“Mind you, I don’t mean that he was cowed and afraid to open his mouth in his wife’s presence. Nothing a bit like that. What I got out of it was that he was starved, intellectually starved, mentally starved, starved of the good old milk of human kindness—that’s what I mean. Everything he put up he threw down, not because she wanted to snub him, but because she either couldn’t or wouldn’t take the faintest interest in anything that interested him. Course, she may have had jolly good reason. I daresay she had. Still, there it was, and it seemed rather rotten to me. I didn’t like it. Damn it, the chap only had one decent leg under the table and an uncommonly tired-looking face above it, and I felt rather sorry for him.”
“After lunch I said, ’Well, now, old man, what about going up to this room of yours and having a look at this monumental history?’ Saw him shoot a glance in his wife’s direction, and he said, ’Oh, no, not now, Hapgood. Never mind now.’ And his wife said, ’Mark, what can there be for Mr. Hapgood to see up there? It’s too ridiculous. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be looking at lesson books.’
“I said, ’Oh, but I’d like to. In fact, I insist. None of your backing out at the last minute, Sabre. I know your little games.’
“Sort of carried it off like that, d’you see; knowing perfectly well the old chap was keen on going up, and seeing perfectly clearly that for some extraordinary reason his wife stopped him going up.
“By Jove, he was pleased, I could see he was. We got in the maids and upped him, to a room he used to sleep in, I gathered, and up there he hobbled about, taking out this book and dusting up that book, and fiddling over his table, and looking out of the window, for all the world like an evicted emigrant restored to the home of his fathers.
“He said, ’Forgive me, old man, just a few minutes; you know I haven’t been up here for over three weeks.’
“I said, ‘Why the devil haven’t you, then?’
“‘Oh, well,’ says he. ’Oh, well, it makes a business in the house, you know, heaving me up.’
“Well, that didn’t cut any ice, you know, seeing that I’d seen the servants rush to the job as if they were going to a school treat. It was perfectly clear to me that the reason he was kept out of the room was because his wife didn’t want him being lugged up there; and for all I knew never had liked him being there and now was able to stop it.