Jerry had recognized them. I saw him start up in his seat, turning around, but I caught at his wrist and held him. He was deathly pale, ugly, dangerous. But he made no further move. During the ride home he sat as though frozen fast into his seat with no word for me or for our companions, who had not turned or spoken to us. I think that Jack suspected and Una knew and feared to look at Jerry’s face. By the time we reached the house Jerry had managed to control himself. The dangerous look upon his face was succeeded by a glacial calm, which lasted through luncheon, of which he ate nothing. Jack did his best to bring an atmosphere of unconcern but failed and we got up from the table aware of impending trouble. Then Jerry disappeared.
FEET OF CLAY
It is with some reluctance that I begin these chapters dealing with the most terrible event in Jerry’s life, and for that matter the most terrible experience in my own, for as the reader of this history must now be aware, Jerry’s life was mine. I had made him, molded him for good or ill according to my own definite plan, by the results of which I had professed myself willing to stand whatever came. Had I known what these results were to be, it would have been better if I had cast myself into the sea than have come to Horsham Manor as Jerry’s preceptor, the sponsor for old Benham’s theory. But human wisdom is fallible, true virtue a dream. Dust we are and to dust return, groveling meanwhile as best we may, amid the wreck of our illusions. It costs me something to admit the failure of the Great Experiment, its horrible and tragic failure! To lose a hand, an eye, a limb, to be withered by disease, one can replace, repair, renew; but an ideal, a system of philosophy, ingrained into one’s very life! It is this that scars and withers the soul.
I must go on, for, after all, it is not my soul that matters, but Jerry’s. It was quite an hour after Jerry disappeared before I began to suspect that he had gone to Briar Hills. The last I had seen of him was when he was on his way up the stair to his own room. But when I sought him there a short while afterward, I could not find him, nor was he anywhere in the house. I questioned the servants, telephoned the garage. All the machines, including Jerry’s own roadster, were in the building. I went out to question the gardeners and found a man who had seen Jerry awhile before, entering the path into the woods behind the house. Mr. Benham was hatless, the fellow said, and walked rapidly, his head bent. Even then I did not suspect where he was going. I thought that he had merely gone to “walk it off,” a phrase we had for our own cure for the doldrums. But as the moments passed and he did not return, I took Jack into confidence, and expressed the fear that he had gone to Briar Hills for a reckoning with Marcia and Lloyd.
A worried look came into Jack’s face, but he shrugged his shoulders.