NONE, it is said, of all who revelled with the Regent, was half
so wicked as Lord George Hell. I will not trouble my
little readers with a long recital of his great naughtiness. But it
were well they should know that he was greedy, destructive, and
disobedient. I am afraid there is no doubt that he often sat up
at Carlton House until long after bed-time, playing at games,
and that he generally ate and drank far more than was good for
him. His fondness for fine clothes was such, that he used to
dress on week-days quite as gorgeously as good people dress on
Sundays. He was thirty-five years old and a great grief to his
And the worst of it was that he set such a bad example to
others. Never, never did he try to conceal his wrong-doing; so
that, in time, every one knew how horrid he was. In fact, I
think he was proud of being horrid. Captain Tarleton, in his
account of Contemporary Bucks suggested that his lordship’s great
Candour was a virtue and should incline us to forgive some of his
abominable faults. But, painful as it is to me to dissent from any
opinion expressed by one who is now dead, I hold that Candour is
good, only when it reveals good actions or good sentiments, and
that, when it reveals evil, itself is evil, even also.
12 The Happy Hypocrite
Lord George Hell did, at last, atone for all his faults, in a way
that was never revealed to the world during his life-time. The
reason of his strange and sudden disappearance from that social
sphere, in which he had so long moved and never moved again, I
will unfold. My little readers will then, I think, acknowledge
that any angry judgment they may have passed upon him must be
reconsidered and, it may be, withdrawn. I will leave his lordship
in their hands. But my plea for him will not be based upon that
Candour of his, which some of his friends so much admired.
There were, yes ! some so weak and so wayward as to think it a
fine thing to have an historic title and no scruples. ” Here comes
George Hell,” they would say. ” How wicked my lord is looking ! ”
Noblesse oblige, you see, and so an aristocrat should be very careful
of his good name. Anonymous naughtiness does little harm.
It is pleasant to record that many persons were unobnoxious to
the magic of his title and disapproved of him so strongly that,
whenever he entered a room where they happened to be, they
would make straight for the door and watch him very severely
through the key-hole. Every morning, when he strolled up
Piccadilly, they crossed over to the other side in a compact body,
leaving him to the companionship of his bad companions on that
which is still called the ” shady ” side. Lord George—οχετλιος—
was quite indifferent to this demonstration. Indeed, he seemed
wholly hardened, and, when ladies gathered up their skirts as they
passed him, he would lightly appraise their ankles.
I am glad I never saw his lordship. They say he was rather
like Caligula, with a dash of Sir John FalstafF, and that sometimes,
on wintry mornings in St. James s Street, young children would
hush their prattle and cling in disconsolate terror to their nurses’
skirts, as they saw him come (that vast and fearful gentleman ! )
with the east wind ruffling the round surface of his beaver,
13 The Happy Hypocrite
ruffling the fur about his neck and wrists, and striking the purple
complexion of his cheeks to a still deeper purple. ” King Bogey ”
they called him in the nurseries. In the hours when they too were
naughty, their nurses would predict his advent down the chimney or
from the linen-press, and then they always ” behaved.” So that, you
see, even the unrighteous are a power for good, in the hands of nurses.
It is true that his lordship was a non-smoker—a negative virtue,
certainly, and due, even that, I fear, to the fashion of the day—
but there the list of his good qualities comes to an abrupt con-
clusion. He loved with an insatiable love the Town and the
pleasures of the Town, whilst the ennobling influences of our
English lakes were quite unknown to him. He used to boast that
he had not seen a buttercup for twenty years, and once he called
the country ” A Fool’s Paradise.” London was the only place
marked on the map of his mind. London gave him all he wished
for. Is it not extraordinary to think that he had never spent a
happy day nor a day of any kind in Follard Chase, that desirable
mansion in Herts., which he had won from Sir Follard Follard, by
a chuck of the dice, at Boodle’s, on his seventeenth birthday ?
Always cynical and unkind, he had refused to give the broken
baronet his revenge. Always unkind and insolent, he had offered
to instal him in the lodge—an offer which was, after a little hesi-
tation, accepted. ” On my soul, the man s place is a sinecure,”
Lord George would say, ” he never has to open the gate to me.” *
So rust had covered the great iron gates of Follard Chase, and
moss had covered its paths. The deer browsed upon its terraces.
There were only wild flowers anywhere. Deep down among
the weeds and water-lilies of the little stone-rimmed pond he had
looked down upon, lay the marble faun, as he had fallen.
* Lord Colerainis Correspondence, page 101.
14 The Happy Hypocrite
Of all the sins of his lordship’s life, surely not one was more
wanton than his neglect of Follard Chase. Some whispered (nor
did he ever trouble to deny) that he had won it by foul means, by
loaded dice. Indeed no card-player in St. James s cheated more
persistently than he. As he was rich and had no wife and family
to support, and as his luck was always capital, I can offer no
excuse for his conduct. At Carlton House, in the presence of
many bishops and cabinet ministers, he once dunned the Regent
most arrogantly for 5000 guineas out of which he had cheated
him some months before, and went so far as to declare that he
would not leave the house till he got it ; whereupon His Royal
Highness, with that unfailing tact for which he was ever famous,
invited him to stay there as a guest ; which, in fact, Lord, George
did, for several months. After this, we can hardly be surprised
when we read that he ” seldom sat down to the fashionable game of
Limbo with less than four, and sometimes with as many as 7 aces up
his sleeve.” * We can only wonder that he was tolerated at all.
At Garble’s, that nightly resort of titled rips and roysterers, he
usually spent the early part of his evenings. Round the illumin-
ated garden, with La Gambogi, the dancer, on his arm and a
Bacchic retinue at his heels, he would amble leisurely, clad in
Georgian costume, which was not then, of course, fancy dress, as it
is now.☨ Now and again, in the midst of his noisy talk, he would
crack a joke of the period, or break into a sentimental ballad, dance
* Contemporary Bucks, vol. i. page 73.
☨It would seem, however, that, on special occasions, his lordship
indulged in odd costumes. ” I have seen him,” says Captain Tarleton
(vol. i. p. 69), “attired as a French clown, as a sailor, or in the crimson
hose cf a Sicilian grandee—peu beau spectacle. He never disguised his
face, whatever his costume, nevertheless.”
15 By Max Beerbohm
a little, or pick a quarrel. When he tired of such fooling, he
would proceed to his box in the tiny al fresco theatre and patronise
the jugglers, pugilists, play-actors and whatever eccentric persons
happened to be performing there.
The stars were splendid, and the moon as beautiful as a great
camellia, one night in May, as his lordship laid his arms upon the
cushioned ledge of his box and watched the antics of the Merry
Dwarf, a little, curly-headed creature, whose dèbut it was. Cer-
tainly, Garble had found a novelty. Lord George led the applause,
and the Dwarf finished his frisking with a pretty song about
lovers. Nor was this all. Feats of archery were to follow. In
a moment, the Dwarf reappeared with a small, gilded bow in his
hand and a quiverful of arrows slung at his shoulder. Hither and
thither he shot these vibrant arrows, very precisely, several into
the bark of the acacias that grew about the overt stage, several
into the fluted columns of the boxes, two or three to the stars.
The audience was delighted. “Bravo! Bravo Saggitaro !
murmured Lord George, in the language of La Gambogi, who
was at his side. Finally, the waxen figure of a man was carried
on by an assistant and propped against the trunk of a tree. A scarf
was tied across the eyes of the Merry Dwarf, who stood in a
remote corner of the stage. Bravo indeed ! For the shaft had
pierced the waxen figure through the heart, or just where the
heart would have been, if the figure had been human, and not
Lord George called for port and champagne and beckoned the
bowing homuncle to his box, that he might compliment him on
his skill and pledge him in a bumper of the grape.
” On my soul, you have a genius for the bow,” his lordship
cried, with florid condescension. ” Come and sit by me, but
16 The Happy Hypocrite
first let me present you to my divine companion the Signora
—Gambogi Virgo and Sagittarius, egad ! You may have met on
” Indeed, I met the Signora many years ago,” the Dwarf replied,
with a low bow. “But not on the Zodiac, and the Signora
perhaps forgets me.”
At this speech the Signora flushed angrily, for she was indeed
no longer young, and the Dwarf had a childish face. She thought
he mocked her. Her eyes flashed. Lord George’s twinkled rather
” Great is the experience of youth,” he laughed. ” Pray, are
you stricken with more than twenty summers ? ”
“With more than I can count,” said the Dwarf. “To the
health of your lordship ! ” and he drained his long glass of wine.
Lord George replenished it and asked by what means or miracle
he had acquired his mastery of the bow.
” By long practice,” the little thing rejoined; “long practice
on human creatures.” And he nodded his curls mysteriously.
” On my heart you are a dangerous box-mate.”
” Your lordship were certainly a good target.”
Little liking this joke at his bulk, which really rivalled the
Regent’s, Lord George turned brusquely in his chair and fixed
his eyes upon the stage. This time it was the Gambogi who
A new operette, The Fair Captive of Samarcand, was being
enacted, and the frequenters of Garble s were all curious to behold
the new dèbutante, Jenny Mere, who was said to be both pretty
and talented. These predictions were surely fulfilled, when the
captive peeped from the window of her wooden turret. She
looked so pale under her blue turban. Her eyes were dark with
fear. Her parted lips did not seem capable of speech. “Is it
17 By Max Beerbohm
that she is frightened of us ? ” the audience wondered. ” Or of
the flashing scimitar of Aphoschaz, the cruel father who holds her
captive ?” So they gave her loud applause, and when, at length,
she jumped down, to be caught in the arms of her gallant lover,
Nissarah, and, throwing aside her Eastern draperies, did a simple
dance, in the convention of Columbine, their delight was quite
unbounded. She was very young and did not dance very well, it
is true, but they forgave her that. And when she turned in the
dance and saw her father with his scimitar, their hearts beat swiftly
for her. Nor were all eyes tearless, when she pleaded with him
for her life.
Strangely absorbed, quite callous of his two companions, Lord
George gazed over the footlights. He seemed as one who is in a
trance. Of a sudden, something shot sharp into his heart. In
pain he sprang to his feet and, as he turned, he seemed to see a
winged and laughing child, in whose hand was a bow, fly swiftly
away into the darkness. At his side, was the Dwarf s chair. It
was empty. Only La Gambogi was with him and her dark face
was like the face of a fury.
Presently he sank back into his chair, holding one hand to his
heart, that still throbbed from the strange transfixion. He
breathed very painfully and seemed scarce conscious of his sur-
roundings. But La Gambogi knew he would pay no more
homage to her now, for that the love of Jenny Mere had come
into his heart.
When the operette was over, his love-sick lordship snatched up
his cloak and went away without one word to the lady at his side.
Rudely he brushed aside Count Karoloff and Mr. FitzClarence,
with whom he had arranged to play hazard. Of his comrades, his
cynicism, his reckless scorn—of all the material of his existence—
he was oblivious now. He had no time for penitence or diffident
18 The Happy Hypocrite
delay. He only knew that he must kneel at the feet of Jenny
Mere and ask her to be his wife.
” Miss Mere is in her room,” said Garble, ” resuming her
ordinary attire. If your lordship deign to await the conclusion of
her humble toilet, it shall be my privilege to present her to your
lordship. Even now, indeed, I hear her footfall on the stair.”
Lord George uncovered his head and with one hand nervously
smoothed his rebellious wig.
” Miss Mere, come hither,” said Garble. , ” This is my Lord
George Hell, that you have pleased whom by your poor efforts
this night will ever be the prime gratification of your passage
through the roseate realms of art.”
Little Miss Mere, who had never seen a lord, except in fancy or
in dreams, curtseyed shyly and hung her head. With a loud
crash, Lord George fell on his knees. The manager was greatly
surprised, the girl greatly embarrassed. Yet neither of them
laughed, for sincerity dignified his posture and sent eloquence
from its lips.
” Miss Mere,” he cried, ” give ear, I pray you, to my poor
words, nor spurn me in misprision from the pedestal of your
Beauty, Genius and Virtue. All too conscious, alas ! of my pre-
sumption in the same, I yet abase myself before you as a suitor
for your adorable Hand. I grope under the shadow of your raven
Locks. I am dazzled in the light of those translucent orbs, your
Eyes. In the intolerable whirlwind of your Fame I faint and am
“Sir—” the girl began, simply.
” Say < My Lord, ” said Garble, solemnly.
” My lord, I thank you for your words. They are beautiful.
But indeed, indeed, I can never be your bride.”
Lord George hid his face in his hands.
19 By Max Beerbohm
” Child,” said Mr. Garble, ” let not the sun rise ere you have
retracted those wicked words.”
” My wealth, my rank, my irremediable love for you, I throw
them at your feet,” Lord George cried, piteously. ” I would wait
an hour, a week, a lustre, even a decade, did you but bid me
hope ! ”
“I can never be your wife,” she said, slowly. “I can never be
the wife of any man whose face is not saintly. Your face, my
lord, mirrors, it may be, true love for me, but it is even as a
mirror long tarnished by the reflection of this world s vanity. It
is even as a tarnished mirror. Do not kneel to me, for I am
poor and humble. I was not made for such impetuous wooing.
Kneel, if you please, to some greater, gayer lady. As for my
love, it is my own, nor can it be ever torn from me, but given, as
true love must needs be given, freely. Ah ! rise from your knees.
That man, whose face is wonderful as are the faces of the saints,
to him I will give my true love.”
Miss Mere, though visibly affected, had spoken this speech with
a gesture and elocution so superb, that Mr. Garble could not help
applauding, deeply though he regretted her attitude towards his
honoured patron. As for Lord George he was immobile as a
stricken oak. With a sweet look of pity, Miss Mere went her
way, and Mr. Garble, with some solicitude, helped his lordship to
rise from his knees. Out into the night, without a word, went
his lordship. Above him the stars were still splendid. They
seemed to mock the festoons of little lamps, dim now and gutter
ing, in the garden of Garble s. What should he do ? No
thoughts came. Only his heart burnt hotly. He stood on the
brim of Garble s lake, shallow and artificial as his past life had
been. Two swans slept on its surface. The moon shone strangely
upon their white, twisted necks. Should he drown himself?
The Yellow Book Vol. XI. B
20 The Happy Hypocrite
There was no one in the garden to prevent him, and in the
morning they would find him floating there, one of the noblest of
love s victims. The garden would be closed in the evening.
There would be no performance in the little theatre. It might
be that Jenny Mere would mourn him. ” Life is a prison, without
bars,” he murmured, as he walked away.
All night long he strode, knowing not whither, through the
mysterious streets and squares of London. The watchmen, to
whom his figure was most familiar, gripped their staves at his
approach, for they had old reason to fear his wild and riotous
habits. He did not heed them. Through that dim conflict
between darkness and day, which is ever waged silently over our
sleep, Lord George strode on in the deep absorption of his love
and of his despair. At dawn, he found himself on the outskirts of
a little wood in Kensington. A rabbit rushed past him through
the dew. Birds were fluttering in the branches. The leaves
were tremulous with the presage of day, and the air was full of
the sweet scent of hyacinths.
How cool the country was ! It seemed to cure the feverish
maladies of his soul and consecrate his love. In the fair light of
the dawn he began to shape the means of winning Jenny Mere,
that he had conceived in the desperate hours of the night. Soon
an old woodman passed by, and, with rough courtesy, showed him
the path that would lead him quickest to the town. He was
loth to leave the wood. With Jenny, he thought, he would live
always in the country. And he picked a posy of wild flowers for
His rentrée into the still silent town strengthened his Arcadian
resolves. He, who had seen the town so often in its hours of
sleep, had never noticed how sinister its whole aspect was. In its
narrow streets the white houses rose on either side of him like
21 By Max Beerbohm
cliffs of chalk. He hurried swiftly along the unswept pavement.
How had he loved this city of evil secrets ?
At last he came to St. James’s Square, to the hateful door of his
own house. Shadows lay like memories in every corner of the
dim hall. Through the window of his room, a sunbeam slanted
across his smooth bed, and fell ghastly on the ashen grate.
It was a bright morning in Old Bond Street, and fat little Mr.
Aeneas, the fashionable mask-maker, was sunning himself at the
door of his shop. His window was lined as usual with all kinds of
masks—beautiful masks with pink cheeks, and absurd masks with
protuberant chins ; curious πρooδωπα copied from old tragic models ;
masks of paper for children, of fine silk for ladies, and of leather
for working men ; bearded or beardless, gilded or waxen (most of
them, indeed, were waxen), big or little masks. And in the
middle of this vain galaxy hung the presentment of a Cyclops’
face, carved cunningly of gold, with a great sapphire in its brow.
The sun gleamed brightly on the window, and on the bald head
and varnished shoes of fat little Mr. Aeneas. It was too early for
any customers to come, and Mr. Aeneas seemed to be greatly
enjoying his leisure in the fresh air. He smiled complacently as
he stood there, and well he might, for he was a great artist, and
was patronised by several crowned heads and not a few of the
nobility. Only the evening before, Mr. Brummell had come into
his shop and ordered a light summer mask, wishing to evade, for a
time, the jealous vigilance of Lady Otterton. It pleased Mr.
Aeneas to think that his art made him recipient of so many
high secrets. He smiled as he thought of the titled spendthrifts,
who, at this moment, perdus behind his masterpieces, passed un-
scathed among their creditors. He was the secular confessor of
his day, always able to give absolution. An unique position !
22 The Happy Hypocrite
The street was as quiet as a village street. At an open window
over the way, a handsome lady, wrapped in a muslin peignoir, sat
sipping her cup of chocolate. It was La Signora Gambogi, and
Mr. Aeneas made her many elaborate bows. This morning,
however, her thoughts seemed far away, and she did not notice
the little man’s polite efforts. Nettled at her negligence, Mr.
Aeneas was on the point of retiring into his shop, when he saw
Lord George Hell hastening up the street, with a posy of wild
flowers in his hand.
” His lordship is up betimes ! ” he said to himself. ” An early
visit to La Signora, I suppose.”
Not so, however. His lordship came straight towards the
mask-shop. Once he glanced up at the Signora s window and
looked deeply annoyed when he saw her sitting there. He came
quickly into the shop.
” I want the mask of a saint,” he said.
” Mask of a saint, my lord ? Certainly ! ” said Mr. Aeneas,
briskly. “With or without halo ? His Grace the Bishop of St.
Aldreds always wears his with a halo. Your lordship does not
wish for a halo ? Certainly. If your lordship will allow me to
take his measurement—
” I must have the mask to-day,” Lord George said. ” Have
you none ready-made ? ”
” Ah, I see. Required for immediate wear,” murmured Mr.
Aeneas, dubiously. ” You see, your lordship takes a rather large
size.” And he looked at the floor.
” Julius ! ” he cried suddenly to his assistant, who was putting
the finishing touches to a mask of Barbarossa which the youno-
king of Ztirremberg was to wear at his coronation, the following
week. “Julius ! Do you remember the saint’s mask we made
for Mr. Ripsby, a couple of years ago. ”
23 By Max Beerbohm
” Yes, sir,” said the boy. ” It s stored upstairs.”
“I thought so,” replied Mr. Aeneas. ” Mr. Ripsby only had
it on hire. Step upstairs, Julius, and bring it down. I fancy it
is just what your lordship would wish. Spiritual, yet hand-
“Is it a mask that is even as a mirror of true love?” Lord
George asked, gravely.
” It was made precisely as such,” the mask-maker answered.
” In fact it was made for Mr. Ripsby to wear at his silver wedding,
and was very highly praised by the relatives of Mrs. Ripsby.
Will your lordship step into my little room ?”
So Mr. Aeneas led the way to his parlour behind the shop. He
was elated by the distinguished acquisition to his clientèle, for
hitherto Lord George had never patronised his business. He
bustled round his parlour and insisted that his lordship should take
a chair and a pinch from his snuff-box, while the saint’s mask was
Lord George’s eye travelled along the rows of framed letters
from great personages, which lined the walls. He did not see
them, though, for he was calculating the chances that La Gambogi
had not observed him, as he entered the mask-shop. He had
come down so early that he had thought she would be still abed.
That sinister old proverb, La jalouse se lève de bonne heure, rose in
his memory. His eye fell unconsciously on a large, round mask
made of dull silver, with the features of a human face traced over
its surface in faint filigree.
“Your lordship wonders what mask that is ?” chirped Mr.
Aeneas, tapping the thing with one of his little finger nails.
“What is that mask ?” Lord George murmured.
” I ought not to divulge, my lord,” said the mask-maker. ” But
I know your lordship would respect a professional secret, a secret
24 The Happy Hypocrite
of which I am pardonable proud. This,” he said, is a mask for
the sun-god, Apollo, whom heaven bless !
” You astound me,” said Lord George.
” Of no less a person, I do assure you. When Jupiter, his
father, made him lord of the day, Apollo craved that he might
sometimes see the doings of mankind in the hours of night time.
Jupiter granted so reasonable a request. When next Apollo had
passed over the sky and hidden in the sea, and darkness had fallen
on all the world, he raised his head above the waters that he might
watch the doings of mankind in the hours of night time. But,”
Mr. Aeneas added, with a smile, ” his bright countenance made
light all the darkness. Men rose from their couches or from their
revels, wondering that day was so soon come, and went to their
work. And Apollo sank weeping into the sea. Surely, he
cried, it is a bitter thing that I alone, of all the gods, may not
watch the world in the hours of night time. For in those hours,
as I am told, men are even as gods are. They spill the wine and
are wreathed with roses. Their daughters dance in the light ot
torches. They laugh to the sound of flutes. On their long
couches they lie down at last, and sleep comes to kiss their eye
lids. None of these things may I see. Wherefore the bright
ness of my beauty is even as a curse to me and I would put it
from me. And as he wept, Vulcan said to him, I am not the
least cunning of the gods, nor the least pitiful. Do not weep,
for I will give you that which shall end your sorrow. Nor need
you put from you the brightness of your beauty. And Vulcan
made a mask of dull silver and fastened it across his brother’s face.
And that night, thus masked, the sun-god rose from the sea and
watched the doings of mankind in the night time. Nor any
longer were men abashed by his bright beauty, for it was hidden
by the mask of silver. Those whom he had so often seen haggard
25 By Max Beerbohm
over their daily tasks, he saw feasting now and wreathed with red
roses. He heard them laugh to the sound of flutes, as their
daughters danced in the red light of torches. And when at
length they lay down upon their soft couches, and sleep kissed
their eyelids, he sank back into the sea and hid his mask under a
little rock in the bed of the sea. Nor have men ever known that
Apollo watches them often in the night time, but fancied it to be
some pale goddess.”
” I myself have always thought it was Diana,” said Lord George
” An error, my lord ! ” said Mr. Aeneas, with a smile. ” Ecce
signum ! ” And he tapped the mask of dull silver.
” Strange ! ” said his lordship. ” And pray how comes it that
Apollo has ordered of you this new mask?”
” He has always worn twelve new masks every year, inasmuch
as no mask can endure for many nights the near brightness of his
face, before which even a mask of the best and purest silver soon
tarnishes, and wears away. Centuries ago, Vulcan tired of making
so very many masks. And so Apollo sent Mercury down to
Athens, to the shop of Phoron, a Phoenician mask-maker of great
skill. Phoron made Apollo’s masks for many years, and every
month Mercury came to his shop for a new one. When Phoron
died, another artist was chosen, and when he died, another, and so
on through all the ages of the world. Conceive, my lord, my
pride and pleasure when Mercury flew into my shop, one night
last year, and made me Appolo s warrant-holder. It is the highest
privilege that any mask-maker can desire. And when I die,”
said Mr. Aeneas, with some emotion, ” Mercury will confer my
post upon another.”
” And do they pay you for your labour ? ” Lord George asked.
Mr. Aeneas drew himself up to his full height, such as it was.
26 The Happy Hypocrite
“In Olympus, my lord,” he said, “they have no currency. For
any mask-maker, so high a privilege is its own reward. Yet the
sun-god is generous. He shines more brightly into my shop than
into any other. Nor does he suffer his rays to melt any waxen
mask made by me, until its wearer doff it and it be done with.”
At this moment, Julius came in with the Ripsby mask. ” I must
ask your lordship s pardon for having kept you so long,” pleaded
Mr. Aeneas. ” But I have a large store of old masks and they
are imperfectly catalogued.”
It certainly was a beautiful mask, with its smooth, pink cheeks
and devotional brow. It was made of the finest wax. Lord
George took it gingerly in his hands and tried it on his face. It
fitted à merveille.
“Is the expression exactly as your lordship would wish ?” said
Lord George laid it on the table and studied it intently. “I
wish it were more as a perfect mirror of true love,” he said at
length. ” It is too calm, too contemplative.”
” Easily remedied ! ” said Mr. Aeneas. Selecting a fine pencil,
deftly he drew the eyebrows closer to each other. With a brush
steeped in some scarlet pigment, he put a fuller curve upon the
lips. And, behold ! it was the mask of a saint who loves dearly.
Lord George s heart throbbed with pleasure.
“And for how long does your lordship wish to wear it ? ” asked
” I must wear it until I die,” replied Lord George.
” Kindly be seated then, I pray,” rejoined the little man.
” For I must apply the mask with great care. Julius, you will
assist me ! ”
So, while Julius heated the inner side of the waxen mask over
a little lamp, Mr. Aeneas stood over Lord George, gently smearing
27 By Max Beerbohm
his features with some sweet-scented pomade. Then he took the
mask and powdered its inner side, all soft and warm now, with
a fluffy puff. “Keep quite still, for one instant,” he said, and
clapped the mask firmly on his lordship s upturned face. So
soon as he was sure of its perfect adhesion, he took from his
assistant s hand a silver file and a little wooden spatula, with
which he proceeded to pare down the edge of the mask, where it
joined the neck and ears. At length, all traces of the “join”
were obliterated. It remained only to arrange the curls of the
lordly wig over the waxen brow.
The disguise was done. When Lord George looked through
the eyelets of his mask into the mirror that was placed in his
hand, he saw a face that was saintly, itself a mirror of true love.
How wonderful it was ! He felt his past was a dream. He felt
he was a new man indeed. His voice went strangely through the
mask s parted lips, as he thanked Mr. Aeneas.
” Proud to have served your lordship,” said that little worthy,
pocketing his fee of fifty guineas, while he bowed his customer
When he reached the street, Lord George nearly uttered a
curse through those sainted lips of his. For there, right in his
way, stood La Gambogi, holding a small, pink parasol. She laid
her hand upon his sleeve and called him softly by his name. He
passed her by without a word. Again she confronted him.
” I cannot let go so handsome a lover,” she laughed, ” even
though he spurn me ! Do not spurn me, George. Give me
your posy of wild flowers. Why, you never looked so lovingly at
me in all your life ! :
” Madam,” said Lord George, sternly, ” I have not the honour
to know you.” And he passed on.
The lady gazed after her lost lover with the blackest hatred in
28 The Happy Hypocrite
her eyes. Presently she beckoned across the road to a certain
And the spy followed him.
Lord George, greatly agitated, had turned into Piccadilly. It
was horrible to have met this garish embodiment of his past on the
very threshold of his fair future. The mask-maker’s elevating
talk about the gods, followed by the initiative ceremony of his
saintly mask, had driven all discordant memories from his love-
thoughts of Jenny Mere. And then to be met by La Gambogi !
It might be that, after his stern words, she would not again
seek to cross his path. Surely she would dare not mar his sacred
love. Yet, he knew her dark, Italian nature, her passion of
revenge. What was the line in Virgil ? Spretaeque—something.
Who knew but that, somehow, sooner or later, she might come
between him and his love ?
He was about to pass Lord Barrymore’s mansion. Count
Karoloffand Mr. FitzClarence were lounging in one of the lower
windows. Would they know him under his mask ? Thank
God, they did not. They merely laughed as he went by, and
Mr. FitzClarence cried in a mocking voice, ” Sing us a hymn,
Mr. Whatever-your-saint’s-name-is ! ; The mask, then, at least,
was perfect. Jenny Mere would not know him. He need fear
no one but La Gambogi. But would not she betray his secret ?
That night he was going to visit Garble’s and to declare his
love to the little actress. He never doubted that she would love
him for his saintly face. Had she not said, u That man whose
face is wonderful as are the faces of the saints, to him I will
give my true love ” ? She could not say now that his face
was as a tarnished mirror of love. She would smile on
29 By Max Beerbohm
him. She would be his bride. But would La Gambogi be at
The operette would not be over before ten that night. The
clock in Hyde Park Gate told him it was not yet ten ten o the
morning. Twelve whole hours to wait, before he could fall
at Jenny’s feet ! ” I cannot spend that time in this place of
memories,” he thought. So he hailed a yellow cabriolet and bade
the jarvey drive him out to the village of Kensington.
When they came to the little wood where he had been but a
few hours ago, Lord George dismissed the jarvey. The sun, that
had risen as he stood there thinking of Jenny, shone down on his
altered face. But, though it shone very fiercely, it did not melt his
waxen features. The old woodman, who had shown him his way,
passed by under a load of faggots and did not know him. He
wandered among the trees. It was a lovely wood.
Presently he came to the bank of that tiny stream, the Ken,
which still flowed there in those days. On the moss of its bank
he lay down and let its water ripple over his hand. Some bright
pebble glistened under the surface, and, as he peered down at it, he
saw in the stream the reflection of his mask. A great shame
rilled him that he should so cheat the girl he loved. Behind that
fair mask there would still be the evil face that had repelled her.
Could he be so base as to decoy her into love of that most in
genious deception ? He was filled with a great pity for her, with
a hatred of himself. And yet, he argued, was the mask indeed a
mean trick ? Surely it was a secret symbol of his true repentance
and of his true love. His face was evil, because his life had been
evil. He had seen a gracious girl, and of a sudden his very soul
had changed. His face alone was the same as it had been. It
was not just that his face should be evil still.
There was the faint sound of some one sighing. Lord George
30 The Happy Hypocrite
looked up, and there, on the further bank, stood Jenny Mere,
watching him. As their eyes met, she blushed and hung her
head. She looked like nothing but a tall child, as she stood there,
with her straight, limp frock of lilac cotton and her sunburnt
straw bonnet. He dared not speak ; he could only gaze at her.
Suddenly there perched astride the bough of a tree, at her side,
that winged and laughing child, in whose hand was a bow. Be
fore Lord George could warn her, an arrow had flashed down
and vanished in her heart, and Cupid had flown away.
No cry of pain did she utter, but stretched out her arms to her
lover, with a glad smile. He leapt quite lightly over the little
stream and knelt at her feet. It seemed more fitting that he
should kneel before the gracious thing he was unworthy of. But
she, knowing only that his face was as the face of a great saint,
bent over him and touched him with her hand.
“Surely,” she said, “you are that good man for whom I have
waited. Therefore do not kneel to me, but rise and suffer me to
kiss your hand. For my love of you is lowly, and my heart is all
But he answered, looking up into her fond eyes, ” Nay, you are
a queen, and I must needs kneel in your presence.”
And she shook her head wistfully, and she knelt down also, in
her tremulous ecstasy, before him. And as they knelt, the one to
the other, the tears came into her eyes, and he kissed her. Though
the lips that he pressed to her lips were only waxen, he thrilled
with happiness, in that mimic kiss. He held her close to him in
his arms, and they were silent in the sacredness of their love.
From his breast he took the posy of wild flowers that he had
” They are for you,” he whispered, ” I gathered them for you,
hours ago, in this wood. See ! They are not withered.”
31 By Max Beerbohm
But she was perplexed by his words and said to him, blushing,
” How was it for me that you gathered them, though you had
never seen me ? ”
” I gathered them for you,” he answered, ” knowing I should
soon see you. How was it that you, who had never seen me, yet
waited for me ? ”
” I waited, knowing I should see you at last.” And she kissed
the posy and put it at her breast.
And they rose from their knees and went into the wood, walk
ing hand in hand. As they went, he asked the names of the
flowers that grew under their feet. “These are primroses,” she
would say. “Did you not know? And these are ladies feet,
and these forget-me-nots. And that white flower, climbing
up the trunks of the trees and trailing down so prettily from the
branches, is called Astyanax. These little yellow things are
buttercups. Did you not know ? And she laughed.
” I know the names of none of the flowers,” he said.
She looked up into his face and said timidly, “Is it worldly and
wrong of me to have loved the flowers ? Ought I to have
thought more of those higher things that are unseen ? ”
His heart smote him. He could not answer her simplicity.
“Surely the flowers are good, and did not you gather this posy
for me ? ” she pleaded. ” But if you do not love them, I must
not. And I will try to forget their names. For I must try to
be like you in all things.”
” Love the flowers always,” he said. ” And teach me to love
So she told him all about the flowers, how some grew very
slowly and others bloomed in a night ; how clever the convol
vulus was at climbing, and how shy violets were, and why honey-
cups had folded petals. She told him of the birds, too, that sang
32 The Happy Hypocrite
in the wood, how she knew them all by their voices. That is
a chaffinch singing. Listen ! ” she said. And she tried to
imitate its note, that her lover might remember. All the birds,
according to her, were good, except the cuckoo, and whenever
she heard him sing she would stop her ears, lest she should for
give him for robbing the nests. ” Every day,” she said, ” I have
come to the wood, because I was lonely, and it seemed to pity
me. But now I have you. And it is glad.”
She clung closer to his arm, and he kissed her She pushed
back her straw bonnet, so that it dangled from her neck by its
ribands, and laid her little head against his shoulder. For a while
he forgot his treachery to her, thinking only of his love and her
love. Suddenly she said to him, ” Will you try not to be angry
with me, if I tell you something ? It is something that will seem
dreadful to you.”
” Pauvrette” he answered, “you cannot have anything very
dreadful to tell.”
“I am very poor,” she said, “and every night I dance in a
theatre. It is the only thing I can do to earn my bread. Do
you despise me because I dance ? She looked up shyly at him
and saw that his face was full of love for her and not angry.
” Do you like dancing ? ” he asked.
“I hate it,” she answered, quickly. “I hate it indeed. Yet
to-night, alas ! I must dance again in the theatre.”
” You need never dance again,” said her lover. ” I am rich
and I will pay them to release you. You shall dance only for me.
Sweetheart, it cannot be much more than noon. Let us go
into the town, while there is time, and you shall be made my bride,
and I your bridegroom, this very day. Why should you and I be
lonely ? ”
” I do not know,” she said.
33 By Max Beerbohm
So they walked back through the wood, taking a narrow path
which Jenny said would lead them quickest to the village. And,
as they went, they came to a tiny cottage, with a garden that was
full of flowers. The old woodman was leaning over its paling,
and he nodded to them as they passed.
“I often used to envy the woodman,” said Jenny, “living in
that dear little cottage.”
” Let us live there, then,” said Lord George. And he went
back and asked the old man if he were not unhappy, living there
” Tis a poor life here for me,” the old man answered. ” No
folk come to the wood, except little children, now and again, to
play, or lovers like you. But they seldom notice me. And in
winter I am alone with Jack Frost. Old men love merrier com-
pany than that. Oh ! I shall die in the snow with my faggots on
my back. A poor life here ? ”
” I will give you gold for your cottage and whatever is in it,
and then you can go and live happily in the town,” Lord George
said. And he took from his coat a note for two hundred guineas,
and held it across the palings.
“Lovers are poor, foolish derry-docks,” the old man muttered.
“But I thank you kindly, sir. This little sum will keep me
finely, as long as I last. Come into the cottage as soon as soon
can be. It s a lonely place and does my heart good to depart
“We are going to be married this afternoon, in the town,”
said Lord George. ” We will come straight back to our
” May you be happy ! ” replied the woodman. ” You ll find me
gone when you come.”
And the lovers thanked him and went their way.
34 The Happy Hypocrite
“Are you very rich?” Jenny asked. “Ought you to have
bought the cottage for that great price ?
“Would you love me as much if I were quite poor, little
Jenny ? ” he asked her, after a pause.
” I did riot know you were rich when I saw you across the stream,” she said.
And in his heart Lord George made a good resolve. He would
put away from him all his worldly possessions. All the money
that he had won at the clubs, fairly or foully, all that hideous
accretion of gold guineas, he would distribute among the comrades
he had impoverished. As he walked, with the sweet and trustful
girl at his side, the vague record of his infamy assailed him, and a
look of pain shot behind his smooth mask. He would atone. He
would shun no sacrifice that might cleanse his soul. All his
fortune he would put from him. Follard Chase he would give
back to poor Sir Follard. He would sell his house in St. James’s
Square. He would keep some little part of his patrimony, enough
for him in the wood with Jenny, but no more.
“I shall be quite poor, Jenny,” he said.
And they talked of the things that lovers love to talk of, how
happy they would be together and how economical. As they were
passing Herbert’s pastry-shop, which, as my little readers know,
still stands in Kensington, Jenny looked up rather wistfully into
her lover s ascetic face.
” Should you think me greedy,” she asked him, ” if I wanted a
bun ? They have beautiful buns here ! ”
Buns ! The simple word started latent memories of his child
hood. Jenny was only a child, after all. Buns ! He had for
gotten what they were like. And as they looked at the piles of
variegated cakes in the window, he said to her, ” Which are buns,
Jenny ? I should like to have one, too.”
35 By Max Beerbohm
” I am almost afraid of you,” she said. ” You must despise me
so. Are you so good that you deny yourself all the vanity and
pleasure that most people love ? It is wonderful not to know
what buns are ! The round, brown, shiny cakes, with little raisins
in them, are buns.”
So he bought two beautiful buns, and they sat together in the
shop, eating them. Jenny bit hers rather diffidently, but was
reassured when he said that they must have buns very often in the
cottage. Yes ! he, the famous toper and gourmet of St. James’s,
relished this homely fare, as it passed through the insensible lips of
his mask to his palate. He seemed to rise, from the consumption
of his bun, a better man.
But there was no time to lose now. It was already past two
o clock. So he got a chaise from the inn opposite the pastry-shop,
and they were driven swiftly to Doctors’ Commons. There he
purchased a special license. When the clerk asked him to write
his name upon it, he hesitated. What name should he assume ?
Under a mask he had wooed this girl, under an unreal name he
must make her his bride. He loathed himself for a trickster. He
had vilely stolen from her the love she would not give him. Even
now, should he not confess himself the man whose face had
frightened her, and go his way ? And yet, surely, it was not
just that he, whose soul was transfigured, should bear his old name.
Surely George Hell was dead, and his name had died with him. So
he dipped a pen in the ink and wrote ” George Heaven,” for want
of a better name. And Jenny wrote ” Jenny Mere ” beneath it.
An hour later they were married according to the simple rites
of a dear little registry office in Covent Garden.
And in the cool evening they went home.
In the cottage that had been the woodman s they had a wonderful
The Yellow Book Vol. XI. C
36 The Happy Hypocrite
honeymoon. No king and queen in any palace of gold were
happier than they. For them their tiny cottage was a palace, and
the flowers that filled the garden were their courtiers. Long and
careless and full of kisses were the days of their reign.
Sometimes, indeed, strange dreams troubled Lord George’s
sleep. Once he dreamt that he stood knocking and knocking at
the great door of a castle. It was a bitter night. The frost
enveloped him. No one came. Presently he heard a footstep in
the hall beyond, and a pair of frightened eyes peered at him through
the grill. Jenny was scanning his face. She would not open to
him. With tears and wild words he beseeched her, but she would
not open to him. Then, very stealthily, he crept round the castle
and found a small casement in the wall. It was open. He
climbed swiftly, quietly through it. In the darkness of the room,
some one ran to him and kissed him gladly. It was Jenny.
With a cry of joy and shame he awoke. By his side lay Jenny,
sleeping like a little child.
After all, what was a dream to him ? It could not mar the
reality of his daily happiness. He cherished his true penitence for
the evil he had done in the past. The past ! That was indeed
the only unreal thing that lingered in his life. Every day its
substance dwindled, grew fainter yet, as he lived his rustic honey
moon. Had he not utterly put it from him ? Had he not, a few
hours after his marriage, written to his lawyer, declaring solemnly
that he, Lord George Hell, had forsworn the world, that he was
where no man would find him, that he desired all his worldly
goods to be distributed, thus and thus, among these and those of
his companions ? By this testament he had verily atoned for the
wrong he had done, had made himself dead indeed to the world.
No address had he written upon this document. Though its
injunctions were final and binding, it could betray no clue of his
37 By Max Beerbohm
hiding-place. For the rest, no one would care to seek him out.
He, who had done no good to human creature, would pass
unmourned out of memory. The clubs, doubtless, would laugh
and puzzle over his strange recantations, envious of whomever he
had enriched. They would say ’twas a good riddance of a rogue
and soon forget him.* But she, whose prime patron he had
* I would refer my little readers once more to the pages of
Contemporary Bucks, where Captain Tarleton speculates upon the
sudden disappearance of Lord George Hell and describes its effect
on the town. ” Not even the shrewdest,” says he, ” ever gave a guess
that would throw a ray of revealing light on the disparition of this
profligate man. It was supposed that he carried off with him a little
dancer from Garble’s, at which haunt of pleasantry he was certainly on
the night he vanished, and whither the young lady never returned
again. Garble declared he had been compensated for her perfidy, but
that he was sure she had not succumbed to his lordship, having in
fact rejected him soundly. Did his lordship, say the cronies, take
his life—and hers ? Il n’y a pas d’epreuve. The most astonishing
matter is that the runaway should have written out a complete will,
restoring all money he had won at cards, etc. etc. This certainly
corroborates the opinion that he was seized with a sudden repentance
and fled over the seas to a foreign monastery, where he died at last in
religious silence. That’s as it may, but many a spendthrift found his
pocket chinking with guineas, a not unpleasant sound, I declare. The
Regent himself was benefited by the odd will, and old Sir Follard
Follard found himself once more in the ancestral home he had for-
feited. As for Lord George’s mansion in St. James’s Square, that was
sold with all its appurtenances, and the money fetched by the sale, no
bagatelle, was given to various good objects, according to my lord’s
stated wishes. Well, many of us blessed his name—we had cursed it
often enough. Peace to his ashes, in whatever urn they be resting, on
the billows of whatever ocean they float ! ”
38 The Happy Hypocrite
been, who had loved him in her vile fashion, La Gambogi, would
she forget him easily, like the rest ? As the sweet days went by,
her spectre, also, grew fainter and less formidable. She knew his
mask indeed, but how should she find him in the cottage near
Kensington ? Devia dulcedo latebrarum ! He was safe hidden
with his bride. As for the Italian, she might search and search—
or had forgotten him, in the arms of another lover.
Yes ! Few and faint became the blemishes of his honeymoon.
At first, he had felt that his waxen mask, though it had been the
means of his happiness, was rather a barrier ‘twixt him and his
bride. Though it was sweet to kiss her through it, to look at her
through it with loving eyes, yet there were times when it incom=
moded him with its mockery. Could he but put it from him!
yet, that, of course, could not be. He must wear it all his life.
And so, as days went by, he grew reconciled to his mask. No
longer did he feel it jarring on his face. It seemed to become
an integral part of him, and, for all its rigid material, it did
forsooth express the one emotion that filled him, true love. The
face, for whose sake Jenny gave him her heart, could not but be
dear to this George Heaven, also.
Every day chastened him with its joy. They lived a very
simple life, he and Jenny. They rose betimes, like the birds, for
whose goodness they both had so sincere a love. Bread and
honey and little strawberries were their morning fare, and in the
evening they had seed cake and dewberry wine. Jenny herself
made the wine, and her husband drank it, in strict moderation,
never more than two glasses. He thought it tasted far better
than the Regent’s cherry brandy, or the Tokay at Brooks’s. Of
these treasured topes he had, indeed, nearly forgotten the taste.
The wine made from wild berries by his little bride was august
enough for his palate. Sometimes, after they had dined thus
39 By Max Beerbohm
he would play the flute to her upon the moonlit lawn, or tell
her of the great daisy-chain he was going to make for her
on the morrow, or sit silently by her side, listening to the
nightingale, till bedtime. So admirably simple were their
One morning, as he was helping Jenny to water the flowers,
he said to her suddenly, ” Sweetheart, we had forgotten ! ”
” What was there we should forget ? ” asked Jenny, looking
up from her task.
” Tis the mensiversary of our wedding,” her husband answered,
gravely. ” We must not let it pass without some celebration.”
” No, indeed,” she said, ” we must not. What shall we
do ? ”
Between them they decided upon an unusual feast. They
would go into the village and buy a bag of beautiful buns and eat
them in the afternoon. So soon, then, as all the flowers were
watered, they set forth to Herbert s shop, bought the buns and re-
turned home in very high spirits, George bearing a paper bag that
held no less than twelve of the wholesome delicacies. Under the
plane tree on the lawn Jenny sat her down, and George stretched
himself at her feet. They were loth to enjoy their feast too soon.
They dallied in childish anticipation. On the little rustic table
Jenny built up the buns, one above another, till they looked like
a tall pagoda. When, very gingerly, she had crowned the struc-
ture with the twelfth bun, her husband looking on with admira-
tion, she clapped her hands and danced round it. She laughed so
loudly (for, though she was only sixteen years old, she had a great
sense of humour), that the table shook, and, alas ! the pagoda
tottered and fell to the lawn. Swift as a kitten, Jenny chased the
buns, as they rolled, hither and thither, over the grass, catching
40 The Happy Hypocrite
them deftly with her hand. Then she came back, flushed and
merry under her tumbled hair, with her arm full of buns. She
began to put them back in the paper bag.
” Dear husband,” she said, looking timidly down to him, ” why
do not you smile too at my folly ? Your grave face rebukes me.
Smile, or I shall think I vex you. Please smile a little.”
But the mask could not smile, of course. It was made for a
mirror of true love, and it was grave and immobile. ” I am very
much amused, dear,” he said, ” at the fall of the buns, but my lips
will not curve to a smile. Love of you has bound them in
” But I can laugh, though I love you. I do not understand.”
And she wondered. He took her hand in his and stroked it
gently, wishing it were possible to smile. Some day, perhaps, she
would tire of his monotonous gravity, his rigid sweetness. It was
not strange that she should long for a little facial expression.
They sat silently.
“Jenny, what is it?” he whispered, suddenly. For Jenny,
with wide-open eyes, was gazing over his head, across the lawn.
” Why do you look frightened ? ”
” There is a strange woman smiling at me across the palings,”
she said. ” I do not know her.”
Her husband s heart sank. Somehow, he dared not turn his
head to the intruder. He dreaded who she might be.
” She is nodding to me,” said Jenny. ” I think she is foreign,
for she has an evil face.”
” Do not notice her,” he whispered. ” Does she look evil ? ”
” Very evil and very dark. She has a pink parasol. Her teeth
are like ivory.”
“Do not notice her. Think ! It is the mensiversary of our
wedding, dear ! ”
41 By Max Beerbohm
” I wish she would not smile at me. Her eyes are like bright
blots of ink.”
“Let us eat our beautiful buns ! ”
” Oh, she is coming in ! ” George heard the latch of the gate
jar. ” Forbid her to come in ! ” whispered Jenny, ” I am afraid ! ”
He heard the jar of heels on the gravel path. Yet he dared
not turn. Only he clasped Jenny s hand more tightly, as he
waited for the voice. It was La Gambogi’s.
” Pray, pray, pardon me ! I could not mistake the back of so
old a friend.”
With the courage of despair, George turned and faced the
” Even,” she smiled, ” though his face has changed marvel-
” Madam,” he said, rising to his full height and stepping
between her and his bride, ” begone, I command you, from this
garden. I do not see what good is to be served by the renewal of
“Acquaintance!” murmured La Gambogi, with an arch of
her beetle-brows. ” Surely we were friends, rather, nor is my
esteem for you so dead that I would crave estrangement.”
” Madam,” rejoined Lord George, with a tremor in his voice,
” you see me here very happy, living very peacefully with my
” To whom, I beseech you, old friend, present me.”
” I would not,” he said hotly, ” desecrate her sweet name by
speaking it with so infamous a name as yours.”
” Your choler hurts me, old friend,” said La Gambogi, sinking
composedly upon the garden-seat and smoothing the silk of her
“Jenny,” said George, ” then do you retire, pending this lady’s
42 The Happy Hypocrite
departure, to the cottage.” But Jenny clung to his arm.
were less frightened at your side,” she whispered. ” Do not send
me away ! ”
“Suffer her pretty presence,” said La Gambogi. “Indeed I am
come this long way from the heart of the town, that I may see
her, no less than you, George. My wish is only to befriend her.
Why should she not set you a mannerly example, giving me
welcome? Come and sit by me, little bride, for I have things
to tell you. Though you reject my friendship, give me, at least,
the slight courtesy of audience. I will not detain you overlong,
will be gone very soon. Are you expecting guests, George ?
On dirait une masque champêtre ! ” She eyed the couple critic-
ally. “Your wife’s mask,” she said, “is even better than
“What does she mean ? ” whispered Jenny. “Oh, send her
“Serpent,” was all George could say, “crawl from our Eden,
ere you poison with your venom its fairest denizen.”
La Gambogi rose. ” Even my pride,” she cried passionately,
” knows certain bounds. I have been forbearing, but even in my
zeal for friendship I will not be called serpent. I will indeed
begone from this rude place. Yet, ere I go, there is a boon I
will deign to beg. Show me, oh show me but once again, the
dear face I have so often caressed, the lips that were dear to
George started back.
” What does she mean ? ” whispered Jenny.
” In memory of our old friendship,” continued La Gambogi,
” grant me this piteous favour. Show me your own face but for
one instant, and I vow I will never again remind you that I
live. Intercede for me, little bride. Bid him unmask for me.
43 By Max Beerbohm
You have more authority over him than I. Doff his mask with
your own uxorious ringers.”
” What does she mean ? ” was the refrain of poor Jenny.
” If,” said George, gazing sternly at his traitress, ” you do not
go now, of your own will, I must drive you, man though I am,
violently from the garden.”
“Doff your mask and I am gone.”
George made a step of menace towards her.
” False saint ! ” she shrieked, ” then I will unmask you.”
Like a panther she sprang upon him and clawed at his waxen
cheeks. Jenny fell back, mute with terror. Vainly did George
try to free himself from the hideous assailant, who writhed round
and round him, clawing, clawing at what Jenny fancied to be his
face. With a wild cry, Jenny fell upon the furious creature and
tried, with all her childish strength, to release her dear one. The
combatives swayed to and fro, a revulsive trinity. There was a
loud pop, as though some great cork had been withdrawn, and La
Gambogi recoiled. She had torn away the mask. It lay before
her upon the lawn, upturned to the sky.
George stood motionless. La Gambogi stared up into his face,
and her dark flush died swiftly away. For there, staring back at
her, was the man she had unmasked, but, lo ! his face was even as
his mask had been. Line for line, feature for feature, it was the
same. ‘Twas a saint’s face.
” Madam,” he said, in the calm voice of despair, ” your cheek
may well blanch, when you regard the ruin you have brought
upon me. Nevertheless do I pardon you. The gods have
avenged, through you, the imposture I wrought upon one who
was dear to me. For that unpardonable sin I am punished. As
for my poor bride, whose love I stole by the means of that waxen
semblance, of her I cannot ask pardon. Ah, Jenny, Jenny do
44 The Happy Hypocrite
not look at me. Turn your eyes from the foul reality that I
dissembled.” He shuddered and hid his face in his hands. ” Do
not look at me. I will go from the garden. Nor will I ever
curse you with the odious spectacle of my face. Forget me,
But, as he turned to go, Jenny laid her hands upon his wrists
and besought him that he would look at her. ” For indeed,” she
said, ” I am bewildered by your strange words. Why did you
woo me under a mask ? And why do you imagine I could love
you less dearly, seeing your own face ? ”
He looked into her eyes. On their violet surface he saw the
tiny reflection of his own face. He was filled with joy and
” Surely,” said Jenny, ” your face is even dearer to me, even
fairer, than the semblance that hid it and deceived me. I am not
angry. Twas well that you veiled from me the full glory of your
face, for indeed I was not worthy to behold it too soon. But I
am your wife now. Let me look always at your own face. Let
the time of my probation be over. Kiss me with your own
So he took her in his arms, as though she had been a little
child, and kissed her with his own lips. She put her arms round
his neck, and he was happier than he had ever been. They were
alone in the garden now. Nor lay the mask any longer upon the
lawn, for the sun had melted it.
Beerbohm, Max. “The Happy Hypocrite.” The Yellow Book, vol. 11, October 1896, pp. 11-44. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020. https://1890s.ca/YBV11_beerbohm_hypocrite/