“Oh no! I shall leave them here. It wouldn’t be any use your just keeping well overnight. You’ll have to keep well a long time, Alan, if you’re going to help me. And that’s the reason I’d rather talk to you when you can give your whole mind to what I say.”
“Is it something so serious?”
“I don’t know. That’s for you to judge. Not very—not at all, perhaps.”
“Then I won’t fail you, Bessie. I shall ‘keep well,’ as you call it, as long as you want me. Good-night.”
“Good-night. I shall leave these bottles here, remember.”
“You needn’t be afraid. You might put them beside my bed.”
Bessie slept soundly, from exhaustion, and in that provisional fashion in which people who have postponed a care to a given moment are able to sleep. But she woke early, and crept down-stairs before any one else was astir, and went to the library. The decanters stood there on the table, empty. Her brother lay a shapeless heap in one of the deep arm-chairs.
Westover got home from the Enderby dance at last with the forecast of a violent cold in his system, which verified itself the next morning. He had been housed a week, when Jeff Durgin came to see him. “Why didn’t you let me know you were sick?” he demanded, “I’d have come and looked after you.”
“Thank you,” said Westover, with as much stiffness as he could command in his physical limpness. “I shouldn’t have allowed you to look after me; and I want you to understand, now, that there can’t be any sort of friendliness between us till you’ve accounted for your behavior with Lynde the other night.”
“You mean at the party?” Jeff asked, tranquilly.
“Yes!” cried Westover. “If I had not been shut up ever since, I should have gone to see you and had it out with you. I’ve only let you in, now, to give you the chance to explain; and I refuse to hear a word from you till you do.” Westover did not think that this was very forcible, and he was not much surprised that it made Jeff smile.
“Why, I don’t know what there is to explain. I suppose you think I got him drunk; I know what you thought that night. But he was pretty well loaded when he struck my champagne. It wasn’t a question of what he was going to do any longer, but how he was going to do it. I kept an eye on him, and at the right time I helped the caterer’s man to get him up into that room where he wouldn’t make any trouble. I expected to go back and look after him, but I forgot him.”
“I don’t suppose, really, that you’re aware what a devil’s argument that is,” said Westover. “You got Lynde drunk, and then you went back to his sister, and allowed her to treat you as if you were a gentleman, and didn’t deserve to be thrown out of the house.” This at last was something like what Westover had imagined he would say to Jeff, and he looked to see it have the imagined effect upon him.