Twyning breathed heavily through his nose. “Splendid? Hur! He wanted to go long ago. Well, he’s gone now and I hope you’re satisfied.”
Sabre turned in his chair and questioned Twyning with puckered brows. “Satisfied? What on earth do you mean—satisfied?”
“You always thought he ought to go. You’re one of those who’ve sent him off. My boy saw it.”
“You’re talking nonsense. I’ve never so much as mentioned the subject to Harold. I told you long ago that I think every man’s his own judge, and sole judge, in this business.”
Twyning always retracted when Sabre showed signs of becoming roused. “Ah, well, what does it matter? He’s gone now. He’ll be in this precious khaki to-night. No one can point at him now.” He drew out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes slowly. He stared inimically at Sabre. “I’ll tell you one thing, Sabre. You wait till you’ve got a son, then you’ll think differently, perhaps. You don’t know what my boy means to me. He’s everything in the world to me. I got him in here so as to have him with me and now this cursed war’s taken him. You don’t know what he is, my boy Harold. He’s a better man than his father, I’ll tell you that. He’s a good Christian boy. He’s never had a bad thought or said a bad word.”
He broke off. He rammed his handkerchief into his trouser pocket. As though the sight of Sabre sitting before him suddenly infuriated him he broke out, “It’s all right for you sitting there. You’re not going. Never mind. My boy Harold’s gone. You’re satisfied. All right.”
Sabre got up. “Look here, Twyning, I’m sorry for you about Harold. I make allowances for you. But—”
When Twyning was angry his speech sometimes betrayed that on which he was most sensitive. “I don’t want you to make no allowances for me. I don’t—”
“You’ve repeated the stupid implication you made when you first came in.”
Twyning changed to a hearty laugh. “Oh, I say, steady, old man. Don’t let’s have a row. Nothing to have a row about, old man. I made no implication. Whatever for should I? No, no, I simply said ‘All right.’ I say people have sent my boy Harold off, and I’m merely saying ’All right. He’s gone. Now perhaps you’re satisfied.’ Not you, old man. Other people.” He paused. His tone hardened. “All right. That’s all, old man. All right.”
Not very long after this incident occurred another incident. In its obvious aspect it was also related to the “Why aren’t you in khaki?” question; Sabre apprehended in it a different bearing.
One morning he stepped suddenly from his own room into Mr. Fortune’s in quest of a reference. Twyning and Mr. Fortune were seated together in deep conversation. They were very often thus seated, Sabre had noticed. At his entry their conversation abruptly ceased; and this also was not new.