The study windows, which have broad comfortable window seats, overlook Hampstead Heath towards London. Consequently, it being a fine afternoon in spring, the room is sunny. As you face these windows, you have on your right the fireplace, with a few logs smouldering in it, and a couple of comfortable library chairs on the hearthrug; beyond it and beside it the door; before you the writing-table, at which the clerical gentleman sits a little to your left facing the door with his right profile presented to you; on your left a settee; and on your right a couple of Chippendale chairs. There is also an upholstered square stool in the middle of the room, against the writing-table. The walls are covered with bookshelves above and lockers beneath.
The door opens; and another gentleman, shorter than the clerical one, within a year or two of the same age, dressed in a well-worn tweed lounge suit, with a short beard and much less style in his bearing and carriage, looks in._
THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [familiar and by no means cordial] Hallo! I didn’t expect you until the five o’clock train.
THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [coming in very slowly] I have something on my mind. I thought I’d come early.
THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [throwing down his pen] What is on your mind?
THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [sitting down on the stool, heavily preoccupied with his thought] I have made up my mind at last about the time. I make it three hundred years.
THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [sitting up energetically] Now that is extraordinary. Most extraordinary. The very last words I wrote when you interrupted me were ‘at least three centuries.’ [He snatches up his manuscript, and points to it]. Here it is: [reading] ’the term of human life must be extended to at least three centuries.’
THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN. How did you arrive at it?
A parlor maid opens the door, ushering in a young clergyman.
THE PARLOR MAID. Mr Haslam. [She withdraws].
The visitor is so very unwelcome that his host forgets to rise; and the two brothers stare at the intruder, quite unable to conceal their dismay. Haslam, who has nothing clerical about him except his collar, and wears a snuff-colored suit, smiles with a frank school-boyishness that makes it impossible to be unkind to him, and explodes into obviously unpremeditated speech.
HASLAM. I’m afraid I’m an awful nuisance. I’m the rector; and I suppose one ought to call on people.
THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [in ghostly tones] We’re not Church people, you know.
HASLAM. Oh, I don’t mind that, if you don’t. The Church people here are mostly as dull as ditch-water. I have heard such a lot about you; and there are so jolly few people to talk to. I thought you perhaps wouldn’t mind. Do you mind? for of course I’ll go like a shot if I’m in the way.