Chronicles of Clovis HTML version

A Chapter In Acclimatization
His baptismal register spoke of him pessimistically as John Henry, but he had left that
behind with the other maladies of infancy, and his friends knew him under the front-name
of Adrian. His mother lived in Bethnal Green, which was not altogether his fault; one can
discourage too much history in one's family, but one cannot always prevent geography.
And, after all, the Bethnal Green habit has this virtue--that it is seldom transmitted to the
next generation. Adrian lived in a roomlet which came under the auspicious constellation
of W.
How he lived was to a great extent a mystery even to himself; his struggle for existence
probably coincided in many material details with the rather dramatic accounts he gave of
it to sympathetic acquaintances. All that is definitely known is that he now and then
emerged from the struggle to dine at the Ritz or Carlton, correctly garbed and with a
correctly critical appetite. On these occasions he was usually the guest of Lucas Croyden,
an amiable worldling, who had three thousand a year and a taste for introducing
impossible people to irreproachable cookery. Like most men who combine three
thousand a year with an uncertain digestion, Lucas was a Socialist, and he argued that
you cannot hope to elevate the masses until you have brought plovers' eggs into their
lives and taught them to appreciate the difference between coupe Jacques and Macédoine
de fruits. His friends pointed out that it was a doubtful kindness to initiate a boy from
behind a drapery counter into the blessedness of the higher catering, to which Lucas
invariably replied that all kindnesses were doubtful. Which was perhaps true.
It was after one of his Adrian evenings that Lucas met his aunt, Mrs. Mebberley, at a
fashionable tea shop, where the lamp of family life is still kept burning and you meet
relatives who might otherwise have slipped your memory.
"Who was that good-looking boy who was dining with you last night?" she asked. "He
looked much too nice to be thrown away upon you."
Susan Mebberley was a charming woman, but she was also an aunt.
"Who are his people?" she continued, when the protégé's name (revised version) had been
given her.
"His mother lives at Beth--"
Lucas checked himself on the threshold of what was perhaps a social indiscretion.
"Beth? Where is it? It sounds like Asia, Minor. Is she mixed up with Consular people?"