Sir George awoke next morning, and, after a few lazy moments of semi-consciousness, remembered what was before him, it is not to be denied that he felt a chill. He lay awhile, thinking of the past and the future—or the no future—in a way he seldom thought, and with a seriousness for which the life he had hitherto led had left him little time and less inclination.
But he was young; he had a digestion as yet unimpaired, and nerves still strong; and when he emerged an hour later and, more soberly dressed than was his wont, proceeded down the High Street towards the Cherwell Bridge, his spirits were at their normal level. The spring sunshine which gilded the pinnacles of Magdalen tower, and shone cool and pleasant on a score of hoary fronts, wrought gaily on him also. The milksellers and such early folk were abroad, and filled the street with their cries; he sniffed the fresh air, and smiled at the good humour and morning faces that everywhere greeted him; and d——d White’s anew, and vowed to live cleanly henceforth, and forswear Pam. In a word, the man was of such a courage that in his good resolutions he forgot his errand, and whence they arose; and it was with a start that, as he approached the gate leading to the college meadows, he marked a chair in waiting, and beside it Mr. Peter Fishwick, from whom he had parted at the Mitre ten minutes before.
Soane did not know whether the attorney had preceded him or followed him: the intrusion was the same, and flushed with annoyance, he strode to him to mark his sense of it. But Peter, being addressed, wore his sharpest business air, and was entirely unconscious of offence. ’I have merely purveyed a surgeon,’ he said, indicating a young man who stood beside him. ‘I could not learn that you had provided one, sir.’
‘Oh!’ Sir George answered, somewhat taken aback, ’this is the gentleman.’
Soane was in the act of saluting the stranger, when a party of two or three persons came up behind, and had much ado not to jostle them in the gateway. It consisted of Mr. Dunborough, Lord Almeric, and two other gentlemen; one of these, an elderly man, who wore black and hair-powder, and carried a gold-topped cane, had a smug and well-pleased expression, that indicated his stake in the meeting to be purely altruistic. The two companies exchanged salutes.
On this followed a little struggle to give precedence at the gate, but eventually all went through. ‘If we turn to the right,’ some one observed, ‘there is a convenient place. No, this way, my lord.’
‘Oh Lord, I have such a head this morning!’ his lordship answered; and he looked by no means happy. ’I am all of a twitter! It is so confounded early, too. See here: cannot this be—?’