And yet, looking back upon that last, hurried walk of mine through the forest, I see how strange it was that I could not quit remembering how in my dream I had gone motoring up Mount Pilatus with the man I had seen so pitiably demolished on the Versailles road, two years before— Larrabee Harman.
Keredec was alone in his salon, extended at ease upon a long chair, an ottoman and a stool, when I burst in upon him; a portentous volume was in his lap, and a prolific pipe, smoking up from his great cloud of beard, gave the final reality to the likeness he thus presented of a range of hills ending in a volcano. But he rolled the book cavalierly to the floor, limbered up by sections to receive me, and offered me a hearty welcome.
“Ha, my dear sir,” he cried, “you take pity on the lonely Keredec; you make him a visit. I could not wish better for myself. We shall have a good smoke and a good talk.”
“You are improved to-day?” I asked, it may be a little slyly.
“Improve?” he repeated inquiringly.
“Your rheumatism, I mean.”
“Ha, yes; that rheumatism!” he shouted, and throwing back his head, rocked the room with sudden laughter. “Hew! But it is gone—almost! Oh, I am much better, and soon I shall be able to go in the woods again with my boy.” He pushed a chair toward me. “Come, light your cigar; he will not return for an hour perhaps, and there is plenty of time for the smoke to blow away. So! It is better. Now we shall talk.”
“Yes,” I said, “I wanted to talk with you.”
“That is a—what you call?—ha, yes, a coincidence,” he returned, stretching himself again in the long chair, “a happy coincidence; for I have wished a talk with you; but you are away so early for all day, and in the evening Oliver, he is always here.”
“I think what I wanted to talk about concerns him particularly.”
“Yes?” The professor leaned forward, looking at me gravely. “That is another coincidence. But you shall speak first. Commence then.”
“I feel that you know me at least well enough,” I began rather hesitatingly, “to be sure that I would not, for the world, make any effort to intrude in your affairs, or Mr. Saffren’s, and that I would not force your confidence in the remotest—”
“No, no, no!” he interrupted. “Please do not fear I shall misinterpretate whatever you will say. You are our friend. We know it.”
“Very well,” I pursued; “then I speak with no fear of offending. When you first came to the inn I couldn’t help seeing that you took a great many precautions for secrecy; and when you afterward explained these precautions to me on the ground that you feared somebody might think Mr. Saffren not quite sane, and that such an impression might injure him later—well, I could not help seeing that your explanation did not cover all the ground.”