Waymark’s pipe had gone out; he re-lit it, with the half-mocking smile which always followed upon any more vehement utterance.
“That I am poor,” he went on presently, “is the result of my own pigheadedness. My father was a stock-broker, in anything but flourishing circumstances. He went in for some cursed foreign loan or other,—I know nothing of such things,—and ruined himself completely. He had to take a subordinate position, and died in it. I was about seventeen then, and found myself alone in the world. A friend of my father’s, also a city man, Woodstock by name, was left my guardian. He wanted me to begin a business career, and, like a fool, I wouldn’t hear of it. Mr. Woodstock and I quarrelled; he showed himself worthy of his name, and told me plainly that, if I didn’t choose to take his advice, I must shift for myself. That I professed myself perfectly ready to do; I was bent on an intellectual life, forsooth; couldn’t see that the natural order of things was to make money first and be intellectual afterwards. So, lad as I was, I got a place as a teacher, and that’s been my business ever since.”
Waymark threw himself back and laughed carelessly. He strummed a little with his fingers on the arm of the chair, and resumed:
“I interested myself in religion and philosophy; I became an aggressive disciple of free-thought, as it is called. Radicalism of every kind broke out in me, like an ailment. I bought cheap free-thought literature; to one or two papers of the kind I even contributed. I keep these effusions carefully locked up, for salutary self-humiliation at some future day, when I shall have grown conceited. Nay, I went further. I delivered lectures at working-men’s clubs, lectures with violent titles. One, I remember, was called ‘The Gospel of Rationalism.’ And I was enthusiastic in the cause, with an enthusiasm such as I shall never experience again. Can I imagine myself writing and speaking such things now-a-days? Scarcely: yet the spirit remains, it is only the manifestations which have changed. I am by nature combative; I feel the need of attacking the cherished prejudices of society; I have a joy in outraging what are called the proprieties. And I wait for my opportunity, which has yet to come.”
“How commonplace my life has been, in comparison,” said Julian, after an interval of thoughtfulness.
“Your nature, I believe, is very pure, and therefore very happy. I am what Browning somewhere calls a ‘beast with a speckled hide,’ and happiness, I take it, I shall never know.”