“You never can tell about P.S. He’s a queer little gink.”
Footsteps became audible on the stairs below.
“Well, so long. See you at dinner,” George added in haste.
“Well?” he asked, delaying with ill grace.
“What makes you sound so funny?”
“Laughin’!” protested George convincingly.
With determination and a heavy tread he went on to his room.
When he had shaved (with particular care) and changed his linen (trimming collar and cuffs to a degree of uncommon nicety) and resumed his coat (brushing and hating it simultaneously and with equal ferocity, for its very shabbiness) P. Sybarite sought out a pipe old and disreputable enough to be a comfort to any man, and sat down by the one window of his room (top floor, hall, back) to smoke and consider the state of the universe while awaiting the dinner gong.
The window commanded an elevated if non-exhilarating view of back yards, one and all dank, dismal, and littered with the debris of a long, hard winter. Familiarity, however, had rendered P. Sybarite immune to the miasma of melancholy they exhaled; the trouble in his patient blue eyes, the wrinkles that lined his forehead, owned another cause.
In fact, George had wrought more disastrously upon his temper than P. Sybarite had let him see. His hints, innuendoes, and downright assertions had in reality distilled a subtle poison into the little man’s humour. For in spite of his embattled incredulity and the clear reasoning with which he had overborne George’s futile insistence, there still lingered in his mind (and always would, until he knew the truth himself) a carking doubt.
Perhaps it was true. Perhaps George had guessed shrewdly. Perhaps Molly Lessing of the glove counter really was one and the same with Marian Blessington of the fabulous fortune.
Old Brian Shaynon was a known devil of infinite astuteness; it would be quite consistent with his character and past performances if, despairing of gaining control of his ward’s money by urging her into unwelcome matrimony with his son, he had contrived to over-reach her in some manner, and so driven her to become self-supporting.
Perhaps hardly likely: the hypothesis was none the less quite plausible; a thing had happened, within P. Sybarite’s knowledge of Brian Shaynon....
Even if George’s romance were true only in part, these were wretched circumstances for a girl of gentle birth and rearing to adopt. It was really a shocking boarding-house. P. Sybarite had known it intimately for ten years; use had made him callous to its shortcomings; but he was not yet so far gone that he could forget how unwholesome and depressing it must seem to one accustomed to better things. He could remember most vividly how he had loathed it for weeks, months, and years after the tide of evil fortunes had cast him upon its crumbling brownstone stoop (even in that distant day, crumbling).