RETURN OF THE AMBASSADOR

He left the office feeling depressed. Spent anger generally leaves
depression behind it.

Hancock’s admission that his mother had been treated harshly by her
family, though a well-known fact to him, did not decrease his gloom. He
considered the thousands that ought to have fallen to her share, that
had fallen to the share of Patience instead. For a second a wild hatred
of the Hancocks and all their ways filled his breast, and he felt an
inclination to take the five-pound note from his pocket, roll it into a
ball, and fling it into the gutter. Not being a lunatic, he didn’t. He
went and dined instead, though it was only a little after five, and
having dined he went back to the studio.

Verneede had not yet returned. At ten o’clock Verneede had not yet
returned. Midnight struck.

“Can he be staying there the night?” thought Leavesley, who had gone to
bed with a novel and a pipe and an ear, so to say, on every footstep
ascending the stairs.

People often stayed the night at the Lamberts’ drinking punch and
playing cards; he had done so himself once.

He woke at seven and dressed, and at eight he was standing before the
house of Verneede in Maple Street.

“Hin!” said the landlady, “I should think he was hin; and thankful he
ought to be he’s not hin the police station.”

“Good gracious, what has happened?”

“Woke us up at two in the mornin’ hangin’ like a coal sack over the
railin’s; might a-tumbled into the airy and broke his neck. Disgraceful,
I call it!”

“May I go up and see him?”

“Yus, you can go up–he’s in the top floor back–trouble enough we had
to get him there.”

Leavesley went up to the top floor back. The unfortunate Verneede was in
bed, trying to remember things. He had brought his umbrella home safely,
but in the pockets of his clothes, after diligent search in the grey
dawn, he had been able to discover only one halfpenny. To make up for
this deficiency, his head was swelled up till it felt like a pumpkin.

“Good gracious, Verneede,” cried Leavesley, staring at him, “what on
earth has happened to you?

“A fit, I think,” said Verneede.

“Did you go to Highgate?”

“Of course–of course; pray, my dear Leavesley, hand me the washing
jug.”

He began to drink from the jug.

“Stop!” said Leavesley, “you’ll burst!”

“I’m better now,” said Mr Verneede, placing the jug, half empty, on the
floor, and passing his hand across his brow.

“Then go on and tell me all about it.”

Verneede had no recollection of anything at all save a few more or less
unpleasant incidents. He remembered the “Spotted Dog,” the “King’s
Arms”; he remembered streets; he remembered being turned out of
somewhere.

“Tell you about what?”

“Good gracious–about the Lamberts, of course. What time did you get
there?”

“Half-past two, I think.”

“You couldn’t; you only left the studio at two.”

“Half-past four, I mean; yes, it was half-past four.”

“When did you leave?”

Verneede scratched his head.

“Six.”

“You saw Miss Lambert?”

“Yes.”

“Look here, Verneede, you were all right when you got there, I hope?”

“Perfectly, absolutely.”

“What did you talk about?”

“We talked of various topics.”

“Did you mention my name?”

“Ah yes,” said Verneede, “I told her what you said.”

“What?”

“About your going to Australia.”

“America, you owl,” cried Leavesley.

“America, I mean–America, of course–America.”

“What did she say?”

“She said–she hoped you’d have a fine voyage, that the weather would be
fine, in short, or words to that effect.”

Leavesley sighed.

“Was that all she said?”

“Absolutely.”

“Did you say anything about the letter I wrote her?”

“Yes; I remembered that.”

“But I told you _not_.”

“It escaped me,” said Verneede weakly.

“What did she say?”

“She said it didn’t matter; at least that is what I gathered from her.”

“How do you mean gathered from her?”

“From her manner.”

Leavesley sighed again, and Verneede leaned back on his pillow. He did
not know in the least whether he had been at Lamberts’ or not–he hoped
he hadn’t.