Chapter 20295561

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-08-22
Page Number353
Word Count4309
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleCompany: A Love Episode
article text LITERARY The Storyteller. "Company:" A Love Episode. BY MRS. CAMPBELL PRAED. He did not know anything about her except that she had sent him a circular. The circular was beautifully printed by a Kensington type with the underlining in red ink, writer, underlining mathematically straight; tho Bpacing a micacle of neatness, and the little rows of ornamental flourishes, dots, hyphens, dollar and "per cent" signs, and all the rest of those hiero glyphical keymarks which commend themselves to the use of counting-house clerks, arranged in an elaborate pattern between tho paragraphs. The circular set forth the fact that the Heritage Typewriting Company of somewhere in Chelsea —and it struck him that tho address did not suggest a large or flourishing business—were prepared to undertake all varieties of copying folios, legal documents, Ac, including authors' manuscripts, at one-and-twopenoe per thousand words, and dramatic work at four-and-sixpence per act of fifteen pages, and that they hired out operators with machines at a chargo of seven shillings a day. Now any one who knows anything about the Association of Typists will understand that Heritage and Company were not members of that respeotablo body, and that they were under selling their work, seeing that trade-union prices are one-and-threepenoe per thousand words, and live shillings for an act of fifteen .pages, to say nothing of the usual charge for operators by the day being seven-and-sixpence. Guy Derrick cared very little whether he paid one-and-twopenoe or one-and-threepence, five shillings or four-and-sixpence, but being an extravagant Bohemian he prided himself upon a certain fixed principle that it was well to be economical when economy cost nothing. Besides, he had never heard about the Typists' Association, and if he had would probably have employed Heritage and Company out of pure ewtedness, for he was a man given to fly in the face of conventions simply because they were conventions, and not at all because of any in herent badness in his nature. Moreover, he had lost the address of a certain typewriting firm which a fellow-dramatist had once recom mended him to employ. He did bis own copying as a rnle; but, finding himself pushed into a corner over his "Paradox" comedy, which had to be ready for putting into rehearsal at that theatre in five days, he bethought himself of his friend the dramatist's advioe, and began to look for tho address. But all his opening and shutting of drawers and rum maging in various receptacles only produced the circular of Heritage and Company, which had arrived a day or two before, and he solved •the difficulty by there and then writing a post card, with the request that Messrs. Heritage would sand a clerk with a machine on the following day to take down a three-act comedy at his diotation. Derrick's rooms were at the top of a Bet of flats in one of the streets connecting the Strand with the Embankment. He had a beautiful view, taking in the Temple Gardens and the whole stretch of river from Blackfriars to above Westminster. Being a sort of dabbler in brie a-brao and odd properties generally, his den had a picturesque appearance. He was musical, and tho piano was always open and littered with music To-day his big double writing table, standing out in the room at an oblique angle with the window, so that by raising his head he could catch hiß river effects, was in a litter too, for he had set himself early to work to sort and number the pages of the comedy, and in their present chaotic condition that was no_ trifling matter. "Dictation is the only thing for it," he muttered; "and, good Lord! think of having to spout heroics to a flabby-faced olerk with watery eyes and probably a cold in the head 1" There was a knook at the door. It was 10 o'clock. At his "come in" a pleasing appa rition stood revealed — a rather surprising apparition, of which Derrick did not at once gvosp the actual significance. What Bhould a small pretty young woman, carrying a queer-shaped tin box, and whom he had never seen before, be doing at his chambers at this hour, or, indeed, at any hour? She was cer tainly very small and very young; she did not look more than a child, and there was no doubt that she was very pretty, with her frightened, soft, dark eyes, nor sensitive features, delicate complexion, and shock of short curly black hair. The girl said "Mr. Derrick?" in an interrogative fashion, and he got up and bowed, while she advanced with her box. But the burden was so heavy for the fragile creature that when she tried to lift it on to the table she was obliged to stop half way and put it on a chair instead. " I beg your pardon," said Derrick. "Allow me. What is it?" " It is the Bemington," said the little girl. " The Bemington 1" repeated Derrick. " The typewriter," said the girl. " You don't mean to Bay," exclaimed Derrick, "that you are from Messrs. Heritage? Good gracious 1 It never occurred to me. But, of course, when I think of* it, typewriting is quite an employment for ladies. Do you think" He Btopped and eyed her with a Bort of comical benevolence. Derriok was a big-bearded, abrupt mannered personwho did ecoentrio things. His enemies Baid he was a little mad, but not even his worst enemy had said of him that he was ever unchivalrous to a woman. j "I wonder if you're quite equal to this sort of thing," he added. "You expected a man?" Baid the girl, flushing up* 1 " I didn't expect a child," was on tbe tin of Derrick's tongue. " You look as if you hadn't left school." And in his most portentous manner: "Forgive me, but, my dear young lady, to appreciate the orthographical niceties of a three-act comedy of modern college life requires some experience of the ways of proctors, and dons, and undergraduates, and other matters with which very young ladies are not usually acquainted." The girl smiled. " I'm not so young as I seem," she said, not without a touch of dignity. " I don't know anything about college life, of course, but I think I'd like to try the comedy, and, perhaps, if there are any very hard words you wouldn't mind spelling them tor me. I can write very quiokly," she added eagerly; " quicker than most typists, so that it wouldn't be waste of time, and I'm sure you would find I was satisfactory—as far as neatness goes." "Was it you who printed the circular?" asked Derrick. " Oh, yes. There's no one else." "No one else?" " Did you like tho circular? Oh, I took such pains with it." "It was a beautiful circnlar. It was a work of art. If you print my comedy like that, the prompt-reader ought to give you a testimonial. But let me tell you at once that be won't, for the dramatic profession never gives testimonials except to itself; and then only to managers." Thegirl looked puzzled and rather frightened. "Don't you think we had better begin?" she said. "By all means," answered Derrick. " Where will you sit?" " Here, with the light in front, if you don't mind." She unlocked the tin case, and then took off her gloves and bonnet and cloak and spread out her' tools—indiarubber, penknife, carbonised paper, and bo forth—with the greatest precision. He had an opportunity of observing her dainty figure and the glossy hair whioh curled in fascinating little rings on her forehead. Now that her flush had faded, he noticed the waxen pallor of her skin and the stains under her eyes which made them bigger and softer still. Hi 3 heart grew tender. He loved children. " Good heavens!" he thought; " she looks as if she hadn't had enough to eat— poor baby!" And he blurted out, "Youlook tired, and I dare say you breakfasted early, and if you've been lugging that thing—can't I— won't you let me offer you a glass of port wine ? There's nothing so strengthening as port wine." The girl flushed again and drew herself up slightly. " No, thank you," she said. "I am not at all hungry, and I never drink wine. I am ready now to begin whenever you please." She still looked a little frightened, and glanced at Derrick rather as if she thought he might be going to eat her; and Derrick saw this, and became all at once very gentle and respectful and matter-of-fact. He took up the blotted, scored sheets of his comedy, made some long strides up and down the room, and began to spout. She began to click, and so they went on—Bhe at first pain fully anxious, he painfully considerate not to over-hurry or confuse her. They were both absorbed. He got excited, and she got interested. It was a good oomedy full of humour and point, and Derriok never read anything so well as his own work. The girl bubbled over with amuse ment every now and then behind her machine. Sometimes, at a hard word, she would look np— •• I beg your pardon. What ?" 11 Myrmidons, my child—m-y-r-m-i-d-o-n-s." " Oh, lam so sorry. I thought you said marmalade." Derriok went and bent over her shoulder, and sure enough she had begun " m-a-r" And then they both laughed. " H'm, h'ra !" murmured Derrick. " Just a wee bit shaky over the proper names. Never been to Oxford, child —or had a brother there 2" "No." " No, of course not. And it's only people who have been to Oxford or have had brothers there who know that the Mitre Hotel is spelt with the 'c* after the ' r,' and not before it. And it's not of the faintest consequence to the promp ter, or the actors, or the audience; for, you see, the sound is just the same." The door was opened into Derrick's little dining-room, andhisraan-of-all-workannounced that luncheon was ready. " Now look here," said Derrick in his abrupt way, "we can't afford to waste the time you know, since we have got to work together, and I'm hungry, and you ought to be, and so why can't we be sociable ? I don't half like asking you since you refused my port wine, but won't you come and have luncheon with me, and afterwards we'll set to again ? Come, please 1" The girl got up quite frankly, haying appa rently overcome her shyness, and being already inclined to take him on his own terms. Derrick had a way and an expression which made women trust him. He held the door open for her and settled her at table, and waited on her and chattered in an easy friendly fashion, just as if she had been any ordinary young lady of his acquaintance. And as her stiffness wore off Bhe showed in a dozen small ways that she was a little lady down to her very finger-tips, which were as refined as Nature could moke them. When lunch was over he said to her, " And now tell me, what do you think of my comedy ?" " It's beautiful," she said. " It's as good as going to the theatre to bear you dictating. Oh, how I should like to see it acted!" "So you shall. I'll send you an order for the first night. That will be only fair." " Oh, I didn't mean," she began; but Der rick took out his note-book and made an entry. "To be sent to care of Heritage and Com pany. I want to know all about Heritage and Company. And you must tell me your name. You are one of the clerks, I suppose!" " Oh, no—at least—l'm—l'm Heritage." "Heritage?" "Buth Heritage." "And if you are' Heritage,' who is 'Com pany?'" " Oh, I'm • Company.' There's only me." Derrick burst out laughing, and raised him self in his leather chair to look at her with an odd, soft expression, as she bent over the type writer fitting in a sheet of carbonised paper. »• Qnly you I And you are the circular, and you in your child's person represent the mighty sounding ' Heritage and Company' ? Explain me the riddle?" " Oh, it's very simple. Please don't langh. There's only me—me and mother. And mother is an invalid, and oan't leave the sofa, and it it wasn't for Heritage and Company—well, I sup pose we should starve." " Ah!" exclaimed Derrick with a tightening of his breath. " Haven't you got a father, child?" " It was all right as long as father was alivo," said the girl. " Bat the bank failed, and he he killed himself, and mother nearly died then. I was seventeen, and I never had much educa tion. You see, I had a governess who didn't teach me anything." •' A nice sort of governess that. She seems, at any rate, however, to have taught you self reliance, and perhaps that's the best lesson a woman can learn." " Well, that's why I find the long words diffi cult. But lam studying—l work every evening, learning the dictionary by heart." Derriok laughed again. "Do you think that will help you? But go on. What made you take to this line of business?" " I couldn't be a governess, and I wanted to stop with mother. And I read something about women learning typewriting, and a friend gave me a machine. Then we came to London, and I practised, and sent out the circulars; and I put' Company,' because it looked more impres sive—and it has really answered. You Bee, I do it a little cheaper than the others. And so I get work." " And are yon in the habit of going out to write from dictation like this ?" " Oh, no," she answered simply. " I have never been out by the day before, and I have never had anything to do with a dramatic author. I was rather frightened coming up the stair?, especially as mother didn't like it." " Didn't like your coming ?" 41 She said I was too young, and that dramatio authors mightn't be nice for a girl to spend all day with." " Your mother was right. Some of them are not. And so yon thought you were going to see an ogre ? And you were afraid?" " No, no; only for a few minutes. It was mother who minded most; but, you see, I couldn't lose the chance. Printing circulars and envelopes isn't the best kind of work. It's authors' manuscripts that pay. I thought that perhaps you might be pleased with me, and might say a word that would get me the parts to do. It would be everything to got on to a theatre. At the place where I took lessons they were almost kept going just by one theatre. They seem to change the bills pretty often at the Paradox, and there'll soon be another piece on." " Heaven forbid. My comedy is on for a run, I hope. Anyhow, if I've any influence you shall have the parts. Plucky little 'Company'!" Dorriok got up from his chair and paoed the room again. "Oo on, child. Tell me all about it. I'm old enough to be your father, you know —nearly. And I'm—well, I'm interested in you; and though dramatic authors as a rule are a race to be avoided—in their own diggings especially, and you must bear that in mind— you may take me as an exception to the rule. And you may tell your mother that I once had a sister of my own, and that I shall look after you." He looked at her straight with his honest gray eyes, in which there was a curious sort of yearning. Her dark eyes met his,, and the two looks seemed to ding to each other. She let her eyes fall and went on with her arrangement of the paper in the machine. There was silence. All kinds of vague fancies and longings wero shaping themselves in Derrick's mind. Why they should at this moment take form was then and always remained a mystery to him. Pre sently the girl said: " Don't you think we had better go on with the work?" " I have no intention of exercising my brain any more to-day," he said calmly. " Certainly not for the next two hours." "But we have not finished one act," she ex claimed. " Well," he replied imperturbably, "we have five days to do three acts in." "But I can do two acts in a day easily," she returned. " I cannot. Let me observe that whereas you have only been copying at my dictation, I have been delivering myself of, for the most part, original matter, and it is an incontrovertible fact that the evolving of comedy dialogue 13 an exhaustive process. I require rest and recrea tion, and so, lam sure, do you. Let us amuse ourselves for an hour or two. Isn't there any thing in the room that you'd care for me to tell you about ? Some people think that I have got rather an interesting collection of rubbish." Oh, yes; there were a peat many things in the room that she would like to hear about, and the telling of how and where he had got possession of this, that, and the other property involved the relation of a good deal of Derrick's personal history, and that, in turn, led to the relation of parts of her history. The hours passed quickly, and it was with a start and cry of horror that Miss Heritage heard the clock strike 5. ♦• Oh, we must go on with the work," sho said. "Think of the time we have been wasting! What will mother say ?" He was amused at her distress, and set to spouting again. At 6 o'clock the aot was finished. " Now school is over for to-day," said Derriok, " and you must go home, Miss Heritage and Company, and make your mother's tea and relieve her mind about this particular dramatic author any way." For he had heard all about the invalid mother, and his heart had grown soft in the recital, and in his fancy there had already revolved little projects for bringing a gleam of pleasure into that darkened existence. Surely, was he not expecting a hamper of grouse packed in their native heather from lm brother-in-law's moor in Yorkshire, and were not his sister-in-law's conservatories full of orchids, and her garden of late roses; and would it not be the most natural thing in the world that a basket should arrive while "Com pany" was clioking in his study, and what could be more natural still than that she should carry away with her a bit of the country to gladden a sick room ? •••Company!' You don'k mind my calling you 'Company,' my ohild, do yon ?" " No. Why should I, Mr. Derrick, and you that have been bo good to mother and me?" " Nonsense, I haven't; and if I have tried to be 'good,' as you call it, shouldn't I be a brnto if I hadn't ? And I want to bo good, and I want you to be good to me. That's where it is." " I don't know how I can be 'good' to you, Mr. Derrick. ' I don't know anything I could possibly do for you." •• Don't you ? You've done ever so much for me already. You've taught me a great deal. Little Company!" and he broke off abruptly and looked at her as she bent over the machine; and then he added with a laugh, •• My child, don't think me impertinent, but I have at times the most insane desire to run my hand through your curly hair and see if it wouldn't give out sparks. No, no," as she turned on him a startled glance and reddened. " I haven't the least intention of doing anything bo dis respectful. I wouldn't for the whole world seem the least little bit disrespectful to you." " Thank you," said ' Company' simply, and appeared quite at her ease again. " Yes; you have taught me a great deal," he went on. "In these four days that we have been working here together, tinkering at my cheap jokes and between whiles wandering from the comedy of life to its deepest philosophy —you have taught me how selfish and worthless the life of a man may be—a man no worse than some, and perhaps better than others of his kind. You nave taught me what influenoe for good a pure, true, brave woman may have on such a man. You have shown me something to live for—something more than pleasure—more than art." " More than art!" repeated the girl. " And you a great writer and I only a stupid copyist. That can't be." " But it it. And shall I tell you what that something greater than art is ?" " Yes; tell me" she answered, softly. "It is love, Little Company. When you came to me and stood there in your helpless ness and your strength, a new light burst in upon my life, and I seemed to know what it meant before six words had been spoken between us. Yes; I did know. I was sure of it. And then as we came friends, and you re vealed yourself and talked to me in your sweet, simple way of your siok mother and your struggles, and your patient, courageous spirit" "I—l patient and courageous! Why, I never said that, Mr. Derrick." " No; but I read it in your face and between the lines of your story. And I, who had been discontented, cynical, and unbelieving, have learned a lesson from you—a lesson I shall never forget." " A lesson, Mr. Derrick ?" "A lesson of courage and honesty of purpose, and of faith in the power of a God-sent woman, for you have been God-sent to me. Will you be my teacher always, Ruth ?" " 'Ruth !' " she repeated in a troubled voice. •'Ah, but I don't know whether I ought to listen to you. And what would mother say?" "Your mother would say—:f she is what yon have described her to me—and that I am sure of—' Listen, and let your heart decide' Is it Buoh a difficult matter, Rath ?" " N—no. But we've only known each other four days?" " Let me see. You come at 10 and go away at G. That is the regulation time, isn't it—at 78. a day, use of machine included? So each day has been eight hours, and eight hours is four hundred and eighty minutes, and each minute of that sort of ' knowing' is worth a whole month of mere conventional intercourse. So you tee by this showing we've known each other for forty years, and it didn't take the Israelites much longer than that to get into the Promised Land." "Oh, stop—stop," Bho cried,laughing. He laughed too, and then became suddenly grave. "Is it such a difficult matter ?" he said again. "Why, my heart decided long ago. I can tell you the exact hour—the exact minute." "When?" "It was on the very first day, and by the clock—for I heard it strike and looked at it at the moment—half-past 2 and some odd seconds, just when a certain young lady had modestly observed, in reply to a question of mine •I'm "Company"; there's only me.' Then it occurred to my mind—and that was why I laughed—that in the great firm of Derrick and Co., dramatists, there was prac tically • only me'; also that a typewriter might be a very valuable adjunct to that business— and—woll I registered a vow there and then that it shouldn't be my fault if henceforward ' Company' meant in either case ' only me' We have both of us been lonely, Ruth, and per haps it's I who has been the loneliest of the two." "You! oh no—you couldn't have been as lonely as I was. When we came to London, Mr. Derrick, I didn't seem to havo a friend in the world. It was just as if nobody wanted to have anything to do with a useless little creature like me. And I couldn't tell mother about my failures and the snubs I got—and—and —worse things, for it would have made her ill to be fretted about me. So I used to try and keep a bright face when I was at home ; but often, as I walked along those cruel streets, I used to find myself crying out of sheer forlom ness." Ho went up to her and took her hands. " Poor little child. And neither of us knew of the other one waiting and wanting. Won't you trust me, my dear?" " I think I've trusted from the very first moment," she said very low. " Then won't you go and toll your mother that; and take me with you now—at once ?" "But, Mr. Derrick ; it isn't regulation hour yet, and the comedy has got to go to the Paradox to-morrow, you know; and there's a sceno yet to be copied in the third act. Af tor that" "After that wo will begin a new play, which shall be a love drama; and there shall be only two characters in it—you and I." And he drew her to him and kissed hex*