She was very kind and considerate to Gilbert after this, carefully avoiding any farther allusions to his lost love, and taking all possible pains to make his visit pleasant to him. She was so affectionate and cordial, and seemed so really anxious for him to stay, that he could not in common decency hurry back to town quite so soon as he had intended. He prolonged his visit to the end of that week, and then to the beginning of the next; and when he did at last find himself free to return to London, the second week was nearly ended.
Gilbert Fenton was very glad to have made his escape from Lidford at last, for his mind was full of anxiety about Marian. Again and again he had argued with himself upon the folly and uselessness of this anxiety. She, for whose interests he was so troubled, was safe enough no doubt, protected by a husband, who was most likely a man of the world, and quite as able to protect her as Gilbert himself could be. He told himself this; but still the restless uneasy sense that he was neglecting his duty, that he was false to the promise made to old Jacob Nowell, tormented and perplexed him. He felt that he ought to be doing something—that he had no right to remain in ignorance of the progress of Marian’s affairs—that he should be at hand to frustrate any attempt at knavery on the part of the lawyer—to be sure that the old man’s wealth suffered no diminution before it reached the hands of his heiress.
Gilbert Fenton felt that his promise to the dead bound him to do these things, and felt at the same time the weakness of his own position with relation to Marian. By what right could he interfere in the conduct of her affairs? what claim could he assert to defend her interests? who would listen to any romantic notion about a promise made to the dead?
He went to Queen Anne’s Court upon the night of his return to London. The silversmith’s shop looked exactly the same as when he had first seen it: the gas burning dimly, the tarnished old salvers and tankards gleaming duskily in the faint light, with all manner of purple and greenish hues. Mr. Tulliver was in his little den at the back of the shop, and emerged with his usual rapidity at the ringing of the door-bell.
“O, it’s you, is it, sir?” he asked in an indifferent, half-insolent tone. “What can I do for you this evening?”
“Is your late master’s granddaughter, Mrs. Holbrook, here?” Gilbert asked.
“No; Mrs. Holbrook went away on the morning after my master’s death. I told you that when you called here last.”
“I am quite aware of that; but I thought it likely Mrs. Holbrook might return here with her husband, to take possession of the property, which I suppose you know now belongs to her.”