They had a very pleasant evening at Heatherly. Sir David’s guests at this time consisted of a Major Foljambe, an elderly man who had seen a good deal of service in India; a Mr. Harker, who had been in the church, and had left it in disgust as alike unsuited to his tastes and capacity; Mr. Windus Carr, a prosperous West-end solicitor, who had inherited a first-rate practice from his father, and who devoted his talents to the enjoyment of life, leaving his clients to the care of his partner, a steady-going stout gentleman, with a bald head, and an inexhaustible capacity for business; and last, but by no means least, John Saltram, who possessed more influence over David Forster than any one else in the world.
Sentence of exile.
After the dinner at Heatherly, John Saltram came very often to the cottage. He did not care much for the fellows who were staying with Sir David this year, he told Gilbert. He knew all Major Foljambe’s tiger stories by heart, and had convicted him of glaring discrepancies in his description of the havoc he and his brother officers had made among the big game. Windus Carr was a conceited presuming cad, who was always boring them with impossible accounts of his conquests among the fair sex; and that poor Harker was an unmitigated fool, whose brains had run into his billiard-cue. This was the report which John Saltram gave of his fellow-guests; and he left the shooting-party morning after morning to go out boating with Gilbert and Marian, or to idle away the sunny hours on the lawn listening to the talk of the two others, and dropping in a word now and then in a sleepy way as he lay stretched on the grass near them, looking up to the sky, with his arms crossed above his head.
He called at Lidford House one day when Gilbert had told him he should stay at home to write letters, and was duly presented to the Listers, who made a little dinner-party in his honour a few days afterwards, to which Captain Sedgewick and Marian were invited—a party which went off with more brightness and gaiety than was wont to distinguish the Lidford House entertainments. After this there was more boating—long afternoons spent on the winding river, with occasional landings upon picturesque little islands or wooded banks, where there were the wild-flowers Marian Nowell loved and understood so well; more idle mornings in the cottage garden—a happy innocent break in the common course of life, which seemed almost as pleasant to John Saltram as to his friend. He had contrived to make himself popular with every one at Lidford, and was an especial favourite with Captain Sedgewick.