Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/163

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"However," he said, resuming his jaunty tone, "I suppose one must just make up one's mind to it."

"To what?"

"There never will be more than five people in the world worth talking to."

Slowly the flush and sparkle in Helen's face died away, and she looked as quiet and as observant as usual.

"Five people?" she remarked. "I should say there were more than five."

"You've been very fortunate, then," said Hirst. "Or perhaps I've been very unfortunate." He became silent.

"Should you say I was a difficult kind of person to get on with?" he asked abruptly.

"Most clever people are when they're young," Helen replied.

"And of course I am—immensely clever," said Hirst. "I'm infinitely cleverer than Hewet. It's quite possible," he continued in his curiously impersonal manner, "that I'm going to be one of the people who really matter. That's utterly different from being clever, though one can't expect one's family to see it," he added bitterly.

Helen thought herself justified in asking, "Do you find your family difficult to get on with?"

"Intolerable.… They want me to be a peer and a privy councillor. I've come out here partly in order to settle the matter. It's got to be settled. Either I must go to the bar, or I must stay on in Cambridge. Of course, there are obvious drawbacks to each, but the arguments certainly do seem to me in favour of Cambridge. This kind of thing!" he waved his hand at the crowded ballroom. "Repulsive. I'm conscious of great powers of affection too. I'm not susceptible, of course, in the way Hewet is. I'm very fond of a few people. I think, for example, that there's something to be said for my mother, though she is in many ways so deplorable.… At Cambridge, of course, I should inevitably become the most important man in the place, but there are other reasons why I dread Cambridge——" he ceased.

"Are you finding me a dreadful bore?" he asked. He changed curiously from a friend confiding in a friend to a conventional young man at a party.