‘I beg your pardon, sir.’
Dick opened his eyes. A liveried footman stood over his chair, and was addressing him.
’Eh? Did I ring? Yes, you may bring me a glass of liqueur brandy. As quickly as possible, if you please; to tell the truth, George, I’m not feeling very well.’
The man started at hearing his name, but made no motion to obey the order.
’I beg your pardon, sir, but the secretary wishes to see you in his room.’
‘The secretary? Mr Hood? Yes, certainly.’ Dick rose. ’I—I am afraid you must give me your arm, please. A giddiness—the ship’s motion, I suppose.’
The secretary was standing at his door in the great vestibule as Dick came down the staircase on the man’s arm.
‘I beg your pardon,’ he said, ’but may I have your name? The porter does not recognise you, and I fear that I am equally at fault.’
’My name?’—with the same gesture that Mr Markham had used in the little back parlour, Dick passed a hand over his eyes. He laughed, and even to his own ears the laugh sounded vacant, foolish.
‘Are you a member of the club, sir?’
‘I—I thought I was.’ The marble pillars of the atrium were swaying about him like painted cloths, the tesselated pavement heaving and rocking at his feet. ‘Abominably stupid of me,’ he muttered, ‘unpardonable, you must think.’
The secretary looked at him narrowly, and decided that he was really ill; that there was nothing in his face to suggest the impostor.
‘Come into my room for a moment,’ he said, and sent the footman upstairs to make sure that no small property of the Club was missing. ’Here, drink down the brandy. . . . Feeling better? You are aware, no doubt, that I might call in the police and have you searched?’
For a moment Dick did not answer, but stood staring with rigid eyes. At length,—
‘They—won’t—find—what—I—want,’ he said slowly, dropping out the words one by one. The secretary now felt certain that here was a genuine case of mental derangement. With such he had no desire to be troubled; and so, the footman bringing word that nothing had been stolen, he dismissed Dick to the street.
The brandy steadying him, Dick went down the steps with a fairly firm tread. But he went down into a world that for him was all darkness— darkness of chaos—carrying an entity that was not his, but belonged Heaven knew to whom.
The streets, the traffic, meant nothing to him. Their roar was within his head; and on his ears, nostrils, chest, lay a pressure as of mighty waters. Rapidly as he walked, he felt himself all the while to be lying fathoms deep in those waters, face downwards, with drooped head, held motionless there while something within him struggled impotently to rise to the surface. The weight that held him down, almost to bursting, was as the weight of tons.