His landlady had used her discretion, and there was toast on the table. A beam of Spring’s morning sunlight illuminated the toast-rack. He sat, and ate, and munched the doubt whether “not till” included the final day, or stopped short of it. By this the state of his brain may be conceived. A longing for beauty, and a dark sense of an incapacity to thoroughly enjoy it, tormented him. He sent for his landlady’s canary, and the ready shrill song of the bird persuaded him that much of the charm of music is wilfully swelled by ourselves, and can be by ourselves withdrawn: that is to say, the great chasm and spell of sweet sounds is assisted by the force of our imaginations. What is that force?—the heat and torrent of the blood. When that exists no more—to one without hope, for instance—what is music or beauty? Intrinsically, they are next to nothing. He argued it out so, and convinced himself of his own delusions, till his hand, being in the sunlight, gave him a pleasant warmth. “That’s something we all love,” he said, glancing at the blue sky above the roofs. “But there’s little enough of it in this climate,” he thought, with an eye upon the darker corners of his room. When he had eaten, he sent word to his landlady to make up his week’s bill. The week was not at an end, and that good woman appeased before him, astonished, saying: “To be sure, your habits is regular, but there’s little items one I’ll guess at, and how make out a bill, Sir Purcy, and no items?”
He nodded his head.
“The country again?” she asked smilingly.
“I am going down there,” he said.
“And beautiful at this time of the year, it is! though, for market gardening, London beats any country I ever knew; and if you like creature comforts, I always say, stop in London! And then the policemen! who really are the greatest comfort of all to us poor women, and seem sent from above especially to protect our weakness. I do assure you, Sir Purcy, I feel it, and never knew a right-minded woman that did not. And how on earth our grandmothers contrived to get about without them! But there! people who lived before us do seem like the most uncomfortable! When—my goodness! we come to think there was some lived before tea! Why, as I say over almost every cup I drink, it ain’t to be realized. It seems almost wicked to say it, Sir Purcy; but it’s my opinion there ain’t a Christian woman who’s not made more of a Christian through her tea. And a man who beats his wife my first question is, ’Do he take his tea regular?’ For, depend upon it, that man is not a tea-drinker at all.”
He let her talk away, feeling oddly pleased by this mundane chatter, as was she to pour forth her inmost sentiments to a baronet.