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The Return

CHAPTER SEVEN
Her husband turned wearily once more, and drawing up a chair sat down in front of the
cold grate. He realised that Sheila thought him as much of a fool now as she had for the
moment thought him an impostor, or something worse, the night before. That was at least
something gained. He realised, too, in a vague way that the exuberance of mind that had
practically invented Dr Ferguson, and outraged Miss Sinnet, had quite suddenly flickered
out. It was astonishing, he thought, with gaze fixed innocently on the black coals, that he
should ever have done such things. He detested that kind of 'rot'; that jaunty theatrical
pose so many men prided their jackdaw brains on.
And he sat quite still, like a cat at a cranny, listening, as it were, for the faintest remotest
stir that might hint at any return of this--activity. It was the first really sane moment he
had had since the 'change.' Whatever it was that had happened at Widderstone was now
distinctly weakening in effect. Why, now, perhaps? He stole a thievish look over his
shoulder at the glass, and cautiously drew finger and thumb down that beaked nose. Then
he really quietly smiled, a smile he felt this abominable facial caricature was quite unused
to, the superior Lawford smile of guileless contempt for the fanatical, the fantastic, and
the bizarre: He wouldn't have sat with his feet on the fender before a burnt-out fire.
And the animosity of that 'he,' uttered only just under his breath, surprised even himself.
It actually did seem as if there were a chance; if only he kept cool and collected. If the
whole mind of a man was bent on being one thing, surely no power on earth, certainly not
on earth, could for long compel him to look another, any more (followed the resplendent
thought) than vice versa.
That, in fact, was the trick that had been in fitful fashion played him since yesterday.
Obviously, and apart altogether from his promise to Sheila, the best possible thing he
could do would be to walk quietly over to Widderstone to-morrow and like a child that
has lost a penny, just make the attempt to reverse the process: look at the graves, read the
inscriptions on the weather-beaten stones, compose himself once more to sleep on the
little seat.
Magic, witchcraft, possession, and all that--well, Mr Bethany might prefer to take it on
the authority of the Bible if it was his duty. But it was at least mainly Old Testament
stuff, like polygamy, Joshua, and the 'unclean beasts.' The 'unclean beasts.' It was simply,
as Simon had said, mainly an affair of the nerves, like Indian jugglery. He had heard of
dozens of such cases, or similar cases. And it was hardly likely that cases even remotely
like his own would be much bragged about, or advertised. All those mysterious
'disappearances,' too, which one reads about so repeatedly? What of them? Even now, he
felt (and glanced swiftly behind him at the fancy), it would be better to think as softly as
possible, not to hope too openly, certainly not to triumph in the least degree, just in case
of--well--listeners.
 
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