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Jones twirled his moustache, and hands in England, and every man was told me I must fancy things.
so absorbed in his own affairs that “I fancy the strangest things while the return of a friend from the dead I am kept in the dark. Tell me the hardly awakened any interest. truth, Jones. Has my wife—married As I entered my club the Rip Van again ?" I faltered, bringing my worst Winkle feeling increased. I seemed a surmise ruthlessly to the front. stranger there and an interloper. A
“ Married again! Good gracious! mysterious change had fallen over my That old-ahem ! Nothing of the intimates. Laughing men looked sort, I assure you. What could have solemn, cordial men looked cool, curiput such a notion into your head ?” ous men were unusually absorbed in
“She is not even engaged to be their own occupations. Some of them married ?” I persisted.
nodded to me casually, more of them Not a whisper of it. Why, man,
did not lift their heads or turn my you've not been dead-supposed to be, way; a sort of silence fell on them all I should say, for twelve months yet.” as I went in, and a sense of em" Then what does it mean?”
barrassment. Only one came forward “Look here, Rodney, hadn't you to greet me. “So you've got back better get home and find out about again. Heard of it this morning. your own affairs from your own Not killed after all. Droll mistake people instead of running about Lon- to make. Regular hot water and all don asking everybody you meet what's that. But I suppose it pays. Most happened to you since you were last fellows have to wait till they get alive?”
nothing by it themselves. You're in “I'm on my way to my own people," luck there." I answered testily, “and it's the odd He was a man whom I knew very look of everybody that makes me ask slightly, and his manner seemed to me these questions. I might be Rip Van impertinent. I did not understand in Winkle by the way I'm forgotten, or the least what he meant, but I would greeted by those kind enough to not condescend to inquire. I turned recollect me.”
round and walked out of the club; “Ah, well, it's an experiment, you for the sight of one of my oldest friends know, coming back in this sort of with his head hidden behind an imfashion."
mense newspaper, and a distinct asser“I suppose I ought to have stayed tion,
tion, “Nothing is happening that in Africa because some one happens to interests me in the attitude of his have said that I died there?” I sug- legs, was quite too much for me. gested scoffingly.
At the door I met Lord Selcover No, no,” he remonstrated,
coming in. To my astonishment he fellows might tell you it would have put up his eye-glass and stared at me been wisest; but I don't go as far as for a moment. Then he went on his that. You'll pull through, no doubt, way without any sign of recognition. and live it down.”
This was the worst of all, and the “Pull through my friends' welcome, most incomprehensible. The man who I presume you mean, for I can find owed me every reparation for his careout nothing else that's wrong," I less desertion, the man in whose service answered him in some indignation; I had suffered and was supposed to and so I left him.
have died, who ought to have met me I went on to the club, no longer with apology, congratulation, and welprepared for the enthusiastic greeting come, cut me in the coolest and most to which I had at first looked forward. public manner at our first encounter ! What a change a few months had I could not demand an explanation made in the national habits! People then and there. I was too much seemed to have forgotten how to shake mystified and doubtful of my own
I remembered the advice of telegram, to break the news to my Jones and hurried off to the station, wife : but people of that class never determined to risk no more encounters can deny themselves the luxury of a until I reached home.
good fright. She explained afterwards that she “couldn't but think it was
master's ghost after all,” when she II.
saw me standing on the steps. She I TRAVELLED with strangers, and felt was the same maid that we had had glad that it so happened. A friend before I left home, but her appearance had become an object of dread to me. was altered as much as that of the Arrived at the home railway-station I house ; her cap was neater, her apron was pleased to find the officials as more pretentious; she had no longer pleasant and respectful as ever. One the slovenly and casual air of one conor two of my poorer neighbours also, scious of over-due wages, and more whom I met as I walked to the house, proficient in the art of bringing in greeted me with kindly looks. I began impertinent messages from the tradesto feel more cheerful, and to believe people than of receiving distinguished that I had left my nightmare-what- visitors with politeness. I could see ever it was-behind me.
this, in spite of her hasty departure. Near the house I overtook and I made my way on to the diningpassed the mortgagee of the place. I room unannounced, and there I found remembered that my son-in-law had my eldest son sitting with the young said something which implied that he lady to whom he was engaged. Willie had given my wife no trouble in my received me pretty much as I might absence. I stopped therefore to thank have expected him to do, with a mixhim for his consideration. He took ture of awkwardness, affection and my thanks rather oddly, and seemed self-assertion. He had been having embarrassed by them. I concluded that fine times in my absence, as the head he was a modester man than I had of the house and the idol of his imagined
mother, and he might well feel agArrived at my own gate I was sur- grieved that this position should be prised to see the air of neatness and snatched from him. But there was no prosperity about the establishment. mystery about him. He was frank Some repairs had evidently been exe- and natural enough. cuted. The garden was in perfect I turned to Lucinda. Her very order. A new set of tennis nets and presence in the house was a sign of balls encumbered the lawn.
my wife's extravagance at a time when clear that my family was at any rate she ought to have been husbanding her not suffering from lack of money. resources to the utmost, entertaining Lord Selcover's generosity must have no visitors, and arranging for the been immense to justify such extrava- future. But I had always been good gance on the part of my wife; and to Lucinda. I had treated her as a how could immense generosity be com- daughter, in spite of the imprudence patible with his greeting of me? He of Willie in forming an engagement could not have supposed that I had so young, when he scarcely earned intentionally cheated him. Here was enough, (in the city office in which I the mystery again, but in a pleasanter had placed him) to pay his own exform than that in which it had met penses. Therefore I smiled paternally me in London.
on the young lady and advanced to The maid who opened the front door greet her with the usual kiss. To my for me of course rushed away with a surprise she retreated, put her hands shriek, although she knew that I before her face, and said, half-crying, was expected that day, my son-in-law “No, I can't; I can't indeed. I don't having written, on the receipt of my know how you can expect me to."
Then she fled precipitately from the “How very considerate of them !” room.
I looked at Willie in amaze- she said ; "they have sent to say they ment. But he gave me no explana- won't expect me.” tion.
“ Rather odd of them to take the “I think you oughtn't to mind,” initiative," I observed, and put out was all he said ; “ of course it's likely my hand for the note. * Dear Mrs. that she will feel like that. I'll go Rodney," so it ran,“ we have heard of and tell mother you're here."
the fortunate return of your husband, When I met my wife I felt that I and feel sure that you will not like to had cruelly wronged her in imagining leave him in order to keep your enthat she could have anything to do gagement with us. We have therewith the mysterious unpleasantness fore decided to put off our little dinner hanging over She might have for the present. With congratulations, been extravagant and thoughtless in yours sincerely, Amelia Simpson." my absence, but she was full of raptur- “I wonder they didn't ask me to go ous delight at my return. To her I too," I remarked, with a doubtful was everything that I had ever been, laugh; “perhaps they were afraid I and a hero into the bargain. I could might do it without asking, so they hardly get her to believe that I had sent this preventive." not actually been buried and dug my. “Nonsense, Tom. The Simpsons way out of my grave with my own have been very kind, not like some hands.
people." “What you have gone through !” “Everybody has not been kind she sighed sympathetically. “How then ?" can we ever make up to you for what “Some people are so jealous. And you have suffered ? »
you have been so much talked about," I did not like to trouble her in the said my wife with placidity. I did first joy of our meeting by any refer- not press the subject further, though ence to the unkindness of my London it struck me as curious that any acquaintances, nor to vex her by any fellow's friends should be jealous of hints as to her own superfluous ex- the fame achieved by that fellow's penditure. She assured me that the death among strangers in a savage children were all well, and that she country. was not in want of money.
I was glad to be once more in my "I may say that we are better off own comfortable home--more comfortthan we ever were," she remarked, able than ever, with the chairs re“and it is all your cleverness. I covered, and a new hearthrug-within always felt sure that some day or sight of my smiling wife and delighted other you would do it.”
children (Lucinda keeping in the backI did not understand her, for I ground with Willie), and not inclined thought she could not have always to hurry into an unpleasant topic felt sure I should be left for dead in which had no urgency. Africa ; but as there seemed no cause The next morning I slept late. for anxiety, and no need to take im- When I got down stairs my son had mediate action, I was willing to defer already gone off to town, and my wife all explanations until the next day. was busy with a dressmaker.
"I ought to have gone out to dinner “With the crape taken off and a this evening," my wife remarked, "to little coloured trimming, you could the Simpsons, but of course I shall wear it perfectly well,” the woman was send an excuse now." She was saved declaring as I looked into the door of the trouble, however ; for a few my wife's special room. There was minutes afterwards a note was put an unmistakable widow's bonnet on a into her hand which she read with chair, and a very handsome black silk satisfaction.
dress spread to its full length before the thoughtful eyes of my wife and habits, and was surprised at this. I her professional adviser. I decided went on to a third house, and there I not to interrupt them, and went into was shown into the drawing-room and the garden to look round.
allowed to wait a long time. Sundry Here my impression of neatness and books were lying on the table, and I general improvement was confirmed. amused myself by looking into these. Everywhere there was a change, and Three handsomely bound and rather a change for the better. My wife's
thick volumes attracted my attention. clothing and that of my children had I took one up and opened it. My own alone the old shabby worn-too-long name stared at me from the title page, look, but this was now accounted for and underneath I saw the magic words, by the fact that they had hurriedly 6 Fifth Edition." put off their new black clothes to None of my surprises had been receive me. Other things indicated equal to this. I felt like one in a the presence of money ; they also in- dream. Here was
my great work dicated the absence of me. When I evidently written, printed, published, opened my wardrobe it was full of my and successful, and I could remember daughter's dresses ; when I went to nothing about it! Could my African my writing-table I found the top drawer fever have destroyed my memory! crammed with letters in a fine writing, Had I, before I left home, achieved signed Lucinda; my son's razors were the long - contemplated masterpiece, in my dressing-case, and my private and left it in the publisher's hands? box of cigars was quite empty. These Impossible! A mother may forget things I was prepared to note with her sucking child, but an author canphilosophy; my return had been sud- not forget the fruit of his brains, the den, and my wife had not had time to offspring of his genius. My genius clear away all the evidences of my had been childless, of that I was cerhaving been supposed to be done with tain, and yet-three bulky volumes, which were certain to have accumu- closely printed, and “fifth edition” on lated in
my absence. She was begin- the title-page! ning valiantly with the dressmaker; I was so much dazed by the sight of and I was willing to appreciate her my own name and those two most efforts, and to shut my eyes to trifles unexpected words underneath it-two which she could not desire me to see. words significant of fame and fortune What I could not understand was in my chosen world—that it did not the air of renovation in the establish- occur to me for a moment to look at ment itself, and the absence of any the title of the book itself. I began new furrows
anxiety in the coun- to turn over the pages instead. I tenance of its mistress.
caught sight of names that I well From the garden I strolled into the knew, and plunged into the middle of road, and then it occurred to me that anecdote. Could I ever have I might as well go on and call on one written this? And if I had been so or two neighbours who lived close at ill-advised as to put it on paper, by hand, and who would certainly be glad what misfortune had it got into the to see me. They had nothing to do printer's hands ? with London or literature, and could “The editor of 'Scandal' is a man not be jealous of the fame I had whose own life would sell half-a-dozen involuntarily acquired. I was yearn- numbers of his paper if he would coning for some of that warm welcome sent to relate the disreputable side of and enthusiastic interest which my it,"—why, that very editor had been adventures ought to have secured for one of my most reliable employers in
the past ;-he would never print a At the first two houses my friends paragraph of mine again! And what
not at home. I knew their came next? “ The meanness of Lord
Selcover in money matters is notorious. on record something which he would If he has not inherited the apron of
have desired to be forgotten. If any his shop-keeping grandfather, he has man succeeded in escaping my critikept the calculating faculties and the cism himself, he had some one belonggrasping disposition of that immediate ing to him whom I had dragged forancestor unimpaired."
ward into unpleasant publicity. A I felt myself going hot and cold. fastidious father had a daughter who No wonder that I had been cut at the made herself ridiculous; an over-scruclub and passed unnoticed in the Lon- pulous mother had a son whose morals don streets. I cast my eye to the top were too lax for a continued residence of the page, and saw printed there, in his native country. Everybody's “The diary and recollections of the cupboard-door was thrown open by my late Thomas Rodney."
nimble fingers, and his household This then was my great work, and skeleton stood revealed on my caustic the one by which I was to be known pages. to the world! It had had a large sale ; I was so much absorbed in my I understood now why my wife had a reading that I did not notice the full pocket; but it must have alienated entrance of my friend, and I was only from me every friend I had in the aroused by the remark, "Terribly world. I had prided myself on my interesting, is it not ? Everybody shrewdness of observation, on my finds it so. quickness in detecting the faults of I looked round with a start, and my acquaintances, and I had amused saw that my friend had taken a seat myself by noting these down for my behind me, and was watching me with own edification, and for my consola- an expression of intense amusement. tion in moments when I realised that I stared at him blankly. I did not I was undervalued by the world. Now know what to say, for I had just read they were all printed and published : an anecdote to the effect that his my comments on Mrs. Simpson's bad house was dirty and his habits indinners, my references to Lucinda's hospitable. “He ought to be thought false hair and scheming ways, my dis- of with indulgence," so I had congust at my son-in-law's bad manners cluded, “because he so seldom asks and want of polish. I turned over any one to taste his very bad wine.” page after page, and read with a terri- My thumb was on the paragraph, and ble interest all that I had recorded I had not the presence of mind to there. Most of the names were dis- remove it. guised by the use of initials only, but “Ah, I see where you are-page the disguise was a very transparent 216, vol. i. Capital fun, isn't it?
The greater the reputation of My copy always opens there. Everyany person whom I mentioned, the body's copy has a place where it opens severer was my criticism upon that naturally, and they are all different. person's character. I showed up the Our friends look it up when they come heroes as disguised cowards, and the to see us. I put a marker in mine to philanthropists as secret cheats. I save time. It's had a roaring sale, revealed to a delighted world the that book has. Everybody recomstrong provincial accent of an elegant mended it to somebody else; it was a writer, and I pleasantly horrified seri- revenge and a relief to one's own ous people by some telling anecdotes feelings. • Have you seen Rodney's regarding the early life of an eminent book, and how he cuts into So-and-so?' divine. No man's Greek was safe Then the fellow would get it in a from me, and no man's home was hurry and find himself there. Ha ! sacred.
There was nobody whom I ha !" had ever met, of any consequence in I put the book down slowly and the world, about whom I had not put with difficulty. It seemed to stick to