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The Return

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
There was no one in the room, and no light, when they entered. For a moment Grisel
stood by the open window, looking out. Then she turned impulsively. 'My brother, of
course, will ask you too,' she said; 'we had made up our minds to do so if you came again;
but I want you to promise me now that you won't dream of going back to-night. That
surely would be tempting--well, not Providence. I couldn't rest if I thought you might be
alone; like that again.' Her voice died away into the calling of the waters. A light moved
across the dingy old rows of books and as his sister turned to go out Herbert appeared in
the doorway, carrying a green-shaded lamp, with an old leather quarto under his arm.
'Ah, here you are,' he said. 'I guessed you had probably met.' He drew up, burdened,
before his visitor. But his clear black glance, instead of wandering off at his first greeting,
had intensified. And it was almost with an air of absorption that he turned away. He
dumped his book on to a chair and it turned over with scattered leaves on to the floor. He
put the lamp down and stooped after it, so that his next words came up muffled, and as if
the remark had been forced out of him. 'You don't feel worse, I hope?' He got up and
faced his visitor for the answer. And for the moment Lawford stood considering his
symptoms.
'No,' he said almost gaily; 'I feel enormously better.' But Herbert's long, oval, questioning
eyes beneath the sleek black hair were still fixed on his face. 'I am afraid, my dear
fellow,' he said, with something more than his usual curiously indifferent courtesy, 'the
struggle has frightfully pulled you to pieces.'
'The question is,' answered Lawford, with a kind of tired yet whimsical melancholy in his
voice, 'though I am not sure that the answer very much matters--what's going to put me
together again? It's the old story of Humpty Dumpty, Herbert. Besides, one thing you said
has stuck out in a quite curious way in my memory. I wonder if you will remember?'
'What was that?' said Herbert with unfeigned curiosity.
'Why, you said even though Sabathier had failed, though I was still my own old stodgy
self, that you thought the face--the face, you know, might work in. Somehow, sometimes
I think it has. It does really rather haunt me. In that case--well, what then?' Lawford had
himself listened to this involved explanation much as one watches the accomplishment of
a difficult trick, marvelling more at its completion at all than at the difficulty involved in
the doing of it.
'"Work in,"' repeated Herbert, like a rather blase child confronted with a new mechanical
toy; 'did I really say that? well, honestly, it wasn't bad; it's what one would expect on that
hypothesis. You see, we are only different, as it were, in our differences. Once the foot's
over the threshold, it's nine points of the law! But I don't remember saying it.' He
 
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