17. The Brink Of The Rubicon
The next evening Wratislaw drove in a hired dogcart up Glenavelin from Gledsmuir just
as a stormy autumn twilight was setting in over the bare fields. A wild back-end had
followed on the tracks of a marvellous summer. Though it was still October the leaves
lay heaped beneath the hedgerows, the bracken had yellowed to a dismal hue of decay,
and the heather had turned from the purple of its flower to the grey-blue of its passing.
Rain had fallen, and the long road-side pools were fired by the westering sun.
Glenavelin looked crooked and fantastic in the falling shadows, and two miles farther
the high lights of Etterick rose like a star in the bosom of the hills. Seen after many
weeks' work in the bustle and confinement of town, the solitary, shadow-haunted world
soothed and comforted.
He found Lewis in his room alone. The place was quite dark for no lamp was lit, and
only a merry fire showed the occupant. He welcomed his friend with crazy vehemence,
pushing him into a great armchair, offering a dozen varieties of refreshment, and leaving
the butler aghast with contradictory messages about dinner.
"Oh, Tommy, upon my soul, it is good to see you here! I was getting as dull as an owl."
"Are you alone?" Wratislaw asked.
"George is staying here, but he has gone over to Glenaller to a big shoot. I didn't care
much about it, so I stayed at home. He will be back to-morrow."
Lewis's face in the firelight seemed cheerful and wholesome enough, but his words
belied it. Wratislaw wondered why this man, who had been wont to travel to the ends of
the earth for good shooting, should deny himself the famous Glenaller coverts.
At dinner the lamplight showed him more clearly, and the worried look in his eyes could
not be hidden. He was listless, too, his kindly, boisterous manner seemed to have
forsaken him, and he had acquired a great habit of abstracted silence. He asked about
recent events in the House, commenting shrewdly enough, but without interest. When
Wratislaw in turn questioned him on his doings, he had none of the ready enthusiasm
which had been used to accompany his talk on sport. He gave bare figures and was
Afterwards in his own sanctum, with drawn curtains and a leaping fire, he became more
cheerful. It was hard to be moody in that pleasant room, with the light glancing from
silver and vellum and dark oak, and a thousand memories about it of the clean, outdoor
life. Wratislaw stretched his legs to the blaze and watched the coils of blue smoke