He staid accordingly till three o’clock, left his patient out of all present danger, and advised Walter especially against allowing colchicum to be administered to him until his strength had recovered.
“There is no medicinal cure for gout,” said he; “pain is a mere symptom, and colchicum soothes that pain, not by affecting the disease, but by stilling the action of the heart. Well, if you still the action of that heart there, you’ll kill him as surely as if you stilled it with a pistol bullet. Knock off his champagne in three or four days, and wheel him into the sun as soon as you can with safety, fill his lungs with oxygen, and keep all worry and disputes and mental anxiety from him, if you can. Don’t contradict him for a month to come.”
The Colonel had a terrible bout of it so far as pain was concerned, but after about a fortnight the paroxysms intermitted, the appetite increased. Everybody was his nurse; everybody, including Julia Clifford, humored him; Percy Fitzroy was never mentioned, and the name of Bartley religiously avoided. The Colonel had got a fright, and was more prudent in his diet, and always in the open air.
Walter left him only at odd times, when he could hope to get a hasty word with Mary, and tell her how things were going, and do all that man could do to keep her heart up, and reconcile her to the present situation.
Returning from his wife one day, and leaving her depressed by their galling situation, though she was never peevish, but very sad and thoughtful, he found his father and Julia Clifford in the library. Julia had been writing letters for him; she gave Walter a deprecatory look, as much as to say, “What I am doing is by compulsion, and you won’t like it.” Colonel Clifford didn’t leave the young man in any doubt about the matter. He said: “Walter, you heard me speak of Bell, the counsel who leads this circuit. I was once so fortunate as to do him a good turn, and he has not forgotten it; he will sleep here the day after to-morrow, and he will go over that black-guard’s lease: he has been in plenty of mining cases. I have got a sort of half opinion out of him already; he thinks it contrary to the equity of contracts that minerals should pass under a farm lease where the surface of the soil is a just equivalent to the yearly payment; but the old fox won’t speak positively till he has read every syllable of the lease. However, it stands to reason that it’s a fraud; it comes from a man who is all fraud; but thank God I am myself again.”
He started up erect as a dart. “I’ll have him off my lands; I’ll drag him out of the bowels of the earth, him and all his clan.”
With this and other threats of the same character he marched out of the room, striking the floor hard with his stick as he went, and left Julia Clifford amazed, and Walter Clifford aghast, at his vindictive fury.