“You’re a good fellow, Medler; and if ever fortune should favour me, which hardly seems on the cards, I sha’n’t forget what I promised you the other day. I daresay you did the best you could for me, though it doesn’t amount to much when it’s done.”
Long after Percival Nowell had left him, Mr. Medler sat idle at his desk meditating upon his interview with that gentleman.
“I can’t half understand his coolness,” he said to himself; “I expected him to be as savage as a bear when he found that the old man had left him nothing. I thought I should hear nothing but execrations and blasphemies; for I think I know my gentleman pretty well of old, and that he’s not a person to take a disappointment of this kind very sweetly. There must be something under that quiet manner of his. Perhaps he knows more about his daughter than he cares to let out; knows that she is sickly, and that he stands a good chance of surviving her.”
There was indeed a lurking desperation under Percival Nowell’s airy manner, of which the people amongst whom he lived had no suspicion. Unless some sudden turn in the wheel of fortune should change the aspect of affairs for him very soon, ruin, most complete and utter, was inevitable. A man cannot go on very long without money; and in order to pay his hotel-bill Mr. Nowell had been obliged to raise the funds from an accommodating gentleman with whom he had done business in years gone by, and who was very familiar with his own and his father’s autograph. The bill upon which this gentleman advanced the money in question bore the name of Jacob Nowell, and was drawn at three months. Percival had persuaded himself that before the three months were out his father would be in his grave, and his executors would scarcely be in a position to dispute the genuineness of the signature. In the meantime the money thus obtained enabled him to float on. He paid his hotel-bill, and removed to lodgings in one of the narrow streets to the north-east of Tottenham Court Road; an obscure lodging enough, where he had a couple of comfortable rooms on the first floor, and where his going out and coming in attracted little notice. Here, as at the hotel, he chose to assume the name of Norton instead of his legitimate cognomen.
GILBERT ASKS A QUESTION.
Gilbert Fenton called at John Saltram’s chambers within a day or two of his return from Hampshire. He had a strange, almost feverish eagerness to see his old friend again; a sense of having wronged him for that one brief moment of thought in which the possibility of his guilt had flashed across his mind; and with this feeling there was mingled a suspicion that John Saltram had not acted quite fairly to him; that he had kept back knowledge which must have come to him as an intimate ally of Sir David Forster.
He found Mr. Saltram at home in the familiar untidy room, with the old chaos of books and papers about him. He looked tired and ill, and rose to greet his visitor with a weary air, as if nothing in the world possessed much interest for him now-a-days.