The coffin merchant looked at him oddly, and produced a printed form from his pocket. “If you would fill this up,” he said.
Eustace picked it up off the counter and laughed aloud. It was an order for a hundred-guinea funeral.
“I don’t know what your game is,” he said, “but this has gone on long enough.”
“Perhaps it has, Mr. Reynolds,” said the coffin merchant, and he leant across the counter and looked Eustace straight in the face.
For a moment Eustace was amused; then he was suddenly afraid. “I think it’s time I——” he began slowly, and then he was silent, his whole will intent on fighting the eyes of the coffin merchant. The song of the gas-jet waned to a point in his ears, and then rose steadily till it was like the beating of the world’s heart. The eyes of the coffin merchant grew larger and larger, till they blended in one great circle of fire. Then Eustace picked a pen off the counter and filled in the form.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Reynolds,” said the coffin merchant, shaking hands with him politely. “I can promise you every civility and despatch. Good-day, sir.”
Outside on the pavement Eustace stood for a while trying to recall exactly what had happened. There was a slight scratch on his hand, and when he automatically touched it with his lips, it made them burn. The lit lamps in the Gray’s Inn Road seemed to him a little unsteady, and the passers-by showed a disposition to blunder into him.
“Queer business,” he said to himself dimly; “I’d better have a cab.”
He reached home in a dream.
It was nearly ten o’clock before the doctor remembered his promise, and went upstairs to Eustace’s flat. The outer door was half-open so that he thought he was expected, and he switched on the light in the little hall, and shut the door behind him with the simplicity of habit. But when he swung round from the door he gave a cry of astonishment. Eustace was lying asleep in a chair before him with his face flushed and drooping on his shoulder, and his breath hissing noisily through his parted lips. The doctor looked at him quizzically, “If I did not know you, my young friend,” he remarked, “I should say that you were as drunk as a lord.”
And he went up to Eustace and shook him by the shoulder; but Eustace did not wake.
“Queer!” the doctor muttered, sniffing at Eustace’s lips; “he hasn’t been drinking.”
Outside, above the uneasy din of the traffic, the sky was glorious with the far peace of a fine summer evening. Through the upper pane of the station window Police-constable Bennett, who felt that his senses at the moment were abnormally keen, recognised with a sinking heart such reds and yellows as bedecked the best patchwork quilt at home. By contrast the lights of the superintendent’s office were subdued, so that within the walls of the police-station