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The Return

CHAPTER TEN
Lawford listened awhile before opening his door. He heard voices in the dining-room. A
light shone faintly between the blinds of his bedroom. He very gently let himself in, and
unheard, unseen, mounted the stairs. He sat down in front of the fire, tired out and bitterly
cold in spite of his long walk home. But his mind was wearier even than his body. He
tried in vain to catch up the thread of his thoughts. He only knew for certain that so far as
his first hope and motives had gone his errand had proved entirely futile. 'How could I
possibly fall asleep with that fellow talking there?' he had said to himself angrily; yet
knew in his heart that their talk had driven every other idea out of his mind. He had not
yet even glanced into the glass. His every thought was vainly wandering round and round
the one curious hint that had drifted in, but which he had not yet been able to put into
words.
Supposing, though, that he had really fallen into a deep sleep, with none to watch or spy--
what then? However ridiculous that idea, it was not more ridiculous, more incredible than
the actual fact. If he had remained there, he might, it was just possible that he would by
now, have actually awakened just his own familiar every-day self again. And the thought
of that--though he hardly realised its full import--actually did send him on tip-toe for a
glance that more or less effectually set the question at rest. And there looked out at him, it
seemed, the same dark sallow face that had so much appalled him only two nights ago--
expressionless, cadaverous, with shadowy hollows beneath the glittering eyes. And even
as he watched it, its lips, of their own volition, drew together and questioned him--
'Whose?'
He was not to be given much leisure, however, for fantastic reveries like this. As he
leaned his head on his hands, gladly conscious that he could not possibly bear this
incessant strain for long, Sheila opened the door. He started up.
'I wish you would knock,' he said angrily; 'you talk of quiet; you tell me to rest, and think;
and here you come creeping and spying on me as if I was a child in a nursery. I refuse to
be watched and guarded and peeped on like this.' He knew that his hands were trembling,
that he could not keep his eyes fixed, that his voice was nearly inarticulate.
Sheila drew in her lips. 'I have merely come to tell you, Arthur, that Mr Bethany has
brought Mr Danton in to supper. He agrees with me it really would be advisable to take
such a very old and prudent and practical friend into our confidence. You do nothing I
ask of you. I simply cannot bear the burden of this incessant anxiety. Look, now, what
your night walk has done for you! You look positively at death's door.'
'What--what an instinct you have for the right word,' said Lawford softly. 'And Danton,
of all people in the world! It was surely rather a curious, a thoughtless choice. Has he had
supper?'
 
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