When Felix had read these words he remained absolutely still, holding that buff-colored paper before his face, trying to decide what he must do now. What was the significance—exactly the significance of this? Now that Tryst was dead, Derek’s quixotic action had no meaning. But had he already ‘confessed’? It seemed from this account that the suicide was directly after the trial; even before the boy’s letter to Nedda had been written. He must surely have heard of it since and given up his mad idea! He leaned over, touched John on the knee, and handed him the paper. John read the paragraph, handed it back; and the two brothers stared fixedly at each other. Then Felix made the faintest movement of his head toward his daughter, and John nodded. Crossing to Nedda, Felix hooked his arm in hers and said:
“Just look at this, my child.”
Nedda read, started to her feet, sank back, and cried out:
“Poor, poor man! Oh, Dad! Poor man!”
Felix felt ashamed. Though Tryst’s death meant so much relief to her, she felt first this rush of compassion; he himself, to whom it meant so much less relief, had felt only that relief.
“He said he couldn’t stand it; he told me that. But I never thought—Oh! Poor man!” And, burying her face against his arm, she gave way.
Petrified, and conscious that John at the far end of the carriage was breathing rather hard, Felix could only stroke her arm till at last she whispered:
“There’s nobody now for Derek to save. Oh, if you’d seen that poor man in prison, Dad!”
And the only words of comfort Felix could find were:
“My child, there are thousands and thousands of poor prisoners and captives!”
In a truce to agitation they spent the rest of that three hours’ journey, while the train rattled and rumbled through the quiet, happy-looking land.
It was tea-time when they reached Worcester, and at once went up to the Royal Charles Hostel. A pretty young woman in the office there informed them that the young gentleman had paid his bill and gone out about ten o’clock; but had left his luggage. She had not seen him come in. His room was up that little staircase at the end of the passage. There was another entrance that he might have come in at. The ‘Boots’ would take them.
Past the hall stuffed with furniture and decorated with the stags’ heads and battle-prints common to English county-town hotels, they followed the ‘Boots’ up five red-carpeted steps, down a dingy green corridor, to a door at the very end. There was no answer to their knock. The dark little room, with striped walls, and more battle-prints, looked out on a side street and smelled dusty. On a shiny leather sofa an old valise, strapped-up ready for departure, was reposing with Felix’s telegram, unopened, deposited thereon. Writing on his card, “Have come down with Nedda. F. F.,” and laying it on the telegram, in case Derek should come in by the side entrance, Felix and Nedda rejoined John in the hall.