“I hope you’re not too proud to give me a hand, Mr. Mesurier, in a little idea I’ve got,” he said.
“I think you know how proud I am, and how proud I’m not, Mr. Fairfax,” said Henry. “I’m sure anything I could do for you would make me proud, if that’s what you mean.”
“Thank you. Thank you. But you mustn’t speak too fast. It’s advertising—does the word frighten you? No? Well, it’s a scheme I’ve thought of for a little really artistic and humorous advertising combined. I’ve got a promise from one of the most original artists of the day, you know his name, to do the pictures; and I want you to do the verses—at, I may say, your own price. It’s not, perhaps, the highest occupation for a poet; but it’s something to be going on with; and if we’ve got good posters as advertisements, I don’t see why we shouldn’t have good humorous verse. What do you think of it?”
“I think it’s capital,” said Henry, who was almost too ready to turn his hand to anything. “Of course I’ll do it; only too glad.”
“Well, that’s settled. Now, name your price. Don’t be frightened!”
“Really, I can’t. I haven’t the least idea what I should get. Wait till I have done a few of the verses, and you can give me what you please.”
“No, sir,” said Mr. Fairfax; “business is business. If you won’t name a figure, I must. Will you consider a hundred pounds sufficient?”
“A hundred pounds!” Henry gasped out, the tears almost starting to his eyes.
Mr. Fairfax did not miss his frank joy, and liked him for his ingenuousness.
“All right, then; we’ll call it settled. I shall be ready for the verses as soon as you care to write them.”
“Mr. Fairfax, I will tell you frankly that this is a great deal to me, and I thank you from my heart.”
“Not a word, not a word, my boy. We want your verses, we want your verses. That’s right, isn’t it? Good verses, good money! Now no more of that,” and the good man, in alarm lest he should be thanked further, made an abrupt and awkward farewell.
“It will keep the lad going a few months anyhow,” he said to himself, as he tramped downstairs, glad that he’d been able to think of something; for, while the scheme was admirable as an advertisement, and would more than repay Messrs. Owens’ outlay, its origin had been pure philanthropy. Such good angels do walk this world in the guise of bulky, quite unpoetic-looking business-men.
“One hundred pounds!” said Henry, over and over again to himself. “One hundred pounds! What news for Angel!”
He had soon a scheme in his head for the book, which entirely hit Mr. Fairfax’s fancy. It was to make a volume of verse celebrating each of the various departments of the great store, in metres parodying the styles of the old English ballads and various poets, ancient and modern, and was to be called, “Bon Marche Ballads.”
“Something like this, for example,” said Henry, a few days later, pulling an envelope covered with pencil-scribble from his pocket. “This for the ladies’ department,—