“I do hope you will all believe me when I say that I knew absolutely nothing of it all,” he said, when they had finished an almost silent meal. “When I said I had doubted him at times, I simply meant that his everlasting and—and—well, very assertive philanthropies palled upon me. It was a little difficult at times to believe in the genuineness of it all, for we did not see very much of it at home, as you know,”—he looked at Margaret, who nodded. “In business matters he could be as hard as nails, and it was not easy to fit it all together.”
“Not one of us believes anything of the kind of you, old man. Just get that right out of your head, once for all. We’re only sorry for your sake that the trouble has come, and I’m sure we all hope it will turn out not so bad as you fear,” said Graeme heartily.
“What about your mother, Charles?” said Margaret. “I’m afraid she will feel this dreadfully. Hennie and I were talking about it upstairs, and we were wondering if you could get her to come and stop with us for a time—”
“You see!” said Graeme, with a smile at Pixley. And to Margaret—“I suggested exactly the same thing while you were up doing your hair.”
“It’s awfully good of you all,” said Charles. “If you’re quite sure—”
“We’re quite sure. Send her to us at once as soon as you reach home, and Jock shall meet her in Guernsey.”
“I think I’d perhaps better bring her across myself. I don’t suppose there will be much I can do when I’ve heard the worst—if they’ve got to it yet. Things may be all tangled up, and it may take time. And for ten days or so, until folks have had time to forget, the name of Pixley won’t be one to be proud of.”
“Come if you can,” said Graeme heartily. “You’ve seen nothing of Sark yet.”
They all went down to the harbour to see him off—as is the custom when one’s friends leave Sark. And when Charles Svendt had shaken hands with Margaret and Miss Penny—and had found a touch of comfort in the sympathetic droop of their faces—and had fancied Miss Penny’s bright eyes were at once brighter and mistier than usual—and had thanked them again very humbly for all their kindness—he turned to say good-bye to Graeme.
“Come away, man!” said Jock cheerfully. “I’m coming too. Meg’s given me a holiday, and I’m going to shake a free leg again in Guernsey—”
But Charles thought he saw through that.
“Don’t you come on my account, Graeme”
“Not on your account at all, my boy, but the accounts of a good many shopkeepers over there which I’ve got to straighten out at once, while all the little differences are fresh in my mind. Something wrong in nearly all of them—some over, some under—and I’m still a bit of a business man though I do write books.”
For, when Pixley went off to pack his portmanteau, Graeme had said to his wife, “Meg dear, what do you think of my going across to Peter Port with that young man? He’ll have a bad black time all by himself. He’s holding himself in before us, but when he’s alone it’ll all come back on him in a heap and he’ll feel it.”