Denzil Cantercot shambled home thoughtfully, and abstractedly took his place at the Crowl dinner-table.
Mrs. Crowl surveyed Denzil Cantercot so stonily and cut him his beef so savagely that he said grace when the dinner was over. Peter fed his metaphysical genius on tomatoes. He was tolerant enough to allow his family to follow their Fads; but no savoury smells ever tempted him to be false to his vegetable loves. Besides, meat might have reminded him too much of his work. There is nothing like leather, but Bow beefsteaks occasionally come very near it.
After dinner Denzil usually indulged in poetic reverie. But to-day he did not take his nap. He went out at once to “raise the wind.” But there was a dead calm everywhere. In vain he asked for an advance at the office of the Mile End Mirror, to which he contributed scathing leaderettes about vestrymen. In vain he trudged to the City and offered to write the Ham and Eggs Gazette an essay on the modern methods of bacon-curing. Denzil knew a great deal about the breeding and slaughtering of pigs, smoke-lofts and drying processes, having for years dictated the policy of the New Pork Herald in these momentous matters. Denzil also knew a great deal about many other esoteric matters, including weaving machines, the manufacture of cabbage leaves and snuff, and the inner economy of drain-pipes. He had written for the trade papers since boyhood. But there is great competition on these papers. So many men of literary gifts know all about the intricate technicalities of manufactures and markets, and are eager to set the trade right. Grodman perhaps hardly allowed sufficiently for the step backwards that Denzil made when he devoted his whole time for months to Criminals I have Caught. It was as damaging as a debauch. For when your rivals are pushing forwards, to stand still is to go back.
In despair Denzil shambled toilsomely to Bethnal Green. He paused before the window of a little tobacconist’s shop, wherein was displayed a placard announcing
“PLOTS FOR SALE.”
The announcement went on to state that a large stock of plots was to be obtained on the premises—embracing sensational plots, humorous plots, love plots, religious plots, and poetic plots; also complete manuscripts, original novels, poems, and tales. Apply within.
It was a very dirty-looking shop, with begrimed bricks and blackened woodwork. The window contained some musty old books, an assortment of pipes and tobacco, and a large number of the vilest daubs unhung, painted in oil on Academy boards, and unframed. These were intended for landscapes, as you could tell from the titles. The most expensive was “Chingford Church,” and it was marked IS. 9d. The others ran from 6d. to IS. 3d., and were mostly representations of Scottish scenery—a loch with mountains in the background, with solid reflections in the water