He had been away so long that few people remembered him, but his last exploit before leaving ensured that in the minds of those few he remained clear and definite. His wife, when she set out to meet him, was accompanied by a Reception Committee of three, and as they waited outside the large building where he had been staying for the last few months (his hosts kept several important establishments in various parts of the country and he had spent part of the time at one, part at others), as they waited, I say, under the avenue of trees well away from the front door—having, as a point of delicacy, no desire to be seen by the servants about the place—they speculated on the probable improvement in his personal appearance. Members of the Committee recalled precedents where So-and-so went away stout and unhealthy on a p. 190vacation of similar length, and came back so trim and brown that his own sweetheart would not have known him had she remained in the neighbourhood.

“Here he is!” cried the wife suddenly. “I could tell him, bless ’is heart, in a thousan’.”

“That ain’t him!”

“He’s got a short beard, at any rate,” urged the wife, admitting her error grudgingly as the visitor was claimed and marched off by another lady.

“They all ’ave. Try to use your intelligence, why don’t you!”

“Well,” said the wife, pointing her umbrella at a sharp-eyed man, who, coming out of the large doorway, glanced around suspiciously, “well, at least that’s not my Jim.” The sharp-eyed man came across the open space towards them, still keeping a look-out on either side. “He’s mistaking us for his own people. My Jim’s a better-looking man than him.”

“If you say that again, Meria,” remarked the arriving man in tones that could not be mistaken, “I shall have to— Now then, now then! I don’t want no kissing!”

He was dressed in a suit for which he had not been measured, and his boots were scarcely p. 191a precise fit; he shambled along with his friends, responding gruffly to their polite inquiries and complaining bitterly—first, that they should have come to meet him; second, that so many friends were absent. Informed that some of these were no longer alive, he declined to accept this as a sufficient excuse, describing them as a cantankerous lot, ever thoughtless where the feelings of others were concerned. They stopped quite naturally at the first place of refreshment, and he criticised the beverage set before him, declaring that had he known beer could be so bad, he would not have worried his thoughts so much about it during recent years. He was equally dissatisfied with his first pipe of tobacco, which he had some trouble to light, and when he heard that his sister had married a respectable fruiterer, off Bethnal Green Road, he made no attempt to conceal his annoyance with the way the world had been managed during his absence.

“Once I turn my back for a moment—” he said disgustedly. “Who’s got the pub at the corner of our street?”

“I’ve moved, James,” explained his wife apologetically.

p. 192“Moved? Who told you to move?”

“The landlord, dear.”

“Don’t you begin ‘dearing’ of me,” he retorted threateningly. “Why wasn’t I asked?”

“There was no opportunity, James.”

“Bah!” he said, in the manner of one who can find no other repartee. He turned to the men. “What ’ave you three come all the way down ere’ for? On the make, I s’pose?”

“We are not on the make,” said the leader precisely. “Recollecting what you was put away for, we have come down ’ere to offer you, as something in the nature of a hero, a ’earty welcome on your return to what we may venture to term your ’earth and ’ome.” James relaxed the sternness of his demeanour, and took another sip from his glass, this time without making a wry face. “We’re a-going to make a fuss of you, old man.”

“Don’t go overdoing it,” he said grudgingly.

They reached Hoxton at about noon, not because the way was long, but because the Committee, possessing funds, desired to do the thing well. A neighbour had taken charge of the arrangements for dinner, and the three men, arrived at the door in Hammerton Street, p. 193mentioned gracefully that the reunited pair would in all probability like to be left alone for a few hours, and withdrew; first, however, warning James that he would be expected at the Green Man that evening at eight o’clock precisely, at which hour a few select friends would be present to wish him success in his future career.

“Whad ye mean by my future career?” he demanded. “What are you three a-getting at now?”

“It’s all right, old chap,” they answered soothingly. “Only a form of speech, you know.”

“Be a bit more careful how you pick your words,” he retorted threateningly. “I ’aven’t come back to be ragged by such as you.”

He was still rather surly that evening when he made his appearance at the Green Man; he explained to one who was formerly his closest friend that he had been enjoying a bit of a talk with the wife. Surroundings in the clubroom were, however, so congenial that before long he showed guarded signs of amiability, albeit he found grounds for annoyance in the fact that some of his old companions had p. 194prospered, and had given up what was referred to as the old game to engage on sport that, relatively speaking, was of an honest, law-abiding character. His best friend indeed owned a large gold chain and a watch at the end of it; he was now a bookmaker by profession, not, of course, a literary person, but one who made money. On James suggesting they might perhaps go into partnership together in the racecourse business, the closest friend said, with some reserve, that it was an occupation requiring years of patient study, and the fact of James having been out of the movement so long barred him both from participating in the profits or sharing the losses.

“See what I mean, don’t you?” asked the bookmaker. “Chuck that what you’re smoking away, and have a real cigar!”

“I shan’t give you another opportunity,” said James curtly. “Should have thought you would have been glad of a pretty sharp man for your right ’and.”

“But you’ve been rusting,” pointed out the bookmaker. (“Now you’ve been and bitten off the wrong end.”)

Nothing, however, could exceed the geniality p. 195of the hosts. Thick crusty sandwiches rested on the deal tables; there was no stint, so far as the guest of the evening was concerned, in regard to liquids. Everybody crowded around him in a flattering way and everybody shook him by the hand several times; a few promising younger men, who were brought up and introduced, showed themselves highly sensible of the honour, and asked eagerly what adventure he thought of going in for next.

“’Aven’t quite made up me mind,” he replied cautiously.

The younger men winked knowingly at each other, saying that James was a deep one and no mistake, adding that an ability to keep one’s head shut was a gift to be envied. They had singing later. Songs were given which for James (who had no musical tastes) should at least have possessed the charm of novelty; the slang contained in them and in the public speech of many of those present was to him quite incomprehensible. They repeated unceasingly that they wished him well, and the bookmaker made a speech just before closing time in which he pointed out that every man-jack present was prepared to give James a p. 196helping hand. Never should it be said of them that they had refused a helping hand to one of the best. A helping hand was due to such a hero and a helping hand he should have.

“Friends, one and all,” said James. (He refused for some minutes to make a speech, but gave in to encouragement.) “Friends, one and all.”

A cry of “So you said!” and reproving shouts of “Order!”

“I’ve been away from you fer a few year owin’ to—owin’ to circs not altogether under my control” (the room laughed uproariously), “but I’m back in the midst of you once more, and I can tell you one thing, and that ain’t two, I’m jolly glad of it! I’ve had quite enough penal to last me my time. I’m full up of it! I’ve reached me limit! It’s no catch, I tell you!” (Murmurs of sympathy.) “If there’s any one ’ere that’s acquired a taste for it, they’re welcome to my share. I don’t know that I have much more to say. I ’aven’t had much practice at public speaking of late. Once you begin to ’old forth in there” (here he gave a vague jerk of the head), “why, they let you know it. Anyway, it’s no use ’arping on the past, and in regard to the promise of a p. 197’elping ’and to which you, Mr. Chairman, have so kindly referred, and to me being a hero, there’s only one thing I want to say, and that is this: I shall keep you to it!”

The club-room seemed to think the last sentence had an ungracious sound, and there would have been an inclination to hedge only that the white-sleeved potman arrived at that moment with a dictatorial shout of “Now you cheps! Time!” and the party had to break up. Out in the street, James’s arm was again in request, and his hand was shaken so often with so many assurances of admiration and enthusiastic comradeship, that he went off towards Hammerton Street quite dazed and not sure whether he had won a battle, or saved lives from drowning. The men cheered him as he left and began to chant an appropriate song, but a policeman came up, and the crowd, not wishful for argument with the force, said respectfully, “It’s all right, Mr. Langley, sir; we’re just on the move,” and disappeared.

Womenfolk came round to Hammerton Street the next day asking to be permitted to see him, and James’s wife would have taken another day off, but James said there had p. 198been quite enough gadding about for her already, and insisted she should go to work. He sunned himself at the front door with a fine pretence of not knowing that he was being observed, the while women on the opposite side of the pavement held up their babies to see him and whispered admiring comments.

“You’d never think it to look at him, would you, now?”

“I recollect his case as well as anything. It was before I was married to my present ’usband, but I can recollect it all just as though it was only yesterday. I remember so well saying to my young sister—I was on speaking terms with her just then—I remember saying, ‘Ah, well!’ I said. Just like that!”

“She’s kept herself to herself, mind you, all the time he’s been away. I will say that for her!”

“Wonder what he’ll be up to now. He’s turning something over in his mind, I lay!”

The hero could not help being pleased with all this attention, and after he had taken his dinner at a coffee-shop, where the waitress, informed of his distinguished reputation, stood back and watched him over an illustrated p. 199paper, he put on a collar and again lounged at the doorway. The crowd was not so great now, and consisted for the greater part of children who played tip-cat, and gave no notice to him excepting when his presence interfered with the game. Disappointed with his audience, James went indoors and, taking off his collar, indulged in the unaccustomed luxury of an afternoon nap. When his wife returned from work it struck him that she was slightly more argumentative in manner than she had been on the first day; in the course of debate she threw out a most disconcerting hint in regard to a job of work, news of which had come to her ears.

“Look ’ere, my gel!” said James definitely. “You may as well understand me fust as last. A man with so many friends as I’ve got won’t want to work for many a long day yet.”

Nevertheless the idea gave him perturbation and he went round to the Green Man to meet the friends referred to and receive from them reinforcement of his hopes and views. There were only two or three in sight, and these were outside the house; they hailed him with a casual cry of, “’Ullo, James! Your turn to stand drinks, ain’t it?” and p. 200having brought some money out, the savings of his compulsory retreat, he found himself compelled to entertain them.

“And what you think of doing now, James?” they asked. (“Here’s luck!”)

“Well,” he said slowly, “I s’pose eventually I shall ’ave to find, as the missis says, something or other. But not yet for a month or two.”

“You’ll probably discover a chance of—”

“No,” said James with emphasis. “Not me! No more jobs on the cross for this child. Risks are too great.”

“But you don’t mean to say that you’re going to chuck it?” The men were so much amazed that their glasses remained in mid-air.

“If you guess again,” said James stolidly, “you’ll be wrong.”

He looked about in Hoxton the rest of the evening for friends, and looked about in vain. The next day he called on his closest friend, the bookmaker; the bookmaker was just off to Kempton Park and in peril of losing a train at Waterloo. He had heard, it seemed, of James’s decision, and James could trace no sign of the generous friendship previously p. 201expressed. To James’s suggestion that he should accompany the bookmaker to Kempton Park, and enjoy a day at the other’s expense, the reply came prompt and definite. “That be ’anged for a tale!” said the bookmaker.

On the following Monday James went to ask about the job of work to which his wife had referred; all his worst fears were confirmed when he found himself successful in obtaining it.

“Drawback of being an ’ero is,” said James gloomily, “that it don’t last much more than about five minutes.”

eCommerce Basis

“A rare rush whilst it lasts,” mentioned Mrs. Crowther, assisting in the task of clearing tables. “My dear husband used to reckon up how much we should be making profit in a year if, instead of being from twelve to two, it went on from what he called early morn to dewy eve.” She sighed. “Mr. Crowther had a lot of poetry in his disposition—much more so than most eating-house keepers in Millwall.”

“Did he make bits up out of his own ’ead?” asked the girl deferentially.

“Ethel,” said the proprietress, nursing a column of plates and speaking with resolution, “you’re new to the place, and you’re not full acquainted with the rules. Understand, once for all, please, that I don’t allow a word to be said against my late husband—nor whispered.”

p. 203“Here’s a stray customer coming in, ma’am,” remarked the assistant. “Give me that armful, and you see to him.”

A stout man, after examining the day’s announcement outside, entered and sat down with the relieved air common to those who have walked a great distance and to those who find in any form of exercise a source of trouble; he took off his hat, hung up his overcoat, and said, with relish, “Here comes the busy part of my day!”

Mrs. Crowther rested one palm on the table and gazed at the reversed notice on the window: “The Best of Everything and Everything of the Best,” giving him the space to make up his mind.

“You’ve got a nice little show here.”

“Not bad, sir,” she replied briefly. “What can I get for you?”

“Been all done up recently, too, if I mistake not. If it hadn’t been that I remembered it was exactly opposite the entrance to the works I shouldn’t have recognised it. Spent some of the ’appiest hours of my life, I did, over the way.”

“The steak and kidney pudding is off,” she said, glancing over his shoulder. She p. 204took the bill of fare from his hand and deleted the entry, returning the pencil to its position in the fastening of her blouse. Frowning at the impetuosity exhibited, he gave an order. She left, and returned with the liver and bacon and a basket containing squares of household bread.

“Any idea where my old friend Crowther is at the present moment?” he asked jovially. “Him and me were great chums in the old days that are past and done with.”

“He’s gone.”

“Where to?”

She pointed upward reverently.

“That isn’t exactly the place where I should have thought of looking for him.”

“What do you mean by that?” she demanded sharply.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, beginning to eat. “Only very few of us in this world, ma’am, if you don’t mind putting yourself out of the question, can be looked upon as perfect. My name’s Hards,” he went on, his mouth full. “Hards, with an aitch. Daresay you’ve heard him mention me. I’m speaking now of—what shall I say?—four, or it might be the early part of five. We were what p. 205they call inseparable, him and me, at that period.”

“Crowther gave up all his former companions when I married him.”

“He used to complain that you ruled him with a rod of iron.”

“I only wish,” she declared vehemently, “that the dear man was here to contradict you.”

“Crowther was the sort of chap,” said the other, with deliberation, “who’d contradict anything. Never better pleased than when he was arguing that black was white. I’ve known Crowther say one thing to a girl one minute, and another the—”

The customer found his plate snatched away, the remainder of his chunk of bread swept to the floor.

“Go off out of my dining-rooms,” she ordered. “Don’t you stay here another minute, or else I may use language that I shall be sorry for afterwards, and that you’ll be sorry for afterwards. There’s your hat, hanging up just behind you. Now move, sharp!”

The sleeves of his overcoat, owing to some defect in the lining, were difficult to manage, p. 206and this gave him time to protest. He had come, he declared, with no other intention than that of giving patronage to an establishment which he remembered, with affection, in the time of Crowther’s mother, and to enjoy a talk over the past; if, in the course of conversation, he had over-stepped the mark, no one regretted it more acutely than himself. A plain man, accustomed to speaking his mind, he often found that he gave offence where none was intended.

“Jack Blunt they used to call me over at the works,” he added penitently. “Owing to me having the awk’ard trick of always telling the truth!”

Mrs. Crowther so far relented as to call the new girl; she instructed her to attend to the customer the while she herself retired to the back to wash up dishes. Mr. Hards said in a whisper to the attendant: “Don’t seem to have quite pulled it off, first go!” and Ethel, also in an undertone, replied: “Mustn’t get discouraged, uncle. Mother always says it’s your one fault. Unsettle her mind about him, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

He read a newspaper after the meal, and sent to the proprietress a deferential inquiry, p. 207asking whether he might be allowed to smoke, and presently hit upon a device for securing another interview.

“Your memory seems not quite what it ought to be,” said Mrs. Crowther, following him to the doorway. “If I were you I’d see a chemist about it.”

“I should have recollected that I hadn’t settled up,” he declared, “just about as I was coming up from the subway at Greenwich.” He found coins. “No,” gazing at a shilling reverently, “mustn’t let you have that one with the hole through it. I was told it would bring me luck. Crowther was wrong for once, but he meant well.”

“Did that really once belong to my dear husband?” she asked, with eagerness. “Oh, do let me look. I’d give almost anything to be allowed to keep it.”

“Kindly accept it, ma’am, as a present from me, and as a kind of apology for the blunder I made just now.”

“I treasure everything he left behind,” said Mrs. Crowther tearfully, “since he went, last December, and I don’t know in the least how to thank you. Drop in any day you’re passing by, and let’s have another quiet chat; p. 208I’m never ’appier than when I’m talking about him.”

“My time’s practically my own,” answered Mr. Hards. “Since I retired from over opposite, owing to a slight disagreement years ago, I’ve done a bit of work, book-canvassing, but that don’t take up the entire day. So long!”

A few of the men came into the restaurant, after leaving the works; these were folk who had no expectations of finding tea or supper waiting at home, and they would have stayed on in comfort, gazing admiringly at the young proprietress, only that Mrs. Crowther offered a broad hint by instructing Ethel to find the shutters. They were drifting off, reluctantly, and one was saying to the rest that he would certainly make a dash for it (implying by this that he would make a proposal of marriage) if the lady were not so obviously devoted to a memory, when Mr. Hards appeared at the doorway, heated and exhausted by the effort to arrive before closing-time. With him a shy-looking companion, who had to be taken by the arm because he exhibited inclination to refrain, at the last moment, from entering. “Be a sport,” urged p. 209Mr. Hards. The other intimated by his manner that the task was, for him, considerable.

“Looking younger than ever,” declared Mr. Hards effusively. “How are you, ma’am, by this time? Still keeping well? Allow me to introduce you to my friend Ashton.”

“Very pleased,” said Mrs. Crowther with a nod. “What will you gentlemen take—tea or coffee?”

“Don’t suppose,” he remarked still in complimentary tones, “that we shall be able to tell any difference. Ashton, you decide.”

Ashton, looking around, inquired whether the place did not possess a licence; Mrs. Crowther gave the answer, and he said that perhaps coffee would do him as little harm as anything.

“Happened to run across him,” explained Mr. Hards, “and mentioned that I’d met you by chance, ma’am, and he says ‘Not the widow of silly old Millwall Crowther?’ he says. Just like that. Didn’t you, Ashton?”

Mrs. Crowther turned abruptly, and went to furnish the order. “Mind you say ‘yes’ to everything,” ordered Hards privately and strenuously, “or else I’ll make it hot for you.”

p. 210The two greeted Mrs. Crowther with frank and open countenances.

“The late lamented,” went on Mr. Hards, with a confidential air, “as you may or may not be aware, used to be in the ’abit of paying attentions to my friend Ashton’s sister.”

“I know all about that,” she remarked curtly. “It was before he met me.”

“And, realising how anxious you was to get hold of everything that once belonged to him, I persuaded him to hop off home and have a search. And lo and behold,” producing a small paper parcel from the inside pocket of his overcoat, “he found this.” Mr. Hards untied the string with deliberation. “There you are!” triumphantly. “Pearls from the Poets. And inside, his handwriting.”

“Not sure that I want anything that he gave away to another lady at a time when him and me were not acquainted.”

“The date’ll settle that,” said Hards. “Ashton, your eyes are younger than mine; what do you make of it?”

Ashton recited the entry with an emphasis on the date; Mrs. Crowther grabbed at the book, glanced at the writing, and sat down p. 211on the nearest chair, gazing steadily at a ginger-ale advertisement.

“Don’t tell me,” begged Hards distressedly, “that I’ve put my foot into it again. ’Pon my word, if I ain’t the most unlucky chap alive. If I’d had the leastest idea that I was going to be the means of disclosing to you the circumstance that Crowther gave away presents of this kind, and with this sort of remark, after he was married to you, why, I’d sooner—”

She started up with the book, and, selecting the fly-page, placed this between her eyes and the gas-light.

“Some one’s been altering the date,” she said quietly. She threw the volume across. “You gentlemen have got just two minutes and a half before we close for the night. And, as the business is doing pretty well, perhaps you don’t mind if I suggest you never show your faces inside here again.” She went.

“Any objection to me offering you a word of advice, old man?” asked Ashton, on the pavement. “You’re on the wrong tack. When a woman’s made up her mind, the best plan is to agree with her. What you ought to do—”

p. 212“Keep quiet,” ordered the other exasperatedly. “Can’t you see I’m thinking?”

They crossed, and walked beside the blank wall of the works.

Ashton was again invited, in plain language, to preserve silence by putting his head in a bag. The lights went out in the restaurant opposite; on the first floor a match was struck and applied to the gas globes; the music of a pianoforte was heard.

“It’s a shame,” declared Hards, throwing out his arms emphatically, “a right-down shame for a nice-looking young woman of her sort to be left alone and neglected. Here she is, able to cook, able to play, very good to look at, and she’s no business to be left by herself.”

“Evidently she don’t want to be left with you.”

“You hop off home,” ordered Hards, “soon as ever you like, and take that book with you, and don’t you ever attempt to interfere again with matters you’ve got no concern in. Otherwise—”

His friend hurried away without taking the opportunity to hear the alternative.

Mr. Hards waited until his niece came out p. 213with a letter for the post. A whistle brought her to him from the pillar-box.

“Who was it addressed to?” he demanded. The girl replied that she had omitted to look.

“’Pon my word,” he cried, “I seem to be surrounded by lunatics. Nobody’s got a particle of sense, so far as I can ascertain, excepting myself. No wonder I can’t manage matters as I should like. But, putting all that on one side, what I want now is another interview with her.”

“Judging by what she said after you left, you’re not likely to get it.”

“Look here, my girl. It was your own mother’s suggestion at the start, and she won’t be best pleased if you make yourself a stumbling-block. She, for some reason, seems to have got tired of me living in her house at Greenwich, and it was her idea I should marry well, and settle down somewhere else. Apart from which, I’ve arrived at a time of life when I need a woman’s care and good feeding, and enough money in my pocket to stand treat to friends after they’ve stood treat to me.” He spoke distinctly. “I’m going to knock at that door over there presently, and you’ve got to let me in, and you can stand by and p. 214listen whilst I say a few words, and put it all on a proper footing.”

“But she hates the very sight of you.”

“The sort of sensation,” he declared, “that can soon be turned to love.”

Mr. Hards thought it wiser, on finding himself outside the door of the restaurant, to give a sharp double knock. He smiled contentedly on hearing young Mrs. Crowther’s voice call out: “It’s all right, Ethel. Only the postman. I’ll answer him!” She opened the door, and faced him with a look of expectancy that at once vanished.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, taking off his hat, “but I’ve been speaking my mind to that young fellow, and he asked me to call back and apologise on his behalf. I never noticed what he’d been up to, altering that date; it wanted a lady’s sharpness and a lady’s intelligence to detect that. What he wants me to say is he acted on the impulse of the moment.”

“He’d better give up acting altogether,” she remarked. “Did you really know my husband well, or was it all gas?”

“Didn’t I never tell you about that affair poor Crowther and me had with a bobby down p. 215near the London Docks one night in November? A fine chap,” went on Hards reminiscently, “if ever there was one. The way he could put up his dooks whenever there was trouble about! I seldom met a fellow who was his equal. He was what I call a manly man. When they told me he’d gone and left you a widow I cried like a child, I did.”

“I was upset at the time,” remarked Mrs. Crowther, “but it soon wore off.”

“It’s often struck me,” he went on, surprised, “that perhaps you didn’t appreciate him at his true value whilst he was alive. Very likely you don’t know, as I know, the way he used to talk about you behind your back.”

“If it was anything like the way he talked in front of my face, I’d rather not hear.”

“Anyway, I daresay, ma’am, you often find yourself looking about for his successor?”

“To tell you the truth, I do.”

He tried to take her hand, but failed.

“I can see him now,” he remarked sentimentally. “We was walking together in Stratford Broadway, and suddenly he turned to me and he says, ‘Ernest,’ he says, ‘something seems to tell me I’m not long for this p. 216world. I want you to make me a promise,’ he says. ‘If anything amiss happens to me, I look to you to be a friend to the wife. And if so be,’ he says, with a sort of a kind of a break in his voice, ‘if so be as you should take a fancy to her, and she should take a fancy to you, nothing would give me more pleasure looking down on you both,’ he says, ‘than to—’”

“Bequeathed me to you, did he?”

“It amounts to that, ma’am.”

“All this is news to me,” she remarked. “About what date was it?”

“About what date?” echoed Hards, rubbing his chin. “I can give it you within a very little. It was the night before I met William Humphries, and him and me had a few friendly words about football, and I was in the horspital for three weeks. That was the early part of December. I think it was December you said that poor Crowther drew his last breath. Must have been only a few days—three at the utmost—that he had his talk with me.”

“That seems strange.”

“Strange things do occur in this world.”

“Because Crowther was laid up in his last illness for four months inside this house, and p. 217never went outside until the undertaker’s man carried him. And a pretty tidy nuisance he was, too, then, and, in fact, all the time I was married to him. Is that a constable-coming along, or a postman?”

Hards, having ascertained that the approaching man did not represent the law, remained, searching his mind busily. The postman stopped, gave Mrs. Crowther a letter with a foreign postmark, and remarked that the evening was fine.

“His ship will be home here within a fortnight,” she cried excitedly, glancing at the first words of the communication. “Two weeks from to-day.”


“Nobody you know,” said Mrs. Crowther. “And then we shall be married, and I shan’t have to keep the men at the works off by pretending to be so fond of my first. It’s taken a bit of doing. Let me think, now. You want to see Ethel, I expect, don’t you?”

“I don’t want to see no one,” he declared with an emphatic gesture, “no one on this side of the river ever again, so long as I jolly well live!”