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A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS

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The Database of Ornament

IT was the year when Marie Barrone sang for a season at the
“Folly,” never to be forgotten by those who heard her ;
when London, or the idler part of it, was very much in love
with her, and her spirit of waywardness and all mischief.
It was a year of romances ; and of them all, that in which
Marie played the part of amused heroine and our famous
three were the heroes, was quite the most entertaining.

At this time, the leader of the three, Jack Barry, or as most of us knew
him, “Jack Momus,” that being the name under which he wrote the little
comedies and lyrical burlesques chiefly associated with him,—was at the height
of his singular career. The success of his latest work, “Sweet Cinderella,” at
the “Folly,” thanks to Marie’s delightful singing and dancing, had for once filled
his pockets to overflowing ; and it must be said they overflowed excessively.
He was reckless in his extravagance of good-luck now, as he had been reckless
before from ill-luck ; and he showed his quality in nothing more than in the
choice of his two companions, who did not tend, on the whole, to restrain
him.

Young Pavier—the Hon. Tom Pavier—was certainly not the kind of young
man to be an economical factor in anybody’s equation. A thrice mortgaged
peer’s third son, who has been disowned by his noble father, who has com-
promised more than his purse because of his infatuation for the turf, and who
has taken, half out of bravado, to driving a hansom for a living before he is
thirty, is not likely to be over much in love with respectability, and the social
virtues, for their own sake. His name, in truth, was by this become something
of a byword with the latest incarnation of Mrs. Grundy—Lady Kyo : “Like
young Pavier !” she would say, and close her eyes. As for the third of the
three, “Sinister” Smith,—him we know better now as John Smith, R.A. ; but
at this time he chiefly drew comic pictures for that short-lived paper, the
” Babbler,” besides occasionally painting extraordinary portraits of modern
people in a mediæval manner.

A more excellent trio for the amusement of a spirited heroine could not

58                              THE SAVOY

well be imagined. All three were of accord in their devotion to Miss Marie.
Almost every other night, for Jack Momus, to call him so, was never tired of
hearing his jokes in their histrionic setting, they arrived, sooner or later, at the
theatre. They usually came in the hansom which Momus had purchased in
the exuberance of his pockets, and had leased to Tom Pavier on very un-
businesslike terms. This remarkable vehicle was suggested by that which
appeared nightly on the stage in “Sweet Cinderella,” and like that, was always
at Marie’s service ; she greatly appreciated it, and often drove home in it to
her lodgings in Westminster, after theatre. It was not, indeed, until she had
twice running experienced the sensation of a street collision, under Tom
Pavier’s reckless driving, that she showed any hesitation about it. Thereafter,
one night, when Tom drove Barry to the stage-door to meet her, they found a
suspicious private brougham waiting there. When Miss Marie at length
tripped out, she gave an odd little glance at the two vehicles, and at Barry
bowing at her elbow ; and then turning towards the brougham, she stammered
out a naive explanation that she felt it was not at all right, “you know, to be
always taking your hansom ; though, to be sure, a hansom was better fun
than anything !”

This was the beginning of disaster. She had always been rather mys-
terious in her comings and goings ; but after this she became more and more
elusive, while the attentions of other admirers were nightly more obvious.
The brougham itself did not long remain a mystery : it was only one of many
attentions from the same admirer, Lord Merthen ; while the bouquets of
Captain Jolywell made it like a pot-pourri on wheels. So time went, and
the pleasant early summer began to lose its greenness in London, while
Marie Barrone still drew tears by her song of the country flowers which, in a
state of nature, her audience might have cared for much less. One evening,
late in June, Momus, who grew more dejected as Marie grew more elusive,
made a desperate effort to get her to come to a little supper at Fantochetti’s.
But no ! not even that ; though as she said “No !” her voice had the sympathetic
thrill which was so effective in “Sweet Cinderella,” and her eyes looked sorrow-
fully at him where he stood, hat off, his cherubic visage absurdly wrinkled
in his wistful anxiety. However, on the following Saturday, after performance,
when Sinister was present, she seemed to relent. Momus and Sinister had
been driven up by Tom, and stood at the brougham step a moment, while Tom
looked on from his driver’s perch, a few yards off.

“I’m going to have two days’ holiday,” said Marie. “I’m rather
tired ; my voice was like a crow’s to-night. Didn’t you notice in my

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           59

primrose song ? My doctor says I may have to give up singing, if I don’t
take care !”

“You never sang better, I swear !” responded Momus, and Sinister
corroborated with his lips. But she went on gaily :

“I’m so sorry I can’t come to Fantochetti’s ! Ah, you’ve been so kind, all
of you,”—here her voice had that little quiver again. “Well, I suppose
Thomas,—my Thomas I mean, not yours,” she explained, with a mischievous
smile at Tom Pavier,—” is impatient, and wants to be off. You know, I never
like to say good-bye, even only for a day or two. Au revoir is better !”

À Demain is better still,” ingeniously interposed Momus. She shook
her pretty head.

“No, I’m afraid it will have to be good-bye London to-morrow, for a while
at least.”

“And Olva’s fête?” asked Momus. The fête was a fancy dress ball, at
Count Olva’s, which among certain less particular sections of frivolous
society was to be a great event in its way.

“Ah, Olva’s fête,” said Marie, adjusting her flowers, “I had forgotten :
it will be fun to meet there. But in case——;” she hesitated, putting the
flowers to her face, as it might be to hide a furtive smile, “in case my voice is
still hoarse ?”

“No, no,” interposed Momus, “you must come ! So au revoir !

Au revoir !” she echoed. And the brougham drove off.

Some days later Momus heard from Mrs. Harriet at the Folly—Mrs.
Harriet being Miss Marie’s tire-woman—that Marie was likely to resume her
part on the very evening of the fete, and was having a new frock, very pretty
and fantastic, in white and blue and gold, no doubt for the Olva occasion.
At this, he decided to give her a bouquet, simple and costly ; which he
ordered forthwith at Centifiori’s. His plans were, to see the last act of
“Cinderella” that evening, present Marie with the bouquet as she left the
theatre, humbly begging her to bear it to Count Olva’s ; then don his own
fancy-dress—a clown’s motley, very carefully copied from an old Italian print
—and so meet Marie at the fête at midnight. The chief lion of the occasion,
it should be explained, was an African one,—the black Prince of Xula. It
struck him as an ingenious idea, which Marie would appreciate, that they
should make the Prince himself the point of assignation in the crowd at
Olva’s.

“The Prince at midnight !” He was so pleased with the idea, that he
kept repeating the words to himself in his excitement.

60                              THE SAVOY

Finding on reflection that he would barely have time to prepare for the
fête after theatre, he decided, when the evening in question came, to attire
himself in advance, hide his Italian motley under his great-coat, hear a little
of Marie’s singing from the back of the first circle, and then go round and
intercept her with his bouquet. At a little after ten-thirty, Tom Pavier
drove him to the “Folly”—a box containing the precious bouquet by his side—
through a slow downpour of rain. The hansom drew up at the main entrance
with a characteristic dash, just as Sinister was alighting from another cab.
It was the hour of Marie’s best song, and Momus, in his haste and excitement,
after briefly exchanging a friendly word with Sinister, ran upstairs eagerly.
From within, the familiar noise of the violins and oboe, playing the opening
strains of Marie’s song, reached his ears seductively. Another second, and to
this boyish access of expectancy there ensued a cold thrill of dismay. On the
corridor wall, a square placard, red-lettered, was fastened, which ran thus :

In consequence of continued indisposition, Miss Marie Barrone is again
unable to appear this evening. Miss Nelly Cavotte has consented to take the
part of Cinderella in her unavoidable absence.”

He did not wait to see more, not having the heart to look at the stage
itself, where Marie’s pretty figure and bright eyes usually faced him. He
pointed out the placard to Sinister (who had followed), with a grotesque
grimace and an indescribable air of disappointment.

“I wish I may die !” he began, with an hysterical little laugh. But
Sinister, whose emotions never showed on his colourless, expressionless face,
interposed gently :

“If I were you, I’d go behind and see Mrs. Harriet, my boy ! It’s only a
cold she has got. You will hear her sing on many a night to come !”
Sinister further consoled him by seizing his arm and conducting him round
the house until they found Mrs. Harriet, who was hastily putting on a black
bonnet over her black curls with the aid of a cracked looking-glass, as she
stood at the door of Miss Barrone’s dressing room. She told them that
Marie had arrived at the theatre half an hour before performance, and had had
an interview with the stage-manager, who had been in a rage ever since.

“Too bad to sing ; not too bad to dance at that what-d’ye-call it to-
night, I know !” said Mrs. Harriet, shaking her curls. “I daresay she has a
cold ; but cold or not, she cares for nobody—not she, when she takes it into
her head !” This was all Mrs. Harriet had to say.

They did not wait to see the angry manager, or inquire further. Momus

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           61

took the wild resolution of driving off straightway to her rooms, to make sure
of her. So he resumed the hansom, parting with Sinister, who did not like
these undignified flights. By this time there were other reasons for haste
than the fact of their being late. A heavy rain began to come down with
great determination. They careered through Palace Yard in a perfect deluge,
and Tom turned into the narrow street where Marie lived, half-blinded by the
storm. But here his sense of vision might well be quickened. Under the
rainy gas-light, one thing he saw clearly : Marie’s familiar brougham ! which
was being driven rapidly out of the turning at the other end of the street, an
ominous brace of trunks on top. He drew up, and cried through the slit to
Momus :

“There she goes—her blessed brougham’s just turned the corner.”

“Nonsense, man !” screamed Momus. ” It’s not—it can’t be ! Drive on
to the door !”

Tom drove on, and stopped at Marie’s door. Momus leapt out, and
knocked furiously. After a delay, that seemed hours, a grimy little house-
maid opened the door.

“Miss Barrone?” he cried.

The maid blinked her eyes at him, and drew back : “She’ve gone
aw’y, sir !”

Momus could have wept. “Why, she said she would be in ;—has she
just gone ?” He fumbled out half-a-crown.

The child, who knew him of old, smiled sagaciously. She probable-
thought him an actor from the “Folly.” “Miss Berewn didn’t be at the theeayter
to-night——” she was beginning to explain.

“The devil !” ejaculated he, “I know that,—but see ;” he put the coin in
her dirty little hand : “Was—that—her—carriage?”

She nodded reluctantly, and Momus turned and leapt back into the
hansom. “You’re right—’twas the brougham,” he cried to Tom. “After it
man ! Go it, Peg !”

The hansom whirled off furiously in the direction of Whitehall, causing
consternation there in the stream of buses and cabs. At the top of Whitehall
Tom thought he caught a glimpse at last of the vanished brougham, and
whipped up Peg to a still hotter pace. So following along Pall Mall, at the
foot of the Haymarket he made it out distinctly, halfway up that thoroughfare
At Piccadilly Circus he was almost within hail, and Momus was chuckling as
he saw ; when, lo ! another hansom, crossing at right angles, was surprised
by Tom’s wild and irresponsible irruption, so that the two vehicles cannoned

62                              THE SAVOY

with astonishing effect. Peg went down as if she was shot, while the other
horse pawed the footboard for a moment in front of Momus, and then,
recoiling, went down in turn. Momus, for his part leapt out, slipped, pitched
headlong ; while his hat flew one way, the precious box with the flowers
another, where it was hurled under Peg’s lively heels, as she lay a-kicking, and
there speedily yielded up its little golden orchids and other rare blossoms to a
muddy doom. It was a cruel stroke, which might have upset the quest of a
less devoted, or a less mercurial, knight errant. But not so Momus. He still,
in all this wreck, had his eye on the brougham, now rapidly disappearing down
Piccadilly, all unconscious of the confusions it had wrought behind it. Mopping
hastily the mud off his coat and doublet, picking up his volatile crush-hat, he
hailed another hansom, and retook the pursuit, leaving Tom to his fate. As
he was now whirled along Piccadilly, to add to his misfortunes, a drop that
fell from somewhere on his nose, suddenly connected itself with a peculiar
sensation in his head and hair, which, he remembered, he had first noticed
after his fall. Putting his hand up, he found his well-arranged locks disturbed
by a very pretty stream of crimson, which had been all this while slowly
trickling through them, and was now combining with the mud to add a new
and original adornment to his piebald doublet. But little he cared in his mad
pre-occupation, so long as he did not lose Marie too. Once, at the foot of
Bond Street, a block of carriages cost him a profane expense of breath, but he
had again come within hailing distance of the fugitives by the time they had
reached the top and emerged in Oxford Street. So the pursuit was maintained
along Oxford Street, and up Edgware Road, until the brougham turned towards
Paddington Station. Here another small delay, caused by two passing
omnibuses, allowed the gap between the two to widen again. However, in
the end, Momus dashed up, just as Marie, having dismounted, was seen dis-
appearing through the portico of the station, a dark blue travelling dress and
a veil proving a very transparent disguise. Momus hurled himself, in his mud
and motley, a startling figure enough, out of his hansom, and was rushing
through after her, intent only on overtaking her, when a strong hand caught
his arm, and stopped him violently. He wriggled and turned as if on a pivot,
and as he did so, in turning, saw the impassive good-natured face of a
Herculean railway policeman.

“Pardon, sir !” said this amiable, irresistible giant. “Afraid you are
hurt, sir ! Not so fast !”

“Now, by all that’s wicked,” screamed his captive, “let me go ! See—
wait—wait ! That lady, see ! O Lord !”

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           63

With this, Momus fainted.

Next day, about noon, Sinister was roused from a profound sleep, proper
to a man who had been up till four that morning, by a loud knocking at his
door. This door, it should be said, gave entrance to two small rooms and a
large studio at the top of a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The knocking
proved to be from the vigorous fist of Tom Pavier, who explained last night’s
pursuit, the upset, and the disappearance of our hero-in-chief after it. Finally ,
as Tom discovered at Paddington, poor Momus had been conveyed from the
station in a state of collapse to a hospital near by. There, suffering from the
effects of his accident in Piccadilly Circus, and the excitement of Miss Marie’s
disappearance under his very eyes, he had spent the night in a fine fever.
Sinister lost no time now in getting into his clothes, and making his way
there.

He found his friend sitting up in bed in an accident ward, between two
much more seriously damaged fellow-patients. When Momus saw him, he
held out his hand with a deprecatory gesture.

“We lost her after all, old chap !” he cried, with a half-sob, “A damned
railway bobby collared me in the station. I must have been a pretty sight.
I don’t know how I came here !”

After a little comforting philosophy from Sinister, he grew calmer ; and
that evening they were allowed to take him home, with one arm in bandages,
and some sticking-plaster on his head. Indeed, his condition was not serious,
his excitement growing less feverish. Half that night, however, Sinister sat
by his bedside, and humoured him when he talked, still half-deliriously, of
following Marie—to the world’s end if need be.

This idea was still dominant when Momus had recovered sufficiently to
resume his usual ways. The very first thing he did was to set out in quest of
Miss Marie’s address, which at last he was lucky enough to procure from her
landlady in Westminster, in consideration of a certain bribe. The address
ran :

                                     “Aberduly Arms,
                                                                        Aberduly,
                                                                                                North Wales.”

Procuring next a guide to North Wales, he discovered that Aberduly was a
rising seaside place. He discovered, moreover, what he thought significant,
that Marie’s friend, Lord Merthen, had a seat in the same county. Revolving
these things in his inventive mind, he presently evolved a delightful scheme ;

64                              THE SAVOY

nothing more nor less than a driving tour across country, and in the hansom
itself, into Wales (    à la Jack Mytton, who was one of Momus’s favourite
heroes), ending with a descent upon Aberduly and Miss Marie.

It was in pursuance of this scheme, that three days later, at the impossible
hour of seven in the morning, the early milkmen in Chelsea were startled by
an unusual spectacle. This was the arrival at Mr. Barry’s door of the hansom,
resplendent in black and yellow, drawn tandem by Tom Pavier’s mare “Peg,”
and a well-matched bay horse, while Tom himself, in an amazing suit of light
check, a red rose in his button-hole, handled the reins to masterly effect. All
this Momus, already up and in the act of shaving his pink cheeks, saw from
his window ; and he found the sight inspiring. Meanwhile Tom might have
been observed dismounting, when, having found two delighted loafers to hold his
horses, he made his way into the house, humming the familiar hunting ditty
from “Jack Straw” :

                                    “I hear the horn a blowin’,
                                    And off they’ll soon be throwin’,
                                    But first of all I’m goin’
                                                                        To taste the hunting cup :
                                    A cup ’tis, well compounded,
                                    As I have always found it,
                                    That many a care have drownded—
                                                                        But Yoicks ! the hunt is up !”

On arriving upstairs, he found a breakfast table laid for three in Barry’s
room, but as that hero did not at once appear, he threw up the window, and
lighting a pipe, sat himself down on the window-sill. From this point of
vantage he regarded with great satisfaction the inspiring sight below, where
Peg and her leader stood pawing and fretting to be off, their bright harness
and bay coats agleam in the early sun. He was still absorbed in this
satisfying contemplation, when Momus, descending, found him there ; where-
upon, as Sinister delayed to appear, they proceeded to breakfast. Ere they
finished, another hansom rattled up, and their party was complete ; and as the
clock struck eight, they started on their journey, the hansom and its team
deploying gracefully on the embankment, ere it went off at a smart pace
westward. How their journey thereafter startled Oxford one day, Leamington
another, and Shrewsbury on a third, may be better imagined than described.
On the fourth day, however, when they had crossed the Welsh border, there
befell a climacteric adventure which is essential to their history.

On that afternoon, it was a Saturday, the last in July, Tom was whipping
up his dusty horses with every intention of reaching the village of Croeslwyd

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           65

in time for dinner. There had been a great fair in the village on the day
before, and various waggons of roundabouts, and other such rural amusements,
met our adventurers from time to time. They had successfully passed several
of these vehicles—a matter of some difficulty in a narrow country by-road—
when, turning a corner, Tom found before him a steep descent of a quarter of
a mile or less, ending at a narrow bridge over a small stream in the hollow.
Down this Tom drove, with an insufficient brake, at a somewhat exciting
pace, and about half-way down the hill, he and his two companions were
startled by a rattle of wheels on the opposite bank, where the road turned
sharply and disappeared amid some trees in the middle distance. At this
turn now suddenly appeared a descending vehicle, which in colour far outshone
the hansom, and in reckless speed quite equalled it. An ungainly chariot,
with tarnished gold and green and red decorations, and of fantastic shape—
evidently some part of a travelling show ! Drawn by a wildly galloping white
horse, of a gaunt appearance, it was driven by a little rubicund man, in a grey
overcoat, with another smaller man, in the grotesque attire and white paint of
a circus clown, and an immense negro, clad in irreproachable black, at his
side. Thus accoutred, the chariot-in-advance of Mr. Hopkins’ “Combination
Zoological Circus and Panopticon,” dawned on our three heroes in its ungainly
descent as a very doubtful apparition indeed. For, obviously, something had
gone wrong. The clown was distorting his white paint by his cries, while
the grey man tugged desperately at the reins as the caravan charged the
bridge. Tom Pavier, for his part, as the hansom, too, neared the bottom
of the hill, and the bridge grew imminent, waved them aside with wild
gestures. All in vain. He might as well have waved the wayside trees out of
the way.

In another second, as the two vehicles made desperate assay together of the
narrow bridge, there was a frightful crash, and circus-chariot and hansom, men
and horses, were chaos under a cloud of dust. At the collision, Tom’s leader
had swerved, broken the traces, and leapt into the stream below. Peg had
gone down heavily, and the hansom, after a wild twirl, had fallen over on its
side against the parapet. As for the chariot, it fell into a grotesque rattling
ruin of plank and pasteboard, wheel and shaft, amid which the grey, white, and
black figures of the unfortunate Mr. Hopkins, the clown, and the gentleman of
colour, sprawled disastrously. It was not a dignified catastrophe ; as Sinister
felt when, rescuing himself, and feeling his left arm ruefully, he looked round.
Except the clown, however, everybody was good-humoured ; he alone fell to
a furious vituperation of Tom Pavier, who took no notice as he first liberated

66                              THE SAVOY

his hapless mare from the ruins, and got her on to her feet, and then ran to
his other horse, which lay half in the stream below with a broken leg.

“What’s to be done ?” he cried out to the party above.

Whereupon the gentleman of colour, who had been bandaging a damaged
knee with a great unconcern, limped down from the bridge, and drew a Colt’s
revolver from his breast-pocket. This he discharged, on a nod from Tom, into
the poor beast’s brain. In other ways, and in spite of his bandaged and
seriously damaged leg, he proved the most capable man of the six. He
directed the operation of drawing the cracked shell of the hansom, which was
an irretrievable ruin, off the bridge, and then set to, to throw the ruins of the
circus chariot over the parapet on to the grass below. He, too, it was who
intervened when the dispute over the rights and wrongs of the catastrophe
had made Momus all but hysterical, and the little grey man irreligious ; and
arranged a small transaction by which Momus paid out five yellow coins to
the credit of the “Combination Zoological Circus and Panopticon.” When,
within an hour, Momus and Sinister were setting off as a relief party
for Croeslwyd, to further arrange for the disposition of the wreckage, he pre-
sented a card to Momus with some ceremony. This card Momus carefully
treasured up for possible future use, in case he might come to require such
a functionary some day in some spectacular way. It was inscribed :

                        ——————————

                                    Professor Charlie Jonson,
                                                                        LION-KING.
            [Hopkins’ Circus.]

                        ——————————

Momus and Sinister made a sorry-looking couple enough as they limped
up painfully at last to the Castle Inn. When they had repaired their costumes
and their nerves a little under its hospitable roof, they must needs, with return-
ing energy, fall to quarrelling over their predicament. Sinister, long-suffering
as he was, felt mortified for once. Like other humorists, used to serving up
other people in a comic dish, he disliked extremely to be made comic himself.
A hundred times he confounded himself for having given the fates that make for
ridicule such an absurd opportunity. As it was, his precious top-hat, smashed
out of all dignity, that had barely served to cover his head on the way from
the scene of accident, might well serve as a symbol of his state of mind

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           67

Momus was unfeeling enough to chuckle over it as he played a dusty tattoo
with his fingers on its indented crown. This was the finishing stroke. When
now Momus went on to carol forth, with provoking light-heartedness, a
favourite stave from “Cinderella” :

                                    “The world is full of girls, I know,
                                    But only one’s the perfect girl,
                                    To set the sorry world aglow
                                    With a laughing eye and a golden curl—
                                                                                                Ah, Cinderella !”

Sinister lost patience altogether.

“Damn Cinderella !” he exclaimed, and announced with some spleen that
he did not mean to go on any further with the adventure ; in fact, he proposed
to go back to town forthwith. Momus scorned the idea. The late catastrophe
had only served to excite him, and his blood was up.

“Do as you like !” he said, with a certain impudence of tone, and a
characteristic grimace and roll of the head, “I’m going on !” And he sang
again, turning Sinister’s unfortunate hat over contemptuously on the table :

                                    “With a laughing eye and a golden curl—
                                                                                                Ah, Cinderella !”

When Tom arrived at the Castle Inn, a couple of hours later, conveyed
thither, together with sundry relics of the hansom, in an old chaise which had
been sent after him, behind which the hapless Peg painfully limped, it was to
find Sinister alone. Momus had disappeared, incontinently gone on to Aber-
duly, without a doubt. Sinister was still sulky ; for the idea of a Sunday alone
with Tom in this uninspiring inn did not tend to restore his equanimity. As
for the rest of the actors lately figuring on the highway—the circus proprietor
and his two collaborateurs—they had gone off in an opposite direction, to
appear no more in these pages.

Sunday broke dull and wet, to add to Sinister’s disgust and ennui, and
his bruised shoulder had grown painful. But there was no possible escape,
and his only solace lay in an old punch-bowl, which Tom had discovered and
filled. But even this proved unsatisfying, and both were in the depths of
a profound boredom, listening to the melancholy drip of the rain, when as the
clock struck ten, the sound of a horse’s hoofs without announced a late
arrival.

A few seconds more, and in walked Momus, streaming from the rain.
His usual jaunty step was stiff, and his face, beneath its round comic lines, had
an expression of utter weariness.

68                              THE SAVOY

“You’d be tired if you were me !” he said, as they exclaimed at his plight.
“I’ve ridden fifty miles in the rain, on a beast bewitched, since breakfast !”

Since his knowledge of the horse as a beast of burden had been confined
hitherto to that gained inside a London hansom, this ride of Momus might, in
fact, be considered a remarkable performance.

“Oh, poor Momus ! Give him some punch !” cried Sinister.

Tom administered a rousing tumbler, and they set the exhausted hero to
steam by the fire.

The ride was, in truth, only one of many singular incidents through which
fate had been educating him since he left this room and Sinister yesterday.
While he sat there, with the consciousness that his two companions were
waiting to hear his story, these incidents revived themselves, and formed a
fantastic jumble in his head. As he had gone out singing, with “Ah
Cinderella !” for refrain, unabashed by accident, still following fast on the
heels of romance ; so he had kept his way to the end, though the fates declared
against him at every turn. He had taken train, the train was blocked for an
hour. That delay over, he had hired a pony for the next stage of his journey,
although he did not know how to ride. The pony, in turn, proved an in-
corrigible malingerer, and deceived its perplexed rider by pretending to go
dead lame. Then, hating walking, Momus had walked ten miles, along moun-
tain roads and through mountain solitudes, which, sublime as they really were,
seemed to him only dreary. Thus that fate which, he had been used to
say, had learnt something of humour at last from observing his antics, had
played pranks with him all the way, without breaking for a moment his
romantic spirit of adventure. He went through with his romance, it must be
owned, in a more than comic heroism. It came to an end at last, however,
when he reached on the previous evening the “Aberduly Arms,” a huge and
preposterous modern erection on the seashore at Aberduly, once one of
the shyest watering-places on the Welsh coast. At the “Aberduly Arms,”
you may find, if you will, the famous, the lyrical and loquacious, Mr. John
Jones, proprietor of the establishment, formerly, as everyone knows, the
leading tenor in the “Imperial English Comic Opera Company,” in which,
as Momus could not fail to remember, Miss Marie Barrone had made her
debut in the provinces some years before the time of our story.

The first thing that caught Momus’s eye, in fact, in the entrance-hall of
the hotel, was a great red-and-blue placard, announcing “A Grand Concert,”
in the Aberduly Assembly Rooms, on the following evening. On this poster,
the name of the distinguished Mr. John Jones figured conspicuously in large

                  A ROMANCE OF THREE FOOLS                           69

red capitals. In still larger blue letters, betokening an even greater musical
fame, was blazoned forth a name that gave Momus a thrill,—the name of MISS
MARIE BARRONE : The Celebrated London Soprano, from the Folly Theatre! !

        *  *  *  *  *  *  *

It was a copy of this poster which Momus, recollecting himself as he
sipped his punch, while Sinister and Tom Pavier looked on inquiringly, drew
from his pocket. As he unfolded it, he smiled ruefully.

“I’ve got a little tale to tell you !” he said ; “but first of all I want you
to drink the health of—— ”

“Mrs. Momus !” promptly interrupted Tom Pavier, rising and preparing
to drink the toast with unselfish fervour.

But Momus shook his head, and smiled a significant smile.

“Lady Merthen !” said Sinister, then, in his turn, with an accent of
inevitable conviction, as he caught up his glass.

“No !” said Momus with a grimace, “Mrs. John Jones !”

                                                                        ERNEST RHYS.


MLA citation:

Rhys, Ernest. “A Romance of Three Fools.” The Savoy vol. 5, September 1896, p. 70. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv5-rhys-romance/