The reappearance of Handyside
Consternation reigned for a while at the entrance to the Royal Devonshire. Men craned their necks and women uttered nervous little shrieks. But Evelyn Forbes was endowed with a vigorous frame and a splendidly vital spirit, and she recovered her senses before she could be carried into the vestibule.
The fact that she had fainted, too, brought to the aid of her waking senses the innate horror of her race and class for anything approaching a “scene,” and she was almost unnaturally collected in speech and demeanor within a few seconds after her eyes had reopened.
“Did I give way like that?” she said, with a valiant smile, first at Theydon, and then at the ring of faces, each with its varying expression of curiosity or concern. “How stupid of me! How excessively stupid! That sort of behavior doesn’t help at all— does it?
Thank you, I can walk quite well.. I’ll just go to mother’s room and telephone home.... There has been some silly mistake. By this time it will be rectified, I’m sure.... Come, Mr. Theydon. Where is Mr. Winter?”
“Here,” said the detective. “I’ll follow in a minute or so. Please don’t communicate with London till I arrive.”
His quietly insistent tone was meant rather for Theydon than for the half-demented girl, who was stumbling anywhere but in the right direction until Theydon caught her arm and led her to the lift. She contrived to remain outwardly calm until she reached the seclusion of the sitting room, when she broke into a flood of tears, while in disjointed and hysterical words she blamed her own rashness for the fate which had overtaken her mother.
If only she had used better judgment when the telegram came— if only she had hired an automobile and driven straight to Beachy Head— if only she had done a dozen other things which no one would possibly have dreamed of doing— she might have safeguarded her darling mother!
Theydon, meanwhile, was nearly frantic with the indecision of ignorance. Never had he felt so helpless, so utterly childish and unhinged in the face of disaster. He had heard that it was good for a woman to be allowed to cry when overwhelmed with misery. Again, he remembered reading somewhere that the feminine temperament should not be allowed to yield to a too-tempestuous grief, or the delicate and finely-balanced female organism might suffer irreparable injury. Should she be given water or a stimulant? Should one leave her alone or endeavor to soothe her?
Heaven only knew— he didn’t— so he did exactly what any devout and despairing lover might be expected to do— put an arm around her shoulders, and murmured a frenzied assurance of his willingness to die several times, and vanquish a horde of Young Manchus in the process, ere she could be allowed to endure one needless hour of distress on her mother’s account.