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HOME > Biographical > The Man Who Found Himself > CHAPTER V I WILL NOT BE HIM
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Out in Harley Street Simon walked hurriedly and without goal. It was getting past luncheon-time; he had forgotten the fact.

Oppenshaw was one of those men who carry conviction. You will have noticed in life that quite a lot of people don't convince; they may be good, they may be earnest, but they don't convince. Selling a full-grown dog in the world's market, they have little chance against a convincing competitor selling a pup.

Oppenshaw's twenty-five thousand a year came, in good part, from this quality. He had convinced Simon of the fact that inside Simon lay Youth that was once Simon—Youth that, though unseen and unknown to the world, could still dominate its container even to the extent of meddling with his bank balance.

That for Simon was at this moment the main fact in the situation. It was sufficiently bad[Pg 35] that this old imperious youth should be able to make him act foolishly, but that was nothing to the fact that it was able to tamper with his money.

Simon's money was the solid ground under his feet, and he recognised, now, that it was everything to him—everything. He could have sacrificed at a pinch all else; he could have sacrificed Mudd, his furniture, his old prints, his cellar, but his money was even more than the ground under his feet—it was himself.

Suppose this disease were to recur often and at shorter intervals, or become chronic?

He calculated furiously that at the rate of five thousand a month his fortune would last, roughly, a year and a half. He saw his securities being sold, his property in Hertfordshire, his furniture, his pictures.

He had a remedy, it is true: to put himself under restraint. A nice sort of remedy!

In Weymouth Street, the home of nursing homes and doctors, into which he had wandered, his mind tension became so acute that the impulse came on him to hurry back to Oppenshaw in the vague hope that something else might be done—some operation, for instance. He knew little of medicine and less of surgery, but he had heard of people being operated on[Pg 36] for brain mischief, and he remembered, now, having read of an old admiral who had lost consciousness owing to an injury at the battle of the Nile, and had remained unconscious till an operation cured him some months later.

He was saved from bothering Oppenshaw again by an instinctive feeling that it would be useless. You cannot extract the follies of youth by an operation. He went on trending towards Oxford Street, but still without object.

What made his position worse was his instinct as a solicitor. For forty years he had, amongst other work, been engaged in tying up Youth so that it could not get at Property, extracting Youth from pitfalls it had tumbled into whilst carrying Property in its arms. The very words "youth" and "property," innocent in themselves, were obnoxious to Simon when combined. He had always held that no young man ought to inherit till he was twenty-five, and, heaven knows, that opinion had a firm basis in experience. He had always in law looked askance on youth and its doings. In practice he had been tolerant enough, though, indeed, youth comes little in the way of a hard-working and prominent elderly solicitor, but in law, and he was mostly law, he had little tolerance, no respect.

And here was youth with his property in its[Pg 37] arms, or what was, perhaps, even worse, the imminent dread of that unholy alliance.

In Oxford Street he stopped at a shop window and inspected ladies' blouses—that was his condition of mind; jewellers' windows held him, not by the excellence of their goods, but by the necessity to turn his back to the crowd and think—think—think.

His mind was in a turmoil, and he could no more control his thoughts than he could have controlled the traffic; the wares of the merchants exposed to view seemed to do the thinking. Gold alberts only held his eye to explain that his lands in Hertfordshire flung on the market in the present state of agriculture would not fetch a tithe of their worth, but that his green-seal sherry and all the treasures of his cellar would bring half the West End to their sale—Old Pettigrew's cellar.

Other things in other shops spoke to him in a like manner, and then he found himself at Oxford Circus with the sudden consciousness that this was not fighting Lethmann's disease by the exercise of will. His will had, in fact, been in abeyance, his imagination master of him.

But a refuge in the middle of Oxford Circus was not exactly the place for the re-equipment of will-power; the effort nearly cost him his life[Pg 38] from a motor-lorry as he crossed. Then, when he had reached the other side and could resume work free of danger, he found that he had apparently no will to re-equip.

He found himself repeating over and over the words, "I will not be him—I will not be him." That seemed all right for a moment, and he would have satisfied himself that his will-power was working splendidly, had not a sudden cold doubt sprung up in his heart as to whether the proper formula ought not to be, "He will not be me."

Ah! that was the crux of the business. It was quite easy to determine, "I will not be him," but when it came to the declaration, "He will not be me," Simon found that he had no will-power in the matter. It was quite easy to determine that he would not do foolish things, impossible to determine that another should not do them.

Then it came to his mind like a flash that the other one was not a personality so much as a combination of foolish actions, old desires, and alien motives let loose on the world without governance.

He turned mechanically into Verreys' and had a chop. At Simpson's in the Strand he always had a chop or a cut from the saddle, or a cut[Pg 39] from the sirloin—like the razors, the daily menus following one another in rotation. This was a chop day, just as it was a "Tuesday" day, and habit prevented him from forgetting the fact. The chop and a half-bottle of St. Estéphe made him feel a stronger man. He suddenly became cheerful and valiant.

"If worst comes to worst," said he to himself, "I can put myself under restraint; nobody need know. Yes, begad! I have always that. I can put myself under surveillance. Why, dash it! I can tie up my money so that I can't touch it; it's quite easy."

The chop and St. Estéphe, hauling him out of the slough of despond, told him this. It was a sure way of escape from losing his money. He had furiously rejected the idea at Oppenshaw's, but at Oppenshaw's his Property had not had time to talk fully to him, but in that awful journey from Harley Street to Verreys' he had walked arm-in-arm with his Property chattering on one side and dumb Bankruptcy on the other.

Restraint would have been almost as odious as bankruptcy to him, yet now, as a sure means of escape from the other, it seemed almost a pleasant prospect.

He left Verreys' and walked along feeling brighter and better. He turned into the[Pg 40] Athen?um. It was turning-in time at the Athen?um, and the big armchairs were full of somnolent ones, bald heads drooping, whiskers hidden by the sheets of the Times. Here he met Sir Ralph Puttick, Hon. Physician to His Majesty, stiff, urbane, stately, seeming ever supported on either side by a lion and a unicorn.

Sir Ralph and Simon were known one to the other and had much in common, including anti-socialism.

In armchairs, they talked of Lloyd George—at least, Sir Ralph did, Simon had other considerations on his mind. Leaning forward in his chair, he suddenly asked, apropos of nothing:

"Did you ever hear of a disease called Lethmann's disease?"

Now Sir Ralph was Chest and Heart, nothing else. He was also nettled at "shop" being suddenly thrust upon him by a damned attorney, for Simon was "Simon Pettigrew, quite a character, one of our old-fashioned, first-class English lawyers," when Sir Ralph was in a good temper and happened to consider Simon; nettled, Simon was a "damned attorney."

"Never," said Sir Ralph. "What disease did you say?"

"Lethmann's. It's a new disease, it seems."

Another horrid blunder, as though the lion[Pg 41] and unicorn man were only acquainted with old diseases—out of date, in fact.

"Never," replied the other. "There's no such thing. Who told you about it?"

"I read about it," said Simon. He tried to give a picture of the symptoms and failed to convince, but he managed to irritate. The semi-royal one listened with a specious appearance of attention and even interest; then, the other having finished, he opened his batteries.

Simon left the Club with the feeling that he had been put upon the stand beside charlatans, quacks, and the purveyor of crank theories; also that he had been snubbed.

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