The First Men in the Moon – Day 3 of 82

“You don’t. You never have been. It’s all nonsense. There isn’t a way. To-night for instance–“

“Oh! to-night! Let me see. Ah! I just glanced at my watch, saw that I had already been out just three minutes over the precise half-hour, decided there was not time to go round, turned–“

“You always do.”

He looked at me–reflected. “Perhaps I do, now I come to think of it. But what was it you wanted to speak to me about?”

“Why, this!”


“Yes. Why do you do it? Every night you come making a noise–“

“Making a noise?”

“Like this.” I imitated his buzzing noise. He looked at me, and it was evident the buzzing awakened distaste. “Do I do that?” he asked.

“Every blessed evening.”

“I had no idea.”

He stopped dead. He regarded me gravely. “Can it be,” he said, “that I have formed a Habit?”

“Well, it looks like it. Doesn’t it?”

He pulled down his lower lip between finger and thumb. He regarded a puddle at his feet.

“My mind is much occupied,” he said. “And you want to know why! Well, sir, I can assure you that not only do I not know why I do these things, but I did not even know I did them. Come to think, it is just as you say; I never have been beyond that field…. And these things annoy you?”

For some reason I was beginning to relent towards him. “Not annoy,” I said. “But–imagine yourself writing a play!”

“I couldn’t.”

“Well, anything that needs concentration.”

“Ah!” he said, “of course,” and meditated. His expression became so eloquent of distress, that I relented still more. After all, there is a touch of aggression in demanding of a man you don’t know why he hums on a public footpath.

“You see,” he said weakly, “it’s a habit.”

“Oh, I recognise that.”

“I must stop it.”

“But not if it puts you out. After all, I had no business–it’s something of a liberty.”

“Not at all, sir,” he said, “not at all. I am greatly indebted to you. I should guard myself against these things. In future I will. Could I trouble you–once again? That noise?”

“Something like this,” I said. “Zuzzoo, zuzzoo. But really, you know–“

“I am greatly obliged to you. In fact, I know I am getting absurdly absent-minded. You are quite justified, sir–perfectly justified. Indeed, I am indebted to you. The thing shall end. And now, sir, I have already brought you farther than I should have done.”

“I do hope my impertinence–“

“Not at all, sir, not at all.”

We regarded each other for a moment. I raised my hat and wished him a good evening. He responded convulsively, and so we went our ways.

At the stile I looked back at his receding figure. His bearing had changed remarkably, he seemed limp, shrunken. The contrast with his former gesticulating, zuzzoing self took me in some absurd way as pathetic. I watched him out of sight. Then wishing very heartily I had kept to my own business, I returned to my bungalow and my play.

The next evening I saw nothing of him, nor the next. But he was very much in my mind, and it had occurred to me that as a sentimental comic character he might serve a useful purpose in the development of my plot. The third day he called upon me.

For a time I was puzzled to think what had brought him. He made indifferent conversation in the most formal way, then abruptly he came to business. He wanted to buy me out of my bungalow.

“You see,” he said, “I don’t blame you in the least, but you’ve destroyed a habit, and it disorganises my day. I’ve walked past here for years–years. No doubt I’ve hummed…. You’ve made all that impossible!”

I suggested he might try some other direction.

“No. There is no other direction. This is the only one. I’ve inquired. And now–every afternoon at four–I come to a dead wall.”

“But, my dear sir, if the thing is so important to you–“

“It’s vital. You see, I’m–I’m an investigator–I am engaged in a scientific research. I live–” he paused and seemed to think. “Just over there,” he said, and pointed suddenly dangerously near my eye. “The house with white chimneys you see just over the trees. And my circumstances are abnormal–abnormal. I am on the point of completing one of the most important–demonstrations–I can assure you one of the most important demonstrations that have ever been made. It requires constant thought, constant mental ease and activity. And the afternoon was my brightest time!–effervescing with new ideas–new points of view.”

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