When William Came HTML version

The Intelligent Anticipator Of Wants
Two of Yeovil’s London clubs, the two that he had been accustomed to frequent, had
closed their doors after the catastrophe. One of them had perished from off the face of
the earth, its fittings had been sold and its papers lay stored in some solicitor’s office, a
tit-bit of material for the pen of some future historian. The other had transplanted itself to
Delhi, whither it had removed its early Georgian furniture and its traditions, and sought to
reproduce its St. James’s Street atmosphere as nearly as the conditions of a tropical
Asiatic city would permit. There remained the Cartwheel, a considerably newer
institution, which had sprung into existence somewhere about the time of Yeovil’s last
sojourn in England; he had joined it on the solicitation of a friend who was interested in
the venture, and his bankers had paid his subscription during his absence. As he had
never been inside its doors there could be no depressing comparisons to make between its
present state and aforetime glories, and Yeovil turned into its portals one afternoon with
the adventurous detachment of a man who breaks new ground and challenges new
He entered with a diffident sense of intrusion, conscious that his standing as a member
might not be recognised by the keepers of the doors; in a moment, however, he realised
that a rajah’s escort of elephants might almost have marched through the entrance hall
and vestibule without challenge. The general atmosphere of the scene suggested a blend
of the railway station at Cologne, the Hotel Bristol in any European capital, and the
second act in most musical comedies. A score of brilliant and brilliantined pages
decorated the foreground, while Hebraic-looking gentlemen, wearing tartan waistcoats of
the clans of their adoption, flitted restlessly between the tape machines and telephone
boxes. The army of occupation had obviously established a firm footing in the hospitable
premises; a kaleidoscopic pattern of uniforms, sky-blue, indigo, and bottle-green, relieved
the civilian attire of the groups that clustered in lounge and card rooms and corridors.
Yeovil rapidly came to the conclusion that the joys of membership were not for him. He
had turned to go, after a very cursory inspection of the premises and their human
occupants, when he was hailed by a young man, dressed with strenuous neatness, whom
he remembered having met in past days at the houses of one or two common friends.
Hubert Herlton’s parents had brought him into the world, and some twenty-one years
later had put him into a motor business. Having taken these pardonable liberties they had
completely exhausted their ideas of what to do with him, and Hubert seemed unlikely to
develop any ideas of his own on the subject. The motor business elected to conduct itself
without his connivance; journalism, the stage, tomato culture (without capital), and other
professions that could be entered on at short notice were submitted to his consideration
by nimble-minded relations and friends. He listened to their suggestions with polite
indifference, being rude only to a cousin who demonstrated how he might achieve a
settled income of from two hundred to a thousand pounds a year by the propagation of
mushrooms in a London basement. While his walk in life was still an undetermined
promenade his parents died, leaving him with a carefully-invested income of thirty-seven