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The Mission Of Mr. Eustace Greyne
by [?]


Mrs. Eustace Greyne (pronounced Green) wrinkled her forehead–that noble, that startling forehead which had been written about in the newspapers of two hemispheres–laid down her American Squeezer pen, and sighed. It was an autumn day, nipping and melancholy, full of the rustle of dying leaves and the faint sound of muffin bells, and Belgrave Square looked sad even to the great female novelist who had written her way into a mansion there. Fog hung about with the policeman on the pavement. The passing motor cars were like shadows. Their stertorous pantings sounded to Mrs. Greyne’s ears like the asthma of dying monsters. She sighed again, and murmured in a deep contralto voice: “It must be so.” Then she got up, crossed the heavy Persian carpet which had been bought with the proceeds of a short story in her earlier days, and placed her forefinger upon an electric bell.

Like lightning a powdered giant came.

“Has Mr. Greyne gone out?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Where is he?”

“In his study, ma’am, pasting the last of the cuttings into the new album.”

Mrs. Greyne smiled. It was a pretty picture the unconscious six-footer had conjured up.

“I am sorry to disturb Mr. Greyne,” she answered, with that gracious, and even curling suavity which won all hearts; “but I wish to see him. Will you ask him to come to me for a moment?”

The giant flew, silk-stockinged, to obey the mandate, while Mrs. Greyne sat down on a carved oaken chair of ecclesiastical aspect to await her husband.

She was a famous woman, a personage, this simply-attired lady. With an American Squeezer pen she had won fame, fortune, and a mansion in Belgrave Square, and all without the sacrifice of principle. Respectability incarnate, she had so dealt with the sorrows and evils of the world that she had rendered them utterly acceptable to Mrs. Grundy, Mr. Grundy, and all the Misses Grundy. People said she dived into the depths of human nature, and brought up nothing that need scandalise a curate’s grandmother, or the whole-aunt of an archdeacon; and this was so true that she had made a really prodigious amount of money. Her large, her solid, her unrelenting books lay upon every table. Even the smart set kept them, uncut–like pretty sinners who have never been “found out”–to give an air of haphazard intellectuality to frisky boudoirs, All the clergy, however unable to get their tithes, bought them. All bishops alluded to them in “pulpit utterances.” Fabulous prices were paid for them by magazine editors. They ran as serials through all the tale of months. The suburbs battened on them. The provinces adored them. Country people talked of no other literature. In fact, Mrs. Eustace Greyne was a really fabulous success.

Why, then, should she heave these heavy sighs in Belgrave Square? Why should she lift an intellectual hand as though to tousle the glossy chestnut bandeaux which swept back from her forcible forehead, and screw her reassuring features into these wrinkles of perplexity and distress?

The door opened, and Mr. Eustace Greyne appeared, “What is it, Eugenia?” upon his lips.

Mr. Greyne was a number of years younger than his celebrated wife, and looked even younger than his years. He was a very smart man, with smooth, jet-black hair, which he wore parted in the middle; pleasant, dark eyes that could twinkle gently; a clear, pale complexion; and a nice, tall figure. One felt, in glancing at him, that he had been an Eton boy, and had at least thought of going into the militia at some period of his life. His history can be briefly told.

Scarcely had he emerged into the world before he met and was married to Mrs. Eustace Greyne, then Miss Eugenia Hannibal-Barker. He had had no time to sow a single oat, wild or otherwise; no time to adore a barmaid, or wish to have his name linked with that of an actress; no time to do anything wrong, or even to know, with the complete accuracy desired by all persevering young men, what was really wrong. Miss Eugenia Hannibal-Barker sailed upon his horizon, and he struck his flag to matrimony. Ever since then he had been her husband, and had never, even for one second, emerged beyond the boundaries of the most intellectual respectability. He was the most innocent of men, although he knew all the important editors in London. Swaddled in money by his successful wife, he considered her a goddess. She poured the thousands into Coutts’ Bank, and with the arrival of each fresh thousand he was more firmly convinced that she was a goddess. To say he looked up to her would be too mild. As the Cockney tourist in Chamounix peers at the summit of Mont Blanc, he peered at Mrs. Greyne. And when, finally, she bought the lease of the mansion in Belgrave Square, he knew her Delphic.