AUTHOR OF 'GODFREY MARTEN, SCHOOLBOY'
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I. OXFORD II. INTERVIEWS III. THE RESULT OF THE FRESHERS' MATCH IV. UNEXPECTED PEOPLE V. THE WINE VI. JACK WARD AND DENNISON VII. THE INN AT SAMPFORD VIII. LUNCHEON WITH THE WARDEN IX. A SURPRISE X. MY MAIDEN SPEECH XI. A CRICKET MATCH AT BURTINGTON XII. THE USE AND ABUSE OF AN ESSAY XIII. NINA COMES TO OXFORD XIV. GUIDE, HOST AND NURSE XV. MISHAPS XVI. THE SCHEMES OF DENNISON XVII. THE PROFESSOR AND HIS SON XVIII. THE ENERGY OF JACK WARD XIX. THE WARDEN AND THE BRADDER XX. THE HEDONISTS XXI. ONE WORD TOO MANY XXII. A TUTORSHIP XXIII. OUR LAST YEAR
The night before I left home for Oxford I had a talk with my father. He was not of the sentimental kind, but I knew that he had a rare fondness for my brother, my sister Nina and myself, and I have never had a moment when I did not return his affection. He had always been bothered by my lack of seriousness, and he doubted whether I should really get the best out of 'Varsity life. After telling me that the time had come for me to treat things more seriously, he finished up by saying: "I am going to give you two hundred pounds a year, which is more than I can afford, and which, with your exhibition, must be enough for you. I have put that amount to your credit in the bank at Oxford, and I don't expect to hear anything about money from you either during the term or when you are at home. You ought to know by this time what money is worth, and that debt is a thing you must avoid. Be a man, Godfrey, and don't forget that the first step towards becoming one is to behave like a gentleman."
I shook his hand to show that I understood, for he wanted neither promises nor protestations, and if I had been able to be sentimental he would have left the room without listening to me.
He didn't say much, but what he did say was beautifully simple, and on leaving him I felt very solemn and, since I must tell the truth, very important. The idea of having a bank account was one which did not lose its glamour for several days. There was something about my first cheque-book which pleased me immensely, for I had not been brought up in a nest of millionaires, and am glad to confess that until I went to Oxford the possibilities attached to a five-pound note were almost without limit.
Fred Foster—who had been staying with me—and I parted at Oxford railway-station without falling on each other's necks, but although we did not cause any further obstruction on a platform already far too crowded, we understood that the friendship which had prospered during so many years at school was not going to be interrupted because he had got a scholarship at Oriel while I was an exhibitioner of St. Cuthbert's.
I began by losing my luggage, which was exactly the way some people would have expected me to begin, and when I arrived at the college lodge I must have looked as if I had come to spend a Saturday to Monday visit. One miserable bag was all I possessed, and the porter viewed me, as I thought, with suspicion. He was a grumpy old person, and when I told him that I had lost my luggage he grunted, "Gentlemen do, especially when they're fresh," which I thought very fair cheek on his part, though I did not feel at that moment like telling him so.
Then having said that my name was Marten, he hunted in a list and told a man to take my bag to Number VII. staircase in the back quadrangle. I followed, feeling rather dejected, and I cannot say that the first sight of my rooms tended to raise my spirits. They were small and dismal, the window opened on to a balustrade which, if it prevented me from falling into the quadrangle, also managed to shut out both light and air. The furniture can be described correctly by the word adequate; there were some chairs and a table, college furniture for which I was privileged to pay rent. The chairs looked as if nothing could ever wear them out or make them look different. They had been built to defy time and ill-usage.
I went into my bedroom and was more satisfied, by some strange freak it was bigger than my sitting-room, and after I had seen other freshers' bedrooms I acknowledged my good luck. There was at least room to have a bath without splashing the bed. I was still looking disconsolately about me when my scout came in and treated me with a calm contempt which immediately raised my spirits. His air was so obviously that of the man who knew all about things, and he told me what to do with a gravity which was intended to be most impressive. His name was Clarkson and I stayed on his staircase during the three years I was in college, though at the end of my first year I moved into larger rooms. He was in a mild kind of way an endless source of amusement to me, because every one knew that under his veil of imperturbability was hidden, not very successfully, a flourishing crop of failings. Whenever his chief failing overpowered him his gravity increased, until he became one of the most indescribably comic people I have ever seen.
He told me that chapel was at eight o'clock on the following morning, and asked me if I should be breakfasting in. I found out afterwards that unless I wanted to go to chapel I could go to a roll-call in any garments which looked respectable, and then go back to bed; but I did not hear this from Clarkson. He was far too keen on getting men out of bed and their rooms put straight to give such very unnecessary information. However, he was useful at the beginning, and had he not told me where to go for dinner I don't suppose I should have troubled to ask him.
My first dinner in hall was not a pleasant experience. The senior men came up a day after us, and most freshers, until they settle down, seem to spend their time in waiting for somebody else to say something. That dinner really made me feel most gloomy; things seemed to have been turned upside down, and in the process I felt as if I had fallen with a thud to the bottom. There were two or three freshers from Cliborough to whom I had scarcely spoken during my last two years at school, and these fellows all sat together and enjoyed themselves, while I counted for nothing whatever.
I began to learn the lesson that being in the Cliborough XI. and XV. was not a free passport to glory. The man opposite to me looked as if he had never heard of W. G. Grace, and when I tried to speak to the fellow on my right about the Australians, he thought that I was talking about any ordinary Australian, and had no notion that I meant the cricket team which had been over in the summer. He was quite nice about it, I must admit, and when he found out what I was driving at, said: "I am afraid I don't know much about cricket; I have been over in Germany the last two or three months, trying to get hold of the language. I want to read Schiller and those other people in the original."
He did not suit me at all, and as I had not the courage to give myself away by asking the names of the other people our conversation dropped. I was, in fact, dead off colour, and the sight of those three Cliborough fellows almost took away my appetite. Until that moment it had never occurred to me that I had been in the habit of thinking a lot of myself at Cliborough, and in self-defence I must add that I do not see how a public school can prosper unless some of the fellows stick together and try to make things go on properly. Any "side" I may have had was certainly unconscious, but I haven't an idea whether that is the worst or the best kind. I know that I should have felt like having a fit if any one had told me that I was conceited, and apart from that I don't know anything about it, except, as I have said, that I was angry that these fellows did not seem to remember that I had been at Cliborough. I told myself that they had lost their sense of proportion, which was a phrase my father used about any one who argued with him; and I also said vehemently that they were worms; but unless you are quite sure of it, and can get some one to agree with you, there is not much satisfaction to be got from calling people worms.
I went out of the hall and found a tall, dark fellow bowling pebbles aimlessly about the quadrangle. I bowled a pebble, and hitting him on the back, had to apologize. It is rather odd, now I come to think about it, that the first words I ever said to Jack Ward were in the nature of an apology. We strolled out of the quadrangle into the lodge, and after he had looked at me he asked me to come up to his rooms and have some coffee. I was not at all sure that I wanted to go, but I went. He shouted to his scout at the top of a very powerful voice, and I felt that he was much more at home than I was. I determined, moreover, to shout at my scout upon the earliest possible opportunity.
"I had a brother up here," he said as soon as we were sitting by the fire, "and he gave me some tips. One of them was to shout at your scout for at least a week to show that you are not an infant, another was not to row, and the last was not to play cards all day and night. My brother's an odd kind of chap, the sort of man who doesn't know the ace of spades by sight, but it's as easy to shout as it is not to row. Your name's Marten, isn't it?"
"Yes," I replied; "how did you know that?"
"I scored when you came over last term to play for Cliborough against Wellingham. I was twelfth man to the XI., though you needn't believe it if you don't want to. It's wonderful what a crop of twelfth men there are kicking around; you may just as well say you are a liar smack out, as tell any one you are a twelfth man."
I told him that I believed him.
"That's only your politeness," he went on; "in a week you will be talking about me as 'that man Ward who says he was twelfth man at Wellingham.'"
I sat in his rooms and listened to him talking until eleven o'clock; for almost the first time in my life I had nothing to say, and that must have been the reason why I felt amused and uncomfortable at the same time. He seemed to know all sorts of people, and he spoke of them by their Christian names, which impressed me, and he referred to London as a place well enough to stay in for a time, but a terrible bore when one got accustomed to it. Now I had only been to London three times, and one of those could hardly be said to count since it was to see a dentist. As I went back to my rooms, I thought that my education had been neglected in many ways, and that Ward had been having a much better time than I had. But I soon changed my mind and decided that he was the kind of fellow whom I should have thought a slacker at Cliborough, and I cannot put up with a man, who when he is doing one thing always wants to be doing another.
When I got back to my rooms I found a letter from my uncle. He was a bishop, and there had been trouble between us when I was a small boy at Cliborough; he had made jokes about me which I did not bear in silence. But he had spent a month of the summer holidays with us, and had told my mother that I had greatly improved; I thought the same thing about him, so we got on together very well. I may as well say at once that I had laid siege to the bishop. Instead of waiting for him to go for me I went for him, and my mother said that I had discovered the boy in the bishop. If he was idle I employed him, and on his last day with us I finished off by making one hundred and thirty-six against him at stump cricket. When he went away I had changed my opinion of him, but my father was annoyed that he could behave like a boy when it was time for me to forget that I was one. "You are as silly as the bishop," became one of my father's favourite remarks, until my mother asked him to think of something which was not quite so rude.
The bishop had really been splendid while he was staying with us, because Nina, having arrived at the age of eighteen, was very difficult to please. Some man in my brother's regiment had been down and said that her pug was an angel, and I being unable to reach such heights as that was compared to my disadvantage with this man. I am nearly sure, too, that she wanted to flirt with Fred, quite regardless of the fact that he was no use at flirting, and I should have had something to say if he had been. In a short year she had changed most dreadfully, and was no longer satisfied with being liked very much. She was a puzzle to me, and had it not been for the bishop, who smoothed things over, I should probably have worried her far more than I did.
His letter did not contain one word of cant; he just wished me good luck, and told me to write to him whenever I felt that he could be of use to me. A less sensible man might have preached to me and talked about the "threshold of a career"; but, thank goodness, he knew what I wanted, and that if I had not made up my mind to let Oxford do something for me, I was hopeless from the start.
I soon found out that Jack Ward was of a most friendly disposition, for he came over to my rooms before ten o'clock the following morning and bounced in with an air of having known me all my life. At the moment I was talking to a man called Murray, whose acquaintance I had made an hour before. My introduction to Murray could hardly be called formal; he lived in the next rooms to me and at precisely the same time each of us had poked our heads into the passage and shouted for our scout. We then looked at each other and laughed, and the deed was done. I wish that I could have made all my friends at Oxford as easily; it would have saved so much time.
Murray was going as Ward came in, and they nodded and said "Good-morning" in the way men do when they don't altogether love one another.
"You seem to know everybody," I said, without much reason, as soon as Murray had disappeared.
"I can't well help knowing that fellow, considering that he was at Wellingham with me for five years."
"He didn't tell me he was at Wellingham."
"He would have in another minute, and that he was captain of the school and the footer fifteen, and what he was fed on as a baby and how many muscles he had got in his big toe," Ward jerked out as he pulled furiously at his pipe, which he had already tried to light two or three times.
"I thought he seemed a nice sort of man," I said.
"I expect you think everybody you see nice sort of men," he replied rather queerly, though he laughed as he spoke.
"I hope so; it is a jolly comfortable state to be in," I answered.
"But a very dangerous one. You must get awfully left."
I picked up Wisden's Cricket Almanack, which had been one of the things in my bag, and began to read it, for I had taken a fancy to Murray and did not see much use in listening to what I felt Ward wanted to say about him.
"You will probably be friends with Murray for about a month, and then it will end with a snap," he said.
"I can promise you that if I am friends with him for a month it won't end with a snap, even if his toes simply bulge with muscles," I replied.
"If anybody warned you against a man you would take no notice."
"It depends who warned me, and whom I was warned against. And since it is no use pretending things," I added, "I don't see much wrong in a fellow because he happens to remember something about baby's food."
"He might be a bore."
"So may anybody," I answered, for Ward's persistence was beginning to annoy me. He got up from his chair with a great laugh, and put his hands on my shoulders.
"We mustn't begin by having a row with each other," he said.
I stood up so that I could get rid of his hands, and felt inclined to say that I did not want to begin at all, but I stopped myself. There was something in the man that attracted me. I may be peculiar, but I like people who shake the furniture when they laugh, having suffered much from a master at Cliborough who never let himself go farther than a giggle.
"I suppose we must go and see these blessed dons. They want to see us at half-past ten, don't they?" he said.
I looked at my watch and found that it was nearly eleven o'clock, so we bolted down-stairs and across the quadrangle as hard as we could. It was a very bad start but I had completely forgotten that we had to go to the hall at half-past ten, and Ward gave me no comfort by saying that he did not suppose it mattered when we went as long as we turned up some time. Dons would have to be very different from masters if that was the case, and as I imagined that they would be of much the same breed only glorified, I had no wish to begin by making them angry.
There were thirty or forty freshers in the hall when we got there, and a few dons sitting at the high table at the end of it. Murray and two or three other men were up talking to them when I arrived, and I guessed that they were taking the scholars and exhibitioners alphabetically, and that I was too late for my turn; though Ward, who was a commoner and fortunate enough to begin with a W, was probably in heaps of time.
When Murray came down he told me that they had called out my name several times, which made me, quite unreasonably, feel angry with Ward, but presently they shouted for me again and I went up.
Though I felt rather agitated as I walked up the hall and saw these gowned people waiting for me, the idea flitted across my mind that they looked most extremely like a row of rooks sitting on a long stick. My prevailing impression as I approached them was one of beak, they seemed to me like a lot of benevolent and expectant birds. As a matter of fact this impression was false, and I got it because I was looking at the Warden—as the Head of St. Cuthbert's was called—and not at the group of dons on each side of him.
The Warden was a little man whose head had apparently sunk down into his neck and got a tilt forward in the process. His eyes were grey and shrewd, the sort of eyes which one watches to see the signs of the times; his nose, being that of the Warden, I will only call prominent, and he had a habit of passing his hand over his mouth and chin, which was merely a habit, but suggested to me at first sight that he was pleased with his morning shave. He was nearly sixty years old, and when he wanted to be nice his efforts were not intelligible to everybody, but there was no mistaking him when he really wished to be nasty. However, he was one of those men who are spoken of at Oxford as having European reputations, and possibly the burden of an European reputation gives the owner of it a right to behave differently from ordinary people who have no reputation at all, or if they have one would prefer that it should be forgotten.
The Warden held out a hand to me and almost winced at my manner of grasping it. My father always said that he knew a man by his hand-shake, but I ought to have been wise enough to spare the Warden.
"I was in doubt whether or no we were to have the privilege of seeing you this morning. Perhaps the fatigues of a long journey by rail caused you to remain in your bedroom for a longer time than is usual, or indeed beneficial."
I was on the point of saying that I had been up at eight o'clock, when it occurred to me that an apology would be shorter than an explanation, so I mumbled that I was very sorry for being late. My chief desire was to get away from an atmosphere which I found overpowering.
I had to listen to some more remarks from the Warden, all of which were spun out in his extraordinary way, and at last I was introduced to my tutor, Mr. Gilbert Edwardes, who took me on one side and set to work telling me what lectures I was to attend. I think he meant to be friendly but he had a dreadfully stiff manner, and I am sure that he found it very difficult to unbend. He reminded me most strongly of a shirt with too much starch in it, or whatever it is that makes shirts as stiff as boards.
Later on in the day I went to see him in his rooms in college and he gave me a little advice and exhorted me to work. It was all a cut-and-dried sort of affair which did not appeal to any feelings I had, but since he was my tutor I thought I had better tell him something about myself.
He was even smaller than the Warden and quite the most prim-looking man I have ever beheld. His face was colourless and smooth, and as I sat opposite him in his gloomy room he looked so tidy and sure of himself that I found a great difficulty in speaking to him. Having said the usual things he was very obviously expecting me to go, but I did not want him to begin by thinking that I was a saint, though why I imagined that he was in any danger of thinking so I cannot explain. He had, however, said so much about work and the great care I must take in avoiding men who distracted me from my duty, that I thought I had better tell him that I was a very human being.
I never remember having twiddled my thumbs before but I caught myself doing it in his room. He was so placid and demure that I could not imagine that he had ever done a foolish thing in his life. It was impossible for me to think that he had ever been young, and I wanted him to know that I was both young and foolish. He must have known the one and I expect he guessed the other, but at any rate my intention was to begin fair. Then whatever happened he would not be able to say that I had not warned him.
But he made me so nervous that I did not get the right words, and I made him look more like a poker then ever. "Thanks, most awfully," I began, and it was a bad beginning, "for all your advice. But I want to tell you that I do the most stupid things without meaning to do them. I mean that they only strike me as being stupid after I have done them."
Mr. Edwardes made noises in his throat which sounded like a succession of "Ahems," and I floundered on: "I am afraid it is very hard for me not to like amusing myself as much as possible, but of course I will try to work and all that sort of thing as well." He stood up when I got as far as that and smiled at me, but I cannot say that he seemed to be pleased. "I thought I had better tell you, so that you would know," I added before I left him, and I went away with the hopeless feeling that I had made a complete idiot of myself. I hated Mr. Edwardes as I went back across the quadrangle, for I felt that I had tried to take him into my confidence and that he had responded by getting rid of me.
When I reached my rooms my luggage had arrived and I let off steam—so to speak—by having a dispute with the man who had brought it. I did not get the best of that dispute, but I did make an effort to practise the economy which my people had advised, and Clarkson saw me in a rage, which must have been very good for him. For a solid hour I unpacked things which I had thought beautiful in my study at Cliborough and put them about my room, but somehow or other most of them did not seem as beautiful as I had thought them, and there was a picture—I had won it in a shilling raffle, and been very proud of it—which filled me with sorrow. It had been painted by the sister of a fellow at Cliborough, and when he was frightfully hard-up he arranged a raffle, and everybody said I was jolly lucky to win it. I was even bid fifteen shillings for the picture by the original owner, but as I suspected that he wanted to get up another raffle I refused the offer. When I saw the thing hanging on my wall I wished that I had not been such a fool. Having got the thing I did not like to waste it, but if some one would have come in and stuck a knife into it I should have been very pleased. The name of this burden was "A Last Night at Sea," and the subjects represented were a small boat and two or three people huddled together at one end of it, while in the middle of the boat a woman with long streaming hair was stretching out her arms towards a terrific wave. If I had not remembered the name it might not have been so bad, but under the circumstances no one could say that it was a cheerful thing to live with. I suppose the satisfaction of having it in my study at Cliborough had been enough, for I did not recollect having looked at it before, and when a lot of fellows are swarming around saying what a lucky chap you are to have won a thing, it is not very likely to give you the blues then, whatever it may have in store for you afterwards. I turned "A Last Night at Sea" with its face to the wall and went on decorating my room. Photographs of my father and mother which I put on my mantelpiece made me feel rather better, but Nina resplendent in a green plush frame made me think again. I had been very proud of that frame some years before when Nina had given it to me; she had sold two rabbits and borrowed sixpence from Miss Read, her governess, to buy it, and it had never occurred to me that I could grow out of my admiration for green plush. The question of what to do with it puzzled me tremendously; I didn't want to treat Nina badly but the frame was an abomination. Fortunately there was a ring attached to the frame and I hung it up in a dark corner, but I promised myself that it should come out the following morning.
I had just sat down to survey my labours when Murray came in and proposed we should go for a walk in the town, and as I was perfectly sick of my room I was quite ready to go. Although the time was barely four o'clock and the sun doesn't set for another hour in the middle of October, it was half dark and drizzling with rain as we walked down Turl Street and came into The High. But I had got rid of my gloom and was eager to spend money. I did not quite know what I wanted but that was not of much consequence. We went into a shop which seemed to be exactly the place for any one who wished to buy things, and did not care much what he bought. Before I came out of it I had bought two chairs, a standard lamp, a small book-case, an enormous bowl—which got in my way for two years until somebody smashed it—a tea-set, a small table and half-a-dozen china shepherdesses. I then went to other shops and made more purchases, while Murray looked on and smiled until I was waylaid by an accommodating man in the Cornmarket, who wanted to sell me a fox-terrier pup, and was ready to keep it for me if I had no place for it; and then I was told not to be a fool. That man's opinion of Murray is not worth mentioning.
When we got back to college it was past five o'clock, and between us we managed to find everything that was necessary for tea. I had a fire in my room, but Murray had not one in his; he had tea-cups, but I had none; while I had things to eat, which our cook at home had declared would be useful and I had most reluctantly brought with me. We were in the middle of this very substantial meal when Fred Foster came in, and from his glance round my room I saw that he thought it was a fairly dismal spot.
"Rather like an up-stairs dungeon," I said. "Have you got a better place than this?"
"It is bigger and not so stuffy," he answered; "but it won't make you very jealous."
"You wait until I have got all the things I have just bought, and then you will think this no end of a place," I remarked.
"If any one can get inside," Murray put in.
"It will be rather a squash," I admitted; "I've spent over twelve pounds already."
"That's just the sort of thing you would do," Foster said.
We sat and talked for an hour until Ward burst in, knocking and opening the door at the same moment.
Murray and Foster had been getting on splendidly together, but directly Ward came they hardly said a word. Possibly they did not get much chance, but any one could see that Foster had taken a dislike to Ward at sight.
Murray went away very soon and left the three of us together.
"I've been over to Woodstock in a dog-cart with Bunny Langham and Bob Fraser," Ward said. "By Jove, that cob of Bunny's can move. We got back in five-and-twenty minutes."
As I didn't know how far it was to Woodstock and didn't care, I said nothing, so Ward went on, "Bunny's a rare good sort; you ought to meet him."
"What college is he at?" I asked.
"At the House—Christchurch, you know." I did know, and thought the explanation cheek. "I have hired a gee from Carter's to-morrow, and am going to drive over to Abingdon with Bunny, will you come?"
"To-morrow's Sunday," I said.
"Yes, there is nothing else to do. The better the day the——" But I interrupted him.
"Don't talk rot, I hate those things. Are you going in a dog-cart?" I asked.
"Yes, it is Bunny's cart."
"I am jolly well not going to sit on the back seat of a dog-cart if I can help it; I would rather go about in a perambulator," I said.
"You are so confoundedly particular," he went on with a great guffaw of laughter, "but since it is Bunny's cart and I am going to drive I don't see how we can offer you any other seat."
"Who the blazes is Bunny?" I asked, for his name was beginning to get on my nerves, and Fred Foster sitting as dumb as a mute was enough to upset any one.
"I know him at home, his father is the Marquis of Tillford and his real name is Lord Augustus Langham, only his teeth stick out and every one calls him Bunny," Ward answered.
"Heaps of money?" I said.
"Plenty, I should think."
"Then he is no use to me, though he may be the best fellow in the world," I declared.
"You are a rum 'un, why he is just the sort of man who is some use."
"That depends," Foster said suddenly.
"Yes, it depends," I repeated, though I didn't know exactly what depended.
"What depends?" Ward asked Foster.
"Well, if a man hasn't got much money it is no use knowing a lot of men who have got no end."
"It never struck me that way. Perhaps you are right," and then turning to me, he added, "Come to breakfast anyhow to-morrow morning, Bunny won't be there then."
I promised to go, and then he left us. I walked back to Oriel with Foster and he had got a lot to say about Jack Ward. "Where in the world did you find that man?" was his first remark after we were alone.
"He found me," I said.
"I should lose him as soon as possible," Fred went on.
"I don't think that would be very easy," I answered, "and I don't believe he is a bad sort really."
"I'll bet he never came back from Woodstock in five-and-twenty minutes," Foster said.
THE RESULT OF THE FRESHERS' MATCH
If I had to describe in detail the first two or three weeks of my life at Oxford, I think that accusations might be brought against me of having eaten too much, or at any rate too often. Fortunately I had a good digestion, I cannot imagine the fate of a dyspeptic freshman if he had to attend a series of Oxford breakfasts. I have, however, only once encountered a fresher who suffered from dyspepsia, and if there was any other man so afflicted at St. Cuthbert's he probably did not admit his complaint. For we were supposed to be very cultivated at St. Cuthbert's, and at that time it was not good form to hold a roll-call of our diseases at breakfast, to discuss surgical operations at luncheon, and to provide tales of sea-sickness by way of humour at dinner. We kept our complaints to ourselves and were in truth more than a little ashamed of them.
St. Cuthbert's had a reputation of its own. Men in other colleges criticized us very freely. They said that we were prigs, that the 'Varsity boat would never be any good as long as there was a St. Cuthbert's man in it, and other pleasant things which did not annoy me, since I, having been a butt for much personal criticism all my life, can even get some satisfaction from finding that a crowd of other people are as bad as I am. Besides, we had nearly one hundred and fifty men at St. Cuthbert's, and I thought it was absolutely stupid to say we were all prigs and that none of us could row.
The truth of the matter was, as far as I could judge, that at St. Cuthbert's there were often a large number of clever men, and clever men when young can get on one's nerves most terribly. It is all right for men to be clever when they are old or even middle-aged, then allowances are made for them and they may be as odd as they please. But if any one happens to be clever when he is at Oxford, he will have to watch himself closely or he will be called either a genius or a lunatic, and the one is almost as fatal as the other.
In a college as large as St. Cuthbert's it was natural that there should be a number of different sets. We had several men who are best described by the word "bloods"; two or three of them belonged to the Bullingdon, a few of them to Vincent's, of which Club most of "the blues" in the 'Varsity were members, and nearly all had plenty of money and every one of them lived as if they had plenty. I cannot call them athletic, though they and the really athletic set were more or less mixed up together. We had also a very serious set who, I thought, gave themselves far too many airs. Perhaps serious is not quite the right word to apply to them, for one of this gang wrote a comic opera and another wrote a farce; but these were just thrown out in their spare time, and when I attended a reading of the libretto of the comic opera I went so fast asleep that I cannot say how comic it was. But if it had been very funny I should think some one would have laughed loud enough to wake me up. Generally speaking this set seemed to be bent on the reformation of England, a thing which has happened once and is rather a difficult matter for a college debating society to bring about again. The reformation which they were bent upon was not, however, religious, for they thought little of the religion which satisfies ordinary people. One of them told me that religion was merely emotional and sentimental, a crutch for a weak man, and went on to say that their scheme was moral and social, a cry for a better life and against the oppression of the poor. That man bored me terribly, but since one of his own set had told me that he was the cleverest man in Oxford I did not like to tell him what I thought. Besides I was only a fresher who had not yet looked around, and he was the first man I had met who was the cleverest man in Oxford, though I met several others afterwards who had arrived at the same peak of distinction. I even got so weary of meeting this particular brand of man that I asked Jack Ward to help me along my way by spreading a report that I was a most promising poet, but he said that no one who had ever seen me would believe him. He meant to be complimentary, I believe.
It was into this medley of sets that I was plunged headlong. Crowds of men called upon me and asked me to meals. Some of them wanted to know me because I played cricket and football, the captain of the college boat called because he wanted me to row, some of the "bloods" left cards on me because they had seen me walking about with Jack Ward, whom they had marked down as one of themselves. A few men called from other colleges who had known me at Cliborough, or had been asked to see something of me because their people knew mine. I got to know the oddest lot of men imaginable, and as long as they looked clean and did not try to rush me into helping them to reform the world, I liked them all.
But in spite of Ward, who pretended that Rugby football was an overrated amusement, I wanted to belong to the athletic set, and I started by playing footer in a thing which is most correctly called "The Freshers' Squash." In this struggle any fresher who had never played rugger in his life, but thought he would like some exercise, could play, while footer blues dodged round and took your names, if you were lucky enough to touch the ball, and booked you for the proper game. On the following day I played back in the real freshers' match, and was most tremendously encouraged before I started by hearing one man say to another that I had come up with a big reputation from Cliborough. Perhaps I was encouraged too much, or possibly I had eaten too heavy a luncheon, for whatever reputation I might have had before the game began, was effectually dispersed before we had finished playing; and Foster, who was playing three-quarters on the other side, was the man who assisted me in this dismally easy task. Four times he came right away from everybody, and once he slipped down in front of me, but on the other three occasions he simply swerved away from me and I missed him by yards. The man who had been full back to the 'Varsity XV. the year before had gone down, and Foster had put into my head the idea that I ought to have a jolly good chance of getting my blue. This match was a very rude blow, and when I put on my coat and walked out of the parks I felt that I had been very badly treated. I was not at all sure with whom I was most angry, but I had a general feeling that whatever I tried to do went most hopelessly wrong, and that I was much better fitted to sit in a dog-cart with Jack Ward, than I was to stand up in a footer-field and be made a fool of by Fred Foster.
As luck would have it the first man I saw when I went into the college was Ward, and he shouted with laughter when he saw me.
"I went down to the parks to see you," he said, "but for heaven's sake don't look so down on your luck. I don't see that it matters, there are other things worth doing besides trying to collar impossible people. If you don't have to play again I shall think you are thundering well out of it."
If anybody had said this to me at school I should have thought that he was mad, but during the few days I had been at Oxford I had somehow or other got hopelessly mixed up. Foster wanted me to do one thing, Murray advised me to do another, Ward kept on asking me to slack, and a fellow called Dennison, whom I had met several times, seemed to think that Oxford was a tremendous joke and that the most amusing people in it were the dons.
At any rate I was not in the least angry at Ward's way of taking my wretched exhibition, so I asked him and Dennison and two or three other freshers, who were standing around in the quad, to come and have tea with me, and that tea was the beginning of my first big row. I had not finished my bath when I was sorry I had asked them, for I remembered that before the game had begun Foster had asked me to go round afterwards to see him, and I had a sort of feeling that if he had made an idiot of himself, and I had caused him to do so, he would have most certainly not been as angry as I was. However, I had let myself in for this tea and had to go through with it, and I must say that it was very good fun.
If, as some wit said, only a dull man can be brilliant at breakfast, it seems to me that if the converse of this is true St. Cuthbert's must have contained an extraordinary number of brilliant men. The amusements of a breakfast given by a senior man to half-a-dozen freshers were principally food and silence. It is, I think, dreadfully difficult to talk to a batch of freshers, and only one man, as far as my experience went, overcame the difficulty. He resorted to the simple means of telling us what a wonderful man he was. But when we were alone we chattered like a lot of starlings, every one talked and no one listened, so we got on well together.
Ward and Dennison came up to my rooms before I was dressed, and two other men, Lambert and Collier, arrived soon afterwards. It was a party of which Ward strongly approved. While I was trying to make the kettle boil, I heard Dennison say that we were the pick of the freshers, a statement which no one was very likely to deny. I felt badly in need of some tonic after my afternoon, and I swallowed the one provided by Dennison without any hesitation, not stopping to wonder how often he had said the same thing to other men. As a matter-of-fact we were rather an odd lot to be the pick of anybody.
Dennison looked younger than any boy in the sixth form at Cliborough, and he could, on occasions, blush most bashfully. His blush was, however, the only bashful thing about him and he used it very seldom. Ward had told me that although Dennison looked such a kid he knew a tremendous lot. I discovered this for myself later on, but I cannot say that his knowledge was the kind which is difficult to acquire. He professed a wholesale contempt for any game at which he could get his mouth full of dirt, and said that he would as soon make mud-pies as play football.
Lambert was hugely tall and walked with a stride which was as long as it was stately. He went in for dressing himself beautifully, strummed on the banjo, and had a playful little habit of arranging his tie in any mirror which he saw. His pride in himself was so monstrously open that no one with a grain of humour could be angry with him. He talked about every game under the sun as if they were all equally easy to him, but I should not think that any one was ever found who believed half of what he said.
Collier's great point was the beam which he kept on his face, he always looked so perfectly delighted to see you that he was a most effective cure for depression. He was fat and did not mind, which persuaded me that he was very easy to please. Nature had prevented him from playing football with any success, but for six or seven overs, on a cool day, he was reported to be a dangerous fast bowler.
As Jack Ward thought that no ball yet made was worth worrying when he could ride, drive, or even be driven, and since I was feeling about as sick with footer as it is possible for any one who had got a love for the game in him to be, I confess that we were a peculiar lot to think much of ourselves.
My room was not made to hold five people, who, with the exception of Dennison, were all either very broad or long, but a good honest squash certainly makes for friendship. We were a fairly rowdy party, because Lambert had brought his banjo and as soon as he had finished tea he wanted to sing; in fact it may be said of him that he was always wanting to sing and could never find any one who wished to listen to him. I had already heard him sing some sentimental rubbish about meeting by moonlight and another thing about stars and souls, and I threw a cushion at his head as soon as he began to make some noise which he called "tuning up." That began a cushion fight, which resulted in two china shepherdesses, a small lamp, and some teacups being smashed, but it persuaded Lambert that he could not sing whenever he felt inclined. We all sat down again, and Ward, who had been hanging on to the standard lamp while cushions had been flying around, said to me—
"You did look down on your luck when I saw you in the quad. I can't think why anybody should take these wretched games so seriously; it seems to me a perfectly rotten thing to do."
"No game is worth playing in which it matters to any one else whether you win or lose," Dennison said before I had a chance to answer Ward; "the only games a self-respecting man can play are court tennis, racquets and golf. Then there is no one to swear at you except yourself."
"That's rubbish," I answered. "Half the fun of the thing is belonging to a side, and a man must be mad to say that golf is a better game than cricket."
"Dennison wasn't trying to make out that golf is better than cricket, but was just saying what games a man can play without being sworn at as if he were a coolie," Ward said.
"I refuse to take amusements seriously," Dennison continued. "I would sooner shout with laughter at a funeral than lose my temper playing a game."
"The sweetest thing on earth," I said, "is to catch a fast half-volley to leg plumb in the middle of the bat."
"It isn't in the same street with a comic opera at the Savoy after a good dinner," Lambert remarked.
"At any rate it doesn't last so long," Dennison, who had a queer idea of what was funny, put in.
"A punt, good cushions, June, and a novel by one of those people who make you feel sleepy, are hard to beat," Collier stated.
"You are a Sybarite," Dennison said, "and you will be a disappointed one before long. All we do here in the summer is to give our relations strawberries and cream and run with our college eight."
"How do you know?" Collier asked, but to so searching a question he got no reply.
"The finest sight in the world is a thoroughbred horse," Ward said.
"You must have gone about with your eyes shut," Dennison declared.
"Don't sit there talking rot," I said. "If anything ever pleases you, tell us what it is."
"My greatest pleasure is in polite conversation," he answered.
"Oh, you are a sarcastic idiot," I retorted, for people who are afflicted by thinking themselves funny when I think they are idiotic always make me rude.
"Dennison never says what he means," Ward explained, "it is a little habit of his."
"Why can't you talk straight, it's much simpler, and doesn't make me feel so horribly uncomfortable?" I asked, turning to Dennison.
"Marten is getting angry," was the only answer I received, and it was so near the truth that I wanted to pick him up and drop him in the passage.
Ward, however, calmed my feelings by saying that he could not imagine any one troubling to be angry with Dennison. "The one thing he prides himself on is getting a rise out of people, and we aren't such fools as he thinks us."
"And he is a much bigger fool than he thinks," Collier said solemnly.
"You are a nice complimentary lot," Dennison remarked, smiling amiably upon us.
"It's your own fault," Collier continued; "you try to be clever and succeed in being confoundedly dull. I was at school with him for five years and I know his only strong point is that the more you abuse him the more he likes you."
"I'm fairly in love with you, Coalheaver," Dennison said.
"Naturally, but you might forget that very witty name."
"I'm going," Lambert declared, "for I'm dining in hall, and if I don't go for a walk those kromeskis and quenelles will choke me."
"Half a minute," and Ward pushed Lambert back into his seat; "now we are all here, I think we had better arrange a freshers' wine. There always is one, and nobody will get it up if we don't, so I vote we do the thing properly."
Every one seemed to approve of the idea, but as I was no use at making arrangements I suggested that Ward should manage the whole business.
"I can order everything, but we must have a committee to choose the people we shall ask and all that part of it. We can't ask everybody," Ward said.
"Half of them won't come if we do. I should think we had better ask the whole lot, and then we shall know what they are made of," Lambert advised.
"We shan't have a room big enough to hold them," Collier said.
After that we all began to talk, and though I had only a hazy notion of what we decided, I heard enough to know that Ward and Dennison meant having this wine in about ten days and only intended to ask the freshers whom they liked.
The idea of working for Mr. Gilbert Edwardes never had much attraction for me, and for the first two or three weeks at Oxford I found it very difficult to satisfy him. However, the excuse that I took a long time to settle down in a fresh place did not seem as reasonable to him as it did to me, so I had to abandon it and try to appease him. The worst of him was that I never knew whether he was pleased or not; he accepted my most determined efforts at scholarship as a matter of course and reserved his eloquence for the occasions on which my work showed symptoms of haste. In less than a fortnight I felt that my tutor and I were watching each other, an element of distrust seemed to have sprung up; he took it for granted that I would do as little as possible, while I was searching for something which could tell me that he was human as well as learned.
I could not understand him in the least, for I had been accustomed to masters who talked about things of which I knew a little even if they were bored by doing so; but when I met Mr. Edwardes I felt that he belonged to the ice period, and that he would think the smallest thaw a waste of time.
I do like a human being, I mean a man who lets you know something about him and does not barricade himself against you. But a man who puts up the shutters in front of his virtues and faults bothers me most terribly, and I always seem to be bumping my head against something invisible whenever I see him, which is a most disconcerting performance.
Mr. Edwardes was also Murray's tutor, but Murray was not afflicted, as I was, with the desire to know people more than they wanted to be known, and he told me that if I would only take Edwardes as I found him we should get on together splendidly. In spite of Jack Ward, I saw Murray every day, and the more I knew of him the more I liked him. He was in my room one evening after Ward had arranged that we were to have a freshers' wine, and I asked him if he was coming to it.
"I can't go unless I am asked," he said, "and I shan't go now if I am asked."
I resolved to say a few things to Ward, but I did not know what to say to Murray.
"Ward is asking everybody he wants, isn't he?" he inquired.
"Yes it was left to him and Dennison, I believe."
"Then I am not likely to be invited, for he and I never could do anything but have rows with each other at Wellingham."
"What about?" I asked, for Murray had never said much about Ward to me and I wanted to hear his side of the quarrel.
"It isn't worth repeating," he answered. "I was head of the school and Ward thought a friend of his ought to have seen. He thinks I am a smug because I have to work, and I suppose I think he is a fool because he thinks I am a smug. He is a queer sort, and it is hopeless for me to try to be friends with him, even if I wanted to be, and I don't."
"He is a fairly good cricketer, isn't he?" I asked, for I had discovered that when Murray had once made up his mind no efforts of mine would change it.
"Yes, he would have got into the XI. quite easily only he was so slack, and the master who looked after our cricket couldn't stand him. It was rather a swindle that he didn't get into the team all the same."
"I hate slackers," I said, and to prove it I set to work on some Homer for Edwardes. Murray got his books and we slaved together for nearly two hours, when a most timid knock sounded on my door, and a man came in who seemed to be most fearfully nervous. He was carrying a gown and a cap in his hand, and he looked at Murray, who was not at all an alarming sight, as if he had encountered a wild man from one of those regions where wild men are bred. I had never had much practice at putting any one at their ease, for most people hit me on the back and call me "old fellow" far too soon; but I tried very hard to calm my visitor, and though it was six o'clock I asked him to have tea and every conceivable other thing I could think of, all of which he refused. He told me his name was Owen, but apart from that I knew nothing, and the more he fidgeted with the tassel of his cap the more I wondered why he had come.
Murray, however, guessed that he was in the way and hurried off as soon as he could. Then Owen made two or three unsuccessful efforts to begin, until I felt that I must offer him something more, only I had nothing left to offer. The man who said that hospitality covers a multitude of emotions went nearer the mark than most of those word-turning people do. But at last it all came out in jerks, and I felt most thoroughly sorry for him; if I had been in his place I am certain I should never have faced such an ordeal.
"I didn't like to tell you why I had come before your friend," he began; and he still twisted his cap round and round by the tassel. "I suppose a sort of false modesty prevented me, but I might just as well have spoken before him."
"Murray is a most awfully good sort," I said lamely, for I wanted to help him so much that my head felt hot and I could not think.
"I expect he is," Owen went on, "but I haven't come to be friends with your friends. I only wanted to see you, and the reason is that over twenty years ago in India your father saved my father's life."
I did feel relieved when he told me that, for I had been imagining that he was the kind of man who is known as a freak, and had come to win me over to some stupid crank which he would call a noble cause.
"I am most tremendously glad you have come," I said, and then I began talking about my father's old regiment, and Owen could not get a word in until I had finished.
"You don't understand," he said, as soon as he got a chance; "when you talk about a regiment you only think of the officers, my father was one of the men."
"I don't see what that matters as long as his life was saved."
"It does matter," Owen replied; "it matters here very much, where there is not much liberality except in offering meals and things not wanted." I moved my feet and kicked the fender, the fire-irons jangled together and he went on: "I ought not to have said that, it is my blundering way to say the thing I oughtn't; what I meant was that Oxford is not very liberal to a man like I am, who is here by hard work, and not because his fathers and grandfathers were here before him. It is impossible in a place of sets—social, athletic, and all the rest—for a man who has to work to keep himself, to be treated in the same way as you, for instance, are treated. I am not what the world calls a gentleman."
"Oh, confound the world," I said, "it is always mixed up in my mind with the flesh and the devil," and as Owen did not say anything for a minute I asked him what college he was at.
"I am unattached, St. Catherine's if you like; we are called 'The Toshers,'" he answered, and there was a note of bitterness in his voice. "Of course," he went on, "I am boring you to death, but I must say that I should never have come to see you if my father had not made me promise that I would. He takes a tremendous interest in both your brother and you; he knows the place your brother passed into Sandhurst and where he was in the list when he went out, and last summer he watched for your name in The Sportsman, and when you got any wickets he was as pleased as Punch. He writes to Colonel Marten still."
I wished I could have said that my father had mentioned him to me, but if I had I am certain that Owen would have seen that I was not telling the truth. "My father," I tried to explain, "never talks about anything he has done. If your father had saved his life I should have heard of it a hundred times."
"You have the knack of saying the right thing, I shall never get that if I live to be a hundred;" and then he stood up, and putting a hand on the mantel-piece looked at the photographs of my people, but he did not say what he thought about them.
"If I did say the right thing, it was a most fearful fluke," I said, for I could not be silent. "I simply hate men who walk about patting themselves on the back because they have had what they call success with a remark."
He did not listen to what I was saying, but stood staring into the fire; at last he turned round and held out a hand to me.
"I must thank you," he began; "and there is one other thing I have got to ask you before I say good-bye. My father asked me to make you promise that you would never mention what I have told you about his life being saved by your father, or anything about him. It seems to be a sort of compact, I don't understand it. He doesn't want your people to know anything about me, but only you."
I promised, of course, but I felt rather bothered.
"We may meet some day in the street," he said, and he pushed his hand into mine; but I let it go, and told him to sit down again. For this last speech of his was annoying, he had evidently got a wrong idea of me.
"It is no use talking rot," I said. "To begin with, what on earth have you got to thank me for?"
"If Colonel Marten hadn't saved my father's life, I should never have been born," he said.
"And you have come to thank me for that?" I said, and I did not mean to be rude.
"I was told to, you see," he answered.
I looked at him and we both laughed, though I went on laughing long after he had stopped. The idea of me being thanked for anybody's existence was beautifully comic.
"It is very good of you to have come," I said, as soon as I could; "but I don't deserve any thanks and you know that I don't."
"You haven't got much to do with it, perhaps, but you were here and I should never have been forgiven if I hadn't come to see you. I shan't come again."
"Oh, bosh," I replied. "What's the good of talking stuff like that? Of course you will come again, and I am coming to see you, if I may. How long have you been up here?"
"This is the beginning of my third year."
"What did you get in Mods?" I asked, for I felt sure that he had done well.
"A First," he answered.
"I wish I had. Where do you live?"
"I shan't tell you."
"You may just as well, for I shall easily find out."
He stood up again, and talked as he strode up and down my room.
"I have been here two years," he began, "and I know that it is impossible for us to be friends; and when you have thought it over you will think as I do. My father teaches fencing and boxing in London; I was educated at a school you never heard of; I am helped here by an old gentleman who discovered that I was more or less intelligent. He has a mania for experiments, and I am his latest hobby. Have I said enough to put you off, or must I go on?"
"I suppose I can please myself when I choose my friends," I said.
"That you most certainly can't do here," he answered. "Let me alone and I won't bother you any more. Good-night, your bell is going for dinner."
He walked straight out of my room, and before he had closed the door Jack Ward rushed in.
"Who is that man?" he asked at once.
"I am not going to tell you," I answered, for I wanted time to think.
"Well he is a funny-looking Johnny anyway, looks as pale as a codfish and as solemn as a boiled owl. You do collect an odd set of friends; there's that man Foster, who seems to be deaf and dumb, and Murray, who gives me the blues whenever I see him, and then this apparition."
"You can just shut up jawing," I answered, as I hunted round for my gown; "when I want you to criticize my friends I will tell you. Foster's worth about ten billion of you any day."
I was very angry, but Ward only laughed and told me to hurry up unless I wanted the soup to be cold.
"We are going to have a little roulette in my rooms to-night," he said, as we walked across the quad. "Will you come?"
"No, I won't," I answered, and I let him go into the hall first, and as soon as he had chosen his seat I got as far from him as I could. I saw him talking to Collier, and they seemed to be amused, which did not lessen my annoyance. If the freshers' wine had been held on that evening, I am very nearly sure that I should not have gone to it.
After dinner I waylaid Murray, and dragged him off to see Foster at Oriel. Two days before Foster had been playing rugger for the 'Varsity against the London Scottish, and I had neither seen the game, because I had to play in a college match on the same afternoon, nor had I seen him since. I wanted to hear whether he was satisfied with himself, but I wanted also to tell him about Owen.
We found him in the college lodge talking to a whole lot of men, but as soon as he saw us he grabbed one man and took us to his rooms. I did not want this fourth fellow, but since he was there I must say that Foster could not have got any one nicer. His name was Henderson, and he had been so successful as captain of his school cricket XI. that he had played three times for Somersetshire during August. His legs and arms were extraordinarily long and his face was covered with freckles; one freckle had placed itself on the tip of his nose and I did not get accustomed to it for a long time—it was the sort of thing which one kept on looking at to see if it was still there. He would not talk about his cricket, except to say that he should not have played for Somersetshire if half the regular team had not been laid up, and he kept on clamouring to play whist, so that at last we gave way to him.
I had a good opinion of my whist, though how I arrived at it I cannot explain. Henderson was my partner and he seemed to me to do the most odd things. For instance when I led a spade and he took the trick, instead of leading another spade he would begin some fresh suit, which made me wonder what in the world he was doing. And he did not seem to think his trumps half as valuable as I thought mine, but just led them whenever he felt inclined. When Nina, Foster and I played whist it was considered pretty bad form to lead trumps when we had anything else to lead, and we kept them for a big outburst at the finish. I pitied myself considerably for having Henderson as a partner, and I was very surprised to see Murray doing the same odd sort of things. So at the end of one rubber Foster and I played together, but I cannot say that we had much luck, and just at the end I made a revoke which Murray was brute enough to notice. When Henderson had gone I said that he seemed to be a rare good sort, but it was a pity he did not know a little more about whist. I hoped Murray would take that remark partly to himself, because at the end of every hand he had talked to Henderson about what might have happened if he had led a different card, and sometimes he even went on jawing when he had got his fresh hand, which quite put me off my game. But all Murray did was to laugh, while Foster said to me that he was afraid our way of playing whist was all wrong, and I had some difficulty in persuading him that it was not. Then Murray said something about reading Cavendish carefully, but I had heard some one say that Cavendish was out of date, so I borrowed this man's opinion and expressed it as my own, which amused Murray so much that if I had not been sorry for him I believe I should have lost my temper.
At last, however, we stopped discussing whist, and after I had made Foster and Murray swear they would tell no one else, I gave them an account of Owen coming to see me. Before I began Foster declared that the reason I bound them to keep my secret was because I wanted to tell it to every one myself. In fact he expected the whole thing to be some miserable little affair, for I had a habit, which I have since abandoned, of extracting the most terrific promises of secrecy from my friends and then telling them something which they did not think as important as I did. I started that game because I had once told something really funny to a lot of fellows at Cliborough, and they went and spread it about so quickly that I could never find any one else who did not know it, which was simply nothing less than a fraud.
But as soon as I had got fairly into my tale I saw that both Foster and Murray were interested, and at the end of it I asked them what I was to do.
"Do you think he meant that he wouldn't have anything more to do with you, or that he just wanted to show you that he would leave you to decide what was to happen next?" Murray asked.
"I don't know what he meant," I answered. "He seemed to be in a rage with the whole of Oxford, only it was not a noisy sort of rage but a kind of smouldering business, and perhaps I only imagined the whole thing."
"What was he like to look at?" Foster inquired.
"Pale and dark, and he looked unwell without looking unwholesome," I replied.
"I saw him," Murray said, "and I thought he would have been rather nice if he hadn't been so nervous. He has got great big eyes and about half an acre of forehead."
"He wore a flannel shirt and a turned-down collar, and looked clean," I told Foster, for I thought he had better know everything.
"Ask him to lunch and Murray and me to meet him," Foster suggested.
"I can't ask a senior man to lunch, it would show that I thought it didn't make any difference in his case, and I think he would be on the look-out for things like that. Besides, he wouldn't come."
"I should leave him alone," Murray said.
"I shan't do that, it would make me feel a brute," I replied.
"Find out where he lives and I will come with you and see him. I know your father, so it will be all right," Foster proposed.
"He has called on me, so he can't mind me going to see him, and I should like to take you with me. I'll let you know as soon as I have found out where his rooms are;" and then, as it was getting late, Foster came down with us to the lodge, and I was half out of the door before I remembered to ask him about his footer.
"I am playing against Cooper's Hill on Wednesday," he said; "but I shall be kicked out if I don't play any better than I did on Saturday."
As we walked up King Edward Street Murray did nothing but talk about Foster, and since I was always delighted whenever I could get any one on that subject I did not look half carefully enough where I was going. Murray was in cap and gown, but I was not wearing what is sometimes magnificently called "academical attire," but had on a cloth cap. It had never occurred to me that we were likely to meet the "proggins," but as I turned into The High we ran full tilt into him, and before I had time to think of running, a "bulldog" had told me that the proctor would like to speak to me. There was no way out of it, so I turned to gratify this unforeseen gentleman and found that he was my tutor, Mr. Edwardes. He did not trouble to go through the usual formula of asking me whether I belonged to the University and all the rest of it, but told me to call upon him the next morning. He spoke so quickly that I could not hear what time he told me to come, but I supposed any time would do.
"Did you know that Edwardes was a proctor?" I asked Murray, as soon as we could go on.
"Some one told me he was; he is a junior proctor, I think."
"And a vile nuisance," I added. "He will be more down on me than ever now."
"There is no harm in walking about without cap and gown," Murray said.
"I'll bet Edwardes thinks there is," I answered, and as I was feeling furious at being caught so simply, I gave a tremendous hammer upon the door of St. Cuthbert's, and when I wished the porter good-night he glared at me and did not answer.
The faculty of making people angry without meaning to do so is a most fatal possession. When I remember the men I know who seem to be constitutionally unpleasant and who walk about saying sarcastic things, I do think I am unlucky. For I annoy people quite unintentionally, and it must be the most stupid way of bringing about a bad result. I get no fun for my money, so to speak. Honestly I did not hear at what time Mr. Edwardes told me to call upon him, and when I strolled over to his rooms about eleven o'clock on the following morning, I had no idea that he was likely to be more than usually displeased. But it did not take me a moment to discover that he was very angry indeed. From what he told me it seemed that I ought to have appeared at nine o'clock with many other men as unfortunate as I was, and he evidently considered that I had not come at the proper hour because I had thought that one time would do as well as another. I told him that I did not hear him mention any particular time, but I do not think he believed me, and after I had paid him five shillings for being without my cap and gown he did not even thank me, but looked first at his watch and then at a long list which he had on his table.
"It is now a quarter-past eleven, and I believe Mr. Armitage's lecture at Merton begins at eleven o'clock. May I ask why you have decided not to attend his lecture this morning?" and he screwed his mouth up until it seemed to disappear.
His question was difficult to answer, because I could not tell him that Murray and I had decided that Mr. Armitage lectured very badly, and that I had expressed my intention of cutting his lectures whenever I felt inclined. So I said that I had forgotten Mr. Armitage's lecture, which happened to be the truth.
"I am afraid, Mr. Marten, that you take a very light view of your responsibilities," he said. "It is unusual, I imagine, for an exhibitioner of a college to interview the proctor as soon as you have done; the college authorities naturally expect their scholars and exhibitioners to obey the rules of the University, and they also expect them to apply themselves earnestly to their studies. At the present moment I am unable to consider that you have realized either of these expectations."
"Well, sir, they are early days yet," I said with a smile, for I thought it was best to take a cheery view of the situation.
"This is no jest," he replied, and his teeth snapped together very disagreeably.
"I did not mistake it for one," I said, and I wanted to be amicable; "but being without cap and gown last night is not a very awful offence, is it? The proctors would have a very dull time if they did not catch men sometimes."
I cannot imagine why I made that last remark, except that he had fixed his little eyes upon me when I began and it seemed to be dragged out of me.
"I do not think that you need trouble yourself about the duties of the proctors, Mr. Marten. Good-morning, and please remember what I have said to you."
I left his room smiling, and I am sure he thought I was laughing at him; but what really amused me was being called "Mr. Marten," for I had not grown accustomed to my prefix and the sound of it was most comical to me. I am afraid my taste for jokes was very different from that of my tutor.
When I came away from Mr. Edwardes I stood in the front quadrangle and whistled. My whistle is unmusical and penetrative, useful only when a dog has been lost, and some man, whom I did not know, put his head out of his window and said abruptly, "For heaven's sake shut up that vile noise;" another man chucked a penny into the quad and told me he should send something heavier if I did not stop. The front quad was obviously no place for me, but before I had made up my mind where I would go the Warden came out of his house and saw me before I saw him.
"Good-morning, Mr. Marten," he said before I could escape; "it is so unusual to find a beautiful quadrangle totally uninhabited that you seem to be undecided whether to leave it or not. Your whistle as I stood by the open window of my bedroom suggested to me that you are not employing your time most advantageously either to yourself or to others."
He stood by me for a moment, and then moving on with his peculiar shuffle disappeared through the doorway leading into the college gardens. My nerves were becoming upset from these constant encounters, and as I felt that I could not sit down and work until I had some kind of an antidote, I went up to see Jack Ward, who had rooms in the front quadrangle.
I found him, as I thought, most beautifully unemployed, but as soon as he had asked me whether my temper was better in the morning than at night, of which remark I took no notice, he said that he was being worried to death.
There were two telegrams lying on his table, and I thought something awful had happened to his people, so I tried to look sympathetic and replied that if he would rather be left alone I would go at once. Then he broke forth into the language of towing-paths and barges and asked me whether I was a lunatic, which was a fairly nasty question when I thought I was treating his trouble in a becoming spirit. I was not, however, sure what was the matter with him, so I did not say what I might have said but asked him to tell me why he was bothered.
"You see it is like this," he answered, picking up both the telegrams; "one of our groom fellows at home has a brother who knows everything about Blackmore's stable, and he has just wired to me that Dainty Dick will win the Flying Welter at Hurst Park to-day, and I was off to back it when I get a wire from my tipster, Tom Webb, that The Philosopher can't lose the same race. It is Tom's 'double nap' and I am in a hole what to do."
As I had never heard before of Dainty Dick, The Philosopher, Tom Webb or Blackmore, I did not feel in a position to give advice, but I laughed until I felt quite unwell, and Ward walked about the room asking violently why I was amused.
"I thought some of your people were ill when I came in here," I said after some minutes, "and the whole thing turns out to be some gibberish nonsense about Tom Webb, a tipster, and some rotten horses."
"You are most refreshingly green," Ward replied, and he screwed the telegrams together and threw them into the fire.
"What are you going to do?" I inquired.
"That's just it, I can't make up my mind. Tom Webb has sent me twelve stiff 'uns running, and if The Philosopher won and I wasn't on it I should swear for a month."
"Then," I said wisely, "I think you had better back The Philosopher; you ought to think a little of your friends."
The only answer I received to my suggestion was that of all the fools in Oxford I was the most sublime, so I told him that if he backed either of these horses he would be proving that, at any rate, I was not absolutely the biggest fool he knew. But he had begun to read racing guides and calendars, and every now and then made notes upon a piece of paper, so he treated my retort with contempt.
"I believe," he said, with a pencil between his teeth, "that Dainty Dick can give The Philosopher about eleven pounds, and he has only to give him four, so I shall back The Philosopher."
"That doesn't seem very good reasoning," I ventured to remark.
"My opinion's always wrong," he explained, "but I have a thundering good mind to back both of 'em."
"It seems the quickest way of losing your money," I said.
"Don't be such a confounded ass. I know about some of these stables, a man is a fool if you like who bets and doesn't know." He shut up his betting-book with a bang, and I told him the only tale I knew about racing.
"I have a cousin," I began, "who owned racehorses and all the rest of it. He lost every penny he had, and a lot more besides. He knew, as you call it." I did not feel that my tale, though it had the merit of being true, was a good one.
"It is no use for you to sit there and conjure up tragedies," Ward replied. "I can't help gambling, it is in my blood; my father is about the biggest speculator in England. If you want a good tip, buy Susquehambo Consolidated Rubies."
I was not inclined to buy anything except a fox-terrier pup, and I told Ward that he would come a most howling cropper if he did not look out. But I have never yet happened to find the man who was inclined to take my warnings seriously, and Jack Ward, at any rate, was so naturally optimistic, that I might have known that he would take no notice whatever of my advice.
"I shall back both Dainty Dick and The Philosopher," he said, when I had finished; "come down to Wright's with me, and I will have a fiver on each of them. I don't get tips like these every day."
He put on his cap and tried to persuade me to go with him, but I was sick of the man, he seemed to me to be simply throwing his money away; so I went back to my rooms, and finding that Murray had been to Armitage's lecture, I borrowed his notes and copied them into my book, though Murray said, and I thought, that I was wasting my time.
I did not see Ward again until after five o'clock, when he brought an evening paper and a cheerful countenance into my rooms and told me that Dainty Dick had won the Flying Welter, and The Philosopher had been second. "Two pretty good tips, my boy," he said; "nothing but your obstinacy prevented your being on."
Collier had been having tea with me, and was to all appearances asleep when Ward came in, but without opening his eyes he said, "Betting is a mug's game. What price did this brute start at?"
"I don't know until I get the next evening paper, but it is sure to be a good price; there were twelve runners, and they are sure to have backed The Philosopher."
"You are a rotter," Collier stated; "if you are going to stay here, don't talk racing to us. I don't know anything about it and don't want to."
"I know a real hot thing for the Manchester November Handicap, been kept for months," Ward said quite cheerfully.
"We don't want to hear it," I said.
"I am thundering well not going to tell you anyway. You two men ought to be in bed, I am going to find some one who is not half asleep," Ward answered, and he went away with unnecessary noise.
Both Collier and I had promised to go to Lambert's rooms after dinner on that evening; he had asked us because he said we ought to have a talk about the freshers' wine, but we knew well enough that he intended to twang his wretched banjo and sing little love songs which made the night hideous. If only he would have sung comic things he might not have caused such wholesale pain, though I should not like to speak positively upon that point. I did not go to this entertainment immediately after dinner, and when I arrived I found the usual gang, Ward, Dennison and Collier, and one other man who turned out to be Bunny Langham. Everybody except Collier was playing a game of cards called "Bank," the chief merit of which is its simplicity. The dealer puts some money into the pool and deals three cards to each player, who can bet up to the amount in the pool that one of his cards will beat the card which the dealer turns up against him. All that seemed to happen was that Bunny Langham kept on saying, "I'll go the whole shoot," and then complained violently of his luck. It was no game for me and I looked to Collier for amusement, but he had got a bottle of French plums in his lap and was engaged in trying to get them out with a fork which was too short for the job. The banjo had been put back into its case, and though it was not amusing to see four men play cards and Collier over-eating himself, I was content to see the banjo put away for the night, so I got the most comfortable chair I could grasp and waited until somebody thought it was time to go to bed. I sat facing Bunny Langham, and as there was nothing else to do I watched him losing his money, and I should think he was what is called a very good loser. He was a most curious-looking man and wore eyeglasses which did not seem powerful enough, for when he wanted to take any money from the pool or—which happened more frequently—pay something into it, he took them off and put up a single eyeglass which he managed with the skill of one to whom it was a necessity and not an inconvenience. His complexion was pink and white, and he had a small patch of piebald hair over his right car, which in some lights looked like a rosette. But in spite of his odd appearance there was something attractive in his face; it must, I think, have been either his expression or his forehead, for it certainly was not his chin, and a nose never looks its best when shadowed by pince-nez. Dennison was the only winner at the table, and smiled benignly round him when he was not lighting his pipe. Lambert threw his money about with a magnificent air more comical than impressive, and Jack Ward seemed to be the one man whose attention was riveted on the game. When a remark was made on any subject except bad luck, Ward broke in asking some one how much they were going to stake or telling Bunny, who never seemed to know what was going to happen next, that they were waiting for him. I thought "Bank" must be the dreariest of all card games, but it was nearly twelve o'clock before Langham got up and said he must go. When the game was over I asked Ward how much he had won over Dainty Dick, and at once there was a roar of laughter.
"He lost over three pounds," Dennison said
"But how did he manage that?" I asked, for my knowledge of racing being limited I did not understand how he could have backed the winner of this race and yet lost money.
"Why Dainty Dick started at three to one on, so he only won about thirty shillings, and he lost a fiver backing The Philosopher. I thought he had made a fortune by the way he was talking at dinner," Dennison answered.
For a moment Ward looked furious, and the exultant way in which Dennison told me what had happened must have annoyed him tremendously. I felt that Dennison with his seraphic smile was a much bigger idiot than Ward, so I said, "Well, I can't see where the joke comes in, I think it is thundering rough luck," which remark I considered rather noble, for I did think that Ward had been scored off beautifully, only Dennison gibing at him was such a sickening sight that I thought I would put off the few words I meant having with him about Dainty Dick until we were alone.
After Bunny Langham had gone we began to discuss the freshers' wine, but Jack Ward looked so down on his luck that I let him arrange what he liked, though as Collier said to me afterwards, Ward only thought he was deciding everything while Dennison really managed the whole affair and simply twisted him round his fingers.
"Dennison is as clever as a wagon load of monkeys," Collier complained, "he looks like a baby and is as cunning as a Chinaman. I wonder how we can put up with him."
I wondered, too, and I should think everybody else, except Dennison himself, found it difficult to explain his popularity. For he was popular, and since no other reason occurs to me I expect the fact that he was always ready to play the piano must have helped him, Lambert on his banjo was enough to depress a crowd of Sunday-school children at their annual treat, but Dennison played the kind of music which made Collier, Ward and me, who were not exactly musical, feel that we could sing quite well. At Cliborough I had established a record by being the first boy who had tried to get into the school choir and failed, but the man who made me sing "Ah, ah, ah," until I really could not go on any longer had told me that I should have a voice some day. Perhaps he said that out of kindness, but when Dennison played I always remembered it, and forgot that when I sang in church people sitting in front of me had been known to look round as if hymns were not made to be sung.
If discussion beforehand helps to make an entertainment successful our freshers' wine ought to have been a colossal success. For days the thing seemed to pervade the air and I got horribly tired of it, though Collier, who had been given rooms which compared with mine were palatial, had more reason to be sick than I had. Collier had not only a certain amount of space at his disposal but also a piano, and if either of us had been any use at guessing we might have known that his rooms would have been chosen. I may as well say now that if any one of the freshers who had been invited had also possessed a little sense Collier's rooms would not have been chosen, but the last thing we thought of was a row, until we got into one, which is one of the advantages of being a fresher.
Dennison and Ward finally asked about fifteen men to the wine, and on the appointed night we met in Collier's rooms. It was perhaps not so great a privilege to receive an invitation as we thought it was, because each man who accepted had to pay more than the thing was worth. However, there was no doubt that it was well done, Ward had been to Spinney's shop in the Turl and had benefited by Spinney's experience, and Dennison with the assistance of Collier's scout, and in spite of Collier's mild protests, had prepared the rooms in a way which made me wonder where the owner of them was going to sleep.
There was a tradition at St. Cuthbert's, and a tradition seems to me a very dangerous possession unless carefully watched, that no wine was complete without a large bowl of milk punch. Ward had been told this by Spinney, who took what he called a fatherly interest in St. Cuthbert's, though it must be an exorbitant kind of interest which makes a man recommend a lot of freshers, or anybody else, to mix punch with champagne and port. Spinney had also provided a terrific amount of fruit and other things, and if Collier's room had only been big enough to provide space for all of us and for what we were expected to eat and drink, I think our wine at the start would have been a most imposing display. As it was everybody thought it had been done well except Collier, who told me to look in his bedroom. I looked without seeing the bed, which was so piled up with superfluities that they nearly touched the ceiling.
"When this orgie is over," Collier said, "every one will have forgotten that I have to go to bed to-night."
"I will stay and help you," I answered, for I was in the mood when anything seems to be possible.
We went back into the "sitter," where everybody was already beginning to eat and, I suppose, to enjoy themselves. There were not enough chairs to go round, but there is always the floor, and a man who won't sit on the floor when there is nothing else to sit upon is no use at an Oxford wine. Some men even prefer the floor, but that usually happens later on in the evening. Ward began the musical part of the entertainment by singing "John Peel," his voice was admirable, because it was loud without being very good, and nobody had the discomfort of wondering whether they could sing well enough to join in the chorus. I like a place where you can fairly bellow without hearing your own voice. A man called Webb, who had a mole on his forehead and had been at Cliborough with me, sang the next song, but it was a sentimental thing, and had a chorus with some high notes in it, an unsuitable choice which fell flat, and when it was over Webb sat down by me in disgust, and helped himself lavishly to punch by way of consolation. I told Webb that he had taken Lambert's seat, because Lambert for some other reason had also been helping himself lavishly to punch, and had become argumentative and almost quarrelsome. Webb, however, said that he was not going to move, and when Lambert returned Dennison had to play the piano very lustily to drown the discussion which took place. Lambert was six feet two and angry, Webb was the same height and obstinate, both of them had been drinking punch, and if Ward had not intervened by asking Lambert to sing, I believe an unexpected item would have formed part of our programme. Lambert sang, or rather tried to sing, and broke down several times; no one minded and he received tremendous encouragement to go on, but he fancied himself as a singer and at last became very indignant and abusive. He was then given champagne to soothe him, and sat on the floor with a very sad expression, and his legs stretched out in front of him. Collier threw a fig at him which he caught and threw back, hitting another man on the cheek, figs began to fly about the room until Ward begged everybody not to make a horrible rag before we had properly begun. Collier went round on his hands and knees collecting figs and calling himself a fool for spoiling his own carpet. Most people gave him a shove with their feet when he came near them, which sent him on to his back and prevented his collection from being a good one.
Then Dennison began to play "The Gondoliers," which was the popular comic opera of the day. Solos were dispensed with, and each chorus was sung many times. The wine was evidently a huge success, the noise was magnificent, and everybody was reasonably peaceful. No one noticed that Lambert and Webb were now sitting side by side on the floor, swearing eternal friendship and requiring champagne in which to pledge each other, until Webb got hold of the idea that he was Leander trying to swim the Hellespont, and Collier poured a jug of water over his head so that he might make the scene more realistic.
One or two men went quietly away, saying that it was getting late. The music stopped for a moment, while Dennison walked about the room seeking refreshment and finding very little. The noise subsided so much that a knock was heard, and a scout poked his head into the room and spoke to Dennison who was standing by the door. Every one asked what he wanted, and Dennison assured us that it did not matter, which we were all inclined to believe with the exception of Ward, who went to the piano and began the National Anthem. It was the only tune he could play, and he had to take infinite pains to get the right notes, so he was forcibly removed, and Dennison installed in his place. "The Gondoliers" and the noise began again, while Ward, protesting that it was time we went away, was disregarded entirely. From sheer distaste for punch and only a very limited taste for wine I had not been seeking my enjoyment in drinking, but I had smoked far more than was good for me, and my head felt as large as a pumpkin. It occurred to me, however, that if Ward wished our entertainment to close he was sure to be right, so I pulled over Dennison backwards from the piano. That caused a very fair hubbub and did not do much good, since everybody began to sing what they liked, without music.
Ward went round persuading men to go, until Lambert, Webb, Collier, Ward, Dennison and I were the only ones remaining. Collier was heavy with sleep, but Lambert and Webb, who still sat on the floor with their backs propped up against a sofa, were full of song. Dennison sulked in a corner; he told me afterwards that I had hurt his head. Ward and I by violent efforts got Lambert and Webb upon their legs and propped them up against each other. They stood singing, "For he's a jolly good fellow," and looking extraordinarily foolish. At last we got them to the door and shoved them out, but unfortunately the Sub-Warden, who had a habit of being in the wrong place, was standing outside the room, and Lambert, who most certainly looked upon him as an old friend, put an arm round him, and hurried him at break-neck speed down the stairs. Webb followed, and when I got into the quadrangle he was on one side of the Subby and Lambert on the other.
They were persuading him to dance. I tried to seize Lambert, while Ward went for Webb; but as I did so they suddenly released their man, and instead of grabbing Lambert I got my arm entangled in the Subby's. I let it go quickly, but he recognized me, and said something about a disgraceful occurrence. It would have been giving Lambert and Webb away to tell him that I was acting the part of rescuer, so I stood looking at him, while Ward drove the other two men out of the quadrangle. As he did not say anything I expressed a hope that he was not hurt, but it was more from a wish to prove myself sober than from any anxiety as to his condition that I made the remark. I thought he understood this, for he neither answered nor wished me good-night when he went back to his staircase. I was afraid he had been considerably jolted and was not quite himself. I turned round after watching him out of sight, and found Murray standing by my side.
"You had better come to bed," he said, and his tone suggested that I was incapable of looking after myself, so I told him that I was as sober as a judge.
"I waited up for you," he said.
"To see if you could be of any use, I suppose," I asked ungraciously.
"And when Lambert and Webb began to shout the back quad down, I came out to see what had happened. What were you talking to the Subby about?"
"Our arms got interlocked," I replied, as we walked over to our staircase. "The fact is the Subby ought to go to bed in decent time."
"He could hardly be expected to sleep with a wine going on in the rooms below him."
"I forgot all about that."
"And so apparently did everybody else who was there, though I should have thought the scout would have warned Collier."
"Dennison managed the whole thing, I said, and you can thank your stars you can go to bed without the prospect of a row and a thundering headache."
Then I went into my room and sported my oak, for the rumblings of Lambert and Webb could still be heard in the quadrangle.
JACK WARD AND DENNISON
The morning following the wine was no morning for me. Of course I awoke with a headache, but that was nothing in comparison with a general feeling that the day was not likely to be a peaceful one. I lay awake and thought over matters as well as I could until Clarkson came in to put my bath. Then I pretended to be asleep, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him looking at me and I conceived a great dislike for him. He seemed to think I was a curiosity of some kind. He tidied my room, and having finished he asked if I should be taking breakfast. I sat up in bed and inquired why he supposed I did not want breakfast, and my question, I flatter myself, surprised him considerably. I told him to get me twice as much breakfast as usual and to be quick, but while I was dressing I wondered how I should eat it, so I went into Murray's room and persuaded him to breakfast with me. Murray had already begun to eat, but when I explained to him that this was a little matter between Clarkson and myself, and that it would not do for me to be scored off, he agreed to come. Clarkson, however, was a difficult man to defeat; he provided enough breakfast for four men, and though I bustled him as much as I could and was very dictatorial, I could see that he was quietly amused. Murray ate for all he was worth, but the amount of food which Clarkson carried away for his hungry family was evidence enough to prove who had won the battle.
Conversation did not play any conspicuous part in that meal, but I told Murray that if everybody at the wine had been as sensible as Ward we should have got through without any row. "My opinion of Ward has changed," I said more than once, for Murray was not inclined to give him any credit and he certainly deserved some.
At ten o'clock I went to a lecture, and when I returned I found a note from the Sub-Warden asking me to call upon him at noon. It was precisely what I expected, but the prospects of another row depressed me. The morning was dark and rainy, and my room was so dismal that I stood on the ledge outside my window and leant against the parapet. It was neither a comfortable nor a very safe position, but it suited my mood. I looked down on the back quadrangle below me and watched for something interesting to happen. I had not been up long enough to know that my wish was not likely to be gratified, nothing exciting ever does happen in Oxford during the morning, or if it does I was always unfortunate enough to miss it.
A man in a scholar's gown hurried across the quadrangle, rushed up a staircase, and came back with a note-book in his hand. The Warden came out of his house and stood upon his doorstep as if he was trying to remember what he wanted to do. Then he turned round and went into the house again. Miss Davenport, the Warden's sister, a lady who was reported to be talkative and in love, came out and observed the weather. Two minutes afterwards she appeared in a mackintosh, which was thoroughly business-like. She was most obviously bent on shopping. Two men, regardless of the rain, strolled out of the front quadrangle and shouted for Dennison, who did not come to his window. I told them that he was probably in bed, and they answered that I should fall over if I did not look out. It was all most painfully dull, and I was just going in when the Subby appeared and went into the Warden's house. I could guess the reason for that visit, and waited to see no more. I sat down by the fire and tried to think out what I should say to the Subby, and what he would say to me. I did not know much about him except that his name was Webster, and that he was a great authority on Etruscan pottery, facts which did not help me much. He also had one of the finest stamp collections in the world, but I had never collected anything for more than a week at a time. I felt that he was a difficult man to gauge, because he had never been what I considered a sportsman. His appearance at any rate was not imposing, and I was depressed enough to feel thankful for very small mercies. If dons only remembered what men feel like after their first wine, they would scarcely be hard-hearted enough to inflict further penalties upon them. But it was the vocation of the Subby to keep order in the college, and some one had told me that rowdy men were his pet abomination. He regarded St. Cuthbert's as the intellectual centre of Oxford, and Oxford as the intellectual centre of the world. No wonder the poor man looked serious and seldom smiled, for he must have had a lot to think about. He covered up his eyes with enormous spectacles, and the lower part of his face with a straggling moustache and beard, you got neither satisfaction nor information from looking at him.