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The Master Mummer   By: (1866-1946)

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The Master Mummer


Author of "Anna, the Adventuress," "A Prince of Sinners," "The Betrayal," Etc.


A. L. BURT COMPANY Publishers New York

Copyright , 1904, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

All rights reserved

[Illustration: "Let the boy have his chance," said Allan.]

The Master Mummer

Book I


Sheets of virgin manuscript paper littered my desk, the smoke of much uselessly consumed tobacco hung about the room in a little cloud. Many a time I had dipped my pen in the ink, only to find myself a few minutes later scrawling ridiculous little figures upon the margin of my blotting pad. It was not at all an auspicious start for one who sought immortality.

There came a growl presently from the other side of the room, where Mabane, attired in a disreputable smock, with a short black pipe in the corner of his mouth, was industriously defacing a small canvas. Mabane was tall and fair and lean, with a mass of refractory hair which was the despair of his barber; a Scotchman with keen blue eyes, and humorous mouth amply redeeming his face from the plainness which would otherwise have been its lot. He also was in search of immortality.

"Make a start for Heaven's sake, Arnold," he implored. "To look at you is an incitement to laziness. The world's full of things to write about. Make a choice and have done with it. Write something, even if you have to tear it up afterwards."

I turned round in my chair and regarded Mabane reproachfully.

"Get on with your pot boiler, and leave me alone, Allan," I said. "You do not understand my difficulties in the least. It is simply a matter of selection. My brain is full of ideas brimming over. I want to be sure that I am choosing the best."

There came to me from across the room a grunt of contempt.

"Pot boiler indeed! What about short stories at ten guineas a time, must begin in the middle, scented and padded to order, Anthony Hopeish, with the sugar of Austin Dobson and the pepper of Kipling shaken on ad lib. ? Man alive, do you know what pot boilers are? It's a perfect conservatory you're living in. Got any tobacco, Arnold?"

I jerked my pouch across the room, and it was caught with a deft little backward swing of the hand. Allan Mabane was an M.C.C. man, and a favourite point with his captain.

"You've got me on the hip, Allan," I answered, rising suddenly from my chair and walking restlessly up and down the large bare room. "The devil himself might have put those words into your mouth. They are pot boilers, every one of them, and I am sick of it. I want to do something altogether different. I am sure that I can, but I have got into the way of writing those other things, and I can't get out of it. That is why I am sitting here like an owl."

Mabane refilled his pipe and smoked contentedly.

"I know exactly how you're feeling, old chap," he said sympathetically. "I get a dash of the same thing sometimes generally in the springtime. It begins with a sort of wistfulness, a sense of expansion follows, you go about all the time with your head in the clouds. You want to collect all the beautiful things in life and express them. Oh, I know all about it. It generally means a girl. Where were you last night?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Where I shall be to night, to morrow night where I was a year ago. That is the trouble of it all. One is always in the same place."

He shook his head.

"It is a very bad attack," he said. "Your generalities may be all right, but they are not convincing."

"I have not spoken a word to a woman, except to Mrs. Burdett, for a week or more," I declared.

Mabane resumed his work. Such a discussion, his gesture seemed to indicate, was not worth continuing. But I continued, following out my train of thought, though I spoke as much to myself as to my friend.

"You are right about my stories," I admitted... Continue reading book >>

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