A Prisoner in Fairyland
Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man
Commands all light, all influence, all fate,
Nothing to him falls early, or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
Minks--Herbert Montmorency--was now something more than secretary, even
than private secretary: he was confidential-private-secretary, adviser, friend; and
this, more because he was a safe receptacle for his employer's enthusiasms than
because his advice or judgment had any exceptional value. So many men need
an audience. Herbert Minks was a fine audience, attentive, delicately responsive,
sympathetic, understanding, and above all--silent. He did not leak. Also, his
applause was wise without being noisy. Another rare quality he possessed was
that he was honest as the sun. To prevaricate, even by gesture, or by saying
nothing, which is the commonest form of untruth, was impossible to his
transparent nature. He might hedge, but he could never lie. And he was 'friend,'
so far as this was possible between employer and employed, because a pleasant
relationship of years' standing had established a bond of mutual respect under
conditions of business intimacy which often tend to destroy it.
Just now he was very important into the bargain, for he had a secret from his wife
that he meant to divulge only at the proper moment. He had known it himself but
a few hours. The leap from being secretary in one of Henry Rogers's companies
to being that prominent gentleman's confidential private secretary was, of course,
a very big one. He hugged it secretly at first alone. On the journey back from the
City to the suburb where he lived, Minks made a sonnet on it. For his emotions
invariably sought the safety valve of verse. It was a wiser safety valve for high
spirits than horse-racing or betting on the football results, because he always
stood to win, and never to lose. Occasionally he sold these bits of joy for half a
guinea, his wife pasting the results neatly in a big press album from which he
often read aloud on Sunday nights when the children were in bed. They were
signed 'Montmorency Minks'; and bore evidence of occasional pencil corrections
on the margin with a view to publication later in a volume. And sometimes there
were little lyrical fragments too, in a wild, original metre, influenced by Shelley
and yet entirely his own. These had special pages to themselves at the end of
the big book. But usually he preferred the sonnet form; it was more sober, more
dignified. And just now the bumping of the Tube train shaped his emotion into
something that began with
Success that poisons many a baser mind
With thoughts of self, may lift--
but stopped there because, when he changed into another train, the jerkier
movement altered the rhythm into something more lyrical, and he got somewhat
confused between the two and ended by losing both.