The practical, broad-shouldered, common-sense children of this world would have weighed many things one against the other. They would have taken into account sentimentally, morally, pharisaically, or cynically, according to their various attitudes towards life, the relations between Emmy and Mordaunt Prince which had led to this tragic situation. But for Septimus her sin scarcely existed. When a man is touched by an angel’s feather he takes an angel’s view of mortal frailties.
He danced his jostled way up Holborn till the City Temple loomed through the brown air. It struck a chord of association. He halted on the edge of the curb and regarded it across the road, with a forefinger held up before his nose as if to assist memory. It was a church. People were apt to be married in churches. Sometimes by special license. That was it! A special license. He had come out to get one. But where were they to be obtained? In a properly civilized country, doubtless they would be sold in shops, like boots and hair-brushes, or even in post-offices, like dog licenses. But Septimus, aware of the deficiencies of an incomplete social organization, could do no better than look wistfully up and down the stream of traffic, as it roared and flashed and lumbered past. A policeman stopped beside him. He appeared so lost, he met the man’s eyes with a gaze so questioning, that the policeman paused.
“Want to go anywhere, sir?”
“Yes,” said Septimus. “I want to go where I can get a special license to be married.”
“Don’t you know?”
“No. You see,” said Septimus confidentially, “marriage has been out of my line. But perhaps you have been married, and might be able to tell me.”
“Look here, sir,” said the policeman, eyeing him kindly, but officially. “Take my advice, sir; don’t think of getting married. You go home to your friends.”
The policeman nodded knowingly and stalked away, leaving Septimus perplexed by his utterance. Was he a Socrates of a constable with a Xantippe at home, or did he regard him as a mild lunatic at large? Either solution was discouraging. He turned and walked back down Holborn somewhat dejected. Somewhere in London the air was thick with special licenses, but who would direct his steps to the desired spot? On passing Gray’s Inn one of his brilliant ideas occurred to him. The Inn suggested law; the law, solicitors, who knew even more about licenses than Hall Porters and Policemen. A man he once knew had left him one day after lunch to consult his solicitors in Gray’s Inn. He entered the low, gloomy gateway and accosted the porter.
“Are there any solicitors living in the Inn?”
“Not so many as there was. They’re mostly architects. But still there’s heaps.”
“Will you kindly direct me to one?”
The man gave him two or three addresses, and he went comforted across the square to the east wing, whose Georgian mass merged without skyline into the fuliginous vapor which Londoners call the sky. The lights behind the blindless windows illuminated interiors and showed men bending over desks and drawing-boards, some near the windows with their faces sharply cut in profile. Septimus wondered vaguely whether any one of those visible would be his solicitor.