It was a soldierlike little speech, delivered with the man’s gallant charm. Young Winslow gripped his arm affectionately and I heard him say—“You are a brute, sir, dragging me into it.” The little party descended the steps of the Town Hall. The words of command rang out. The Parade stood at the salute, which Boyce acknowledged, guided by Winslow and his mother he reached his car, to which he was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress. After formal leave-taking the Boyces and Winslow drove off amid the plaudits of the crowd. Then Sir Anthony and Lady Fenimore. Then Betty and her aunts. Last of all, while the troops were preparing to march away and the crowd was dispersing and all the excitement was over, Marigold picked me out of my chair and carried me down to my little grey two-seater.
Of course, after this (in the words of my young friends) I crocked up. The confounded shell that had played the fool with my legs had also done something silly to my heart. Hence these collapses after physical and emotional strain. I had to stay in bed for some days. Cliffe told me that as soon as I was fit to travel I must go to Bournemouth, where it would be warm. I told Cliffe to go to a place where it would be warmer. As neither of us would obey the other, we remained where we were.
Cliffe informed me that Lady Fenimore had called him in to see Sir Anthony, whom she described as being on the obstinate edge of a nervous breakdown. I was sorry to hear it.
“I suppose you’ve tried to send him, too, to Bournemouth?”
“I haven’t,” Cliffe replied gravely. “He has got something on his mind. I’m sure of it. So is his wife. What’s the good of sending him away?”
“What do you think is on his mind?” I asked.
“How do I know? His wife thinks it must be something to do with Boyce’s reception. He went home dead-beat, is very irritable, off his food, can’t sleep, and swears cantankerously that there’s nothing the matter with him,—the usual symptoms. Can you throw any light on it?”
“Certainly not,” I replied rather sharply.
Cliffe said “Umph!” in his exasperating professional way and proceeded to feel my pulse.
“I don’t quite see how Friday’s mild exertion could account for your breakdown, my friend,” he remarked.