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   Chapter 10 No.10

This Freedom By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 31694

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


She's left the school! She's living in the splendid house in Pilchester Square looking for a post!

She's found a post! She's private secretary to Mr. Simcox!

She's left the splendid house in Pilchester Square! She's living an independent life! She's going to Mr. Simcox's office, her office, every day, just like a man! She's living on her own salary in a boarding house in Bayswater!

What jumps! One clutches, as at flying papers in a whirlwind, at a stable moment in which to pin her down and describe her as she jumps. One can't. The thing's too breathless. It's a maelstrom. It's an earthquake. It's a deluge. It's a boiling pot. It's youth. What it must be to live it! One thing pouring on to another so that it's impossible anywhere to pick hold of a bit that isn't changing into something else even as it is examined. That's youth all over. Always and all the time all change. What it must be to live it!

What it must be! Why, when youth comes bursting out of tutelage there's not a stable thing beneath its feet nor above its head a sky that stays the same for two hours together! Every stride's a stepping-stone that tilts and throws you; every dawn a sudden midnight even while it breaks, and every night a blinding brilliance when it's darkest. New faces, new places, new dresses, new dishes; new foes, new friends; new tasks, new triumphs; never a pause, never a platform; every day a year and every year a day-not life on a firm round world but life in the heart of a whirling avalanche. How youth can live it! And all the time, all the time while poor, dear youth is hurtling through it, there's age, instead of streaming sympathy like oil upon those boiling waters, standing in slippered safety, in buttoned dignity, in obese repose, bawling at tumbling youth, "Why can't you settle down! Why can't you settle down! Why do you behave like that? Why can't you do as I do? Why can't you be like your wise and sober Uncle Forty? Or like your good and earnest Auntie Fifty? Why can't you behave like your pious grandmother? Why can't you imitate your noble grandfather? Oh, grrrr-r, why can't you, you impious, unnatural, ill-mannered, irresponsive, irresponsible exasperating young nuisance, you!" Is it any wonder poor youth bawls back, or feels and behaves like bawling back, "How to goodness can I behave like my infernal uncle or my maddening aunt when I'm whirling along head over heels in the middle of a roaring avalanche?"

Oh, poor youth, that all have lived but none remembers!

One clings, faut au mieux, to the intention to tell of her life only the things in her life that contributed to her record, as records are judged. There shall be enormous omissions. They shall be excused by vital insertions.

She shall be glimpsed, first, in the splendid house in Pilchester Square, in the desperate business that getting a place for a woman in a business house was when women were in business houses far more rare than are silk hats in the City in 1922. It was desperate. Uncle Pyke and Uncle Pyke's friends were the only channel of opportunity; and Uncle Pyke and Uncle Pyke's friends refused to be a channel of opportunity. They had never heard of such a thing and they desired to bathe in their soup and smack over their wine and not be troubled with such a thing.

Aunt Belle rallied them and baited them and told them they were "great big grumpy things"; and Aunt Belle, in her crowded drawing-room, loved talking about the search for work and did talk about it. "Has to earn her own living," Aunt Belle would chatter, "and is going into business! Oh, yes, ever so many girls who have to earn their own living are going into business now. She'll wear a nice tailormade coat and skirt and carry a little satchel and flick about on the tops of buses, in the City at nine and out again at six and a nice plain wholesome lunch with a glass of milk in a tea shop. Oh, it's wonderful what girls who have to earn their own living do nowadays. Quite right, you know. Quite right, (for them). Come over here, Rosalie. Come over here, dear child, and tell Mrs. Roodle-Hoops what you are going to do. The dear child!"

But nothing done.

Just that glimpse and then comes Mr. Simcox.

Mr. Simcox was first met by Rosalie while walking with Aunt Belle and beautiful cousin Laetitia in the Cromwell Road. He came along carrying a letter in his hand with the obvious air of one who will forget to post it if he puts it in his pocket and probably will forget to do so in any case. He was as obviously "a man of about fifty-six" that curiously precise figure, neither a ten nor a five, always used for men who look as Mr. Simcox looked and always continued to look while Rosalie knew him, and probably always had looked. Men of "about fifty-six"-one never says "about thirty-six" or "about sixty-six"; it would be "about thirty-five" or "about seventy"-men of "about fifty-six" are almost certainly born at that age and with that appearance and they seem to continue in it to their graves.

Mr. Simcox was like that, and was short and had two little bunchy grey whiskers, and wore always a pepper and salt jacket suit, unbuttoned, the pockets of which always bulged and the skirts of which, containing the pockets, always swayed and flapped. When he talked he was always talking-if that is understood-and when he was busy he was always frantically busy and looking at the clock or at his watch as if it were going to explode at a certain rapidly approaching hour and he must at all costs be through with what he was doing before it did explode. He talked in very rapid jerks, always seeming to be about to come to rest and then instantaneously bounding off again, rather like a man bounding along stepping-stones, red-hot stepping-stones that each time burnt his feet and set him flying off again.

He had been in the Bombay house of a firm of indigo merchants and there had known Aunt Belle and Uncle Pyke. He had retired and settled in London and he now came very briskly up to Aunt Belle, to Rosalie and to beautiful Laetitia, greeting them and bursting into full stream of chatter while he was yet some distance away; and, having been introduced to Rosalie and snatched at her hand precisely as if doing so while shooting in midair between one red-hot stepping-stone and the next, whizzed presently to "I really came out to post a letter" and flapped the letter in the air as if it were a bothersome thing stuck to his fingers and refusing absolutely to be stuffed into a post-box.

"Why, there's a pillar-box just there; you've just passed it," cried Rosalie.

"Why, so there is!" exclaimed Mr. Simcox, jumping round to stare at the pillar-box as if it had stretched out an arm and given him a sudden punch in the back, and then spinning towards Rosalie and staring at her rather as if he suspected her of having put the pillar-box there while he was not looking; and while Mr. Simcox was so exclaiming and so doing Rosalie had said, "Do let me just post it for you. Do let me," and had snapped the obstinate letter from his fingers, and posted it and was back again smiling at Mr. Simcox, whom she rather liked and who reminded her very much of a jack-in-the-box.

Indeed with his quick ways, his shortness, his bushy little grey whiskers and his pepper and salt suit with its flapping pockets, Mr. Simcox was very like one of those funny little jack-in-the-boxes they used to sell. He said to her, regarding her with very apparent pleasure and esteem, "Well, that's very nice of you. That really is very nice of you. And it's most wonderful. It is indeed. Do you know, I must have walked more than a mile looking for a letter-box and I daresay I should have walked another mile and then forgotten it and taken the letter home again." He addressed Aunt Belle: "It's a most astonishing thing, Mrs. Pyke Pounce, but I cannot post a letter. I positively cannot post a single letter. When I say single, I do not mean I can post no letter at all. No, no. Far from it. I mean I can post no letter singly, by itself, solus. My daily correspondence, my office batch, I take out in a bundle, perhaps in a table basket. That is simple. But a single letter-as you see, a clever young lady like this has to find a box for me or I might carry the thing for days together. Astonishing that, you know. Astonishing, annoying, and mind you, sometimes serious and embarrassing."

"Why, you busy, busy person, you!" cried Aunt Belle with her customary air towards a man of shaking her finger at him. "You very busy person! Fancy a basket full of correspondence! Why what a heap you must have!"

Mr. Simcox said he had indeed a heap. "Sometimes I think more than I can manage."

"Indeed," agreed Aunt Belle, "you don't seem to have much time to spare. Why, I haven't seen you in my drawing-room for quite a month ("You busy little creature, you," expressed without being stated). I expect you're getting very rich and disagreeable." ("You rich little rascal, you!")

Mr. Simcox declared that as to that his business wasn't one to get rich at. "In no sense. Oh, no, in no sense. It keeps me occupied. It gives me an interest. That's all. No more than that." As to Mrs. Pyke Pounce's delightful drawing-room, most certainly he had been there less than a month ago and most certainly he would present himself again on the very next opportunity. To-morrow, was it? He would without fail present himself there tomorrow, "and I hope," said Mr. Simcox, taking his leave, "I hope I may have the pleasure of seeing my postmistress there again." He smiled very cordially at Rosalie and went flapping away up the street at the pace and with the air, not of one who had come out to post a letter and had posted it, but of one who had come out to post a letter, had dropped it, and was flying back to look for it.

"Oh, isn't he an ugly little monster!" cried Aunt Belle, resuming the walk.

"But I think he's nice," said Rosalie. "What is his business, Aunt Belle?"

Aunt Belle hadn't an idea. "He's an agent," said Aunt Belle, "but an agent for what I'm sure I don't know. He's a very mysterious, fussy, funny little person. We knew him in Bombay where he had a very good position, but he retired and what he does now I'm sure I can't say. But he's very busy. You heard him say how busy he is. Rosalie, he might know of something for you. We'll ask him, dear child. The funny, ugly little monster! We'll ask him. He might help."

He did help. A very short while afterwards, Rosalie received the appointment of Private Secretary to Mr. Simcox; twenty-five shillings a week; one pound five shillings a week! Office hours ten to five! Saturdays ten to one! Holiday a fortnight a year! A man's work! A man's weekly salary! A man's office hours! The ecstasy of it! The ecstasy!

The matter with Mr. Simcox was that, in India a man of affairs, in England he found himself a man of no affairs and a man who had "lost touch." On a leave from the Bombay house of the indigo firm he had been prevailed upon by his mother and his maiden sister to remain at home and look after them and he had done it and gone on doing it, and they had died and he had never married, and he had now no relatives, and by this and by that (as he told Rosalie early in her installation) he had dropped out of friendships and, as he expressed it "lost touch." He owned and occupied one of those enormous houses in Bayswater. It had been his mother's and he lived on in it after her death and the death of his sister, alone with a housekeeper. The housekeeper resided in the vast catacombs of the basement of the enormous house; Mr. Simcox resided in the immense reception rooms, miles above, of the first floor; the three suites above him, scowling gloomily across a square at the twin mausoleums opposite, were unoccupied and un-visited; on the first floor Mr. Simcox had his office. The business done in this office, which Rosalie was now to assist, and why it was done, was in this wise and was thus explained to Rosalie.

Mr. Simcox, more than ever dropped out and more than ever having lost touch after the deaths of his sister and mother, found himself irked more than anything else by the absence of correspondence. He had been accustomed in India to a big receipt of letters-a big dhak, as he called it, using the Hindustani word-now he received no letters at all; and he told Rosalie that when you are in the habit of getting a regular daily post, its gradual falling off and then its complete cessation is one of the most melancholy things that can befall a man. A nice bunch of letters in the morning, he said, is like a cold bath to a young man, a stimulant and an appetiser; and a similar packet by the night delivery is an entertainment to look forward to from sunset till it arrives and the finest possible digestive upon which to go to bed. Mr. Simcox found himself cut off from both these necessities of a congenial life and it depressed him beyond conception. Dressing in the morning he would hear the postman come splendidly rat tatting along the square and would hold his breath for that glorious thunder to come echoing up from his own front door-and it never did. Only the sound of the footsteps came, hurrying past-always.

Set to his solitary dinner in the evening, again would come along that glorious, reverberating music, and again Mr. Simcox would hold his breath as it approached and again-! Oh, particularly in the winter, it was awful, Mr. Simcox told Rosalie. Awful; she wouldn't believe how awful it was. In the winter, in the dark nights, there is, Mr. Simcox said, about the sound of the postman banging along the doors something that is the sheer essence of all the mystery, and all the poetry, and all the life, and all the comfort, and all the light and all the warmth in the world. Often on winter nights Mr. Simcox would get up quickly from the table (He couldn't help it) and go tiptoe (Why tiptoe? He didn't know. You had to. It was the mystery and the aching atmosphere of the thing) tiptoe across the room to the window, and draw an inch of the heavy curtain and peer out into the darkness and towards the music. There would be the little round gleam of the postman's lantern, bobbing along as he hurried. And flick! it was gone into a doorway, and rat-tat, flick, and there it was again-coming! Flick, rat-tat! Flick, flick, rat-tat! Coming, coming! Growing larger, growing brighter, growing louder! Next door now. They always get it next door. Flick, rat-tat! What a crasher! You can feel it echo! Flick! Now then! Now then! How it gleams! He's stopped! He's looking at his letters! He's coming in! He is-ah, he's passed; he's gone; it's over; nothing... nothing for here.... Rat-tat! That's next door. The party wall shakes. The lustres on the mantelpiece shake. Mr. Simcox's hands shake. He sits down, pushes his plate away....

It is absurd; it is ridiculous, of course it is; but it was pathetic, it was moving, as it was received from Mr. Simcox by that young and most warm-hearted Rosalie. Her eyes positively were caused to blink as she listened. She had an exact vision of that funny little jack-in-the-box figure up from the table and tiptoeing across the enormous dining room in his little pepper and salt suit with the pockets swaying, not flapping, as he trod along, and opening that inch of the heavy curtain and pressing out his gaze through the black window pane, and watching the gleam and the flick and then the crash and the gleam again, and then holding his breath and hearing his heart go thump, and then dropping the curtain, and back again, with his hands shaking a little and hearing the lustres tinkle....

Yes, very moving to that Rosalie in her youth and warmth. She had actually to touch her nose (high up, between her eyes) with her handkerchief and she said, "

Oh, Mr. Simcox.... Yes, and then what?"

"Then what? Ah! 'Then what' is this." They were seated in Mr. Simcox's great office on the ground floor. The office of a man of many affairs. A very large writing table furnished with every conceivable facility for writing, not only note papers and envelopes racked up in half a dozen sizes, but sealing waxes in several hues, labels, string, "In" basket, "Out" basket, "Pending Decision" basket, all sorts of pens, all sorts of pencils, wafers, clips, scales, letter weights, rulers-the table obviously of a man to whom correspondence was a devotional, an engrossing, an exact art, and an art practised on an expansive, an impressive, and a lordly scale. There were also in the office a very large plain table on which were spread newspapers, a basket containing clippings from newspapers, an immense blue chalk for marking newspapers and a very long, also a very short, pair of scissors for cutting out clippings from newspapers. A range of filing cabinets stood against one wall; a library of directories and catalogues occupied shelves against another wall.

"'Then what' is this," said Mr. Simcox, indicating these impressive appointments of the room with a wave of his hand. "You ask me 'then what?' 'Then what' is all this. 'Then what' has grown now to be you. I'll tell you."

It was this-the oddest, most eccentric notion (not that Rosalie it thought so). Mr. Simcox, cut off from letters, had determined that he must get letters. He would get letters. If the postman would not come of himself (so to speak) then he must be forced to come. And Mr. Simcox set about forcing him to come by answering advertisements. Not employment advertisements; no; the advertisements to which Mr. Simcox re-plied were the advertisements that offered to send you something for nothing-that implored you to permit them to send you something for nothing. They are common objects of the periodical press. Every paper is stuffed with them. "Write for free samples." "Catalogues." "Trial packet sent post free on application." "Write for our beautifully illustrated art brochure." "Descriptive booklet by return." "Write for full particulars." "Free sample bottle sufficient for seven days' trial." "Approval gladly. Postpaid." "Plans and particulars of the sole agents." "Superbly printed art volume on receipt of postcard."

The advertisement columns of every paper are stuffed with them and soon the letter-box of Mr. Simcox was stuffed with them. The postman who never stopped at Mr. Simcox's house now never missed Mr. Simcox's house. He went on a lighter and a brisker man after having dealt with Mr. Simcox's house. The agitation with which his approach was heard was now exchanged for a superb confidence as his approach was heard. The deliveries that for Mr. Simcox had never been deliveries were now, not deliveries, but avalanches. They roared into the letter-box of Mr. Simcox. They cascaded upon the floor of the hall of Mr. Simcox.

A mail thus composed does not perhaps sound interesting. Mr. Simcox, once he had got into the full swing of the thing, discovered it to be profoundly and exhaustively interesting. It possessed in the highest degree the two primary essentials of a really good mail,-surprise and variety. There would always be two or three fascinating little parcels, there would always be two or three handsome packets, there would always be two or three imposing looking letters. No common correspondence could possibly have had the number of attractively boxed gifts, the amount of handsomely printed literary and il-lustrated matter, and certainly not the unfailing persistency of flow, that constituted the correspondence of Mr. Simcox.

The mine once discovered proved to be a mine inexhaustible and containing lodes or galleries of new and unsuspected wealth. Mr. Simcox took in but two daily papers, and two penny weekly papers, and they might well have sufficed. But an appetite whetted and an eye opened they did not suffice. There thundered from the Bayswater free library a positive babel of cries from advertisers in the score of journals there displayed, howling for Mr. Simcox graciously to permit them to contribute their toll to his letter-box; and there were at the news agents periodicals catering for every specialised class of the community and falling over themselves to put before Mr. Simcox the full range of the mysteries, the luxuries and the necessities of every trade and profession and pursuit, from shipbuilding to cycling and from ironmongery to the ownership of castles, moors, steam yachts and salmon fisheries.

Mr. Simcox, entirely happy, one of the busiest men that might be found in the metropolis, struck out new lines. Hitherto he had received his correspondence interestedly and pleasurably but passively. He began to take it up actively and sharply. He began to write back, either graciously approving or very sharply criticising his samples, his specimens and his free trials; and the advertisers responded voluminously, either abjectly with regret and enclosing further samples for Mr. Simcox's esteemed trial, or abjectly with delight and soliciting the very great favour of utilising Mr. Simcox's esteemed letter for publicity purposes. This, however, Mr. Simcox, courteously but firmly, invariably refused to permit.

The engagement of Rosalie was a development of Mr. Simcox's hobby as natural as the development of any other hobby from rabbit breeding to china collecting. The craze intensifies, the scope is enlarged. To have a secretary made Mr. Simcox's mail and the work that produced his mail even more real than already it had become to him. Following up the personal touch that had been discovered by the criticism of samples, Mr. Simcox had opened up a line that produced the personal touch in most intimate degree: personal touch with schools and with insurance companies. He created for himself sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, wards. He endowed them, severally, with ages, with backwardness, with brilliancy, with robustness, with delicacy, with qualities that were immature and required development, with absence of qualities that were desirable and required implanting, with unfortunate tendency to qualities that were undesirable and needed repression and nipping in the bud. He placed these children, thus handicapped or endowed, before the principals of selected schools; he desired that terms and full particulars might be placed before him to assist him in the anxious task of right selection. They were placed before him. "Your backward nephew Robin" (to take a single example) engaged the personal attention of preparatory schoolmasters from Devonshire to Cumberland and from Norfolk to Carnarvon. Similarly with insurance companies. Again dependents and friends were created, by the dozen, by Mr. Simcox. Male and female created he them, cumbered with all imaginable risks, and darkly brooding upon all manner of contingencies; and male and female, cumbered and perplexed, they were studied and advised upon by insurance companies earnest beyond measure to show Mr. Simcox what astounding and unparalleled benefits could be obtained for them.

At the time when Rosalie joined him, Mr. Simcox's attention was in much greatest proportion devoted to this development of his pursuit. Under the instruction of a friend, long since dropped out and lost, who had held a considerable position in a leading assurance company, he had acquired a sound working knowledge of the principles and mysteries of insurance. The subject had greatly interested him. In the phrase he used to Rosalie he had "taken it up"; and in the phrase that so often sequels and rounds off a thing suddenly "taken up" he had suddenly "dropped it." He now, by way of the new development of his correspondence, approached it again. It received him as a former habitation receives a returned native. Mr. Simcox (if the metaphor may be pursued) roamed all about the familiar rooms and corridors of the house of the principles and mysteries of insurance. His knowledge of its possibilities enabled him to develop an astonishing ingenuity in creating cases ripe and yearning for the benefits of provision against contingencies, and as he very easily was able to prove to Rosalie, and found immense delight in proving, he had under his finger, that is to say in his exquisitely arranged filing cabinets, also in his head, a range of insurance companies' literature which enabled him to work out for any conceivable case the most suitable office or offices and the finest possible cover for his risks. "Different companies specialize," said Mr. Simcox, "in different classes of risk. A man should no more walk into one of the leading offices just because it happens to be one of the leading offices and there take out his policy or policies than he should walk into and take for occupation the first vacant house he sees, merely because it is, as a house, a good house. It may be a most excellent house but it may not be in the least the house most suitable to his requirements."

Rosalie nodded intelligently. "But how is a man to find out, Mr. Simcox?"

"Why, I suppose only by going round to every company and choosing the best, just as I make out and send around these cases of mine. But of course no one does that-the trouble for one thing, and ignorance for another, and inability to realise their real requirements and to state them clearly if they do realise them for a third. That's what it is."

Rosalie's intelligent nodding had not ceased. She had a trick, when Mr. Simcox was explaining things to her, of maintaining, with eyes fixed widely upon him, a slow, affirmative movement of her head rather as though she were some engine, and her head the dial, absorbing power from a flow of energy. The dial never indicated repletion. Mr. Simcox delighted to talk to Rosalie, to watch that grave movement of her head, and to hear the short occasional "Why's?" and comments that came like little spurts or quivers as of the engine in initial throbbings pulsing the power it stored.

She was absorbing power. The months were going on. The earlier initiation into Mr. Simcox's business might have had a tinge of disappointment were it not that, whatever the nature of her work, manifestly work it was, paid for, with regular hours, with an office to attend, such as a man might do. The tinge of disappointment, if she had suffered it, would have stung out of the thought: Where, in this manufactured correspondence, in this pretence at a business which was in fact no business at all, where in all this was Lombard Street? Where the romance and mystery of finance? Where the touch with the power that was made in countinghouses and with the exercise of the power exerted from those countinghouses?

But it happened for Rosalie, first, that this thought could not come because she was too busy with the glorious novelty of being in an office and learning office ways; then, when the novelty had worn, that it could not come because a new and a real element arrived to nullify it. In the early days there was no realisation of sham because there was the real business, to herself, of learning business methods and the whole theory and practice of office routine. She could have had no better instructor than Mr. Simcox, she could have had no better training than the handling, the sorting and the filing of his curious and various correspondence. She had become an efficient and a singularly apt and keen office clerk when, more leisured because she had mastered her duties, she might first have had time for realisation that Lombard Street was not here nor all the romance and mystery with which she had invested the power of countinghouses within a thousand miles of this house of most elaborate pretence. And then, at once to prevent that realisation and to dissipate its cause, came Lombard Street to her in Mr. Simcox's new absorption in (to her) the mysteries and the romance and the astounding possibilities of the business of insurance. How the mammoth companies, whose names soon were as household words to Rosalie, accumulated their enormous funds and invested them; how, while provisioning for to-day, they must calculate against liabilities falling due in a to-morrow generations ahead; how they would put their money into property the leases of which would fall in and the estate become marketable again perhaps a hundred years hence, when officers of the company yet unborn would be looking to the prudence of those now reigning to maintain the inflowing tide; how risks were calculated and vital statistics and chances and averages studied-all this, delightedly and delightfully narrated by Mr. Simcox (watching that gravely nodding head and those wide intelligent eyes) was sheer fascination to the mind that had found romance and mystery in "Lombard Street" as commonly romance and mystery are found in poetry and music.

Then one day she took a step towards applying the fascination that she found.

It was the day of the conversation that has been recorded. How, Rosalie had asked, was the seeker after insurance to find the policies best suited to his case? Rosalie had asked; and had been told-he must go round but he never does; he must know what there is to be had but he never does know; he must realise exactly what he really wants but he never does realise it; and if he does realise it he must be able to state it clearly but he never can state it clearly.

Mr. Simcox, detailing this, permitted himself an amused contempt. The public were ignoramuses, mere children; they knew nothing whatever about insurance.

Rosalie said in a voice consonant with the grave measure of her nods: "Of course, if it was a man, as you said, looking for a house, he'd go to an agent. A house agent would tell him of houses best suited to his needs that he could choose between. Well, there are insurance agents. You've told me about them."

"Ah, but not the same thing, not the same thing," corrected Mr. Simcox. "An insurance agent, the ordinary insurance agent, is agent for a particular company. He only knows what his own company can do and he only wants his own company to do it. That's no good to the kind of man in the position we're speaking of. He wants some one who can tell him what all the companies will do for him. Some one who can hear his case, analyse it, put it before him in the right light and advise him the best way of placing it. That's what he wants. Exactly the same as these letters I send out-as you and I send out, I should say. Why, I've had practical examples of it. There was a young fellow I met at your aunt's house. There've been three or four cases of it for that matter but this happens to be some one you know-"

He proceeded to tell her of a visitor at Aunt Belle's, a young man home on leave from the Indian army and recently married, with whom he had got into conversation on the subject of insurance and had most ably helped. The young man had a certain policy in view. Mr. Sim-cox had put an infinitely better before him. "If he had come to me before his marriage when he was first taking out a policy in his wife's favour, I could have saved him and gained her hundreds, literally hundreds," said Mr. Simcox. "He'd made a most awful mess of the business. As it was I helped him very considerably. He was very grateful, devilish grateful. He went straight to an agent of the office I recommended and did it."

"There must be hundreds like him that would be grateful," said Rosalie.

"Thousands," said Mr. Simcox. "Tens of thousands. Every single soul who insures, you may say."

"Who got the commission?" said Rosalie.

"The agent, of course," said Mr. Simcox.

"Oh," said Rosalie.

"Why?" said Mr. Simcox.

"Nothing," said Rosalie. "Only 'oh '."

* * *

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