“Are you going to have your bath first, or your breakfast?” asked Wiggleswick, putting his untidy gray head inside the sitting-room door.
Septimus ran his ivory rule nervously through his hair.
“I don’t know. Which would you advise?”
“What?” bawled Wiggleswick.
Septimus repeated his remark in a louder voice.
“If I had to wash myself in cold water,”
said Wiggleswick contemptuously,
“I’d do it on an empty stomach.”
“But if the water were warm?”
“Well, the water ain’t warm, so it’s no good speculating.”
“Dear me,” said Septimus. “Now that’s just what I enjoy doing.”
Wiggleswick grunted. “I’ll turn on the tap and leave it.”
The door having closed behind his body servant, Septimus laid his ivory rule on the portion of the complicated diagram of machinery which he had been measuring off, and soon became absorbed in his task. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. He had but lately risen, and sat in pyjamas and dressing-gown over his drawing. A bundle of proofs and a jam-pot containing a dissipated looking rosebud lay on that space of the table not occupied by the double-elephant sheet of paper. By his side was a manuscript covered with calculations to which he referred or added from time to time. A bleak November light came in through the window, and Septimus’s chair was on the right-hand side of the table. It was characteristic of him to sit unnecessarily in his own light.
Presently a more than normal darkening of the room caused him to look at the window. Clem Sypher stood outside, gazing at him with amused curiosity. Hospitably, Septimus rose and flung the casement window open.
“Do come in.”
As the aperture was two feet square, all of Clem Sypher that could respond to the invitation was his head and shoulders.
“Is it good morning, good afternoon, or good night?” he asked, surveying Septimus’s attire.
“Morning,” said Septimus. “I’ve just got up. Have some breakfast.”
He moved to a bell-pull by the fireplace, and the tug was immediately followed by a loud report.
“What the devil’s that?” asked Sypher, startled.
“That,” said Septimus mildly, “is an invention. I pull the rope and a pistol is fired off in the kitchen. Wiggleswick says he can’t hear bells. What’s for breakfast?” he asked, as Wiggleswick entered.
“Haddock. And the bath’s running over.”
Septimus waved him away. “Let it run.” He turned to Sypher. “Have a haddock?”
“At four o’clock in the afternoon? Do you want me to be sick?”
“Good heavens, no!” cried Septimus. “Do come in and I’ll give you anything you like.”
He put his hand again on the bell-pull. A hasty exclamation from Sypher checked his impulse.
“I say, don’t do that again. If you’ll open the front door for me,” he added, “I may be able to get inside.”