“What is it that you’ve thought of?”
The firelight leaped suddenly on to Mr. Stone’s thin yellow hand.
“Each of us,” he said, “has a shadow in those places—in those streets.”
There was a vague rustling, as of people not taking a remark too seriously, and the sound of a closing door.
HILARY’S BROWN STUDY
“What do you really think, Uncle Hilary?”
Turning at his writing-table to look at the face of his young niece, Hilary Dallison answered:
“My dear, we have had the same state of affairs since the beginning of the world. There is no chemical process; so far as my knowledge goes, that does not make waste products. What your grandfather calls our ‘shadows’ are the waste products of the social process. That there is a submerged tenth is as certain as that there is an emerged fiftieth like ourselves; exactly who they are and how they come, whether they can ever be improved away, is, I think, as uncertain as anything can be.”
The figure of the girl seated in the big armchair did not stir. Her lips pouted contemptuously, a frown wrinkled her forehead.
“Martin says that a thing is only impossible when we think it so.”
“Faith and the mountain, I’m afraid.”
Thyme’s foot shot forth; it nearly came into contact with Miranda, the little bulldog.
But the little moonlight bulldog backed away.
“I hate these slums, uncle; they’re so disgusting!”
Hilary leaned his face on his thin hand; it was his characteristic attitude.
“They are hateful, disgusting, and heartrending. That does not make the problem any the less difficult, does it?”
“I believe we simply make the difficulties ourselves by seeing them.”
Hilary smiled. “Does Martin say that too?”
“Of course he does.”
“Speaking broadly,” murmured Hilary, “I see only one difficulty—human nature.”
Thyme rose. “I think it horrible to have a low opinion of human nature.”
“My dear,” said Hilary, “don’t you think perhaps that people who have what is called a low opinion of human nature are really more tolerant of it, more in love with it, in fact, than those who, looking to what human nature might be, are bound to hate what human nature is.”
The look which Thyme directed at her uncle’s amiable, attractive face, with its pointed beard, high forehead, and special little smile, seemed to alarm Hilary.
“I don’t want you to have an unnecessarily low opinion of me, my dear. I’m not one of those people who tell you that everything’s all right because the rich have their troubles as well as the poor. A certain modicum of decency and comfort is obviously necessary to man before we can begin to do anything but pity him; but that doesn’t make it any easier to know how you’re going to insure him that modicum of decency and comfort, does it?”