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“Nothing at all,” smiled the Doctor, “but a few bruises and shock. No, really nothing. It was a very brave thing for Joliffe to do,” he added; “extremely brave.”
“Of course, I understand that,” said Professor Awkwright, a little stiffly. He felt that the Doctor thought him lacking in gratitude and sympathy, and he knew that he was indeed incapable of any emotional expression, also that he resented, deeply resented, the intrusion of the violent and sensational into a life that he had contrived to make exactly as he wished it to be.
But, all the same, he did feel immensely grateful to Joliffe, and said so again, snappishly, blinking behind the thick crystal spectacles that distorted his pale eyes.
“Naturally I shall do all in my power to show my deep appreciation.”
The Doctor, who did not like the Professor, cheerfully remarked:
“It is rather rare, you know, for a scholar — a man who leads an intellectual and sedentary life — to be so prompt and decisive in action; it’s no reflection on Joliffe to say that I would have thought him the last man — not to have the will to, but to have the power — to risk his life for another.”
When the Doctor had gone Professor Awkwright rather resentfully considered these words. He agreed with the Doctor; he secretly thought that Joliffe’s action was quite amazing and the last thing he would have expected of him.
“I could never have done it,” he confessed to himself ruefully. He had always, in a kindly fashion, patronized Joliffe, but now Joliffe was definitely revealed as the superior being. Really, in the Professor’s estimation, the whole episode was disagreeable, and what was worse, slightly ridiculous; he was sure that the Doctor had been faintly amused.
Yet, he certainly ought to feel grateful to Joliffe and on many counts.
The incident which had first alarmed, then irritated the Professor, was this: his orphan ward Edmund had been out as usual with his tutor, Samuel Joliffe, and Charles the vicar’s son, just one of the usual rambles over the lovely North Wales hills which were undertaken every day as a matter of duty; when Edmund, scrambling on ahead, had slipped, like the clumsy lad he was, over a precipice and hung, stunned, on a ledge overhanging a ravine.
Now the Professor would have thought that the jolly athletic Charles, a stout, trained youth, would really without any fuss at all have gone down the face of the rock and brought up Edmund; but Charles had done nothing of the kind; he had just “lost his head” like a silly girl and could think of nothing better to do than to run and fetch help from the nearest cottage which was some distance away. On the other hand, Samuel Joliffe, middle-aged, stiff-limbed, shortsighted, absent-minded to all appearances, cautious and timid, whom no one would expect to be quick or active, had actually lowered himself down the face of the precipice, supported Edmund till help arrived and then, with great coolness and dexterity, with the aid only of a dubious rope and some frail saplings, hauled up Edmund and himself to safety.
It was all, Professor Awkwright thought, very grotesque, the sort of thing one would so much rather had not happened.
He peeped in at his nephew sleeping heavily on his bed behind a screen. Mrs. Carter, the housekeeper, was in charge; the wretched woman seemed to enjoy the sensation caused by the accident, as Professor Awkwright looked at the boy with the bandaged head, breathing heavily under the influence of the sleeping potion, she began to murmur the praises of Mr. Joliffe.
It was clear that the tutor would be a hero in the eyes of everyone; the Professor resented this as a fuss and an interruption to a very smooth existence, but he was, at bottom, a just, even an amiable man, and he did not wish to evade his obligations to Samuel Joliffe.
So he went downstairs rather nervously to the study where he was sure the tutor would be working and, as he went, he honestly put before himself the extent of his obligations towards Samuel Joliffe; these were very varied and deep and amounted to far more than gratitude for the rather absurd act of heroism yesterday.
Professor Awkwright was a born scholar and solitary; his one interest and passion was the most abstruse branch of archaeology, the deciphering of dead languages; he had always had sufficient means to enable him to devote himself entirely to this fascinating labor and the one interruption in a life otherwise devoid of incident had been when his only brother had died and left in his charge a sullen, unruly boy of ten years of age, of the type known as “difficult and awkward,” slightly abnormal and not very lovable, but a boy who had a comfortable income from a nice little fortune that would make him, when he attained his majority, quite a wealthy man.
Professor Awkwright had the conventional ideas of duty and subscribed, to the full, to the codes endorsed by his class and training, so he very scrupulously did his best with his unwelcome charge and made the great sacrifice of keeping with him a boy so obviously unfitted for school.
And after the Professor had found Samuel Joliffe, Edmund was no trouble at all; and the little household in the exceedingly comfortable but lonely Welsh mansion ran very smoothly and with a most agreeable, if eventless, harmony.
For Samuel Joliffe, besides being the perfect tutor, was the perfect secretary, the perfect assistant, and had thrown himself with the greatest ardor into the Professor’s enthusiastic labors.
Indeed, Professor Awkwright, pausing at the door of the study, realized, in the emotional upset of the accident, that Joliffe was absolutely essential to him; after eight years of his support, help, assistance and company Joliffe was indeed indispensable; indispensable, that was the word.
“I daresay,” said the little scholar to himself, pausing on the threshold, “I never quite appreciated Joliffe — of course, he has been handsomely paid and very well treated, but really I don’t believe that I ever quite realized his — his sterling worth.”
And Professor Awkwright thought, with a shudder, how ghastly it would have been if poor Edmund had died in that miserable way; he was fond of the unattractive boy who would probably never evoke any other affection in all his futile life.
And with that sharp realization of happiness that comes when happiness is threatened, the Professor cast over with profound gratitude all the blessings he had hitherto taken for granted . . . the smooth, easy life; the congenial, successful work; the way that all four of them, himself, Joliffe, Edmund, Mrs. Carter the housekeeper, all fitted together, like hand in glove — the comfort, the peace, the ordered leisure of it all! And surely much of this was owing to Joliffe — Joliffe who was never out of humor, nor ill, nor wanted a holiday, who was never tired or dull, who had known from the first how to “manage” Edmund, who never crossed Mrs. Carter nor vexed the servants, who worked so diligently, with such enthusiasm and skill under his employer’s direction . . .
The Professor opened the door quickly; he crossed to the desk where Joliffe was sitting (as he had known he would be), and said:
“I don’t know how to thank you, Joliffe, how to express my gratitude, I really don’t.”
Joliffe rose and stared; this was the first time since his knowledge of him that Awkwright had expressed himself on impulse; the tutor stood humbly; behind him the huge desk was neatly piled with the manuscripts that embodied their joint labors on the subject of the Minoan language.
“But,” added the Professor with even greater warmth, “I am quite resolved that you shall have your name on the book. That is only just — it is your work as much as mine, you have been far more, for years now, than an assistant —”
Joliffe’s sandy face flushed.
“I could not think of that, sir, really, I couldn’t; what I have done has been the greatest pleasure and honor.”
He spoke sincerely, without servility; Awkwright grasped his hand.
“I know. But, of course, we are to go equal shares in this — I ought to have thought of it before.”
He glowed with the pleasure of his generous action; it was no ordinary prize, no feeble glory that he offered; he believed that when his, their, book was published it would bring to the authors a fame equal to that of Champollion.
For the two secluded scholars working almost in secret were convinced that they had discovered the clue to the long-dead language of one of the most interesting civilizations of prehistoric Greece, that of Crete.
“I hope, sir, yesterday had not put this into your mind. What I did was nothing. Anyone would have done as much.”
“I don’t think so, Joliffe.”
“Anyone, sir, as fond of Edmund as I am.”
“Again I disagree. Presence of mind, coolness like that! Rare indeed. But, of course, one can’t talk of rewards; absurd, of course; but —”
The Professor sat down in front of the great bow-window; his kindly, conventional and rather simple face, with the thin beard, speckled like his grey tweed coat, and the thinner hair exact and glossy over the large brow was clearly outlined against the shining laurels in the garden and the blue hills beyond.
Joliffe regarded him with meek intentness.
“But, you were saying, sir,” he prompted —
“I was about to say,” remarked the Professor candidly, “that a shock — like this — clarifies the air, as it were. I suppose we live rather a monotonous, rather an old-fogeyish sort of life, values get a little dimmed, one gets absorbed in the past, in one’s work. One’s own life gets a little unreal . . . until a thing like this happens . . . ”
“I have never felt that,” replied Joliffe thoughtfully.
“No? A remarkably clear brain,” agreed the other with simple admiration. “I’ve noticed how you never lose grip on things. That’s why you’ve been so successful with Edmund. But really, for myself, I confess that a — a revelation of this kind — what the loss of Edmund would mean — the sort of man you really are — wakes me up, puts everything clearly.”
“I don’t see that the fact that I rescued Edmund, in the most ordinary way, reveals the sort of man I am.”
“But that kind of prompt action isn’t expected of — of our type, Joliffe. It’s most unusual; the Doctor said so.”
“I don’t think Dr. Jones knows very much.”
“No, but I agreed with what he meant. And it is settled about the book.”
Professor Awkwright felt very content for the rest of that day; the sense of the absurdity of the accident, the irritating, disturbing excitement had passed away. Edmund came down to tea and the household was stolidly normal again; but the Professor continued, as he had himself put it, “to see clearly”— the vast value of Joliffe, for instance, and Edmund’s inarticulate and pathetic affection for him, and the very agreeable intimacy that bound them all together; it was surprising how fond he was himself of the unattractive, slightly “mental” youth; why, he believed that if Edmund had really been killed the shock would have prevented him from finishing the book.
When the two men settled down in the study that evening after Edmund had gone to bed Professor Awkwright felt that their relationship had subtly changed; never had they been so intimate, never so frank, as if there was no possibility of any misunderstanding or irritation between them.
Joliffe seemed to “let himself go” intellectually; his usually respectful, almost timid manner mellowed, he was more candid, more brilliant, slightly, though quite unmistakably, different, Awkwright thought, from his habitual self.
One of Mrs. Carter’s most tempting dinners had celebrated Edmund’s escape; there had been good wine and afterwards, contrary to custom, good brandy.
Perhaps it was the brandy that stimulated the Professor’s added sense of clarity, of which he had been aware all day; a most temperate man, he had always, on the few occasions when he had drunk liberally, been teased as to the right naming of his heightened perceptions. Did alcohol give everything an air of caricature, or did it allow you to see everything as it really was?
Was it, for instance, just excitement and then the brandy that made him think what a queer fellow Joliffe was? — or had he, Awkwright, always had his head so in the air that he had never before observed the strangeness of his constant companion? Joliffe sat a little more at his ease than he had ever sat before; a very tall, stiff, long-legged man, with an odd look of being featureless; the only definite object about his face was his glistening spectacles, for the rest a sandy glow seemed to blot out any salient point in his countenance; even his profile seemed to mean nothing; a closer inspection showed his features to be sharp, small and neat, his expression composed and kindly.
He also must have been a little excited that night, also a little stimulated by the occasion and the brandy, for he forgot (to the Professor’s amusement) to go up to his room and listen for the wireless news bulletin.
Professor Awkwright had always refused to have wireless, gramophone or telephone; but Joliffe, with meek persistence, had indulged in all in his own room; he had little chance of using any of these inventions and he scrupulously contrived so that they never annoyed the rest of the household; but he liked to “sneak off,” as the Professor put it with indulgent irony, to listen to news, a talk, or a concert; but tonight he seemed to have forgotten even the attraction of the evening bulletin which he so seldom missed.
The two elderly men talked of their researches, of the book that was going to bring glory to both, and of the accident of yesterday which the Professor, at least, could by no means dismiss from his mind.
“It was pure impulse,” said Joliffe at last; “if I had reflected at all I don’t suppose that I should have done it.”
“I’m sure that you would.”
“No, because I always think that we attach too much importance to human life. And Edmund wouldn’t really mind dying; I daresay he’d be better off in another state.”
“I didn’t know that you had those ideas.”
“They aren’t ideas. Surely, sir, you don’t hold by all the orthodox views —”
“I’d really rather —”
“Oh, the sacredness of human life, et cetera, et cetera?”
“I suppose so, I haven’t quite thought it out.”
“I have. I can’t see, sir, how, after all your researches you can avoid a broader view . . . look at the East, Russia, Mexico, today — look at the Elizabethans, look at America, at Italy — and how they regard and have regarded death —”
“You don’t think it matters — violent death?”
“No. An intelligent man should be able to deal with death — give it, withhold it, accept it, avoid it, according to his reason. The world was more worthwhile when this was so.”
“But, my dear Joliffe, to argue like that is to condone murder,” Awkwright smiled, very comfortable in his chair, “and suicide.”
Joliffe did not reply, he seemed sunk in a pleasing reverie; to rouse him Awkwright said:
“I suppose one gets conventional-minded on these subjects, but I think the West is right in the value put on human life — our violences, our indifferences to right and wrong, our cowardices are nothing, I fear, but manifestations of the hidden ape, still lurking within so many of us, alas!”
Joliffe listened to this speech with closed eyes.
“On the contrary,” he declared, “I believe that the hidden ape in me made me rescue Edmund.”
“My dear Joliffe, as if apes —”
“They do — animal affection — animal devotion, no reason, no logic. I am fond of Edmund.”
“Why?” wondered the Professor rather wistfully.
“One doesn’t know. The ape again! The boy never pretends, he is very wise about some things, has extraordinary instincts! I believe I understand him as no one else ever will.”
Joliffe sat up suddenly. He was smiling, his small eyes looked yellow behind the glasses, his movement seemed to dismiss the subject; they each drank some more brandy and began to discuss the book; but this speedily brought them to the same point; Joliffe remarked on the beauty of some of the Minoan seals he had been copying the very morning of the accident, and Awkwright’s comment was that the artist who designed them had an evil mind.
“Why?” challenged the tutor with his new freedom.
“Well, they are evil. The Minoans were, it is acknowledged — cruel; consider their bull-leaping sports — no soul . . . ”
“Nonsense!” Never had Joliffe expressed himself so boldly to his employer; he seemed really excited, “They were simply too civilized to put so much value on individual life —”
“The hidden ape wasn’t hidden, you mean?” smiled Awkwright.
They argued keenly and at length, remaining in the study long after their usual hour for retiring; to Awkwright it was an entirely academical discussion, but Joliffe seemed to throw more and more feeling into it until he was making quite a personal point of his contention that no civilized people would consider murder a crime.
The Professor did not know how they had got to this subject; it was strange how the accident seemed to have thrown both a little out of their stride, a little off their balance; even Awkwright felt the mental atmosphere becoming distasteful, an unpleasant sense of unreality obscured the familiar cosy room; he wished that Joliffe would not talk so much, so at random (and he had never wished that before). He roused himself out of a disagreeable lethargy to say, with a rather false attempt at authority:
“This sort of stuff is really absurd from a man like you, Joliffe.” The tutor rose and stood in front of the fire; his attitude was dogmatic, his habitual featurelessness seemed to have developed into a face that Awkwright did not recognize.
“Pardon me, my dear sir, how do you know what kind of man I am?”
“We have been intimate for eight years.”
“But I know you much better than you know me.”
“I don’t agree.
“Well, what do you know of me? You said yourself that what I did yesterday surprised you.”
Joliffe talked him down.
“You’ve always accepted me on my face value, you just met me through an agency. I had excellent credentials and you were quite satisfied. You never asked me why I had no relations, no friends, why I never wanted a holiday —”
“My dear Joliffe,” interrupted the Professor testily, “don’t try to make yourself out a mysterious person. I know you as just a solitary scholar like myself, one who happens to have drifted away from his relatives and not cared to make friends; come, come, this is all really rather childish.”
“Is it?” Joliffe peered over his glasses down on the little man in the chair, his face was sharpened by what seemed a queer vanity. “So you think that you know me through and through?”
“My dear fellow, of course I do.”
“Well, to begin with, my name isn’t Samuel Joliffe.”
The Professor tried to smile; he thought this was a joke, but it was certainly a stupid, vulgar joke, and he wished that the tutor, who must really be a little drunk, would be quiet and go up to bed.
“Do you remember the Hammerton case — ten years ago?” demanded Joliffe.
“As if I ever took the slightest interest —”
“No, I thought you didn’t. Well, it was the case of a man, an educated man of means, well-connected, intelligent, being tried for the murder of his wife. The usual arsenic from weed-killer.”
“I do recall something — Hammerton was acquitted, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. But no one thought he was innocent; the jury just gave him the benefit of a very small doubt. A “not proven” it would have been in Scotland. He was ruined — he had to disappear.”
“But I don’t see what all this has got to do with anything —”
“Wait a minute. Though everyone thought Hammerton was guilty, everyone had a secret sympathy with him.”
“No, his wife was such an awful woman, she nagged and whined and pestered and was always sickly, and he was a very decent fellow; he just wanted peace and quiet, and then, perhaps, one day she went too far even for his patience —”
“And the hidden ape leaped up in him? A very usual case —”
“Not at all. Perhaps he used his reason and removed a worthless, tiresome, repulsive creature —”
“If he did he was a murderer,” snapped the Professor. “And, since he was acquitted, we have no right to assume that.”
He rose, hoping to silence Joliffe, but the tutor leaned forward, took him by the lapel of the coat, and said with a smile: “I am Hammerton.”
The little Professor twisted and squealed in grotesque (through it all he felt all was grotesque) horror.
“No,” he cried, “no, we’ve both had too much to drink and it’s time we went to bed.”
But the tutor did not release his calm, steady grasp on the other’s lapel.
“A man of your intelligence, sir,” he said gently, “should not find my information so surprising, I merely gave it to prove a point; it can’t possibly make any difference to our relationship.”
“Of course you were acquitted, but, but it is very terrible, very unfortunate. And the false name . . . ”
“I had no chance with my own. I waited for two years for an opportunity like you gave me. And I did not deceive you. My credentials were exact save for the name. I had all the attainments, the qualifications you required, and I believe that I have served you faithfully — you and Edmund.”
“Of course.” The Professor made a show of recovering himself, he twisted away from the other and sat down. “And then yesterday — but I wish that you hadn’t told me.”
“Why, what difference can it make?”
“Well, it’s a shock and you spoke just now as if — as if you were — but it’s absurd.”
“Didn’t you say that you had — that you were —?”
“Guilty? I assumed it, yes. I don’t say so definitely — let it go. I was acquitted and no one can touch me now, even if I confessed, and I don’t intend to confess. We need not talk of it again.”
Professor Awkwright sickened; he sat shrunk together in the big cosy, pleasant chair and felt all the agreeable, safe and familiar places of his life laid bare and devastated.
“I should like to think that it isn’t true, Joliffe.” The little man’s eyes were pathetic behind the thick crystals.
“I can prove it if you wish. What difference can it make? There’s the boy, our work, the book, all our years together. Whatever I did can’t affect any of that?”
“Quite so. Quite so.”
The tutor went to bed; he did not seem in the least disturbed, he spoke of the Minoan seals he hoped to finish copying in the morning, and gave his usual “Good night, sir” cheerfully.
The Professor sat alone with his problem.
What ought he to do?
What did he intend to do?
Joliffe was essential to him, to the boy, to the book . . . where would he find another man who suited him so well, who would be willing to live his kind of life? Who would put up with Edmund?
Professor Awkwright groaned and began to argue speciously with himself.
Joliffe had been acquitted, a victim of a terrible misfortune; it was ten years ago and no one’s business; Joliffe had put him under the greatest obligation yesterday — why shouldn’t everything go on as before?
“Just forget all about it, eh? Joliffe would never speak of it again.”
But there was that stern streak in the Professor that made him soon reject the easy, the convenient way, and all specious, fallacious reasonings.
He grimly tackled himself; the man was almost, on his own confession, a murderer, and one without remorse; the Professor utterly rejected all arguments about the codes of the Cretans, the Elizabethans, Mexico and Chicago and the value of human life; he was an upright, law-abiding man; murder was murder, deceit was deceit; of course it was most extraordinary that a cultured human being like Joliffe . . . He returned to his own theory of the hidden ape, the ape striking down where it hated, rescuing where it loved; he shuddered before the horrid vision of Joliffe, suddenly agile as a monkey, scaling down those rocks after Edmund . . . he had wondered how the stiff-limbed man had done it . . . the Professor checked these crazy, miserable thoughts, he forced himself to be brave and cool.
After all, there was only one thing to be done. Joliffe must go.
Yes, if all the Professor’s peace and happiness went with him he must go; that was the only right, reasonable and logical solution of the horrid problem.
And, screwed up to an unnatural courage that he feared would not last till the morning, Professor Awkwright went up at once to Samuel Joliffe’s (for so he persisted in naming him) room.
The tutor opened the door to the timid knock of his employer. “I am afraid I must speak to you, Joliffe, at once.”
Joliffe wore a camel-hair dressing-gown, rather short in the sleeves, he looked meek, surprised and of an imperturbable innocence; the Professor felt very shaky indeed as he followed him into the neat bedroom.
“Speak to me, sir, at once? About the book?”
Joliffe glanced at a pile of notes on the table by his bedside, but Awkwright glanced at the wireless set, the gramophone, the telephone.
Why had it not occurred to him before that these were outlets for the tutor’s personality which was by no means satisfied by the quiet scholarly life that, outwardly, seemed so to content him?
Perhaps he spoke to friends of the old days on the telephone, no doubt he kept in touch with the busy doings of the world by means of the wireless, and indulged personal tastes with the gramophone discs — safety valves all these for a dangerous, complex personality.
“I’m afraid”— Professor Awkwright checked himself with a cowardly clutching at a faint hope —“I suppose it wasn’t all a joke about your being Hammerton?”
“It wasn’t a joke. I thought I knew you well enough to tell you. But you began to say, am afraid’—?”
“I am afraid that you must go.”
“I must go? You mean that I am dismissed?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that —”
“But that is what it comes to —”
“I’m afraid so.”
Joliffe seemed completely amazed; he took off his glasses, fidgeted with them, returned them to his nose, and asked dully:
“What about the boy?”
“It’s dreadful, I know — but —”
“What are you going to tell him?”
“Oh, not the truth — some excuse — I know it is all dreadful,” repeated the Professor feebly.
“Dreadful?” repeated Joliffe shortly. “It is absurd. It means that we have never understood each other — indeed, totally mistaken each other — all these years. I thought that, under your little mannerisms, you were a broad-minded man —”
“But a question of — of —”
“Of murder? I never admitted to murder, but if I had? It can’t be possible that you take the view of the man in the street about that — think of these ancient peoples we are always studying —”
“It is no use, Joliffe.” Professor Awkwright was shuddering with anguish. “You must go.”
“And the book?”
The little Professor’s drawn face took on a livelier expression of grief.
“The book must be sacrificed”— there was heroism in his supreme renunciation. “I quite agree that you have a large share in it — but to publish it under an assumed name — or under your own!”
“Quite impossible, you must see it.”
“I don’t see it.”
They stared at each other with the bitter hostility only frustrated affection can assume; Professor Awkwright’s dry and trembling fingers stroked his thin grey beard; he felt quite sick with the temptation to “forget all about it” as he put it childishly to himself — why not, for the book’s sake, the boy’s sake, hush up the whole affair? It was so long ago and who was to care now?
But the little man’s innate integrity was too strong for his intense desires; Joliffe was watching him quietly, with dignity, yet as a prisoner may watch a judge about to pronounce sentence. “I’m happy here and useful,” he remarked drily. “And you have nothing to go on but bare suspicion — you might consider that.”
“I can’t tell you quite what it is, Joliffe —” The Professor’s anguish was very stressed and Joliffe’s glance darkened into some emotion that seemed (the other man thought) pity mingled with disdain.
“Perhaps,” he said, “you are afraid? Of me? Of what you call ‘the hidden ape’?”
“That’s absurd!” Awkwright made a great effort to give the whole nightmare business a commonplace, almost a jovial, air, to reduce what was so fantastically horrible and had indeed changed the aspect of everything for him, into an affair of everyday — just the giving of “notice” to a secretary, a tutor, who had proved unsuitable — a distasteful business, no more, but he shuddered with the desperate futility of this attempt; he made for the door with an uncontrollable need to get away from Joliffe’s gaze.
He had said that it was “absurd” for him to be afraid — but of course he was afraid, horribly afraid, of Joliffe, of his own weakness, of something more powerful than either that seemed to fill the room like a fearful miasma.
But nothing sensational happened; Joliffe said in the most ordinary tones:
“Very well. I will go tomorrow. Of course I shall miss the book. And Edmund.”
At the door Professor Awkwright mumbled:
“I shall always remind Edmund that you saved his life — what a great deal he owes you.”
“Oh, there won’t be any need of that — he’ll remember me all right — good night, Professor Awkwright.”
The Professor closed the door, and went, not to his bedroom, but to his study where he and Joliffe had worked for so long in complete harmony.
“I’m sure I’ve done right,” he kept saying to himself, “I’m quite sure I’ve done right.” But he found it unbearable to look at the other man’s notes, at the neat evidences of his long labor, he found it impossible to rest or in any way to consider the situation calmly, and he could not for a second conceive in what manner he should deal with Edmund when that poor youth discovered that Joliffe was gone.
And there was another torturing horror working in Awkwright’s mind.
“I say I am quite sure, but I never shall be quite sure — I mean if he is — or not —”
Professor Awkwright sat quite still for a full quarter of an hour; staring at the materials for his book which showed familiar yet horrible in the shaded electric lamp. He was really hardly able to grasp his misery nor the full value of all that he had sacrificed to a principle; he tried to comfort himself by the sheer strength of his integrity of purpose, the blamelessness of his own motives — but it was useless; he could make himself conscious of nothing but his great personal disaster.
The window had been set open to air the room and Awkwright became gradually conscious of the physical discomfort of the cold draft blowing beneath the blind.
He rose at last heavily, and almost without his own volition to remedy this; exhausted by emotion he stood with the blind in his hand and stared stupidly across the lawn and the shrubbery, faintly lit by the beams of a high moon falling through a mist; he soon forgot that he had risen to shut the window, and stood patiently in the cold air which harshly stirred his loose grey hair.
Suddenly his attention was aroused and held by an object which suddenly swung into the circle of his vision and seemed immediately to become the focus of the midnight landscape and of his own mind.
A thin, darkly clad figure was proceeding across the lawn, half leaping, half crawling through the shadows; the arms looked very long, now and then the lanky, uncouth shape appeared to sink to hands and knees in a scrawling effort at haste.
Professor Awkwright dropped the blind; with no more hesitation than if an imperative hand had seized his collar he swung round, ascended the stairs and crept into Edmund’s room.
Until he looked on the bed he did not know why the sight of the ape-like figure had sent him to the boy.
The cosy glow of the carefully sheltered night light showed in the warm flickers of soft illumination a lifeless body on the scarcely disarranged pillow; powerful hands had skilfully strangled Edmund in his sleep.
Again Awkwright found himself at the window, trying now to scream, to signal, to express his scattered soul; again he saw the ape-like figure, running over the fields beyond the garden, towards the gloomy hills; it seemed to proceed with a hideous exultation, a dark joy powerfully expressed in the swinging animal movements, in the triumphant haste towards the wilderness, in the challenging thrown back head which seemed to howl at the moon that swung in an unfathomable, dreadful void.
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