“I’m afraid of the roads, sir,” he replied. “There’s talk about many bridges down, and trees, and there’s floods out everywhere. There’s half a foot of water, even, across the village street now. I’m afraid we shouldn’t get very far.”
“Look here,” Gerald begged eagerly, “let’s make a shot at it. I’ll pay you double the hire of the car, and I’ll be responsible for any damage. I want to get out of this beastly place. Let’s get somewhere, at any rate, towards a civilised country. I’ll see you don’t lose anything. I’ll give you a five pound note for yourself if we get as far as Holt.”
“I’m on,” the young man agreed shortly. “It’s an open car, you know.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Gerald replied. “I can stick it in front with you, and we can cover—him up in the tonneau.”
“You’ll wait until the doctor comes back?” the landlord asked.
“And why should they?” his wife interposed sharply. “Them doctors are all the same. He’ll try and keep the poor gentleman here for the sake of a few extra guineas, and a miserable place for him to open his eyes upon, even if the rest of the roof holds, which for my part I’m beginning to doubt. They’d have to move him from here with the daylight, anyhow. He can’t lie in the bar parlour all day, can he?”
“It don’t seem right, somehow,” the man com plained doggedly. “The doctor didn’t say anything about having him moved.”
“You get the car,” Gerald ordered the young man. “I’ll take the whole responsibility.”
The chauffeur silently left the room. Gerald put a couple of sovereigns upon the mantelpiece.
“My friend is a man of somewhat peculiar temperament,” he said quietly. “If he finds himself at home in a comfortable room when he comes to his senses, I am quite sure that he will have a better chance of recovery. He cannot possibly be made comfortable here, and he will feel the shock of what has happened all the more if he finds himself still in the neighbourhood when he opens his eyes. If there is any change in his condition, we can easily stop somewhere on the way.”
The woman pocketed the two sovereigns.
“That’s common sense, sir,” she agreed heartily, “and I’m sure we are very much obliged to you. If we had a decent room, and a roof above it, you’d be heartily welcome, but as it is, this is no place for a sick man, and those that say different don’t know what they are talking about. That’s a real careful young man who’s going to take you along in the motor-car. He’ll get you there safe, if any one will.”
“What I say is,” her husband protested sullenly, “that we ought to wait for the doctor’s orders. I’m against seeing a poor body like that jolted across the country in an open motor-car, in his state. I’m not sure that it’s for his good.”
“And what business is it of yours, I should like to know?” the woman demanded sharply. “You get up-stairs and begin moving the furniture from where the rain’s coming sopping in. And if so be you can remember while you do it that this is a judgment that’s come upon us, why, so much the better. We are evil-doers, all of us, though them as likes the easy ways generally manage to forget it.”