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Love and Mr. Lewisham by H. G. Wells

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The youngster was puzzled for a moment. "I smoke Perique," he said.

"It will make you just as sick," said Dunkerley.

"Refinement's so beastly vulgar," was the belated answer of the smoker
of Perique.

That was the interesting part of the evening to Lewisham. Parkson
suddenly rose, got down "Sesame and Lilies," and insisted upon reading
a lengthy mellifluous extract that went like a garden roller over the
debate, and afterwards Bletherley became the centre of a wrangle that
left him grossly insulted and in a minority of one. The institution
of marriage, so far as the South Kensington student is concerned, is
in no immediate danger.

Parkson turned out with the rest of them at half-past ten, for a
walk. The night was warm for February and the waxing moon
bright. Parkson fixed himself upon Lewisham and Dunkerley, to
Lewisham's intense annoyance--for he had a few intimate things he
could have said to the man of Ideas that night. Dunkerley lived north,
so that the three went up Exhibition Road to High Street,
Kensington. There they parted from Dunkerley, and Lewisham and Parkson
turned southward again for Lewisham's new lodging in Chelsea.

Parkson was one of those exponents of virtue for whom the discussion
of sexual matters has an irresistible attraction. The meeting had left
him eloquent. He had argued with Dunkerley to the verge of indelicacy,
and now he poured out a vast and increasingly confidential flow of
talk upon Lewisham. Lewisham was distraught. He walked as fast as he
could. His sole object was to get rid of Parkson. Parkson's sole
object was to tell him interesting secrets, about himself and a
Certain Person with a mind of extraordinary Purity of whom Lewisham
had heard before.

Ages passed.

Lewisham suddenly found himself being shown a photograph under a
lamp. It represented an unsymmetrical face singularly void of
expression, the upper part of an "art" dress, and a fringe of
curls. He perceived he was being given to understand that this was a
Paragon of Purity, and that she was the particular property of
Parkson. Parkson was regarding him proudly, and apparently awaiting
his verdict.

Lewisham struggled with the truth. "It's an interesting face," he

"It is a face essentially beautiful," said Parkson quietly but
firmly. "Do you notice the eyes, Lewisham?"

"Oh yes," said Lewisham. "Yes. I see the eyes."

"They are ... innocent. They are the eyes of a little child."

"Yes. They look that sort of eye. Very nice, old man. I congratulate
you. Where does she live?"

"You never saw a face like that in London," said Parkson.

"_Never_," said Lewisham decisively.

"I would not show that to every one," said Parkson. "You can scarcely
judge all that pure-hearted, wonderful girl is to me." He returned the
photograph solemnly to its envelope, regarding Lewisham with an air of
one who has performed the ceremony of blood-brotherhood. Then taking
Lewisham's arm affectionately--a thing Lewisham detested--he went on
to a copious outpouring on Love--with illustrative anecdotes of the
Paragon. It was just sufficiently cognate to the matter of Lewisham's
thoughts to demand attention. Every now and then he had to answer, and
he felt an idiotic desire--albeit he clearly perceived its idiocy--to
reciprocate confidences. The necessity of fleeing Parkson became
urgent--Lewisham's temper under these multitudinous stresses was

"Every man needs a Lode Star," said Parkson--and Lewisham swore under
his breath.

Parkson's lodgings were now near at hand to the left, and it occurred
to him this boredom would be soonest ended if he took Parkson home,
Parkson consented mechanically, still discoursing.

"I have often seen you talking to Miss Heydinger," he said. "If you
will pardon my saying it ..."

"We are excellent friends," admitted Lewisham. "But here we are at
your diggings."

Parkson stared at his "diggings." "There's Heaps I want to talk
about. I'll come part of the way at any rate to Battersea. Your Miss
Heydinger, I was saying ..."

From that point onwards he made casual appeals to a supposed
confidence between Lewisham and Miss Heydinger, each of which
increased Lewisham's exasperation. "It will not be long before you
also, Lewisham, will begin to know the infinite purification of a Pure
Love...." Then suddenly, with a vague idea of suppressing Parkson's
unendurable chatter, as one motive at least, Lewisham rushed into the

"I know," he said. "You talk to me as though ... I've marked out my
destiny these three years." His confidential impulse died as he
relieved it.

"You don't mean to say Miss Heydinger--?" asked Parkson.

"Oh, _damn_ Miss Heydinger!" said Lewisham, and suddenly, abruptly,
uncivilly, he turned away from Parkson at the end of the street and
began walking away southward, leaving Parkson in mid-sentence at the

Parkson stared in astonishment at his receding back and ran after him
to ask for the grounds of this sudden offence. Lewisham walked on for
a space with Parkson trotting by his side. Then suddenly he
turned. His face was quite white and he spoke in a tired voice.

"Parkson," he said, "you are a fool!... You have the face of a sheep,
the manners of a buffalo, and the conversation of a bore, Pewrity
indeed!... The girl whose photograph you showed me has eyes that don't
match. She looks as loathsome as one would naturally expect.... I'm
not joking now.... Go away!"

After that Lewisham went on his southward way alone. He did not go
straight to his room in Chelsea, but spent some hours in a street in
Battersea, pacing to and fro in front of a possible house. His passion
changed from savageness to a tender longing. If only he could see her
to-night! He knew his own mind now. To-morrow he was resolved _he_
would fling work to the dogs and meet her. The things Dunkerley had
said had filled his mind with wonderful novel thoughts. If only he
could see her now!

His wish was granted. At the corner of the street two figures passed
him; one of these, a tall man in glasses and a quasi-clerical hat,
with coat collar turned up under his grey side-whiskers, he recognised
as Chaffery; the other he knew only too well. The pair passed him
without seeing him, but for an instant the lamplight fell upon her
face and showed it white and tired.

Lewisham stopped dead at the corner, staring in blank astonishment
after these two figures as they receded into the haze under the
lights. He was dumfounded. A clock struck slowly. It was
midnight. Presently down the road came the slamming of their door.

Long after the echo died away he stood there. "She has been at a
_seance_; she has broken her promise. She has been at a _seance_; she
has broken her promise," sang in perpetual reiteration through his

And then came the interpretation. "She has done it because I have left
her. I might have told it from her letters. She has done it because
she thinks I am not in earnest, that my love-making was just
boyishness ...

"I knew she would never understand."



The next morning Lewisham learnt from Lagune that his intuition was
correct, that Ethel had at last succumbed to pressure and consented to
attempt thought-reading. "We made a good beginning," said Lagune,
rubbing his hands. "I am sure we shall do well with her. Certainly she
has powers. I have always felt it in her face. She has powers."

"Was much ... pressure necessary?" asked Lewisham by an effort.

"We had--considerable difficulty. Considerable. But of course--as I
pointed out to her--it was scarcely possible for her to continue as my
typewriter unless she was disposed to take an interest in my

"You did that?"

"Had to. Fortunately Chaffery--it was his idea. I must admit--"

Lagune stopped astonished. Lewisham, after making an odd sort of
movement with his hands, had turned round and was walking away down
the laboratory. Lagune stared; confronted by a psychic phenomenon
beyond his circle of ideas. "Odd!" he said at last, and began to
unpack his bag. Ever and again he stopped and stared at Lewisham, who
was now sitting in his own place and drumming on the table with both

Presently Miss Heydinger came out of the specimen room and addressed a
remark to the young man. He appeared to answer with considerable
brevity. He then stood up, hesitated for a moment between the three
doors of the laboratory and walked out by that opening on the back
staircase. Lagune did not see him again until the afternoon.

That night Ethel had Lewisham's company again on her way home, and
their voices were earnest. She did not go straight home, but instead
they went up under the gas lamps to the vague spaces of Clapham Common
to talk there at length. And the talk that night was a momentous
one. "Why have you broken your promise?" he said.

Her excuses were vague and weak. "I thought you did not care so much
as you did," she said. "And when you stopped these walks--nothing
seemed to matter. Besides--it is not like _seances_ with spirits ..."

At first Lewisham was passionate and forcible. His anger at Lagune and
Chaffery blinded him to her turpitude. He talked her defences
down. "It is cheating," he said. "Well--even if what _you_ do is not
cheating, it is delusion--unconscious cheating. Even if there is
something in it, it is wrong. True or not, it is wrong. Why don't
they thought-read each other? Why should they want you? Your mind is
your own. It is sacred. To probe it!--I won't have it! I won't have
it! At least you are mine to that extent. I can't think of you like
that--bandaged. And that little fool pressing his hand on the back of
your neck and asking questions. I won't have it! I would rather kill
you than that."

"They don't do that!"

"I don't care! that is what it will come to. The bandage is the
beginning. People must not get their living in that way anyhow. I've
thought it out. Let them thought-read their daughters and hypnotise
their aunts, and leave their typewriters alone."

"But what am I to do?"

"That's not it. There are things one must not suffer anyhow, whatever
happens! Or else--one might be made to do anything. Honour! Just
because we are poor--Let him dismiss you! _Let_ him dismiss you. You
can get another place--"

"Not at a guinea a week."

"Then take less."

"But I have to pay sixteen shillings every week."

"That doesn't matter."

She caught at a sob, "But to leave London--I can't do it, I can't."

"But how?--Leave London?" Lewisham's face changed.

"Oh! life is _hard_," she said. "I can't. They--they wouldn't let me
stop in London."

"What do you mean?"

She explained if Lagune dismissed her she was to go into the country
to an aunt, a sister of Chaffery's who needed a companion. Chaffery
insisted upon that. "Companion they call it. I shall be just a
servant--she has no servant. My mother cries when I talk to her. She
tells me she doesn't want me to go away from her. But she's afraid of
him. 'Why don't you do what he wants?' she says."

She sat staring in front of her at the gathering night. She spoke
again in an even tone.

"I hate telling you these things. It is you ... If you didn't mind
... But you make it all different. I could do it--if it wasn't for
you. I was ... I _was_ helping ... I had gone meaning to help if
anything went wrong at Mr. Lagune's. Yes--that night. No ... don't! It
was too hard before to tell you. But I really did not feel it
... until I saw you there. Then all at once I felt shabby and mean."

"Well?" said Lewisham.

"That's all. I may have done thought-reading, but I have never really
cheated since--_never_.... If you knew how hard it is ..."

"I wish you had told me that before."

"I couldn't. Before you came it was different. He used to make fun of
the people--used to imitate Lagune and make me laugh. It seemed a sort
of joke." She stopped abruptly. "Why did you ever come on with me? I
told you not to--you _know_ I did."

She was near wailing. For a minute she was silent.

"I can't go to his sister's," she cried. "I may be a coward--but I

Pause. And then Lewisham saw his solution straight and clear. Suddenly
his secret desire had become his manifest duty.

"Look here," he said, not looking at her and pulling his moustache. "I
won't have you doing any more of that damned cheating. You shan't soil
yourself any more. And I won't have you leaving London."

"But what am I to do?" Her voice went up.

"Well--there is one thing you can do. If you dare."

"What is it?"

He made no answer for some seconds. Then he turned round and sat
looking at her. Their eyes met....

The grey of his mind began to colour. Her face was white and she was
looking at him, in fear and perplexity. A new tenderness for her
sprang up in him--a new feeling. Hitherto he had loved and desired her
sweetness and animation--but now she was white and weary-eyed. He
felt as though he had forgotten her and suddenly remembered. A great
longing came into his mind.

"But what is the other thing I can do?"

It was strangely hard to say. There came a peculiar sensation in his
throat and facial muscles, a nervous stress between laughing and
crying. All the world vanished before that great desire. And he was
afraid she would not dare, that she would not take him seriously.

"What is it?" she said again.

"Don't you see that we can marry?" he said, with the flood of his
resolution suddenly strong and steady. "Don't you see that is the
only thing for us? The dead lane we are in! You must come out of your
cheating, and I must come out of my ... cramming. And we--we must

He paused and then became eloquent. "The world is against us,
against--us. To you it offers money to cheat--to be ignoble. For it
_is_ ignoble! It offers you no honest way, only a miserable
drudgery. And it keeps you from me. And me too it bribes with the
promise of success--if I will desert you ... You don't know all ... We
may have to wait for years--we may have to wait for ever, if we wait
until life is safe. We may be separated.... We may lose one another
altogether.... Let us fight against it. Why should we separate?
Unless True Love is like the other things--an empty cant. This is the
only way. We two--who belong to one another."

She looked at him, her face perplexed with this new idea, her heart
beating very fast. "We are so young," she said. "And how are we to
live? You get a guinea."

"I can get more--I can earn more, I have thought it out. I have been
thinking of it these two days. I have been thinking what we could
do. I have money."

"You have money?"

"Nearly a hundred pounds."

"But we are so young--And my mother ..."

"We won't ask her. We will ask no one. This is _our_ affair. Ethel!
this is _our_ affair. It is not a question of ways and means--even
before this--I have thought ... Dear one!--_don't_ you love me?"

She did not grasp his emotional quality. She looked at him with
puzzled eyes--still practical--making the suggestion arithmetical.

"I could typewrite if I had a machine. I have heard--"

"It's not a question of ways and means. Now. Ethel--I have longed--"

He stopped. She looked at his face, at his eyes now eager and eloquent
with the things that never shaped themselves into words.

"_Dare_ you come with me?" he whispered.

Suddenly the world opened out in reality to her as sometimes it had
opened out to her in wistful dreams. And she quailed before it. She
dropped her eyes from his. She became a fellow-conspirator. "But,

"I will think how. Trust me! Surely we know each other now--Think! We

"But I have never thought--"

"I could get apartments for us both. It would be so easy. And think of
it--think--of what life would be!"

"How can I?"

"You will come?"

She looked at him, startled. "You know," she said, "you must know I
would like--I would love--"

"You will come?"

"But, dear--! Dear, if you _make_ me--"

"Yes!" cried Lewisham triumphantly. "You will come." He glanced round
and his voice dropped. "Oh! my dearest! my dearest!..."

His voice sank to an inaudible whisper. But his face was eloquent. Two
garrulous, home-going clerks passed opportunely to remind him that his
emotions were in a public place.



On the Wednesday afternoon following this--it was hard upon the
botanical examination--Mr. Lewisham was observed by Smithers in the
big Education Library reading in a volume of the British
Encyclopaedia. Beside him were the current Whitaker's Almanac, an open
note-book, a book from the Contemporary Science Series, and the
Science and Art Department's Directory. Smithers, who had a profound
sense of Lewisham's superiority in the art of obtaining facts of value
in examinations, wondered for some minutes what valuable tip for a
student in botany might be hidden in Whitaker, and on reaching his
lodgings spent some time over the landlady's copy. But really Lewisham
was not studying botany, but the art of marriage according to the best
authorities. (The book from the Contemporary Science Series was
Professor Letourneau's "Evolution of Marriage." It was interesting
certainly, but of little immediate use.)

From Whitaker Lewisham learnt that it would be possible at a cost of
L2, 6s. 1d. or L2, 7s. 1d. (one of the items was ambiguous) to get
married within the week--that charge being exclusive of vails--at the
district registry office. He did little addition sums in the
note-book. The church fees he found were variable, but for more
personal reasons he rejected a marriage at church. Marriage by
certificate at a registrar's involved an inconvenient delay. It would
have to be L2, 7s. 1d. Vails--ten shillings, say.

Afterwards, without needless ostentation, he produced a cheque-book
and a deposit-book, and proceeded to further arithmetic. He found that
he was master of L61, 4s. 7d. Not a hundred as he had said, but a fine
big sum--men have started great businesses on less. It had been a
hundred originally. Allowing five pounds for the marriage and moving,
this would leave about L56. Plenty. No provision was made for flowers,
carriages, or the honeymoon. But there would be a typewriter to
buy. Ethel was to do her share....

"It will be a devilish close thing," said Lewisham with a quite
unreasonable exultation. For, strangely enough, the affair was
beginning to take on a flavour of adventure not at all unpleasant. He
leant back in his chair with the note-book closed in his hand....

But there was much to see to that afternoon. First of all he had to
discover the district superintendent registrar, and then to find a
lodging whither he should take Ethel--their lodging, where they were
to live together.

At the thought of that new life together that was drawing so near, she
came into his head, vivid and near and warm....

He recovered himself from a day dream. He became aware of a library
attendant down the room leaning forward over his desk, gnawing the tip
of a paper knife after the fashion of South Kensington library
attendants, and staring at him curiously. It occurred to Lewisham that
thought reading was one of the most possible things in the world. He
blushed, rose clumsily and took the volume of the Encyclopaedia back
to its shelf.

He found the selection of lodgings a difficult business. After his
first essay he began to fancy himself a suspicious-looking character,
and that perhaps hampered him. He had chosen the district southward
of the Brompton Road. It had one disadvantage--he might blunder into a
house with a fellow-student.... Not that it mattered vitally. But the
fact is, it is rather unusual for married couples to live permanently
in furnished lodgings in London. People who are too poor to take a
house or a flat commonly find it best to take part of a house or
unfurnished apartments. There are a hundred couples living in
unfurnished rooms (with "the use of the kitchen") to one in furnished
in London. The absence of furniture predicates a dangerous want of
capital to the discreet landlady. The first landlady Lewisham
interviewed didn't like ladies, they required such a lot of
attendance; the second was of the same mind; the third told
Mr. Lewisham he was "youngish to be married;" the fourth said she only
"did" for single "gents." The fifth was a young person with an arch
manner, who liked to know all about people she took in, and subjected
Lewisham to a searching cross-examination. When she had spitted him
in a downright lie or so, she expressed an opinion that her rooms
"would scarcely do," and bowed him amiably out.

He cooled his ears and cheeks by walking up and down the street for a
space, and then tried again. This landlady was a terrible and pitiful
person, so grey and dusty she was, and her face deep lined with dust
and trouble and labour. She wore a dirty cap that was all askew. She
took Lewisham up into a threadbare room on the first floor, "There's
the use of a piano," she said, and indicated an instrument with a
front of torn green silk. Lewisham opened the keyboard and evoked a
vibration of broken strings. He took one further survey of the dismal
place, "Eighteen shillings," he said. "Thank you ... I'll let you
know." The woman smiled with the corners of her mouth down, and
without a word moved wearily towards the door. Lewisham felt a
transient wonder at her hopeless position, but he did not pursue the

The next landlady sufficed. She was a clean-looking German woman,
rather smartly dressed; she had a fringe of flaxen curls and a voluble
flow of words, for the most part recognisably English. With this she
sketched out remarks. Fifteen shillings was her demand for a minute
bedroom and a small sitting-room, separated by folding doors on the
ground floor, and her personal services. Coals were to be "sixpence a
kettle," she said--a pretty substitute for scuttle. She had not
understood Lewisham to say he was married. But she had no hesitation.
"Aayteen shillin'," she said imperturbably. "Paid furs day ich wik
... See?" Mr. Lewisham surveyed the rooms again. They looked clean,
and the bonus tea vases, the rancid, gilt-framed oleographs, two
toilet tidies used as ornaments, and the fact that the chest of
drawers had been crowded out of the bedroom into the sitting-room,
simply appealed to his sense of humour. "I'll take 'em from Saturday
next," he said.

She was sure he would like them, and proposed to give him his book
forthwith. She mentioned casually that the previous lodger had been a
captain and had stayed three years. (One never hears by any chance of
lodgers stopping for a shorter period.) Something happened (German)
and now he kept his carriage--apparently an outcome of his stay. She
returned with a small penny account-book, a bottle of ink and an
execrable pen, wrote Lewisham's name on the cover of this, and a
receipt for eighteen shillings on the first page. She was evidently a
person of considerable business aptitude. Lewisham paid, and the
transaction terminated. "Szhure to be gomfortable," followed him
comfortingly to the street.

Then he went on to Chelsea and interviewed a fatherly gentleman at the
Vestry offices. The fatherly gentleman was chubby-faced and
spectacled, and his manner was sympathetic but business-like. He
"called back" each item of the interview, "And what can I do for you?
You wish to be married! By licence?"

"By licence."

"By licence!"

And so forth. He opened a book and made neat entries of the

"The lady's age?"


"A very suitable age ... for a lady."

He advised Lewisham to get a ring, and said he would need two

"_Well_--" hesitated Lewisham.

"There is always someone about," said the superintendent
registrar. "And they are quite used to it."

Thursday and Friday Lewisham passed in exceedingly high spirits. No
consciousness of the practical destruction of the Career seems to have
troubled him at this time. Doubt had vanished from his universe for a
space. He wanted to dance along the corridors. He felt curiously
irresponsible and threw up an unpleasant sort of humour that pleased
nobody. He wished Miss Heydinger many happy returns of the day,
_apropos_ of nothing, and he threw a bun across the refreshment room
at Smithers and hit one of the Art School officials. Both were
extremely silly things to do. In the first instance he was penitent
immediately after the outrage, but in the second he added insult to
injury by going across the room and asking in an offensively
suspicious manner if anyone had seen his bun. He crawled under a table
and found it at last, rather dusty but quite eatable, under the chair
of a lady art student. He sat down by Smithers to eat it, while he
argued with the Art official. The Art official said the manners of the
Science students were getting unbearable, and threatened to bring the
matter before the refreshment-room committee. Lewisham said it was a
pity to make such a fuss about a trivial thing, and proposed that the
Art official should throw his lunch--steak and kidney pudding--across
the room at him, Lewisham, and so get immediate satisfaction. He then
apologised to the official and pointed out in extenuation that it was
a very long and difficult shot he had attempted. The official then
drank a crumb, or breathed some beer, or something of that sort, and
the discussion terminated. In the afternoon, however, Lewisham, to
his undying honour, felt acutely ashamed of himself. Miss Heydinger
would not speak to him.

On Saturday morning he absented himself from the schools, pleading by
post a slight indisposition, and took all his earthly goods to the
booking office at Vauxhall Station. Chaffery's sister lived at
Tongham, near Farnham, and Ethel, dismissed a week since by Lagune,
had started that morning, under her mother's maudlin supervision, to
begin her new slavery. She was to alight either at Farnham or Woking,
as opportunity arose, and to return to Vauxhall to meet him. So that
Lewisham's vigil on the main platform was of indefinite duration.

At first he felt the exhilaration of a great adventure. Then, as he
paced the long platform, came a philosophical mood, a sense of entire
detachment from the world. He saw a bundle of uprooted plants beside
the portmanteau of a fellow-passenger and it suggested a grotesque
simile. His roots, his earthly possessions, were all downstairs in
the booking-office. What a flimsy thing he was! A box of books and a
trunk of clothes, some certificates and scraps of paper, an entry here
and an entry there, a body not over strong--and the vast multitude of
people about him--against him--the huge world in which he found
himself! Did it matter anything to one human soul save her if he
ceased to exist forthwith? And miles away perhaps she also was
feeling little and lonely....

Would she have trouble with her luggage? Suppose her aunt were to come
to Farnham Junction to meet her? Suppose someone stole her purse?
Suppose she came too late! The marriage was to take place at
two.... Suppose she never came at all! After three trains in
succession had disappointed him his vague feelings of dread gave place
to a profound depression....

But she came at last, and it was twenty-three minutes to two. He
hurried her luggage downstairs, booked it with his own, and in another
minute they were in a hansom--their first experience of that species
of conveyance--on the way to the Vestry office. They had said scarcely
anything to one another, save hasty directions from Lewisham, but
their eyes were full of excitement, and under the apron of the cab
their hands were gripped together.

The little old gentleman was business-like but kindly. They made
their vows to him, to a little black-bearded clerk and a lady who took
off an apron in the nether part of the building to attend. The little
old gentleman made no long speeches. "You are young people," he said
slowly, "and life together is a difficult thing.... Be kind to each
other." He smiled a little sadly, and held out a friendly hand.

Ethel's eyes glistened and she found she could not speak.



Then a furtive payment of witnesses, and Lewisham was beside her. His
face was radiant. A steady current of workers going home to their
half-holiday rest poured along the street. On the steps before them
lay a few grains of rice from some more public nuptials.

A critical little girl eyed our couple curiously and made some remark
to her ragamuffin friend.

"Not them," said the ragamuffin friend, "They've only been askin'

The ragamuffin friend was no judge of faces.

They walked back through the thronged streets to Vauxhall station,
saying little to one another, and there Lewisham, assuming as
indifferent a manner as he could command, recovered their possessions
from the booking-office by means of two separate tickets and put them
aboard a four-wheeler. His luggage went outside, but the little brown
portmanteau containing Ethel's trousseau was small enough to go on the
seat in front of them. You must figure a rather broken-down
four-wheeler bearing the yellow-painted box and the experienced trunk
and Mr. Lewisham and all his fortunes, a despondent fitful horse, and
a threadbare venerable driver, blasphemous _sotto voce_ and
flagellant, in an ancient coat with capes. When our two young people
found themselves in the cab again a certain stiffness of manner
between them vanished and there was more squeezing of hands. "Ethel
_Lewisham_," said Lewisham several times, and Ethel reciprocated with
"Husbinder" and "Hubby dear," and took off her glove to look again in
an ostentatious manner at a ring. And she kissed the ring.

They were resolved that their newly-married state should not appear,
and with considerable ceremony it was arranged that he should treat
her with off-hand brusqueness when they arrived at their lodging. The
Teutonic landlady appeared in the passage with an amiable smile and
the hope that they had had a pleasant journey, and became voluble with
promises of comfort. Lewisham having assisted the slatternly general
servant to carry in his boxes, paid the cabman a florin in a resolute
manner and followed the ladies into the sitting-room.

Ethel answered Madam Gadow's inquiries with admirable self-possession,
followed her through the folding-doors and displayed an intelligent
interest in a new spring mattress. Presently the folding-doors were
closed again. Lewisham hovered about the front room pulling his
moustache and pretending to admire the oleographs, surprised to find
himself trembling....

The slatternly general servant reappeared with the chops and tinned
salmon he had asked Madam Gadow to prepare for them. He went and
stared out of the window, heard the door close behind the girl, and
turned at a sound as Ethel appeared shyly through the folding-doors.

She was suddenly domestic. Hitherto he had seen her without a hat and
jacket only on one indistinct dramatic occasion. Now she wore a little
blouse of soft, dark red material, with a white froth about the wrists
and that pretty neck of hers. And her hair was a new wonderland of
curls and soft strands. How delicate she looked and sweet as she stood
hesitating there. These gracious moments in life! He took two steps
and held out his arms. She glanced at the closed door of the room and
came flitting towards him....



For three indelible days Lewisham's existence was a fabric of fine
emotions, life was too wonderful and beautiful for any doubts or
forethought. To be with Ethel was perpetual delight--she astonished
this sisterless youngster with a thousand feminine niceties and
refinements. She shamed him for his strength and clumsiness. And the
light in her eyes and the warmth in her heart that lit them!

Even to be away from her was a wonder and in its way delightful. He
was no common Student, he was a man with a Secret Life. To part from
her on Monday near South Kensington station and go up Exhibition Road
among all the fellows who lived in sordid, lonely lodgings and were
boys to his day-old experience! To neglect one's work and sit back and
dream of meeting again! To slip off to the shady churchyard behind the
Oratory when, or even a little before, the midday bell woke the great
staircase to activity, and to meet a smiling face and hear a soft,
voice saying sweet foolish things! And after four another meeting and
the walk home--their own home.

No little form now went from him and flitted past a gas lamp down a
foggy vista, taking his desire with her. Never more was that to
be. Lewisham's long hours in the laboratory were spent largely in a
dreamy meditation, in--to tell the truth--the invention of foolish
terms of endearment: "Dear Wife," "Dear Little Wife Thing," "Sweetest
Dearest Little Wife," "Dillywings." A pretty employment! And these
are quite a fair specimen of his originality during those wonderful
days. A moment of heart-searching in that particular matter led to
the discovery of hitherto undreamt-of kindred with Swift. For
Lewisham, like Swift and most other people, had hit upon, the Little
Language. Indeed it was a very foolish time.

Such section cutting as he did that third day of his married life--and
he did very little--was a thing to marvel at. Bindon, the botany
professor, under the fresh shock of his performance, protested to a
colleague in the grill room that never had a student been so foolishly

And Ethel too had a fine emotional time. She was mistress of a
home--_their_ home together. She shopped and was called "Ma'am" by
respectful, good-looking shopmen; she designed meals and copied out
papers of notes with a rich sense of helpfulness. And ever and again
she would stop writing and sit dreaming. And for four bright week-days
she went to and fro to accompany and meet Lewisham and listen greedily
to the latest fruits of his imagination.

The landlady was very polite and conversed entertainingly about the
very extraordinary and dissolute servants that had fallen to her
lot. And Ethel disguised her newly wedded state by a series of
ingenious prevarications. She wrote a letter that Saturday evening to
her mother--Lewisham had helped her to write it--making a sort of
proclamation of her heroic departure and promising a speedy
visit. They posted the letter so that it might not be delivered until

She was quite sure with Lewisham that only the possible dishonour of
mediumship could have brought their marriage about--she sank the
mutual attraction beyond even her own vision. There was more than a
touch of magnificence, you perceive, about this affair.

It was Lewisham had persuaded her to delay that reassuring visit until
Monday night. "One whole day of honeymoon," he insisted, was to be
theirs. In his prenuptial meditations he had not clearly focussed the
fact that even after marriage some sort of relations with Mr. and
Mrs. Chaffery would still go on. Even now he was exceedingly
disinclined to face that obvious necessity. He foresaw, in spite of a
resolute attempt to ignore it, that there would be explanatory scenes
of some little difficulty. But the prevailing magnificence carried him
over this trouble.

"Let us at least have this little time for ourselves," he said, and
that seemed to settle their position.

Save for its brevity and these intimations of future trouble it was a
very fine time indeed. Their midday dinner together, for example--it
was a little cold when at last they came to it on Saturday--was
immense fun. There was no marked subsidence of appetite; they ate
extremely well in spite of the meeting of their souls, and in spite of
certain shiftings of chairs and hand claspings and similar delays. He
really made the acquaintance of her hands then for the first time,
plump white hands with short white fingers, and the engagement ring
had come out of its tender hiding-place and acted as keeper to the
wedding ring. Their eyes were perpetually flitting about the room and
coming back to mutual smiles. All their movements were faintly

She professed to be vastly interested and amused by the room and its
furniture and her position, and he was delighted by her delight. She
was particularly entertained by the chest of drawers in the living
room, and by Lewisham's witticisms at the toilet tidies and the

And after the chops and the most of the tinned salmon and the very new
loaf were gone they fell to with fine effect upon a tapioca
pudding. Their talk was fragmentary. "Did you hear her call me
_Madame? Madame_--so!" "And presently I must go out and do some
shopping. There are all the things for Sunday and Monday morning to
get. I must make a list. It will never do to let her know how little I
know about things.... I wish I knew more."

At the time Lewisham regarded her confession of domestic ignorance as
a fine basis for facetiousness. He developed a fresh line of thought,
and condoled with her on the inglorious circumstances of their
wedding. "No bridesmaids," he said; "no little children scattering
flowers, no carriages, no policemen to guard the wedding presents,
nothing proper--nothing right. Not even a white favour. Only you and

"Only you and I. _Oh_!"

"This is nonsense," said Lewisham, after an interval.

"And think what we lose in the way of speeches," he resumed. "Cannot
you imagine the best man rising:--'Ladies and gentlemen--the health of
the bride.' That is what the best man has to do, isn't it?"

By way of answer she extended her hand.

"And do you know," he said, after that had received due recognition,
"we have never been introduced!"

"Neither have we!" said Ethel. "Neither have we! We have never been

For some inscrutable reason it delighted them both enormously to think
that they had never been introduced....

In the later afternoon Lewisham, having unpacked his books to a
certain extent, and so forth, was visible to all men, visibly in the
highest spirits, carrying home Ethel's shopping. There were parcels
and cones in blue and parcels in rough grey paper and a bag of
confectionery, and out of one of the side pockets of that East-end
overcoat the tail of a haddock protruded from its paper. Under such
magnificent sanctions and amid such ignoble circumstances did this
honeymoon begin.

On Sunday evening they went for a long rambling walk through the quiet
streets, coming out at last into Hyde Park. The early spring night was
mild and clear and the kindly moonlight was about them. They went to
the bridge and looked down the Serpentine, with the little lights of
Paddington yellow and remote. They stood there, dim little figures and
very close together. They whispered and became silent.

Presently it seemed that something passed and Lewisham began talking
in his magnificent vein. He likened the Serpentine to Life, and found
Meaning in the dark banks of Kensington Gardens and the remote bright
lights. "The long struggle," he said, "and the lights at the
end,"--though he really did not know what he meant by the lights at
the end. Neither did Ethel, though the emotion was indisputable. "We
are Fighting the World," he said, finding great satisfaction in the
thought. "All the world is against us--and we are fighting it all."

"We will not be beaten," said Ethel.

"How could we be beaten--together?" said Lewisham. "For you I would
fight a dozen worlds."

It seemed a very sweet and noble thing to them under the sympathetic
moonlight, almost indeed too easy for their courage, to be merely
fighting the world.

* * * * *

"You 'aven't bin married ver' long," said Madam Gadow with an
insinuating smile, when she readmitted Ethel on Monday morning after
Lewisham had been swallowed up by the Schools.

"No, I haven't _very_ long," admitted Ethel.

"You are ver' 'appy," said Madam Gadow, and sighed.

"_I_ was ver' 'appy," said Madam Gadow.



The golden mists of delight lifted a little on Monday, when Mr. and
Mrs. G.E. Lewisham went to call on his mother-in-law and
Mr. Chaffery. Mrs. Lewisham went in evident apprehension, but clouds
of glory still hung about Lewisham's head, and his manner was heroic.
He wore a cotton shirt and linen collar, and a very nice black satin
tie that Mrs. Lewisham had bought on her own responsibility during the
day. She naturally wanted him to look all right.

Mrs. Chaffery appeared in the half light of the passage as the top of
a grimy cap over Ethel's shoulder and two black sleeves about her
neck. She emerged as a small, middle-aged woman, with a thin little
nose between silver-rimmed spectacles, a weak mouth and perplexed
eyes, a queer little dust-lined woman with the oddest resemblance to
Ethel in her face. She was trembling visibly with nervous agitation.

She hesitated, peering, and then kissed Mr. Lewisham effusively. "And
this is Mr. Lewisham!" she said as she did so.

She was the third thing feminine to kiss Lewisham since the
promiscuous days of his babyhood. "I was so afraid--There!" She
laughed hysterically.

"You'll excuse my saying that it's comforting to see you--honest like
and young. Not but what Ethel ... _He_ has been something dreadful,"
said Mrs. Chaffery. "You didn't ought to have written about that
mesmerising. And of all letters that which Jane wrote--there! But
he's waiting and listening--"

"Are we to go downstairs, Mums?" asked Ethel.

"He's waiting for you there," said Mrs. Chaffery. She held a dismal
little oil lamp, and they descended a tenebrous spiral structure into
an underground breakfast-room lit by gas that shone through a
partially frosted globe with cut-glass stars. That descent had a
distinctly depressing effect upon Lewisham. He went first. He took a
deep breath at the door. What on earth was Chaffery going to say? Not
that he cared, of course.

Chaffery was standing with his back to the fire, trimming his
finger-nails with a pocket-knife. His gilt glasses were tilted forward
so as to make an inflamed knob at the top of his long nose, and he
regarded Mr. and Mrs. Lewisham over them with--Lewisham doubted his
eyes for a moment--but it was positively a smile, an essentially
waggish smile.

"You've come back," he said quite cheerfully over Lewisham to
Ethel. There was a hint of falsetto in his voice.

"She has called to see her mother," said Lewisham. "You, I believe,
are Mr. Chaffery?"

"I would like to know who the Deuce _you_ are?" said Chaffery,
suddenly tilting his head back so as to look through his glasses
instead of over them, and laughing genially. "For thoroughgoing Cheek,
I'm inclined to think you take the Cake. Are you the Mr. Lewisham to
whom this misguided girl refers in her letter?"

"I am."

"Maggie," said Mr. Chaffery to Mrs. Chaffery, "there is a class of
being upon whom delicacy is lost--to whom delicacy is practically
unknown. Has your daughter got her marriage lines?"

"Mr. Chaffery!" said Lewisham, and Mrs. Chaffery exclaimed, "James!
How _can_ you?"

Chaffery shut his penknife with a click and slipped it into his
vest-pocket. Then he looked up again, speaking in the same equal
voice. "I presume we are civilised persons prepared to manage our
affairs in a civilised way. My stepdaughter vanishes for two nights
and returns with an alleged husband. I at least am not disposed to be
careless about her legal position."

"You ought to know her better--" began Lewisham.

"Why argue about it," said Chaffery gaily, pointing a lean finger at
Ethel's gesture, "when she has 'em in her pocket? She may just as well
show me now. I thought so. Don't be alarmed at my handling them.
Fresh copies can always be got at the nominal price of two-and-seven.
Thank you ... Lewisham, George Edgar. One-and-twenty. And ...
You--one-and-twenty! I never did know your age, my dear, exactly, and
now your mother won't say. Student! Thank you. I am greatly
obliged. Indeed I am greatly relieved. And now, what have you got to
say for yourselves in this remarkable affair?"

"You had a letter," said Lewisham.

"I had a letter of excuses--the personalities I overlook ... Yes,
sir--they were excuses. You young people wanted to marry--and you
seized an occasion. You did not even refer to the fact that you
wanted to marry in your letter. Pure modesty! But now you have come
here married. It disorganises this household, it inflicts endless
bother on people, but never you mind that! I'm not blaming
_you_. Nature's to blame! Neither of you know what you are in for
yet. You will. You're married, and that is the great essential
thing.... (Ethel, my dear, just put your husband's hat and stick
behind the door.) And you, sir, are so good as to disapprove of the
way in which I earn my living?"

"Well," said Lewisham. "Yes--I'm bound to say I do."

"You are really _not_ bound to say it. The modesty of inexperience
would excuse you."

"Yes, but it isn't right--it isn't straight."

"Dogma," said Chaffery. "Dogma!"

"What do you mean by dogma?" asked Lewisham.

"I mean, dogma. But we must argue this out in comfort. It is our
supper hour, and I'm not the man to fight against accomplished
facts. We have intermarried. There it is. You must stop to
supper--and you and I must thresh these things out. We've involved
ourselves with each other and we've got to make the best of it. Your
wife and mine will spread the board, and we will go on talking. Why
not sit in that chair instead of leaning on the back? This is a
home--_domus_--not a debating society--humble in spite of my manifest
frauds.... That's better. And in the first place I hope--I do so
hope"--Chaffery was suddenly very impressive--"that you're not a

"Eh!" said Lewisham, and then, "No! I am _not_ a Dissenter."

"That's better," said Mr. Chaffery. "I'm glad of that. I was just a
little afraid--Something in your manner. I can't stand Dissenters.
I've a peculiar dislike to Dissenters. To my mind it's the great
drawback of this Clapham. You see ... I have invariably found them

He grimaced and dropped his glasses with a click against his waistcoat
buttons. "I'm very glad of that," he said, replacing them. "The
Dissenter, the Nonconformist Conscience, the Puritan, you know, the
Vegetarian and Total Abstainer, and all that sort of thing, I cannot
away with them. I have cleared my mind of cant and formulae. I've a
nature essentially Hellenic. Have you ever read Matthew Arnold?"

"Beyond my scientific reading--"

"Ah! you _should_ read Matthew Arnold--a mind of singular clarity. In
him you would find a certain quality that is sometimes a little
wanting in your scientific men. They are apt to be a little too
phenomenal, you know, a little too objective. Now I seek after
noumena. Noumena, Mr. Lewisham! If you follow me--?"

He paused, and his eyes behind the glasses were mildly
interrogative. Ethel re-entered without her hat and jacket, and with a
noisy square black tray, a white cloth, some plates and knives and
glasses, and began to lay the table.

"_I_ follow you," said Lewisham, reddening. He had not the courage to
admit ignorance of this remarkable word. "You state your case."

"I seek after _noumena_," repeated Chaffery with great satisfaction,
and gesticulated with his hand, waving away everything but that. "I
cannot do with surfaces and appearances. I am one of those
nympholepts, you know, nympholepts ... Must pursue the truth of
things! the elusive fundamental ... I make a rule, I never tell myself
lies--never. There are few who can say that. To my mind--truth begins
at home. And for the most part--stops there. Safest and seemliest!
_you_ know. With most men--with your typical Dissenter _par
excellence_--it's always gadding abroad, calling on the neighbours.
You see my point of view?"

He glanced at Lewisham, who was conscious of an unwonted opacity of
mind. He became wary, as wary as he could manage to be on the spur of
the moment.

"It's a little surprising, you know," he said very carefully, "if I
may say so--and considering what happened--to hear _you_ ..."

"Speaking of truth? Not when you understand my position. Not when you
see where I stand. That is what I am getting at. That is what I am
naturally anxious to make clear to you now that we have intermarried,
now that you are my stepson-in-law. You're young, you know, you're
young, and you're hard and fast. Only years can give a mind
_tone_--mitigate the varnish of education. I gather from this
letter--and your face--that you are one of the party that participated
in that little affair at Lagune's."

He stuck out a finger at a point he had just seen. "By-the-bye!--That
accounts for Ethel," he said.

Ethel rapped down the mustard on the table. "It does," she said, but
not very loudly.

"But you had met before?" said Chaffery.

"At Whortley," said Lewisham.

"I see," said Chaffery.

"I was in--I was one of those who arranged the exposure," said
Lewisham. "And now you have raised the matter, I am bound to say--"

"I knew," interrupted Chaffery. "But what a shock that was for
Lagune!" He looked down at his toes for a moment with the corners of
his mouth tucked in. "The hand dodge wasn't bad, you know," he said,
with a queer sidelong smile.

Lewisham was very busy for a moment trying to get this remark in
focus. "I don't see it in the same light as you do," he explained at

"Can't get away from your moral bias, eh?--Well, well. We'll go into
all that. But apart from its moral merits--simply as an artistic
trick--it was not bad."

"I don't know much about tricks--"

"So few who undertake exposures do. You admit you never heard or
thought of that before--the bladder, I mean. Yet it's as obvious as
tintacks that a medium who's hampered at his hands will do all he can
with his teeth, and what _could_ be so self-evident as a bladder under
one's lappel? What could be? Yet I know psychic literature pretty
well, and it's never been suggested even! Never. It's a perpetual
surprise to me how many things are _not_ thought of by investigators.
For one thing, they never count the odds against them, and that puts
them wrong at the start. Look at it! I am by nature tricky. I spend
all my leisure standing or sitting about and thinking up or practising
new little tricks, because it amuses me immensely to do so. The whole
thing amuses me. Well--what is the result of these meditations? Take
one thing:--I know eight-and-forty ways of making raps--of which at
least ten are original. Ten original ways of making raps." His manner
was very impressive. "And some of them simply tremendous raps. There!"

A confirmatory rap exploded--as it seemed between Lewisham and

"_Eh?_" said Chaffery.

The mantelpiece opened a dropping fire, and the table went off under
Lewisham's nose like a cracker.

"You see?" said Chaffery, putting his hands under the tail of his
coat. The whole room seemed snapping its fingers at Lewisham for a

"Very well, and now take the other side. Take the severest test I ever
tried. Two respectable professors of physics--not Newtons, you
understand, but good, worthy, self-important professors of physics--a
lady anxious to prove there's a life beyond the grave, a journalist
who wants stuff to write--a person, that is, who gets his living by
these researches just as I do--undertook to test me. Test _me_!... Of
course they had their other work to do, professing physics, professing
religion, organising research, and so forth. At the outside they don't
think an hour a day about it, and most of them had never cheated
anybody in their existence, and couldn't, for example, travel without
a ticket for a three-mile journey and not get caught, to save their
lives.... Well--you see the odds?"

He paused. Lewisham appeared involved in some interior struggle.

"You know," explained Chaffery, "it was quite an accident you got
me--quite. The thing slipped out of my mouth. Or your friend with, the
flat voice wouldn't have had a chance. Not a chance."

Lewisham spoke like a man who is lifting a weight. "All _this_, you
know, is off the question. I'm not disputing your ability. But the
thing is ... it isn't right."

"We're coming to that," said Chaffery.

"It's evident we look at things in a different light."

"That's it. That's just what we've got to discuss. Exactly!"

"Cheating is cheating. You can't get away from that. That's simple

"Wait till I've done with it," said Chaffery with a certain zest. "Of
course it's imperative you should understand my position. It isn't as
though I hadn't one. Ever since I read your letter I've been thinking
over that. Really!--a justification! In a way you might almost say I
had a mission. A sort of prophet. You really don't see the beginning
of it yet."

"Oh, but hang it!" protested Lewisham.

"Ah! you're young, you're crude. My dear young man, you're only at the
beginning of things. You really must concede a certain possibility of
wider views to a man more than twice your age. But here's supper. For
a little while at any rate we'll call a truce."

Ethel had come in again bearing an additional chair, and Mrs. Chaffery
appeared behind her, crowning the preparations with a jug of small
beer. The cloth, Lewisham observed, as he turned towards it, had
several undarned holes and discoloured places, and in the centre stood
a tarnished cruet which contained mustard, pepper, vinegar, and three
ambiguous dried-up bottles. The bread was on an ample board with a
pious rim, and an honest wedge of cheese loomed disproportionate on a
little plate. Mr. and Mrs. Lewisham were seated facing one another,
and Mrs. Chaffery sat in the broken chair because she understood its

"This cheese is as nutritious and unattractive and indigestible as
Science," remarked Chaffery, cutting and passing wedges. "But crush
it--so--under your fork, add a little of this good Dorset butter, a
dab of mustard, pepper--the pepper is very necessary--and some malt
vinegar, and crush together. You get a compound called Crab and by no
means disagreeable. So the wise deal with the facts of life, neither
bolting nor rejecting, but adapting."

"As though pepper and mustard were not facts," said Lewisham, scoring
his solitary point that evening.

Chaffery admitted the collapse of his image in very complimentary
terms, and Lewisham could not avoid a glance across the table at
Ethel. He remembered that Chaffery was a slippery scoundrel whose
blame was better than his praise, immediately afterwards.

For a time the Crab engaged Chaffery, and the conversation
languished. Mrs. Chaffery asked Ethel formal questions about their
lodgings, and Ethel's answers were buoyant, "You must come and have
tea one day," said Ethel, not waiting for Lewisham's endorsement, "and
see it all."

Chaffery astonished Lewisham by suddenly displaying a complete
acquaintance with his status as a South Kensington teacher in
training. "I suppose you have some money beyond that guinea," said
Chaffery offhandedly.

"Enough to go on with," said Lewisham, reddening.

"And you look to them at South Kensington, to do something for you--a
hundred a year or so, when your scholarship is up?"

"Yes," said Lewisham a little reluctantly. "Yes. A hundred a year or
so. That's the sort of idea. And there's lots of places beyond South
Kensington, of course, even if they don't put me up there."

"I see," said Chaffery; "but it will be a pretty close shave for all
that--one hundred a year. Well, well--there's many a deserving man has
to do with less," and after a meditative pause he asked Lewisham to
pass the beer.

"Hev you a mother living, Mr. Lewisham?" said Mrs. Chaffery suddenly,
and pursued him through the tale of his connexions. When he came to
the plumber, Mrs. Chaffery remarked with an unexpected air of
consequence that most families have their poor relations. Then the
air of consequence vanished again into the past from which it had

Supper finished, Chaffery poured the residuum of the beer into his
glass, produced a Broseley clay of the longest sort, and invited
Lewisham to smoke. "Honest smoking," said Chaffery, tapping the bowl
of his clay, and added: "In this country--cigars--sound cigars--and
honesty rarely meet."

Lewisham fumbled in his pocket for his Algerian cigarettes, and
Chaffery having regarded them unfavourably through his glasses, took
up the thread of his promised apologia. The ladies retired to wash up
the supper things.

"You see," said Chaffery, opening abruptly so soon as the clay was
drawing, about this cheating--I do not find life such a simple matter
as you do."

"_I_ don't find life simple," said Lewisham, "but I do think there's a
Right and a Wrong in things. And I don't think you have said anything
so far to show that spiritualistic cheating is Right."

"Let us thresh the matter out," said Chaffery, crossing his legs; "let
us thresh the matter out. Now"--he drew at his pipe--"I don't think
you fully appreciate the importance of Illusion in life, the Essential
Nature of Lies and Deception of the body politic. You are inclined to
discredit one particular form of Imposture, because it is not
generally admitted--carries a certain discredit, and--witness the heel
edges of my trouser legs, witness yonder viands--small rewards."

"It's not that," said Lewisham.

"Now I am prepared to maintain," said Chaffery, proceeding with his
proposition, "that Honesty is essentially an anarchistic and
disintegrating force in society, that communities are held together
and the progress of civilisation made possible only by vigorous and
sometimes even, violent Lying; that the Social Contract is nothing
more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie to and
humbug themselves and one another for the general Good. Lies are the
mortar that bind the savage Individual man into the social
masonry. There is the general thesis upon which I base my
justification. My mediumship, I can assure you, is a particular
instance of the general assertion. Were I not of a profoundly
indolent, restless, adventurous nature, and horribly averse to
writing, I would make a great book of this and live honoured by every
profound duffer in the world."

"But how are _you_ going to prove it?"

"Prove It! It simply needs pointing out. Even now there are
men--Bernard Shaw, Ibsen, and such like--who have seen bits of it in a
new-gospel-grubbing sort of fashion. What Is man? Lust and greed
tempered by fear and an irrational vanity."

"I don't agree with that," said Mr. Lewisham.

"You will as you grow older," said Chaffery. "There's truths you have
to grow into. But about this matter of Lies--let us look at the fabric
of society, let us compare the savage. You will discover the only
essential difference between savage and civilised is this: The former
hasn't learnt to shirk the truth of things, and the latter has. Take
the most obvious difference--the clothing of the civilised man, his
invention of decency. What _is_ clothing? The concealment of essential
facts. What is decorum? Suppression! I don't argue against decency and
decorum, mind you, but there they are--essentials to civilisation and
essentially '_suppressio veri_.' And in the pockets of his clothes our
citizen carries money. The pure savage has no money. To him a lump of
metal is a lump of metal--possibly ornamental--no more. That's
right. To any lucid-minded man it's the same or different only through
the gross folly of his fellows. But to the common civilised man the
universal exchangeability of this gold is a sacred and fundamental
fact. Think of it! Why should it be? There isn't a why! I live in
perpetual amazement at the gullibility of my fellow-creatures. Of a
morning sometimes, I can assure you, I lie in bed fancying that people
may have found out this swindle in the night, expect to hear a tumult
downstairs and see your mother-in-law come rushing into the room with
a rejected shilling from the milkman. 'What's this?' says he. 'This
Muck for milk?' But it never happens. Never. If it did, if people
suddenly cleared their minds of this cant of money, what would happen?
The true nature of man would appear. I should whip out of bed, seize
some weapon, and after the milkman forthwith. It's becoming to keep
the peace, but it's necessary to have milk. The neighbours would come
pouring out--also after milk. Milkman, suddenly enlightened, would
start clattering up the street. After him! Clutch--tear! Got him!
Over goes the cart! Fight if you like, but don't upset the
can!... Don't you see it all?--perfectly reasonable every bit of it. I
should return, bruised and bloody, with the milk-can under my arm.
Yes, _I_ should have the milk-can--I should keep my eye on
that.... But why go on? You of all men should know that life is a
struggle for existence, a fight for food. Money is just the lie that
mitigates our fury."

"No," said Lewisham; "no! I'm not prepared to admit that."

"What _is_ money?"

Mr. Lewisham dodged. "You state your case first," he said. "I really
don't see what all this has to do with cheating at a _seance_."

"I weave my defence from this loom, though. Take some aggressively
respectable sort of man--a bishop, for example."

"Well," said Lewisham, "I don't much hold with bishops."

"It doesn't matter. Take a professor of science, walking the
earth. Remark his clothing, making a decent citizen out of him,
concealing the fact that physically he is a flabby, pot-bellied
degenerate. That is the first Lie of his being. No fringes round _his_
trousers, my boy. Notice his hair, groomed and clipped, the tacit lie
that its average length is half an inch, whereas in nature he would
wave a few score yard-long hairs of ginger grey to the winds of
heaven. Notice the smug suppressions of his face. In his mouth are
Lies in the shape of false teeth. Then on the earth somewhere poor
devils are toiling to get him meat and corn and wine. He is clothed in
the lives of bent and thwarted weavers, his Way is lit by phossy jaw,
he eats from lead-glazed crockery--all his ways are paved with the
lives of men.... Think of the chubby, comfortable creature! And, as
Swift has it--to think that such a thing should deal in pride!... He
pretends that his blessed little researches are in some way a fair
return to these remote beings for their toil, their suffering;
pretends that he and his parasitic career are payment for their
thwarted desires. Imagine him bullying his gardener over some
transplanted geraniums, the thick mist of lies they stand in, so that
the man does not immediately with the edge of a spade smite down his
impertinence to the dust from which it rose.... And his case is the
case of all comfortable lives. What a lie and sham all civility is,
all good breeding, all culture and refinement, while one poor ragged
wretch drags hungry on the earth!"

"But this is Socialism!" said Lewisham. "_I_--"

"No Ism," said Chaffery, raising his rich voice. "Only the ghastly
truth of things--the truth that the warp and the woof of the world of
men is Lying. Socialism is no remedy, no _ism_ is a remedy; things
are so."

"I don't agree--" began Lewisham.

"Not with the hopelessness, because you are young, but with the
description you do."

"Well--within limits."

"You agree that most respectable positions in the world are tainted
with the fraud of our social conditions. If they were not tainted
with fraud they would not be respectable. Even your own position--Who
gave you the right to marry and prosecute interesting scientific
studies while other young men rot in mines?"

"I admit--"

"You can't help admitting. And here is my position. Since all ways of
life are tainted with fraud, since to live and speak the truth is
beyond human strength and courage--as one finds it--is it not better
for a man that he engage in some straightforward comparatively harmless
cheating, than if he risk his mental integrity in some ambiguous
position and fall at last into self-deception and self-righteousness?
That is the essential danger. That is the thing I always guard
against. Heed that! It is the master sin. Self-righteousness."

Mr. Lewisham pulled at his moustache.

"You begin to take me. And after all, these worthy people do not
suffer so greatly. If I did not take their money some other impostor
would. Their huge conceit of intelligence would breed perhaps some
viler swindle than my facetious rappings. That's the line our doubting
bishops take, and why shouldn't I? For example, these people might
give it to Public Charities, minister to the fattened secretary, the
prodigal younger son. After all, at worst, I am a sort of latter-day
Robin Hood; I take from the rich according to their incomes. I don't
give to the poor certainly, I don't get enough. But--there are other
good works. Many a poor weakling have I comforted with Lies, great
thumping, silly Lies, about the grave! Compare me with one of those
rascals who disseminate phossy jaw and lead poisons, compare me with a
millionaire who runs a music hall with an eye to feminine talent, or
an underwriter, or the common stockbroker. Or any sort of lawyer....

"There are bishops," said Chaffery, "who believe in Darwin and doubt
Moses. Now, I hold myself better than they--analogous perhaps, but
better--for I do at least invent something of the tricks I play--I do
do that."

"That's all very well," began Lewisham.

"I might forgive them their dishonesty," said Chaffery, "but the
stupidity of it, the mental self-abnegation--Lord! If a solicitor
doesn't swindle in the proper shabby-magnificent way, they chuck him
for unprofessional conduct." He paused. He became meditative, and
smiled faintly.

"Now, some of _my_ dodges," he said with a sudden change of voice,
turning towards Lewisham, his eyes smiling over his glasses and an
emphatic hand patting the table-cloth; "some of _my_ dodges are
_damned_ ingenious, you know--_damned_ ingenious--and well worth
double the money they bring me--double."

He turned towards the fire again, pulling at his smouldering pipe, and
eyeing Lewisham over the corner of his glasses.

"One or two of my little things would make Maskelyne sit up," he said
presently. "They would set that mechanical orchestra playing out of
pure astonishment. I really must explain some of them to you--now we
have intermarried."

It took Mr. Lewisham a minute or so to re-form the regiment of his
mind, disordered by its headlong pursuit of Chaffery's flying
arguments. "But on your principles you might do almost anything!" he

"Precisely!" said Chaffery.


"It is rather a curious method," protested Chaffery; "to test one's
principles of action by judging the resultant actions on some other
principle, isn't it?"

Lewisham took a moment to think. "I suppose that is so," he said, in
the manner of a man convinced against his will.

He perceived his logic insufficient. He suddenly thrust the delicacies
of argument aside. Certain sentences he had brought ready for use in
his mind came up and he delivered them abruptly. "Anyhow," he said, "I
don't agree with this cheating. In spite of what you say, I hold to
what I said in my letter. Ethel's connexion with all these things is
at an end. I shan't go out of my way to expose you, of course, but if
it comes in my way I shall speak my mind of all these spiritualistic
phenomena. It's just as well that we should know clearly where we

"That is clearly understood, my dear stepson-in-law," said
Chaffery. "Our present object is discussion."

"But Ethel--"

"Ethel is yours," said Chaffery. "Ethel is yours," he repeated after
an interval and added pensively--"to keep."

"But talking of Illusion," he resumed, dismissing the sordid with a
sign of relief, "I sometimes think with Bishop Berkeley, that all
experience is probably something quite different from reality. That
consciousness is _essentially_ hallucination. I, here, and you, and
our talk--it is all Illusion. Bring your Science to bear--what am I? A
cloudy multitude of atoms, an infinite interplay of little cells. Is
this hand that I hold out me? This head? Is the surface of my skin any
more than a rude average boundary? You say it is my mind that is me?
But consider the war of motives. Suppose I have an impulse that I
resist--it is _I_ resist it--the impulse is outside me, eh? But
suppose that impulse carries me and I do the thing--that impulse is
part of me, is it not? Ah! My brain reels at these mysteries! Lord!
what flimsy fluctuating things we are--first this, then that, a
thought, an impulse, a deed and a forgetting, and all the time madly
cocksure we are ourselves. And as for you--you who have hardly learned
to think for more than five or six short years, there you sit,
assured, coherent, there you sit in all your inherited original
sin--Hallucinatory Windlestraw!--judging and condemning. _You_ know
Right from Wrong! My boy, so did Adam and Eve ... _so soon as they'd
had dealings with the father of lies_!"

* * * * *

At the end of the evening whisky and hot water were produced, and
Chaffery, now in a mood of great urbanity, said he had rarely enjoyed
anyone's conversation so much as Lewisham's, and insisted upon
everyone having whisky. Mrs. Chaffery and Ethel added sugar and
lemon. Lewisham felt an instantaneous mild surprise at the sight of
Ethel drinking grog.

At the door Mrs. Chaffery kissed Lewisham an effusive good-bye, and
told Ethel she really believed it was all for the best.

On the way home Lewisham was thoughtful and preoccupied. The problem
of Chaffery assumed enormous proportions. At times indeed even that
good man's own philosophical sketch of himself as a practical exponent
of mental sincerity touched with humour and the artistic spirit,
seemed plausible. Lagune was an undeniable ass, and conceivably
psychic research was an incentive to trickery. Then he remembered the
matter in his relation to Ethel....

"Your stepfather is a little hard to follow," he said at last, sitting
on the bed and taking off one boot. "He's dodgy--he's so confoundedly
dodgy. One doesn't know where to take hold of him. He's got such a
break he's clean bowled me again and again."

He thought for a space, and then removed his boot and sat with it on
his knee. "Of course!... all that he said was wrong--quite
wrong. Right is right and cheating is cheating, whatever you say about

"That's what I feel about him," said Ethel at the looking-glass.
"That's exactly how it seems to me."



On Saturday Lewisham was first through the folding doors. In a moment
he reappeared with a document extended. Mrs. Lewisham stood arrested
with her dress skirt in her hand, astonished at the astonishment on
his face. "_I_ say!" said Lewisham; "just look here!"

She looked at the book that he held open before her, and perceived
that its vertical ruling betokened a sordid import, that its list of
items in an illegible mixture of English and German was lengthy. "1
kettle of coals 6d." occurred regularly down that portentous array and
buttoned it all together. It was Madam Gadow's first bill. Ethel took
it out of his hand and examined it closer. It looked no smaller
closer. The overcharges were scandalous. It was curious how the humour
of calling a scuttle "kettle" had evaporated.

That document, I take it, was the end of Mr. Lewisham's informal
honeymoon. Its advent was the snap of that bright Prince Rupert's
drop; and in a moment--Dust. For a glorious week he had lived in the
persuasion that life was made of love and mystery, and now he was
reminded with singular clearness that it was begotten of a struggle
for existence and the Will to Live. "Confounded imposition!" fumed
Mr. Lewisham, and the breakfast table was novel and ominous,
mutterings towards anger on the one hand and a certain consternation
on the other. "I must give her a talking to this afternoon," said
Lewisham at his watch, and after he had bundled his books into the
shiny black bag, he gave the first of his kisses that was not a
distinct and self-subsisting ceremony. It was usage and done in a
hurry, and the door slammed as he went his way to the schools. Ethel
was not coming that morning, because by special request and because
she wanted to help him she was going to copy out some of his botanical
notes which had fallen into arrears.

On his way to the schools Lewisham felt something suspiciously near a
sinking of the heart. His preoccupation was essentially
arithmetical. The thing that engaged his mind to the exclusion of all
other matters is best expressed in the recognised business form.

Dr. L s. d. Cr. L s. d
Mr. L.{ 13 10 4-1/2 By bus fares to South
Cash in hand { Kensington (late) 0 0 2
Mrs. L.{ 0 11 7 By six lunches at the
Students' Club 0 5 2-1/2
At bank 45 0 0 By two packets of cig-
To scholarship 1 1 0 arettes (to smoke
after dinner) 0 0 6
By marriage and elope-
ment 4 18 10
By necessary subse-
quent additions to
bride's trousseau 0 16 1
By housekeeping exs. 1 1 4-1/2
By "A few little
things" bought by
housekeeper 0 15 3-1/2
By Madam Gadow for
coal, lodging and
attendance (as per
account rendered) 1 15 0
By missing 0 0 4
By balance 50 3 2
------------- -------------
L60 3 11-1/2 L60 3 11-1/2
------------- -------------

From this it will be manifest to the most unbusiness like that,
disregarding the extraordinary expenditure on the marriage, and the by
no means final "few little things" Ethel had bought, outgoings
exceeded income by two pounds and more, and a brief excursion into
arithmetic will demonstrate that in five-and-twenty weeks the balance
of the account would be nothing.

But that guinea a week was not to go on for five-and-twenty weeks, but
simply for fifteen, and then the net outgoings will be well over three
guineas, reducing the "law" accorded our young couple to
two-and-twenty weeks. These details are tiresome and disagreeable, no
doubt, to the refined reader, but just imagine how much more
disagreeable they were to Mr. Lewisham, trudging meditative to the
schools. You will understand his slipping out of the laboratory, and
betaking himself to the Educational Reading-room, and how it was that
the observant Smithers, grinding his lecture notes against the now
imminent second examination for the "Forbes," was presently perplexed
to the centre of his being by the spectacle of Lewisham intent upon a
pile of current periodicals, the _Educational Times_, the _Journal of
Education_, the _Schoolmaster, Science and Art, The University
Correspondent, Nature, The Athenaeum, The Academy_, and _The Author_.

Smithers remarked the appearance of a note-book, the jotting down of
memoranda. He edged into the bay nearest Lewisham's table and
approached him suddenly from the flank. "What are _you_ after?" said
Smithers in a noisy whisper and with a detective eye on the papers. He
perceived Lewisham was scrutinising the advertisement column, and his
perplexity increased.

"Oh--nothing," said Lewisham blandly, with his hand falling casually
over his memoranda; "what's your particular little game?"

"Nothing much," said Smithers, "just mooching round. You weren't at
the meeting last Friday?"

He turned a chair, knelt on it, and began whispering over the back
about Debating Society politics. Lewisham was inattentive and
brief. What had he to do with these puerilities? At last Smithers went
away foiled, and met Parkson by the entrance. Parkson, by-the-bye, had
not spoken to Lewisham since their painful misunderstanding. He made a
wide detour to his seat at the end table, and so, and by a singular
rectitude of bearing and a dignified expression, showed himself aware
of Lewisham's offensive presence.

Lewisham's investigations were two-fold. He wanted to discover some
way of adding materially to that weekly guinea by his own exertions,
and he wanted to learn the conditions of the market for typewriting.
For himself he had a vague idea, an idea subsequently abandoned, that
it was possible to get teaching work in evening classes during the
month of March. But, except by reason of sadden death, no evening
class in London changes its staff after September until July comes
round again. Private tuition, moreover, offered many attractions to
him, but no definite proposals. His ideas of his own possibilities
were youthful or he would not have spent time in noting the conditions
of application for a vacant professorship in physics at the Melbourne
University. He also made a note of the vacant editorship of a monthly
magazine devoted to social questions. He would not have minded doing
that sort of thing at all, though the proprietor might. There was
also a vacant curatorship in the Museum of Eton College.

The typewriting business was less varied and more definite. Those were
the days before the violent competition of the half-educated had
brought things down to an impossible tenpence the thousand words, and
the prevailing price was as high as one-and-six. Calculating that
Ethel could do a thousand words in an hour and that she could work
five or six hours in the day, it was evident that her contributions to
the household expenses would be by no means despicable; thirty
shillings a week perhaps. Lewisham was naturally elated at this
discovery. He could find no advertisements of authors or others
seeking typewriting, but he saw that a great number of typewriters
advertised themselves in the literary papers. It was evident Ethel
also must advertise. "'Scientific phraseology a speciality' might be
put," meditated Lewisham. He returned to his lodgings in a hopeful
mood with quite a bundle of memoranda of possible employments. He
spent five shillings in stamps on the way.

After lunch, Lewisham--a little short of breath-asked to see Madam
Gadow. She came up in the most affable frame of mind; nothing could be
further from the normal indignation of the British landlady. She was
very voluble, gesticulatory and lucid, but unhappily bi-lingual, and
at all the crucial points German. Mr. Lewisham's natural politeness
restrained him from too close a pursuit across the boundary of the two
imperial tongues. Quite half an hour's amicable discussion led at last
to a reduction of sixpence, and all parties professed themselves
satisfied with this result.

Madam Gadow was quite cool even at the end. Mr. Lewisham was flushed
in the face, red-eared, and his hair slightly disordered, but that
sixpence was at any rate an admission of the justice of his
claim. "She was evidently trying it on," he said almost apologetically
to Ethel. "It was absolutely necessary to present a firm front to
her. I doubt if we shall have any trouble again....

"Of course what she says about kitchen coals is perfectly just."

Then the young couple went for a walk in Kensington Gardens, and--the
spring afternoon was so warm and pleasant--sat on two attractive green
chairs near the band-stand, for which Lewisham had subsequently to pay
twopence. They had what Ethel called a "serious talk." She was really
wonderfully sensible, and discussed the situation exhaustively. She
was particularly insistent upon the importance of economy in her
domestic disbursements and deplored her general ignorance very
earnestly. It was decided that Lewisham should get a good elementary
text-book of domestic economy for her private study. At home
Mrs. Chaffery guided her house by the oracular items of "Inquire
Within upon Everything," but Lewisham considered that work

Ethel was also of opinion that much might be learnt from the sixpenny
ladies' papers--the penny ones had hardly begun in those days. She had
bought such publications during seasons of affluence, but chiefly, as
she now deplored, with an eye to the trimming of hats and such like
vanities. The sooner the typewriter came the better. It occurred to
Lewisham with unpleasant suddenness that he had not allowed for the
purchase of a typewriter in his estimate of their resources. It
brought their "law" down to twelve or thirteen weeks.

They spent the evening in writing and copying a number of letters,
addressing envelopes and enclosing stamps. There were optimistic

"Melbourne's a fine city," said Lewisham, "and we should have a
glorious voyage out." He read the application for the Melbourne
professorship out loud to her, just to see how it read, and she was
greatly impressed by the list of his accomplishments and successes.

"I did not, know you knew _half_ those things," she said, and became
depressed at her relative illiteracy. It was natural, after such
encouragement, to write to the scholastic agents in a tone of assured

The advertisement for typewriting in the _Athenaeum_ troubled his
conscience a little. After he had copied out his draft with its
"Scientific phraseology a speciality," fine and large, he saw the
notes she had written out for him. Her handwriting was still round and
boyish, even as it had appeared in the Whortley avenue, but her
punctuation was confined to the erratic comma and the dash, and there
was a disposition to spell the imperfectly legible along the line of
least resistance. However, he dismissed that matter with a resolve to
read over and correct anything in that way that she might have sent
her to do. It would not be a bad idea, he thought parenthetically, if
he himself read up some sound authority on the punctuation of

They sat at this business quite late, heedless of the examination in
botany that came on the morrow. It was very bright and cosy in their
little room with their fire burning, the gas lit and the curtains
drawn, and the number of applications they had written made them
hopeful. She was flushed and enthusiastic, now flitting about the
room, now coming close to him and leaning over him to see what he had
done. At Lewisham's request she got him the envelopes from the chest
of drawers. "You _are_ a help to a chap," said Lewisham, leaning back
from the table, "I feel I could do anything for a girl like

"_Really!_" she cried, "Really! Am I really a help?"

Lewisham's face and gesture, were all assent. She gave a little cry of
delight, stood for a moment, and then by way of practical
demonstration of her unflinching helpfulness, hurried round the table
towards him with arms extended, "You dear!" she cried.

Lewisham, partially embraced, pushed his chair back with his
disengaged arm, so that she might sit on his knee....

Who could doubt that she was a help?



Lewisham's inquiries for evening teaching and private tuition were
essentially provisional measures. His proposals for a more permanent
establishment displayed a certain defect in his sense of
proportion. That Melbourne professorship, for example, was beyond his
merits, and there were aspects of things that would have affected the
welcome of himself and his wife at Eton College. At the outset he was
inclined to regard the South Kensington scholar as the intellectual
salt of the earth, to overrate the abundance of "decent things"
yielding from one hundred and fifty to three hundred a year, and to
disregard the competition of such inferior enterprises as the
universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and the literate North. But the
scholastic agents to whom he went on the following Saturday did much
in a quiet way to disabuse his mind.

Mr. Blendershin's chief assistant in the grimy little office in Oxford
Street cleared up the matter so vigorously that Lewisham was angered.
"Headmaster of an endowed school, perhaps!" said Mr. Blendershin's
chief assistant "Lord!--why not a bishopric? I say,"--as
Mr. Blendershin entered smoking an assertive cigar--"one-and-twenty,
_no_ degree, _no_ games, two years' experience as junior--wants a
headmastership of an endowed school!" He spoke so loudly that it was
inevitable the selection of clients in the waiting-room should hear,
and he pointed with his pen.

"Look here!" said Lewisham hotly; "if I knew the ways of the market I
shouldn't come to you."

Mr. Blendershin stared at Lewisham for a moment. "What's he done in
the way of certificates?" asked Mr. Blendershin of the assistant.

The assistant read a list of 'ologies and 'ographies. "Fifty
resident," said Mr. Blendershin concisely--"that's _your_
figure. Sixty, if you're lucky."

"_What_?" said Mr. Lewisham.

"Not enough for you?"

"Not nearly."

"You can get a Cambridge graduate for eighty resident--and grateful,"
said Mr. Blendershin.

"But I don't want a resident post," said Lewisham.

"Precious few non-resident shops," said Mr. Blendershin. "Precious
few. They want you for dormitory supervision--and they're afraid of
your taking pups outside."

"Not married by any chance?" said the assistant suddenly, after an
attentive study of Lewisham's face.

"Well--er." Lewisham met Mr. Blendershin's eye. "Yes," he said.

The assistant was briefly unprintable. "Lord! you'll have to keep that
dark," said Mr. Blendershin. "But you have got a tough bit of hoeing
before you. If I was you I'd go on and get my degree now you're so
near it. You'll stand a better chance."


"The fact is," said Lewisham slowly and looking at his boot toes, "I
must be doing _something_ while I am getting my degree."

The assistant, whistled softly.

"Might get you a visiting job, perhaps," said Mr. Blendershin
speculatively. "Just read me those items again, Binks," He listened
attentively. "Objects to religious teaching!--Eh?" He stopped the
reading by a gesture, "That's nonsense. You can't have everything, you
know. Scratch that out. You won't get a place in any middle-class
school in England if you object to religious teaching. It's the
mothers--bless 'em! Say nothing about it. Don't believe--who does?
There's hundreds like you, you know--hundreds. Parsons--all sorts. Say
nothing about it--"

"But if I'm asked?"

"Church of England. Every man in this country who has not dissented
belongs to the Church of England. It'll be hard enough to get you
anything without that."

"But--" said Mr. Lewisham. "It's lying."

"Legal fiction," said Mr. Blendershin. "Everyone understands. If you
don't do that, my dear chap, we can't do anything for you. It's
Journalism, or London docks. Well, considering your experience,--say

Lewisham's face flushed irregularly. He did not answer. He scowled and
tugged at the still by no means ample moustache.

"Compromise, you know," said Mr. Blendershin, watching him
kindly. "Compromise."

For the first time in his life Lewisham faced the necessity of telling
a lie in cold blood. He glissaded from, the austere altitudes of his
self-respect, and his next words were already disingenuous.

"I won't promise to tell lies if I'm asked," he said aloud. "I can't
do that."

"Scratch it out," said Blendershin to the clerk. "You needn't mention
it. Then you don't say you can teach drawing."

"I can't," said Lewisham.

"You just give out the copies," said Blendershin, "and take care they
don't see you draw, you know."

"But that's not teaching drawing--"

"It's what's understood by it in _this_ country," said Blendershin.
"Don't you go corrupting your mind with pedagogueries. They're the
ruin of assistants. Put down drawing. Then there's shorthand--"

"Here, I say!" said Lewisham.

"There's shorthand, French, book-keeping, commercial geography, land

"But I can't teach any of those things!"

"Look here," said Blendershin, and paused. "Has your wife or you a
private income?"

"No," said Lewisham.


A pause of further moral descent, and a whack against an obstacle.
"But they will find me out," said Lewisham.

Blendershin smiled. "It's not so much ability as willingness to teach,
you know. And _they_ won't find you out. The sort of schoolmaster we
deal with can't find anything out. He can't teach any of these things
himself--and consequently he doesn't believe they _can_ be taught.
Talk to him of pedagogics and he talks of practical experience. But he
puts 'em on his prospectus, you know, and he wants 'em on his
time-table. Some of these subjects--There's commercial geography, for
instance. What _is_ commercial geography?"

"Barilla," said the assistant, biting the end of his pen, and added
pensively, "_and_ blethers."

"Fad," said Blendershin, "Just fad. Newspapers talk rot about
commercial education, Duke of Devonshire catches on and talks
ditto--pretends he thought it himself--much _he_ cares--parents get
hold of it--schoolmasters obliged to put something down, consequently
assistants must. And that's the end of the matter!"

"_All_ right," said Lewisham, catching his breath in a faint sob of
shame, "Stick 'em down. But mind--a non-resident place."

"Well," said Blendershin, "your science may pull you through. But I
tell you it's hard. Some grant-earning grammar school may want
that. And that's about all, I think. Make a note of the address...."

The assistant made a noise, something between a whistle and the word
"Fee." Blendershin glanced at Lewisham and nodded doubtfully.

"Fee for booking," said the assistant; "half a crown, postage--in
advance--half a crown."

But Lewisham remembered certain advice Dunkerley had given him in the
old Whortley days. He hesitated. "No," he said. "I don't pay that. If
you get me anything there's the commission--if you don't--"

"We lose," supplied the assistant.

"And you ought to," said Lewisham. "It's a fair game."

"Living in London?" asked Blendershin.

"Yes," said the clerk.

"That's all right," said Mr. Blendershin. "We won't say anything about
the postage in that case. Of course it's the off season, and you
mustn't expect anything at present very much. Sometimes there's a
shift or so at Easter.... There's nothing more.... Afternoon. Anyone
else, Binks?"

Messrs. Maskelyne, Smith, and Thrums did a higher class of work than
Blendershin, whose specialities were lower class private
establishments and the cheaper sort of endowed schools. Indeed, so
superior were Maskelyne, Smith, and Thrums that they enraged Lewisham
by refusing at first to put him on their books. He was interviewed
briefly by a young man dressed and speaking with offensive precision,
whose eye adhered rigidly to the waterproof collar throughout the

"Hardly our line," he said, and pushed Lewisham a form to fill
up. "Mostly upper class and good preparatory schools here, you know."

As Lewisham filled up the form with his multitudinous "'ologies" and
"'ographies," a youth of ducal appearance entered and greeted the
precise young man in a friendly way. Lewisham, bending down to write,
perceived that this professional rival wore a very long frock coat,
patent leather boots, and the most beautiful grey trousers. His
conceptions of competition enlarged. The precise young man by a motion
of his eyes directed the newcomer's attention to Lewisham's waterproof
collar, and was answered by raised eyebrows and a faint tightening of
the mouth. "That bounder at Castleford has answered me," said the
new-comer in a fine rich voice. "Is he any bally good?"

When the bounder at Castleford had been discussed Lewisham presented
his paper, and the precise young man with his eye still fixed on the
waterproof collar took the document in the manner of one who reaches
across a gulf. "I doubt if we shall be able to do anything for you,"
he said reassuringly. "But an English mastership may chance to be
vacant. Science doesn't count for much in _our_ sort of schools, you
know. Classics and good games--that's our sort of thing."

"I see," said Lewisham.

"Good games, good form, you know, and all that sort of thing."

"I see," said Lewisham.

"You don't happen to be a public-school boy?" asked the precise young

"No," said Lewisham.

"Where were you educated?"

Lewisham's face grew hot. "Does that matter?" he asked, with his eye
on the exquisite grey trousering.

"In our sort of school--decidedly. It's a question of tone, you know."

"I see," said Lewisham, beginning to realise new limitations. His
immediate impulse was to escape the eye of the nicely dressed
assistant master. "You'll write, I suppose, if you have anything," he
said, and the precise young man responded with alacrity to his
door-ward motion.

"Often get that kind of thing?" asked the nicely dressed young man
when Lewisham had departed.

"Rather. Not quite so bad as that, you know. That waterproof
collar--did you notice it? Ugh! And--'I see.' And the scowl and the
clumsiness of it. Of course _he_ hasn't any decent clothes--he'd go
to a new shop with one tin box! But that sort of thing--and board
school teachers--they're getting everywhere! Only the other
day--Rowton was here."

"Not Rowton of Pinner?"

"Yes, Rowton of Pinner. And he asked right out for a board
schoolmaster. He said, 'I want someone who can teach arithmetic.'"

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