gusset and Mainprice, of 
Cork Street." 

" No, I don't." 

" Then who the devil are you ? " 

" My name is Mulliner." 

Lord Biddlecombe rang the bell furiously. 



CAME THE DAWN 157 

" Fotheringay ! " 

" Your lordship ? " 

" You told me this man was the feller 
I was expecting from Gusset and Mainprice." 

" He certainly led me to suppose so, your 
lordship." 

" Well, he isn't. His name is Mulliner. 
And — this is the point, Fotheringay. This 
is the core and centre of the thing — what the 
blazes does he want ? " 

" I could not say, your lordship." 

" I came here. Lord Biddlecombe," said 
Lancelot, " to ask your consent to my 
immediate marriage with your daughter." 

" My daughter ? " 

" Your daughter." 

" Which daughter ? " 

" Angela." 

" My daughter Angela ? " 

" Yes." 

" You want to marry my daughter 
Angela ? " 

" I do." 

" Oh ? Well, be that as it may," said 
Lord Biddlecombe, " can I interest you in 
an ingenious little combination mousetrap 
and pencil-sharpener ? " 



158 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Lancelot was for a moment a little taken 
aback by the question. Then, remembering 
what Angela had said of the state of the 
family finances, he recovered his poise. He 
thought no worse of this Grecian-beaked 
old man for ekeing out a slender income by 
acting as agent for the curious httle object 
which he was now holding out to him. Many 
of the aristocracy, he was aware, had been 
forced into similar commercial enterprises 
by recent legislation of a harsh and Sociahstic 
trend. 

" I should like it above all things," he 
said, courteously. " I was thinking only 
this morning that it was just what I needed." 

" Highly educational. Not a toy. 
Fotheringay, book one Mouso-Penso." 

" Very good, your lordship." 

" Are you troubled at all with headaches, 
Mr. Mulhner ? " 

" Very seldom." 

" Then what you want is Clark's Cure for 
Corns. Shall we say one of the large 
bottles ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Then that — with a year's subscription 
to ' Our Tots ' — will come to precisely one 



CAME THE DAWN 159 

pound three shillings and sixpence. Thank 
you. Will there be anything further ? " 

" No, thank you. Now, touching the 
matter of " 



<( 



You wouldn't care for a scarf-pin ? 
Any ties, collars, shirts ? No ? Then good- 
bye, Mr. Mulliner." 

" But " 

" Fotheringay," said Lord Biddlecombe, 
*' throw Mr, Mulliner out." 

As Lancelot scrambled to his feet from the 
hard pavement of Berkeley Square, he was 
conscious of a rush of violent anger which 
deprived him momentarily of speech. He 
stood there, glaring at the house from which 
he had been ejected, his face working 
hideously. So absorbed was he that it was 
some time before he became aware that 
somebody was plucking at his coat-sleeve. 

" Pardon me, sir." 

Lancelot looked round. A stout smooth- 
faced man with horn-rimmed spectacles was 
standing beside him. 

" If you could spare me a moment " 

Lancelot shook him off impatiently. He 
had no desire at a time like this to chatter 
with strangers. The man was babbhng 



i6o MEET MR. MULLINER 

something, but the words made no impres- 
sion upon his mind. With a savage scowl, 
Lancelot snatched the fellow's umbrella from 
him and, poising it for an instant, flung 
it with a sure aim through Lord Biddle- 
combe's study window. Then, striding away, 
he made for Berkeley Street. Glancing over 
his shoulder as he turned the corner, he saw 
that Fotheringay, the butler, had come out 
of the house and was standing over the 
spectacled man with a certain quiet menace 
in his demeanour. He was rolling up his 
sleeves, and his fingers were twitching a little. 

Lancelot dismissed the man from his 
thoughts. His whole mind now was con- 
centrated on the coming interview with 
Angela. For he had decided that the only 
thing to do was to seek her out at her club, 
where she would doubtless be spending the 
afternoon, and plead with her to follow the 
dictates of her heart and, abandoning 
parents and wealthy suitors, comxC with her 
true mate to a life of honest poverty sweet- 
ened by love and vers libre. 

Arriving at the Junior Lipstick, he 
inquired for her, and the hall-porter dis- 



CAME THE DAWN i6i 

patched a boy in buttons to fetch her 
from the biUiard-room, where she was referee- 
ing the finals of the Debutantes' Shove- 
Ha'penny Tournament. And presently his 
heart leaped as he saw her coming towards 
him, looking more like a vision of Springtime 
than anything human and earthly. She was 
smoking a cigarette in a long holder, and as 
she approached she inserted a monocle in- 
quiringly in her right eye. 

" Hullo, laddie ! " she said. '' You here ? 
Wliat's on the mind besides hair ? Talk 
quick. I've only got a minute." 

** Angela," said Lancelot, " I have to 
report a slight hitch in the programme which 
I sketched out at our last meeting. I have 
just been to see my uncle and he has washed 
his hands of me and cut me out of his will." 

" Nothing doing in that quarter, you 
mean ? " said the girl, chewing her lower hp 
thoughtfully. 

" Nothing. But what of it ? What 
matters it so long as we have each other ? 
Money is dross. Love is everything. Yes, 
love indeed is hght from heaven, a spark of 
that immortal fire with angels shared, by 
Allah given to Hft from earth our low desire. 



1 62 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Give me to live with Love alone, and let the 
world go dine and dress. If Hfe's a flower, 
I choose my own. 'Tis Love in Idleness. 
When beauty fires the blood, how love 
exalts the mind ! Come, Angela, let us 
read together in a book more moving than the 
Koran, more eloquent than Shakespeare, the 
book of books, the crown of all hterature — 
Bradshaw's Railway Guide. We will turn 
up a page and you shall put your finger down, 
and wherever it rests there we will go, to 
five for ever with our happiness. Oh, Angela, 
let us " 

" Sorry," said the girl. " Purvis wins. 
The race goes by the form-book after all. 
There was a time when I thought you might 
be going to crowd him on the rails and get I 
your nose first under the wire with a quick * 
last-minute dash, but apparently it is not to 
be. Deepest sympathy, old crocus, but that's 
that." 

Lancelot staggered. j 

" You mean you intend to marry this 
Purvis ? " 

" Pop in about a month from now at 
St. George's, Hanover Square, and see for 
yourself." 



CAME THE DAWN 163 

" You would allow this man to buy you 
with his gold ? " 

" Don't overlook his diamonds." 
*' Does love count for nothing ? Surely 
you love me ? " 

" Of course I do, my desert king. When 
you do that flat-footed Black Bottom step 
with the sort of wiggly twiggle at the end, 
I feel as if I were eating plovers' eggs in a 
new dress to the accompaniment of heavenly 
music." She sighed. "Yes, I love you, 
Lancelot. And women are not hke men. 
They do not love hghtly. When a woman 
gives her heart, it is for ever. The years 
will pass, and you will turn to another. 
But I shall not forget. However, as you 

haven't a bob in the world " She 

beckoned to the hall-porter. "Margerison." 
" Your ladyship ? " 
" Is it raining ? " 
*' No, your ladyship." 
** Are the front steps clean ? " 
" Yes, your ladyship." 
" Then throw Mr. MulHner out." 
Lancelot leaned against the raihngs of the 
Junior Lipstick, and looked out through a 
black mist upon a world that heaved and 



i64 MEET MR. MULLINER 

rocked and seemed on the point of disinte- 
grating into ruin and chaos. And a lot he 
would care, he told himself bitterly, if it 
did. If Seamore Place from the west and 
Charles Street from the east had taken a 
running jump and landed on the back of his 
neck, it would have added little or nothing to 
the turmoil of his mind. In fact, he would 
rather have preferred it. 

Fury, as it had done on the pavement of 
Berkeley Square, robbed him of speech. 
But his hands, his shoulders, his brows, 
his lips, his nose, and even his eyelashes 
seemed to be charged with a silent eloquence. 
He twitched his eyebrows in agony. He 
twiddled his fingers in despair. Nothing 
was left now, he felt, as he shifted the 
lobe of his left ear in a nor'-nor'-easterly 
direction, but suicide. Yes, he told him- 
self, tightening and relaxing the muscles 
of his cheeks, all that remained now was 
death. 

But, even as he reached this awful 
decision, a kindly voice spoke in his ear. 

" Oh, come now, I wouldn't say that," 
said the kindly voice. 

And Lancelot, turning, perceived the 



CAME THE DAWN 165 

smooth-faced man who had tried to engage 
him in conversation in Berkeley Square. 

" Say, Hsten," said the smooth-faced man, 
sympathy in each lens of his horn-rimmed 
spectacles. ** Tempests may lower and a 
strong man stand face to face with his soul, 
but hope, like a healing herb, will show the 
silver lining where beckons joy and life and 
happiness." 

Lancelot eyed him haughtily. 

" I am not aware " he began. 

" Say, listen," said the other, laying a 
soothing hand on his shoulder. " I know 
just what has happened. Mammon has con- 
quered Cupid, and once more youth has 
had to learn the old, old lesson that though 
the face be fair the heart may be cold and 
callous." 

'' What ? " 

The smooth-faced man raised his hand. 

" That afternoon. Her apartment. ' No. 
It can never be. I shall wed a wealthier 
wooer.' " 

Lancelot's fury began to dissolve into 
awe. There seemed something uncanny in 
the way this total stranger had diagnosed 
the situation. He stared at him, bewildered. 



1 66 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" How did you know ? " he gasped. 

" You told me." 

"I?" 

" Your face did. I could read every 
word. I've been watching you for the last 
two minutes, and, say, boy, it was a wow ! " 

" Who are you ? " asked Lancelot. 

The smooth-faced man produced from his 
waistcoat pocket a fountain-pen, two cigars, 
a packet of chewing-gum, a small button 
bearing the legend, " Boost for Holtywood," 
and a visiting-card — in the order named. 
Replacing the other articles, he handed the 
card to Lancelot. 

" I'm Isadore Zinzinheimer, kid," he said. 
" I represent the Bigger, Better, and Brighter 
Motion-Picture Company of Hollywood, Cal., 
incorporated last July for sixteen hundred 
miUion dollars. And if you're thinking of 
asking me what I want, I want you. Yes, 
sir ! Say, listen. A fellow that can register 
the way you can is needed in my business ; 
and, if you think money can stop me getting 
him, name the biggest salary you can think of 
and hear me laugh. Boy, I use bank-notes 
for summer underclothing, and I don't care 
how bad you've got the gimme's if only 



CAME THE DAWN 167 

you'll sign on the dotted line. Say, listen. 
A bozo that with a mere twitch of the upper 
lip can make it plain to one and all that he 
loves a haughty aristocrat and that she has 
given him the air because his rich uncle, who 
is a pickle manufacturer living in Putney, 
won't have anything more to do with him, 
is required out at Hollywood by the next 
boat if the movies are ever to become an edu- 
cational force in the truest and deepest sense 
of the words." 

Lancelot stared at him. 
" You want me to come to Hollywood ? " 
" I want you, and I'm going to get you. 
And if you think you're going to prevent 
me, you're trying to stop Niagara with a 
tennis racket. Boy, you're great ! When 
you register, you register. Your face is as 
chatty as a board of directors. Say, listen. 
You know the great thing we folks in the 
motion-picture industry have got to contend 
with ? The curse of the motion-picture 
industry is that in every audience there are 
from six to seven young women with adenoids 
who will insist on reading out the titles as 
they are flashed on the screen, filhng the rest 

of the customers with harsh thoughts and 

F 2 



1 68 MEET MR. MULLINER 

dreams of murder. What we're trying to 
collect is stars that can register so well that 
titles won't be needed. And, boy, you're 
the king of them. I know you're feeling 
good and sore just now because that beazle 
in there spumed your honest love ; but forget 
it. Think of your Art. Think of your 
Public. Come now, what shall we say to 
start with ? Five thousand a week ? Ten 
thousand ? You call the shots, and I'll 
provide the blank contract and fountain- 
pen." 

Lancelot needed no further urging. Al- 
ready love had turned to hate, and he no 
longer wished to marry Angela. Instead, 
he wanted to make her burn with anguish 
and vain regrets ; and it seemed to him that 
Fate was pointing the way. Pretty silly 
the future Lady Angela Purvis would feel 
when she discovered that she had rejected 
the love of a man with a salary of ten thousand 
dollars a week. And fairly foolish her old 
father would feel when news reached him of 
the good thing he had allowed to get awa}^. 
And racking would be the remorse, when he 
returned to London as Civilised Girlhood's 
Sweetheart and they saw him addressing 



CAME THE DAWN 169 

mobs from a hotel balcony, of his Uncle 
Jeremiah, of Fotheringay, of Bewstridge, and 
of Margerison. 

A Hght gleamed in Lancelot's eye, and he 
rolled the tip of his nose in a circular move- 
ment. 

** You consent ? " said Mr. Zinzinheimer, 
delighted. "'At-a-boy! Here's the pen and 
here's the contract." 

" Gimme ! " said Lancelot. 

A benevolent glow irradiated the other's 
spectacles. 

" Came the Dawn ! " he murmured. 
" Came the Dawn 1 " 



VI 
THE STORY OF WILLIAM 

MISS POSTLETHWAITE, our able and 
vigilant barmaid, had whispered 
to us that the gentleman sitting 
over there in the comer was an American 
gentleman. 

" Comes from America," added Miss 
Postlethwaite, making her meaning clearer. 

" From America ? " echoed we. 

" From America," said Miss Postlethwaite. 
" He's an American." 

Mr. MulUner rose with an old-world grace. 
We do not often get Americans in the bar- 
parlour of the Anglers' Rest. WTien we do, 
we welcome them. We make them reaUse 
that Hands Across the Sea is no mere phrase. 

" Good evening, sir," said Mr. MuUiner. 

" I wonder if you would care to join my 

friend and myself in a httle refreshment ? " 

" Very kind of you, sir." 

170 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 171 

" Miss Postlethwaite, the usual. I under- 
stand you are from the other side, sir. Do 
you find our English country-side pleasant ? " 

" DeUghtful. Though, of course, if I may 
say so, scarcely to be compared with the 
scenery of my home State." 

" What State is that ? " 

" California," replied the other, baring 
his head. " California, the Jewel State of 
the Union. With its azure sea, its noble 
hills, its eternal sunshine, and its fragrant 
flowers, CaUfornia stands alone. Peopled by 
stalwart men and womanly women ..." 

*' CaUfornia would be all right," said Mr. 
Mulliner, " if it wasn't for the earthquakes." 

Our guest started as though some veno- 
mous snake had bitten him. 

** Earthquakes are absolutely unknown in 
California," he said, hoarsely. 

" What about the one in 1906 ? " 

" That was not an earthquake. It was a 
fire." 

" An earthquake, I always understood," 
said Mr. MuUiner. *' My Uncle Wilham was 
out there during it, and many a time has he 
said to me, ' My boy, it was the San Francisco 
earthquake that won me a bride.' " 



172 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Couldn't have been the earthquake. 
May have been the fire." 

** Well, I will tell you the story, and you 
shall judge for yourself." 

" I shall be glad to hear your story about 
the San Francisco fire," said the Cahfornian, 
courteously. 

My Uncle WiUiam (said Mr. Mulliner) 
was returning from the East at the time. 
The commercial interests of the Mulliners 
have always been far-flung : and he had been 
over in China looking into the workings of 
a tea-exporting business in which he held a 
number of shares. It was his intention to 
get off the boat at San Francisco and cross 
the continent by rail. He particularly 
wanted to see the Grand Canyon of Arizona. 
And when he found that Myrtle Banks had 
for years cherished the same desire, it seemed 
to him so plain a proof that they were twin 
souls that he decided to offer her his hand 
and heart without delay. 

This Miss Banks had been a fellow- 
traveller on the boat all the way from Hong- 
Kong ; and day by day Wilham MuUiner 
had fallen more and more deeply in love with 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 173 

her. So on the last day of the voyage, as 
they were steaming in at the Golden Gate, 
he proposed. 

I have never been informed of the exact 
words which he employed, but no doubt 
they were eloquent. All the Mulliners have 
been able speakers, and on such an occasion, 
he would, of course, have extended himself. 
When at length he finished, it seemed to him 
that the girl's attitude was distinctly pro- 
mising. She stood gazing over the rail into 
the water below in a sort of rapt way. 
Then she turned. 

" Mr. MulHner,'' she said, " I am greatly 
flattered and honoured by what you have 
just told me." These things happened, you 
will remember, in the days when girls talked 
Hke that. '' You have paid me the greatest 
compliment a man can bestow on a woman. 
And yet . . ." 

William MulUner's heart stood still. He 
did not Hke that " And yet " 

" Is there another ? '' he muttered. 

" Well, yes, there is. Mr. Franklyn pro- 
posed to me this morning. I told him I 
would think it over." 

There was a silence. William was telHng 



174 MEET MR. MULLINER 

himself that he had been afraid of that 
bounder Franklyn all along. He might have 
known, he felt, that Desmond Franklyn 
would be a menace. The man was one of 
those lean, keen, hawk-faced, Empire-build- 
ing sort of chaps you find out East — the kind 
of fellow who stands on deck chewing his 
moustache with a far-away look in his eyes, 
and then, when the girl asks him what he is 
thinking about, draws a short, quick breath 
and says he is sorry to be so absent-minded, 
but a sunset Uke that always reminds him of 
the day when he killed the four pirates with 
his bare hands and saved dear old Tuppy 
Smithers in the nick of time. 

" There is a great glamour about Mr. 
Franklyn," said Myrtle Banks. " We women 
admire men who do things. A girl cannot 
help but respect a man who once killed 
three sharks with a Boy Scout pocket-knife." 

*' So he says," growled Wilham. 

" He showed me the pocket-knife," said 
the girl, simply. " And on another occasion 
he brought down two lions with one shot." 

WiUiam Mulliner's heart was heavy, but 
he struggled on. 

" Very possibly he may have done these 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 175 

things," he said, " but surely marriage means 
more than this. Personally, if I were a giri, 
I would go rather for a certain steadiness and 
stability of character. To illustrate what I 
mean, did you happen to see me win the 
Egg-and-Spoon race at the ship's sports ? 
Now there, it seems to me, in what I might 
call microcosm, was an exhibition of all the 
qualities a married man most requires — 
intense coolness, iron resolution, and a quiet , 
unassuming courage. The man who under 
test conditions has carried an eg^ once and a 
half times round a deck in a small spoon, 
is a man who can be trusted." 

She seemed to waver, but only for a 
moment. 

" I must think," she said. ** I must 
think." 

"Certainly," said William. *' You will 
let me see something of you at the hotel, 
after we have landed ? " 

" Of course. And if — I mean to say, 
whatever happens, I shall always look on 
you as a dear, dear friend." 

" M'yes," said WiUiam Mulliner. 

For three days my Uncle William's stay 



176 MEET MR. MULLINER 

in San Francisco was as pleasant as could 
reasonably be expected, considering that 
Desmond Franklyn was also stopping at his 
and Miss Banks's hotel. He contrived to 
get the girl to himself to quite a satisfactory 
extent ; and they spent many happy hours 
together in the Golden Gate Park and at the 
CUff House, watching the seals basking on 
the rocks. But on the evening of the third 
day the blow fell. 

" Mr. MuUiner,'' said Myrtle Banks, '' I 
want to tell you something." 

'' Anything," breathed William tenderly, 
" except that you are going to marry that 
perisher Franklyn." 

" But that is exactly what I was going to 
tell you, and I must not let you call him a 
perisher, for he is a very brave, intrepid 
man." 

" \Vhen did you decide on this rash act ? " 
asked William dully. 

** Scarcely an hour ago. W> were talking 
in the garden, and somehow or other we got 
on to the subject of rhinoceroses. He then 
told me how he had once been chased up a 
tree by a rhinoceros in Africa and escaped by 
throwing pepper in the brute's eyes. He 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 177 

most fortunately chanced to be eating his 
lunch when the animal arrived, and he had a 
hard-boiled egg and the pepper-pot in his 
hands. When I heard this story, like Desde- 
mona, I loved him for the dangers he had 
passed, and he loved me that I did pity them. 
The wedding is to be in June." 

WilUam MuUiner ground his teeth in a 
sudden access of jealous rage. 

" Personally," he said, " I consider that 
the story you have just related reveals this 
man Franklyn in a very dubious — I might 
almost say sinister — light. On his own show- 
ing, the leading trait in his character appears 
to be cruelty to animals. The fellow seems 
totally incapable of meeting a shark or a 
rhinoceros or any other of our dumb friends 
without instantly going out of his way to 
inflict bodily injury on it. The last thing I 
would wish is to be indelicate, but I cannot 
refrain from pointing out that, if your union 
is blessed, your children will probably be 
the sort of children who kick cats and tie 
tin cans to dogs' tails. If you take my 
advice, you will write the man a little note, 
saying that you are sorry but you have 
changed your mind." 



178 MEET AIR. MULLINER 

The girl rose in a marked manner. 

"I do not require your advice, Mr. 
Mulliner," she said, coldly. " And I have 
not changed my mind." 

Instantly WilUam MulHner was all con- 
trition. There is a certain stage in the 
progress of a man's love when he feels hke 
curling up in a ball and making Uttle bleating 
noises if the object of his affections so much 
as looks squiggle-eyed at him ; and this stage 
my Uncle WilUam had reached. He followed 
her as she paced proudly away through the 
hotel lobby, and stammered incoherent apolo- 
gies. But Myrtle Banks was adamant. 

" Leave me, Mr. Mulliner," she said, 
pointing at the revolving door that led into 
the street. " You have maligned a better 
man than yourself, and I wish to have 
nothing more to do with you. Go ! " 

WiUiam went, as directed. And so great 
was the confusion of his mind that he got 
stuck in the revolving door and had gone 
round in it no fewer than eleven times before 
the hall-porter came to extricate him. 

" I would have removed you from the 
machinery earlier, sir," said the hall-porter 
deferentially, having deposited him safely 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 179 

in the street, " but my bet with my mate 
in there called for ten laps. I waited till you 
had completed eleven so that there should be 
no argument." 

William looked at him dazedly. 

" Hall-porter," he said. 

" Sir ? " 

" Tell me, hall-porter," said William, 
" suppose the only girl you have ever loved 
had gone and got engaged to another, what 
would you do ? " 

The hall-porter considered. 

** Let me get this right," he said. " The 
proposition is, if I have followed you correctly, 
what would I do supposing the Jane on whom 
I had always looked as a steady mamma had 
handed me the old skimmer and told me to 
take all the air I needed because she had 
gotten another sweetie ? " 

'' Precisely." 

" Your question is easily answered," said 
the hall-porter. " I would go around the 
corner and get me a nice stiff drink at Mike's 
Place." 

" A drink ? " 

" Y^es, sir. A nice stiff one." 

" At — where did you say ? " 



i8o MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Mike's Place, sir. Just round the 
corner. You can't miss it." 

William thanked him and walked away. 
The man's words had started a new, and in 
many ways interesting, train of thought. 
A drink ? And a nice stiff one ? There 
might be something in it. 

WilUam Mulliner had never tasted alcohol 
in his hfe. He had promised his late mother 
that he would not do so until he was either 
twenty-one or forty-one— he could never 
remember which. He was at present twenty- 
nine ; but wishing to be on the safe side 
in case he had got his figures wrong, he had 
remained a teetotaller. But now, as he 
walked listlessly along the street towards 
the corner, it seemed to him that his mother 
in the special circumstances could not reason- 
ably object if he took a shght snort. He 
raised his eyes to heaven, as though to ask 
her if a couple of quick ones might not be 
permitted ; and he fancied that a faint, 
far-off voice whispered, " Go to it ! " 

And at this moment he found himself 
standing outside a brightly-lighted saloon. 

For an instant he hesitated. Then, as a 
twinge of anguish in the region of his broken 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM i8i 

heart reminded him of the necessity for imme- 
diate remedies, he pushed open the swing 
doors and went in. 

The principal feature of the cheerful, 
brightly-lit room in which he found himself 
was a long counter, at which were standing 
a number of the citizenry, each with an elbow 
on the woodwork and a foot upon the neat 
brass rail which ran below. Behind the 
counter appeared the upper section of one of 
the most benevolent and kindly-looking men 
that William had ever seen. He had a 
large smooth face, and he wore a white coat, 
and he eyed WilUam, as he advanced, with a 
sort of reverent joy. 

" Is this Mike's Place ? " asked William. 

Yes, sir," repHed the white-coated man. 

Are you Mike ? " 

No, sir. But I am his representative, 
and have full authority to act on his behalf. 
What can I have the pleasure of doing for 
you ? " 

Theman'swhole attitude made him seem so 
like a large-hearted elder brother that William 
felt no diffidence about confiding in him. He 
placed an elbow on the counter and a foot on 
the rail, and spoke with a sob in his voice. 






1 82 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Suppose the only girl you had ever 
loved had gone and got engaged to another, 
what in your view would best meet the case ? " 

The gentlemanly bar-tender pondered for 
some moments. 

"Well," he replied at length, " I advance 
it, you understand, as a purely personal 
opinion, and I shall not be in the least offended 
if you decide not to act upon it ; but my 
suggestion — for what it is worth — is that you 
try a Dynamite Dew-Drop." 

One of the crowd that had gathered 
sympathetically round shook his head. He 
was a charming man with a black eye, who 
had shaved on the preceding Thursday. 

" Much better give him a Dreamland 
Special." 

A second man, in a sweater and a cloth 
cap, had yet another theory. 

'* You can't beat an Undertaker's Joy." 

They were all so perfectly delightful 
and appeared to have his interests so un- 
selfishly at heart that William could not 
bring himself to choose between them. He 
solved the problem in diplomatic fashion 
by playing no favourites and ordering all 
three of the beverages recommended. 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 183 

The effect was instantaneous and grati- 
fying. As he drained the first glass, it 
seemed to him that a torchlight procession, 
of whose existence he had hitherto not been 
aware, had begun to march down his throat 
and explore the recesses of his stomach. 
The second glass, though sHghtly too heavily 
charged with molten lava, was extremely 
palatable. It helped the torchUght proces- 
sion along by adding to it a brass band of 
singular power and sweetness of tone. And 
with the third somebody began to touch off 
fireworks inside his head. 

WiUiam felt better — not only spiritually 
but physically. He seemed to himself to be 
a bigger, finer man, and the loss of Myrtle 
Banks had somehow in a flash lost nearly 
all its importance. After all, as he said to 
the man with the black eye. Myrtle Banks 
wasn't everybody. 

" Now what do you recommend ? " he 
asked the man with the sweater, having 
turned the last glass upside down. 

The other mused, one fore-finger thought- 
fully pressed against the side of his face. 

" Well, I'll tell you," he said. " When 
my brother Elmer lost his girl, he drank 



184 MEET MR. MULLINER 

straight rye. Yes, sir. That's what he 
drank — straight rye. 'I've lost my girl,' 
he said, ' and I'm going to drink straight 
rye.' That's what he said. Yes, sir, straight 
rye." 

" And was your brother Elmer," asked 
WilUam, anxiously, " a man whose example 
in your opinion should be followed ? Was 
he a man you could trust ? " 

" He owned the biggest duck-farm in 
the southern half of IlUnois." 

" That settles it," said Wilham. " What 
was good enough for a duck who owned half 
Illinois is good enough for me. Obhge me," 
he said to the gentlemanly bar-tender, " by 
asking these gentlemen what they will have, 
and start pouring." 

The bar-tender obeyed, and WiUiam, 
having tried a pint or two of the strange 
liquid just to see if he liked it, found that he 
did, and ordered some. He then began to 
move about among his new friends, patting 
one on the shoulder, slapping another affabty 
on the back, and asking a third what his 
Christian name was. 

** I want you all," he said, climbing on to 
the counter so that his voice should carry 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 185 

better, " to come and stay with me in Eng- 
land. Never in my life have I met men whose 
faces I liked so much. More like brothers 
than anything is the way I regard you. So 
just you pack up a few things and come along 
and put up at my little place for as long as 
you can manage. You particularly, my dear 
old chap," he added, beaming at the man in 
the sweater. 

'* Thanks," said the man with the sweater. 

" What did you say ? " said Wilham. 

•' I said, ' Thanks.' " 

William slowly removed his coat and 
rolled up his shirt-sleeves. 

" I call you gentlemen to witness," he 
said, quietly, " that I have been grossly 
insulted by this gentleman who has just 
grossly insulted me. I am not a quarrelsome 
man, but if anybody wants a row they can 
have it. And when it comes to being cursed 
and sworn at by an ugly bounder in a sweater 
and a cloth cap, it is time to take steps." 

And with these spirited words William 
Mulliner sprang from the counter, grasped 
the other by the throat, and bit him sharply 
on the right ear. There was a confused 
interval, during which somebody attached 



i86 MEET MR. MULLINER 

himself to the collar of William's waistcoat 
and the seat of WiUiam's trousers, and then a 
sense of swift movement and rush of cool air. 

WiUiam discovered that he was seated 
on the pavement outside the saloon. A 
hand emerged from the swing door and 
threw his hat out. And he was alone with 
the night and his meditations. 

These were, as you may suppose, of a 
singularly bitter nature. Sorrow and dis- 
illusionment racked Wilham MulHner hke a 
physical pain. That his friends inside there, 
in spite of the fact that he had been all 
sweetness and hght and had not done a thing 
to them, should have thrown him out into the 
hard street was the saddest thing he had ever 
heard of ; and for some minutes he sat there, 
weeping silently. 

Presently he heaved himself to his feet 
and, placing one foot with infinite deUcacy 
in front of the other, and then drawing the 
other one up and placing it with infinite 
dehcacy in front of that, he began to walk 
back to his hotel. 

At the comer he paused. There were 
some raihngs on his right. He clung to them 
and rested awhile. 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 187 

The railings to which WilUam MuUiner 
had attached himself belonged to a brown- 
stone house of the kind that seems destined 
from the first moment of its building to 
receive guests, both resident and transient, 
at a moderate weekly rental. It was, in 
fact, as he would have discovered had he 
been clear-sighted enough to read the card 
over the door, Mrs. Beulah O'Brien's 
Theatrical Boarding-House ("A Home From 
Home — No Cheques Cashed — This Means 
You"). 

But William was not in the best of shape 
for reading cards. A sort of mist had ob- 
scured the world, and he was finding it diffi- 
cult to keep his eyes open. And presently, 
his chin wedged into the railings, he fell into 
a dreamless sleep. 

He was awakened by hght flashing in his 
eyes ; and, opening them, saw that a window 
opposite where he was standing had become 
brightly illuminated. His slumbers had 
cleared his vision ; and he was able to observe 
that the room into which he was looking was 
a dining-room. The long table was set for 
the evening meal ; and to WiUiam, as he 
gazed, the sight of that cosy apartment, with 



i88 MEET MR. MULLINER 

the gaslight faUing on the knives and forks 
and spoons, seemed the most pathetic and 
poignant that he had ever beheld. 

A mood of the most extreme sentiment- 
ality now had him in its grip. The thought 
that he would never own a little home like 
that racked him from stem to stern with an 
almost unbearable torment. What, argued 
Wilham, clinging to the raihngs and crying 
weakly, could compare, when you came 
right down to it, with a little home ? A 
man with a little home is all right, whereas 
a man without a little home is just a bit of 
flotsam on the ocean of life. If Myrtle 
Banks had only consented to marry him, 
he would have had a little home. But she 
had refused to marry him, so he would never 
have a little home. Wliat Myrtle Banks 
wanted, felt William, was a good swift clout 
on the side of the head. 

The thought pleased him. He was feeling 
physically perfect again now, and seemed 
to have shaken off completely the sUght 
indisposition from which he had been suffer- 
ing. His legs had lost their tendency to act 
independently of the rest of his body. His 
head felt clearer, and he had a sense of 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 189 

overwhelming strength. If ever, in short, 
there was a moment when he could administer 
that clout on the side of the head to Myrtle 
Banks as it should be administered, that 
moment was now. 

He was on the point of moving off to find 
her and teach her what it meant to stop a 
man hke himself from having a little home, 
when some one entered the room into which he 
was looking, and he paused to make further 
inspection. 

The new arrival was a coloured maid- 
servant. She staggered to the head of the 
table beneath the weight of a large tureen 
containing, so William suspected, hash. A 
moment later a stout woman with bright 
golden hair came in and sat down opposite 
the tureen. 

The instinct to watch other people eat 
is one of the most deeply implanted in the 
human bosom, and WilUam lingered, intent. 
There was, he told himself, no need to hurry. 
He knew which was Myrtle's room in the hotel. 
It was just across the corridor from his own. 
He could pop in any time, during the night, 
and give her that clout. Meanwhile, he 
wanted to watch these people eat hash. 



190 MEET MR. MULLINER 

And then the door opened again, and 
there filed into the room a httle procession. 
And William, clutching the railings, watched 
it with bulging eyes. 

The procession was headed by an elderly 
man in a check suit with a carnation in his 
buttonhole. He was about three feet six in 
height, though the military jauntiness with 
which he carried himself made him seem 
fully three feet seven. He was followed by 
a younger man who wore spectacles and 
whose height was perhaps three feet four. 
And behind these two came, in single file, 
six others, scalmg down by degrees until, 
bringing up the rear of the procession, there 
entered a rather stout man in tweeds and 
bedroom slippers who could not have 
measured more than two feet eight. 

They took their places at the table. 
Hash was distributed to all. And the man 
in tweeds, having inspected his plate with 
obvious rehsh, removed his slippers and, 
picking up his knife and fork with his toes, 
fell to with a keen appetite. 

WiUiam MuUiner uttered a soft moan, 
and tottered away. 

It was a black moment for my Uncle 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 191 

William. Only an instant before he had been 
congratulating himself on having shaken off 
the effects of his first indulgence in alcohol 
after an abstinence of twenty-nine years ; but 
now he perceived that he was still intoxicated. 

Intoxicated ? The word did not express 
it by a mile. He was oiled, boiled, fried, 
plastered, whiffled, sozzled, and blotto. Only 
by the exercise of the most consummate 
caution and address could he hope to get 
back to his hotel and reach his bedroom 
without causing an open scandal. 

Of course, if his walk that night had 
taken him a few yards farther down the 
street than the door of Mike's Place, he would 
have seen that there was a very simple expla- 
nation of the spectacle which he had just 
witnessed. A walk so extended would have 
brought him to the San Francisco Palace of 
Varieties, outside which large posters pro- 
claimed the exclusive engagement for two 
weeks of 

MURPHY'S MIDGETS. 

Bigger and Better than Ever. 

But of the existence of these posters he 
was not aware ; and it is not too much to 



193 MEET MR. MULLINER 

say that the iron entered into William 
Mulliner's soul. 

That his legs should have become tempo- 
rarily unscrewed at the joints was a pheno- 
menon which he had been able to bear 
with fortitude. That his head should be 
feehng as if a good many bees had de- 
cided to use it as a hive was unpleasant, 
but not unbearably so. But that his brain 
should have gone off its castors and be 
causing him to see visions was the end of all 
things. 

WiUiam had always prided himself on 
the keenness of his mental powers. All 
through the long voyage on the ship, when 
Desmond Franklyn had related anecdotes 
illustrative of his prowess as a man of Action, 
WiUiam MuUiner had always consoled him- 
self by feeling that in the matter of brain 
he could give Franklyn three bisques and a 
beating any time he chose to start. And 
now, it seemed, he had lost even this ad- 
vantage over his rival. For Franklyn, dull- 
witted clod though he might be, was not such 
an absolute minus quantity that he would 
imagine he had seen a man of two feet eight 
cutting up hash with his toes. That hideous 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 193 

depth of mental decay had been reserved for 
WilUam MuUiner. 

Moodily he made his way back to his 
hotel. In a corner of the Palm Room he 
saw Myrtle Banks deep in conversation with 
Franklyn, but all desire to give her a clout 
on the side of the head had now left him. 
With his chin sunk on his breast, he entered 
the elevator and was carried up to his room. 

Here as rapidly as his quivering fingers 
would permit, he undressed ; and, chmbing 
into the bed as it came round for the second 
time, lay for a space with wide-open eyes. 
He had been too shaken to switch his hght 
off, and the rays of the lamp shone on the 
handsome ceiling which undulated above him. 
He gave himself up to thought once more. 

No doubt, he felt, thinking it over now, 
his mother had had some very urgent reason 
for withholding him from alcoholic drink. 
She must have known of some family secret, 
sedulously guarded from his infant ears — 
some dark tale of a fatal MuUiner taint. 
*' William must never learn of this ! " she 
had probably said when they told her the old 
legend of how every MuUiner for centuries 
back had died a maniac, victim at last to the 



194 MEET MR. MULLINER 

fatal fluid. And to-night, despite her gentle 
care, he had found out for himself. 

He saw now that this derangement of his 
eyesight was only the first step in the gradual 
dissolution which was the Mulhner Curse. 
Soon his sense of hearing would go, then his 
sense of touch. 

He sat up in bed. It seemed to him that, 
as he gazed at the ceiling, a considerable 
section of it had parted from the parent body 
and fallen with a crash to the floor. 

Wilham MuUiner stared dumbly. He 
knew, of course, that it was an illusion. But 
what a perfect illusion ! If he had not had 
the special knowledge which he possessed, he 
would have stated without fear of contra- 
diction that there was a gap six feet wide 
above him and a mass of dust and plaster 
on the carpet below. 

And even as his eyes deceived him, so 
did his ears. He seemed to be conscious of a 
babel ot screams and shouts. The corridor, 
he could have sworn, was full of flying feet. 
The world appeared to be all bangs and 
crashes and thuds. A cold fear gripped at 
William's heart. His sense of hearing was 
playing tricks with him already. 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 195 

His whole being recoiled from making 
the final experiment, but he forced himself 
out of bed. He reached a finger towards 
the nearest heap of plaster and drew it back 
with a groan. Yes, it was as he feared, his 
sense of touch had gone wrong too. That 
heap of plaster, though purely a figment of his 
disordered brain, had felt solid. 

So there it was. One little moderately 
festive evening at Mike's Place, and the 
Curse of the MuUiners had got him. Within 
an hour of absorbing the first drink of his 
life, it had deprived him of his sight, his 
hearing, and his sense of touch. Quick 
service, felt William Mulliner. 

As he cHmbed back into bed, it appeared 
to him that two of the walls fell out. He 
shut his eyes, and presently sleep, which has 
been well called Tired Nature's Sweet Re- 
storer, brought oblivion. His last waking 
thought was that he imagined he had heard 
another wall go. 

WilHam Mulliner was a sound sleeper, and 
it was many hours before consciousness 
returned to him. When he awoke, he looked 
about him in astonishment. The haunting 
horror of the night had passed ; and now, 



196 MEET MR. MULLINER 

though conscious of a rather severe headache, 
he knew that he was seeing things as they 
were. 

And yet it seemed odd to think that what 
he beheld was not the remains of some 
nightmare. Not only was the world slightly 
yellow and a bit blurred about the edges, but 
it had changed in its very essentials overnight. 
Where eight hours before there had been a 
wall, only an open space appeared, with 
bright sunhght streaming through it. The 
ceihng was on the floor, and almost the only 
thing remaining of what had been an ex- 
pensive bedroom in a first-class hotel was the 
bed. Very strange, he thought, and very 
irregular. 

A voice broke in upon his meditations. 

" Why, Mr. MuUiner ! " 

William turned, and being, like all the 
Mulhners, the soul of modesty, dived abruptly 
beneath the bed-clothes. For the voice was 
the voice of Myrtle Banks. And she was in 
his room ! 

" Mr. MuUiner ! " 

William poked his head out cautiously. 
And then he perceived that the proprieties 
had not been outraged as he had imagined. 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 197 

Miss Banks was not in his room, but in the 
corridor. The intervening wall had dis- 
appeared. Shaken, but reHeved, he sat up 
in bed, the sheet drawn round his shoulders. 

" You don't mean to say you're still in 
bed ? " gasped the girl. 

" Why, is it awfully late ? " said WilUam. 

" Did you actually stay up here all 
through it ? " 

" Through what ? " 

" The earthquake." 

" What earthquake ? " 

" The earthquake last night." 

'' Oh, that earthquake ? " said William, 
carelessly. " I did notice some sort of an 
earthquake. 1 remember seeing the ceiling 
come down and saying to myself, ' I shouldn't 
wonder if that wasn't an earthquake.' And 
then the walls fell out, and I said, * Yes, I 
beUeve it is an earthquake.' And then I 
turned over and went to sleep." 

Myrtle Banks was staring at him with 
eyes that reminded him partly of twin stars 
and partly of a snail's. 

** You must be the bravest man in the 
world ! " 

William gave a curt laugh. 



198 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Oh, well," he said, " I may not spend 
my whole Ufe persecuting unfortunate sharks 
with pocket-knives, but I find I generally 
manage to keep my head fairly well in a 
crisis. We Mulliners are like that. We do 
not say much, but we have the right stuff 
in us." 

He clutched his head. A sharp spasm 
had reminded him how much of the right 
stuff he had in him at that moment. 

" My hero ! " breathed the girl, almost 
inaudibly. 

" And how is your fiance this bright, 
sunny morning ? " asked William, non- 
chalantly. It was torture to refer to the 
man, but he must show her that a MuUiner 
knew how to take his medicine. 

She gave a Httle shudder. 

" I have no fiance," she said. 

" But I thought you told me you and 
Frankly n ..." 

" I am no longer engaged to Mr. Franklyn. 
Last night, when the earthquake started, I 
cried to him to help me ; and he with a hasty 
' Some other time ! ' over his shoulder, dis- 
appeared into the open hke something shot 
out of a gun. I never saw a man run so fast. 



THE STORY OF WILLIAM 199 

This morning I broke off the engagement." 
She uttered a scornful laugh. 

" Sharks and pocket-knives ! I don't be- 
lieve he ever killed a shark in his hfe." 

"And even if he did," said Wilham, 
" what of it ? I mean to say, how in- 
frequently in married life must the necessity 
for kiUing sharks with pocket-knives arise ! 
What a husband needs is not some purely 
adventitious gift like that — a parlour trick, 
you might almost call it — but a steady 
character, a warm and generous disposition, 
and a loving heart." 

" How true ! " she murmured, dreamily. 

" Myrtle," said WiUiam, " I would be a 
husband like that. The steady character, 
the warm and generous disposition, and 
the loving heart to which I have alluded 
are at your disposal. Will you accept 
them ? " 

" I will," said Myrtle Banks. 

And that (concluded Mr. MuUiner) is the 

story of my Uncle WilUam's romance. And 

you will readily understand, having heard 

it, how his eldest son, my cousin, J. S. F. E. 

MulUner, got his name. 

G 2 



200 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" J. S. F. E. ? " I said. 

''John San Francisco Earthquake 
MulHner," explained my friend. 

" There never was a San Francisco earth- 
quake," said the Cahfomian. " Only a 
fire." 



VII 
PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 

IT was with something of the rehef of fog- 
bound city-dwellers who at last behold 
the sun that we perceived, on entering 
the bar-parlour of the Anglers' Rest, that 
Mr. MuUiner was seated once more in the 
familiar chair. For some days he had been 
away, paying a visit to an old nurse of his 
down in Devonshire : and there was no 
doubt that in his absence the tide of 
intellectual conversation had run very 
low. 

" No," said Mr. MulUner, in answer to a 
question as to whether he had enjoyed 
himself, " I cannot pretend that it was an 
altogether agreeable experience. I was con- 
scious throughout of a sense of strain. The 
poor old thing is almost completely deaf, and 
her memory is not what it was. Moreover, 

20I 



202 MEET MR. MULLINER 

it is a moot point whether a man of sensi- 
bility can ever be entirely at his ease in the 
presence of a woman who has frequently 
spanked him with the flat side of a hair- 
brush." 

Mr. MuUiner winced sUghtly, as if the 
old wound still troubled him. 

''It is curious," he went on, after a 
thoughtful pause, '' how httle change the 
years bring about in the attitude of a real, 
genuine, crusted old family nurse towards 
one who in the early knickerbocker stage of 
his career has been a charge of hers. He may 
grow grey or bald and be looked up to by the 
rest of his world as a warm performer on the 
Stock Exchange or a devil of a fellow in the 
sphere of PoUtics or the Arts, but to his old 
Nanna he will still be the Master James or 
Master Percival who had to be hounded by 
threats to keep his face clean. Shakespeare 
would have cringed before his old nurse. So 
would Herbert Spencer, Attila the Hun, 
and the Emperor Nero. My nephew Frede- 
rick . . . but I must not bore you with my 
family gossip." 

We reassured him. 

" Oh well, if you wish to hear the story. 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 203 

There is nothing much in it as a story, but it 
bears out the truth of what I have just been 
saying." 

I will begin (said Mr. Mulhner) at the 
moment when Frederick, having come down 
from London in response to an urgent sum- 
mons from his brother. Doctor George 
Mulliner, stood in the latter's consulting- 
room, looking out upon the Esplanade of 
that quiet little watering-place, Bingley-on- 
Sea. 

George's consulting-room, facing west, 
had the advantage of getting the afternoon 
sun : and this afternoon it needed all the sun 
it could get, to counteract Frederick's extra- 
ordinary gloom. The young man's expres- 
sion, as he confronted his brother, was that 
which a miasmic pool in some dismal swamp 
in the Bad Lands might have worn if it had 
had a face. 

"Then the position, as I see it," he said 
in a low, toneless voice, " is this. On the 
pretext of wishing to discuss urgent family 
business with me, you have dragged me down 
to this foul spot — seventy miles by rail in a 
compartment containing three distinct infants 



204 MEET MR. MULLINER 

sucking sweets — merely to have tea with a 
nurse whom I have disUked since I was a 
child." 

" You have contributed to her support 
for many years," George reminded him. 

" Naturally, when the family were club- 
bing together to pension off the old blister, I 
chipped in with my little bit," said Frederick. 
" Noblesse obHge." 

" Well, noblesse obUges you to go and have 
tea with her when she invites you. Wilks 
must be humoured. She is not so young as 
she was." 

" She must be a hundred." 

" Eighty-five." 

" Good heavens ! And it seems only 
yesterday that she shut me up in a cupboard 
for stealing jam." 

" She was a great disciplinarian," agreed 
George. " You may find her a little on the 
autocratic side still. And I want to impress 
upon you, as her medical man, that you must 
not thwart her lightest whim. She will 
probably offer you boiled eggs and home- 
made cake. Eat them." 

" I will not eat boiled eggs at five o'clock 
in the afternoon," said Frederick, with a 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 205 

strong man's menacing calm, " for any woman 
on earth." 

" You will. And with rehsh. Her heart 
is weak. If you don't humour her, I won't 
answer for the consequences." 

" If I eat boiled eggs at five in the after- 
noon, I won't answer for the consequences. 
And why boiled eggs, dash it ? I'm not a 
schoolboy." 

" To her you are. She looks on all of us 
as children still. Last Christmas she gave 
me a copy of Eric, or Little by Little." 

Frederick turned to the window, and 
scowled down upon the noxious and depress- 
ing scene below. Sparing neither age nor 
sex in his detestation, he regarded the old 
ladies reading their library novels on the 
seats with precisely the same dislike and 
contempt which he bestowed on the boys' 
school clattering past on its way to the 
bathing-houses. 

" Then, checking up your statements," 
he said, " I find that I am expected to go to 
tea with a woman who, in addition, appa- 
rently, to being a blend of Lucretia Borgia 
and a Prussian sergeant-major, is a physical 
wreck and practically potty. WTiy ? That 



2o6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

is what I ask. Why ? As a child, I objected 
strongly to Nurse Wilks : and now, grown to 
riper years, the thought of meeting her again 
gives me the heeby-jeebies. Why should I 
be victimised ? Why me particularly ? " 

" It isn't you particularly. We've all 
been to see her at intervals, and so have the 
OUphants." 

'' The Oliphants ! " 

The name seemed to affect Frederick 
oddly. He winced, as if his brother had been 
a dentist instead of a general practitioner and 
had just drawn one of his back teeth. 

" She was their nurse after she left us. 
You can't have forgotten the Ohphants. I 
remember you at the age of twelve climbing 
that old elm at the bottom of the paddock 
to get Jane Oliphant a rook's egg." 

Frederick laughed bitterly. 

" I must have been a perfect ass. Fancy 
risking my hfe for a girl Hke that ! Not," he 
went on, *' that life's worth much. An 
absolute wash-out, that's what Hfe is. How- 
ever, it will soon be over. And then the 
silence and peace of the grave. That," 
said Frederick, " is the thought that sustains 



me." 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 207 

" A pretty kid, Jane. Some one told me 
she had grown up quite a beauty." 

" Without a heart." 

" What do you know about it ? " 

" Merely this. She pretended to love me, 
and then a few months ago she went off to 
the country to stay with some people named 
Ponderby and wrote me a letter breaking off 
the engagement. She gave no reasons, and 
I have not seen her since. She is now 
engaged to a man named Dillingwater, and 
I hope it chokes her." 

" I never heard about this. I'm sorry." 

" I'm not. Merciful release is the way 
I look at it." 

" Would he be one of the Sussex DiUing- 
waters ? " 

" I don't know what county the family 
infests. If I did, I would avoid it." 

" Well, I'm sorry. No wonder you're 
depressed." 

'' Depressed ? " said Frederick, outraged. 
" Me ? You don't suppose I'm wonying 
myself about a girl Hke that, do you ? I've 
never been so happy in my life. I'm just 
bubbling over with cheerfulness." 

'' Oh, is that what it is ? " George looked 



2o8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

at his watch. '' Well, you'd better be push- 
ing along. It'll take you about ten minutes 
to get to Marazion Road." 

" How do I find the blasted house ? " 

" The name's on the door." 

" What is the name ? " 

'* Wee Holme." 

" My God ! " said Frederick Mulhner. 
*' It only needed that ! " 

The view which he had had of it from his 
brother's window should, no doubt, have 
prepared Frederick for the hideous loath- 
someness of Bingley-on-Sea : but, as he 
walked along, he found it coming on him as a 
complete surprise. Until now he had never 
imagined that a small town could possess 
so many soul-searing features. He passed 
httle boys, and thought how repulsive Httle 
boys were. He met tradesmen's carts, and 
his gorge rose at the sight of them. He 
hated the houses. And, most of all, he 
objected to the sun. It shone down wdth 
a cheeriness which was not only offensive 
but, it seemed to Frederick Mulhner, dehbe- 
rately offensive. What he wanted was wail- 
ing winds ard driving rain : not a beastly 
expanse of vivid blue. It was not that the 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 209 

perfidy of Jane Oliphant had affected him in 
any way : it was simply that he disliked blue 
skies and sunshine. He had a tempera- 
mental antipathy for them, just as he had a 
temperamental fondness for tombs and sleet 
and hurricanes and earthquakes and famines 
and pestilences and . . . 

He found that he had arrived in Marazion 

Road. 

Marazion Road was made up of two 
spotless pavements stretching into the middle 
distance and flanked by two rows of neat 
httle red-brick villas. It smote Frederick 
Hke a blow. He felt as he looked at those 
houses, with their httle brass knockers and 
Httle white curtains, that they were occupied 
by people who knew nothing of Frederick 
Mulhner and were content to know notliing ; 
people who were simply not caring a whoop 
that only a few short months before the girl 
to whom he had been engaged had sent 
back his letters and gone and madly got 
herself betrothed to a man named DilHng- 
water. 

He found Wee Holme, and hit it a nasty 
slap with its knocker. Footsteps sounded in 
the passage, and the door opened. 



210 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Why, Master Frederick ! " said Nurse 
Wilks. " I should hardly have known you." 

Frederick, in spite of the natural gloom 
caused by the blue sky and the warm sun- 
shine, found his mood hghtening somewhat. 
Something that might almost have been a 
spasm of tenderness passed through him. 
He was not a bad-hearted young man — he 
ranked in that respect, he supposed, some- 
where mid-way between his brother George, 
who had a heart of gold, and people like the 
future Mrs. Dillingwater, who had no heart 
at all — and there was a fragihty about Nurse 
Wilks that first astonished and then touched 
him. 

The images w^hich we form in childhood 
are slow to fade : and Frederick had been 
under the impression that Nurse Wilks w^as 
fully six feet tall, with the shoulders of a 
weight-lifter and eyes that glittered cruelly 
beneath beethng brows. Wliat he saw now 
was a little old woman with a wrinkled face, 
who looked as if a puff of wind would blow 
her away. 

He was oddly stirred. He felt large 
and protective. He saw his brother's point 
now. Most certainly this frail old thing 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 211 

must be humoured. Only a brute would 
refuse to humour her — yes, felt Frederick 
Mulliner, even if it meant boiled eggs at five 
o'clock in the afternoon. 

" Well, you are getting a big boy ! " said 
Nurse Wilks, beaming. 

" Do you think so ? " said Frederick, with 
equal amiability. 

" Quite the little man ! And all dressed 
up. Go into the parlour, dear, and sit down. 
I'm getting the tea." 

" Thanks." 

" Wipe your boots ! " 

The voice, thundering from a quarter 
whence hitherto only soft cooings had pro- 
ceeded, affected Frederick Mulliner a little 
Hke the touching off of a mine beneath his 
feet. Spinning round he perceived a different 
person altogether from the mild and kindly 
hostess of a moment back. It was plain 
that there yet Hngered in Nurse Wilks not a 
httle of the ancient fire. Her mouth was 
tightly compressed and her eyes gleamed 
dangerously. 

' * Theideaof yourbringingyoumastydirty- 
bootsintomynicecleanhousewithoutwiping- 
them ! " said Nurse Wilks. 



212 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Sorry ! " said Frederick humbly. 

He burnished the criticised shoes on the 
mat, and tottered to the parlour. He felt 
much smaller, much younger and much 
feebler than he had felt a minute ago. His 
morale had been shattered into fragments. 

And it was not pieced together by the 
sight, as he entered the parlour, of Miss Jane 
OUphant sitting in an armchair by the 
window. 

It is hardly to be supposed that the reader 
will be interested in the appearance of a girl 
of the stamp of Jane Oliphant — a girl capable 
of wantonly returning a good man's letters 
and going off and getting engaged to a 
DiUingwater : but one may as well describe 
her and get it over. She had golden-brown 
hair ; golden-brown eyes ; golden-brown eye- 
brows ; a nice nose with one freckle on the 
tip ; a mouth which, when it parted in a 
smile, disclosed pretty teeth ; and a resolute 
httle chin. 

At the present moment, the mouth was 
not parted in a smile. It was closed up tight, 
and the chin was more than resolute. It 
looked like the ram of a very small battle- 
ship. She gazed at Frederick as if he were 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 213 

the smell of onions, and she did not say a 
word. 

Nor did Frederick say very much. No- 
thing is more difficult for a young man than 
to find exactly the right remark with which 
to open conversation with a girl who has 
recently returned his letters. (Darned good 
letters, too. Reading them over after open- 
ing the package, he had been amazed at their 
charm and eloquence.) 

Frederick, then, confined his observations 
to the single word " Guk ! " Having uttered 
this, he sank into a chair and stared at the 
carpet. The girl stared out of window : and 
complete silence reigned in the room till from 
the interior of a clock which was ticking on the 
mantelpiece a small wooden bird suddenly 
emerged, said " Cuckoo," and withdrew. 

The abruptness of this bird's appearance 
and the oddly staccato nature of its diction 
could not but have their effect on a man 
whose nerves were not what they had been. 
Frederick MulHner, rising some eighteen 
inches from his chair, uttered a hasty ex- 
clamation. 

" I beg your pardon ? " said Jane OH- 
phant, raising her eyebrows. 



214 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Well, how was I to know it was going 
to do that ? " said Frederick defensively. 

Jane Oliphant shrugged her shoulders. 
The gesture seemed to imply supreme in- 
difference to what the sweepings of the Under- 
world knew or did not know. 

But Frederick, the ice being now in a 
manner broken, refused to return to the 
silence. 

" What are you doing here ? " he said. 

" I have come to have tea with Nanna." 

" I didn't know you were going to be here." 

" Oh ? " 

" If I'd known that you were going to be 
here . . ." 

" You've got a large smut on your nose." 

Frederick gritted his teeth and reached 
for his handkerchief. 

" Perhaps I'd better go," he said. 

" You wiU do nothing of the kind," said 
Miss OUphant sharply. " She is looking 
forward to seeing you. Though why ..." 

" Why ? " prompted Frederick coldly. 

"Oh, nothing." 

In the unpleasant silence which followed, 
broken only by the deep breathing of a man 
who was trying to choose the rudest out of the 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 215 
three retorts which had presented themselves 
to him, Nurse Wilks entered. 

" It's just a suggestion," said Miss Oli- 
phant aloofly, " but don't you think you 
might help Nanna with that heavy tray ? " 

Frederick, roused from his preoccupation, 
sprang to his feet, blushing the blush of 
shame. 

" You might have strained yourself, 
Nanna," the girl went on, in a voice dripping 
with indignant sympathy. 

" I was going to help her," mumbled 
Frederick. 

" Yes, after she had put the tray down on 
the table. Poor Nanna ! How very heavy 
it must have been." 

Not for the first time since their acquaint- 
ance had begun, Frederick felt a sort of wistful 
wonder at his erstwhile fiancee's uncanny 
abihty to put him in the wrong. His 
emotions now were rather what they 
would have been if he had been detected 
striking his hostess with some blunt in- 
strument. 

" He always was a thoughtless boy," said 
Nurse Wilks tolerantly. " Do sit down, 
Master Frederick, and have your tea. Fve 



2i6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

boiled some eggs for you. I know what a 
boy you always are for eggs." 

Frederick, starting, directed a swift glance 
at the tray. Yes, his worst fears had been 
realised. Eggs — and large ones. A stomach 
which he had fallen rather into the habit of 
pampering of late years gave a little whimper 
of apprehension. 

" Yes," proceeded Nurse Wilks, pursuing 
the subject, " you never could have enough 
eggs. Nor cake. Dear me, how sick you 
made yourself with cake that day at Miss 
Jane's birthday party." 

" Please ! " said Miss Oliphant, with a 
slight shiver. 

She looked coldly at her fermenting fellow- 
guest, as he sat plumbing the deepest abysses 
of self-loathing. 

" No eggs for me, thank you," he said. 

" Master Frederick, you will eat your 
nice boiled eggs," said Nurse Wilks. Her 
voice was still amiable, but there was a hint 
of dynamite behind it. 

" I don't want any eggs." 

" Master Frederick ! " The dynamite ex- 
ploded. Once again that amazing trans- 
formation had taken place, and a frail httle 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 217 

old woman had become an intimidating 
force with which only a Napoleon could 
have reckoned. " I will not have this 



sulking." 



Frederick gulped. 

"I'm sorry," he said, meekly. " I should 
enjoy an egg." 

" Two eggs," corrected Nurse Wilks. 

" Two eggs," said Frederick. 

Miss Ohphant twisted the knife in the 
wound. 

" There seems to be plenty of cake, too. 
How nice for you ! Still, I should be careful, 
if I were you. It looks rather rich. I never 
could understand," she went on, addressing 
Nurse Wilks in a voice which Frederick, 
who was now about seven years old, con- 
sidered insufferably grown-up and affected, 
*' why people should find any enjoyment in 
stuffing and gorging and making pigs of 
themselves." 

" Boys will be boys," argued Nurse Wilks. 

" I suppose so," sighed Miss Ohphant. 
" Still, it's all rather unpleasant." 

A slight but well-defined glitter appeared 
in Nurse Wilks' eyes. She detected a ten- 
dency to hoighty-toightiness in her young 



21 8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

guest's manner, and hoighty-toightiness was 
a thing to be checked. 

" Girls," she said, " are by no means 
perfect." 

" Ah ! " breathed Frederick, in rapturous 
adhesion to the sentiment. 

" Girls have their little faults. Girls are 
sometimes incHned to be vain. I know a 
little girl not a hundred miles from this room 
who was so proud of her new panties that she 
ran out in the street in them." 

" Nanna ! " cried Miss Oliphant pinkly. 

" Disgusting ! " said Frederick. 

He uttered a short laugh : and so full was 
this laugh, though short, of scorn, disdain, 
and a certain hideous mascuHne superiority, 
that Jane Oliphant's proud spirit writhed 
beneath the infliction. She turned on him 
with blazing eyes. 

" What did you say ? " 

" I said ' Disgusting I ' " 

" Indeed ? " 

" I cannot," said Frederick judicially, 
' ' imagine a more deplorable exhibition, and I 
hope you were sent to bedwithout any supper." 

" If you ever had to go without your 
supper," said Miss OHphant, who beUeved in 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 219 

attack as the best form of defence, " it would 
kill you." 

" Is that so ? " said Frederick. 

" You're a beast, and I hate you," said 
Miss Ohphant. 

" Is that so ? " 

" Yes, that is so." 

" Now, now, now," said Nurse Wilks. 
" Come, come, come ! " 

She eyed the two with that comfortable 
look of power and capability which comes 
naturally to women who have spent half a 
century in deaUng with the young and 
fractious. 

" We will have no quarrelling," she said. 
" Make it up at once. Master Frederick, 
give Miss Jane a nice kiss." 

The room rocked before Frederick's bulg- 
ing eyes. 

" A what ? " he gasped. 

** Give her a nice big kiss and tell her 
you're sorry you quarrelled with her." 

" She quarrelled with me." 

** Never mind. A little gentleman must 
always take the blame." 

Frederick, working desperately, dragged 
to the surface a sketchy smile. 



220 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" I apologise," he said. 

" Don't mention it," said Miss Oliphant. 

" Kiss her," said Nurse Wilks. 

*' I won't ! " said Frederick. 

" What ! " 

'' I won't." 

** Master Frederick," said Nurse Wilks, 
rising and pointing a menacing finger, " you 
march straight into that cupboard in the 
passage and stay there till you are good." 

Frederick hesitated. He came of a proud 
family. A MuUiner had once received the 
thanks of his Sovereign for services rendered 
on the field of Crecy. But the recollection 
of what his brother George had said decided 
him. Infra dig. as it might be to allow 
himself to be shoved away in cupboards, it 
was better than being responsible for a 
woman's heart-failure. With bowed head 
he passed through the door, and a key cHcked 
behind him. 

All alone in a dark world that smelt of 
mice, Frederick Mulhner gave himself up to 
gloomy reflection. He had just put in about 
two minutes' intense thought of a kind which 
would have made the meditations of Scho- 
penhauer on one of his bad mornings seem 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 221 

like the day-dreams of Polyanna, when a 
voice spoke through the crack in the door. 

*' Freddie. I mean Mr. MuUiner." 

" Well ? " 

" She's gone into the kitchen to get the 
jam," proceeded the voice rapidly. " Shall 
I let you out ? " 

" Pray do not trouble," said Frederick 
coldly. " I am perfectly comfortable." 

Silence followed. Frederick returned to 
his reverie. About now, he thought, but for 
his brother George's treachery in luring him 
down to this plague-spot by a misleading 
telegram, he would have been on the twelfth 
green at Squashy Hollow, trying out that 
new putter. Instead of which . . . 

The door opened abruptly, and as abruptly 
closed again. And Frederick Mulhner, who 
had been looking forward to an unbroken 
solitude, discovered with a good deal of 
astonishment that he had started taking in 
lodgers. 

" What are you doing here ? " he 
demanded, with a touch of proprietorial 
disapproval. 

The girl did not answer. But presently 
muffled sounds came to him through the 



t( 



(( 



222 MEET MR. MULLINER 

darkness. In spite of himself, a certain 
tenderness crept upon Frederick. 

" I say," he said awkwardly. " There's 
nothing to cry about." 

I'm not crying. I'm laughing." 
Oh ? " The tenderness waned. " You 
think it's amusing, do you, being shut up in 
this damned cupboard ..." 

" There is no need to use bad language." 
" "I entirely disagree with you. There is 
every need to use bad language. It's ghastly 
enough being at Bingley-on-Sea at all, but 
when it comes to being shut up in Bingley 
cupboards ..." 

"... with a girl you hate ? " 

" We will not go into that aspect of the 
matter," said Frederick with dignity. " The 
important point is that here I am in a cup- 
board at Bingley-on-Sea when, if there were 
any justice or right-thinking in the world, I 
should be out at Squashy Hollow ..." 

" Oh ? Do you still play golf ? " 

" Certainly I still play golf. Why not ? " 

" I don't know why not. I'm glad you 
are still able to amuse yourself." 

" How do you mean, still ? Do you 
think that just because . . . ? " 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 223 

" I don't think anything." 

" I suppose you imagined I would be 
creeping about the place, a broken-hearted 
wreck ? " 

" Oh no. I knew you would find it very 
easy to console yourself." 

" What do you mean by that ? " 

" Never mind." 

" Are you insinuating that I am the sort 
of man who turns hghtly from one woman to 
another — a mere butterfly who flits from 
flower to flower, sipping . . . ? " 

" Yes, if you want to know, I think you 
are a bom sipper." 

Frederick started. The charge was 
monstrous. 

" I have never sipped. And, what's more, 
I have never flitted." 

" That's funny." 

" What's funny ? " 

" What you said." 

" You appear to have a very keen sense 
of humour," said Frederick weightily. " It 
amuses you to be shut up in cupboards. It 
amuses you to hear me say ..." 

" Well, it's nice to be able to get some 
amusement out of hfe, isn't it ? Do you 

H 



224 MEET MR. MULLINER 

want to know why she shut me up in 
here ? " 

" I haven't the shghtest curiosity. 
Why ? " 

" I forgot where I was and Hghted a 
cigarette. Oh, my goodness ! " 

" Now what ? " 

" I thought I heard a mouse. Do you 
think there are mice in this cupboard ? " 

" Certainly," said Frederick. " Dozens 
of them." 

He would have gone on to specify the 
kind of mice, — large, fat, shthery, active 
mice : but at this juncture something hard 
and sharp took him agonisingly on the 
ankle. 

" Ouch ! " cried Frederick. 

" Oh, Fm sorry. Was that you ? " 

" It was." 

" I was kicking about to discourage the 
mice." 

" I see." 

" Did it hurt much ? " 

" Only a trifle more than blazes, thank 
you for inquiring." 

" Fm sorry." 

" So am 1." 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 225 

" Anyway, it would have given a mouse a 
nasty jar, if it had been one, w^ouldn't it ? " 

" The shock, I should imagine, of a life- 
time." 

" Well, I'm sorry." 

" Don't mention it. Why should I worry 
about a broken ankle, when ..." 

" When what ? " 

" I forget what I was going to say." 

" When your heart is broken ? " 

" My heart is not broken." It was a 
point which Frederick wished to make lumin- 
ously clear. " I am gay . . . happy . . . 
Who the devil is this man Dillingwater ? " 
he concluded abruptly. 

There was a momentary pause. 

" Oh, just a man." 

" Where did you meet him ? " 

"At the Ponderbys'." 

" Where did you get engaged to him ? " 

" At the Ponderbys'." 

" Did you pay another visit to the 
Ponderbys, then ? " 

"No." 

Frederick choked. 

" When you went to stay with the 
Ponderbys, you were engaged to me. Do 



226 MEET MR. MULLINER 

you mean to say you broke off your engage- 
ment to me, met this Dillingwater, and got 
engaged to him all in the course of a single 
visit lasting barely two weeks ? " 

" Yes." 

Frederick said nothing. It struck him 
later that he should have said " Oh, Woman, 
Woman ! " but at the moment it did not 
occur to him. 

" I don't see what right you have to 
criticise me," said Jane. 

" W^ho criticised you ? " 

" You did." 

" When ? " 

" Just then." 

" I call Heaven to witness," cried 
Frederick Mulliner, " that not by so much as 
a single word have I hinted at my opinion 
that your conduct is the vilest and most 
revolting that has ever been drawn to my 
attention. I never so much as suggested 
that your revelation had shocked me to the 
depths of my soul." 

*' Yes, you did. You sniffed." 

" If Bingley-on-Sea is not open for being 
sniffed in at this season," said Frederick 
coldly; " I should have been informed earher." 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 227 

" I had a perfect right to get engaged to 
any one I liked and as quick as I liked, after 
the abominable way you behaved," 

" Abominable way 1 behaved ? What 
do you mean ? " 

" You know." 

** Pardon me, I do not know. If you 
are alluding to my refusal to wear the tie you 
bought for me on my last birthday, I can 
but repeat my statement, made to you at 
the time, that, apart from being the sort of 
tie no upright man would be seen dead in a 
ditch with, its colours were those of a CycUng, 
Angling, and Dart-Throwing club of which 
I am not a member." 

" I am not alluding to that. I mean the 
day I was going to the Ponderbys' and you 
promised to see me off at Paddington, and 
then you 'phoned and said you couldn't 
as you were detained by important business, 
and I thought, well, I think Til go by the 
later train after all because that will give me 
time to lunch quietly at the Berkeley, and I 
went and lunched quietly at the Berkeley, and 
when I was there who should I see but you 
at a table at the other end of the room 
gorging yourself in the company of a beastly 



228 MEET MR. MULLINER 

creature in a pink frock and henna'd hair. 
That's what I mean." 

Frederick clutched at his forehead. 

" Repeat that," he exclaimed. 

Jane did so. 

" Ye gods ! " said Frederick. 

" It was Uke a blow over the head. Some- 
thing seemed to snap inside me, and ..." 

" I can explain all," said Frederick. 

Jane's voice in the darkness was cold. 

" Explain ? " she said. 

" Explain," said Frederick. 

" All ? " 

"AU." 

Jane coughed. 

" Before beginning," she said, *' do not 
forget that I know every one of your female 
relatives by sight." 

" I don't want to talk about my female 
relatives." 

" I thought you were going to say that 
she was one of them — an aunt or something." 

" Nothing of the kind. She was a revue 
star. You probably saw her in a piece called 
'Toot-Toot.'" 

" And that is your idea of an explana- 
tion ! " 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 229 | 

Frederick raised his hand for silence. 
Reahsing that she could not see it, he lowered 
it again. 

" Jane," he said in a low, throbbing 
voice, " can you cast your mind back to a 
morning in the spring when we walked, you 
and I, in Kensington Gardens ? The sun 
shone brightly, the sky was a limpid blue 
flecked with fleecy clouds, and from the 
west there blew a gentle breeze ..." 

" If you think you can melt me with that 
sort of . . ." 

*' Nothing of the kind. What I was 
leading up to was this. As we walked, you 
and I, there came snuffling up to us a small 
Pekingese dog. It left me, I admit, quite 
cold, but you went into ecstasies : and from 
that moment I had but one mission in Hfe, 
to discover who that Peke belonged to and 
buy it for you. And after the most 
exhaustive inquiries, I tracked the animal 
down. It was the property of the lady in 
whose company you saw me lunching — 
hghtly, not gorging — at the Berkeley that 
day. I managed to get an introduction to 
her, and immediately began to make offers to 
her for the dog. Money was no object to 



230 MEET MR. MULLINER 

me. All I wished was to put the Httle beast 
in your arms and see your face light up. It 
was to be a surprise. That morning the 
woman 'phoned, and said that she had 
practically decided to close with my latest 
bid, and would I take her to lunch and discuss 
the matter ? It was agony to have to ring 
you up and tell you that I could not see you 
off at Paddington, but it had to be done. 
It was anguish having to sit for two hours 
Hstening to that highly-coloured female telling 
me how the comedian had ruined her big 
number in her last show by standing up- 
stage and pretending to drink ink, but that 
had to be done too. I bit the bullet and 
saw it through and 1 got the dog that after- 
noon. And next morning I received your 
letter breaking off the engagement." 

There was a long silence. 

" Is this true ? " said Jane. 

" Quite true." 

" It sounds too — how shall I put it ? — 
too frightfully probable. Look me in the 
face ! " 

" What's the good of looking you in the 
face when I can't see an inch in front of me ? " 

" WeU, is it true ? " 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 231 

" Certainly it is true." 

" Can you produce the Peke ? " 

" I have not got it on my person," said 

Frederick stiffly. " But it is at my flat, 

probably chewing up a valuable rug. I will 

give it you for a wedding present." 

" Oh, Freddie ! " 

" A wedding present," repeated Frederick, 

though the words stuck in his throat Uke 

patent American health-cereal. 

" But I'm not going to be married." 

" You're — what did you say ? " 

"I'm not going to be married." 

" But what of DilHngwater ? " 

"That's off." 

" Off? " 

"Off," said Jane firmly. "I only got 

engaged to him out of pique. I thought I 

could go through with it, buoying myself up 

by thinking what a score it would be off you, 

but one morning I saw him eating a peach 

and I began to waver. He splashed himself 

to the eyebrows. And just after that I 

found that he had a trick of making a sort of 

funny noise when he drank coffee. I would 

sit on the other side of the breakfast table, 

looking at him and saying to myself ' Now 

H 2 



232 MEET MR. MULLINER 

comes the funny noise ! ' and when I thought 
of doing that all the rest of my life I saw that 
the scheme was impossible. So I broke off 
the engagement." 

Frederick gasped. 

" Jane ! " 

He groped out, found her, and drew her 
into his arms. 

" Freddie ! " 

" Jane ! " 

" Freddie ! " 

" Jane ! " 

" Freddie ! " 

" Jane ! " 

On the panel of the door there sounded 
an authoritative rap. Through it there spoke 
an authoritative voice, shghtly cracked by 
age but full, nevertheless, of the spirit that 
wil] stand no nonsense. 

" Master Frederick." 

" HuUo ? " 

" Are you good now ? 

" You bet Fm good." 

" Will you give Miss Jane a nice kiss ? " 

" I will do," said Frederick MulHner, 
enthusiasm ringing in every syllable, " just 
that httle thing ! " 



PORTRAIT OF A DISCIPLINARIAN 233 

" Then you may come out," said Nurse 
Wilks. " I have boiled you two more eggs." 

Frederick paled, but only for an instant. 
What did anything matter now ? His hps 
were set in a firm line, and his voice, when 
he spoke, was calm and steady. 

" Lead me to them," he said. 



VIII 

THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 

SOMEBODY had left a copy of an illus- 
trated weekly paper in the bar- 
parlour of the Anglers' Rest ; and, 
glancing through it, I came upon the ninth 
full-page photograph of a celebrated musical 
comedy actress that I had seen since the 
preceding Wednesday. This one showed her 
looking archly over her shoulder with a rose 
between her teeth, and I flung the periodical 
from me with a stifled cry. 

" Tut, tut ! " said Mr. Mulliner, repro- 
vingly. " You must not allov/ these things 
to affect you so deeply. Remember, it is 
not actresses' photographs that matter, but 
the courage which we bring to them." 

He sipped his hot Scotch. 

I wonder if you have ever reflected 

234 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 235 

(he said gravely) what Ufe must be Uke for 
the men whose trade it is to make these 
pictures ? Statistics show that the two 
classes of the community which least often 
marry are milkmen and fashionable photo- 
graphers—milkmen because they see women 
too early in the morning, and fashionable 
photographers because their days are spent 
in an atmosphere of feminine loveUness so 
monotonous that they become surfeited and 
morose. I know of none of the world's 
workers whom I pity more sincerely than the 
fashionable photographer ; and yet— by one 
of those strokes of irony which make the 
thoughtful man waver between sardonic 
laughter and sympathetic tears — it is the 
ambition of every youngster who enters the 
profession some day to become one. 

At the outset of his career, you see, a 
young photographer is sorely oppressed by 
human gargoyles : and gradually this begins 
to prey upon his nerves. 

" Why is it," I remember my cousin 
Clarence saying, after he had been about 
a year in the business, " that all these misfits 
want to be photographed ? Why do men 
with faces which you would have thought 



236 MEET MR. MULLINER 

they would be anxious to hush up wish 
to be strewn about the country on what- 
nots and in albums ? I started out full of 
ardour and enthusiasm, and my eager soul 
is being crushed. This morning the Mayor 
of Tooting East came to make an appoint- 
ment. He is coming to-morrow afternoon 
to be taken in his cocked hat and robes of 
office ; and there is absolutely no excuse 
for a man with a face like that perpetuating 
his features. I wish to goodness I was one 
of those fellows who only take camera- 
portraits of beautiful women." 

His dream was to come true sooner than 
he had imagined. Within a week the great 
test-case of Biggs v. Mulliner had raised my 
cousin Clarence from an obscure studio in 
West Kensington to the position of London's 
most famous photographer. 

You possibly remember the case ? The 
events that led up to it were, briefly, as 
follows : — 

Jno. Horatio Biggs, O.B.E., the newly- 
elected Mayor of Tooting East, alighted from 
a cab at the door of Clarence MulUner's 
studio at four-ten on the afternoon of June 
the seventeenth. At four-eleven he went in. 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 237 

And at four-sixteen and a half he was observed 
shooting out of a first-floor window, vigor- 
ously assisted by my cousin, who was 
prodding him in the seat of the trousers with 
the sharp end of a photographic tripod. 
Those who were in a position to see stated 
that Clarence's face was distorted by a fury 
scarcely human. 

Naturally the matter could not be ex- 
pected to rest there. A week later the case 
of Biggs V. MulUner had begun, the plaintiff 
claiming damages to the extent of ten 
thousand pounds and a new pair of trousers. 
And at first things looked very black for 
Clarence. 

It was the speech of Sir Joseph Bodger, 
K.C., briefed for the defence, that turned the 
scale. 

** I do not," said Sir Joseph, addressing 
the jury on the second day, '' propose to 
deny the charges which have been brought 
against my cUent. We freely admit that on 
the seventeenth inst. we did jab the defen- 
dant with our tripod in a manner calculated to 
cause alarm and despondency. But, gentle- 
men, we plead justification. The whole case 
turns upon one question. Is a photographer 



238 MEET MR. MULLINER 

entitled to assault — either with or, as the 
case may be, without a tripod — a sitter who, 
after being warned that his face is not up to 
the minimum standard requirements, insists 
upon remaining in the chair and moistening 
the lips with the tip of the tongue ? Gentle- 
men, I say Yes ! 

" Unless you decide in favour of my 
client, gentlemen of the jury, photographers 
— debarred by law from the privilege of 
rejecting sitters — will be at the mercy of 
anyone who comes along with the price of a 
dozen photographs in his pocket. You have 
seen the plaintiff. Biggs. You have noted 
his broad, slab-Hke face, intolerable to any 
man of refinement and sensibiUty. You 
have observed his walrus moustache, his 
double chin, his protruding eyes. Take 
another look at him, and then tell me if my 
cUent was not justified in chasing him with a 
tripod out of that sacred temple of Art and 
Beauty, his studio. 

" Gentlemen, I have finished. I leave 
my client's fate in your hands with every 
confidence that you will return the only 
verdict that can conceivably issue from 
twelve men of your obvious intelhgence, 



THE ROiMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 239 

your manifest sympathy, and your superb 
breadth of vision." 

Of course, after that there was nothing to 
it. The jury decided in Clarence's favour 
without leaving the box ; and the crowd 
waiting outside to hear the verdict carried 
him shoulder-high to his house, refusing to 
disperse until he had made a speech and 
sung Photographers never, never, never shall 
be slaves. And next morning every paper 
in England came out with a leading article 
commending him for having so courageously 
established, as it had not been estabhshed 
since the days of Magna Charta, the funda- 
mental principle of the Liberty of the 
Subject. 

The effect of this pubhcity on Clarence's 
fortunes was naturally stupendous. He had 
become in a flash the best-known photo- 
grapher in the United Kingdom, and was 
now in a position to realise that vision which 
he had of taking the pictures of none but the 
beaming and the beautiful. Every day the 
lovehest ornaments of Society and the Stage 
flocked to his studio ; and it was with the 
utmost astonishment, therefore, that, caUing 



240 MEET MR. MULLINER 

upon him one morning on my return to 
England after an absence of two years in the 
East, I learned that Fame and Wealth had 
not brought him happiness. 

I found him sitting moodily in his studio, 
staring with dull eyes at a camera-portrait 
of a well-known actress in a bathing-suit. 
He looked up listlessly as I entered. 

" Clarence ! " I cried, shocked at his 
appearance, for there were hard hues about 
his mouth and wrinkles on a forehead that 
once had been smooth as alabaster. *' What 
is wrong ? " 

" Everything," he rephed, "I'm fed up." 

" What with ? " 

" Life. Beautiful women. This beastly 
photography business." 

I was amazed. Even in the East rumours 
of his success had reached me, and on my 
return to London I found that they had not 
been exaggerated. In every photographers' 
club in the Metropohs, from the Negative 
and Solution in Pall Mall to the humble 
pubHc-houses frequented by the men who 
do your pictures while you wait on the 
sands at seaside resorts, he was being freely 
spoken of as the logical successor to the 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 241 

Presidency of the Amalgamated Guild of 
Bulb-Squeezers. 

** I can't stick it much longer," said 
Clarence, tearing the camera-portrait into a 
dozen pieces with a dry sob and burying his 
face in his hands. " Actresses nursing their 
dolls ! Countesses simpering over kittens ! 
Film stars among their books ! In ten 
minutes I go to catch a train at Waterloo. I 
have been sent for by the Duchess of Hamp- 
shire to take some studies of Lady Monica 
Southboume in the castle grounds." 

A shudder ran through him. I patted 
him on the shoulder. I understood now. 

" She has the most brilhant smile in 
England," he whispered. 

" Come, come ! " 

" Coy yet roguish, they tell me." 

" It may not be true." 

'' And I bet she will want to be taken 
offering a lump of sugar to her dog, and 
the picture will appear in The Sketch and 
Tatler as ' Lady Monica Southboume and 
Friend.' " 

*' Clarence, this is morbid." 

He was silent for a moment. 

** Ah, well," he said, pulUng himself 



242 MEET MR. MULLINER 

together with a visible effort, " I have made 
my sodium sulphite, and I must lie in it." 

I saw him off in a cab. The last view I 
had of him was of his pale, drawn profile. 
He looked, I thought, like an aristocrat of 
the French Revolution being borne off to his 
doom on a tumbril. How httle he guessed 
that the only girl in the world lay waiting 
for him round the corner. 

No, you are wrong. Lady Monica did 
not turn out to be the only girl in the world. 
If what I said caused you to expect that, I 
misled you. Lady Monica proved to be all 
his fancy had pictured her. In fact even 
more. Not only was her smile coy yet 
roguish, but she had a sort of coquettish 
droop of the left eyehd of which no one had 
warned him. And, in addition to her two 
dogs, which she was portrayed in the act of 
feeding with two lumps of sugar, she pos- 
sessed a totally unforeseen pet monkey, of 
which he was compelled to take no fewer 
than eleven studies. 

No, it was not Lady Monica who captured 
Clarence's heart, but a girl in a taxi whom he 
met on his way to the station. 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 243 

It was in a traffic jam at the top of White- 
hall that he first observed this girl. His cab 
had become becalmed in a sea of omnibuses, 
and, chancing to look to the right, he per- 
ceived within a few feet of him another taxi, 
which had been heading for Trafalgar Square. 
There was a face at its window. It turned 
towards him, and their eyes met. 

To most men it would have seemed an 
unattractive face. To Clarence, surfeited 
with the coy, the beaming, and the dehcately- 
chiselled, it was the most wonderful thing he 
had ever looked at. All his life, he felt, he 
had been searching for something on these 
Unes. That snub nose — those freckles — that 
breadth of cheek-bone — the squareness of 
that chin. And not a dimple in sight. He 
told me afterwards that his only feeUng at 
first was one of incredulity. He had not 
believed that the world contained women 
hke this. And then the traffic jam loosened 
up and he was carried away. 

It was as he was passing the Houses of 
Parliament that the reaUsation came to him 
that the strange bubbly sensation that seemed 
to start from just above the lower left side- 
pocket of his waistcoat was not, as he had 



244 MEET MR. MULLINER 

at first supposed, dyspepsia, but love. Yes, 
love had come at long last to Clarence 
MuUiner ; and for all the good it was Ukely 
to do him, he reflected bitterly, it might just 
as well have been the dyspepsia for which 
he had mistaken it. He loved a girl whom 
he would probably never see again. He did 
not know her name or where she hved or any- 
thing about her. All he knew was that he 
would cherish her image in his heart for 
ever, and that the thought of going on with 
the old dreary round of photographing lovely 
women with coy yet roguish smiles was 
almost more than he could bear. 

However, custom is strong ; and a man 
who has once allowed the bulb-squeezing 
habit to get a grip of him cannot cast it off 
in a moment. Next day Clarence was back 
in his studio, diving into the velvet nose-bag 
as of yore and telling peeresses to watch the 
httle birdie just as if nothing had happened. 
And if there was now a strange, haunting 
look of pain in his eyes, nobody objected to 
that. Indeed, inasmuch as the grief which 
gnawed at his heart had the effect of deepen- 
ing and mellowing his camera-side manner to 
an almost sacerdotal unctuousness, his private 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 245 

sorrows actually helped his professional pres- 
tige. Women told one another that being 
photographed by Clarence Mulliner was like 
undergoing some wonderful spiritual experi- 
ence in a noble cathedral ; and his appoint- 
ment-book became fuller than ever. 

So great now was his reputation that to 
anyone who had had the privilege of being 
taken by him, either full face or in profile, 
the doors of Society opened automatically. 
It was whispered that his name was to appear 
in the next Birthday Honours List ; and at 
the annual banquet of the Amalgamated 
Bulb-Squeezers, when Sir Godfrey Stooge, 
the retiring President, in proposing his health, 
concluded a glowingly eulogistic speech with 
the words, " Gentlemen, I give you my 
destined successor, MuUiner the Liberator ! " 
five hundred frantic photographers almost 
shivered the glasses on the table with their 
applause. 

And yet he was not happy. He had lost 
the only girl he had ever loved, and without 
her what was Fame ? What was Affluence ? 
What were the Highest Honours in the 
Land ? 

These were the questions he was asking 



246 MEET MR. MULLINER 

himself one night as he sat in his Hbrary, 
sombrely sipping a final whisky-and-soda 
before retiring. He had asked them once 
and was going to ask them again, when he 
was interrupted by the sound of some one 
ringing at the front-door bell. 

He rose, surprised. It was late for callers. 
The domestic staff had gone to bed, so he 
went to the door and opened it. A shado\vy 
figure was standing on the steps. 

" Mr. Mulhner ? " 

" I am Mr. MuUiner." 

The man stepped past him into the hall. 
And, as he did so, Clarence saw that he was 
wearing over the upper half of his face a 
black velvet mask. 

" I must apologise for hiding my face, 
Mr. Mulliner," the visitor said, as Clarence 
led him to the library. 

" Not at all," repUed Clarence, courte- 
ously. " No doubt it is all for the best." 

" Indeed ? " said the other, with a touch 
of asperity. " If you really want to know, 
I am probably as handsome a man as there is 
in London. But my mission is one of such 
extraordinary secrecy that I dare not run the 
risk of being recognised." He paused, and 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 247 

Clarence saw his eyes glint through the holes 
in the mask as he directed a rapid gaze into 
each corner of the hbrary. " Mr. Mulhner, 
have you any acquaintance with the ramifi- 
cations of international secret politics ? " 

" I have." 

" And you are a patriot ? " 
I am. 

" Then I can speak freely. No doubt you 
are aware, Mr. Mulhner, that for some time 
past this country and a certain rival Power 
have been competing for the friendship and 
alliance of a certain other Power ? " 

" No," said Clarence, " they didn't tell 
me that." 

" Such is the case. And the President 
of this Power " 

" Which one ? " 

*' The second one." 

" Call it B." 

** The President of Power B. is now in 
London. He arrived incognito, traveUing 
under the assumed name of J. J. Shubert : 
and the representatives of Power A., to the 
best of our knowledge, are not yet aware of 
his presence. This gives us just the few 
hours necessary to chnch this treaty with 



248 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Power B. before Power A. can interfere. I 
ought to tell you, Mr. Mulliner, that if Power 
B. forms an alliance with this country, the 
supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race will be 
secured for hundreds of years. Whereas if 
Power A. gets hold of Power B., civihsation 
will be thrown into the melting-pot. In the 
eyes of all Europe — and when I say all Europe 
I refer particularly to Powers C, D., and E. 
— this nation would sink to the rank of a 
fourth-class Power." 

*' Call it Power F.," said Clarence. 

" It rests with you, Mr. Mulliner, to save 
England." 

" Great Britain," corrected Clarence. He 
was half Scotch on his mother's side. " But 
how ? What can I do about it ? " 

'' The position is this. The President of 
Power B. has an overwhelming desire to have 
his photograph taken by Clarence MuUiner. 
Consent to take it, and our difficulties will be 
at an end. Overcome with gratitude, he 
will sign the treaty, and the Anglo-Saxon 
race will be safe." 

Clarence did not hesitate. Apart from 
the natural gratification of feeling that he 
was doing the Anglo-Saxon race a bit of 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 249 

good, business was business ; and if the 
President took a dozen of the large size 
finished in silver wash it would mean a nice 
profit. 

" I shall be dehghted," he said. 

" Your patriotism," said the visitor, '' will 
not go unrewarded. It will be gratefully 
noted in the Very Highest Circles." 

Clarence reached for his appointment- 
book. 

*' Now, let me see. Wednesday ? — No, 
I'm fuU up Wednesday. Thursday ? — No. 
Suppose the President looks in at my studio 
between four and five on Friday ? " 

The visitor uttered a gasp. 

" Good heavens, Mr. MulUner," he ex- 
claimed, " surely you do not imagine that, 
with the vast issues at stake, these things can 
be done openly and in dayhght ? If the 
devils in the pay of Power A. were to learn 
that the President intended to have his 
photograph taken by you, I would not 
give a straw for your chances of living an 
hour." 

" Then what do you suggest ? " 

" You must accompany me now to the 
President's suite at the Milan Hotel. We 



250 MEET MR. MULLINER 

shall travel in a closed car, and God send that 
these fiends did not recognise me as I came 
here. If they did, we shall never reach that 
car aUve. Have you, by any chance, while 
we have been talking, heard the hoot of an 
owl ? " 

" No," said Clarence. " No owls." 

" Then perhaps they are nowhere near. 
The fiends always imitate the hoot of an 
owl." 

" A thing," said Clarence, " which I 
tried to do when I was a small boy and never 
seemed able to manage. The popular idea 
that owls say ' Tu-whit, tu-whoo ' is all 
wrong. The actual noise they make is some- 
thing far more difficult and complex, and it 
was beyond me." 

" Quite so." The visitor looked at his 
watch. " However, absorbing as these remi- 
niscences of your boyhood days are, time is 
flying. Shall we be making a start ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Then foUow me." 

It appeared to be holiday-time for fiends, 
or else the night-shift had not yet come on, 
for they reached the car without being 
molested. Clarence stepped in, and his 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 251 

masked visitor, after a keen look up and down 
the street, followed him. 

" Talking of my boyhood " began 

Clarence. 

The sentence was never completed. A 
soft wet pad was pressed over his nostrils : 
the air became a-reek with the sickly fumes 
of chloroform : and Clarence knew no more. 

When he came to, he was no longer in the 
car. He found himself lying on a bed in a 
room in a strange house. It was a medium- 
sized room with scarlet wall-paper, simply 
furnished with a wash-hand stand, a chest of 
drawers, two cane-bottomed chairs, and a 
" God Bless Our Home " motto framed in 
oak. He was conscious of a severe headache, 
and was about to rise and make for the 
water-bottle on the wash-stand when, to his 
consternation, he discovered that his arms and 
legs were shackled with stout cord. 

As a family, the Mulliners have always 
been noted for their reckless courage ; and 
Clarence was no exception to the rule. But 
for an instant his heart undeniably beat 
a little faster. He saw now that his masked 
visitor had tricked him. Instead of being 



252 MEET MR. MULLINER 

a representative of His Majesty's Diplomatic 
Service (a most respectable class of men), he 
had really been all along a fiend in the pay of 
Power A. 

No doubt he and his vile associates were 
even now chuckhng at the ease with which 
their victim had been duped. Clarence 
gritted his teeth and struggled vainly to loose 
the knots which secured his wrists. He had 
fallen back exhausted when he heard the 
sound of a key turning and the door opened. 
Somebody crossed the room and stood by the 
bed, looking dow^n on him. 

The new-comer was a stout man with a 
complexion that m.atched the wall-paper. 
He was puffing slightly, as if he had found 
the stairs trying. He had broad, slab-like 
features ; and his face was spht in the 
middle by a walrus moustache. Somewhere 
and in some place, Clarence was convinced, 
he had seen this man before. 

And then it all came back to him. An 
open window with a pleasant summer breeze 
blowing in ; a stout man in a cocked hat 
trying to chmb through this window ; and 
he, Clarence, doing his best to help him 
with the sharp end of a tripod. It was 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 253 

Jno. Horatio Biggs, the Mayor of Tooting 
East. 

A shudder of loathing ran through 
Clarence. 

" Traitor ! " he cried. 

" Eh ? " said the Mayor. 

" If anybody had told me that a son of 
Tooting, nursed in the keen air of freedom 
which blows across the Common, would sell 
himself for gold to the enemies of his country, 
I would never have believed it. Well, you 
may tell your employers " 

*' What employers ? " 

''Power A." 

" Oh, that ? " said the Mayor. " I am 
afraid my secretary, whom I instructed to 
bring you to this house, was obliged to 
romance a Httle in order to ensure your 
accompanying him, Mr. MuUiner. All that 
about Power A. and Power B. was just his 
httle joke. If you want to know why you 
were brought here " 

Clarence uttered a low groan. 

" I have guessed your ghastly object, 
you ghastly object," he said quietly. " You 
want me to photograph you." 

The Mayor shook his head. 



254 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Not myself. I realise that that can 
never be. My daughter." 

" Your daughter ? " 

" My daughter." 

" Does she take after you ? " 

" People tell me there is a resemblance." 

" I refuse," said Clarence. 

" Think well, Mr. MulUner." 

" I have done all the thinking that is 
necessary. England — or, rather. Great 
Britain— looks to me to photograph only 
her fairest and lovehest ; and though, as a 
man, I admit that I loathe beautiful women, 
as a photographer I have a duty to consider 
that is higher than any personal feehngs. 
History has yet to record an instance of a 
photographer playing his country false, and 
Clarence MuUiner is not the man to supply 
the first one. I dechne your offer." 

" I wasn't looking on it exactly as an 
offer," said the Mayor, thoughtfully. " More 
as a command, if you get my meaning." 

" You imagine that you can bend a lens- 
artist to your will and make him false to his 
professional reputation ? " 

" I was thinking of having a try." 

" Do you realise that, if my incarcera- 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 255 

tion here were known, ten thousand photo- 
graphers would tear this house brick from 
brick and you Hmb from Hmb ? " 

" But it isn't," the Mayor pointed out. 
" And that, if you follow me, is the whole 
point. You came here by night in a closed 
car. You could stay here for the rest of your 
life, and no one would be any the wiser. I 
really think you had better reconsider, Mr. 
Mulhner." 

" You have had my answer." 

" Well, I'll leave you to think it over. 
Dinner will be served at seven-thirty. Don't 
bother to dress." 

At half-past seven precisely the door 
opened again and the Mayor reappeared, 
followed by a butler bearing on a silver salver 
a glass of water and a small slice of bread. 
Pride urged Clarence to reject the refresh- 
ment, but hunger overcame pride. He swal- 
lowed the bread which the butler offered 
him in small bits in a spoon, and drank the 
water. 

" At what hour would the gentleman 
desire breakfast, sir ? " asked the butler. 

" Now," said Clarence, for his appetite, 



256 MEET MR. MULLINER 

always healthy, seemed to have been sharp- 
ened by the trials which he had undergone. 

" Let us say nine o'clock," suggested the 
Mayor. " Put aside another shce of that 
bread, Meadows. And no doubt Mr. Mulhner 
would enjoy a glass of this excellent water." 

For perhaps half an hour after his host 
had left him, Clarence's mind was obsessed 
to the exclusion of all other thoughts by a 
vision of the dinner he would have hked 
to be enjoying. All we Mulhners have been 
good trenchermen, and to put a bit of bread 
into it after it had been unoccupied for a 
whole day was to offer to Clarence's stomach 
an insult which it resented with an inde- 
scribable bitterness. Clarence's only emo- 
tion for some considerable time, then, was that 
of hunger. His thoughts centred themselves 
on food. And it was to this fact, oddly 
enough, that he owed his release. 

For, as he lay there in a sort of dehrium, 
picturing himself getting outside a medium- 
cooked steak smothered in onions, with 
grilled tomatoes and floury potatoes on the 
side, it was suddenly borne in upon him that 
this steak did not taste quite so good as other 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 257 

steaks which he had eaten in the past. It was 
tough and lacked juiciness. It tasted just 
hke rope. 

And then, his mind clearing, he saw that 
it actually was rope. Carried away by the 
anguish of hunger, he had been chewing the 
cord which bound his hands ; and he now 
discovered that he had bitten into it quite 
deeply. 

A sudden flood of hope poured over 
Clarence Mulliner. Carrying on at this rate, 
he perceived, he would be able ere long to 
free himself. It only needed a Uttle imagina- 
tion. After a brief interval to rest his aching 
jaws, he put himself deUberately into that 
state of relaxation which is recommended by 
the apostles of Suggestion. 

" I am entering the dining-room of my 
club," murmured Clarence. " I am sitting 
down. The waiter is handing me the bill 
of fare. I have selected roast duck with green 
peas and new potatoes, lamb cutlets with 
Brussels sprouts, fricassee of chicken, porter- 
house steak, boiled beef and carrots, leg of 
mutton, haunch of mutton, mutton chops, 
curried mutton, veal, kidneys saute, spaghetti 
Caruso, and eggs and bacon, fried on both 



258 MEET MR. MULLINER 

sides. The waiter is now bringing my order. 
I have taken up my knife and fork. I am 
beginning to eat." 

And, murmuring a brief grace, Clarence 
flung himself on the rope and set to. 

Twenty minutes later he was hobbling 
about the room, restoring the circulation 
to his cramped limbs. 

Just as he had succeeded in getting 
himself nicely Umbered up, he heard the key 
turning in the door. 

Clarence crouched for the spring. The 
room was quite dark now, and he was glad of 
it, for darkness well fitted the work which 
lay before him. His plans, conceived on the 
spur of the moment, were necessarily sketchy, 
but they included jumping on the Mayor's 
shoulders and pulling his head off. After 
that, no doubt, other modes of self-expression 
would suggest themselves. 

The door opened. Clarence made his 
leap. And he was just about to start on the 
programme as arranged, when he discovered 
with a shock of horror that this was no O.B.E. 
that he was being rough with, but a woman. 
And no photographer worthy of the name 
will ever lay a hand upon a woman, save to 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 259 

raise her chin and tilt it a httle more to the 
left. 

" I beg your pardon ! " he cried. 

" Don't mention it," said his visitor, in a 
low voice. " I hope I didn't disturb you." 

"Not at all," said Clarence. 

There was a pause. 

" Rotten weather," said Clarence, feehng 
that it was for him, as the male member of 
the sketch, to keep the conversation going. 

" Yes, isn't it ? " 

" A lot of rain we've had this summer." 

" Yes. It seems to get worse every 
year." 

" Doesn't it ? " 

" So bad for tennis." 

" And cricket." 

" And polo." 

" And garden parties." 

" I hate rain." 

" So do I." 

" Of course, we may have a fine August." 

" Yes, there's always that." 

The ice was broken, and the girl seemed to 
become more at her ease. 

" I came to let you out," she said. " I 
must apologise for my father. He loves me 



26o MEET MR. MULLINER 

foolishly and has no scruples where my 
happiness is concerned. He has always 
yearned to have me photographed by you, 
but I cannot consent to allow a photographer 
to be coerced into abandoning his principles. 
If you wiU follow me, I will let you out by 
the front door." 

'' It's awfully good of you," said Clarence, 
awkwardly. As any man of nice sentiment 
would have been, he was embarrassed. He 
wished that he could have obHged this kind- 
hearted girl by taking her picture, but a 
natural dehcacy restrained him from touching 
on this subject. They went down the stairs 
in silence. 

On the first landing a hand was placed 
on his in the darkness and the girl's voice 
whispered in his ear. 

*' We are just outside father's study," 
he heard her say. " We must be as quiet as 
mice." 

" As what ? " said Clarence. 

" Mice." 

" Oh, rather," said Clarence, and imme- 
diately bumped into what appeared to be a 
pedestal of some sort. 

These pedestals usually have vases on 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 261 

top of them, and it was revealed to Clarence 
a moment later that this one was no excep- 
tion. There was a noise hke ten simul- 
taneous dinner-services coming apart in the 
hands of ten simultaneous parlour-maids ; 
and then the door was flung open, the landing 
became flooded with hght, and the Mayor of 
Tooting East stood before them. He was 
carrying a revolver and his face was dark 
with menace. 

" Ha ! " said the Mayor. 

But Clarence was paying no attention to 
him. He was staring open-mouthed at the 
girl. She had shrunk back against the wall, 
and the Ught fell full upon her. 

" You ! " cried Clarence. 

" This " began the Mayor. 

" You ! At last ! " 

" This is a pretty " 

" Am I dreaming ? " 

" This is a pretty state of af " 



" Ever since that day I saw you in the 
cab I have been scouring London for you. 
To think that I have found you at last ! " 

" This is a pretty state of affairs," said the 
Mayor, breathing on the barrel of his revolver 
and pohshing it on the sleeve of his coat. 



262 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" My daughter helping the foe of her family 
to fly " 



" Flee, father," corrected the girl, faintly. 

" Flea or fly — this is no time for argumg 
about insects. Let me tell you " 

Clarence interrupted him indignantly. 

" What do you mean," he cried, " by 
saying that she took after you ? 

" She does." 

" She does not. She is the loveliest girl 
in the world, while you look like Lon Chaney 
made up for something. See for yourself." 
Clarence led them to the large mirror at the 
head of the stairs. " Your face — if you can 
call it that — is one of those beastly blobby 
squashy sort of faces " 

" Here ! " said the Mayor. 

" whereas hers is simply divine. 

Your eyes are bulbous and goofy " 

" Hey ! " said the Mayor. 

" — ^while hers are sweet and soft and 
intelligent. Your ears " 

" Yes, yes," said the Mayor, petulantly. 
" Some other time, some other time. Then 
am I to take it, Mr. MuUiner " 

" Call me Clarence." 

" I refuse to call you Clarence." 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 263 

" You will have to very shortly, when 
I am your son-in-law." 

The girl uttered a cry. The Mayor uttered 
a louder cry. 

" My son-in-law ! " 

" That," said Clarence, firmly, " is what 
I intend to be — and speedily." He turned to 
the girl. " I am a man of volcanic passions, 
and now that love has come to me there is 
no power in heaven or earth that can keep me 
from the object of my love. It will be my 
never-ceasing task — er " 

" Gladys," prompted the girl. 

" Thank you. It will be my never-ceasing 
task, Gladys, to strive daily to make you 
return that love " 

" You need not strive, Clarence," she 
whispered, softly. " It is already returned." 

Clarence reeled. 

" Already ? " he gasped. 

" I have loved you since I saw you in 
that cab. When we were torn asunder, I 
felt quite faint." 

" So did I. I was in a daze. I tipped 

my cabman at Waterloo three half-crowns. 

I was aflame with love." 

" I can hardly beUeve it." 

I 2 



264 MEET MR. MULLINER 

"Nor could I, when I found out. I 
thought it was threepence. And ever since 
that day " 

The Mayor coughed. 

** Then am I to take it— er — Clarence," 
he said, *' that your objections to photograph- 
ing my daughter are removed ? " 

Clarence laughed happily. 

" Listen," he said, " and I'll show you the 
sort of son-in-law I am. Ruin my pro- 
fessional reputation though it may, I will take 
a photograph of you too ! " 

" Me ! " 

" Absolutely. Standing beside her with 
the tips of your fingers on her shoulder. 
And what's more, you can wear your cocked 
hat." 

Tears had begun to trickle down the 
Mayor's cheeks. 

" My boy ! " he sobbed, brokenly. " My 
boy ! " 

And so happiness came to Clarence 
Mulliner at last. He never became President 
of the Bulb-Squeezers, for he retired from 
business the next day, declaring that the hand 
that had snapped the shutter when taking 



THE ROMANCE OF A BULB-SQUEEZER 265 

the photograph of his dear wife should never 
snap it again for sordid profit. The wedding, 
which took place some six weeks later, was 
attended by almost everybody of any note 
in Society or on the Stage ; and was the 
first occasion on which a bride and bride- 
groom had ever walked out of church beneath 
an arch of crossed tripods. 



IX 

HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 

DO you believe in ghosts ? " asked Mr. 
Mulliner abruptly. 
I weighed the question thought- 
fully. I was a httle surprised, for nothing 
in our previous conversation had suggested 
the topic. 

" Well," I rephed, " I don't hke them, 
if that's what you mean. I was once butted 
by one as a child." 

" Ghosts. Not goats." 

" Oh, ghosts ? Do I beheve in ghosts ? " 

" Exactly." 

" WeU, yes— and no." 

** Let me put it another way," said Mr. 

Mulliner, patiently. " Do you beheve in 

haunted houses ? Do you beheve that it is 

possible for a malign influence to envelop 

a place and work a spell on all who come 

within its radius ? " 

266 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 267 

I hesitated. 

" Well, no — and yes." 

Mr. Mulliner sighed a little. He seemed 
to be wondering if I was always as bright as 
this. 

" Of course," I went on, " one has read 
stories. Henry James's Turn of The 
Screw . . ." 

" I am not talking about fiction." 

" Well, in real Hfe Well, look here, I 

once, as a matter of fact, did meet a man 
who knew a fellow ..." 

" My distant cousin James Rodman spent 
some weeks in a haunted house," said Mr. 
Mulliner, who, if he has a fault, is not a very 
good Hstener. " It cost him five thousand 
pounds. That is to say, he sacrificed five 
thousand pounds by not remaining there. 
Did you ever," he asked, wandering, it 
seemed to me, from the subject, " hear of 
Leila J. Pinckney ?' 

Naturally I had heard of Leila J. Pinck- 
ney. Her death some years ago has dimi- 
nished her vogue, but at one time it was 
impossible to pass a book-shop or a railway 
bookstall without seeing a long row of her 
novels. I had never myself actually read 



268 MEET MR. MULLINER 

any of them, but I knew that in her particular 
line of Hterature, the Squashily Sentimental, 
she had always been regarded by those 
entitled to judge as pre-eminent. The critics 
usually headed their reviews of her stories 
with the words : — 

ANOTHER PINCKNEY 

or sometimes, more offensively : — 

ANOTHER PINCKNEY ! ! ! 

And once, dealing with, I think, The Love 
Which Prevails, the Hterary expert of the 
Scrutinizer had compressed his entire critique 
into the single phrase " Oh, God ! " 

" Of course," I said. " But what about 
her ? '• 

" She was James Rodman's aunt." 

" Yes ? " 

" And when she died James found that 
she had left him five thousand pounds and 
the house in the country where she had lived 
for the last twenty years of her Hfe." 

" A very nice Uttle legacy." 

" Twenty years," repeated Mr. MuUiner. 
" Grasp that, for it has a vital bearing on 
what follows. Twenty years, mind you, and 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 269 

Miss Pinckney turned out two novels and 
twelve short stories regularly every year, 
besides a monthly page of Advice to Young 
Girls in one of the magazines. That is to 
say, forty of her novels and no fewer than 
two hundred and forty of her short stories 
were written under the roof of Honeysuckle 
Cottage." 

" A pretty name." 

" A nasty, sloppy name," said Mr. Mulliner 
severely, " which should have warned my 
distant cousin James from the start. Have 
you a pencil and a piece of paper ? " He 
scribbled for awhile, poring frowningly over 
columns of figures. " Yes," he said, looking 
up, " if my calculations are correct, Leila 
J. Pinckney wrote in all a matter of nine 
miUion one hundred and forty thousand 
words of glutinous sentimentality at Honey- 
suckle Cottage, and it was a condition of her 
will that James should reside there for six 
months in every year. FaiHng to do this, he 
was to forfeit the five thousand pounds." 

"It must be great fun making a freak 
will," I mused. " I often wish I was rich 
enough to do it." 

" This was not a freak will. The con- 



270 MEET MR. MULLINER 

ditions are perfectly understandable. James 
Rodman was a writer of sensational mystery 
stories, and his aunt Leila had always dis- 
approved of his work. She was a great 
beUever in the influence of environment, and 
the reason why she inserted that clause in 
her will was that she wished to compel James 
to move from London to the country. She 
considered that Uving in London hardened 
him and made his outlook on Hfe sordid. She 
often asked him if he thought it quite nice to 
harp so much on sudden death and black- 
mailers with squints. Surely, she said, there 
were enough squinting blackmailers in the 
world without writing about them. 

"The fact that Literature meant such 
different things to these two had, I beUeve, 
caused something of a coolness between them, 
and James had never dreamed that he would 
be remembered in his aunt's will. For he 
had never concealed his opinion that Leila 
J. Pinckney's style of writing revolted him, 
however dear it might be to her enormous 
pubhc. He held rigid views on the art of 
the novel, and always maintained that an 
artist with a true reverence for his craft 
should not descend to goo-ey love stories. 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 271 

but should stick austerely to revolvers, cries 
in the night, missing papers, mysterious 
Chinamen and dead bodies — with or without 
gash in throat. And not even the thought 
that his aunt had dandled him on her knee as 
a baby could induce him to stifle his literary 
conscience to the extent of pretending to 
enjoy her work. First, last and all the time, 
James Rodman had held the opinion — and 
voiced it fearlessly — that Leila J. Pinckney 
wrote bilge. 

" It was a surprise to him, therefore, to 
find that he had been left this legacy. A 
pleasant surprise, of course. James was 
making quite a decent income out of the 
three novels and eighteen short stories which 
he produced annually, but an author can 
always find a use for five thousand pounds. 
And, as for the cottage, he had actually been 
looking about for a httle place in the country 
at the very moment when he received the 
lawyer's letter. In less than a week he was 
installed at his new residence." 

James's first impressions of Honeysuckle 
Cottage were, he tells me, wholly favourable. 
He was deUghted with the place. It was a 



272 MEET MR. MULLINER 

low, rambling, picturesque old house with 
funny little chimneys and a red roof, placed 
in the middle of the most charming country. 
With its oak beams, its trim garden, its 
trilling birds and its rose-hung porch, it was 
the ideal spot for a writer. It was just the 
sort of place, he reflected whimsically, which 
his aunt had loved to write about in her 
books. Even the apple-cheeked old house- 
keeper who attended to his needs might 
have stepped straight out of one of them. 

It seemed to James that his lot had been 
cast in pleasant places. He had brought 
down his books, his pipes and his golf clubs, 
and was hard at work finishing the best 
thing he had ever done. The Secret Nine 
was the title of it ; and on the beautiful 
summer afternoon on which this story opens 
he was in the study, hammering away at his 
typewriter, at peace with the world. The 
machine was running sweetly, the new tobacco 
he had bought the day before was proving 
admirable, and he was moving on all six 
cylinders to the end of a chapter. 

He shoved in a fresh sheet of paper, 
chewed his pipe thoughtfully for a moment, 
then wrote rapidly : 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 273 

" For an instant Lester Gage thought 

that he must have been mistaken. Then 

the noise came again, faint but unmistakable 

— a soft scratching on the outer panel. 

" His mouth set in a grim Une. Silently, 
hke a panther, he made one quick step to 
the desk', noiselessly opened a drawer, drew 
out his automatic. After that affair of the 
poisoned needle, he was taking no chances. 
Still in dead silence, he tiptoed to the door ; 
then, flinging it suddenly open, he stood 
there, his weapon poised. 

" On the mat stood the most beautiful 
girl he had ever beheld. A veritable child 
of Faerie. She eyed him for a moment 
with a saucy smile ; then with a pretty, 
roguish look of reproof shook a dainty fore- 
finger at him. 

" ' I beheve you've forgotten me, Mr. 
Gage ! ' she fluted with a mock severity 
which her eyes belied." 

James stared at the paper dumbly. He 
was utterly perplexed. He had not had the 
shghtest intention of writing anything hke 
this. To begin with, it was a rule with him, 
and one which he never broke, to allow 
no girls to appear in his stories. Sinister 



274 MEET MR. MULLINER 

landladies, yes, and naturally any amountof 
adventuresses with foreign accents, but never 
under any pretext what may be broadly 
described as girls. A detective story, he 
maintained, should have no heroine. 
Heroines only held up the action and tried 
to flirt with the hero when he should have 
been busy looking for clues, and then went 
and let the villain kidnap them by some 
childishly simple trick. In his writing, 
James was positively monastic. 

And yet here was this creature with her 
saucy smile and her dainty forefinger homing 
in at the most important point in the story. 
It was uncanny. 

He looked once more at his scenario. No, 
the scenario was all right. 

In perfectly plain words it stated that 
what happened when the door opened was 
that a dying man fell in and after gasping, 
" The beetle ! TeU Scotland Yard that the 
blue beetle is " expired on the hearth- 
rug, leaving Lester Gage not unnaturally 
somewhat mystified. Nothing whatever 
about any beautiful girls. 

In a curious mood of irritation, James 
scratched out the offending passage, wrote 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 275 

in the necessary corrections and put the 
cover on the machine. It was at this point 
that he heard WilUam whining. 

The only blot on this paradise which 
James had so far been able to discover was 
the infernal dog, WiUiam. Belonging nomi- 
nally to the gardener, on the very first 
morning he had adopted James by acclama- 
tion, and he maddened and infuriated James. 
He had a habit of coming and whining under 
the window when James was at work. The 
latter would ignore this as long as he could ; 
then, when the thing became insupportable, 
would bound out of his chair, to see the 
animal standing on the gravel, gazing expect- 
antly up at him with a stone in his mouth. 
WiUiam had a weak-minded passion for 
chasing stones ; and on the first day James, 
in a rash spirit of camaraderie, had flung 
one for him. Since then James had thrown 
no more stones ; but he had thrown any 
number of other solids, and the garden 
was Uttered with objects ranging from match 
boxes to a plaster statuette of the young 
Joseph prophesying before Pharaoh. And 
still WilUam came and whined, an optimist 
to the last. 



276 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The whining, coming now at a moment 
when he felt irritable and unsettled, acted 
on James much as the scratching on the 
door had acted on Lester Gage. Silently, 
hke a panther, he made one quick step to the 
mantelpiece, removed from it a china mug 
bearing the legend A Present From Clacton- 
on-Sea, and crept to the window. 

And as he did so a voice outside said, 
" Go away, sir, go away ! " and there followed 
a short, high-pitched bark which was cer- 
tainly not William's. WilHam was a mixture 
of Airedale, setter, bull terrier, and mastiff ; 
and when in vocal mood, favoured the mastiff 
side of his family. 

James peered out. There on the porch 
stood a girl in blue. She held in her arms a 
small fluffy white dog, and she was endea- 
vouring to foil the upward movement toward 
this of the blackguard William. WilUam's 
mentaUty had been arrested some years 
before at the point where he imagined that 
everything in the world had been created for 
him to eat. A bone, a boot, a steak, the 
back wheel of a bicycle — it was all one to 
William. If it was there he tried to eat it. 
He had even made a plucky attempt to devour 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 277 

the remains of the young Joseph prophesying 
before Pharaoh. And it was perfectly plain 
now that he regarded the curious wriggUng 
object in the girl's arms purely in the light of 
a snack to keep body and soul together till 
dinner-time. 

" WiUiam ! " bellowed James. 

William looked courteously over his 
shoulder with eyes that beamed with the 
pure Ught of a hfe's devotion, wagged the 
whiplike tail which he had inherited from his 
bull-terrier ancestor and resumed his intent 
scrutiny of the fluffy dog. 

" Oh, please ! " cried the girl. " This 
great rough dog is frightening poor To to," 

The man of letters and the man of action 
do not always go hand in hand, but practice 
had made James perfect in handUng with a 
swift efficiency any situation that involved 
WiUiam. A moment later that canine moron, 
having received the present from Clacton in 
the short ribs, was scutthng round the 
comer of the house, and James had jumped 
through the window and was facing the girl. 

She was an extraordinarily pretty girl 
Very sweet and fragile she looked as she stood 
there under the honeysuckle with the breeze 



278 MEET MR. MULLINER 

ruffling a tendril of golden hair that strayed 
from beneath her coquettish little hat. Her 
eyes were very big and very blue, her rose- 
tinted face becomingly flushed. All wasted 
on James, though. He disUked all girls, 
and particularly the sweet, droopy type. 

" Did you want to see somebody ? " he 
asked stiffly. 

" Just the house," said the girl, "if it 
wouldn't be giving any trouble. I do so 
want to see the room where Miss Pincknev 
wrote her books. This is where Leila J. 
Pinckney used to live, isn't it ? " 

" Yes ; I am her nephew. My name is 
James Rodman." 

" Mine is Rose Maynard." 

James led the way into the house, and she 
stopped with a cry of dehght on the threshold 
of the morning room. 

" Oh, how too perfect ! " she cried. " So 
this was her study ? " 

" Yes." 

" What a wonderful place it would be 
for you to think in if you were a writer too." 

James held no high opinion of women's 
literary taste, but nevertheless he was con- 
scious of an unpleasant shock. 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 279 

" I am a writer," he said coldly. " I 
write detective stories." 

" I— I'm afraid "—she blushed—" I'm 
afraid I don't often read detective stories." 

" You no doubt prefer," said James, still 
more coldly, " the sort of thing my aunt 
used to write." 

" Oh, I love her stories ! " cried the girl, 
clasping her hands ecstatically. ' ' Don ' t you ? ' ' 

" I cannot say that I do." 

" What ? " 

" They are pure apple sauce," said James 
sternly ; "just nasty blobs of sentimentahty, 
thoroughly untrue to life." 

The girl stared. 

" Why, that's just what's so wonderful 
about them, their trueness to Ufe ! You 
feel they might all have happened. I don't 
understand what you mean." 

They were walking down the garden now. 
James held the gate open for her and she 
passed through into the road. 

" Well, for one thing," he said, " I decHne 
to believe that a marriage between two 
young people is invariably preceded by some 
violent and sensational experience in which 
they both share." 



28o MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Are you thinking of Scent o' the Blossom, 
where Edgar saves Maud from drowning ? " 

" I am thinking of every single one of 
my aunt's books/' He looked at her curi- 
ously. He had just got the solution of a 
mystery which had been puzzUng him for 
some time. Almost from the moment he had 
set eyes on her she had seemed somehow 
strangely famiUar. It now suddenly came 
to him why it was that he disliked her so 
much. " Do you know," he said, " you 
might be one of my aunt's heroines your- 
self ? You're just the sort of girl she used 
to love to write about." 

Her face ht up. 

" Oh, do you really think so ? " She 
hesitated. " Do you know what I have been 
feehng ever since I came here ? I've been 
feeling that you are exactly like one of Miss 
Pinckney's heroes." 

" No, I say, reaUy ! " said James, revolted. 

" Oh, but you are ! Wlien you jumped 
through that window it gave me quite a 
start. You were so exactly hke Claude 
Masterson in Heather o' the Hills." 

" I have not read Heather o' the Hills," 
said James, with a shudder. 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 281 

** He was very strong and quiet, with 
deep, dark, sad eyes." 

James did not explain that his eyes were 
sad because her society gave him a pain in 
the neck. He merely laughed scornfully. 

" So now, I suppose," he said, " a car 
will come and knock you down and I shall 
carry you gently into the house and lay 
you Look out ! " he cried. 

It was too late. She was lying in a httle 
huddled heap at his feet. Round the comer 
a large automobile had come bowling, keep- 
ing with an almost affected precision to the 
wrong side of the road. It was now receding 
into the distance, the occupant of the ton- 
neau, a stout red-faced gentleman in a fur 
coat, leaning out over the back. He had 
bared his head — not, one fears, as a pretty 
gesture of respect and regret, but because 
he was using his hat to hide the number 
plate. 

The dog Toto was unfortunately un- 
injured. 

James carried the girl gently into the 
house and laid her on the sofa in the morning- 
room. He rang the bell and the apple- 
cheeked housekeeper appeared. 



282 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Send for the doctor," said James. 
" There has been an accident." 

The housekeeper bent over the girl. 

" Eh, dearie, dearie ! " she said. " Bless 
her sweet pretty face ! " 

The gardener, he who technically owned 
WiUiam, was routed out from among the 
young lettuces and told to fetch Doctor 
Brady. He separated his bicycle from Wil- 
ham, who was making a hght meal off the 
left pedal, and departed on his mission. 
Doctor Brady arrived and in due course he 
made his report. 

" No bones broken, but a number of 
nasty bruises. And, of course, the shock. 
She wiU have to stay here for some time, 
Rodman. Can't be moved." 

" Stay here ! But she can't ! It isn't 
proper." 

" Your housekeeper will act as a chape- 
ron." 

The doctor sighed. He was a stohd- 
looking man of middle age with side whiskers. 

" A beautiful girl, that, Rodman," he 
said. 

" I suppose so," said James. 

" A sweet, beautiful girl. An elfin child." 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 283 

" A what ? " cried James, starting. 

This imagery was very foreign to Doctor 
Brady as he knew him. On the only pre- 
vious occasion on which they had had any 
extended conversation, the doctor had talked 
exclusively about the effect of too much 
protein on the gastric juices. 

" An elfin child ; a tender, fairy creature. 
WTien I was looking at her just now, Rod- 
man, I nearly broke down. Her Uttle hand 
lay on the coverlet hke some white hly 
floating on the surface of a still pool, and 
her dear, trusting eyes gazed up at me." 

He pottered off down the garden, still 
babbling, and James stood staring after 
him blankly. And slowly, like some cloud 
athwart a summer sky, there crept over 
James's heart the chill shadow of a nameless 
fear. 

It was about a week later that Mr. Andrew 
McKinnon, the senior partner in the well- 
known firm of Hterary agents, McKinnon & 
Gooch, sat in his office in Chancery Lane, 
frowning thoughtfully over a telegram. He 
rang the bell. 

" Ask Mr. Gooch to step in here." He 



284 MEET MR. MULLINER 

resumed his study of the telegram. " Oh, 
Gooch," he said when his partner appeared, 
" I've just had a curious wire from young 
Rodman. He seems to want to see me very 
urgently." 

Mr. Gooch read the telegram. 

" Written under the influence of some 
strong mental excitement," he agreed. " I 
wonder why he doesn't come to the office if 
he wants to see you so badly." 

" He's working very hard, finishing that 
novel for Prodder & Wiggs. Can't leave it, 
I suppose. Well, it's a nice day. If you will 
look after things here I think I'll motor 
down and let him give me lunch." 

As Mr. McKinnon's car reached the cross- 
roads a mile from Honeysuckle Cottage, he 
was aware of a gesticulating figure by the 
hedge. He stopped the car. 

" Morning, Rodman." 

*' Thank God, you've come ! " said James. 
It seemed to Mr. McKinnon that the young 
man looked paler and thinner. " Would you 
mind walking the rest of the way ? There's 
something I want to speak to you about." 

Mr. McKinnon ahghted ; and James, as 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 285 

he glanced at him, felt cheered and encour- 
aged by the very sight of the man. The 
literary agent was a grim, hard-bitten person, 
to whom, when he called at their offices to 
arrange terms, editors kept their faces turned 
so that they might at least retain their back 
collar studs. There was no sentiment in 
Andrew McKinnon. Editresses of society 
papers practised their blandishments on him 
in vain, and many a publisher had waked 
screaming in the night, dreaming that he was 
signing a McKinnon contract. 

'' Well, Rodman,^' he said, " Prodder & 
Wiggs have agreed to our terms. I was 
writing to tell you so when your wire arrived. 
I had a lot of trouble with them, but it's 
fixed at 20 per cent., rising to 25, and two 
hundred pounds advance royalties on day of 
publication." 

" Good ! " said James absently. " Good ! 
McKinnon, do you remember my aunt, 
Leila J. Pinckney ? " 

" Remember her ? Why, I was her agent 
all her Hfe." 

" Of course. Then you know the sort of 
tripe she wrote." 

" No author," said Mr. McKinnon re- 



286 MEET MR. MULLINER 

provingly, " who pulls down a steady twenty 
thousand pounds a year writes tripe." 

" Well anyway, you know her stuff." 

" W^o better ? " 

" W'Tien she died she left me five thousand 
pounds and her house, Honej^suckle Cottage. 
I'm hving there now. McKinnon, do you 
believe in haunted houses ? " 

"No." 

" Yet I tell you solemnly that Honey- 
suckle Cottage is haunted ! " 

" By your aunt ? " said Mr. McKinnon, 
surprised. 

" By her influence. There's a malignant 
spell over the place ; a sort of miasma of 
sentimentalism. Everybody who enters it 
succumbs." 

" Tut-tut ! You mustn't have these 
fancies." 

" They aren't fancies." 

" You aren't seriously meaning to tell 
me 

" Well, how do you account for this ? 
That book you were speaking about, which 
Prodder & Wiggs are to publish — The Secret 
Nine. Every time I sit down to write it a 
girl keeps trying to sneak in." 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 287 

" Into the room ? 

" Into the story." 

"You don't want a love interest in your 
sort of book," said Mr. McKinnon, shaking 
his head. " It delays the action." 

" I know it does. And every day I have 
to keep shooing this infernal female out. 
An awful girl, McKinnon. A soppy, soupy, 
treacly, drooping girl with a roguish smile. 
This morning she tried to butt in on the 
scene where Lester Gage is trapped in the 
den of the mysterious leper." 

"No! " 

" She did, I assure you. I had to rewrite 
three pages before I could get her out of it. 
And that's not the worst. Do you know, 
McKinnon, that at this moment I am actu- 
ally hving the plot of a typical Leila May 
Pinckney novel in just the setting she always 
used ! And I can see the happy ending 
coming nearer every day ! A week ago a 
girl was knocked down by a car at my door 
and I've had to put her up, and every day I 
reahse more clearly that sooner or later I 
shaU ask her to marry me." 

" Don't do it," said Mr. McKinnon, a stout 
bachelor. " You're too young to marry." 



288 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" So was Methuselah/' said James, a 
stouter. " But all the same I know I'm 
going to do it. It's the influence of this 
awful house weighing upon me. I feel like 
an eggshell in a maelstrom. I am being 
sucked on by a force too strong for me to 
resist. This morning I found myself kissing 
her dog ! 

''No! " 

"I did ! And I loathe the httle beast. 
Yesterday I got up at dawn and plucked a 
nosegay of flowers for her, wet with the dew." 

" Rodman ! " 

" It's a fact. I laid them at her door and 
went downstairs kicking myself all the way. 
And there in the hall was the apple-cheeked 
housekeeper regarding me archly. If she 
didn't murmur ' Bless their sweet young 
hearts ! ' my ears deceived me." 

" WTiy don't you pack up and leave ? " 

" If I do I lose the five thousand pounds." 

" Ah ! " said Mr. McKinnon. 

" I can understand what has happened. 
It's the same with all haunted houses. My 
aunt's subhminal ether vibrations have woven 
themselves into the texture of the place, 
oreating an atmosphere which forces the 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 289 

ego of all who come in contact with it to 
attune themselves to it. It's either that or 
something to do with the fourth dimension." 

Mr. McKinnon laughed scornfully. 

" Tut-tut ! " he said again. " This is 
pure imagination. What has happened is 
that you've been working too hard. You'll 
see this precious atmosphere of yours will 
have no effect on me." 

" That's exactly why I asked you to 
come down. I hoped you might break the 

spell." 

'' I will that," said Mr. McKinnon jovially. 

The fact that the hterary agent spoke 
Httle at lunch caused James no apprehension. 
Mr. McKinnon was ever a silent trencherman. 
From time to time James caught him steahng 
a glance at the girl, who was well enough to 
come down to meals now, limping pathetic- 
ally ; but he could read nothing in his face. 
And yet the mere look of his face was a conso- 
lation. It was so soUd, so matter of fact, 
so exactly like an unemotional coconut. 

" You've done me good," said James 
with a sigh of reUef, as he escorted the agent 
down the garden to his car after lunch. 
" I felt all along that I could rely on your 



290 MEET MR. MULLINER 

rugged common sense. The whole atmo- 
sphere of the place seems different now." 

Mr. McKinnon did not speak for a moment. 
He seemed to be plunged in thought. 

" Rodman/' he said, as he got into his 
car, " I've been thinking over that sugges- 
tion of yours of putting a love interest into 
The Secret Nine. I think you're wise. The 
story needs it. After all, what is there 
greater in the world than love ? Love- 
love — aye, it's the sweetest word in the 
language. Put in a heroine and let her 
marry Lester Gage." 

" If," said James grimly, " she does suc- 
ceed in worming her way in she'U jolly well 
marry the mysterious leper. But look here, 
I don't understand " 

"It was seeing that girl that changed 
me," proceeded Mr. McKinnon. And as 
James stared at him aghast, tears suddenly 
filled his hard-boiled eyes. He openly 
snuffled. " Aye, seeing her sitting there 
under the roses, with all that smell of honey- 
suckle and all. And the birdies singing so 
sweet in the garden and the sun hghting up 
her bonny face. The puir wee lass ! " he 
muttered, dabbing at his eyes. " The puir 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 291 

bonny wee lass ! Rodman," he said, his 
voice quivering, " I've decided that we're 
being hard on Prodder & Wiggs. Wiggs has 
had sickness in his home lately. We mustn't 
be hard on a man who's had sickness in his 
home, hey, laddie ? No, no ! I'm going to 
take back that contract and alter it to a 
flat 12 per cent, and no advance royalties." 

" What ! " 

" But you shan't lose by it, Rodman. 
No, no, you shan't lose by it, my manny. 
I am going to waive my commission. The 
puir bonny wee lass ! " 

The car rolled off down the road. Mr. 
McKinnon, seated in the back, was blowing 
his nose violently. 

" This is the end ! " said James. 

It is necessary at this point to pause and 
examine James Rodman's position with an 
unbiassed eye. The average man, unless he 
puts himself in James's place, wlQ be unable 
to appreciate it. James, he will feel, was 
making a lot of fuss about nothing. Here he 
was, drawing daily closer and closer to a 
charming girl with big blue eyes, and surely 
rather to be envied than pitied. 



292 MEET MR. MULLINER 

But we must remember that James was 
one of Nature's bachelors. And no ordinary 
man, looking forward dreamily to a little 
home of his own with a loving wife putting 
out his slippers and changing the gramophone 
records, can reahse the intensity of the 
instinct for self-preservation which animates 
Nature's bachelors in times of peril. 

James Rodman had a congenital horror 
of matrimony. Though a young man, he 
had allowed himself to develop a great 
many habits which were as the breath of 
hfe to him ; and these habits, he knew 
instinctively, a wife would shoot to pieces 
within a week of the end of the honeymoon. 

James liked to breakfast in bed ; and, 
having breakfasted, to smoke in bed and 
knock the ashes out on the carpet. What 
wife would tolerate this practice ? 

James liked to pass his days in a tennis 
shirt, gray flannel trousers and slippers. 
What wife ever rests until she has inclosed 
her husband in a stiff collar, tight boots 
and a morning suit and taken him with her 
to thes musicales ? 

These and a thousand other thoughts of 
the same kind flashed through the unfortu- 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 293 

nate young man's mind as the days went 
by, and every day that passed seemed to 
draw him nearer to the brink of the chasm. 
Fate appeared to be taking a mahcious 
pleasure in making things as difficult for 
him as possible. Now that the girl was well 
enough to leave her bed, she spent her time 
sitting in a chair on the sun-sprinkled porch, 
and James had to read to her — and poetry, 
at that ; and not the jolly, wholesome 
sort of poetry the boys are turning out 
nowadays, either — good, honest stuff about 
sin and gas works and decaying corpses — 
but the old-fashioned kind with rhymes in it, 
dealing almost exclusively with love. The 
weather, moreover, continued superb. The 
honeysuckle cast its sweet scent on the gentle 
breeze ; the roses over the porch stirred and 
nodded ; the flowers in the garden were 
lovelier than ever ; the birds sang their Httle 
throats sore. And every evening there was a 
magnificent sunset. It was almost as if 
Nature were doing it on purpose. 

At last James intercepted Doctor Brady 
as he was leaving after one of his visits and 
put the thing to him squarely : 

" When is that girl going ? " 



294 MEET MR. MULLINER 

The doctor patted him on the arm. 

*' Not yet, Rodman," he said in a low, 
understanding voice. " No need to worry 
yourself about that. Mustn't be moved for 
days and days and days — I might almost 
say weeks and weeks and weeks." 

" Weeks and weeks ! " cried James. 

" And weeks," said Doctor Brady. He 
prodded James roguishly in the abdomen. 
" Good luck to you, my boy, good luck to 
you," he said. 

It was some small consolation to James 
that the mushy physician immediately after- 
ward tripped over WiUiam on his way down 
the path and broke his stethoscope. When 
a man is up against it like James every little 
helps. 

He was walking dismally back to the 
house after this conversation when he was 
met by the apple-cheeked housekeeper. 

" The httle lady would hke to speak to 
you, sir," said the apple-cheeked exliibit. 
rubbing her hands. 

" Would she ? " said James hollowly. 

" So sweet and pretty she looks, sir — oh, 
sir, you wouldn't beheve ! Like a blessed 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 295 

angel sitting there with her dear eyes all 
a-shining." 

" Don't do it ! " cried James with extra- 
ordinary vehemence. " Don't do it ! " 

He found the girl propped up on the 
cushions and thought once again how singu- 
larly he dishked her. And yet, even as he 
thought this, some force against which he 
had to fight madly was whispering to him, 
"Go to her and take that httle hand ! 
Breathe into that httle ear the burning 
words that will make that Uttle face turn 
away crimsoned with blushes ! " He wiped 
a bead of perspiration from his forehead and 
sat down. 

" Mrs. Stick-in-the-Mud — what's her 
name ? — says you want to see me." 

The girl nodded. 

" I've had a letter from Uncle Henry. I 
wrote to him as soon as I was better and 
told him what had happened, and he is 
coming here to-morrow morning." 

" Uncle Henry ? " 

" That's what I call him, but he's really 
no relation. He is my guardian. He and 
daddy were officers in the same regiment, 
and when daddy was killed, fighting on the 

K 2 



296 MEET MR. MULLINER 

Afghan frontier, he died in Uncle Henry's 
arms and with his last breath begged him to 
take care of me." 

James started. A sudden wild hope had 
waked in his heart. Years ago, he remem- 
bered, he had read a book of his aunt's 
entitled Rupert's Legacy, and in that book 

"I'm engaged to marry him," said the 
girl quietly. 

" Wow ! " shouted James. 

" What ? " asked the girl, startled. 

" Touch of cramp," said James. He was 
thrilling all over. That wild hope had been 
realised. 

" It was daddy's dying wish that we 
should marry," said the girl. 

** And dashed sensible of him, too ; dashed 
sensible," said James warmly. 

" And yet," she went on, a httle wist- 
fully, " I sometimes wonder " 

" Don't ! " said James. " Don't ! You 
must respect daddy's dying wish. There's 
nothing like daddy's dying wish ; you can't 
beat it. So he's coming here to-morrow, is 
he ? Capital, capital ! To lunch, I sup- 
pose ? Excellent ! I'll run down and tell 
Mrs. Who-Is-It to lay in another chop." 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 297 

It was with a gay and uplifted heart that 
James strolled the garden and smoked his 
pipe next morning. A great cloud seemed 
to have rolled itself away from him. Every- 
thing was for the best in the best of all 
possible worlds. He had finished The Secret 
Nine and shipped it off to Mr. McKinnon, 
and now as he strolled there was shaping 
itself in his mind a corking plot about a man 
with only half a face who lived in a secret 
den and terrorised London with a series of 
shocking murders. And what made them 
so shocking was the fact that each of the 
victims, when discovered, was found to 
have only half a face too. The rest had 
been chipped off, presumably by some blunt 
instrument. 

The thing was coming out magnificently, 
when suddenly his attention was diverted 
by a piercing scream. Out of the bushes 
fringing the river that ran beside the garden 
burst the apple-cheeked housekeeper. 

" Oh, sir ! Oh, sir ! Oh, sir ! " 

" What is it ? " demanded James irri- 
tably. 

" Oh, sir ! Oh, sir ! Oh, sir ! '' 

" Yes, and then what ? 



298 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" The little dog, sir ! He's in the river ! " 

" Well, whistle him to come out." 

" Oh, sir, do come quick ! He'U be 
drowned ! " 

James followed her through the bushes, 
taking off his coat as he went. He was say- 
ing to himself, " I will not rescue this dog. 
I do not hke the dog. It is high time he had 
a bath, and in any case it would be much 
simpler to stand on the bank and fish for 
him with a rake. Only an ass out of a 
Leila J. Pinckney book would dive into 
a beastly river to save " 

At this point he dived. Toto, alarmed 
by the splash, swam rapidly for the bank, 
but James was too quick for him. Grasping 
him firmly by the neck, he scrambled ashore 
and ran for the house, followed by the house- 
keeper. 

The girl was seated on the porch. Over 
her there bent the taU soldierly figure of a 
man with keen eyes and graying hair. The 
housekeeper raced up. 

" Oh, miss ! Toto ! In the river ! He 
saved him ! He plunged in and saved him ! ' ' 

The girl drew a quick breath. 

" Gallant, damme ! By Jove ! By gad ! 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 299 

Yes, gallant, by George ! " exclaimed the 
soldierly man. 

The girl seemed to wake from a reverie. 

" Uncle Henry, this is Mr. Rodman. 
Mr. Rodman, my guardian, Colonel Carteret." 

" Proud to meet you, sir," said the colonel, 
his honest blue eyes glowing as he fingered 
his short crisp moustache. " As fine a thing 
as I ever heard of, damme ! " 

" Yes, you are brave— brave, " the girl 
whispered. 

" I am wet — wet," said James, and went 
upstairs to change his clothes. 

When he came down for lunch, he foimd 
to his relief that the girl had decided not to 
join them, and Colonel Carteret was silent 
and preoccupied. James, exerting himself 
in his capacity of host, tried him with the 
weather, golf, India, the Government, the 
high cost of living, first-class cricket, the 
modem dancing craze, and murderers he had 
met, but the other still preserved that strange, 
absent-minded silence. It was only when the 
meal was concluded and James had produced 
cigarettes that he came abruptly out of his 
trance. 



300 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Rodman," he said, " I should like to 
speak to you." 

" Yes ? " said James, thinking it was 
about time. 

" Rodman," said Colonel Carteret, " or 
rather, George — I may call you George ? " 
he added, with a sort of wistful dif&dence 
that had a singular charm. 

" Certainly," replied James, " if you wish 
it. Though my name is James." 

" James, eh ? Well, well, it amounts to 
the same thing, eh, what, damme, by gad ? " 
said the colonel with a momentary return 
of his bluff soldierly manner. " Well, then, 
James, I have something that I wish to say 
to you. Did Miss Maynard — did Rose happen 
to tell you anything about myself in — er — in 
connection with herself ? " 

" She mentioned that you and she were 
engaged to be married." 

The colonel's tightly drawn lips quivered. 

" No longer," he said. 

" What ? " 

" No, John, my boy." 

" James." 

" No, James, my boy, no longer. WTiile 
you were upstairs changing your clothes she 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 301 

told me — breaking down, poor child, as she 
spoke — that she wished our engagement to 
be at an end." 

James half rose from the table, his cheeks 
blanched. 

" You don't mean that ! " he gasped. 

Colonel Carteret nodded. He was staring 
out of the window, his fine eyes set in a 
look of pain. 

" But this is nonsense ! " cried James. 
" This is absurd ! She — she mustn't be al- 
lowed to chop and change like this. I mean 
to say, it — it isn't fair " 

" Don't think of me, my boy." 

"I'm not — I mean, did she give any 
reason ? " 

" Her eyes did." 

" Her eyes did ? " 

" Her eyes, when she looked at you on 
the porch, as you stood there — young, heroic 
— having just saved the hfe of the dog she 
loves. It is you who have won that tender 
heart, my boy." 

" Now listen," protested James, " you 
aren't going to sit there and tell me that a 
girl falls in love with a man just because he 
saves her dog from drowning ? " 



302 MEET MR. MULLINER 

" Why, surely," said Colonel Carteret 
surprised. " \Miat better reason could she 
have ? " He sighed. " It is the old, old 
story, my boy. Youth to youth. I am an 
old man. I should have known — I should 
have foreseen — yes, youth to youth." 

" You aren't a bit old." 

" Yes, yes." 

" No, no." 

" Yes, yes." 

" Don't keep on saying yes, yes ! " cried 
James, clutching at his hair. " Besides, 
she wants a steady old buffer — a steady, 
sensible man of medium age — to look after 
her." 

Colonel Carteret shook his head with a 
gentle smile. 

" This is mere quixotry, my boy. It is 
splendid of you to take this attitude ; but 
no, no." 

les, yes. 

" No, no." He gripped James's hand for 
an instant, then rose and walked to the 
door. " That is aU I wished to say, Tom." 

" James." 

" James. I just thought that you ought 
to know how matters stood. Go to her, my 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 303 

boy, go to her, and don't let any thought of 
an old man's broken dream keep you from 
pouring out what is in your heart. I am an 
old soldier, lad, an old soldier. I have 
learned to take the rough with the smooth. 
But I think — I think I will leave you now. 
I — I should— should like to be alone for a 
while. If you need me you will find me in 
the raspberry bushes." 

He had scarcely gone when James also 
left the room. He took his hat and stick 
and walked blindly out of the garden, he 
knew not whither. His brain was numbed. 
Then, as his powers of reasoning returned, 
he told himself that he should have fore- 
seen this ghastly thing. If there was one 
type of character over which Leila J. Pinckney 
had been wont to spread herself, it was the 
pathetic guardian who loves his ward but 
rehnquishes her to the younger man. No 
wonder the girl had broken off the engage- 
ment. Any elderly guardian who allowed 
himself to come within a mile of Honeysuckle 
Cottage was simply asking for it. And 
then, as he turned to walk back, a sort of duU 
defiance gripped James. Why, he asked, 
should he be put upon in this manner ? If 



304 MEET MR. MULLINER 

the girl liked to throw over this man, why 
should he be the goat ? 

He saw his way clearly now. He just 
wouldn't do it, that was all. And if they 
didn't hke it they could lump it. 

Full of a new fortitude, he strode in at the 
gate. A tall, soldierly figure emerged from 
the raspberry bushes and came to meet him. 

" Well ? " said Colonel Carteret. 

" Well ? " said James defiantly. 

" Am I to congratulate you ? " 

James caught his keen blue eye and hesi- 
tated. It was not going to be so simple as 
he had supposed. 

" Well-^r " he said. 

Into the keen blue eyes there came a look 
that James had not seen there before. It 
was the stem, hard look which — probably — 
had caused men to bestow upon this old 
soldier the name of Cold-Steel Carteret. 

" You have not asked Rose to marry 
you? 

" Er — no ; not yet." 

The keen blue eyes grew keener and 
bluer. 

" Rodman," said Colonel Carteret in a 
strange, quiet voice, " I have known that 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 305 

little girl since she was a tiny child. For 
years she has been all in all to me. Her 
father died in my arms and with his last 
breath bade me see that no harm came to 
his darling. I have nursed her through 
mumps, measles — aye, and chicken pox — 
and I live but for her happiness." He 
paused, with a significance that made James's 
toes curl. " Rodman," he said, " do you 
know what I would do to any man who 
trifled with that httle girl's affections ? " 
He reached in his hip pocket and an ugly- 
looking revolver glittered in the sunhght. 
" I would shoot him like a dog." 
" Like a dog ? " faltered James. 
" Like a dog," said Colonel Carteret. He 
took James's arm and turned him toward 
the house. " She is on the porch. Go to 

her. And if " He broke off. "But 

tut ! " he said in a kindher tone. " I am 
doing you an injustice, my boy. I know it." 
" Oh, you are," said James fervently. 
" Your heart is in the right place." 
" Oh, absolutely," said James." 
" Then go to her, my boy. Later on you 
may have something to tell me. You will 
find me in the strawberry beds." 



3o6 MEET MR. MULLINER 

It was very cool and fragrant on the 
porch. Overhead, Uttle breezes played and 
laughed among the roses. Somewhere in 
the distance sheep bells tinkled, and in the 
shrubbery a thrush was singing its even- 
song. 

Seated in her chair behind a wicker 
table laden with tea things. Rose Maynard 
watched James as he shambled up the path. 

" Tea's ready," she called gaily. " Where 
is Uncle Henry } " A look of pity and dis- 
tress flitted for a moment over her flower- 
Hke face. " Oh, I— I forgot," she whispered. 
"He is in the strawberry beds," said 
James in a low voice. 

She nodded unhappily. 
" Of course, of course. Oh, why is Ufe 
Hke this ? " James heard her whisper. 

He sat down. He looked at the girl. 
She was leaning back with closed eyes, and 
he thought he had never seen such a little 
squirt in his Hfe. The idea of passing his 
remaining days in her society revolted him. 
He was stoutly opposed to the idea of marry- 
ing anyone ; but if, as happens to the best 
of us, he ever were compelled to perform the 
wedding ghde, he had always hoped it would 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 307 

be with some lady golf champion who would 
help him with his putting, and thus, by 
bringing his handicap down a notch or two, 
enable him to save something from the wreck, 
so to speak. But to Unk his lot with a girl 
who read his aunt's books and hked them ; 
a girl who could tolerate the presence of the 
dog Toto ; a girl who clasped her hands in 
pretty, childish joy when she saw a nasturtium 
in bloom — it was too much. Nevertheless, 
he took her hand and began to speak. 

" Miss Maynard — Rose " 

She opened her eyes and cast them down. 
A flush had come into her cheeks. The dog 
Toto at her side sat up and begged for cake, 
disregarded. 

" Let me tell you a story. Once upon a 
time there was a lonely man who lived in a 
cottage all by himself " 

He stopped. Was it James Rodman who 
was talking this bilge ? 

" Yes ? " whispered the girl. 

" but one day there came to him out 

of nowhere a httle fairy princess. She " 



He stopped again, but this time not be- 
cause of the sheer shame of listening to his 
own voice. WTiat caused him to interrupt 



3o8 MEET MR. MULLINER 

his tale was the fact that at this moment 
the tea table suddenly began to rise slowly 
in the air, tilting as it did so a considerable 
quantity of hot tea on to the knees of his 
trousers. 

** Ouch ! " cried James, leaping. 

The table continued to rise, and then 
fell sideways, reveaUng the homely counte- 
nance of William, who, concealed by the 
cloth, had been taking a nap beneath it. 
He moved slowly forward, his eyes on Toto. 
For many a long day William had been de- 
sirous of putting to the test, once and for 
all, the problem of whether Toto was edible 
or not. Sometimes he thought yes, at other 
times no. Now seemed an admirable oppor- 
tunity for a definite decision. He advanced 
on the object of his experiment, making a 
low whistling noise through his nostrils, not 
unhke a boiHng kettle. And Toto, after one 
long look of incredulous horror, tucked his 
shapely tail between his legs and, turning, 
raced for safety. He had laid a course in a 
bee line for the open garden gate, and Wilham, 
shaking a dish of marmalade off his head a 
Uttle petulantly, galloped ponderously after 
him. Rose Maynard staggered to her feet. 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 309 

" Oh, save him ! " she cried. 

Without a word James added himself to 
the procession. His interest in Toto was 
but tepid. What he wanted was to get near 
enough to WiUiam to discuss with him that 
matter of the tea on his trousers. He 
reached the road and found that the order of 
the runners had not changed. For so small 
a dog, Toto was moving magnificently. A 
cloud of dust rose as he skidded round the 
comer. WiUiam followed. James followed 
WiUiam. 

And so they passed Farmer Birkett's 
bam. Farmer Giles' cow shed, the place 
where Farmer Willetts' pigsty used to be 
before the big fire, and the Bunch of Grapes 
pubhc house, Jno. Biggs propr., hcensed to 
seU tobacco, wines and spirits. And it was 
as they were turning down the lane that 
leads past Farmer Robinson's chicken run 
that Toto, thinking swiftly, bolted abruptly 
into a small drain pipe. 

" WiUiam ! " roared James, coming up at 
a canter. He stopped to pluck a branch 
from the hedge and swooped darkly on. 

W^iUiam had been crouching before the 
pipe, making a noise like a bassoon into its 



310 MEET MR. MULLINER 

interior ; but now he rose and came beam- 
ingly to James. His eyes were aglow with 
chumminess and affection ; and placing his 
forefeet on James's chest, he licked him three 
times on the face in rapid succession. And 
as he did so, something seemed to snap in 
James. The scales seemed to fall from 
James's eyes. For the first time he saw 
WilUam as he really was, the authentic 
type of dog that saves his master from a 
frightful peril. A wave of emotion swept 
over him. 

" WiUiam ! " he muttered. " WiUiam ! " 

WiUiam was making an early supper off 
a half brick he had found in the road. James 
stooped and patted him fondly. 

" WiUiam," he whispered, " you knew 
when the time had come to change the con- 
versation, didn't you, old boy ! " He 
straightened himself. " Come, WiUiam," he 
said. " Another four mUes and we reach 
Meadowsweet Junction. Make it snappy and 
we shall just catch the up express, first stop 
London." 

WiUiam looked up into his face and it 
seemed to James that he gave a brief nod 
of comprehension and approval. James 



HONEYSUCKLE COTTAGE 311 

turned. Through the trees to the east he 
could see the red roof of Honeysuckle Cottage, 
lurking like some evil dragon in ambush. 

Then, together, man and dog passed 
silently into the sunset. 

That (concluded Mr. MuUiner) is the story 
of my distant cousin James Rodman. As to 
whether it is true, that, of course, is an open 
question. I, personally, am of opinion that 
it is. There is no doubt that James did go 
to live at Honeysuckle Cottage and, while 
there, underwent some experience which has 
left an ineradicable mark upon him. His 
eyes to-day have that unmistakable look 
which is to be seen only in the eyes of con- 
firmed bachelors whose feet have been dragged 
to the very brink of the pit and who have 
gazed at close range into the naked face of 
matrimony. 

And, if further proof be needed, there is 
William. He is now James's inseparable 
companion. Would any man be habitually 
seen in public with a dog Uke William unless 
he had some soHd cause to be grateful to 
him, — unless they were hnked together by 
some deep and imperishable memory ? I 
think not. Myself, when I observe William 



312 MEET MR. MULLINER 

coining along the street, I cross the road and 
look into a shop window till he has passed. 
I am not a snob, but I dare not risk my 
position in Society by being seen talking to 
that curious compound. 

Nor is the precaution an unnecessary one. 
There is about William a shameless absence 
of appreciation of class distinctions which 
recalls the worst excesses of the French 
Revolution. I have seen him with these 
eyes chivvy a pomeranian belonging to a 
Baroness in her own right from near the 
Achilles Statue to within a few yards of the 
Marble Arch. 

And yet James walks daily with him. in 
Piccadilly. It is surely significant. 



THE END 



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Ferdinand Dibble should have been a compe- 
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Barbara Medway was beyond a doubt; but he 
hadn't the nerve to ask her to marry him. Every 
time he felt he had mustered up enough pep to 
propose, he took ten on a bogey three. And then 
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MEET MR. MULLINER 

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Glasgow Evening News. — " Keeps its fun going 
breathlessly from beginning to end." 

THE GOLDEN SCARAB 

By Maj.-Gen. Sir JOHN ADYE, K.C.M.G., Author 
of Who killed Lord Henry Rollestone ? 
An uncanny mystery story concerning a scarab 
which brings misfortune to all its owners. 
Truth. — " A capital yarn." 

FERRIS OF THE CHERRY-TREES 

By J. S. FLETCHER. Author of Daniel Quayne. 
The story of Mark Taffendale's love for a young 
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MRS. MAY 

By THOMAS LE BRETON. Author of Mr. and Mrs. 
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Mrs. May, the Cockney charlady, is a famous 
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A book of sheer laughter, dealing with the love- 
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