'He wasn't there--now why?'
There was a sound of footsteps. The figure of a thickset man, with the ruddy brown face of robust health, was seen in the back drawing-room. The forefinger of his upraised hand was outlined against the black of his frock coat. He spoke in a grudging voice.
'Well, James,' he said; 'I can't--I can't stop.' And turning round, he walked out.
It was Timothy.
James rose from his chair. 'There!' he said; 'there! I knew there was something wro-----' He checked himself, and was silent, staring before him, as though he had seen a portent.
SOAMES BREAKS THE NEWS
ON leaving the Courts Soames did not go straight home. He felt disinclined for the City, and drawn by need for sympathy in his triumph, he, too, made his way, but slowly and on foot, to Timothy's in the Bayswater Road.
His father had just left; Mrs Small and Aunt Hester, in possession of the whole story, greeted him warmly. They were sure he was hungry after all that evidence. Smither should toast him some more muffins, his dear father had eaten them all. He must put his legs up on the sofa; and he must have a glass of prune brandy too. It was so strengthening.
Swithin was still present, having lingered later than his wont, for he felt in want of exercise. On hearing this suggestion, he 'pished.' A pretty pass young men were coming to! His own liver was out of order, and he could not bear the thought of anyone else drinking prune brandy.
He went away almost immediately, saying to Soames: 'And how's your wife? You tell her from me that if she's dull, and likes to come and dine with me quietly, I'll give her such a bottle of champagne as she doesn't get every day.' Staring down from his height on Soames he contracted his thick, puffy, yellow hand as though squeezing within it all this small fry, and throwing out his chest he waddled slowly away.
Mrs Small and Aunt Hester were left horrified. Swithin was so droll!