Scrymgeour





Scrymgeour was an artist and a man of means, so proud of his profession

that he gave all his pictures fancy prices, and so wealthy that he could

have bought them. To him I went when I wanted money--though it must not

be thought that I borrowed. In the days of the Arcadia Mixture I had

no bank account. As my checks dribbled in I stuffed them into a torn

leather case that was kept together by a piece of twine, and when Want

tapped at my chamber door, I drew out the check that seemed most willing

to come, and exchanged with Scrymgeour. In his detestation of argument

Scrymgeour resembled myself, but otherwise we differed as much as men

may differ who smoke the Arcadia. He read little, yet surprised us by a

smattering of knowledge about all important books that had been out for

a few months, until we discovered that he got his information from a

friend in India. He had also, I remember, a romantic notion that Africa

might be civilized by the Arcadia Mixture. As I shall explain presently,

his devotion to the Arcadia very nearly married him against his will;

but first I must describe his boudoir.



We always called it Scrymgeour's boudoir after it had ceased to deserve

the censure, just as we called Moggridge Jimmy because he was Jimmy to

some of us as a boy. Scrymgeour deserted his fine rooms in Bayswater for

the inn some months after the Arcadia Mixture had reconstructed him, but

his chambers were the best on our stair, and with the help of a workman

from the Japanese Village he converted them into an Oriental dream. Our

housekeeper thought little of the rest of us while the boudoir was

there to be gazed at, and even William John would not spill the coffee

in it. When the boudoir was ready for inspection, Scrymgeour led me to

it, and as the door opened I suddenly remembered that my boots were

muddy. The ceiling was a great Japanese Christmas card representing the

heavens; heavy clouds floated round a pale moon, and with the dusk the

stars came out. The walls, instead of being papered, were hung with a

soft Japanese cloth, and fantastic figures frolicked round a fireplace

that held a bamboo fan. There was no mantelpiece. The room was very

small; but when you wanted a blue velvet desk to write on, you had only

to press a spring against the wall; and if you leaned upon the desk the

Japanese workmen were ready to make you a new one. There were springs

everywhere, shaped like birds and mice and butterflies; and when you

touched one of them something was sure to come out. Blood-colored

curtains separated the room from the alcove where Scrymgeour was to rest

by night, and his bed became a bath by simply turning it upside down. On

one side of the bed was a wine-bin, with a ladder running up to it. The

door of the sitting-room was a symphony in gray, with shadowy reptiles

crawling across the panels; and the floor--dark, mysterious--presented

a fanciful picture of the infernal regions. Scrymgeour said hopefully

that the place would look cozier after he had his pictures in it; but he

stopped me when I began to fill my pipe. He believed, he said, that

smoking was not a Japanese custom; and there was no use taking Japanese

chambers unless you lived up to them. Here was a revelation. Scrymgeour

proposed to live his life in harmony with these rooms. I felt too sad at

heart to say much to him then, but, promising to look in again soon, I

shook hands with my unhappy friend and went away.






It happened, however, that Scrymgeour had been several times in my rooms

before I was able to visit him again. My hand was on his door-bell when

I noticed a figure I thought I knew lounging at the foot of the stair.

It was Scrymgeour himself, and he was smoking the Arcadia. We greeted

each other languidly on the doorstep, Scrymgeour assuring me that Japan

in London was a grand idea. It gave a zest to life, banishing the poor,

weary conventionalities of one's surroundings. This was said while we

still stood at the door, and I began to wonder why Scrymgeour did not

enter his rooms. A beautiful night, he said, rapturously. A cruel east

wind was blowing. He insisted that evening was the time for thinking,

and that east winds brace you up. Would I have a cigar? I would if he

asked me inside to smoke it. My friend sighed. I thought I told you,

he said, that I don't smoke in my chambers. It isn't the thing. Then

he explained, hesitatingly, that he hadn't given up smoking. I come

down here, he said, with my pipe, and walk up and down. I assure you

it is quite a new sensation, and I much prefer it to lolling in an

easy-chair. The poor fellow shivered as he spoke, and I noticed that

his great-coat was tightly buttoned up to the throat. He had a hacking

cough and his teeth were chattering. Let us go in, I said; I don't

want to smoke. He knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and opened his

door with an affectation of gayety.



The room looked somewhat more home-like now, but it was very cold.

Scrymgeour had no fire yet. He had been told that the smoke would

blacken his moon. Besides, I question if he would have dared to remove

the fan from the fireplace without consulting a Japanese authority. He

did not even know whether the Japanese burned coal. I missed a number of

the articles of furniture that had graced his former rooms. The easels

were gone; there were none of the old canvases standing against the

wall, and he had exchanged his comfortable, plain old screen for one

with lizards crawling over it. It would never have done, he explained,

to spoil the room with English things, so I got in some more Japanese

furniture.



I asked him if he had sold his canvases; whereupon he signed me

to follow him to the wine-bin. It was full of them. There were no

newspapers lying about; but Scrymgeour hoped to manage to take one in

by and by. He was only feeling his way at present, he said. In the dim

light shed by a Japanese lamp, I tripped over a rainbow-colored slipper

that tapered to the heel and turned up at the toe. I wonder you can get

into these things, I whispered, for the place depressed me; and he

answered, with similar caution, that he couldn't. I keep them lying

about, he said, confidentially; but after I think nobody is likely

to call I put on an old pair of English ones. At this point the

housekeeper knocked at the door, and Scrymgeour sprang like an acrobat

into a Japanese dressing-gown before he cried Come in! As I left I

asked him how he felt now, and he said that he had never been so happy

in his life. But his hand was hot, and he did not look me in the face.






Nearly a month elapsed before I looked in again. The unfortunate man had

now a Japanese rug over his legs to keep out the cold, and he was gazing

dejectedly at an outlandish mess which he called his lunch. He insisted

that it was not at all bad; but it had evidently been on the table some

time when I called, and he had not even tasted it. He ordered coffee for

my benefit, but I do not care for coffee that has salt in it instead of

sugar. I said that I had merely looked in to ask him to an early dinner

at the club, and it was touching to see how he grasped at the idea. So

complete, however, was his subjection to that terrible housekeeper, who

believed in his fad, that he dared not send back her dishes untasted.

As a compromise I suggested that he could wrap up some of the stuff

in paper and drop it quietly into the gutter. We sallied forth, and

I found him so weak that he had to be assisted into a hansom. He still

maintained, however, that Japanese chambers were worth making some

sacrifice for; and when the other Arcadians saw his condition they had

the delicacy not to contradict him. They thought it was consumption.



If we had not taken Scrymgeour in hand I dare not think what his craze

might have reduced him to. A friend asked him into the country for ten

days, and of course he was glad to go. As it happened, my chambers were

being repapered at the time, and Scrymgeour gave me permission to occupy

his rooms until his return. The other Arcadians agreed to meet me there

nightly, and they were indefatigable in their efforts to put the boudoir

to rights. Jimmy wrote letters to editors, of a most cutting nature, on

the moon, breaking the table as he stepped on and off it, and we gave

the butterflies to William John. The reptiles had to crawl off the door,

and we made pipe-lights of the Japanese fans. Marriot shot the candles

at the mice and birds; and Gilray, by improvising an entertainment

behind the blood-red curtains, contrived to give them the dilapidated

appearance without which there is no real comfort. In short, the boudoir

soon assumed such a homely aspect that Scrymgeour on his return did not

recognize it. When he realized where he was he lighted up at once.





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