My Brother Henry

Strictly speaking I never had a brother Henry, and yet I cannot say that

Henry was an impostor. He came into existence in a curious way, and I

can think of him now without malice as a child of smoke. The first I

heard of Henry was at Pettigrew's house, which is in a London suburb,

so conveniently situated that I can go there and back in one day. I was

testing some new Cabanas, I remember, when Pettigrew remarked that he

had been lunching with a man who knew my brother Henry. Not having any

brother but Alexander, I felt that Pettigrew had mistaken the name.

Oh, no, Pettigrew said; he spoke of Alexander too. Even this did not

convince me, and I asked my host for his friend's name. Scudamour was

the name of the man, and he had met my brothers Alexander and Henry

years before in Paris. Then I remembered Scudamour, and I probably

frowned, for I myself was my own brother Henry. I distinctly recalled

Scudamour meeting Alexander and me in Paris, and calling me Henry,

though my name begins with a J. I explained the mistake to Pettigrew,

and here, for the time being, the matter rested. However, I had by no

means heard the last of Henry.

Several times afterward I heard from various persons that Scudamour

wanted to meet me because he knew my brother Henry. At last we did meet,

in Jimmy's chambers; and, almost as soon as he saw me, Scudamour asked

where Henry was now. This was precisely what I feared. I am a man who

always looks like a boy. There are few persons of my age in London who

retain their boyish appearance as long as I have done; indeed, this is

the curse of my life. Though I am approaching the age of thirty, I pass

for twenty; and I have observed old gentlemen frown at my precocity when

I said a good thing or helped myself to a second glass of wine. There

was, therefore, nothing surprising in Scudamour's remark, that, when he

had the pleasure of meeting Henry, Henry must have been about the age

that I had now reached. All would have been well had I explained the

real state of affairs to this annoying man; but, unfortunately for

myself, I loathe entering upon explanations to anybody about anything.

This it is to smoke the Arcadia. When I ring for a time-table and

William John brings coals instead, I accept the coals as a substitute.

Much, then, did I dread a discussion with Scudamour, his surprise when

he heard that I was Henry, and his comments on my youthful appearance.

Besides, I was smoking the best of all mixtures. There was no likelihood

of my meeting Scudamour again, so the easiest way to get rid of him

seemed to be to humor him. I therefore told him that Henry was in India,

married, and doing well. Remember me to Henry when you write to him,

was Scudamour's last remark to me that evening.

A few weeks later some one tapped me on the shoulder in Oxford Street.

It was Scudamour. Heard from Henry? he asked. I said I had heard by

the last mail. Anything particular in the letter? I felt it would not

do to say that there was nothing particular in a letter which had come

all the way from India, so I hinted that Henry was having trouble with

his wife. By this I meant that her health was bad; but he took it up in

another way, and I did not set him right. Ah, ah! he said, shaking his

head sagaciously; I'm sorry to hear that. Poor Henry! Poor old boy!

was all I could think of replying. How about the children? Scudamour

asked. Oh, the children, I said, with what I thought presence of mind,

are coming to England. To stay with Alexander? he asked. My answer

was that Alexander was expecting them by the middle of next month; and

eventually Scudamour went away muttering, Poor Henry! In a month or so

we met again. No word of Henry's getting leave of absence? asked

Scudamour. I replied shortly that Henry had gone to live in Bombay, and

would not be home for years. He saw that I was brusque, so what does he

do but draw me aside for a quiet explanation. I suppose, he said,

you are annoyed because I told Pettigrew that Henry's wife had run away

from him. The fact is, I did it for your good. You see, I happened to

make a remark to Pettigrew about your brother Henry, and he said that

there was no such person. Of course I laughed at that, and pointed out

not only that I had the pleasure of Henry's acquaintance, but that

you and I had talked about the old fellow every time we met. 'Well,'

Pettigrew said, 'this is a most remarkable thing; for he,' meaning

you, 'said to me in this very room, sitting in that very chair, that

Alexander was his only brother.' I saw that Pettigrew resented your

concealing the existence of your brother Henry from him, so I thought

the most friendly thing I could do was to tell him that your reticence

was doubtless due to the unhappy state of poor Henry's private affairs.

Naturally in the circumstances you did not want to talk about Henry. I

shook Scudamour by the hand, telling him that he had acted judiciously;

but if I could have stabbed him in the back at that moment I dare say

I would have done it.

I did not see Scudamour again for a long time, for I took care to keep

out of his way; but I heard first from him and then of him. One day he

wrote to me saying that his nephew was going to Bombay, and would I be

so good as to give the youth an introduction to my brother Henry? He

also asked me to dine with him and his nephew. I declined the dinner,

but I sent the nephew the required note of introduction to Henry.

The next I heard of Scudamour was from Pettigrew. By the way, said

Pettigrew, Scudamour is in Edinburgh at present. I trembled, for

Edinburgh is where Alexander lives. What has taken him there? I

asked, with assumed carelessness. Pettigrew believed it was business;

but, he added, Scudamour asked me to tell you that he meant to call

on Alexander, as he was anxious to see Henry's children. A few days

afterward I had a telegram from Alexander, who generally uses this means

of communication when he corresponds with me.

Do you know a man, Scudamour? Reply, was what Alexander said. I

thought of answering that we had met a man of that name when we were

in Paris; but after consideration, I replied boldly: Know no one of

name of Scudamour.

About two months ago I passed Scudamour in Regent Street, and he scowled

at me. This I could have borne if there had been no more of Henry; but I

knew that Scudamour was now telling everybody about Henry's wife.

By and by I got a letter from an old friend of Alexander's asking me

if there was any truth in a report that Alexander was going to Bombay.

Soon afterward Alexander wrote to me saying he had been told by several

persons that I was going to Bombay. In short, I saw that the time had

come for killing Henry. So I told Pettigrew that Henry had died of

fever, deeply regretted; and asked him to be sure to tell Scudamour,

who had always been interested in the deceased's welfare. Pettigrew

afterward told me that he had communicated the sad intelligence to

Scudamour. How did he take it? I asked. Well, Pettigrew said,

reluctantly, he told me that when he was up in Edinburgh he did not get

on well with Alexander. But he expressed great curiosity as to Henry's

children. Ah, I said, the children were both drowned in the Forth; a

sad affair--we can't bear to talk of it. I am not likely to see much of

Scudamour again, nor is Alexander. Scudamour now goes about saying that

Henry was the only one of us he really liked.