This story was published in the Weekly Mail and is the only known copy.
“What has become of Girly Grey?
Several people asked the question, but no one supplied the answer. None knew, few cared. He was not the sort of fellow you would trouble about, a poor actor, an effeminate dandy, and a prig. He had his successes, notwithstanding. He was held in high esteem by a set of long-haired men and short-haired women, who perverted art and canted concerning culture. He was the leading spirit in a company of languishing lop-sided amateurs, and he enjoyed the reputation of being loved by a lady of title.
The idea of any healthy, sane woman falling in love with Girly Grey seemed too ridiculous, but there was no denying the fact that he had been the favourite of several posturing, lolloping, Liberty-silked damsels, who affected sickly aestheticism, and for whom a man with virile mind and body was a thing too desperately real to be tolerated at any price. The ladies of a theatrical company in which Grey had once travelled through the provinces declared that he wore stays, and the green-room jokes anent his feminine appearance and nature were so frequent that he had become known generally as “Girly,” On the bills and programmes he figured as Mr. G. Grey. He may have been given in baptism the name of George, or Gideon, or Graham, or Gilbert, for all I know. A chorister christened him Girley; everybody knew him as Girley, and, to tell the truth, he seemed quite proud of the appellation.
His latest affinity – to use his own word for his amorous relationships – was Lady Anthony Hopeland, a member of the Attic Mummers, a band of aristocratic and incompetent dramatic amateurs. He had assisted them in producing a Roman tragedy in the drawing-room of a duchess, and had taken part in the representation of the Midsummer pantomime, “Little Goody Two Shoes; or, the Goose with the Golden Locks,” in the middle of Barnes Common. In this piece Lady Anthony had played Little Boy Blue, and lovely, indeed, had she looked in her turquoise silk tights.
The Goose with the Golden Looks had been represented by Girly, for whom the performance had been a fateful one. Lady Anthony had found this pale-facted actor, with his hairless cheeks, his watery eyes, and sensuous mouth, his fawning sentimentalism, and his sham poetry, such a contrast to the robust manhood of her husband that she had at first sought shelter by his side from the rough and impetuous attentions of her lord and master.
Lord Anthony was a man of deeds, not words. There was little nonsense about him a keen sportsman, a travelled gentleman, a Conservative by birth and conviction, fearless in danger, outspoken in argument, noble in bearing, brave and straightforward. When first they met, she, then a fresh, active girl, had regarded him as an ideal man. It was not until a year after her marriage that she had fallen under the influence of the cuIturists, who cling, for monetary and other selfish reasons, to the skirts of London Society. Lord Anthony was in Parliament, and she was left to herself a great deal – more, indeed, than was good for her. Her husband was glad for her to find amusement, play-acting was fashionable, and he saw no harm in it. The result was that, before long, the bright, well-dressed, intelligent woman was transformed into a limp, clinging creature with tousled hair and unutterable languors. Lord Anthony saw the change, and could not but recognise that some other mind than his own was exercising its power over his wife, but he was much occupied at the moment, for having accepted a vacant Government office, he was obliged to go down to his constituents and seek re-election. He saw no immediate domestic danger, and after the struggle was over he would be able to give more time to his wife, and should soon shake the foolery out of her, as he expressed it.
Meantime the intimacy between Girly and her ladyship had intensified. People began to talk, for in her husband’s absence the actor was continually at her house. She soon recognised that hers was the stronger nature of the two. She called him by his soubriquet, and after the open air exhibition of her charms had even told him always to call her his “boy.” She caressed him, petted him, provided him with money, and on one occasion made him dress up in one of her costumes. She loved to rehearse scenes of plays with him, she taking the male and he the female part. There was some secret mysterious tie between them. Whatever it may have been, it is not our business here to inquire. It certainly seemed pitiable that this living woman, in whose veins ran the vigorous blood of ten county families, the wife of a man descended from heroes – almost a hero himself – who would have fought for his rights and defended her honour against all the world, should fall to the degradation of linking herself, by some unnatural bond, with such a thing as Girly Grey. Let base-born, ill-bred women sicken on their morbid imaginations, and feed their sexless desires, if they will, but the thought of the once fine, vigorous woman, Lady Anthony Hopeland, making simpering love to the elegant, emasculated fop with curled hair, painted eyes, and powdered face, was one to weep over.
She had already loosed the tongues of scandal when her husband returned from the North. He had been elected by a large majority, and was in the best of humours, looking forward to the putting of his house in order with bright hopes. Unfortunately, on his way home he called at his club, and the first man to greet him was his cousin.
“Well done, old fellow; we all congratulate you. It was a real victory. But, Anthony, I’m deuced glad you’re home again.” And he took him aside.
They talked earnestly together for some time. At the end of the interview, Lord Anthony, looking sad, but with a most determined look on his face rose to leave.
His cousin accompanied him into the hall.
“I know I’ve pained you, Tony, old chap but you were bound to hear it, and I thought it best you should hear it from a pal. Of course you can stop the nonsense at once; the fellow isn’t a man, and probably there’s no harm done. The worst of it is the servants have got hold of it. Before you do anything you ought to speak to Jevons.”
Lord Anthony was not in the habit of discussing family affairs with his servants, but Jevons was a very old and faithful attendant, and from him he learnt nearly all the truth.
He dined at home, alone with his wife. She was conscious-smitten, and tried her best to be at ease. He had never been so attentive and tender. He asked her about all her doings, and evinced quite an active interest in her theatrical successes.
After dinner he continued the subject.
“By the way,” he said, “what did you say was the name of the clever young actor who assisted you?”
“Mr. Grey,” she answered simply, flushing slightly.
“I should like to meet him. Could you get him to come to-morrow evening?”
“No; I may not be at home. Drop him a pretty little note asking him to look in during the evening.”
Lady Anthony went to her desk and took out some paper. She seemed agitated, and hardly knew how to write a stiff formal letter to her lover.
“You need not be embarrassed. I’ll tell you what to say.” Lady Anthony took up her pen.
“Begin, ‘My sweet Girly.’”
Lady Anthony could hardly believe her ears. Was her husband jesting? What did he know?
She looked round nervously; there was a gleam of triumph in his eyes.
“Go on,” he said, and she commenced to write in terror. “’The ogre has come back, but it is alright. He wants to meet you. Come to-morrow evening at nine, and we shall have two hours to ourselves first – Your Own Boy.’ That will do nicely. Address the envelope.”
She obeyed and he touched the bell.
He then wrote a short note himself. It ran as follows: “Dear Pasha, – Just returned. Have some fun for you. Reserve to-morrow night. Shall be at the club at four.” He addressed the envelope to “His Excellency Kami Pasha, Hotel Metropole.” And he gave the two letters to the servant who answered. his summons to be posted at once.
“What are you going to do?” at last Lady Anthony summoned courage to ask. “Kill him?”
“Oh, no; surely you are not selfish, you will admit me to the entertainment. Your friend shall play and dance to me as well as to you. I am a judge of pretty women; I will tell you what I think of his make-up. And remember this, he is to dress and act exactly as he has been in the habit of doing in my absence. If there is nothing wrong between you – and I have made no accusation – you will surely not object. But I mean to know the truth.” Before his strong will she was powerless.
The next evening Girly was punctual. In the room, into which he was shown, all the articles for his masquerade were laid out, and a pencilled note, “For the last time.”
When he was dressed Lady Anthony entered, but she had lost her usual gaiety. She was, in fact, more dead than alive for she knew that her every word was being heard, her every movement being watched by her husband.
“Why, my Boy, what is the matter? You have been crying? And haven’t you one kiss for your Girly? Has the Ogre been cruel? Oh! how can he ill-treat my Boy like this,” and he put his arm round the half insensible woman to support her. “If he were only here.”
“He is here, madam!” and Lord Anthony, followed by Kami Pasha, stepped from behind a heavy curtain, “What do you want with him?”
Poor Girly let his burden fall, and slunk across the room towards the door.
“You cannot leave, madam; I address you as ‘madam,’ for such I presume you are, since I see you in woman’s attire. Your few words are sufficient to show me exactly the position in which you stand towards my wife. I cannot find terms to describe the baseness of your conduct. Were you a man I should call you out and shoot you. As it is, you deserve to die. But I give you a chance. If you wish to have your life spared you must pay me at once, on the spot, five thousand pounds!”
“Five thousand pounds!” cried Grey, half-hoping that Lord Anthony was jesting. “I have not five thousand pence in the world.”
“That need not trouble madam,” interrupted the Pasha. I am in London recruiting my harem. I will buy madam for five thousand pounds.”
“Certainly, I will give five thousand pounds, and pay the sum now to his lordship in order to save your life,” and he took out his note-case.
“Otherwise you die!”
Girly began to realise that the two men were in earnest. He glanced at the poor, miserable woman crouching on the floor, and he felt that his hour of punishment had come. He was too weak to protest, and he had no chance of escaping in the clothes he wore.
Two of the Pasha’s servants were summoned, and he was carried off in a close carriage.
Some people say he is now at Cairo, but the question, “What has become of Girly Grey?” remains unanswered.