Will Warburton by George Gissing
Warburton had never seen Godfrey Sherwood so restless and excitable as during these weeks when the business in Little Ailie Street was being brought to an end, and the details of the transfer to Bristol were being settled. Had it not been inconsistent with all the hopeful facts of the situation, as well as with the man's temper, one would have thought that Godfrey suffered from extreme nervousness; that he lived under some oppressive anxiety, which it was his constant endeavour to combat with resolute high spirits. It seemed an odd thing that a man who had gone through the very real cares and perils of the last few years without a sign of perturbation, nay, with the cheeriest equanimity, should let himself be thrown into disorder by the mere change to a more promising state of things. Now and then Warburton asked himself whether his partner could be concealing some troublesome fact with regard to Applegarth's concern; but he dismissed the idea as too improbable; Sherwood was far too good a fellow, far too conscientious a man of business, to involve his friend in obvious risk--especially since it had been decided that Mrs. Warburton's and her money should go into the affair. The inquiries made by Mr. Turnbull had results so satisfactory that even the resolute pessimist could not but grudgingly admit his inability to discover storm-signals. Though a sense of responsibility made a new element in his life, which would not let him sleep quite so soundly as hitherto, Will persuaded himself that he had but to get to work, and all would be right.
The impression made upon him by Applegarth himself was very favourable. The fact that the jam manufacturer was a university man, an astronomer, and a musician, had touched Warburton's weak point, and he went down to Bristol the first time with an undeniable prejudice at the back of his mind; but this did not survive a day or two's intercourse. Applegarth recommended himself by an easy and humorous geniality of bearing which Warburton would have been the last man to resist; he talked of his affairs with the utmost frankness.
"The astonishing thing to me is," he said, "that I've made this business pay. I went into it on abstract principle. I knew nothing of business. At school, I rather think, I learnt something about 'single and double entry,' but I had forgotten it all--just as I find myself forgetting how to multiply and divide, now that I am accustomed to the higher mathematics. However, I had to earn a little money, somehow, and I thought I'd try jam. And it went by itself, I really don't understand it, mere good luck, I suppose. I hear of fellows who have tried business, and come shocking croppers. Perhaps they were classical men nothing so hopeless as your classic. I beg your pardon; before saying that, I ought to have found out whether either of you is a classic."
The listeners both shook their heads, and laughed.
"So much the better. An astronomer, it is. plain, may manufacture jam; a fellow brought up on Greek and Latin verses couldn't possibly."
They were together at Bristol for a week, then Sherwood received a telegram, and told Warburton that he must return to London immediately.
"Something that bothers you?" said Will, noting a peculiar tremor on his friend's countenance.
"No, no; a private affair; nothing to do with us. You stay on till Saturday? I might be back in twenty-four hours."
"Good. Yes; I want to have some more talk with Applegarth about that advertising proposal. I don't like to start with quite such a heavy outlay"
"Nor I either," replied Godfrey, his eyes wandering. He paused, bit the end of his moustache, and added. "By the bye, the St. Neots money will be paid on Saturday, you said?"
"I believe so. Or early next week."
"That's right. I want to get done. Queer how these details fidget me. Nerves! I ought to have had a holiday this summer. You were wiser."
The next day Warburton went out with Applegarth to his house some ten miles south of Bristol, and dined there, and stayed over night. It had not yet been settled where he and Sherwood should have their permanent abode; there was a suggestion that they should share a house which was to let not far from Applegarth's, but Will felt uneasy at the thought of a joint tenancy, doubting whether he could live in comfort with any man. He was vexed at having to leave his flat in Chelsea, which so thoroughly suited his habits and his tastes.
Warburton and his host talked much of Sherwood.
"When I first met him," said the jam-manufacturer, "he struck me as the queerest man of business--except myself--that I had ever seen. He talked about Norse sagas, witchcraft, and so on, and when he began about business, I felt uneasy. Of course I know him better now."
"There are not many steadier and shrewder men than Sherwood," remarked Will.
"I feel sure of that," replied the other. And he added, as if to fortify himself in the opinion: "Yes, I feel sure of it."
"In spite of all his energy, never rash."
"No, no; I can see that. Yet," added Applegarth, again as if for self-confirmation, "he has energy of an uncommon kind."
"That will soon show itself," replied Warburton, smiling. "He's surveying the field like a general before battle."
"Yes. No end of bright ideas. Some of them--perhaps--not immediately practicable."
"Oh, Sherwood looks far ahead."
Applegarth nodded, and for a minute or two each was occupied with his own reflections.