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[Frontispiece: Photograph of J. M. Barrie]






THE NOVELS, TALES AND SKETCHES OF J. M. BARRIE


BETTER DEAD



[Transcriber's note: This volume from which this e-book was created
contained originally the two books, "Auld Licht Idylls" and "Better
Dead." The Introduction (below) discusses both books.]




PUBLISHED IN NEW YORK BY

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1896




AUTHOR'S EDITION

Copyright, 1896, by CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS.




TO

FREDERICK GREENWOOD




INTRODUCTION

This is the only American edition of my books produced with my
sanction, and I have special reasons for thanking Messrs. Scribner for
its publication; they let it be seen, by this edition, what are my
books, for I know not how many volumes purporting to be by me, are in
circulation in America which are no books of mine. I have seen several
of these, bearing such titles as "Two of Them," "An Auld Licht Manse,"
"A Tillyloss Scandal," and some of them announce themselves as author's
editions, or published by arrangement with the author. They consist of
scraps collected and published without my knowledge, and I entirely
disown them. I have written no books save those that appear in this
edition.

I am asked to write a few lines on the front page of each of these
volumes, to say something, as I take it, about how they came into
being. Well, they were written mainly to please one woman who is now
dead, but as I am writing a little book about my mother I shall say no
more of her here.

Many of the chapters in "Auld Licht Idylls" first appeared in a
different form in the _St. James's Gazette_, and there is little doubt
that they would never have appeared anywhere but for the encouragement
given to me by the editor of that paper. It was pressure from him that
induced me to write a second "Idyll" and a third after I thought the
first completed the picture, he set me thinking seriously of these
people, and though he knew nothing of them himself, may be said to have
led me back to them. It seems odd, and yet I am not the first nor the
fiftieth who has left Thrums at sunrise to seek the life-work that was
all the time awaiting him at home. And we seldom sally forth a second
time. I had always meant to be a novelist, but London, I thought, was
the quarry.

For long I had an uneasy feeling that no one save the editor read my
contributions, for I was leading a lonely life in London, and not
another editor could I find in the land willing to print the Scotch
dialect. The magazines, Scotch and English, would have nothing to say
to me--I think I tried them all with "The Courting of T'nowhead's
Bell," but it never found shelter until it got within book-covers. In
time, however, I found another paper, the _British Weekly_, with an
editor as bold as my first (or shall we say he suffered from the same
infirmity?). He revived my drooping hopes, and I was again able to
turn to the only kind of literary work I now seemed to have much
interest in. He let me sign my articles, which was a big step for me
and led to my having requests for work from elsewhere, but always the
invitations said "not Scotch--the public will not read dialect." By
this time I had put together from these two sources and from my
drawerful of rejected stories this book of "Auld Licht Idylls," and in
its collected form it again went the rounds. I offered it to certain
firms as a gift, but they would not have it even at that. And then, on
a day came actually an offer for it from Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton.
For this, and for many another kindness, I had the editor of the
_British Weekly_ to thank. Thus the book was published at last, and as
for Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton I simply dare not say what a generous
firm I found them, lest it send too many aspirants to their doors.
But, indeed, I have had the pleasantest relations with all my
publishers.

"Better Dead" is, by my wish, no longer on sale in Great Britain, and I
should have preferred not to see it here, for it is in no way worthy of
the beautiful clothes Messrs. Scribner have given it. Weighted with
"An Edinburgh Eleven" it would rest very comfortably in the mill dam,
but the publishers have reasons for its inclusion; among them, I
suspect, is a well-grounded fear that if I once began to hack and hew,
I should not stop until I had reduced the edition to two volumes. This
juvenile effort is a field of prickles into which none may be advised
to penetrate--I made the attempt lately in cold blood and came back
shuddering, but I had read enough to have the profoundest reason for
declining to tell what the book is about. And yet I have a sentimental
interest in "Better Dead," for it was my first--published when I had
small hope of getting any one to accept the Scotch--and there was a
week when I loved to carry it in my pocket and did not think it dead
weight. Once I almost saw it find a purchaser. She was a pretty girl
and it lay on a bookstall, and she read some pages and smiled, and then
retired, and came back and began another chapter. Several times she
did this, and I stood in the background trembling with hope and fear.
At last she went away without the book, but I am still of opinion that,
had it been just a little bit better, she would have bought it.




CONTENTS


I. ENGAGED?
II. THE S. D. W. S. P.?
III. THE GREAT SOCIAL QUESTION?
IV. WOMAN'S RIGHTS?
V. DYNAMITERS?
VI. A CELEBRITY AT HOME?
VII. EXPERIMENTING?
VIII. A LOST OPPORTUNITY?
IX. THE ROOT OF THE MATTER?
X. THE OLD OLD STORY?




BETTER DEAD


CHAPTER I

When Andrew Riach went to London, his intention was to become private
secretary to a member of the Cabinet. If time permitted, he proposed
writing for the Press.

"It might be better if you and Clarrie understood each other," the
minister said.

It was their last night together. They faced each other in the
manse-parlour at Wheens, whose low, peeled ceiling had threatened Mr.
Eassie at his desk every time he looked up with his pen in his mouth
until his wife died, when he ceased to notice things. The one picture
on the walls, an engraving of a boy in velveteen, astride a tree,
entitled "Boyhood of Bunyan," had started life with him. The horsehair
chairs were not torn, and you did not require to know the sofa before
you sat down on it, that day thirty years before, when a chubby
minister and his lady walked to the manse between two cart-loads of
furniture, trying not to look elated.

Clarrie rose to go, when she heard her name. The love-light was in her
eyes, but Andrew did not open the door for her, for he was a Scotch
graduate. Besides, she might one day be his wife.

The minister's toddy-ladle clinked against his tumbler, but Andrew did
not speak. Clarrie was the girl he generally adored.

"As for Clarrie," he said at last, "she puts me in an awkward position.
How do I know that I love her?"

"You have known each other a long time," said the minister.

His guest was cleaning his pipe with a hair-pin, that his quick eye had
detected on the carpet.

"And she is devoted to you," continued Mr. Eassie.

The young man nodded.

"What I fear," he said, "is that we have known each other too long.
Perhaps my feeling for Clarrie is only brotherly--"

"Hers for you, Andrew, is more than sisterly."

"Admitted. But consider, Mr. Eassie, she has only seen the world in
soirées. Every girl has her day-dreams, and Clarrie has perhaps made a
dream of me. She is impulsive, given to idealisation, and hopelessly
illogical."

The minister moved uneasily in his chair.

"I have reasoned out her present relation to me," the young man went
on, "and, the more you reduce it to the usual formulae, the more
illogical it becomes. Clarrie could possibly describe me, but define
me--never. What is our prospect of happiness in these circumstances?"

"But love--" began Mr. Eassie.

"Love!" exclaimed Andrew. "Is there such a thing? Reduce it to
syllogistic form, and how does it look in Barbara?"

For the moment there was almost some expression in his face, and he
suffered from a determination of words to the mouth.

"Love and logic," Mr. Eassie interposed, "are hardly kindred studies."

"Is love a study at all?" asked Andrew, bitterly. "It is but the trail
of idleness. But all idleness is folly; therefore, love is folly."

Mr. Eassie was not so keen a logician as his guest, but he had age for
a major premiss. He was easy-going rather than a coward; a preacher
who, in the pulpit, looked difficulties genially in the face, and
passed them by.

Riach had a very long neck. He was twenty-five years of age, fair, and
somewhat heavily built, with a face as inexpressive as book-covers.

A native of Wheens and an orphan, he had been brought up by his uncle,
who was a weaver and read Herodotus in the original. The uncle starved
himself to buy books and talk about them, until one day he got a good
meal, and died of it. Then Andrew apprenticed himself to a tailor.

When his time was out, he walked fifty miles to Aberdeen University,
and got a bursary. He had been there a month, when his professor said
good-naturedly--

"Don't you think, Mr. Riach, you would get on better if you took your
hands out of your pockets?"

"No, sir, I don't think so," replied Andrew, in all honesty.

When told that he must apologise, he did not see it, but was willing to
argue the matter out.

Next year he matriculated at Edinburgh, sharing one room with two
others; studying through the night, and getting their bed when they
rose. He was a failure in the classics, because they left you where
you were, but in his third year he woke the logic class-room, and
frightened the professor of moral philosophy.

He was nearly rusticated for praying at a debating society for a
divinity professor who was in the chair.

"O Lord!" he cried, fervently, "open his eyes, guide his tottering
footsteps, and lead him from the paths of folly into those that are
lovely and of good report, for lo!



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