The image of the forsaken angler remained clear in her memory, and she confessed to herself that he interested her. The girl had no connoisseur’s eye for character; her interest was the frank and unabashed interest in a somewhat mysterious figure who was credited by all his friends with great gifts and a surprising amiability. After breakfast she had captured one of the spectacled people, whose name was Hoddam. He was a little shy man, one of the unassuming tribe of students by whom all the minor intellectual work of the world is done, and done well. It is a great class, living in the main in red-brick villas on the outskirts of academic towns, marrying mild blue-stockings, working incessantly, and finally attaining to the fame of mention in prefaces and foot-notes, and a short paragraph in the Times at the last. . . . Mr. Hoddam did not seek the company of one who was young, pretty, an heiress, and presumably flippant, but he was flattered when she plainly sought him.
“Mr. Lewis Haystoun is coming here this afternoon,” she had announced. “Do you know him?”
“I have read his book,” said her victim.
“Yes, but did you not know him at Oxford? You were there with him, were you not?”
“Yes, we were there together. I knew him by sight, of course, for he was a very well-known person. But, you see, we belonged to very different sets.”
“How do you mean?” asked the blunt Alice.
“Well, you see,” began Mr. Hoddam awkwardly—absolute honesty was one of his characteristics—“he was very well off, and he lived with a sporting set, and he was very exclusive.”
“But I thought he was clever—I thought he was rather brilliant?”
“Oh, he was! Indubitably! He got everything he wanted, but then he got them easily and had a lot of time for other things, whereas most of us had not a moment to spare. He got the best First of his year and the St. Chad’s Fellowship, but I think he cared far more about winning the ’Varsity Grind. Men who knew him said he was an extremely good fellow, but he had scores of rich sporting friends, and nobody else ever got to know him. I have heard him speak often, and his manner gave one the impression that he was a tremendous swell, you know, and rather conceited. People used to think him a sort of universal genius who could do everything. I suppose he was quite the ablest man that had been there for years, but I should think he would succeed ultimately as the man of action and not as the scholar.”
“You give him a most unlovely character,” said the girl.
“I don’t mean to. I own to being entirely fascinated by him. But he was never, I think, really popular. He was supposed to be intolerant of mediocrity; and also he used to offend quite honest, simple-minded people by treating their beliefs very cavalierly. I used to compare him with Raleigh or Henri IV.—the proud, confident man of action.”