This was a very long speech for Mr. Whitelaw; and, having finished it, he sank into his chair, quite exhausted by the unusual effort, and refreshed himself with copious libations of gin-and-water.
“What was that man here for, then, Stephen? It’s only natural I should want to know that,” said Mrs. Tadman, abashed, but not struck dumb by her kinsman’s reproof.
“What’s that to you? Business. Yes, there has been money pass between us, and it’s rather a profitable business for me. Perhaps it was horse-racing, perhaps it wasn’t. That’s about all you’ve any call to know. I’ve made money by it, and not lost. And now, don’t let me be bothered about it any more, if you and me are to keep friends.”
“I’m sure, Stephen,” Mrs. Tadman remonstrated in a feebly plaintive tone, “I’ve no wish to bother you; there’s nothing farther from my thoughts; but it’s only natural that I should be anxious about a place where I’ve lived so many years. Not but what I could get my living easy enough elsewhere, as you must know, Stephen, being able to turn my hand to almost anything.”
To this feeble protest Mr. Whitelaw vouchsafed no answer. He had lighted his pipe by this time, and was smoking and staring at the fire with his usual stolid air—meditative, it might be, or only ruminant, like one of his own cattle.
But all through that night Mr. Whitelaw, who was not commonly a seer of visions or dreamer of dreams, had his slumbers disturbed by some unwonted perplexity of spirit. His wife lay broad awake, thinking of that prolonged and piercing cry, which seemed to her, the more she meditated upon it, in have been a cry of anguish or of terror, and could not fail to notice this unusual disturbance of her husband’s sleep. More than once he muttered to himself in a troubled manner; but his words, for the most part, were incoherent and disjointed—words of which that perplexed listener could make nothing.
Once she heard him say, “A bad job—dangerous business.”
John Saltram improved daily at Hampton Court. In spite of his fierce impatience to get well, in order to engage in the search for Marian—an impatience which was in itself sufficient to militate against his well-being—he did make considerable progress on the road to recovery. He was still very weak, and it must take time to complete his restoration; but he was no longer the pale ghost of his former self that Gilbert had brought down to the quiet suburb.
It would have been a cruel thing to leave him much alone at such a time, or it would have seemed very cruel to Gilbert Fenton, who had ever present in his memory those old days in Egypt when this man had stood him in such good stead. He remembered the days of his own sickness, and contrived to perform his business duties within the smallest time possible, and so spend the rest of his life in the comfortable sitting-rooms looking out upon Bushy-park on the one side, and on the other upon the pretty high road before the Palace grounds.