“By Jove, I thought for a minute the old patriarch was going to heave the tables of stone at my head. He caught up the book in both his hands and gave a sort of choke and blazed at me out of his eyes—by gad, I might have been poor old Aaron caught jazzing round the golden calf.
“‘Let me tell you, sir, this is no place to inquire after Mr. Sabre,’ said he. ‘Let me tell you—’
“Well, I’d ha’ let him tell me any old thing. That was what I was there for. But he shut himself up with a kind of gasp and cannoned himself into his tabernacle under the stairs and left me there, wondering if I was where I thought I was, or had got into a moving-picture show by mistake. The clerk had fallen through the floor or something. I was alone. Friendless. Nobody wanted me. I thought to myself, ’Percival, old man, you’re on the unpopular side of the argument. You’re nonsuited, old man.’ And I thought I wouldn’t take any more chances in this Biblical film, not with old father Abraham Fortune or Friend Judas Iscariot Twyning; I thought I’d push out to Penny Green and see old Sabre for myself.
“So I did. I certainly did....
“You can imagine me, old man, in my natty little blue suit, tripping up the path of Sabre’s house and guessing to myself that the mystery wasn’t a mystery at all, but only the office perhaps rather fed up with Sabre for staying away nursing his game leg so long. By Jove, it wasn’t that. House had rather a neglected appearance, I thought. Door knob not polished, or blinds still down somewhere or something. I don’t know. Something. And what made me conscious of it was that I was kept a long time waiting after I’d rung the bell. In fact, I had to ring twice. Then I heard some one coming, and you know how your mind unconsciously expects things and so gives you quite a start when the thing isn’t there; well, I suppose I’d been expecting to see one of Sabre’s two servants, ‘my couple of Jinkses’ as he calls them, and ’pon my soul I was quite startled when the door opened and it wasn’t one of them at all, but a very different pair of shoes.
“It was a young woman; ladylike, dressed just in some ordinary sort of clothes; I don’t know; uncommonly pretty, or might have been if she hadn’t looked so uncommonly sad; and—this was what knocked me carrying a baby. ’Pon my soul, I couldn’t have been more astonished if the door had been opened by the Kaiser carrying the Crown Prince.
“I don’t know why I should have imagined she was the kid’s mother, but I did. I don’t know why I should have looked at her hands, but I did. I don’t know why I should have expected to see a wedding ring, but I did. And there wasn’t one.
“Well, she was saying ‘Yes?’ in an inquiring, timid sort of way, me standing there like a fool, you understand, and I suddenly recovered from my flabbergasteration and guessed the obvious thing—that the Sabres had let their house to strangers and gone away. Still more obvious, you might say, that Mrs. Sabre had produced a baby, and that the girl was her sister or some one, but that never occurred to me. No, I guessed they’d gone away, and I said, ’I was calling to see Mr. Sabre. Has he gone away?’