We stood and listened whilst the white mist gathered and grew over the cobbles. Certainly there was a strain of music, very faint and dim, threading through the air.
“Well, I must go on,” said Bohun. “You go up to the left, don’t you? Good-night.” I watched Bohun’s figure cross the Square. The light was wonderful, like fold on fold of gauze, but opaque, so that buildings showed with sharp outline behind it. The moon was full and quite red. I turned to go home and ran straight into Lawrence.
“Good heavens!” I cried. “Are you a ghost too?”
He didn’t seem to feel any surprise at meeting me. He was plainly in a state of tremendous excitement. He spoke breathlessly.
“You’re exactly the man. You must come back with me. My diggings now are only a yard away from here.”
“It’s very late,” I began, “and—”
“Things are desperate,” he said. “I don’t know—” he broke off. “Oh! come and help me, Durward, for God’s sake!”
I went with him, and we did not exchange another word until we were in his rooms.
He began hurriedly taking off his clothes. “There! Sit on the bed. Different from Wilderling’s, isn’t it? Poor devil.... I’m going to have a bath if you don’t mind—I’ve got to clear my head.”
He dragged out a tin bath from under his bed, then a big can of water from a corner. Stripped, he looked so thick and so strong, with his short neck and his bull-dog build, that I couldn’t help saying,
“You don’t look a day older than the last time you played Rugger for Cambridge.”
“I am, though.” He sluiced the cold water over his head, grunting. “Not near so fit—gettin’ fat too.... Rugger days are over. Wish all my other days were over too.”
He got out of the bath, wiped himself, put on pyjamas, brushed his teeth, then his hair, took out a pipe, and then sat beside me on the bed.
“Look here, Durward,” he said. “I’m desperate, old man.” (He said “desprite.”) “We’re all in a hell of a mess.”
“I know,” I said.
He puffed furiously at his pipe.
“You know, if I’m not careful I shall go a bit queer in the head. Get so angry, you know,” he added simply.
“Angry with whom?” I asked.
“With myself mostly for bein’ such a bloody fool. But not only myself—with Civilisation, Durward, old cock!—and also with that swine Semyonov.”
“Ah, I thought you’d come to him,” I said.
“Now the points are these,” he went on, counting on his thick stubbly fingers. “First, I love Vera—and when I say love I mean love. Never been in love before, you know—honest Injun, never.... Never had affairs with tobacconists’ daughters at Cambridge—never had an affair with a woman in my life—no, never. Used to wonder what was the matter with me, why I wasn’t like other chaps. Now I know. I was waitin’ for Vera. Quite simple. I shall never love any one again—never. I’m not a kid, you know, like young Bohun—I love Vera once and for all, and that’s that...”