Sabre shut the door and leant his stick against the wall by the fire. He took the letter from his pocket and walked across and stood over Twyning. Twyning had not heard him. He stood over him and looked down upon him. Knock, knock, knock. Curse the thing. There was Twyning’s neck, that brown strip between his collar and his head, that in a minute he would catch him by.... No, seated thus he would catch his hair and wrench him back and cram his meal upon him. Knock, knock, knock. Curse the thing!
He said heavily, “Twyning. Twyning, I’ve come to speak to you about your son.”
Twyning slightly twisted his face in his hands so as to glance up at Sabre. His face was red. He said in an odd, thick voice, “Oh, Sabre, Sabre, have you heard?”
Sabre said, “Heard?”
“He’s killed. My Harold. My boy. My boy, Harold. Oh, Sabre, Sabre, my boy, my boy, my Harold!”
He began to sob; his shoulders heaving.
Sabre gave a sound that was just a whimper. Oh, irony of fate! Oh, cynicism incredible in its malignancy! Oh, cumulative touch! To deliver him this his enemy to strike, and to present him for the knife thus already stricken!
No sound in all the range of sounds whereby man can express emotion was possible to express this emotion that now surcharged him. This was no pain of man’s devising. This was a special and a private agony of the gods reserved for victims approved for very nice and exquisite experiment. He felt himself squeezed right down beneath a pressure squeezing to his vitals; and there was squeezed out of him just a whimper.
He walked across to the fireplace; and on the high mantle-shelf laid his arms and bowed his forehead to the marble.
Twyning was brokenly saying, “It’s good of you to come, Sabre. I feel it. After that business. I’m sorry about it, Sabre. I feel your goodness coming to me like this. But you know, you always knew, what my boy was to me. My Harold. My Harold. Such a good boy, Sabre. Such a good, Christian boy. And now he’s gone, he’s gone. Never to see him again. My boy. My son. My son!”
And he went on, distraught and pitiable. “My boy. My Harold. Such a good boy, Sabre. Such a perfect boy. My Harold!”
The letter was crumpled in Sabre’s right hand. He was constricting it in his hand and knocking his clenched knuckles on the marble.
“My boy. My dear, good boy. Oh, Sabre, Sabre!”
He dropped his right arm and swung it by his side; to and fro; over the fender—over the fire; over the hearth—over the flames.
“My Harold. Never to see his face again! My Harold.”
He stopped his swinging arm, holding his hand above the flames. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him; for God is love.” He opened his fingers, and the crumpled letter fell and was consumed. He pushed himself up from the mantlepiece and turned and went over to Twyning and stood over him again. He patted Twyning’s heaving shoulders. “There, there, Twyning. Bad luck. Bad luck. Hard. Hard. Bear up, Twyning. Soldier’s death.... Finest death.... Died for his country.... Fine boy.... Soldier’s death.... Bad luck. Bad luck, Twyning....”