When Harz came to himself a hand was pouring liquor into his mouth, and a wet cloth was muffled round his brows; a noise of humming and hoofs seemed familiar. Mr. Treffry loomed up alongside, smoking a cigar; he was muttering: “A low trick, Paul—bit of my mind!” Then, as if a curtain had been snatched aside, the vision before Harz cleared again. The carriage was winding between uneven, black-eaved houses, past doorways from which goats and cows were coming out, with bells on their necks. Black-eyed boys, and here and there a drowsy man with a long, cherry-stemmed pipe between his teeth, stood aside to stare.
Mr. Treffry seemed to have taken a new lease of strength; like an angry old dog, he stared from side to side. “My bone!” he seemed to say: “let’s see who’s going to touch it!”
The last house vanished, glowing in the early sunshine, and the carriage with its trail of dust became entombed once more in the gloom of tall trees, along a road that cleft a wilderness of mossgrown rocks, and dewy stems, through which the sun had not yet driven paths.
Dominique came round to them, bearing appearance of one who has seen better days, and a pot of coffee brewed on a spirit lamp. Breakfast—he said—was served!
The ears of the horses were twitching with fatigue. Mr. Treffry said sadly: “If I can see this through, you can. Get on, my beauties!”
As soon as the sun struck through the trees, Mr. Treffry’s strength ebbed again. He seemed to suffer greatly; but did not complain. They had reached the pass at last, and the unchecked sunlight was streaming down with a blinding glare.
“Jump up!” Mr. Treffry cried out. “We’ll make a finish of it!” and he gave the reins a jerk. The horses flung up their heads, and the bleak pass with its circling crown of jagged peaks soon slipped away.
Between the houses on the very top, they passed at a slow trot; and soon began slanting down the other side. Mr. Treffry brought them to a halt where a mule track joined the road.
“That’s all I can do for you; you’d better leave me here,” he said. “Keep this track down to the river—go south—you’ll be in Italy in a couple of hours. Get rail at Feltre. Money? Yes? Well!” He held out his hand; Harz gripped it.
“Give her up, eh?”
Harz shook his head.
“No? Then it’s ‘pull devil, pull baker,’ between us. Good-bye, and good luck to you!” And mustering his strength for a last attempt at dignity, Mr. Treffry gathered up the reins.
Harz watched his figure huddled again beneath the hood. The carriage moved slowly away.
At Villa Rubein people went about, avoiding each other as if detected in conspiracy. Miss Naylor, who for an inscrutable reason had put on her best frock, a purple, relieved at the chest with bird’s-eye blue, conveyed an impression of trying to count a chicken which ran about too fast. When Greta asked what she had lost she was heard to mutter: “Mr.—Needlecase.”