On attaining the age of eight, or thereabout, children fly away from the Gardens, and never come back. When next you meet them they are ladies and gentlemen holding up their umbrellas to hail a hansom.
where the girls go to I know not, to some private place, I suppose, to put up their hair, but the boys have gone to Pilkington’s. He is a man with a cane. You may not go to Pilkington’s in knickerbockers made by your mother, make she ever so artfully. They must be real knickerbockers. It is his stern rule. Hence the fearful fascination of Pilkington’s.
He may be conceived as one who, baiting his hook with real knickerbockers, fishes all day in the Gardens, with are to him but a pool swarming with small fry.
Abhorred shade! I know not what manner of man thou art in the flesh, sir, but figure thee bearded and blackavised, and of a lean tortuous habit of body, that moves ever with a swish. Every morning, I swear, thou readest avidly the list of male births in thy paper, and then are thy hands rubbed gloatingly the one upon the other. ’Tis fear of thee and they gown and they cane, which are part of thee, that makes the fairies to hide by day; wert thou to linger but once among their haunts between the hours of Lock-out and Open Gates there would be left not one single gentle place in all the Gardens. The little people would flit. How much wiser they than the small boys who swim glamoured to thy crafty hook. Thou devastator of the Gardens, I know thee, Pilkington.
I first heard of Pilkington from David, who had it from Oliver Bailey.
This Oliver Bailey was one of the most dashing figures in the Gardens, and without apparent effort was daily drawing nearer the completion of his seventh year at a time when David seemed unable to get beyond half-past five. I have to speak of him in the past tense, for gone is Oliver from the Gardens (gone to Pilkington’s), but he is still a name among us, and some lordly deeds are remembered of him, as that his father shaved twice a day. Oliver himself was all on that scale.
His not ignoble ambition seems always to have been to be wrecked upon an island, indeed I am told that he mentioned it insinuatingly in his prayers, and it was perhaps inevitable that a boy with such an outlook should fascinate David. I am proud, therefore, to be able to state on wood that it was Oliver himself who made the overture.
On first hearing, from some satellite of Oliver’s, of Wrecked Islands, as they are called in the Gardens, David said wistfully that he supposed you needed to be very very good before you had any chance of being wrecked, and the remark was conveyed to Oliver, on whom it made an uncomfortable impression. For a time he tried to evade it, but ultimately David was presented to him and invited gloomily to say it again. The upshot was that Oliver advertised the Gardens of his intention to be good until he was eight, and if he had not been wrecked by that time, to be as jolly bad as a boy could be. He was naturally so bad that at the Kindergarten Academy, when the mistress ordered whoever had done the last naughty deed to step forward, Oliver’s custom had been to step forward, not necessarily because he had done it, but because he presumed he very likely had.