“No, thank you,” he said; “I have to walk to Whitechapel. I ’m living on porridge now; splendid stuff for making bone. I generally live on porridge for a week at the end of every month. It ’s the best diet if you’re hard up”; once more blushing and smiling, he was gone.
Shelton went upstairs and sat down on his bed. He felt a little miserable. Sitting there, slowly pulling out the ends of his white tie, disconsolate, he had a vision of Antonia with her gaze fixed wonderingly on him. And this wonder of hers came as a revelation—just as that morning, when, looking from his window, he had seen a passer-by stop suddenly and scratch his leg; and it had come upon him in a flash that that man had thoughts and feelings of his own. He would never know what Antonia really felt and thought. “Till I saw her at the station, I did n’t know how much I loved her or how little I knew her”; and, sighing deeply, he hurried into bed.
POLE TO POLE
The waiting in London for July to come was daily more unbearable to Shelton, and if it had not been for Ferrand, who still came to breakfast, he would have deserted the Metropolis. On June first the latter presented himself rather later than was his custom, and announced that, through a friend, he had heard of a position as interpreter to an hotel at Folkestone.
“If I had money to face the first necessities,” he said, swiftly turning over a collection of smeared papers with his yellow fingers, as if searching for his own identity, “I ’d leave today. This London blackens my spirit.”
“Are you certain to get this place,” asked Shelton.
“I think so,” the young foreigner replied; “I ’ve got some good enough recommendations.”
Shelton could not help a dubious glance at the papers in his hand. A hurt look passed on to Ferrand’s curly lips beneath his nascent red moustache.
“You mean that to have false papers is as bad as theft. No, no; I shall never be a thief—I ’ve had too many opportunities,” said he, with pride and bitterness. “That’s not in my character. I never do harm to anyone. This”—he touched the papers—“is not delicate, but it does harm to no one. If you have no money you must have papers; they stand between you and starvation. Society, has an excellent eye for the helpless—it never treads on people unless they ’re really down.” He looked at Shelton.
“You ’ve made me what I am, amongst you,” he seemed to say; “now put up with me!”
“But there are always the workhouses,” Shelton remarked at last.
“Workhouses!” returned Ferrand; “certainly there are—regular palaces: I will tell you one thing: I’ve never been in places so discouraging as your workhouses; they take one’s very heart out.”
“I always understood,” said Shelton coldly; “that our system was better than that of other countries.”