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They all had evening papers, and some had morning papers to finish.Most of them appeared to make this journey regularly, for they knew each other, and exchanged market gossip or commented on public affairs.He had not made up his mind, but ways and means did not greatly trouble him. I say had 'hoped for,' for it was the conventional notion most fathers entertain, though I doubt if I should have had much patience with the reality. He didn't care a rush for the public-school spirit.His goal was so clear that he would find a road to it. He was rather a delicate child, but after he had passed his seventh birthday his health improved, and at his preparatory school he was a sturdy young ruffian who had no ailments except the conventional mumps and measles.But he never paraded his learning, for his desire was to be in complete harmony with his surroundings, and to look very much the pioneer. I remembered how we had sat on a rock one evening looking over the trough of Equatoria, and, as the sun crimsoned the distant olive-green forests, he had told me his ambitions. His old hankerings after legal or literary or political success at home had gone. He had had his 'call' and was hastening to answer it. The man whom I had thought of as a young eagle was content to be a barndoor fowl. Lombard was settled like Moab on his lees, but so was I.Those were the old days in East Africa, before the 'Happy Valley' and the remittance man and settlers who wanted self-government, and people's hopes were high. The man in the corner opposite me was apparently an authority on the subject, and he had much to say about different firms of nursery gardeners. In those days the after-glow of Cecil Rhodes's spell still lay on Africa, and men could dream dreams. Henceforth his life was to be dedicated to one end, the building up of a British Equatoria, with the highlands of the East and South as the white man's base. Well, if he was satisfied, it was no business of mine, but I had a dreary sense of the fragility of hopes and dreams. We all make pictures of ourselves that we try to live up to, and mine had always been of somebody hard and taut who could preserve to the last day of life a decent vigour of spirit.
Lamancha was to make a full-dress speech, and Lamancha on such an occasion is worth hearing.
I thought that there might be a touch of the Jew in his ancestry--something high-coloured and foreign at any rate, for he was more expansive and quickly fired than the rest of us. It was to be a magnet to attract our youth and a settlement ground for our surplus population. They offered me a knighthood too, but my firm thought I'd better stand out. My firm made a pot of money in the War, and we haven't done so badly since.' He was friendly and obviously glad to see me, but after so long a gap in our acquaintance he found it difficult to come to close quarters. I could only stare at his bland comfortable face and try in vain to recapture in it something that had gone for ever. As we slackened speed, he dusted his hat, adjusted an aquascutum on his arm, and looked out of the window. What about lunching together one day--my club's the Junior Carlton? I can give you quite a decent game of golf.' The train drew up at a trim little platform covered with smooth yellow gravel, and a red station house, like a Wesleyan chapel, which in June would be smothered with Dorothy Perkins roses. What were my hobbies and my easy days but the consolations of senility? 'You are becoming soft and elderly, which is the law of life, and you haven't the grit to grow old cheerfully.' That put a stopper on my complaints, but it left me dejected and only half convinced.
But on the whole he was as English as a Hampshire water-meadow. It was to carry with it a spiritual renaissance for England. Matches were being fixed up for the following Sunday. Bad luck we didn't spot each other sooner, for I should have liked a yarn with you.' 'So should I,' was my answer. There was a long line of fading geraniums, and several plots of chrysanthemums. I looked at my face in the mirror in the carriage back, and it disgusted me, for it reminded me of my recent companions who had pattered about golf. All that autumn and early winter I had an uneasy feeling at the back of my mind.
I would remember something I had not thought of for years, or start without reason an unusual line of thought.
But I have observed that in a queer way I have been sometimes prepared for them by my mind drifting into an unexpected mood.