“What a nice taste you have in arrangement!” he cried. “Scott, Tolstoi, Meredith, an odd volume of a Saga library, an odd volume of the Corpus Boreale, some Irish reprints, Stevenson’s poems, Virgil and the Pilgrim’s Progress, and a French Gazetteer of Mountains wedged above them. And then an odd Badminton volume, French Memoires, a Dante, a Homer, and a badly printed German text of Schopenhauer! Three different copies of Rabelais, a De Thou, a Horace, and-bless my soul!—about twenty books of fairy tales! Lewie, you must have a mind like a lumber-room.”
“I pillaged books from the big library as I wanted them,” said the young man humbly. “Do you know, Tommy, to talk quite seriously, I get more erratic every day? Knocking about the world and living alone make me a queer slave of whims. I am straying too far from the normal. I wish to goodness you would take me and drive me back to the ways of common sense.”
“That I am getting cranky and diffident. I am beginning to get nervous about people’s opinion and sensitive to my own eccentricity. It is a sad case for a man who never used to care a straw for a soul on earth.”
“Lewie, attend to me,” said Wratislaw, with mock gravity. “You have not by any chance been falling in love?”
The accused blushed like a girl, and lied withal like a trooper, to the delight of the un-Christian George.
“Well, then, my dear fellow, there is hope for you yet. If a man once gets sentimental, he desires to be normal above all things, for he has a crazy intuition that it is the normal which women really like, being themselves but a hair’s-breadth from the commonplace. I suppose it is only another of the immortal errors with which mankind hedges itself about.”
“You think it an error?” said Lewis, with such an air of relief that George began to laugh and Wratislaw looked comically suspicious.
“Why the tone of joy, Lewie?”
“I wanted your opinion,” said the perjured young man. “I thought of writing a book. But that is not the thing I was talking about. I want to be normal, aggressively normal, to court the suffrages of Gledsmuir. Do you know Stocks?”
“An excellent person, but I never heard him utter a word above a child’s capacity. He can talk the most shrieking platitudes as if he had found at last the one and only truth. And people are impressed.”
Wratislaw pulled down his eyebrows and proceeded to defend a Scottish constituency against the libel of gullibility. But Lewis was not listening. He did not think of the impression made on the voting powers, but on one small girl who clamorously impeded all his thoughts. She was, he knew, an enthusiast for the finer sentiments of life, and of these Mr. Stocks had long ago claimed a monopoly. He felt bitterly jealous-the jealousy of the innocent man to whom woman is an unaccountable creature, whose