On a Sunday afternoon in October,
when Abraham Woodstock had lain in his grave for three
months, Waymark met Julian Casti by appointment in
Sloane Square, and they set forth together on a journey
to Peckham. They were going thither by invitation,
and, to judge from the laughter which accompanied
their talk, their visit was likely to afford them
entertainment. The merriment on Julian’s
side was not very natural; he looked indeed too ill
to enjoy mirth of any kind. As they stood in the
Square, waiting for an omnibus, he kept glancing uneasily
about him, especially in the direction whence they
had come. It had the appearance of a habit, but
before they had stood much more than a minute, he
started and exclaimed in a low voice to his companion
“I told you so. She is
just behind there. She has come round by the
back streets, just to see if I’d told her the
Waymark glanced back and shrugged his shoulders.
“Pooh! Never mind,” he said.
“You’re used to it.”
“Used to it! Yes,”
Julian returned, his face flushing suddenly a deep
red, the effect of extraordinary excitement; “and
it is driving me mad.”
Then, after a fit of coughing
“She found my poem last night, and burnt it.”
“Yes; simply because she could
not understand it. She said she thought it was
waste paper, but I saw, I saw.”
The ’bus they waited for came
up, and they went on their way. On reaching the
neighbourhood of Peckham, they struck off through a
complex of small new streets, apparently familiar to
Waymark, and came at length to a little shop, also
very new, the windows of which displayed a fresh-looking
assortment of miscellaneous goods. There was
half a large cheese, marked by the incisions of the
tasting-knife; a boiled ham, garlanded; a cone of
brawn; a truncated pyramid of spiced beef, released
from its American tin; also German sausage and other
dainties of the kind. Then there were canisters
of tea and coffee, tins of mustard, a basket of eggs,
some onions, boxes of baking-powder and of blacking;
all arranged so as to make an impression on the passers-by;
everything clean and bright. Above the window
stood in imposing gilt letters the name of the proprietor:
They entered. The shop was very
small and did not contain much stock. The new
shelves showed a row of biscuit-tins, but little else,
and from the ceiling hung balls of string. On
the counter lay an inviting round of boiled beef.
Odours of provisions and of fresh paint were strong
in the air. Every thing gleamed from resent scrubbing
and polishing; the floor only emphasised its purity
by a little track where a child’s shoes had
brought in mud from the street; doubtless it had been
washed over since the Sunday morning’s custom
had subsided. Wherever the walls would have confessed
their bareness the enterprising tradesman had hung
gorgeous advertising cards. At the sound of the
visitors’ footsteps, the door leading out of
the shop into the parlour behind opened briskly, a
head having previously appeared over the red curtain,
and Mr. O’Gree, in the glory of Sunday attire,
rushed forward with eager hands. His welcome
“Waymark, you’re a brick!
Mr. Casti, I’m rejoiced to receive you in my
establishment! You’re neither a minute too
soon nor a minute too late. Mrs. O’Gree
only this moment called out from the kitchen that the
kettle was boiling and the crumpets at the point of
perfection! I knew your punctuality of old, Waymark.
Mr. Casti, how does it strike you? Roaring trade,
Waymark! Done two shillings and threepence three
farthings this Sunday morning. Look here, me boy, ho,
He drew out the till behind the counter,
and jingled his hand in coppers. Then he rushed
about in the wildest fervour from object to object,
opening tins which he had forgotten were empty, making
passes at the beef and the ham with a formidable carving-knife,
demonstrating the use of a sugar-chopper and a coffee-grinder,
and, lastly, calling attention with infinite glee
to a bad halfpenny which he had detected on the previous
afternoon, and had forthwith nailed down to the counter,
in terrorem. Then he lifted with much solemnity
a hinged portion of the counter, and requested his
visitors to pass into the back-parlour. Here
there was the same perfect cleanliness, though the
furniture was scant and very simple. The round
table was laid for tea, with a spotless cloth, plates
of a very demonstrative pattern, and knives and forks
which seemed only just to have left the ironmonger’s
“We pass, you observe, Mr. Casti,”
cried the ex-teacher, “from the region of commerce
to that of domestic intimacy. Here Mrs. O’Gree
reigns supreme, as indeed she does in the other department,
as far as presiding genius goes. She’s
in all places at once, like a birrud! Mr. Casti,”
in a whisper, “I shall have the pleasure of introducing
you to one of the most remarkable women it was ever
your lot to meet; a phenomenon of ”
The inner door opened, and the lady
herself interrupted these eulogies. Sally was
charming. Her trim little body attired in the
trimmest of homely dresses, her sharp little face
shining and just a little red with excitement, her
quick movements, her laughing eyes, her restless hands
graced with the new wedding-ring all made
up a picture of which her husband might well be proud.
He stood and gazed at her in frank admiration; only
when she sprang forward to shake hands with Waymark
did he recover himself sufficiently to go through the
ceremony of introducing Julian. It was done with
“An improvement this on the
masters’ room, eh, Waymark?” cried Mr.
O’Gree. Then, suddenly interrupting him
self, “And that reminds me! We’ve
got a lodger.”
“And who d’ye think?
Who d’ye think? You wouldn’t guess
if you went on till Christmas. Ho, ho, ho!
I’m hanged if I tell you. Wait and see!”
“Shall I call him down?”
asked Sally, who in the meantime had brought in the
tea-pot, and the crumpets, and a dish of slices from
the round of beef on the counter, and boiled eggs,
and sundry other dainties.
O’Gree, unable to speak for
mirth, nodded his head, and presently Sally returned,
followed by Mr. Egger. Waymark scarcely
recognised his old friend, so much had the latter
changed: instead of the old woe-begone look,
Egger’s face wore a joyous smile, and his outer
man was so vastly improved that he had evidently fallen
on a more lucrative profession. Waymark remembered
O’Gree’s chance meeting with the Swiss,
but had heard nothing of him since; nor indeed had
O’Gree till a day or two ago.
“How do things go?” Waymark
inquired heartily. “Found a better school?”
“No, no, my friend,” returned
Egger, in his very bad English. “At the
school I made my possible; I did till I could no more.
I have made like Mr. O’Gree; it is to say, quite
a change in my life. I am waiter at a restaurant.
And see me; am I not the better quite? No fear!”
This cockneyism came in with comical effect.
“I have enough to eat and to drink, and money
in my pocket. The school may go to ”
O’Gree coughed violently to
cover the last word, and looked reproachfully at his
old colleague. Poor Egger, who had been carried
away by his joyous fervour, was abashed, and glanced
timidly at Sally, who replied by giving him half a
dozen thick rounds of German sausage. On his
requesting mustard, she fetched some from the shop
and mixed it, but, in doing so, had the misfortune
to pour too much water.
“There!” she exclaimed; “I’ve
doubted the miller’s eye.”
O’Gree laughed when he saw Waymark looking for
“That’s a piece of Weymouth,”
he remarked. “Mrs. O’Gree comes from
the south-west of England,” he added, leaning
towards Casti. “She’s constantly
teaching me new and interesting things. Now, if
I was to spill the salt here ”
He put his Ii and on the salt-cellar,
as if to do so, but Sally rapped his knuckles with
“None of your nonsense, sir!
Give Mr. Casti some more meat, instead.”
It was a merry party. The noise
of talk grew so loud that it was only the keenness
of habitual attention on Sally’s part which enabled
her to observe that a customer was knocking on the
counter. She darted out, but returned with a
disappointed look on her face.
“Pickles?” asked her husband, frowning.
“Now, look here, Waymark,”
cried O’Gree, rising in indignation from his
seat. “Look here, Mr. Casti. The one
drop of bitterness in our cup is pickles;
the one thing that threatens to poison our happiness
is pickles. We’re always being
asked for pickles; just as if the people knew about
it, and came on purpose!”
“Knew About what?” asked Waymark, in astonishment.
“Why, that we mayn’t sell
’em! A few doors off there’s a scoundrel
of a grocer. Now, his landlord’s the same
as ours, and when we took this shop there was one
condition attached. Because the grocer sells
pickles, and makes a good thing of them, we had to
undertake that, in that branch of commerce, we wouldn’t
compete with him. Pickles are forbidden.”
Waymark burst into a most unsympathetic
roar of laughter, but with O’Gree the grievance
was evidently a serious one, and it was some few moments
before he recovered his equanimity. Indeed it
was not quite restored till the entrance of another
customer, who purchased two ounces of butter.
When, in the dead silence which ensued, Sally was
heard weighing out the order, O’Gree’s
face beamed; and when there followed the chink of
coins in the till, he brought his fist down with a
triumphant crash upon the table.
When tea was over, O’Gree managed
to get Waymark apart from the rest, and showed him
a small photograph of Sally which had recently been
“Sally’s great ambition,”
he whispered, “is to be taken cabinet-size,
and in a snow-storm. You’ve seen the kind
of thing in the shop-windows? We’ll manage
that before long, but this will do for the present.
You don’t see a face like that every day; eh,
Sally, her housewifery duly accomplished
in the invisible regions, came back and sat by the
fireside. She had exchanged her work-a-day costume
for one rather more ornate. Noticeable was a delicate
gold chain which hung about her neck, and Waymark
smiled when he presently saw her take out her watch
and seem to compare its time with that of the clock
on the mantelpiece. It was a wedding present
Sally caught the smile, and almost
immediately came over to a seat by Waymark; and, whilst
the others were engaged in loud talk, spoke with him
“Have you seen her lately?” she asked.
“Not for some weeks,” the other replied,
shaking his head.
“Well, it’s the queerest
thing I ever knew, s’nough! But, there,”
she added, with an arch glance, “some men are
that stupid ”
Waymark laughed slightly, and again shook his head.
“All a mistake,” he said.
“Yes, that’s just what
it is, you may depend upon it. I more’n
half believe you’re telling fibs.”
Tumblers of whisky were soon smoking
on the table, and all except Casti laughed and talked
to their heart’s content. Casti was no kill-joy;
he smiled at all that went on, now and then putting
in a friendly word; but the vitality of the others
was lacking in him, and the weight which crushed him
night and day could not so easily be thrown aside.
O’Gree was abundant in reminiscences of academic
days, and it would not have been easy to resist altogether
the comical vigour of his stories, all without one
touch of real bitterness or malice.
“Bedad,” he cried, “I
sent old Pendy a business prospectus, with my compliments
written on the bottom of it. I thought he might
perhaps be disposed to give me a contract for victualling
the Academy. I wish he had, for the boys’
Then, to bring back completely the
old times, Mr. Egger was prevailed upon to sing one
of his Volkslieder, that which had been Waymark’s
especial favourite, and which he had sung on
an occasion memorable to Sally and her husband in
the little dining-room at Richmond.
“Die Schwalb’n flieg’n
fort, doch sie zieh’n wieder her; Der Mensch
wenn er fortgeht, er kommt nimmermehr!”
Waymark was silent for a little after that.
When it was nearly eleven o’clock,
Casti looked once or twice meaningly at Waymark, and
the friends at length rose to take their leave, in
spite of much protest. O’Gree accompanied
them as far as the spot where they would meet the
omnibus, then, with assurances that to-night had been
but the beginning of glorious times, sent them on their
way. Julian was silent during the journey home;
he looked very wearied. For lack of a timely
conveyance the last mile or so had to be walked.
Julian’s cough had been bad during the evening,
and now the cold night-air seemed to give him much
trouble. Presently, just as they turned a corner,
a severe blast of wind met them full in the face.
Julian began coughing violently, and all at once became
so weak that he had to lean against a palisading.
Waymark, looking closer in alarm, saw that the handkerchief
which the poor fellow was holding to his mouth was
covered with blood.
“We must have a cab,”
he exclaimed. “It is impossible for you
to walk in this state.”
Julian resisted, with assurances that
the worst was over for the time. If Waymark would
give the support of his arm, he would get on quite
well. There was no overcoming his resolution to
“There’s no misunderstanding
this, old fellow,” he said, with a laugh, when
they had walked a few paces.
Waymark made no reply.
“You’ll laugh at me,”
Julian went on, “but isn’t there a certain
resemblance between my case and that of Keats?
He too was a drug-pounder; he liked it as little as
I do; and he died young of consumption. I suppose
a dying man may speak the truth about himself.
I too might have been a poet, if life had dealt more
kindly with me. I think you would have liked
the thing I was writing; I’d finished some three
hundred lines; but now you’ll never see it.
Well, I don’t know that it matters.”
Waymark tried to speak in a tone of
hopefulness, but it was hard to give his words the
semblance of sincerity.
“Do you remember,” Casti
continued, “when all my talk used to be about
Rome, and how I planned to see it one day see
it again. I should say? Strange to think
that I really was born in Rome. I used to call
myself a Roman, you know, and grow hot with pride
when I thought of it. Those were dreams.
Oh, I was to do wonderful things! Poetry was to
make me rich, and then I would go and live in Italy,
and fill my lungs with the breath of the Forum, and
write my great Epic. How good that we can’t
foresee our lives!”
“I wish to heaven,” Waymark
exclaimed, when they were parting, “that you
would be a man and shake this monstrous yoke from off
your neck! It is that that is killing you.
Give yourself a chance. Defy everything and make
Julian shook his head sadly.
“Too late! I haven’t the courage.
My mind weakens with my body.”
He went to his lodgings, and, as he
anticipated, found that Harriet had not yet come home.
She was almost always out very late, and he had learnt
too well what t expect on her return. In spite
of her illness, of which she made the most when it
suited her purpose, she was able t wander about at
all hours with the acquaintances her husband did not
even know by name, and Julian had no longer the strength
even to implore her to have pity on him. He absence
racked him with nervous fears; her presence tortured
him to agony. Weakness in him had reached a criminal
degree. Once or twice he had all but made up his
mind to flee secretly, and only let her know his determination
when he had gone; but his poverty interposed such
obstacles that he ended by accepting them as excuses
for his hesitation. The mere thought of fulfilling
the duty which he owed to himself, of speaking out
with manly firmness, and telling her that here at
length all ended between them that was
a terror to his soul. So he stayed on and allowed
her to kill him by slow torment. He was at least
carrying out to the letter the promise he had made
to her father, and this thought supplied him with
a flattering unction which, such was his disposition,
at times even brought him a moment’s solace.
There was no fire in the room; he
sank upon a chair and waited. Every sound in
the street below sent the blood back upon his heart.
At length there came the fumbling of a latch-key he
could hear it plainly and then the heavy
foot ascending the stairs. Her glazed eyes and
red cheeks told the familiar tale. She sat down
opposite him and was silent for a minute, half dozing;
then she seemed suddenly to become conscious of his
presence, and the words began to flow from her tongue,
every one cutting him to the quick, poisoning his
soul with their venom of jealousy and vulgar spite.
Contention was the breath of her nostrils; the prime
impulse of her heart was suspicion. Little by
little she came round to the wonted topic. Had
he been to see his friend the thief? Was she
in prison again yet? Whom had she been stealing
from of late? Oh, she was innocence itself, of
course; too good for this evil-speaking world.
Tonight he could not bear it.
He rose from his chair like a drunken man, and staggered
to the door. She sprang after him, but he was
just in time to escape her grasp and spring down the
stairs; then, out into the night. Once before,
not quite a month ago, he had been driven thus in
terror from the sound of her voice, and had slept at
a coffeehouse. Now, as soon as he had got out
of the street and saw that he was not being pursued,
he discovered that he had given away his last copper
for the omnibus fare. No matter; the air was
pleasant upon his throbbing temples. It was too
late to think of knocking at the house where Waymark
lodged. Nothing remained but to walk about the
streets all night, resting on a stone when he became
too weary to go further, sheltering a little here
or there when the wind cut him too keenly. Rather
this, oh, a thousand times rather, than the hell behind