Sounds approached, from the distance—the “freight,” with the doctor, climbing the steep pass. He stepped on briskly to a signal-man’s cabin and made arrangements to stop the train.
It was towards midnight when he and the doctor emerged from the Ginnell’s cabin.
“Oh, I daresay we’ll heal those cuts,” said the doctor. “I’ve told Mrs. Ginnell what to do; but the old fellow’s in a pretty cranky state. I doubt whether he’ll trouble the world very long.”
Anderson started. With his eyes on the ground and his hands in his pockets, he inquired the reason for this opinion.
“Arteries—first and foremost. It’s a wonder they’ve held out so long, and then—a score of other things. What can you expect?”
The speaker went into some details, discussing the case with gusto. A miner from Nevada? Queer hells often, those mining camps, whether on the Canadian or the American side of the border.
“You were acquainted with his family? Canadian, to begin with, I understand?”
“Yes. He applied to me for help. Did he tell you much about himself?”
“No. He boasted a lot about some mine in the Comstock district which is to make his fortune, if he can raise the money to buy it up. If he can raise fifteen thousand dollars, he says, he wouldn’t care to call Rockefeller his uncle!”
“That’s what he wants, is it?” said Anderson, absently, “fifteen thousand dollars?”
“Apparently. Wish he may get it!” laughed the doctor. “Well, keep him from drink, if you can. But I doubt if you’ll cheat the undertaker very long. Good night. There’ll be a train along soon that’ll pick me up.”
Anderson went back to the cabin, found that his father had dropped asleep, left money and directions with Mrs. Ginnell, and then returned to his own lodgings.
He sat down to write to Delaine. It was clear that, so far, that gentleman and Mrs. Ginnell were the only other participants in the secret of McEwen’s identity. The old man had not revealed himself to the doctor. Did that mean that—in spite of his first reckless interview with the Englishman—he had still some notion of a bargain with his son, on the basis of the fifteen thousand dollars?
Possibly. But that son had still to determine his own line of action. When at last he began to write, he wrote steadily and without a pause. Nor was the letter long.
On the morning following his conversation with Anderson on the Laggan road, Delaine impatiently awaited the arrival of the morning mail from Laggan. When it came, he recognised Anderson’s handwriting on one of the envelopes put into his hand. Elizabeth, having kept him company at breakfast, had gone up to sit with Philip. Nevertheless, he took the precaution of carrying the letter out of doors to read it.
It ran as follows: