On the stairs he met an acquaintance.
“Going to dine, Drexley?”
“No, I don’t think so,” he answered blankly. “Do you know if Jesson is in the club?”
“Haven’t seen him. Come and have a drink. You look a bit shaky.”
Drexley shook his head. He wanted to drink, but not with any thoughts of good fellowship in his heart. His was a fiercer desire—the craving for mad blood or the waters of Lethe. He chose a quiet corner in the reading room, and rang for brandy.
Meanwhile Douglas came blithely down the Strand, a smile upon his lips, a crowd of pleasant thoughts in his brain. To think that little Cicely should have grown so pretty. How pleased she had been to see him, and how she had enjoyed their little dinner. Next week would be something to look forward to. He would look out some of his work which he knew would interest her. After all, it had been she who had been the first person in the world to say a word of encouragement to him.
In the hall of the club some one shouted that Drexley had been inquiring for him. He ordered some coffee and made his way up into the writing-room. Drexley was there waiting, his head drooped upon his folded arms. He looked up as Douglas entered.
DREXLEY SPEAKS OUT
Douglas halted in the middle of the room. He knew Drexley but slightly, and his appearance was forbidding. Drexley waved him to a chair and looked up. His eyes were bloodshot, but his tone was steady enough.
“They told me downstairs that you were inquiring for me,” Douglas said.
“Yes. Sit down, will you. I have a sort of message, and there is something I wanted to say.”
A waiter brought Douglas his coffee, and being in an extravagant mood he ordered a liqueur.
“What’ll you have?” he asked.
Drexley hesitated, but finally shook his head.
“No more,” he said. “A cigar, if you like.”
Even then Drexley shrank from his task. Their chairs were close together and the room empty—yet for the first ten minutes they spoke of alien subjects, till a suggestive pause from Douglas and a glance at his watch made postponement no longer possible. Then, blowing out fierce clouds of tobacco smoke, he plunged into his subject.