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Chapter 1

  • In the spring of 1882 Mr. Jarvis Runcorn, editor and co-proprietor of th_ondon Weekly Post, was looking about for a young man of journalistic promis_hom he might associate with himself in the conduct of that long establishe_adical paper. The tale of his years warned him that he could not hope t_upport much longer a burden which necessarily increased with the growin_ange and complexity of public affairs. Hitherto he had been the autocrat o_he office, but competing Sunday papers exacted an alertness, a versatil_igour, such as only youth can supply; for there was felt to be a danger tha_he Weekly Post might lose its prestige in democratic journalism. Thus on th_atch, Mr. Runcorn—a wary man of business, who had gone through many trade_efore he reached that of weekly literature—took counsel one day with _ellow-campaigner, Malkin by name, who owned two or three country newspapers, and had reaped from them a considerable fortune; in consequence, his attentio_as directed to one John Earwaker, then editing the Wattleborough Courier. Mr.
  • Malkin's eldest son had recently stood as Liberal candidate for Wattleborough, and though defeated was loud in his praise of the ~Courier~; with its edito_e had come to be on terms of intimate friendship. Earwaker was wel_cquainted with journalistic life in the provinces. He sprang from a humbl_amily living at Kingsmill, had studied at Whitelaw College, and was now bu_ine-and-twenty: the style of his 'leaders' seemed to mark him for a wide_phere of work. It was decided to invite him to London, and the young ma_eadily accepted Mr. Runcorn's proposals. A few months later he exchange_emporary lodgings for chambers in Staple Inn, where he surrounded himsel_ith plain furniture and many books.
  • In personal appearance he had changed a good deal since that prize-day a_hitelaw when his success as versifier and essayist foretold a literar_areer. His figure was no longer ungainly; the big head seemed to fit bette_pon the narrow shoulders. He neither walked with extravagant paces, nor wave_is arms like a windmill. A sufficiency of good food, and the habit o_ntercourse with active men; had given him an every-day aspect; perhaps th_ole peculiarity he retained from student times was his hollow chuckle o_irth, a laugh which struggled vainly for enlargement. He dressed wit_onventional decency, even submitting to the chimney-pot hat. His feature_etrayed connection with a physically coarse stock; but to converse with hi_as to discover the man of original vigour and wide intellectual scope. Wit_rdinary companions, it was a rare thing for him to speak of his professiona_nterests. But for his position on The Weekly Post it would not have been eas_o surmise how he stood with regard to politics, and he appeared to lean a_ften towards the conservative as to the revolutionary view of abstrac_uestions.
  • The newspaper left him time for other literary work, and it was known to a fe_eople that he wrote with some regularity for reviews, but all the products o_is pen were anonymous. A fact which remained his own secret was that h_rovided for the subsistence of his parents, old people domiciled in a quie_orner of their native Kingsmill. The strict sobriety of life which i_ndispensable to success in such a career as this cost him no effort. H_moked moderately, ate and drank as little as might be, could keep his healt_n six hours of sleep, and for an occasional holiday liked to walk his twent_r thirty miles. Earwaker was naturally marked for survival among the fittest.
  • On an evening of June in the year '84, he was interrupted whilst equippin_imself for dinner abroad, by a thunderous rat-tat-tat.
  • 'You must wait, my friend, whoever you are,' he murmured placidly, as he bega_o struggle with the stiff button-holes of his shirt.
  • The knock was repeated, and more violently.
  • 'Now there's only one man of my acquaintance who knocks like that,' he mused, elaborating the bow of his white tie. 'He, I should imagine, is in Brazil; bu_here's no knowing. Perhaps our office is on fire.—Anon, anon!'
  • He made baste to don waistcoat and swallow-tail, then crossed his sitting-roo_nd flung open the door of the chambers.
  • 'Ha! Then it is you! I was reminded of your patient habits.'
  • A tall man, in a light overcoat and a straw hat of spacious brim, had seize_oth his hands, with shouts of excited greeting.
  • 'Confound you! Why did you keep me waiting? I thought I had missed you for th_vening. How the deuce are you? And why the devil have you left me without _ine from you for more than six months?'
  • Earwaker drew aside, and allowed his tumultuous friend to rush into th_earest room.
  • 'Why haven't you written?—confound you!' was again vociferated, amid bursts o_oyish laughter. 'Why hasn't anybody written?'
  • 'If everybody was as well informed of your movements as I, I don't wonder,'
  • replied the journalist. 'Since you left Buenos Ayres, I have had two letters, each containing twenty words, which gave me to understand that no answer coul_y possibility reach you.'
  • 'Humbug! You could have written to half-a-dozen likely places. Did I reall_ay that? Ha, ha, ha!—Shake hands again, confound you! How do you do? Do _ook well? Have I a tropical colour? I say, what a blessed thing it was that _ot beaten down at Wattleborough! All this time I should have been sitting i_he fog at Westminster. What a time I've had! What a time I've had!'
  • It was more than twelve months since Malkin's departure from England. Thoug_un and sea had doubtless contributed to his robustness, he must always hav_een a fair example of the vigorous Briton. His broad shoulders, uprigh_earing, open countenance, and frank resonant voice, declared a youth passe_mid the wholesome conditions which wealth alone can command. The heart_xtravagance of his friendliness was only possible in a man who has never bee_umiliated by circumstances, never restricted in his natural needs of body an_ind. Yet he had more than the heartiness of a contented Englishman. Th_ivacity which made a whirlwind about him probably indicated some ancestra_ingling with the blood of a more ardent race. Earwaker examined him with _mile of pleasure.
  • 'It's unfortunate,' he said, 'that I have to go out to dinner.'
  • 'Dinner! Pooh! we can get dinner anywhere.'
  • 'No doubt, hut I am engaged.'
  • 'The devil you are! Who is she? Why didn't you write to tell me?'
  • 'The word has a less specific meaning, my dear fellow,' replied Earwaker, laughing. 'Only you of all men would have rushed at the wrong one. I mean t_ay—if your excitement can take in so common a fact—that I have promised t_ine with some people at Notting Hill, and mustn't disappoint them.'
  • Malkin laughed at his mistake, then shouted:
  • 'Notting Hill! Isn't that somewhere near Fulham? We'll take a cab, and I ca_rop you on my way.'
  • 'It wouldn't be on the way at all.'
  • The journalist's quiet explanation was cut short by a petulant outcry.
  • 'Oh, very well! Of course if you want to get rid of me! I should have though_fter sixteen months'—
  • 'Don't be idiotic,' broke in the other. 'There's a strong feminine element i_ou, Malkin; that's exactly the kind of talk with which women drive men t_renzy.'
  • 'Feminine element!' shouted the traveller with hot face. 'What do you mean? _ropose to take a cab with you, and you'—
  • Earwaker turned away laughing. 'Time and distance are nothing to you, and _hall be very glad of your company. Come by all means.'
  • His friend was instantly appeased.
  • 'Don't let me make you late, Earwaker. Must we start this moment? Come along, then. Can I carry anything for you? Lord! if you could only see a tropica_orest! How do you get on with old Runcorn? ~Write~? What the devil was th_se of my writing, when words are powerless to describe—? What a rum old plac_his seems, after experiences like mine; how the deuce can you live here? _ay, I've brought you a ton of curiosities; will make your rooms look like _useum. Confound it! I've broken my shin against the turn in the staircase!
  • Whew! Who are you going to dine with?—Moxey? Never heard the name.'
  • In Holborn a hansom was hailed, and the friends continued their dialogue a_hey drove westward. Having at length effervesced, Malkin began to exchang_uestion and answer with something of the calm needful for mutua_ntelligibility.
  • 'And how do you get on with old Runcorn?'
  • 'As well as can be expected where there is not a single subject of agreement,'
  • Earwaker replied. 'I have hopes of reducing our circulation.'
  • 'What the deuce do you mean?'
  • 'In other words, of improving the paper. Runcorn is strong on the side o_lackguardism. We had a great fight the other day over a leader offered b_enyon,—a true effusion of the political gutter-snipe. I refused point-blan_o let it go in; Runcorn swore that, if I did not, I should go out. I offere_o retire that moment. "We must write for our public," he bellowed. "True,"
  • said I, "but not necessarily for the basest among them. The standard at th_est is low enough." "Do you call yourself a Radical?" "Not if this b_adicalism." "You ought to be on the Morning instead of the Weekly Post." _ad my way, and probably shall end by sending Mr Kenyon back to his tinker'_ork shop. If not, I must look out for cleaner occupation.'
  • 'Go it, my boy! Go it!' cried Malkin, slapping his companion's knee violently.
  • 'Raise the tone! To the devil with mercenary considerations! Help th_roletariat out of its grovelling position.'
  • They approached the street where Earwaker had to alight. The other declare_is intention of driving on to Fulham in the hope of finding a friend wh_ived there.
  • 'But I must see you again. When shall you be home to-night?'
  • 'About half-past eleven, I dare say.'
  • 'Right! If I am free I'll come out to Staple Inn, and we'll talk till three o_our.'
  • The house at which the journalist presented himself was such as might b_nhabited by a small family of easy means. As he was taking off his overcoat, a door opened and Christian Moxey came forward to greet him. They shook hand_ike men who stood on friendly, but not exactly on intimate, terms.
  • 'Will you come up to the laboratory for a moment?' said Moxey. 'I should lik_o show you something I have under the microscope.'
  • The room he spoke of was at the top of the house; two chambers had been mad_nto one, and the fittings were those required by a student of physica_cience. Various odours distressed the air. A stranger to the pursuit_epresented might have thought that the general disorder and encumbermen_ndicated great activity, but the experienced eye perceived at once that n_ethodical work was here in progress. Mineralogy, botany, biology, physics, and probably many other sciences, were suggested by the specimens an_pparatus that lay confusedly on tables, shelves, or floor.
  • Moxey looked very slim and elegant in his evening costume. When he touched an_bject, his long, translucent fingers seemed soft and sensitive as a girl's.
  • He stepped with peculiar lightness, and the harmonious notes of his voice wer_n keeping with these other characteristics. Ten years had developed in hi_hat graceful languor which at four-and-twenty was only beginning to ge_astery over the energies of a well-built frame.
  • 'This stuff here,' he said, pointing to an open box full of mud, 'is silt fro_own the Thames. It's positively loaded with diatomaceoe,—you remember ou_alking about them when you were last here? I am working at the fabric of th_alves. Now, just look!'
  • Earwaker, with attentive smile, followed the demonstration.
  • 'Peak is busy with them as well,' said Christian, presently. 'Has he told yo_is theory of their locomotion? Nobody has found out yet how the littl_eggars move about. Peak has a bright idea.'
  • They spent ten minutes in the laboratory, then went downstairs. Two othe_uests had meanwhile arrived, and were conversing with the hostess, Mis_oxey. The shy, awkward, hard-featured girl was grown into a woman whose fac_ade such declaration of intellect and character that, after the first moment, one became indifferent to its lack of feminine beauty. As if with the idea o_ompensating for personal disadvantages, she was ornately dressed; he_bundant tawny hair had submitted to much manipulation, and showed the glea_f jewels; expense and finished craft were manifest in every detail of he_arb. Though slightly round-shouldered, her form was well-proportioned an_uggested natural vigour. Like Christian, she had delicate hands.
  • 'Do you know a distinguished clergyman, named Chilvers?' she asked o_arwaker, with a laugh, when he had taken a place by her.
  • 'Chilvers?—Is it Bruno Chilvers, I wonder?'
  • 'That's the name!' exclaimed one of the guests, a young married lady of eage_ace and fidgety manners.
  • 'Then I knew him at College, but I had no idea he was become distinguished.'
  • Miss Moxey again laughed.
  • 'Isn't it amusing, the narrowness of a great clerical reputation? Mrs. Morto_as astonished that I had never heard his name.'
  • 'Please don't think,' appealed the lady, looking anxiously at Earwaker, 'tha_ consider it shameful not to know him. I only happened to mention a ver_idiculous sermon of his, that was forced upon me by a distressingly orthodo_riend of mine. They tell me, he is one of the newest lights of the Church.'
  • Earwaker listened with amusement, and then related anecdotes of Brun_hilvers. Whilst he was talking, the door opened to admit another arrival, an_ servant's voice announced 'Mr. Peak'. Miss Moxey rose, and moved a step o_wo forward; a change was visible on her countenance, which had softened an_ightened.
  • 'I am very sorry to be late,' said the new-comer, in a dull and rather husk_oice, which made strong contrast with the humorous tones his entrance ha_nterrupted.
  • He shook hands in silence with the rest of the company, giving merely a no_nd a smile as reply to some gracious commonplace from Mrs. Morton.
  • 'Has it come to your knowledge,' Earwaker asked of him, 'that Bruno Chilver_s exciting the orthodox world by his defence of Christianity against neo- heathenism?'
  • 'Chilvers?—No.'
  • 'Mrs. Morton tells us that all the Church newspapers ring with his name.'
  • 'Please don't think,' cried Mrs. Morton, with the same anxious look as before,
  • 'that I read such papers. We never have such a thing in our house, Mr. Peak. _ave only been told about it.'
  • Peak smiled gravely, but made no other answer. Then he turned to Earwaker.
  • 'Where is he?'
  • 'I can't say. Perhaps Mrs. Morton'—
  • 'They tell me he is somewhere in Norfolk,' replied the lady. 'I forget th_own.'
  • A summons to dinner broke off the conversation. Moxey offered his arm to th_ne lady present as guest, and Earwaker did the same courtesy to the hostess.
  • Mr. Morton, a meditative young man who had been listening with a smile o_ndifference, sauntered along in the rear with Godwin Peak.
  • At the dinner-table Peak was taciturn, and seemed to be musing on _isagreeable subject. To remarks, he answered briefly and absently. As Moxey, Earwaker, and Mrs. Morton kept up lively general talk, this muteness was no_uch noticed, but when the ladies had left the room, and Peak still frowne_ver his wineglass, the journalist rebuked him.
  • 'What's the matter with you? Don't depress us.'
  • The other laughed impatiently, and emptied his glass.
  • 'Malkin has come back,' pursued Earwaker. 'He burst in upon me, just as I wa_eaving home—as mad as a March hare. You must come and meet him some evening.'
  • 'As you please.'
  • Returned to the upper room, Peak seated himself in a shadowy corner, crosse_is legs, thrust his hands into his pockets, and leaned back to regard _icture on the wall opposite. This attitude gave sufficient proof of th_hange that had been wrought in him by the years between nineteen and nine- and-twenty; even in a drawing-room, he could take his ease unconcernedly. Hi_ace would have led one to suppose him an older man; it was set in a_xpression of stern, if not morose, thoughtfulness.
  • He had small, hard lips, indifferent teeth (seldom exhibited), a prominen_hin, a long neck; his body was of firm, not ungraceful build. Society'_vening uniform does not allow a man much scope in the matter of adornments; it was plain, however, that Godwin no longer scorned the tailor an_aberdasher. He wore a suit which confidently challenged the criticism o_xperts, and the silk socks visible above his shoes might have been selecte_y the most fastidious of worldlings.
  • When he had sat there for some minutes, his eyes happened to stray toward_iss Moxey, who was just then without a companion. Her glance answered to his, and a smile of invitation left him no choice but to rise and go to a sea_eside her.
  • 'You are meditative this evening,' she said, in a voice subdued below it_rdinary note.
  • 'Not very fit for society, to tell the truth,' Godwin answered, carelessly.
  • 'One has such moods, you know. But how would you take it if, at the las_oment, I sent a telegram, "Please excuse me. Don't feel able to talk"?'
  • 'You don't suppose I should be offended?'
  • 'Certainly you would.'
  • 'Then you know less of me than I thought.'
  • Her eyes wandered about the room, their smile betokening an uneasy self- consciousness.
  • 'Christian tells me,' she continued, 'that you are going to take your holida_n Cornwall.'
  • 'I thought of it. But perhaps I shan't leave town at all. It wouldn't be wort_hile, if I go abroad at the end of the year.'
  • 'Abroad?' Marcella glanced at him. 'What scheme is that?'
  • 'Haven't I mentioned it? I want to go to South America and the Pacifi_slands. Earwaker has a friend, who has just come back from travel in th_ropics; the talk about it has half decided me to leave England. I have bee_aving money for years to that end.'
  • 'You never spoke of it—to me, Marcella replied, turning a bracelet on he_rist. 'Should you go alone?'
  • 'Of course. I couldn't travel in company. You know how impossible it would b_or me to put up with the moods and idiosyncrasies of other men.'
  • There was a quiet arrogance in his tone. The listener still smiled, but he_ingers worked nervously.
  • 'You are not so unsocial as you pretend,' she remarked, without looking a_im.
  • 'Pretend! I make no pretences of any kind,' was his scornful answer.
  • 'You are ungracious this evening.'
  • 'Yes—and can't hide it.'
  • 'Don't try to, I beg. But at least tell me what troubles you.'
  • 'That's impossible,' Peak replied, drily.
  • 'Then friendship goes for nothing,' said Marcella, with a little forced laugh.
  • 'Yes—in all but a very few human concerns. How often could you tell me what i_s that prevents your taking life cheerfully?'
  • He glanced at her, and Marcella's eyes fell; a moment after, there was _uspicion of colour in her cheek.
  • 'What are you reading?' Peak asked abruptly, but in a voice of mor_onventional note.
  • 'Still Hafiz.'
  • 'I envy your power of abstraction.'
  • 'Yet I hear that you are deeply concerned about the locomotive powers of the ~diatomaceaoe~?'
  • Their eyes met, and they laughed—not very mirthfully.
  • 'It preserves me from worse follies,' said Peak. 'After all, there are way_ore or less dignified of consuming time'—
  • As he spoke, his ear caught a familiar name, uttered by Christian Moxey, an_e turned to listen. Moxey and Earwaker were again talking of the Rev. Brun_hilvers. Straightway disregarding Marcella, Peak gave attention to the men'_ialogue, and his forehead wrinkled into scornful amusement.
  • 'It's very interesting,' he exclaimed, at a moment when there was silenc_hroughout the company, 'to hear that Chilvers is really coming to the front.
  • At Whitelaw it used to be prophesied that he would be a bishop, and now _uppose he's fairly on the way to that. Shall we write letters o_ongratulation to him, Earwaker?'
  • 'A joint epistle, if you like.'
  • Mr. Morton, who had brightened since dinner, began to speak caustically of th_orm of intellect necessary nowadays in a popular clergyman.
  • 'He must write a good deal,' put in Earwaker, 'and that in a style which woul_ave scandalised the orthodox of the last century. Rationalised dogma i_astly in demand.'
  • Peak's voice drew attention.
  • 'Two kinds of books dealing with religion are now greatly popular, and will b_or a long time. On the one hand there is that growing body of people who, fo_hatever reason, tend to agnosticism, but desire to be convinced tha_gnosticism is respectable; they are eager for anti-dogmatic books, written b_en of mark. They couldn't endure to be classed with Bradlaugh, but they ran_hemselves confidently with Darwin and Huxley. Arguments matter little o_othing to them. They take their rationalism as they do a fashion in dress, anxious only that it shall be "good form". Then there's the other lot o_eople—a much larger class—who won't give up dogma, but have learnt tha_ishops, priests, and deacons no longer hold it with the old rigour, and tha_ne must be "broad"; these are clamorous for treatises which pretend t_econcile revelation and science. It's quite pathetic to watch the enthusias_ith which they hail any man who distinguishes himself by this kind o_pologetic skill, this pious jugglery. Never mind how washy the book from _cientific point of view. Only let it obtain vogue, and it will be glorifie_s the new evangel. The day has gone by for downright assaults on science; t_e marketable, you must prove that The Origin of Species was approvingl_oreseen in the first chapter of Genesis, and that the Apostles' Cree_onflicts in no single point with the latest results of biblical criticism.
  • Both classes seek to avoid ridicule, and to adapt themselves to a standard o_espectability. If Chilvers goes in for the newest apologetics, he is bound t_e enormously successful. The man has brains, and really there are so few suc_en who still care to go into the Church.'
  • There was a murmur of laughing approval. The speaker had worked himself int_loquent nervousness; he leaned forward with his hands straining together, an_he muscles of his face quivering.
  • 'And isn't it surprising,' said Marcella, 'in how short a time this apologeti_ttitude has become necessary?'
  • Peak flashed a triumphant look at her.
  • 'I often rejoice to think of it!' he cried. 'How magnificent it is that s_any of the solemn jackasses who brayed against Darwin from ten to twent_ears ago should live to be regarded as beneath contempt! I say it earnestly: this thought is one of the things that make life tolerable to me!'
  • 'You have need of charity, friend Peak,' interposed Earwaker. 'This is th_pirit of the persecutor.'
  • 'Nothing of the kind! It is the spirit of justified reason. You may say tha_hose people were honestly mistaken;—such honesty is the brand of a brainles_bstructive. They would have persecuted, but too gladly! There were, and are, men who would have committed Darwin to penal servitude, if they had had th_ower. Men like Lyell, who were able to develop a new convolution in thei_rains, I respect heartily. I only speak of the squalling mass, the obscen_erd of idiot mockers.'
  • 'Who assuredly,' remarked Earwaker, 'feel no shame whatever in the retrospec_f their idiocy. To convert a mind is a subject for high rejoicing; to confut_ temper isn't worth the doing.'
  • 'That is philosophy,' said Marcella, 'but I suspect you of often feeling a_r. Peak does. I am sure I do.'
  • Peak, meeting an amused glance from the journalist, left his seat and took u_ volume that lay on one of the tables. It was easy to see that his hand_hook, and that there was perspiration on his forehead. With pleasant tact, Moxey struck into a new subject, and for the next quarter of an hour Peak sa_part in the same attitude as before his outburst of satire and invective.
  • Then he advanced to Miss Moxey again, for the purpose of taking leave. Thi_as the signal for Earwaker's rising, and in a few minutes both men had lef_he house.
  • 'I'll go by train with you,' said Earwaker, as they walked away. 'Farringdo_treet will suit me well enough.'
  • Peak vouchsafed no reply, but, when they had proceeded a little distance, h_xclaimed harshly:
  • 'I hate emancipated women!'
  • His companion stopped and laughed loudly.
  • 'Yes, I hate emancipated women,' the other repeated, with deliberation. 'Wome_ught neither to be enlightened nor dogmatic. They ought to be sexual.'
  • 'That's unusual brutality on your part.'
  • 'Well, you know what I mean.'
  • 'I know what you think you mean,' said Earwaker. 'But the woman who is neithe_nlightened nor dogmatic is only too common in society. They are fools, an_roublesome fools.'
  • Peak again kept silence.
  • 'The emancipated woman,' pursued his friend, 'needn't be a Miss Moxey, nor ye_ Mrs. Morton.'
  • 'Miss Moxey is intolerable,' said Peak. 'I can't quite say why I dislike he_o, but she grows more antipathetic to me the better I know her. She has not _ingle feminine charm—not one. I often feel very sorry for her, but dislik_er all the same.'
  • 'Sorry for her,' mused Earwaker. 'Yes, so do I. I can't like her either. Sh_s certainly an incomplete woman. But her mind is of no low order. I ha_ather talk with her than with one of the imbecile prettinesses. I hal_elieve you have a sneaking sympathy with the men who can't stand education i_ wife.'
  • 'It's possible. In some moods.'
  • 'In no mood can I conceive such a prejudice. I have no great attraction t_omen of any kind, but the uneducated woman I detest.'
  • 'Well, so do I,' muttered Peak. 'Do you know what?' he added, abruptly. '_hall be off to the Pacific. Yes, I shall go this next winter. My mind is mad_p.'
  • 'I shan't try to dissuade you, old fellow, though I had rather have you i_ight. Come and see Malkin. I'll drop you a note with an appointment.'
  • 'Do.'
  • They soon reached the station, and exchanged but few more words befor_arwaker's leaving the train at Farringdon Street. Peak pursued his journe_owards the south-east of London.
  • On reaching home, the journalist flung aside his foolish coat of ceremony, indued a comfortable jacket, lit a pipe with long stem, and began to glanc_ver an evening newspaper. He had not long reposed in his arm-chair when th_amiliar appeal thundered from without. Malkin once more shook his han_ffusively.
  • 'Had my journey to Fulham for nothing. Didn't matter; I ran over to Putney an_ooked up my old landlady. The rooms are occupied by a married couple, but _hink we shall succeed in persuading them to make way for me. I promised t_ind them lodgings every bit as good in two days' time.'
  • 'If that is so easy, why not take the new quarters yourself?'
  • 'Why, to tell you the truth, I didn't think of it!—Oh, I had rather have th_ld crib; I can do as I like there, you know. Confound it! Now I shall have t_pend all to-morrow lodging-hunting for other people. Couldn't I pay a man t_o it? Some confidential agent—private police—you know what I mean?'
  • 'A man of any delicacy,' replied Earwaker, with grave countenance, 'would fee_ound by such a promise to personal exertion.'
  • 'Right; quite right! I didn't mean it; of course I shall hunt conscientiously.
  • Oh, I say; I have brought over a couple of armadilloes. Would you like one?'
  • 'Stuffed, do you mean?'
  • 'Pooh! Alive, man, alive! They only need a little care. I should think yo_ight keep the creature in your kitchen; they become quite affectionate.'
  • The offer was unhesitatingly declined, and Malkin looked hurt. There needed _ood deal of genial explanation before Earwaker could restore him to hi_prightly mood.
  • 'Where have you been dining?' cried the traveller. 'Moxey's—ah, I remember.
  • But who is Moxey? A new acquaintance, eh?'
  • 'Yes; I have known him about six months. Got to know him through Peak.'
  • 'Peak? Peak? What, the fellow you once told me about—who disappeared fro_hitelaw because of his uncle, the cat's-meat man?'
  • 'The man's-meat man, rather.'
  • 'Yes, yes—the eating-house; I remember. You have met him again? Why on eart_idn't you tell me in your letters? What became of him? Tell me the story.'
  • 'Certainly, if you will cease to shake down plaster from the ceiling.—We me_n a restaurant (appropriate scene), happening to sit at the same table.
  • Whilst eating, we stared at each other fitfully. "I'll be hanged if that isn'_eak," I kept saying to myself. And at the same moment we opened our lips t_uestion each other.'
  • 'Just the same thing happened once to a friend of mine and a friend of his.
  • But it was on board ship, and both were devilish seasick. Walker—you remembe_y friend Walker?—tells the story in a side-splitting way. I wonder what ha_ecome of Walker? The last time I met him he was travelling agent for _enagerie—a most interesting fellow, Walker.—But I beg your pardon. Go on, ol_ellow!'
  • 'Well, after that we at once saw a good deal of each other. He has bee_orking for years at a chemical factory down on the river; Moxey used to b_here, and got him the place.'
  • 'Moxey?—Oh yes, the man you dined with. You must remember that these are ne_ames to me. I must know all these new people, I say. You don't mind?'
  • 'You shall be presented to the whole multitude, as soon as you like. Pea_ants to see you. He thinks of an excursion like this last of yours.'
  • 'He does? By Jove, we'll go together! I have always wanted a travellin_ompanion. We'll start as soon as ever he likes!—well, in a month or two. _ust just have time to look round. Oh, I haven't done with the tropics yet! _ust tell him of a rattling good insect-powder I have invented; I think o_atenting it. I say, how does one get a patent? Quite a simple matter, _uppose?'
  • 'Oh, always has been. The simplest and least worrying of all busines_nterprises.'
  • 'What? Eh? That smile of yours means mischief.'
  • In a quarter of an hour they had got back to the subject of Peak's history.
  • 'And did he really run away because of the eating-house?' Malkin inquired.
  • 'I shall never venture to ask, and it's not very likely he will admit it. I_as some time before he cared to talk much of Whitelaw.'
  • 'But what is he doing? You used to think he would come out strong, didn't you?
  • Has he written anything?'
  • 'A few things in The Liberator, five or six years ago.'
  • 'What, the atheistic paper?'
  • 'Yes. But he's ashamed of it now. That belongs to a bygone stage o_evelopment.'
  • 'Turned orthodox?'
  • Earwaker laughed.
  • 'I only mean that he is ashamed of the connection with street-corne_ationalism.'
  • 'Quite right. Devilish low, that kind of thing. But I went in for it mysel_nce. Did I ever tell you that I debated with a parson on Mile-end Waste?
  • Fact! That was in my hot-headed days. A crowd of coster-mongers applauded m_n the most flattering way.—I say, Earwaker, you haven't any whisky?'
  • 'Forgive me; your conversation makes me forget hospitality. Shall I make ho_ater? I have a spirit-kettle.'
  • 'Cold for me. I get in such a deuced perspiration when I begin to talk.—Tr_his tobacco; the last of half a hundred-weight I took in at Bahia.'
  • The traveller refreshed himself with a full tumbler, and resumed th_onversation cheerily.
  • 'Has he just been wasting his time, then, all these years?'
  • 'He goes in for science—laboratory work, evolutionary speculations. Of cours_ can't judge his progress in such matters; but Moxey, a clever man in th_ame line, thinks very highly of him.'
  • 'Just the fellow to travel with. I want to get hold of some solid scientifi_deas, but I haven't the patience to work steadily. A confounded fault o_ine, you know, Earwaker,—want of patience. You must have noticed it?'
  • 'Oh—well, now and then, perhaps.'
  • 'Yes, yes; but of course I know myself better. And now tell me about Moxey. _arried man, of course?'
  • 'No, lives with a sister.'
  • 'Unmarried sister?—Brains?'
  • 'Pretty well supplied with that commodity.'
  • 'You must introduce me to her. I do like women with brains.— Orthodox o_nlightened?'
  • 'Bitterly enlightened.'
  • 'Really? Magnificent! Oh, I must know her. Nothing like an emancipated woman!
  • How any man can marry the ordinary female passes my understanding. What do yo_hink?'
  • 'My opinions are in suspense; not yet precipitated, as Peak might say.'
  • One o'clock sounded from neighbouring churches, but Malkin was wide awake a_ver. He entered upon a detailed narrative of his travels, delightful t_isten to, so oddly blended were the strains of conscious and unconsciou_umour which marked his personality. Two o'clock; three o'clock;—he would hav_alked till breakfast-time, but at last Earwaker declared that the hour ha_ome for sleep. As Malkin had taken a room at the Inns of Court Hotel, it wa_asy for him to repair to his quarters. The last his friend heard of him wa_n unexplained laugh, echoing far down the staircase.