* * * * *
As I write this in London I have Simpson’s album in front of me. Should you ever do us the honour of dining with us (as I hope you will), and (which seems impossible) should there ever come a moment when the conversation runs low, and you are revolving in your mind whether it is worth while asking us if we have been to any theatres lately, then I shall produce the album, and you will be left in no doubt that we are just back from the Riviera. You will see oranges and lemons and olives and cactuses and palms; blue sky (if you have enough imagination) and still bluer sea; picturesque villas, curious effects of rocks, distant backgrounds of mountain ... and on the last page the clever kindly face of Simpson.
The whole affair will probably bore you to tears.
But with Myra and me the case of course is different. We find these things, as Simpson said, very jolly to look back on.
II. MEN OF LETTERS
MEN OF LETTERS
A TALE OF LITERARY LIFE IN LONDON
(Modelled on the hundred best Authors.)
John Penquarto looked round his diminutive bed-sitting-room with a feeling of excitement not unmixed with awe. So this was London! The new life had begun. With a beating heart he unpacked his bag and set out his simple belongings.
First his books, his treasured books; where should he put them? It was comforting to think that, wherever they stood, they would be within reach of his hand as he lay in bed. He placed them on the window-sill and read their titles again reverently: “Half-Hours with our Water-Beetles,” “The Fretworker’s Companion” and “Strenuous Days in Simla.” He owed everything to them. And what an air they gave the room!
But not such an air as was given by his other treasure—the photograph of Mary.
Mary! He had only met her once, and that was twenty years ago, at his native Polwollop. He had gone to the big house with a message for Mr. Trevena, her ladyship’s butler: “Mother’s respects, and she has found the other shirt-front and will send it up as soon as it is dry.” He had often taken a similar message, for Mrs. Penquarto did the washing for the upper servants at the Hall, but somehow he had known that to-day was going to be different.
There, just inside the gates, was Mary. He was only six, but even then he knew that never would he see again anything so beautiful. She was five; but there was something in her manner of holding herself and the imperious tilt of her head which made her seem almost five-and-a-half.
“I’m Mary,” she said.
He wanted to say that he was John, but could not. He stood there tongue-tied.
“I love you,” she went on.