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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 1 of 3||
Mr. Hoopdriver helped the eggs and then, instead of beginning, sat with his cheek on his hand, watching Jessie pour out the coffee. His ears were a bright red, and his eyes bright. He took his coffee cup clumsily, cleared his throat, suddenly leant back in his chair, and thrust his hands deep into his pockets. "I'll do it," he said aloud.
"Do what?" said Jessie, looking up in surprise over the coffee pot. She was just beginning her scrambled egg.
"Miss Milton-- I'm a liar." He put his head on one side and regarded her with a frown of tremendous resolution. Then in measured accents, and moving his head slowly from side to side, he announced, "Ay'm a deraper."
"You're a draper? I thought--"
"You thought wrong. But it's bound to come up. Pins, attitude, habits--It's plain enough.
"I'm a draper's assistant let out for a ten-days holiday. Jest a draper's assistant. Not much, is it? A counter-jumper."
"A draper's assistant isn't a position to be ashamed of," she said, recovering, and not quite understanding yet what this all meant.
"Yes, it is," he said, "for a man, in this country now. To be just another man's hand, as I am. To have to wear what clothes you are told, and go to church to please customers, and work--There's no other kind of men stand such hours. A drunken bricklayer's a king to it."
"But why are you telling me this now?"
"It's important you should know at once."
"But, Mr. Benson--"
"That isn't all. If you don't mind my speaking about myself a bit, there's a few things I'd like to tell you. I can't go on deceiving you. My name's not Benson. WHY I told you Benson, I DON'T know. Except that I'm a kind of fool. Well--I wanted somehow to seem more than I was. My name's Hoopdriver."
"And that about South Africa--and that lion."
And the discovery of diamonds on the ostrich farm. Lies too. And all the reminiscences of the giraffes--lies too. I never rode on no giraffes. I'd be afraid."
He looked at her with a kind of sullen satisfaction. He had eased his conscience, anyhow. She regarded him in infinite perplexity. This was a new side altogether to the man. "But WHY," she began.
"Why did I tell you such things? _I_ don't know. Silly sort of chap, I expect. I suppose I wanted to impress you. But somehow, now, I want you to know the truth."
Silence. Breakfast untouched. "I thought I'd tell you," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I suppose it's snobbishness and all that kind of thing, as much as anything. I lay awake pretty near all last night thinking about myself; thinking what a got-up imitation of a man I was, and all that."
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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