Presently he said, “Now you must leave me here a little! You came in the nick of time, and you brought me a message. It always comes, if you ask for it! And I shall say a prayer for the Little Master himself, as Sintram called him, before I go. He has his points, you know. He is uncommonly shrewd and tenacious and brave. He’s fighting for his life, and I pity him whenever he suspects—and it must be pretty often—that things are not going his way. I don’t despair of the old fellow himself, if I may say so. I suspect him of a sense of humour. I can’t help thinking he will capitulate and cut his losses some day, and then we shall get things right in a trice. He will be conquered, and perhaps convinced; but he won’t be used vindictively, whatever happens. My knowledge of that, and of the fact that he has got defeat ahead of him, and knows it, is the best defence against him, even when it is his hour, and the power of darkness, as it has been to-day.”
I got up and left him; he smiled at me and waved his hand.
THE BANK OF THE RIVER
The week passed without anything further occurring to arouse our anxieties, and Father Payne went up to town on the Monday: he went off in apparently good spirits: but we got a wire in the course of the day to say that he was detained in town by business and would write. On the following morning, Barthrop came into my room in silence, shortly after breakfast, and handed me a letter without a word. It was very short: it ran as follows:
“DEAR LEONARD,—I want you to come up to town to-morrow to see me, and if Duncan cares to come, I shall be delighted to see him too, though I know he has an artistic objection to seeing people who are ill, and I understand that I am ill. I saw a doctor yesterday, and he advised me to see a specialist, who advised me to have an operation. It seems better to get it over at once; so I went without delay into a nursing home, where I feel like a child in the nursery again. I want to talk over matters, and it will be better to say nothing which will cause a fuss. So just run up to-morrow, there’s a good man, and you can get back in the evening. Ever yours,
It happened that there were only two of us at Aveley at the time, Kaye, and a younger man, Raven, who had just joined. We determined to say nothing about it till the following morning: the day passed heavily enough. I found I could do nothing with the dread of what it might all mean overhanging me. I admired Barthrop’s common-sense: he spent the day, he told me, in doing accounts—he acted as a sort of bursar—and he kept up a quiet conversation at dinner in which I confess I played a very poor part. Kaye never noticed anything, and had no curiosity, and Raven had no suspicion of anything unusual. I slept ill that night, and found myself in a very much depressed mood on