George, who like most men of his stamp could put away his share of liquor and feel thankful for it, drank his glass of wine while Mr. Quest was engaged in writing the note, wondering meanwhile what made the lawyer so civil to him. For George did not like Mr. Quest. Indeed, it would not be too much to say that he hated him. But this was a feeling which he never allowed to appear; he was too much afraid of the man for that, and in his queer way too much devoted to the old Squire’s interests to run the risk of imperilling them by the exhibition of any aversion to Mr. Quest. He knew more of his master’s affairs than anybody living, unless, perhaps, it was Mr. Quest himself, and was aware that the lawyer held the old gentleman in a bondage that could not be broken. Now, George was a man with faults. He was somewhat sly, and, perhaps within certain lines, at times capable of giving the word honesty a liberal interpretation. But amongst many others he had one conspicuous virtue: he loved the old Squire as a Highlandman loves his chief, and would almost, if not quite, have died to serve him. His billet was no easy one, for Mr. de la Molle’s temper was none of the best at times, and when things went wrong, as they pretty frequently did, he was exceedingly apt to visit his wrath on the head of the devoted George, saying things to him which he should not have said. But his retainer took it all in the day’s work, and never bore malice, continuing in his own cadging pigheaded sort of way to labour early and late to prop up his master’s broken fortunes. “Lord, sir,” as he once said to Harold Quaritch when the Colonel condoled with him after a violent and unjust onslaught made by the Squire in his presence, “Lord, sir, that ain’t nawthing, that ain’t. I don’t pay no manner of heed to that. Folk du say how as I wor made for he, like a safety walve for a traction engine.”
Indeed, had it not been for George’s contrivings and procrastinations, Honham Castle and its owner would have parted company long before.
After George had drunk his glass of wine and given his opinion as to the best way to deal with the dangerous pinnacle on the Boisingham Church, he took the note, untied the fat pony, and ambled off to Honham, leaving the lawyer alone. As soon as he was gone, Mr. Quest threw himself back in his chair—an old oak one, by-the-way, for he had a very pretty taste in old oak and a positive mania for collecting it—and plunged into a brown study.