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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Roll-Call By Arnold Bennett Characters: 7360

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


George, having had breakfast in bed, opened his door for the second time that morning, and duly found on the mat the can of hot water (covered with a bit of old blanket) and the can of cold water which comprised the material for his bath. There was no sound in the house. The new spouse might be upstairs or she might be downstairs-he could not tell; but the cans proved that she was immanent and regardful; indeed, she never forgot anything. And George's second state at No. 8 was physically even better than his first. In the transition through autumn from summer to winter-a transition which, according to the experience of tens of thousands of London lodgers, is capable of turning comparative comfort into absolute discomfort-Mrs. Haim had behaved with benevolence and ingenuity. For example, the bedroom fire, laid overnight, was now burning up well from the mere touch of the lodger's own match. Such things are apt to count, and they counted with George.

As for Mr. Haim, George knew that he was still in bed, because, since his marriage, Mr. Haim had made a practice of staying in bed on Sunday mornings. The scheme was his wife's; she regarded it as his duty to himself to exercise this grand male privilege of staying in bed; to do so gave him majesty, magnificence, and was a sign of authority. A copy of The Referee , fresh as fruit new-dropped from the bough, lay in the hall at the front door. Mr. Haim had read The Referee since The Referee was. He began his perusal with the feature known as "Mustard and Cress," which not only amused him greatly, but convinced him that his own ideas on affairs were really very sagacious. His chief and most serious admiration, however was kept for "Our Hand-Book." "It's my Bible," he had once remarked, " and I'm not ashamed to say it. And there are scores and scores of men who'd say the same." Church bells could not be heard at No. 8. The Referee lying in the hall was the gracious sign of Sabbath morning. Presently Mrs. Haim would carry it upstairs, respectfully. For her it was simply and unanalysably The Referee . She did not dream of looking into it. Mr. Haim did not expect her to look into it. Her mission was to solace and to charm, his alone to supply the intellectual basis upon which their existence reposed. George's nose caught the ascending beautiful odour of bacon; he picked up his cans and disappeared.

When he was dressed, he brought forward the grindstone to the fire, and conscientiously put his nose to it, without even lighting a cigarette. It had been agreed between himself and Marguerite that there should be no more cigarettes until after lunch. It had also been agreed that he should put his nose to the grindstone that Sunday morning, and that she should do the same away in Manresa Road. George's grindstone happened to be Miers and Crosskey's The Soil in Relation to Health . He was preparing for his Final Examination. In addition to the vast imperial subject of Design, the Final comprised four other subjects-Construction, Hygiene, Properties and Uses of Building Materials, and Ordinary Practice of Architecture. George was now busy with one branch of the second of these subjects. Perhaps he was not following precisely the order of tactics prescribed by the most wily tacticians, for as usual he had his own ideas and they were arbitrary; but he was veritably and visibly engaged in the slow but exciting process of becoming a great architect. And he knew and felt that he was. And the disordered bed, and the untransparent bath-water, and the soap-tin by the side of the bath, and the breakfast-tray on a chair, were as much a part of the inspiring spectacle as himself tense and

especially dandiacal in the midst.

Nevertheless appearances deceived. On a table were the thirteen folio and quarto glorious illustrated volumes of Ongania's Basilica di San Marco , which Mr. Enwright had obtained for him on loan, and which had come down to No. 8 in a big box by Carter Paterson van. And while George sat quite still with his eyes and his volition centred fiercely on Miers and Crosskey, his brain would keep making excursions across the room to the Church of St. Mark at Venice. He brought it back again and again with a jerk but he could not retain it in place. The minutes passed; the quarters passed, until an hour and a half had gone. Then he closed Miers and Crosskey. He had sworn to study Miers and Crosskey for an hour and a half. He had fought hard to do so, and nobody could say that he had not done so. He was aware, however, that the fight had not been wholly successful; he had not won it; on the other hand neither had he lost it. Honour was saved, and he could still sincerely assert that in regard to the Final Examination he had got time fiercely by the forelock. He rose and strolled over to the Basilica di San Marco , and opened one or two of those formidable and enchanting volumes. Then he produced a cigarette, and struck a match, and he was about to light the cigarette, when squinting down at it he suddenly wondered: "Now how the deuce did that cigarette come into my mouth?" He replaced the cigarette in his case, and in a moment he had left the house.

He was invited to Mrs. John Orgreave's new abode at Bedford Park for lunch. In the early part of the year, Mrs. John had inherited money-again, and the result had been an increase in the spaciousness of her existence. George had not expected to see the new house, for he had determined to have nothing more to do with Mrs. John. He was, it is to be feared, rather touchy. He and Mrs. John had not openly quarrelled, but in their hearts they had quarrelled. George had for some time objected to her attitude towards him as a boarder. She would hint that, as she assuredly had no need of boarders, she was conferring a favour on him by boarding him. It was of course true, but George considered that her references to the fact were offensive. He did not understand and make allowances for Adela. Moreover, he thought that a woman who had been through the Divorce Court ought to be modest in demeanour towards people who had not been through the Divorce Court. Further, Adela resented his frequent lateness for meals. And she had said, with an uncompromising glance: "I hope you'll turn over a new leaf when we get into the new house." And he had replied, with an uncompromising glance: "Perhaps I shan't get into the new house." Nothing else. But that ended it. After that both felt that mutual detestation had set in. John Orgreave was not implicated in the discreet rupture. Possibly he knew of it; possibly he didn't; he was not one to look for trouble, and he accepted the theory that it was part of George's vital scheme to inhabit Chelsea. And then Adela, all fluffiness and winsomeness, had called, in the previous week, at Russell Square and behaved like a woman whose sole aim in life is to please and cosset men of genius. "I shall be dreadfully hurt if you don't come to one of my Sunday lunches, George!" she had said. And also: "We miss you, you know," and had put her head on one side.

Marguerite had thoroughly approved his acceptance of the invitation. She thought that he 'ought' to accept. He had promised, as she had an urgent design to do, not to arrive at the studio before 8 p.m., and he had received a note from her that morning to insist on the hour.

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