“It’s not sympathy?” broke in Betton, the moisture drying out of his voice. He withdrew his hand from Vyse’s shoulder. “What is it, then? The joy of uncovering my nakedness? An eye for an eye? Is it that?”
Vyse rose from his seat, and with a mechanical gesture swept into a heap all the letters he had sorted.
“I’m stone broke, and wanted to keep my job—that’s what it is,” he said wearily ...
ARTHUR BERNALD could never afterward recall just when the first conjecture flashed on him: oddly enough, there was no record of it in the agitated jottings of his diary. But, as it seemed to him in retrospect, he had always felt that the queer man at the Wades’ must be John Pellerin, if only for the negative reason that he couldn’t imaginably be any one else. It was impossible, in the confused pattern of the century’s intellectual life, to fit the stranger in anywhere, save in the big gap which, some five and twenty years earlier, had been left by Pellerin’s unaccountable disappearance; and conversely, such a man as the Wades’ visitor couldn’t have lived for sixty years without filling, somewhere in space, a nearly equivalent void.
At all events, it was certainly not to Doctor Wade or to his mother that Bernald owed the hint: the good unconscious Wades, one of whose chief charms in the young man’s eyes was that they remained so robustly untainted by Pellerinism, in spite of the fact that Doctor Wade’s younger brother, Howland, was among its most impudently flourishing high-priests.
The incident had begun by Bernald’s running across Doctor Robert Wade one hot summer night at the University Club, and by Wade’s saying, in the tone of unprofessional laxity which the shadowy stillness of the place invited: “I got hold of a queer fish at St. Martin’s the other day—case of heat-prostration picked up in Central Park. When we’d patched him up I found he had nowhere to go, and not a dollar in his pocket, and I sent him down to our place at Portchester to re-build.”
The opening roused his hearer’s attention. Bob Wade had an odd unformulated sense of values that Bernald had learned to trust.
“What sort of chap? Young or old?”
“Oh, every age—full of years, and yet with a lot left. He called himself sixty on the books.”
“Sixty’s a good age for some kinds of living. And age is of course purely subjective. How has he used his sixty years?”
“Well—part of them in educating himself, apparently. He’s a scholar—humanities, languages, and so forth.”
“Oh—decayed gentleman,” Bernald murmured, disappointed.
“Decayed? Not much!” cried the doctor with his accustomed literalness. “I only mentioned that side of Winterman—his name’s Winterman—because it was the side my mother noticed first. I suppose women generally do. But it’s only a part—a small part. The man’s the big thing.”