Granice paused. He had dropped into a chair opposite the lawyer’s, and he sat for a moment, his head thrown back, looking about the familiar room. Everything in it had grown grimacing and alien, and each strange insistent object seemed craning forward from its place to hear him.
“It was I who put the stuff in the melon,” he said. “And I don’t want you to think I’m sorry for it. This isn’t ‘remorse,’ understand. I’m glad the old skin-flint is dead—I’m glad the others have their money. But mine’s no use to me any more. My sister married miserably, and died. And I’ve never had what I wanted.”
Ascham continued to stare; then he said: “What on earth was your object, then?”
“Why, to get what I wanted—what I fancied was in reach! I wanted change, rest, life, for both of us—wanted, above all, for myself, the chance to write! I travelled, got back my health, and came home to tie myself up to my work. And I’ve slaved at it steadily for ten years without reward—without the most distant hope of success! Nobody will look at my stuff. And now I’m fifty, and I’m beaten, and I know it.” His chin dropped forward on his breast. “I want to chuck the whole business,” he ended.
IT was after midnight when Ascham left.
His hand on Granice’s shoulder, as he turned to go—“District Attorney be hanged; see a doctor, see a doctor!” he had cried; and so, with an exaggerated laugh, had pulled on his coat and departed.
Granice turned back into the library. It had never occurred to him that Ascham would not believe his story. For three hours he had explained, elucidated, patiently and painfully gone over every detail—but without once breaking down the iron incredulity of the lawyer’s eye.
At first Ascham had feigned to be convinced—but that, as Granice now perceived, was simply to get him to expose himself, to entrap him into contradictions. And when the attempt failed, when Granice triumphantly met and refuted each disconcerting question, the lawyer dropped the mask suddenly, and said with a good-humoured laugh: “By Jove, Granice you’ll write a successful play yet. The way you’ve worked this all out is a marvel.”
Granice swung about furiously—that last sneer about the play inflamed him. Was all the world in a conspiracy to deride his failure?
“I did it, I did it,” he muttered sullenly, his rage spending itself against the impenetrable surface of the other’s mockery; and Ascham answered with a smile: “Ever read any of those books on hallucination? I’ve got a fairly good medico-legal library. I could send you one or two if you like...”
Left alone, Granice cowered down in the chair before his writing-table. He understood that Ascham thought him off his head.
“Good God—what if they all think me crazy?”
The horror of it broke out over him in a cold sweat—he sat there and shook, his eyes hidden in his icy hands. But gradually, as he began to rehearse his story for the thousandth time, he saw again how incontrovertible it was, and felt sure that any criminal lawyer would believe him.