Mrs. Decie presently came out, also carrying a candle, and went to her brother’s room. She stood before his chair, with folded hands.
“Nicholas, what is to be done?”
Mr. Treffry was pouring whisky into a glass.
“Damn it, Con!” he answered; “how should I know?”
“There’s something in Christian that makes interference dangerous. I know very well that I’ve no influence with her at all.”
“You’re right there, Con,” Mr. Treffry replied.
Mrs. Decie’s pale eyes, fastened on his face, forced him to look up.
“I wish you would leave off drinking whisky and attend to me. Paul is an element—”
“Paul,” Mr. Treffry growled, “is an ass!”
“Paul,” pursued Mrs. Decie, “is an element of danger in the situation; any ill-timed opposition of his might drive her to I don’t know what. Christian is gentle, she is ‘sympathetic’ as they say; but thwart her, and she is as obstinate as....
“You or I! Leave her alone!”
“I understand her character, but I confess that I am at a loss what to do.”
“Do nothing!” He drank again.
Mrs. Decie took up the candle.
“Men!” she said with a mysterious intonation; shrugging her shoulders, she walked out.
Mr. Treffry put down his glass.
‘Understand?’ he thought; ’no, you don’t, and I don’t. Who understands a young girl? Vapourings, dreams, moonshine I.... What does she see in this painter fellow? I wonder!’ He breathed heavily. ’By heavens! I wouldn’t have had this happen for a hundred thousand pounds!’
For many hours after Dawney had taken him to his hotel, Harz was prostrate with stunning pains in the head and neck. He had been all day without food, exposed to burning sun, suffering violent emotion. Movement of any sort caused him such agony that he could only lie in stupor, counting the spots dancing before, his eyes. Dawney did everything for him, and Harz resented in a listless way the intent scrutiny of the doctor’s calm, black eyes.
Towards the end of the second day he was able to get up; Dawney found him sitting on the bed in shirt and trousers.
“My son,” he said, “you had better tell me what the trouble is—it will do your stubborn carcase good.”
“I must go back to work,” said Harz.
“Work!” said Dawney deliberately: “you couldn’t, if you tried.”
“My dear fellow, you couldn’t tell one colour from another.”
“I must be doing something; I can’t sit here and think.”
Dawney hooked his thumbs into his waistcoat: “You won’t see the sun for three days yet, if I can help it.”
Harz got up.
“I’m going to my studio to-morrow,” he said. “I promise not to go out. I must be where I can see my work. If I can’t paint, I can draw; I can feel my brushes, move my things about. I shall go mad if I do nothing.”