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.“Connie, I’m afraid something very dreadful has happened.I think you had better sit down.please.”She hesitated a moment.“Please,” he urged.Slowly she obeyed.“What is it?”“Harry Beecher has killed himself,” he said quietly.There was no way to make it any better or gentler.All he could do now was try to save her from a self-betraying reaction.There was an instant’s terrible silence, then the blood drained from her face.She stared at him.He stepped between her and her husband, taking her hands in his as if he could hold her together, in some physical fashion bridging the gulf of aloneness.What he really wanted was to shield her from Thyer’s sight.“I’m so sorry,” he went on.“I know you were as fond of him as I was, and it is the most awful shock, on top of everything else that has happened.It was very quick, a single shot.But no one yet knows why.I’m afraid there is bound to be speculation.We must prepare ourselves.”She drew in her breath in a stifled little cry, her eyes wide and empty.Did she understand that he knew about them, that he was saying all this to give her whatever protection there was?Thyer was at his elbow with two glasses of brandy.Joseph straightened up to allow him to give one to Connie.Had he any idea? Looking at his white face and pinched mouth told him nothing.It might as easily have been only the horror of yet another tragedy in his college.Joseph took the brandy offered to him and drank it, choking on the unaccustomed fire of it in his throat.Then he felt it blossom inside him with artificial warmth, and it did help.It steadied him, gave him a little strength, even though he knew it was only temporary, and changed nothing.Thyer took over.“We don’t know what happened yet,” he was telling Connie.“The gun was there on the floor beside him.It looks as if it is maybe the end of all this.”She stared at him and started to say something, but the words died in her throat.She shook her head, whimpering in pain she would always have to conceal.No one would understand; no one would offer her sympathies or make allowances for her grief.She would have to bear it alone, even pretend it did not exist.That was something Joseph could do for her; he could share his own loss of a friend, recall all the good things about him and let her borrow his grief.Without the embarrassment of saying so, or requiring any confession or acknowledgment from her, he could let her know that he understood.He stayed a little longer.They made meaningless remarks.Thyer offered them each another brandy, and this time he had one himself as well.After about half an hour, Joseph left and walked in a daze of grief back to his own rooms for one of the worst nights he would ever endure.He sank into sleep at last a little before one, and was engulfed in nightmare.He slipped in and out of it until five, then woke with a tight, pounding headache.He got up, made himself a cup of tea and took two aspirins.He sat in the armchair and read from Dante’s Inferno.The passage through hell was vaguely comforting; perhaps it was the power of Dante’s vision, the music of the words, and the knowledge that even in the worst pain of the heart he was not alone.Finally at eight o’clock he went outside.The weather was exactly as it had been nearly all summer—calm and still, with a slight heat haze on the town—but inside St.John’s suddenly the pressure seemed to have lifted.Joseph met Perth, who was setting out across the quad.“Ah! Morning, Dr.Reavley,” Perth said cheerfully.He still looked tired, shadows around his eyes, but his shoulders were squared and his step was lighter.“Shame about Dr.Beecher.Oi know he were a friend o’ yours, but mebbe it’s the best way.Clean end.No trial.Best for poor Mr.Allard’s family, too.Now the public don’t need to have all the details.”The words, with Perth’s unquestioning assurance, crystallized the anger inside Joseph.All Perth knew was that Beecher was dead and the gun was found next to him, yet he was happy, almost gleeful, to take it for granted that he had killed Sebastian and then himself.Arguments boiled up in Joseph’s mind, along with fury at Perth’s willingness to believe without looking any further.What about the others? They had known Beecher for years.Was all that carried away as if by a single flash flood? He wanted to shout at Perth to stop, to think, to weigh and measure.It was nothing like the man Joseph had known! How dare Perth, or anyone, be so certain?But then Joseph himself had not seen the affair with Connie Thyer, right under his nose! Or that Sebastian had seen it and was using it in subtle blackmail.How well did he know anyone?And it was all hideously reasonable.The words died on his lips.He was really only angry because Perth was relieved.Everyone would be.The suspicion had stopped.They would be able to start rebuilding all the old friendships that had been the fabric of their lives.“Are you so very sure?” he said thickly, his voice strained.Perth shook his head.“Makes sense, Reverend.About the only answer what does—when you think on it.”Joseph said nothing.The courtyard seemed to waver around him, like a picture blurred by rain.“Looks like the same gun,” Perth went on.“When we test it, Oi reckon we’ll find as it is.Was a Webley that killed Mr.Allard.Did Oi ever tell you that [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]