He was once an exceedingly pleasant fellow, full of talk and anecdote. We were at school together. He was captain of our eleven and at the head of the sixth form. I looked up to him; quoted him; imitated him; lent him my pocket money. Afterwards a great many other people lent him their money too, and played ecarte with him; yet at no period of his life was he rich, and now he is decidedly poor. Still the old love of borrowing money and playing ecarte burns hectically in his bosom, and with years a habit of turning up the king has grown upon him. No one likes to tell him that he has acquired this habit of turning up the king; he is so poor!
She was rather nice-looking once, and I amused myself with fancying that I loved her. She was to me the summer pilot of an empty heart unto the shores of nothing. It was then that I acquired that facility in versification which has since so often helped to bind a book, or line a box, or served to curl a maiden’s locks. She, learned reams of those verses by heart, and still repeats them. Her good looks and my illusions have passed away: but those verses—those thrice accursed verses, remain. How they make my ears tingle! How they burn my cheeks! Will time, think you, never impair her infernal memory?
I lisp a little, it is true; but, thank goodness, no longer in numbers. I only lisp a little when any occasion arises to utter sibilant sounds; on such occasions this little girl, the only child of her mother, and she a widow, mimics my infirmity. The widow is silly and laughs nervously, as people with a fine sense of humour laugh in church when a book falls. This laugh of the widow is not easy to bear; for she is pretty. Were she not pretty her mocking child would come, I ween, to some untimely end.
My Lord is, more or less, admired by two or three young ladies I know; and when he puts his arm round my neck and drags me up and down a crowded ball-room I cannot help wishing that they were in the pillory instead of me. I really wish to be polite to H.E., but how can I say that I think he was justified in finessing his deficit and playing surpluses?
How can I agree with him when he says that Abdur Rahman will come galloping in to Cabul to tender his submission as soon as he receives Mr. Lepel Griffin’s photograph neatly wrapped up in a Post Office Order for two lakhs of rupees? And then that Star of India he is always pressing on me! As I say to him,—what should I do with it?
I can’t go hanging things round my neck like King Coffee Calcalli, or the Emperor of Blue China.
But soon it will not be difficult for me to avoid my Lord: for
Quaerit patria Caesarem.”
He still smiles when we meet; and I don’t think any the less of him because he was called “Bumble” at school and afterwards made Governor of Bombay. Men drift unconsciously into these things. But when I happen to be near him he has a nervous way of lunging with his stick that I can’t quite get over. They say he once dreamt that I had poked fun at him in a newspaper; and the hallucination continues to produce an angry aberration of his mind, coupled with gnashing of the teeth and other dangerous symptoms.