A Broken Looking-Glass
He climbed the three flights of stone stairs, and put his key into the lock; but before he turned it, he stopped—
to rest, to take breath. On the door his name was painted in big white letters, Mr. Richard Dane. It is always
silent in the Temple at midnight; to-night the silence was dense, like a fog. It was Sunday night; and on
Sunday night, even within the hushed precincts of the Temple one is conscious of a deeper hush.
When he had lighted the lamp in his sitting-room, he let himself drop into an armchair before the empty
fireplace. He was tired, he was exhausted. Yet nothing had happened to tire him. He had dined, as he always
dined on Sundays, with the Rodericks, in Cheyne Walk; he had driven home in a hansom. There was no
reason why he should be tired. But he was tired. A deadly lassitude penetrated his body and his spirit like a
fluid. He was too tired to go to bed.
“I suppose I am getting old,” he thought.
To a second person the matter would have appeared not one of supposition but of certainly, not of
progression but of accomplishment. Getting old indeed? But he
old. It was an old man, grey and wrinkled
and wasted, who sat there, limp, sunken upon himself, in his easy-chair. In years, to be sure, he was under
sixty; but he looked like a man of seventy-five.
“I am getting old, I suppose, I am getting old.”
And vaguely, dully, he contemplated his life, spread out behind him like a misty landscape, and thought what a
failure it had been. What had it come to? What had it brought him? What had he done or won?
Nothing, nothing. It had brought him nothing but old age, solitude, disappointment, and, to-night especially, a
sense of fatigue and apathy that weighed upon him like a suffocating blanket. On a table, a yard or two away,
stood a decanter of whisky, with some soda-water bottles and tumblers; he looked at it with heavy eyes, and
he knew that there was what he needed. A little whisky would strengthen him, revive him, and make it possible
for him to bestir himself and undress and go to bed. But when he thought of rising and moving to pour the
whisky out, he shrank from that effort as from an Herculean labour; no—he was too tired. Then his mind went
back to the friends he had left in Chelsea half an hour ago; it seemed an indefinably long time ago, years and
years ago; they were like blurred phantoms, dimly remembered from a remote past.
Yes, his life had been a failure; total, miserable, abject. It had come to nothing; its harvest was a harvest of
ashes. If it had been a useful life, he could have accepted its unhappiness; if it had been a happy life, he could
have forgotten its uselessness; but it had been both useless and unhappy. He had done nothing for others, he
had won nothing for himself. Oh, but he had tried, he had tried. When he had left Oxford people expected