* * * * *
But the edge behind which Marsden’s face had disappeared remained vertical. A group of scene-shifters were moving a flat of scenery from a theatre into a tumbril-like cart...
And Romarin knew that, past, present, and future, he had seen it all in an instant, and that Marsden stood behind that painted wing.
And he knew, too, that he had only to wait until that flat passed and to take Marsden’s arm and enter the restaurant, and it would be so. A drowning man is said to see all in one unmeasurable instant of time; a year-long dream is but, they say, an instantaneous arrangement in the moment of waking of the molecules we associate with ideas; and the past of history and the future of prophecy are folded up in the mystic moment we call the present....
It would come true....
For one moment Romarin stood; the next, he had turned and run for his life.
At the corner of the street he collided with a loafer, and only the wall saved them from going down. Feverishly Romarin plunged his hand into his pocket and brought out a handful of silver. He crammed it into the loafer’s hand.
“Here—quick—take it!” he gasped. “There’s a man there, by that restaurant door—he’s waiting for Mr. Romarin—tell him—tell him—tell him Mr. Romarin’s had an accident—”
And he dashed away, leaving the man looking at the silver in his palm.
“A cigarette, Loder?” I said, offering my case. For the moment Loder was not smoking; for long enough he had not been talking.
“Thanks,” he replied, taking not only the cigarette, but the case also. The others went on talking; Loder became silent again; but I noticed that he kept my cigarette case in his hand, and looked at it from time to time with an interest that neither its design nor its costliness seemed to explain. Presently I caught his eye.
“A pretty case,” he remarked, putting it down on the table. “I once had one exactly like it.”
I answered that they were in every shop window.
“Oh yes,” he said, putting aside any question of rarity.... “I lost mine.”
He laughed. “Oh, that’s all right—I got it back again—don’t be afraid I’m going to claim yours. But the way I lost it—found it—the whole thing—was rather curious. I’ve never been able to explain it. I wonder if you could?”
I answered that I certainly couldn’t till I’d heard it, whereupon Loder, taking up the silver case again and holding it in his hand as he talked, began: