* * * * *
Hour after hour passed. Falloden had employed Meyrick as an intermediary with a great friend of Sorell’s, one Benham, another fellow of St. Cyprian’s, who had—so Meyrick reported—helped Sorell to get Radowitz to the station in time for the two o’clock train to London. The plan, according to Benham, was to go straight to Sir Horley Wood, who had been telegraphed to in the morning, and had made an appointment for 4.30. Benham was to hear the result of the great surgeon’s examination as soon as possible, and hoped to let Meyrick have it somewhere between seven and eight.
Four or five other men, who had been concerned in the row, including Desmond and Robertson, hung about college, miserably waiting. Falloden and Meyrick ordered horses and went off into the country, hardly speaking to each other during the whole of the ride. They returned to their Beaumont Street lodgings about seven, and after a sombre dinner Meyrick went out to go and enquire at St. Cyprian’s.
He had scarcely gone when the last Oxford post arrived, and a letter was brought up for Falloden. It was addressed in his father’s hand-writing. He opened it mechanically; and in his preoccupation, he read it several times before he grasped his meaning.
* * * * *
“My dear Son,”—wrote Sir Arthur Falloden—“We expected you home early this week, for you do not seem to have told us that you were staying up for Commem. In any case, please come home at once. There are some very grave matters about which I must consult with you, and which will I fear greatly affect your future. You will find me in great trouble, and far from well. Your poor mother means very kindly, but she can’t advise me. I have long dreaded the explanations which can not now be avoided. The family situation has been going from bad to worse,—and I have said nothing—hoping always to find some way out. But now it is precisely my fear that—if we can’t discover it—you will find yourself, without preparation, ruined on the threshold of life, which drives me to tell you everything. Your head is a cleverer one than mine. You may think of something. It is of course the coal-mining that has come to grief, and dragged in all the rest. I have been breaking down with anxiety. And you, my poor boy!—I remember you said when we met last, that you hoped to marry soon—perhaps this year—and go into Parliament. I am afraid all that is at an end, unless you can find a girl with money, which of course you ought to have no difficulty in doing, with your advantages.
“But it is no good writing. Come to-morrow, and wire your train.
“’Ruined on the threshold of life’—what does he mean?”—thought Falloden impatiently. “Father always likes booky phrases like that. I suppose he’s been dropping a thousand or two as he did last year—hullo!”