when Sabre was entering Tidborough School. He
had attracted Mr. Fortune’s special attention
by disclosing a serious scamping of finish in a set
of desks and he had risen to head clerk when Sabre
was at Oxford. On the day that Sabre entered
the firm he had been put “on probation”
in the position he now held, and on the day that Sabre’s
father retired he had been confirmed in the position.
He regarded Sabre as an amateur and he was privately
disturbed by the fact that a man who “did not
know the ropes” and had not “been through
the mill” should come to a position equal in
standing to his own. Nevertheless he accepted
the fact, showing not the smallest animosity.
He was always very ready to be cordial towards Sabre;
but his cordiality took a form in which Sabre had never
seen eye to eye with him. The attitude he extended
to Sabre was that he and Sabre were two young fellows
under a rather pig-headed old employer and that they
could have many jokes and grievances and go-ahead schemes
in companionship together. Sabre did not accept
this view. He gave Twyning, from the first, the
impression of considering himself as working alongside
Mr. Fortune instead of beneath him; and he was cold
to and refused to participate in the truant schoolboy
air which Twyning adopted when they were together.
Twyning called this “sidey.” He was
anxious to show Sabre, when Sabre first came to the
firm, the best places to lunch in Tidborough, but
Sabre was frequently lunching with one of the School
housemasters or at the Masters’ common room.
Twyning thought this stand-offish.
Twyning was of middle height, very thin, black-haired.
His clean-shaven face was deeply furrowed in rigid-looking
furrows which looked as though shaving would be an
intricate operation. He held himself very stiffly
and spoke stiffly as though the cords of his larynx
were also rigidly inclined. When not speaking
he had a habit of breathing rather noisily through
his nose as if he were doing deep breathing exercises.
He was married and had a son of whom he was immensely
proud, aged eighteen and doing well in a lawyer’s
He came in and closed the door. He had a sheet
of paper in his hand.
Sabre, engrossed, glanced up. “Hullo, Twyning.”
He wrote a word and then put down his pen. “Anything
you want me about?” He lay back in his chair
and stared, frowning, at the manuscript before him.
“Nothing particular, if you’re busy,”
Twyning said. “I just looked in.”
He advanced the paper in his hand and looked at it
as if about to add something else. But he said
nothing and stood by Sabre’s chair, also looking
at the manuscript. “That that book?”
“M’m.” Sabre was trying to
retain his thoughts. He felt them slipping away
before Twyning’s presence. He could hear
Twyning breathing through his nose and felt incensed
that Twyning should come and breathe through his nose
by his chair when he wanted to write.