The Street Called Straight by Basil King
Closing the door behind his departing guests, Guion stood for a minute, with his hand still on the knob, pressing his forehead against the woodwork. He listened to the sound of the carriage-wheels die away and to the crunching tread of the two men down the avenue.
"The last Guion has received the last guest at Tory Hill," he said to himself. "That's all over--all over and done with. Now!"
It was the hour to which he had been looking forward, first as an impossibility, then as a danger, and at last as an expectation, ever since the day, now some years ago, when he began to fear that he might not be able to restore all the money he had "borrowed" from the properties in his trust. Having descried it from a long way off, he knew that with reasonable luck it could not overtake him soon. There were many chances, indeed, that it might never overtake him at all. Times might change; business might improve; he might come in for the money he expected from his old Aunt de Melcourt; he might die. If none of these things happened, there were still ways and means by which he might make money in big strokes and "square himself" without any one ever being the wiser. He had known of cases, or, at least, he had suspected them, in which men in precisely his position had averted by daring play the deadliest peril and gone down into honored graves. Fortune had generally favored him hitherto, and probably would favor him again.
So after the first dreadful days of seeing his "mistakes," and, in his recoil, calling himself by opprobrious names, he began to get used to his situation and boldly to meet its requirements. That he would prove equal to them he had scarcely any doubt. It was, in fact, next to inconceivable that a man of his antecedents and advantages should be unable to cope with conditions that, after all, were not wholly exceptional in the sordid history of business.
He admitted that the affair was sordid, while finding an excuse for his own connection with it in the involuntary defilement that comes from touching pitch. It was impossible, he said, for a man of business not to touch pitch, and he was not a man of business of his own accord. The state of life had been forced on him. He was a trustee of other people's property by inheritance, just as a man becomes a tsar. As a career it was one of the last he would have chosen. Had he received from his father an ample personal fortune instead of a mere lucrative practice he would have been a country gentleman, in the English style, with, of course, a house in town. Born with a princely aptitude for spending his own money, he felt it hard that he should have been compelled to make it his life's work to husband that of others. The fact that he had always, to some extent been a square man in a round hole seemed to entitle him to a large share of moral allowance, especially in his judgment on himself. He emphasized the last consideration, since it enabled him, in his moments of solitude, to look himself more straightly in the face. It helped him to buttress up his sense of honor, and so his sense of energy, to be able to say, "I am still a gentleman."
He came in time to express it otherwise, and to say, "I must still play the gentleman." He came to define also what he meant by the word still. The future presented itself as a succession of stages, in which this could not happen till that had happened, nor the final disaster arrive till all the intervening phases of the situation had been passed. He had passed them. Of late he had seen that the flames of hell would get hold upon him at that exact instant when, the last defense having been broken down and the last shift resorted to, he should turn the key on all outside hope, and be alone with himself and the knowledge that he could do no more. Till then he could ward them off, and he had been fighting them to the latest second. But on coming home from his office in Boston that afternoon he had told himself that the game was up. Nothing as far as he could see would give him the respite of another four and twenty hours. The minutes between him and the final preparations could be counted with the finger on the clock.
In the matter of preparation the most important detail would be to tell Olivia. Hoping against hope that this would never become necessary, he had put off the evil moment till the postponement had become cruel. But he had lived through it so often in thought, he had so acutely suffered with her in imagination the staggering humiliation of it all, that now, when the time had come, his feelings were benumbed. As he turned into his own grounds that day it seemed to him that his deadness of emotion was such that he could carry the thing through mechanically, as a skilled surgeon uses a knife. If he found her at tea in the drawing-room he might tell her then.
He found her at tea, but there were people with her. He was almost sorry; and yet it keyed him up to see that there was some necessity "to still play the gentleman." He played it, and played it well--with much of his old-time ease. The feat was so extraordinary as to call out a round of mental applause for himself; and, after all, he reflected, there would be time enough in the evening.
But tea being over, Miss Guion announced that Mr. and Mrs. Temple and Drusilla Fane were coming informally to dinner, bringing with them a guest of theirs, "some one of the name of Davenant." For an instant he felt that he must ask her to telephone and put them off, but on second thoughts it seemed better to let them come. It would be in the nature of a reprieve, not so much for himself as for Olivia. It would give her one more cheerful evening, the last, perhaps, in her life. Besides--the suggestion was a vague one, sprung doubtless of the hysterical element in his suppressed excitement--he might test his avowals on Temple and Davenant, getting a foretaste of what it would be to face the world. He formed no precise intention of doing that; he only allowed his mind to linger on the luxury of trying it. He had suspected lately that Rodney Temple knew more of his situation than he had ever told him, so that the way to speak out would be cleared in advance; and as for the man of the name of Davenant--probably Tom Davenant's adopted son, who was said to have pulled off some good things a few years ago--there would be, in humbling himself before one so successful, a morbid joy of the kind the devotee may get in being crushed by an idol.
In this he was not mistaken. While they were there he was able to draw from his own speeches, covert or open, the relief that comes to a man in pain from moaning. Now that they were gone, however, the last extraneous incident that could possibly stand between him and the beginning of the end had passed. The moment he had foreseen, as one foresees death, was on him; so, raising his head from the woodwork of the doorway, he braced himself, and said, "Now!"
At almost the same instant he heard the rustle of his daughter's skirts as she came from the drawing-room on her way up-stairs. She advanced slowly down the broad hail, the lights striking iridescent rays from the trimmings of her dress. The long train, adding to her height, enhanced her gracefulness. Only that curious deadness of sensation of which he had been aware all day--the inability to feel any more that comes from too much suffering--enabled him to keep his ground before her. He did keep it, advancing from the doorway two or three steps toward her, till they met at the foot of the stairway.
"Have you enjoyed your evening?" were the words he found himself saying, though they were far from those he had at heart. He felt that his smile was ghastly; but, as she seemed not to perceive it, he drew the conclusion that the ghastliness was within.
She answered languidly. "Yes, so so. It might have been pleasanter if it hadn't been for that awful man."
"Who? Young Davenant? I don't see anything awful about him."
"I dare say there isn't, really--in his place. He may be only prosy. However," she added, more brightly, "it doesn't matter for once. Good night, papa dear. You look tired. You ought to go to bed. I've seen to the windows in the drawing-room, but I haven't put out the lights."
Having kissed him and patted him on the cheek, she turned to go up the stairway. He allowed her to ascend a step or two. It was the minute to speak.
"I'm sorry you feel that way about young Davenant. I rather like him."
He had not chosen the words. They came out automatically. To discuss Davenant offered an excuse for detaining her, while postponing the blow for a few minutes more.
"Oh, men would," she said, indifferently, without turning round. "He's their style."
"Which is to his discredit?"
"Not to his discredit, but to his disadvantage. I've noticed that what they call a man's man is generally something of a bore."
"Davenant isn't a bore."
"Isn't he? Well, I really didn't notice in particular. I only remember that he used to be about here years ago--and I didn't like him. I suppose Drusilla has to be civil to him because he was Cousin Rodney's ward."
She had paused on the landing at the angle of the staircase.
"He's good-looking," Guion said, in continued effort to interpose the trivial between himself and what he had still to tell her.
"Oh, that sort of Saxon giant type is always good-looking. Of course. And dull too."
"I dare say he isn't as dull as you think."
"He might be that, and still remain pretty dull, after the allowances had been made. I know the type. It's awful--especially in the form of the American man of business."
"I'm an American man of business myself."
"Yes; by misadventure. You're the business man made, but not born. By nature you're a boulevardier, or what the newspapers call a 'clubman.' I admire you more than I can say--everybody admires you--for making such a success of a work that must always have been uncongenial at the least."
The opening was obvious. Nothing could have been more opportune. Two or three beginnings presented themselves, and as he hesitated, choosing between them, he moistened his lips and wiped the cold perspiration from his brow. After all, the blessed apathy within him was giving way and going to play him false! He had a minute of feeling as the condemned man must feel when he catches sight of the guillotine.
Before his parched tongue could formulate syllables she mounted another step or two of the staircase, and turned again, leaning on the banister and looking over. He noticed--by a common trick of the perceptive powers at crises of anguish--how the slender white pilasters, carved and twisted in sets of four, in the fashion of Georgian houses like Tory Hill, made quaint, graceful lines up and down the front of her black gown.
"It's really true--what I say about business, papa," she pursued. "I'm very much in earnest, and so is Rupert. I do wish you'd think of that place near Heneage. It will be so lovely for me to feel you're there; and there can't be any reason for your going on working any longer."
"No; there's no reason for that," he managed to say.
"Well then?" she demanded, with an air of triumph. "It's just as I said. You owe it to every one, you owe it to me, you owe it to yourself above all, to give up. It might have been better if you'd done it long ago."
"I couldn't," he declared, in a tone that sounded to his own ears as a cry. "I tried to, ... but things were so involved ... almost from the first...."
"Well, as long as they're not involved now there's no reason why it shouldn't be better late than never."
"But they are involved now," he said, with an intensity so poignant that he was surprised she didn't notice it.
"Then straighten them out. Isn't that what we've been saying all along, Cousin Rodney and I? Take a partner; take two partners. Cousin Rodney says you should have done it when Mr. Maxwell died, or before--"
"I couldn't.... Things weren't shipshape enough ... not even then."
"I'm sure it could be managed," she asserted, confidently; "and if you don't do it now, papa, when I'm being married and going away for good, you'll never do it at all. That's my fear. I don't want to live over there without you, papa; and I'm afraid that's what you're going to let me in for." She moved from the banister, and continued her way upward, speaking over her shoulder as she ascended. "In the mean time, you really must go to bed. You look tired and rather pale--just as I do after a dull party. Good night; and don't stay up."
She reached the floor above, and went toward her room. He felt strangled, speechless. There was a sense of terror too in the thought that his nerve, the nerve on which he had counted so much, was going to fail him.
His voice was so sharp that she hurried back to the top of the stairs.
"What is it, papa? Aren't you well?"
It was the sight of her face, anxious and suddenly white, peering down through the half-light of the hall that finally unmanned him. With a heart-sick feeling he turned away from the stairway.
"Yes; I'm all right. I only wanted you to know that ... that ... I shall be working rather late. You mustn't be disturbed ... if you hear me moving about."
He would have upbraided himself more bitterly for his cowardice had he not found an excuse in the thought that, after all, there would be time in the morning. It was best that she should have the refreshment of the night. The one thing important was that she should not have the shock of learning from others on the morrow that he was not coming back--that he was going to Singville. Should he go there at all, he was determined to stay. Since he had no fight to put up, it was better that his going should be once for all. The thought of weeks, of months, perhaps, of quasi-freedom, during which he should be parading himself "on bail," was far more terrible to him than that of prison. He must prepare her for the beginning of his doom at all costs to himself; but, he reasoned, she would be more capable of taking the information calmly in the daylight of the morning than now, at a few minutes of midnight.
It was another short reprieve, enabling him to give all his attention to the tasks before him. If he was not to come back to Tory Hill he must leave his private papers there, his more intimate treasures, in good order. Certain things would have to be put away, others rearranged, others destroyed. For the most part they were in the library, the room he specially claimed as his own. Before setting himself to the work there he walked through some of the other rooms, turning out the lights.
In doing so he was consciously taking a farewell. He had been born in this house; in it he had spent his boyhood; to it he had come back as a young married man. He had lived in it till his wife and he had set up their more ambitious establishment in Boston, an extravagance from which, perhaps, all the subsequent misfortunes could be dated. He had known at the time that his father, had he lived, would have condemned the step; but he himself was a believer in fortunate chances. Besides, it was preposterous for a young couple of fashion to continue living in a rambling old house that belonged to neither town nor country, at a time when the whole trend of life was cityward. They had discussed the move, with its large increase of expenditure, from every point of view, and found it one from which, in their social position, there was no escape. It was a matter about which they had hardly any choice.
So, too, a few years later, with the taking of the cottage at Newport. It was forced on them. When all their friends were doing something of the sort it seemed absurd to hesitate because of a mere matter of means--especially when by hook or by crook the means could be procured. Similar reasoning had attended their various residences abroad--in London, Paris, Rome. Country-houses in England or villas on the Riviera became matters of necessity, according to the demands of Olivia's entry into the world of fashion or Mrs. Guion's health.
It was not till the death of the latter, some seven years ago, that Guion, obliged to pause, was able to take cognizance of the degree to which he had imperiled himself in the years of effort to maintain their way of life. It could not be said that at the time he regretted what he had done, but he allowed it to frighten him into some ineffectual economies. He exchanged the cottage at Newport for one at Lenox, and, giving up the house in Boston, withdrew to Tory Hill. Ceasing himself to go into society, he sent his daughter abroad for a large portion of her time, either in the care of Madame de Melcourt or, in London, under the wing of some of the American ladies prominent in English life.
Having taken these steps, with no small pride in his capacity for sacrifice, Guion set himself seriously to reconstruct his own fortune and to repair the inroads he had made on those in his trust. It was a matter in which he had but few misgivings as to his capacity. The making of money, he often said, was an easy thing, as could be proved by the intellectual grade of the men who made it. One had only to look about one to see that they were men in whom the average of ability was by no means high, men who achieved their successes largely by a kind of rule of thumb. They got the knack of investment--and they invested. He preferred the word investment to another which might have challenged comment. They bought in a low market and sold in a high one--and the trick was done. Some instinct--a flair, he called it--was required in order to recognize, more or less at sight, those properties which would quickly and surely appreciate in value; and he believed he possessed it. Given the control of a few thousands as a point of departure, and the financial ebb and flow, a man must be a born fool, he said, not to be able to make a reasonable fortune with reasonable speed.
Within the office of Guion, Maxwell & Guion circumstances favored the accession to power of the younger partner, who had hitherto played an acquiescent rather than an active part. Mr. Maxwell was old and ailing, though neither so ailing nor so old as to be blind to the need of new blood, new money, and new influence in the fine old firm. His weakness was that he hated beginning all over again with new men; so that when Smith and Jones were proposed as possible partners he easily admitted whatever objections Guion raised to them, and the matter was postponed. It was postponed again. It slipped into a chronic condition of postponement; and Mr. Maxwell died.
The situation calling then for adroitness on Guion's part, the fact that he was able to meet it to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned, increased his confidence in his own astuteness. True, it required some manipulation, some throwing of dust into people's eyes, some making of explanations to one person that could not be reconciled with those made to another; but here again the circumstances helped him. His clients were for the most part widows and old maids, many of them resident abroad, for whom Guion, Maxwell & Guion had so long stood, in the matter of income, for the embodiment of paternal care that they were ready to believe anything and say anything and sign anything they were told to. With the legal authorities to whom he owed account he had the advantage of the house's high repute, making it possible to cover with formalities anything that might, strictly speaking, have called for investigation. Whatever had to be considered shifty he excused to himself on the ground of its being temporary; while it was clearly, in his opinion, to the ultimate advantage of the Clay heirs and the Rodman heirs and the Compton heirs and all the other heirs for whom Guion, Maxwell & Guion were in loco parentis, that he should have a free hand.
The sequel astonished rather than disillusioned him. It wrought in him disappointment with the human race, especially as represented by the Stock Exchange, without diminishing his confidence in his own judgment. Through all his wild efforts not to sink he was upborne by the knowledge that it was not his calculations that were wrong, but the workings of a system more obscure than that of chance and more capricious than the weather. He grew to consider it the fault of the blind forces that make up the social, financial, and commercial worlds, and not his own, when he was reduced to a frantic flinging of good money after bad as offering the sole chance of working out his redemption.
And, now that it was all over, he was glad his wife had not lived to see the end. That, at least, had been spared him. He stood before her portrait in the drawing-room--the much-admired portrait by Carolus Duran--and told her so. She was so living as she looked down on him--a suggestion of refined irony about the lips and eyes giving personality to the delicate oval of the face--that he felt himself talking to her as they had been wont to talk together ever since their youth. In his way he had stood in awe of her. The assumption of prerogative--an endowment of manner or of temperament, he was never quite sure which--inherited by Olivia in turn, had been the dominating influence in their domestic life. He had not been ruled by her--the term would have been grotesque--he had only made it his pleasure to carry out her wishes. That her wishes led him on to spending money not his own was due to the fact, ever to be regretted, that his father had not bequeathed him money so much as the means of earning it. She could not be held responsible for that, while she was the type of woman to whom it was something like an outrage not to offer the things befitting to her station. There was no reproach in the look he lifted on her now--nothing but a kind of dogged, perverse thankfulness that she should have had the way of life she craved, without ever knowing the price he was about to pay for it.
In withdrawing his glance from hers he turned it about on the various objects in the room. Many of them had stood in their places since before he was born; others he had acquired at occasional sales of Guion property, so that, as the different branches of the family became extinct or disappeared, whatever could be called "ancestral" might have a place at Tory Hill; others he had collected abroad. All of them, in these moments of anguish--the five K'ang-hsi vases on the mantelpiece, brought home by some seafaring Guion of Colonial days, the armorial "Lowestoft" in the cabinets, the Copley portraits of remote connections on the walls, the bits of Chippendale and Hepplewhite that had belonged to the grandfather who built Tory Hill--all of them took on now a kind of personality, as with living look and utterance. He had loved them and been proud of them; and as he turned out the lights, leaving them to darkness, eyes could not have been more appealing nor lips more eloquent than they in their mute farewell.
Returning to the library, he busied himself with his main undertaking. He was anxious that nothing should be left behind that could give Olivia additional pain, while whatever she might care to have, her mother's letters to himself or other family documents, might be ready to her hand. It was the kind of detail to which he could easily give his attention. He worked methodically and phlegmatically, steeling himself to a grim suppression of regret. He was almost sorry to finish the task, since it forced his mind to come again face to face with facts. The clock struck two as he closed the last drawer and knew that that part of his preparation was completed.
In reading the old letters with their echoes of old incidents, old joys, old jokes, old days in Paris, Rome, or England, he had been so wafted back to another time that on pushing in the drawer, which closed with a certain click of finality, the realization of the present rolled back on his soul with a curious effect of amazement. For a few minutes it was as if he had never understood it, never thought of it, before. They were going to make him, Henry Guion, a prisoner, a criminal, a convict! They were going to clip his hair, and shave his beard, and dress him in a hideous garb, and shut him in a cell! They were going to give him degrading work to do and degrading rules to keep, and degrading associates to live with, as far as such existence could be called living with any one at all. They were going to do this for year upon year, all the rest of his life, since he never could survive it. He was to have nothing any more to come in between him and his own thoughts--his thoughts of Olivia brought to disgrace, of the Clay heirs brought to want, of the Rodman heirs and the Compton heirs deprived of half their livelihood! He had called it that evening the Strange Ride with Morrowby Jukes to the Land of the Living Dead, but it was to be worse than that. It was to be worse than Macbeth with his visions of remorse; it was to be worse than Vathek with the flame burning in his heart; it was to be worse than Judas--who at least could hang himself.
He got up and went to a mirror in the corner of the room. The mere sight of himself made the impossible seem more impossible. He was so fine a specimen--he could not but know it!--so much the free man, the honorable man, the man of the world! He tried to see himself with his hair clipped and his beard shaven and the white cravat and waistcoat replaced by the harlequin costume of the jailbird. He tried to see himself making his own bed, and scrubbing his own floor, and standing at his cell door with a tin pot in his hand, waiting for his skilly. It was so absurd, so out of the question, that he nearly laughed outright. He was in a dream--in a nightmare! He shook himself, he pinched himself, in order to wake up. He was ready in sudden rage to curse the handsome, familiar room for the persistence of its reality, because the rows of books and the Baxter prints and the desks and chairs and electric lights refused to melt away like things in a troubled sleep.
It was then that for the first time he began to taste the real measure of his impotence. He was in the hand of the law. He was in the grip of the sternest avenging forces human society could set in motion against him; and, quibbles, shifts, and subterfuges swept aside, no one knew better than himself that his punishment would be just.
It was a strange feeling, the feeling of having put himself outside the scope of mercy. But there he was! There could never be a word spoken in his defense, nor in any one's heart a throb of sympathy toward him. He had forfeited everything. He could expect nothing from any man, and from his daughter least of all. The utmost he could ask for her was that she should marry, go away, and school herself as nearly as might be to renounce him. That she should do it utterly would not be possible; but something would be accomplished if pride or humiliation or resentment gave her the spirit to carry her head high and ignore his existence.
It was incredible to think that at that very instant she was sleeping quietly, without a suspicion of what was awaiting her. Everything was incredible--incredible and impossible. As he looked around the room, in which every book, every photograph, every pen and pencil, was a part of him, he found himself once more straining for a hope, catching at straws. He took a sheet of paper, and sitting down at his desk began again, for the ten thousandth time, to balance feverishly his meagre assets against his overwhelming liabilities. He added and subtracted and multiplied and divided with a sort of frenzy, as though by dint of sheer forcing the figures he could make them respond to his will.
Suddenly, with a gesture of mingled anger and hopelessness, he swept the scribbled sheets and all the writing paraphernalia with a crash to the floor, and, burying his face in his hands, gave utterance to a smothered groan. It was a cry, not of surrender, but of protest--of infinite, exasperated protest, of protest against fate and law and judgment and the eternal principles of right and wrong, and against himself most of all. With his head pressed down on the bare polished wood of his desk, he hurled himself mentally at an earth of adamant and a heaven of brass, hurled himself ferociously, repeatedly, with a kind of doggedness, as though he would either break them down or dash his own soul to pieces.
"O God! O God!"
It was an involuntary moan, stifled in his fear of becoming hysterical, but its syllables arrested his attention. They were the syllables of primal articulation, of primal need, condensing the appeal and the aspiration of the world. He repeated them:
"O God! O God!"
He repeated them again. He raised his head, as if listening to a voice.
"O God! O God!"
He continued to sit thus, as if listening.
It was a strange, an astounding thought to him that he might pray. Though the earth of adamant were unyielding, the heaven of brass might give way!
He dragged himself to his feet.
He believed in God--vaguely. That is, it had always been a matter of good form with him to go to church and to call for the offices of religion on occasions of death or marriage. He had assisted at the saying of prayers and assented to their contents. He had even joined in them himself, since a liturgical service was a principle in the church to which he "belonged." All this, however, had seemed remote from his personal affairs, his life-and-death struggles--till now. Now, all at once, queerly, it offered him something--he knew not what. It might be nothing better than any of the straws he had been clutching at. It might be no more than the effort he had just been making to compel two to balance ten.
He stood in the middle of the room under the cluster of electric lights and tried to recollect what he knew, what he had heard, of this Power that could still act when human strength had reached its limitations. It was nothing very definite. It consisted chiefly of great phrases, imperfectly understood: "Father Almighty," "Saviour of the World," "Divine Compassion" and such like. He did not reason about them, or try to formulate what he actually believed. It was instinctively, almost unconsciously, that he began to speak; it was brokenly and with a kind of inward, spiritual hoarseness. He scarcely knew what he was doing when he found himself saying, mentally:
"Save me!... I'm helpless!... I'm desperate!... Save me!... Work a miracle!... Father!... Christ! Christ! Save my daughter!... We have no one--but--but You!... Work a miracle! Work a miracle!... I'm a thief and a liar and a traitor--but save me! I might do something yet--something that might render me--worth salvation--but then--I might not.... Anyhow, save me!... O God! Father Almighty!... Almighty! That means that You can do anything!... Even now--You can do--anything!... Save us!... Save us all!... Christ! Christ! Christ!"
* * * * *
He knew neither when nor how he ceased, any more than when or how he began. His most clearly defined impression was that of his spirit coming back from a long way off to take perception of the fact that he was still standing under the cluster of electric lights and the clock was striking three. He was breathless, exhausted. His most urgent physic need was that of air. He strode to the window-door leading out to the terraced lawn, and, throwing it open, passed out into the darkness.
There was no mist at this height above the Charles. The night was still, and the moon westering. The light had a glimmering, metallic essence, as from a cosmic mirror in the firmament. Long shadows of trees and shrubbery lay across the grass. Clear in the moonlit foreground stood an elm, the pride of Tory Hill--springing as a single shaft for twice the measure of a man--springing and spreading there into four giant branches, each of which sprang and spread higher into eight--so springing and spreading, springing and spreading still--rounded, symmetrical, superb--till the long outermost shoots fell pendulous, like spray from a fountain of verdure. The silence held the suggestion of mighty spiritual things astir. At least the heaven was not of brass, if the earth continued to be of adamant. On the contrary, the sky was high, soft, dim, star-bestrewn, ineffable. It was spacious; it was free; it was the home of glorious things; it was the medium of the eternal.
He was not reassured; he was not even comforted; what relief he got came only from a feeling--a fancy, perhaps--that the weight had been eased, that he was freed for a minute from the crushing pressure of the inevitable. It would return again and break him down, but for the moment it was lifted, giving him room and power to breathe. He did breathe--long deep draughts of the cool night air that brought refreshment and something like strength to struggle on.
He came back into the room. His pens and papers were scattered on the floor, and ink from the overturned inkstand was running out on the Oriental rug. It was the kind of detail that before this evening would have shocked him; but nothing mattered now. He was too indifferent to lift his hand and put the inkstand back into its place. Instead, he threw himself on a couch, turning his face to the still open window and drinking in with thirsty gasps the blessed, revivifying air.