“Why do you stand there like a cow?” asked Swithin; “can’t you see I’m very bad?”
“Yes, sir!” The valet’s face twitched as though it masked the dance of obscure emotions.
“I shall feel better after dinner. What time is it?”
“I thought it was more. The afternoons are very long.”
“Yes, sir!” Swithin sighed, as though he had expected the consolation of denial.
“Very likely I shall have a nap. Bring up hot water at half-past six and shave me before dinner.”
The valet moved towards the door. Swithin raised himself.
“What did Mr. James say to you?”
“He said you ought to have another doctor; two doctors, he said, better than one. He said, also, he would look in again on his way ‘home.’”
Swithin grunted, “Umph! What else did he say?”
“He said you didn’t take care of yourself.”
“Has anybody else been to see me?”
The valet turned away his eyes. “Mrs. Thomas Forsyte came last Monday fortnight.”
“How long have I been ill?”
“Five weeks on Saturday.”
“Do you think I’m very bad?”
Adolf’s face was covered suddenly with crow’s-feet. “You have no business to ask me question like that! I am not paid, sir, to answer question like that.”
Swithin said faintly: “You’re a peppery fool! Open a bottle of champagne!”
Adolf took a bottle of champagne—from a cupboard and held nippers to it. He fixed his eyes on Swithin. “The doctor said—”
“Open the bottle!”
“It is not—”
“Open the bottle—or I give you warning.”
Adolf removed the cork. He wiped a glass elaborately, filled it, and bore it scrupulously to the bedside. Suddenly twirling his moustaches, he wrung his hands, and burst out: “It is poison.”
Swithin grinned faintly. “You foreign fool!” he said. “Get out!”
The valet vanished.
‘He forgot himself!’ thought Swithin. Slowly he raised the glass, slowly put it back, and sank gasping on his pillows. Almost at once he fell asleep.
He dreamed that he was at his club, sitting after dinner in the crowded smoking-room, with its bright walls and trefoils of light. It was there that he sat every evening, patient, solemn, lonely, and sometimes fell asleep, his square, pale old face nodding to one side. He dreamed that he was gazing at the picture over the fireplace, of an old statesman with a high collar, supremely finished face, and sceptical eyebrows—the picture, smooth, and reticent as sealing-wax, of one who seemed for ever exhaling the narrow wisdom of final judgments. All round him, his fellow members were chattering. Only he himself, the old sick member, was silent. If fellows only knew what it was like to sit by yourself and feel ill all the time! What they were saying