property in the town and I had ridden over to survey it. It comprised a little inn, which stood beside the green, untenanted.

I had looked at the straggling line of shops, of which I was the proud possessor, and now I sat on the rough bench beneath the oak trees, and meditated on my chance of finding a landlord for the inn. It seemed to me to wear a satisfied look of stagnation in the hot sunlight. The fat porch stood solidly in front, with its shuttered windows peeping drowsily on either side. It looked so placidly indifferent to any prospect of a tenant that it quite oppressed me.

An apathy, born of the warm soft Sussex air, fell on me. I sat and dreamed on comfortably. I was content to leave the little inn undisturbed. The sunlight fell through the green leaves, and made patches of gold and brown upon the trodden ground beneath my feet. The white road lay unblinkingly before me. A stray bee hummed somnolently in a cottage garden. It was so still, I could hear a clock ticking, quite plainly, in an adjoining house. Even the fowls scratched no longer in the roadway. They had vanished as mysteriously as the people.

And then, as I sat there, the bumpety-bumps of a hand-cart broke in on the silent air, and a sad little man came in sight along the High Street. He was pushing a lorry-like erection of gaily-pictured boards and printed placards, on which was announced, in startling letters:


The posters represented, severally, a red-haired enchantress, draining a wine-cup mockingly; and a gentleman of forbidding expression, who held a pistol to the head of his white-haired

and reproachful father. These harrowing pictures were accompanied by the information that Mr. Reginald Noble's Specially Selected London Company would appear for that night only in the Public Hall. Further placards exhorted the populace of Five Oaks to "Come early," and modestly reminded them that it was the "Chance of a lifetime." I watched The Whirlwind of Sin pursue its dejected progress down the silent street. The little man behind the cart plodded on patiently. He was a hot little man, and a tired little man and the perspiration rolled off his face as he pushed and panted. Every now and then he would cast a glance at the coldly hostile windows, so frankly indifferent to himself and his ridiculous pursuit. And then his eyes would seek again the flaming pictures on the tailend of the lorry.

He neared the end of the High Street. The green stretched before him. He paused a moment, and stood and gazed blankly at the deserted grass, and the more deserted houses, lying so far back from the road.

He blinked his eyes wearily, with a futile glance of reproach at the fierce sun, which beat down on his miserable little head. Then he picked up the horrible cart, and in a sort of helpless desperation, started round the green. As he did so, he caught sight of me!

For a second he stood, stupefied with the surprise of seeing an inhabitant. Then over his face came a beatific illumination which was more pathetic than his despair, and he approached me shyly. As he passed, he slackened his pace, and a new poster burst upon me.


A gentleman, with a lady hanging over his shoulder in a limp and uncomfortable position, was savagely stabbing another gentleman, both of them being poised on the extreme edge of a yawning chasm. The situation appeared fraught with danger to all

parties, and the nonchalance they displayed under the circumstances seemed to me most praiseworthy.

The little man cast a tentative glance at me as he went by, and I gazed with interest upon his bills, putting up my eye-glass to denote my serious attention. Hope shone in his mildly beaming eye. The little figure stiffened. The bumpety-bumps became quite jaunty. Then I heard him stop.

The three sides of the green lay be fore him-a hot Sahara to traverse before he could hope to win my appreciative gaze again. The bumpety-bumps suddenly began with increased vigor. He was lugging the lorry round.

In another minute, he strolled by carelessly-the other side of the cart now turned toward me. The meekly triumphant air he wore was too much for me. I bit my lip, but could not suppress a smile. Then I saw he was looking at me, in wonder, as to what I could find amusing in such a concatenation of depressing circumstances-and I, in my turn, wondered too that I had smiled at such helpless misery. The lorry bumped mournfully away into the distance, and the green was left to silence. But now the deadly stupor of the place oppressed me, and I rose with a vague idea of following the lorry.

I came across it half-way up the High Street, tilted against the kerbstone, opposite the hotel. As I neared it, I saw my little friend had vanished to seek comfort in the shadowy recesses of the bar. I lingered for a moment beside the deserted cart. School was now over, and the children were appearing in the street. Presently we attracted the attention of some redfaced little boys, who proceeded take up various posts of vantage round us. Then I became aware that I was receiving as much notice as the lorry. A pallid youth, for whom I had already conceived a definite aversion, was


pointing me out to his friends with derisive comments. From the ensuing conversation, I gathered that he had detected a most unflattering resemblance between me and the parricide on the poster. The likeness was immediately recognized as a speaking one by all his friends, and my position became embarassing. So particular, indeed, was the attention they proceeded to bestow on me, that I do not know to what lengths their righteous indignation would not have driven them, if they had not been diverted by the advent of a brisk young man. There was a vigorous decision in his bearing which betokened a personal interest in the lorry, and my impression was confirmed when he dived into the hotel and re-emerged with the little man, dejectedly apologetic.

The lorry trundled off-this time with the brisk young man behind, and my sad little friend trotting beside and I made my way into the hotel.

But the memory of the patient little figure remained with me to haunt me. I thought of Edmund Kean, and wondered if he had ever dragged a handcart in his strolling days. And as the afternoon waned into evening, and still I lingered in the town, I decided that I would stop all night and witness the performance.

The green had awakened into life when I started on my way to the hall where the strollers were performing. The windows sent out cheery streams of light across the shadowy grass, and men in shirtsleeves leant over the gates of the cottages, while their wives stood knitting by their side, or chatted to one another across the hedges. But no one seemed to be contemplating a visit to the performance, and my fears were realized when I stepped inside the hall.

A few children, amongst whom I recognized my pallid enemy of the afternoon, were scattered over the back

benches, with one or two pathetic elders, obviously "orders." The front seats stretched in an unbroken phalanx of shining Windsor chairs across the room. I paid two shillings to a meek little woman at the door, and sat down modestly at the extreme end of a


Presently a man in a seedy frockcoat entered and took his seat at the piano in a shamed and furtive fashion. For some unknown reason, I jumped to the conclusion that he had seen better days. Any illusions I had been disposed to entertain about him were, however, rapidly dispelled when he began to thump out a selection of popular songs, played with the vilest disregard of both time and tune. This hideous performance continued till a bell tinkled, when the pianist ended with a promptness that mollified me, and the curtain rose upon the play.

I cannot tell you very much about the story. I know that all the exciting events portrayed upon the posters happened "off," and The Whirlwind of Sin turned out a very small storm in a teacup indeed. I soon gave up all attempt at following the meanderings of the plot, and fell to wondering as to the real histories of the actors who played their parts so pitifully. As I watched them, I saw many little currents, both of tragedy and comedy, which interested me none the less because the actors therein were unconscious of an audience.

I saw that the sentimental little heroine was very much in love with the hero, for whom I soon conceived fervent hatred. He was far too much engrossed in his own perfections to respond to her devotion, and when she had occasion to appeal to the sympathy of the audience, he was visibly annoyed at their applause, and, indeed, quite resented it as a personal affront to his important self.

I was amused to watch the white

haired father-a hot, ungainly person, with a wide mouth and flapping limbs. He really enjoyed spouting his ridiculous speeches, for, on one or two occasions, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. It is true he was more remarkable for the goodness of his heart than for his manners, for I saw him pocket his napkin at the breakfast-table and afterwards use it as a handkerchief, while he had contracted an unnecessary habit-as it seemed to me of shaking hands with his butler when he came down in the morning.

But of all the actors, the one who worked the hardest, and appealed to me most, was my little friend.

He figured in the bill under several high-sounding titles, of which, I discovered afterwards, "Vivian FitzGerald" was his favorite stage-name. He entered first as a very hot and busy little gardener, and attracted me at once by the business-like method in which he rattled off his lines. There was a certain haste in his delivery, which suggested that he viewed this part as a sort of hors d'œuvre, which must be rapidly partaken of before he could begin the real business of the evening.

In the next scene, I discovered him in an excited crowd of villagers, where he figured as spokesman. He had now assumed a smock-frock and a painful air of liveliness. From sundry hiccoughs, and a tendency to repetition in his speech, I gathered that he was supposed to be in an advanced stage of intoxication.

I was prepared to see him as a policeman, and later as a breezy sailor, and even kept my gravity when he appeared among the sinful habitués of a West-End night club, clad in the most remarkable dress-suit it has ever been my privilege to witness, and whose waistcoat-cut like a V-shaped bodice -and coat, with its attenuated tails and plush revers, gave him an extraor

dinary resemblance to a decrepit spar


I listened to his statement, delivered in an apologetic and quavering voice, that he was "a devil for women and wine," and even heard him described as "the wickedest young rip in all the peerage" without flinching. It was the last act which was to prove my downfall! A certain desperado, by the name of Bloodstained Bill, had been mentioned several times in the course of the drama, but as, up to this point, he had modestly evaded the publicity of the footlights, I had regretfully been forced to the conclusion that he was one more of the disappointments which happened "off." Judge, therefore, of my delight when the curtain drew up on the hut of Bloodstained Bill himself, and the hero entered and proceeded to hammer on the door with prodigious energy, demanding audience of "That devil in human form-you-Bloodstained Bill!" My hopes were not disappointed when the door suddenly flew open, and the redoubtable Bill appeared, to justify his reputation, if only by the fierceness of his frown and the terrific shock of unkempt raven hair, which almost hid his face from view. He was swathed in a sweeping cloak of funereal hue, apparently in delicate compliment to his many victims, and, as he folded his arms and demanded in a sepulchral voice, "What wilt thou with me, caitiff?" I shared the thrill which ran through the enraptured audience.

It was not until the hero was fully embarked on his impassioned answer that I discovered who the gloomy outlaw was. But while the hero's outstretched hand invoked the aid of Heaven to strike down "this ruffian beyond human power," the outlaw's gaze wandered mildly to the audience, and unconsciously his fish-like mouth opened in a patient yawn. It was my

little friend.

The surprise was too much for me. Before I realized the enormity of my act, I had burst into an hysterical shout of laughter. The audience turned, as a man, to gaze at me. I saw the hero give one glance at the wretched little outlaw, and I realized that I had "guyed" the actor-manager's most effective scene. It did not need much imagination to see what was in store for the hapless Bloodstained Bill. The pathetic way in which he stormed and blustered, in vain attempt to save the situation, went to my heart. He seemed thankful when the hero smote him to the ground, and he could lie unnoticed -a miserable little heap in his dark corner.

As I rose to go, I wondered how I could have been so brutal. The checktaker was standing by the door. As I passed, I saw that she was crying. If Cain felt half the anguish I did then, I am sorry for him.

I stood for some minutes when I reached the road, wondering if I could atone in any way for the cruel thing of which I had been guilty. As I stood there, I saw my little friend emerge from the stage-door-oh, so timidly! He was accompanied by his wife, who was now crying audibly, and I saw them toil up an adjacent side-street and disappear into one of the furthest cottages.

I lingered in the silent street till my remorse grew into desperation, and suddenly I found myself making my way to the cottage which I had seen my poor little couple enter.

I knocked at the low door, and was admitted to my little friend. He was sitting at a table covered with a dirty cloth, on which were the remains of his poor supper. Before him was a penny ink-bottle, with some sheets of common writing-paper, while, propped against the loaf, was an old Stage.

He did not show any signs of anger or reproach when he saw me. If he

had, I should have felt better. Instead, he rose with mild resignation, as if he only wondered what new indignity I had come to offer him. And when he saw my eyes fixed on his pitiful meal -so meagre, so unappetizing-with its desolate rind of cheese and stale dry loaf, the color flushed into his face, and he pushed the open Stage across the table in a futile attempt to hide his wretched supper. As he did so, I saw that the paper was open at the page where the few situations are offered to, alas, so many! and I realized that my heartless merriment had cost this little mountebank his living. And in that dreadful moment an excuse for my visit came to me, and I blessed the fate which had made me owner of the sleepy little inn upon the green.

I am afraid I made my offer very clumsily. I know it was a long time before my meaning dawned on him. But when at last he realized that it was serious earnest, his gratitude was so heartfelt, his sad little face grew so tearfully radiant that I believe the tears were in my eyes too.

He insisted on calling down his wife to thank me, and I do not think there were two happier people in all Five Oaks when at last I left them. As I walked up to my hotel, I found myself smiling all the way at the thought of my little friend's amazement at my

Temple Bar.

offer. He had been at the tail-end of the company so long, he could not imagine a place where he would be at the head!

The moonlight was beautiful, and I walked on down the silent High Street to the green. Its old peace seemed to have descended on it, and it lay there in the warm stillness of the summer's night. The great trees spread their shadows protectingly over the little inn. I pictured my sad little friend standing in the porch. No-he would be sad no longer. He would look out jauntily upon the green, for he would stand within his own domain, and the villagers would come to him for the wares he sold-he would not have to hand them round for their approval. No longer would he pitifully grin and jibe to win stray pennies from a contemptuous crowd; he would sell his goods soberly and with dignity to those who wanted what he had to sell.

I stood upon the green. The soft warm air was very still and peaceful. The houses slumbered gently in the moonlight. The little town of Five Oaks lay all round me. Here was a village without pomps and vanities, whose people led humble, simple lives, and were necessary one to the other, and therefore content. I was glad there was a place here for my little friend! A. Constance Smedley.


To the Editor of the National Review. Sir,-My friend and former colleague, Dr. Dowden, has paid me the compliment of saying that in The Mystery of William Shakespeare I have written "an entertaining book"; and he has paid me the still higher compliment of

thinking I have written a book which requires to be confuted. Accordingly he has undertaken to "notice everything which a reasonable person can suppose to possess importance" in my chapter on Shakespeare as a man of science; and to prove that all which I

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