The Return HTML version
It was but little after daybreak when Mrs Lawford, after listening at his door a while,
turned the key and looked in on her husband. Blue-grey light from between the venetian
blinds just dusked the room. She stood in a bluish dressing-gown, her hand on her bosom,
looking down on the lean impassive face. For the briefest instant her heart had leapt with
an indescribable surmise; to fall dull as lead once more. Breathing equably and quietly,
the strange figure lay stretched upon the bed. 'How can he sleep? How can he sleep?' she
whispered with a black and hopeless indignation. What a night she had had! And he!
She turned noiselessly away. The candle had guttered to extinction. The big glass
reflected her, voluminous and wan, her dark-ringed eyes, full lips, rich, glossy hair, and
rounded chin. 'Yes, yes,' it seemed to murmur mournfully. She turned away, and drawing
stealthily near stooped once more quite low, and examined the face on the pillow with
lynx-like concentration. And though every nerve revolted at the thought, she was finally
convinced, unwillingly, but assuredly, that her husband was here. Indeed, if it were not
so, how could she for a single moment have accepted the possibility that he was a
stranger? He seemed to haunt, like a ghostly emanation, this strange, detestable face--as
memory supplies the features concealed beneath a mask. The face was still and stony,
like one dead or imaged in wax, yet beneath it dreams were passing--silly, ordinary
Lawford dreams. She was almost alarmed at the terribly rancorous hatred she felt for the
face... 'It was just like Arthur to be so taken in!'
Then she too remembered Quain, and remembered also in the slowly paling dusk that the
house would soon be stirring. She went out and noiselessly locked the door again. But it
was useless to begin looking for Quain now--her husband had a good many dull books,
most of them his 'eccentric' father's. What must the servants be thinking? and what was
all that talk about a mysterious visitor? She would have to question Ada-- diplomatically.
She returned to her room and sat down in an arm-chair, and waited. In sheer weariness
she fell into a doze, and woke at the sound of dustpan and broom. She rang the bell, and
asked for hot water, tea, and a basin of cornflour.
'And please, Ada, be as quiet as possible over your work; your master is in a nice sleep,
and must not be disturbed on any account. In the front bedroom.' She looked up suddenly.
'By the way, who let Dr Ferguson in last night?' It was dangerous, but successful.
'Dr Ferguson, ma'am? Oh, you mean... He WAS in.'
Sheila smiled resignedly. 'Was in? What do you mean, "was in"? And where were you,
'I had been sent out to Critchett's, the chemist's.'