“Good night, Mrs. Cleary,” and he left the room.
In the same absorbed way he mounted the stairs, opened his own door and, without turning up the gas, sank heavily into a chair, the link still held fast in his hand. A moment later he sprang from his seat, stepped quickly to the gas-jet, turned up the light, and held one of the small buttons to the flame, as if to reassure himself of the initials; then with a smothered cry fell across the narrow bed, his face hidden in the quilt.
For an hour he lay motionless, his mind a seething caldron, above which writhed distorted shapes who hid their faces as they mounted upward. When these vanished and a certain calm fell upon him, two figures detached themselves and stood clear: a woman cowering on a door-step, her skirts befouled with the slime of the streets, and a priest with hand upraised, his only weapon the symbol of his God.
The morning brought him little relief. He drank his coffee in comparative silence and crossed the street to his work with only a slight bend of his head toward Kitty, who was helping Mike tag some baggage. She noticed then how pale he was and the wan smile that swept over his face as she waved her hand at him in answer, but she was too busy over the trunks to give the subject further thought.
Masie was waiting for him in the back part of the shop, which, by the same old process of moving things around, had been fitted up into a sort of private office for Kling, two high-back settles serving for one wall, three bureaus for another, while some Spanish chairs, a hair-cloth sofa studded with brass nails, an inlaid table, and a Daghestan rug helped to make it secluded and attractive. Kling liked the new arrangement because he could keep one eye on his books and the other on the front door, thus killing two birds with one stone. Masie loved it because when Felix had so many customers that he could neither talk nor play with her, it served her as a temporary refuge—as would a shelter until the rain was over—and Felix delighted in it because it kept Kling out of the way, the good-natured Dutchman having often spoiled a sale by what Felix called “inopportune remarks at opportune moments.”
Although Masie’s business on this particular morning was nothing more important than merely saying good-by to her “Uncle Felix” before she went to school, her wee stub of a nose had, until she saw him cross the street, been flattened against the glass of her father’s front door, her two eager, anxious eyes fixed on Kitty’s sidewalk. Felix was over an hour late, something which had never happened before and something which could not have happened now unless he had either overslept himself—an unbelievable fact, or was ill—a calamity which could not be thought of for a moment.