IN the days beyond compare and before the Judgments, a genius called Graydon foresaw that the advance of education and the standard of living would submerge all mind-marks in one mudrush of standardised ...
IN the days beyond compare and before the Judgments, a genius called
Graydon foresaw that the advance of education and the standard of
living would submerge all mind-marks in one mudrush of standardised
reading-matter, and so created the Fictional Supply Syndicate to meet
Since a few days' work for him brought them more money than a week's
elsewhere, he drew many young men--some now eminent--into his employ.
He bade them keep their eyes on the Sixpenny Dream Book, the Army and
Navy Stores Catalogue (this for backgrounds and furniture as they
changed), and The Hearthstone Friend, a weekly publication which
specialised unrivalledly in the domestic emotions. Yet, even so, youth
would not be denied, and some of the collaborated love-talk in
'Passion Hath Peril,' and 'Ena's Lost Lovers,' and the account of the
murder of the Earl in 'The Wickwire Tragedies'--to name but a few
masterpieces now never mentioned for fear of blackmail--was as good as
anything to which their authors signed their real names in more
Among the young ravens driven to roost awhile on Graydon's ark was
James Andrew Manallace--a darkish, slow northerner of the type that
does not ignite, but must be detonated. Given written or verbal
outlines of a plot, he was useless; but, with a half-dozen pictures
round which to write his tale, he could astonish.
And he adored that woman who afterwards became the mother of Vidal
Benzaquen,[*] and who suffered and died because she loved one unworthy.
There was, also, among the company a mannered, bellied person called
Alured Castorley, who talked and wrote about 'Bohemia,' but was always
afraid of being 'compromised' by the weekly suppers at Neminaka's
Cafes in Hestern Square, where the Syndicate work was apportioned, and
where everyone looked out for himself. He, too, for a time, had loved
Vidal's mother, in his own way.
[* 'The Village that voted the Earth was Flat.' A Diversity of
Now, one Saturday at Neminaka's, Graydon, who had given Manallace a
sheaf of prints--torn from an extinct children's book called
Philippa's Queen--on which to improvise, asked for results. Manallace
went down into his ulster-pocket, hesitated a moment, and said the
stuff had turned into poetry on his hands.
'That's what it isn't,' the boy retorted. 'It's rather good.'
'Then it's no use to us.' Graydon laughed. 'Have you brought back the
Manallace handed them over. There was a castle in the series; a knight
or so in armour; an old lady in a horned head-dress; a young ditto; a
very obvious Hebrew; a clerk, with pen and inkhorn, checking wine-
barrels on a wharf; and a Crusader. On the back of one of the prints
was a note, 'If he doesn't want to go, why can't he be captured and
held to ransom?' Graydon asked what it all meant.
'I don't know yet. A comic opera, perhaps,' said Manallace.
Graydon, who seldom wasted time, passed the cuts on to someone else,
and advanced Manallace a couple of sovereigns to carry on with, as
usual; at which Castorley was angry and would have said something
unpleasant but was suppressed. Half-way through supper, Castorley told
the company that a relative had died and left him an independence; and
that he now withdrew from 'hackwork' to follow 'Literature.'
Generally, the Syndicate rejoiced in a comrade's good fortune, but
Castorley had gifts of waking dislike. So the news was received with a
vote of thanks, and he went out before the end, and, it was said,
proposed to 'Dal Benzaquen's mother, who refused him. He did not come
back. Manallace, who had arrived a little exalted, got so drunk before
midnight that a man had to stay and see him home. But liquor never
touched him above the belt, and when he had slept awhile, he recited
to the gas-chandelier the poetry he had made out of the pictures; said
that, on second thoughts, he would convert it into comic opera;
deplored the Upas-tree influence of Gilbert and Sullivan; sang
somewhat to illustrate his point; and--after words, by the way, with a
negress in yellow satin--was steered to his rooms.