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The Colaborators
by [?]

“That is not what I asked, Trewlove. I want to know when you first suspected or satisfied yourself that I was the author.”

“Oh, at once, sir! The style, if I may say so, was unmistakable: in-nimitable, sir, if I may take the libbaty.”

“Excuse me,” I began; but he did not hear. He had passed for the moment beyond decorum, and his eyes began to roll in a manner expressive of inward rapture, but not pretty to watch.

“I had not listened to your talk, sir, in private life–I had not, as one might say, imbibed it–for nothink. The General, sir–your lamented uncle–had a flow: he would, if allowed, and meaning no disrespect, talk the hind leg off a jackass; but I found him lacking in ‘umour. Now you, Mr. George, ‘ave ‘umour. You ‘ave not your uncle’s flow, sir–the Lord forbid! But in give-and-take, as one might say, you are igstreamly droll. On many occasions, sir, when you were extra sparkling I do assure you it required pressure not to igsplode.”

“I thank you, Trewlove,” said I coldly. “But will you, please, waive these unsolicited testimonials and answer my question? Let me put it in another form. Was it in my uncle’s lifetime that you first witnessed my play?”

Trewlove’s eyes ceased to roll, and, meeting mine, withdrew themselves politely behind impenetrable mists. “The General, sir, was opposed to theatre-going in toto; anathemum was no word for what he thought of it. And if it had come to Larks in Aspic, with your permission I will only say ‘Great Scot!'”

“I may take it then that you did not see the play and surprise my secret until after his death?”.

Trewlove drew himself up with fine reserve and dignity. “There is such a thing, sir, I ‘ope, as Libbaty of Conscience.”

With that I let him go. The colloquy had not only done me no service, but had positively emboldened him–or so I seemed to perceive as the weeks went on–in his efforts to cast off his old slough and become a travesty of me, as he had been a travesty of my uncle. I am willing to believe that they caused him pain. A crust of habit so inveterate as his cannot be rent without throes, to the severity of which his facial contortions bore witness whenever he attempted a witticism. Warned by them, I would sometimes admonish him–

“Mirth without vulgarity, Trewlove!”

“Yessir,” he would answer, and add with a sigh, “it’s the best sort, sir– ad-mittedly.”

But if painful to him, this metamorphosis was torture to my nerves. I should explain that, flushed with the success of Larks in Aspic, I had cheerfully engaged myself to provide the Duke of Cornwall’s with a play to succeed it. At the moment of signing the contract my bosom’s lord had sat lightly on its throne, for I felt my head to be humming with ideas. But affluence, or the air of the Cromwell Road, seemed uncongenial to the Muse.

Three months had slipped away. I had not written a line. My ideas, which had seemed on the point of precipitation, surrendering to some centrifugal eddy, slipped one by one beyond grasp. I suppose every writer of experience knows these vacant terrifying intervals; but they were strange to me then, and I had not learnt the virtue of waiting. I grew flurried, and saw myself doomed to be the writer of one play.

In this infirmity the daily presence of Trewlove became intolerable. There arrived an evening when I found myself toying with the knives at dinner, and wondering where precisely lay the level of his fifth rib at the back of my chair.

I dropped the weapon and pushed forward my glass to be refilled. “Trewlove,” said I, “you shall pack for me to-morrow, and send off the servants on board wages. I need a holiday. I–I trust this will not be inconvenient to you?”