“The Lord bless my old master!” aspirated Matthew, lifting his hands. “The Lord bless you, sir! There’s not many gentlemen would do for us what him and you have.”
Lionel bent his head forward, and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Matthew, what is this that I hear, of Robin’s going about the grounds at night with a loaded gun?”
Matthew flung up his hands. Not with the reverence of the past minute, but with a gesture of despair. “Heaven knows what he does it for, sir! I’d keep him in; but it’s beyond me.”
“I know you would. You went yourself after him last night, Broom tells me.”
Matthew’s eyes fell. He hesitated much in his answer. “I—yes, sir—I—I couldn’t get him home. It’s a pity.”
“You got as far as the brick-kilns, I hear. I was surprised. I don’t think you should be out at night, Matthew.”
“No, sir, I am not a-going again.”
The words this time were spoken readily enough. But, from some cause or other, the old man was evidently embarrassed. His eyes were not lifted, and his clear face had gone red. Lionel searched his imagination for a reason, and could only connect it with his son.
“Matthew,” said he, “I am about to ask you a painful question. I hope you will answer it. Is Robin perfectly sane?”
“Ay, sir, as sane as I am. Unsettled he is, ever dwelling on poor Rachel, ever thinking of revenge; but his senses be as much his as they ever were. I wish his mind could be set at rest.”
“At rest in what way?”
“As to who it was that did the harm to Rachel. He has had it in his head for a long while, sir, that it was Mr. John Massingbird; but he can’t be certain, and it’s the uncertainty that keeps his mind on the worrit.”
“Do you know where he picked up the notion that it was Mr. John Massingbird?” inquired Lionel, remembering the conversation on the same point that Robin had once held with him, on that very garden bench, in the face of which he and Matthew were now sitting.
Old Matthew shook his head. “I never could learn, sir. Robin’s a dutiful son to me, but he’d never tell me that. I know that Mr. John Massingbird has been like a pill in his throat this many a day. Oftentimes have I felt thankful that he was dead, or Robin would surely have gone out to where he was, and murdered him. Murder wouldn’t mend the ill, sir—as I have told him many a time.”
“Indeed it would not,” replied Lionel. “The very fact of Mr. John Massingbird’s being dead, should have the effect of setting Robin’s mind at rest—if it was to him that his suspicions were directed. For my part, I think Robin is wrong in suspecting him.”
“I think so too, sir. I don’t know how it is, but I can’t bring my mind to suspect him more than anybody else. I have thought over things in this light, and I have thought ’em over in that light; and I’d rather incline to believe that she got acquainted with some stranger, poor dear! than that it was anybody known to us. Robin is in doubt; he has had some cause given him to suspect Mr. John Massingbird, but he is not sure, and it’s that doubt, I say, that worrits him.”