This was all Dick saw, excepting the leaping flames of the fire beyond.
And even as he looked, Helen’s arm fell to her side; he saw her turn, lift the Infant off Ronnie’s breast; and, bending over him, draw his head on to her lap.
Dick turned from the mirror. The scene in the room was identical with the reflection, in all points save one. The Florentine chair was under Ronnie. It had fallen with him. Its back was broken. Not until he had lifted his friend from the floor did Dr. Dick see the panelled fleur-de-lis of Florence, nor the crimson and gold of the embossed leather seat.
As he and Helen together loosed Ronnie’s collar and tie, she whispered: “Did—you—see?”
“This is no time for staring into mirrors,” said Dr. Dick, crossly. “I saw that I need a good wash; and you, some sal-volatile! But we shall have plenty to do for Ronnie before we can find leisure to think of ourselves. Send a couple of men here; sturdy fellows whom you can trust. Order that car to the door; then bring me a pencil, a sheet of note-paper and an envelope. There is just one man in the world who can help us now, and we must have him here with as little delay as possible.”
When Helen had left the room, Dick glanced furtively over his shoulder into the mirror.
The Italian chair, in the reflection, now lay broken on the floor!
“Hum!” said Dr. Dick. “Not bad, that—for an Infant! Precocious, I call it. We must have that ’cello re-christened the ’Demon of Prague’!”
RONNIE FACES THE UPAS
Ronnie had walked from his wife’s sitting-room, along the corridor and into the studio, in a state of stunned stupefaction.
He carried his ’cello in one hand, its case and bow, which he had picked up in the hall, in the other; but he had for the moment completely forgotten the Infant.
He leaned it against a chair, laid down the case, closed the studio door; then walked to the fireplace.
He stood looking at the great crackling logs, and into the glowing heart of the fire beneath them.
“Utterly, preposterously, altogether, selfish,” he repeated slowly. “That is what my wife considers me; that is as I appear to Helen. Utterly—preposterously—altogether—selfish. She is so lovely—she is so perfect! I—I have longed for her so! But I am utterly, preposterously, altogether, selfish!”
He put his arms upon the mantel-piece and dropped his head upon them. He felt a queer contraction in his throat, a stinging beneath his eyelids, such as he had not experienced since the days of childish mortifications and sorrows. But the instinctive manliness of him, held back the actual tears. He was debarred, even in solitude, from that form of relief.
Presently he lifted his head, took out his pocket-book, and wrote down the words, spelling each with a capital letter.