Culwin, at the unexpected gesture, stopped short, a flush on his face.
“Phil—what the deuce? Why, have the eyes scared you? My dear boy—my dear fellow—I never had such a tribute to my literary ability, never!”
He broke into a chuckle at the thought, and halted on the hearth-rug, his hands still in his pockets, gazing down in honest perplexity at the youth’s bowed head. Then, as Frenham still made no answer, he moved a step or two nearer.
“Cheer up, my dear Phil! It’s years since I’ve seen them—apparently I’ve done nothing lately bad enough to call them out of chaos. Unless my present evocation of them has made you see them; which would be their worst stroke yet!”
His bantering appeal quivered off into an uneasy laugh, and he moved still nearer, bending over Frenham, and laying his gouty hands on the lad’s shoulders.
“Phil, my dear boy, really—what’s the matter? Why don’t you answer? Have you seen the eyes?”
Frenham’s face was still pressed against his arms, and from where I stood behind Culwin I saw the latter, as if under the rebuff of this unaccountable attitude, draw back slowly from his friend. As he did so, the light of the lamp on the table fell full on his perplexed congested face, and I caught its sudden reflection in the mirror behind Frenham’s head.
Culwin saw the reflection also. He paused, his face level with the mirror, as if scarcely recognizing the countenance in it as his own. But as he looked his expression gradually changed, and for an appreciable space of time he and the image in the glass confronted each other with a glare of slowly gathering hate. Then Culwin let go of Frenham’s shoulders, and drew back a step, covering his eyes with his hands ...
Frenham, his face still hidden, did not stir.
IT had been almost too easy—that was young Millner’s first feeling, as he stood again on the Spence door-step, the great moment of his interview behind him, and Fifth Avenue rolling its grimy Pactolus at his feet.
Halting there in the winter light, with the clang of the ponderous vestibule doors in his ears, and his eyes carried down the perspective of the packed interminable thoroughfare, he even dared to remember Rastignac’s apostrophe to Paris, and to hazard recklessly under his small fair moustache: “Who knows?”
He, Hugh Millner, at any rate, knew a good deal already: a good deal more than he had imagined it possible to learn in half an hour’s talk with a man like Orlando G. Spence; and the loud-rumouring city spread out there before him seemed to grin like an accomplice who knew the rest.