In the utter silence Mac Strann leaned across the table to Haw-Haw Langley.
“He’s come alone this time,” he said, “but the next time he’ll bring his master with him. We’ll wait!”
The Adam’s-apple rose and fell in the throat of Haw-Haw.
“We’ll wait,” he nodded, and he burst into the harsh, unhuman laughter which had given him his name.
THE DISCOVERY OF LIFE
This is the letter which Swinnerton Loughburne received over the signature of Doctor Randall Byrne. It was such a strange letter that between paragraphs Swinnerton Loughburne paced up and down his Gramercy Park studio and stared, baffled, at the heights of the Metropolitan Tower.
“I’ll be with you in good old Manhattan about as soon as you get this letter. I’m sending this ahead because I want you to do me a favour. If I have to go back to those bare, blank rooms of mine with the smell of chemicals drifting in from the laboratory, I’ll—get drunk. That’s all!”
Here Swinnerton Loughburne lowered the letter to his knees and grasped his head in both hands. Next he turned to the end of the letter and made sure that the signature was “Randall Byrne.” He stared again at the handwriting. It was not the usual script of the young doctor. It was bolder, freer, and twice as large as usual; there was a total lack of regard for the amount of stationery consumed.
Shaking his head in bewilderment, Swinnerton Loughburne shook his fine grey head and read on: “What I want you to do, is to stir about and find me a new apartment. Mind you, I don’t want the loft of some infernal Arcade building in the Sixties. Get me a place somewhere between Thirtieth and Fifty-eighth. Two bed-rooms. I want a place to put some of the boys when they drop around my way. And at least one servant’s room. Also at least one large room where I can stir about and wave my arms without hitting the chandelier. Are you with me?”
Here Swinnerton Loughburne seized his head between both hands again and groaned: “Dementia! Plain and simple dementia! And at his age, poor boy!”
He continued: “Find an interior decorator. Not one of these fuzzy haired women-in-pants, but a he-man who knows what a he-man needs. Tell him I want that place furnished regardless of expense. I want some deep chairs that will hit me under the knees. I want some pictures on the wall—but nothing out of the Eighteenth Century—no impressionistic landscapes—no girls dolled up in fluffy stuff. I want some pictures I can enjoy, even if my maiden aunt can’t. There you are. Tell him to go ahead on those lines.
“In a word, Swinnerton, old top, I want to live. For about thirty years I’ve thought, and now I know that there’s nothing in it. All the thinking in the world won’t make one more blade of grass grow; put one extra pound on the ribs of a long-horn; and in a word, thinking is the bunk, pure and simple!”