“The fact that I was in the very act of losing my temper. That’s all.”
Presently, when Louise was ascending the stairs with Mrs. Bond, the girl asked:
“Why was Hugh so put out? What has Mrs. Spicer been saying about him?”
“Only that he was a shirker during the war. And, naturally, he is highly indignant.”
“He has a right to be. He did splendidly. His record shows that,” declared the girl.
“I urged him to take no notice of the insults. The Spicer woman has a very venomous tongue, my dear! She is a vicar’s widow!”
And then they separated to their respective rooms.
Half an hour later Hugh Henfrey retired, but he found sleep impossible; so he got up and sat at the open window, gazing across to the dim outlines of the Surrey hills, picturesque and undulating beneath the stars.
Who could have called him on the telephone? It was a woman, but the voice might have been that of a female telephone operator. Or yet—it might have been that of Dorise! She knew that he was at Shapley and looked it up in the telephone directory. If that were the explanation, then she certainly would not give away the secret of his hiding-place.
Still he was haunted by a great dread the whole of that night. The Sparrow had told him he had acted foolishly in leaving his place of concealment in Kensington. The Sparrow was his firm friend, and in future he intended to obey the little old man’s orders implicitly—as so many others did.
Next morning he came down to breakfast before the ladies, and beside his plate he found a letter—addressed to him openly. He had not received one addressed in his real name for many months. Sight of it caused his heart to bound in anxiety, but when he read it he stood rooted to the spot.
Those lines which he read staggered him; the room seemed to revolve, and he re-read them, scarce believing his own eyes.
He realized in that instant that a great blow had fallen upon him, and that all was now hopeless. The sunshine of his life, had in that single instant, been blotted out!
THE MAN WITH MANY NAMES
At the moment he had read the letter Mrs. Bond entered the room.
“Hallo! You’re down early,” she remarked. “And already had your letters, I see! They don’t generally come so early. The postman has to walk over from Puttenham.”
Then she took up her own and carelessly placed them aside. They consisted mostly of circulars and the accounts of Guildford tradesmen.
“Yes,” he said, “I was down early. Lately I’ve acquired the habit of early rising.”
“An excellent habit in a young man,” she laughed. “All men who achieve success are early risers—so a Cabinet Minister said the other day. And really, I believe it.”
“An hour in the early morning is worth three after dinner. That is why Cabinet Ministers entertain people at breakfast nowadays instead of at dinner. In the morning the brain is fresh and active—a fact recently discovered in our post-war days,” Hugh said.