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23. Chapter XXIII
I saw Strickland not infrequently, and now and then played chess with him. He was of uncertain temper. Sometimes he would sit silent and abstracted, taking no notice of anyone; and at others, when he was in a good humour, he would talk in his own halting way. He never said a clever thing, but he had a vein of brutal sarcasm which was not ineffective, and he always said exactly what he thought. He was indifferent to the susceptibilities of others, and when he wounded them was amused. He was constantly offending Dirk Stroeve so bitterly that he flung away, vowing he would never speak to him again; but there was a solid force in Strickland that attracted the fat Dutchman against his will, so that he came back, fawning like a clumsy dog, though he knew that his only greeting would be the blow he dreaded.
I do not know why Strickland put up with me. Our relations were peculiar. One day he asked me to lend him fifty francs.
"I wouldn't dream of it," I replied.
"It wouldn't amuse me."
"I'm frightfully hard up, you know."
"I don't care."
"You don't care if I starve?"
"Why on earth should I?" I asked in my turn.
He looked at me for a minute or two, pulling his untidy beard. I smiled at him.
"What are you amused at?" he said, with a gleam of anger in his eyes.
"You're so simple. You recognise no obligations. No one is under any obligation to you."
"Wouldn't it make you uncomfortable if I went and hanged myself because I'd been turned out of my room as I couldn't pay the rent?"
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