“Thought of it, sir!” repeated the Sergeant, bitterly, “thought of it!—Lord, sir! I’ve thought of it—these five years—and more. I’ve thought of it—day and night. I’ve thought of it so very much that I know—I never can—speak my mind to her. Look at me!” he cried suddenly, wheeling and confronting Bellew, but not at all like his bold, erect, soldierly self,—“Yes, look at me,—a poor, battered, old soldier—with his—best arm gone,—left behind him in India, and with nothing in the world but his old uniform,—getting very frayed and worn,—like himself, sir,—a pair o’ jack boots, likewise very much worn, though wonderfully patched, here and there, by my good comrade, Peterday,—a handful of medals, and a very modest pension. Look at me, with the best o’ my days behind me, and wi’ only one arm left—and I’m a deal more awkward and helpless with that one arm than you’d think, sir,—look at me, and then tell me how could such a man dare to speak his mind to—such a woman. What right has—such a man to even think of speaking his mind to—such a woman, when there’s part o’ that man already in the grave? Why, no right, sir,—none in the world. Poverty, and one arm, are facts as make it impossible for that man to—ever speak his mind. And, sir—that man—never will. Sir,—good night to you!—and a pleasant walk!—I turn back here.”
Which the Sergeant did, then and there, wheeling sharp right about face; yet, as Bellew watched him go, he noticed that the soldier’s step was heavy, and slow, and it seemed that, for once, the Sergeant had even forgotten to put on his imaginary spurs.
In which Adam explains
“Yes, Miss Anthea.”
“How much money did Mr. Bellew give you to—buy the furniture?”
Miss Anthea was sitting in her great elbow chair, leaning forward with her chin in her hand, looking at him in the way which always seemed to Adam as though she could see into the verimost recesses of his mind. Therefore Adam twisted his hat in his hands, and stared at the ceiling, and the floor, and the table before Miss Anthea, and the wall behind Miss Anthea—anywhere but at Miss Anthea.
“You ax me—how much it were, Miss Anthea?”
“Well,—it were a goodish sum.”
“Was it—fifty pounds?”
“Fifty pound!” repeated Adam, in a tone of lofty disdain, “no, Miss Anthea, it were not fifty pound.”
“Do you mean it was—more?”
“Ah!” nodded Adam, “I mean as it were a sight more. If you was to take the fifty pound you mention, add twenty more, and then another twenty to that, and then come ten more to that,—why then—you’d be a bit nigher the figure—”
“A hundred pounds!” exclaimed Anthea, aghast.
“Ah! a hundred pound!” nodded Adam, rolling the words upon his tongue with great gusto,—“one—hundred—pound, were the sum, Miss Anthea.”