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Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about If Winter Comes.

“He gave a laugh.  He wasn’t talking a bit savagely, and he never did talk like that all through what he told me.  He was just talking in a tone of sheer, hopeless, extremely interested puzzlement—­bafflement—­amazement; just as a man might talk to you of some absolutely baffling conjuring trick he’d seen.  In fact, he used that very expression.  ‘Do you know what I am, Hapgood?’ and he gave a laugh, as I’ve said.  ’I’m what they call a social outcast.  A social outcast.  Beyond the pale.  Unspeakable.  Ostracized.  Blackballed.  Excommunicated.’  He got up and began to stump about the room, hands in his pockets, chin on his collar, wrestling with it,—­and wrestling, mind you, just in profoundly interested bafflement.

“‘Unspeakable,’ he said.  ’Excommunicated.  By Jove, it’s astounding.  It’s amazing.  It’s like a stupendous conjuring trick.  I’ve done something that isn’t done—­not something that’s wrong, something that’s incontestably right.  But it isn’t done.  People don’t do it, and I’ve done it and therefore hey, presto, I’m turned into a leper, a pariah, an outlaw.  Amazing, astounding!’

“Then he settled down and told me.  And this is what he told me.”

II

“When he was out in France this girl I’d seen—­this Effie, as he called her, Effie Bright—­had come to live as companion to his wife.  It appears he more or less got her the job.  He’d seen her at the office with her father and he’d taken a tremendous fancy to her.  ‘A jolly kid,’ that was the expression he used, and he said he was awfully fond of her just as he might be of a jolly little sister.  He got her some other job previously with some friends or other, and then the old lady there died and the girl came to his place while he was away.  Something like that.  Anyway, she came.  She came somewhere about October, ’15, and she left early in March following, just over a year ago.  His wife got fed up with her and got rid of her—­that’s what Sabre says—­got fed up with her and got rid of her.  And Sabre was at home at the time.  Mark that, old man, because it’s important. Sabre was at home at the time—­about three weeks—­on leave.

“Very well.  The girl got the sack and he went back to France.  She got another job somewhere as companion again.  He doesn’t quite know where.  He thinks at Bournemouth.  Anyway, that’s nothing to do with it.  Well, he got wounded and discharged from the Army, as you know, and in February he was living at home again with his wife in the conditions I described to you when I began.  He said nothing to me about the conditions—­about the terms they were on; but I’ve told you what I saw.  It’s important because it was exactly into the situation as I then saw it that came to pass the thing that came to pass.  This: 

“The very week after I’d been down there, his wife, reading a letter at breakfast one morning, gave a kind of a snort (as I can imagine it) and chucked the letter over to him and said, ’Ha!  There’s your wonderful Miss Bright for you!  What did I tell you?  What do you think of that?  Ha!’

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