Scorrier shook the ashes from his pipe. ‘Salary!’ he thought, straining his ears; ’I wouldn’t take the place for five thousand pounds a year. And yet it’s a fine country,’ and with ironic violence he repeated, ’a dashed fine country!’
Ten days later, having finished his report on the new mine, he stood on the jetty waiting to go abroad the steamer for home.
“God bless you!” said Pippin. “Tell them they needn’t be afraid; and sometimes when you’re at home think of me, eh?”
Scorrier, scrambling on board, had a confused memory of tears in his eyes, and a convulsive handshake.
It was eight years before the wheels of life carried Scorrier back to that disenchanted spot, and this time not on the business of the New Colliery Company. He went for another company with a mine some thirty miles away. Before starting, however, he visited Hemmings. The secretary was surrounded by pigeon-holes and finer than ever; Scorrier blinked in the full radiance of his courtesy. A little man with eyebrows full of questions, and a grizzled beard, was seated in an arm-chair by the fire.
“You know Mr. Booker,” said Hemmings—“one of my directors. This is Mr. Scorrier, sir—who went out for us.”
These sentences were murmured in a way suggestive of their uncommon value. The director uncrossed his legs, and bowed. Scorrier also bowed, and Hemmings, leaning back, slowly developed the full resources of his waistcoat.
“So you are going out again, Scorrier, for the other side? I tell Mr. Scorrier, sir, that he is going out for the enemy. Don’t find them a mine as good as you found us, there’s a good man.”
The little director asked explosively: “See our last dividend? Twenty per cent; eh, what?”
Hemmings moved a finger, as if reproving his director. “I will not disguise from you,” he murmured, “that there is friction between us and—the enemy; you know our position too well—just a little too well, eh? ‘A nod’s as good as a wink.’”
His diplomatic eyes flattered Scorrier, who passed a hand over his brow—and said: “Of course.”
“Pippin doesn’t hit it off with them. Between ourselves, he’s a leetle too big for his boots. You know what it is when a man in his position gets a sudden rise!”
Scorrier caught himself searching on the floor for a sight of Hemmings’ boots; he raised his eyes guiltily. The secretary continued: “We don’t hear from him quite as often as we should like, in fact.”
To his own surprise Scorrier murmured: “It’s a silent place!”
The secretary smiled. “Very good! Mr. Scorrier says, sir, it’s a silent place; ha-ha! I call that very good!” But suddenly a secret irritation seemed to bubble in him; he burst forth almost violently: “He’s no business to let it affect him; now, has he? I put it to you, Mr. Scorrier, I put it to you, sir!”