Swithin turned away. ‘In ten minutes,’ he thought, ’I shall be in that carriage again, with this going on in my head! Driving away from England, from all I’m used to-driving to-what?’ Could he face it? Could he face all that he had been through that morning; face it day after day, night after night? Looking up, he saw Rozsi at her open window gazing down at him; never had she looked sweeter, more roguish. An inexplicable terror seized on him; he ran across the yard and jumped into his carriage. “To Salzburg!” he cried; “drive on!” And rattling out of the yard without a look behind, he flung a sovereign at the hostler. Flying back along the road faster even than he had come, with pale face, and eyes blank and staring like a pug-dog’s, Swithin spoke no single word; nor, till he had reached the door of his lodgings, did he suffer the driver to draw rein.
Towards evening, five days later, Swithin, yellow and travel-worn, was ferried in a gondola to Danielli’s Hotel. His brother, who was on the steps, looked at him with an apprehensive curiosity.
“Why, it’s you!” he mumbled. “So you’ve got here safe?”
“Safe?” growled Swithin.
James replied, “I thought you wouldn’t leave your friends!” Then, with a jerk of suspicion, “You haven’t brought your friends?”
“What friends?” growled Swithin.
James changed the subject. “You don’t look the thing,” he said.
“Really!” muttered Swithin; “what’s that to you?”
He appeared at dinner that night, but fell asleep over his coffee. Neither Traquair nor James asked him any further question, nor did they allude to Salzburg; and during the four days which concluded the stay in Venice Swithin went about with his head up, but his eyes half-closed like a dazed man. Only after they had taken ship at Genoa did he show signs of any healthy interest in life, when, finding that a man on board was perpetually strumming, he locked the piano up and pitched the key into the sea.
That winter in London he behaved much as usual, but fits of moroseness would seize on him, during which he was not pleasant to approach.
One evening when he was walking with a friend in Piccadilly, a girl coming from a side-street accosted him in German. Swithin, after staring at her in silence for some seconds, handed her a five-pound note, to the great amazement of his friend; nor could he himself have explained the meaning of this freak of generosity.
Of Rozsi he never heard again....
This, then, was the substance of what he remembered as he lay ill in bed. Stretching out his hand he pressed the bell. His valet appeared, crossing the room like a cat; a Swede, who had been with Swithin many years; a little man with a dried face and fierce moustache, morbidly sharp nerves, and a queer devotion to his master.
Swithin made a feeble gesture. “Adolf,” he said, “I’m very bad.”