Hodder fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, awaking during the night at occasional intervals to recall chimerical dreams in which the events of the day before were reflected, but caricatured and distorted. Alison Parr was talking to the woman in the flat, and both were changed, and yet he identified both: and on another occasion he saw a familiar figure surrounded by romping, ragged children—a figure which turned out to be Eldon Parr's!
Finally he was aroused by what seemed a summons from the unknown—the prolonged morning whistle of the shoe factory. For a while he lay as one benumbed, and the gradual realization that ensued might be likened to the straining of stiffened wounds. Little by little he reconstructed, until the process became unbearable, and then rose from his bed with one object in mind,—to go to Horace Bentley. At first—he seized upon the excuse that Mr. Bentley would wish to hear the verdict of Dr. Jarvis, but immediately abandoned it as dishonest, acknowledging the true reason, that in all the—world the presence of this one man alone might assuage in some degree the terror in his soul. For the first time in his life, since childhood, he knew a sense of utter dependence upon another human being. He felt no shame, would make no explanation for his early visit.
He turned up Tower, deliberately avoiding Dalton Street in its lower part, reached Mr. Bentley's door. The wrinkled, hospitable old darky actually seemed to radiate something of the personality with which he had so long been associated, and Hodder was conscious of a surge of relief, a return of confidence at sight of him. Yes, Mr. Bentley was at home, in the dining room. The rector said he would wait, and not disturb him.
"He done tole me to bring you out, sah, if you come," said Sam.
"He expects me?" exclaimed Hodder, with a shock of surprise.
"That's what he done tole me, sah, to ax you kindly for to step out when you come."
The sun was beginning to penetrate into the little back yard, where the flowers were still glistening with the drops of their morning bath; and Mr. Bentley sat by the window reading his newspaper, his spectacles on his nose, and a great grey cat rubbing herself against his legs. He rose with alacrity.
"Good morning, sir," he said, and his welcome implied that early morning visits were the most common and natural of occurrences. "Sam, a plate for Mr. Hodder. I was just hoping you would come and tell me what Dr. Jarvis had said about the case."
But Hodder was not deceived. He believed that Mr. Bentley understood perfectly why he had come, and the knowledge of the old gentleman's comprehension curiously added to his sense of refuge. He found himself seated once more at the mahogany table, permitting Sam to fill his cup with coffee.
"Jarvis has given a favourable report, and he is coming this morning himself, in an automobile, to take the boy out to the hospital."
"That is like Jarvis," was Mr. Bentley's comment. "We will go there, together, after breakfast, if convenient for you," he added....