by Edna Lyall
'It is only through deep sympathy that a man can become a great
artist.'—Lewes's Life of Goethe.
'Sympathy is feeling related to an object, whilst sentiment is the
same feeling seeking itself alone.'—Arnold Toynbee.
'Nothing fills a child's mind like a large old mansion; better if
un- or partially occupied; peopled with the spirits of deceased
members of the county and Justices of the Quorum. Would I were
buried in the peopled solitude of one, with my feelings at seven
years old!'—From Letters of Charles Lamb.
To attempt a formal biography of Derrick Vaughan would be out of
the question, even though he and I have been more or less thrown
together since we were both in the nursery. But I have an odd sort
of wish to note down roughly just a few of my recollections of him,
and to show how his fortunes gradually developed, being perhaps
stimulated to make the attempt by certain irritating remarks which
one overhears now often enough at clubs or in drawing-rooms, or
indeed wherever one goes. "Derrick Vaughan," say these authorities
of the world of small-talk, with that delightful air of omniscience
which invariably characterises them, "why, he simply leapt into fame.
He is one of the favourites of fortune. Like Byron, he woke one
morning and found himself famous."
Now this sounds well enough, but it is a long way from the truth,
and I—Sydney Wharncliffe, of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-law—
desire, while the past few years are fresh in my mind, to write a
true version of my friend's career.
Everyone knows his face. Has it not appeared in 'Noted Men,' and—
gradually deteriorating according to the price of the paper and the
quality of the engraving—in many another illustrated journal? Yet
somehow these works of art don't satisfy me, and, as I write, I see
before me something very different from the latest photograph by
Messrs. Paul and Reynard.
I see a large-featured, broad-browed English face, a trifle heavy-
looking when in repose, yet a thorough, honest, manly face, with a
complexion neither dark nor fair, with brown hair and moustache, and
with light hazel eyes that look out on the world quietly enough. You
might talk to him for long in an ordinary way and never suspect that
he was a genius; but when you have him to yourself, when some
consciousness of sympathy rouses him, he all at once becomes a
different being. His quiet eyes kindle, his face becomes full of
life—you wonder that you ever thought it heavy or commonplace. Then
the world interrupts in some way, and, just as a hermit-crab draws
down its shell with a comically rapid movement, so Derrick suddenly
retires into himself.
Thus much for his outer man.
For the rest, there are of course the neat little accounts of his
birthplace, his parentage, his education, etc., etc., published with
the list of his works in due order, with the engravings in the
illustrated papers. But these tell us little of the real life of the
Carlyle, in one of his finest passages, says that 'A true
delineation of the smallest man and his scene of pilgrimage through
life is capable of interesting the greatest men; that all men are to
an unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a strange emblem of
every man's; and that human portraits faithfully drawn are of all
pictures the welcomest on human walls.' And though I don't profess
to give a portrait, but merely a sketch, I will endeavour to sketch
faithfully, and possibly in the future my work may fall into the
hands of some of those worthy people who imagine that my friend leapt
into fame at a bound, or of those comfortable mortals who seem to
think that a novel is turned out as easily as water from a tap.
There is, however, one thing I can never do:—I am quite unable to
put into words my friend's intensely strong feeling with regard to
the sacredness of his profession. It seemed to me not unlike the
feeling of Isaiah when, in the vision, his mouth had been touched
with the celestial fire. And I can only hope that something of this
may be read between my very inadequate lines.
Looking back, I fancy Derrick must have been a clever child. But
he was not precocious, and in some respects was even decidedly
backward. I can see him now—it is my first clear recollection of
him—leaning back in the corner of my father's carriage as we drove
from the Newmarket station to our summer home at Mondisfield. He and
I were small boys of eight, and Derrick had been invited for the
holidays, while his twin brother—if I remember right—indulged in
typhoid fever at Kensington. He was shy and silent, and the ice was
not broken until we passed Silvery Steeple.
"That," said my father, "is a ruined church; it was destroyed by
Cromwell in the Civil Wars."
In an instant the small quiet boy sitting beside me was
transformed. His eyes shone; he sprang forward and thrust his head far
out of the window, gazing at the old ivy-covered tower as long as it
remained in sight.
"Was Cromwell really once there?" he asked with breathless
"So they say," replied my father, looking with an amused smile at
the face of the questioner, in which eagerness, delight, and
reverence were mingled. "Are you an admirer of the Lord Protector?"
"He is my greatest hero of all," said Derrick fervently. "Do you
think—oh, do you think he possibly can ever have come to
My father thought not, but said there was an old tradition that the
Hall had been attacked by the Royalists, and the bridge over the moat
defended by the owner of the house; but he had no great belief in the
story, for which, indeed, there seemed no evidence.
Derrick's eyes during this conversation were something wonderful to
see, and long after, when we were not actually playing at anything, I
used often to notice the same expression stealing over him, and would
cry out, "There is the man defending the bridge again; I can see him
in your eyes! Tell me what happened to him next!"
Then, generally pacing to and fro in the apple walk, or sitting
astride the bridge itself, Derrick would tell me of the adventures of
my ancestor, Paul Wharncliffe, who performed incredible feats of
valour, and who was to both of us a most real person. On wet days he
wrote his story in a copy-book, and would have worked at it for hours
had my mother allowed him, though of the manual part of the work he
had, and has always retained, the greatest dislike. I remember well
the comical ending of this first story of his. He skipped over an
interval of ten years, represented on the page by ten laboriously made
stars, and did for his hero in the following lines:
"And now, reader, let us come into Mondisfield churchyard. There
are three tombstones. On one is written, 'Mr. Paul Wharncliffe.'"
The story was no better than the productions of most eight-year-old
children, the written story at least. But, curiously enough, it
proved to be the germ of the celebrated romance, 'At Strife,' which
Derrick wrote in after years; and he himself maintains that his
picture of life during the Civil War would have been much less
graphic had he not lived so much in the past during his various
visits to Mondisfield.
It was at his second visit, when we were nine, that I remember his
announcing his intention of being an author when he was grown up. My
mother still delights in telling the story. She was sitting at work
in the south parlour one day, when I dashed into the room calling out:
"Derrick's head is stuck between the banisters in the gallery; come
quick, mother, come quick!"
She ran up the little winding staircase, and there, sure enough, in
the musician's gallery, was poor Derrick, his manuscript and pen on
the floor and his head in durance vile.
"You silly boy!" said my mother, a little frightened when she found
that to get the head back was no easy matter, "What made you put it
"You look like King Charles at Carisbrooke," I cried, forgetting
how much Derrick would resent the speech.
And being released at that moment he took me by the shoulders and
gave me an angry shake or two, as he said vehemently, "I'm not like
King Charles! King Charles was a liar."
I saw my mother smile a little as she separated us.
"Come, boys, don't quarrel," she said. "And Derrick will tell me
the truth, for indeed I am curious to know why he thrust his head in
such a place."
"I wanted to make sure," said Derrick, "whether Paul Wharncliffe
could see Lady Lettice, when she took the falcon on her wrist below
in the passage. I mustn't say he saw her if it's impossible, you
know. Authors have to be quite true in little things, and I mean to
be an author."
"But," said my mother, laughing at the great earnestness of the
hazel eyes, "could not your hero look over the top of the rail?"
"Well, yes," said Derrick. "He would have done that, but you see
it's so dreadfully high and I couldn't get up. But I tell you what,
Mrs. Wharncliffe, if it wouldn't be giving you a great deal of
trouble—I'm sorry you were troubled to get my head back again—but
if you would just look over, since you are so tall, and I'll run down
and act Lady Lettice."
"Why couldn't Paul go downstairs and look at the lady in comfort?"
asked my mother.
Derrick mused a little.
"He might look at her through a crack in the door at the foot of
the stairs, perhaps, but that would seem mean, somehow. It would be a
pity, too, not to use the gallery; galleries are uncommon, you see,
and you can get cracked doors anywhere. And, you know, he was
obliged to look at her when she couldn't see him, because their
fathers were on different sides in the war, and dreadful enemies."
When school-days came, matters went on much in the same way; there
was always an abominably scribbled tale stowed away in Derrick's
desk, and he worked infinitely harder than I did, because there was
always before him this determination to be an author and to prepare
himself for the life. But he wrote merely from love of it, and with
no idea of publication until the beginning of our last year at
Oxford, when, having reached the ripe age of one-and-twenty, he
determined to delay no longer, but to plunge boldly into his first
He was seldom able to get more than six or eight hours a week for
it, because he was reading rather hard, so that the novel progressed
but slowly. Finally, to my astonishment, it came to a dead stand-
I have never made out exactly what was wrong with Derrick then,
though I know that he passed through a terrible time of doubt and
despair. I spent part of the Long with him down at Ventnor, where
his mother had been ordered for her health. She was devoted to
Derrick, and as far as I can understand, he was her chief comfort in
life. Major Vaughan, the husband, had been out in India for years;
the only daughter was married to a rich manufacturer at Birmingham,
who had a constitutional dislike to mothers-in-law, and as far as
possible eschewed their company; while Lawrence, Derrick's twin
brother, was for ever getting into scrapes, and was into the bargain
the most unblushingly selfish fellow I ever had the pleasure of
"Sydney," said Mrs. Vaughan to me one afternoon when we were in the
garden, "Derrick seems to me unlike himself, there is a division
between us which I never felt before. Can you tell me what is
She was not at all a good-looking woman, but she had a very sweet,
wistful face, and I never looked at her sad eyes without feeling
ready to go through fire and water for her. I tried now to make
light of Derrick's depression.
"He is only going through what we all of us go through," I said,
assuming a cheerful tone. "He has suddenly discovered that life is a
great riddle, and that the things he has accepted in blind faith are,
after all, not so sure."
"Do all go through it?" she said thoughtfully. "And how many, I
wonder, get beyond?"
"Few enough," I replied moodily. Then, remembering my role,—"But
Derrick will get through; he has a thousand things to help him which
others have not,—you, for instance. And then I fancy he has a sort
of insight which most of us are without."
"Possibly," she said. "As for me, it is little that I can do for
him. Perhaps you are right, and it is true that once in a life at
any rate we all have to go into the wilderness alone."
That was the last summer I ever saw Derrick's mother; she took a
chill the following Christmas and died after a few days' illness. But
I have always thought her death helped Derrick in a way that her life
might have failed to do. For although he never, I fancy, quite
recovered from the blow, and to this day cannot speak of her without
tears in his eyes, yet when he came back to Oxford he seemed to have
found the answer to the riddle, and though older, sadder and graver
than before, had quite lost the restless dissatisfaction that for
some time had clouded his life. In a few months, moreover, I noticed
a fresh sign that he was out of the wood. Coming into his rooms one
day I found him sitting in the cushioned window-seat, reading over and
correcting some sheets of blue foolscap.
"At it again?" I asked.
"I mean to finish the first volume here. For the rest I must be in
"Why?" I asked, a little curious as to this unknown art of novel-
"Because," he replied, "one must be in the heart of things to
understand how Lynwood was affected by them."
"Lynwood! I believe you are always thinking of him!" (Lynwood was
the hero of his novel.)
"Well, so I am nearly—so I must be, if the book is to be any
"Read me what you have written," I said, throwing myself back in a
rickety but tolerably comfortable arm-chair which Derrick had
inherited with the rooms.
He hesitated a moment, being always very diffident about his own
work; but presently, having provided me with a cigar and made a good
deal of unnecessary work in arranging the sheets of the manuscript,
he began to read aloud, rather nervously, the opening chapters of the
book now so well known under the title of 'Lynwood's Heritage.'
I had heard nothing of his for the last four years, and was amazed
at the gigantic stride he had made in the interval. For, spite of a
certain crudeness, it seemed to me a most powerful story; it rushed
straight to the point with no wavering, no beating about the bush; it
flung itself into the problems of the day with a sort of sublime
audacity; it took hold of one; it whirled one along with its own
inherent force, and drew forth both laughter and tears, for Derrick's
power of pathos had always been his strongest point.
All at once he stopped reading.
"Go on!" I cried impatiently.
"That is all," he said, gathering the sheets together.
"You stopped in the middle of a sentence!" I cried in exasperation.
"Yes," he said quietly, "for six months."
"You provoking fellow! why, I wonder?"
"Because I didn't know the end."
"Good heavens! And do you know it now?"
He looked me full in the face, and there was an expression in his
eyes which puzzled me.
"I believe I do," he said; and, getting up, he crossed the room,
put the manuscript away in a drawer, and returning, sat down in the
window-seat again, looking out on the narrow, paved street below, and
at the grey buildings opposite.
I knew very well that he would never ask me what I thought of the
story—that was not his way.
"Derrick!" I exclaimed, watching his impassive face, "I believe
after all you are a genius."
I hardly know why I said "after all," but till that moment it had
never struck me that Derrick was particularly gifted. He had so far
got through his Oxford career creditably, but then he had worked
hard; his talents were not of a showy order. I had never expected
that he would set the Thames on fire. Even now it seemed to me that
he was too dreamy, too quiet, too devoid of the pushing faculty to
succeed in the world.
My remark made him laugh incredulously.
"Define a genius," he said.
For answer I pulled down his beloved Imperial Dictionary and read
him the following quotation from De Quincey: 'Genius is that mode of
intellectual power which moves in alliance with the genial nature,
i.e., with the capacities of pleasure and pain; whereas talent has no
vestige of such an alliance, and is perfectly independent of all human
"Let me think! You can certainly enjoy things a hundred times more
than I can—and as for suffering, why you were always a great hand at
that. Now listen to the great Dr. Johnson and see if the cap fits,
'The true genius is a mind of large general powers accidentally
determined in some particular direction.'
"'Large general powers'!—yes, I believe after all you have them
with, alas, poor Derrick! one notable exception—the mathematical
faculty. You were always bad at figures. We will stick to De
Quincey's definition, and for heaven's sake, my dear fellow, do get
Lynwood out of that awful plight! No wonder you were depressed when
you lived all this age with such a sentence unfinished!"
"For the matter of that," said Derrick, "he can't get out till the
end of the book; but I can begin to go on with him now."
"And when you leave Oxford?"
"Then I mean to settle down in London—to write leisurely—and
possibly to read for the Bar."
"We might be together," I suggested. And Derrick took to this
idea, being a man who detested solitude and crowds about equally.
Since his mother's death he had been very much alone in the world.
To Lawrence he was always loyal, but the two had nothing in common,
and though fond of his sister he could not get on at all with the
manufacturer, his brother-in-law. But this prospect of life together
in London pleased him amazingly; he began to recover his spirits to a
great extent and to look much more like himself.
It must have been just as he had taken his degree that he received
a telegram to announce that Major Vaughan had been invalided home, and
would arrive at Southampton in three weeks' time. Derrick knew very
little of his father, but apparently Mrs. Vaughan had done her best
to keep up a sort of memory of his childish days at Aldershot, and in
these the part that his father played was always pleasant. So he
looked forward to the meeting not a little, while I, from the first,
had my doubts as to the felicity it was likely to bring him.
However, it was ordained that before the Major's ship arrived, his
son's whole life should change. Even Lynwood was thrust into the
background. As for me, I was nowhere. For Derrick, the quiet, the
self-contained, had fallen passionately in love with a certain Freda
'Infancy? What if the rose-streak of morning
Pale and depart in a passion of tears?
Once to have hoped is no matter for scorning:
Love once: e'en love's disappointment endears;
A moment's success pays the failure of years.'
The wonder would have been if he had not fallen in love with her,
for a more fascinating girl I never saw. She had only just returned
from school at Compiegne, and was not yet out; her charming freshness
was unsullied; she had all the simplicity and straightforwardness of
unspoilt, unsophisticated girlhood. I well remember our first sight
of her. We had been invited for a fortnight's yachting by Calverley
of Exeter. His father, Sir John Calverley, had a sailing yacht, and
some guests having disappointed him at the last minute, he gave his
son carte blanche as to who he should bring to fill the vacant berths.
So we three travelled down to Southampton together one hot summer
day, and were rowed out to the Aurora, an uncommonly neat little
schooner which lay in that over-rated and frequently odoriferous
roadstead, Southampton Water. However, I admit that on that
evening—the tide being high—the place looked remarkably pretty; the
level rays of the setting sun turned the water to gold; a soft
luminous haze hung over the town and the shipping, and by a stretch
of imagination one might have thought the view almost Venetian.
Derrick's perfect content was only marred by his shyness. I knew
that he dreaded reaching the Aurora; and sure enough, as we stepped
on to the exquisitely white deck and caught sight of the little group
of guests, I saw him retreat into his crab-shell of silent reserve.
Sir John, who made a very pleasant host, introduced us to the other
visitors—Lord Probyn and his wife and their niece, Miss Freda
Merrifield. Lady Probyn was Sir John's sister, and also the sister of
Miss Merrifield's mother; so that it was almost a family party, and by
no means a formidable gathering. Lady Probyn played the part of
hostess and chaperoned her pretty niece; but she was not in the least
like the aunt of fiction—on the contrary, she was comparatively young
in years and almost comically young in mind; her niece was devoted to
her, and the moment I saw her I knew that our cruise could not
possibly be dull.
As to Miss Freda, when we first caught sight of her she was
standing near the companion, dressed in a daintily made yachting
costume of blue serge and white braid, and round her white sailor hat
she wore the name of the yacht stamped on a white ribbon; in her
waist-band she had fastened two deep crimson roses, and she looked at
us with frank, girlish curiosity, no doubt wondering whether we should
add to or detract from the enjoyment of the expedition. She was
rather tall, and there was an air of strength and energy about her
which was most refreshing. Her skin was singularly white, but there
was a healthy glow of colour in her cheeks; while her large, grey
eyes, shaded by long lashes, were full of life and brightness. As to
her features, they were perhaps a trifle irregular, and her elder
sisters were supposed to eclipse her altogether; but to my mind she
was far the most taking of the three.
I was not in the least surprised that Derrick should fall head over
ears in love with her; she was exactly the sort of girl that would
infallibly attract him. Her absence of shyness; her straightforward,
easy way of talking; her genuine goodheartedness; her devotion to
animals—one of his own pet hobbies—and finally her exquisite
playing, made the result a foregone conclusion. And then, moreover,
they were perpetually together. He would hang over the piano in the
saloon for hours while she played, the rest of us lazily enjoying the
easy chairs and the fresh air on deck; and whenever we landed, these
two were sure in the end to be just a little apart from the rest of
It was an eminently successful cruise. We all liked each other;
the sea was calm, the sunshine constant, the wind as a rule
favourable, and I think I never in a single fortnight heard so many
good stories, or had such a good time. We seemed to get right out of
the world and its narrow restrictions, away from all that was hollow
and base and depressing, only landing now and then at quaint little
quiet places for some merry excursion on shore. Freda was in the
highest spirits; and as to Derrick, he was a different creature. She
seemed to have the power of drawing him out in a marvellous degree,
and she took the greatest interest in his work—a sure way to every
But it was not till one day, when we landed at Tresco, that I felt
certain she genuinely loved him—there in one glance the truth
flashed upon me. I was walking with one of the gardeners down one of
the long shady paths of that lovely little island, with its curiously
foreign look, when we suddenly came face to face with Derrick and
Freda. They were talking earnestly, and I could see her great grey
eyes as they were lifted to his—perhaps they were more expressive
than she knew—I cannot say. They both started a little as we
confronted them, and the colour deepened in Freda's face. The
gardener, with what photographers usually ask for—'just the faint
beginning of a smile,'—turned and gathered a bit of white heather
"They say it brings good luck, miss," he remarked, handing it to
"Thank you," she said, laughing, "I hope it will bring it to me.
At any rate it will remind me of this beautiful island. Isn't it
just like Paradise, Mr. Wharncliffe?"
"For me it is like Paradise before Eve was created," I replied,
rather wickedly. "By the bye, are you going to keep all the good
luck to yourself?"
"I don't know," she said laughing. "Perhaps I shall; but you have
only to ask the gardener, he will gather you another piece directly."
I took good care to drop behind, having no taste for the third-
fiddle business; but I noticed when we were in the gig once more,
rowing back to the yacht, that the white heather had been equally
divided—one half was in the waist-band of the blue serge dress, the
other half in the button-hole of Derrick's blazer.
So the fortnight slipped by, and at length one afternoon we found
ourselves once more in Southampton Water; then came the bustle of
packing and the hurry of departure, and the merry party dispersed.
Derrick and I saw them all off at the station, for, as his father's
ship did not arrive till the following day, I made up my mind to stay
on with him at Southampton.
"You will come and see us in town," said Lady Probyn, kindly. And
Lord Probyn invited us both for the shooting at Blachington in
September. "We will have the same party on shore, and see if we
can't enjoy ourselves almost as well," he said in his hearty way;
"the novel will go all the better for it, eh, Vaughan?"
Derrick brightened visibly at the suggestion. I heard him talking
to Freda all the time that Sir John stood laughing and joking as to
the comparative pleasures of yachting and shooting.
"You will be there too?" Derrick asked.
"I can't tell," said Freda, and there was a shade of sadness in her
tone. Her voice was deeper than most women's voices—a rich
contralto with something striking and individual about it. I could
hear her quite plainly; but Derrick spoke less distinctly—he always
had a bad trick of mumbling.
"You see I am the youngest," she said, "and I am not really 'out.'
Perhaps my mother will wish one of the elder ones to go; but I half
think they are already engaged for September, so after all I may have
Inaudible remark from my friend.
"Yes, I came here because my sisters did not care to leave London
till the end of the season," replied the clear contralto. "It has
been a perfect cruise. I shall remember it all my life."
After that, nothing more was audible; but I imagine Derrick must
have hazarded a more personal question, and that Freda had admitted
that it was not only the actual sailing she should remember. At any
rate her face when I caught sight of it again made me think of the
girl described in the 'Biglow Papers':
"''Twas kin' o' kingdom come to look
On sech a blessed creatur.
A dogrose blushin' to a brook
Ain't modester nor sweeter.'"
So the train went off, and Derrick and I were left to idle about
Southampton and kill time as best we might. Derrick seemed to walk
the streets in a sort of dream—he was perfectly well aware that he
had met his fate, and at that time no thought of difficulties in the
way had arisen either in his mind or in my own. We were both of us
young and inexperienced; we were both of us in love, and we had the
usual lover's notion that everything in heaven and earth is prepared
to favour the course of his particular passion.
I remember that we soon found the town intolerable, and, crossing
by the ferry, walked over to Netley Abbey, and lay down idly in the
shade of the old grey walls. Not a breath of wind stirred the great
masses of ivy which were wreathed about the ruined church, and the
place looked so lovely in its decay, that we felt disposed to judge
the dissolute monks very leniently for having behaved so badly that
their church and monastery had to be opened to the four winds of
heaven. After all, when is a church so beautiful as when it has the
green grass for its floor and the sky for its roof?
I could show you the very spot near the East window where Derrick
told me the whole truth, and where we talked over Freda's perfections
and the probability of frequent meetings in London. He had listened
so often and so patiently to my affairs, that it seemed an odd
reversal to have to play the confidant; and if now and then my
thoughts wandered off to the coming month at Mondisfield, and pictured
violet eyes while he talked of grey, it was not from any lack of
sympathy with my friend.
Derrick was not of a self-tormenting nature, and though I knew he
was amazed at the thought that such a girl as Freda could possibly
care for him, yet he believed most implicitly that this wonderful
thing had come to pass; and, remembering her face as we had last seen
it, and the look in her eyes at Tresco, I, too, had not a shadow of a
doubt that she really loved him. She was not the least bit of a
flirt, and society had not had a chance yet of moulding her into the
ordinary girl of the nineteenth century.
Perhaps it was the sudden and unexpected change of the next day
that makes me remember Derrick's face so distinctly as he lay back on
the smooth turf that afternoon in Netley Abbey. As it looked then,
full of youth and hope, full of that dream of cloudless love, I never
saw it again.
"Religion in him never died, but became a habit—a habit of enduring
hardness, and cleaving to the steadfast performance of duty in the
face of the strongest allurements to the pleasanter and easier
Life of Charles Lamb, by A. Ainger.
Derrick was in good spirits the next day. He talked much of Major
Vaughan, wondered whether the voyage home had restored his health,
discussed the probable length of his leave, and speculated as to the
nature of his illness; the telegram had of course given no details.
"There has not been even a photograph for the last five years," he
remarked, as we walked down to the quay together. "Yet I think I
should know him anywhere, if it is only by his height. He used to
look so well on horseback. I remember as a child seeing him in a
sham fight charging up Caesar's Camp."
"How old were you when he went out?"
"Oh, quite a small boy," replied Derrick. "It was just before I
first stayed with you. However, he has had a regular succession of
photographs sent out to him, and will know me easily enough."
Poor Derrick! I can't think of that day even now without a kind of
mental shiver. We watched the great steamer as it glided up to the
quay, and Derrick scanned the crowded deck with eager eyes, but could
nowhere see the tall, soldierly figure that had lingered so long in
his memory. He stood with his hand resting on the rail of the
gangway, and when presently it was raised to the side of the steamer,
he still kept his position, so that he could instantly catch sight of
his father as he passed down. I stood close behind him, and watched
the motley procession of passengers; most of them had the dull
colourless skin which bespeaks long residence in India, and a
particularly yellow and peevish-looking old man was grumbling loudly
as he slowly made his way down the gangway.
"The most disgraceful scene!" he remarked. "The fellow was as
drunk as he could be."
"Who was it?" asked his companion.
"Why, Major Vaughan, to be sure. The only wonder is that he hasn't
drunk himself to death by this time—been at it years enough!"
Derrick turned, as though to shelter himself from the curious eyes
of the travellers; but everywhere the quay was crowded. It seemed to
me not unlike the life that lay before him, with this new shame which
could not be hid, and I shall never forget the look of misery in his
"Most likely a great exaggeration of that spiteful old fogey's," I
said. "Never believe anything that you hear, is a sound axiom. Had
you not better try to get on board?"
"Yes; and for heaven's sake come with me, Wharncliffe!" he said.
"It can't be true! It is, as you say, that man's spite, or else
there is someone else of the name on board. That must be it—
someone else of the name."
I don't know whether he managed to deceive himself. We made our
way on board, and he spoke to one of the stewards, who conducted us to
the saloon. I knew from the expression of the man's face that the
words we had overheard were but too true; it was a mere glance that
he gave us, yet if he had said aloud, "They belong to that old
drunkard! Thank heaven I'm not in their shoes!" I could not have
better understood what was in his mind.
There were three persons only in the great saloon: an officer's
servant, whose appearance did not please me; a fine looking old man
with grey hair and whiskers, and a rough-hewn honest face, apparently
the ship's doctor; and a tall grizzled man in whom I at once saw a
sort of horrible likeness to Derrick—horrible because this face was
wicked and degraded, and because its owner was drunk— noisily drunk.
Derrick paused for a minute, looking at his father; then, deadly
pale, he turned to the old doctor. "I am Major Vaughan's son," he
The doctor grasped his hand, and there was something in the old
man's kindly, chivalrous manner which brought a sort of light into
"I am very glad to see you!" he exclaimed. "Is the Major's luggage
ready?" he inquired turning to the servant. Then, as the man replied
in the affirmative, "How would it be, Mr. Vaughan, if your father's
man just saw the things into a cab? and then I'll come on shore with
you and see my patient safely settled in."
Derrick acquiesced, and the doctor turned to the Major, who was
leaning up against one of the pillars of the saloon and shouting out
"'Twas in Trafalgar Bay," in a way which, under other circumstances,
would have been highly comic. The doctor interrupted him, as with
much feeling he sang how:
"England declared that every man
That day had done his duty."
"Look, Major," he said; "here is your son come to meet you."
"Glad to see you, my boy," said the Major, reeling forward and
running all his words together. "How's your mother? Is this
Lawrence? Glad to see both of you! Why, you'r's like's two peas!
Not Lawrence, do you say? Confound it, doctor, how the ship rolls
And the old wretch staggered and would have fallen, had not Derrick
supported him and landed him safely on one of the fixed ottomans.
"Yes, yes, you're the son for me," he went on, with a bland smile,
which made his face all the more hideous. "You're not so rough and
clumsy as that confounded John Thomas, whose hands are like
brickbats. I'm a mere wreck, as you see; it's the accursed climate!
But your mother will soon nurse me into health again; she was always
a good nurse, poor soul! it was her best point. What with you and
your mother, I shall soon be myself again."
Here the doctor interposed, and Derrick made desperately for a
porthole and gulped down mouthfuls of fresh air: but he was not
allowed much of a respite, for the servant returned to say that he
had procured a cab, and the Major called loudly for his son's arm.
"I'll not have you," he said, pushing the servant violently away.
"Come, Derrick, help me! you are worth two of that blockhead."
And Derrick came quickly forward, his face still very pale, but
with a dignity about it which I had never before seen; and, giving his
arm to his drunken father, he piloted him across the saloon, through
the staring ranks of stewards, officials, and tardy passengers
outside, down the gangway, and over the crowded quay to the cab. I
knew that each derisive glance of the spectators was to him like a
sword-thrust, and longed to throttle the Major, who seemed to enjoy
himself amazingly on terra firma, and sang at the top of his voice as
we drove through the streets of Southampton. The old doctor kept up a
cheery flow of small-talk with me, thinking, no doubt, that this would
be a kindness to Derrick: and at last that purgatorial drive ended,
and somehow Derrick and the doctor between them got the Major safely
into his room at Radley's Hotel.
We had ordered lunch in a private sitting-room, thinking that the
Major would prefer it to the coffee-room; but, as it turned out, he
was in no state to appear. They left him asleep, and the ship's
doctor sat in the seat that had been prepared for his patient, and
made the meal as tolerable to us both as it could be. He was an odd,
old-fashioned fellow, but as true a gentleman as ever breathed.
"Now," he said, when lunch was over, "you and I must have a talk
together, Mr. Vaughan, and I will help you to understand your
I made a movement to go, but sat down again at Derrick's request.
I think, poor old fellow, he dreaded being alone, and knowing that I
had seen his father at the worst, thought I might as well hear all
"Major Vaughan," continued the doctor, "has now been under my care
for some weeks, and I had some communication with the regimental
surgeon about his case before he sailed. He is suffering from an
enlarged liver, and the disease has been brought on by his
unfortunate habit of over-indulgence in stimulants." I could almost
have smiled, so very gently and considerately did the good old man
veil in long words the shameful fact. "It is a habit sadly prevalent
among our fellow-countrymen in India; the climate aggravates the
mischief, and very many lives are in this way ruined. Then your father
was also unfortunate enough to contract rheumatism when he was camping
out in the jungle last year, and this is increasing on him very much,
so that his life is almost intolerable to him, and he naturally flies
for relief to his greatest enemy, drink. At all costs, however, you
must keep him from stimulants; they will only intensify the disease
and the sufferings, in fact they are poison to a man in such a state.
Don't think I am a bigot in these matters; but I say that for a man
in such a condition as this, there is nothing for it but total
abstinence, and at all costs your father must be guarded from the
possibility of procuring any sort of intoxicating drink. Throughout
the voyage I have done my best to shield him, but it was a difficult
matter. His servant, too, is not trustworthy, and should be dismissed
"Had he spoken at all of his plans?" asked Derrick, and his voice
sounded strangely unlike itself.
"He asked me what place in England he had better settle down in,"
said the doctor, "and I strongly recommended him to try Bath. This
seemed to please him, and if he is well enough he had better go there
to-morrow. He mentioned your mother this morning; no doubt she will
know how to manage him."
"My mother died six months ago," said Derrick, pushing back his
chair and beginning to pace the room. The doctor made kindly
"Perhaps you have a sister, who could go to him?"
"No," replied Derrick. "My only sister is married, and her husband
would never allow it."
"Or a cousin or an aunt?" suggested the old man, naively
unconscious that the words sounded like a quotation.
I saw the ghost of a smile flit over Derrick's harassed face as he
shook his head.
"I suggested that he should go into some Home for—cases of the
kind," resumed the doctor, "or place himself under the charge of some
medical man; however, he won't hear of such a thing. But if he is
left to himself—well, it is all up with him. He will drink himself
to death in a few months."
"He shall not be left alone," said Derrick; "I will live with him.
Do you think I should do? It seems to be Hobson's choice."
I looked up in amazement—for here was Derrick calmly giving
himself up to a life that must crush every plan for the future he had
made. Did men make such a choice as that while they took two or three
turns in a room? Did they speak so composedly after a struggle that
must have been so bitter? Thinking it over now, I feel sure it was
his extraordinary gift of insight and his clear judgment which made
him behave in this way. He instantly perceived and promptly acted;
the worst of the suffering came long after.
"Why, of course you are the very best person in the world for him,"
said the doctor. "He has taken a fancy to you, and evidently you
have a certain influence with him. If any one can save him it will
But the thought of allowing Derrick to be sacrificed to that old
brute of a Major was more than I could bear calmly.
"A more mad scheme was never proposed," I cried. "Why, doctor, it
will be utter ruin to my friend's career; he will lose years that no
one can ever make up. And besides, he is unfit for such a strain, he
will never stand it."
My heart felt hot as I thought of Derrick, with his highly-strung,
sensitive nature, his refinement, his gentleness, in constant
companionship with such a man as Major Vaughan.
"My dear sir," said the old doctor, with a gleam in his eye, "I
understand your feeling well enough. But depend upon it, your friend
has made the right choice, and there is no doubt that he'll be strong
enough to do his duty."
The word reminded me of the Major's song, and my voice was
abominably sarcastic in tone as I said to Derrick, "You no longer
consider writing your duty then?"
"Yes," he said, "but it must stand second to this. Don't be vexed,
Sydney; our plans are knocked on the head, but it is not so bad as
you make out. I have at any rate enough to live on, and can afford
There was no more to be said, and the next day I saw that strange
trio set out on their road to Bath. The Major looking more wicked
when sober than he had done when drunk; the old doctor kindly and
considerate as ever; and Derrick, with an air of resolution about
that English face of his and a dauntless expression in his eyes which
impressed me curiously.
These quiet, reserved fellows are always giving one odd surprises.
He had astonished me by the vigour and depth of the first volume of
'Lynwood's Heritage.' He astonished me now by a new phase in his own
character. Apparently he who had always been content to follow where
I led, and to watch life rather than to take an active share in it,
now intended to strike out a very decided line of his own.
"Both Goethe and Schiller were profoundly convinced that Art was no
luxury of leisure, no mere amusement to charm the idle, or relax the
careworn; but a mighty influence, serious in its aims although
pleasureable in its means; a sister of Religion, by whose aid the
great world-scheme was wrought into reality."
Lewes's Life of Goethe.
Man is a selfish being, and I am a particularly fine specimen of
the race as far as that characteristic goes. If I had had a dozen
drunken parents I should never have danced attendance on one of them;
yet in my secret soul I admired Derrick for the line he had taken, for
we mostly do admire what is unlike ourselves and really noble, though
it is the fashion to seem totally indifferent to everything in heaven
and earth. But all the same I felt annoyed about the whole business,
and was glad to forget it in my own affairs at Mondisfield.
Weeks passed by. I lived through a midsummer dream of happiness,
and a hard awaking. That, however, has nothing to do with Derrick's
story, and may be passed over. In October I settled down in Montague
Street, Bloomsbury, and began to read for the Bar, in about as
disagreeable a frame of mind as can be conceived. One morning I found
on my breakfast table a letter in Derrick's handwriting. Like most
men, we hardly ever corresponded—what women say in the eternal
letters they send to each other I can't conceive—but it struck me
that under the circumstances I ought to have sent him a line to ask
how he was getting on, and my conscience pricked me as I remembered
that I had hardly thought of him since we parted, being absorbed in
my own matters. The letter was not very long, but when one read
between the lines it somehow told a good deal. I have it lying by
me, and this is a copy of it:
"Dear Sydney,—Do like a good fellow go to North Audley Street for
me, to the house which I described to you as the one where Lynwood
lodged, and tell me what he would see besides the church from his
window—if shops, what kind? Also if any glimpse of Oxford Street
would be visible. Then if you'll add to your favours by getting me a
second-hand copy of Laveleye's 'Socialisme Contemporain,' I should be
for ever grateful. We are settled in here all right. Bath is empty,
but I people it as far as I can with the folk out of 'Evelina' and
'Persuasion.' How did you get on at Blachington? and which of the
Misses Merrifield went in the end? Don't bother about the
commissions. Any time will do.
Poor old fellow! all the spirit seemed knocked out of him. There
was not one word about the Major, and who could say what wretchedness
was veiled in that curt phrase, "we are settled in all right"? All
right! it was all as wrong as it could be! My blood began to boil at
the thought of Derrick, with his great powers—his wonderful
gift—cooped up in a place where the study of life was so limited and
so dull. Then there was his hunger for news of Freda, and his silence
as to what had kept him away from Blachington, and about all a sort of
proud humility which prevented him from saying much that I should have
expected him to say under the circumstances.
It was Saturday, and my time was my own. I went out, got his book
for him; interviewed North Audley Street; spent a bad five minutes in
company with that villain 'Bradshaw,' who is responsible for so much
of the brain and eye disease of the nineteenth century, and finally
left Paddington in the Flying Dutchman, which landed me at Bath early
in the afternoon. I left my portmanteau at the station, and walked
through the city till I reached Gay Street. Like most of the streets
of Bath, it was broad, and had on either hand dull, well-built, dark
grey, eminently respectable, unutterably dreary- looking houses. I
rang, and the door was opened to me by a most quaint old woman,
evidently the landlady. An odour of curry pervaded the passage, and
became more oppressive as the door of the sitting-room was opened, and
I was ushered in upon the Major and his son, who had just finished
"Hullo!" cried Derrick, springing up, his face full of delight
which touched me, while at the same time it filled me with envy.
Even the Major thought fit to give me a hearty welcome.
"Glad to see you again," he said pleasantly enough. "It's a relief
to have a fresh face to look at. We have a room which is quite at
your disposal, and I hope you'll stay with us. Brought your
"It is at the station," I replied.
"See that it is sent for," he said to Derrick; "and show Mr.
Wharncliffe all that is to be seen in this cursed hole of a place."
Then, turning again to me, "Have you lunched? Very well, then, don't
waste this fine afternoon in an invalid's room, but be off and enjoy
So cordial was the old man, that I should have thought him already
a reformed character, had I not found that he kept the rough side of
his tongue for home use. Derrick placed a novel and a small handbell
within his reach, and we were just going, when we were checked by a
volley of oaths from the Major; then a book came flying across the
room, well aimed at Derrick's head. He stepped aside, and let it fall
with a crash on the sideboard.
"What do you mean by giving me the second volume when you know I am
in the third?" fumed the invalid.
He apologised quietly, fetched the third volume, straightened the
disordered leaves of the discarded second, and with the air of one
well accustomed to such little domestic scenes, took up his hat and
came out with me.
"How long do you intend to go on playing David to the Major's
Saul?" I asked, marvelling at the way in which he endured the humours
of his father.
"As long as I have the chance," he replied. "I say, are you sure
you won't mind staying with us? It can't be a very comfortable
household for an outsider."
"Much better than for an insider, to all appearance," I replied.
"I'm only too delighted to stay. And now, old fellow, tell me the
honest truth—you didn't, you know, in your letter—how have you been
Derrick launched into an account of his father's ailments.
"Oh, hang the Major! I don't care about him, I want to know about
you," I cried.
"About me?" said Derrick doubtfully. "Oh, I'm right enough."
"What do you do with yourself? How on earth do you kill time?" I
asked. "Come, give me a full, true, and particular account of it
"We have tried three other servants," said Derrick; "but the plan
doesn't answer. They either won't stand it, or else they are bribed
into smuggling brandy into the house. I find I can do most things
for my father, and in the morning he has an attendant from the
hospital who is trustworthy, and who does what is necessary for him.
At ten we breakfast together, then there are the morning papers,
which he likes to have read to him. After that I go round to the
Pump Room with him—odd contrast now to what it must have been when
Bath was the rage. Then we have lunch. In the afternoon, if he is
well enough, we drive; if not he sleeps, and I get a walk. Later on
an old Indian friend of his will sometimes drop in; if not he likes
to be read to until dinner. After dinner we play chess—he is a
first-rate player. At ten I help him to bed; from eleven to twelve I
smoke and study Socialism and all the rest of it that Lynwood is at
present floundering in."
"Why don't you write, then?"
"I tried it, but it didn't answer. I couldn't sleep after it, and
was, in fact, too tired; seems absurd to be tired after such a day as
that, but somehow it takes it out of one more than the hardest
reading; I don't know why."
"Why," I said angrily, "it's because it is work to which you are
quite unsuited—work for a thick-skinned, hard-hearted, uncultivated
and well-paid attendant, not for the novelist who is to be the chief
light of our generation."
He laughed at this estimate of his powers.
"Novelists, like other cattle, have to obey their owner," he said
I thought for a moment that he meant the Major, and was breaking
into an angry remonstrance, when I saw that he meant something quite
different. It was always his strongest point, this extraordinary
consciousness of right, this unwavering belief that he had to do and
therefore could do certain things. Without this, I know that he
never wrote a line, and in my heart I believe this was the cause of
"Then you are not writing at all?" I asked.
"Yes, I write generally for a couple of hours before breakfast," he
And that evening we sat by his gas stove and he read me the next
four chapters of 'Lynwood.' He had rather a dismal lodging-house
bedroom, with faded wall-paper and a prosaic snuff-coloured carpet.
On a rickety table in the window was his desk, and a portfolio full
of blue foolscap, but he had done what he could to make the place
habitable; his Oxford pictures were on the walls—Hoffman's 'Christ
speaking to the Woman taken in Adultery,' hanging over the
mantelpiece—it had always been a favourite of his. I remember that,
as he read the description of Lynwood and his wife, I kept looking
from him to the Christ in the picture till I could almost have fancied
that each face bore the same expression. Had this strange monotonous
life with that old brute of a Major brought him some new perception of
those words, "Neither do I condemn thee"? But when he stopped reading,
I, true to my character, forgot his affairs in my own, as we sat
talking far into the night—talking of that luckless month at
Mondisfield, of all the problems it had opened up, and of my
"You were in town all September?" he asked; "you gave up
"Yes," I replied. "What did I care for country houses in such a
mood as that."
He acquiesced, and I went on talking of my grievances, and it was
not till I was in the train on my way back to London that I
remembered how a look of disappointment had passed over his face just
at the moment. Evidently he had counted on learning something about
Freda from me, and I—well, I had clean forgotten both her existence
and his passionate love.
Something, probably self-interest, the desire for my friend's
company, and so forth, took me down to Bath pretty frequently in
those days; luckily the Major had a sort of liking for me, and was
always polite enough; and dear old Derrick—well, I believe my visits
really helped to brighten him up. At any rate he said he couldn't
have borne his life without them, and for a sceptical, dismal, cynical
fellow like me to hear that was somehow flattering. The mere force of
contrast did me good. I used to come back on the Monday wondering
that Derrick didn't cut his throat, and realising that, after all, it
was something to be a free agent, and to have comfortable rooms in
Montague Street, with no old bear of a drunkard to disturb my peace.
And then a sort of admiration sprang up in my heart, and the cynicism
bred of melancholy broodings over solitary pipes was less rampant than
It was, I think, early in the new year that I met Lawrence Vaughan
in Bath. He was not staying at Gay Street, so I could still have the
vacant room next to Derrick's. Lawrence put up at the York House
"For you know," he informed me, "I really can't stand the governor
for more than an hour or two at a time."
"Derrick manages to do it," I said.
"Oh, Derrick, yes," he replied, "it's his metier, and he is well
accustomed to the life. Besides, you know, he is such a dreamy,
quiet sort of fellow; he lives all the time in a world of his own
creation, and bears the discomforts of this world with great
philosophy. Actually he has turned teetotaller! It would kill me in
I make a point of never arguing with a fellow like that, but I
think I had a vindictive longing, as I looked at him, to shut him up
with the Major for a month, and see what would happen.
These twin brothers were curiously alike in face and curiously
unlike in nature. So much for the great science of physiognomy! It
often seemed to me that they were the complement of each other. For
instance, Derrick in society was extremely silent, Lawrence was a
rattling talker; Derrick, when alone with you, would now and then
reveal unsuspected depths of thought and expression; Lawrence, when
alone with you, very frequently showed himself to be a cad. The
elder twin was modest and diffident, the younger inclined to brag;
the one had a strong tendency to melancholy, the other was blest or
cursed with the sort of temperament which has been said to accompany
"a hard heart and a good digestion."
I was not surprised to find that the son who could not tolerate the
governor's presence for more than an hour or two, was a prime
favourite with the old man; that was just the way of the world. Of
course, the Major was as polite as possible to him; Derrick got the
kicks and Lawrence the half-pence.
In the evenings we played whist, Lawrence coming in after dinner,
"For, you know," he explained to me, "I really couldn't get through a
meal with nothing but those infernal mineral waters to wash it down."
And here I must own that at my first visit I had sailed rather
close to the wind; for when the Major, like the Hatter in 'Alice,'
pressed me to take wine, I—not seeing any—had answered that I did
not take it; mentally adding the words, "in your house, you brute!"
The two brothers were fond of each other after a fashion. But
Derrick was human, and had his faults like the rest of us; and I am
pretty sure he did not much enjoy the sight of his father's foolish
and unreasonable devotion to Lawrence. If you come to think of it,
he would have been a full-fledged angel if no jealous pang, no
reflection that it was rather rough on him, had crossed his mind,
when he saw his younger brother treated with every mark of respect
and liking, and knew that Lawrence would never stir a finger really
to help the poor fractious invalid. Unluckily they happened one
night to get on the subject of professions.
"It's a comfort," said the Major, in his sarcastic way, "to have a
fellow-soldier to talk to instead of a quill-driver, who as yet is
not even a penny-a-liner. Eh, Derrick? Don't you feel inclined to
regret your fool's choice now? You might have been starting off for
the war with Lawrence next week, if you hadn't chosen what you're
pleased to call a literary life. Literary life, indeed! I little
thought a son of mine would ever have been so wanting in spirit as to
prefer dabbling in ink to a life of action—to be the scribbler of
mere words, rather than an officer of dragoons."
Then to my astonishment Derrick sprang to his feet in hot
indignation. I never saw him look so handsome, before or since; for
his anger was not the distorting, devilish anger that the Major gave
way to, but real downright wrath.
"You speak contemptuously of mere novels," he said in a low voice,
yet more clearly than usual, and as if the words were wrung out of
him. "What right have you to look down on one of the greatest
weapons of the day? and why is a writer to submit to scoffs and
insults and tamely to hear his profession reviled? I have chosen to
write the message that has been given me, and I don't regret the
choice. Should I have shown greater spirit if I had sold my freedom
and right of judgment to be one of the national killing machines?"
With that he threw down his cards and strode out of the room in a
white heat of anger. It was a pity he made that last remark, for it
put him in the wrong and needlessly annoyed Lawrence and the Major.
But an angry man has no time to weigh his words, and, as I said, poor
old Derrick was very human, and when wounded too intolerably could on
The Major uttered an oath and looked in astonishment at the
retreating figure. Derrick was such an extraordinarily quiet,
respectful, long-suffering son as a rule, that this outburst was
startling in the extreme. Moreover, it spoilt the game, and the old
man, chafed by the result of his own ill-nature, and helpless to
bring back his partner, was forced to betake himself to chess. I
left him grumbling away to Lawrence about the vanity of authors, and
went out in the hope of finding Derrick. As I left the house I saw
someone turn the corner into the Circus, and starting in pursuit,
overtook the tall, dark figure where Bennett Street opens on to the
"I'm glad you spoke up, old fellow," I said, taking his arm.
He modified his pace a little. "Why is it," he exclaimed, "that
every other profession can be taken seriously, but that a novelist's
work is supposed to be mere play? Good God! don't we suffer enough?
Have we not hard brain work and drudgery of desk work and tedious
gathering of statistics and troublesome search into details? Have we
not an appalling weight of responsibility on us?—and are we not at
the mercy of a thousand capricious chances?"
"Come now," I exclaimed, "you know that you are never so happy as
when you are writing."
"Of course," he replied; "but that doesn't make me resent such an
attack the less. Besides, you don't know what it is to have to write
in such an atmosphere as ours; it's like a weight on one's pen. This
life here is not life at all—it's a daily death, and it's killing the
book too; the last chapters are wretched—I'm utterly dissatisfied
"As for that," I said calmly, "you are no judge at all. You can
never tell the worth of your own work; the last bit is splendid."
"I could have done it better," he groaned. "But there is always a
ghastly depression dragging one back here—and then the time is so
short; just as one gets into the swing of it the breakfast bell
rings, and then comes—" He broke off.
I could well supply the end of the sentence, however, for I knew
that then came the slow torture of a tete-a-tete day with the Major,
stinging sarcasms, humiliating scoldings, vexations and difficulties
I drew him to the left, having no mind to go to the top of the
hill. We slackened our pace again and walked to and fro along the
broad level pavement of Lansdowne Crescent. We had it entirely to
ourselves—not another creature was in sight.
"I could bear it all," he burst forth, "if only there was a chance
of seeing Freda. Oh, you are better off than I am—at least, you
know the worst. Your hope is killed, but mine lives on a tortured,
starved life! Would to God I had never seen her!"
Certainly before that night I had never quite realised the
irrevocableness of poor Derrick's passion. I had half hoped that
time and separation would gradually efface Freda Merrifield from his
memory; and I listened with a dire foreboding to the flood of
wretchedness which he poured forth as we paced up and down, thinking
now and then how little people guessed at the tremendous powers
hidden under his usually quiet exterior.
At length he paused, but his last heart-broken words seemed to
vibrate in the air and to force me to speak some kind of comfort.
"Derrick," I said, "come back with me to London—give up this
I felt him start a little; evidently no thought of yielding had
come to him before. We were passing the house that used to belong to
that strange book-lover and recluse, Beckford. I looked up at the
blank windows, and thought of that curious, self-centred life in the
past, surrounded by every luxury, able to indulge every whim; and
then I looked at my companion's pale, tortured face, and thought of
the life he had elected to lead in the hope of saving one whom duty
bound him to honour. After all, which life was the most worth
living—which was the most to be admired?
We walked on; down below us and up on the farther hill we could see
the lights of Bath; the place so beautiful by day looked now like a
fairy city, and the Abbey, looming up against the moon-lit sky,
seemed like some great giant keeping watch over the clustering roofs
below. The well-known chimes rang out into the night and the clock
"I must go back," said Derrick, quietly. "My father will want to
get to bed."
I couldn't say a word; we turned, passed Beckford's house once
more, walked briskly down the hill, and reached the Gay Street
lodging- house. I remember the stifling heat of the room as we
entered it, and its contrast to the cool, dark, winter's night
outside. I can vividly recall, too, the old Major's face as he looked
up with a sarcastic remark, but with a shade of anxiety in his
bloodshot eyes. He was leaning back in a green-cushioned chair, and
his ghastly yellow complexion seemed to me more noticeable than
usual—his scanty grey hair and whiskers, the lines of pain so plainly
visible in his face, impressed me curiously. I think I had never
before realised what a wreck of a man he was—how utterly dependent on
Lawrence, who, to do him justice, had a good deal of tact, and who,
I believe, cared for his brother as much as he was capable of caring
for any one but himself, repeated a good story with which he had been
enlivening the Major, and I did what I could to keep up the talk.
Derrick meanwhile put away the chessmen, and lighted the Major's
candle. He even managed to force up a laugh at Lawrence's story, and,
as he helped his father out of the room, I think I was the only one
who noticed the look of tired endurance in his eyes.
How far high failure overtops the bounds
Of low successes. Only suffering draws
The inner heart of song, and can elicit
The perfumes of the soul."
Epic of Hades.
Next week, Lawrence went off like a hero to the war; and my
friend— also I think like a hero—stayed on at Bath, enduring as best
he could the worst form of loneliness; for undoubtedly there is no
loneliness so frightful as constant companionship with an uncongenial
person. He had, however, one consolation: the Major's health
steadily improved, under the joint influence of total abstinence and
Bath water, and, with the improvement, his temper became a little
But one Saturday, when I had run down to Bath without writing
beforehand, I suddenly found a different state of things. In Orange
Grove I met Dr. Mackrill, the Major's medical man; he used now and
then to play whist with us on Saturday nights, and I stopped to speak
"Oh! you've come down again. That's all right!" he said. "Your
friend wants someone to cheer him up. He's got his arm broken."
"How on earth did he manage that?" I asked.
"Well, that's more than I can tell you," said the Doctor, with an
odd look in his eyes, as if he guessed more than he would put into
words. "All that I could get out of him was that it was done
accidentally. The Major is not so well—no whist for us to-night,
He passed on, and I made my way to Gay Street. There was an air of
mystery about the quaint old landlady; she looked brimful of news
when she opened the door to me, but she managed to 'keep herself to
herself,' and showed me in upon the Major and Derrick, rather
triumphantly I thought. The Major looked terribly ill—worse than I
had ever seen him, and as for Derrick, he had the strangest look of
shrinking and shame-facedness you ever saw. He said he was glad to
see me, but I knew that he lied. He would have given anything to
have kept me away.
"Broken your arm?" I exclaimed, feeling bound to take some notice
of the sling.
"Yes," he replied; "met with an accident to it. But luckily it's
only the left one, so it doesn't hinder me much! I have finished
seven chapters of the last volume of 'Lynwood,' and was just wanting
to ask you a legal question."
All this time his eyes bore my scrutiny defiantly; they seemed to
dare me to say one other word about the broken arm. I didn't dare—
indeed to this day I have never mentioned the subject to him.
But that evening, while he was helping the Major to bed, the old
landlady made some pretext for toiling up to the top of the house,
where I sat smoking in Derrick's room.
"You'll excuse my making bold to speak to you, sir," she said. I
threw down my newspaper, and, looking up, saw that she was bubbling
over with some story.
"Well?" I said, encouragingly.
"It's about Mr. Vaughan, sir, I wanted to speak to you. I really
do think, sir, it's not safe he should be left alone with his father,
sir, any longer. Such doings as we had here the other day, sir!
Somehow or other—and none of us can't think how—the Major had
managed to get hold of a bottle of brandy. How he had it I don't
know; but we none of us suspected him, and in the afternoon he says
he was too poorly to go for a drive or to go out in his chair, and
settles off on the parlour sofa for a nap while Mr. Vaughan goes out
for a walk. Mr. Vaughan was out a couple of hours. I heard him come
in and go into the sitting-room; then there came sounds of voices, and
a scuffling of feet and moving of chairs, and I knew something was
wrong and hurried up to the door—and just then came a crash like
fire-irons, and I could hear the Major a-swearing fearful. Not
hearing a sound from Mr. Vaughan, I got scared, sir, and opened the
door, and there I saw the Major a leaning up against the mantelpiece
as drunk as a lord, and his son seemed to have got the bottle from
him; it was half empty, and when he saw me he just handed it to me and
ordered me to take it away. Then between us we got the Major to lie
down on the sofa and left him there. When we got out into the passage
Mr. Vaughan he leant against the wall for a minute, looking as white
as a sheet, and then I noticed for the first time that his left arm
was hanging down at his side. 'Lord! sir,' I cried, 'your arm's
broken.' And he went all at once as red as he had been pale just
before, and said he had got it done accidentally, and bade me say
nothing about it, and walked off there and then to the doctor's, and
had it set. But sir, given a man drunk as the Major was, and given a
scuffle to get away the drink that was poisoning him, and given a
crash such as I heard, and given a poker a-lying in the middle of the
room where it stands to reason no poker could get unless it was
thrown—why, sir, no sensible woman who can put two and two together
can doubt that it was all the Major's doing."
"Yes," I said, "that is clear enough; but for Mr. Vaughan's sake we
must hush it up; and, as for safety, why, the Major is hardly strong
enough to do him any worse damage than that."
The good old thing wiped away a tear from her eyes. She was very
fond of Derrick, and it went to her heart that he should lead such a
I said what I could to comfort her, and she went down again,
fearful lest he should discover her upstairs and guess that she had
opened her heart to me.
Poor Derrick! That he of all people on earth should be mixed up
with such a police court story—with drunkard, and violence, and
pokers figuring in it! I lay back in the camp chair and looked at
Hoffman's 'Christ,' and thought of all the extraordinary problems
that one is for ever coming across in life. And I wondered whether
the people of Bath who saw the tall, impassive-looking, hazel-eyed
son and the invalid father in their daily pilgrimages to the Pump
Room, or in church on Sunday, or in the Park on sunny afternoons had
the least notion of the tragedy that was going on. My reflections
were interrupted by his entrance. He had forced up a cheerfulness
that I am sure he didn't really feel, and seemed afraid of letting
our talk flag for a moment. I remember, too, that for the first time
he offered to read me his novel, instead of as usual waiting for me to
ask to hear it. I can see him now, fetching the untidy portfolio and
turning over the pages, adroitly enough, as though anxious to show how
immaterial was the loss of a left arm. That night I listened to the
first half of the third volume of 'Lynwood's Heritage,' and couldn't
help reflecting that its author seemed to thrive on misery; and yet
how I grudged him to this deadly-lively place, and this monotonous,
"How do you manage to write one-handed?" I asked.
And he sat down to his desk, put a letter-weight on the left-hand
corner of the sheet of foolscap, and wrote that comical first
paragraph of the eighth chapter over which we have all laughed. I
suppose few readers guessed the author's state of mind when he wrote
it. I looked over his shoulder to see what he had written, and
couldn't help laughing aloud—I verily believe that it was his way of
turning off attention from his arm, and leading me safely from the
region of awkward questions.
"By-the-by," I exclaimed, "your writing of garden-parties reminds
me. I went to one at Campden Hill the other day, and had the good
fortune to meet Miss Freda Merrifield."
How his face lighted up, poor fellow, and what a flood of questions
he poured out. "She looked very well and very pretty," I replied. "I
played two sets of tennis with her. She asked after you directly she
saw me, seeming to think that we always hunted in couples. I told her
you were living here, taking care of an invalid father; but just then
up came the others to arrange the game. She and I got the best
courts, and as we crossed over to them she told me she had met your
brother several times last autumn, when she had been staying near
Aldershot. Odd that he never mentioned her here; but I don't suppose
she made much impression on him. She is not at all his style."
"Did you have much more talk with her?" he asked.
"No, nothing to be called talk. She told me they were leaving
London next week, and she was longing to get back to the country to
her beloved animals—rabbits, poultry, an aviary, and all that kind
of thing. I should gather that they had kept her rather in the
background this season, but I understand that the eldest sister is to
be married in the winter, and then no doubt Miss Freda will be brought
He seemed wonderfully cheered by this opportune meeting, and though
there was so little to tell he appeared to be quite content. I left
him on Monday in fairly good spirits, and did not come across him
again till September, when his arm was well, and his novel finished
and revised. He never made two copies of his work, and I fancy this
was perhaps because he spent so short a time each day in actual
writing, and lived so continually in his work; moreover, as I said
before, he detested penmanship.
The last part of 'Lynwood' far exceeded my expectations; perhaps—
yet I don't really think so—I viewed it too favourably. But I owed
the book a debt of gratitude, since it certainly helped me through
the worst part of my life.
"Don't you feel flat now it is finished?" I asked.
"I felt so miserable that I had to plunge into another story three
days after," he replied; and then and there he gave me the sketch of
his second novel, 'At Strife,' and told me how he meant to weave in
his childish fancies about the defence of the bridge in the Civil
"And about 'Lynwood?' Are you coming up to town to hawk him
round?" I asked.
"I can't do that," he said; "you see I am tied here. No, I must
send him off by rail, and let him take his chance."
"No such thing!" I cried. "If you can't leave Bath I will take him
round for you."
And Derrick, who with the oddest inconsistency would let his MS.
lie about anyhow at home, but hated the thought of sending it out
alone on its travels, gladly accepted my offer. So next week I set
off with the huge brown paper parcel; few, however, will appreciate my
good nature, for no one but an author or a publisher knows the
fearful weight of a three volume novel in MS.! To my intense
satisfaction I soon got rid of it, for the first good firm to which I
took it received it with great politeness, to be handed over to their
'reader' for an opinion; and apparently the 'reader's' opinion
coincided with mine, for a month later Derrick received an offer for
it with which he at once closed—not because it was a good one, but
because the firm was well thought of, and because he wished to lose
no time, but to have the book published at once. I happened to be
there when his first 'proofs' arrived. The Major had had an attack
of jaundice, and was in a fiendish humour. We had a miserable time
of it at dinner, for he badgered Derrick almost past bearing, and I
think the poor old fellow minded it more when there was a third
person present. Somehow through all he managed to keep his
extraordinary capacity for reverencing mere age—even this degraded
and detestable old age of the Major's. I often thought that in this
he was like my own ancestor, Hugo Wharncliffe, whose deference and
respectfulness and patience had not descended to me, while
unfortunately the effects of his physical infirmities had. I
sometimes used to reflect bitterly enough on the truth of Herbert
Spencer's teaching as to heredity, so clearly shown in my own case.
In the year 1683, through the abominable cruelty and harshness of his
brother Randolph, this Hugo Wharncliffe, my great-great-great-
great-great grandfather, was immured in Newgate, and his constitution
was thereby so much impaired and enfeebled that, two hundred years
after, my constitution is paying the penalty, and my whole life is
thereby changed and thwarted. Hence this childless Randolph is
affecting the course of several lives in the 19th century to their
But revenons a nos moutons—that is to say, to our lion and lamb—
the old brute of a Major and his long-suffering son.
While the table was being cleared, the Major took forty winks on
the sofa, and we two beat a retreat, lit up our pipes in the passage,
and were just turning out when the postman's double knock came, but
no showers of letters in the box. Derrick threw open the door, and
the man handed him a fat, stumpy-looking roll in a pink wrapper.
"I say!" he exclaimed, "PROOFS!"
And, in hot haste, he began tearing away the pink paper, till out
came the clean, folded bits of printing and the dirty and dishevelled
blue foolscap, the look of which I knew so well. It is an odd
feeling, that first seeing one's self in print, and I could guess,
even then, what a thrill shot through Derrick as he turned over the
pages. But he would not take them into the sitting-room, no doubt
dreading another diatribe against his profession; and we solemnly
played euchre, and patiently endured the Major's withering sarcasms
till ten o'clock sounded our happy release.
However, to make a long story short, a month later—that is, at the
end of November—'Lynwood's Heritage' was published in three volumes
with maroon cloth and gilt lettering. Derrick had distributed among
his friends the publishers' announcement of the day of publication;
and when it was out I besieged the libraries for it, always
expressing surprise if I did not find it in their lists. Then began
the time of reviews. As I had expected, they were extremely
favourable, with the exception of the Herald, the Stroller, and the
Hour, which made it rather hot for him, the latter in particular
pitching into his views and assuring its readers that the book was
'dangerous,' and its author a believer in—various thing especially
repugnant to Derrick, at it happened.
I was with him when he read these reviews. Over the cleverness of
the satirical attack in the Weekly Herald he laughed heartily, though
the laugh was against himself; and as to the critic who wrote in the
Stroller it was apparent to all who knew 'Lynwood' that he had not
read much of the book; but over this review in the Hour he was
genuinely angry—it hurt him personally, and, as it afterwards turned
out, played no small part in the story of his life. The good reviews,
however, were many, and their recommendation of the book hearty; they
all prophesied that it would be a great success. Yet, spite of this,
'Lynwood's Heritage' didn't sell. Was it, as I had feared, that
Derrick was too devoid of the pushing faculty ever to make a
successful writer? Or was it that he was handicapped by being down in
the provinces playing keeper to that abominable old bear? Anyhow, the
book was well received, read with enthusiasm by an extremely small
circle, and then it dropped down to the bottom among the mass of
overlooked literature, and its career seemed to be over. I can recall
the look in Derrick's face when one day he glanced through the new
Mudie and Smith lists and found 'Lynwood's Heritage' no longer down.
I had been trying to cheer him up about the book and quoting all the
favourable remarks I had heard about it. But unluckily this was
damning evidence against my optimist view.
He sighed heavily and put down the lists.
"It's no use to deceive one's self," he said, drearily, "'Lynwood'
Something in the deep depression of look and tone gave me a
momentary insight into the author's heart. He thought, I know, of
the agony of mind this book had cost him; of those long months of
waiting and their deadly struggle, of the hopes which had made all he
passed through seem so well worth while; and the bitterness of the
disappointment was no doubt intensified by the knowledge that the
Major would rejoice over it.
We walked that afternoon along the Bradford Valley, a road which
Derrick was specially fond of. He loved the thickly-wooded hills,
and the glimpses of the Avon, which, flanked by the canal and the
railway, runs parallel with the high road; he always admired, too, a
certain little village with grey stone cottages which lay in this
direction, and liked to look at the site of the old hall near the
road: nothing remained of it but the tall gate posts and rusty iron
gates looking strangely dreary and deserted, and within one could
see, between some dark yew trees, an old terrace walk with stone
steps and balustrades—the most ghostly-looking place you can
"I know you'll put this into a book some day," I said, laughing.
"Yes," he said, "it is already beginning to simmer in my brain."
Apparently his deep disappointment as to his first venture had in no
way affected his perfectly clear consciousness that, come what would,
he had to write.
As we walked back to Bath he told me his 'Ruined Hall' story as far
as it had yet evolved itself in his brain, and we were still
discussing it when in Milsom Street we met a boy crying evening
papers, and details of the last great battle at Saspataras Hill.
Derrick broke off hastily, everything but anxiety for Lawrence
driven from his mind.
"Say not, O Soul, thou art defeated,
Because thou art distressed;
If thou of better thing art cheated,
Thou canst not be of best."
T. T. Lynch.
"Good heavens, Sydney!" he exclaimed in great excitement and with
his whole face aglow with pleasure, "look here!"
He pointed to a few lines in the paper which mentioned the heroic
conduct of Lieutenant L. Vaughan, who at the risk of his life had
rescued a brother officer when surrounded by the enemy and completely
disabled. Lieutenant Vaughan had managed to mount the wounded man on
his own horse and had miraculously escaped himself with nothing worse
than a sword-thrust in the left arm.
We went home in triumph to the Major, and Derrick read the whole
account aloud. With all his detestation of war, he was nevertheless
greatly stirred by the description of the gallant defence of the
attacked position—and for a time we were all at one, and could talk
of nothing but Lawrence's heroism, and Victoria Crosses, and the
prospects of peace. However, all too soon, the Major's fiendish
temper returned, and he began to use the event of the day as a weapon
against Derrick, continually taunting him with the contrast between
his stay-at-home life of scribbling and Lawrence's life of heroic
adventure. I could never make out whether he wanted to goad his son
into leaving him, in order that he might drink himself to death in
peace, or whether he merely indulged in his natural love of
tormenting, valuing Derrick's devotion as conducive to his own
comfort, and knowing that hard words would not drive him from what he
deemed to be his duty. I rather incline to the latter view, but the
old Major was always an enigma to me; nor can I to this day make out
his raison-d'etre, except on the theory that the training of a
novelist required a course of slow torture, and that the old man was
sent into the world to be a sort of thorn in the flesh of Derrick.
What with the disappointment about his first book, and the
difficulty of writing his second, the fierce craving for Freda's
presence, the struggle not to allow his admiration for Lawrence's
bravery to become poisoned by envy under the influence of the Major's
incessant attacks, Derrick had just then a hard time of it. He never
complained, but I noticed a great change in him; his melancholy
increased, his flashes of humour and merriment became fewer and
fewer—I began to be afraid that he would break down.
"For God's sake!" I exclaimed one evening when left alone with the
Doctor after an evening of whist, "do order the Major to London.
Derrick has been mewed up here with him for nearly two years, and I
don't think he can stand it much longer."
So the Doctor kindly contrived to advise the Major to consult a
well-known London physician, and to spend a fortnight in town,
further suggesting that a month at Ben Rhydding might be enjoyable
before settling down at Bath again for the winter. Luckily the Major
took to the idea, and just as Lawrence returned from the war Derrick
and his father arrived in town. The change seemed likely to work
well, and I was able now and then to release my friend and play
cribbage with the old man for an hour or two while Derrick tore about
London, interviewed his publisher, made researches into seventeenth
century documents at the British Museum, and somehow managed in his
rapid way to acquire those glimpses of life and character which he
afterwards turned to such good account. All was grist that came to
his mill, and at first the mere sight of his old home, London, seemed
to revive him. Of course at the very first opportunity he called at
the Probyns', and we both of us had an invitation to go there on the
following Wednesday to see the march past of the troops and to lunch.
Derrick was nearly beside himself at the prospect, for he knew that
he should certainly meet Freda at last, and the mingled pain and bliss
of being actually in the same place with her, yet as completely
separated as if seas rolled between them, was beginning to try him
Meantime Lawrence had turned up again, greatly improved in every
way by all that he had lived through, but rather too ready to fall in
with his father's tone towards Derrick. The relations between the
two brothers—always a little peculiar—became more and more
difficult, and the Major seemed to enjoy pitting them against each
At length the day of the review arrived. Derrick was not looking
well, his eyes were heavy with sleeplessness, and the Major had been
unusually exasperating at breakfast that morning, so that he started
with a jaded, worn-out feeling that would not wholly yield even to
the excitement of this long-expected meeting with Freda. When he
found himself in the great drawing-room at Lord Probyn's house, amid
a buzz of talk and a crowd of strange faces, he was seized with one
of those sudden attacks of shyness to which he was always liable. In
fact, he had been so long alone with the old Major that this plunge
into society was too great a reaction, and the very thing he had
longed for became a torture to him.
Freda was at the other end of the room talking to Keith Collins,
the well-known member for Codrington, whose curious but attractive
face was known to all the world through the caricatures of it in
'Punch.' I knew that she saw Derrick, and that he instantly perceived
her, and that a miserable sense of separation, of distance, of
hopelessness overwhelmed him as he looked. After all, it was natural
enough. For two years he had thought of Freda night and day; in his
unutterably dreary life her memory had been his refreshment, his
solace, his companion. Now he was suddenly brought face to face, not
with the Freda of his dreams, but with a fashionable, beautifully
dressed, much-sought girl, and he felt that a gulf lay between them;
it was the gulf of experience. Freda's life in society, the whirl of
gaiety, the excitement and success which she had been enjoying
throughout the season, and his miserable monotony of companionship
with his invalid father, of hard work and weary disappointment, had
broken down the bond of union that had once existed between them.
From either side they looked at each other—Freda with a wondering
perplexity, Derrick with a dull grinding pain at his heart.
Of course they spoke to each other; but I fancy the merest
platitudes passed between them. Somehow they had lost touch, and a
crowded London drawing-room was hardly the place to regain it.
"So your novel is really out," I heard her say to him in that deep,
clear voice of hers. "I like the design on the cover."
"Oh, have you read the book?" said Derrick, colouring.
"Well, no," she said truthfully. "I wanted to read it, but my
father wouldn't let me—he is very particular about what we read."
That frank but not very happily worded answer was like a stab to
poor Derrick. He had given to the world then a book that was not fit
for her to read! This 'Lynwood,' which had been written with his own
heart's blood, was counted a dangerous, poisonous thing, from which
she must be guarded!
Freda must have seen that she had hurt him, for she tried hard to
retrieve her words.
"It was tantalising to have it actually in the house, wasn't it? I
have a grudge against the Hour, for it was the review in that which
set my father against it." Then rather anxious to leave the
difficult subject—"And has your brother quite recovered from his
I think she was a little vexed that Derrick did not show more
animation in his replies about Lawrence's adventures during the war;
the less he responded the more enthusiastic she became, and I am
perfectly sure that in her heart she was thinking:
"He is jealous of his brother's fame—I am disappointed in him. He
has grown dull, and absent, and stupid, and he is dreadfully wanting
in small-talk. I fear that his life down in the provinces is turning
him into a bear."
She brought the conversation back to his book; but there was a
little touch of scorn in her voice, as if she thought to herself, "I
suppose he is one of those people who can only talk on one subject—
his own doings." Her manner was almost brusque.
"Your novel has had a great success, has it not?" she asked.
He instantly perceived her thought, and replied with a touch of
dignity and a proud smile:
"On the contrary, it has been a great failure; only three hundred
and nine copies have been sold."
"I wonder at that," said Freda, "for one so often heard it talked
He promptly changed the topic, and began to speak of the march
past. "I want to see Lord Starcross," he added. "I have no idea what
a hero is like."
Just then Lady Probyn came up, followed by an elderly harpy in
spectacles and false, much-frizzed fringe.
"Mrs. Carsteen wishes to be introduced to you, Mr. Vaughan; she is
a great admirer of your writings."
And poor Derrick, who was then quite unused to the species, had to
stand and receive a flood of the most fulsome flattery, delivered in
a strident voice, and to bear the critical and prolonged stare of the
spectacled eyes. Nor would the harpy easily release her prey. She
kept him much against his will, and I saw him looking wistfully now
and then towards Freda.
"It amuses me," I said to her, "that Derrick Vaughan should be so
anxious to see Lord Starcross. It reminds me of Charles Lamb's
anxiety to see Kosciusko, 'for,' said he, 'I have never seen a hero;
I wonder how they look,' while all the time he himself was living a
life of heroic self-sacrifice."
"Mr. Vaughan, I should think, need only look at his own brother,"
said Freda, missing the drift of my speech.
I longed to tell her what it was possible to tell of Derrick's
life, but at that moment Sir Richard Merrifield introduced to his
daughter a girl in a huge hat and great flopping sleeves, Miss
Isaacson, whose picture at the Grosvenor had been so much talked of.
Now the little artist knew no one in the room, and Freda saw fit to
be extremely friendly to her. She was introduced to me, and I did my
best to talk to her and set Freda at liberty as soon as the harpy had
released Derrick; but my endeavours were frustrated, for Miss
Isaacson, having looked me well over, decided that I was not at all
intense, but a mere commonplace, slightly cynical worldling, and
having exchanged a few lukewarm remarks with me, she returned to
Freda, and stuck to her like a bur for the rest of the time.
We stood out on the balcony to see the troops go by. It was a fine
sight, and we all became highly enthusiastic. Freda enjoyed the mere
pageant like a child, and was delighted with the horses. She looked
now more like the Freda of the yacht, and I wished that Derrick could
be near her; but, as ill-luck would have it, he was at some distance,
hemmed in by an impassable barrier of eager spectators.
Lawrence Vaughan rode past, looking wonderfully well in his
uniform. He was riding a spirited bay, which took Freda's fancy
amazingly, though she reserved her chief enthusiasm for Lord Starcross
and his steed. It was not until all was over, and we had returned to
the drawing-room, that Derrick managed to get the talk with Freda for
which I knew he was longing, and then they were fated, apparently, to
disagree. I was standing near and overheard the close of their talk.
"I do believe you must be a member of the Peace Society!" said
Freda impatiently. "Or perhaps you have turned Quaker. But I want to
introduce you to my god-father, Mr. Fleming; you know it was his son
whom your brother saved."
And I heard Derrick being introduced as the brother of the hero of
Saspataras Hill; and the next day he received a card for one of Mrs.
Fleming's receptions, Lawrence having previously been invited to dine
there on the same night.
What happened at that party I never exactly understood. All I
could gather was that Lawrence had been tremendously feted, that Freda
had been present, and that poor old Derrick was as miserable as he
could be when I next saw him. Putting two and two together, I guessed
that he had been tantalised by a mere sight of her, possibly tortured
by watching more favoured men enjoying long tete-a-tetes; but he would
say little or nothing about it, and when, soon after, he and the Major
left London, I feared that the fortnight had done my friend harm
instead of good.
"Then in that hour rejoice, since only thus
Can thy proud heart grow wholly piteous.
Thus only to the world thy speech can flow
Charged with the sad authority of woe.
Since no man nurtured in the shade can sing
To a true note one psalm of conquering;
Warriors must chant it whom our own eyes see
Red from the battle and more bruised than we,
Men who have borne the worst, have known the whole,
Have felt the last abeyance of the soul."
F. W. H. Myers.
About the beginning of August, I rejoined him at Ben Rhydding. The
place suited the Major admirably, and his various baths took up so
great a part of each day, that Derrick had more time to himself than
usual, and 'At Strife' got on rapidly. He much enjoyed, too, the
beautiful country round, while the hotel itself, with its huge
gathering of all sorts and conditions of people, afforded him endless
studies of character. The Major breakfasted in his own room, and,
being so much engrossed with his baths, did not generally appear till
twelve. Derrick and I breakfasted in the great dining- hall; and one
morning, when the meal was over, we, as usual, strolled into the
drawing-room to see if there were any letters awaiting us.
"One for you," I remarked, handing him a thick envelope.
"From Lawrence!" he exclaimed.
"Well, don't read it in here; the Doctor will be coming to read
prayers. Come out in the garden," I said.
We went out into the beautiful grounds, and he tore open the
envelope and began to read his letter as we walked. All at once I
felt the arm which was linked in mine give a quick, involuntary
movement, and, looking up, saw that Derrick had turned deadly pale.
"What's up?" I said. But he read on without replying; and, when I
paused and sat down on a sheltered rustic seat, he unconsciously
followed my example, looking more like a sleep-walker than a man in
the possession of all his faculties. At last he finished the letter,
and looked up in a dazed, miserable way, letting his eyes wander over
the fir-trees and the fragrant shrubs and the flowers by the path.
"Dear old fellow, what is the matter?" I asked.
The words seemed to rouse him.
A dreadful look passed over his face—the look of one stricken to
the heart. But his voice was perfectly calm, and full of a ghastly
"Freda will be my sister-in-law," he said, rather as if stating the
fact to himself than answering my question.
"Impossible!" I said. "What do you mean? How could—"
As if to silence me he thrust the letter into my hand. It ran as
"Dear Derrick,—For the last few days I have been down in the
Flemings' place in Derbyshire, and fortune has favoured me, for the
Merrifields are here too. Now prepare yourself for a surprise. Break
the news to the governor, and send me your heartiest congratulations
by return of post. I am engaged to Freda Merrifield, and am the
happiest fellow in the world. They are awfully fastidious sort of
people, and I do not believe Sir Richard would have consented to such
a match had it not been for that lucky impulse which made me rescue
Dick Fleming. It has all been arranged very quickly, as these things
should be, but we have seen a good deal of each other—first at
Aldershot the year before last, and just lately in town, and now these
four days down here—and days in a country house are equal to weeks
elsewhere. I enclose a letter to my father—give it to him at a
suitable moment—but, after all, he's sure to approve of a
daughter-in-law with such a dowry as Miss Merrifield is likely to have.
I gave him back the letter without a word. In dead silence we
moved on, took a turning which led to a little narrow gate, and passed
out of the grounds to the wild moorland country beyond.
After all, Freda was in no way to blame. As a mere girl she had
allowed Derrick to see that she cared for him; then circumstances had
entirely separated them; she saw more of the world, met Lawrence, was
perhaps first attracted to him by his very likeness to Derrick, and
finally fell in love with the hero of the season, whom every one
delighted to honour. Nor could one blame Lawrence, who had no notion
that he had supplanted his brother. All the blame lay with the
Major's slavery to drink, for if only he had remained out in India I
feel sure that matters would have gone quite differently.
We tramped on over heather and ling and springy turf till we
reached the old ruin known as the Hunting Tower; then Derrick seemed
to awake to the recollection of present things. He looked at his
"I must go back to my father," he said, for the first time breaking
"You shall do no such thing!" I cried. "Stay out here and I will
see to the Major, and give him the letter too if you like."
He caught at the suggestion, and as he thanked me I think there
were tears in his eyes. So I took the letter and set off for Ben
Rhydding, leaving him to get what relief he could from solitude,
space, and absolute quiet. Once I just glanced back, and somehow the
scene has always lingered in my memory—the great stretch of desolate
moor, the dull crimson of the heather, the lowering grey clouds, the
Hunting Tower a patch of deeper gloom against the gloomy sky, and
Derrick's figure prostrate, on the turf, the face hidden, the hands
grasping at the sprigs of heather growing near.
The Major was just ready to be helped into the garden when I
reached the hotel. We sat down in the very same place where Derrick
had read the news, and, when I judged it politic, I suddenly
remembered with apologies the letter that had been entrusted to me.
The old man received it with satisfaction, for he was fond of
Lawrence and proud of him, and the news of the engagement pleased him
greatly. He was still discussing it when, two hours later, Derrick
"Here's good news!" said the Major, glancing up as his son
approached. "Trust Lawrence to fall on his feet! He tells me the
girl will have a thousand a year. You know her, don't you? What's
"I have met her," replied Derrick, with forced composure. "She is
"Lawrence has all his wits about him," growled the Major. "Whereas
you—" (several oaths interjected). "It will be a long while before
any girl with a dowry will look at you! What women like is a bold
man of action; what they despise, mere dabblers in pen and ink,
writers of poisonous sensational tales such as yours! I'm quoting
your own reviewers, so you needn't contradict me!"
Of course no one had dreamt of contradicting; it would have been
the worst possible policy.
"Shall I help you in?" said Derrick. "It is just dinner time."
And as I walked beside them to the hotel, listening to the Major's
flood of irritating words, and glancing now and then at Derrick's
grave, resolute face, which successfully masked such bitter
suffering, I couldn't help reflecting that here was courage
infinitely more deserving of the Victoria Cross than Lawrence's
impulsive rescue. Very patiently he sat through the long dinner. I
doubt if any but an acute observer could have told that he was in
trouble; and, luckily, the world in general observes hardly at all.
He endured the Major till it was time for him to take a Turkish bath,
and then having two hours' freedom, climbed with me up the
rock-covered hill at the back of the hotel. He was very silent. But
I remember that, as we watched the sun go down—a glowing crimson
ball, half veiled in grey mist—he said abruptly, "If Lawrence makes
her happy I can bear it. And of course I always knew that I was not
worthy of her."
Derrick's room was a large, gaunt, ghostly place in one of the
towers of the hotel, and in one corner of it was a winding stair
leading to the roof. When I went in next morning I found him writing
away at his novel just as usual, but when I looked at him it seemed to
me that the night had aged him fearfully. As a rule, he took
interruptions as a matter of course, and with perfect sweetness of
temper; but to-day he seemed unable to drag himself back to the outer
world. He was writing at a desperate pace too, and frowned when I
spoke to him. I took up the sheet of foolscap which he had just
finished and glanced at the number of the page—evidently he had
written an immense quantity since the previous day.
"You will knock yourself up if you go on at this rate!" I
"Nonsense!" he said sharply. "You know it never tires me."
Yet, all the same, he passed his hand very wearily over his
forehead, and stretched himself with the air of one who had been in a
cramping position for many hours.
"You have broken your vow!" I cried. "You have been writing at
"No," he said; "it was morning when I began—three o'clock. And it
pays better to get up and write than to lie awake thinking."
Judging by the speed with which the novel grew in the next few
weeks, I could tell that Derrick's nights were of the worst.
He began, too, to look very thin and haggard, and I more than once
noticed that curious 'sleep-walking' expression in his eyes; he
seemed to me just like a man who has received his death-blow, yet
still lingers—half alive, half dead. I had an odd feeling that it
was his novel which kept him going, and I began to wonder what would
happen when it was finished.
A month later, when I met him again at Bath, he had written the
last chapter of 'At Strife,' and we read it over the sitting-room fire
on Saturday evening. I was very much struck with the book; it seemed
to me a great advance on 'Lynwood's Heritage,' and the part which he
had written since that day at Ben Rhydding was full of an
indescribable power, as if the life of which he had been robbed had
flowed into his work. When he had done, he tied up the MS. in his
usual prosaic fashion, just as if it had been a bundle of clothes,
and put it on a side table.
It was arranged that I should take it to Davison—the publisher of
'Lynwood's Heritage'—on Monday, and see what offer he would make for
it. Just at that time I felt so sorry for Derrick that if he had
asked me to hawk round fifty novels I would have done it.
Sunday morning proved wet and dismal; as a rule the Major, who was
fond of music, attended service at the Abbey, but the weather forced
him now to stay at home. I myself was at that time no church-goer,
but Derrick would, I verily believe, as soon have fasted a week as
have given up a Sunday morning service; and having no mind to be left
to the Major's company, and a sort of wish to be near my friend, I
went with him. I believe it is not correct to admire Bath Abbey, but
for all that 'the lantern of the west' has always seemed to me a grand
place; as for Derrick, he had a horror of a 'dim religious light,' and
always stuck up for his huge windows, and I believe he loved the Abbey
with all his heart. Indeed, taking it only from a sensuous point of
view, I could quite imagine what a relief he found his weekly
attendance here; by contrast with his home the place was Heaven
As we walked back, I asked a question that had long been in my
mind: "Have you seen anything of Lawrence?"
"He saw us across London on our way from Ben Rhydding," said
Derrick, steadily. "Freda came with him, and my father was delighted
I wondered how they had got through the meeting, but of course my
curiosity had to go unsatisfied. Of one thing I might be certain,
namely, that Derrick had gone through with it like a Trojan, that he
had smiled and congratulated in his quiet way, and had done the best
to efface himself and think only of Freda. But as everyone knows:
"Face joy's a costly mask to wear,
'Tis bought with pangs long nourished
And rounded to despair;"
and he looked now even more worn and old than he had done at Ben
Rhydding in the first days of his trouble.
However, he turned resolutely away from the subject I had
introduced and began to discuss titles for his novel.
"It's impossible to find anything new," he said, "absolutely
impossible. I declare I shall take to numbers."
I laughed at this prosaic notion, and we were still discussing the
title when we reached home.
"Don't say anything about it at lunch," he said as we entered. "My
father detests my writing."
I nodded assent and opened the sitting-room door—a strong smell of
brandy instantly became apparent; the Major sat in the green velvet
chair, which had been wheeled close to the hearth. He was drunk.
Derrick gave an ejaculation of utter hopelessness.
"This will undo all the good of Ben Rhydding!" he said. "How on
earth has he managed to get it?"
The Major, however, was not so far gone as he looked; he caught up
the remark and turned towards us with a hideous laugh.
"Ah, yes," he said, "that's the question. But the old man has
still some brains, you see. I'll be even with you yet, Derrick. You
needn't think you're to have it all your own way. It's my turn now.
You've deprived me all this time of the only thing I care for in
life, and now I turn the tables on you. Tit for tat. Oh! yes, I've
turned your d—d scribblings to a useful purpose, so you needn't
All this had been shouted out at the top of his voice and freely
interlarded with expressions which I will not repeat; at the end he
broke again into a laugh, and with a look, half idiotic, half
devilish, pointed towards the grate.
"Good Heavens!" I said, "what have you done?"
By the side of the chair I saw a piece of brown paper, and,
catching it up, read the address—"Messrs. Davison, Paternoster Row";
in the fireplace was a huge charred mass. Derrick caught his breath;
he stooped down and snatched from the fender a fragment of paper
slightly burned, but still not charred beyond recognition like the
rest. The writing was quite legible—it was his own writing—the
description of the Royalists' attack and Paul Wharncliffe's defence
of the bridge. I looked from the half-burnt scrap of paper to the
side table where, only the previous night, we had placed the novel,
and then, realising as far as any but an author could realise the
frightful thing that had happened, I looked in Derrick's face. Its
white fury appalled me. What he had borne hitherto from the Major,
God only knows, but this was the last drop in the cup. Daily
insults, ceaseless provocation, even the humiliations of personal
violence he had borne with superhuman patience; but this last injury,
this wantonly cruel outrage, this deliberate destruction of an amount
of thought, and labour, and suffering which only the writer himself
could fully estimate—this was intolerable.
What might have happened had the Major been sober and in the
possession of ordinary physical strength I hardly care to think. As
it was, his weakness protected him. Derrick's wrath was speechless;
with one look of loathing and contempt at the drunken man, he strode
out of the room, caught up his hat, and hurried from the house.
The Major sat chuckling to himself for a minute or two, but soon he
grew drowsy, and before long was snoring like a grampus. The old
landlady brought in lunch, saw the state of things pretty quickly,
shook her head and commiserated Derrick. Then, when she had left the
room, seeing no prospect that either of my companions would be in a
fit state for lunch, I made a solitary meal, and had just finished
when a cab stopped at the door and out sprang Derrick. I went into
the passage to meet him.
"The Major is asleep," I remarked.
He took no more notice than if I had spoken of the cat.
"I'm going to London," he said, making for the stairs. "Can you
get your bag ready? There's a train at 2.5."
Somehow the suddenness and the self-control with which he made this
announcement carried me back to the hotel at Southampton, where,
after listening to the account of the ship's doctor, he had announced
his intention of living with his father. For more than two years he
had borne this awful life; he had lost pretty nearly all that there
was to be lost and he had gained the Major's vindictive hatred. Now,
half maddened by pain, and having, as he thought, so hopelessly
failed, he saw nothing for it but to go—and that at once.
I packed my bag, and then went to help him. He was cramming all
his possessions into portmanteaux and boxes; the Hoffman was already
packed, and the wall looked curiously bare without it. Clearly this
was no visit to London—he was leaving Bath for good, and who could
wonder at it?
"I have arranged for the attendant from the hospital to come in at
night as well as in the morning," he said, as he locked a portmanteau
that was stuffed almost to bursting. "What's the time? We must make
haste or we shall lose the train. Do, like a good fellow, cram that
heap of things into the carpet-bag while I speak to the landlady."
At last we were off, rattling through the quiet streets of Bath,
and reaching the station barely in time to rush up the long flight of
stairs and spring into an empty carriage. Never shall I forget that
journey. The train stopped at every single station, and sometimes in
between; we were five mortal hours on the road, and more than once I
thought Derrick would have fainted. However, he was not of the
fainting order, he only grew more and more ghastly in colour and rigid
I felt very anxious about him, for the shock and the sudden anger
following on the trouble about Freda seemed to me enough to unhinge
even a less sensitive nature. 'At Strife' was the novel which had, I
firmly believe, kept him alive through that awful time at Ben
Rhydding, and I began to fear that the Major's fit of drunken malice
might prove the destruction of the author as well as of the book.
Everything had, as it were, come at once on poor Derrick; yet I don't
know that he fared worse than other people in this respect.
Life, unfortunately, is for most of us no well-arranged story with
a happy termination; it is a chequered affair of shade and sun, and
for one beam of light there come very often wide patches of shadow.
Men seem to have known this so far back as Shakespeare's time, and to
have observed that one woe trod on another's heels, to have battled
not with a single wave, but with a 'sea of troubles,' and to have
remarked that 'sorrows come not singly, but in battalions.'
However, owing I believe chiefly to his own self-command, and to
his untiring faculty for taking infinite pains over his work, Derrick
did not break down, but pleasantly cheated my expectations. I was
not called on to nurse him through a fever, and consumption did not
mark him for her own. In fact, in the matter of illness, he was
always a most prosaic, unromantic fellow, and never indulged in any
of the euphonious and interesting ailments. In all his life, I
believe, he never went in for anything but the mumps—of all
complaints the least interesting—and, may be, an occasional
However, all this is a digression. We at length reached London,
and Derrick took a room above mine, now and then disturbing me with
nocturnal pacings over the creaking boards, but, on the whole,
proving himself the best of companions.
If I wrote till Doomsday, I could never make you understand how the
burning of his novel affected him—to this day it is a subject I
instinctively avoid with him—though the re-written 'At Strife' has
been such a grand success. For he did re-write the story, and that
at once. He said little; but the very next morning, in one of the
windows of our quiet sitting-room, often enough looking despairingly
at the grey monotony of Montague Street, he began at 'Page I, Chapter
I,' and so worked patiently on for many months to re-make as far as he
could what his drunken father had maliciously destroyed. Beyond the
unburnt paragraph about the attack on Mondisfield, he had nothing
except a few hastily scribbled ideas in his note-book, and of course
the very elaborate and careful historical notes which he had made on
the Civil War during many years of reading and research- -for this
period had always been a favourite study with him.
But, as any author will understand, the effort of re-writing was
immense, and this, combined with all the other troubles, tried
Derrick to the utmost. However, he toiled on, and I have always
thought that his resolute, unyielding conduct with regard to that
book proved what a man he was.
"How oft Fate's sharpest blow shall leave thee strong,
With some re-risen ecstacy of song."
F. W. H. Myers.
As the autumn wore on, we heard now and then from old Mackrill the
doctor. His reports of the Major were pretty uniform. Derrick used
to hand them over to me when he had read them; but, by tacit consent,
the Major's name was never mentioned.
Meantime, besides re-writing 'At Strife,' he was accumulating
material for his next book and working to very good purpose. Not a
minute of his day was idle; he read much, saw various phases of life
hitherto unknown to him, studied, observed, gained experience, and
contrived, I believe, to think very little and very guardedly of
But, on Christmas Eve, I noticed a change in him—and that very
night he spoke to me. For such an impressionable fellow, he had
really extraordinary tenacity, and, spite of the course of Herbert
Spencer that I had put him through, he retained his unshaken faith in
many things which to me were at that time the merest legends. I
remember very well the arguments we used to have on the vexed
question of 'Free-will,' and being myself more or less of a fatalist,
it annoyed me that I never could in the very slightest degree shake
his convictions on that point. Moreover, when I plagued him too much
with Herbert Spencer, he had a way of retaliating, and would foist
upon me his favourite authors. He was never a worshipper of any one
writer, but always had at least a dozen prophets in whose praise he
Well, on this Christmas Eve, we had been to see dear old
Ravenscroft and his grand-daughter, and we were walking back through
the quiet precincts of the Temple, when he said abruptly:
"I have decided to go back to Bath to-morrow."
"Have you had a worse account?" I asked, much startled at this
"No," he replied, "but the one I had a week ago was far from good
if you remember, and I have a feeling that I ought to be there."
At that moment we emerged into the confusion of Fleet Street; but
when we had crossed the road I began to remonstrate with him, and
argued the folly of the idea all the way down Chancery Lane.
However, there was no shaking his purpose; Christmas and its
associations had made his life in town no longer possible for him.
"I must at any rate try it again and see how it works," he said.
And all I could do was to persuade him to leave the bulk of his
possessions in London, "in case," as he remarked, "the Major would
not have him."
So the next day I was left to myself again with nothing to remind
me of Derrick's stay but his pictures which still hung on the wall of
our sitting-room. I made him promise to write a full, true, and
particular account of his return, a bona-fide old-fashioned letter,
not the half-dozen lines of these degenerate days; and about a week
later I received the following budget:
"Dear Sydney,—I got down to Bath all right, and, thanks to your
'Study of Sociology,' endured a slow, and cold, and dull, and
depressing journey with the thermometer down to zero, and spirits to
correspond, with the country a monotonous white, and the sky a
monotonous grey, and a companion who smoked the vilest tobacco you
can conceive. The old place looks as beautiful as ever, and to my
great satisfaction the hills round about are green. Snow, save in
pictures, is an abomination. Milsom Street looked asleep, and Gay
Street decidedly dreary, but the inhabitants were roused by my knock,
and the old landlady nearly shook my hand off. My father has an
attack of jaundice and is in a miserable state. He was asleep when I
got here, and the good old landlady, thinking the front sitting-room
would be free, had invited 'company,' i.e., two or three married
daughters and their belongings; one of the children beats Magnay's
'Carina' as to beauty—he ought to paint her. Happy thought, send him
and pretty Mrs. Esperance down here on spec. He can paint the child
for the next Academy, and meantime I could enjoy his company. Well,
all these good folks being just set-to at roast beef, I naturally
wouldn't hear of disturbing them, and in the end was obliged to sit
down too and eat at that hour of the day the hugest dinner you ever
saw—anything but voracious appetites offended the hostess. Magnay's
future model, for all its angelic face, 'ate to repletion,' like the
fair American in the story. Then I went into my father's room, and
shortly after he woke up and asked me to give him some Friedrichshall
water, making no comment at all on my return, but just behaving as
though I had been here all the autumn, so that I felt as if the whole
affair were a dream. Except for this attack of jaundice, he has been
much as usual, and when you next come down you will find us settled
into our old groove. The quiet of it after London is extraordinary.
But I believe it suits the book, which gets on pretty fast. This
afternoon I went up Lansdowne and right on past the Grand Stand to
Prospect Stile, which is at the edge of a high bit of tableland, and
looks over a splendid stretch of country, with the Bristol Channel and
the Welsh hills in the distance. While I was there the sun most
considerately set in gorgeous array. You never saw anything like it.
It was worth the journey from London to Bath, I can assure you. Tell
Magnay, and may it lure him down; also name the model aforementioned.
"How is the old Q.C. and his pretty grandchild? That quaint old
room of theirs in the Temple somehow took my fancy, and the child was
divine. Do you remember my showing you, in a gloomy narrow street
here, a jolly old watchmaker who sits in his shop-window and is for
ever bending over sick clocks and watches? Well, he's still sitting
there, as if he had never moved since we saw him that Saturday months
ago. I mean to study him for a portrait; his sallow, clean-shaved,
wrinkled face has a whole story in it. I believe he is married to a
Xantippe who throws cold water over him, both literally and
metaphorically; but he is a philosopher—I'll stake my reputation as
an observer on that—he just shrugs his sturdy old shoulders, and goes
on mending clocks and watches. On dark days he works by a gas
jet—and then Rembrandt would enjoy painting him. I look at him
whenever my world is particularly awry, and find him highly
beneficial. Davison has forwarded me to-day two letters from readers
of 'Lynwood.' The first is from an irate female who takes me to task
for the dangerous tendency of the story, and insists that I have drawn
impossible circumstances and impossible characters. The second is
from an old clergyman, who writes a pathetic letter of thanks, and
tells me that it is almost word for word the story of a son of his who
died five years ago. Query: shall I send the irate female the old
man's letter, and save myself the trouble of writing? But on the
whole I think not; it would be pearls before swine. I will write to
her myself. Glad to see you whenever you can run down.
("Never struck me before what pious initials mine are.")
The very evening I received this letter I happened to be dining at
the Probyn's. As luck would have it, pretty Miss Freda was staying
in the house, and she fell to my share. I always liked her, though
of late I had felt rather angry with her for being carried away by
the general storm of admiration and swept by it into an engagement
with Lawrence Vaughan. She was a very pleasant, natural sort of
talker, and she always treated me as an old friend. But she seemed
to me, that night, a little less satisfied than usual with life.
Perhaps it was merely the effect of the black lace dress which she
wore, but I fancied her paler and thinner, and somehow she seemed all
"Where is Lawrence now?" I asked, as we went down to the dining-
"He is stationed at Dover," she replied. "He was up here for a few
hours yesterday; he came to say good-bye to me, for I am going to
Bath next Monday with my father, who has been very rheumatic lately-
-and you know Bath is coming into fashion again, all the doctors
"Major Vaughan is there," I said, "and has found the waters very
good, I believe; any day, at twelve o'clock, you may see him getting
out of his chair and going into the Pump Room on Derrick's arm. I
often wonder what outsiders think of them. It isn't often, is it,
that one sees a son absolutely giving up his life to his invalid
She looked a little startled.
"I wish Lawrence could be more with Major Vaughan," she said; "for
he is his father's favourite. You see he is such a good talker, and
Derrick—well, he is absorbed in his books; and then he has such
extravagant notions about war, he must be a very uncongenial
companion to the poor Major."
I devoured turbot in wrathful silence. Freda glanced at me.
"It is true, isn't it, that he has quite given up his life to
writing, and cares for nothing else?"
"Well, he has deliberately sacrificed his best chance of success by
leaving London and burying himself in the provinces," I replied
drily; "and as to caring for nothing but writing, why he never gets
more than two or three hours a day for it." And then I gave her a
minute account of his daily routine.
She began to look troubled.
"I have been misled," she said; "I had gained quite a wrong
impression of him."
"Very few people know anything at all about him," I said warmly;
"you are not alone in that."
"I suppose his next novel is finished now?" said Freda; "he told me
he had only one or two more chapters to write when I saw him a few
months ago on his way from Ben Rhydding. What is he writing now?"
"He is writing that novel over again," I replied.
"Over again? What fearful waste of time!"
"Yes, it has cost him hundreds of hours' work; it just shows what a
man he is, that he has gone through with it so bravely."
"But how do you mean? Didn't it do?"
Rashly, perhaps, yet I think unavoidably, I told her the truth.
"It was the best thing he had ever written, but unfortunately it
was destroyed, burnt to a cinder. That was not very pleasant, was it,
for a man who never makes two copies of his work?"
"It was frightful!" said Freda, her eyes dilating. "I never heard
a word about it. Does Lawrence know?"
"No, he does not; and perhaps I ought not to have told you, but I
was annoyed at your so misunderstanding Derrick. Pray never mention
the affair; he would wish it kept perfectly quiet."
"Why?" asked Freda, turning her clear eyes full upon mine.
"Because," I said, lowering my voice, "because his father burnt
She almost gasped.
"Yes, deliberately," I replied. "His illness has affected his
temper, and he is sometimes hardly responsible for his actions."
"Oh, I knew that he was irritable and hasty, and that Derrick
annoyed him. Lawrence told me that, long ago," said Freda. "But
that he should have done such a thing as that! It is horrible! Poor
Derrick, how sorry I am for him. I hope we shall see something of
them at Bath. Do you know how the Major is?"
"I had a letter about him from Derrick only this evening," I
replied; "if you care to see it, I will show it you later on."
And by-and-by, in the drawing-room, I put Derrick's letter into her
hands, and explained to her how for a few months he had given up his
life at Bath, in despair, but now had returned.
"I don't think Lawrence can understand the state of things," she
said wistfully. "And yet he has been down there."
I made no reply, and Freda, with a sigh, turned away.
A month later I went down to Bath and found, as my friend foretold,
everything going on in the old groove, except that Derrick himself
had an odd, strained look about him, as if he were fighting a foe
beyond his strength. Freda's arrival at Bath had been very hard on
him, it was almost more than he could endure. Sir Richard, blind as
a bat, of course, to anything below the surface, made a point of
seeing something of Lawrence's brother. And on the day of my arrival
Derrick and I had hardly set out for a walk, when we ran across the
Sir Richard, though rheumatic in the wrists, was nimble of foot and
an inveterate walker. He was going with his daughter to see over
Beckford's Tower, and invited us to accompany him. Derrick, much
against the grain, I fancy, had to talk to Freda, who, in her winter
furs and close-fitting velvet hat, looked more fascinating than ever,
while the old man descanted to me on Bath waters, antiquities, etc.,
in a long-winded way that lasted all up the hill. We made our way
into the cemetery and mounted the tower stairs, thinking of the past
when this dreary place had been so gorgeously furnished. Here Derrick
contrived to get ahead with Sir Richard, and Freda lingered in a sort
of alcove with me.
"I have been so wanting to see you," she said, in an agitated
voice. "Oh, Mr. Wharncliffe, is it true what I have heard about the
Major? Does he drink?"
"Who told you?" I said, a little embarrassed.
"It was our landlady," said Freda; "she is the daughter of the
Major's landlady. And you should hear what she says of Derrick! Why,
he must be a downright hero! All the time I have been half despising
him"—she choked back a sob—"he has been trying to save his father
from what was certain death to him—so they told me. Do you think it
"I know it is," I replied gravely.
"And about his arm—was that true?"
I signed an assent.
Her grey eyes grew moist.
"Oh," she cried, "how I have been deceived and how little Lawrence
appreciates him! I think he must know that I've misjudged him, for
he seems so odd and shy, and I don't think he likes to talk to me."
I looked searchingly into her truthful grey eyes, thinking of poor
Derrick's unlucky love-story.
"You do not understand him," I said; "and perhaps it is best so."
But the words and the look were rash, for all at once the colour
flooded her face. She turned quickly away, conscious at last that
the midsummer dream of those yachting days had to Derrick been no
dream at all, but a life-long reality.
I felt very sorry for Freda, for she was not at all the sort of
girl who would glory in having a fellow hopelessly in love with her.
I knew that the discovery she had made would be nothing but a sorrow
to her, and could guess how she would reproach herself for that
innocent past fancy, which, till now, had seemed to her so faint and
far-away—almost as something belonging to another life. All at once
we heard the others descending, and she turned to me with such a
frightened, appealing look, that I could not possibly have helped
going to the rescue. I plunged abruptly into a discourse on
Beckford, and told her how he used to keep diamonds in a tea-cup, and
amused himself by arranging them on a piece of velvet. Sir Richard
fled from the sound of my prosy voice, and, needless to say, Derrick
followed him. We let them get well in advance and then followed,
Freda silent and distraite, but every now and then asking a question
about the Major.
As for Derrick, evidently he was on guard. He saw a good deal of
the Merrifields and was sedulously attentive to them in many small
ways; but with Freda he was curiously reserved, and if by chance they
did talk together, he took good care to bring Lawrence's name into the
conversation. On the whole, I believe loyalty was his strongest
characteristic, and want of loyalty in others tried him more severely
than anything in the world.
As the spring wore on, it became evident to everyone that the Major
could not last long. His son's watchfulness and the enforced
temperance which the doctors insisted on had prolonged his life to a
certain extent, but gradually his sufferings increased and his
strength diminished. At last he kept his bed altogether.
What Derrick bore at this time no one can ever know. When, one
bright sunshiny Saturday, I went down to see how he was getting on, I
found him worn and haggard, too evidently paying the penalty of
sleepless nights and thankless care. I was a little shocked to hear
that Lawrence had been summoned, but when I was taken into the sick
room I realised that they had done wisely to send for the favourite
The Major was evidently dying.
Never can I forget the cruelty and malevolence with which his
bloodshot eyes rested on Derrick, or the patience with which the dear
old fellow bore his father's scathing sarcasms. It was while I was
sitting by the bed that the landlady entered with a telegram, which
she put into Derrick's hand.
"From Lawrence!" said the dying man triumphantly, "to say by what
train we may expect him. Well?" as Derrick still read the message to
himself, "can't you speak, you d—d idiot? Have you lost your d- -d
tongue? What does he say?"
"I am afraid he cannot be here just yet," said Derrick, trying to
tone down the curt message; "it seems he cannot get leave."
"Not get leave to see his dying father? What confounded nonsense.
Give me the thing here"; and he snatched the telegram from Derrick
and read it in a quavering, hoarse voice:
"Impossible to get away. Am hopelessly tied here. Love to my
father. Greatly regret to hear such bad news of him."
I think that message made the old man realise the worth of
Lawrence's often expressed affection for him. Clearly it was a great
blow to him. He threw down the paper without a word and closed his
eyes. For half an hour he lay like that, and we did not disturb him.
At last he looked up; his voice was fainter and his manner more
"Derrick," he said, "I believe I've done you an injustice; it is
you who cared for me, not Lawrence, and I've struck your name out of
my will—have left all to him. After all, though you are one of those
confounded novelists, you've done what you could for me. Let some
one fetch a solicitor—I'll alter it—I'll alter it!"
I instantly hurried out to fetch a lawyer, but it was Saturday
afternoon, the offices were closed, and some time passed before I had
caught my man. I told him as we hastened back some of the facts of
the case, and he brought his writing materials into the sick room and
took down from the Major's own lips the words which would have the
effect of dividing the old man's possessions between his two sons.
Dr. Mackrill was now present; he stood on one side of the bed, his
fingers on the dying man's pulse. On the other side stood Derrick, a
degree paler and graver than usual, but revealing little of his real
"Word it as briefly as you can," said the doctor.
And the lawyer scribbled away as though for his life, while the
rest of us waited in a wretched hushed state of tension. In the room
itself there was no sound save the scratching of the pen and the
laboured breathing of the old man; but in the next house we could
hear someone playing a waltz. Somehow it did not seem to me
incongruous, for it was 'Sweethearts,' and that had been the
favourite waltz of Ben Rhydding, so that I always connected it with
Derrick and his trouble, and now the words rang in my ears:
"Oh, love for a year, a week, a day,
But alas! for the love that loves alway."
If it had not been for the Major's return from India, I firmly
believed that Derrick and Freda would by this time have been
betrothed. Derrick had taken a line which necessarily divided them,
had done what he saw to be his duty; yet what were the results? He
had lost Freda, he had lost his book, he had damaged his chance of
success as a writer, he had been struck out of his father's will, and
he had suffered unspeakably. Had anything whatever been gained? The
Major was dying unrepentant to all appearance, as hard and cynical an
old worldling as I ever saw. The only spark of grace he showed was
that tardy endeavour to make a fresh will. What good had it all been?
I could not answer the question then, could only cry out in a sort
of indignation, "What profit is there in his blood?" But looking at
it now, I have a sort of perception that the very lack of apparent
profitableness was part of Derrick's training, while if, as I now
incline to think, there is a hereafter where the training begun here
is continued, the old Major in the hell he most richly deserved would
have the remembrance of his son's patience and constancy and devotion
to serve as a guiding light in the outer darkness.
The lawyer no longer wrote at railroad speed; he pushed back his
chair, brought the will to the bed, and placed the pen in the
trembling yellow hand of the invalid.
"You must sign your name here," he said, pointing with his finger;
and the Major raised himself a little, and brought the pen
quaveringly down towards the paper. With a sort of fascination I
watched the finely-pointed steel nib; it trembled for an instant or
two, then the pen dropped from the convulsed fingers, and with a cry
of intolerable anguish the Major fell back.
For some minutes there was a painful struggle; presently we caught
a word or two between the groans of the dying man.
"Too late!" he gasped, "too late!" And then a dreadful vision of
horrors seemed to rise before him, and with a terror that I can never
forget he turned to his son and clutched fast hold of his hands:
"Derrick!" he shrieked.
Derrick could not speak, but he bent low over the bed as though to
screen the dying eyes from those horrible visions, and with an odd
sort of thrill I saw him embrace his father.
When he raised his head the terror had died out of the Major's
face; all was over.
"To duty firm, to conscience true,
However tried and pressed,
In God's clear sight high work we do,
If we but do out best."
Lawrence came down to the funeral, and I took good care that he
should hear all about his father's last hours, and I made the
solicitor show him the unsigned will. He made hardly any comment on
it till we three were alone together. Then with a sort of kindly
patronage he turned to his brother—Derrick, it must be remembered,
was the elder twin—and said pityingly, "Poor old fellow! it was
rather rough on you that the governor couldn't sign this; but never
mind, you'll soon, no doubt, be earning a fortune by your books; and
besides, what does a bachelor want with more than you've already
inherited from our mother? Whereas, an officer just going to be
married, and with this confounded reputation of hero to keep up, why,
I can tell you it needs every penny of it!"
Derrick looked at his brother searchingly. I honestly believe that
he didn't very much care about the money, but it cut him to the heart
that Lawrence should treat him so shabbily. The soul of generosity
himself, he could not understand how anyone could frame a speech so
"Of course," I broke in, "if Derrick liked to go to law he could no
doubt get his rights, there are three witnesses who can prove what
was the Major's real wish."
"I shall not go to law," said Derrick, with a dignity of which I
had hardly imagined him capable. "You spoke of your marriage,
Lawrence; is it to be soon?"
"This autumn, I hope," said Lawrence; "at least, if I can overcome
Sir Richard's ridiculous notion that a girl ought not to marry till
she's twenty-one. He's a most crotchety old fellow, that future
father-in-law of mine."
When Lawrence had first come back from the war I had thought him
wonderfully improved, but a long course of spoiling and flattery had
done him a world of harm. He liked very much to be lionised, and to
see him now posing in drawing-rooms, surrounded by a worshipping
throng of women, was enough to sicken any sensible being.
As for Derrick, though he could not be expected to feel his
bereavement in the ordinary way, yet his father's death had been a
great shock to him. It was arranged that after settling various
matters in Bath he should go down to stay with his sister for a time,
joining me in Montague Street later on. While he was away in
Birmingham, however, an extraordinary change came into my humdrum
life, and when he rejoined me a few weeks later, I—selfish brute—
was so overwhelmed with the trouble that had befallen me that I
thought very little indeed of his affairs. He took this quite as a
matter of course, and what I should have done without him I can't
conceive. However, this story concerns him and has nothing to do
with my extraordinary dilemma; I merely mention it as a fact which
brought additional cares into his life. All the time he was doing
what could be done to help me he was also going through a most
baffling and miserable time among the publishers; for 'At Strife,'
unlike its predecessor, was rejected by Davison and by five other
houses. Think of this, you comfortable readers, as you lie back in
your easy chairs and leisurely turn the pages of that popular story.
The book which represented years of study and long hours of hard work
was first burnt to a cinder. It was re-written with what infinite
pains and toil few can understand. It was then six times tied up and
carried with anxiety and hope to a publisher's office, only to
re-appear six times in Montague Street, an unwelcome visitor, bringing
with it depression and disappointment.
Derrick said little, but suffered much. However, nothing daunted
him. When it came back from the sixth publisher he took it to a
seventh, then returned and wrote away like a Trojan at his third
book. The one thing that never failed him was that curious
consciousness that he HAD to write; like the prophets of old, the
'burden' came to him, and speak it he must.
The seventh publisher wrote a somewhat dubious letter: the book,
he thought, had great merit, but unluckily people were prejudiced, and
historical novels rarely met with success. However, he was willing
to take the story, and offered half profits, candidly admitting that
he had no great hopes of a large sale. Derrick instantly closed with
this offer, proofs came in, the book appeared, was well received like
its predecessor, fell into the hands of one of the leaders of Society,
and, to the intense surprise of the publisher, proved to be the novel
of the year. Speedily a second edition was called for; then, after a
brief interval, a third edition—this time a rational one-volume
affair; and the whole lot—6,000 I believe— went off on the day of
publication. Derrick was amazed; but he enjoyed his success very
heartily, and I think no one could say that he had leapt into fame at
Having devoured 'At Strife,' people began to discover the merits of
'Lynwood's Heritage;' the libraries were besieged for it, and a cheap
edition was hastily published, and another and another, till the book,
which at first had been such a dead failure, rivalled 'At Strife.'
Truly an author's career is a curious thing; and precisely why the
first book failed, and the second succeeded, no one could explain.
It amused me very much to see Derrick turned into a lion—he was so
essentially un-lion-like. People were for ever asking him how he
worked, and I remember a very pretty girl setting upon him once at a
dinner-party with the embarrassing request:
"Now, do tell me, Mr. Vaughan, how do you write stories? I wish
you would give me a good receipt for a novel."
Derrick hesitated uneasily for a minute; finally, with a humorous
smile, he said:
"Well, I can't exactly tell you, because, more or less, novels
grow; but if you want a receipt, you might perhaps try after this
fashion:—Conceive your hero, add a sprinkling of friends and
relatives, flavour with whatever scenery or local colour you please,
carefully consider what circumstances are most likely to develop your
man into the best he is capable of, allow the whole to simmer in your
brain as long as you can, and then serve, while hot, with ink upon
white or blue foolscap, according to taste."
The young lady applauded the receipt, but she sighed a little, and
probably relinquished all hope of concocting a novel herself; on the
whole, it seemed to involve incessant taking of trouble.
About this time I remember, too, another little scene, which I
enjoyed amazingly. I laugh now when I think of it. I happened to be
at a huge evening crush, and rather to my surprise, came across
Lawrence Vaughan. We were talking together, when up came Connington
of the Foreign Office. "I say, Vaughan," he said, "Lord Remington
wishes to be introduced to you." I watched the old statesman a
little curiously as he greeted Lawrence, and listened to his first
words: "Very glad to make your acquaintance, Captain Vaughan; I
understand that the author of that grand novel, 'At Strife,' is a
brother of yours." And poor Lawrence spent a mauvais quart d'heure,
inwardly fuming, I know, at the idea that he, the hero of Saspataras
Hill, should be considered merely as 'the brother of Vaughan, the
Fate, or perhaps I should say the effect of his own pernicious
actions, did not deal kindly just now with Lawrence. Somehow Freda
learnt about that will, and, being no bread-and-butter miss, content
meekly to adore her fiance and deem him faultless, she 'up and spake'
on the subject, and I fancy poor Lawrence must have had another
mauvais quart d'heure. It was not this, however, which led to a final
breach between them; it was something which Sir Richard discovered
with regard to Lawrence's life at Dover. The engagement was instantly
broken off, and Freda, I am sure, felt nothing but relief. She went
abroad for some time, however, and we did not see her till long after
Lawrence had been comfortably married to 1,500 pounds a year and a
middle-aged widow, who had long been a hero- worshipper, and who, I am
told, never allowed any visitor to leave the house without making some
allusion to the memorable battle of Saspataras Hill and her Lawrence's
For the two years following after the Major's death, Derrick and I,
as I mentioned before, shared the rooms in Montague Street. For me,
owing to the trouble I spoke of, they were years of maddening
suspense and pain; but what pleasure I did manage to enjoy came
entirely through the success of my friend's books and from his
companionship. It was odd that from the care of his father he should
immediately pass on to the care of one who had made such a disastrous
mistake as I had made. But I feel the less compunction at the thought
of the amount of sympathy I called for at that time, because I notice
that the giving of sympathy is a necessity for Derrick, and that when
the troubles of other folk do not immediately thrust themselves into
his life he carefully hunts them up. During these two years he was
reading for the Bar—not that he ever expected to do very much as a
barrister, but he thought it well to have something to fall back on,
and declared that the drudgery of the reading would do him good. He
was also writing as usual, and he used to spend two evenings a week at
Whitechapel, where he taught one of the classes in connection with
Toynbee Hall, and where he gained that knowledge of East-end life
which is conspicuous in his third book—'Dick Carew.' This, with an
ever increasing and often very burdensome correspondence, brought to
him by his books, and with a fair share of dinners, 'At Homes,' and so
forth, made his life a full one. In a quiet sort of way I believe he
was happy during this time. But later on, when, my trouble at an end,
I had migrated to a house of my own, and he was left alone in the
Montague Street rooms, his spirits somehow flagged.
Fame is, after all, a hollow, unsatisfying thing to a man of his
nature. He heartily enjoyed his success, he delighted in hearing
that his books had given pleasure or had been of use to anyone, but
no public victory could in the least make up to him for the loss he
had suffered in his private life; indeed, I almost think there were
times when his triumphs as an author seemed to him utterly
worthless—days of depression when the congratulations of his friends
were nothing but a mockery. He had gained a striking success, it is
true, but he had lost Freda; he was in the position of the starving
man who has received a gift of bon-bons, but so craves for bread that
they half sicken him. I used now and then to watch his face when, as
often happened, someone said: "What an enviable fellow you are,
Vaughan, to get on like this!" or, "What wouldn't I give to change
places with you!" He would invariably smile and turn the
conversation; but there was a look in his eyes at such times that I
hated to see—it always made me think of Mrs. Browning's poem, 'The
"Behind no prison-grate, she said,
Which slurs the sunshine half a mile,
Live captives so uncomforted
As souls behind a smile."
As to the Merrifields, there was no chance of seeing them, for Sir
Richard had gone to India in some official capacity, and no doubt, as
everyone said, they would take good care to marry Freda out there.
Derrick had not seen her since that trying February at Bath, long
ago. Yet I fancy she was never out of his thoughts.
And so the years rolled on, and Derrick worked away steadily,
giving his books to the world, accepting the comforts and discomforts
of an author's life, laughing at the outrageous reports that were in
circulation about him, yet occasionally, I think, inwardly wincing at
them, and learning from the number of begging letters which he
received, and into which he usually caused searching inquiry to be
made, that there are in the world a vast number of undeserving poor.
One day I happened to meet Lady Probyn at a garden-party; it was at
the same house on Campden Hill where I had once met Freda, and
perhaps it was the recollection of this which prompted me to enquire
"She has not been well," said Lady Probyn, "and they are sending
her back to England; the climate doesn't suit her. She is to make her
home with us for the present, so I am the gainer. Freda has always
been my favourite niece. I don't know what it is about her that is
so taking; she is not half so pretty as the others."
"But so much more charming," I said. "I wonder she has not married
out in India, as everyone prophesied."
"And so do I," said her aunt. "However, poor child, no doubt,
after having been two years engaged to that very disappointing hero of
Saspataras Hill, she will be shy of venturing to trust anyone again."
"Do you think that affair ever went very deep?" I ventured to ask.
"It seemed to me that she looked miserable during her engagement, and
happy when it was broken off."
"Quite so," said Lady Probyn; "I noticed the same thing. It was
nothing but a mistake. They were not in the least suited to each
other. By-the-by, I hear that Derrick Vaughan is married."
"Derrick?" I exclaimed; "oh, no, that is a mistake. It is merely
one of the hundred and one reports that are for ever being set afloat
"But I saw it in a paper, I assure you," said Lady Probyn, by no
"Ah, that may very well be; they were hard up for a paragraph, no
doubt, and inserted it. But, as for Derrick, why, how should he
marry? He has been madly in love with Miss Merrifield ever since our
cruise in the Aurora."
Lady Probyn made an inarticulate exclamation.
"Poor fellow!" she said, after a minute's thought; "that explains
much to me."
She did not explain her rather ambiguous remark, and before long
our tete-a-tete was interrupted.
Now that my friend was a full-fledged barrister, he and I shared
chambers, and one morning about a month after this garden party,
Derrick came in with a face of such radiant happiness that I couldn't
imagine what good luck had befallen him.
"What do you think?" he exclaimed; "here's an invitation for a
cruise in the Aurora at the end of August—to be nearly the same
party that we had years ago," and he threw down the letter for me to
Of course there was special mention of "my niece, Miss Merrifield,
who has just returned from India, and is ordered plenty of sea-air."
I could have told that without reading the letter, for it was written
quite clearly in Derrick's face. He looked ten years younger, and if
any of his adoring readers could have seen the pranks he was up to
that morning in our staid and respectable chambers, I am afraid they
would no longer have spoken of him "with 'bated breath and whispering
As it happened, I, too, was able to leave home for a fortnight at
the end of August; and so our party in the Aurora really was the
same, except that we were all several years older, and let us hope
wiser, than on the previous occasion. Considering all that had
intervened, I was surprised that Derrick was not more altered; as for
Freda, she was decidedly paler than when we first met her, but before
long sea-air and happiness wrought a wonderful transformation in her.
In spite of the pessimists who are for ever writing books, even
writing novels (more shame to them), to prove that there is no such
thing as happiness in the world, we managed every one of us heartily
to enjoy our cruise. It seemed indeed true that:
"Green leaves and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing and loving all come back together."
Something, at any rate, of the glamour of those past days came back
to us all, I fancy, as we laughed and dozed and idled and talked
beneath the snowy wings of the Aurora, and I cannot say I was in the
least surprised when, on roaming through the pleasant garden walks in
that unique little island of Tresco, I came once more upon Derrick and
Freda, with, if you will believe it, another handful of white heather
given to them by that discerning gardener! Freda once more reminded
me of the girl in the 'Biglow Papers,' and Derrick's face was full of
such bliss as one seldom sees.
He had always had to wait for his good things, but in the end they
came to him. However, you may depend upon it, he didn't say much.
That was never his way. He only gripped my hand, and, with his eyes
all aglow with happiness, exclaimed "Congratulate me, old fellow!"