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Our Novel. A Summer Holiday Achievement
by [?]

Chapter I. THE PLOT

It was a bold undertaking, no doubt, at our tender age, to propose to take the world by storm. But others had done it before us.

We had read our Wonderful Boys and our Boyhood of Great Men carefully and critically. We had seen that Mozart had composed music at six, and written it down very untidily too; we had seen that Marlborough had, by sheer cheek, been made an officer at about our age; that David Wilkie, one of the dullest of boys, had painted pictures while at school; that Scott, a notorious blockhead, had written poetry at thirteen; and that James Watt, at the same age, with very little education, had pondered over the spout of a tea-kettle.

All this we had seen, and been very greatly impressed, for surely, if some of these very ordinary boys had succeeded in startling their generation, it would be strange, if we two–Sydney Sproutels and Harry Hullock, who had just carried off the English composition prize at Denhamby–couldn’t write something between us that would make the world “sit up.”

That English composition prize had really been a great feather in our caps. It was the first thing of the kind we had done–not the first English composition, but the first sustained literary effort–and it had opened our eyes to the genius that burned within us.

The exercise had been to expand the following brief anecdote into an interesting narrative which should occupy two pages of Denhamby paper with twenty lines in a page:–

“Orpheus, son of Oeagrus and Calliope, having lost his wife, Eurydice, followed her to Hades, where, by the charm of his music, he received permission to conduct her back to earth, on condition that he should not look behind him during the journey. This condition he broke before Eurydice had quite reached earth, and she was in consequence snatched back into Hades.”

I need not say that two pages of Denhamby paper were all too short to express all we had to say on this delightful subject. I, being by nature a poet, could have used all my space in describing the beauties of the spring morning on which Orpheus made his unusual expedition; while Hullock, whose genius was of a more practical order, confided to me afterwards that if he had had room he had intended to introduce a stirring conversation between the widower and his wife’s ghost, in which the latter would make certain very stringent conditions before consenting to return once more to household duties.

However, by dint of severe self-denial, we both managed to restrain our muses to the forty lines prescribed, and sent in our compositions with quite a feeling of envy for the examiner who would have to read them.

When the results were announced, the doctor publicly stated that “though many of the compositions were meritorious, yet, on the whole, those of Sproutels and Hullock showed most originality, and, indeed, gave considerable promise. The prize would be shared between them.”

Of course, after that, all question as to our calling in life was at an end, and the sooner we “fleshed” our pens before the world the better. So it was arranged that Hullock was to get his father and mother to invite me for the midsummer holidays, and that before Denhamby saw us again, “Our Novel” should be started.

The Hullock family, it is necessary to say here, consisted of my partner, his two parents, a maiden aunt, and a sister. Mr Hullock, a good and worthy little man, who had not had all the advantages of education which his son possessed, was a retired coal merchant, spending the afternoon of his days at Saint Leonards.

His wife, as kind and motherly as she was tall and portly, treated me like her own son from the moment I entered her house.