ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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HARRIETT JAY - SHORT STORIES

 

1. An Irish Idyll

2. “What is the most striking incident in your professional experience?”

3. My Luggage

 

An Irish Idyll

Belgravia (April 1879 - p. 199-206).

 

 

An Irish Idyll.

BY THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE QUEEN OF CONNAUGHT.’

 

WE had been out all night watching the herring-fishers; but as soon as the work was over, and the faint glimmering of dawn appeared in the east, we turned our boat’s bow towards the shore, and pulled swiftly homewards. There lay the group of curraghs, still upon the scene of their labour, loaded with phosphorescent fish and dripping nets, and manned with crews of shivering weary men. The sea, which during the night had been throbbing convulsively, was calm and bright as a polished mirror, while the gaunt grey cliffs were faintly shadowed forth by the lustrous light of the moon.
     Wearied with my night’s labour I lay listlessly in the stern of the boat, listening dreamily to the measured splash,  splash, of the oars, and drinking in the beauty of the scene around me: the placid sea, the black outline of the hills and cliffs, the silently sleeping village of Storport. Presently, however, my ears detected another sound, which came faintly across the water, and mingled softly with the monotonous splashing of the oars and the weary washing of the sea.
     ‘Is it a mermaid singing?’ I asked sleepily. ‘The village maidens are all dreaming of their lovers at this hour, but the Midian Maras sing of theirs. Oh, yes, it must be a mermaid, for hark! the sound is issuing from the shore yonder, and surely no human being ever possessed a voice half so beautiful!’
     To my question no one vouchsafed a reply, so I lay still half-sleepily and listened to the plaintive wailing of the voice, which every moment grew stronger. It came across the water like the low sweet sound of an Æolian harp touched by the summer breeze; and as the boat glided swiftly on, bringing it ever nearer, the whole scene around seemed suddenly to brighten as if from the touch of a magical hand. Above me sailed the moon, scattering pale vitreous light around her, and touching with her cool white hand the mellow thatched cabins, lying so secluded on the hillside, the long stretch of shimmering sand, the fringe of foam upon the shingle, the peaks of the hills which stood silhouetted against the pale grey sky.
     A white owl passing across the boat, and almost brushing my cheek with its wing, aroused me at length from my torpor. The sound of the voice had ceased. Above my head a flock of seagulls screamed, and, as they sailed away, I heard the whistle of the curlew; little puffins were floating thick as bees around us, wild rock-doves flew swiftly from the caverns, and beyond again the cormorants blackened the weed-covered rocks. The splash of our oars had for a moment created a commotion; presently all calmed down again, and again I heard the plaintive wailing of the mermaid’s voice. The voice, more musical than ever, was at length so distinct as to bring with it the words of the song:—

‘My Owen Bawn’s hair is of thread gold spun;
Of gold in the shadow, of light in the sun;
All curled in a coolun the bright tresses are,
They make his head radiant with beams like a star!

My Owen Bawn’s mantle is long and is wide,
To wrap me up safe from the storm by his side;
And I’d rather face snow-drift and winter wind there,
Than be among daisies and sunshine elsewhere.

My Owen Bawn Con is a bold fisherman,
He spears the strong salmon in midst of the Bann,
And, rocked in the tempest on stormy Lough Neagh,
Draws up the red trout through the bursting of spray.’

     The voice suddenly ceased, and as it did so, I saw that the singer was a young girl who, with her hands clasped behind her and her face turned to the moonlit sky, walked slowly along the shore. Suddenly she paused, and while the sea kissed her bare feet, and the moon laid tremulous hands upon her head, began to sing again:

‘I have called my love, but he still sleeps on,
     And his lips are as cold as clay:
I have kissed them o’er and o’er again—
I have pressed his cheek with my burning brow,
     And I’ve watched o’er him all the day;
Is it then true that no more thou’lt smile
                                           On Moina?
     Art thou then lost to thy Moina?

I once had a lamb my love gave me,
     As the mountain snow ’twas white;
Oh, how I loved it nobody knows!
I decked it each morn with the myrtle rose,
     With “forget-me-not” at night.
My lover they slew, and they tore my lamb
                                         From Moina.
They pierced the heart’s core of poor Moina!’

     As the last words fell from her tremulous lips, and the echoes of the sweet voice faded far away across the sea, the boat gliding gently on ran her bow into the sand, and I, leaping out, came suddenly face to face with the loveliest vision I had ever beheld.
     ‘Is it a mermaid?’ I asked myself again, for surely I thought no human being could be half so lovely.
     I saw a pale madonna-like face set in a wreath of golden hair, on which the moonlight brightened and darkened like the shadows on a wind-swept sea. Large lustrous eyes which gazed earnestly seaward, then filled with a strange wandering far-off look as they turned to my face. A young girl, clad in a peasant’s dress, with her bare feet washed reverently by the sighing sea; her half-parted lips kissed by the breeze which travelled slowly shoreward; her cheeks and neck were pale as alabaster, so were the little hands which were still clasped half nervously behind her; and as she stood, with her eyes wandering restlessly first to my face, then to the dim line of the horizon, the moon, brightening with sudden splendour, wrapt her from head to foot in a mantle of shimmering snow.
     For a moment she stood gazing with a peculiar far-away look into my face; then with a sigh she turned away, and with her face still turned oceanward, her hands still clasped behind her, wandered slowly along the moonlit sands.
     As she went, fading like a spirit amid the shadows, I heard again the low sweet sound of the plaintive voice which had come to me across the ocean, but soon it grew fainter and fainter until only the echoes were heard.
     I turned to my boatman, who now stood waiting for me to depart.
     ‘Well, Shawn, is it a mermaid?’ I asked, smiling.
     He gravely shook his head.
     ‘No, yer honour; ’tis only a poor Colleen wid a broken heart!’
     I turned and looked questioningly at him, but he was gazing at the spot whence the figure of the girl had disappeared.
     ‘God Almighty, risht the dead!’ he said, reverently raising his hat, ‘but him that brought such luck to Norah O’Connell deserved His curse, God knows!’
     This incident, coupled with the strange manner of my man, interested me, and I began to question him as to the story of the girl whose lovely face was still vividly before me. But for some reason or other he seemed to shun the subject, so for a time I too held my peace. But as soon as I found myself comfortably seated in the cosy parlour of the lodge, with a bright turf fire blazing before me and hot punch steaming on the table at my side, I summoned my henchman to my presence.
     ‘Now, Shawn,’ I said, holding forth a steaming goblet which made his eyes sparkle like two stars, ‘close the door, draw your chair up to the fire, drink off this, and tell me the story of the lovely Colleen whom we saw to-night.’
     ‘Would yer honour really like to hear?
     ‘I would; it will give me something to dream about, and prevent me from thinking too much of her beautiful face.’
     Shawn smiled gravely.
     ‘Yer honour thinks her pretty? Well, then, ye’ll believe me when I tell ye that if ye was to search the counthry at the present moment ye couldn’t find a Colleen to match Norah O’Connell. When she was born the neighbour’s thought she must be a fairy child, she was so pretty and small and white; and when she got older, there wasn’t a boy in Storport but would lay down his life for her. Boys wid fortunes and boys widout fortunes tried to get her; and, begging yer honour’s pardon, I went myself in wid the rest. But it went one way wid us all: Norah just smiled and said she did not want to marry. But one day, two years ago now come this Serapht, that lazy shaugrhaun Miles Doughty (God rest his soul!) came over from Ballygally, and going straight to Norah, widout making up any match at all, asked her to marry him.’
     ‘Well?’
     ‘Well, yer honour, this time Norah brightened up, and though she knew well enough that Miles was a dirty blackguard widout a penny in the world—though the old people said no, and there was plenty fortunes in Storport waitin’ on her—she just went against everyone of them and said she must marry Miles. The old people pulled against her at first, but at last Norah, with her smiles and pretty ways, won over Father Tom—who won over the old people, till at last they said that if Miles would go for a while to the black pits of Pennsylvania and earn the money and buy a house and a bit of land, he should marry her.’
     He paused, and for a time there was silence. Shawn looked thoughtfully into the fire; I lay back in my easy-chair and carelessly watched the smoke which curled from my cigar, and as I did so I seemed to hear again the wildly plaintive voice of the girl as I had heard it before that night:

I have called my love, but he still sleeps on,
     And his lips are as cold as clay:

and as the words of the song passed through my mind, they seemed to tell me the sequel of the story.
     ‘Another case of disastrous true love,’ I said, turning to Shawn; and when he looked puzzled I added, ‘He died, and she is mourning him?’
     ‘Yes, yer honour, he died; but if that was all he did, we would forgive him. What broke the poor Colleen’s heart was that he should forget her when he got to the strange land, and marry another Colleen at the time he should have married her; after that, it was but right that he should die.’
     ‘Did he write and tell her he was married?’
     ‘Write? devil the bit, nor to tell he was dead neither. Here was the poor Colleen watching and waiting for him, for two whole years, and wondering what could keep him; but a few months ago Owen Macgrath, a boy who had gone away from the village long ago on account of Norah refusing to marry him, came back again and told Norah that Miles was dead, and asked her to marry him. He had made lots of money, and was ready to take a house and a bit of land and to buy up cattle if she would but say the word to him.’
     ‘Well?’
     ‘Well, yer honour, Norah first shook her head and said that now Miles was dead ’twas as well for her to die too. At this Owen spoke out and asked where was the use of grieving so, since for many months before his death Miles had been a married man! Well, when Owen said this, Norah never spoke a single word, but her teeth set, and her lips and face went white and cold as clay, and ever since that day she has been so strange in her ways that some think she’s not right at all. On moonlight nights she creeps out of the house and walks by the sea singing them strange old songs, then she looks out as if expecting him to come to her—and right or wrong, she’ll never look at another man!’
     As Shawn finished, the hall clock chimed five; the last spark faded from my cigar; the turf fell low in the grate: so I went to bed to think over the story alone.

     During the three days which followed this midnight adventure, Storport was visited by a deluge of rain, but on the fourth morning I looked from my window to find the earth basking in summer sunshine. The sky was a vault of throbbing blue, flecked here and there with waves of summer cloud, the stretches of sand grew golden in the sun-rays, while the saturated hills were bright as if from the smiling of the sky. The sight revivified me, and as soon as my breakfast was  over, I whistled up my dogs and strolled out into the air.
     How bright and beautiful everything looked, after the heavy rain! The ground was spongy to the tread; the dew still lay heavily upon the heather and long grass; but the sun seemed to be sucking up the moisture from the bog. Everybody seemed to be out that day; and most people were busy. Old men drove heavily laden donkeys along the muddy road; young girls carried their creels of turf across the bog; and by the roadside, close to where I stood, the turf-cutters were busy.
     I stood for a while and watched them at their work, and when I turned to go, I saw for the first time that I had not been alone. Not many yards from me stood a figure watching the turf-cutters too.
     A young man dressed like a grotesque figure for a pantomime: with high boots, felt hat cocked rakishly over one eye, and a vest composed of all the colours of the rainbow. His big brown fingers were profusely bedecked with brass and steel rings, a massive brass chain swung from his waistcoat, and an equally showy pin adorned the scarf at his throat. When the turf-cutters, pausing suddenly in their work, gazed at him with wonder in their eyes, he gave a peculiar smile and asked with a strong Yankee accent if they could tell him where one Norah O’Connell lived: he was a stranger here, and brought her news from the States! In a moment a dozen fingers were outstretched to point him on, and the stranger, again smiling strangely to himself, swaggered away.
     I stood for a time and watched him go, then I too sauntered on. I turned off from the road, crossed the bog, and made direct for the sea-shore.
     I had been walking there for some quarter of an hour, when suddenly a huge shadow was flung across my path, and looking up again beheld the stranger. His hat was pushed back now, and saw for the first time that his face was handsome. His cheeks were bronzed and weather-beaten, but his features were finely formed, and on his head clustered a mass of curling chestnut hair. He was flushed as if with excitement; he cast me a hurried glance and disappeared.
     Five minutes after, as I still stood wondering at the strange behaviour of the man, my ears were greeted with a shriek which pierced to my very heart. Running in the direction whence the sound proceeded, I reached the top of a neighbouring sand-hill, and gazing into the valley below me I again beheld the stranger. This time his head was bare—his arms were outstretched, and he held upon his breast the half-fainting form of the lovely girl whom I had last beheld in the moonlight. While I stood hesitating as to the utility of descending, I saw the girl gently withdraw herself from his arms, then, clasping her hands around his neck, fall sobbing on his breast.
     ‘Well, Shawn, what’s the news?’ I asked that night when Shawn rushed excitedly into my room. For a time he could tell me nothing, but by dint of a few well-applied questions I soon extracted from him the whole story. It amounted to this: that after working for two years like a galley-slave in the black pits of Pennsylvania, with nothing but the thought of Norah to help him on, Miles Doughty found himself with enough money to warrant his coming home; that he was about to return to Storport, when unfortunately, the day before his intended departure, a shaft in the coal-pit fell upon him and he was left for dead; that for many months he lay ill, but as soon as he was fit to travel he started for home. Arrived in Storport, he was astonished to find that no one knew him, and he was about to pass himself off as a friend of his own, when the news of his reported death and Norah’s sorrow so shocked him that he determined to make himself known at once.
     ‘And God help the villain that told her he was married,’ concluded Shawn, ‘for he swears he’ll kill him as soon as Norah—God bless her!—comes out o’ the fever that she’s in to-night.’

     Just three months after that night, I found myself sitting in the hut where Norah O’Connell dwelt. The cabin was illuminated so brightly that it looked like a spot of fire upon the bog; the rooms in the house were crowded; and without, dark figures gathered as thick as bees in swarming-time. Miles Doughty, clad rather less gaudily than when I first beheld him, moved amidst the throng with bottle and glass, pausing now and again to look affectionately at Norah, who, decorated with her bridal flowers, was dancing with one of the straw men who had come to do honour to her marriage feast. When the dance was ended she came over and stood beside me.
     ‘Norah,’ I whispered, ‘do you remember that night when I heard you singing songs upon the sands?’
     Her face flashed brightly upon me, then it grew grave,—then her eyes filled with tears.
     ‘My dear,’ I added, ‘I never meant to pain you. I only want you to sing a sequel to those songs to-night!’
     She laughed lightly, then she spoke rapidly in Irish, and merrily sang the well-known lines:—

‘Oh, the marriage, the marriage,
     With love and mo bouchal for me:
The ladies that ride in a carriage
     Might envy my marriage to me.’

Then she was laughingly carried off to join in another dance.
     I joined in the fun till midnight; then, though the merriment was still at its height, I quietly left the house and hastened home. As I left the cabin I stumbled across a figure which was hiding behind a turf-stack. By the light of my burning turf I recognised the features of Owen Macgrath. He slunk away when he saw me, and never since that night has he been seen in Storport.

 

[Note: Jay later adapted this story for the opening chapter of Vol. 2 of My Connaught Cousins, published in 1883.]

_____

 

“What is the most striking incident in your professional experience?”

The Era Almanack (1888 - p. 27-28).

era1
era2

Not a short story, but one of a series of responses to the question, ‘What is the most striking incident in your professional experience?’, published in The Era Almanack of 1888, the full text of which is available at the Internet Archive. I have transcribed the article below, but since Miss Jay seems to dispense with punctuation marks altogether, I’ve added a few of my own to make the piece a little easier to read.

 

THE ERA ALMANACK, 1888.

What is the most striking incident
in your professional experience?

 

I was sitting one afternoon in a well known Strand restaurant and having a cup of tea when a voice said in my ear, “You are the very girl I wanted to see! Are you open to an engagement. The Governor is about to revive “Lady Clare” and he wants you to play your original part.” The speaker, an old theatrical acquaintance proceeded to enter into details and the result of our conversation was that the next day I called at the theatre, saw the manager and arranged everything with him. I had left his room and crossed the stage where a voice arrested me. “Are you not going to say good bye.” Turning quickly I saw my friend standing at the wing. I held out my hand. “It is not good bye,” I said, “on Monday I come up to town again to rehearse, till then au revoir.” I endeavoured to withdraw my hand but he held it firmly in both of his as he said in a curiously wistful tone, “Kiss me and say good bye.” “Good bye,” I said. “Then you won’t kiss me.” I shook my head. “Well good bye, my child,” he said, “good bye,” and my hand was free. I walked a few steps away when some unheard prompting made me turn and look back. He stood steadfastly and sadly regarding me. Impulsively I walked back and kissed him on the cheek. “We are making it a most solemn farewell,” I said laughing. “Good bye,” and this time I took my departure. Even this incident impressed me not a little for my friend was as a rule the merriest of the merry and never in all our acquaintance had he been so serious or so tenderly familiar. Three days later I was sitting by the sea when my maid brought me the Era. I glanced into its pages and then dropped it from my hand. The first words which met my gaze were the following. Death of Mr. Harry Jackson. Could the shadow of this awful and sudden event have been upon my kind old friend when he wished me that last good bye.

                                                                                                                                               Harriett Jay.

___

 

Harry Jackson was a popular character actor and stage manager. He died on Thursday, 13th August 1885 from an overdose of morphia, judged to be accidentally administered at the subsequent inquest.

The Times (19 August, 1885 - p.6)

hjacksoninquestbg

Harriett Jay had appeared onstage with Harry Jackson in A Sailor and His Lass at Drury Lane in 1883. The revival of Lady Clare, which Harriett Jay refers to, opened at the Pavilion Theatre on 24th August 1885. According to the inquest, Harry Jackson had been appearing at the same theatre on the evening before his death.

_____

 

My Luggage

The Theatre (Part 1: August 1, 1890, p. 68-72. Part 2: September 1, 1890, p. 108-113).

 

 

“My Luggage.”

BY HARRIETT JAY.

Author of “The Queen of Connaught,” &c., &c.
_____

 

TWO minutes later and I should have missed the train. Indeed, as it was, it would most certainly have steamed off without me if I had not been particularly nimble upon my feet, for even as I was taking my ticket I heard the guard blowing his whistle; I rushed out on to the platform, clinging on to the man who had possession of my luggage, and imagining in some vague sort of way that my appearance would cause the train to wait. Whether or not it had that effect I do not know; I was only conscious of being seized and hurried along the platform, of being thrust into a carriage, and of having my luggage thrust in after me, of hearing the door shut with a bang, and of listening again to the shrill whistle of the guard as the train began to glide slowly out of the station.
     For a minute or so I sat perfectly still upon the seat on which I had fallen, utterly unable to speak or look or move; the window near which I sat was open, a refreshing breeze blew upon my face, and by degrees it revived me. The loud thumping of my heart ceased, the spinning and whirling which had been going on in my head passed away, and I looked around me to ascertain if I was alone.
     I was not alone. My sole companion, a gentleman, sat in a remote corner of the carriage, his legs stretched out and crossed, his head and face completely hidden by a newspaper, in which he was apparently so engrossed as to be quite unaware of my existence. My gaze rested upon him for a moment only, then it wandered to my luggage, which had been thrust so unceremoniously into the carriage after me, as the train had steamed away. There it was, scattered about everywhere, on the seats, and on the floor; rugs and umbrellas, travelling bags, and even a moderately-sized portmanteau, which, in the ordinary course of things, would have been placed in the luggage van, but which, in answer to my cry, the dazed porter had shot into the compartment with the rest. It was certainly a goodly array, and it seemed to be incommoding my fellow passenger, who now shrank into a corner and put his feet on the opposite seat in order to avoid treading on it, so I commenced at once to move some of it out of his way. This I did very quietly in order to avoid disturbing him, but my caution was quite unnecessary, for during the whole of the time that I was so occupied, he never once moved, nor did he show his face. When I had finished I settled myself in a corner as remote from him as possible, and took from my bag a novel, which I began to read. I was to descend at the next station, but as an hour must elapse before that next station could be reached, I arranged myself comfortably. I wrapped a great skin rug about my feet, and, resting my head comfortably on the cushions of the carriage, prepared to enjoy my book.
     I had been reading for some little time when suddenly something compelled me to look up, and I turned my eyes to the place occupied by my companion. He had dropped his paper, and was now steadfastly regarding me. He was a middle-aged man, and tolerably handsome. He was tall, square-shouldered, broad-chested, with powerful arms and legs; his eyes were dark, his skin an olive brown, and his hair iron grey.
     We regarded each other for a minute or so in silence, then, seeing that he made no attempt to speak, I looked at my portmanteau, which was lying on its side quite near to his feet, and remarked that I hoped it did not incommode him.
     “Not in the least,” he replied, never once taking his eyes from my face.
     His steady and fixed gaze abashed me. I moved uneasily on my seat, turned half round, and instead of returning to the perusal of my book, I looked out of the carriage window, letting my eyes wander carelessly over the fields, hedges, and ditches, which seemed to be shooting rapidly past, but all the time I felt that the eyes of my companion were fixed upon me.
     At last they forced me to turn round and look at him again. This time it was he who spoke.
     “You nearly missed the train,” he said. I assented, and was turning again towards the window, when he continued:
     “Tell me, how did it happen?”
     “How did what happen?” I asked, facing him again.
     “How did this happen?” he said. “Why didn’t you start in time?”
     “I did start in time,” I replied, “but our cab collided with a van and was disabled; we were compelled to get another. All this took up some time, and nearly caused us to miss the train.”
     “Us?” queried my mysterious companion. “You are alone!”
     “I hope not,” I replied. “My maid was with me on the platform, and I trust she is in the train somewhere; but really it was such a scramble to get in that I should not be the least surprised if——”
     I stopped very suddenly, for my companion had evidently had enough of my explanation, and had returned, without the slightest ceremony, to the study of his paper. “An ill-bred boor,” I remarked inwardly. “I will not open my lips to him again.”
     For some time there was silence. I read until my eyes ached, then I looked at the landscape, then I rested my head on the cushions and closed my eyes. I was fast falling into a slight dose when I was rudely awakened.
     The train, the speed of which had been momentarily increasing, was going along at express pace, and the carriage in which I sat rocked like a ship at sea. My companion, who had deserted his corner, was busily employed in examining my luggage, in scrutinizing my portmanteau, and feeling the weight of my various bags, a proceeding which astonished me not a little. Utterly at a loss what to say, I sat and silently watched his movements.
     Presently he turned to me.
     “Do you notice how the carriage is rocking?” he said, raising his voice so as to make himself heard, and holding on to the rack in order to prevent himself from being unceremoniously shot into my lap.
     I replied that I did notice it, but that it was easily accounted for, as we were travelling at a great speed.
     “It’s not that at all,” he replied. “It’s the impedimenta.”
     “The impedimenta?”
     “Yes, your luggage!” he replied in a still shriller tone. “There is too much of it; the carriage is over-weighted, and will very likely run off the line!”
     I looked at my companion more carefully now, to discover, if possible, whether he was given to practical joking. The expression of his face was perfectly serious, but I observed now for the first time that there was an odd look in his eyes. What was it? I had never seen a look like it in any eyes before. I was still looking at him, still wondering in what spirit I should reply to his curious remark, when he spoke again.
     “The luggage is much too heavy,” he said in an injured tone. “It will cause an accident.”
     This was going a little too far.
     “Excuse me, sir,” I said stiffly, “but I think you are talking nonsense.”
     With this I turned away again as if to close the conversation, but my companion was not to be so easily put down. Finding that talking was of no avail, he resorted to action. He let down the window nearest to him, lifted my dressing bag from the rack, and deliberately threw it out on to the line.
     This proceeding so astonished me that for a moment I could neither move nor speak. Then I saw him make for my Gladstone bag. In a moment I was up, and had laid a detaining hand upon his arm.
     “What are you doing?” I cried.
     But in a moment, and without a word, he had shaken me off, and had seized my luckless bag. I flew to the window and shut it, then, placing my back against the door of the carriage, I faced him, and angrily repeated my question.
     “What am I doing?” replied he in a perfectly unruffled tone. “I am going to throw out this bag.”
     “You are going to do nothing of the kind,” I replied, hotly. “I object to having my property disposed of in this way. If your motive is to rob me, all I can say is that you go about your work in a very clumsy fashion. Put down my bag, if you please, or I will pull the check string, have the train stopped, and give you into the custody of the guard.”
     “O, you will, will you?”
     “Yes, sir, I will. I suppose you think, since we are alone, I am defenceless and bound to submit to any indignity you may put upon me, but let me tell you, sir, that though I am only a woman, I can defend myself!”
     I spoke very bravely, but I was gradually growing hysterical; indeed, at the moment, I would gladly have given the half of all my worldly possessions to have found myself standing in safety on mother earth. I still stood blocking the window, and I kept my eyes fixed upon my companion, expecting to see him produce some deadly weapon. All he did, however, was to stand grasping my bag, and request me, in the most polite manner possible, to move aside in order that he might have the pleasure of casting it out.
     This I refused to do, whereupon he calmly walked to the opposite window and let it down. Before he could cast out the bag, however, I had seized his arm.
     “Are you intoxicated,” I cried, “or mad?”
     Scarcely had the words passed my lips when the bag was cast upon the floor of the carriage, and I felt the grip of a tiger upon both my arms. The face of the man, which was now close to mine, had suddenly become livid; the eyes, which had grown wild and bloodshot, glared into mine as he hissed at me.
     “Mad? Yes, they all say I’m mad, and now you echo it. They have tried to kill me, and now you are trying to kill me by overloading the carriage. But I will cast all the things out; nothing shall remain, for I don’t mean to be sacrificed.”
     So saying he released me, and seizing up my bag, cast it out upon the line without my being able to put out a hand to save it.
     I don’t think I am a coward, but the situation was one calculated to appal a braver woman than me. For a moment I felt as if my senses were deserting me, then by an effort I pulled myself together and set about thinking what I must do. I was afraid to look at my watch, but I calculated that it would be fully half-an-hour before my destination was reached. Should I pull the check string and stop the train? No; that was now an impossibility. My companion, having recovered his composure, had quietly returned to his corner, but I could see that he was watching me as a cat watches a mouse, and any attempt on my part to summon assistance, would, I felt sure, be dangerous. The only course open to me was to exhibit a composure equal to that of my companion, to fall in with his eccentricities, in fact, to ward off any further paroxysms of madness until our destination should be reached.
     Having arrived at this conclusion, I quietly sat down to await the course of events. The train having slackened its speed, was now running along smoothly enough. My companion, who had now the appearance of being the most amiable, the most sane of men, had re-settled himself in his corner, returned to his paper, and was deeply engrossed in the news.
     I opened my book again, but not one word could I read, for my eyes, instead of remaining fixed upon the letterpress, wandered restlessly over the landscape; then I took cursory glances at my companion’s face. I found myself counting the minutes as they dragged wearily along, looking despairingly at the stations as we shot rapidly through them, and praying devoutly that my destination might soon be reached.
     Had the train continued, as it then was, to go along smoothly and evenly, I doubt not but I should have reached my destination without further unpleasantness, for now that the rocking of the carriage had ceased, the mind of my companion seemed to be quite at rest. Unfortunately, however, we shot rapidly round a curve, the carriage was violently shaken, my companion dropped his paper, I dropped my book, and we stared at each other. This time he said nothing.

_____

 

PART II.

 

AFTER gazing at me for a moment he turned away, and I saw his eyes wander to my luckless portmanteau. Guessing the thought that was passing through his brain, I rose, left my corner, and sat down opposite to him.
     “I am very sorry I spoke as I did just now,” I said in as calm a voice as I could, “but I was so concerned at losing my bags—and I—I really thought you were a robber! I see my mistake now, and apologise.”
     I paused trembling, not knowing how my speech would be received. To my intense relief he replied:
     “Ladies have strange fancies; but you see now, don’t you, that by casting out those bags, I probably saved your life?”
     “Probably,” I repeated, for want of something better to say.
     “You agree with me, don’t you, that it’s much better to lose a little luggage than to lose one’s life.”
     “Certainly I do.”
     “Then permit me,” he continued, taking hold of my portmanteau, “to be of some slight service to you again.”
     “Why what are you going to do now?”
     “I am going to throw out this portmanteau!”
     “But why?”
     “Because the carriage is still too heavily laden; don’t you feel the oscillation?”
     “I replied that I did, but that I attributed it to the increased speed at which we were travelling.
     “That is what you said before,” he continued gravely, “but you know nothing of the laws of gravitation.”
     Again he made a movement towards my portmanteau, and again I stopped him.
     “Must this go?” I said.
     He replied that it must.
     “But wouldn’t anything else do as well—there is your luggage for instance?”
     He replied that he had none, and on glancing round the carriage I perceived that he was right. It was all mine; he had not even a hand-bag that would hold a clean collar.
     “Well,” I continued, “there are plenty of other things without this portmanteau. There are my other two bags, there are my rugs, there are the carriage cushions; take them all if you like—take anything but this!”
     “But why?” he asked.
     “Because this is of the utmost value to me.”
     “Madam,” he replied gravely, “it is the heaviest.”
     “Decidedly it is the heaviest,” I said, “but if all these other things were disposed of, perhaps the weight of this one would not matter so much after all.”
     This argument seemed to carry conviction with it; at any rate, he was appeased for a time. Abandoning my portmanteau, he turned his attention to my two remaining bags, which had been safely tucked away in the rack. First one, then the other, was lifted down and thrown out of the window; the cushions of the carriage followed, then my rugs, until the carriage became a positive wreck, and nothing was left but my portmanteau, which still lay upon the floor. This work had not been accomplished without considerable difficulty, for so rapid was the pace at which we were travelling, and so violent were the vibrations of the carriage, that my companion could scarcely keep his feet. However, his work of destruction was completed at last, and when all was over he sat down to gaze at the result. Every available light article had been thrown out, but the carriage shook as violently as before. Again he turned his eyes upon my portmanteau.
     “You see I was right,” he said, “that portmanteau will certainly have to go.”
     I was growing desperate. Determined not to lose this last remnant of my property without a struggle, I used every persuasive means in my power; to no purpose, however. When once my companion had got an idea, he stuck to it with pertinacity. He had resolved to cast the portmanteau out, and nothing I could say or do would alter his determination. At last a brilliant idea struck me.
     “Why,” I said, “it is much too big. You couldn’t possibly get that through the window!”
     This idea had evidently not occurred to him. He saw in a moment that I was right; but his fertile imagination was not without resource.
     “We will open it,” he said, “and throw out the things singly.”
     This at first I positively refused to agree to; but at length, seeing that my persistence was beginning to re-arouse his fury, I reluctantly handed him my keys and sat down with a sigh of resignation to watch his final task of destruction.
     He took the keys, unlocked the portmanteau, and lifted the lid; then he paused, and gazed with a curious expression at the various articles of apparel which met his gaze.
     First there was a wig—a closely-cropped boy’s wig, which was neatly folded and lay flat from the pressure of the portmanteau lid; next came a dress coat, then a waistcoat, then a pair of black trousers. Each of these articles my companion carefully lifted out; then he turned to me with a very puzzled expression on his face.
     “Do these things belong to you, madam?” he asked.
     “They do,” I replied; “but before this evening, I suppose they will belong to some person or persons unknown.”
     “I mean,” he continued in a hesitating kind of way, “do you wear them?”
     “Of course I have worn them; but if you carry out your present intention, I shall probably wear them no more.”
     Then it was that brilliant idea number two came into my head, and once more I experienced a kind of relief. After all, my sole object now was to gain time. If I could only manage to keep my companion in conversation until the train reached its destination, all further evil might be avoided; if not—I trembled to think what further wild idea might enter the man’s brain.
     The speed of the train seemed to increase with every mile we travelled, and the vibration of the carriage was by this time really alarming. Sitting upon the uncushioned seat, I was rocked violently from side to side; while my companion, who was kneeling upon the floor before my open portmanteau, and gazing abstractedly at the curious mixture of garments which it contained, had some difficulty in keeping himself from sprawling on the floor. Suddenly he began to collect some of the things together, a proceeding which I hastened to stop.
     “Will you listen to me for one moment?” I said, stretching out my hand and laying it lightly on his shoulder.
     He turned towards me at once, and I continued:
     “I told you the contents of that portmanteau were of great value to me, that was why I asked you to leave it till the last. Now you understand the reason, don’t you?”
     He shook his head.
     “I certainly do not. They seem to be an extraordinary collection of articles to belong to a lady.”
     I laughed rather hysterically, I am afraid, as I replied:
     “Yes, to a stranger they must look odd, but the fact is, I am an actress.”
     “An actress?”
     “Yes. I am to appear to-night at Mumford, and,” I added falteringly, “I am to wear those clothes.”
     “Indeed!”
     He seemed to be becoming interested; my spirits rose a little, and I said:
     “It is not a regular engagement—in fact, it is not an engagement at all; I am simply to appear to-night in a part I have played a good deal in London. The piece is to be done at the Theatre Royal, with all the original London cast, and as I am one of them, and since it is to be for the benefit of a very old friend of mine, I have come down. I believe it will be a very great affair. If you throw these things out of the window, I don’t know what will happen, as I shall not be able to appear at all.”
     I paused, and my companion, without one word of comment, commenced to collect my wardrobe together and roll it into a bundle.
     “What are you going to do?” I asked.
     “I am going to cast these things out.”
     “What, after all I have told you? You will bring a terrible calamity upon my friend!”
     “I cannot help that,” he said.
     As he spoke I looked at him in wonder. What terrible change had come over him? He rose to his feet for a moment and faced me, fixing his eyes upon my face. As he did so, a horrible feeling of fear came over me, for I felt that the look in his face meant murder. To this day I can never understand how it was that I managed to keep my senses, but I did. I glanced instinctively towards the check string, and he saw the look.
     “If you touch that,” he said, “I will kill you.”
     He cast out of the window every article which the portmanteau had contained; then he turned to me.
     “Now, madam,” he said, “it is your turn.”
     “My turn?” I cried.
     “Yes,” he continued. “I am going to cast you out now.”
     “Good heavens!” I cried, making a brave effort to choke down my fear. “Do you still think the carriage is   overloaded?”
     “I do.”
     “In that case it is you who should go out,” I continued desperately. “You are very much taller than I am, and twice as heavy.”
     This view of the case seemed by no means pleasing to my travelling companion. He himself had evidently no wish to join the majority, though he had made up his mind to send me there. Nevertheless, I continued to argue the matter in order to gain time. How long the argument lasted I don’t know; I only dimly remember saying the wildest things. I have a recollection of the horror which overcame me as I saw the face of my companion becoming once more disturbed by mad fury. I saw him come towards me with outstretched hands, as if about to grapple with me; then suddenly the train slackened its speed, the engine whistled shrilly, and I knew that we were nearing the station. I fell back on to the seat, and for the first time in my life I fainted.
     When I recovered my senses, I found myself in the waiting-room of the station, surrounded by an eager and interested crowd. My first feeling was one of astonishment at finding myself alive, then I thought of my companion, and asked quickly:
     “Where is he?”
     “Oh, he’s taken,” was the reply.
     “Taken?”
     “Yes miss, and he’ll be sent back to the asylum by the next train. He only escaped this morning, and they telegraphed his description at once. And now, miss, what has he done to you, and what can we do for you?”
     I gave a brief account of what had occurred, and asked them to recover for me, if possible, my lost luggage; then, having ascertained that my maid had been left behind in London, and feeling sure that she would follow by the next train, I got into a cab and drove at once to the hotel, where rooms had been ordered for me. The rooms were ready, and dinner was awaiting me. Before sitting down to it, however, I despatched a message to my old friend, the manager of the Theatre Royal, asking him to come to me at once. I had got half through my dinner when he walked into the room.
     “Anything the matter?” he asked, looking anxiously into my face.
     “Yes, I am sorry to say there is a good deal the matter,” I replied. “I shan’t be able to play to-night.”
     “Not play to-night? In heaven’s name why?”
     “For the best of reasons, I have no wardrobe.” Whereupon I gave him a description of what had occurred in the train.
     “The madman,” I said, “is by this time on his way back to the asylum, but my clothes are scattered in various places down the line. What am I to do? If I were going to play any ordinary part, I might manage; but to wear boy’s clothes which have not been specially made for me, is quite out of the question.”
     Without another word, my friend rose and left me. Half-an-hour later, I received a little note.

     “Dear Kitty,” he wrote, “It’s all right. I’ve postponed the benefit. Dormez bien, and don’t dream of the madman. I’ll look round in the morning.
                                                 —“CHARLES MAYLAND.”

     In the morning I was awakened by my maid bringing in my tea and the papers. I sipped my tea, opened the paper, and turned to the advertisement of the Theatre Royal. I found that the benefit had been postponed “in consequence of an alarming accident to Miss Katherine Fane;” while in another part of the paper, I found a long and very flowery description of my adventure with the lunatic, an account winding up with the announcement “that I was at present suffering from nervous prostration, but that I hoped to be able to appear in a few days.”
     On going down to breakfast, I found my old friend awaiting me.
     “I’ve fixed the benefit for this day week,” he said, “and you don’t move out of Mumford till it’s over. This first adventure has done us good; a second one might have a contrary effect, so, as you are here, you will remain here till it’s all over.”
     And I did stay, and a very pleasant week I had on the whole, though before it came to an end, I was a good deal worried by being stared at wherever I went by an excited and eager crowd, for, thanks to the marvellous advertising powers of Mr. Mayland, my adventure was soon pretty well known, and I became as great an object of interest as Marwood was when he came down to execute his labours in the gaol. At length the night of the benefit arrived. As I was making my way to my dressing-room, I met Mr. Mayland, who informed me, with a beaming smile, that the house was magnificent. He was in particularly good spirits, so also was I, for my missing luggage had been recovered, very little, if any, the worse for its adventure. The evening passed off splendidly; the house was packed from floor to ceiling, and the piece never went better. When all was over, Mr. Mayland invited the members of the company to his room, where we found some champagne. Someone proposed the manager’s health, but Mayland laughingly said :
     “I propose the health of a much more important person. Here is to our friend and benefactor, THE MADMAN.”

_____

 

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