“Whisky and soda,” said Dr. Dick, bravely. “You mixed it stiffer than you knew. I was dead beat, and had had no food. I have always been a fairly abstemious chap; in my profession we have to be: woe betide the man who isn’t. But since I saw that chair standing on its four legs in the mirror, when it was lying broken on the floor in reality, I have not touched a drop of alcohol. There! I make you a present of that for your next temperance meeting. Now let’s go out and buck Ronnie up. Remember, he’ll feel jolly flat for a bit, with no temperature. Temperature is a thing you miss, when it has become a habit.”
“HE NEVER KNEW!”
Ronnie saw Dick off by the mid-day train.
After the train had begun to move, Dick leaned from the window, and said suddenly: “Ronnie! talk to your wife about her Leipzig letter, and—the kid, you know.”
Ronnie kept pace with the train long enough to say: “I wish you wouldn’t call it the ‘kid,’ Dick; it is the ‘Infant.’ And Helen declines to talk of it.”
Then he dropped behind, and Dick flung himself into a corner of his compartment, with a face of comic despair. “Merciful heavens,” he said, “slay that Infant!”
Meanwhile Ronnie was saying to a porter: “When is the next train for town?”
“One fifty-five, sir.”
“Then I have no chance now of catching the three o’clock from town, for Hollymead?”
“Not from town, sir. But there is a way, by changing twice, which gets you across country, and you pick up the three o’clock all right at Huntingford, four ten.”
“Are you sure, my man? I was told there was no way across country.”
“The one fifty-five is the only train in the day by which you can do it, sir. I happen to know, because I have a sister lives at Hollymead, so I’ve done it m’self. If trains aren’t late, you hit off the three o’clock at Huntingford.”
“Thanks,” said Ronnie, noting down particulars. Then he walked rapidly back to the hotel.
“I can’t stand it,” he said. “I shall bolt! With me off her hands, she can go and have a jolly Christmas at the Dalmains. She is always welcome there. I must get away alone and think matters out. I know everything is all wrong, and yet I don’t exactly know what has come between us. I only know I am wretched, and so is she. It is still the poison of the Upas. If I knew why she suddenly considered me utterly, preposterously, altogether, selfish, I would do my level best to put it right. But I don’t.”
He found Helen in the hall, anxiously watching the door. She took up a paper, as he came in.
“Helen,” he said, “do you mind if we lunch punctually at one o’clock? I am going out before two.”
“Why, certainly we will,” said Helen. “You must have had a very early breakfast, Ronnie. But don’t overdo, darling. Remember what Dick said. Shall I come with you?”