A Chapter in Acclimatization
His baptismal register spoke of him pessimistically as John Henry but he had left that behind with the other maladies of infancy, and his friends knew him under the front-name of Adrian. His mother lived in Bethnal Green, which was not altogether his fault; one can discourage too much history in ones family, but one cannot always prevent geography. And, after all, the Bethnal Green habit has this virtue-that it is seldom transmitted to the next generation. Adrian lived in a roomlet which came under the auspicious constellation of W.
How he lived was to a great extent a mystery even to himself; his struggle for existence probably coincided in many material details with the rather dramatic accounts he gave of it to sympathetic acquaintances. All that is definitely known is that he now and then emerged from the struggle to dine at the Ritz or Carlton, correctly garbed and with a correctly critical appetite. On these occasions he was usually the guest of Lucas Croyden, an amiable worldling, who had three thousand a year and a taste for introducing impossible people to irreproachable cookery. Like most men who combine three thousand a year with an uncertain digestion, Lucas was a Socialist, and he argued that you cannot hope to elevate the masses until you have brought plovers eggs into their lives and taught them to appreciate the difference between coupe Jacques and Macédoine de fruits. His friends pointed out that it was a doubtful kindness to initiate a boy from behind a drapery counter into the blessedness of the higher catering, to which Lucas invariably replied that all kindnesses were doubtful. Which was perhaps true.
It was after one of his Adrian evenings that Lucas met his aunt, Mrs Mebberley, at a fashionable teashop, where the lamp of family life is still kept burning and you meet relatives who might otherwise have slipped your memory.
Who was that good-looking boy who was dining with you last night? she asked. He looked much too nice to be thrown away upon you.
Susan Mebberley was a charming woman, but she was also an aunt.
Who are his people? she continued, when the protégés name (revised version) had been given her.
His mother lives at Beth
Lucas checked himself on the threshold of what was perhaps a social indiscretion.
Beth? Where is it? It sounds like Asia Minor. Is she mixed up with Consular people?
Oh, no. Her work lies among the poor.
This was a side-slip into truth. The mother of Adrian was employed in a laundry.
I see, said Mrs Mebberley, mission work of some sort. And meanwhile the boy has no one to look after him. Its obviously my duty to see that he doesnt come to harm. Bring him to call on me.
My dear Aunt Susan, expostulated Lucas, I really know very little about him. He may not be at all nice, you know, on further acquaintance.
He has delightful hair and a weak mouth. I shall take him with me to Homburg or Cairo.
Its the maddest thing I ever heard of, said Lucas angrily.
Well, there is a strong strain of madness in our family. If you havent noticed it yourself all your friends must have.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|