And in silence and heavy dismay Selwyn confronted the sacrifice he must make to save the honour of the house of Erroll.
It meant more than temporary inconvenience to himself; it meant that he must go into the market and sell securities which were partly his capital, and from which came the modest income that enabled him to live as he did.
There was no other way, unless he went to Austin. But he dared not do that—dared not think what Austin’s action in the matter might be. And he knew that if Gerald were ever driven into hopeless exile with Austin’s knowledge of his disgrace rankling, the boy’s utter ruin must result inevitably.
Yet—yet—how could he afford to do this—unoccupied, earning nothing, bereft of his profession, with only the chance in view that his Chaosite might turn out stable enough to be marketable? How could he dare so strip himself? Yet, there was no other way; it had to be done; and done at once—the very first thing in the morning before it became too late.
And at first, in the bitter resentment of the necessity, his impulse was to turn on Gerald and bind him to good conduct by every pledge the boy could give. At least there would be compensation. Yet, with the thought came the clear conviction of its futility. The boy had brushed too close to dishonour not to recognise it. And if this were not a lifelong lesson to him, no promises forced from him in his dire need and distress, no oaths, no pledges could bind him; no blame, no admonition, no scorn, no contempt, no reproach could help him to see more clearly the pit of destruction than he could see now.
“You need sleep, Gerald,” he said quietly. “Don’t worry; I’ll see that your check is not dishonoured; all you have to see to is yourself. Good-night, my boy.”
But Gerald could not speak; and so Selwyn left him and walked slowly back to his own room, where he seated himself at his desk, grave, absent-eyed, his unfilled pipe between his teeth.
And he sat there until he had bitten clean through the amber mouthpiece, so that the brier bowl fell clattering to the floor. By that time it was full daylight; but Gerald was still asleep. He slept late into the afternoon; but that evening, when Selwyn and Lansing came in to persuade him to go with them to Silverside, Gerald was gone.
They waited another day for him; he did not appear. And that night they left for Silverside without him.
During that week-end at Silverside Boots behaved like a school-lad run wild. With Drina’s hand in his, half a dozen dogs as advanced guard, and heavily flanked by the Gerard battalion, he scoured the moorlands from Surf Point to the Hither Woods; from Wonder Head to Sky Pond.