“I tell you, old man ... I tell you....
“I managed to get him talking about the practical side of it. That is I managed to make him listen while I talked. I told him the shop of the business. Told him that these papers had to be served on him personally, as they had been, and on the girl, too. I said I guessed that the solicitor’s clerk I’d seen going out had been down to Penny Green the previous day or the day before and served them on Effie and got his address from her. I told him the first step was that within eight days he had to put in an appearance at the Probate and Divorce Registry and enter a defence—just intimate that he intended to defend the action, d’you see? And that the girl would have to too. After that no doubt he’d instruct solicitors, and that of course I’d be glad to take on the job for him.
“Well, of all this jargon—me being mighty glad to have anything to keep talking about, you understand—of all this jargon there were only two bits he froze on to, and froze on hard, I can tell you. I thought he was going mad the way he went on. I still think he may. That’s why I’m frightened about him. He just sat there on the bed while I talked and kept saying to himself, ‘Adulterer! Adulterer! Me. Adulterer!’ It was awful.
“What he caught on to was what I told him about appearing at the Divorce Registry within eight days and about instructing a solicitor afterwards. He said he’d go to the Registry at once—at once, at once, at once! and he said, very impolitely, poor chap, that he’d instruct no infernal solicitors; he’d do the whole thing himself. He had the feeling, I could see, that he must be spurning this horrible thing, and spurning it at once, and spurning it himself. He was like a chap with his clothes on fire, crazy only to rush into water and get rid of it. The stigma of the thing was so intolerable to him that his feeling was that he couldn’t sit by and let other people defend him and do the business for him; he must do it himself, hurl it back with his own hands, shout it back with his own throat. He’ll calm down and get more reasonable in time, no doubt, and then I’ll have another go at him about running the case for him; but anyway, there was the one thing he could do pretty well there and then, and that was enter his defence at the registry. So I took charge of him to help him ease his mind that much.