6. CHAPTER VI
I walked to the railway station accompanied, it is needless to say,
by Gabriel Betteredge. I had the letter in my pocket, and the nightgown
safely packed in a little bag--both to be submitted, before I slept
that night, to the investigation of Mr. Bruff.
We left the house in silence. For the first time in my experience of him,
I found old Betteredge in my company without a word to say to me.
Having something to say on my side, I opened the conversation as soon as we
were clear of the lodge gates.
"Before I go to London," I began, "I have two questions to ask you.
They relate to myself, and I believe they will rather surprise you."
"If they will put that poor creature's letter out of my head,
Mr. Franklin, they may do anything else they like with me.
Please to begin surprising me, sir, as soon as you can."
"My first question, Betteredge, is this. Was I drunk on the night
of Rachel's Birthday?"
"YOU drunk!" exclaimed the old man. "Why it's the great defect
of your character, Mr. Franklin that you only drink with your dinner,
and never touch a drop of liquor afterwards!"
"But the birthday was a special occasion. I might have abandoned
my regular habits, on that night of all others."
Betteredge considered for a moment.
"You did go out of your habits, sir," he said. "And I'll tell you how.
You looked wretchedly ill--and we persuaded you to have a drop of brandy
and water to cheer you up a little."
"I am not used to brandy and water. It is quite possible----"
"Wait a bit, Mr. Franklin. I knew you were not used, too. I poured you out
half a wineglass-full of our fifty year old Cognac; and (more shame for me!)
I drowned that noble liquor in nigh on a tumbler-full of cold water.
A child couldn't have got drunk on it--let alone a grown man!"