“I must have drunk too much whisky,” he said to himself, angrily. “Good heavens! Fancy sinking to Mary Ann. If Peter had only seen—There was infinitely more poetry in that red-cheeked Maedchen, and yet I never—It is true-there is something sordid about the atmosphere that subtly permeates you, that drags you down to it. Mary Ann! A transpontine drudge! whose lips are fresh from the coalman’s and the butcher’s. Phaugh!”
The fancy seized hold of his imagination. He could not shake it off, he could not sleep till he had got out of bed and sponged his lips vigorously.
Meanwhile Mary Ann was lying on her bed, dressed, doing her best to keep her meaningless, half-hysterical sobs from her mistress’s keen ear.
It was a long time before Mary Ann came so prominently into the centre of Lancelot’s consciousness again. She remained somewhere in the outer periphery of his thought—nowhere near the bull’s-eye, so to speak—as a vague automaton that worked when he pulled a bell-rope. Infinitely more important things were troubling him; the visit of Peter had somehow put a keener edge on his blunted self-confidence; he had started a grand opera, and worked at it furiously in all the intervals left him by his engrossing pursuit after a publisher. Sometimes he would look up from his hieroglyphics and see Mary Ann at his side surveying him curiously, and then he would start, and remember he had rung her up, and try to remember what for. And Mary Ann would turn red, as if the fault was hers.
But the publisher was the one thing that was never out of Lancelot’s mind, though he drove Lancelot himself nearly out of it. He was like an arrow stuck in the aforesaid bull’s-eye, and, the target being conscious, he rankled sorely. Lancelot discovered that the publisher kept a “musical adviser,” whose advice appeared to consist of the famous monosyllable, “Don’t.” The publisher generally published all the musical adviser’s own works, his advice having apparently been neglected when it was most worth taking; at least so Lancelot thought, when he had skimmed through a set of Lancers by one of these worthies.
“I shall give up being a musician,” he said to himself, grimly. “I shall become a musical adviser.”
Once, half by accident, he actually saw a publisher. “My dear sir,” said the great man, “what is the use of bringing quartets and full scores to me? You should have taken them to Brahmson; he’s the very man you want. You know his address, of course—just down the street.”
Lancelot did not like to say that it was Brahmson’s clerks that had recommended him here; so he replied, “But you publish operas, oratorios, cantatas!”
“Ah, yes!—h’m—things that have been played at the big Festivals—composers of prestige—quite a different thing, sir, quite a different thing. There’s no sale for these things—none at all, sir—public never heard of you. Now, if you were to write some songs—nice catchy tunes—high class, you know, with pretty words—”