It would have been easier if it had been an older man, who might have had a daughter of her age. But he was in that period of the early forties when a doctor sometimes has a matter-of-fact, disagreeable wife whose idea stands between him and the spiritual intimacy of his patients, so that it seems as if they were delivering their confidences rather to her than to him. He was able, he was good, he was extremely acute, he was even with the latest facts and theories; but as he sat straight up in his chair his stomach defined itself as a half-moon before him, and he said to the quivering heap of emotions beside him, “You mean like breaking hearts, and such little matters?”
It was fatally stupid, and it beat her back into herself.
“Yes,” she said, with a contempt that she easily hid from him, “that’s worse than getting drunk, isn’t it?”
“Well, it isn’t so regarded,” said the doctor, who supposed himself to have made a sprightly answer, and laughed at it. “I wish, Miss Bessie, you’d take a little remedy I’m going to send you. You’ve merely been up too late, but it’s a very good thing for people who’ve been up too late.”
“Thank you. And about my brother?”
“Oh! I’ll send a man to look after him to-night, and tomorrow I really think he’d better go.”
Miss Lynde had gone earlier than usual to bed, when Bessie heard Alan’s door open, and then heard him feeling his way fumbingly down-stairs. She surmised that he had drunk up all that he had in his room, and was making for the side-board in the dining-room.
She ran and got the two decanters-one of whiskey and one of brandy, which he was in the habit of carrying back to his room from such an incursion.
“Alan!” she called to him, in a low voice.
“Where are you?” he answered back.
“In the library,” she said. “Come in here, please.”
He came, and stood looking gloomily in from the doorway. He caught sight of the decanters and the glasses on the library table. “Oh!” he said, and gave a laugh cut in two by a hiccough.
“Come in, and shut the door, Alan,” she said. “Let’s make a night of it. I’ve got the materials here.” She waved her hand toward the decanters.
Alan shrugged. “I don’t know what you mean.” But he came forward, and slouched into one of the deep chairs.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” said Bessie, with a laugh. “We’re both excited, and we want to get away from ourselves. Isn’t that what’s the matter with you when it begins? Doctor Lacy thinks it is.”
“Does he?” Alan asked. “I didn’t suppose he had so much sense. What of it?”
“Nothing. Merely that I’m going to drink a glass of whiskey and a glass of brandy for every glass that you drink to-night.”
“You mustn’t play the fool, Bess,” said her brother, with dignified severity.