The Guilty River
4. He Explains Himself
Giles Toller's miserly nature had offered to his lodger shelter from wind and rain, and the
furniture absolutely necessary to make a bedroom habitable--and nothing more. There
was no carpet on the floor, no paper on the walls, no ceiling to hide the rafters of the roof.
The chair that I sat on was the one chair in the room; the man whose guest I had rashly
consented to be found a seat on his bed. Upon his table I saw pens and pencils, paper and
ink, and a battered brass candlestick with a common tallow candle in it. His changes of
clothing were flung on the bed; his money was left on the unpainted wooden chimney-
piece; his wretched little morsel of looking-glass (propped up near the money) had been
turned with its face to the wall. He perceived that the odd position of this last object had
attracted my notice.
"Vanity and I have parted company," he explained; "I shrink from myself when I look at
myself now. The ugliest man living--if he has got his hearing--is a more agreeable man in
society than I am. Does this wretched place disgust you?"
He pushed a pencil and some sheets of writing-paper across the table to me. I wrote my
reply: "The place makes me sorry for you."
He shook his head. "Your sympathy is thrown away on me. A man who has lost his social
relations with his fellow-creatures doesn't care how he lodges or where he lives. When he
has found solitude, he has found all he wants for the rest of his days. Shall we introduce
ourselves? It won't be easy for me to set the example."
I used the pencil again: "Why not?"
"Because you will expect me to give you my name. I can't do it. I have ceased to bear my
family name; and, being out of society, what need have I for an assumed name? As for
my Christian name, it's so detestably ugly that I hate the sight and sound of it. Here, they
know me as The Lodger. Will you have that? or will you have an appropriate nick-name?
I come of a mixed breed; and I'm likely, after what has happened to me, to turn out a
worthless fellow. Call me The Cur. Oh, you needn't start! that's as accurate a description
of me as any other. What's your name?"
I wrote it for him. His face darkened when he found out who I was.
"Young, personally attractive, and a great landowner," he said. I saw you just now talking
familiarly with Cristel Toller. I didn't like that at the time; I like it less than ever now."
My pencil asked him, without ceremony, what he meant.
He was ready with his reply. "I mean this: you owe something to the good luck which has
placed you where you are. Keep your familiarity for ladies in your own rank of life."