'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."'
'An objectionable word, that. Better say: "What's the reality?" Well, Mr Bailey is a grocer in a little street by here. I have dealt with him for a long time, and as he's a talkative fellow I've come to know a good deal about him and his history. He's fond of talking about the struggle he had in his first year of business. He had no money of his own, but he married a woman who had saved forty-five pounds out of a cat's-meat business. You should see that woman! A big, coarse, squinting creature; at the time of the marriage she was a widow and forty-two years old. Now I'm going to tell the true story of Mr Bailey's marriage and of his progress as a grocer. It'll be a great book--a great book!'
He walked up and down the room, fervid with his conception.
'There'll be nothing bestial in it, you know. The decently ignoble--as I've so often said. The thing'll take me a year at least. I shall do it slowly, lovingly. One volume, of course; the length of the ordinary French novel. There's something fine in the title, don't you think? "Mr Bailey, Grocer"!'