“I asked him, ‘What reasons, Sabre?’ and he said, ’Oh, I don’t know. The war; and being out there; and thinking about the death of an old woman I attended once; and things I picked up from a slip of a girl; and things from a woman I know—oh, all sorts of things, Hapgood; and I tell you what chiefly—loneliness, my God, loneliness....’
“I didn’t say anything. What could I say? When a chap suddenly rips a cry out of his heart like that, what the devil can you say if you weigh fourteen stone of solid contentment and look it? You can only feel you weren’t meant to hear and try to look as if you hadn’t.
“Well, anyway, time came for me to go and I went. Sabre stayed where he was. Would I mind leaving him up there? It was so seldom he got up; and talking with me had brought back old feelings he thought he’d never recapture again, and he was going to see if he couldn’t start in and do a bit of writing again. So I pulled out and left him; and that was old Sabre as I saw him two months ago; and one way and another I thought a good deal coming back in the train of what I had seen. Those sort of ideas in his head and that sort of life with his wife. D’you remember my telling you years—oh, years ago—that he looked like a chap who’d lost something and was wondering where he’d put it? Well, the Sabre I left down there two months ago had not only lost it, but knew it was gone for good and all. That was Sabre—except when the pink got under his skin when he got talking.
“All right. All right. Now that’s just the prologue. That’s just what you’re supposed to know before the Curtain goes up. Now, am I going on to the drama or are we going to bed.... The drama? Right. You’re a lewd fellow of the baser sort, but you occasionally have wise instincts. Right. The drama.”
“All right. That was two months ago. Last week I was down at Tidborough again. Felt I’d got rather friendly with old Sabre on my last visit so as soon as I could toddled off to the office to look him up. Felt quite sure he’d be back there again by now. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t, and when I began inquiring for him found there seemed to be some rummy mystery about his absence. Like this. Some sort of a clerk was in the shop as I went in. ‘Mr. Sabre upstairs, eh?’ I asked. ’No. No, Mr. Sabre’s not—not here,’ says my gentleman, with rather an odd look at me.
“‘What, not still laid up, is he?’
“The chap gave me a decidedly odd look. ’Mr. Sabre’s not attending the office at present, sir.’
“‘Not attending the office? Not ill, is he?’
“’No, not ill, I think, sir. Not attending the office. Perhaps you’d like to see one of the partners?’
“I looked at him. He looked at me. What the devil did he mean? Just then I caught sight of an old bird I knew slightly coming down the stairs with a book under his arm. Old chap called Bright. Sort of foreman or something. Looked rather like Moses coming down the mountain with the Tables of Stone in his fist. I said in my cheery way, ’Hullo, Mr. Bright. Good morning. I was just inquiring for Mr. Sabre.’