“I thought so,” he said. “You meant well, no doubt. But don’t do it again. Drugs to produce sleep may occasionally be necessary, but should only be given under careful medical supervision. Personally, I am inclined to think that any sort of artificial sleep does more harm to a delicately poised brain, than insomnia. However, opinions differ. But there is no question that your experiment of to-night must not be repeated. I have given him stuff to take during his homeward journey which will tend to calm him, lessen the fever, and clear his mind. See that he takes it.”
Young Dick Cameron walked out of Ronnie’s room, blew out the candle he carried, and replaced the candlestick on a little ornamental bracket.
Aubrey followed, inwardly fuming.
If Dick had been at the top of the tree, the first opinion procurable from Harley Street, W., his manner could hardly have been more authoritative, his instructions more peremptory.
“Upstart!” said Aubrey to himself. “Insolent Jackanapes!”
When Dick Cameron reached the outer door his cap was on the back of his head, his hands were thrust deep into his coat pockets.
“Good-evening,” he said. “Excuse my long intrusion. I shall be immensely obliged if you will let me have a wire reporting your safe arrival, and a letter, later on, with details as to Ronnie’s state. I put my address on the paper I gave you just now, with the name of the man Mrs. West must call in.”
Dick crossed the great entrance-hall, and ran lightly down the stone steps.
Aubrey heard the street door close behind him.
Then he shut and double locked his own flat.
“Upstart!” he said. “Jackanapes! Insolent fool!”
It is sometimes consoling to call people that which you know they are not, yet heartily wish they were.
Aubrey entered his sitting-room. He wanted an immediate vent for his ill-humour and sense of impotent mortification.
The leaf from Dick’s note-book lay on the table.
Aubrey took it up, opened the iron door of the stove, and thrust the leaf into the very heart of the fire.
Aubrey Treherne sat at his writing-table, his head buried in his hands.
Before him lay the closely-written sheets of his letter to Helen; beside them her pencil note which had fallen, unnoticed by Ronnie, from her letter to him.
Presently Aubrey lifted his head. His face bore traces of the anguish of soul through which he had been passing.
A man who has yielded himself to unrestrained wrong-doing, suffers with a sharpness of cold misery unknown to the brave true heart, however hard or lonely may be his honourable way.
Before finally reading his own letter to Helen, Aubrey read again her pathetic note to her husband.
“Ronnie, my own!