No one spoke; and rising with quiet dignity, he went back into his study without a word.
“Very well,” said Duncan; “you may all do as you like; only I heartily hope now you will be caught. Come, Owen.”
“Oh, Williams,” said Owen, “you are changed indeed, to treat your best friend so.”
But Eric was excited with drink, and the slave of every evil passion at that moment. “Serve him right,” he said; “what business has he to interfere with what I choose to do?”
There was no more noise that night. Wildney and the rest slunk off ashamed and frightened, and Eric, leaving his candle flaring on the table, went down to his bed-room, where he was very sick. He had neither strength nor spirit to undress, and flung himself into bed just as was. When they heard that he was gone, Owen and Duncan (for Montagu was silent and melancholy) went into his study, put out the candle, and had only just cleared away, to the best of their power, the traces of the carouse, when Dr. Rowlands came up stairs on his usual nightly rounds. They had been lighting brown paper to take away the fames of the brandy, and the Doctor asked them casually the cause of the smell of burning. Neither of them answered, and seeing Owen there, in whom he placed implicit trust, the Doctor thought no more about it.
Eric awoke with a bad headache, and a sense of shame and sickness. When he got up he felt most wretched, and while washing he thought to himself, “Ah! that I could thus wash away the memory of last night!” Of course, after what had occurred, Eric and Montagu were no longer on speaking terms, and miserable as poor Eric felt when he saw how his blow had bruised and disfigured his friend’s face, he made no advances. He longed, indeed, from his inmost heart, to be reconciled to him; but feeling that he had done grievous wrong, he dreaded a repulse, and his pride would not suffer him to run the risk. So he pretended to feel no regret, and, supported by his late boon-companions, represented the matter as occurring in the defence of Wildney, whom Montagu was bullying.
Montagu, too, was very miserable; but he felt that, although ready to forgive Eric, he could not, in common self-respect, take the first step to a reconciliation: indeed, he rightly thought that it was not for Eric’s good that he should do so.
“You and Williams appear never to speak to each other now,” said Mr. Rose. “I am sorry for it, Monty; I think you are the only boy who has any influence over him.”
“I fear you are mistaken, sir, in that. Little Wildney has much more.”
“Wildney?” asked Mr. Rose, in sorrowful surprise. “Wildney more influence than you?”
“Ah, that our poor Edwin had lived!”
So, with a sigh, Walter Rose and Harry Montagu buried their friendship for Eric until happier days.