Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 24

THE CAMPAIGN OPENS.

On Saturday Lewisham was first through the folding doors. In a moment
he reappeared with a document extended. Mrs. Lewisham stood arrested
with her dress skirt in her hand, astonished at the astonishment on
his face. "_I_ say!" said Lewisham; "just look here!"

She looked at the book that he held open before her, and perceived
that its vertical ruling betokened a sordid import, that its list of
items in an illegible mixture of English and German was lengthy. "1
kettle of coals 6d." occurred regularly down that portentous array and
buttoned it all together. It was Madam Gadow's first bill. Ethel took
it out of his hand and examined it closer. It looked no smaller
closer. The overcharges were scandalous. It was curious how the humour
of calling a scuttle "kettle" had evaporated.

That document, I take it, was the end of Mr. Lewisham's informal
honeymoon. Its advent was the snap of that bright Prince Rupert's
drop; and in a moment--Dust. For a glorious week he had lived in the
persuasion that life was made of love and mystery, and now he was
reminded with singular clearness that it was begotten of a struggle
for existence and the Will to Live. "Confounded imposition!" fumed
Mr. Lewisham, and the breakfast table was novel and ominous,
mutterings towards anger on the one hand and a certain consternation
on the other. "I must give her a talking to this afternoon," said
Lewisham at his watch, and after he had bundled his books into the
shiny black bag, he gave the first of his kisses that was not a
distinct and self-subsisting ceremony. It was usage and done in a
hurry, and the door slammed as he went his way to the schools. Ethel
was not coming that morning, because by special request and because
she wanted to help him she was going to copy out some of his botanical
notes which had fallen into arrears.

On his way to the schools Lewisham felt something suspiciously near a
sinking of the heart. His preoccupation was essentially
arithmetical. The thing that engaged his mind to the exclusion of all
other matters is best expressed in the recognised business form.

Dr. s. d. Cr. s. d
Mr. L.{ 13 10 4-1/2 By bus fares to South
Cash in hand { Kensington (late) 0 0 2
Mrs. L.{ 0 11 7 By six lunches at the
Students' Club 0 5 2-1/2
At bank 45 0 0 By two packets of cig-
To scholarship 1 1 0 arettes (to smoke
after dinner) 0 0 6
By marriage and elope-
ment 4 18 10
By necessary subse-
quent additions to
bride's trousseau 0 16 1
By housekeeping exs. 1 1 4-1/2
By "A few little
things" bought by
housekeeper 0 15 3-1/2
By Madam Gadow for
coal, lodging and
attendance (as per
account rendered) 1 15 0
By missing 0 0 4
By balance 50 3 2
------------- -------------
60 3 11-1/2 60 3 11-1/2
------------- -------------

From this it will be manifest to the most unbusiness like that,
disregarding the extraordinary expenditure on the marriage, and the by
no means final "few little things" Ethel had bought, outgoings
exceeded income by two pounds and more, and a brief excursion into
arithmetic will demonstrate that in five-and-twenty weeks the balance
of the account would be nothing.

But that guinea a week was not to go on for five-and-twenty weeks, but
simply for fifteen, and then the net outgoings will be well over three
guineas, reducing the "law" accorded our young couple to
two-and-twenty weeks. These details are tiresome and disagreeable, no
doubt, to the refined reader, but just imagine how much more
disagreeable they were to Mr. Lewisham, trudging meditative to the
schools. You will understand his slipping out of the laboratory, and
betaking himself to the Educational Reading-room, and how it was that
the observant Smithers, grinding his lecture notes against the now
imminent second examination for the "Forbes," was presently perplexed
to the centre of his being by the spectacle of Lewisham intent upon a
pile of current periodicals, the _Educational Times_, the _Journal of
Education_, the _Schoolmaster, Science and Art, The University
Correspondent, Nature, The Athenaeum, The Academy_, and _The Author_.

Smithers remarked the appearance of a note-book, the jotting down of
memoranda. He edged into the bay nearest Lewisham's table and
approached him suddenly from the flank. "What are _you_ after?" said
Smithers in a noisy whisper and with a detective eye on the papers. He
perceived Lewisham was scrutinising the advertisement column, and his
perplexity increased.

"Oh--nothing," said Lewisham blandly, with his hand falling casually
over his memoranda; "what's your particular little game?"

"Nothing much," said Smithers, "just mooching round. You weren't at
the meeting last Friday?"

He turned a chair, knelt on it, and began whispering over the back
about Debating Society politics. Lewisham was inattentive and
brief. What had he to do with these puerilities? At last Smithers went
away foiled, and met Parkson by the entrance. Parkson, by-the-bye, had
not spoken to Lewisham since their painful misunderstanding. He made a
wide detour to his seat at the end table, and so, and by a singular
rectitude of bearing and a dignified expression, showed himself aware
of Lewisham's offensive presence.

Lewisham's investigations were two-fold. He wanted to discover some
way of adding materially to that weekly guinea by his own exertions,
and he wanted to learn the conditions of the market for typewriting.
For himself he had a vague idea, an idea subsequently abandoned, that
it was possible to get teaching work in evening classes during the
month of March. But, except by reason of sadden death, no evening
class in London changes its staff after September until July comes
round again. Private tuition, moreover, offered many attractions to
him, but no definite proposals. His ideas of his own possibilities
were youthful or he would not have spent time in noting the conditions
of application for a vacant professorship in physics at the Melbourne
University. He also made a note of the vacant editorship of a monthly
magazine devoted to social questions. He would not have minded doing
that sort of thing at all, though the proprietor might. There was
also a vacant curatorship in the Museum of Eton College.

The typewriting business was less varied and more definite. Those were
the days before the violent competition of the half-educated had
brought things down to an impossible tenpence the thousand words, and
the prevailing price was as high as one-and-six. Calculating that
Ethel could do a thousand words in an hour and that she could work
five or six hours in the day, it was evident that her contributions to
the household expenses would be by no means despicable; thirty
shillings a week perhaps. Lewisham was naturally elated at this
discovery. He could find no advertisements of authors or others
seeking typewriting, but he saw that a great number of typewriters
advertised themselves in the literary papers. It was evident Ethel
also must advertise. "'Scientific phraseology a speciality' might be
put," meditated Lewisham. He returned to his lodgings in a hopeful
mood with quite a bundle of memoranda of possible employments. He
spent five shillings in stamps on the way.

After lunch, Lewisham--a little short of breath-asked to see Madam
Gadow. She came up in the most affable frame of mind; nothing could be
further from the normal indignation of the British landlady. She was
very voluble, gesticulatory and lucid, but unhappily bi-lingual, and
at all the crucial points German. Mr. Lewisham's natural politeness
restrained him from too close a pursuit across the boundary of the two
imperial tongues. Quite half an hour's amicable discussion led at last
to a reduction of sixpence, and all parties professed themselves
satisfied with this result.

Madam Gadow was quite cool even at the end. Mr. Lewisham was flushed
in the face, red-eared, and his hair slightly disordered, but that
sixpence was at any rate an admission of the justice of his
claim. "She was evidently trying it on," he said almost apologetically
to Ethel. "It was absolutely necessary to present a firm front to
her. I doubt if we shall have any trouble again....

"Of course what she says about kitchen coals is perfectly just."

Then the young couple went for a walk in Kensington Gardens, and--the
spring afternoon was so warm and pleasant--sat on two attractive green
chairs near the band-stand, for which Lewisham had subsequently to pay
twopence. They had what Ethel called a "serious talk." She was really
wonderfully sensible, and discussed the situation exhaustively. She
was particularly insistent upon the importance of economy in her
domestic disbursements and deplored her general ignorance very
earnestly. It was decided that Lewisham should get a good elementary
text-book of domestic economy for her private study. At home
Mrs. Chaffery guided her house by the oracular items of "Inquire
Within upon Everything," but Lewisham considered that work
unscientific.

Ethel was also of opinion that much might be learnt from the sixpenny
ladies' papers--the penny ones had hardly begun in those days. She had
bought such publications during seasons of affluence, but chiefly, as
she now deplored, with an eye to the trimming of hats and such like
vanities. The sooner the typewriter came the better. It occurred to
Lewisham with unpleasant suddenness that he had not allowed for the
purchase of a typewriter in his estimate of their resources. It
brought their "law" down to twelve or thirteen weeks.

They spent the evening in writing and copying a number of letters,
addressing envelopes and enclosing stamps. There were optimistic
moments.

"Melbourne's a fine city," said Lewisham, "and we should have a
glorious voyage out." He read the application for the Melbourne
professorship out loud to her, just to see how it read, and she was
greatly impressed by the list of his accomplishments and successes.

"I did not, know you knew _half_ those things," she said, and became
depressed at her relative illiteracy. It was natural, after such
encouragement, to write to the scholastic agents in a tone of assured
consequence.

The advertisement for typewriting in the _Athenaeum_ troubled his
conscience a little. After he had copied out his draft with its
"Scientific phraseology a speciality," fine and large, he saw the
notes she had written out for him. Her handwriting was still round and
boyish, even as it had appeared in the Whortley avenue, but her
punctuation was confined to the erratic comma and the dash, and there
was a disposition to spell the imperfectly legible along the line of
least resistance. However, he dismissed that matter with a resolve to
read over and correct anything in that way that she might have sent
her to do. It would not be a bad idea, he thought parenthetically, if
he himself read up some sound authority on the punctuation of
sentences.

They sat at this business quite late, heedless of the examination in
botany that came on the morrow. It was very bright and cosy in their
little room with their fire burning, the gas lit and the curtains
drawn, and the number of applications they had written made them
hopeful. She was flushed and enthusiastic, now flitting about the
room, now coming close to him and leaning over him to see what he had
done. At Lewisham's request she got him the envelopes from the chest
of drawers. "You _are_ a help to a chap," said Lewisham, leaning back
from the table, "I feel I could do anything for a girl like
you--anything."

"_Really!_" she cried, "Really! Am I really a help?"

Lewisham's face and gesture, were all assent. She gave a little cry of
delight, stood for a moment, and then by way of practical
demonstration of her unflinching helpfulness, hurried round the table
towards him with arms extended, "You dear!" she cried.

Lewisham, partially embraced, pushed his chair back with his
disengaged arm, so that she might sit on his knee....

Who could doubt that she was a help?


H.G. Wells