“Look here, Murrey,” said Cicely, “after we’ve had dinner together to-night, I’m going to do a seemingly unwifely thing. I’m going to go out and leave you alone with an old friend. Doctor Holham is coming in to drink coffee and smoke with you. I arranged this because I knew it was what you would like. Men can talk these things over best by themselves, and Holham can tell you everything that happened—since you went away. It will be a dreary story, I’m afraid, but you will want to hear it all. It was a nightmare time, but now one sees it in a calmer perspective.”
“I feel in a nightmare still,” said Yeovil.
“We all felt like that,” said Cicely, rather with the air of an elder person who tells a child that it will understand things better when it grows up; “time is always something of a narcotic you know. Things seem absolutely unbearable, and then bit by bit we find out that we are bearing them. And now, dear, I’ll fill up your notification paper and leave you to superintend your unpacking. Robert will give you any help you want.”
“What is the notification paper?” asked Yeovil.
“Oh, a stupid form to be filled up when any one arrives, to say where they come from, and their business and nationality and religion, and all that sort of thing. We’re rather more bureaucratic than we used to be, you know.”
Yeovil said nothing, but into the sallow greyness of his face there crept a dark flush, that faded presently and left his colour more grey and bloodless than before.
The journey seemed suddenly to have recommenced; he was under his own roof, his servants were waiting on him, his familiar possessions were in evidence around him, but the sense of being at home had vanished. It was as though he had arrived at some wayside hotel, and been asked to register his name and status and destination. Other things of disgust and irritation he had foreseen in the London he was coming to—the alterations on stamps and coinage, the intrusive Teuton element, the alien uniforms cropping up everywhere, the new orientation of social life; such things he was prepared for, but this personal evidence of his subject state came on him unawares, at a moment when he had, so to speak, laid his armour aside. Cicely spoke lightly of the hateful formality that had been forced on them; would he, too, come to regard things in the same acquiescent spirit?
CHAPTER III: “THE METSKIE TSAR”
“I was in the early stages of my fever when I got the first inkling of what was going on,” said Yeovil to the doctor, as they sat over their coffee in a recess of the big smoking-room; “just able to potter about a bit in the daytime, fighting against depression and inertia, feverish as evening came on, and delirious in the night. My game tracker and my attendant were both Buriats, and spoke very little Russian, and that was the only language