“No,” agreed Fancy meditatively. “I don’t suppose you could: not in ‘Pickerley’ anyhow. You couldn’ make your ’ero swallow anything under a di’mund tiyara, and that’s not easy.”
“I’ll have to write the next one about low life,” said Palmerston. “If only I knew a bit more about it! Mrs Bowldler says it can be rendered quite amusin’, and I wouldn’ mind makin’ myself the ’ero.”
“Wouldn’t you? Well, I should, and don’t you let me catch you at it! The man as I marry’ll have to keep his head up and show a proper respect for his-self.”
Poor Palmerston stared. The best women in the world will never understand an artist.
If this thing had happened—?
After Fancy left him Cai dropped into his armchair, and sat for a long while staring at the paper ornament with which Mrs Bowldler had decorated his summer hearth. It consisted of a cascade of paper shavings with a frontage of paper roses and tinsel foliage, and was remarkable not only for its own sake but because Mrs Bowldler had chosen to display the roses upside down. But though Cai stared at it hard, he observed it not.
For some minutes his mind refused to work beyond the catastrophe. “If it had happened—if ’Bias had indeed lost all his money. . . .”
He arose, lit a pipe, and dropped back into his chair.
It may be that the tobacco clarified his brain. . . . Of a sudden the child’s words recurred and wrote themselves upon it, and stood out, as if traced in fire—“He went to master for your sake, because you was his friend and he had such a belief in you.”
Ay, that was true, and in a flash it lit up a new pathway, down which he followed the thought in the child’s mind only to lose it and stand aghast at his own reflections.
‘’Bias went to Rogers through his belief in me.’
—’I did not encourage him. On the other hand, I said nothing to hinder him.’
—’Yet, afterwards and in practice, I did encourage him, going to Rogers with him and discussing our investments together.’
—’In a dozen investments we acted as partners.’
—’He was my friend, and in those days entirely open with me. He let me read all his character. I knew him to be strict in paying his debts, uneasy if he owed a sixpence, yet careless in details of business, and trustful as a child.’
—’Then this quarrel sprang up between us, and I let him go his way. I had no right to do that, having led him so far. In a sense, he has gone on trusting me; that is, he has gone on trusting Rogers for my sake. To be quit of responsibility, I should have given him fair warning.