Book Two - Mr. Coote the Chaperon

Chapter the Seventh


H.G. Wells


§ 1

LONDON was Kipps’ third world. There were, no doubt, other worlds, but Kipps knew only these three: firstly, New Romney and the Emporium, constituting his primary world, his world of origin, which also contained Ann; secondly, the world of culture and refinement, the world of which Coote was chaperon, and into which Kipps was presently to marry, a world, it was fast becoming evident, absolutely incompatible with the first; and thirdly, a world still to a large extent unexplored, London. London presented itself as a place of great gray spaces and incredible multitudes of people, centring about Charing Cross station and the Royal Grand Hotel, and containing at unexpected arbitrary points shops of the most amazing sort, statuary, squares, restaurants—where it was possible for clever people like Walshingham to order a lunch item by item to the waiters’ evident respect and sympathy—exhibitions of incredible things—the Walshinghams had taken him to the Arts and Crafts and to a Picture Gallery—and Theatres. London, moreover, is rendered habitable by hansom cabs. Young Walshingham was a natural cab-taker; he was an all-round, large-minded young man, and he had in the course of their two days’ stay taken Kipps into no less than nine, so that Kipps was singularly not afraid of these vehicles. He knew that wherever you were, so soon as you were thoroughly lost, you said ‘Hi!’ to a cab, and then ‘Royal Grand Hotel.’ Day and night these trusty conveyances are returning the strayed Londoner back to his point of departure, and were it not for their activity, in a little while the whole population, so vast and incomprehensible is the intricate complexity of this great city, would be hopelessly lost for ever. At any rate, that is how the thing presented itself to Kipps, and I have heard much the same from visitors from America.

His train was composed of corridor carriages, and he forgot his troubles for a time in the wonders of this modern substitute for railway compartments. He went from the non-smoking to the smoking carriage, and smoked a cigarette, and strayed from his second-class carriage to a first and back. But presently Black Care got aboard the train and came and sat beside him. The exhilaration of escape had evaporated now, and he was presented with a terrible picture of his aunt and uncle arriving at his lodgings and finding him fled. He had left a hasty message that he was called away suddenly on business, ‘ver’ important business,’ and they were to be sumptuously entertained. His immediate motive had been his passionate dread of an encounter between these excellent but unrefined old people and the Walshinghams, but now that end was secured, he could see how thwarted and exasperated they would be.

How to explain to them?

He ought never to have written to tell them!

He ought to have got married, and told them afterwards.

He ought to have consulted Helen.

‘Promise me,’ she had said.

‘Oh, desh!’ said Kipps, and got up and walked back into the smoking car and began to consume cigarettes.

Suppose after all, they found out the Walshinghams’ address and went there!

At Charing Cross, however, were distractions again. He took a cab in an entirely Walshingham manner, and was pleased to note the enhanced respect of the cabman when he mentioned the Royal Grand. He followed Walshingham’s routine on their previous visit with perfect success. They were very nice in the office, and gave him an excellent room at fourteen shillings the night.

He went up and spent a considerable time examining the furniture of his room, scrutinising himself in its various mirrors, and sitting on the edge of the bed whistling. It was a vast and splendid apartment, and cheap at fourteen shillings. But finding the figure of Ann inclined to resume possession of his mind, he roused himself and descended by the staircase, after a momentary hesitation before the lift. He had thought of lunch, but he drifted into the great drawing-room, and read a guide to the Hotels of Europe for a space, until a doubt whether he was entitled to use this palatial apartment without extra charge arose in his mind. He would have liked something to eat very much now, but his inbred terror of the table was strong. He did at last get by a porter in uniform towards the dining-room, but at the sight of a number of waiters and tables with remarkable complications of knives and glasses, terror seized him, and he backed out again with a mumbled remark to the waiter in the doorway about this not being the way.

He hovered in the hall and lounge until he thought the presiding porter regarded him with suspicion, and then went up to his room again by the staircase, got his hat and umbrella, and struck out boldly across the courtyard. He would go to a restaurant instead.

He had a moment of elation in the gateway. He felt all the Strand must notice him as he emerged through the great gate of the hotel. ‘One of these here rich swells,’ they would say. ‘Don’t they go it just!’ A cabman touched his hat. ‘No fear,’ said Kipps pleasantly . . . 

Then he remembered he was hungry again.

Yet he decided he was in no great hurry for lunch, in spite of an internal protest, and turned eastward along the Strand in a leisurely manner. He would find a place to suit him soon enough. He tried to remember the sort of things Walshingham had ordered. Before all things he didn’t want to go into a place and look like a fool. Some of these places rook you dreadful, besides making fun of you. There was a place near Essex Street where there was a window brightly full of chops, tomatoes, and lettuce. He stopped at this and reflected for a time, and then it occurred to him that you were expected to buy these things raw and cook them at home. Anyhow, there was sufficient doubt in the matter to stop him. He drifted on to a neat window with champagne bottles, a dish of asparagus, and a framed menu of a two-shilling lunch. He was about to enter, when fortunately he perceived two waiters looking at him over the back screen of the window with a most ironical expression, and he sheered off at once. There was a wonderful smell of hot food half-way down Fleet Street, and a nice-looking tavern with several doors, but he could not decide which door. His nerve was going under the strain.

He hesitated at Farringdon Street, and drifted up to St. Paul’s and round the churchyard, full chiefly of dead bargains in the shop windows, to Cheapside. But now Kipps was getting demoralised, and each house of refreshment seemed to promise still more complicated obstacles to food. He didn’t know how you went in, and what was the correct thing to do with your hat; he didn’t know what you said to the waiter or what you called the different things: he was convinced absolutely he would ‘fumble,’ as Shalford would have said, and look like a fool. Somebody might laugh at him! The hungrier he got, the more unendurable was the thought that any one should laugh at him. For a time he considered an extraordinary expedient to account for his ignorance. He would go in and pretend to be a foreigner, and not know English. Then they might understand . . .  Presently he had drifted into a part of London where there did not seem to be any refreshment places at all.

‘Oh, desh!’ said Kipps, in a sort of agony of indecisiveness. ‘The very nex’ place I see, in I go.’

The next place was a fried-fish shop in a little side street, where there were also sausages on a gas-lit grill.

He would have gone in, but suddenly a new scruple came to him, that he was too well dressed for the company he could see dimly through the steam sitting at the counter and eating with a sort of nonchalant speed.


§ 2

He was half minded to resort to a hansom and brave the terrors of the dining-room of the Royal Grand—they wouldn’t know why he had gone out really—when the only person he knew in London appeared (as the only person one does know will do in London) and slapped him on the shoulder. Kipps was hovering at a window at a few yards from the fish shop pretending to examine some really strikingly cheap pink baby-linen, and trying to settle finally about those sausages. ‘Hallo, Kipps!’ cried Sid, ‘spending the millions?’

Kipps turned and was glad to perceive no lingering vestige of the chagrin that had been so painful at New Romney. Sid looked grave and important, and he wore a quite new silk hat that gave a commercial touch to a generally socialistic costume. For the moment the sight of Sid uplifted Kipps wonderfully. He saw him as a friend and helper, and only presently did it come clearly into his mind that this was the brother of Ann.

He made amiable noises.

‘I’ve just been up this way,’ Sid explained, ‘buying a secondhand ‘namelling stove . . .  I’m going to ’namel myself.’

‘Lor!’ said Kipps.

‘Yes. Do me a lot of good. Let the customer choose his colour. See? What brings you up?’

Kipps had a momentary vision of his foiled uncle and aunt. ‘Jest a bit of a change,’ he said.

Sid came to a swift decision. ‘Come down to my little show. I got some one I’d like to see talking to you.’

Even then Kipps did not think of Ann in this connection.

‘Well,’ he said, trying to invent an excuse on the spur of the moment. ‘Fact is,’ he explained, ‘I was jest looking round to get a bit of lunch.’

‘Dinner we call it,’ said Sid. ‘But that’s all right. You can’t get anything to eat hereabout. If you’re not too haughty to do a bit of slumming, there’s some mutton spoiling for me now—’

The word mutton affected Kipps greatly.

‘It won’t take us ’arf an hour,’ said Sid, and Kipps was carried.

He discovered another means of London locomotion in the Underground Railway, and recovered his self-possession in that interest. ‘You don’t mind going third?’ asked Sid; and Kipps said, ‘Nort a bit of it.’ They were silent in the train for a time, on account of strangers in the carriage, and then Sid began to explain who it was he wanted Kipps to meet. ‘It’s a chap named Masterman—do you no end of good.

‘He occupies our first-floor front room, you know. It isn’t so much for gain I let as company. We don’t want the whole ’ouse, that’s one thing, and another is I knew the man before. Met him at our Sociological, and after a bit he said he wasn’t comfortable where he was. That’s how it came about. He’s a first-class chap—first class. Science! You should see his books!

‘Properly he’s a sort of journalist. He’s written a lot of things, but he’s been too ill lately to do very much. Poetry he’s written, all sorts. He writes for the Commonweal sometimes, and sometimes he reviews books. ’E’s got ’eaps of books—’eaps. Besides selling a lot.

‘He knows a regular lot of people, and all sorts of things. He’s been a dentist, and he’s a qualified chemist, and I seen ’im often reading German and French. Taught ’imself. He was here—’ Sid indicated South Kensington, which had come opportunely outside the carriage windows, with a nod of his head, ‘—three years. Studying science. But you’ll see ’im. When he really gets to talking—he pours it out.’

‘Ah!’ said Kipps, nodding sympathetically, with his two hands on his umbrella knob.

‘He’ll do big things some day,’ said Sid. ‘He’s written a book on science already.

‘Physiography, it’s called. Elementary Physiography! Some day he’ll write an advanced—when he gets time.’

He let this soak into Kipps.

‘I can’t introduce you to lords and swells,’ he went on, ‘but I can show you a Famous Man, that’s going to be. I can do that. Leastways—Unless—’

Sid hesitated.

‘He’s got a frightful cough,’ he said.

‘He won’t care to talk to me,’ weighed Kipps.

‘That’s all right; he won’t mind. He’s fond of talking. He’d talk to any one,’ said Sid reassuringly, and added a perplexing bit of Londonised Latin. ‘He doesn’t pute anything, non alienum. You know.’

‘I know,’ said Kipps intelligently, over his umbrella knob, though of course that was altogether untrue.


§ 3

Kipps found Sid’s shop a practical-looking establishment, stocked with the most remarkable collection of bicycles and pieces of bicycle that he had ever beheld. ‘My hiring stock,’ said Sid, with a wave to this ironmongery; ‘and there’s the best machine at a democratic price in London, The Red Flag, built by me. See?’

He indicated a graceful gray brown framework in the window. ‘And there’s my stock of accessories—store prices.’

‘Go in for motors a bit,’ added Sid.

‘Mutton?’ said Kipps, not hearing him distinctly.

‘Motors, I said . . .  ’Owever, Mutton Department here;’ and he opened a door that had a curtain-guarded window in its upper panel, to reveal a little room with red walls and green furniture, with a white-clothed table and the generous promise of a meal. ‘Fanny!’ he shouted. ‘Here’s Art Kipps.’

A bright-eyed young woman of five or six-and-twenty in a pink print appeared, a little flushed from cooking, and wiped a hand on an apron and shook hands and smiled and said it would all be ready in a minute. She went on to say she had heard of Kipps and his luck, and meanwhile Sid vanished to draw the beer, and returned with two glasses for himself and Kipps.

‘Drink that,’ said Sid; and Kipps felt all the better for it.

‘I give Mr. Masterman ’is upstairs a hour ago,’ said Mrs. Sid. ‘I didn’t think ’e ought to wait.’

A rapid succession of brisk movements on the part of every one and they were all four at dinner—the fourth person being Master Walt Whitman Pornick, a cheerful young gentleman of one and a half, who was given a spoon to hammer on the table with to keep him quiet, and who got ‘Kipps’ right at the first effort and kept it all through the meal, combining it first with this previous acquisition and then that. ‘Peacock Kipps,’ said Master Walt, at which there was great laughter, and also ‘More Mutton Kipps.’

‘He’s a regular oner,’ said Mrs. Sid, ‘for catching up words. You can’t say a word but what ’e’s on to it.’

There were no serviettes and less ceremony, and Kipps thought he had never enjoyed a meal so much. Every one was a little excited by the meeting and chatting and disposed to laugh, and things went easily from the very beginning. If there was a pause, Master Walt filled it in. Mrs. Sid, who tempered her enormous admiration for Sid’s intellect and his Socialism and his severe business methods by a motherly sense of her sex and seniority, spoke of them both as ‘you boys,’ and dilated—when she was not urging Kipps to have some more of this or that—on the disparity between herself and her husband.

‘Shouldn’t ha’ thought there was a year between you,’ said Kipps; ‘you seem jest a match.’

‘I’m his match anyhow,’ said Mrs. Sid, and no epigram of young Walshingham’s was ever better received.

‘Match,’ said young Walt, coming in on the tail of the joke and getting a round for himself.

Any sense of superior fortune had long vanished from Kipps’ mind, and he found himself looking at host and hostess with enormous respect. Really old Sid was a wonderful chap, here in his own house at two-and-twenty, carving his own mutton and lording it over wife and child. No legacies needed by him! And Mrs. Sid, so kind and bright and hearty! And the child, old Sid’s child! Old Sid had jumped round a bit. It needed the sense of his fortune at the back of his mind to keep Kipps from feeling abject. He resolved he’d buy young Walt something tremendous in toys at the very first opportunity.

‘Drop more beer, Art?’

‘Right you are, old man.’

‘Cut Mr. Kipps a bit more bread, Sid.’

‘Can’t I pass you a bit?’ . . . 

Sid was all right, Sid was; there was no mistake about that.

It was growing up in his mind that Sid was the brother of Ann, but he said nothing about her, for excellent reasons. After all, Sid’s irritation at her name when they had met in New Romney seemed to show a certain separation. They didn’t tell each other much . . .  He didn’t know how things might be between Ann and Mrs. Sid either.

Still, for all that, Sid was Ann’s brother.

The furniture of the room did not assert itself very much above the cheerful business of the table, but Kipps was impressed with the idea that it was pretty. There was a dresser at the end with a number of gay plates and a mug or so, a Labour Day poster by Walter Crane on the wall, and through the glass and over the blind of the shop door one had a glimpse of the bright-colour advertisement cards of bicycle dealers, and a shelf-ful of boxes labelled The Paragon Bell, the Scarum Bell, and The Patent Omi! Horn—

It seemed incredible that he had been in Folkestone that morning, that even now his aunt and uncle—!

B-r-r-r. It didn’t do to think of his Aunt and Uncle.


§ 4

When Sid repeated his invitation to come and see Masterman, Kipps, now flushed with beer and Irish stew, said he didn’t mind if he did, and after a preliminary shout from Sid that was answered by a voice and a cough, the two went upstairs.

‘Masterman’s a rare one,’ said Sid over his arm and in an undertone. ‘You should hear him speak at a meeting . . .  If he’s in form, that is.’

He rapped, and went into a large, untidy room.

‘This is Kipps,’ he said. ‘You know, the chap I told you of. With twelve ’undred a year.’

Masterman sat gnawing an empty pipe, and as close to the fire as though it was alight and the season midwinter. Kipps concentrated upon him for a space, and only later took in something of the frowsy furniture, the little bed half behind and evidently supposed to be wholly behind a careless screen, the spittoon by the fender, the remains of a dinner on the chest of drawers, and the scattered books and papers. Masterman’s face showed him a man of forty or more, with curious hollows at the side of his forehead and about his eyes. His eyes were very bright, there was a spot of red in his cheeks, and the wiry black moustache under his short red nose had been trimmed with scissors into a sort of brush along his upper lip. His teeth were darkened ruins. His jacket collar was turned up about a knitted white neck-wrap, and his sleeves betrayed no cuffs. He did not rise to greet Kipps, but he held out a thin-wristed hand and pointed with the other to a bedroom arm-chair.

‘Glad to see you,’ he said. ‘Sit down and make yourself at home. Will you smoke?’

Kipps said he would, and produced his store. He was about to take one, and then with a civil afterthought handed the packet first to Masterman and Sid. Masterman pretended surprise to find his pipe out before he took one. There was an interlude of matches. Sid pushed the end of the screen out of his way, sat down on the bed thus frankly admitted, and prepared, with a certain quiet satisfaction of manner, to witness Masterman’s treatment of Kipps.

‘And how does it feel to have twelve hundred a year?’ asked Masterman, holding his cigarette to his nose tip in a curious manner.

‘It’s rum,’ confided Kipps, after a reflective interval. ‘It feels juiced rum.’

‘I’ve never felt it,’ said Masterman.

‘It takes a bit of getting into,’ said Kipps. ‘I can tell you that.’

Masterman smoked and regarded Kipps with curious eyes.

‘I expect it does,’ he said presently. ‘And has it made you perfectly happy?’ he asked abruptly.

‘I couldn’t ’ardly say that,’ said Kipps.

Masterman smiled. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Has it made you much happier?’

‘It did at first.’

‘Yes. But you got used to it. How long, for example, did the real delirious excitement last?’

‘Oo, that! Perhaps a week,’ said Kipps.

Masterman nodded his head. ‘That’s what discourages me from amassing wealth,’ he said to Sid. ‘You adjust yourself. It doesn’t last. I’ve always had an inkling of that, and it’s interesting to get it confirmed. I shall go on sponging for a bit longer on you, I think.’

‘You don’t,’ said Sid. ‘No fear.’

‘Twenty-four thousand pounds,’ said Masterman, and blew a cloud of smoke. ‘Lord! Doesn’t it worry you?’

‘It is a bit worrying at times . . .  Things ’appen.’

‘Going to marry?’


‘H’m. Lady, I guess, of a superior social position?’

‘Rather,’ said Kipps. ‘Cousin to the Earl of Beauprés.’

Masterman readjusted his long body with an air of having accumulated all the facts he needed. He snuggled his shoulder-blades down into the chair and raised his angular knees. ‘I doubt,’ he said, flicking cigarette ash into the atmosphere, ‘if any great gain or loss of money does—as things are at present—make more than the slightest difference in one’s happiness. It ought to—if money was what it ought to be, the token given for service, one ought to get an increase in power and happiness for every pound one got. But the plain fact is, the times are out of joint, and money—money, like everything else—is a deception and a disappointment.’

He turned his face to Kipps and enforced his next words with the index finger of his lean lank hand. ‘If I thought other wise,’ he said, ‘I should exert myself to get some. But—if one sees things clearly one is so discouraged. So confoundedly discouraged . . .  When you first got your money you thought that it meant you might buy just anything you fancied?’

‘It was a bit that way,’ said Kipps.

‘And you found you couldn’t. You found that for all sorts of things it was a question of where to buy and how to buy, and what you didn’t know how to buy with your money, straight away this world planted something else upon you.’

‘I got rather done over a banjo first day,’ said Kipps.

‘Leastways, my uncle says so.’

‘Exactly,’ said Masterman.

Sid began to speak from the bed. ‘That’s all very well, Masterman,’ he said, ‘but after all, money is Power, you know. You can do all sorts of things—’

‘I’m talking of happiness,’ said Masterman. ‘You can do all sorts of things with a loaded gun in the Hammersmith Broadway, but nothing—practically—that will make you or any one else very happy. Nothing. Power’s a different matter altogether. As for happiness, you want a world in order before money or property or any of those things have any real value, and this world, I tell you, is hopelessly out of joint. Man is a social animal with a mind nowadays that goes round the globe, and a community cannot be happy in one part and unhappy in another. It’s all or nothing, no patching any more for ever. It is the standing mistake of the world not to understand that. Consequently people think there is a class or order somewhere just above them or just below them, or a country or place somewhere that is really safe and happy . . .  The fact is, Society is one body, and it is either well or ill. That’s the law. This society we live in is ill. It’s a fractious, feverish invalid, gouty, greedy, ill-nourished. You can’t have a happy left leg with neuralgia, or a happy throat with a broken leg. That’s my position, and that’s the knowledge you’ll come to. I’m so satisfied of it that I sit here and wait for my end quite calmly, sure that I can’t better things by bothering—in my time and so far as I am concerned, that is. I’m not even greedy any more—my egotism’s at the bottom of a pond with a philosophical brick round its neck. The world is ill, my time is short, and my strength is small. I’m as happy here as anywhere.’

He coughed, was silent for a moment, then brought the index finger round to Kipps again. ‘You’ve had the opportunity of sampling two grades of society, and you don’t find the new people you’re among much better or any happier than the old?’

‘No,’ said Kipps reflectively. ‘No. I ’aven’t seen it quite like that before, but—No. They’re not.’

‘And you might go all up the scale and down the scale and find the same thing. Man’s a gregarious beast, a gregarious beast, and no money will buy you out of your own time—any more than out of your own skin. All the way up and all the way down the scale there’s the same discontent. No one is quite sure where they stand, and every one’s fretting. The herd’s uneasy and feverish. All the old tradition goes or has gone, and there’s no one to make a new tradition. Where are your nobles now? Where are your gentlemen? They vanished directly the peasant found out he wasn’t happy and ceased to be a peasant. There’s big men and little men mixed up together, and that’s all. None of us know where we are. Your cads in a bank holiday train, and your cads on a two-thousand-pound motor, except for a difference in scale, there’s not a pin to choose between them. Your smart society is as low and vulgar and uncomfortable for a balanced soul as a gin palace, no more and no less; there’s no place or level of honour or fine living left in the world, so what’s the good of climbing?’

‘’Ear, ’ear,’ said Sid.

‘It’s true,’ said Kipps.

‘I don’t climb,’ said Masterman, and accepted Kipps’ silent offer of another cigarette.

‘No,’ he said. ‘This world is out of joint. It’s broken up, and I doubt if it’ll heal. I doubt very much if it’ll heal. We’re in the beginning of the Sickness of the World.’

He rolled his cigarette in his lean fingers and repeated with satisfaction, ‘The Sickness of the World.’

‘It’s we’ve got to make it better,’ said Sid, and looked at Kipps.

‘Ah, Sid’s an optimist,’ said Masterman.

‘So you are, most times,’ said Sid.

Kipps lit another cigarette with an air of intelligent participation.

‘Frankly,’ said Masterman, recrossing his legs and expelling a jet of smoke luxuriously, ‘frankly, I think this civilisation of ours is on the topple.’

‘There’s Socialism,’ said Sid.

‘There’s no imagination to make use of it.’

‘We’ve got to make one,’ said Sid.

‘In a couple of centuries, perhaps,’ said Masterman. ‘But meanwhile we’re going to have a pretty acute attack of universal confusion. Universal confusion. Like one of those crushes when men are killed and maimed for no reason at all, going into a meeting or crowding for a train. Commercial and Industrial Stresses. Political Exploitation. Tariff Wars. Revolutions. All the bloodshed that will come of some fools calling half the white world yellow. These things alter the attitude of everybody to everybody. Everybody’s going to feel ’em. Every fool in the world panting and shoving. We’re all going to be as happy and comfortable as a household during a removal. What else can we expect?’

Kipps was moved to speak, but not in answer to Masterman’s inquiry. ‘I’ve never rightly got the ’eng of this Socialism,’ he said. ‘What’s it going to do, like?’

They had been imagining that he had some elementary idea in the matter, but as soon as he had made it clear that he hadn’t Sid plunged at exposition, and in a little while Masterman, abandoning his pose of the detached man ready to die, joined in. At first he joined in only to correct Sid’s version, but afterwards he took control. His manner changed. He sat up and rested his elbow on his knees, and his cheek flushed a little. He expanded his case against property and the property class with such vigour that Kipps was completely carried away, and never thought of asking for a clear vision of the thing that would fill the void this abolition might create. For a time he quite forgot his own private opulence. And it was as if something had been lit in Masterman. His languor passed. He enforced his words by gestures of his long thin hands. And as he passed swiftly from point to point of his argument, it was evident he grew angry.

‘To-day,’ he said, ‘the world is ruled by rich men; they may do almost anything they like with the world. And what are they doing? Laying it waste!’

‘Hear, hear!’ said Sid, very sternly.

Masterman stood up, gaunt and long, thrust his hands in his pockets, and turned his back to the fire-place.

‘Collectively, the rich to-day have neither heart nor imagination. No! They own machinery, they have knowledge and instruments and powers beyond all previous dreaming, and what are they doing with them? Think what they are doing with them, Kipps, and think what they might do. God gives them a power like the motor-car, and all they can do with it is to go careering about the roads in goggled masks, killing children and making machinery hateful to the souls of men! (‘True,’ said Sid, ‘true.’) God gives them means of communication, power unparalleled of every sort, time, and absolute liberty! They waste it all in folly! Here under their feet (and Kipps’ eyes followed the direction of a lean index finger to the hearthrug), under their accursed wheels, the great mass of men festers and breeds in darkness, darkness those others make by standing in the light. The darkness breeds and breeds. It knows no better . . .  Unless you can crawl or pander or rob you must stay in the stew you are born in. And those rich beasts above claw and clutch as though they had nothing! They grudge us our schools, they grudge us a gleam of light and air, they cheat us, and then seek to forget us . . .  There is no rule, no guidance, only accidents and happy flukes . . .  Our multitudes of poverty increase, and this crew of rulers makes no provision, foresees nothing, anticipates nothing!’

He paused, and made a step, and stood over Kipps in a white heat of anger. Kipps nodded in a non-committal manner, and looked hard and rather gloomily at his host’s slipper as he talked.

‘It isn’t as though they had something to show for the waste they make of us, Kipps. They haven’t. They are ugly and cowardly and mean. Look at their women! Painted, dyed, and drugged, hiding their ugly shapes under a load of dress! There isn’t a woman in the swim of society at the present time who wouldn’t sell herself body and soul, who wouldn’t lick the boots of a Jew or marry a nigger, rather than live decently on a hundred a year! On what would be wealth for you or me! They know it. They know we know it . . .  No one believes in them. No one believes in nobility any more. Nobody believes in kingship any more. Nobody believes there is justice in the law . . .  But people have habits, people go on in the old grooves, as long as there’s work, as long as there’s weekly money . . .  It won’t last, Kipps.’

He coughed and paused. ‘Wait for the lean years,’ he cried. ‘Wait for the lean years.’ And suddenly he fell into a struggle with his cough, and spat a gout of blood. ‘It’s nothing,’ he said to Kipps’ note of startled horror.

He went on talking, and the protests of his cough interlaced with his words, and Sid beamed in an ecstasy of painful admiration.

‘Look at the fraud they have let life become, the miserable mockery of the hope of one’s youth. What have I had? I found myself at thirteen being forced into a factory like a rabbit into a chloroformed box. Thirteen!—when their children are babies. But even a child of that age could see what it meant, that Hell of a factory! Monotony and toil and contempt and dishonour! And then death. So I fought—at thirteen!’

Minton’s ‘crawling up a drainpipe till you die’ echoed in Kipps’ mind, but Masterman, instead of Minton’s growl, spoke in a high indignant tenor.

‘I got out at last—somehow,’ he said quietly, suddenly plumping back in his chair. He went on after a pause. ‘For a bit. Some of us get out by luck, some by cunning, and crawl on to the grass, exhausted and crippled, to die. That’s a poor man’s success, Kipps. Most of us don’t get out at all. I worked all day, and studied half the night, and here I am with the common consequences. Beaten! And never once have I had a fair chance, never once!’ His lean, clenched fist flew out in a gust of tremulous anger. ‘These Skunks shut up all the university scholarships at nineteen for fear of men like me. And then—do nothing . . .  We’re wasted for nothing. By the time I’d learnt something the doors were locked. I thought knowledge would do it—I did think that! I’ve fought for knowledge as other men fight for bread. I’ve starved for knowledge. I’ve turned my back on women; I’ve done even that. I’ve burst my accursed lung . . . ’ His voice rose with impotent anger. ‘I’m a better man than any ten princes alive. And I’m beaten and wasted. I’ve been crushed, trampled, and defiled by a drove of hogs. I’m no use to myself or the world. I’ve thrown my life away to make myself too good for use in this huckster’s scramble. If I had gone in for business, if I had gone in for plotting to cheat my fellowmen . . .  Ah, well! It’s too late. It’s too late for that, anyhow. It’s too late for anything now! And I couldn’t have done it . . .  And over in New York now there’s a pet of society making a corner in wheat!

‘By God!’ he cried hoarsely, with a clutch of the lean hand. ‘By God! if I had his throat! Even now! I might do something for the world.’

He glared at Kipps, his face flushed deep, his sunken eyes glowing with passion, and then suddenly he changed altogether.

There was a sound of tea-things rattling upon a tray outside the door, and Sid rose to open it.

‘All of which amounts to this,’ said Masterman, suddenly quiet again and talking against time. ‘The world is out of joint, and there isn’t a soul alive who isn’t half waste or more. You’ll find it the same with you in the end, wherever your luck may take you . . .  I suppose you won’t mind my having another cigarette?’

He took Kipps’ cigarette with a hand that trembled so violently it almost missed its object, and stood up, with something of guilt in his manner, as Mrs. Sid came into the room.

Her eye met his, and marked the flush upon his face.

‘Been talking Socialism?’ said Mrs. Sid, a little severely.


§ 5

Six o’clock that day found Kipps drifting eastward along the southward margin of Rotten Row. You figure him a small, respectably attired person going slowly through a sometimes immensely difficult and always immense world. At times he becomes pensive, and whistles softly; at times he looks about him. There are a few riders in the Row; a carriage flashes by every now and then along the roadway, and among the great rhododendrons and laurels and upon the green sward there are a few groups and isolated people dressed—in the style Kipps adopted to call upon the Walshinghams when first he was engaged. Amid the complicated confusion of Kipps’ mind was a regret that he had not worn his other things . . . 

Presently he perceived that he would like to sit down; a green chair tempted him. He hesitated at it, took possession of it, and leant back and crossed one leg over the other. He rubbed his under lip with his umbrella handle, and reflected upon Masterman and his denunciation of the world.

‘Bit orf ’is ’ead, poor chap,’ said Kipps; and added, ‘I wonder—’

He thought intently for a space.

‘I wonder what ’e meant by the lean years’ . . . 

The world seemed a very solid and prosperous concern just here, and well out of reach of Masterman’s dying clutch. And yet—

It was curious he should have been reminded of Minton.

His mind turned to a far more important matter. Just at the end Sid had said to him, ‘Seen Ann?’ and as he was about to answer, ‘You’ll see a bit more of her now. She’s got a place in Folkestone.

‘It had brought him back from any concern about the world being out of joint or anything of that sort.


One might run against her any day.

He tugged at his little moustache.

He would like to run against Ann very much . . . 

And it would be juiced awkward if he did!

In Folkestone! It was a jolly sight too close . . . 

Then at the thought that he might run against Ann in his beautiful evening dress on the way to the band, he fluttered into a momentary dream, that jumped abruptly into a nightmare.

Suppose he met her when he was out with Helen! ‘Oh, Lor!’ said Kipps. Life had developed a new complication that would go on and go on. For some time he wished with the utmost fervour that he had not kissed Ann, that he had not gone to New Romney the second time. He marvelled at his amazing forgetfulness of Helen on that occasion. He would have to write to Helen, an easy, off-hand letter to say he had come to London for a day or so. He tried to imagine her reading it. He would write just such another letter to the old people, and say he had had to come up on business. That might do for them all right, but Helen was different. She would insist on explanations.

He wished he could never go back to Folkestone again. That would about settle the whole affair.

A passing group attracted his attention, two faultlessly dressed gentlemen and a radiantly expensive lady. They were talking, no doubt, very brilliantly. His eyes followed them. The lady tapped the arm of the left-hand gentleman with a daintily tinted glove. Swells! No end . . . 

His soul looked out upon life in general as a very small nestling might peep out of its nest. What an extraordinary thing life was to be sure, and what a remarkable variety of people there were in it!

He lit a cigarette, and speculated upon that receding group of three, and blew smoke and watched them. They seemed to do it all right. Probably they all had incomes of very much over twelve hundred a year. Perhaps not. Probably they none of them suspected as they went past that he, too, was a gentleman of independent means, dressed as he was without distinction. Of course things were easier for them. They were brought up always to dress well and do the right thing from their very earliest years; they started clear of all his perplexities; they had never got mixed up with all sorts of different people who didn’t go together. If, for example, that lady there got engaged to that gentleman, she would be quite safe from any encounter with a corpulent, osculatory uncle, or Chitterlow, or the dangerously significant eye of Pearce.

His thoughts came round to Helen.

When they were married and Cuyps, or Cuyp—Coote had failed to justify his ‘s’—and in that West-End flat, and shaken free of all these low-class associations, would he and she parade here of an afternoon dressed like that? It would be rather fine to do so. If one’s dress was all right.


She was difficult to understand at times.

He blew extensive clouds of cigarette smoke.

There would be teas, there would be dinners, there would be calls—Of course he would get into the way of it.

But Anagrams were a bit stiff to begin with!

It was beastly confusing at first to know when to use your fork at dinner, and all that. Still—

He felt an extraordinary doubt whether he would get into the way of it. He was interested for a space by a girl and groom on horseback, and then he came back to his personal preoccupations.

He would have to write to Helen. What could he say to explain his absence from the Anagram Tea? She had been pretty clear she wanted him to come. He recalled her resolute face without any great tenderness. He knew he would look like a silly ass at that confounded tea! Suppose he shirked it and went back in time for the dinner! Dinners were beastly difficult too, but not so bad as anagrams. The very first thing that might happen when he got back to Folkestone would be to run against Ann. Suppose, after all, he did meet Ann when he was with Helen!

What queer encounters were possible in the world!

Thank goodness they were going to live in London!

But that brought him round to Chitterlow. The Chitterlows would be coming to London too. If they didn’t get money they’d come after it; they weren’t the sort of people to be choked off easily, and if they did, they’d come to London to produce their play. He tried to imagine some seemly social occasion invaded by Chitterlow and his rhetoric, by his torrential thunder of self-assertion, the whole company flattened thereunder like wheat under a hurricane.

Confound and hang Chitterlow! Yet somehow, somewhen, one would have to settle accounts with him! And there was Sid! Sid was Ann’s brother. He realised with sudden horror the social indiscretion of accepting Sid’s invitation to dinner.

Sid wasn’t the sort of chap one could snub or cut, and besides—Ann’s brother! He didn’t want to cut him; it would be worse than cutting Buggins and Pearce—a sight worse. And after that lunch! It would be next thing to cutting Ann herself. And even as to Ann!

Suppose he was with Helen or Coote!—

‘Oh, Blow!’ he said at last, and then viciously, ‘Blow!’ and so rose and flung away his cigarette end and pursued his reluctant dubitating way towards the really quite uncongenial splendours of the Royal Grand . . . 

And it is vulgarly imagined that to have money is to have no troubles at all!


§ 6

Kipps endured splendour at the Royal Grand Hotel for three nights and days, and then retreated in disorder. The Royal Grand defeated and overcame and routed Kipps not of intention, but by sheer royal grandeur, grandeur combined with an organisation for his comfort carried to excess. On his return he came upon a difficulty, he had lost his circular piece of card-board with the number of his room, and he drifted about the hall and passages in a state of perplexity for some time, until he thought all the porters and officials in gold lace caps must be watching him, and jesting to one another about him. Finally, in a quiet corner down below near the hairdresser’s shop, he found a kindly-looking personage in bottle green to whom he broached his difficulty. ‘I say,’ he said, with a pleasant smile, ‘I can’t find my room nohow.’ The personage in bottle green, instead of laughing in a nasty way, as he might well have done, became extremely helpful, showed Kipps what to do, got his key, and conducted him by lift and passage to his chamber. Kipps tipped him half a crown.

Safe in his room, Kipps pulled himself together for dinner. He had learnt enough from young Walshingham to bring his dress clothes, and now he began to assume them. Unfortunately, in the excitement of his flight from his aunt and uncle, he had forgotten to put in his other boots, and he was some time deciding between his purple cloth slippers with a golden marigold and the prospect of cleaning the boots he was wearing with the towel, but finally, being a little footsore, he took the slippers.


Afterwards, when he saw the porters and waiters and the other guests catch sight of the slippers, he was sorry he had not chosen the boots. However, to make up for any want of style at that end, he had his crush hat under his arm.

He found the dining-room without excessive trouble. It was a vast and splendidly decorated place, and a number of people, evidently quite au fait, were dining there at little tables lit with electric red-shaded candles, gentlemen in evening dress, and ladies with dazzling, astonishing necks. Kipps had never seen evening dress in full vigour before, and he doubted his eyes. And there were also people not in evening dress, who no doubt wondered what noble family Kipps represented. There was a band in a decorated recess, and the band looked collectively at the purple slippers, and so lost any chance they may have had of a donation so far as Kipps was concerned. The chief drawback to this magnificent place was the excessive space of floor that had to be crossed before you got your purple slippers hidden under a table.

He selected a little table—not the one where a rather impudent-looking waiter held a chair, but another—sat down, and, finding his gibus in his hand, decided after a moment of thought to rise slightly and sit on it. (It was discovered in his abandoned chair at a late hour by a supper-party and restored to him next day.)

He put the napkin carefully on one side, selected his soup without difficulty, ‘Clear, please,’ but he was rather floored by the presentation of a quite splendidly bound wine-card. He turned it over, discovered a section devoted to whisky, and had a bright idea.

‘’Ere,’ he said to the waiter, with an encouraging movement of the head; and then in a confidential manner,

‘You ’aven’t any Old Methuselah Three Stars, ’ave you?’

The waiter went away to inquire, and Kipps went on with his soup with an enhanced self-respect. Finally, Old Methuselah being unattainable, he ordered a claret from about the middle of the list. ‘Let’s ’ave some of this,’ he said. He knew claret was a good sort of wine.

‘A half bottle?’ said the waiter.

‘Right you are,’ said Kipps.

He felt he was getting on. He leant back after his soup, a man of the world, and then slowly brought his eyes round to the ladies in evening dress on his right . . . 

He couldn’t have thought it!

They were scorchers. Jest a bit of black velvet over the shoulders!

He looked again. One of them was laughing, with a glass of wine half raised—wicked-looking woman she was; the other, the black velvet one, was eating bits of bread with nervous quickness and talking fast.

He wished old Buggins could see them.

He found a waiter regarding him and blushed deeply. He did not look again for some time, and became confused about his knife and fork over the fish. Presently he remarked a lady in pink to the left of him eating the fish with an entirely different implement.

It was over the vol au vent that he began to go to pieces. He took a knife to it; then saw the lady in pink was using a fork only, and hastily put down his knife, with a considerable amount of rich creaminess on the blade, upon the cloth. Then he found that a fork in his inexperienced hand was an instrument of chase rather than capture. His ears became violently red, and then he looked up to discover the lady in pink glancing at him, and then smiling, as she spoke to the man beside her.

He hated the lady in pink very much.

He stabbed a large piece of the vol au vent at last, and was too glad of his luck not to make a mouthful of it. But it was an extensive fragment, and pieces escaped him. Shirtfront! ‘Desh it!’ he said, and had resort to his spoon. His waiter went and spoke to two other waiters, no doubt jeering at him. He became very fierce suddenly. ‘’Ere!’ he said, gesticulating; and then, ‘Clear this away!’

The entire dinner-party on his right, the party of the ladies in advanced evening dress, looked at him . . .  He felt that every one was watching him and making fun of him, and the injustice of this angered him. After all, they had had every advantage he hadn’t. And then, when they got him there doing his best, what must they do but glance and sneer and nudge one another. He tried to catch them at it, and then took refuge in a second glass of wine.

Suddenly and extraordinarily he found himself a Socialist. He did not care how close it was to the lean years when all these things would end.

Mutton came with peas. He arrested the hand of the waiter. ‘No peas,’ he said. He knew something of the danger and difficulty of eating peas. Then, when the peas went away, he was embittered again . . .  Echoes of Masterman’s burning rhetoric began to reverberate in his mind. Nice lot of people these were to laugh at any one! Women half undressed—It was that made him so beastly uncomfortable. How could one eat one’s dinner with people about him like that? Nice lot they were. He was glad he wasn’t one of them anyhow. Yes, they might look. He resolved, if they looked at him again, he would ask one of the men who he was staring at. His perturbed and angry face would have concerned any one. The band, by an unfortunate accident, was playing truculent military music. The mental change Kipps underwent was, in its way, what psychologists call a conversion. In a few moments all Kipps’ ideals were changed. He who had been ‘practically a gentleman,’ the sedulous pupil of Coote, the punctilious raiser of hats, was instantly a rebel, an outcast, the hater of everything ‘stuck up,’ the foe of Society and the social order of to-day. Here they were among the profits of their robbery, these people who might do anything with the world . . . 

‘No, thenks,’ he said to a dish.

He addressed a scornful eye at the shoulders of the lady to his left.

Presently he was refusing another dish. He didn’t like it—fussed-up food! Probably cooked by some foreigner. He finished up his wine and his bread . . . 

‘No, thenks.’

‘No, thenks’ . . . 

He discovered the eye of a diner fixed curiously upon his flushed face. He responded with a glare. Couldn’t he go without things if he liked?

‘What’s this?’ said Kipps, to a great green cone.

‘Ice,’ said the waiter.

‘I’ll ’ave some,’ said Kipps.

He seized fork and spoon and assailed the bombe. It cut rather stiffly. ‘Come up!’ said Kipps, with concentrated bitterness, and the truncated summit of the bomb flew off suddenly, travelling eastward with remarkable velocity. Flop, it went upon the floor a yard away, and for a while time seemed empty.

At the adjacent table they were laughing altogether.

Shy the rest of the bombe at them?


At any rate, a dignified withdrawal.

‘No,’ said Kipps, ‘no more,’ arresting the polite attempt of the waiter to serve him with another piece. He had a vague idea he might carry off the affair as though he meant the ice to go on the floor—not liking ice, for example, and being annoyed at the badness of his dinner. He put both hands on the table, thrust back his chair, disengaged a purple slipper from his napkin, and rose. He stepped carefully over the prostrate ice, kicked the napkin under the table, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and marched out—shaking the dust of the place, as it were, from his feet. He left behind him a melting fragment of ice upon the floor, his gibus hat, warm and compressed in his chair, and in addition, every social ambition he had ever entertained in the world.


§ 7

Kipps went back to Folkestone in time for the Anagram Tea. But you must not imagine that the change of heart that came to him in the dining-room of the Royal Grand Hotel involved any change of attitude towards this promised social and intellectual treat. He went back because the Royal Grand was too much for him.

Outwardly calm, or at most a little flushed and ruffled, inwardly Kipps was a horrible, tormented battleground of scruples, doubts, shames, and self-assertions during that three days of silent, desperate grappling with the big hotel. He did not intend the monstrosity should beat him without a struggle; but at last he had sullenly to admit himself overcome. The odds were terrific. On the one hand himself—with, among other things, only one pair of boots; on the other a vast wilderness of rooms, covering several acres, and with over a thousand people, staff and visitors, all chiefly occupied in looking queerly at Kipps, in laughing at him behind his back, in watching for difficult corners at which to confront and perplex him and inflict humiliations upon him. For example, the hotel scored over its electric light. After the dinner the chambermaid, a hard, unsympathetic young woman with a superior manner, was summoned by a bell Kipps had rung under the impression the button was the electric-light switch. ‘Look ’ere,’ said Kipps, rubbing a shin that had suffered during his search in the dark, ‘why aren’t there any candles or matches?’ The hotel explained and scored heavily.

‘It isn’t every one is up to these things,’ said Kipps.

‘No, it isn’t,’ said the chambermaid, with ill-concealed scorn, and slammed the door at him.

‘S’pose I ought to have tipped her,’ said Kipps.

After that Kipps cleaned his boots with a pocket-handkerchief and went for a long walk, and got home in a hansom; but the hotel scored again by his not putting out his boots, and so having to clean them again in the morning. The hotel also snubbed him by bringing him hot water when he was fully dressed and looking surprised at his collar, but he got a breakfast, I must admit, with scarcely any difficulty.

After that the hotel scored heavily by the fact that there are twenty-four hours in the day and Kipps had nothing to do in any of them. He was a little footsore from his previous day’s pedestrianism, and he could make up his mind for no long excursions. He flitted in and out of the hotel several times, and it was the polite porter who touched his hat every time that first set Kipps tipping.

‘What ’e wants is a tip,’ said Kipps.

So at the next opportunity he gave the man an unexpected shilling, and, having once put his hand in his pocket, there was no reason why he should not go on. He bought a newspaper at the bookstall and tipped the boy the rest of the shilling, and then went up by the lift and tipped the man sixpence, leaving his newspaper inadvertently in the lift. He met his chambermaid in the passage and gave her half a crown. He resolved to demonstrate his position to the entire establishment in this way. He didn’t like the place; he disapproved of it politically, socially, morally, but he resolved no taint of meanness should disfigure his sojourn in its luxurious halls. He went down by the lift (tipping again), and, being accosted by a waiter with his gibus, tipped the finder half a crown. He had a vague sense that he was making a flank movement upon the hotel and buying over its staff. They would regard him as a ‘character’; they would get to like him. He found his stock of small silver diminishing and replenished it at a desk in the hall. He tipped a man in bottle green who looked like the man who had shown him his room the day before; and then he saw a visitor eyeing him, and doubted whether he was in this instance doing right . . .  Finally he went out and took chance buses to their destinations, and wandered a little in remote wonderful suburbs, and returned. He lunched at a chophouse in Islington, and found himself back in the Royal Grand, now unmistakably footsore and London-weary, about three. He was attracted to the drawing-room by a neat placard about afternoon tea.

It occurred to him that the campaign of tipping upon which he had embarked was perhaps, after all, a mistake. He was confirmed in this by observing that the hotel officials were watching him, not respectfully, but with a sort of amused wonder, as if to see whom he would tip next. However, if he backed out now, they would think him an awful fool. Every one wasn’t so rich as he was. It was his way to tip. Still—

He grew more certain the hotel had scored again.

He pretended to be lost in thought, and so drifted by, and having put hat and umbrella in the cloakroom, went into the drawing-room for afternoon tea.

There he did get what for a time he held to be a point in his favour. The room was large and quiet at first, and he sat back restfully until it occurred to him that his attitude brought his extremely dusty boots too prominently into the light, so instead he sat up, and then people of the upper and upper middle classes began to come and group themselves about him and have tea likewise, and so revive the class animosities of the previous day.

Presently a fluffy fair-haired lady came into prominent existence a few yards away. She was talking to a respectful low-voiced clergyman, whom she was possibly entertaining at tea. ‘No,’ she said; ‘dear Lady Jane wouldn’t do that!’

‘Mumble, mumble, mumble,’ from the clergyman.

‘Poor dear Lady Jane was always so sensitive,’ the voice of the lady sang out clear and emphatic.

A fat, hairless, important-looking man joined this group, took a chair, and planted it firmly with its back in the face of Kipps, a thing that offended Kipps mightily. ‘Are you telling him,’ gurgled the fat, hairless man, ‘about dear Lady Jane’s affliction?’ A young couple, lady brilliantly attired, and the man in a magnificently cut frock-coat, arranged themselves to the right, also with an air of exclusion towards Kipps. ‘I’ve told him,’ said the gentleman in a flat, abundant voice. ‘My!’ said the young lady with an American smile. No doubt they all thought Kipps was out of it. A great desire to assert himself in some way surged up in his heart. He felt he would like to cut in on the conversation in some dramatic way. A monologue, something in the manner of Masterman? At any rate, abandoning that as impossible, he would like to appear self-centred and at ease. His eye, wandering over the black surfaces of a noble architectural mass close by, discovered a slot and an enamelled plaque of directions.

It occurred to Kipps that he would like some music, that to inaugurate some would show him a man of taste and at his ease at the same time. He rose, read over a list of tunes, selected one haphazard, pressed his sixpence—it was sixpence!—home, and prepared for a confidential refined little melody.

Considering the high social tone of the Royal Grand, it was really a very loud instrument indeed. It gave vent to three deafening brays, and so burst the dam of silence that had long pent it in. It seemed to be chiefly full of the great-uncles of trumpets, megalo-trombones, and railway-brakes. It made sounds like shunting trains. It did not so much begin as blow up your counterscarp and rush forward to storm under cover of melodious shrapnel. It had not so much an air as a ricochet. The music had, in short, the inimitable quality of Sousa. It swept down upon the friend of Lady Jane and carried away something socially striking into the eternal night of the unheard; the American girl to the left of it was borne off shrieking. ‘High cockalorum Tootletootle tootle loo. High cockalorum tootle lootle loo. Bump, bump, bump—Bump,’—Native American music, full of native American notes, full of the spirit of western college yells and election howls, joyous, exorbitant music from the gigantic nursery of the Future, bearing the hearer along upon its torrential succession of sounds, as if he was in a cask on Niagara. Whiroo! Yah! Have at you! The Strenuous Life! Yaha! Stop! A Reprieve! A Reprieve! No! Bang! Bump!

Everybody looked round, conversation ceased and gave place to gestures.

The friend of Lady Jane became terribly agitated.

‘Can’t it be stopped?’ she vociferated, pointing a gloved finger and saying something to the waiter about ‘that dreadful young man.’

‘Ought not to be working,’ said the clerical friend of Lady Jane.

The waiter shook his head at the fat, hairless gentleman.

People began to move away. Kipps leant back luxurious and then tapped with a half-crown to pay.

He paid, tipped like a gentleman, rose with an easy gesture, and strolled towards the door. His retreat evidently completed the indignation of the friend of Lady Jane, and from the door he could still discern her gestures as asking, ‘Can’t it be stopped?’ The music followed him into the passage and pursued him to the left, and only died away completely in the quiet of his own room, and afterwards from his window he saw the friend of Lady Jane and her party having their tea carried out to a little table in the Court.

Certainly that was a point to him. But it was his only score; all the rest of the game lay in the hands of the upper classes and the big hotel. And presently he was doubting whether even this was really a point. It seemed a trifle vulgar, come to think it over, to interrupt people when they were talking.

He saw a clerk peering at him from the office, and suddenly it occurred to him that the place might get back at him tremendously over the bill.

They would probably take it out of him by charging pounds and pounds.

Suppose they charged more than he had!

The clerk had a particularly nasty face, just the face to take advantage of a vacillating Kipps.

He became aware of a man in a cap touching it, and produced his shilling automatically, but the strain was beginning to tell. It was a deuce and all of an expense—this tipping.

If the hotel chose to stick it on to the bill something tremendous, what was Kipps to do? Refuse to pay? Make a row?

If he did he couldn’t fight all these men in bottle green.

He went out about seven and walked for a long time, and dined at last upon a chop in the Euston Road; then he walked along to the Edgware Road and sat and rested in the Metropolitan Music Hall for a time, until a trapeze performance unnerved him, and finally he came back to bed. He tipped the lift-man sixpence, and wished him goodnight. In the silent watches of the night he reviewed the tale of the day’s tipping, went over the horrors of the previous night’s dinner, and heard again the triumphant bray of the harmonicon devil released from its long imprisonment. Every one would be told about him tomorrow. He couldn’t go on! He admitted his defeat. Never in their whole lives had any of these people seen such a Fool as he! Ugh!—

His method of announcing his withdrawal to the clerk was touched with bitterness.

‘I’m going to get out of this,’ said Kipps, blowing windily. ‘Let’s see what you got on my bill.’

‘One breakfast?’ asked the clerk.

‘Do I look as if I’d ate two?’—

At his departure, Kipps, with a hot face, convulsive gestures, and an embittered heart, tipped every one who did not promptly and actively resist, including an absentminded South African diamond merchant who was waiting in the hall for his wife. He paid his cabman a four-shilling piece at Charing Cross, having no smaller change, and wished he could burn him alive. Then in a sudden reaction of economy he refused the proffered help of a porter, and carried his bag quite violently to the train.

Kipps - Contents    |     Book Two - Chapter the Eighth - Kipps Enters Society

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