Mr. Fenton stayed with his friend about an hour after this; but John Saltram was not in a communicative mood to-night, and the talk lagged wearily. It was almost a relief to Gilbert when they had bidden each other good-night, and he was out in the noisy streets once more, making his way towards Queen Anne’s Court.
Gilbert Fenton found Jacob Nowell worse; so much worse, that he had been obliged to take to his bed, and was lying in a dull shabby room upstairs, faintly lighted by one tallow candle on the mantelpiece. Marian was there when Gilbert went in. She had arrived a couple of hours before, and had taken her place at once by the sick-bed. Her bonnet and shawl were thrown carelessly upon a dilapidated couch by the window. Gilbert fancied she looked like a ministering angel as she sat by the bed, her soft brown hair falling loosely round the lovely face, her countenance almost divine in its expression of tenderness and pity.
“You came to town alone, Marian?” he asked in a low voice.
The old man was in a doze at this moment, lying with his pinched withered face turned towards his granddaughter, his feeble hand in hers.
“Yes, I came alone. My husband had not come back, and I would not delay any longer after receiving your letter. I am very glad I came. My poor grandfather seemed so pleased to see me. He was wandering a little when I first came in, but brightened wonderfully afterwards, and quite understood who I was.”
The old man awoke presently. He was in a semi-delirious state, but seemed to know his granddaughter, and clung to her, calling her by name with senile fondness. His mind wandered back to the past, and he talked to his son as if he had been in the room, reproaching him for his extravagance, his college debts, which had been the ruin of his careful hard-working father. At another moment he fancied that his wife was still alive, and spoke to her, telling her that their grandchild had been christened after her, and that she was to love the girl. And then the delirium left him for a time, his mind grew clearer, and he talked quite rationally in his low feeble way.
“Is that Mr. Fenton?” he asked; “the room’s so dark, I can’t see very well. She has come to me, you see. She’s a good girl. Her eyes are like my wife’s. Yes, she’s a good girl. It seems a hard thing that I should have lived all these years without knowing her; lived alone, with no one about me but those that were on the watch for my money, and eager to cheat me at every turn. My life might have been happier if I’d had a grandchild to keep me company, and I might have left this place and lived like a gentleman for her sake. But that’s all past and gone. You’ll be rich when I’m dead, Marian; yes, what most people would count rich. You won’t squander the money, will you, my dear, as your father would, if it were left to him?”