“After a time the door opened, and those near it pressed forward to enter, but old Wenzel’s broad shoulders barred the way.
“‘I want you—and you, Bekler,’ he said, addressing a couple of the elder men. His voice was calm, but his face was deadly white. ’The rest of you, please go—get the women away as quickly as you can.’
“From that day old Nicholaus Geibel confined himself to the making of mechanical rabbits and cats that mewed and washed their faces.”
We agreed that the moral of MacShaughnassy’s story was a good one.
How much more of our—fortunately not very valuable—time we devoted to this wonderful novel of ours, I cannot exactly say. Turning the dogs’- eared leaves of the dilapidated diary that lies before me, I find the record of our later gatherings confused and incomplete. For weeks there does not appear a single word. Then comes an alarmingly business-like minute of a meeting at which there were—“Present: Jephson, MacShaughnassy, Brown, and Self”; and at which the “Proceedings commenced at 8.30.” At what time the “proceedings” terminated, and what business was done, the chronicle, however, sayeth not; though, faintly pencilled in the margin of the page, I trace these hieroglyphics: “3.14.9-2.6.7,” bringing out a result of “1.8.2.” Evidently an unremunerative night.
On September 13th we seem to have become suddenly imbued with energy to a quite remarkable degree, for I read that we “Resolved to start the first chapter at once”—“at once” being underlined. After this spurt, we rest until October 4th, when we “Discussed whether it should be a novel of plot or of character,” without—so far as the diary affords indication—arriving at any definite decision. I observe that on the same day “Mac told a story about a man who accidentally bought a camel at a sale.” Details of the story are, however, wanting, which, perhaps, is fortunate for the reader.
On the 16th, we were still debating the character of our hero; and I see that I suggested “a man of the Charley Buswell type.”
Poor Charley, I wonder what could have made me think of him in connection with heroes; his lovableness, I suppose—certainly not his heroic qualities. I can recall his boyish face now (it was always a boyish face), the tears streaming down it as he sat in the schoolyard beside a bucket, in which he was drowning three white mice and a tame rat. I sat down opposite and cried too, while helping him to hold a saucepan lid over the poor little creatures, and thus there sprang up a friendship between us, which grew.
Over the grave of these murdered rodents, he took a solemn oath never to break school rules again, by keeping either white mice or tame rats, but to devote the whole of his energies for the future to pleasing his masters, and affording his parents some satisfaction for the money being spent upon his education.