“You simply cannot appear in Hynds House in this shape, and invite comment and question,” said Mr. Jelnik, anxiously. His fine brows wrinkled. “I have it: you will stop at my house for a few minutes, and I’ll give you a cordial, that will put you to rights.”
I went staggering along beside him, making desperate efforts to hold myself erect. The pathway squirmed and wriggled like a snake, the trees and bushes bowed, the sky bobbed up and down.
He took me by by-paths so cunningly hidden that you might pass up and down the highroad daily and never suspect their existence. We went between cassenas and cedars and young laurels, branchy to the roots. And then I was walking down a path bordered with Lombardy poplars; and then I was sitting on a couch in Mr. Jelnik’s living-room, while he bathed my face with scented water, and afterward held a small glass to my lips. The fluid I swallowed went tingling through my whole body like friendly fire.
I stole a woman-glance around the room that The Author had been so anxious to investigate. It was altogether a man’s room, the scoured floor partly covered with a handsome rug, and the divan on which I was sitting covered with another. On both sides of the big fireplace were crowded book-shelves, above which hung weapons gathered from the four corners of the earth. There were two or three deep, comfortable arm-chairs, a square table, a couple of Winchesters in a corner, and near the window a flat, old-fashioned desk, above which hung two small portraits, evidently his parents, for the gentleman with stars and crosses on his braided uniform, a sword at his side, and a plumed hat in his hand, bore a striking resemblance to Mr. Jelnik; and the stately blond lady had a family resemblance to Doctor Richard Geddes.
Mr. Jelnik touched a bell near the door, and a tall, copper-colored man in spotless white appeared. At the merest gesture of an uplifted finger the copper-colored one bowed, vanished, and returned ten minutes later with a tiny cup of black coffee and a couple of thin wafers.
“I shall have to insist upon the coffee; and I advise the wafers,” said Mr. Jelnik, pleasantly. So I drank the coffee, nibbled the wafers, and felt better.
The copper-colored man, standing still as a statue, waited until I had finished, took the cup, bowed, and disappeared. He was a stately impressive person, rather like a shah in disguise. Mr. Jelnik addressed him as “Daoud.”
I had risen. I was trying to straighten my sadly flattened brown hat, and to smooth my frock, stained with damp earth, and water. A quick step sounded on the porch, somebody knocked, and without waiting for an answer, opened the door, impatiently, and strode into the room. With a fold of my disheveled frock in my hand, I looked up and met the angry and astonished eyes of The Author.