No one who has not been bankrupt at least twice could afford to be so careful about his dress as Mr. Richmond is,” said Josephine.

“He admits a solitary bankruptcy,” said Amber. “Bankruptcy is the official recognition of genius.”

“It certainly is the shortest way to distinction,” said Josephine. “Bankruptcy’s a sort of English Legion of Honour, isn’t it?—a kind of bourgeois decoration.”

“To genius,” said Amber, with the nod of one who completes a quotation that some one else has begun. “Mr. Richmond is really very clever.”

“Now you contradict yourself—a moment ago you said he was a genius—and being a genius is just the opposite to being clever,” laughed Josephine. “Is this your syllogism: Geniuses become bankrupt, Mr. Richmond becomes bankrupt, therefore he is a genius?”

“Well, that wasn’t quite what was in my mind. I suppose that to have the Homeric attribute of nodding scarcely makes one a Homer?”

“If it did there would be no need for people to learn Greek, But you must forgive me for distrusting your Mr. Richmond—no, I shouldn’t make use of so strong a word—I don’t distrust him. What I mean to say is that I am rarely convinced by a man who is so scrupulous about his coats. Genius—in man—is rarely found in association with silk linings where silk linings are not imperative.”

“Now you are becoming commonplace, my dear Joe; you give one the idea that you cannot imagine genius without a darn. A darn—maybe a patch—and a soft hat have floated many a mediocrity upon the public under the name of a genius. But brains can work just as actively within the drum of a silk hat as within the bowl of a bowler.”

“Just as a true heart may beat beneath a silk lining as fervently as under a moleskin waistcoat. Well, I’ll approach Mr. Richmond with an open mind. After all it’s only a universal genius who is a man that has failed in everything; and no man has yet hinted that Mr. Richmond is a universal genius. By the way, I heard of an adroit Irishman who got a great name as a poet solely by reason of his wearing an old cloak and turning up at awkward hours for dinner.”

“Mr. Richmond is—well, perhaps I had better say, a bit of a genius.”

“That sounds more companionable. I like the nodding of Homer—it makes him more human.”

“If you wish I’ll withdraw the genius altogether and merely say that he is a man of ideas.”

“I think I shall like him: a man of ideas is a man of ideals. I am nearly sure that I shall like him. There must be something good about a man who can be praised by his friends in diminuendo.”

“In diminuendo? Oh, I understand: yes, I began by calling him a man of genius and now I am perfectly satisfied to hear you say that you think you will like him. Well, that’s not a crescendo of praise anyhow. Oh, really, he’s not half a bad sort of man when you come to know him.”

“Now you are becoming crescendo, my Amber. One only says of the best men what you have said of Mr. Richmond. I know that it represents the flood-tide of one man’s praise of another. Personally I don’t see why the papers should have made such fun of Mr. Richmond.”

“Oh, my dear Joe, that wasn’t his doing, believe me. Oh, no; that was Willie Bateman’s idea. He’s becoming the great authority on advertising, you know. Yes, he said that you can ridicule any man into success.”

“I fancy he’s not far wrong in that. You remember the horrid man who got on—for a time—by pretending that he was the original of one of Mr. du Maurier’s pictures in Punch?

“I have heard of him. He was a sort of painter, only he had a habit of dabbing in the eyes outside the face. Mr. Richmond is not an impostor, however; he is only a theorist.”

“Now you are hair-splitting, Amber, the Sophist.” Amber frowned and then laughed—freely—graciously—not the laugh of Ananias and Sapphira his wife, who kept back part of their possessions.

“Well, I admit that—no, I admit nothing. I say that Mr. Richmond deserves to succeed on his own merits, and that he would succeed even without being ridiculed in the papers. His theories are thoroughly scientific—papa admits so much.”

“He not only admits the theorist but the theories as well, into his house. And yet Sir Creighton is a practical man.”

“And a scientific man. It is because Mr. Richmond works on such a scientific basis and in such a practical manner we are so anxious to do all we can for him. Why shouldn’t there be a Technical College of Literature as well as one of Wool-combing, or one of Dyeing, or one of Turning?”

“Why shouldn’t there be one? You have reason and analogy on your side. I suppose it needs quite as much skill to turn a Sonnet as to turn a Sofa-leg, and yet it is thought necessary to serve an apprenticeship to the one industry and not to the other.”

“That’s exactly what I say—exactly what Mr. Richmond says. He once edited a magazine, and he would have made it pay too, if the people who wrote for him had been able to write. But they didn’t. It was reading the fearful stuff he used to get by every post that caused him to think of the great need there was for a Technical School of Literature. Now, suppose you want to write a History of any period, how would you set about it?”

“I haven’t the remotest idea of writing a history of even the remotest period, Amber.”

“Yes, that’s because you are unfortunate enough to be the daughter of so wealthy a man as Mr. West, the Under Secretary for the Arbitration Department. You have no need to do anything for a living—to do anything to distinguish yourself in the world. But take the case that you were dependent upon writing histories of certain periods for your daily bread, wouldn’t you like to have some place to go in order to learn the technicalities of history-writing?”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I would. The writing of histories of periods has long ago been placed among the great industries of the country, I know.”

“I was appalled the other day when I began to think how utterly at sea I should be if I had to write a history, or for that matter, a biography; and history and biography, mind you, are the branches that do not need any imagination for their working up.”

“Oh, do they not?”

“Well, of course—but I mean that if one has to write a play——”

“What, is there a play department too? What on earth have plays got to do with literature?”

“The connection just now is faint enough, I admit. And why?—why, I ask?”

“Let me guess. Is it because up to the present there has not been a Technical School of Literature?”

“Of course it is. But at one time plays formed a very important part of the literature of the day.”

“Undoubtedly. The author of Shakespeare’s plays, whoever he was, was certainly a literary man. I wonder, by the way, if there was a Technical School in his time.”

“There wasn’t. That’s how it comes that he knew so little about the technicalities of the modern stage. Take my word for it, Josephine, Mr. Richmond will prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such mistakes as those Shakespeare made. And then there are the departments of fiction and poetry. Could anything be worse than the attempts at fiction and poetry which one meets nowadays?”

“Impossible, I admit.”

“The poor things who make those poor attempts are really not to be blamed. If they were set down to make a pair of boots should any one blame them if they failed? Now I hear it said that there is no market for poetry in these days. I don’t believe it.”

“I believe that if a paper pattern were to be given away with every volume the public would buy as many volumes of poetry as could be printed, if only the patterns were of a high class.”

“The public would buy poetry if a first-class article were offered to them, but as only one first-class volume appears for every five hundred of a second-class or a third-class or no class at all, the public are content to go mad over the merest doggerel, provided it is technically good doggerel.”

“Mr. Richmond will guarantee that his third year pupils will turn out good doggerel, I’m sure. And what department do you mean to graduate in, my Amber?”

Amber paused before replying. A line—a delicate little crayon line—appeared across her forehead, suggesting earnest thought as she said:

“I have a great hope to graduate in every department. But I think for the present I shall confine myself to the ‘Answers to Correspondents.’”

“Oh, the school is actually so technical as that?” cried Josephine.

“It is nothing if not practical, Joe; and I think you will agree with Mr. Richmond that there’s no branch of magazine literature that requires to be more practical than the ‘Answers to Correspondents.’ The ‘Aunt Dorothy’ branch is also one that demands considerable technical skill to be exercised if it is to be done properly. Mr. Richmond thinks I might begin upon the Aunt Dorothy branch and work my way up to the true Petrarchian Sonnet Department, through the Rondel, Rondeau, Vilanelle, and Triolet classes.”

“It’s a far cry from Aunt Dorothy to Petrarch. And pray what does Mr. Galmyn think of the scheme?”

“He wasn’t very enthusiastic at first, but I fancy that I have persuaded him to look at it in its true light. But you see, being a poet, he is hardly open to reason.”

“That is what it is to be a poet. A poet does not reason: he sings. And has Mr. Overton any ideas on the subject: he cannot be accused of singing.”

“He has an open mind, he says.”

“Oh, a man with an open mind is just as disagreeable as a man without prejudices. And Willie Bateman—ah, I forgot; you said that he had had something to do with pushing the school.”

“Yes; he took care that the scheme was properly ridiculed in the papers. Oh, yes; he has been extremely useful to us.”

“What, you have actually come to talk of the school as ‘us’? I had no idea that you meant to hang up the scalp of this Mr. Richmond in your wigwam.”

“I do not even want his scalpet, Josephine; at the same time...”

“I see. You don’t want his scalp, but if he insists on sending you a tuft of his hair, you will not return it to him.”

“Well, perhaps that is what is in my mind. Though really I am sincerely anxious to see what will come of so daring, and at the same time, so scientific an experiment.”

“You are a child of science, and to be a child of science is to be the parent of experiments. It was a child of science who modelled toys in dynamite, was it not? Pretty little clay pigs and elephants and poets and millionaires, but one day she thought she would try the experiment of putting a light to the cigar that she had struck into the mouth of the dynamite figure that she was playing with.”

“And what happened?”

“Let me think. Oh, nothing happened because a live man appeared on the scene and quickly dropped all the little toys of the scientific little girl into a bucket of water.”

“And then?”

“Well, then the scientific little girl cried for a while but when she grew up she married the live little man and they lived happily ever after.”

Amber was blushing like a peony before her friend had finished her parable. When Josephine had begun to speak Amber was beginning to fold her serviette, and now she continued folding it as if she were endeavouring to carry out one of the laborious designs of napkin folding given in the Lady’s columns of some weekly paper. Suddenly, while her friend watched her, she pulled the damask square out of its many folds and tossed its crumpled remains on the tablecloth.

“Psha!” she cried, “there’s not a grain of dynamite among all my little boys.”

“Is there not? You just ask your father to give you an analysis of any little boy, and you’ll find that the result will be something like this:”

(She wrote with her chatelaine pencil on the back of the menu card.)


Amber read the card with blushes and laughter.

“It’s very good fun,” she said. “And there is my motor at the door. You will come with me and see how things are managed?”

“Why should I go?”

“Why should not you go?”

“Oh, I’ll go: whatever it may be it is still a topic.”

“It is much more than a topic: it is a revolution.”

“Then I shall go if only to see it revolve.”

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