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CHAPTER 8: A SMALL PRECAUTION
My delight in the society of this young Squire Rattray (as I soon was to hear him styled) had been such as to make me almost forget the sinister incident which had brought us together. When I returned to my room, however, there were the open window and the litter on the floor to remind me of what had happened earlier in the night. Yet I was less disconcerted than you might suppose. A common housebreaker can have few terrors for one who has braved those of mid-ocean single-handed; my would-be visitor had no longer any for me; for it had not yet occurred to me to connect him with the voices and the footsteps to which, indeed, I had been unable to swear before the doctor. On the other hand, these morbid imaginings (as I was far from unwilling to consider them) had one and all deserted me in the sane, clean company of the capital young fellow in the next room.
I have confessed my condition up to the time of this queer meeting. I have tried to bring young Rattray before you with some hint of his freshness and his boyish charm; and though the sense of failure is heavy upon me there, I who knew the man knew also that I must fail to do him justice. Enough may have been said, however, to impart some faint idea of what this youth was to me in the bitter and embittering anti-climax of my life. Conventional figures spring to my pen, but every one of them is true; he was flowers in spring, he was sunshine after rain, he was rain following long months of drought. I slept admirably after all; and I awoke to see the overturned toilet-table, and to thrill as I remembered there was one fellow-creature with whom I could fraternize without fear of a rude reopening of my every wound.
I hurried my dressing in the hope of our breakfasting together. I knocked at the next door, and, receiving no answer, even ventured to enter, with the same idea. He was not there. He was not in the coffee-room. He was not in the hotel.
I broke my fast in disappointed solitude, and I hung about disconsolate all the morning, looking wistfully for my new-made friend. Towards mid-day he drove up in a cab which he kept waiting at the curb.
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