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Mike Fletcher A Novel   By: (1852-1933)

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E text prepared by Andrew Sly


A Novel



Author of "A Mummer's Wife," "Confessions of a Young Man," Etc.




Oaths, vociferations, and the slamming of cab doors. The darkness was decorated by the pink of a silk skirt, the crimson of an opera cloak vivid in the light of a carriage lamp, with women's faces, necks, and hair. The women sprang gaily from hansoms and pushed through the swing doors. It was Lubini's famous restaurant. Within the din was deafening.

"What cheer, 'Ria! 'Ria's on the job,"

roared thirty throats, all faultlessly clothed in the purest linen. They stood round a small bar, and two women and a boy endeavoured to execute their constant orders for brandies and sodas. They were shoulder to shoulder, and had to hold their liquor almost in each other's faces. A man whose hat had been broken addressed reproaches to a friend, who cursed him for interrupting his howling.

Issued from this saloon a long narrow gallery set with a single line of tables, now all occupied by reproaches to a friend, who cursed him for interrupting his howling.

Issued from this saloon a long narrow gallery set with a single line of tables, now all occupied by supping courtesans and their men. An odour of savouries, burnt cheese and vinegar met the nostrils, also the sharp smell of a patchouli scented handkerchief drawn quickly from a bodice; and a young man protested energetically against a wild duck which had been kept a few days over its time. Lubini, or Lubi, as he was called by his pals, signed to the waiter, and deciding the case in favour of the young man, he pulled a handful of silver out of his pocket and offered to toss three lords, with whom he was conversing, for drinks all round.

"Feeling awfully bad, dear boy; haven't been what I could call sober since Monday. Would you mind holding my liquor for me? I must go and speak to that chappie."

Since John Norton had come to live in London, his idea had been to put his theory of life, which he had defined in his aphorism, "Let the world be my monastery," into active practice. He did not therefore refuse to accompany Mike Fletcher to restaurants and music halls, and was satisfied so long as he was allowed to disassociate and isolate himself from the various women who clustered about Mike. But this evening he viewed the courtesans with more than the usual liberalism of mind, had even laughed loudly when one fainted and was upheld by anxious friends, the most zealous and the most intimate of whom bathed her white tragic face and listened in alarm to her incoherent murmurings of "Mike darling, oh, Mike!" John had uttered no word of protest until dear old Laura, who had never, as Mike said, behaved badly to anybody, and had been loved by everybody, sat down at their table, and the discussion turned on who was likely to be Bessie's first sweetheart, Bessie being her youngest sister whom she was "bringing out." Then he rose from the table and wished Mike good night; but Mike's liking for John was sincere, and preferring his company to Laura's, he paid the bill and followed his friend out of the restaurant; and as they walked home together he listened to his grave and dignified admonitions, and though John could not touch Mike's conscience, he always moved his sympathies. It is the shallow and the insincere that inspire ridicule and contempt, and even in the dissipations of the Temple, where he had come to live, he had not failed to enforce respect for his convictions and ideals.

In the Temple John had made many acquaintances and friends, and about him were found the contributors to the Pilgrim , a weekly newspaper devoted to young men, their doings, their amusements, their literature, and their art. The editor and proprietor of this organ of amusement was Escott. His editorial work was principally done in his chambers in Temple Gardens, where he lived with his friend, Mike Fletcher... Continue reading book >>

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