Their interview was a long one. Two hours, full, had they been closeted together when Robin Frost made his appearance again at Verner’s Pride, and craved once more an interview with Mr. Verner. “If it was only for a minute—only for a minute!” he implored.
Remembering the overwhelming sorrow which had fallen on the man, Lionel did not like again to deny him without first asking Mr. Verner. He went himself to the study.
“Come in,” called out Mr. Verner, in answer to the knock.
He was sitting in his chair as usual; John Massingbird was standing up, his elbow on the mantle-piece. That their conversation must have been of an exciting nature was evident, and Lionel could not help noticing the signs. John Massingbird had a scarlet streak on his sallow cheek, never seen there above once or twice in his life, and then caused by deep emotion. Mr. Verner, on his part, looked livid. Robin Frost might come in.
Lionel called him, and he came in with Frederick Massingbird.
The man could hardly speak for agitation. He believed the verdict could not be set aside, he said; others had told him so besides Mr. Lionel. He had come to ask if Mr. Verner would offer a reward.
“A reward!” repeated Mr. Verner mechanically, with the air of a man whose mind is far away.
“If you’d please to offer it, sir, I’d work the flesh off my bones to pay it back again,” he urged. “I’ll live upon a crust myself, and I’ll keep my home upon a crust, but what I’ll get it up. If there’s a reward pasted up, sir, we might come upon the villain.”
Mr. Verner appeared, then, to awake to the question before him, and to awake to it in terrible excitement.
“He’ll never be found, Robin—the villain will never be found, so long as you and I and the world shall last!”
They looked at him in consternation—Lionel, Frederick Massingbird, and Robin Frost. Mr. Verner recollected himself, and calmed his spirit down.
“I mean, Robin,” he more quietly said, “that a reward will be useless. The villain has been too cunning, rely upon it, to—to—leave his traces behind him.”
“It might be tried, sir,” respectfully urged Robin. “I’d work—”
“You can come up to-morrow, Robin, and I’ll talk with you,” interrupted Mr. Verner. “I am too ill—too much upset to-night. Come at any hour you please, after twelve, and I will see you.”
“I’ll come, sir. I’ve registered a vow afore my old father,” went on Robin, lifting his right arm, “and I register it again afore you, sir—afore our future master, Mr. Lionel—that I’ll never leave a stone unturned by night nor by day, that I’ll make it my first and foremost business in life to find that man. And when I’ve found him—let him be who he will—either him or me shall die. So help me—”
“Be still, Robin!” passionately interposed Mr. Verner, in a voice that startled the man. “Vows are bad things. I have found them so.”