“The thief must have been old West,” went on Jan. “Only think! it has been hidden all this while in that bureau of his, in my bedroom.”
“What has unhidden it?” demanded Mr. Massingbird in a half-satirical tone, as if he doubted the truth of the information.
“An explosion did that. Cheese got meddling with dangerous substances, and there was a blow-up. The bureau was thrown down and broken, and the codicil was dislodged. To talk of it, it sounds like an old stage trick.”
“Did Cheese blow himself up?” asked John Massingbird.
“Yes. But he came down again. He is in bed with burned hands and a scorched face. If I had told him once to let that dangerous play alone—dangerous in his hands—I had told him ten times.”
“Where’s the codicil?” inquired Mr. Massingbird, smoking away.
“In Matiss’s charge. You’d like to be present, I suppose, at the time of its being opened?”
“I can take your word,” returned John Massingbird. “This does not surprise me. I have always had an impression that the codicil would turn up.”
“It is more than I have had,” dissented Jan.
As if by common consent, they spoke no further on the subject of the abstraction and its guilty instrument. It was a pleasant theme to neither. John Massingbird, little refinement of feeling that he possessed, could not forget that Dr. West was his mother’s brother; or Jan, that he was his late master, his present partner—that he was connected with him in the eyes of Deerham. Before they had spoken much longer, they were joined by Lionel.
“I shall give you no trouble, old fellow,” was John Massingbird’s salutation. “You gave me none.”
“Thank you,” answered Lionel. Though what precise trouble it lay in John Massingbird’s power to give him, he did not see, considering that things were now so plain.
“You’ll accord me house-room for a bit longer, though, won’t you?”
“I will accord it you as long as you like,” replied Lionel, in the warmth of his heart.
“You know I would have had you stop on here all along,” remarked Mr. Massingbird; “but the bar to it was Sibylla. I am not sorry the thing’s found. I am growing tired of my life here. It has come into my mind at times lately to think whether I should not give up to you, Lionel, and be off over the seas again. It’s tame work, this, to one who has roughed it at the diggings.”
“You’d not have done it,” observed Jan, alluding to the giving up.
“Perhaps not,” said John Massingbird; “but I have owed a debt to Lionel for a long while. I say, old chap, didn’t you think I clapped on a good sum for your trouble when I offered you the management of Verner’s Pride?”
“I did,” answered Lionel.
“Ay! I was in your debt; am in it still. Careless as I am, I thought of it now and then.”
“I do not understand you,” said Lionel. “In what way are you in my debt?”