Tommy & Co. (Windsor Magazine, 1903-04)/The Education of the Grindleys
No. III.—THE EDUCATION OF THE GRINDLEYS
THERE are few of the West Central district that have changed less within the last half-century than Nevill's Court, leading from Great New Street into Fetter Lane. Its north side still consists of the same quaint row of small low shops that stood there—doing perhaps a little brisker business—when George the Fourth was King; its southern side of the same three substantial houses each behind a strip of garden, pleasant by contrast with surrounding grimness, built long ago—some say before Queen Anne was dead.
Out of the largest of these, passing through the garden, then well cared-for, came one sunny Sunday morning, some fifteen years before the commencement proper of this story, one Solomon Appleyard, pushing in front of him a perambulator. At the brick wall surmounted by wooden railings that divides the garden from the court, Solomon paused, hearing behind him the voice of Mrs. Appleyard speaking from the doorstep.
“If I don't see you again until dinner-time, I'll try and get on without you, understand. Don't think of nothing but your pipe and forget the child. And be careful of the crossings.”
Mrs. Appleyard retired into the darkness. Solomon, steering the perambulator carefully, emerged from Nevill's Court without accident. The quiet streets drew Solomon westward. A vacant seat beneath the shade overlooking the Long Water in Kensington Gardens invited to rest.
“Piper?” suggested a small boy to Solomon. “Sunday Times, 'Server?”
“My boy,” said Mr. Appleyard, speaking slowly, “when you've been mewed up with newspapers eighteen hours a day for six days a week, you can do without 'em for a morning. Take 'em away. I want to forget the smell of 'em.”
Solomon, having assured himself that the party in the perambulator was still breathing, crossed his legs and lit his pipe.
The exclamation had been wrung from Solomon Appleyard by the approach of a stout, short man clad in a remarkably ill-fitting broad-cloth suit.
“What, Sol, my boy?”
“It looked like you,” said Solomon. “And then I said to myself: 'No; surely it can't be Hezekiah; he'll be at chapel.'”
“You run about,” said Hezekiah, addressing a youth of some four summers he had been leading by the hand. “Don't you go out of my sight; and whatever you do, don't you do injury to those new clothes of yours, or you'll wish you'd never been put into them. The truth is,” continued Hezekiah to his friend, his sole surviving son and heir being out of earshot, “the morning tempted me. 'Tain't often I get a bit of fresh air.”
“The business,” replied Hezekiah, “is going up by leaps and bounds—leaps and bounds. But, of course, all that means harder work for me. It's from six in the morning till twelve o'clock at night.”
“There's nothing I know of,” returned Solomon, who was something of a pessimist, “that's given away free gratis for nothing except misfortune.”
“Keeping yourself up to the mark ain't too easy,” continued Hezekiah; “and when it comes to other folks! play's all they think of. Talk religion to them—why, they laugh at you! What the world's coming to, I don't know. How's the printing business doing?”
“The printing business,” responded the other, removing his pipe and speaking somewhat sadly, “the printing business looks like being a big thing. Capital, of course, is what hampers me—or, rather, the want of it. But Janet, she's careful; she don't waste much, Janet don't.”
“Now, with Anne,” replied Hezekiah, “it's all the other way—pleasure, gaiety, a day at Rosherville or the Crystal Palace—anything to waste money.”
“Ah! she was always fond of her bit of fun,” remembered Solomon.
“Fun!” retorted Hezekiah. “I like a bit of fun myself. But not if you've got to pay for it. Where's the fun in that?”
“What I ask myself sometimes,” said Solomon, looking straight in front of him, “is what do we do it for?”
“What do we do what for?”
“Work like blessed slaves, depriving ourselves of all enjoyments. What's the sense of it? What——”
A voice from the perambulator beside him broke the thread of Solomon Appleyard's discourse. The sole surviving son of Hezekiah Grindley, seeking distraction and finding none, had crept back unperceived. A perambulator! A thing his experience told him out of which excitement in some form or another could generally be obtained. You worried it and took your chance. Either it howled, in which case you had to run for your life, followed—and, unfortunately, overtaken nine times out of ten—by a whirlwind of vengeance; or it gurgled, in which case the heavens smiled and halos descended on your head. In either event you escaped the deadly ennui that is the result of continuous virtue. Master Grindley, his star having pointed out to him a peacock's feather lying on the ground, had, with one eye upon his unobservant parent, removed the complicated coverings sheltering Miss Helvetia Appleyard from the world, and anticipating by a quarter of a century the prime enjoyment of British youth, had set to work to tickle that lady on the nose. Miss Helvetia Appleyard awakened, did precisely what the tickled British maiden of to-day may be relied upon to do under corresponding circumstances: she first of all took swift and comprehensive survey of the male thing behind the feather. Had he been displeasing in her eyes, she would, one may rely upon it, have anteceded the behaviour in similar case of her descendant of to-day—that is to say, have expressed resentment in no uncertain terms. Master Nathaniel Grindley proving, however, to her taste, that which might have been considered impertinence became accepted as a fit and proper form of introduction. Miss Appleyard smiled graciously—nay, further, intimated desire for more.
“That your only one?” asked the paternal Grindley.
“She's the only one,” replied Solomon, speaking in tones less pessimistic.
Miss Appleyard had with the help of Grindley junior wriggled herself into a sitting posture. Grindley junior continued his attentions, the lady indicating by signs the various points at which she was most susceptible.
“Pretty picture they make together, eh?” suggested Hezekiah in a whisper to his friend.
“Never saw her take to anyone like that before,” returned Solomon, likewise in a whisper.
A neighbouring church clock chimed twelve. Solomon Appleyard, knocking the ashes from his pipe, arose.
“Don't know any reason myself why we shouldn't see a little more of one another than we do,” suggested Grindley senior, shaking hands.
“Give us a look-up one Sunday afternoon,” suggested Solomon. “Bring the youngster with you.”
Solomon Appleyard and Hezekiah Grindley had started life within a few months of one another some five-and-thirty years before. Likewise within a few hundred yards of one another, Solomon at his father's bookselling and printing establishment on the east side of the High Street of a small Yorkshire town; Hezekiah at his father's grocery shop upon the west side, opposite. Both had married farmers' daughters. Solomon's natural bent towards gaiety Fate had corrected by directing his affections to a partner instinct with Yorkshire shrewdness; and with shrewdness go other qualities that make for success rather than for happiness. Hezekiah, had circumstances been equal, might have been his friend's rival for Janet's capable and saving hand, had not sweet-tempered, laughing Annie Glossop—directed by Providence to her moral welfare, one must presume—fallen in love with him. Between Jane's virtues and Annie's three hundred golden sovereigns Hezekiah had not hesitated a moment. Golden sovereigns were solid facts; wifely virtues, by a serious-minded and strong-willed husband, could be instilled—at all events, light-heartedness suppressed. The two men, Hezekiah urged by his own ambition, Solomon by his wife's, had arrived in London within a year of one another: Hezekiah to open a grocer's shop in Kensington, which those who should have known assured him was a hopeless neighbourhood; but Hezekiah had the instinct of a money-maker. Solomon, after looking about him, had fixed upon the roomy, substantial house in Nevill's Court as a promising foundation for a printer's business. That was ten years ago. The two friends, scorning delights, living laborious days, had seen but little of one another. Light-hearted Annie had borne to her dour partner two children who had died. Nathaniel George, with the luck supposed to wait on number three, had lived on, and, inheriting fortunately the temperament of his mother, had brought sunshine into the gloomy rooms above the shop in High Street, Kensington. Mrs. Grindley, grown weak and fretful, had rested from her labours.
Mrs. Appleyard's guardian angel, prudent like his protégé, had waited till Solomon's business was well established before despatching the stork to Nevill's Court, with a little girl. Later he had sent another, who, not finding the close air of St. Dunstan to his liking, had found his way back again; thus passing out of this story and all others. And there remained to carry on the legend of the Grindleys and the Appleyards only Nathaniel George, now aged five, and Janet Helvetia, quite a beginner, who took life seriously.
There are no such things as facts. Narrow-minded folk—surveyors, auctioneers, and such like—would have insisted that the garden between the old Georgian house and Nevill's Court was a strip of land one hundred and eighteen feet by ninety-two, containing a laburnum tree, six laurel bushes, and a dwarf deodora. To Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia it was the land of Thule, “the furthest boundaries of which no man has reached.” On rainy Sunday afternoons they played in the great, gloomy pressroom, where silent ogres, standing motionless, stretched out iron arms to seize them as they ran. Then just when Nathaniel George was eight, and Janet Helvetia four and a half, Hezekiah launched the celebrated “Grindley's Sauce.” It added a relish to chops and steaks, transformed cold mutton into a luxury, and swelled the head of Hezekiah Grindley—which was big enough in all conscience as it was—and shrivelled up his little hard heart. The Grindleys and the Appleyards visited no more. As a sensible fellow ought to have seen for himself, so thought Hezekiah, the Sauce had altered all things. The possibility of a marriage between their children, things having remained equal, might have been a pretty fancy; but the son of the great Grindley, whose name in three-foot letters faced the world from every hoarding, would have to look higher than a printer's daughter. Solomon, a sudden and vehement convert to the principles of mediæval feudalism, would rather see his only child, granddaughter of the author of “The History of Kettlewell” and other works, dead and buried than married to a grocer's son, even though he might inherit a fortune made out of poisoning the public with a mixture of mustard and sour beer. It was many years before Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia met one another again, and when they did they had forgotten one another.
Hezekiah S. Grindley, a short, stout, and pompous gentleman, sat under a palm in the gorgeously furnished drawing-room of his big house at Notting Hill. Mrs. Grindley, a thin, faded woman, the despair of her dressmaker, sat as near to the fire as its massive and imposing copper outworks would permit, and shivered. Grindley junior, a fair-haired, well-shaped youth, with eyes that the other sex found attractive, leant with his hands in his pockets against a scrupulously robed statue of Diana, and appeared uncomfortable.
“I'm making the money—making it hand over fist. All you'll have to do will be to spend it,” Grindley senior was explaining to his son and heir.
“I'll do that all right, dad.”
“I'm not so sure of it,” was his father's opinion. “You've got to prove yourself worthy to spend it. Don't you think I shall be content to have slaved all these years merely to provide a brainless young idiot with the means of self-indulgence. I leave my money to somebody worthy of me. Understand, sir?—somebody worthy of me.”
Mrs. Grindley commenced a sentence; Mr. Grindley turned his small eyes upon her. The sentence remained unfinished.
“You were about to say something,” her husband reminded her.
Mrs. Grindley said it was nothing.
“If it is anything worth hearing—if it is anything that will assist the discussion, let's have it.” Mr. Grindley waited. “If not, if you yourself do not consider it worth finishing, why have begun it?”
Mr. Grindley returned to his son and heir. “You haven't done too well at school—in fact, your school career has disappointed me.”
“I know I'm not clever,” Grindley junior offered as an excuse.
“Why not? Why aren't you clever?”
His son and heir was unable to explain.
“You are my son—why aren't you clever? It's laziness, sir; sheer laziness!”
“I'll try and do better at Oxford, sir—honour bright I will!”
“You had better,” advised him his father; “because I warn you, your whole future depends upon it. You know me. You've got to be a credit to me, to be worthy of the name of Grindley—or the name, my boy, is all you'll have.”
Old Grindley meant it, and his son knew that he meant it. The old Puritan principles and instincts were strong in the old gentleman—formed, perhaps, the better part of him. Idleness was an abomination to him; devotion to pleasure, other than the pleasure of money-making, a grievous sin in his eyes. Grindley junior fully intended to do well at Oxford, and might have succeeded. In accusing himself of lack of cleverness, he did himself an injustice. He had brains, he had energy, he had character. Our virtues can be our stumbling-blocks as well as our vices. Young Grindley had one admirable virtue that needs, above all others, careful controlling: he was amiability itself. Before the charm and sweetness of it, Oxford snobbishness went down. The Sauce, against the earnest counsel of its own advertisement, was forgotten; the pickles passed by. To escape the natural result of his popularity would have needed a stronger will than young Grindley possessed. For a time the true state of affairs was hidden from the eye of Grindley senior. To “slack” it this term, with the full determination of “swotting” it the next, is always easy; the difficulty beginning only with the new term. Possibly with luck young Grindley might have retrieved his position and covered up the traces of his folly, but for an unfortunate accident. Returning to college with some other choice spirits at two o'clock in the morning, it occurred to young Grindley that trouble might be saved all round by cutting out a pane of glass with a diamond ring and entering his rooms, which were on the ground-floor, by the window. That, in mistake for his own, he should have selected the bedroom of the College Rector was a misfortune that might have occurred to anyone who had commenced the evening on champagne and finished it on whisky. Young Grindley, having been warned already twice before, was “sent down.” And then, of course, the whole history of the three wasted years came out. Old Grindley in his study chair having talked for half an hour at the top of his voice, chose, partly by reason of physical necessity, partly by reason of dormant dramatic instinct, to speak quietly and slowly.
“I'll give you one chance more, my boy, and one only. I've tried you as a gentleman—perhaps that was my mistake. Now I'll try you as a grocer.”
“As a what?”
“As a grocer, sir—g-r-o-c-e-r—grocer, a man who stands behind a counter in a white apron and his shirt-sleeves; who sells tea and sugar and candied peel and such-like things to customers—old ladies, little girls; who rises at six in the morning, takes down the shutters, sweeps out the shop, cleans the windows; who has half an hour for his dinner of corned beef and bread; who puts up the shutters at ten o'clock at night, tidies up the shop, has his supper, and goes to bed, feeling his day has not been wasted. I meant to spare you. I was wrong. You shall go through the mill as I went through it. If at the end of two years you've done well with your time, learned something—learned to be a man, at all events—you can come to me and thank me.”
“I'm afraid, sir,” suggested Grindley junior, whose handsome face during the last few minutes had grown very white, “I might not make a very satisfactory grocer. You see, sir, I've had no experience.”
“I am glad you have some sense,” returned his father drily. “You are quite right. Even a grocer's business requires learning. It will cost me a little money; but it will be the last I shall ever spend upon you. For the first year you will have to be apprenticed, and I shall allow you something to live on. It shall be more than I had at your age—we'll say a pound a week. After that I shall expect you to keep yourself.”
Grindley senior rose. “You need not give me your answer till the evening. You are of age. I have no control over you unless you are willing to agree. You can go my way, or you can go your own.”
Young Grindley, who had inherited a good deal of his father's grit, felt very much inclined to go his own; but, hampered on the other hand by the sweetness of disposition he had inherited from his mother, was unable to withstand the argument of that lady's tears, so that evening accepted old Grindley's terms, asking only as a favour that the scene of his probation might be in some out-of-the-way neighbourhood where there would be little chance of his being met by old friends.
“I have thought of all that,” answered his father. “My object isn't to humiliate you more than is necessary for your good. The shop I have already selected, on the assumption that you would submit, is as quiet and out-of-the-way as you could wish. It is in a turning off Fetter Lane, where you'll see few other people than printers and caretakers. You'll lodge with a woman, a Mrs. Postwhistle, who seems a very sensible person. She'll board you and lodge you, and every Saturday you'll receive a post-office order for six shillings, out of which you'll find yourself in clothes. You can take with you sufficient to last you for the first six months, but no more. At the end of the year you can change if you like and go to another shop, or make your own arrangements with Mrs. Postwhistle. If all is settled, you go there to-morrow. You go out of this house to-morrow in any event.”
Mrs. Postwhistle was a large, placid lady of philosophic temperament. Hitherto the little grocer's shop in Rolls Court, Fetter Lane, had been easy of management by her own unaided efforts; but the neighbourhood was rapidly changing. Other grocers' shops were disappearing one by one, making way for huge blocks of buildings, where hundreds of iron presses, singing day and night, spread to the earth the song of the Mighty Pen. There were hours when the little shop could hardly accommodate its crowd of customers. Mrs. Postwhistle, of a bulk not to be moved quickly, had, after mature consideration, conquering a natural disinclination to change, decided to seek assistance.
Young Grindley, alighting from a four-wheeled cab in Fetter Lane, marched up the court, followed by a weak-kneed wastrel staggering under the weight of a small box. In the doorway of the little shop, young Grindley paused and raised his hat.
The lady, from her chair behind the counter, rose slowly.
“I am Mr. Nathaniel Grindley, the new assistant.”
The weak-kneed wastrel let fall the box with a thud upon the floor. Mrs. Postwhistle looked her new assistant up and down.
“Oh!” said Mrs. Postwhistle. “Well, I shouldn't 'ave felt instinctively it must be you, not if I'd 'ad to pick you out of a crowd. But if you tell me so, why, I suppose you are. Come in.”
The weak-kneed wastrel, receiving to his astonishment a shilling, departed.
Grindley senior had selected wisely. Mrs. Postwhistle's theory was that although very few people in this world understood their own business, they understood it better than anyone else could understand it for them. If handsome, well-educated young gentlemen, who gave shillings to wastrels, felt they wanted to become smart and capable grocers' assistants, that was their affair. Her business was to teach them their work, and, for her own sake, to see that they did it. A month went by. Mrs. Postwhistle found her new assistant hard-working, willing, somewhat clumsy, but with a smile and a laugh that transformed mistakes, for which another would have been soundly rated, into welcome variations of the day's monotony.
“If you were the sort of woman that cared to make your fortune,” said one William Clodd, an old friend of Mrs. Postwhistle's, young Grindley having descended into the cellar to grind coffee, “I'd tell you what to do. Take a bun-shop somewhere in the neighbourhood of a girls' school, and put that assistant of yours in the window. You'd do a roaring business.”
“There's a mystery about 'im,” said Mrs. Postwhistle.
“Know what it is?”
“If I knew what it was, I shouldn't be calling it a mystery,” replied Mrs. Postwhistle, who was a stylist in her way.
“How did you get him? Win him in a raffle?”
“Jones, the agent, sent 'im to me all in a 'urry. An assistant is what I really wanted, not an apprentice; but the premium was good, and the references everything one could desire.”
“Grindley, Grindley,” murmured Clodd. “Any relation to the Sauce, I wonder?”
“A bit more wholesome, I should say, from the look of him,” thought Mrs. Postwhistle.
The question of a post-office to meet its growing need had long been under discussion by the neighbourhood. Mrs. Postwhistle was approached upon the subject. Grindley junior, eager for anything that might bring variety into his new, cramped existence, undertook to qualify himself. Within two months the arrangements were complete. Grindley junior divided his time between dispensing groceries and despatching telegrams and letters, and was grateful for the change.
Grindley junior's mind was fixed upon the fashioning of a cornucopia to receive a quarter of a pound of moist. The customer, an extremely young lady, was seeking to hasten his operations by tapping incessantly with a penny on the counter. It did not hurry him; it only worried him. Grindley junior had not acquired facility in the fashioning of cornucopias—the vertex would invariably become unrolled at the last moment, allowing the contents to dribble out on to the floor or counter. Grindley junior was sweet-tempered as a rule, but when engaged upon the fashioning of a cornucopia, was irritable.
“Hurry up, old man!” urged the extremely young lady. “I've got another appointment in less than half an hour.”
“Oh, damn the thing!” said Grindley junior, as the paper for the fourth time reverted to its original shape.
An older lady, standing behind the extremely young lady and holding a telegram-form in her hand, looked indignant.
“Temper, temper,” remarked the extremely young lady in reproving tone.
The fifth time was more successful. The extremely young lady went out, commenting upon the waste of time always resulting when boys were employed to do the work of men. The older lady, a haughty person, handed across her telegram with the request that it should be sent off at once.
Grindley junior took his pencil from his pocket and commenced to count.
“Digniori, not digniorus,” commented Grindley junior, correcting the word, “datur digniori, dative singular.” Grindley junior, still irritable from the struggle with the cornucopia, spoke sharply.
The haughty lady withdrew her eyes from a spot some ten miles beyond the back of the shop, where hitherto they had been resting, and fixed them for the first time upon Grindley junior.
“Thank you,” said the haughty lady.
Grindley junior looked up and immediately, to his annoyance, felt that he was blushing. Grindley junior blushed easily—it annoyed him very much.
The haughty young lady also blushed. She did not often blush; when she did, she felt angry with herself.
“A shilling and a penny,” demanded Grindley junior.
The haughty young lady counted out the money and departed. Grindley junior, peeping from behind a tin of Abernethy biscuits, noticed that as she passed the window she turned and looked back. She was a very pretty, haughty lady. Grindley junior rather admired dark, level brows and finely cut, tremulous lips, especially when combined with a mass of soft, brown hair, and a rich olive complexion that flushed and paled as one looked at it.
“Might send that telegram off if you've nothing else to do, and there's no particular reason for keeping it back,” suggested Mrs. Postwhistle.
“It's only just been handed in,” explained Grindley junior, somewhat hurt.
“You've been looking at it for the last five minutes by the clock,” said Mrs. Postwhistle.
Grindley junior sat down to the machine. The name and address of the sender was Helvetia Appleyard, Nevill's Court.
Three days passed—singularly empty days they appeared to Grindley junior. On the fourth, Helvetia Appleyard had occasion to despatch another telegram—this time entirely in English.
“One and fourpence,” sighed Grindley junior.
Miss Appleyard drew forth her purse. The shop was empty.
“How did you come to know Latin?” inquired Miss Appleyard in quite a casual tone.
“I picked up a little at school. It was a phrase I happened to remember,” confessed Grindley junior, wondering why he should be feeling ashamed of himself.
“I am always sorry,” said Miss Appleyard, “when I see anyone content with the lower life whose talents might, perhaps, fit him for the higher.” Something about the tone and manner of Miss Appleyard reminded Grindley junior of his former Rector. Each seemed to have arrived by different roads at the same philosophical aloofness from the world, tempered by chastened interest in human phenomena. “Would you like to try to raise yourself—to improve yourself—to educate yourself?”
An unseen little rogue, who was enjoying himself immensely, whispered to Grindley junior to say nothing but “Yes,” he should.
“Will you let me help you?” asked Miss Appleyard. And the simple and heartfelt gratitude with which Grindley junior closed upon the offer proved to Miss Appleyard how true it is that to do good to others is the highest joy.
Miss Appleyard had come prepared for possible acceptance. “You had better begin with this,” thought Miss Appleyard. “I have marked the passages that you should learn by heart. Make a note of anything you do not understand, and I will explain it to you when—when next I happen to be passing.”
Grindley junior took the book—“Bell's Introduction to the Study of the Classics, for Use of Beginners”—and held it between both hands. Its price was ninepence, but Grindley junior appeared to regard it as a volume of great value.
“It will be hard work at first,” Miss Appleyard warned him; “but you must persevere. I have taken an interest in you; you must try not to disappoint me.”
And Miss Appleyard, feeling all the sensations of a Hypatia, departed, taking light with her and forgetting to pay for the telegram. Miss Appleyard belonged to the class that young ladies who pride themselves on being tiresomely ignorant and foolish sneer at as “blue-stockings”; that is to say, possessing brains, she had felt the necessity of using them. Solomon Appleyard, widower, a sensible old gentleman, prospering in the printing business, and seeing no necessity for a woman regarding herself as nothing but a doll, a somewhat uninteresting plaything the newness once worn off, thankfully encouraged her. Miss Appleyard had returned from Girton wise in many things, but not in knowledge of the world, which knowledge, too early acquired, does not always make for good in young man or woman. A serious little virgin, Miss Appleyard's ambition was to help the human race. What more useful work could have come to her hand than the raising of this poor but intelligent young grocer's assistant unto the knowledge and the love of higher things. That Grindley junior happened to be an exceedingly good-looking and charming young grocer's assistant had nothing to do with the matter, so Miss Appleyard would have informed you. In her own reasoning she was convinced that her interest in him would have been the same had he been the least attractive of his sex. That there could be danger in such relationship never occurred to her. Miss Appleyard, a convinced Radical, could not conceive the possibility of a grocer's assistant regarding the daughter of a well-to-do printer in any other light than that of a graciously condescending patron. That there could be danger to herself—you would have been sorry you had suggested the idea. The expression of lofty scorn would have made you feel yourself contemptible.
Miss Appleyard's judgment of mankind was justified; no more promising pupil could have been selected. It was really marvellous the progress made by Grindley junior, under the tutelage of Helvetia Appleyard. His earnestness, his enthusiasm, it quite touched the heart of Helvetia Appleyard. There were many points, it is true, that puzzled Grindley junior. Each time the list of them grew longer. But when Helvetia Appleyard explained them, all became clear. She marvelled herself at her own wisdom, that in a moment made darkness luminous to this young man; his rapt attention while she talked, it was most encouraging. The boy must surely be a genius. To think that but for her intuition he might have remained wasted in a grocer's shop! To rescue such a gem from oblivion, to polish it, was surely the duty of a conscientious Hypatia. Two visits—three visits a week to the little shop in Rolls Court were quite inadequate, so many passages there were requiring elucidation. London in early morning became their classroom: the great, wide, empty, silent streets; the mist-curtained parks, the silence broken only by the blackbirds' amorous whistle, the thrushes' invitation to delight; the old gardens, hidden behind narrow ways. Nathaniel George and Janet Helvetia would rest upon a seat, no living creature within sight, save perhaps a passing policeman or some dissipated cat. Janet Helvetia would expound. Nathaniel George, his fine eyes fixed on hers, seemed never to tire of drinking in her wisdom.
There were times when Janet Helvetia, to reassure herself as to the maidenly correctness of her behaviour, had to recall quite forcibly the fact that she was the daughter of Solomon Appleyard, owner of the big printing establishment; and he a simple grocer. One day, raised a little in the social scale, thanks to her, Nathaniel George would marry someone in his own rank of life. Reflecting upon the future of Nathaniel George, Janet Helvetia could not escape a shade of sadness. It was difficult to imagine precisely the wife she would have chosen for Nathaniel George. She hoped he would do nothing foolish. Rising young men so often marry wives that hamper rather than help them.
One Sunday morning in late autumn, they walked and talked in the shady garden of Lincoln's Inn. Greek they thought it was they had been talking; as a matter of fact, a much older language. A young gardener was watering flowers, and as they passed him he grinned. It was not an offensive grin, rather a sympathetic grin; but Miss Appleyard didn't like being grinned at. What was there to grin at? Her personal appearance? some gaucherie in her dress? Impossible. No lady in all St. Dunstan was ever more precise. She glanced at her companion: a clean-looking, well-groomed, well-dressed youth. Suddenly it occurred to Miss Appleyard that she and Grindley junior were holding each other's hand. Miss Appleyard was justly indignant.
“How dare you!” said Miss Appleyard. “I am exceedingly angry with you. How dare you!”
The olive skin was scarlet. There were tears in the hazel eyes.
“Leave me this minute!” commanded Miss Appleyard.
Instead of which, Grindley junior seized both her hands.
“I love you! I adore you! I worship you!” poured forth young Grindley, forgetful of all Miss Appleyard had ever told him concerning the folly of tautology.
“You had no right,” said Miss Appleyard.
“I couldn't help it,” pleaded young Grindley. “And that isn't the worst.”
Miss Appleyard paled visibly. For a grocer's assistant to dare to fall in love with her, especially after all the trouble she had taken with him! What could be worse?
“I'm not a grocer,” continued young Grindley, deeply conscious of crime. “I mean, not a real grocer.”
And Grindley junior then and there made a clean breast of the whole sad, terrible tale of shameless deceit, practised by the greatest villain the world had ever produced, upon the noblest and most beautiful maiden that ever turned grim London town into a fairy city of enchanted ways.
Not at first could Miss Appleyard entirely grasp it; not till hours later, when she sat alone in her own room, where, fortunately for himself, Grindley junior was not, did the whole force and meaning of the thing come home to her. It was a large room, taking up half of the top story of the big Georgian house in Nevill's Court; but even as it was, Miss Appleyard felt cramped.
“For a year—for nearly a whole year,” said Miss Appleyard, addressing the bust of William Shakespeare, “have I been slaving my life out, teaching him elementary Latin and the first five books of Euclid!”
As it has been remarked, it was fortunate for Grindley junior he was out of reach. The bust of William Shakespeare maintained its irritating aspect of benign philosophy.
“I suppose I should,” mused Miss Appleyard, “if he had told me at first—as he ought to have told me—of course I should naturally have had nothing more to do with him. I suppose,” mused Miss Appleyard, “a man in love, if he is really in love, doesn't quite know what he's doing. I suppose one ought to make allowances. But, oh! when I think of it——”
And then Grindley junior's guardian angel must surely have slipped into the room, for Miss Appleyard, irritated beyond endurance at the philosophical indifference of the bust of William Shakespeare, turned away from it, and as she did so, caught sight of herself in the looking-glass. Miss Appleyard approached the glass a little nearer. A woman's hair is never quite as it should be. Miss Appleyard, standing before the glass, began, she knew not why, to find reasons excusing Grindley junior. After all, was not forgiveness an excellent thing in woman? None of us are quite perfect. The guardian angel of Grindley junior seized the opportunity.
That evening Solomon Appleyard sat upright in his chair, feeling confused. So far as he could understand it, a certain young man, a grocer's assistant, but not a grocer's assistant—but that, of course, was not his fault, his father being an old brute—had behaved most abominably; but not, on reflection, as badly as he might have done, and had acted on the whole very honourably, taking into consideration the fact that one supposed he could hardly help it. Helvetia was, of course, very indignant with him, but on the other hand, did not quite see what else she could have done, she being not at all sure whether she really cared for him or whether she didn't; that everything had been quite proper and would not have happened if she had known it; that everything was her fault, except most things, which weren't; but that of the two she blamed herself entirely, seeing that she could not have guessed anything of the kind. And did he, Solomon Appleyard, think that she ought to be very angry and never marry anybody else, or was she justified in overlooking it and engaging herself to the only man she felt she could ever love?
“You mustn't think, Dad, that I meant to deceive you. I should have told you at the beginning—you know I would—if it hadn't all happened so suddenly.”
“Let me see,” said Solomon Appleyard, “did you tell me his name, or didn't you?”
“Nathaniel,” said Miss Appleyard. “Didn't I mention it?”
“Don't happen to know his surname, do you,” inquired her father.
“Grindley,” explained Miss Appleyard—“the son of Grindley, the Sauce man.”
Miss Appleyard experienced one of the surprises of her life. Never before to her recollection had her father thwarted a single wish of her life. A widower for the last twelve years, his chief delight had been to humour her. His voice, as he passionately swore that never with his consent should his daughter marry the son of Hezekiah Grindley, sounded strange to her. Pleadings, even tears, for the first time in her life proved fruitless.
Here was a pretty kettle of fish! That Grindley junior should defy his own parent, risk possibly the loss of his inheritance, had seemed to both a not improper proceeding. When Nathaniel George had said with fine enthusiasm: “Let him keep his money if he will; I'll make my own way; there isn't enough money in the world to pay for losing you!” Janet Helvetia, though she had expressed disapproval of such unfilial attitude, had in secret sympathised. But for her to disregard the wishes of her own doting father was not to be thought of. What was to be done?
Perhaps one Peter Hope, residing in Gough Square hard by, might help young folks in sore dilemma with wise counsel. Peter Hope, editor and part-proprietor of Good Humour, one penny weekly, was much esteemed by Solomon Appleyard, printer and publisher of aforesaid paper.
“A good fellow, old Hope,” Solomon would often impress upon his managing clerk. “Don't worry him more than you can help; things will improve. We can trust him.”
Peter Hope sat at his desk, facing Miss Appleyard. Grindley junior sat on the cushioned seat beneath the middle window. Good Humour's sub-editor stood before the fire, her hands behind her back.
The case appeared to Peter Hope to be one of exceeding difficulty.
“Of course,” explained Miss Appleyard, “I shall never marry without my father's consent.”
Peter Hope thought the resolution most proper.
“On the other hand,” continued Miss Appleyard, “nothing shall induce me to marry a man I do not love.” Miss Appleyard thought the probabilities were that she would end by becoming a female missionary.
Peter Hope's experience had led him to the conclusion that young people sometimes changed their mind.
The opinion of the House, clearly though silently expressed, was that Peter Hope's experience, as regarded this particular case, counted for nothing.
“I shall go straight to the Governor,” explained Grindley junior, “and tell him that I consider myself engaged for life to Miss Appleyard. I know what will happen—I know the sort of idea he has got into his head. He will disown me, and I shall go off to Africa.”
Peter Hope was unable to see how Grindley junior's disappearance into the wilds of Africa was going to assist the matter under discussion.
Grindley junior's view was that the wilds of Africa would afford a fitting background to the passing away of a blighted existence.
Peter Hope had a suspicion that Grindley junior had for the moment parted company with that sweet reasonableness that otherwise, so Peter Hope felt sure, was Grindley junior's guiding star.
“I mean it, sir,” reasserted Grindley junior. “I am——” Grindley junior was about to add “well educated”; but divining that education was a topic not pleasing at the moment to the ears of Helvetia Appleyard, had tact enough to substitute “—not a fool. I can earn my own living; and I should like to get away.”
“It seems to me——” said the sub-editor.
“Now, Tommy—I mean Jane,” warned her Peter Hope. He always called her Jane in company, unless he was excited. “I know what you are going to say. I won't have it.”
“I was only going to say——” urged the sub-editor in tone of one suffering injustice.
“I quite know what you were going to say,” retorted Peter hotly. “I can see it by your chin. You are going to take their part—and suggest their acting undutifully towards their parents.”
“I wasn't,” returned the sub-editor. “I was only——”
“You were,” persisted Peter. “I ought not to have allowed you to be present. I might have known you would interfere.”
“—going to say we are in want of some help in the office. You know we are. And that if Mr. Grindley would be content with a small salary——”
“Small salary be hanged!” snarled Peter.
“—there would be no need for his going to Africa.”
“And how would that help us?” demanded Peter. “Even if the boy were so—so headstrong, so unfilial as to defy his father, who has worked for him all these years, how would that remove the obstacle of Mr. Appleyard's refusal?”
“Why, don't you see——” explained the sub-editor.
“No, I don't,” snapped Peter.
“If, on his declaring to his father that nothing will ever induce him to marry any other woman but Miss Appleyard, his father disowns him, as he thinks it likely——”
“A dead cert!” was Grindley junior's conviction.
“Very well; he is no longer old Grindley's son, and what possible objection can Mr. Appleyard have to him then?”
Peter Hope arose and expounded at length and in suitable language the folly and uselessness of the scheme. But what chance had ever the wisdom of Age against the enthusiasm of Youth, reaching for its object. Poor Peter, expostulating, was swept into the conspiracy. Grindley junior the next morning stood before his father in the private office in High Holborn.
“I am sorry, sir,” said Grindley junior, “if I have proved a disappointment to you.”
“Hang your sympathy!” said Grindley senior. “Keep it till you are asked for it.”
“I hope we part friends, sir,” said Grindley junior, holding out his hand.
“Why do you hate me?” asked Grindley senior. “I have thought of nothing but you these five-and-twenty years.”
“I don't, sir,” answered Grindley junior. “I can't say I love you. It did not seem to me you—you wanted it. But I like you, sir, and I respect you. And—and I'm sorry to have to hurt you, sir.”
“And you are determined to give up all your prospects, all the money, for the sake of this—this girl?”
“It doesn't seem like giving up anything, sir,” replied Grindley junior, simply.
“It isn't so much as I thought it was going to be,” said the old man, after a pause. “Perhaps it is for the best. I might have been more obstinate if things had been going all right. The Lord has chastened me.”
“Isn't the business doing well, Dad?” asked the young man, with sorrow in his voice.
“What's it got to do with you?” snapped his father. “You've cut yourself adrift from it. You leave me now I am going down.”
Grindley junior, not knowing what to say, put his arms round the little old man.
And in this way Tommy's brilliant scheme fell through and came to naught. Instead, old Grindley visited once again the big house in Nevill's Court, and remained long closeted with old Solomon in the office on the second floor. It was late in the evening when Solomon opened the door and called upstairs to Janet Helvetia to come down.
“I used to know you long ago,” said Hezekiah Grindley, rising. “You were quite a little girl then.”
Later, the troublesome Sauce disappeared entirely, cut out by newer flavours. Grindley junior studied the printing business—eventually became the printer and publisher of Good Humour.