'Perhaps I might speak to you outside the door a minute, sir?'
He and the teacher went out, the door closed, and Reardon heard sounds of muffled conversation. In a minute or two a heavy footstep descended the stairs, and Biffen re-entered the room.
'Now that's a good, honest fellow,' he said, in an amused tone. 'It's my pay-night, but he didn't like to fork out money before you. A very unusual delicacy in a man of that standing. He pays me sixpence for an hour's lesson; that brings me two shillings a week. I sometimes feel a little ashamed to take his money, but then the fact is he's a good deal better off than I am.'
'Will he get a place in the Customs, do you think?'
'Oh, I've no doubt of it. If it seemed unlikely, I should have told him so before this. To be sure, that's a point I have often to consider, and once or twice my delicacy has asserted itself at the expense of my pocket. There was a poor consumptive lad came to me not long ago and wanted Latin lessons; talked about going in for the London Matric., on his way to the pulpit. I couldn't stand it. After a lesson or two I told him his cough was too bad, and he had no right to study until he got into better health; that was better, I think, than saying plainly he had no chance on earth. But the food I bought with his money was choking me. Oh yes, Baker will make his way right enough. A good, modest fellow.
You noticed how respectfully he spoke to me? It doesn't make any difference to him that I live in a garret like this; I'm a man of education, and he can separate this fact from my surroundings.'
'Biffen, why don't you get some decent position? Surely you might.'
'What position? No school would take me; I have neither credentials nor conventional clothing. For the same reason I couldn't get a private tutorship in a rich family. No, no; it's all right. I keep myself alive, and I get on with my work.-- By-the-bye, I've decided to write a book called "Mr Bailey, Grocer."'