"Smell," P. Sybarite mused aloud....
For an instant he was silent in depression. Then with extraordinary vehemence he continued crescendo: "Stupid-stagnant-sepulchral- sempiternally-sticky-Smell!"
He paused for both breath and words—pondered with bended head, knitting his brows forbiddingly.
"Supremely squalid, sinisterly sebaceous, sombrely sociable Smell!" he pursued violently.
Momentarily his countenance cleared; but his smile was as fugitive as the favour of princes.
Vindictively champing the end of a cedar penholder, he groped for expression: "Stygian ... sickening ... surfeiting ... slovenly ... sour...."
He shook his head impatiently and clawed the impregnated atmosphere with a tragic hand.
"Stench!" he perorated in a voice tremulous with emotion.
Even that comprehensive monosyllable was far from satisfactory.
"Oh, what's the use?" P. Sybarite despaired.
Alliteration could no more; his mother-tongue itself seemed poverty-stricken, his native wit inadequate. With decent meekness he owned himself unfit for the task to which he had set himself.
"I'm only a dub," he groaned—"a poor, God-forsaken, prematurely aged and indigent dub!"
For ten interminable years the aspiration to do justice to the Genius of the Place had smouldered in his humble bosom; to-day for the first time he had attempted to formulate a meet apostrophe to that God of his Forlorn Destiny; and now he chewed the bitter cud of realisation that all his eloquence had proved hopelessly poor and lame and halting.
Perched on the polished seat of a very tall stool, his slender legs fraternising with its legs in apparently inextricable intimacy; sharp elbows digging into the nicked and ink-stained bed of a counting-house desk; chin some six inches above the pages of a huge leather-covered ledger, hair rumpled and fretful, mouth doleful, eyes disconsolate—he gloomed...
On this the eve of his thirty-second birthday and likewise the tenth anniversary of his servitude, the appearance of P. Sybarite was elaborately normal—varying, as it did, but slightly from one year's-end to the other.
His occupation had fitted his head and shoulders with a deceptive but none the less perennial stoop. His means had endowed him with a single outworn suit of ready-made clothing which, shrinking sensitively on each successive application of the tailor's sizzling goose, had come to disclose his person with disconcerting candour—sleeves too short, trousers at once too short and too narrow, waistcoat buttons straining over his chest, coat buttons refusing to recognise a buttonhole save that at the waist. Circumstances these that added measurably to his apparent age, lending him the semblance of maturity attained while still in the shell of youth.
The ruddy brown hair thatching his well-modelled head, his sanguine colouring, friendly blue eyes and mobile lips suggested Irish lineage; and his hands which, though thin and clouded with smears of ink, were strong and graceful (like the slender feet in his shabby shoes) bore out the suggestion with an added hint of gentle blood....