“I hope it will satisfy them. And I hope very much indeed that you won’t do it.”
But she did do it. On the following day Effie left. Sabre, pretending to know nothing about it, went for a long walk all day. When he returned Effie had gone. He said nothing. Her name was not again mentioned between him and Mabel. It happened that the only reference to her sudden departure in which he was concerned was with Twyning.
Setting out on his return to France—his orders were to join a Fusilier battalion, reporting to 34th Division—he found Twyning on the platform at Tidborough station buying a paper.
“Hullo, old man,” said Twyning. “Just off? I say, old man, old Bright’s very upset about Effie getting the sack from your place like that. How was it?”
He felt himself flush. Beastly, having to defend Mabel’s unfairness like this. “Oh, I fancy my wife had the idea of getting some relation to live with her, that’s all.”
Twyning was looking keenly at him. “Oh, I see. But a bit sudden, wasn’t it? I mean to say, I thought you were on such friendly terms with the girl. Why, only a couple of days before she left I saw you with her having tea in the Cloister tea rooms. I don’t think you saw me, did you, old man?”
“No, I didn’t. Yes, I remember; we were waiting for my wife. There’d been a dress rehearsal of this play down at the Corn Exchange.”
“Oh, yes, waiting for your wife, were you?” Twyning appeared to be thinking. “Well, that’s what I mean, old man. So friendly with the girl—both of you—and then sending her off so suddenly like that.”
Sabre essayed to laugh it off. “My wife’s rather a sudden person, you know.”
Twyning joined very heartily in the laugh. “Is she?” He looked around. “She’s seeing you off, I suppose?”
“No, she’s not. She’s not too well. Got a rotten cold.”
Twyning stared again in what struck Sabre as rather an odd way. “Oh, I’m sorry, old man. Nothing much, I hope. Well, you’ll want to be getting in. I’ll tell old Bright what you say about Effie. Nothing in it. I quite understand. Seemed a bit funny at first, that’s all. Good-by, old man. Jolly good luck. Take care of yourself. Jolly good luck.”
He put out his hand and squeezed Sabre’s in his intensely friendly grip; and destiny put out its hand and added another and a vital hour to Sabre’s ultimate encounter with life.
His leave ended with the one thing utterly unexpected and flagrantly impossible. One of those meetings so astounding in the fact that the deviation of a single minute, of half a minute, of what one has been doing previously would have prevented it; and out of it one of those frightful things that ought to come with premonition, by hints, by stages, but that come careering headlong as though malignity, bitter and wanton, had loosed a savage bolt.