Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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Mr. Lavender lay with his eyes fixed on the, ceiling, clucking his parched tongue.  “God,” he thought, “for one must use that word when the country is in danger—­God be thanked for Beauty!  But I must not allow it to unsteel my soul.  Only when the cause of humanity has triumphed, and with the avenging sword and shell we have exterminated that criminal nation, only then shall I be entitled to let its gentle influence creep about my being.”  And drinking off the tumbler of tea which Mrs. Petty was holding to his lips, he sank almost immediately into a deep slumber.

VI

MAKES A MISTAKE, AND MEETS A MOON-CAT

The old lady, whose name was Sinkin, and whose interest in Mr. Lavender had become so deep, lived in a castle in Frognal; and with her lived her young nephew, a boy of forty-five, indissolubly connected with the Board of Guardians.  It was entirely due to her representations that he presented himself at Mr. Lavender’s on the following day, and, sending in his card, was admitted to our hero’s presence.

Mr. Lavender, pale and stiff, was sitting in his study, with Blink on his feet, reading a speech.

“Excuse my getting up, sir,” he said; “and pray be seated.”

The nephew, who had a sleepy, hairless face and little Chinese eyes, bowed, and sitting down, stared at Mr. Lavender with a certain embarrassment.

“I have come,” he said at last, “to ask you a few questions on behalf of—­”

“By all means,” said Mr. Lavender, perceiving at once that he was being interviewed.  “I shall be most happy to give you my views.  Please take a cigarette, for I believe that is usual.  I myself do not smoke.  If it is the human touch you want, you may like to know that I gave it up when that appeal in your contemporary flooded the trenches with cigarettes and undermined the nerves of our heroes.  By setting an example of abstinence, and at the same time releasing more tobacco for our men, I felt that I was but doing my duty.  Please don’t mention that, though.  And while we are on the personal note, which I sincerely deprecate, you might like to stroll round the room and look at the portrait of my father, behind the door, and of my mother, over the fireplace.  Forgive my not accompanying you.  The fact is—­this is an interesting touch—­I have always been rather subject to lumbago.”  And seeing the nephew Sinkin, who had risen to his suggestion, standing somewhat irresolutely in front of him, he added:  “Perhaps you would like to look a little more closely at my eyes.  Every now and then they flash with an almost uncanny insight.”  For by now he had quite forgotten his modesty in the identification he felt with the journal which was interviewing him.  “I am fifty-eight,” he added quickly; “but I do not look my years, though my hair, still thick and full of vigour, is prematurely white—­so often the case with men whose brains are continually on the stretch.  The little home, far from grandiose, which forms the background to this most interesting personality is embowered in trees.  Cats have made their mark on its lawns, and its owner’s love of animals was sharply illustrated by the sheep-dog which lay on his feet clad in Turkish slippers.  Get up, Blink!”

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