Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/219

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217
THE VOYAGE OUT

she knew could be a great writer; and his self-confidence astounded her, and he became more and more remote.

"My other novel," Hewet continued, "is about a young man who is obsessed by an idea—the idea of being a gentleman. He manages to exist at Cambridge on a hundred pounds a year. He has a coat! it was once a very good coat. But the trousers—they're not so good. Well, he goes up to London, gets into good society, owing to an early-morning adventure on the banks of the Serpentine. He is led into telling lies—my idea, you see, is to show the gradual corruption of the soul—calls himself the son of some great landed proprietor in Devonshire. Meanwhile the coat becomes older and older, and he hardly dares to wear the trousers. Can't you imagine the wretched man, after some splendid evening of debauchery, contemplating these garments—hanging them over the end of the bed, arranging them now in full light, now in shade, and wondering whether they will survive him, or he will survive them? Thoughts of suicide cross his mind. He has a friend, too, a man who somehow subsists upon selling small birds, for which he sets traps in the fields near Uxbridge. They're scholars, both of them. I know one or two wretched starving creatures like that who quote Aristotle at you over a fried herring and a pint of porter. Fashionable life, too, I have to represent at some length, in order to show my hero under all circumstances. Lady Theo Bingham Bingley, whose bay mare he had the good fortune to stop, is the daughter of a very fine old Tory peer. I'm going to describe the kind of parties I once went to—the fashionable intellectuals, you know, who like to have the latest book on their tables. They give parties, river parties, parties where you play games. There's no difficulty in conceiving incidents; the difficulty is to put them into shape—not to get run away with, as Lady Theo was. It ended disastrously for her, poor woman——" He chewed a piece of grass and perhaps continued the fortunes of Lady Theo Bingham Bingley in silence. If so, he soon disposed of her; for his next remark had reference to himself. "I'm not like Hirst," he said meditatively.

Rachel had listened to all this with attention, but with a cer-