“The porter thinks I’m their servant—their valet,” said Aaron to himself, and a curious half-amused, half-contemptuous look flickered on his face. It annoyed him. The falsity occasioned by the difference in the price of the tickets was really humiliating. Aaron had lived long enough to know that as far as manhood and intellect went—nay, even education—he was not the inferior of the two young “gentlemen.” He knew quite well that, as far as intrinsic nature went, they did not imagine him an inferior: rather the contrary. They had rather an exaggerated respect for him and his life-power, and even his origin. And yet—they had the inestimable cash advantage—and they were going to keep it. They knew it was nothing more than an artificial cash superiority. But they gripped it all the more intensely. They were the upper middle classes. They were Eton and Oxford. And they were going to hang on to their privileges. In these days, it is a fool who abdicates before he’s forced to. And therefore:
“Well, then—au revoir till luncheon.”
They were being so awfully nice. And inwardly they were not condescending. But socially, they just had to be. The world is made like that. It wasn’t their own private fault. It was no fault at all. It was just the mode in which they were educated, the style of their living. And as we know, le style, c’est l’homme.
Angus came of very wealthy iron people near Merthyr. Already he had a very fair income of his own. As soon as the law-business concerning his father’s and his grandfather’s will was settled, he would be well off. And he knew it, and valued himself accordingly. Francis was the son of a highly-esteemed barrister and politician of Sydney, and in his day would inherit his father’s lately-won baronetcy. But Francis had not very much money: and was much more class-flexible than Angus. Angus had been born in a house with a park, and of awful, hard-willed, money-bound people. Francis came of a much more adventurous, loose, excitable family, he had the colonial newness and adaptability. He knew, for his own part, that class superiority was just a trick, nowadays. Still, it was a trick that paid. And a trick he was going to play as long as it did pay.
While Aaron sat, a little pale at the gills, immobile, ruminating these matters, a not very pleasant look about his nose-end, he heard a voice:
“Oh, there you ARE! I thought I’d better come and see, so that we can fetch you at lunch time.—You’ve got a seat? Are you quite comfortable? Is there anything I could get you? Why, you’re in a non-smoker!—But that doesn’t matter, everybody will smoke. Are you sure you have everything? Oh, but wait just one moment—”
It was Francis, long and elegant, with his straight shoulders and his coat buttoned to show his waist, and his face so well-formed and so modern. So modern, altogether. His voice was pleasantly modulated, and never hurried. He now looked as if a thought had struck him. He put a finger to his brow, and hastened back to his own carriage. In a minute, he returned with a new London literary magazine.