‘Why do you think so, Doctor Bryerly?’
’It’s made on water: the spirit interferes with the use of it beyond a certain limit. You have no idea what those fellows can swallow. Read the “Opium Eater.” I knew two cases in which the quantity exceeded De Quincy’s. Aha! it’s new to you?’ and he laughed quietly at my simplicity.
‘And what do you think his complaint is?’ I asked.
’Pooh! I haven’t a notion; but, probably, one way or another, he has been all his days working on his nerves and his brain. These men of pleasure, who have no other pursuit, use themselves up mostly, and pay a smart price for their sins. And so he’s kind and affectionate, but hands you over to your cousin and the servants. Are his people civil and obliging?’
’Well, I can’t say much for them; there is a man named Hawkes, and his daughter, who are very rude, and even abusive sometimes, and say they have orders from my uncle to shut us out from a portion of the grounds; but I don’t believe that, for Uncle Silas never alluded to it when I was making my complaint of them to-day.’
‘From what part of the grounds is that?’ asked Doctor Bryerly, sharply.
I described the situation as well as I could.
‘Can we see it from this?’ he asked, peeping from the window.
Doctor Bryerly made a note in his pocket-book here, and I said—
’But I am really quite sure it was a story of Dickon’s, he is such a surly, disobliging man.’
‘And what sort is that old servant that came in and out of his room?’
‘Oh, that is old L’Amour,’ I answered, rather indirectly, and forgetting that I was using Milly’s nickname.
‘And is she civil?’ he asked.
No, she certainly was not; a most disagreeable old woman, with a vein of wickedness. I thought I had heard her swearing.
‘They don’t seem to be a very engaging lot,’ said Doctor Bryerly;’ but where there’s one, there will be more. See here, I was just reading a passage,’ and he opened the little volume at the place where his finger marked it, and read for me a few sentences, the purport of which I well remember, although, of course, the words have escaped me.
It was in that awful portion of the book which assumes to describe the condition of the condemned; and it said that, independently of the physical causes in that state operating to enforce community of habitation, and an isolation from superior spirits, there exist sympathies, aptitudes, and necessities which would, of themselves, induce that depraved gregariousness, and isolation too. ’And what of the rest of the servants, are they better?’ he resumed.
We saw little or nothing of the others, except of old ‘Giblets,’ the butler, who went about like a little automaton of dry bones, poking here and there, and whispering and smiling to himself as he laid the cloth; and seeming otherwise quite unconscious of an external world.