1st level synopsis   (summary)

Two aspiring journalists in turn-of-the-century London become disillusioned with their publicity-seeking clients.

2nd level synopsis   (by chapter)

Howard Bight and Maud Blandy, two aspiring journalists in turn-of-the-century London, discuss the ubiquity in the press of a noted public figure, Sir Beadel-Muffet. Despite his only slight connection with the great man, Bight has been asked to see him and they speculate on Beadel-Muffet’s predicament should he desire to cease being written about. Maud contrasts his position with that of the un-produced playwright Mortimer Marshal, about whom she has, vainly, attempted to have an article published.


During the interval of the matinée of a Scandinavian play, Maud divines that Bight has news of Beadel-Muffet : he has disappeared and they discuss the case further, including the possibility that his potential second wife, Mrs Chorner, has required a reduction in his public profile as a condition of marriage. They also review Marshal’s continued attention to Maud, is it merely his way to satisfy his craving for publicity?


After the play, Marshal and our pair go to his club in Piccadilly where they take tea and indulge in idle chatter. The following day, Maud and Howard bicycle to Richmond Park. Conversation centres on their lack of success in the profession of journalism and the possibility of Beadel-Muffet’s or Marshal’s situations being turned to account. When Maud despairs, Howard proposes marriage but is turned down.


By the time Maud and Bight meet again, the next Friday, he has had a piece published about the previous Saturday’s tea and Maud has subsequently persuaded a weekly periodical to take her long neglected piece. He twits her on Marshal’s romantic interest; she has been to see Mrs Chorner. More importantly he knows that Beadel-Muffet has disappeared. However, the papers are already shouting the story as they converse.


Maud has been considering her situation. The Beadel-Muffet ‘disappearance’ is commanding even more column inches than the former ‘appearance’. A fortnight later, at another privately produced play, Bight confesses himself baffled by the case. They meet Marshal and repair to a pothouse.


With Marshal entranced by the low-life of the pothouse, they discuss Beadel-Muffet. Bight engineers Marshal into the realization that he could become notable if he emerges with the explanation of the disappearance, but as they leave the papers are shouting ‘extraordinary news’.


On purchasing the papers, they find that a body has been discovered in a small German city. Bight encourages Maud to see Mrs Chorner again.


Maud has seen Mrs Chorner, who now wants to be ‘published’, but cannot bring herself to sell the story and stays away from Fleet Street for three days; although the noise of the papers makes itself heard even in the suburb of Maida Hill. When she does meet Bight, at their favourite pothouse, she confesses her failure of nerve.


Marshal arrives at the pothouse as they are leaving, anxious for his moments of glory. However, as they stand, a new sensation reaches their ears : Beadel-Muffet has returned! Bight sends Marshal off to Fleet Street to find out for himself how publicity is done: he and Maud are giving it up.