Oh, he worked hard enough. At least he turned out a good deal. But that was spasmodic—night and day for weeks, and then loafing for weeks more. That’s how he always got into trouble: loafing in between.
Don’t you remember how splendid he was the day he had just finished something? He seemed to have passed out of himself into a shining humility. It was said of Shelley: "Sun-treader!"... Don’t you remember?
Yes.... Oh hang it! Why couldn’t he have been only that! Yes, I remember. I hoped that six months or so at the office—but no. Anyhow, it’s all over now.
What were you going to say?
I suppose I might as well say it: I don’t believe the office would have changed him, after all. That is, permanently. He’d have done his best for a while, and then—. No, nothing could help him.
Is that what you have made up your mind about?
Oh, that. Yes, that’s what started me thinking. Everybody has difficulties, troubles, and I believe in helping a fellow every time. Life piles up too high against one sometimes, but a little shove from the other side will move it away. I never believed in the devil take the hindmost, at all. But this was different.
Different, how? What do you mean?
I mean that as long as a fellow’s difficulties are outside him you can help him, because as soon as they are removed he’s himself again; but when they are inside, part of the man himself, there’s nothing you can do. Nothing. You can save a person from the world, but not from himself. That’s where the devil comes in. I see it now. I believe in the devil.
Oh! But Arthur....
I know you think I’m a brute for speaking of Arthur in connection with the devil, but it wasn’t the old-fashioned devil I meant. I meant the devil of unfitness. Arthur wasn’t fit. He had every chance. We can’t get away from what life is. Life shoves people to the wall every day. I’ve had to fight hard myself. I admit things aren’t fair all round, but Arthur had his chance, two or three chances, and he just—dropped out. He couldn’t survive. And it seems to me that for those who loved him it may be a good thing after all that he didn’t have to go on.