“Have you come to see the last of me, sir?” he asked, as Lionel took his hand.
“Not quite the last yet, I hope, Matthew.”
“Don’t hope it, sir; nor wish it, neither,” returned the old man, lifting his hand with a deprecatory movement. “I’m on the threshold of a better world, sir, and I’d not turn back to this, if God was to give me the choice of it. I’m going to my rest, sir. Like as my bed has waited for me and been welcome to me after a hard day’s toil, so is my rest now at hand after my life’s toil. It is as surely waiting for me as ever was my bed; and I am longing to get to it.”
Lionel looked down at the calm, serene face, fair and smooth yet. The skin was drawn tight over it, especially over the well-formed nose, and the white locks fell on the pillow behind. It may be wrong to say there was a holy expression pervading the face; but it certainly gave that impression to Lionel Verner.
“I wish all the world—when their time comes—could die as you are dying, Matthew!” he exclaimed, in the impulse of his heart.
“Sir, all might, if they’d only live for it. It’s many a year ago now, Mr. Lionel, that I learned to make a friend of God: He has stood me in good need. And those that do learn to make a friend of Him, sir, don’t fear to go to Him.”
Lionel drew forward a chair and sat down in it. The old man continued—
“Things seemed to have been smoothed for me in a wonderful manner, sir. My great trouble, of late years, has been Robin. I feared how it might be with him when I went away and left him here alone; for you know the queer way he has been in, sir, since that great misfortune; and I have been a bit of a check on him, keeping him, as may be said, within bounds. Well, that trouble is done away for me, sir; Robin he has got his mind at rest, and he won’t break out again. In a short while I am in hopes he’ll be quite what he used to be.”
“Matthew, it was my firm intention to continue your annuity to Robin,” spoke Lionel. “I am sorry the power to do so has been taken from me. You know that it will not rest with me now, but with Mr. Massingbird. I fear he is not likely to continue it.”
“Don’t regret it, sir. Robin, I say, is growing to be an industrious man again, and he can get a living well. If he had stopped a half-dazed-do-nothing, he might have wanted that, or some other help; but it isn’t so. His trouble’s at rest, and his old energies are coming back to him. It seems to have left my mind at leisure, sir; and I can go away, praying for the souls of my poor daughter and of Frederick Massingbird.”
The name—his—aroused the attention of Lionel; more, perhaps, than he would have cared to confess. But his voice and manner retained their quiet calmness.
“What did you say, Matthew?”
“It was him, sir; Mr. Frederick Massingbird. It was nobody else.”