It was all that he dared to say, the utmost to which he could go. He knew that false hopes, raised only to be crushed, were cruelty. And he had never done that, never would. “There is yet one ray of hope. He may live; I can say no more than that, Miss Linden.”
And, little though it was, it was almost more than she had dared to hope for.
MR. RUNDLE TAKES A HAND
Battered and sorely bruised, Philip Slotman lay on his bed in the Feathers Inn in Little Langbourne, and cursed his luck. Every time he moved he swore to himself.
He was hurt in mind, body, and estate; he was consumed by a great rage and a sense of injury. He had suffered, and someone should pay—Joan mainly, after Joan, Hugh Alston. But it would be safer to make Joan pay. Not in money. Alston had insisted on it that he had nothing to expect in the way of cash from Miss Meredyth.
Slotman lay writhing, and cursing and planning vengeance. There were few things that he would not have liked to do to Hugh Alston, but finally he decided he could better hurt Hugh Alston through Joan, so thereafter he devoted his thoughts to Joan.
The church bells of Little Langbourne Church were ringing pleasantly when Philip Slotman, with many a grunt and inward groan, rose from his couch.
Except for a slight discoloration about the left eye and a certain stiffness of gait, there was nothing about Philip Slotman when he came down to the coffee-room for his breakfast to suggest that he had seen so much trouble the previous evening. But there were some who had seen Slotman come in, and among them was the waiter. He put his hand over his mouth, and smirked now at the sight of Slotman, and Slotman noticed it.
The bells rang no message of peace and good-will to Mr. Slotman this morning.
Yes, Joan would be the one. He would make her pay; he would hurt Alston through her, and hit her hard at the same time. He would stay here at Little Langbourne.
“Buddesby, sir?” said the waiter. “Yes, sir. Mister John Everard’s place about a quarter of a mile beyond the village. Very interesting old ’ouse, sir, one of the best farms hereabouts. Mr. Everard’s a well-to-do gentleman, sir, old family, not—”
“Oh, go away!”
The waiter withdrew. “Anyhow,” he thought, “he got it all right last night, and serve him right. Law! what a mess ’e were in when he came in.”
A quarter of a mile beyond the village. Slotman nodded. He would go. He remembered that Alston had said something last night about this man Everard, had suggested all sorts of things might happen to him, Slotman, if he communicated in any way with Everard.
“Anyhow I shall tell him, and unless he is a born fool he will soon get quit of her. By thunder! I’ll make her name reek, as I told her I would. I’ll set this place and Starden and half the infernal country talking about her! If she shews her face anywhere, she’ll get stared at. I’ll let her and that beast Alston see what it means to get on the wrong side of a chap like me.”