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Chronicles of Clovis

The Remoulding Of Groby Lington
"A man is known by the company he keeps."
In the morning-room of his sister-in-law's house Groby Lington fidgeted away the
passing minutes with the demure restlessness of advanced middle age. About a quarter of
an hour would have to elapse before it would be time to say his good-byes and make his
way across the village green to the station, with a selected escort of nephews and nieces.
He was a good-natured, kindly dispositioned man, and in theory he was delighted to pay
periodical visits to the wife and children of his dead brother William; in practice, he
infinitely preferred the comfort and seclusion of his own house and garden, and the
companionship of his books and his parrot to these rather meaningless and tiresome
incursions into a family circle with which he had little in common. It was not so much the
spur of his own conscience that drove him to make the occasional short journey by rail to
visit his relatives, as an obedient concession to the more insistent but vicarious
conscience of his brother, Colonel John, who was apt to accuse him of neglecting poor
old William's family. Groby usually forgot or ignored the existence of his neighbour
kinsfolk until such time as he was threatened with a visit from the Colonel, when he
would put matters straight by a hurried pilgrimage across the few miles of intervening
country to renew his acquaintance with the young people and assume a kindly if rather
forced interest in the well-being of his sister-in-law. On this occasion he had cut matters
so fine between the timing of his exculpatory visit and the coming of Colonel John, that
he would scarcely be home before the latter was due to arrive. Anyhow, Groby had got it
over, and six or seven months might decently elapse before he need again sacrifice his
comforts and inclinations on the altar of family sociability. He was inclined to be
distinctly cheerful as he hopped about the room, picking up first one object, then another,
and subjecting each to a brief bird-like scrutiny.
Presently his cheerful listlessness changed sharply to an attitude of vexed attention. In a
scrap-book of drawings and caricatures belonging to one of his nephews he had come
across an unkindly clever sketch of himself and his parrot, solemnly confronting each
other in postures of ridiculous gravity and repose, and bearing a likeness to one another
that the artist had done his utmost to accentuate. After the first flush of annoyance had
passed away, Groby laughed good-naturedly and admitted to himself the cleverness of
the drawing. Then the feeling of resentment repossessed him, resentment not against the
caricaturist who had embodied the idea in pen and ink, but against the possible truth that
the idea represented. Was it really the case that people grew in time to resemble the
animals they kept as pets, and had he unconsciously become more and more like the
comically solemn bird that was his constant companion? Groby was unusually silent as
he walked to the train with his escort of chattering nephews and nieces, and during the
short railway journey his mind was more and more possessed with an introspective
conviction that he had gradually settled down into a sort of parrot-like existence. What,
after all, did his daily routine amount to but a sedate meandering and pecking and
perching, in his garden, among his fruit trees, in his wicker chair on the lawn, or by the
fireside in his library? And what was the sum total of his conversation with chance-
 
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