He walked to the end of the room, stood for a second, and came slowly back.
Will was looking at him oddly, almost as if he had never seen him before.
“Do you know,” he said, smiling faintly, “I always thought you were a rotter.”
“Most people do,” said Nick. “I believe it’s my physiognomy that’s at fault. What can any one expect from a fellow with a face like an Egyptian mummy? Why, I’ve been mistaken for the devil himself before now.” He spoke with a semi-whimsical ruefulness, and, having spoken, he went to the window and stood there with his face to the darkness.
“Hear that jackal, Will?” he suddenly said. “The brute is hungry. You bet, he won’t go empty away.”
“Jackals never do,” said Will, with his weary sigh.
Nick turned round. “It shows what faithless fools we are,” he said.
In the silence that followed, there came again to them, clear through the stillness, and haunting in its persistence, the crying of the beast that sought its meat from God.
A SCENTED LETTER
There is no exhaustion more complete or more compelling than the exhaustion of grief, and it is the most restless temperaments that usually suffer from it the most keenly. It is those who have watched constantly, tirelessly, selflessly, for weeks or even months, for whom the final breakdown is the most utter and the most heartrending.
To Daisy, lying silent in her darkened room, the sudden ending of the prolonged strain, the cessation of the anxiety that had become a part of her very being, was more intolerable than the sense of desolation itself. It lay upon her like a physical, crushing weight, this absence of care, numbing all her faculties. She felt that the worst had happened to her, the ultimate blow had fallen, and she cared for nought besides.
In those first days of her grief she saw none but Muriel and the doctor. Jim Ratcliffe was more uneasy about her than he would admit. He knew as no one else knew what the strain had been upon the over-sensitive nerves, and how terribly the shock had wrenched them. He also knew that her heart was still in a very unsatisfactory state, and for many hours he dreaded collapse.
He was inclined to be uneasy upon Muriel’s account as well, at first, but she took him completely by surprise. Without a question, without a word, simply as a matter of course, she assumed the position of nurse and constant companion to her friend. Her resolution and steady self-control astonished him, but he soon saw that these were qualities upon which he could firmly rely. She had put her own weakness behind her, and in face of Daisy’s utter need she had found strength.
He suffered her to have her way, seeing how close was the bond of sympathy between them, and realising that the very fact of supporting Daisy would be her own support.