By Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.
TO ANYONE WHO SUPPOSES THAT HE HAS A WORSE ENEMY THAN HIMSELF.
NIGHT THE FIRST—John Foe.
NIGHT THE SECOND—The Meeting at the Baths.
NIGHT THE THIRD—The Grand research.
NIGHT THE FOURTH—Adventure of the Police Station.
NIGHT THE FIFTH—Adventure of the "Catalafina".
NIGHT THE SIXTH—Adventure of the Picturedrome.
NIGHT THE SEVENTH—The Outrage.
BOOK II—THE CHASE.
NIGHT THE EIGHTH—Vendetta.
NIGHT THE NINTH—The Hunt is Up.
NIGHT THE TENTH—Pilgrimage of Hate.
NIGHT THE ELEVENTH—Science of the Chase.
NIGHT THE TWELFTH—The Emania.
NIGHT THE THIRTEENTH—Escape.
BOOK III—THE RETRIEVE.
NIGHT THE FOURTEENTH—San Ramon
NIGHT THE FIFTEENTH—Redivivus.
NIGHT THE SIXTEENTH—Captain Macnaughten.
NIGHT THE SEVENTEENTH—No. 2 Boat.
NIGHT THE EIGHTEENTH—"And so they came to the Island . . ."
NIGHT THE NINETEENTH—The Castaways.
NIGHT THE TWENTIETH—One Man Escapes.
BOOK IV—THE COUNTERCHASE.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FIRST—The Yellow Dog.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-SECOND—The Second Man escapes.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-THIRD—Counterchase.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FOURTH—Constantia.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FIFTH—The Paying of the Score.
If the red slayer thinks he slays, Or if the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep, and pass, and turn again. EMERSON: Brahma.
The best kind of revenge is not to become like him. MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS.
Otway told this story in a dug-out which served for officers' mess of a field-battery somewhere near the Aisne: but it has nothing to do with the War. He told it in snatches, night by night, after the manner of Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights Entertainments, and as a rule to an auditory of two. Here is a full list of:
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
Major Sir Roderick Otway, Bart., M.C., R.F.A.
AUDIENCE AND INTERLOCUTORS.
Lieut. John Polkinghorne. R.F.A., of the Battery. Sec. Lieut. Samuel Barham, M.C. R.F.A., of the Battery. Sec. Lieut. Percy Yarrell-Smith. R.F.A., of the Battery Sec Lieut. Noel Williams, R.F.A., attached for instruction.
But military duties usually restricted the audience to two at a time, though there were three on the night when Barham (Sammy) set his C.O. going with a paragraph from an old newspaper. The captain—one McInnes, promoted from the ranks—attended one stance only. He dwelt down at the wagon-lines along with the Veterinary Officer, and brought up the ammunition most nights, vanishing back in the small hours like a ghost before cock-crow.
The battery lay somewhat wide to the right of its fellows in the brigade; in a saucer-shaped hollow on the hill-side, well screened with scrub. Roughly it curved back from the straight lip overlooking the slope, in a three-fifths segment of a circle; and the officers' mess made a short arc in it, some way in rear of the guns. You descended, by steps, cut in the soil and well pounded, into a dwelling rather commodious than large: for Otway—who knew about yachts—had taken a fancy to construct it nautical-wise, with lockers that served for seats at a narrow saloon table, sleeping bunks excavated along the sides, and air-holes like cabin top-lights, cunningly curtained by night, under the shell-proof cover.
"It cost us a week," he wrote home to his sister, "to get the place to my mind. Since then we have been adding fancy touches almost daily, and now the other batteries froth with envy. You see, it had to be contrived, like the poet's chest of drawers."
A double debt to pay: Doss-house by night and bag-of-tricks by day.
And here we have lived now, shooting and sleeping (very little sleeping) for five solid weeks. All leave being off, I have fallen into this way of life, almost without a thought that there ever had been, or could be, another, and feel as if my destiny were to go on at it for ever and ever. And this at thirty-five, Sally!
"It must be ever so much worse for the youngsters, one would say. Anyway I have had ten good years that they are missing . . . Cambridge, Henley, Lord's; Ascot, and home-to-tidy, and afterwards the little Mercedes, and you and I rolling in to Prince's and the theatre, whilst good old Bob is for the House, to take his exercises walking the lobbies; clean linen after the bath, and my own sister beside me—she that always knew how to dress—and the summer evening over Hyde Park Corner and the Green Park. . . . No, I mustn't go on. It is verboten even to think of a white shirt until the Bosch hangs out the tail of his.
"My youngsters are missing all this, I tell myself. Yet they are a cheerful crowd, and keep smiling on their Papa. The worst is, a kind of paralysis seems to have smitten our home mails and general transport for close upon a fortnight. No letters, no parcels—but one case of wine, six weeks overdue, with half the bottles in shards: no newspapers. This last specially afflicts young Sammy Barham, who is a glutton for the halfpenny press: which again is odd, because his comments on it are vitriolic.
"No books—that's the very worst. Our mess library went astray in the last move: no great loss perhaps except for the Irish R.M., which I was reading for the nth time. The only relic that survives, and follows us everywhere like an intelligent hound, is a novel of Scottish sentiment, entitled But and Ben. The heroine wears (p. 2) a dress of 'some soft white clinging material'—which may account for it. Young Y.-Smith, who professes to have read the work from cover to cover, asserts that this material clings to her throughout: but I doubt the thoroughness of his perusal since he explained to us that 'Ben' and 'But' were the play-names of the lad and his lassie. . . . For our personal libraries we possess:
"R.O.—A hulking big copy of the International Code of Signals: a putrid bad book, of which I am preparing, in odd moments, a recension, to submit to the Board of Trade. Y.-Smith borrows this off me now and then, to learn up the flags at the beginning. He gloats on crude colours.
"Polkinghorne—A Bible, which I borrow, sometimes for private study, sometimes (you understand?) for professional purposes. It contains a Book of Common Prayer as well as the Apocrypha. P. (a Cornishman, something of a mystic, two years my senior and full of mining experiences in Nevada and S. America) always finds a difficulty in parting with this, his one book. He is deep in it, this moment, at the far end of the table.
"Sammy Barham, so far as anyone can discover, has never read a book in his life nor wanted to. He was educated at Harrow. Lacking the Daily Mail, he is miserable just now, poor boy! I almost forgave the Code upon discovering that his initials, S.B., spell, for a distress signal, 'Can you lend (or give) me a newspaper?'
"Yarrell-Smith reads Penny Dreadfuls. He owns four, and was kind enough, the other day, to lend me one: but it's a trifle too artless even for my artless mind.
"Young Williams—a promising puppy sent up to me to be walked—reads nothing at all. He brought two packs of Patience cards and a Todhunter's Euclid; the one to rest, the other to stimulate, his mind; and I've commandeered the Euclid. A great writer, Sally! He's not juicy, and he don't palpitate, but he's an angel for style. 'Therefore the triangle DBC is equal to the triangle ABC—pause and count three—'the less to the greater'—pause—'which is absurd.' Neat and demure: and you're constantly coming on little things like that. 'Two straight lines cannot enclose a space'—so broad and convincing, when once pointed out!—and why is it not in The Soldiers' Pocket-Book under 'Staff Axioms'?
"When you make up the next parcel, stick in a few of the unlikeliest books. I don't want Paley's Evidences of Christianity: I have tackled that for my Little-Go, and, besides, we have plenty of 'em out here: but books about Ireland, and the Near East, and local government, and farm-labourers' wages, and the future life, and all that sort of thing.
"Two nights ago, Polkinghorne got going on our chances in another world. Polkinghorne is a thoughtful man in his way, rising forty—don't know his religion. I had an idea somehow that he was interested in such things. But to my astonishment the boys took him up and were off in full cry. It appeared that each one had been nursing his own thoughts on the subject. The trouble was, none of us knew very much about it—"
Otway, writing beneath the hurricane-lamp, had reached this point in his letter when young Barham exclaimed to the world at large:
"Hallo! here's a tall story!"
The C.O. looked up. So did Polkinghorne, from his Bible. Sammy held a torn sheet of newspaper.
"Don't keep it to yourself, my son," said Otway, laying down his pen and leaning back, so that his face passed out of the inner circle of the lamplight.
Sammy bent forward, pushed the paper nearer to this pool of light, smoothed it and read:
"'A Coroner's jury at C—, a 'village' on the south bank of the Thames, not a hundred miles below Gravesend—'"
"Seems a lot of mystery about it already," observed Polkinghorne. "Don't they give the name of the village?"
"No; they just call it 'C—,' and, what's more, they put 'village' into inverted commas. Don't know why: but there's a hint at the end."
"'—Was engaged yesterday in holding an inquest on the body of an unknown man, found lying at highwater mark in a creek some way below the village. A local constable had discovered the body: but neither the officer who attended nor the river police could afford any clue to the deceased's identity. Medical evidence proved that death was due to drowning, although the corpse had not been long immersed: but a sensation was caused when the evidence further disclosed that it bore an incised wound over the left breast, in itself sufficient to cause death had not suffocation quickly supervened.
"'The body was further described, in the police evidence, as that of a middle-aged man, presumably a gentleman. It was clad in a black 'evening-dress' suit, and two pearl studs of some value remained in the limp shirt-front; from which, however, a third and fellow stud was missing. The Police Inspector—who asked for an open verdict, pending further inquiry—added that the linen, and the clothing generally, bore no mark leading to identification. Further, if a crime had been committed, the motive had not been robbery. The trousers-pockets contained a sovereign, and eighteen shillings in silver. In the waistcoat was a gold watch (which had stopped at 10.55), with a chain and a sovereign-purse containing two sovereigns and a half-sovereign: in the left-hand breast pocket of the dinner-jacket a handkerchief, unmarked: in the right-hand pocket a bundle of notes and a worn bean-shaped case for a pair of eyeglasses. The glasses were missing. The Police had carefully dried the notes and separated them. They were nine one pound notes; all numbered, of course. Beyond this and the number on the watch there was nothing to afford a clue.'—"
Here Barham paused for a glance up at the roof of the dug-out, as two explosions sounded pretty near at hand. "Huns saying good-night," he interpolated. "Can't have spotted us. Nothing doing aloft these three days."
Polkinghorne looked across the light at the C.O., who sat unaccountably silent, his face inscrutable in the penumbra. Taking silence for "yes," Polkinghorne arose and put his head outside for a look around.
"Queer story, you'll admit, sir?" put in Sammy Barham during this pause. "Shall I go on, or wait for the rollicking Polly to hear it out?—for the queerest part is to come."
"I know," said Otway, after some two or three seconds' silence.
"Eh? . . . But it's just here, sir, the thing of a sudden gets mysteriouser and mysteriouser—"
Polkinghorne came back. "Nerves," he reported. "They're potting all over the place. . . . Here, Sammy, pass over that scrap of paper if you've finished reading. I want to hear the end."
"It hasn't any," said Otway from the shadow.
"But, sir, when I was just warning you—"
"Dashed good beginning, anyway," said Polkinghorne; "something like Our Mutual Friend."
"Who's he?" asked Sammy.
"Ingenuous youth, continue," Otway commanded. "Polky wants to hear the rest of the paragraph, and so do I."
"It goes on just like a detective story," promised Sammy. "Just you listen to this:—
"'An incident which may eventually throw some light on the mystery interrupted the Coroner's summing up and caused something of a sensation. This was the appearance of an individual, evidently labouring under strong excitement, who, having thrust his way past the police, advanced to the Coroner's table and demanded to have sight of the body. The man's gestures were wild, and on being asked his name he answered incoherently. His manner seriously affected one of the jury, who swooned and had to be removed from Court.
"'While restoratives were being applied at the 'Plume and Feathers' Inn (adjacent to the building in which the inquest was held), the Coroner held consultation with Police and Foreman of the Jury, and eventually adjourned for a second inspection of the body, the stranger accompanying them. From this inspection, as from the first, representatives of the Press were excluded.
"'Returning to Court at the expiration of forty minutes—by which time the absent juror had recovered sufficiently to take his seat—the Coroner directed an open verdict to be entered and the inquiry closed.
"'The intrusive visitor did not reappear. We understand that he was found to be suffering from acute mental derangement and is at present under medical treatment as well as under supervision of the police, who are closely watching the case. They preserve great reticence on the whole subject and very rightly so in these days, considering the number of enemy plotters in our midst, and that the neighbourhood of 'C—' in particular is known to be infested with their activities.'"
"Is that all?" asked Polkinghorne.
"That's all; and about enough, I should say, for this Penny Reading."
"When did it happen?"
"Can't tell. The top of the sheet's torn off." Barham pushed the paper across. "By the look, it's a bit of an old Daily Chronicle. I found it wrapping one of my old riding boots, that I haven't worn since I took to a sedentary life. Higgs must have picked it up at our last move—"
"Do you want the date?" put in Otway. "If so, it was in January last—January the 18th, to be exact."
"I mean the date of the inquest. The paper would be next morning's— Wednesday the 19th," Otway went on in a curious level voice, as though spelling the information for them out of the lamplight on the table.
Barham stared. "But—" he began again—"but how, sir?"
Polkinghorne, who also had stared for a moment, broke in with a laugh. "The C.O. is pulling your leg, Sammy. He tore off the top of your paper—it was lying around all this morning—noted the date and thought he might safely make a pipe-spill."
"That won't do," retorted Barham, still searching Otway's face on which there seemed to rest a double shadow. "For when I turned it out of my valise this morning I carefully looked for the date—I'll swear I did—and it was missing."
"Then you tore the thing in unpacking, and the C.O. picked up the scrap you overlooked. Isn't that the explanation, sir?"
"No," said Otway after a pause, still as if he spoke under control of a muted pedal. He checked himself, apparently on the point of telling more; but the pause grew into a long silence.
Barham tried back. "January, you said, sir? . . . and now we're close upon the end of October—"
He could get nothing out of the C.O.'s eyes, which were bent on the table; and little enough could he read in his face, save that it was sombre with thought and at the same time abstracted to a degree that gave the boy a sudden uncanny feeling. It was like watching a man in the travail of second sight, and all the queerer because he had never seen an expression even remotely resembling it on the face of this hero of his, with whose praise he filled his home-letters—"One of the best: never flurried: and, what's more, you never catch him off his game by any chance."
Otway's jaw twitched once, very slightly. He put out a hand to pick up his pen and resume writing; but in the act fell back into the brown study, the trance, the rapt gaze at a knot in the woodwork of the table. His hand rested for a moment by the ink-pot around which his fingers felt, like a blind man's softly making sure of its outline and shape. He withdrew it to his tunic-pocket, pulled out pipe and tobacco-pouch and began to fill. . . .
At this point in came young Yarrell-Smith. Young Yarrell-Smith wore a useful cloak—French cavalry pattern—of black mackintosh, with a hood. It dripped and shone in the lamplight.
"Beastly night," he announced to the company in general and turned to report to Otway, who had sat up alert on the instant.
"Yes," quoted Otway,
"'Thou comest from thy voyage— Yes, the spray is on thy cloak and hair.'"
That's Matthew Arnold, if the information conveys anything to you. Everything quiet?"
"Quite quiet, sir, for the last twenty minutes; and the Captain just come in and unloading. No accidents, though they very nearly met their match, five hundred yards down the road."
"We heard," said Polkinghorne.
"I tucked the Infant into his little O.P., and left him comfy. He won't see anything there to-night."
"He'll think he does," said Sammy Barham with conviction.
"The Infant is quite a good Infant," Otway observed; and then, sinking his voice a tone, "Lord, if at his age I'd had his sense of responsibility . . ."
Barham noted the change of tone, though he could not catch the words. Again he threw a quick look towards his senior. Something was wrong with him, something unaccountable. . . .
Yarrell-Smith noted nothing. "Well, he won't see anything to-night, sir; and if Sammy will pull himself together and pity the sorrows of a poor young man whose trembling knees—"
"Sorry," said Sammy, turning to the locker and fishing forth a bottle.
"—I'll tell you why," Yarrell-Smith went on as the tot was filled. "First place, the Bosch has finished hating us for to-night and gone to bye-bye. Secondly, it's starting to sleet—and that vicious, a man can't see five yards in front of him."
"I love my love with a B because he's Boschy," said Sammy lightly: "I'll take him to Berlin—or say, Bapaume to begin with—and feed him on Substitutes. . . . Do you know that parlour-game, Yarrell dear? Are you a performer at Musical Chairs? Were you by any chance brought up on a book called What Shall We do Now? The fact is—" Sammy, who could be irreverent, but so as never to offend, stole a look at Otway—"we're a trifle hipped in the old log cabin. I started a guessing-competition just now, and our Commanding Officer won't play. Turn up the reference, Polky—Ecclesiastes something-or-other. It runs: 'We are become as a skittle-alley in a garden of cucumbers, forasmuch as our centurion will not come out to play with us.'"
Otway laughed. "And it goes on that the grasshopper is a burden. . . . But Y.-S. has given you the name, just now."
"I, sir?" Yarrell-Smith gazed, in the more astonishment to find that Otway, after his laugh, reaching up to trim the lamp, looked strangely serious. "I'm blest if I understand a word of all this. . . . What name, sir?"
"Hate," said Otway, dropping back into his chair and drawing at his pipe. "But you're warm; as they say in the nursery-game. Try 'Foe,' if you prefer it."
"Oh, I see," protested Yarrell-Smith, after a bewildered look around. "You've all agreed to be funny with a poor orphan that has just come in from the cold."
Barham paid no heed to this. "'Foe' might be the name of a man. It's unusual. . . . But what was the Johnny called who wrote Robinson Crusoe?"
"It was the name of a man," answered Otway.
"This man?" Barham tapped his finger on the newspaper.
"The man the inquest was held on?"
"That—or the other." Otway looked around at them queerly. "I think the other. But upon my soul I won't swear."
"The other? You mean the stranger—the man who interrupted—"
At this point Yarrell-Smith sank upon a locker. "I beg your pardon, all of you," he moaned helplessly; "but if there's such a thing about as First Aid—"
"Sammy had better read you this thing he's unearthed," said Polkinghorne kindly.
Barham picked up the newspaper.
"No, you don't," Otway commanded. "Put it down. . . . If you fellows don't mind listening, I'll tell you the story. It's about Hate; real Hate, too; not the Bosch variety."
NIGHT THE FIRST.
John Foe and I entered Rugby together at fourteen, and shared a study for a year and a term. Pretty soon he climbed out of my reach and finally attained to the Sixth. I never got beyond the Lower Fifth, having no brains to mention. Cricket happened to be my strong point; and when you're in the Eleven you can keep on fairly level terms with a push man in the Sixth. So he and I were friends—"Jack" and "Roddy" to one another—all the way up. We went through the school together and went up to Cambridge together.
He was a whale at Chemistry (otherwise Stinks), and took a Tancred Scholarship at Caius. I had beaten the examiner in Little-go at second shot, and went up in the same term, to Trinity; where I played what is called the flannelled fool at cricket—an old-fashioned game which I will describe to you one of these days—
"Cricket? But I thought you rowed, sir?" put in Yarrell Smith. "Yes, surely—"
"Hush! tread softly," Barham interrupted. "Our Major won't mind your not knowing he was a double Blue—don't stare at him like that; it's rude. But he will not like it forgotten that he once knocked up a century for England v Australia. . . . You'll forgive our young friend, sir; he left school early, when the war broke out."
Otway looked across at Yarrell-Smith with a twinkle. "I took up rowing in my second year," he explained modestly, "to enlarge my mind. And this story, my good Sammy, is not about me—though I come into it incidentally because by a pure fluke I happened to set it going. All the autobiography that's wanted for our present purpose is that I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in the footsteps (among others) of Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, and—well, you see the result. May I go on?"
But although they were listening, Otway did not at once go on. Sammy had spoken in his usual light way and yet with something of a pang in his voice, and something of a transient cloud still rested on the boy's face. Otway noted it, and understood. When the war broke out, Sammy had been on the point of going up to Oxford. . . .
Before the cloudlet passed, Otway had a vision behind it, though the vision came from his own brain, out of his own memory—a vision of green turf and of boys in white on it, a small regiment set orderly against a background of English elms, and moving orderly, intent on the game of games.
O thou, that dear and happy Isle, The garden of the world erstwhile. . . . Unhappy! shall we nevermore That sweet militia restore?
Snatches of an old parody floated in his brain with the vision—a parody of Walt Whitman—
Far off a grey-brown thrush warbling in hedge or in marsh; Down there in the blossoming bushes, my brother, what is that you are saying? . . .
The perfect feel of a "fourer "! . . .
The jubilant cry from the flowering thorn to the flowerless willow, "smite, smite, smite."
(Flowerless willow no more but every run a late-shed perfect bloom.)
The fierce chant of my demon brother issuing forth against the demon bowler, "hit him, hit him, hit him."
The thousand melodious cracks, delicious cracks, the responsive echoes of my comrades and the hundred thence-resulting runs, passionately yearned for, never, never again to be forgotten.
Overhead meanwhile the splendid silent sun, blending all, fusing all, bathing all in floods of soft ecstatic perspiration.
Otway lifted his stare from the rough table.
They have skinned the turf off Trinity cricket-ground . . . Such turf, too! I wonder who bought it, and what he paid for it. . . . They have turned the field into a big Base Hospital—all tin sheds, like a great kraal of scientific Kaffirs. Which reminds me . . .
Foe read medicine. Caius, you must know, is a great college for training doctors, and in the way of scholarships and prizes he annexed most of the mugs on the board. All the same I want you to understand that he wasn't a pot-hunter. I don't quite know how to explain. . . . His father had died while he was at Rugby, leaving him a competence; but he certainly was not over-burdened with money. Of that I am sure. . . . Can't say why. He never talked of his private affairs, even with me, though we were friends, "Jack" and "Roddy" to each other still, and inhabited lodgings together in Jesus Lane. He owed money to no one. Unsociable habit, I used to call it; destructive of confidence between man and man.
But he was no pot-hunter. I think—I am sure—that so long as he kept upsides with money he rather despised it. He had a handsome face—rather curiously like the pictures you see of Dante—and his mind answered to it, up to a point. Fastidious is the word, . . . gave you the impression he had attached himself to Natural Science much as an old Florentine attached himself to theology or anatomy or classics, with a kind of cold passion.
The queerest thing about him was that anything like "intellectual society," as they call it, bored him stiff. Now you may believe it or not, but I've always had a kind of crawling reverence for things of the mind, and for men who go in for 'em. You can't think the amount of poetry, for instance, I've read in my time, just wondering how the devil it was done. But it's no use; it never was any use, even in those days. No man of the kind I wanted to worship could ever take me seriously. I remember once being introduced to a poet whose stuff I knew by heart, almost every line of it, and when I blurted out some silly enthusiasm—sort of thing a well-meaning Philistine does say, don't you know?—he put the lid down on me with "Now, that's most interesting. I've often wondered if what I write appealed to one of your—er—interests, and if so, how."
Well that's where I always felt Foe could help. And yet he didn't help very much. He read a heap of poetry—on the sly, as it were; and one night I coaxed him off to a talk about Browning. His language on the way home was three-parts blasphemy.
Am I making him at all clear to you? He kept his intellect in a cage all to itself, so to speak. . . . What's more—and you'll see the point of this by and by—he liked to keep his few friends in separate cages. I won't say he was jealous: but if he liked A and B, it was odds he'd be uneasy at A's liking B, or at any rate getting to like him intimately.
This secretiveness had its value, to be sure. It gave you a sense of being privileged by his friendship. . . . Or, no; that's too priggish for my meaning. Foe wasn't a bit of a prig. It was only because he had, on his record already, so much brains that the ordinary man who met him in my rooms was disposed to wonder how he could be so good a fellow. Get into your minds, please, that he was a good fellow, and that no one doubted it; of the sort that listens and doesn't speak out of his turn.
He had a great capacity for silence; and it's queer to me—since I've thought over it—what a large share of our friendship consisted in just sitting up into the small hours and smoking, and saying next to nothing. I talked, no doubt: Foe didn't.
I shall go on calling him Foe. He was Jack to me, always; but Foe suits better with the story; and besides . . . well, I suppose there's always something in friendship that one chooses to keep in a cage. . . . The only cage-mate that Jack—I mean Foe—ever allowed me was Jimmy Caldecott, and that happened after we had both moved to London.
He—Foe—had taken a first-class in the Tripos, of course; and a fellowship on top of that. But he did not stay up at Cambridge. He put in the next few years at different London hospitals, published some papers on the nervous system of animals, got appointed Professor of Animal Morphology, in the South London University College (the Silversmiths' College), and might wake up any morning to find himself a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was already—I am talking of 1907, when the tale starts—a Corresponding Member of three or four learned Societies in Europe and the U.S.A., and had put a couple of honorary doctorates to his account besides his Cambridge DSc.
As for me, I had rooms at first in Jermyn Street, then chambers in the Inner Temple—my father, who had been Chairman of Quarter Sessions, holding the opinion that I ought to read for the Bar, that I might be better qualified in due time to deal out local justice down in Warwickshire. I read a little, played cricket a good deal, stuck out three or four London Seasons, travelled a bit, shot a bit in East Africa (Oh, I forgot to say I'd put in a year in the South African War); climbed a bit, in Switzerland, and afterwards in the Himalayas; come home to write a paper for the Geographical Society; got bitten with Socialism and certain Fabian notions, and put in some time with an East-End Settlement besides attending many crowded and unsavoury public meetings to urge what was vaguely known as Betterment. When I took courage and made a clean breast of my new opinions to my father, the old man answered very composedly that he too had been a Radical in his time, and had come out of it all right. . . . By all means let me go on with my spouting: capital practice for public life: hoped I should take my place one of these days in the County Council at home: wouldn't even mind seeing me in Parliament, etc.—all with the wise calm of one who has passed his three-score years and ten, found the world good, made it a little better, hunted his own harriers and learnt, long since, every way in which hares run. So I returned and somehow found myself pledged to compete as a Progressive for the next London County Council—for a constituency down Bethnal Green way. In all this, you see, my orbit and Foe's wouldn't often intersect. But we dined together on birthdays and other occasions. One year I took him down to the Derby, on the ground that it was part of a liberal education. In the paddock he nodded at a horse in blinkers and said, "What's the matter with that fellow?" "St. Amant," said I, and began to explain why Hayhoe had put blinkers on him. "Where does he stand in the betting?" asked Foe. "Why, man," said I, "at 5 to 1. You can't risk good money on a horse of that temper. I've put mine on the French horse over there—Gouvernant—easy favourite—7 to 4 on." "Oh," said he, in a silly sort of way, "I thought St. Amant might be your French horse—it's a French name isn't it? . . . As for your Gouvernant, I advise you to run for your life and hedge: the animal is working up for a stage fright. A touch more and he's dished before the flag drops. Now, whether the blinkers have done it or not, that St. Amant is firm as a rock." "How the devil—" I began. "That's a fine horse, too, over yonder," he said, pointing one out with his umbrella. "John o' Gaunt," said I: "ran second to St. Amant for the Guineas, and second to Henry the First in the Newmarket, with St. Amant third. The running has been all in-and-out this season. But how the devil you spotted him, when I didn't know you could tell a horse's head from his stern—" "I don't profess to much more," said Foe; "but it's my job to read an animal's eye, and what he's fit for by the quiver under his skin. Now, I'd only a glimpse of St. Amant's eye, across his blinkers, and your John o' Gaunt is a stout one—inclined, you tell me, to run in second place. But if your money's on Gouvernant, hurry while there's time and set it right. If you've thirty seconds to spare when you've done that," he added, "you may put up a tenner for me on St. Amant—but don't bother. Your book may want some arranging."
The way he said it impressed me, and I fairly shinned back to the Ring. I hadn't made my book on any reasoned conviction, you understand; for the horses had been playing at cat's-cradle all along, and as I went it broke on me that, after all, my faith in Gouvernant mainly rested on my knowing less of him than of the others—that I was really going with the crowd. But really I was running to back a superstition—my belief in Foe, who knew nothing about horse-racing and cared less.
Well, the race was run that year in a thunderstorm—a drencher; and if Foe was right, I guess that finished Gouvernant, who never looked like a winner. St. Amant romped home, with John o' Gaunt second, in the place he could be trusted for. Thanks to Foe I had saved myself more than a pony in three strenuous minutes, and he pocketed his few sovereigns and smiled.
That was also the day—June 1st, 1904—"Glorious First of June" as Jimmy Collingwood called it—that Foe first made Jimmy's acquaintance. Young Collingwood was a neighbour of mine, down in the country; an artless, irresponsible, engaging youth, of powerful build and as pretty an oarsman and as neat a waterman as you could watch. Eton and B.N.C. Oxford were his nursing mothers. His friends (including the dons) at this latter house of learning knew him as the Malefactor; it being a tradition that he poisoned an aunt or a grandparent annually, towards the close of May. He was attending the obsequies of one that afternoon on the edge of the hill, in a hansom, with a plate of foie gras on his knees and a bottle of champagne between his ankles. His cabby reclined on the turf with a bottle of Bass and the remains of a pigeon pie. His horse had its head in a nose-bag.
"Hallo, Jimmy!" I hailed, pausing before the pastoral scene. "Funeral bake-meats?"
"Hallo!" Jimmy answered, and shook his head very solemnly. "Sister-in-law this time. It had to be."
"Sister-in-law! Why you haven't one!"
"Course not," said Jimmy. "That's the whole trouble. Ain't I breaking it to you gently? . . . Case of angina pectoris, if you know what that means. It sounds like a pick-me-up—'try Angostura bitters to keep up your Pecker.' But it isn't. Angina—short 'i'; I know because I tried it on the Dean with a long one and he corrected me. He said that angina might be forgiven, for once, in a young man bereaved and labouring under strong emotion, but that if I apprehended its running in the family I had better get the quantity right. He also remarked rather pointedly that he hoped his memory was at fault and that my poor brother hadn't really lost his deceased wife's sister."
"Do you know where bad boys go?" I asked him.
"Silly question," said Jimmy, with his mouth full of foie gras. "Why, to the Derby, of course. Have something to eat."
I told him that we had lunched, introduced him to Foe as the Malefactor, and invited him to come back and dine with us at Prince's before catching the late train for Oxford. He answered that fate always smiled on him at these funerals, paid off his cabby, and joined us.
Our dinner that evening was a brilliant success; and we left it to drive to Paddington to see the boy off. He had dropped a few pounds over the Derby but made the most of it up by a plunge on the last race: "and what with your standing me a dinner, I'm all up on the day's working and that cheerful I could kiss the guard." He wasn't in the least drunk, either; but explained to me very lucidly, on my taxing him with his real offence—cutting Oxford for a day when, the Eights being a short week off, he should have been in strict training—that all the strength of the B.N.C. boat that year lying on stroke side (he rowed at "six"), one might look on a Peche Melba and a Corona almost in the light of a prescription. "Friend of my youth," he added—addressing me, "and"—addressing Foe—"prop, sole prop, of my declining years—as you love me, be cruel to be kind and restrain me when I show a disposition to kiss yon bearded guard."
As the tail of the train swung out of the station Foe said meditatively, "I like that boy," . . . And so it was. That autumn, when Jimmy Collingwood, having achieved a pass degree—"by means," as he put it, "only known to myself"—came up to share my chambers and read for the Bar, he and Foe struck up a warm affection. For once, moreover, Foe broke his habit of keeping his friends in separate cages. He was too busy a man to join us often; but when we met we were the Three Musketeers.
My father died in the Autumn of 1906; and this kept me down in the country until the New Year; although he had left his affairs as straight as a balance-sheet. Death duties and other things. . . . His account-books, note-books, filed references and dockets; his diaries kept, for years back, with records of rents and tithe-charges, of farms duly visited and crops examined field by field; appraisements of growing timber, memoranda for new plantings, queer charitable jottings about his tenants, their families, prospects, and ways to help them; all this tally, kept under God's eye by one who had never suffered man to interfere with him, gave my Radicalism a pretty severe jerk.
You see, here, worked out admirably in practice, was the rural side of that very landlordism which I had been denouncing up and down the East-End. The difference was plain enough, of course; but when you worked down to principle, it became for me a pretty delicate difference to explain. I was pledged, however, to return to London after Christmas and run (as Jimmy Collingwood put it) for those Bethnal Green Stakes: and in due time—that's to say, about the middle of January—up I came.
I won't bore you with my political campaign. One day in the middle of it Jimmy said, "To-night's a night off and we're dining with Jack Foe down in Chelsea. Eight o'clock: no theatre afterwards: 'no band, no promenade, no nozzing.' We've arranged between us to give your poor tired brain a rest."
"When you do happen to be thoughtful," said I "you might give me a little longer warning. As it is, I made a half-promise yesterday, to speak for that man of ours, Farrell, across the water."
"No, you don't," said Jimmy. "Who's Farrell? Friend of yours?"
"Tottenham Court Road," I said. "Only met him yesterday."
"What? Peter Farrell's Hire System? . . . And you met him there, in the Tottenham Court Road—by appointment, I suppose, with a coy carnation in your buttonhole. A bad young baronet, unmarried, intellectual, with a craving for human sympathy, on the Hire System'—"
"Don't be an ass, Jimmy," said I. "He's a Progressive, and they tell me his seat's dicky."
"They mostly are in the Tottenham Court Road," said Jimmy. "But if you've made half a promise, I was a week ahead of you with a whole one. We dine with Jack Foe."
The night was a beast. Foe's flat, high up on a block overlooking the Chelsea embankment, fairly rocked under squalls of a cross-river wind. He had moved into these new quarters while I was down in Warwickshire, and the man who put in the windows had scamped his job. The sashes rattled diabolically. Now that's just the sort of thing he'd have asked me to see to before he installed himself, if I had been up at the time: or, rather, I should have seen to it without being asked. That kind of noise never affected him: he could just withdraw himself into his work and forget it. But different noises get on different men's nerves, and, next to the scratching of a slate-pencil, a window on the rattle or the distant slam-slam of a door left ajar makes me craziest. You'd think a man out here would get accustomed to anything in the way of racket. Not a bit of it! Home on leave those particular sounds rasp me as badly as ever. . . . Moreover I have rather an eye for scamped carpentry: learned it off my father, going about the property with him. His own eye was a hawk's for loose fences, loose slates, badly-hung gates, even a broken sash-cord.
Foe's notions of furnishing, too, had always been bleak. He had hung his few pictures in the wrong places, and askew at that. He understood dining, though, and no doubt the dinner was good, though I gave very little attention to it.
"Otty's hipped to-night," said Collingwood, over the coffee. "Politics are all he can talk in these days. Wake up, Otty, and don't sit thinking out a speech."
I woke up. "I don't need to think out a speech," said I. "After a fortnight's campaigning a fellow can make speeches in his sleep."
"That's just what you're doing; and my fear is, you'll stand up presently and make one in ours."
"I'm sorry, Jack," I apologised. "Fact is, I'm worried by a half-promise I made to your man Farrell, over the river—"
"My man Farrell?" says Foe. "Farrell? . . . Farrell? . . . Never heard of him. Who's Farrell?"
"Never heard of him? . . . Why, Farrell's our candidate over there! . . . Your candidate; because, if elected, he'll represent you; because your College and—if you choose to narrow it down—your own laboratories and lecture-rooms—will belong to his constituency. The rates on your buildings, the trams that bring your poorer students, the public money that pays their scholarships—"
"My dear Roddy," he broke in. "You know that I never could get up an interest in politics. As for local politics—"
That fired me up at once. "Pretty silly sneer, that! Doesn't there lurk, somewhere down in your consciousness, some sense of belonging to the first city in the world? . . . Oh, yes, you use it, fast enough, whenever you go back to Cambridge and play the condescending metropolitan in Combination Room. There, seventy minutes from Liverpool Street, you pose—yes, pose, Jack—as the urbane man, Horatius Flaccus life-size; whereas your job as a citizen is confined to cursing the rates, swearing if a pit in the wood pavement jolts you on the way home from the theatre, supposing it's somebody's business, supposing there's graft in it, and talking superciliously of Glasgow and Birmingham, provincial towns, while you can't help to cheapen the price of a cabbage in Covent Garden!"
"Dear Roddy," Foe answered—very tolerantly, I'll admit—"you'll get elected, to a dead certainty."
"Oh, I'm all right," said I, cooling down. "Wish I could be so sure of your man Farrell, across the bridge."
"That's his name. . . . Think you'll be able to remember it?"
Here Jimmy dropped the ash of his cigar into his coffee-cup and chipped in judiciously.
"Otty has the right of it, Professor—though we shall have to cure him of his platform style. Somebody has to look after this country and look after London; and if you despise the fellows who run the show, then it's up to you, my intellectuals, to come in and do the business better. But you won't. It bores you. 'Oh, go away—can't you see I'm busy? I've got a malignant growth here, potted in a glass bottle with a diet of sterilised fat and an occasional whisky and soda, and we're sitting around until the joker develops D.T. He's an empyema, from South America, fully-grown male—'"
"I dare say I haven't the exact name," confessed Jimmy. "Fact is, I happened on it in the dictionary when I was turning up 'Empiricist' in a bit of a hurry. Some Moderate fellow down at Bethnal Green had called Otty in one of his speeches 'an ignorant empiricist'; so naturally I had to look up the word. I'd a hope it meant something connected with Empire-building, and then Otty could have scored off him. But apparently it doesn't."
"Are you sure?" asks Foe.
"Well, I used the dictionary they keep at Boodle's, not having one of my own. If you tell me it's not up to date, I'll write something sarcastic in the Complaint-Book."
Foe dropped the end of his cigar into the ash-tray and pushed back his chair. "Well", said he, "it's about time we got into our coats, eh?"
"My dear fellow—" I began. "You don't tell us—" I began again.
He understood, of course. What he said was, "The late Mr. Gladstone, they tell me, used to address Queen Victoria as if she were a public meeting. She complained that she didn't like it . . . and anyway, if you two can't help it, I can't help the acoustic defects of this flat. . . . Some more brandy? You'd better. It's a beast of a night; but your faithful dog shall bear you company."
NIGHT THE SECOND.
THE MEETING AT THE BATHS.
Foe's man, after whistling ten minutes or so for a taxi, returned upstairs, powdered with sleet. There wasn't, he said, so much as a four-wheeler crawling in the street. We went down and waited in the hall while he whistled again.
"Where is this show of yours being held?" Foe asked, after a bit.
"In the Baths," I told him, "just across the bridge. Yes, actually in the great Swimming Bath. . . . You needn't be afraid, though. They drain it."
"I don't care if they omitted that precaution," said he. "This is an adventure, and I'm for taking it in the proper spirit. Let's walk."
He pushed back the catch of the lock. The door burst open, hurling him back against the wall, as his man came flying through, fairly projected into our arms by the pressure of wind in the porch.
"Make up the fire, put out the whisky, and go to bed," Foe bawled at him. "Eh? . . . Yes, that's all right; I have my latch-key."
I couldn't have expostulated if I'd wanted to. The wind filled my mouth. We butted out after him into the gale, Jimmy turning in the doorway to let out a skirling war-whoop—"just to brace up the flat-dwellers," he explained afterwards. "I wanted to tell 'em that St. George was for Merry England, but there wasn't time."
We didn't say much on the way. The wind took care of that. On the bridge we had to claw the parapet to pull ourselves along; and just as we won to the portico of the Baths there came a squall that knocked us all sideways. Foe and Jimmy cast their arms about one pillar, I clung to another; and the policeman, who at that moment shot his lantern upon us from his shelter in the doorway, pardonably mistook our condition. He advised us—as a friend, if he might say so—to go home quietly.
"But there's a public meeting inside," said I.
"There might be, or there might not be," he allowed. "It's a thin one anyway. You'll get no fun out of it."
"And I am due to make a speech there," I went on. "That's to say, they want me to propose or second a vote of thanks or something of the sort."
"If I was you, sir," advised the constable, kindness itself, "I wouldn't, however much they wanted it."
I gave him my card. He held it close under the ray of his bull's-eye and altered his manner with a jerk. "Begging your pardon, Sir Roderick—"
"Not at all," I assured him. "Most natural mistake in the world. If there's a side entrance, now, near the platform—"
He led us up a gusty by-street and tapped for us on the side door. It was opened at once, though cautiously, by a little frock-coated man ornamented with a large blue-and-white favour. After an instant's parley he received us obsequiously, and the constable pocketed our blessing.
"Of course," he said by way of Good night, "I knew from the first I was dealing with gentlemen. I made no mistake about that."
The little steward admitted us to a sort of lobby or improvised cloak-room stowed somewhere beneath the platform. While helping us off with our coats he told us that the audience was satisfactory "considering the weather." "A night like this isn't calculated to fetch out doubtfuls."
"It has fetched out one, anyhow," said I. "This is Professor Foe, of your University College."
"Greatly honoured, sir, I am sure!" The little man bowed to Foe, and turned again to me: "Your friends, Sir Roderick, will accompany you on the platform, of course. Shall we go in at once? Or—at this moment Mr. Jenkinson is up. He has been speaking for twenty minutes."
"—And has just started his peroration," said I; for though it came muffled through the boarding, I had recognised Mr. Jenkinson's voice, and the oration to which in other parts of London I had already listened twice. I could time it. "There's no hurry," I said. "Jenkinson—good man, Jenkinson—has finished with the tram-service statistics, and will now for a brief two minutes lift the whole question on to a higher plane. Then he'll sit down, and that's where we'll slip in, covered by the thunder of applause."
He divided a grin between us and a couple of assistants who had been hanging up our coats and now came forward.
"To tell you the truth, Sir Roderick, our candidate wants strengthening a bit, for platform purposes; though they tell me he's improving steadily. The kinder of you to come, sir, and help us. As for Jenkinson, he's the popular pet over here, as a speaker or when he comes across to play at the Oval. As a cricketer yourself, Sir Roderick, you'll know what Jenkinson does with his summer?"
"Certainly," said I. "Being on the Committee of the M.C.C.—"
"You don't mean to say that it's Jenko?" Jimmy chipped in. "You don't tell me it's our long left and left-handed Jenko, that has bowled me at the nets a hundred times?—alas, poor Jenko!"
"Why, of course, it is," said I. "Didn't you know? . . . How the deuce else do you suppose that a cricket pro. supports himself during the winter?"
"I'd never thought of that," said Jimmy. "One half of the world never knows how the other half lives."
"Well," said I, "that's Jenkinson's winter occupation—public oratory—advocacy of social and municipal reform—mostly on Fabian lines. The man's honest, mind you. . . . But he's finishing. . . . Come along! Are you for the platform, Jack?"
"Not if I can sit somewhere at your feet and look up at you," said Foe. "I'm not at all certain that I approve of your candidate, either, or his political platform—"
"Our Mr. Farrell, Professor? Oh, surely!—" the little steward expostulated. "But maybe you've never made Mr. Farrell's acquaintance, sir?"
"Never set eyes on him, to my knowledge," Foe assured him.
"Then, Professor—if I may make bold to say so—it's impossible to disapprove of Mr. Farrell. He's a bit what-you-might-call opportunist in his views; but, for the gentleman himself, he wouldn't hurt a fly—not a headache in a hogshead of him, as the saying goes. . . . Certainly, Sir Roderick, if you're ready. . . . Mr. Byles, here, will conduct the Professor to a chair close under the platform. We usually keep a few front seats vacant, for friends and—er—eventualities."
"I'm an eventuality," said Foe.
"You'll be one of us, sir, before you've finished, never fear!" the little steward promised genially.
We entered amid salvos of applause, again and again renewed. It was none of our earning nor intended for us. Jenkinson (I was afterwards told) had varied his peroration with a local allusion very cleverly introduced. "They probably knew him" (he said)—"those, at any rate, who happened to live near Kennington probably knew him—for one who earned his living by a form of sport, by a mere game, if they preferred so to call it." (Cheers.) "He was not there to defend himself, still less to defend cricket." (Hear, hear.) "He would only say that cricket was a game which demanded some skill and— especially when one bowled at the Oval" (loud cheers) "against Surrey" (cheers loud and prolonged)—"often some endurance." (Laughter.) "He would add that cricket was a thoroughly English game." (Renewed cheers.) "Why do I mention cricket to-night, sir?"—Jenkinson swung round and demanded it of the Chairman, who hadn't a notion. "I mention it, sir, because players have sometimes said to me, 'Jenkinson, I wonder you always seem to enjoy yourself at the Oval.' 'Why not?' says I; 'the crowd's friendly and the pitch perfect.' 'That's just it,' they say; 'perfect to break a bowler's heart.' 'Never you mind.' I answers: 'Tom Jenkinson, when he gets into Surrey, isn't out for averages.'" (Can't you hear the cheers at that?) "'He's out for fine art and a long day at it in pleasant surroundings: and,' I winds up, 'if you reckon I sometimes take a while, down there, to bowl a man out, just you wait till I come down and help to bowl a man in!' Your servant, Mr. Farrell!"
Neat, eh? Well, we made our entrance right on top of it: and though the great Bath was no more than three-parts full, you couldn't see a vacant seat, the audience rocked so.
Now I must tell you a queer thing. . . . You know what it feels like when you're talking away easily, maybe laughing, and all of a sudden the Bosch puts in one that you feel means business? Something in the sound of the devil makes you scatter. . . . Well, I can't explain it, but through the noise of the stamping, hand-clapping, cheering, all of a sudden and without rhyme or reason, I seemed to hear the shriek of something distant, sinister, menacing. . . . Oh, I'm not an imaginative fellow. Very likely it was a note set up by the wind outside. I can't even swear that I heard it; sort of took it down my spine. Shrill it was for a moment—something between a child's wail and the hiss of a snake—and, the next moment, not shrill at all, but dull and heavy, like the flap of a great wing beating the air, heavy with evil. . . . Yes, that was the sense of it—heavy with evil. I pulled up with a shiver. The Chairman was on his feet, waiting for the applause to cease, ready to announce the next speaker. The little steward touched him by the arm; he wheeled about and shook my hand effusively as I was introduced. "Delighted! Flattered!" he said, and shook me by the hand again. The shiver went out of me: but it took something out of me at the same time. I had a most curious feeling of depression as I found my place. . . . I looked about for Foe, and spotted him. They had given him a chair close under the platform, a little to my right. He had taken his seat and was scanning the platform attentively. The arc-light shone down on his face, and showed it white, bewildered, a trifle strained. . . . But this may have been no more than my fancy.
The Chairman asked for silence. He was a bald-headed small man of no particular points and (as Jimmy whispered) seemed to feel his position acutely. He said that, whatever their personal differences, they would all agree that Mr. Jenkinson's speech had uplifted them above ordinary politics. He had felt himself speaking not as their Chairman but as a private individual—or, in other words, as a man— uplifted into a higher plane, and he would now call upon their respected candidate, Mr. Farrell, to address the meeting.
Mr. Farrell stepped forward. I must try to tell you what Mr. Farrell looked like, because it belongs to the story. . . . You'll find that it becomes pretty important.
He was of medium height and carried a belly. Later on, when I came to know him, I heard him refer to it as his "figure" and say that exercise was good for it. I don't know about that: but he certainly was given exercise to reduce it, later on. . . . He could not have been ashamed of it either, just yet: for it was clothed in front with sealskin and festooned with two loops of gold chain.
Two or three locks of hair, cultivated to a great length and plastered by means of pomade across his cranium, concealed a certain poverty of undergrowth thereabouts; while a pair of whiskers, sandy in colour and stiff in texture, and a clean-shaven upper lip and chin, threw out a challenge that Mr. Peter Farrell could grow hair if and where he chose. His eyes bulged like gooseberries. They were colourless, and lustreless in comparison with the diamond pin in his neckcloth. His frock-coat and pepper-and-salt trousers were of superfine material and flashy cut. They fitted him like a skin in all the wrong places. Get it into your heads—Here was a prosperous reach-me-down person of the sort you will find on any political platform, standing for Parliament or seconding a vote of thanks.
He was not in the least bumptious. He began very nervously with a carefully prepared Shakespearean quotation—"'I am no orator as Brutus is,'" in compliment to Jenkinson. Then he gave me a lift. He said that my presence there was a proof, if proof were needed, of the solidarity—he would repeat the word—of the solidarity existing in the Progressive ranks. He was sure—he might even say, confident—that this graceful act on the part of the right honourable baronet (as he chose to call me) would give the lie to certain reports—hints, rather—emanating from certain quarters which called themselves newspapers. He would not soil his mouth by giving them their true name, which was Rags. "We are all solid here," announced Mr. Farrell, and was answered with applause.
After this spirited opening he consulted a sheaf of notes, and was straightway mired in a ploughland of tramway finance and sticky statistics. After ten minutes of this he turned a furrow, so to speak, and zigzagged off into Education "Provided" and "Non-Provided," lunging and floundering with the Church Catechism and the Rate-Book until I dare say his audience mistook the two for one single composition.
"Poor old Jack!" I thought. "This will be boring him stiff." . . . And with that I sat up of a sudden, listening. Sure as fate I heard the damned thing coming . . . coming . . .
"This brings me," said Mr. Farrell, "to the subject of Grants—Grants from the Imperial Exchequer and Special Grants from the London County Council to certain University Colleges, of which you have one in your midst—" It was at this point that I sat up.
"I may claim," went on Mr. Farrell, "to be no foe of Higher Education. I am all for the Advancement of Science. In my own way of business I have frequently had occasion to consult scientific experts, and have derived benefit—practical benefit—from their advice. I freely own it. What's more, ladies and gentlemen, I am all for Research, provided you keep it within limits.
"What do I mean by limits? . . . I have here, in my hand, ladies and gentlemen, a document. It is signed by a number of influential persons, including several ladies of title. This document alleges— er—certain practices going on in a certain University College not five hundred yards from where I stand at this moment; and it asks me what I think of them, and if public money—your money and mine— should be voted to encourage that and similar forms of Research—"
"Great Scott!" groaned Jimmy, and touched my arm. "Otty, look at the Professor's face! To think we—"
"I have also," pursued Mr. Farrell, "a supplementary paper, extensively signed in the constituency, supporting the document mentioned and asking for a Public Inquiry; asking me if I am willing to press for a Royal Commission. It was put into my hands as I entered the hall; but I have no hesitation whatever in answering that question.
"A certain Professor is mentioned—I have not the pleasure of his acquaintance—and a certain—er—" Mr. Farrell consulted his papers— "Laboratory of Physiological Research. I made my own way in the world. But I am an Englishman, I hope; and when such a document as this, influentially signed, is put into my hands and an answer demanded of me, what sort of answer do I give? The answer I give, ladies and gentlemen, is that I keep a spaniel at home, though not for sporting purposes, and still less for purposes of Physiological Research"—Every time the ass came to these two words he made elaborate pretence of consulting his papers.
"Nine times out of ten this dumb friend and dependent of mine greets me in the hall as I reach home after a hard day's business, wagging his tail in a way almost more than human. And when I think of me going home to-night, with this document—signed, as I say, by persons of title and supported by this influential body of rate-payers—and look into his dumb eyes and think it might happen to my Dash to be laid on a board in the interests of this so-called Research, and there vivisected alive, then I say—"
"It's a lie!"
Foe was on his legs, and he fairly shouted it. Shell-shock? Phut!—It exploded right at our feet below the platform. Farrell came staggering back, right on top of us; but the reason may have been partly that Jimmy had reached forward, too late, and gripped his coat-tails. Of course the man's offence was unpardonable; but I could hardly recognise Jack's face, so drawn it was and twisted in white-hot hate.
There was silence while you might count five, perhaps. The audience, taken right aback for that space, had begun to rise and crane forward. "Who is it?"—you could almost hear the question starting to run.
Then again, for a few seconds, things happened just as they do in rowdy public meetings. While the Chairman thumped the table, Farrell wrenched his coat-tails from Jimmy's grip and stepped to the edge of the platform.
"Who are you?" he demanded. There was a queer throaty sound in his voice; yet he held himself (I thought) in fair control.
"My name is Foe," came the answer. Jack was still on his feet, his face ashen, his eyes blazing behind his glasses. I had known him all these years and never guessed him capable of such a white rage. But the words came very slowly and deliberately. "My name is Foe. I am the Professor with whom, just now, you said you hadn't the pleasure to be acquainted—"
"Throw him out!" called a voice from one of the back rows.
I had expected that; had, as you might say, been waiting for it. What caught me unprepared was its instant effect on Mr. Farrell.
He raised a fist and shook it. He fairly capered. "Yes, throw him out! Throw him out!" He choked, spluttered and let it out almost in a scream. I leaned forward for a sideways sight of his face.
"Gad! he's going to have a fit and tumble off the platform. Stand by, Otty." Jimmy, reaching out a hand again for Mr. Farrell's coat-tails, spoke the warning close in my ear, for by this time twenty or thirty voices had taken up the cry, "Throw him out!" the Chairman was hammering like mad for Order, and there was an ugly shuffle of feet at the far end of the hall.
"Throw him out! Throw him out!" Farrell kept screaming above the hubbub. "How would he treat a dog?—"
"The man's demented," said I—and with that I heard a bench or a chair go crack like a revolver-shot. It might have been a shot starting a sprint; for close on top of it about a dozen fellows leapt out into the gangway, while three or four charged forward through the audience, where the women had already started to scream.
There was nothing for it but prompt action. Jimmy and I swung ourselves down over the front of the platform. This gave us a fair start of the crowd, but it didn't give us any time to argue with Foe, who still stood glaring up at Farrell, ready to put in another retort as soon as he could get a hearing. Of the danger rushing down on him either he wasn't aware or he cared nothing for it. Jimmy caught him by the waist, and grinned intelligently as I pointed to the emergency exit around the corner of the platform.
"Right-O! Hold the curtain aside for me. . . . Along you come, Professor! Be a good child and don't kick nursy . . ."
"Take him home," said I. "Policeman will help if there's a row outside."
Then I dropped the curtain on them and faced about. The audience by this time were standing on benches and chairs, but of course my first job was with the hustlers who had reached the end of the gangway and were coming on under the lee of the platform. They looked ugly at first, but the job turned out to be a soft one.
"You wanted him turned out," said I, "and we've obliged you. Rather neatly, eh?—You can't say no to that."
I wanted someone to laugh, and by the mercy of Heaven someone did— someone back in the third or fourth row. In five seconds or so quite a lot of people were laughing and applauding.
"Now stand where you are," said I, catching hold of this advantage; "and one of you give me a leg up to the platform. I'm going to propose a vote of thanks. . . . Won't keep you standing long. But please don't go back to your seats; because some of the women are frightened."
Well, they gave me a leg up, and somebody above gave me a hand, and there I was, none the worse, on the platform.
Farrell had collapsed in his seat by the Chairman's table and sat with his face in his hands. The Chairman was paralytic. So I did the only thing that seemed possible: started to propose a vote of thanks. Pretty fair rubbish I must have started with, too: but by and by I slipped into my own election speech and after that it was pretty plain sailing. You see, when a man runs for candidate, he begins by preparing half a dozen speeches; but by the time he's half through he has them pretty well boiled down into one, and he can speak that one in his sleep. After ten minutes or so I forgot that I was moving a vote of thanks to somebody and moved a vote of confidence instead—confidence in Mr. Farrell.
Nobody minded. Two or three speakers followed me and moved and seconded all sorts of things at random. We were all in a hopeless muddle, and all quite good-humoured about it; and we wound up by singing "God Save the King!"
NIGHT THE THIRD.
THE GRAND RESEARCH.
The little Chairman followed me into the lobby and thanked me effusively, while a couple of stewards helped me into my great-coat. He threw a meaning glance over his shoulder at Farrell, who stood in a corner nervously winding and unwinding a long silk comforter about his neck and throat. He seemed to be muttering, saying something over to himself. His face twitched—it was still red and congested— and he kept his eyes on the floor. He had not spoken to either of us since the meeting dissolved. Very likely he did not see us.
"A bit rattled," I suggested quietly.
"You may bet on that, Sir Roderick." The steward, who was turning up my coat collar, said this almost in my ear. "You don't think, now—"
He did not finish the sentence, and I faced about on him for the rest of it. He tapped his forehead gently.
"Oh, nonsense!" said I. "He's not broken to public life and he doesn't ruffle well, that's all; and, after all, it isn't every man who enjoys being called a liar to his face and before some hundreds of people."
"His face, sir," the steward persisted. "That's it; you've given me the word. Did you see his face? No, of course you didn't, for you were sitting sideways to him—and so was you, Mr. Chairman, sir. But I was standing by the main door when it happened, and had him in full view, and—Well!" he wound up.
"Well?" said I.
He dropped his voice to a whisper almost. "It frightened me, sir. . . . I think it must have frightened a good few of the audience, and that's what held the rush back and gave you and the other gentleman time. You wouldn't think, to look at his face now"— with a glance across at Farrell, who was sending out to inquire if his car had arrived, and looking at his watch (for, you'll understand, the meeting had broken up early in spite of my oratorical effort)—"you wouldn't believe, Sir Roderick, that there was anything deep in the man. Nor perhaps there isn't. It didn't seem to me, just half a minute, that it was Mr. Farrell inside Mr. Farrell's clothes and looking out of his eyes."
"Then who, in the world?" I asked.
The steward gave himself a shake. "Speak low, sir, and don't turn round. . . . I was a fool to mention his name—folks always hear their own names quicker than anything else. He's looking our way, suspicious-like. . . . Now if I was to say 'Satan,' or if I was to say that he was a party possessed—Well, any way, Sir Roderick, I wish we had someone else for a candidate, and I don't see myself happy, these next few days, working on Committee for him."
"Well, you have the advantage of me," said I. "You saw him full-face, whereas I had to study him from the rear. From the rear he looked funny enough. . . . But look here," I went on; "if there were any slate loose on the man's roof, as you're hinting, you may bet that a great Furnishing Company in Tottenham Court Road wouldn't be taking any risks with him as Chairman of Directors."
"All I can say, sir," he muttered, shaking his head, "is that I don't like it. And, anyway, he isn't a gentleman."
The Chairman had left us to say good night to Mr. Farrell, whose car was just then announced. I went across, too, to shake hands and wish him good luck on polling-day. As our eyes met he started, came out of the torpor in which he had been gazing about him, and bowed to me in best shop-walker fashion.
"Ah, Sir Roderick!" he said, not very coherently. "You must excuse me—remiss, very. Owe you many thanks, sir—not only for coming— great honour—But saved very awkward situation. Overwrought, sir— that's what I'm suffering from—overstrain: not used to this sort of thing. . . . My God, I am tired . . . all of a sudden, too; so tired you can't think. . . . Can I have the pleasure of driving you a part of the way, Sir Roderick?"
"Thank you, Mr. Farrell," said I. "But you're for Wimbledon, I believe, and I'm for Chelsea. Fact is"—I ventured it on an impulse—"I'm going to call on that friend of mine, Professor Foe, who so unhappily interrupted you to-night, and tell him that he made a fool of himself." I watched his eyes. They were merely dull— heavy. "You did provoke him, you know, Mr. Farrell," I went on: "I'm morally certain he is guiltless of the practices alleged in that document of yours; and, if I can persuade him to receive you in his laboratory and show you his work and his methods—"
By George, I had called back that look into Mr. Farrell's gooseberry eyes! This time it lasted for about two seconds.
"Meet him?—him? Your pardon, Sir Roderick." He brushed his hand over his eyes, but they were dull again. . . . "No, thank you"—he turned to the Chairman—"It's only two steps to the car; I don't want anyone's arm. . . . Well, yes, I'm obliged to you. Queer, how tired I feel. . . . Good night, gentlemen!"
The car purred and glided away. "I feel a bit uneasy about our Candidate," said the Chairman as we watched the rear-light turn the corner. "He's had a shock. . . . Well, we live in stirring times, and one more evening's over!"
"But it isn't!" I cried out on a sudden thought. "Man, we've forgotten the reporters! If they've left the building the whole town will be red before we're well out of our beauty-sleep."
We made a plunge back for the hall and, as luck would have it, found three of the four reporters at the table. The early close had left them ahead of time, and two were copying out their shorthand while the third was engaged on a pithy paragraph or two under the headline of "Stormy Proceedings—A Professor Ejected. What happens to Dogs in the Silversmiths' College?"
I won't say how we prevailed with the Fourth Estate, except that it wasn't by bribery. The man writing the Pithy Pars did some cricket reporting at Lord's during the summer—some of the best, too. I was taking bread out of his mouth, and knew it. But it had to be done, and it was done, as a favour between gentlemen. He saw to the others. . . . God help those people who run down Cricket!
I knocked in at Foe's flat well on the virtuous side of midnight. Jimmy was in charge of the patient. Foe had got into an old Caius blazer and sat very far back in a wicker chair—lolled, in fact, on his shoulder-pins, sucking at a pipe and brooding.
"Give me a whisky-and-soda," said I. "If ever a man has earned it!"
"I somehow knew you'd turn up," said Jimmy, mixing. "Not a scratch? Tell us."
So I told. I didn't tell all, of course. I left out all the business in the lobby, what the steward had said, what Farrell had said, and my traffic with the reporters. I humped myself on my display of oratory.
I must have thrown this—necessarily thrown it—somewhat out of proportion.
Jimmy said, "Rats! I know all about Caesar's funeral, and you couldn't do it. You can't come it over us with your spellbound audience. What you've done is you've kept the bridge ever since the proud Professor and I started back, and, when they cut it behind you, you swam the river."
"Have it which way you like," said I, dropping into a chair. "Now tell me how you two have been getting along."
"Our motto," said Jimmy, "has been Plain Living and High Thinking. We have fleeted the time in earnest discourse. It began on the way home with the Professor asking me some innocent question concerning what he called the 'Science' of Ju-Jitsu. I told him that it was of Japanese origin, as its name implied, and further that he did wrong to call it a Science; it was really an Art. I engaged that I could prove this to him in thirty seconds, but said I would wait until we reached home, lest he might be trying his discovery on the Police. This led to a discussion on the Art of Self-Defence, in the course of which he let fall the incredible remark that he had never been inside the National Sporting Club."
"Give him time," said I. "Jack's a methodical worker, as every man of science should be. He'll come to it; but, so far, his researches have been confined to the lower animals."
Jimmy looked puzzled. "Eh? . . . Oh, you mean politicians. Well, it occurred to me that if he meant to attend any more political meetings, there was no time to be lost. So—"
"But I don't," Jack growled.
Jimmy corrected himself. "Perhaps we'd better say, then, that I thought it well he should know the difference between some public gatherings and others. So we've been talking about the N.S.C. and the Professor is under promise to visit it with me, one night, and see how an argument ought to be conducted."
I lit a pipe and looked at Foe over the match. "Jack," said I, "a holiday for you is indicated. With Jimmy's leave I'm going to speak seriously for a moment. . . . Down in the country, among other jobs, I have to sit on an Asylum Committee: and from the start I've been struck by the number of officials in charge of lunatics who seem, after some while at it, to go a bit dotty themselves. Doctors, male attendants—it doesn't seem to affect the women so much—even chaplains—after a time I wouldn't give more than short odds on the complete sanity of any of 'em. Why, even our Chairman . . . I must tell you about our Chairman. . . . He's old, and you may put it down to senile decay. Before we discharge a patient, or let him out as harmless, it's our custom to have him up before the Committee with a relative who undertakes to be answerable for him. Well, our Chairman, of late, can't be trusted to tell t'other from which: and it's pretty painful when he starts on the vacant-looking patient and says, pointing a finger at the astonished relative, 'You see, Mr. So-and-so, the apparent condition of this poor creature. It is with some hesitation that we have given this case the benefit of the doubt; and we cannot hand him over unless satisfied that you feel your responsibility to be a grave one.'"
Foe got up, smiling dourly, knocked out his pipe, and chose a fresh one from the mantelpiece. "You'll make quite a good story of that, Roddy," he said, "with a little practice. But, as I don't work among lunatics, what's the bearing of it?"
"You're working," said I, "—for years now you've been working and overworking—on these wretched animals, and neglecting the society of your fellow-men. You pore over animals, you probe into animals, you're always thinking about animals; which amounts to consorting with animals—at their worst, too. . . . I tell you, Jack, it won't do. I've had my doubts for some time, but to-night I'm sure of it. If you go on as you're going, there'll be a smash, my boy."
I was half afraid he would fly out on me. But he lit his pipe thoughtfully, dropped the match into the fire, and watched it burn out before he answered.
"And I'm to consort with my fellow-men, eh?—with the sort you led me among to-night?" He laughed harshly, with a not ill-humoured snort. "Is that your prescription? Thank you, I prefer my bad beasts."
"No," I said. "After to-night it's not my prescription. I'll give you another. I know your work, and that your heart's in it. But ease down this term as far as the lecture-list allows, and then at Easter come with Jimmy and me to Wastdale and let me teach your infant footsteps how to mountaineer. There's nothing like a stiff climb and a summit for purging a man's mind. . . . I've come to like mountains ever so much better than big game. They are the authentic gods, high and clean; they're above desecration; the more you assail them the more you are theirs. . . . Now there's always a kind of lust, a kind of taint, about big-game hunting. No harm to a man if he's in full health—but beastliness, and menagerie smell, if he's not."
"Mountains!" scoffs he.
"You needn't despise them," said I. "They're apt to be heavenly, just before Easter, with the snow on 'em; and Mickledore or Gable or the Pillar from Ennerdale will easily afford you forty-four ways of breaking your neck. . . . If you're good and can do a little trick I have in mind on Scawfell I'll reward you by bringing you home past a farm where they keep a couple of savage sheep-dogs. For a good conduct prize, I have a friend up there—a farming clergyman—who will teach you words of cheer by introducing you to a bull that can't pass the Board of Trade test because he's like Lady Macbeth's hand— however you babble to him in a green field he makes the green one red. But these shall be special treats, you understand, held in reserve. Most days you'll just climb till you're tired, and your dinner shall be mutton for three weeks on end. . . . Now, don't interrupt. I may seem to be on the oratorical lay to-night, but God knows I'm in earnest. If I wasn't, I shouldn't have spoken out like this before Jimmy, who's your friend and will back me up."
"I might," said Jimmy judiciously, "if I understood what you meant by all this chat about savage animals. What is it, at all? Does the Professor keep a menagerie? And, if so, why haven't I been invited?"
"Why, don't you know?" I asked.
"Know what?" asked Jimmy, leaning back and sucking at his pipe. "Whatever it is, I probably don't: that's what a Public School and University education did for me. As I seem to remember one Farrell's remarking in the dim and distant past, for my part I never indulged in Physiological Research—I made my own way in the world . . ." He murmured it dreamily, and then sat up with a start. "Lord's sake!" he cried out. "You don't tell me that Farrell . . . that the Professor actually—"
"Don't be a fool," I interrupted. "Of course, Jack doesn't. Jack, tell him about the Grand Research. Enlighten his ignorance, that's a good fellow."
"Enlighten him yourself, if you want to. You'll tell it all wrong: but I'm tired," declared Foe.
"Well, then," said I, "it's this way, dear James. . . . You behold seated opposite to you on the right of the fireplace, and smoking the beast of a brier pipe with the modesty of true genius, a Scientific Man—a Savant, shall I say?—of European reputation. It isn't quite European just yet: but it's going to be, which is better."
"I always prophesied it," said Jimmy. "What's it going to be for?"
"Listen," said I. "Having received (as you assure us) a liberal education, either at Eton or B.N.C., you probably made acquaintance with that beautiful poem by Dr. Isaac Watts beginning—"
'Let dogs delight to bark and bite-'
"Continue the quotation, with brief notes on any obscurities."
"Certainly," said Jimmy.
'Let dogs delight to bark and bite, 'Tis manners so to do—'
"No, that sounds a bit off."
'Let dogs delight to bark and bite, For God hath made them so; Let bears and lions growl and fight, For 'tis their nature toe.'
"Good boy!" said I. "Now that's where Dr. Watts—"
"Don't interrupt," said Jimmy. "It isn't manners so to do, when I'm just getting into my stride—"
'But, children, you should never let Such angry passions rise: Your little hands were never made To tear each other's eyes . . .'
"Please, I don't know any more."
"Nor need you," I assured him, "for, according to Jack, it's completely out of date."
"'M'yes!" Jimmy agreed. "But he won't get a European reputation by discovering that. They don't tear each other's eyes at the N.S.C., even—it's against the rules. Come and see for yourself, Professor."
"Angry passions," I went on patiently; "envy, hatred, and malice— especially hatred—are Jack's special lay; the Grand Research we call it. Take simple anger, for instance. What is it makes a man angry?"
"Lots of things. . . . Being called a liar, for one."
Foe took the mischief in the boy's eye, and let out a laugh. "I can't be angry with you, anyway. Go on, Roddy. You're doing it quite well so far, though I'm almost too sleepy to listen."
"It isn't as simple as you think," I pursued seriously (but glad enough in my heart to have heard Jack laugh—he wasn't given to laughter at any time). "All sorts of things happen inside you; all sorts of mechanisms start working: nerves and muscles, of course, but even in the blood-vessels there's a change of the corpuscles as per order—you put an insult into the slot and they do the rest. The levers of the machine—the brakes, clutches and the rest are in the forebrain: that's where you change gear when you want to struggle with suppressed emotion, run her slow or let her all out: and that's what Jack means to do with us before he has finished. Does he want us to love or to hate?—He'll press a button, and we shall do the rest, automatically. He will call on a Foreign Minister or an ambassador and make or avert a European War. He will dictate—"
"He's telling you the most atrocious rubbish," cut in Foe, addressing Jimmy.
"I am suiting this explanation to the infant mind," said I, "and I'll trouble you not to interrupt. . . . You may or may not have heard, my dear child, either at Eton or Oxford, that the brain has two hemispheres—"
"Just like the globe," said Jimmy brightly.
"Aptly observed," I congratulated him: "though that is perhaps no more than a coincidence. Taking the illustration, however, if we can only eliminate the Monroe Doctrine and work the clutch between these two—Jack, you are reaching for the poker. Don't fire, Colonel: I'll come down. . . . Reverting, then, to the forebrain, you have doubtless observed that in man it is enormously larger than in the lower animals, as in our arrogance we call them—"
"I hadn't," said Jimmy.
"It's a fact, nevertheless," said I. "I assure you. . . . Well, Jack, so far, has dealt only with the lower animals. I don't say the lowest. I doubt if he can do much with an oyster who has been crossed in love. But by George! you should watch him whispering to a horse! or, if you want something showier, see him walk into a lion's cage with the tamer."
"I say, Professor! Have you really?—" I knew Jimmy would sit up at this point.
"Of course he has," said I. "It began on a trip we took together in Uganda, just after leaving Cambridge. I was after lions: Jack's game was the mosquito and other bugs. One day—oh, well, Jack, we'll keep that story for another occasion. . . . The long and short was, he found he had a gift—uncanny to me—of dealing with animals in a rage, and raising or lowering their angry passions at will. He switched off bugs, their cause and cure, and on to this new track. He started experimenting, made observations, took records. He's been at it now—how many years, Jack? He'll play on a dog-fight better than you can on a penny-whistle: as soon as he chooses they're sitting one on each side of the gramophone, listening to Their Master's Voice. Vivisection?—Farrell's an ass. The only inhuman thing I've ever known Jack do was to domesticate a wild-cat and restore her to the woods unprotected by her natural amenities. These people hear a shindy going on in the laboratory in '—' Street, and conclude that he's holding the wrong sort of tea-party. Now, if he'd had an ounce of practical wisdom to-night, he'd have arisen quietly, invited Farrell to drop in at 4.30 to-morrow, arranged a moderate dog-fight, and given that upholsterer ten minutes of glorious life. Farrell—"
"I'm going to turn you both out," said Foe, getting up suddenly. "Help yourself to another whisky-and-soda, Roddy. . . . I'm so beaten with sleep it's odds against getting off my boots." As a fact, too, his face was weary-white. He turned to Jimmy, however, with a ghost of a smile. "Roddy has been talking a deal of nonsense. But if you really care to inspect my little show, come around some morning . . . . Let me see—to-day's Wednesday. Saturday is my slack morning—What d'you say to breakfasting here on Saturday, nine o'clock? and we'll walk over at half-past ten or thereabouts. I keep a yellow dog there that will go through some tricks for you. . . . Right? Then so long! . . . You can come along, too, Roddy, if you'll behave yourself."
NIGHT THE FOURTH.
ADVENTURE OF THE POLICE STATION.
I opened my newspaper next morning in no little anxiety. I ought rather to say "my newspapers": for the L.C.C. campaign was raging at its height, and a candidate cannot afford to neglect in the morning any nasty thing that any nasty fellow has written overnight.
Jephson—yes, he's the same good Jephson who wouldn't exchange my button-stick for a Field-Marshal's baton—Jephson brought in my morning tea and laid across the foot of my bed a bundle of newspapers as thick as a bolster.
I sat up, reached for them and began to read almost as soon as he switched on the light. I was honestly nervous.
I took the hostile papers first, of course. Pretty soon it began to dawn on my grateful soul that all was right with the world. The reporters had stood shoulder to shoulder. Two or three headlines gave me a shake. "BRISK SCENES ACROSS THE WATER," "MR. FARRELL SPEAKS OUT," "AN INTERRUPTER EJECTED." One headline in particular gave me qualms—"WHAT'S WRONG WITH SILVERSMITH'S COLLEGE? PUBLIC ENDOWMENT WITHOUT PUBLIC CONTROL: MR. FARRELL PUTS SOME SEARCHING QUESTIONS." But it had all been toned down in the letterpress and came to very little. The reporters, using their own discretion, had used such phrases as "An interrupter, apparently labouring under some excitement," "At this point a gentleman in the front row caused a diversion by challenging . . . The audience were in no mood, however, . . ." "Here an auditor protested warmly. It was understood that he had some official connection with the institution referred to by the candidate," and so on.
I hugged myself over my success. To be sure, the vague impression derivable was that the "scene" had its origin in strong drink. But the name of Professor John Foe nowhere appeared. Greatest blessing of all, there was no leading article, no pithy paragraph, even. I arose and shaved blithely. Across the stairhead I could hear Jimmy shouting music-hall ditties—his custom in his bath. Yes, all was right with the world.
Nothing happened that day, except that I interviewed my agent after breakfast, worked like a nigger until nightfall, canvassing slums; got back to the Bath Club, had a swim, dined, and returned to my constituency for the night's public meeting. Arduous work: but what you might call supererogatory. I could have shot my opponent sitting, and he knew it. My rascal of an agent knew it too, but he was an honest man in his way—and that's politics.
Next morning, same procedure on Jephson's part: similar bolster of papers, neatly folded and laid across the foot of my bed. This time I poured myself a cup of tea and reached for them lazily. The Times was topmost. Jephson always laid the Times topmost.
Five minutes later . . . But listen to this—
(To-night before resuming his story Otway had laid on the table beside him a small but bulging letter-case, from the contents of which he now selected a newspaper cutting.)
PUBLIC ENDOWMENT OF RESEARCH
To the Editor of The Times:—
A Memorial, influentially signed by a number of ladies and gentlemen variously eminent in Society, Politics, Literature and Art but united in their friendship for the dumb creation, was recently addressed to the Principal of the South London ("Silversmiths'") University College, situated in the constituency for which I am offering myself as representative in the next London County Council. In this Memorial the Principal was invited to ease the public mind with respect to rumours (widely prevalent) concerning certain practices in the laboratories under his charge, either by denying them or inviting a public inquiry. I was not aware of this document—to which I should have been happy to add my signature—until last night, when a copy of it was put into my hands, with an additional list of signatures by more than a hundred local residents. This morning I have had an opportunity to peruse the answer sent by the Principal (Sir Elkin Travers) to the Hon. Secretary of the Memorialists.
I cannot consider this answer satisfactory. Sir Elkin is content to meet the allegation with a flat denial, and rejects the reasonable request for a public inquiry in language none too courteous. Unfortunately a body of testimony by residents in the close vicinity of the College, as to the noises and outcries heard proceeding from the laboratories from time to time, if not in direct conflict with the denial, at least suggests that, with the growing numbers of his professors and students, Sir Elkin cannot know what is going on, at all times, in every department of the Institution: while his peremptory rejection of an investigation which he might have welcomed as an opportunity for allaying public suspicion will be far from having that effect. If all is well inside his laboratories, why should Sir Elkin fear the light?