“Am I to turn on the electric light everywhere, sir?” Barry asked after a pause.
“Where necessary. Not in the billiard room; nor in Mrs. Clowes’ parlour.” Barry had executed too many equally singular orders to raise any demur. He came back in ten minutes with the news that it was done.
“Now wheel me into the hall,” said Clowes. Barry obeyed. “Shut the front doors. . . . Lock them and put up the chain.”
This time Barry did hesitate. “Sir, if I do that no one won’t be able to get in or out except by the back way: and it’s close on seven o’clock.”
“You do what you’re told.”
“Now wheel my couch in front of the doors.”
“Mad as a March hare!” was Barry’s private comment. “Lord, I wish Mr. Stafford was here.”
“That will do,” said Clowes.
He settled his great shoulders square and comfortable on his pillow and folded his arms over his breast.
“I want you to take an important message from me to the other servants. Tell them that if Mrs. Clowes or Captain Hyde come to the house they’re not to be let in. Mrs. Clowes has left me and I do not intend her to return. If they force their way in I’ll deal with them, but any one who opens the door will leave my service today. Now get me some breakfast. I’ll have some coffee and eggs and bacon. Tell Fryar to see that the boiled milk’s properly hot.”
Barry, stupefied, went out without a word, leaving the big couch, and the big helpless body stretched out upon it, drawn like a bar across the door.
It was a fatigued and jaded party that got out on the platform at Countisford. The mere wearing of evening dress when other people are at breakfast will damp the spirits of the most hardened, and even Lawrence had an up-all-night expression which reddened his eyelids and brought out the lines about his mouth. Isabel’s hair was rumpled and her fresh bloom all dimmed. Laura Clowes had suffered least: there was not a thread astray in her satin waves, and the finished grace of her aspect had survived a night in a chair. But even she was very pale, though she contrived to smile at Val.
“How’s Bernard?” were her first words.
“All serene. He slept most of the time. I was with him, luckily. We guessed what had happened. You missed your train?” In this question Val included Lawrence.
“It was my fault,” said Lawrence shortly. It was what he would have said if it had not been his fault.
“It was nobody’s fault!” cried Laura. “We were held up in the traffic. But Lawrence is one of those people who will feel responsible if they have ladies with them on the Day of Judgment, won’t you, Lawrence?”
“I ought to have left more time,” said Lawrence impatiently. “Let’s get home.”