Lady Good-for-Nothing: A Man's Portrait of a Woman was published in 1910. This story originally appeared in the weekly edition of the 'Times.
Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch was a Cornish writer, who published under the pen name of Q. He published his Dead Man's Rock (a romance in the vein of Stevenson's Treasure Island) in 1887, and he followed this up with Troy Town (1888) and The Splendid Spur (1889). After some journalistic experience in London, mainly as a contributor to the Speaker, in 1891 he settled at Fowey in Cornwall. He published in 1896 a series of critical articles, Adventures in Criticism, and in 1898 he completed Robert Louis Stevenson's unfinished novel, St Ives. With the exception of the parodies entitled Green Bays: Verses and Parodies (1893), his poetical work is contained in Poems and Ballads (1896). In 1895 he published an anthology from the sixteenth and seventeenth-century English lyrists, The Golden Pomp, followed in 1900 by an equally successful Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 (1900). He was made a Bard of Gorseth Kernow in 1928, taking the Bardic name Marghak Cough ('Red Knight').
Quiller-Couch was a noted literary critic, publishing editions of some of Shakespeare's plays (in the New Shakespeare, published by Cambridge University Press, with Dover Wilson) and several critical works, including Studies in Literature (1918) and On the Art of Reading (1920). He edited a successor to his verse anthology: Oxford Book of English Prose, which was published in 1923. He left his autobiography, Memories and Opinions, unfinished; it was nevertheless published in 1945.
CHAPTER I. THE BEACH
A coach-and-six, as a rule, may be called an impressive Object.
But something depends on where you see it.
Viewed from the tall cliffs-along the base of which, on a strip of beach two hundred feet below, it crawled between the American continent and the Atlantic Ocean-Captain Oliver Vyell's coach-and-six resembled nothing so nearly as a black-beetle.
For that matter the cliffs themselves, swept by the spray and humming with the roar of the beach-even the bald headland towards which they curved as to the visible bourne of all things terrestrial-shrank in comparison with the waste void beyond, where sky and ocean weltered together after the wrestle of a two days' storm; and in comparison with the thought that this rolling sky and heaving water stretched all the way to Europe. Not a sail showed, not a wing anywhere under the leaden clouds that still dropped their rain in patches, smurring out the horizon. The wind had died down, but the ships kept their harbours and the sea-birds their inland shelters. Alone of animate things, Captain Vyell's coach-and-six crept forth and along the beach, as though tempted by the promise of a wintry gleam to landward.
A god-if we may suppose one of the old careless Olympians seated there on the cliff-top, nursing his knees-must have enjoyed the comedy of it, and laughed to think that this pert beetle, edging its way along the sand amid the eternal forces of nature, was here to take seizin of them-yes, actually to take seizin and exact tribute. So indomitable a fellow is Man, improbus Homo ; and among men in his generation Captain Oliver Vyell was Collector of Customs for the Port of Boston, Massachusetts.
In fairness to Captain Vyell be it added that he-a young English blood, bearing kinship with two or three of the great Whig families at home, and sceptical as became a person of quality-was capable as any one of relishing the comedy, had it been pointed out to him. With equal readiness he would have scoffed at Man's pretensions in this world and denied him any place at all in the next. Nevertheless on a planet the folly of which might be taken for granted he claimed at least his share of the reverence paid by fools to rank and wealth. He was travelling this lonely coast on a tour of inspection, to visit and report upon a site where His Majesty's advisers had some design to plant a fort; and a fine ostentation coloured his progress here as through life. He had brought his coach because it conveyed his claret and his batterie de cuisine (the seaside inns were detestable); but being young and extravagantly healthy and, with all his faults, very much of a man, he preferred to ride ahead on his saddle-horse and let his pomp follow him.
Six horses drew the coach, and to each pair of leaders rode a postillion, while a black coachman guided the wheelers from the box-seat; all three men in the Collector's livery of white and scarlet. On a perch behind the vehicle-which, despite its weight, left but the shallowest of wheel-ruts on the hard sand-sat Manasseh, the Collector's cook and body-servant; a huge negro, in livery of the same white and scarlet but with heavy adornments of bullion, a cockade in his hat, and a loaded blunderbuss laid across his thighs. Last and alone within the coach, with a wine-case for footstool, sat a five-year-old boy.
Master Dicky Vyell-the Collector's only child, and motherless-sat and gazed out of the windows in a delicious terror. For hours that morning the travellers had ploughed their way over a plain of blown sand, dotted with shrub-oaks, bay-berries, and clumps of Indian grass; then, at a point where the tall cliffs began, had wound down to the sea between low foothills and a sedge-covered marsh criss-crossed by watercourses that spread out here and there into lagoons. At the head of this descent the Atlantic had come into sight, and all the way down its