Do you ever jot? If not, pray allow me to introduce you to one of the
least expensive and most repaying domestic hobbies. I am myself a
most inveterate jotter, both by pen and brush, for I have cases full
of water-colour sketches, and bundles of maps, scraps, photos, and
oddments. Plenty of entertainment for future years can be laid up in
this way. Good stories; real plots too strange for fiction; bon-mots;
impressions of scenery; plays; programmes; events; menus; anything that
pleases one’s fancy is fish for the jotting net.
In some receptacle—whether drawer, despatch-box, or tin case—fling in
your jottings, pencilled in haste while fresh. I have cupboards of
notes on Mexico, Iceland, Finland, Lapland, Sicily, Russia, Italy,
Morocco, America, Canada—pamphlets, prints, statistics, and other
And to all would-be journalists and aspiring book-writers let me also
add: jot down your happy thoughts, smaller inspirations, appreciated
quotations, for all may be useful some day.
To begin with, here is a “true fact”—as silly persons will sometimes
declare—concerning a banker.
By way of title to my little tale, I will call it:
“THE MILLIONAIRE’S FOUR POUNDS.”
He was lunching with me on his return from Egypt, this quiet,
unassuming head of a great banking firm.
“What have you written this year?” I asked.
“Twenty-two stanzas on Egypt, a land of ancient tombs and modern
worries. They appeared, and I actually got four pounds for them.”
The four pounds delighted him. That he spent more than four thousand
pounds in Egypt counted for naught, he had _earned_ four pounds.
“Rather funny, I was motoring in Scotland lately, and I called on
the Editor,” continued my guest. “He was charming. We talked on many
subjects, and then I said, ‘You don’t pay your contributors very
highly, do you?’
“‘Yes, oh yes, we do.’
“‘You only paid me four pounds for twenty-two stanzas the other day.’
“‘Ah, well, you see, that was poetry, and no one reads poetry!’”
He told me the joke with a merry little chuckle on his grave face, and
his blue eyes twinkled.
* * * * *
This story is equalised by one Herbert Hampton told me. He was at
Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire, and wanted a couple of rooms for a
week to rest and do a little sketching; so seeing “Apartments” up at a
tiny cottage, he went in. It was a very simple place, clean and tidy,
but quite a workman’s home.
The woman asked him two guineas a week. Considering the accommodation
offered, he thought the price ridiculous.
“Come, come, I am not a millionaire,” he said.
She looked at him, paused, and replied:
“I thought you were a _gentleman_.”
* * * * *
Sometimes one has utterly unexpected annoyances. Here is an instance of
such in my own experience. One day quite lately I was rung up on the
telephone, and in the most rude and insulting terms was upbraided for
having knocked off a woman’s hat in Regent Street. As I had not been in
Regent Street that day, and never knocked off a woman’s hat in my life,
I was naturally annoyed. The telephone rang again and again with the
same impertinent remarks.
This was only the beginning of much trouble. Then came letters,
blackmail, I suppose one might call them, and constant telephonic
communications and general annoyance.
In fact, it became so bad that, after nearly six months, I had to apply
to a private detective. He took the matter in hand, and some time
later—for though there were addresses, most of them proved to be bogus
ones—he succeeded in unearthing the culprit, and the trouble ceased.
That was one of the minor annoyances of life.
* * * * *
Now for one of the minor pleasures; just to balance the worries.
Some years ago I employed a gasfitter. The man interested me strangely.
He spoke like a gentleman. He had the most beautifully refined hands,
he was artistic in everything he did, and while attending to gas-fires,
kept excusing himself for making appreciative remarks on good bits of
furniture, or beautiful shades of colour.
One day he brought me a very old bit of china. It was a little cream
jug, good in form, colour, and design. He hoped that I would accept
it, as I seemed to appreciate pretty things. This was a little
embarrassing, and became more so when his eyes filled with tears and he
told me it had belonged to his mother.
“Yes, madam, to my mother. I was not born in the circumstances in which
you see me,” and then he owned that he was the son of a peer.
Beyond that he would not reveal his identity, though he acknowledged
that drink was the primary cause that brought him down to where he was.
Poor man. He was afterwards taken very ill, and I was able to do a
little for him, but he died. And so was buried a strange romance, for
the man was by birth a gentleman, in taste an artist, and in speech a
poet; and yet circumstances and weakness of character had brought him
to this low estate.
One instance of the strange stories concerning secret skeletons, locked
up in our neighbours’ hearts, naturally leads to another.
I once met a man at dinner at a friend’s house. He offered to drive
me home. He asked to call. After two or three chats he told me his
story—one of those heart-rending stories we hear sometimes. He had
married young and repented.
There was no real ground for divorce; besides, he shunned the publicity
of it in connection with an honoured name. Our country—alas!—won’t give
people divorces for incompatibility. The usual result followed.
Well—he thought his wealth, his name, his achievements would live down,
or, rather, drag up, the “woman of his choice.” Did they?
No. Of course not. He thought also that this time he had found an
idol, a sympathiser, an inspiration. All went well for a time. Then
the chains became irksome. _She_ chafed at her position. She had
everything but that marriage ring which spells respectability. She
became discontented, irritable, the love grew less, the desire to be
made “an honest woman” grew more and more. He dare not face the world a
second time and own he had misjudged woman’s character. Therefore their
dog-and-cat life continued—because they hadn’t the pluck to break it.
It was a tale of woe. Broken in health and in spirit, he owned he had
defied the world and yet—with all the odds of position and wealth in
his favour—had failed.
One day he suddenly wrote: “I can’t come and see you again, you belong
to the world I have left, or that has left me. It only stirs up the
misery of my present life. I thank you for your help, your sympathy,
your much-prized friendship, but it is not fair on you to let you worry
over me, and being with you is making me more discontented than ever.
And so good-bye.”
As he stepped suddenly across my path, he stepped as suddenly back into
the shadow. Poor man. His is the tale of many, but that does not make
it any the less sad.
I lived in the world he had turned his back on—the world which finally
shut him out, and that proud heart, that big brain and scholarly man
literally laid down his arms, weary of heart, sick of soul, ambition
sapped—life gone. He merely dragged out his existence from day to day.
Chained to a loathsome sore. He did not complain. How could he? The
chain was of his own making, the sore its inevitable result. Why, we
ask, did he submit? Why? Because habit had become stronger than will.
Success is made or marred by individuality.
* * * * *
Hostesses sometimes find themselves in very awkward positions.
A man once came up the stairs and shook hands with his hostess, who
“And where is your wife?”
There was a great crowd at the time, and the man, somewhat briefly,
“I have lost her.”
“I hope you will soon find her,” said the lady; “but it is rather
difficult among so many people,” she added, with a merry laugh.
He looked crestfallen, and, as if not knowing exactly what to say, bent
forward and murmured into the ear of his smiling hostess:
“My wife is _dead_.”
Collapse of the lady.
* * * * *
On Christmas cards.
Some folk affect to dislike or despise Christmas cards, but I find them
most useful, often most welcome, always a kindly remembrance.
People in strange lands have been good to me. They have taken me
about, invited me to their houses, have helped me in my work, and many
introductions, obtained originally for practical purposes, have ended
in real friendships.
It is impossible to keep up a correspondence with all one’s friends,
however, and yet one likes them to know they are not forgotten.
Hence the idea of my Christmas cards originated. For many years now
I have sent these cards of greeting to the furthermost corner of the
earth, and thanks to the talent of my friends, or the practical use of
my own camera, they have been somewhat original.
Here is a delightful card Harry Furniss designed for me among my
earlier ones. I had just written _Behind the Footlights_, hence the
lady with comedy and tragedy on her cap, pulling aside the curtain to
reveal sketches of the different books. Needless to say, this clever
idea was his own.
30 YORK TERRACE
Mrs. Alec Tweedie’s
Compliments of the
_Hustled History_, one of that series of clever little booklets that
have appeared annually for some time, was the talk of the town when
it came out in the spring of 1908. My publisher rang me up the next
morning to _congratulate me on_ the _advertisement_ of myself that it
contained. Rather a curious way of putting it, I thought.
Everyone read it, everyone talked about it. It had dabs at everyone,
but only three women were included—Mrs. Humphry Ward, Marie Corelli,
and myself. This latter take-off on my style appeared under the title
Mrs. Alec Tweedie
The same sort of quip had appeared about me a year or two before in
_Wisdom While You Wait_, but I cannot lay my hands on it.
Colonel Selfe, R.A., who wrote so many of the acrostics for _The
World_, one day sent me the following double acrostic on myself:
Where now will this lady go
Greece, Japan, Fernando Po,
Whatsoe’er her goal, we look
For another charming book
Telling of the route she took.
Ere she starts for foreign climes
With this wish we send these rhymes
_Bon voyage_ and pleasant times.
1. Though Kalja the Finnish taste may suit,
For this it seems a sorry substitute.
2. Those Finns who read their books most, dread the least
This long-named catechising by the priest.
3. In Tellemachen, so her pages tell
One coachman spoke this, though not very well.
4. Remember Nyslott, also where
The English ladies lodged while there.
5. This we gather, for “to the”
Norse equivalent to be.
6. In Finland the cow of this is the source,
Which is comparative only, of course.
7. Weird poems of a bygone time
Written on parchment black with grime.
8. We here must Fridtjof Nansen name
As this for ever known to fame.
9. His hand it was that, rising from the wave,
Dragged Lopt the sinner to a wat’ry grave.
10. With a terrific bang and mighty crash,
Full into this they felt the steamer smash.
11. To study this Iceland is not the place,
No butterflies, few insects there you trace.
1. Al E. Through Finland in Carts 2
2. Lukukinkeri T. “ “ “ 16
3. Englis H. A Winter’s Jaunt in Norway 8
4. Castl E. Through Finland in Carts 11
5. Ti L. A Winter’s Jaunt in Norway 49
6. Wealt H. Through Finland in Carts 16
7. Edd A. A Girl’s Ride through Iceland 13
8. Explore R. A Winter Jaunt in Norway 12
9. Devi L. A Girl’s Ride in Iceland 6
10. Ice flo E. A Winter’s Jaunt in Norway 1
11. Entomolog Y. A Girl’s Ride Through Iceland 4
This is another, composed by the late Major Martin Hume, the historian:
E astward bound to the Cuban coast
T hree tiny galleots ran
H omeward bearing a beaten host
E scaped from Yucatan.
L eft behind in the sleep of death
A gallant half remain
L ured to doom, but with dying breath
E xalting Christ and Spain.
C oarse and poor were the trophies gained,
T rinkets of tarnished dross,
W oe! for the land with blood they stained
E nslaved to greed and cross
E ndowed with grace, from old New Spain
D o _you_ rich trophies bring
I n gentle words that friendship gain
E ntail no pain or sting.
Most of us have known or heard of such a lesser tragedy as the
following, and thanked our stars it had not happened to one of our own
“What are you crying for?” asked the manageress of an hotel.
The girl she addressed was a fragile, pretty creature of nineteen or
twenty, looking more as if a puff of wind would blow her away than as
if she was capable of doing the dirty work of a kitchenmaid.
“Oh, nothing, thank you,” replied the tearful voice. “I hurt my finger,
but it will be all right in a moment.”
The manageress eyed her critically. The polite reply, the refined
speech and tone of voice, were all so unlike anything she was
accustomed to in the kitchen department that they struck her as strange.
Then she noticed that, while the girl’s cotton sleeves were tucked up
above her elbow, her arms were round, white, and plump, the hands small
and pretty. Turning to the _chef_ standing behind her, she remarked:
“Your kitchenmaid looks hardly up to her work, _chef_.”
“Oh, she is all right,” he replied. “She has not been in a situation
just lately and she is a bit soft.”
The reply was satisfactory, and, being a busy woman, the manageress
went on with her orders.
Next morning she was again strongly attracted by her new little
kitchenmaid, who was busy in the scullery washing dishes. The girl was
so ladylike in appearance, so delightful in manner, so charming in
voice, her superior felt that there was something unusual, even wrong,
about the matter; so she searched for the original letter from the
_chef_ to see under what conditions the underling had been engaged. It
said that, as he preferred to work with his own kitchenmaid, he wished
to bring her with him, more especially as she was now his wife.
Some days went on, and the little maid looked paler each morning,
sadder and more depressed. At last a tap came at the manageress’s door,
and the girl, in her cotton frock, white apron, neat hair and dainty
cap, was standing on the threshold.
“May I come in, madam?” asked the plaintive voice.
“Yes, certainly; come along. Are you not well?”
“Oh yes, I am quite well, but I want to know if you will do me a
favour. I have got a cheque for ten pounds from a lady whose service I
used to be in, and I want to know if you will change it for me without
letting my husband know.”
The manageress looked up, surprised.
“Yes, I can change it; but how does this lady come to be sending you
such a big cheque?” (As she took it in her hand she saw a well-known
name upon it.)
The girl made some excuse and told a long and rambling story, but
blushed to the roots of her hair when given the money.
Imploringly she said, “You will never tell _him_, will you?”
“No,” replied the kindly woman; “mind you keep the money safe. You may
want it some day.”
Some hours went by. The manageress was pondering over the girl and
her reticence, over the cheque and its mystery, when a servant rushed
in asking her to come to the kitchen at once, as something dreadful
had happened. She flew. There on the floor, with blood streaming from
her head, lay the little kitchenmaid. Near her, sullen, stern, and
menacing, stood the _chef_. At once the manageress ordered that the
girl should be carried to her room and forbade the husband to enter.
Then she sent for him to the office and asked for an explanation. But
he gave none, except that his subordinate had cheeked him, so he hit
her rather harder than he meant to do and stunned her. A blow against
the oven door had caused the bleeding. Such was his story. Very
different was that of the girl.
As she recovered consciousness, she moaned, “Save me!” and as her
senses became more acute, she begged, “Don’t let him come near me.”
“Are you afraid of him?” asked her protectress.
“Yes, madam, mortally afraid; he will kill me. Do not let him come near
me,” she implored in agony of mind.
“What happened?” persisted the manageress.
“Somehow he found out I had that cheque and wanted me to give it to
him, but I would not and came to you. For it was all I had in the
world, and I wanted it to get away and leave him.”
“To leave him? But you have only been married a month.”
“It seems like a hundred years of hell,” moaned the unhappy little
bride. “He has been so cruel to me.” And then she told her story.
“I am not really a kitchenmaid. I am Lady Mary ——, but I liked
cooking, and mother wanted me to learn, so I used to go into the
kitchen in the morning and play about. The _chef_ was charming to me,
and—well, I think I must have been mad—I thought I had fallen in love
with him, and I ran away and married him a month ago. From the first
moment he has been bullying my family for money. He made me come away
with him as his kitchenmaid until he got enough money out of my family
to start a home of our own. But please do not let him come near me
again. He will kill me! That cheque was from my aunt, for I had to tell
her of my misery and disgrace. It was sent to enable me to get away and
go to her home, where I should be safe.”
“Do not worry any more about that,” said her protectress determinedly.
“You shall come to my room now, and I will telegraph to your aunt and
put things right.”
She did so, and the girl was restored to her family. Strange as the
story may sound, it is a true bill.
* * * * *
While on the subject of servants, the following is an interesting
A mistress offered a servant girl a seat for a theatre. The girl beamed
with delight. Suddenly her face shadowed, and she asked:
“Are there any countesses in it, ma’am?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Because I don’t think mother would like me to go and see a play with a
countess in it, ma’am.”
“And why not?”
“Oh, because they are all so dreadfully wicked.”
“Who says so?” asked the lady, amazed.
“The books, ma’am.”
“The penny books and Sunday papers.”
* * * * *
When looking back on my delightful American trips and to my real good
time there, one little crumpled rose-leaf returns to memory, which, at
the time, was a minor annoyance, but since has often caused me to smile
at its absurdity.
Many and weird, truly, are the experiences and home truths one is
vouchsafed while travelling.
The last time I went to the States I intended to pay some visits, and
as I was very overworked and tired I was persuaded to take a maid to
look after me. That maid cost me a small fortune in money, as well
as proving a constant anxiety, inasmuch as _I had to look after her_
continually. A child of five years could not have been more trouble.
Almost before we left the landing-stage of the Mersey she told me
she felt ill. The water at the time was perfectly calm; we were, in
fact, still in the river, but the wretched woman went to bed before we
crossed the bar and did not appear again until we reached New York;
therefore I had the pleasure of paying her first-class fare and the
extra steward’s tips for waiting on her—instead of her being a comfort
Arrived on Yankee soil, I received a telegram from the President of
Mexico suggesting my revisiting his country. I told the good lady I was
going to Mexico.
“It is six days and nights in the train.”
By this time her eyes opened wider than ever. She still remembered the
six days and nights on the steamer. Alas and alack! she was even more
ill on the train than she had been on the boat. At Washington we had
rooms on the seventh floor; but that woman refused to go up or down
in the lift because it made her feel “so queer,” so she walked—and
Oh, the joys of travelling with a servant!
When we started from New York I took off my rings and watchchain, and,
as usual on such expeditions, packed them away.
The maid was sitting opposite to me in the train when she discovered
they were missing. Suddenly she exclaimed:
“Oh, what have you done with your rings?” knowing they were the only
articles of jewellery I always wore.
“I put them away,” I replied. “I never travel off the beaten track
wearing jewellery of any kind.”
“Oh dear, what a pity! They make you look such a lady.”