“Well, Hobart, my poor young friend, you have been tried as by fire,” said Mr. Kemble, in a voice broken by sympathy; “God help you and guide us all in this strange snarl! I feel that the first thing to be done is to get Helen home. Such tidings as yours should be broken to her in that refuge only.”
“I agree with you most emphatically, Mr. Kemble. In the seclusion of her own home, with none present except yourself and her mother, she should face this thing and nerve herself to act her part, the most important of all. If she cannot awaken Captain Nichol’s memory, it is hard to say what will, or when he will be restored.”
“Possibly seeing me, so closely associated with her, may have the same effect,” faltered the banker.
“I doubt it; but we can try it. Don’t expect me to speak while in the hallway. Helen, no doubt, is on the alert, and I cannot meet her to-night. I am just keeping up from sheer force of will. You must try to realize it. This discovery will change everything for me. Helen’s old love will revive in all-absorbing power. I’ve faced this in thought, but cannot in reality now—I simply cannot. It would do no good. My presence would be an embarrassment to her, and I taxed beyond mortal endurance. You may think me weak, but I cannot help it. As soon as possible I must put you, and if you think best, Captain Nichol’s father, in charge of the situation. Jackson can send for his father at once if you wish.”
“I do wish it immediately. I can’t see my way through this. I would like Dr. Barnes’ advice and presence also.”
“I think it would be wise, sir. The point I wish to make is that I have done about all that I now can in this affair. My further presence is only another complication. At any rate, I must have a respite—the privilege of going quietly to my own home as soon as possible.”
“Oh, Hobart, my heart aches for you; it just aches for you. You have indeed been called upon to endure a hundredfold too much in this strange affair. How it will all end God only knows. I understand you sufficiently. Leave the matter to me now. We will have Dr. Barnes and Mr. and Mrs. Nichol here as soon as can be. I suppose I had better see the captain a few moments and then take Helen home.”
Martine led the way into the other apartment, where Nichol, rendered good-natured by his supper and a cigar, was conversing sociably with the landlord. Mr. Kemble fairly trembled as he came forward, involuntarily expecting that the man so well known to him must give some sign of recognition.