Roy Glashan's Library
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First published in The Ludgate, London, August 1899

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R. FLORIMOND awoke from a deep sleep. There was nobody there but the dog Trust. Mr. Florimond objected to the dog Trust's friendships for strange dogs in the street, and after having cautioned him severely was compelled to confine him to the house and the little garden at the back. The dog Trust, being deprived of proper exercise, had in consequence become very fat and lazy, and indeed would often sleep far on into a delightful summer's day.

Mr. Florimond looked gloomily round the neat and pretty bedroom, which afforded such a contrast to its dishevelled owner. Since he had taken to drink, Mr. Florimond had become more and more careless of his nails and hair, and although his complexion was distinctly yellow, he had lately allowed himself to wear a green nightcap, which was very ugly indeed. In the saucer of the candlestick which stood by the bedside were some lumps of sugar and a little round bottle of purple liquid. Mr. Florimond poured two or three drops of the liquid on to a piece of sugar and swallowed it with great satisfaction. The little bottle held toothache mixture, and Mr. Florimond had discovered, by the merest chance, that if you drank a little of this stuff it would supply a feeble exhilaration to flagging powers, and even on good days would make one hungry enough at breakfast time to call hurriedly for an egg.

In a few moments Mr. Florimond climbed out of bed and gave a vicious kick to the dog Trust. Hastily, avoiding his bath, he thrust his feet into a pair of Turkish slippers, which he had bought for a mere ditty in the Lowther Arcade, and then wrapping himself in a dressing gown, sulkily went downstairs to breakfast.

His little breakfast room, with its French windows opening out into the garden, presented a curious appearance to the eyes of any one who understood about rooms. It was obviously going through a period of change. Originally, one saw that it had been exactly the kind of breakfast room that one expects to find in Tulse Hill. On the right-hand side of the hall, as you enter, there was, naturally enough, the engraving of King Charles I. saying goodbye to his children; nor was one disappointed when one looked for the ebonised chess table with the squares made of inlaid mother-of-pearl. What, however, was curious, was the fact that the experiment had been made of covering one wall entirely with brown paper, and that the only picture on this space was a black and white drawing by a notorious decadent artist. This picture was carefully hung so that it should not be in the centre of the wall. Moreover, a roll of white paper, which was leaning against the nicely glazed mahogany bookshelf full of standard works, looked suspiciously like a poster by Lautrec. A copy of Gil Blas Illustré lay upon the sofa, but half concealing the familiar covers of Cassell's useful and popular dictionary of the French language.

Mr. Florimond, who was very hungry indeed, rang the bell for breakfast; but when Buscall brought up a dish of hot and tempting sausages, he waved her impatiently away, and in a low weary voice asked for some dry toast. In fact, Mr. Florimond was in a very bad way, and saw nothing but ruin staring him in the face. As he thought over his sad condition his eyes grew moist with self-pity, and the hand that poured out a brandy and soda shook like a water-eaten leaf.


In a low weary voice he asked for some dry toast.

His situation was certainly unenviable. Mr. Florimond was a novelist of the romantic school, and by regular hours—from ten to two, and from eight to eleven—and untiring industry had managed to make a comfortable though moderate income. His stories, which invariably began with the sentence "Two horsemen came galloping over the plain," were read with great interest by many serious-minded people at Ipswich and other country towns, and until six months ago he had been in full enjoyment of that happiness which the love and esteem of the respectable alone can give.

The trouble that now confronted him was real and earnest, for it was nothing less than an entire change of the public taste, and an insistent demand for a kind of literature which, despite his hardest efforts, Mr. Florimond found himself quite unable to supply. A year or so before, there had arisen in Oxford and Paris a band of young men of great brilliancy and few morals, under the leadership of a respectable middle-aged gentleman, who had spent several years of his life in stifling his strong domestic impulses, and in endeavouring to be very wicked indeed. Whenever any of the little band had invented, or borrowed from some ancient Latin book, a fresh form of vicious indulgence—some new and very intoxicating drink, or something delightfully naughty to say—they at once printed the discovery in a newspaper, and so in quite a short time became very famous. Had these ingenuous people been content to simply live their amusing lives and provide a little harmless merriment for real people, Mr. Florimond would never have complained; but it was not so.

Urged on by the pathetic spectacle of the respectable middle-aged gentleman, whose views endeavoured to be as broad as his margins, these young men from Oxford devoted their time to the making of books, which immediately had an enormous and incredible success. Mr. Florimond, who rarely left the chaste seclusion of Tulse Hill, did not know enough of the affairs of the world to understand that the public were only amused for a little space at the merry antics of these curious people, and would inevitably return to the real and solid romances which he himself was able to produce.

He saw that one touch of indecency makes the whole world grin, but was not astute enough to analyse the quality of the smile.

His sales fell off very much, and his publishers, though they issued his new book, "Sword and Sorcerer," hinted that something a trifle more modern would be more likely to suit the public taste and suggested that the epigram was at the moment a form of expression worthy his attention.

Mr. Florimond quite saw the force or their remarks, and when, on picking up the lucubrations of many of his brethren of the sword and spear, he saw that royalties had made decadents of them all, he determined that he also would become what in a feeble attempt at a pun he called a "decayed 'un."

He found it very difficult because he did not understand the flair of the movement in the least. He was by no means a fool, but his type of brain was one which found it impossible to assimilate the new ideas. He could not see the raison d'être of the whole thing, and his attempts were very pitiable. This morning he gloomily surveyed a piece of paper which bore the whole output of the day before. It was headed "Fantasia," and ran:—

"Strange to be tipsy yesterday, to dress myself up thus and knock at the gate of the palace and say, 'I would be the King's new jester.' Upon my life, folly has better ideas than reason: to be accepted, to be given a palace to roam in, a King to fool to, and to be given a new personality—this is charming.

"And they are all so kind too—they forget me—I met the King. His courtiers told him: 'St. Grau is dead, here is a counterfeit.' He hadn't even the curiosity to look at me. He murmured something about the bells being in the same tone, so I had to cut off all mine and sew on new ones."

Mr. Florimond had tried very hard over this. He had been intoxicated as early as twelve o'clock in the morning on a mixture of bay rum and the green part of a Gorgonzola cheese, and in the afternoon he had chatted for half-an-hour with a man who had once spoken to Verlaine. This was all the result! He shook his head gloomily, for he knew that it would not do. No readers, he reflected, would stand that, and he marvelled how the type of young man he heard of succeeded, by being nearly always idle in a public, in becoming the idol of the public.

During the last few days he had returned time after time, like the dog of Scripture, to the decadent novel he was engaged on, and on each occasion the thing had bitterly repulsed him. His balance at the bank was getting alarmingly low, and the future presented nothing but blackness to his imagination. Often for hours he would stare gloomily at the fire, wondering how the new writers made the epigrams that were so liberally scattered over their pages. He could not get the trick of it, try as he would. He would write down a proverb such as "The early bird gets the first worm," and hours of anguish would only twist it into "The surly word makes the curst squirm," or some equally futile imitation of the real thing.

This morning he was more than usually unhappy, and after an aimless opium-tainted cigarette which he did not enjoy resolved to take a walk in the neighbourhood, in the hope that the fresh air might stimulate his intelligence. Accordingly he dressed and shaved, feeling much better for the cleanly operation, and summoning the dog Trust went out into the crisp and invigorating winter's morning. The dog Trust, delighted at this unwonted freedom, ran hurriedly down the garden path. Unfortunately, as he emerged from the gate, the dog Trust collided violently with a neatly-dressed young gentleman who was walking past, and the ground being very slippery, the young gentleman fell with great violence, striking his head against the kerbstone. Mr. Florimond, in whom the new theories had not yet entirely stifled every kindly impulse, immediately ran to his assistance, and finding him rather badly hurt, called Buscall, the cook, and with her help, carried him into the house.

The young gentleman was dressed with great elegance and in a thoroughly considered manner. His face was pale and thin, and his light straw-coloured hair was parted very neatly in the centre and anointed with fragrant brilliantine. Instead of an ordinary tie, he wore an old-fashioned stock, which swathed his tall collar in its many folds, and from the left-hand pocket of his waistcoat dangled a little bunch of seals. While Buscall was bathing his injured head with warm water, Mr. Florimond regarded him with great interest. Some indefinable instinct told him that the stranger must be a real decadent, and though he knew the folly of indulging in such vain hopes, the joyous conviction was more and more borne in upon him as he watched the pallid figure on the sofa. After a few minutes, the young gentleman sighed, and, opening his eyes, regarded good Buscall, who was making a linen bandage, with obvious interest.

"I hope you are better, sir," said Mr. Florimond; "you have had a nasty knock, and I fear it was entirely owing to the lamentable clumsiness of the dog Trust, who is often very rough in the morning, and whom I shall whip severely."

"Oh, please do not mention it," answered the young gentleman; "the sensation was quite novel and delightful, and I must really insist you will not punish the dog Trust on my account. Might I be so bold as to ask you for a drink?"

A brilliant idea occurred to Mr. Florimond—he would test the decadence of his guest. He hastily ran to the morning room and mixed a strong brandy and soda. Then he took the bottle of bay rum out of the cupboard, and, cutting a nice piece of Gorgonzola cheese from the greenest part, placed it upon a plate.

If the young gentleman was, as he hoped, a real decadent, Mr. Florimond knew that he would at once compound the famous drink, but if a more common person, he would immediately choose the brandy and soda. With hands trembling with suppressed excitement, he bore the tray into the next room, His doubts were at once set at rest. The young gentleman took the cheese and placed it in the tumbler without any surprise, and merely remarking that Mr. Florimond had forgotten the spoon, poured out a liberal allowance from the bottle of bay rum. Then, making a wry face, he tossed off the mixture, and, lying back on the sofa, regarded Mr. Florimond with a simple and contented smile.

The heart of the novelist beat rapidly, for he felt he was on the way to valuable discoveries, and the hopes fluttering at his heart whispered joyously that he was at last going to find out how it was done.

"I perceive, sir," he said reverentially, "that you are a decadent."

A bright and winning smile lit up the young gentleman's face.

"I am, I am," he replied, with a deprecating wave of his hand. "My name is Caradoc Milnes."

Mr. Florimond trembled all over with pleasure. Here was an opportunity indeed! Fate had thrown into his hands the very pearl of decadents. There before him, on the little rep sofa, lay Caradoc Milnes himself, the arch-epigrammatist of Town, and, as they said in Tulse Hill, the wickedest man in the world. Mr. Florimond bowed with great dignity.

"I am proud indeed," he murmured, "to offer my poor hospitality to Caradoc Milnes, and, myself a humble walker in literary paths, to welcome one of Literature's most distinguished sons."


The young gentleman was obviously very pleased by this speech of Mr. Florimond, for with an almost pathetic eagerness he said, "Yes, am I not splendid? It is most gratifying to find that even in Tulse Hill the natives appreciate me. I am sure you must be a most intelligent person, I must positively give you my autograph;" and, walking unsteadily to the wall, he took a pencil and wrote his name "Caradoc Milnes," upon it in large letters. When he had returned to the sofa, looking very young and fragile, he began to talk pleasantly about himself, and he told Mr. Florimond, who was intensely interested, many facts about what he ate and drank, and the cafés he sat about in when he was in Paris. It transpired during the conversation that Caradoc Milnes' new book of epigrams on large paper had sold to the extent of nearly fifteen thousand copies.

"And when, if I may be so bold as to ask," said Mr. Florimond, "is your next work to be issued?"

"Never," answered Mr. Milnes with a slight sigh. "I have said all that I have to say, and as my doctor tells me that I have ruined a constitution never originally strong, I sail next week for Dieppe, where I hope to end my days in a little house that I have in the Faubourg de la Barre. The medical people calculate that I have six, if not eight, months of life still before me, and I shall devote them to the investigation of a question that has often vexed me. I have not yet been able to discover the right place for gin in the daily drink scheme, and if a single-hearted devotion to the great cause enables me to solve the problem, I shall pass peacefully away some golden evening, conscious that my days have not been entirely valueless, and that in the fairy islands of St. Brandan I may often catch an echo of thankfulness from my brethren who are still investigating in Romano's."

He said this so melodiously, and he looked so delicate and young, that Mr. Florimond was unable to repress a sudden tear, and then, a little ashamed of his emotion, he said quickly, "Ah, Romano's! I often wondered where the decadents drank. I suppose it is very central, indeed, Romano's?"

"That is no Criterion." said Caradoc Milnes, with a boyish smile; "but tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you neglect?"

"My own interests, I fear," said Mr. Florimond wearily; "I am in a sad way."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Caradoc Milnes. "Please tell me all about it, and have you got an opium-tainted cigarette? I love cigarettes, they are such a good imitation of tobacco."

"My trouble," said Mr. Florimond, after he had handed the young gentleman an opium-tainted cigarette, "is this: For some years I have earned a moderate but sufficient income by the writing of romantic tales. Until some six months ago I found no difficulty in this branch of literature, and I and the dog Trust were as happy as two people could possibly be. Then came the misfortune which threatens to wreck my life. You and your friends have inaugurated an entirely new style of literature which has become the fashion. No one will look at anything else, and I find myself quite unable to produce anything of the kind. God knows I have tried hard enough," said poor Mr. Florimond, "but I cannot do it. I have taken to drink. I have taken in Gil Blas, and it is now several days since I have taken a bath, but it is no use. I have been four days producing the simple epigram, 'Where there's a swill there's a sway,' and days of bar-lounging have not helped me in any way."

"Mr. Florimond," replied the young gentleman, "although our friendship as been so short, yet believe me I have a sincere regard for you; I will tell you where you make the mistake. To-day a man does not succeed by his writings, but by his personality. I myself, for instance, am great because I am so wonderful in my person. All my 'works' were inspired by an elderly relation whom I maintain."

Mr. Florimond gasped at the sudden revelation. "But I have no elderly relation capable of writing 'works,'" he said, "and my person is, I regret to say, not splendid. I can see no way out of my difficulties, and the hitherto reputable name of John Florimond, son of the late Flag-Admiral Florimond——"

"Seems to be in danger of becoming a Union Jack," said Mr. Milnes, with a genial bow. "But listen," he continued. "I shall not allow a man who is called Florimond to languish forgotten in Tulse Hill. No, Florimond," he said with great earnestness, "indeed it shall not be. Dabit Milnes his quoque finem, and I will bring prosperity to you and yours. You shall become the very flower of decadence. Good Buscall shall have a gown of beetle-coloured silk, and there shall be lamb kidneys twice a day for the dog Trust." As he said this the young gentleman raised himself on one arm, gazing at his host with a frank and noble expression.

"My benefactor!" said Mr. Florimond, choking with emotion and seizing the young gentleman by the hand, "how can I express my deep and lasting gratitude? Plunged in the gloomy depths of dark despair, you have come into my life like the pure rays of the morning sun, and if Providence vouchsafes health and strength to this right hand, the name of Caradoc Milnes shall resound for ever in the uncut leaves of the womb of Time!"

"Pas de fromage, mais encore un p'tit verre de bay rhum," said the young gentleman, in order to conceal his natural and creditable emotion.

At this moment good Buscall announced that lunch was on the table. Lunch was a genial feast. The young gentleman exerted himself to be pleasing, and Mr. Florimond was almost brilliant in the inspiriting society of his guest.

Anecdote after anecdote flowed from the lips of the young gentleman, and Mr. Florimond vicariously tasted many of the pleasures of celebrity.

Mr. Milnes proudly boasted that no pure-minded girl was allowed to speak to him. He told Mr. Florimond how, when he entered the smoking room of the National Liberal Club, an Irish member had once risen and left the room in a marked manner, and he related—it was his dearest reminiscence—how he had once travelled from Charing Cross to the Gare du Nord in evening dress and without an overcoat.

The young gentleman said that he always spent the mornings of each day in receiving interviews from the American papers. "In the afternoon," he added, "my time is much taken up by avoiding the many artists who wish to paint my picture. They are very importunate, and some of them are even going so far as to leave china eggs about in the hope of inducing me to sit."

He was a most entertaining companion, and his boyish glee in his reputation for quite naughty behaviour was a touching and pretty thing to see. His great grief was that the exigencies of publicity kept him so hard at work inventing new vices that he never had time to put any of them into practice.

"And now, Florimond," he said, when good Buscall had brought up the coffee, "we must see what we can do for you. I think I see a good way out of your trouble, and though I am compelled to own that it may present some slight element of inconvenience, I doubt you will be diffident upon so happy a matter. I infer that had you a constant supply of epigrams, and some occasional twisted views of life provided for you, you are quite capable of putting a story together; the mere carpentry and so on is within your power. Exactly, I gathered as much, and I think I can do this for you. I, as you know—the news will be published to-night in a special edition of the Globe—am about to leave the public to the care of far less brilliant pens than mine and to retire to Dieppe. Now, during the last year, I have been maintaining a father who became bankrupt in the vain endeavour to pay my Oxford bills. This man, John Milnes, is, I am sorry to say, neither clean nor sober, and though I have found him, in the main, honest, I should not like to expose him to a sudden temptation. He is, however, a brilliant and witty talker, especially when a little intoxicated, and many of my most celebrated pleasantries have fallen from his lips.

"He was once the editor of a high-class literary journal, and, despite this damning fact, is really a well-read man. I know, of course, that because a man has read a great many proofs, that is no proof that he is a great reader, but John Milnes is, I will certainly say, a well-educated and amusing fellow. Now I have no further use for him, and indeed he would certainly disturb the peace of Dieppe. He will, I feel certain, gladly enter your service for a time as your epigrammatist, and will require nothing but a moderate amount of food and an immoderate amount of drink, or, as he himself would put it, 'enough as is good for a beast.' You will be able to make notes of his best things and use them in your book. I myself learnt shorthand for this very purpose. You could put him in livery as your footman, or he could be 'Uncle Fiddeyment,' or anything you please. My intimate friends always call us the 'Farmers,' because while he mots I reap! Now, Florimond, what do you say?" concluded the young gentleman, regarding the novelist with a kindly and interested smile.

"Noblest of creatures," said Mr. Florimond, "you have saved me. John Milnes shall be treated like a brother in this house, and shall be second in my affections to the dog Trust alone."

"Then," said the young gentleman, "give me another drink, send good Buscall for a cab, and we'll go and get him at once."

IN less than an hour the cab was standing before the door of the young gentleman's flat, in Jermyn Street, and Mr. Florimond followed his host with great interest into a large and handsome study. The room was brilliantly illuminated with electric light, for though it was broad day in the outside world no ray of sun was ever allowed to penetrate into the study of Caradoc Milnes. A large woolly lamb, a life-like toy, stood upon the hearthrug. The young gentleman said he had been playing with it in the morning, in order to get the right atmosphere for some nursery tales he was about to write, and, with great affability, he showed Mr. Florimond how, when you pulled the lamb's tail with a sudden jerk it said "Baa" quite distinctly. After a liqueur glass of real water, Mr. Florimond's host left the room, returning shortly with the epigrammatist.

"I have explained to Milnes," he said, "and he quite agrees, so I think you had better take him away with you. It will be convenient to me, as I am expecting some ladies to dinner, and I should not like them to see him. Goodbye Milnes, I have arranged for you to be called 'Uncle Fiddeyment,' and I shall always be pleased to hear of your success, and, while you do not abuse my generosity, you may in some measure depend on my assistance."

So saying, with a warm pressure of Mr. Florimond's hand, the young gentleman, having no more kindness to show him, politely showed him the door.

As he does not appear again in this history, it may be as well to state that the young gentleman did not die at Dieppe, but married the buxom widow of an hotel proprietor at Swanage, and is now living quietly and respectably at that place.

THE epigrammatist was an elderly man of full habit and a fine and portly presence. His dissipated, good-humoured old face was clean-shaven, and though it bore undeniable traces of a life that was certainly not all that it should have been, yet the expression was not repulsive, and seemed to show possibilities of better things. Mr. Florimond became on good terms with him at once, and experienced none of the uneasiness that he had felt in the presence of the young gentleman. After a quiet dinner together, they drew up their chairs to the fire, and Mr. Florimond unburdened himself on his troubles and made the epigrammatist acquainted with the situation that he had come to save.

"It can be done, Florimond," said the epigrammatist, or, as Mr. Florimond thought it wise to call him, "Uncle Fiddeyment," "it can be done, and it shall be done. We had better lose no time in beginning. I would suggest that we call the book 'The Floor of Hell,' so that there can be no possible doubt of our good intentions. Yours must be the constructive part, for, though I am no doubt fitted for the scaffold, I have no talent for building up anything. I will merely supply the modern epigram and idea. The hero must, of course, be a young peer, for even the decadents cannot afford to do without him. Then your heroine can be an advanced girl who objects to being a female, and you can have a low comedy person—an East-end flower girl, say—who objects to being called one. I should also suggest a little psychological study of your intelligent friend, the dog Trust. We have had no decadent animal since Caradoc's early monograph, 'The parrot Balmy Johnson, and why he was a foul bird.' Style, of course, is very easy, especially in the description. The trick is most easy. Suppose, for instance—thank you, just up to the cuts—you are describing a girl's appearance. If you are not a decadent, you will compare her hair and lips and hands to some natural object. Her eyes will be like the stars, her mouth the rose—and so on. The decadent, on the other hand, only chooses artificial objects for comparison. It is simply reversing the natural order of things. That is decadence. By the way, I must also remind you that you must always repeat a sentence twice, though in a slightly different form. Honor Oke picked up a Bible one day, and found the idea in the Psalms; it's an old Hebrew use really, though he has pretended it was entirely his own invention. Suppose, for instance, you were talking about a girl, you would say, 'Sybil was very beautiful. Her hands were like carved ivory, white as carved ivory were her hands, and the fingers of her hands were long and slender.' D'you see?—repetition gives you rhythm and the 'carved' creates that exotic impression which is exactly what you want. It's quite easy. Now about corruptness. You will not find it come so easy at first, but there are regular rules. Your young peer, when he falls in love, must say, 'I desire your lips, Irma, it is your lips that I desire.' You must not be indecent, or no one would mind. Frank indecency is quite harmless. You must—no, thank you, no soda; I'll just take it neat—suggest that you are indecent when you really mean nothing whatever. Oh, and you must on no account neglect the 'curiously carved brass bowl.' It is by far the most valuable property we have, much better than the 'strange orchids as lovely as sin.' I remember Oke tried a Japanese lacquer-work tray, but it was not successful. You must be very careful not to neglect the curiously carved brass bowl. It is thought to be very immoral. Cigarettes, of course, are always opium-tainted, and nothing is drunk except out of Venetian glass—the 'bubble' of Venetian glass is a good word. I'm sure I don't know why, but Venetian glass always has a bubble reputation. You might put a remark about it in the mouth of a Canon. Oh, don't trouble to open any more brandy—I will change to whisky, thanks. I think," said Uncle Fiddeyment, as he replenished his glass, "that there is not much more—except, of course, the moon. The moon, as you doubtless know, is always like a piece of carved silver."

As he said this, the epigrammatist disposed his length on the sofa and was fast asleep in a moment. Mr. Florimond slept but little. He began to see with great vividness the manner in which he would do the new book. Uncle Fiddeyment was the ideal person to work with. He was so sure of his ground, he knew exactly what to do, it was a great comfort to have him. Good Buscall would, doubtless, be difficult at first, because Mr. Florimond knew that she was a woman with strong views on temperance; but that might be arranged. It would now no longer be necessary for him to be intoxicated himself—a thing he disliked very much—and his own return to sobriety would go far, he thought, to condone the occasional potations of the epigrammatist.

THE next few weeks passed with great rapidity, and in the Maison Florimond the advent of spring was almost unnoted. Out in the world young men's fancies were lightly turning to thoughts of love till they were giddy, and hundreds of Wanton-Lapwings had got themselves a whole Heralds' College full of newer crests; but steady toil and high endeavour banished the influence of a mere season from Mr. Florimond's mind. The "Floor of Hell" began to approach completion, and Mr. Florimond's hopes to glow like the pavements of heaven.

It is true that there were a few trivial worries as the days went on.

Although (as Mr. Florimond would now have expressed it) "life had become to him like the delicate sound of a lute," it was impossible to avoid an occasional rift within the instrument. At times Uncle Fiddeyment would produce quite the wrong sort of epigram, and though Mr. Florimond filled the house with intoxicating liquors, becoming a perfect publican in the way he taxed his energies to please his collaborateur, at times he found it difficult. Every day, with a copy of "Marius the Epicurean" on a table in front of him, Mr. Florimond said his Pater noster and his Max vobiscum; but even this styleographic devotion did not always console him. When, for example, Mr. Florimond was writing a gloomy and pessimistic chapter, Uncle Fiddeyment would give utterance to the lightest and most joyous epigrams, and when there was a scene of sunshine and laughter, the epigrammatist would be as bitter as the small beer he was compelled to drink in the morning. However, Mr. Florimond had read his Candide, and knew that we must cultivate our garden, and in time he found his remedy in dieting his friend, with the latter's ready concurrence.

If on the Wednesday night Mr. Florimond knew that Thursday morning would bring him to a Manfredic scene of misery and death, he would give Mr. Milnes hot crabs and rum punch for supper, and the epigrams next morning were as gloomy and pessimistic as could be desired. On the other hand, champagne and a sandwich at midday would produce light and airy nothings for the salon in less than three-quarters of an hour.

It was when some two-thirds of the book was written that Mr. Florimond began to notice that Uncle Fiddeyment seemed to be less brilliant than of old. About the same time, he remarked that the epigrammatist drank much less than was his wont, and was also very much neater and cleaner in his personal appearance.

As the days went on the epigrams became fewer and fewer and very feeble, and one day, when Uncle Fiddeyment came down to breakfast actually wearing a frock coat, and a bunch of violets in his buttonhole, Mr. Florimond felt compelled to ask him for an explanation. It was at once forthcoming, and while the bacon grew cold and the morning's letters remained unopened, the two men looked at each other with consternation in their eyes.


The epigrams became fewer.

It was very simple: Mr. Milnes, living in close contact with so truly excellent a man as Mr. Florimond, was unable to resist the good influence of his example. As his better nature reasserted himself and he began to seriously think of turning his attention to a more worthy life, such as missionary enterprise or the writing of sermons for the overworked parish priest, Mr. Milnes' power of epigram entirely left him, and over the untasted breakfast the two friends discussed the question with all the solemnity its importance demanded.

While he was trying to find a way out of the difficulty, Mr. Florimond noticed a letter from his publishers, Messrs. Pedlar and Lobby. He opened it half unconsciously, and then the words suddenly arrested his attention. It seemed that the decadent bubble had suddenly burst completely, owing to the sudden death of the middle-aged gentleman, who was immediately cremated at Woking, with as little said about him as possible. Surfeited with novel sins, the public were clamouring for ancient virtues, and Pedlar and Lobby implored Mr. Florimond to send them an armour-plated romance at his very earliest convenience.

That night Uncle Fiddeyment took the train to Swanage, and entered the young gentleman's service as head waiter, a post which he long filled with great dignity.

Mr. Florimond saw him off, and on returning, while Mrs. Buscall sold two hundred brandy bottles to the dustman, sat down to his desk and on a virgin sheet of paper wrote these words:

"Two horsemen came galloping over the plain."

Then, lighting a candle, he went happily to bed. Mr. Florimond sank into a deep sleep.

There was nobody there but the dog Trust.


There was nobody there but the dog Trust.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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