I commenced the letter without even a ‘Dear Frank,’ and I ended it without an affectionate word.
‘I should like you to take these down to Mr. Ispenlove’s office,’ I said to Emmeline. ’Ask for him and give them to him yourself. There’s no answer. He’s pretty sure to be in. But if he isn’t, bring them back. I’m going to Torquay by that eleven-thirty express—isn’t it?’
‘Eleven-thirty-five,’ Emmeline corrected me coldly.
When she returned, she said she had seen Mr. Ispenlove and given him the letter and the parcel.
I had acquaintances in Torquay, but I soon discovered that the place was impossible for me. Torquay is the chosen home of the proprieties, the respectabilities, and all the conventions. Nothing could dislodge them from its beautiful hills; the very sea, as it beats primly, or with a violence that never forgets to be discreet, on the indented shore, acknowledges their sway. Aphrodite never visits there; the human race is not continued there. People who have always lived within the conventions go there to die within the conventions. The young do not flourish there; they escape from the soft enervation. Since everybody is rich, there are no poor. There are only the rich, and the servitors, who get rich. These two classes never mix—even in the most modest villas they live on opposite sides of the house. The life of the town is a vast conspiracy on the part of the servitors to guard against any danger of the rich taking all their riches to heaven. You can, if you are keen enough, detect portions of this conspiracy in every shop. On the hills each abode stands in its own undulating grounds, is approached by a winding drive of at least ten yards, is wrapped about by the silence of elms, is flanked by greenhouses, and exudes an immaculate propriety from all its windows. In the morning the rich descend, the servitors ascend; the bosky and perfectly-kept streets on the hills are trodden with apologetic celerity by the emissaries of the servitors. The one interminable thoroughfare of the town is graciously invaded by the rich, who, if they have not walked down for the sake of exercise, step cautiously from their carriages, enunciate a string of orders ending with the name of a house, and cautiously regain their carriages. Each house has a name, and the pride of the true servitor is his ability to deduce instantly from the name of the house the name of its owner and the name of its street. In the afternoon a vast and complicated game of visiting cards is played. One does not begin to be serious till the evening; one eats then, solemnly and fully, to the faint accompaniment of appropriate conversation. And there is no relief, no surcease from utmost conventionality. It goes on night and day; it hushes one to sleep, and wakes one up. On all but the strongest minds it casts a narcotizing spell, so that thought is arrested,