And so on.
And every one of the novels would establish the author’s right to be reckoned, etc., and place him undoubtedly in the very front rank.
It was a stupendous idea. For a moment John was almost paralysed at contemplation of it. There seemed to be no end to his novel as he had planned it. Was it too much for his powers?
There was only one way to find out. He hurried back to his bed-sitting-room, seized a pen and began to write.
It was two years later. For the last fortnight John Penquarto had stopped counting the money in his belt. There was none left. For a fortnight now he had been living on the belt itself.
But a great hope had always sustained him. One day he would hear from the publisher to whom he had sent his novel a year ago.
And now at last the letter had come, and he was seated in the office of the great Mr. Pump himself. His heart beat rapidly. He felt suffocated.
“Well, Mr. Penquarto,” said the smiling publisher, “I may say at once that we like your novel. We should have written before, but we have only just finished reading it. It is a little long—about two million eight hundred thousand words, I reckon it—but I have a suggestion to make which will meet that difficulty. I suggest that we publish it in half a dozen volumes, stopping, for the first volume, at the Press notices of (say) Peter’s novel. We find that the public likes these continuous books. About terms. We will send an agreement along to-morrow. Naturally, as this is a first book, we can only pay a nominal sum on account of royalties. Say ten thousand pounds. How will that suit you?”
With a heart still beating John left the office five minutes later and bought a new belt. Then he went to a restaurant where Goldsmith had never been and ordered a joint and two veg. Success had come!
I should like to dwell upon the weeks which followed. I should like to tell of John’s emotion when he saw his first proofs and of the printer’s emotion when he saw what a mess John had made of them. I should like to describe how my hero’s heart beat during the anxious days of waiting; to picture to you his pride at the arrival of his six free copies, and his landlady’s surprise when he presented her with one. Above all, I should like to bring home to you the eagerness with which he bought and opened “The Times Literary Supplement” and read his first review:
“‘William Trewulliam—The First Phase.’ By John Penquarto, 7-1/2 by 5-1/4, 896 pp., Albert Pump. 9s. n.”
I have no time to go into these matters, nor have I time in which to give at length his later Press cuttings, in which there was displayed a unanimity of opinion that John Penquarto was now in the front rank of living novelists, one of the limited number whose work really counted. I must hurry on.