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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

And then Algy Algy's not a fool


"Thank

you for your courtesy, Algy. Won't you lend me your arm?"

As Algy was small and frail, somewhat shaky, and as Argyle was a finely built, heavy man of fifty or more, the slap was unkind.

"Afraid I can't tonight. Good-night--"

Algy departed, so did little Mee, who had sat with a little delighted disapproval on his tiny, bird-like face, without saying anything. And even the Jew Rosen put away his deaf-machine and began awkwardly to take his leave. His long nose was smiling to itself complacently at all the things Argyle had been saying.

When he, too, had gone, Argyle arched his brows at Aaron, saying:

"Oh, my dear fellow, what a lot they are!--Little Mee--looking like an innocent little boy. He's over seventy if he's a day. Well over seventy. Well, you don't believe me. Ask his mother--ask his mother. She's ninety-five. Old lady of ninety-five--" Argyle even laughed himself at his own preposterousness.

"And then Algy--Algy's not a fool, you know. Oh, he can be most entertaining, most witty, and amusing. But he's out of place here. He should be in Kensington, dandling round the ladies' drawing rooms and making his _mots_. They're rich, you know, the pair of them. Little Mee used to boast that he lived on eleven-and-three-pence a week. Had to, poor chap. But then what does a

white mouse like that need? Makes a heavy meal on a cheese-paring. Luck, you know--but of course he's come into money as well. Rich as Croesus, and still lives on nineteen-and-two-pence a week. Though it's nearly double, of course, what it used to be. No wonder he looks anxious. They disapprove of me--oh, quite right, quite right from their own point of view. Where would their money be otherwise? It wouldn't last long if I laid hands on it--" he made a devilish quizzing face. "But you know, they get on my nerves. Little old maids, you know, little old maids. I'm sure I'm surprised at their patience with me.--But when people are patient with you, you want to spit gall at them. Don't you? Ha-ha-ha! Poor old Algy.--Did I lay it on him tonight, or did I miss him?"

"I think you got him," said Aaron.

"He'll never forgive me. Depend on it, he'll never forgive me. Ha-ha! I like to be unforgiven. It adds ZEST to one's intercourse with people, to know that they'll never forgive one. Ha-ha-ha! Little old maids, who do their knitting with their tongues. Poor old Algy--he drops his stitches now. Ha-ha-ha!--Must be eighty, I should say."

Aaron laughed. He had never met a man like Argyle before--and he could not help being charmed. The other man had a certain wicked whimsicality that was very attractive, when levelled against someone else, and not against oneself. He must have been very handsome in his day, with his natural dignity, and his clean-shaven strong square face. But now his face was all red and softened and inflamed, his eyes had gone small and wicked under his bushy grey brows. Still he had a presence. And his grey hair, almost gone white, was still handsome.

"And what are you going to do in Florence?" asked Argyle.

Aaron explained.

"Well," said Argyle. "Make what you can out of them, and then go. Go before they have time to do the dirty on you. If they think you want anything from them, they'll treat you like a dog, like a dog. Oh, they're very frightened of anybody who wants anything of them: frightened to death. I see nothing of them.--Live by myself--see nobody. Can't stand it, you know: their silly little teaparties--simply can't stand it. No, I live alone--and shall die alone.--At least, I sincerely hope so. I should be sorry to have any of them hanging round."


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