he was rather pleased to enlighten me with the information that this
kind of stone came from Whitby in Yorkshire and that it was greatly
prized in England for mourning jewellery.
insisted that jet was a gem stone. "The decrees of fashion," I remember
declaiming at him, "may raise a green cheese to the status of a planet,
but the text books still lay it down that this black substance is a
fossil wood, a kind of immature coal, and not very hard at that—"
do not let my wife hear you say that," he said in a frigid tone, "for
she is excessively proud of her jet ornaments." Thereupon he left me
abruptly and I saw him no more.
I gazed intently at the rapidly approaching white cliffs of Dover, a
voice spoke in my inner ear. It said: "There are many ways of putting
people against you. But the most sure way of all is to insist on
telling them the unpalatable truth."
a day or two I found myself in a typical Blooms-bury boarding-house,
dining in the company of four Indian law students, a City solicitor, an
unfrocked Catholic priest, a newly arrived Capetown stockbroker and his
wife, and the divorcée of a brilliant barrister who within the year
took silk. The table was presided over by Mrs. Francis, the landlady, a
tall passée blonde with, as I discovered later, a kind heart.
At first I had some difficulty in following the animated conversation,
for I was still rather rocky in my knowledge of English, to say the
least of it. But presently I realised that the conversation was