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An excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter:
As I returned home after the dinner at Tonks's lightly weighing my friends' talents, the thought suddenly struck me that in leaving London I was leaving them for ever, whether in a week or six weeks I did not know; only of this was I sure, that my departure could not be much longer delayed; and while passing through Grosvenor Gardens, I began to wonder by what means the Destiny I had just heard would pull me out of my flat in Victoria Street. Two years or eighteen months of my lease still remained; this lag end had been advertised, but no desirable tenant had presented himself, and it did not seem to me that I could go away to Dublin leaving the flat empty, taking with me all my pictures and furniture. A house in Dublin would be part of my equipment as a Gaelic League propagandist, and it would cost me a hundred pounds a year; houses in Dublin are rarely in good repair, some hundreds might have to be spent upon it; and, falling into an armchair, I asked myself where all this money was to come from. My will is always at ebb when the necessity arises of writing to my banker to ask him how many hundred pounds are between me and destitution. We are but a heredity. My father was a spendthrift and hated accounts, and to me accounts are as mysterious as Chinese, as repellent. We are the same man with a difference; the pain that his pecuniary embarrassment caused him seems to have fallen on me with such force that I am naturally economical. My agent said when he visited me in the Temple: Very few would be content to live in a cock-loft like you, George. His remark or a certain lady's objection to the three flights of stairs had tempted me out of the Temple, and now hatred of the Boer War was forcing me into what seemed a pit of ruin. Two hundred and fifty a year I shall be paying for houses, I said, and yet I must go; even if I am to end my days in the workhouse I must go, even though to engage in Gaelic League propaganda may break up the mould of my mind. The mould of my mind doesn't interest me any longer, it is an English mould; better break it up at once and have done with it. Whereupon my thoughts faded away into a vague meditation in which ideas did not shape themselves, and next morning I rose from my bed undecided whether I should go or stay, but knowing all the while that I was going. It was a queer feeling, day passing over day, and myself saying to myself: I am twelve hours nearer departure than I was yesterday, yet having no idea how I was going to be freed from my flat, but certain that something would come to free me. And the something that came was the Westminster Trust, a Company that had been formed for the purpose of acquiring property in Victoria Street.
It had been creeping up from Westminster for some time past, absorbing house after house, turning the grey austere residential mansions built in 1830 into shops. It had reached within a few doors of me about the time of my landlord's death, and, as soon as his property passed into the hands of the Trust, notice was served upon the tenants that their leases would not be renewed. One lease, that of a peaceable General Officer who lived over my head and never played the piano, expired about that time, and as arrangements could not be made for turning his flat at once into offices it was let, temporarily, to a foreign financier, who demanded more light. The extra windows that were put in to suit his pleasure and convenience seemed to the Company's architect such an improvement that the Company offered to put extra windows into my rooms free of cost.
But don't you see that if two windows be put in, the present admirable relation of wall space to window will be destroyed?
Light, after all --
I engaged these rooms, I said, because I believed that they would afford me the quiet necessary for the composition of books, but for the last three weeks I haven't heard the sweet voice of a silent hour. Have you an ear for music? Tell me if a silent hour is not comparable to a melody by Mozart? You live in a quiet suburban neighbourhood, I'm sure, and can tell me. All the beautiful peace of Peckham is in your face.
The manager regretted that the improvements over my head had caused me inconvenience, and he suggested putting me upon half-rent until these were completed; a surprisingly generous offer, so thought I at the time; but very soon I discovered that the reduction of my rent gave him all kinds of rights, including the building of a wall depriving my pantry of eight or nine inches of light, and the chipping away of my window-sills. The news that I was about to lose my window-sills brought me out of my bedroom in pyjamas, and, throwing up the window...