He closed his eyes, and lay in silence for a time.
“This is what day of the week?” he asked, at last.
“Friday, the nineteenth.”
“Wednesday—that would be the seventeenth. That was the day ordained for my slaughter. On that morning, I was the happiest man in the world. No king could have been so proud and confident as I was. A wonderful romance had come to me. The most beautiful young woman in the world, the most talented too, was waiting for me. An express train was carrying me to her, and it couldn’t go fast enough to keep up with my eagerness. She was very rich, and she loved me, and we were to live in eternal summer, wherever we liked, on a big, beautiful yacht. No one else had such a life before him as that. It seemed almost too good for me, but I thought I had grown and developed so much that perhaps I would be worthy of it. Oh, how happy I was! I tell you this because—because you are not like the others. You will understand.”
“Yes, I understand,” she said patiently. “Well—you were being so happy.”
“That was in the morning—Wednesday the seventeenth—early in the morning. There was a little girl in the car, playing with some buttons, and when I tried to make friends with her, she looked at me, and she saw, right at a glance, that I was a fool. ’Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,’ you know. She was the first to find it out. It began like that, early in the morning. But then after that everybody knew it. They had only to look at me and they said: ’Why, this is a fool—like a little nasty boy; we won’t let him into our houses; we find him a bore.’ That is what they said.”
“Did she say it?” Sister Soulsby permitted herself to ask.
For answer Theron bit his lips, and drew his chin under the fur, and pushed his scowling face into the pillow. The spasmodic, sob-like gasps began to shake him again. She laid a compassionate hand upon his hot brow.
“That is why I made my way here to you,” he groaned piteously. “I knew you would sympathize; I could tell it all to you. And it was so awful, to die there alone in the strange city—I couldn’t do it—with nobody near me who liked me, or thought well of me. Alice would hate me. There was no one but you. I wanted to be with you—at the last.”
His quavering voice broke off in a gust of weeping, and his face frankly surrendered itself to the distortions of a crying child’s countenance, wide-mouthed and tragically grotesque in its abandonment of control.
Sister Soulsby, as her husband’s boots were heard descending the stairs, rose, and drew the robe up to half cover his agonized visage. She patted the sufferer softly on the head, and then went to the stair-door.
“I think he’ll go to sleep now,” she said, lifting her voice to the new-comer, and with a backward nod toward the couch. “Come out into the kitchen while I get breakfast, or into the sitting-room, or somewhere, so as not to disturb him. He’s promised me to lie perfectly quiet, and try to sleep.”