Book III
Chapter XVI
 

I

Mortimer went off that night and got drunk. It was the first time in his life and possibly his last, but he made a thorough job of it. He took the precaution to telephone to the house that he was going out of town, but when he returned two days later he experienced a distinct pleasure in telling Alexina what he had done. Alexina, who still hoped that she would always be able to regard Life as God's good joke, rather sympathized with him, and assured him that he would have nothing to apprehend from Gora in the future: she had no more fervent wish than to keep out of his way.

II

He found himself on the whole very comfortable. Maria was always most kind, Alexina polite and amiable, and Tom "decent." Joan liked him as well as she liked anybody, and when the family spent a quiet evening at home he undertook to improve her dancing and she was correspondingly grateful; it had been her weak point. The fiction was carefully preserved that the Dwights were conferring a favor on the Abbotts and that all expenses were equally shared. In time he came to believe it, and his hours of deep depression, when he had pondered over his inexplicable roguery, grew rarer and finally ceased. After all he had had nothing to lose as far as Alexina was concerned; one's sister hardly mattered (Did women matter much, anyhow?); and his sense of security, which he hugged at this time as the most precious thing he had ever possessed, at last made him a little arrogant. He had done what he should not, of course, but it was over and done with, ancient history; and where other men had gone to State's Prison for less, he had been protected like an infant from a rude wind. He knew that he would never do it again and that his position in life was as assured as it ever had been.

III

He spent a good many evenings at the club, and Maria found him a willing cavalier when Tom "drew the line" at dancing parties. Alexina, who had sold her car to Janet and her new gowns to Polly, had announced that she was bored with dancing and should devote the winter to study. She spent the evenings either in her library upstairs or with her friends. Mortimer saw her only at the table.

He wondered if Tom Abbott would rent the house every winter. A pleasant feeling of irresponsibility was beginning to possess his jaded spirit. He made a little money occasionally, but he was no longer expected to hand anything over when the first of the month came round--a date that had haunted him like a nightmare for four long years. Pie could spend it on himself, and he felt an. increasing pleasure in doing so.