THE PLACE OF TORMENT
The surgery-bell pealed imperiously, and Tudor looked up from his book. It was his custom to read far into the night, for he was a poor sleeper and preferred a cosy fireside to his bed. But that night he was even later than usual. Glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece, he saw that it was a quarter to two. With a shrug of the shoulders expressive rather of weariness than indifference, he rose to answer the bell.
It pealed again before he reached the door, and the doctor frowned. He was never very tolerant of impatience. He unfastened the bolts without haste. The case might be urgent, but a steady hand and cool nerve were usually even more essential than speed in his opinion. He opened the door therefore with a certain deliberation, and faced the sharp night air with grim resignation. “Well? Who is it? Come in!”
He expected to see some village messenger, and the sight of Piers, stern-faced, with the fur collar of his motor-coat turned up to his ears, was a complete surprise.
“Hullo!” he said, staring at him. “Anything wrong?”
Piers stared back with eyes of burning hostility. “I want a word with you,” he announced curtly. “Will you come out, or shall I come in?”
“You’d better come in,” said Tudor, suppressing a shiver, “unless I’m wanted up at the Abbey.”
“You’re not,” said Piers.
He stepped into the passage, and impetuously stripped off his heavy coat. Tudor shut the door, and turned round. He surveyed his visitor’s evening-dress with a touch of contempt. He himself was clad in an ancient smoking-jacket, much frayed at the cuffs; and his carpet-slippers were so trodden down at the heel that he could only just manage to shuffle along in them.
“Go into the consulting-room!” he said. “There’s a light there.”
Piers strode in, and waited for him. Seen by the light of the gas that burned there, his face was pale and set in lines of iron determination. His eyes shone out of it like the eyes of an infuriated wild beast.
“Do you know what I’ve come for?” he said, as Tudor shambled into the room.
Tudor looked him over briefly and comprehensively. “No, I don’t,” he said. “I hoped I’d seen the last of you.”
His words were as brief as his look. It was obvious that he had no intention of wasting time in mere courtesy.
Piers’ lips tightened at his tone. He looked full and straight at the baffling glasses that hid the other man’s contemptuous eyes.
“I’ve come for a reckoning with you,” he said.
“Really?” said Tudor. He glanced again at the clock. “Rather an unusual hour, isn’t it?”
Piers passed the question by. He was chafing on his feet like a caged animal. Abruptly he came to the point.
“I told you the other day that I wouldn’t put up with any interference from you. I didn’t know then how far your interference had gone. I do know now. This scheme to get me out of the country was of your contrivance.”