The early days of the new year brought little change in John Saltram’s condition. Mr. Mew, and the physician who saw him once in every three days, seemed perhaps a shade more hopeful than they had been, but would express no decided opinion when Gilbert pressed them with close questioning. The struggle was still going on—the issue still doubtful.
“If we could keep the mind at rest,” said the physician, “we should have every chance of doing better; but this constant restlessness, this hyper-activity of the brain, of which you and Mr. Mew tell me, must needs make a perpetual demand upon the patient’s physical powers. The waste is always going on. We cannot look for recovery until we obtain more repose.”
Several weeks had passed since the beginning of John Saltram’s illness, and there were no tidings from Mr. Medler. Every day Gilbert had expected some communication from that practitioner, only to be disappointed. He had called twice in Soho, and on both occasions had been received by a shabby-looking clerk, who told him that Mr. Medler was out, and not likely to come home within any definite time. He was inclined to fancy, by the clerk’s manner on his second visit, that there was some desire to avoid an interview on Mr. Medler’s part; and this fancy made him all the more anxious to see that gentleman. He did not, therefore, allow much time to elapse between this second visit to the dingy chambers in Soho and a third. This time he was more fortunate; for he saw the lawyer let himself in at the street-door with his latch-key, just as the cab that drove him approached the house.
The same shabby clerk opened the door to him.
“I want to see your master,” he said decisively, making a move towards the office-door.
The clerk contrived to block his way.
“I beg your pardon, sir, I don’t think Mr. Medler’s in; but I’ll go and see.”
“You needn’t give yourself the trouble. I saw your master let himself in at this door a minute ago. I suppose you were too busy to hear him come in.”
The clerk coughed a doubtful kind of cough, significant of perplexity.
“Upon my word, sir, I believe he’s out; but I’ll see.”
“Thanks; I’d rather see myself, if you please,” Gilbert said, passing the perturbed clerk before that functionary could make up his mind whether he ought to intercept him.
He opened the office-door and went in. Mr. Medler was sitting at his desk, bending over some formidable document, with the air of a man who is profoundly absorbed by his occupation; with the air also, Gilbert thought, of a man who has been what is vernacularly called “on the listen.”
“Good-morning, Mr. Medler,” Gilbert said politely; “your clerk had such a conviction of your being out, that I had some difficulty in convincing him you were at home.”