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3. WILTON'S HOLIDAY (continued)
'He told me not to let it go any further,' said Clay to everyone he met, 'but of course it doesn't matter telling you. It is a thing he doesn't like to have known. He told me because he said there was something about me that seemed to extract confidences--a kind of strength, he said. You wouldn't think it to look at him, but his life is an absolute blank. Absolutely ruined, don't you know. He told me the whole thing so simply and frankly that it broke me all up. It seems that he was engaged to be married a few years ago, and on the wedding morning--absolutely on the wedding morning--the girl was taken suddenly ill, and--'
'And died. Died in his arms. Absolutely in his arms, old top.'
'What a terrible thing!'
'Absolutely. He's never got over it. You won't let it go any further, will you old man?'
And off sped Spencer, to tell the tale to someone else.
* * * * *
Everyone was terribly sorry for Wilton. He was such a good fellow, such a sportsman, and, above all, so young, that one hated the thought that, laugh as he might, beneath his laughter there lay the pain of that awful memory. He seemed so happy, too. It was only in moments of confidence, in those heart-to-heart talks when men reveal their deeper feelings, that he ever gave a hint that all was not well with him. As, for example, when Ellerton, who is always in love with someone, backed him into a corner one evening and began to tell him the story of his latest affair, he had hardly begun when such a look of pain came over Wilton's face that he ceased instantly. He said afterwards that the sudden realization of the horrible break he was making hit him like a bullet, and the manner in which he turned the conversation practically without pausing from love to a discussion of the best method of getting out of the bunker at the seventh hole was, in the circumstances, a triumph of tact.
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