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In the interesting land of India, where snakes abound and scorpions are common objects of the wayside, a native who has had the misfortune to be bitten by one of the latter pursues an admirably common-sense plan. He does not stop to lament, nor does he hang about analysing his emotions. He runs and runs and runs, and keeps on running until he has worked the poison out of his system. Not until then does he attempt introspection.
Lord Dawlish, though ignorant of this fact, pursued almost identically the same policy. He did not run on leaving Lady Wetherby's house, but he took a very long and very rapid walk, than which in times of stress there are few things of greater medicinal value to the human mind. To increase the similarity, he was conscious of a curious sense of being poisoned. He felt stifled--in want of air.
Bill was a simple young man, and he had a simple code of ethics. Above all things he prized and admired and demanded from his friends the quality of straightness. It was his one demand. He had never actually had a criminal friend, but he was quite capable of intimacy with even a criminal, provided only that there was something spacious about his brand of crime and that it did not involve anything mean or underhand. It was the fact that Mr Breitstein whom Claire had wished him to insinuate into his club, though acquitted of actual crime, had been proved guilty of meanness and treachery, that had so prejudiced Bill against him. The worst accusation that he could bring against a man was that he was not square, that he had not played the game.
Claire had not been square. It was that, more than the shock of surprise of Lady Wetherby's news, that had sent him striding along the State Road at the rate of five miles an hour, staring before him with unseeing eyes. A sudden recollection of their last interview brought a dull flush to Bill's face and accelerated his speed. He felt physically ill.
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