“This is beastly stuff of the doctor’s, Chris, it puts my monkey up; I can’t help swearing after I’ve taken it; it’s as beastly as a vulgar woman’s laugh, and I don’t know anything beastlier than that!”
“I have a letter from Greta, Uncle Nic; shall I read it?”
He nodded, and Christian read the letter, leaving out the mention of Harz, and for some undefined reason the part about Sarelli.
“Ay!” said Mr. Treffry with a feeble laugh, “Greta and her money! Send her some more, Chris. Wish I were a youngster again; that’s a beast of a proverb about a dog and his day. I’d like to go fishing again in the West Country! A fine time we had when we were youngsters. You don’t get such times these days. ’Twasn’t often the fishing-smacks went out without us. We’d watch their lights from our bedroom window; when they were swung aboard we were out and down to the quay before you could say ‘knife.’ They always waited for us; but your Uncle Dan was the favourite, he was the chap for luck. When I get on my legs, we might go down there, you and I? For a bit, just to see? What d’you say, old girl?”
Their eyes met.
“I’d like to look at the smack lights going to sea on a dark night; pity you’re such a duffer in a boat—we might go out with them. Do you a power of good! You’re not looking the thing, my dear.”
His voice died wistfully, and his glance, sweeping her face, rested on her hands, which held and twisted Greta’s letter. After a minute or two of silence he boomed out again with sudden energy:
“Your aunt’ll want to come and sit with me, after dinner; don’t let her, Chris, I can’t stand it. Tell her I’m asleep—the doctor’ll be here directly; ask him to make up some humbug for you—it’s his business.”
He was seized by a violent fit of pain which seemed to stab his breath away, and when it was over signed that he would be left alone. Christian went back to her letter in the other room, and had written these words, when the gong summoned her to dinner:
“I’m like a leaf in the wind, I put out my hand to one thing, and it’s seized and twisted and flung aside. I want you—I want you; if I could see you I think I should know what to do—”
The rain drove with increasing fury. The night was very black. Nicholas Treffry slept heavily. By the side of his bed the night-lamp cast on to the opposite wall a bright disc festooned by the hanging shadow of the ceiling. Christian was leaning over him. For the moment he filled all her heart, lying there, so helpless. Fearful of waking him she slipped into the sitting-room. Outside the window stood a man with his face pressed to the pane. Her heart thumped; she went up and unlatched the window. It was Harz, with the rain dripping off him. He let fall his hat and cape.
“You!” she said, touching his sleeve. “You! You!”