Professor McHugh Resigns
C. E. L’AMI
Moral: You can't sell something of which no one's heard
MR. MICHAEL SULLIVAN, sales manager of the Grenville Electric Company, was disturbed from the top of his red Hibernian head to the soles of his restless Hibernian feet.
He was in the throes of the biggest selling campaign in his company’s history. The details of arranging publicity, displaying stock, and hiring extra canvassers were wearing his nerves to shreds.
Mr. Sullivan grunted morosely when the door opened and the office boy’s voice announced:
“Man lookin’ for a job, sir.”
“Bring him in.”
Mr, Sullivan looked up from a mass of advertising copy to survey his visitor.
The small, elderly gentleman before him peered nervously through rimless spectacles. He was gray-haired and thin, with a high, intellectual forehead and rather wistful blue eyes. To Mr. Sullivan’s belligerence he opposed a timid and shrinking front.
“Sit down. Want a job, eh? What’s your name?” said Mr. Sullivan, in one breath.
The small gentleman selected the final query.
“John McHugh,” he replied, a little shakily.
“No, sir. I have not previously—”
“H’m! New man, eh? Any education? Ye’ll have to have at least high school education t’ git on our staff, y’know.”
“I believe I have the equivalent-—”
“Th’ equivvilint won’t do!” snapped Mr. Sullivan, irritably. “Here—I guess ye’d best fill in this application forrm, an’ state exactly what’s asked.”
The small gentleman timidly accepted Mr. Sullivan’s proferred pen. Long minutes went by as the sales manager fidgeted impatiently in his chair, and the pen scratch-scratched slowly and methodically.
“Is that the quickest ye can write?” demanded Mr. Sullivan, at last.
The small gentleman flushed apologetically.
“I am sorry. It is a habit of mind. I have an unfortunate failing for chirographical exactitude—”
“That is,” said the small gentleman, hastily, “I—I—er —I have been a student of handwritten script—”
Mr. Sullivan swept up the completed form and settled back to read. Gradually, as he perused it, there emerged from his belligerent redness sharp grunts of amazement. These intensified to a growl of indignation. He glared over the paper.
“Huh! You expect me to believe this stuff?”
“Think I’m a boob, eh?”
Mr. Sullivan returned to furious contemplation of the document. His angry eye flashed over the preliminary details: “Name—John McHugh; Residence ....
Street . . . . No . . . . ” and settled upon the cause of his indignation: “Education—Hillside and Forrest Grammar Schools, Glenboro, matriculation; M.A.(Edin.), Ph. D. (Edin.); D.Litt.—”
“Bah!” said Mr. Sullivan. “D’ye think I was born yesterday? I want t’ tell ye—”
What Mr. Sullivan wished to tell his visitor was not revealed, for at that moment the office door swung open and the boy announced:
“Dr. Burgess to see you, sir.”
A short, brusque, square-jawed man entered, hat in hand, and rubbing a handkerchief over his bald head. He was followed by a stout lady of florid complexion, whose poised lorgnette took in the company with an imperious sweep.
Mr. Sullivan’s belligerence dissolved.
“Good day, Mr. President! How do you do, Mrs. Hopkins? It’s an honor t’ welcome ye to th’ office. Won’t ye sit down—?”
He glared at his small applicant, who hastily abandoned the chair beside which he stood, and backed awkwardly to the wall. Passing him, Dr. Burgess nodded coldly. The small gentleman replied with a stiff bow.
“I see you’re busy, Mr. Sullivan. We won’t keep you a minute—Mrs. Hopkins has to get along. It was merely to ask your terms in that matter of the Widows’ Row-—” “Yes, sir. Well, I’m sure the Company will be glad to meet you half way. Maybe we can arrange a little confab?”
“Late in the week?”
“Sure—say Friday at eleven?”
“In your office. All right—thanks. Mrs. Hopkins will come with me. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan—we won’t keep you—good day!”
Dr. Burgess turned, his brusque manner toned down slightly as he escorted Mrs. Hopkins ceremoniously toward the door.
“By the way, Doctor—”
Mr. Sullivan’s eye was bent shrewdly upon the shrinking gentleman by the wall, whose embarrassment was obvious. He fingered the application form on his desk.
“By the way, Doctor—ye’ll be fairly well acquainted wit’ th’ profissors around these parts?”
Burgess swung around.
“Fairly well, yes.”
“Got a feller here claims to be—what is it? Oh yes —here it is.”
With a triumphant glance at his first visitor, Mr. Sullivan passed the application form to Burgess.
“What d’ye think about that, sor?”
His malevolent eye was cocked toward the wall. He rubbed his hands. He was pleased with his own shrewdness.
Dr. Bugess scanned the document with a businesslike rapidity unusual in persons of scholarly bent, and handed it back.
“I believe the information is accurate,” he said, coldly. “Dr. McHugh was, until recently, a member of our faculty. Good day!”
The door closed. Mr. Sullivan slumped, with the suddenness of a toy balloon pricked by a pin, into his chair.
“Howly Saint Pathrick!” he gasped. “So you are all thim things!”
Dr. McHugh came forward from his corner, nervvously twisting his hat in both hands.
“The information I have given you is quite accurate, as the president has stated. I am most upset—it is really most unfortunate that Dr. Burgess should have found me here—I-—-I-—I really don’t know what to say!”
For a moment Sullivan stared amazedly at his visitor. Then he leaned backward and burst into uproarious guliaws.
“Gosh—gosh—gosh, profissor!” he gasped. “That’s the best yet. Th’ boss profissor comes in an’ catches ye red-handed, in th’ sinful act of askin’ me for a job! Howly Saint Pathrick—wait’ll I tell Gilbert about this!”
“Gilbert and Sullivan!” said the professor, in astonishment.
“His name is Gilbert Flanagan,” said Mr. Sullivan, sternly. “He’s th’ prisidint av this firrm. An’ I’ll have ye know it’s a good firrm, that naydn’t kow-tow t’ any av yer college profissors.”
Professor McHugh bowed apprehensively.
“I am quite sure it is,” he said. “But I was particularly anxious, in view of my recent resignation, that Dr. Burgess—”
Sullivan rose and clapped his visitor heartily on the shoulder.
“Niver you mind, me bhoy!” he said, warmly. “We’ll give ye a job, a good job, wit’ more money in it than ye’ll ever git in a college. How’d ye like t’ shtart sellin’ washin’ machines, in th’ big campaign, eh?”
“I am sure it would be very nice,” said the professor brightening visibly as he picked up his hat.
“Done, then! The job’s yours.”
LJ ALF an hour later Professor McHugh walked happily out of the Grenville Electric Building on his way home. He had been commissioned to canvass one of the downtown districts on behalf of the great “Kilskrub” Washing-Machine, which Sullivan’s advertising was now shouting from the house-tops.
Surreptitiously, as he walked along, the professor glanced at a roll of printed manuscript which he had taken from his pocket. The upper page bore, in large type, the title:
“SALESMANSHIP—IN ELEVEN LESSONS”
Below, in reduced print, a brief foreword stated: “Russell Skimp, of 374 Jukes St., Birmingham, was a bricklayer without capital or experience, when he enrolled with the Hoacombe Correspondence Schools. To-day his income is between $12,000 and $15,000 a year. He learned SALESMANSHIP.”
The professor’s eyes glowed with enthusiasm. Undoubtedly he would sell washing-machines. He would sell them like—like hot cakes! He must!
In the study of his tiny home, which faced inward upon the elm-bordered campus of Grenville University, he paused a moment to survey the wide field. How often he had crossed it on his way to classes, these last twenty years! Twenty years of professorship, culminating in the munificent salary of twenty five hundred a year!
An impossible stipend—and yet Burgess had flatly refused an increase, despite his repeated plea that it meant ignorance for his children and unthinkable hardship for his wife. He could not understand this new president, who was all dictaphones and adding machines and cold, hard business.
“My dear McHugh, you are much too impractical." How often he had heard that criticism!
“You pay no attention to the public. Yrou are never heard on the speaking platform. How can you expect the University to value your services when the public is scarcely aware of your existence?”
Alvays the public! Burgess was more concerned with publicity than sound scholarship.
With a lingering, affectionate touch, the professor turned the pages of a handwritten manuscript on the desk. The title stood out in carven capitals:
“Metrical Analysis of the Sequence of Shakespeare's Plays, with Notes and Co pious Bibliographical Appendices, by John McHugh."
He had meant to finish this work, a crowning effort to follow his other monographs upon the Elizabethan drama. But it had been a great handicap to him, in his college career under Burgess, that his passionate delight in these old golden dramatists and poets had absorbed him in the study of them, to the exclusion of University social functions. If it had been a treatise upon applied science— well and good, provided it made a fuss! But Burgess could see no purpose in drooling over minutiae in the works of dead poets. What good could it do?
“It is an age of science, my dear McHugh—not of art.”
The professor threw the “Metrical Analysis” in the wastepaper basket, and turned abruptly to his course in salesmanship. Better a frank commerciality than the adulterated idealism at Grenville. He had read over these eleven lessons. He believed he had mastered their major details. He felt confident that he could now approach the risen shade of William Shakespeare and, in the course of ten minutes pleasant conversation, sell him a rhyming dictionary.
DUT it was a weary professor, who, as the morning sun on Friday of that week was climbing to its apex at the zenith, trudged painfully across the Pott Street Bridge. Pott Street Bridge was a drab, red, dull structure leading out of the drabbest, reddest, dullest district in Grenville to the more exclusive districts across the river.
Professor McHugh was greatly discouraged. In the course of innumerable painful adventures on Pott Street he had not sold one single washing-machine.
He had begun his commercial career on Tuesday morning, at No. 1072. At No. 1084 he had been chased by an army of small boys with paper helmets and wooden swords; at No. 1090 the lady took him for a bill collector and attacked him with a broom; at No. 2012 he had
encountered an idiot, who got down on all fours and barked at him like a dog; at No. 2166, a combined residence and bookstore, his efforts to sell the proprietor a washing-machine had resulted in the proprietor’s selling him a shabby copy of the Works of Christopher Marlowe at the outrageous price of $6.50!
From the middle of Pott Street Bridge, the professor could see, down the river, the sweeping meads of Grenville campus, bright green in the sun. The fringes of tall elms swayed gently, dappling the campus with inviting shade. Oh, for an hour in his old study, with a bold pen to sail once more joyfully and adroitly into the mazes of the “Metrical Analysis,” like an Elizabethan admiral afloat on glorious seas! The professor’s heart yearned for his old hunting ground. Deep in his soul was arising a blank conviction that he would never, never be a successful washing-machine salesman.
His discouragement was profound as he passed the end of the Pott Street Bridge, but as he pushed upward into the exclusive district of River Heights he shook it off and turned determinedly to his labors. This district was more cheerful and prosperous-looking. He had no idea he was invading another salesman’s territory.
The ornate gateway before which he paused was labelled “The Elms, Grosvenor Place.” Two stone pillars supported the iron gate, which the professor’s timid fingers had difficulty in unlatching. Inside, his plodding feet took him along a gravelled driveway which wound through lawns and shrubbery to a distant mansion. The professor was lost in pleasant contemplation of the scenery when he turned the corner and blundered full upon the mansion’s proprietor.
Mrs. Carrie Hopkins was buried in deep, concentrated thought, over a blotched manuscript, at her table beneath the garden’s shady elms. For a moment the professor’s timid cough did not penetrate.
Mrs. Hopkins had been caught in a cunning trap. She was engaged in a dangerous, a precarious business-—preparing an address to be delivered before the Art Club that night. A dangerous business, a precarious business, for alas, Mrs. Hopkins was not in the least degree artistic! But she aspired to “cultchaw,” did the good lady, ever since the time when, from poverty and scrubbing-boards, she had attained through the business acumen of the late Silas Hopkins, grocer, to The Elms and the leadership of Grenville society.
As the Groper after Art raised her head, Professor McHugh bowed gravely.
“How do you do?” he said, with an affable smile, mentally and covertly recalling the eleven lessons.
Mrs. Hopkins glared.
“Who are you, sir?”
The professor pinned his faith upon Lesson XI.
“Madam,” he said, courteously, “I am sure that in the course of your household duties you are frequently overburdened by the large quantities of linenwear, cottonwear, and those other more delicate fabrics produced, I
believe, by lepidopterous insects of the genus Bombyx-—I refer, madam, to silks—which, as you are aware, require occasionally to be washed.”
Utter astonishment had silenced Mrs. Hopkins. The professor went on blithely.
“In that case, madam, I am equally sure you will be impressed with the prodigious quantity of physical energy expended by ladies—delicate and winsome ladies,” said the professor, gallantly, “whose tender hands are wholly unfitted for such degrading labor-—expended by them, I say, in the performance of this exasperating household duty.”
The professor fumbled in his satchel for illustrated pamphlets.
“Yes, madam, I feel certain that these things have impressed you, and therefore it is with confidence that I now bring to your attention one of the most remarkable contrivances of this ingenious age of science—I refer, madam, to the renowned ‘Kilskrub’ WashingMachine—”
The concentrated indignation in Mrs. Hopkins’ voice was indescribable. It was no simple wrath. Behind it were long years of washing, when Mrs. Hopkins had scrubbed clothes, not with electrical washers, but with the ancient board and tub of our mothers.
She rose. War and death were in her eyes. The shuddering professor crouched, almost to his knees.
“You dare-—you dare to mention-—leave the premises, sir!”
“But, madam, I merely wished — ”
“No more-—not another word! Go!”
The professor gasped once, and reached for his satchel. But that Fate which guides the destinies of the innocent and drunken was at work. A gust of wind blew across the garden, and as it passed, a sheet of paper was blown from Mrs. Hopkins’ table to the professor’s feet.
For a second, as he viewed the menacing amazon before him, he was impelled to cast chivalry to the winds and run. But even as he hesitated, half-stooped toward the fallen paper, his eye caught a line of smudgy handwriting:
“. . . therefore I would be inldned to place the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ if not as first of all plays, at least at an early date among those of the experimental period from 1588 to 1593.”
That mad statement! That unaccountable error! How well he knew it, and how bitterly had he regretted his hastiness in publishing it, long years ago in Edinburgh!
The professor stooped for the paper. He had forgotten the world, the washing-machines and his fright. With the earnestness of desperation, he turned upon Mrs. Hopkins.
“You must not—my dear madam, it is imperative that you do not accept this statement as truth!”
His hand was raised, clutching the paper. His finger pointed tremblingly at the fatal sentence, which he thrust before Mrs. Hopkins’ eyes.
“W-w-what!” gasped that amazed lady.
“This statement is—er—er—it is based upon erroneous premises!” said the professor, agitatedly.
“Well—what in the world! I’d like to know what you, a common tradesman, know about it!”
“Madam, I beg you to believe that my objection is sound—” the professor’s earnestness was monstrous. “The ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ as you are aware, has been given precedence to the three parts of ‘Henry VI,’ the ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and other earlier works, by Furnivall in his adaptation from Delius. But the most exhaustive researches—the most painstaking studies, I assure you, madam—have convinced me that this arrangement, which is largely based upon metrical analyses, is erroneous. Only a blind adherence to the rhyme test would justify it. It should be clear that the fairy setting gave scope for poetic writing and a lavish use of rhyme—I beg you to consider these points before being led astray.”
Mrs. Hopkins stared at her extraordinary visitor in blank silence. It is probable that the actual content of his remarks had made small impression upon her, as her knowledge of the metrical sequences of Shakespeare had been gained entirely from the small book which rested on her table, and during the last half hour, while she had wrestled hopelessly with the disastrous subject assigned to her by the cattish ladies of the Art Club. But his earnestness, the apparent conviction of his statements, had wakened both astonishment and speculation in her shrewd mind. A half-formed plan was developing. She hesitated.
“Your ignorance is refreshing,” she said, coldly. “Here, on Page 158, McHugh uses exactly those words, and who are you to contradict such an authority?”
The professor’s head drooped in deep shame. “I, Madam,” he said, sadly, “I—I am McHugh.”
Continued on page 43
Continued from page 7
“You are McHugh!”
Incredulity was in her tone.
. “It is true,” said the professor, bitterly, “only too true. The work from which you are quoting was published, I deeply regret to say, twenty years ago in Edinburgh. Since then, I have issued revised and corrected editions, and have made most earnest efforts to restrain that volume from circulation—but without success. I can only express my most profound regret.”
His distress was so obviously sincere, his manner so convincing, that Mrs. Hopkins was forced against her judgment to believe him. Staring at him in frank astonishment, she became aware that his face was familiar. Her mind ran back over the last week.
“I know!” she exclaimed, suddenly. “You are the man who was waiting in Mr. Sullivan’s office. Dr. Burgess supported your claims— yes, yes, that uas the name McHugh. You are Professor McHugh of the University?”
“Late of the University,” the professor corrected, glumly. “Alas, madam, I am no longer on the staff.”
“Yes, of course—you resigned. But—” Mrs. Hopkins was amazed —“we never knew you had written any books!”
The professor smiled whimsically. “No, Madam. There were few here who connected McHugh of Grenville with McHugh of Edinburgh—and, indeed, few to whom it would have meant anything had they done so. Shakespearean scholarship has small attraction for the public.”
“But I think it’s just lovely! Why —to think that you are the author of this book! We must—oh, wait till I tell the Art Club of this!”
Mrs. Hopkins was delighted. Her halfformed plan had sprung to completion.
“Splendid—splendid! Professor, you
must help me out! The Grenville Art Club, of which I am vice-president, meets to-night, and the subject was to be the -er-—metrical sequence of Shakespeare. I was to have reviewed your book. But now you are here—”
Mrs. Hopkins’ eyes glowed. She thought of the impression she would make. She thought of the circle of highbrowed ladies who despised her ignorance, and who so frequently made her look sheepish. She thought of Mrs. DarkeBrowne, that deadly rival, that intellectually-superior person. How squashed she would be if Mrs. Hopkins, all by herself, bagged and brought in a genius of this magnitude! Already she could see the startled glances going around a hundredodd spectacled faces. Carrie Hopkins! Familiar with an Author! And the author of this very book which they despitefully had given her to review!
“You must address our Club to-night!” The professor gasped.
“But, madam, I have never made a public address in my life!”
“No matter. I am sure you can do it. It is a shame that a man of your genius should remain hidden. My dear professor, you must consent!”’
“No buts. I won’t hear of it.”
“But—but I am a salesman. I dare not —I must sell my washing-machines.” “My dear professor, art is much more important than washing-machines.”
“Alas, madam, washing-machines are my bread and butter. I have no time to prepare an address. It is imperative that I sell my machines.”
“Oh, but I am sure you can do this.” ' “It is impossible, Madam, I—”
The professor’s protestations were interrupted by the approach of a maid. “Madame!”
Mrs. Hopkins turned.
“Madame iss required on ze tel’phone.” “Oh!—very well. Just one moment.”
She clutched the professor’s sleeve.
“You’ll wait, won’t you—we really must arrange that address. I shan’t be a moment.”
CHE turned away. As she hurried into ^ the mansion, the professor stared in bewilderment at his youthful work, so innocently bound in green upon the table. Would he? Should he? It was impossible. He had never made a public address. Indeed, it was one of the things Burgess held against him—no contact with the public. He had been wrapped completely in his studies, a man of retiring habits. And yet—and yet—this unfortunate book stood out against him, a stigma to his name, an affront to his scholarship. He might correct it and explain its origin in an address . . .
Then he visioned the audience, the rows of staring faces, the crowd, swayed by nothing but crowd instincts and prejudices—invulnerable to reason and fact and the stage lights! He could not do it!
The professor seized Mrs. Hopkins’ pen and sat down. With slow precision he stroked out the offending passages, both in the manuscript and the book, and wrote in his more mature opinions. Then he rose, searched worriedly about the table for his satchel, and set off down the driveway at a hasty walk. He must escape!
Mrs. Hopkins, at the telephone, conducted a rapid conversation.
“Dr. Burgess? Oh yes, Wilbur, what is it? . . . The Widows’ Rosv? ... Oh yes—I don’t know—what do you think yourself? . . Electrical-washing-
machines? . . . Oh, by the way—!”
She paused and covered the mouthpiece with her hand.
The very idea! Of course—the washingmachines for the Widows’ Row! Her newfound author was selling washing-machines. She’d buy them from him. Why hadn’t she thought of it before?
“Wilbur, I believe I know the very thing. Just leave it entirely in my hands. I’ll see that the contract is let at once, and the finances raised by the associated charities . . . Leave it entirely to me ... I know you’re busy ... I had considered the ‘Handsease’ but—well, I don’t know . . . But I’ll attend to it . . . That will be all right ...”
She rang off. Undoubtely, this would bring her author around. A fair bargain. He got the contract for a hundred machines— she got the address, the artistic truimph of bringing out an author!
Mrs. Hopkins hurried out to her garden table, intent upon her brilliant idea. With anxious glances, she swept the lawns and shrubbery. Her visitor was gone! Momentary despair was succeeded by rising hope as she saw the professor’s small figure shambling hastily down the driveway, half way to the gate.
Mrs. Hopkins ran—for the first time in fifteen years. Her buxom figure bumped with extraordinary agility along the grass. Dignity went teetering to the shades as her voice rose in a soprano shriek:
LATE that afternoon, Mike Sullivan, at the Grenville Electric, rang Dr. Burgess’s telephone.
“I understhood ye were cornin’ down this mornin’, sor.”
“Oh, yes—Mr. Sullivan. I intended to call you. We have been considering that matter of electrical washing-machines for the Charities Bureau’s free houses on the Widows’ Row, and my aunt— Mrs. Hopkins, that is—has not quite made up her mind. I did not think it worth while, under the circumstances, to carry out our meeting. Sorry I didn’t call you before.” “That’s all right. Thanks.”
Sullivan hung up, frowning. He was not pleased with Burgess’s lack of interest. He knew the president was mixed up in all Mrs. Hopkins’ charitable works, as a sort of business adviser, and what he said carried weight. If the associated charities of which Mrs. Hopkins was head, should decide to buy “Kilskrub” machines, it would mean a fat contract for the firm.
“Dash it!” muttered Mr. Sullivan, uneasily, “I’ll bet me hat thim ‘Handsease’ people’ve been afther her wit’ their rotten ould tin tank, an’ got her wantin’ to buy it.”
Sullivan brought his song of woe to Gilbert, singing wurra, tit-wurra, titwurra. Mr. Flanagan’s enormous corpulence was balanced precariously on a swivel chair, his feet upreared upon the desk. As Sullivan entered, he turned a head like the rock of Gibraltar after a heavy bombardment. A halo of silver hair was spread in explosive disarray about his bulldog features.
“Well, thin,” said Mr. Flanagan, after listening, “phwat the divil is th’ matther wit’ yer salesmin? Why ain’t they afther it? What about that new feller ye hired th’ other day—the profissor?”
“Well—” Mr. Sullivan hesitated.
“I towld ye,” said Mr. Flanagan, savagely, “t’ fire that feller, did I not?’
“Did I tell yez t’ fire him?”
“Yis, sor, but—”
“Why the divil didn’t ye, thin?”
“All right,” said Mr. Sullivan, grimly, “I’ll fire him. Ye’re right, he ought to be fired. Av course, he’s got a wife an’ five childher, an’ his wife ain’t very well— but I’ll fire him, sure I will. His biggest kid is just doin’ fine at school, but that’s nothin’. Thin two av his little girrls is down wit’ th’ fayver, an’ wan av th’ boys is in hospital wit’ a broken leg—but sure, I’ll fire him. Damn his eyes, he ain’t made a sale this week. He ought to be fired, an’ I’ll-—”
“Shtop!” roared Mr. Flanagan. “Sullivan, yez are undtherminin’ th’ intigrity av this firrm! Yez have been undthermining it this twinty years!”
“I am not,” said Sullivan. “I’m goin’ right down this minute an’ phone that feller an’ tell him he’s fired.”
“Shtop, ye red fuil! Would ye be afther starvin’ th’ man t’ death, an’ his wife sick? Have yex niver a harrt in ye, ye harrd divil, ye!”
“Well, yez are th’ boss,” said Sullivan, philosophically. “Whativer ye say goes.” “Git out!” growled the boss. “Ye’re th’ currse av me life, Sullivan. Don’t be botherin’ me. But if ye don’t get that contract—damn ye, I’ll fire th’ two av yez!”
Mr. Sullivan’s covert grin was hidden by the closing door.
OHARP at eight o’clock that night, the ^ Little Theatre was crammed to its limited capacity with the feminine intelligentsia of Grenville.
Everyone was there. Everyone, that is, who could quote Ibsen and knew that Mr. Michael Arien was not—at least professedly-—a milliner’s assistant.
The good ladies of Grenville, members of the Art Club or not, had turned out en masse for what they confidently expected would be a treat-—Carrie Hopkins, newest of the newly-rich, trying to review an erudite work on Shakespeare!
Mrs. Coote-Simmons whispered ecstatically in the ear of Mrs. Van Swype.
“My dear! It will be killing-—simply killingl"
' “My dear! They say she can scarcely control her grammar!”
Thus, with incessant ‘my dears!’ went the buzz, as if already flies swarmed about Mrs. Hopkins’ dead prestige.
The walls and boxes of the Little Theatre had been decorated for the occasion. Palm fronds hung gracefully about the stage, upon which the footlights were in full glare.
An expectant hush fell upon the assembly as the row of presiding officers and speakers filed in, to take their places with military precision upon the chairs assigned
to them. No one noticed the little grayhaired man who took an inconspicuous position to the extreme right. Mrs. Darke-Browne presided. Mrs. Hopkins, smiling serenely, was beside her.
The chairman’s remarks were brief. Perhaps of all those in the hall, she yearned with most intensity to hear Mrs. Hopkins on Shakespeare.
“For such a splendid subject, then,” —Mrs. Darke-Browne was concluding— “for such a subject we have chosen one who, I am sure we all know, is eminently suited—is most excellently equipped I may say—to handle it. Mrs. Hopkins!” There was a shuddering outburst of applause, swiftly terminated. Mrs. Hopkins rose.
She knew exactly what she had to say. How often had she rehearsed it before her looking-glass! Each word was fixed in her memory.
“Madame Chairman — Ladies and Gentlemen— I am greatly honored to have been chosen for this review, which I recognize to be the most important”—she emphasized the words—“the most important, perhaps, of the season. What poor talents I possess have been devoted most earnestly, during the past two weeks, to Dr. McHugh’s work, and now I am very glad to be able to assure you that the work will be most capably dealt with.” Mrs. Hopkins smiled beatifically. There was a noticeable stir among her hearers. Fans wagged. The audience sat higher in its seats.
“Yes, ladies and gentlemen,”—she ignored the chairman-—“the review this evening will be in most capable hands— but not those of so humble a person as myself. Permit me to tell you that I have succeeded, by persuasion justified only by our intimate acquaintance-—our most intimate acquaintance, ladies and gentlemen—in obtaining as our speaker to-night no less person than the author himselfl" The audience gasped. Mrs. Hopkins paused impressively.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to introduce to you—Dr. John McHugh, of Edinburgh!”
Mrs. Hopkins sat down. Her triumph was complete. For a moment there was dead silence in the hall. Then, as the professor rose timidly and shuffled toward the speakers’ table, a long, strangled sigh broke from a hundred throats as the assembled ladies slumped backward in their seats.
“Where did she get him!”
The buzz of conversation rose to disgraceful heights. Amid it, the professor’s mild voice was lost completely as he struggled with the opening of his hastily prepared notes, upon the little green book lying before him.
“She never knew an author in her life!” “Maybe she took in his washing.”
“I don’t believe it’s McHugh!”
The professor, for the first time standing in the glare of footlights, was in a blue funk. Terror and despondency were upon him, but not because his wife was sick, his daughters stricken, nor his son in hospital—these things were figments of the fertile imagination of Mike Sullivan. He could not see over the blaze in front of him. In the gloomy vault beyond it he envisaged hordes of hostile demons rushing upon him. He stuttered with sheer fright.
“. . . o-only in t-the flush of y-youth I was impelled to w-write this m-m-monograph.”
Gradually the buzz died. The audience settled down, half in amazement, half in disappointment.
As his eyes grew accustomed to the light, the professor began to see the rows of staring faces confronting him. He found himself alone in mid stage, miles and miles from his nearest platform neighbor, lonely, helpless and terrifically afraid. With the desperation of one drowning who clutches at a straw he gripped his pitiful notes and pushed his quavering voice onward.
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“. . . s-so that, even if we did not know Sh-Shakespeare for a p-poet and d-dreamer, we should be driven to conclude—”
Somehow he must finish it! Somehow he must go on through those skimpy notes, that haze of half-formed ideas to an end! It was imperative—his livelihood depended upon it. Above and beyond the menacing sea of faces, somewhere, he thought, in the realm of the gods, he seemed to see an embattled army of Kilskrub Washing-Machines, with uplifted handles brandished for their leader.
Silence had descended upon the audience. The little figure on the platform was limping and plodding painfully on. Then, gradually, as he spoke, the well-articulated words drove home.
“. . . We cannot understand the man unless we understand the age in which he lived. Remember that the Sixteenth Century was coming to its close. Elizabeth, Virgin Queen, was on the throne—”
The little man’s voice was coming stronger. Almost in spite of itself the audience began to take notice of his peculiar earnestness.
The professor drew a handkerchief across his pouring brow. Up through the vault of gloom, out into the supernal realm of the balconied gods, he sang a paean of hope to his washing-machines.
“. . In Somerset, in Devon, in the fens of Lincoln and the wild hills and lakes of the North Country, stout men were arising. Drake, Frobisher, bold Howard of Effingham—from every corner rose up great sailors and explorers to man the galleons of England.”
He had forgotten his machines. He had forgotten the audience. At last, as his nervous hands dropped the unnecessary notes and began moving in sudden gestures, his old familiar loves came flooding back upon him. He saw the great smudge of London, its poky streets and strange old houses—and threading its mazes in search of a dream, the doubletted figure of his beloved Shakespeare.
Gradually, as the small voice from the stage rose higher and higher, the audience grew tense with interest. Up between the palm fronds behind, as if at the backward rolling of a scroll, there seemed to appear a mighty pageant as the little man spoke on.
Mighty seas, upreared with tumultous waves, multitudinous with ships—squarenosed galleons smothered with sail, bound homeward to the tiny islet with far cargoes of strange fish and fowl, of sandalwood and teak, of barred gold and silver; the huge, smoky port of old London, alive with swarthy sailormen; the cobbled streets, the quaint shops and houses, the Inns of Court—the Mermaid Tavern itself, with its nightly concourse of ‘rare witt and jollitee;’ —and above and beyond it all, looming as a benevolent giant, a gigantic, brooding shadow over his ‘sceptred isle,’—Shakespeare, the weaver of romance! Suddenly the audience became aware of him—not the dull nuisance of schooldays, not the boresome subject of a r t societies—but a master genius of song and story.
The scroll unfolded. The sharp-etched figures grew clearer, more vivid. The ‘pitch-ball’ eyes of the Dark Lady of the Sonnets glowed in the rich dusk; madness arose with the raving Lear, the bloodied Macbeth—the torment of a soul, the fearful tragedy of the poet’s life.
. . It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
The litte man was rapt. Through him, seemed to speak the surge and passion of that great soul.
“. . . And so to the end. Poor, ruined Shakespeare! His cloud-capped towers, his gorgeous palaces, his solemn temples—aye, his very world itself— broken and tumbled to the dust! The pity of it! It lies deeper than tears. Yet down these grey centuries, even through the rush and scramble of modern life, we hear his voice—unchanged, unforgotten:
‘. . . We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.’ ”
The little man had ceased. He was staggering, as if exhausted, to his seat.
For a breathless moment, utter silence lay upon the entranced audience—then, simultaneously from all corners of the hall, thunderous applause broke loose. People were rising in their seats, ignoring Mrs. Darke-Browne’s attempt to close in orderly fashion. They were thronging up the aisles, intent upon meeting the speaker. Disorder prevailed in the chatter of loosened tongues. But even as the first couples reached the stage, and Professor McHugh backed in panic before the onslaught of adoring ladies, a brusque, business-like figure came pushing vigorously through the crowd, to mount the stage and seize the professor by both hands.
“Magnificent—magnificent, my dear McHugh! I could not believe my ears. I have never heard Shakespeare presented in such marvelous fashion to the public. Permit me, my dear fellow-—my dear colleague—to congratulate you!”
The professor leaned weakly against a table. Dr. Burgess was shaking his hands as if he would pull them off.
“It was splendid—splendid! Abso-
The professor comprehended only dimly. It seemed he had finished his
work, sold his machines. About him the ponderous figures of Mrs. Hopkins, Mrs. Darke-Browne, Mrs. Van Swype, the president, were as dancing, grinning shapes blurred in a ruddy mist. From out of that glimmering fog, as if from far away, a voice was insisting in his ear: “You must reconsider, my dear McHugh. You are invaluable—absolutely invaluable to the University. We cannot afford to do without you. Salary is no object ... no object ...”
The professor saw a doorway pass, the momentary glitter of s.'ars in the unclouded sky, a cluster of outstretched hands, assisting him to a waiting automobile . . .
MIKE SULLIVAN surveyed his chief across the desk. Mr. Gilbert Flanagan shook his rock like head slowly from side to side, as he fingered a contract, signed in bold characters: “Carrie Hopkins.”
“A hundhred machaynes!” he said, in an awed voice.
“Tin thousand dollars!” said Mr. Sullivan, cheerfully.
“An’ he’s gone?” asked Mr. Flanagan. “Complaytely. An’ ye’ll niver git him back, for they’ve doubled his salary an’ made him sarjint major profissor.’
“Ochone, ochone! He was th’ bonniest salesman we iver had.”
“Oh, well, yez were thinkin’ av firin’ him, annyway—”
“Shut up, ye red fuil!—”
Thus lamented Gilbert and Sullivan. But in his little study Professor McHugh was paying no attention. On his knees beside the wastepaper basket, he rummaged anxiously for the ‘Metrical Analysis.”