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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Survivor - Chapter 21. The Rebellion Of Drexley
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The Survivor - Chapter 21. The Rebellion Of Drexley Post by :erikhj Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2041

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The Survivor - Chapter 21. The Rebellion Of Drexley

CHAPTER XXI. THE REBELLION OF DREXLEY

"You think," Drexley said, his deep, bass voice trembling with barely-restrained passion, "that we are all your puppets--that you have but to touch the string and we dance to your tune. Leave young Jesson alone, Emily. He has been man enough to strike out a line for himself. Let him keep to it. Give him a chance."

She shrugged her shoulders and smiled upon him sweetly. She always preferred Drexley in his less abject moods.

"You have seen him lately, my friend?" she inquired. "He is well, I hope?"

"Yes, he is well," Drexley answered, bitterly. "Living, like a sensible man, honestly by the labour of his brain, the friend and companion of men--not the sycophant of a woman. I envy him."

She pointed lazily towards the door.

"He was man enough to choose for himself," she said; "so may you. To tell you the truth, my dear friend, when you weary me like this, I feel inclined to say--go, and when I say go--it is for always."

Then there came into his face something which she had seen there once before, and which ever since she had recalled with a vague uneasiness--the look murderous. The veins in his forehead became like whipcord--there was a red flash in his eyes. Yet his self-control was marvellous. His voice, when he spoke, seemed scarcely to rise above a whisper.

"For always?" he surmised--"it would be rest at least. You are not an easy task-mistress, Emily."

Her momentary fear of him evaporated almost as quickly as it had been conceived. She stood with her hand on the bell. "I think," she said, "that you had better go to your club."

He held out a protesting hand--tamed at any rate for the moment.

"You were speaking of Jesson," he said. "Well?"

She moved her finger from the bell, conscious that the crisis was past. She might yet score a victory.

"Yes, I was speaking of Jesson," she continued, lazily. "As you remark--none too politely, by-the-bye--he has decided to do without my help. I have no objection to that. I admire independence in a man. Yet when he spoke to me from his point of view I am afraid that I was rude. We parted, at any rate, abruptly. I have been thinking it over and I am sorry for it. I should like to let him know that on the whole I approve of his intention."

"Write and tell him to come and see you then," Drexley said, gruffly. "He can't refuse--poor devil."

The beautifully-shaped eyebrows of the Countess de Reuss were a trifle uplifted. Yet she smiled faintly.

"No," she said, "he could not refuse. But it is not quite what I want. If I write to him he will imagine many things."

"What do you want me to do?" he asked brusquely.

"You see him often at the club?"

"Yes."

"Go there to-night. Say that we have spoken of him; hint that this absolute withdrawal from my house must appear ungrateful--has seemed so to me. I shall be at home alone a week to-night. Do you understand?"

"I understand, at least, that I am not to come and see you a week to-night," he answered with a harsh laugh.

"That is quite true, my friend," she said, "but what of it? You have no special claim, have you, to monopolise my society?--you nor any man. You are all my friends."

There was a knock at the door--a maid entered.

"Her ladyship will excuse me," she said, "but she is dining at Dowchester House to-night at eight o'clock."

Emily rose and held out her hand to Drexley.

"Quite right, Marie," she said. "I see that I must hurry. You will remember, my friend."

"I will remember," he answered quietly.

He walked eastwards across the park, not briskly as a strong man with the joy of living in his veins, but with slow, dejected footsteps, his great shoulders bent, his heart heavy. Physically he was sound enough, yet the springs of life seemed slack, and a curious lassitude, a weariness of heart and limbs came over him as he passed through the crowds of well-dressed men, his fellows, yet, to his mind, creatures of some other world. He sank into an empty seat, and watched them with lack-lustre eyes. Why had this thing come to him, he wondered, of all men? He was middle-aged, unimaginative, shrewd and well balanced in his whole outlook upon life. Three years ago no man in the world would have appeared less likely to become the wreck he now felt himself--three years ago he had met Emily de Reuss. With a certain fierce eagerness he set himself to face his position. Surely he was still a man? Escape must lie some way. Then he laughed softly and bitterly to himself. Yes, there was escape--escape through the small blue hole in the forehead, which more than once he had pictured to himself lately with horrid reality when fingering his revolver--escape in the arms of the sea which he still loved, for in his day he had been a mighty swimmer. There were no other means save such as these. Long ago he had wearied of asking himself what manner of woman this was, whose lips he had never touched, yet whose allurements seemed to have that touch of wonderful magic which ever postpones, never forbids. He only knew 'that she was to him as she was to those others--only with him the struggle was fiercer. There were times as now, when his love seemed turned to fury. She seemed to him then like some beautiful but unclean animal who fed upon the souls of men. He burned to seize her in his arms, to cover her face with hot kisses, and then to press his fingers around that delicate white throat until the music of her death cry should set him free for ever. But when his thoughts led him hitherwards a cold fear gave him strength to break away--for with them came the singing in his ears, the lights before his eyes, the airiness of heart and laughter which go before madness. He sprang to his feet, steadied himself for a moment, and walked rapidly onwards. The momentary exhilaration died slowly away--the old depression settled down upon his spirits. Yet when he reached the club he was breathless, and the hand which lighted a cigar in the hall shook.

On the stairs he met an acquaintance.

"Going to dine, Drexley?"

"No, I don't think so," he answered blankly. "Do you know if Jesson is in the club?"

"Haven't seen him. Come and have a drink. You look a bit shaky."

Drexley shook his head. He wanted to drink, but not with any thoughts of good fellowship in his heart. His was a fiercer desire--the craving for mad blood or the waters of Lethe. He chose a quiet corner in the reading room, and rang for brandy.

Meanwhile Douglas came blithely down the Strand, a smile upon his lips, a crowd of pleasant thoughts in his brain. To think that little Cicely should have grown so pretty. How pleased she had been to see him, and how she had enjoyed their little dinner. Next week would be something to look forward to. He would look out some of his work which he knew would interest her. After all, it had been she who had been the first person in the world to say a word of encouragement to him.

In the hall of the club some one shouted that Drexley had been inquiring for him. He ordered some coffee and made his way up into the writing-room. Drexley was there waiting, his head drooped upon his folded arms. He looked up as Douglas entered.

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