That was what might be termed “a close call” upon the dignity and discrimination of the leaders of Society in Mallingham, and this was possibly why they held back when a man and his wife bearing the name Stanwell took a house in the town. The lady seemed quite nice and the man was passable, and before they had “settled down” it was noised abroad that they had a car: it need scarcely be said that to “have a car” is in country districts nowadays as sure a sign of respectability as “driving a gig” was in the 'thirties. There seemed to be no reason why these people should not be called upon by the leaders of Mallingham Society; but the leaders were getting more cautious than ever since the Baroness' scandal, and they hung back, none of them wishing to take a step which it would be impossible to recall, and every day the question of to call or not to call was informally discussed. It was just at this critical moment, when the fate of the Stanwells was trembling in the balance, so to speak, that one of the leaders was visited by a London friend, and on the name Stanwell being mentioned, this person asked, “Is that Herbert Stanwell, the author? It must be. I heard that he was leaving London and going to live in the country. They are all going. Soon we shall not have an author left in London; though I remember the time when they all lived there.”

“This Mr. Stanwell has a car, I hear,” was the “feeling” suggestion made by the Mallingham lady.

“So has Herbert Stanwell—he has been photographed in it dozens of times. Dear me! To think of Herbert Stanwell coming down here!” was the exclamation of the visitor; and the moment that she had gone back to London her hostess rushed round to her partners in the government of social Mallingham, and breathlessly announced that she had discovered that Mr. Stanwell was an author and that Mrs. Stanwell was his wife.

“Good heavens!” was the whispered exclamation from the syndicate. “Who would have believed it? And we were actually thinking of calling upon them! And they look quite respectable.”

“And have a car!”

“Car, or no car, what I tell you is the truth. Is he not 'H. Stanwell?' and the authors name is Herbert. There's no doubt about it. And my friend, who knows everybody in London, said that Herbert Stanwell was about to live in the country.”

She assumed the pose of a Princess Hohenstïel Schwangau, saviour of Society, and she and her friends talked of how providential were certain incidents, let scoffers say what they might; for if she had not by the merest accident—ah, a providential accident!—mentioned the name of the Stanwells, no one would have known anything about them, and they might have been visited quite in good faith.

They parted, feeling that Providence was, very properly, mindful of the best interests of Mallingham; and so it was decreed that the newcomers—that pair who had made the attempt to get within the citadel of Mallingham's exclusiveness, not storming it boldly, but by the insidious device of concealing the fact that at least one of them was the author of over twenty novels—were not to be called on, although they had a car.

Before a month had passed, however, The Happy Home, a magazine widely circulated at Mallingham on account of its admirable paper patterns, contained an interview with Herbert Wilfred Stanwell, giving an excellent protrait of the distinguished author sitting (as usual) in his motor-car, with his favourite Chow, Ming, beside him; and the “letterpress” stated that he was unmarried, and that he had just taken a charming cottage at Henley (illustrated), on the lawn of which (illustrated), it might be taken for granted, all that was illustrious in Literature, Art, and the Drama would be found at week-ends during the summer, Mr. Stanwell's hospitality being proverbial.

The next day cards were left upon Mr. H. Stanwell and his wife, and it was universally admitted that they formed quite a congenial addition to Mailing-ham Society. He was a pleasant man and she was a charming woman. They came to Mallingham with a clean bill of health. Neither of them had done anything in the world, and the only time their names had appeared in the newspapers was when they had been married. They were nonentities to their finger-tips, and they soon took a high place among the nonentities of Mallingham.

Mr. Stanwell sorrowfully admits that more than once he has been asked in hotels in France and Italy if he was any relation to Herbert Stanwell, the great author. It is very annoying, he says, but he hopes to live it down. If he continues to live at Mallingham, he may be assured that his hopes run every chance of being realised.

It is greatly to be feared that the leading “note” of Mallingham is not literature. It is Thurswell that occasionally lays claim to be a great reading centre. It was in the most friendly spirit of honest patronage that a lady addressed a letter to George Eliot, commending some of the characters in The Mill on the Floss, but regretting that the story had not a happy ending.

“But it never reached him,” she said. “I had sent it under cover to the publishers, but they returned it to me, with a scrawl across it, evidently done by a clerk, saying, 'Present address of George Eliot not known, so, after all my trouble, it never reached him.”

Having mentioned The Mill on the Floss, I feel bound to say that neither in Thurswell nor Mallingham did the sporting innkeeper live who, on seeing a cheap edition of the book advertised, at once sent for it and read the greater part of it before he found out that he had been too hasty in taking for granted that it was written round a prizefight. A “mill” meant to him primarily such an incident, and his excursions into the magic realms of literature had practically been confined to the spirited accounts given incertain weekly papers of such encounters. A mill as an industrial building conveyed quite a secondary idea to him. He admitted to a friend of mine who found the book in the bar parlour, and wondered how it got he had been “had” over it, and his faith in the accuracy of literary advertisements got a severe jar. How was he to tell, he asked, that the chap meant another sort of mill?

How, indeed?

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