I had once seen Jaffery lose his head and the spectacle did not make for edification. It was before I was married, when Jaffery, during his London sojourn, had the spare bedroom in a set of rooms I rented in Tavistock Square. At a florist’s hard by, a young flower seller—a hussy if ever there was one—but bewitchingly pretty—carried on her poetical avocation; and of her did my hulking and then susceptible friend become ragingly enamoured. I repeat, she was a hussy. She had no intention of giving him more than the tip of her pretty little shoe to kiss; but Jaffery, reading the promise of secular paradise in her eyes, had no notion of her little hard intention. He squandered himself upon her and she led him a dog’s life. Of course I remonstrated, argued, implored. It was like asking a hurricane politely not to blow. Her name I remember was Gwenny. One summer evening she had promised to meet him outside the house in Tavistock Square—he had arranged to take her to some Earl’s Court Exhibition, where she could satiate a depraved passion for switch-backs, water-chutes and scenic railways. At the appointed hour Jaffery stood in waiting on the pavement. I sat on the first floor balcony, alternately reading a novel and watching him with a sardonic eye. Presently Gwenny turned the corner of the square—our house was a few doors up—and she appeared, on the opposite side of the road, by the square railings. But Gwenny was not alone. Gwenny, rigged out in the height of Bloomsbury florists’ fashion, was ostentatiously accompanied by a young man, a very scrubby, pallid, ignoble young man; his arm was round her waist, and her arm was around his, in the approved enlinkment of couples in her class who are keeping company, or, in other words, are, or are about to be, engaged to be married. A curious shock vibrated through Jaffery’s frame. He flamed red. He saw red. Gwenny shot a supercilious glance and tossed her chin. Jaffery crossed the road and barred their path. He fished in his pocket for some coins and addressed the scrubby man, who, poor wretch, had never heard of Jaffery’s existence.
“Here’s twopence to go away. Take the twopence and go away. Damn you—take the twopence.”
The man retreated in a scare.
“Won’t you take the twopence? I should advise you to.”
Anybody but a born fool or a hero would have taken the twopence. I think the scrubby man had the makings of a hero. He looked up at the blazing giant.
“You be damned!” said he, retreating a pace.
Then, suddenly, with the swiftness of a panther, Jaffery sprang on him, grasped him in the back by a clump of clothes—it seemed, with one hand, so quickly was it done—and hurled him yards away over the railings. I can still see the flight of the poor devil’s body in mid air until it fell into a holly-bush. With another spring he turned on the paralysed Gwenny, caught her up like a doll and charged with her now screaming violently