“Don’t trouble,” she said, with an easy dignity reminiscent of her father. “I will announce myself.”
She passed the servants, crossed the lobby, and rapped upon the study door.
“Come in,” said the voice of Henry Leroux.
Helen opened the door. The place was in semidarkness, objects being but dimly discernible. Leroux sat in his usual seat at the writing-table. The room was in the utmost disorder, evidently having received no attention since its overhauling by the police. Helen pressed the switch, lighting the two lamps.
Leroux, at last, seemed in his proper element: he exhibited an unhealthy pallor, and it was obvious that no razor had touched his chin for at least three days. His dark blue eyes the eyes of a dreamer—were heavy and dull, with shadows pooled below them. A biscuit-jar, a decanter and a syphon stood half buried in papers on the table.
“Why, Mr. Leroux!” said Helen, with a deep note of sympathy in her voice—“you don’t mean to say"...
Leroux rose, forcing a smile to his haggard face.
“You see—much too good,” he said. “Altogether—too good."...
“I thought I should find you here,” continued the girl, firmly; “but I did not anticipate”—she indicated the chaos about—“this! The insolence, the disgraceful, ungrateful insolence, of those women!”
“Dear, dear, dear!” murmured Leroux, waving his hand vaguely; “never mind—never mind! They—er—they... I don’t want them to stop... and, believe me, I am—er—perfectly comfortable!”
“You should not be in—this room, at all. In fact, you should go right away."...
“I cannot... my wife may—return—at any moment.” His voice shook. “I—am expecting her return—hourly."...
His gaze sought the table-clock; and he drew his lips very tightly together when the pitiless hands forced upon his mind the fact that the day was marching to its end.
Helen turned her head aside, inhaling deeply, and striving for composure.
“Garnham shall come down and tidy up for you,” she said, quietly; “and you must dine with us.”
The outer door was noisily closed by the departing servants.
“You are much too good,” whispered Leroux, again; and the weary eyes glistened with a sudden moisture. “Thank you! Thank you! But—er—I could not dream of disturbing"...
“Mr. Leroux,” said Helen, with all her old firmness—“Garnham is coming down immediately to put the place in order! And, whilst he is doing so, you are going to prepare yourself for a decent, Christian dinner!”
Henry Leroux rested one hand upon the table, looking down at the carpet. He had known for a long time, in a vague fashion, that he lacked something; that his success—a wholly inartistic one—had yielded him little gratification; that the comfort of his home was a purely monetary product and not in any sense atmospheric. He had schooled himself to believe that he liked loneliness—loneliness physical and mental, and that in marrying a pretty, but pleasure-loving girl, he had insured an ideal menage. Furthermore, he honestly believed that he worshiped his wife; and with his present grief at her unaccountable silence was mingled no atom of reproach.