“He will do so in future, I think, Mrs. Branston,” Gilbert answered gravely. “I fancy he has learned the folly and danger of all underhand policy, and that he will put more faith in his friends for the rest of his life.”
“And he is really much better, quite out of danger? Do the doctors say that?”
“He is as much out of danger as a man can well be whose strength has all been wasted in a perilous illness. He has that to regain yet, and the recovery will be slow work. Of course in his condition a relapse would be fatal; but there is no occasion to apprehend a relapse.”
“Thank heaven for that! And you will take care of him, Mr. Fenton, will you not?”
“I will do my very best. He saved my life once; so you see that I owe him a life.”
The invalid was conveyed to Hampton on a bright February day, when there was an agreeable glimpse of spring sunshine. He went down by road in a hired brougham, and the journey seemed a long one; but it was an unspeakable relief to John Saltram to see the suburban roads and green fields after the long imprisonment of the Temple,—a relief that moved him almost to tears in his extreme weakness.
“Could you believe that a man would be so childish, Gilbert?” he said apologetically. “It might have been a good thing for me to have died in that dismal room, for heaven only knows what heavy sorrow lies before me in the future. Yet the eight of these common things touches me more keenly than all the glory of the Jungfrau touched me ten years ago. What a gay bright-looking world it is! And yet how many people are happy in it? how many take the right road? I suppose there is a right road by which we all might travel, if we only knew how to choose it.”
He felt the physical weariness of the journey acutely, but uttered no complaint throughout the way; though Gilbert could see the pale face growing paler, the sunken cheeks more pinched of aspect, as they went on. To the last he pronounced himself delighted by that quiet progress through the familiar landscape; and then having reached his destination, had barely strength to totter to a comfortable chintz-covered sofa in the bright-looking parlour, where he fainted away. The professional nurse had been dismissed before they left London, and Gilbert was now the invalid’s only attendant. The woman had performed her office tolerably well, after the manner of her kind; but the presence of a sick nurse is not a cheering influence, and John Saltram was infinitely relieved by her disappearance.
“How good you are to me, Gilbert!” he said, that first evening of his sojourn at Hampton, after he had recovered from his faint, and was lying on the sofa sipping a cup of tea. “How good! and yet you are my friend no longer; all friendship is at an end between us. Well, God knows I am as helpless as that man who fell among thieves; I cannot choose but accept your bounty.”